Nasri on the double as Arsenal prepare their defensive strategy

Samir Nasri’s delightful brace helped Arsenal on their way to a 3-0 win notable for the side’s continued progress on their defensive strategy.

It was close to this time last season when Arsene Wenger hurriedly paced the touch-line against third-place Hungarian outfit Szombathelyi Haladás, anxiously trying to knit together his changing plan for the coming season. “The team we have now gets there,” he told Martin Samuel of the The Times last season. “At 22 or 23 I think a team is mature enough to deliver and it is a massively important year for our club. I am conscious of that. I know people have no patience anymore.” A year on and there is a much calmer looking Wenger on the Arsenal bench this time, more confident that his troops have the added experience to back up their infinite technical ability.

There are slight changes afoot as well as the 4-3-3 as played out at the end of last season looks set to be the likely formation against Liverpool on the first day of the season. Here Jack Wilshere once again resumed his dual midfield role alongside Emmanuel Frimpong – ahead in the pecking order due to Denilson’s injury and his greater athleticism over Craig Eastmond. Samir Nasri was pushed a bit higher – Wenger conscious that the modern game dictates the need to play in between-the-lines and in bands so Nasri pushes closer to Chamakh in the attacking phase. Wilshere – or the left-sided central midfielder in any case – drops back to make a two in front of the back four.

Initially there were a few problems caused by Sturm Graz. The imbalance in the midfield meant Arsenal’s back line had to push up to squeeze the space in front but that also afforded the Strum Graz lone forward the opportunity to break past the offside trap. Last season we highlighted the problem in distances in Arsenal’s had in their implementation of the pressing game and for it to work, space must be squeezed for the side to remain compact. Of course, it can be a suicidal tactic to push up as high as Arsenal did as the Austrain opponents looked to exploit the space behind at every opportunity. Johan Djourou in particularly, looked uncomfortable early on.

Essentially, in the defensive phase, the Gunners made a 4-1-4-1 and that left Frimpong isolated at times so the defence knew they had to push up to remain compact. That is why Wenger feels it is important for the forwards to press better and the central midfielders to remain wary of the defensive assignments; Jack Wilshere dropping back is key to the style as it allows the side to maintain their shape. Another weakness was the side being vulnerable to the long diagonal across the left-flank because the of lopsidedness of the system meaning the formation tends to slant towards the right hand side. Arshavin’s lack of defensive discipline and Traore’s tactical awareness was continually sought to be tested by Sturm Graz’s forwards who switched sides also to exploit this gap.

Fortunately for Arsenal, their domination meant such occurrences were not as frequent as they could have been and despite issues to be ironed out, there remains much promise, especially from attack as a form of defence viewpoint. Wilshere and Arshavin showed their growing understanding on the left and their link up play created many openings especially the space for Walcott to work on on the right. As it was, Nasri opened the scoring with the type of burst and clinical finishing that will be expected of much next season. Jack Wilshere was again in the action as for the second goal he won a free-kick on the edge of the box which Nasri delightfully dinked into the top-corner to give Arsenal space to relax.

Relax they didn’t however as many of the youngsters, ready to stake their claim for next season put in a perhaps more impressive performance than the first half as they hardly allowed Sturm Graz a sniff a goal. Henri Lansbury was energetic in the box-to-box role and he finished off a good move set-up by Jay Emmanuel Thomas. Thomas, playing as the lone stiker, was clever in his movement and although relying massively on his beastly stature, continued to create space for his team-mates. Theo Walcott particularly enjoyed the opportunities presented to him to roam inside and Wenger will be hoping that the same ploy will add greater unpredictability to the side (an article on that later on in the season). In central-midfield Eastmond had a sightly error-strewn half but the assurances he provides to the back four is almost Sergio Busquets-like despite his limitations on the ball and he reads the game very well. Havard Nordtviet was one of the three players to play a full game and was very astute and mobile at right-back – and it must be said his his long-passing, developed playing in defensive midfield for FC Nuremberg, were unerringly accurate.

Overall it was a promising performance for the Gunners who, thankfully it must be said, are ready to give greater attention to the defensive side of their game and despite a couple of niggles, the side did come away with a clean sheet. The goalkeeping position is still yet to be decided and while it is an issue that needs to be sorted, it’s still quite a simplistic view that the goalkeepers are to blame for the number of goals shipped in last season – it requires a collective effort first and foremost to deny those chances. And that is what Arsene Wenger is looking to work on for the coming campaign.


19 thoughts on “Nasri on the double as Arsenal prepare their defensive strategy

  1. Good post. It’s good that our youngsters are growing. The only problem seems to be a CD and a decent GK. All in all, i trust in wenger and i am full of expectations this season. Go arsenal go! Mwaaaaaa!

  2. I’d agree that our young kids are looking bright and full of potential – especially JET, he looks like he could be really good.

    Hopefully a new ‘keeper (at the very least) will be on the way sooner rather than later.

  3. Sort out that defence or we will be punished, big time.
    Surely there’s another CB on the way in. If not, I don’t hold out much hope for the coming season

  4. Our youth are surprisinly,but there are stil work to do.a player like ozil,remy,hart as Gk and melo 4 s our statn point.

