Arsenal Depot

A depository for musings on Arsenal FC

Bouncing Back, Fullback Promise, Ox To The Rescue

The disappointment from Saturday’s defeat lingers and Olympiacos’ visit to the Emirates can’t come soon enough. After a poor performance, it’s always good for the players to take the field as soon as possible and put things right. It’s Arsenal’s first setback of the season so it’ll be interesting to see how this team responds in midweek.

Arsene Wenger feels they will bounce back strongly.

I think we will recover from it. It can happen in the season, but they are disappointed because they lost a game they should not have lost.

Last season, Arsenal’s resilience in the face of adverse results was heartening to see. While there are obvious areas where the team can improve (read defending set-pieces), it will take dollops of determination and team-spirit to leave Saturday’s disappointment behind and focus on the games ahead. Wednesday will provide a glimpse of how this team can cope with reversals.

Speaking of everyone’s favorite topic at the moment, Arsenal’s set-piece defending, it’s a surprising frailty that has re-emerged this season. Last season, most of our defensive vulnerability was linked to a lack of shape when we lost the ball. That seems to have been put right as Arsenal’s back four have held a deeper line and the midfield has worked hard to afford them protection. However, set-piece defending seems to have regressed to the 2010-11 season, when we were prone to conceding soft goals from free-kicks and corners.

One reason for this could be the reorganisation undertaken by Steve Bould. And I don’t say it as a criticism of the former Arsenal defender. The new assistant manager has only had eight competitive games so far this season and whatever drills are being formulated on the training ground may take time to be implemented effectively in matches.

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Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea: Observations And Analysis

It’s difficult writing an analysis for a game which went so poorly for Arsenal. And the difficulty comes not from the disappointment of the scoreline but the manner of the defeat, a surprisingly nervous and lacklustre display after solid performances in the first five games.

As predicted, Arsene Wenger started the more mobile centre-back pairing of Vermaelen and Koscielny. At the front, Ramsey again took his place on the right with Gervinho playing through the middle, although the Ivorian swapped positions fairly regularly with Podolski on the left. While one decision worked well as the Ivorian netted Arsenal’s only goal, the other gamble of leaving Mertesacker on the bench backfired quite spectacularly.

Chelsea named a line-up that showed attacking intent with Oscar starting behind Torres flanked by Hazard and Mata while Ramires’ energy was preferred in midfield alongside Mikel. It was a brave decision by Roberto Di Matteo, not many managers come to the Emirates and attempt to take Arsenal on at their own game. In the end, Oscar’s inclusion proved decisive as the Brazilian kept Mikel Arteta quite for most of the match.

In a match where neither team played their best football, Arsenal scored one very good goal and conceded two very sloppy ones. This tweet from last night points out the similarities in Arsenal’s concession of both goals.

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Arsenal v Chelsea: Tactical Preview, Probable XI, Score Prediction

Arsenal take on a Drogless Chelsea as both teams attempt to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. As the following tweet suggests, history very much favours the Gunners today.

While there’ll be plenty of attacking talent on display, equally this is a match between two of the Premier League’s meanest defenses at the moment. Both teams have scored nine and conceded just two goals from their five matches. Tactically too, it’s 4-2-3-1 v 4-2-3-1 so there’s a possibility the teams could cancel each other out.

Roberto Di Matteo is likely to select John Terry despite the FA’s four-match ban as it is still subject to an appeal, while the other usual suspects, Luiz, Ivanovic and Cole will line up alongside him in defense. In midfield, Chelsea’s Italian manager has preferred the Mikel-Lampard partnership in three of their five league games and I suspect Di Matteo will persist with that combination.

As pointed out by Michael Cox in the scouting report for Arsenal.com, Di Matteo is still trying to balance his attacking options. While Oscar, Hazard and Mata are an exciting proposition when they play together, the Italian will be wary of Arsenal’s threat going forward so Ramires could be deployed on the right flank to contain the Gunners’ left-sided attacks and provide drive on counter attacks. I expect Hazard to play centrally behind Torres with Mata on the left, although these two will interchange often and try to torment Carl Jenkinson.

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Friday Ramble: Profiting From Common Sense

Our second successive 6-1 victory at the Emirates was followed by the release of financial results for 2011-12, the highlight being that despite reduction in property income and an increase in the wage bill, the club posted pre-tax profits of £36m. You can read the full report, along with statements from Peter Hill-Wood and Ivan Gazidis here.

Of course the numbers relate to last season so the impact of Van Persie and Song’s exits and the arrival of our three new signings will only be seen in next year’s financials. The 2011-12 figures are boosted by the sale of Fabregas and Nasri which contributed significantly to the bottom line. In fact, as the following tweet from the esteemed Swiss Ramble indicates, Arsenal would have made a loss on £28m (£31m loss – £3m property income) but for these player sales.

While I’m not well-placed to dissect the figures thoroughly and you should follow Swiss Ramble for a more detailed analysis, I do have a few observations of my own.

The first is that it goes some way towards explaining Arsenal’s proactivity in the transfer market this season. Last summer, we posted a profit of just under £15m but 85% of that was from property sales and it’s not clear when those were realised. With far stronger numbers behind him this year, Arsene Wenger was able to move quickly for Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla without having to wait for Robin van Persie’s sale. The numbers also suggest that Alex Song’s transfer to Barcelona was for footballing reasons rather than financial ones and the way Arsenal’s midfield have shaped up in early season matches backs up that view.

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Preview – Arsenal v Coventry City: Gunners Likely To Mix And Match

Right, so after the small matter of Manchester City away and before the equally small matter of Chelsea at home comes Arsenal’s toughest test of the season so far, Coventry City in the Capital One Cup tonight.

Jokes aside and with due respect to the Sky Blues, the Gunners are firm favorites. It’s a difficult time for the visitors, manager Mark Robins is just a week old in the job and Coventry City are yet to register a victory after ten games this season. On top of that, they are on a dismal run of four successive defeats that have left them languishing one place off the bottom of the table. To make matters worse, David McGoldrick, their most impressive player is cup-tied while our own Conor Henderson, who’s on loan, is ineligible to play.

Statistically too, everything points to a Gunners victory. In the 16 years Arsene Wenger has been in charge, only twice has he tasted defeat to non-Premier League opponents in the League Cup. The last of those defeats came on a cold December evening in 2008 at the home of then Championship high-flyers Burnley.

That day Wilshere, Ramsey and Gibbs all started for Arsenal while Mannone, Coquelin and Frimpong were unused subs. If proof was required that domestic cup campaigns are ideal playgrounds for developing youngsters then these six are perfect examples – all of them an integral part of the first team squad nowadays. As in previous years, the manager will be keen to use the opportunity to not only gauge the development of Arsenal’s emerging talent but also to give these young footballers a taste of the big stage.

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