Wolves kept at bay by Arsenal’s efficiency drive

Two own goals helped Arsenal on their way to an ultimately comfortable victory as Wolves tired from their early pressing to relinquish control.

Alex Song gave a reminder of what is to be missed in January when he leaves for the African Cup of Nations as his introduction gave Arsenal renewed spark in the midfield.

Wolves hassled and harried the Gunners early on with their mix of direct football and high-intensity pressure but as Diaby departed under the Molineux lights through injury, Song’s entry brought a little sanity to proceedings. That’s not to say Diaby would not have settled because it was Wolves right as the home team to make Arsenal earn their right to play. But Song has added a little sophistication and expertise to the role as typified by his nonchalant flick to Fabregas early in the second half while Diaby is still learning, nevertheless making two interceptions in twenty minutes and three tackles.

Two own goals – the first from Zubar, helping a Cesc Fabregas corner into the net before Jody Craddock inadvertently headed Eduardo’s chip over Wayne Hennesey – allowed Arsenal to regain their composure and from the first kick in the second half, utterly dominated proceedings. Their superior technique took over as Fabregas finished a flowing move to make it three and Arshavin extended the lead with a opportunist half volley from the edge of the area following Hennessey’s punch out.

The Gunners obsession with keeping the ball has translated to being more efficient and direct. By stretching the play, Wolves had more ground in which to cover allowing Arsenal to slowly stamp their authority. It also meant the side could create more angles in the pass and zones for men to run into causing unpredictability. Cesc Fabregas was once again the master of time and space as he made full use of the pitch to manufacture openings. Aaron Ramsey also made a notable contribution with a high energy performance although his passing ranged from the superb to the erratic, still missing the decisiveness that experience will bring. But once again it was a strong team performance that set Arsenal on their way. “I think the most important factor is that we play for each other as we do, we focus on our performance, and that we continue to develop our style of play,” said Wenger. “To play at a high pace, our collective game,”

The late goal conceded to Craddock from a corner kick would not have pleased Wenger but accepts their may be at times leaks in the system due to their offensive style. “We have a style where everyone goes forward,” he said after all his defenders had more than forty passes each. “You cannot have everything in football, but I believe we have a good balance between offense and defence, and as long as we score as many goals as we do, we can accept that.”

Wolverhampton 1-4 Arsenal: Zubar (og) 28, Craddock (og) 35, Fabregas 45, Arshavin 66, Craddock 89.

Wolves: Hennessey, Stearman, Craddock, Berra, Zubar, Edwards, Henry, Milijas, Catillo, Ebanks-Blake, Doyle. Subs: Hahnemann, Mancienne, Kightly, Halford, Jarvis, Keogh, Maierhofer.

Arsenal: Almunia (6), Sagna (8), Vermaelen (7), Gallas (7), Gibbs (7), Diaby (Song Billong 7), Fabregas (8)*, Ramsey (7), Arshavin (7) (Nasri), Eduardo (7) (Rosicky), Van Persie (7).
Subs not used: Mannone, Senderos, Silvestre, Eboue.

Wolverhampton Wanderers Team Statistics Arsenal
1 Goals 4
0 1st Half Goals 3
1 Shots on Target 5
3 Shots off Target 3
3 Blocked Shots 5
4 Corners 4
11 Fouls 15
1 Offsides 8
2 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
65.1 Passing Success 78.1
26 Tackles 26
84.6 Tackles Success 80.8
38.1 Possession 61.9
54.7 Territorial Advantage 45.3

24 thoughts on “Wolves kept at bay by Arsenal’s efficiency drive

  1. Like you Brain, I felt fate intervened with Diaby’s injury. Song’s insertion added more assuredness to defensive midfield as Wolves pressed and harried. I was certain that they would run out of steam and the wind in their sail would die with the first Arsenal goal. But Song’s arrival sealed their destiny as now Ramsey was freer to go forward. Despite the array of midfielders in the squad, Of all the midfielders in reserve, only Denilson provides the defensive qualities that we can rely on in Song’s absence.

  2. I think Arsenal will switch to a double shield. No one has the strength or power to stand alone. We may see Denilson and Nasri or Denilson and Diaby there. I cannot see Denilson and Diaby as it would be too attacking.
    I like Nasri as a half winger. He provides the much needed balance.

    1. What we have now is a holding midfielder, and attacking midfielder, and a third central midfielder who we could call the balancing midfielder. This player is more attacking than the defensive midfielder but more defensive than that attacking midfielder. That’s the role Diaby has been playing, and the role Denilson played before his injury.

      1. “What we have now is a holding midfielder, and attacking midfielder, and a third central midfielder who we could call the balancing midfielder. This player is more attacking than the defensive midfielder but more defensive than that attacking midfielder.”
        Dude, I think even my grandma would know that by now. What I am trying to say is that, as Arsenal have no one who can fill Song’s boots, we will set up a two man midfield. Diaby cannot be trusted in Song’s position as he cannot resist moving forward. We will play with two balancing midfielders.

