Fabregas still the key in Wenger’s quest for domination

The Gunners are still ever reliant on Cesc Fabregas to pull the strings with Arsenal’s passing game having suffered this season, especially against the stronger clubs.

The passing stats after the thrilling 4-4 draw at Anfield read Arsenal 281 successful passes and 44 unsuccessful. Contrast that to Liverpool and they made 327 successful passes and only one misplaced pass less at 43. Last season, the 1-1 draw on the same ground saw the Gunners culminate a massive 432 accurate passes compared to Liverpool’s 201. The Red’s made it hard to play with their direct style but how different was it to last season? Nevertheless it is marked difference from the possession kings that is known as Arsenal.

With Rosicky and Fabregas out for large chunks of the season, and Hleb  having departed in the summer, Wenger has recast his side to a more quicker team, able to get the ball from A to B swiftly especially with Walcott and Arshavin on either side.

Wenger has always liked his sides to keep the ball; pass quickly with great off the ball movement and dynamism, his ‘Invincibles’ side arguably perfected it. The current side seems to have perfected only half of the formula and while being more dynamic is not a bad thing it means the ball will come back more. Against the lesser sides, the Gunners are comfortable at moving the ball around (although matches against Fulham and Wigan showed their limitations) but when faced up against the stronger sides, Arsenal are more counter-attacking.

As shown by some of the great attacking teams of recent times, keeping the ball is a great form of defence as well, denying pressure on the back line. Barcelona and Manchester United are relentless pressure machines and although they may be open at the back at times, more than balance it out with their ability to keep ball and suffocate space. Liverpool and Chelsea on the other hand are more direct and while capable of keeping the ball, it too means the ball will come back more often than for United and Barca. However that’s why they are the masters of space and efficiency; never giving an inch while looking to make best advantage of what’s available.

When Fabregas is not dictating play from the central midfield role, the Gunners are less possession based and when the skipper is moved higher this means someone must take a greater mantle in circulating the ball. As shown against Liverpool, the side failed to string together a long enough sequence with the ball. Which is not to say Fabregas is not good enough for the number 10 role, he needs the movement around him and capable passers. The modern day game sees the ‘universal playmaker’; it is a team duty just as it is to defend.

Wenger admits his most greatest influence was the “Total Football” Ajax team of the late 60s and early 70s. A team which was built up with a core of players from the academy and played revolutionary football, interchanging positions and keeping the ball.

Samir Nasri may be the player which typifies his vision, which is most likely to be in a 4-4-1-1. The Frenchman’s cameo in a defensive midfield position at Liverpool underlines Wenger’s faith in him, as the manager could easily have put Fabregas back. Maybe it was so that Fabregas could still thread the defence splitting passes but Nasri showed that he has the ability to be a worthy central midfielder or even deeper.

The Bergkamp role seems tailor fit for Van Persie who in that position, has made the most assists in the Premier League and could allow Walcott and Arshavin to play out wide. The team has great potential but one which is still over-reliant on Fabregas to pull the strings but when everything gels, should see a dynamic yet ball-hogging Arsenal side.

There is every chance the Gunners will click with each other very soon but while the team is still young, there is every chance that it may take longer than expected. In the meantime however, Fabregas is still king.


9 thoughts on “Fabregas still the key in Wenger’s quest for domination

  1. Fabregas is great, but the 10 role doesn’t suit him. When Arsenal’s strikers drift wide or deep (as they all are prone to do) it leaves Fab up front, and he doesn’t have the pace or strength to deal with central defenders. Every time he’s played in the advanced role there have been multiple instances of that situation occurring, and Fabregas inevitably loses out easily. He’s got so much more space and so many more options available when he plays in central midfield that he doesn’t need pace or strength. He can turn or pass in any direction, so defenders have to play him more conservatively… up front his available options are limited, unless the whole team has arrived in support, and he loses the ball a lot more.

