Arsenal show great urgency after going down to ten men

Arsenal had to dig deep and remain focused for the full ninety minutes to keep West Ham at bay and record a win after Thomas Vermaelen’s red card early in the first half.

Arsenal is learning how to win things the hard way. Late goals at Hull and Stoke reaffirmed their new found mental mental strength while the emphatic turnaround against Porto and the defeat of Liverpool displayed the correct application of flair and pragmatism. This time however, they faced arguably their most difficult proposition since being written off the title after the loss to Chelsea – having to defend a whole half with ten men.

Recent statistics on the other hand will dispute that notion, indicating that not much changes once a team experiences numerical disadvantage from a level or winning position and in some cases, gets better. That was the case in the win over West Ham as the away side visibly found it just as difficult to make their man advantage count as creating opportunities with the head count at evens. The Carlton Cole effort that hit the crossbar stands as the real notable moment in which West Ham looked dangerous in the second-half and Gianfranco Zola was particularly displeased with his side’s overall application. “I am disappointed, especially after the first half when I thought that we were playing the best game of the season,” he said. “The key was to keep the discipline because you have the extra man and I told them to keep it simple, to move the ball around until we have two versus one. Scoring the penalty would have been a big help because Arsenal would have played different football. But they just sat back and played the counter-attack. We just did not use the extra man.”

The aftermath of the defeat asks what West Ham could have done different to disrupt Arsenal’s compactness. Zola did revert to the 4-4-2 in a bid to catch Arsenal in moments of transition but found in front of them, the defensive shield of Song and Denilson in imperious form, the latter scoring a well worked first. As usual, Andrey Arshavin’s pearls of wisdom capture the Brazilian’s performance best; “He [Denilson] was the best in this game. Not because he scored early in the first half, but because he worked miracles in the second one. He kept on snatching the ball from West Ham players; he was everywhere, ahead of everybody like a “clockwork bunny”. In my opinion, Denilson played phenomenal game.” [Stats: 73 passes – 100% accuracy, 10 tackles attempted– 6 won, 3 interceptions and 3 free-kicks won.]

The problem with the Hammers was that their formation mirrored Arsenal when attacking, even with a man down. The full backs weren’t able to get forward freely so the Gunners never at any moment felt stretched despite the pretty patterns West Ham created. By moving Valon Behrami to right back, Zola effectively displaced his most industrious player and the one most likely to double up in zones to create uncertainty.He could have switched to the 4-3-3 he played when he had less strikers at his disposal but as is the case with West Ham, their final ball is often missing when there is less space to manoeuvre.

Arsenal also upped their concentration levels and in introducing Diaby, gave the side the ability to win back the ball better. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez says it’s normal that it’s sometimes easier at times to defend a lead with a man down as the team’s mentality instantly shifts: “When you go [the opposition] down to ten men, that didn’t help us at all,” he said after his sides draw against Manchester City earlier this year. “It gives a reason for the opposition to be alert, to be concentrating, to get behind the ball, to be well organised and that’s makes it even harder.”


14 thoughts on “Arsenal show great urgency after going down to ten men

  1. after dat game, av asked maself if song can play alongside verm next season n buy melo 2 play songs role. Arshavin shoul put more heart 2 his perfomance.

  2. I thought West Ham showed us a lot of respect. Football is a funny old game, and perceptions matter a lot. From Zola’s post-game comments, he really rates Arsenal…more than Chelsea, and that might explain why his team had more of a go at Chelsea.

    I’m not complaining. I think again, Wenger doesn’t get credit for his pragmatic tactics. In the 2nd half we were very solid, and we showed that we can maintain a compact shape when there’s a need for it.

    The ease with which we changed shape, and protected the flanks, the pressure we put on West Ham’s midfield players, was really eye-opening.

    He also got the susbitutions right. I was wondering WTF when he took off Bendtner & took off Diaby but it turned out such a great move.

