Bent punishes Arsenal’s lack of cutting edge

Darren Bent secured a shock win over Arsenal who lacked the dynamism to open up the Black Cats’ defence.
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Was this the realisation of the importance of Robin van Persie or were Arsenal just missing a certain amount of cutting edge in the starting line-up? Certainly there was a case for both sides of the coin as the Gunners fell to their third defeat of the season at the Stadium of Light.

As ever Arsenal showed their frailties from set-pieces, the goal resembling a game of hot-potato as Frazier Campbell found himself unmarked at the back post to inadvertently knock the ball back across goal for Darren Bent to poke home. Before that Arsenal enjoyed a glut of possession particularly in the first half but were only able to fashion two clear-cut chances in that period. Rosicky’s volley from an acrobatic Cesc Fabregas knock on was saved by the body of Fulop while Eduardo linked up well with Alex Song before his shot went inches wide.

The ghosts of seasons past were certainly out as while Arsenal stroked the ball about with relative comfort, Sunderland were able to stifle their approach play by remaining compact and organised. The key to Arsenal’s style this season has been the angles created in support with the central forward but in this instance their was little interchange between the front men. The half-wingers in the 4-3-3, (or closer to a 4-1-4-1 and not just in a temporary attacking/defensive phase) played deeper than the Gunners have been accustomed to this season and as a result the side missed the dynamism to get behind the defences. “ I believe that going forward especially we lacked sharpness and desire to go behind the defenders,” rued Arsene Wenger. “We had chosen the easy part of the game, that is always come to the ball and not to be exposed then with our pace in behind. In football, if you want to score goals, you have to go behind the defenders.”

Indeed once Vela, Arshavin and Walcott all came on their was an added directness and interchangeability about the play but that could be attributed to the urgency of the situation and freshness of the players. Two cross-shots were flashed across goal with no-one to get to the end of it and of course no Eduardo who at this time, was sacrificed. In the second instance, Carlos Vela made himself available on the left-side to drive past the goal and Wenger would have hoped his main striker had produced the same movements in the earlier periods of the game. Maybe Eduardo’s more orthodox style didn’t compliment the style of the wide-men he started with and would have done so with Arshavin and Walcott either side of him. Indeed, it is maybe Arsenal’s unorthodox style which has seen them not receive a penalty this season since the central forward tends to operate in different areas and when Vela was tripped in the box, referee Alan Wiley was having none of it.

Has Robin van Persie become Arsenal’s most important player or is it the dictating abilities of Fabregas which is still tops? Or even the dynamism and ingenuity of Arshavin? The three Arsenal defeats this season have seen at least one of the key trio missing and the task for the side to breed more cohesion all-round. Slaven Bilic feels the modern game is about “the movement of ten players” while Dunga has stated teams must be more dynamic to open up sides. This balance Robin van Persie gives in conjunction with his supporting cast is already looking more and more important and the ball is in now Eduardo’s court to show that he can do the same – starting with key games with Standard Liege and Chelsea.

Sunderland 1-0 Arsenal: D. Bent, 71.

Sunderland (4-5-1): Fulop, Bardsley, Da Silva, Mensah (Ferdinand 82min), McCartney, Malbranque (Campbell 66min), Cana, Richardson, Henderson, Reid* (Zenden 78min), Bent.
Subs: Carson, Nosworthy, Murphy, Healy.

Arsenal (4-3-3): Almunia (6), Sagna (7), Vermaelen (7), Gallas (7), Traore (6), Song (7), Ramsey (5) (Arshavin 6), Fabregas (7), Rosicky (6) (Walcott 5), Eduardo (6) (Vela 6), Nasri (6).
Subs: Mannone, Denilson, Silvestre, Eboue.

Referee: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire)

Sunderland Team Statistics Arsenal
1 Goals 0
0 1st Half Goals 0
1 Shots on Target 2
6 Shots off Target 6
0 Blocked Shots 4
2 Corners 6
10 Fouls 11
3 Offsides 1
2 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
64.1 Passing Success 82.3
30 Tackles 15
70 Tackles Success 80
35.1 Possession 64.9
49 Territorial Advantage 51
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14 thoughts on “Bent punishes Arsenal’s lack of cutting edge

  1. Again, Wengers tactical knowledge must be questioned, it almost always costs us points. Eduardo doesn’t have the same characteristics as Van Persie, Nasri and Rosicky don’t have the characteristics of Bendtner/Arshavin/Walcott, but he kept all these players to try replicate that. He should really have switched the tactics, from the start, or after half time, Eduardo needs players to do combinations with, Vela would have been ideal, or placing a more objective player like Walcott/Arshavin for one of Nasri/Rosicky in the wider roles.

    What is even worse is that after we went 1-0 down, he never changed it, we need to take risks, better to lose 2-0 on the break than 1-0 like cowards. Has it seriously taken 1 injury to make us so impotent? If so, looks disastrous business to have sold Adebayor and not replaced him, because Wengers reluctance to play Vela shows he has doubts on his maturity in such games, we can’t win anything with players who aren’t ready, we need a full squad of players ready to win.

