Diamond Hammers clog the centre to restrict Arsenal’s influence

Arsenal surrendered a two goal lead against a spirited West Ham side who did well to deny Arsenal much fluency in central midfield.

At 2-0, Alan Hansen said Arsenal could only beat themselves and as it was, the Gunners contrived to concede two late goals. But without taking anything away from West Ham, it would be difficult to say for certain whether it was two points dropped or not. Arsenal had amassed what should have been a comfortable lead but the Hammers were always knocking on the door despite their three shots on target.

In attack Arsenal were laboured, which has been the theme since the international break while at the other end could not deny pressure on the backline either by keeping the ball for extended periods or through resolute organisation. That could due in part be to the way West Ham’s midfield diamond worked to prevent Arsenal any space to play and with the introduction of Alessandro Diamanti as the trequartista, gave them added dynamism and directness. And up front, in front of the watching eyes of Fabio Capello, Carlton Cole did his best to show the Italian that he is a better version of Emile Heskey as he bullied the Arsenal defenders about and gave his side a direct outlet when in possession.

But he saved his best Heskey impression until last as a slight clip on the heels by Song in the penalty area sent the striker tumbling, this despite fending three defenders at once for most of the game. Diamanti converted the resulting spot kick and had a hand in the first or rather Vito Manonne, as his devilishly whipped free-kick was too quick for the goalkeeper who could only palm back across goal for Cole to head in. The comeback should have been improbable and Arsenal may have felt hard done by in regards to the decision to award the free-kick for the first and then the eventual equaliser from the spot. They took the lead however through Robin van Persie who capitalised on an error in judgement from both Tomkins and Green to head from a Bakary Sagna cross, the French full back dusting off the cobwebs off his boot after the assist. And Gallas’ header made it two as he powerfully leaped above Cole to meet the ball. Indeed Arsenal’s movement was particularly troubling early on for the Hammers but that became a premium as the Gunners failed to exploit what has been a leaky defence.

Arsène Wenger was quick to dismiss the comeback as a deep-rooted problem within Arsenal’s ranks but there is no doubting the correlation.”There is no lethargy, the team wants to win and it focused,” the Frenchman maintained. “There’s no lack of concentration. When you lead 2-0 away the game is never one. West Ham fought for their life, they never gave up. When a team never give up you know they can come back.” If anything, there seems to be a lack of tactical understanding in the players as highlighted by a chance from Zavon Hines which was blocked by Gael Clichy as Fabregas and Diaby were too far to get back in the eagerness to kill the game off. Song has been mainly isolated by his midfield partners this season and the lack of organisation can only attract more pressure on the defence. The 4-3-3 demands the squeezing of space when not in possession while distances have to be exact. The manager was right in criticising the decision-making as crosses abound were off target at a time where Arsenal should have been more ruthless.

Cesc Fabregas was squeezed out of any space by West Ham’s diamond men in the first period and as a result was forced to drop deep to get the ball but in the second half as West Ham tired, worked almost exclusively just inside their half. In fact Alex Song was probably the main beneficiary of Fabregas dropping deep as the Cameroonian was 100% accurate in his passing in the first half and it arguably gave the side more balance. Robin van Persie’s influence also dropped massively after the two goals but still came closest to getting Arsenal the three points in the closing moments but his header was somehow stopped by Robert Green. Whether it was two points dropped will become more certain come the end of the season but Wenger’s “sickening” feeling indicates that moment is now.

West Ham United 2-2 Arsenal: van Persie 16, Gallas 37, Cole 74, Diamanti (pen) 80

West Ham (4-1-3-2): Green, Spector, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga, Behrami (Kovac), Parker, Noble (Diamanti), Collison, Cole*, Franco (Hines).

Subs not used: Kurucz, Faubert, Da Costa, Stanislas.

Arsenal (4-3-3): Mannone (5), Sagna (7), Gallas (6), Vermaelen (6), Clichy (6), Eboue (6) (Bendtner), Song (6), Fabregas (6), Diaby (6) (Eduardo), Arshavin (5), van Persie (6).

