The Confederations Cup showed just how important full backs are in creating late, unmarked threat therefore Sagna and Clichy will be crucial next season in breaking down defensive teams.
So what did we learn from the Confederations Cup? Not much new actually but if Arsene Wenger was watching, he’ll no doubt have picked up on some curious points.
Functional Brazil are strong candidates for the World Cup even if they are not entirely true to their previous teams and so are Spain despite losing to USA. The tournament gave the coaches taking part extended time to get to know their players and as such Italy will come out stronger although Lippi will need to be bold and clear with his direction.
Tactically, USA and Brazil in particular, have shown just how crucial transitions and set pieces are. Dunga says every team needs “piano-carriers”, his team in fact containing three (Ramires, Melo and Gilberto Silva). The two holding midfielders essentially pack the central area making it more difficult for sides to pass their way through. Therefore transitions, where the ball is won and lost can define a game. USA deployed the same counter-attacking tactics against Brazil which they used against Spain. They left their two forwards high up the pitch and when the ball was won, broke quickly using the extra space afforded in the channels.
It is exactly the same tactic which Fulham used in their 0-0 draw against Arsenal where both sides should have scored five goals each. Spain draw parallels with the Gunners and their shock semi-final defeat to USA is nothing too unfamiliar to Arsenal. The Americans defended deep and compact, giving no space and it was their wingers duty to track back Spain’s wingers. As a result Spain’s best threat came from the unmarked Ramos and Capdevila. The problem was however there was not much to aim for; Torres kept on drifting to the right while many of Spain’s men are under 6ft (it also didn’t help later that Del Bosque brought on Carzola who hugged the touchline and took Ramos’ space).
After getting a shock to their system by falling behind in the first half (which seemed somewhat inevitable due to their over cautiousness), Brazil were faced with a similar prospect. The difference was Brazil had more directness and dynamism about them. Kaka set up the second while Fabiano has the close control and instinct in the box to finish chances when they come. The bulk of the threat however came from right; Maicon’s late running was getting harder and harder to track as the game wore on while Elano helped by crossing from deep and using his full back as a decoy.
Arsenal will no doubt be faced with not too dissimilar situations next season as they have in the campaign gone by. The month of February saw no league goals scored where crucially also, Adebayor was missing. His 30-goal season saw a number of headed goals scored and in one game two were set up by Sagna. It is no secret the crossing from the full backs was poor last season, as was the options in the box. This must change next season and as Brazil showed tall, mobile strikers getting quality service is the key to breaking down deep, defensive teams.