    1. I agree that Vela, Walcott & Arshavin would have suitable partners for Edu bcuz they wouldnt leave him isolated

      We didnt dribble directly enough in the final third to create space for teammates plus not enough forward movement in behind their defence to take away sunderland’s pressing midfield. Something which AW admitted to in his press conference

      On individual:

      AW should have played Silvestre @ LB & he would helped in set-plays.

      Nasri needs to learn how to be more efficient with his movement, he just keeps coming to the ball instead of going long and short to keep defenders guessing.

  2. New Gooner – Yours is the blatant type of revisionism that is so repulsive. The XI that Arsene put out on the field yesterday, with the exception of Traore, contained the most experienced and most healthy players available. Almost every self appointed expert prior to the game saw room for Rosicky and Nasri together with Eduardo up front. To have started Vela and Walcott, just returning from injury and of lesser experience, would have the majority of us questioning Wenger’s sanity. At the 60th or so minute, Wenger made his first move; Arshavin for Ramsey. At the 70th minut, prior to the goal, he had both Vela and Walcott at the substitutes bench. The fact is Wenger put out a team, which on paper, should have easily won this game. The players just didn’t deliver. The Brain to his credit is not sure and asks the question: “Was this the realisation of the importance of Robin van Persie or were Arsenal just missing a certain amount of cutting edge in the starting line-up?”

    1. I won’t back down, it is not right that Wenger hardly ever alters his tactics. We can be sure that Ancelotti and his Chelsea will alter their tactics accordingly against us, if they are losing, he will change it to make more goals, if they are losing, he will make them take more risks. How many times have we seen Wenger only make changes when we are in trouble, as yesterday throwing both Walcott and Vela on after their goal?

      As for his selection, on paper, Ramsey warranted a look in, but Nasri and Rosicky have made their names as playmakers, not wide attackers, is it so hard to change the system to ensure they make many plays for Eduardo to score? Vela was fresh, why didn’t he start? He never gets starts unless it is the CC or dead rubber CL games, is he considered a senior player or not?

      No two games are the same, no two opponents are the same, we need to adjust according to the circumstance, if we were Barcelona and had Ballon d’Or nominees playing, then we could stick to 1 style, we don’t have those nominees, so we need to adjust for the opponents and circumstance.

  3. Interestingly New Gooner, I have an article on Wenger that should explain some of his tactical thinking during matches. But as shotta-gunna says, Arshavin came on at 60 minutes, at 0-0 and Walcott and Vela were readied just before the goal. At the start of the season, most would have been happy with this line-up but Wenger to his credit has worked to revise the formula which has included more directness. Understandably, he was unhappy with his men who judging by his reaction didn’t play to his gameplan.

    I didn’t want to be too critical and say this will never work. It can but maybe even Wenger has been a victim of his own tactical success. He’s had at least one flank more direct and this game he had both more intricate. This is Eduardo’s chance and for some reason it didn’t click; in theory the combinations should have worked but seemed hampered by the lack of directness as you state New Gooner.

    Three defeats is not nice; we’re still in the title race and Chelsea is next but as Fabregas mentioned before the team needs to be stronger when things don’t go well. The skipper had a good game driving his team on but seemed to lack those with similar ideas in an attacking sense.

    1. I never expected Van Persie to adapt to the formation and requirements Wenger needed as a central striker, but he has, similarly, I’m not sure Eduardo can adapt, but he doesn’t have the luxury of time because Chelsea have already opened a significant lead and we need to close that down at every opportunity.

      It is a big worry that we only have 1 style of play, Chelsea and Utd and Liverpool have greater understanding of tactics than us, if teams can stifle our technique, they will use tactics or work ethics to make the difference, what will we use to make the difference? This is where Wenger needs to improve big time, we need to react quicker than we currently do. Rosicky and Nasri made their names in central midfield, not wider, even Domenech has told Nasri to forget playing wide for France as he struggles to make plays from that stationing.

      I am very critical because we are supposed to be fighting for the championship, yet giving away cheap points to Utd-City-West Ham, now Sunderland.

    2. I agree AW was pissed off that we didnt get in behind them.
      Nasri needs to learn how to be more efficient with his movement, he just keeps coming to the ball instead of going long and short to keep defenders guessing.

  4. I think Arshain,Diaby and Bendtner added a bit of directness to the team. They helped us vary the game at times when it wasnt working. I think both Nasri and Rosicky are half wingers. You can play one of them in a flank a game, not both in either flanks. It makes us a one trick pony. I think Eduardo needs to mix it up too.