Subs not used: Almunia, Nasri, Ramsey, Silvestre, Gibbs.

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

West Ham United Team Statistics Arsenal
2 Goals 2
0 1st Half Goals 2
3 Shots on Target 6
7 Shots off Target 6
6 Blocked Shots 5
6 Corners 8
19 Fouls 16
5 Offsides 2
2 Yellow Cards 2
1 Red Cards 0
77.1 Passing Success 78.9
18 Tackles 26
77.8 Tackles Success 61.5
46.8 Possession 53.2
41.9 Territorial Advantage 58.1

28 thoughts on “Diamond Hammers clog the centre to restrict Arsenal’s influence

  1. “it would be difficult to say for certain whether it was two points dropped or not.”

    no, it’s not difficult at all — it’s two dropped points, no question. We should be 3 points ahead of Man City today, not just 1. This was a ridiculous, farcical result against a poor team. There simply is no excuse for it. ONCE AGAIN, we draw against a very poor team, you’re hyping up West Ham far too much. Yes, Diamanti and Cole were genuine threats but this was a team that Arsenal should very easily have beaten. Trophy-winning teams do not come away from that game with a draw, 2 goals conceded in such ludicrous, pathetic fashion — and an inability to score enuf goals to win the game.

    And no, Arsenal should not feel hard done by. We can question the penalty and free kick decisions, it’s all irrelevant to the fact that ONCE AGAIN this team got arrogant and complacent, switched off and allowed an very poor opponent to get a result. This is a lesson these players never ever seem to learn.

    We can blame Mannone for all the good it does — it’s not his fault. It’s inevitable that a young, inexperienced keeper will make mistakes, big ones. He’s done quite well given his level. It’s the manager’s fault for his choices in the keeper position, and his refusal or financial inability to invest the money in a genuine top class keeper. No trophy-challenging team can afford to rely on young, inexperienced keepers to mature and develop. Esp. not if they’re playing in a team with players who are incapable of killing teams off, and who keep making stupid individual errors the result in very cheap goals.

    1. Hi. What I mean by that comment is that Arsenal were never fully in control despite being up two goal to the good. But credit also must go to West Ham for playing a good gameplan.

      Regarding the goalkeepers; I’m with Wenger on this issue as ‘keepers will be lauded or slated for their decision-making, more so at bigger clubs and Wenger wants all-round ‘keepers. You see shot-stoppers like Green and James make great saves followed by poor decision by rushing out. Manonne, Almunia and Fabianksi have good techniques to allow them to sweep, rush out with good athleticism. Shot-stopping however could be better but Fabianski looks the one with the best potential.

  2. Everyone slates Zola saying he is not a great manager. He proved his critics wrong today by changing the formation and introducing Diamanti and Hines later on. I would say he is an under rated tactician. I am sure the big four will struggle to come up with three points against them.
    I think we need to change the formation to a 4231 to stop conceding more goals. What do you think?

    1. Well, Wenger changed the formation for the reason among others to stop leaking goals as it allows the team to be tactically better. It is arguable this formation can easily be morphed to a 4-2-3-1 if Diaby gets closer to Song which allows Fabregas to push up when required. Of course, part of Diaby’s job is to provide cover but it is mainly to the attacking players on the left or right.

      “We conceded too many goals last year and we decided to rectify our defence and the system we play. I believe that by the end of this season we will have conceded less goals but somewhere as well we encourage the team to go for an offensive game and sometimes we pay the price for that a little bit.”

        1. “I can play him where he is needed basically,” said the manager. “I would say more in the defensive role now but, because he can dribble, he can play on the flanks too. He has pace and he can play in a role that is half a winger. A dropped winger who will come in sometimes, can go wide. But maybe it has to be balanced with a striker on the other side sometimes.”

          Wengers comments on Nasri. Interesting I must say. He will be used as a shuttler.