    2. @ KV: Do you have any involvement with this site or indeed post? http://arsenalanalysis.blogspot.com/2009/11/arsenal-should-worry-about-song.html

      In some areas, it does seem like an amalgamations of some comments and thoughts from contributors and commentators here, most notably starting with the point on Tony Adams and the 4-1-4-1 that you made recently.
      Granted others talk about Arsenal in such a tactical context but it doesn’t quite fit in with their other posts I have read this season.
      Just to say I don’t have a problem with it, just pointing out it does seem odd that Adams’ quote was coincidentally mentioned on another site close to the same time as this site’s.

      1. Re Brain:
        I never wrote that article and I did not contribute to it in any way. It is purely coincidence that I mentioned about Adams at the same time. I dont discuss tactics in any other website ( I dont comment a lot in any website) except for this one. Anyway, I will never use your points as mine. I saw the point regarding adams in a website called Arsenal Mania. I found it interesting and I commented on it here.

        1. I don’t have a problem of people using my points because that’s the point of the site (although that’s not an excuse to copy and paste articles without linking back).

          The Tony Adams quotes were a while back weren’t they? I seem to remember hearing of reading that quote sometime during that start of the season and if so, then it’s either pure coincidence or someone is a fan. Don’t see the problem in either one to be honest.

          (BTW: I’ll try and get an article sometime between the next two weeks about Arsenal’s system and we’ll see if we can add something more because it is international break.)

          1. I think when Wenger describes the teams formation sometimes he’s describing the shape and others he’s describing the roles.

            So when at the start of the season he called it a 4231 he meant Song/Denilson were playing as DMs (albeit in different manners as would be expected) and Fabregas as part of the attack and RVP as the striker.

            He then called it a 433 because that was what the shape most closely resembles and what the media were preferring to call it.

            Now to Adams (I read Adams said it on TV before the Wolves game) he’s again describing the roles with 4141 meaning that Song is the DM Diaby/Fabregas are part of the attack and RVP is the striker.

            So the current Arsenal formation is a 433 shape (To stretch play, pressure high up the picth etc) with the roles of either a 4231 or a 4141 depending on the players on the field, the opponents, time of game, scoreline et cetera.

      2. Hey Brain, you don’t really think you’re the first blogger to have mentioned Tony Adams’ comments re AW’s remarks on 4-1-4-1, do you? I’ve seen several bloggers reference those comments for weeks now, way before you did.

        1. I think you’ve interpreted this wrong. My point was I felt the quote was oldish however it was brought up recently by, not me but a commentator on this blog (KV).
          Here’s the comment: https://arsenalcolumn.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/arsenal-unravel-unparalleled-attacking-depth-with-win-over-az/#comment-2452

          The link I put up from another website using the quote; it seemed peculiarly different from their previous posts on the blog but I’m not necessarily saying that it any ideas where taken from here.

          But I was wrong in that Adams may have quoted this before; he indeed did it after the AZ game. But I’ve definitely been known about it also being a 4-1-4-1 before although not sure if it was from Adams previously.

    1. I apologise if that is the case. Admittedly I got down to watching the match about 10 mins late so around that time it looked as maybe Diaby was playing deeper or more centrally if you like.

  3. wolves completely dominated the first 25 minutes – we did not have a single shot on goal in that period of the game except for a couple of offside attempts.

    it seemed that the way we reacted to their tactics was to mimic them. once they started closing us down, fabregas, arshavin and others joined in on the act and started closing down wolves a lot faster. then we started to mimic their direct passing, with fabregas dictating some plays and vpersie and edu switching off as the front runners.

    i’ve begin to realize that diaby is still an average player – he makes some good contributions, like that one touch pass that released arshavin in the right, and those interceptions and the way he held the ball, but song is in a different class.

    song’s industrious breaking down of opposition play is precisely what we need. it is just unfortunate that diaby’s set of skills do not complement us. his attacking play is average, but he is erratic and we have other players who are more reliable than he is. his defensive play is not fiery enough, and his man marking is not tight enough to balance the rest of the team.

    the problem with diaby is not that he is untalented – it is that his skills are not specialized enough. he is not good enough at doing one thing to benefit the team. he has defensive responsibilities, but his attacking instincts weaken his performance in a defensive role and thus weaken the team as a whole (arsene already knows that a DM – or possibly more than one – is needed). we also have other attacking players who are more dedicated and better at going forward and the same with defending players.

    in discussion with other people who have watched diaby, it seems most are confused about his role in the team – some quote him as an attacking player, others see him as a defensive midfielder. i think we are not the only ones who are confused.

    my theory is that there is pressure on him to emulate the exploits of our ex captain Vieira so he tries to do too much. he tries to attack and defend like Vieira once did but noone can. i think that he can benefit from learning to defend better. arsene could start him in a “song” role and then expand from there.

    he needs to show the application and energy that song shows in order to be taken seriously.

    today, song showed the gulf in class between the two players. it’s now up to diaby to step up.

