On 2 separate reports, Arsene Wenger was asked how important the Monday’s game against Chelsea is. On one side he says that it is a must win game and the other he plays down the importance of the so call mini-league between the big teams. There are valid arguments on both sides of the fence.
On one hand, our players need the win over a direct championship rival to overcome the psychological barrier that seems to exist. We can harp all day long about the possession that we had and how much in control we were in the game but at the end of the day, it is not significant if we end up losing the game. Whilst one can argue that the goals conceded to Park Ji-Sung and Didier Drogba may be somewhat fortuitous, I am in no doubt that better defending would have prevented them from scoring.
For most part, it is also about building a winning mentality. You can see how timid we are in those big games. The normal Arsenal that we see just do not come out against the likes of Manchester United or Chelsea. Once they players win a game, I believe things will change. The players will know what it is like to win against them and that can change the perspective of the players and build their confidence. It will also put some fear into these teams, if not at least doubts when they face us.
On the other hand, even if we take into account Manchester City, that is only a total of 6 games. For a championship with 20 teams and 38 games in total, 6 games does not make or break the title contenders. If Arsenal had picked up wins against the rest of the 16 teams, I dare say that we would win the league. There are much more points to be gained there than just the mini-league. That being said, I hardly think we can win 32 games a season.
Our lack of plan B have been our downfall in those cases. Most teams know how to play against us, as Wenger highlighted here. Even United do not play their normal game against us. Keeping things tight in the middle and not allowing our midfield time on the ball. In fact, Alex Ferguson went as far as to prevent our fullbacks from playing.
However, that is not the first time that we’ve come up against teams with such tactics. As a football team, Arsenal must have alternative options when things aren’t going the way we want to. The arrival of Marouane Chamakh and the aerial ability of Nicklas Bendtner must be used to full effect when faced with such tactics. There’s no point admiring their heading abilities if we don’t utilise it.
Take the game against United for example. When our passing failed us and the players are not getting as much freedom, why not get to the byline and cross the ball in for Chamakh to attack? Why not put Bendtner in to separate our Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic? Why not instruct Samir Nasri or Andrey Arshavin to start whipping crosses in? May not be pretty but could still be a very efficient tactic nonetheless.
Lots to ponder. Match preview will be tomorrow.
Before I end today’s post, I would like to comment on my own country’s football team. Tonight was the AFF Suzuki Cup final first leg. Malaysia won 3-0 against Indonesia and it was a great win. Defensive solidarity that Arsenal could learn something from. A defensive midfielder that stays in position as opposed to the Alex Song of this season. On the downside, there are still idiots in this country who took the shine of a very good win. Indonesian players had to deal with laser being shown onto them the entire game. Play even had to be stopped to ensure announcement can be made to advice the fans not to do so. Truly disgraceful behaviour on a day when the entire country should be proudly celebrating a very good first leg victory.