Normally, in the build-up of a game of this magnitude, there will be a lot of talk coming out from both of the camps. But this has not been the case between Arsenal and Chelsea. With no new news material to comment on, it’s best to look back tactically at what went wrong for us last Sunday and hope that it is rectified by kick-off at Stamford Bridge.
We were cruelly exposed on the wings in the 2 losses that we’ve endured at the Grove this season. First Ashley Cole, then Nani both used the width of the pitch to great effect. Crucially both players operates on different sides of the flanks for their respective teams, which just shows that our weakness is not so much on the players themselves but rather due to the tactics that the team plays in.
From being the best fullbacks in the country just 2 seasons ago, both Sagna and Clichy have not quite been able to maintain that level of performance this season. The reason for this could well be the very same reason why we have prospered at the other end of the field. The change of formation from the usual 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 has increased our attacking threat but on the downside, it also affords the opposition more space to exploit on the flanks.
In our previous formation, there’s always an extra man in midfield which provides protection for the fullbacks whenever they are being attacked but in the current formation, our fullbacks are not receiving enough cover from those in front of them. With Song as the only real defensive screen in front of the back four, he cannot afford to move to the side to cover for the fullbacks as there are bound to be runners through the middle. The other position in midfield which is normally played by Diaby/Denilson has a dual role of defending and attacking. In the normal defensive stance, they will be the one to look to provide extra support on the flanks but if they were in the attacking stance and the opposition launch a counter attack, chances are it will be a direct one-on-one between the opposition’s winger/fullback against our fullback.
So, the onus is really on the front trio as well as Fabregas to know their role during such situations. Players themselves must be aware of the danger that should a counter attack be launched into our half. They must not allow themselves to be sucked into the play and leave gaps in positions which they were originally intended to cover. Each player must work their socks off to harry and not allow the opposition time to pick their passes. Either side of the front trio will have to drop back and support and temporarily make it a midfield 4 whenever we are in defensive mode.
This may be easier said on paper than actually doing it on the pitch. With the excitement of the game going around you and the oppourtunity to score on the cards, players sometimes can forget their role in the game. Clean sheets are a rarity for this Arsenal, a far cry from the days when Tony Adams and David Seaman were in the side. To win the league we must learn to keep our door shut and make a fortress again that it once was. To do that is simple, each and every one of our players will need to work their socks off to help their team mates.
Match preview tomorrow. Have a nice day.