  3. The workrate of Denilson and, once he was brought on, Diaby was immense and it seemed as if the game was 11 v 11. Diaby especially was all over the pitch and his ability to win the ball and take one or two West Ham players completely out with a quick turn and burst upfield was amazing.

    Prior to Bendtner’s replacement by Diaby, I thought West Ham might overrun our midfield as we were playing 4-3-2 with Bendtner and Arashavin up top. Once Diaby came on, we switched to 4-4-1 and shored up the midfield considerably and actually controlled much of the game. Moving Eboue into the midfield was also a great move. The energy of those three seemed to more than make up for the missing man.

    I was kind of hoping that Walcott would come in and play up top. It seemed this situation suited his skills perfectly with us set up to play on the counter. Still, I’ll three points under very difficult circumstances.

  4. Actually, having rewatched some of the 2nd half, even with Bendtner and Arshavin we played 4-4-1 with Arshavin dropping back into the midfield. Still, I think Diaby’s introduction injected a lot of needed energy into the midfield.

  5. Good analysis, Brain, and I can’t add much to it — hell, I agree entirely with Ole Gunner’s post. 🙂

    I was esp. happy to see Denilson finally show why some of us have defended him. For various reasons he hasn’t been at his best this season, and I too have expressed disappointment in him, but I always thought it would just be a matter of time for him to show why AW has faith in him. Unfortunately, his form this season has given too much material for his detractors. On Saturday he showed exactly why he has his supporters. I keep saying that Denilson does not fit into easy categories or labels in terms of his appropriate position on the pitch, why he is like the Brazilian “transitional” midfielder more than anything else – a position that is quite difficult, requires a sense of judgment and decision-making more difficult than other positions. It’s a role that is often dismissed as to its importance.

    It’s also heartening to see several players come into form at this point in the season – Denilson, Almunia, Nasri. All I asked of Almunia at the season’s start was for him to replicate his form from the past 2 seasons (4th best keeper in the PL). He seems to be returning to that form now.

    The only player that concerns me now is Eduardo. The only thing that gives me hope is that it took about 3 or 4 seasons for Diaby to begin showing some of his potential after his injury. I certainly hope it doesn’t take that long for Eduardo.

    1. I’ve found it rather disturbing that Arsenal fans have been so quick to ignore that he collapsed against Everton and instead accused him of being lazy (Stoke FA Cup and Man Utd). I thought it was quite clear he was playing injured due to missing other players and that he was ensuring he didn’t push too far and injure himself seriously.

      1. Agreed about the appalling accusations re Denilson when he collapsed and why he wasn’t giving enuf physical effort on the pitch at times. Now Arsene did imply that Denilson didn’t make the right decision at that moment, saying that he should’ve risked a foul or something (can’t recall his exact words) – but I credit that to naivete on his part.

        1. hold on to the ball with both arms, take the yellow, and don’t let the f***ers run away with it was what le Boss would have wanted him to do, marcus 🙂

  6. Diaby has won 150 tackles this season. That’s more than mascherano.

    When you look at the stats at some of our players compared to the ‘names’ of lampard, gerrard and even fletcher our boys are coming out on top in terms of passes, tackles and interceptions.

  7. Whatever kept you away last week, Brain, I’m sure everyone here like myself is glad that you are back!

    I think Theo will start the Barca game. There will be plenty of space there for him to run into. For now, though, Eboue has perfected the art of getting contacts (converting “dives” into “fouls”); enough that he will start the tight, congested games in the PL. His wonderful dribbling skill has always been there,except for more than a few myopic eyes of those who hate him out of sheer prejudice.

    I don’t think Zola “respect” us as if fearing, though he never reserve sincere praises for Arsene and Arsenal. West Ham gave us a real go in their home game and earned 2 deserving points there. They played quite well late in the first half and created a deadly chance in each half of the game. In this sort of game last season, each of those could have easily gone in and left us empty handed.

    That’s yet another testament of how far we have progressed.

    1. Errata: Believe me, I know a draw earns each team one point only. When I said 2 points above, I meant scoring 2 goals to draw the game.

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