  5. New Gooner – Oncde again you show you are a bit of a reactionary and arm cair pundit rather than being open-minded. Quote “I never expected Van Persie to adapt to the formation and requirements Wenger needed as a central striker, but he has, similarly, I’m not sure Eduardo can adapt….” The system worked very well with RVP (despite your doubts) and we cannot be sure it will work with Eduardo but we have to test it. One think we know for certain it took nearly six games for RVP to start scoring and it may take the same time with Eduardo. The roblem is people like you, with very little knowledge of what is happening on the training ground come to these half-assed conclusions and twist the facts to fit them.
    BTW – Brain I think we badly missed Diaby. In the system we play his long legs and bags of tricks are vital because of his ability to drive past players, create angles by making quick passes between the forward line and midfield and score goals if necessary. I noticed that he hasn’t had a lot of assists and that is where he must improve if he is to make the next step.

    1. I am very open minded, but time is something we don not have, if you are content with finishing 2nd or 3rd, fine, Wenger tells us we will challenge for the title, but we are 8 points behind, if we have blown leads at the top, do you expect us to clinch it back from behind?

      As for not knowing what goes on on the training ground, I won’t profess to having a monopoly on knowledge, but if you look at my earlier posts, you will see that many I have had some access to some of the players, especially in the post 3-1 loss to Utd in the CL, look at those if you want.

      It is as if criticising Wenger is a large sin, but he is there to win matches if we are ice cold about it, and some of the errors we have made in the past are still happening, we still give up easy chances, why isn’t this being fixed up? Are these not pertinent questions and concerns? Why haven’t we got a variety of ways to change games when we are being neutralized? Why do we sometimes not look interested for ‘smaller’ games but are fired up for other games when they are both worth 3 points? These are the questions I want answers to, especially when they keep reoccurring.

  6. The problem, unfortunately was two-fold.

    First, Eduardo missed a sitter in the first half. What we’ve had this season is precision and incision in attack. What we lacked last season, was the ability to take the early chance. That’s why the game yesterday looked very much like a game from 2008. If we’d scored that goal, we’d have won 3-0.

    Second, we had 4 or 5 players who lacked match fitness in Traore, Nasri, Rosicky, Vela & Walcott. When combined with the post-interlull lethargy of Gallas, Sagna, Song, & Fabregas, we weren’t close to our best, and we did not play with intensity.

    New Gooner’s moan up there, I struggle to understand. We’ve played 3 games this season in which Eduardo starred as the main striker. In each of those we scored for fun.

    And Wenger did change things around.

    I am disappointed because it was a missed opportunity but I also realise Sunderland were very fortunate with their goal.

  7. i noticed after the match that wenger was quick to call out his players – something that he refrains from doing most of the time. he is correct – our players were not direct enough, especially with both nasri and rosicky on the field. neither of them had the bravery to take on defenders going forward this match. whenever they dribbled, they dribbled sideways across goal. what we needed instead was more incisive, forward running, such as what walcott and arshavin provided. this kind of running stretches the games so that there is more space for others. when nasri and rosicky chose to run, it sometimes looks too compact and makes a killer pass more difficult.

    i think it unwise to criticize wenger’s starting selection. as he said, he was looking to balance his team considering all factors, some of which were out of his control. injury, exhaustion and match fitness conspired to upset the attacking chemistry of the team.

    remember – denilson is just back from injury, gibbs just sustained a knock that they thought was a broken metatarsal, bendtner (groin) and van persie(ankle) are still out and arshavin is just back from failing to qualify for the world cup. not to mention this is his first full season. also, walcott just got back from injury, vela hasn’t had a start all season and eduardo has only started 3 other games and is still being eased back into the squad after he had sustained an almost career ending injury.

    all in all, our attack lacked pace and the ability to stretch sunderland’s backline. we did not miss van persie so much as we were without an attacking identity. eduardo did not have nearly enough touches on the ball to stamp his authority on the game and both rosicky and nasri played much too deep to be threatening.

    i think the game was lost in the midfield. their midfielders – cana and henderson were superb at intercepting wayward passes and harrying our players. we just could not hold possession comfortably in the midfield because of how well they pressured us and partly because of a lack of sharpness.

    i really think it came down to the sharpness in midfield – fabregas and song both contributed to 21 out of 109 successful passes, almost 1/5 of the passes between both of htem. they were great in other areas, but hte passing was just not crisp enough to move us forward. the forwards were also forced to move deep to help out the beleaguered forces in midfield – thus contributing to a lack of cutting edge going forward.

    when we attack, we need space. the space between the forward line and midfield was either too great or too short. that was the key to our failure.

    on defense – i would say that gallas and vermaelen did an admirable job all game shackling bent – until the goal of course. the goal was the result of poor defensive marking, which is the whole team’s fault because we should have simply been more organized.

  8. Results like this is why we won’t win the league.

    As a unit we haven’t defended well for 4 years.

    Sunderland carved out next to nothing and absolutely nothing on target until a fortunate ball landed to bent. That said our keeper and defenders were yards too late in getting to it before bent.

    This is not knee jerk I’ve said it at times when we’ve been relatively dominant. Example being birmingham. We are totally in control only to concede to their first chance of the game. Then we look edgy.

    We are not always going to bang in 3/4 goals. So in games like the sunderland one we have to be more defensively organised.

    I love the football we play but when things aren’t going right we look very unsettled.

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