    1. I can understand people’s concerns over Diaby. He’s done a decent team job and has gotten better with each game; not spectacular and one may not even say solid.

      But one must also beware of being to quick to play a players talents down. We all remember how Song was like last season; plenty of promise but his relative lack of awareness and understanding only kept him as an average player in the shadow of Denilson for the most part. But now he has stepped up after playing the role and gained more understanding and possibly a bit more attention.

      Wenger’s plan is to have Diaby available for cover for Song if needed but that is probably going to be behind Denilson and maybe Ramsey.

      What Diaby has to realise now is that less can be more; make sure he doesn’t try to do too much and be more efficient in his movement, positioning and pressuring, the latter of which may be hindering the first two. His role is slightly like Fletcher’s although the Scot has improved his decision-making and when to run at full pelt.

  4. This is one of my favorite sights and I want to reiterate some of the observations to your remarks about Diaby.

    On paper, the top 4 clubs have too much talent v. a newly promoted club like the Wolves. Upsets are possible, but unlikely. Wolves game plan was to apply high pressure and force Arsenal mistakes, with the Wolves hoping to capitalize something into a goal.

    Any early goal for Wolves, would fertilize their confidence, raise Arsenal anxieties,
    and fuel (possibly) more errors by Arsenal.

    Historically, we have witnessed Arsenal taken out of their game in this manner.

    The first 20 minutes, Arsenal struggled as a team: early bad pass by Sagna, then MANY poor/erratic passes by Ramsey, coupled with early jitter passes from RvP (quite a few), Arsahvin, and even Cesc. Over this same period, Eduardo rarely touched the ball. So when your holding mid-fielder (Ramsey) is CONSTANTLY giving the ball away, Arsenal WILL STRUGGLE.

    When Song came on, Ramsey switched to Diaby’s role, and stability was regained in midfield.

    I have been a Diaby doubter for the past 2 seasons, but over the past month, I can see progress in this player adapting to a ROLE (as Song). Even for the first 20 minutes against the Wolves, Diaby was making plays and doing things that weren’t part of his skill set in previous seasons.

    Secondly, there is a human tendency that first impressions stick in our minds. Football fans are no different. If the fans could have their way, many of our players would have been sold: Bendtner, Clichy, Gallas, Song……etc.

    Our manager sees great potential in Diaby, and as supporters we need to trust his instincts.

    By the way, Ramsey was cut a lot of slack for his performance. If it had been Eboue, Diaby, Almunia, Bendtner – there would have been a field day of criticism poured into the post match articles.

    That said, I was really glad to see Ramsey gain the playing time. This kid will be fantastic for Arsenal and having him play with the true starters is the best way to jump start his contribution.

  5. Ramsey is not a DM by any stretch and had only his 2nd start in an unfamiliar role. However he did work hard whilst in that role. when Song came on Ramsey was excellent for the remainder of the game. Proving wrong the fact that Ramsey and Cesc can play in the same team. At one point towards the end of the game Ramseys passing stat was Attempted 65 completed 55 with 2 key passes in there! That aint half bad. In these kinds of games I’d be happy to see a Cesc/Ramsey in front of Song. In the big games like v Chelsea at the end of the month maybe this might not be apt, but this partnerhsip can be blood for plenty of other games this season.

    1. Totally agree about Ramsey not being a DM, but also don’t believe Denilson is a DM. I believe Arsene slotted Ramsey in this position because he wants to give this kid ‘starts’.

      I’m mentioning Denilson because he has been Arsene’s choice at DM for some time, yet he is not good at winning the 50/50 ball, and not strong in the air, and rarely will he beat opponents with the dribble. Ramsey, on the other hand, exhibits the same skill level but a dimension of combativeness that is void from Denilson (at this stage); so I have no problem for Ramsey anywhere in midfield.

      The first 22 minutes were frustrating for Arsenal as Ramsey struggled to settle into a rhythm (and others mentioned above) v. insinuating it was Diaby’s play. Song was definitely missed in the 1st 22 minutes, but Diaby’s play was not center to the teams unsettledness.

      At 18 yrs of age, Ramsey is out of the same mold as Cesc, but physically stronger (at 18).

      Cesc/Ramsey would work, just as Cesc/Nasri, Nasri/Ramsey, or throw in Rosicky with any of these combinations. All of these players have vision, the skill to hold the ball under pressure, high tactical IQ, and technical skill to deliver any type of pass.

      From this match with Wolves:
      Arsenal hasn’t seen another player (yet) that duplicates a commanding presence at DM as Song.

      1. So how did we manage a 21 game unbeaten run last season with Denilson who came out as one of the top midfielders for interceptions and pass accuracy?

        I think I’ll trust Arsene’s judgement rather than yours thank you very much.

        1. For a player who had some of the most impressive interceptions made and one of the best successful tackles ratio I’m surprised to discover he’s not good at winning the 50/50 ball.

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