    Play him in the center of the pitch and he can run forward to get involved when the options are available or ping balls forward to get the true attackers going… as well as providing a much more steadying presence in the middle to retain possession. Our three other Central midfielders aren’t even close to having Cesc’s skill set. Nasri is the only player who can do similar things, although he uses his physical tools a bit more and doesn’t have quite the same vision. Cesc, Nasri, and Song would currently be my favored choice for a three man midfield though. Diaby needs to get his form back and work on his decision making, and Denilson needs a rest, maybe some more bulk. Let RVP, Arshavin, Eduardo, and Walcott fight for the position next to the “big” striker. I know who I’d choose, but Fab is nowhere in the discussion. He’s dynamite in the middle, much more limited farther up.

  2. few notes ..

    Did Nasri really play that deep against the Pool? I thought he played on the right wing. Missed the game so I don’t know. He has said he relishes a central role box to box like Vieira. To me he looks much better behind the striker or right wing compared to left wing

    I agree with Craig, Fabregas is wasted further up the pitch. If you notice his assists, he always seems to provide them from a position which is about 10-15 yards away from the edge of the box..He is too slow so should be playing a lot deeper, kinda like Riquelme does.

    For Fabregas to be really effective with his killer passes, he needs players around him to make the runs even unselfish runs. That is what confuses the defence along with Cesc’s distribution.

    Brain I definitely think RVP should be the one playing the “main” striker. Saying that if we can score 4 past the pool without a target man (Bendtner isn’t really a target man to me) then do we need one? I remember we did fairly well without a target man before ade signed. I think Ade was meant to be plan B, turns out he is very much part of plan A.

  3. I will agree that Fab’s best position isn’t the hole. Note that when I was watching Spain play in the EURO, I was wondering why Fab didn’t play in the hole for us as well given his great form in that position. I think it may be to do with him beng captain and hence, putting pressure on himself to be everywhere at the same time. This is more likely to work with a central midfielder as opposed to playing just behind the striker, as a mid’s versatility can determine how good of a player he is, i.e. Gerrard.

    I would like to see Wenger play a 4-2-3-1 (when we don’t have RVP) with Song and Fab in the middle, Nasri, Arshavin, and Walcott further up, followed by whoever; Bendtner or Adebayor. I think that would be the formation of the future, lol.

    On a positive note, has anyone checked out Arshavin’s stats? 11 appearances, 7 assists and 6 goals according to Wiki. He’s quickly becoming a candidate for signing of the season. I’m just so glad we got him. I reckon we would’ve been out of all the major comps, and behind Villa if not or him. However, I am wondering whether he can reproduce and improve this form next season.

  4. We have very rarely played ‘Total Football’ this season. Cant be compared to last season.

    However with Fabregas, Rosicky, Arshavin, Nasri and Eduardo, RVP and Ade (Bendtner is in fact a better passer of the ball) we have an attacking line-up who can pass anyone of the park and play ‘Total Football’.

  5. Cesc is very similar to Pirlo in my opinion: a deep lying playmaker. The modern day #10 is more like RVP, Arshavin or Nasri: good passer in possesion, good at 1v1 in tight spaces and able to make the final pass with pin point accuracy.

    I think we are best in a 4-2-3-1 with Cesc/Song sitting deep.

    We are all looking for “the answer” but remember that every team we play is looking to destroy the game by bunkering down, fouling and/or playing direct….its not easy being Arsenal and play “our style” !

  6. Good comments all: The main consensus seems to be Fabregas can’t play the number 10 role however it is not clear whether that’s his own fault or his team mates. The Gunners do better with him dictating but if he’s higher clearly they need someone to assume greater responsibility in the centre. Fabregas is suited to the number 4 role but he is capable of playing higher whether it suits him or not, that’s debatable. Riquelme was clever in that role but lack that turn of pace.

    There’s no denying we are playing a quicker, more dynamic brand of football, shall I say this season. Teams deployed the same tactics last season and on the whole came through, playing the passing style. This season we have started to come through but still to get a mix.

  7. Fabregas is one of the best players out there! His performance at the Liverpool match a few days ago really highlighted his passion for Arsenal. I heard he yelled at the team, “You are not fit enough to be wearing those Arsenal shirts”. I suppose he really got mad at the team but the outcome was that Arsenal won!

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