  3. We said Marcus.
    When I was watching the game, and maybe around the 65th minute, I was saying the game should be over if Arsenal can deal with it or if these lads up top would score. Or if Eboue (who works hard) remembers its not a Sunday league, and he needs to stop just hitting the ball just hard or just kicking the ball away. 2-0 lead is dangerous specially away from home. Teams can get a goal and get fired up to score a second.
    Vito did well, but that was not his mistake. Keeper mistake is one like Dida’s mistake.

    I think its time to buy an experienced keeper. none of the keeper that we have are good enough to be a team that challenges for silverware. Almunia is a good sub goalkeeper. He is good to be behind Lehman, good behind a good expereince keeper. Manoon can be a good substitute …

  4. Arshavin was the worst, Cesc was not his usual self may be of family problem.
    already leak 13 goals in EPL; 4 goals in CPL.
    Always the same excuses: didn’t get final ball to kill the game. Where & when is the ruthlessness coming ? (always like to buy midfielder who can play wide & not deadly striker e.g Torres from LFC)
    If the defenders can grind out, the game is already won. it’s better to win 1-0 than draw 2-2. Don’t understand y other teams can grind out 1-0 win. At the end of season they have trophies.
    AW likes to play players out of position, y he didn’t do to diaby as a lone striker baffles me ???
    If continue to let Diaby involve in defence, we will definitely get more similar result & forget about winning trophies.
    Pls Mr AW don’t be TOO stubborn in substitution, learn from J. Mourinho
    We Respect u

  5. we just do not close the spaces down quick enough.

    At the start of the season everone from front to back was pressing and closing. Now it is just the defence and Song. This is totally unacceptable as the whole point of the 4-3-3 was too sort out these defensive frailties we had last year. Denilson is missing at the moment and it is very noticeable. He provides that bit extra in CM that can close and win the ball as well as making space for himself to receive and give quick passes to keep the moves ticking over.

    Roll on the end of Nov when hes back

  6. We can discuss systems, subs/lack of it however if we didnt give them 1st goal gift by Mano, we would have won. What we need is better level of concentration to do the basics well so that we dont concede cheap goals

  7. I think it’s fair to say that West Ham was good a stopping us. But that only highlighted our improvement relative to last season: we got about 3 clear chances the whole game and scored 2 of them. This sort of efficiency will bode well for us and make the likes of Stoke and Sunderland think twice before parking the bus against us.

    The two goals, of course, hurt. Vito lost sight of the ball so I’d rather blame the defenders for not mopping up the rebound. That makes 2 in a week. The penalty was soft but undeniably legal. Song probably forgot that he wasn’t in midfield at that moment (in the standard applied for Eduardo, however, it was a “blatant dive”). So were the goals technical or mental? I’d say mental – mentally naive, mentally lack of focus. And seeing it twice in a week is painful and worrying.

    For this kind of problem, more pep talks probably wouldn’t help. Arsene also said “When you make a problem of it, it becomes a real problem. We have to play the football we love and learn when we are leading to kill the games off and keep playing the way we want to play the game.” Maybe this mental problem is really only as simple as that. We can only hope that the team play their way out of their current (small) lapse in focus.

  8. i think that a lot of our problems today had to do with us playing a 442 instead of the usual 433. arshavin and vpersie were our two strikers while clichy and sagna had greater attacking responsibility and provided us with width.

    the problem started with this tactic – clichy and sagna are some of the most awful crossers I’ve seen – when they miss, they miss badly and often. at times, our crosses would go into the box and west ham players would casually trot up to the ball and retrieve it with somewhat perplexed gazes: “i wonder who they were passing to . . .” they think.
    the second problem with this tactic is that we did not have a target man out there (forget now that clichy and sagna can’t hit a target for their lives) who could dominate in the air. bendtner should have started if we wanted to channel our energies through this route, also forget that he doesn’t really “dominate” in the air.