  5. Well thought out points and one of the best in game desccriptions i’ve read in a while….your style of writing is very similar to david pleat whose currently writing for the guardian. Looking forward to more of your posts

  6. I am proposing that Arsenal fans World wide post letters once a week for the next four weeks to UEFA & FIFA complaining about Barcelona FC’s persistent public ‘tapping up’ of Cesc Fabregas.
    Also post a letter just once to Arsenal FC requesting that they formally complain to UEFA & FIFA about Barcelona FC’s rule breaking disrespectful behaviour.
    I have drawn up 3 template letters that I will email to willing participants. All that you will need to do is type in your own Name & Address before printing off & posting.
    A momentum is needed in this regard & can be boosted by you forwarding the email I send you to every single one of your Arsenal FC supporting family & friends and encouraging them to post letters off once every week for four weeks to UEFA & FIFA and just once to Arsenal FC.
    The aim of repetitive letters would be to create an Administrative headache for UEFA & FIFA with hopefully thousands of letters received from all over the world. It would be a great way to display the strength of feeling from Arsenal FC fans.
    The purpose of the single letter to Arsenal FC is again to display the strength of feeling from Arsenal FC fans.
    The Arsenal FC hierarchy seem to exist in an ‘Ivory Tower’ immune or just simply ignorant to the feelings & wishes of their fans.

    My email address for this campaign from where I will email you the letter templates is ……..

    COME ON !! …… Lets DO this & be taking substantive action for a change instead of simply bleating on web blogs which achieves nothing as it goes unnoticed by those who should hear the complaints the most.

    I will post this on the anti Barca facebook group ………….!/group.php?gid=116042895106146

    & also on as many Arsenal blogs as possible via ……………

  7. a refreshing read from all the usual crap blogs. nice to see someone who can write a clear analysis of the game, players and future strategy of afc. nice one

  8. Nice one The Brain. You bring up an important point, i think, about the formation and how we are expecting to tighten up the defense with protection from the midfield. It’s early days still and we are yet to see the system with our 1st choice players lining up but as things stand, based on last years system, we should be using 2 holding midfielders now for a number of reasons. Firstly, our CB pairing, whoever that may be, need time to gel and settle which will take longer than these preseason games alone, so extra protection infront will make their workload less demanding. We’ve seen on many occasions one of the CBs rushing forward into midfield to close down a player receiving the ball which leaves a huge gap that has been exploited too many times already. The extra DM will cut this out.

    Another defensive weakness is the ball over the top. Now i understand we play a high line to narrow the play in the middle of the park and this doesn’t seem likely to change so to combat the long ball the CB’s need to be on their toes ready to race back. They are not doing this because they want to be ready attack the ball like in my first point. Also, by having 2 Dm’s we are more likely to win the second ball as more often than not it is headed back toward the centre of play.

    On top of all that we’ve seen how important it is against good attacking teams to suffocate play through the middle and force it out to the wings. We should be a lot more capable at defending against crosses now that we have JD or Kos in there.

  9. Good article brain as usual.apart from a defensive strategy id want to see how chamakh is integrated in the team if he starts with you think he will play similar to fabiano for brazil on the shoulder of the lcb?id love your suggestions.

    1. Chamakh is more closer to RVP than Fabiano and although he does play high up the pitch, most of it is back to goal. His strengths are bringing people to play and only can apologies for not going into too much detail on him.

      He’s been solid that’s why I haven’t mentioned him much but his movement and link-up is excellent. Gives that outlet from the back also and the capacity for players to play around his hold-up. Should be a good player.

  10. Anyone think Jet has found his position out wide? I thought his pace, skill and ability to either power down the line or cut in on his hammer left foot worked perfectly for that position. Obviously he can swap and change positions as they all do but as a starting position where he can concentrate his development he has the potential to excel there. I really hope he gets tried there during the Emirates cup.

    1. His movement was great yesterday. Relies heavily on his strength but up front roamed around and interchanged brilliantly with the front three. His dribbling is better than first thought so should give Wenger a “headache” so to speak, with his versatility.

  11. jay emmanuel thomas is very reminiscent of antonio valencia at united. but i think jay is better than valencia

  12. formation 3-2-1-3-1

    koscielny djourou

    sagna gibbs


    walcott arshavin

    van persie

  13. Other than the goalkeeping situation, which could obviously be improved, the position that needs a new player is where Wilshere has been playing. We need a left footed player who can play in CM but has great defensive ability. Vertonghen would fit the bill perfectly. Not only that but he can cover for Song, Vermaelen, and if at any point we need to play with two defensive fullbacks, Left back. He is the last piece of the puzzle. Not only that but he is 23, Captain of Ajax, (So has leadership abilities) and his best friend is Vermaelen so he should be able to integrate quite easily.

  14. 1st Team:
    Sagna – Koscielny – Vemalean – Clichy
    Fabregas – Song – Nasri
    VanPersie – Chamakh – Arshavin

    2nd Team:
    Eboue – Djourou – Nordtveit – Gibbs(Traore)
    Wilshere – Denilson – Diaby(Ramsey)
    Walcot – Bendtner – Vela

    3rd Team:
    Eastmond – Bartley – Miquel – Botelho(Cruise)
    Coquelin(Henderson) – Frimpong – Lansbury(Randall)
    J.E.Thomas(W.Silva) – Simpson(Sunu) – Barazite(Watt)

    And There’s Still More We Dont Need 2 Buy Any More We Are Settled 4 Time. (we can just get very young players only) wenger wud love 2 hear that.

    Almunia and Rosicky can be kept as back up for a year or 2.

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