    i think the 433 suits our strengths much better – it allows the wide forwards to dribble at defenders (arshavin anyone!?!?)(bendtner sometimes?) and creates space in the middle where fabregas can orchestrate. did anyone not notice that fabregas and arshavin were missing from this match?
    teams who go up against the 442 know how predictable it is and pack the middle of the pitch. despite this, we don’t have any “llegadas” (late arrivers) who take advantage of the crosses to the middle.
    the opposition made it impossible for fabregas to dictate because our midfield is spread out around the perimeter of their box and they can easily apply pressure outwards when fabregas gets it. and once he does get it, it’s so crowded in the box that it is difficult to find a killer pass.

    so he rarely gets the ball, and when he does, it’s in a bad position.

    the 433 spreads out the pitch more because our attackers are further up the pitch – has a greater balance with 2 DMs – and allows fabregas the ball under better circumstances.

    the higher up the pitch our forwards are, the more space there is between their midfield and their defense, allowing fabregas more space to distribute “between the lines.”

    1. Sure. I like the point about the play being stretched hence making it harder for Fabregas to dictate play. When he did get a bit more space in the second half he played higher when indeed he should be more tactically aware that stopping a goal by adding balance was more important.
      Also Diaby had a decent game but should be a bit closer to Song as Denilson functions. He and the Brazilian are told to cover on the left or right but at times Diaby is too far away from the action and the distances have to be right.
      I like the 4-3-3 but if tactically the team doesn’t improve there will always be pressure on the team. They’re not too far away from the trophy but you’ll be hoping they learn quickly. It’ll be interesting to see Nasri back because his positional play and technique could be key in the centre.

      1. it’s good that you noticed that diaby didn’t play badly – i thought he tried to model his game to be similar to denilson’s. he tackled hard, held the ball well when under pressure and distributed quickly once he had possession. it was surprising seeing his lanky frame fly into sliding challenges, but if he could play this well in a 433 and refrain from conceding so many gosh-darned fouls, I would be pretty happy.

        i’m looking forward to nasri coming back – i want to see him develop this year, even more so than last, because i know he can take on defenders with his pace and dribbling – which would definitely fit him up there as one of the wing forwards in a 433.

        the 442 does not cater to our attacking strengths as wenger must realize eventually – it suits teams with good crossing fullbacks and strong center forwards.
        the 433 has a balance and “lightness” about it that suits us. it spreads players out over a greater area so that we have space to pass and to move – things that we excel at. however, and most importantly, the three forwards provide a more imminent threat to the opposition, which increases the likelihood that they will pull a defense out of position as we are apt to do.
        the 442 is too crowded in the middle of hte pitch for creative “on the ground” passing.
        did you notice that every time we use the 442, we pass sideways a ton more? i did . . .
        a team that passes on the ground needs space for penetrating throughballs.

        1. as for defending with a 433, the two midfielders behind fabregas are key in this setup. they provide fabregas with a lot of his service and shield the center backs when the full backs maraud forward.
          btw, what’s with almunia’s “chest infection”? is he getting phased out?

  9. when diamanti came on, west ham were a completely different team – like rabies infested bulldogs ready for a fight. the rabid italian really saved the game for them with his amazing vitality and energy.
    i feel like arsenal is missing someone like that who can lead by his energy. however, there is hope. i liked what i saw in vermaelen, who was screaming at his teammates to cover unmarked players in the box during a set piece.
    the message our leader sends to his troops must not be self-pity as gallas has shown so often: it must be passion, intense hatred for the opponent, but most of all, overwhelming pride in arsenal and thus an absolute refusal to lose.
    it seems that the flaws from last year have been unearthed by the unearthing of this relic of a formation.

  10. Brain, once Nasri and Denilson are back do you think we can play a 4-6-0? With Rosicky playing Right Winger, we will be having players who can play any role in the attack and midfield. Nasri and Denilson are also capable players. How do you see it?

  11. Nhan Le Good stuff as usual.
    Love coming to this place and getting a new sense of the game.

    It was infuriating to see the team kick back a little towards the end of the game. It all looked controlled for so long. However no matter how infuriating we have all probably been guilty of doing something similar in our own professional lives.
    Getting angry at the team is pointless and self defeating. They are intelligent guys and will no doubt be angry with themselves. Support is what is needed

    The free kick had a lot of swerve on it. The spin on the ball would have also taken it into the centre. I suspect that even a young guy like Mannone would know that he does not want to push the ball back to the centre of the goal. If I remember correctly he had his left hand pushing out as well. Seemed like good technique to me just didn’t realise how much spin was on the ball. I think he has played well and appears to learn quickly from any mistakes that have been made.

    all the best Dave

    1. incorrect, the spin on the ball would have taken it out of the goal mouth, diamante is a lefty – mannone just hit it so that it glanced off his hand and went toward the middle.

      i’m angry with the team, but it’s reasonable because i follow them soo much. they have been saying this same thing over and over again: “we switched off” diaby came out and said that in an interview with arsenal.com, then sagna came out and said that after another game in which we almost got punished, and now the boss is saying that we switched off.
      that’s three separate occasions in which the taem has admitted a mistake, that we still haven’t learned from.
      don’t get me wrong, i support them despite this – i would just like to see them change something, maybe this carling cup match is a blessing, so that the first team is rested and are really strong when they come back.

      1. John, how does it make sense that Mannone tried to bounce the ball back in the box? His was clearly a one-handed save with no intention to retain it. It’s basic technique that in such cases, if you can, palm the ball away from goal and corners are no concern. A second look will show you that Mannone was lucky to have a touch at the ball at all – he missed its conjecture over the wall almost completely, hitting it with his wrist. The defenders were at fault for not being first to the rebound.

        But I do agree with you, being told that the players “switched off” that often was frustrating at best.

        1. srry, i meant that “the spin of hte ball would pull the ball, like top spin in tennis, away from the center of goal” not the other way round.
          again, to clarify – i was saying that the spin of the ball would pull it away from goal, but despite this, mannone mishit it towards the center of goal, which leaves all the fault with him.
          in addition, how is it the defender’s fault if cole just happened to be where the ball was going? it was a fluke of a goal – even the foul before hte goal was nonexistent. diaby got the ball, plain and simple.
          cole was being covered – mannone just passed the ball to him.

  12. i never said that what mannone did was intentional, OF COURSE he should have hit it behind for a corner – i am just stating what happened. he simply couldn’t handle the swerve of the ball, mishit it and it flew towards the middle where cole was.
    what i was arguing is that the spin of the ball, if hitting a flat surface, would pull the ball towards the center of hte goal, not away.

    1. srry, i meant that “the spin of hte ball would pull the ball, like top spin in tennis, away from the center of goal” not the other way round.
      again, to clarify – i was saying that the spin of the ball would pull it away from goal, but despite this, mannone mishit it towards the center of goal, which leaves all the fault with him.
      in addition, how is it the defender’s fault if cole just happened to be where the ball was going? it was a fluke of a goal – even the foul before hte goal was nonexistent. diaby got the ball, plain and simple.
      cole was being covered – mannone just passed the ball to him.

  13. we are not good enough to close out games its that simple.

    we can only play one way and that is going forward. when this isn’t working we look very average.

    our only hope is too purely out score teams and not to try and stop them scoring. we still can not defend well at all as a team. yes individual errors do not help but as a unit we do not defend well. it is not just down to the 4 defenders, keeper and DM to defend. if we want to play this barca like 4-3-3 defending starts with the front 3. press, press, press. we started to do this early season and caused teams problems as teams just could not get the ball out of their half (celtic away springs to mind). but since the early season we have fallen into our old routine of ball watching. i cant see us winning the title until this is sorted out and judgin by the number of attacking players in the squad i only see wenger continuing to attempt to outscore, rather than clog when we have a lead

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