Don’t let the Win over Cologne Disguise another Poor Display and Odd Selections ahead of a the Real Test

Win but…

The result of the match should not disguise that this was another poor performance.

The first half was a copy of the game between Spurs and Borussia Dortmund except that we were the dominant force and we should have punished Cologne as Dortmund who had 63% possession should have punished Spurs. The similarity of approach was uncanny. We owned the ball for much of the first half but Dortmund had several chances to score. We were fortunate that Cologne were not as deadly as Spurs. They played to a plan and as usual, we fell into our usual malaise of taking the ball up to their defenders, then playing sideways and backwards at walking speed, which is now traditionally our regular game.

There was no urgency or passion in our game and no shape to the team. We did have a recognisable back three in Holding, BFG and Monreal, but no Kolasinac at left back. The midfield was Elneny with Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Iwobi. It was not apparent what the shape was because none of them was in touch with each other. Bellerin was in No Man`s Land again and was more often found in Walcott`s position as a right winger whilst Walcott was forever offside. Giroud was the CF but he did not receive any service apart from the occasional misjudged crosses from Bellerin.

Offside Theo

To be fair Elneny put in a shift and he did move the ball on faster than anyone else did. He was the only one who tried to move from defence to attack at a proper speed and he did deserve a better response from our forwards. Walcott`s failure to stay onside undid much of his work and when so many balls were wasted, Cologne took advantage. Their goal came from us losing possession in their half whilst Bellerin was in their last third of the pitch. A long ball was heading for their winger who was in the space where Bellerin should have been. Ospina came running out to rescue the situation and he reached the ball a split second before the winger did , but in his haste to clear the ball, he mis-kicked and the beneficiary of the mis-kick, Cordoba, realising that he was stranded well outside the box gleefully lofted the ball over him into the empty net. Thereafter they could have been another goal or two ahead even considering the circumstances of their first goal. Their goalkeeper did not have a single shot to save during the first half.

After that calamitous half, Kolisinac replaced Holding whose nerves were shattered, and immediately, the defence was stiffened and Cologne did not find it so easy to penetrate our rear-guard. As we approached the 60 min mark, Iwobi was visibly tired and struggling and he was replaced by Wilshire. Jack made an impact because he tried to pair with Sanchez who had also been ineffective in the first half.  Elneny had a focus for his passes because there was more movement in the attack.

Energised by Sead

Kolisinac augmented our forward play by charging up the left to support Sanchez and he and Sanchez engineered our first goal, which was a superb volley by the ex-Schalke man. Cologne were rattled and their noisy fans were silenced. Sanchez appeared to be energised by the goal and shortly afterwards he cut in from the left and scored a brilliant individual goal out of nothing. Suddenly, we were rampant and Bellerin put the match to bed with a third goal and a night, which had started so badly became a celebration.

I would not get too carried away by what happened. For most of the game, we had no shape, no desire and our nemesis of sideways and backwards passes, surfaced yet again. Wenger does not seem to be able to purge that from our game. The younger players like Iwobi and Maitland-Niles seem to have caught it and it is difficult for them to adjust from the faster speed they normally play at, to this walking tempo the seniors do when they come up against a packed defence.

Now we have to play Chelsea and I cannot think of a single player in the absence of Coquelin who could be called a defensive midfielder. Xhaka can`t tackle and he is too slow to cover gaps between attack and defence. Ramsey is an offensive midfielder and all his instincts are to forage up field. In his best season, he interlinked with Wilshire and Walcott in the box and Giroud played short sharp flicks to open up tight defences. That simply doesn`t happen anymore.

We now have a clever CF in Lacazzete who can combine with fast moving forwards especially Sanchez but once possession is lost we are in trouble because we are top heavy with forwards, and wingbacks who are all congested in the top third of the pitch. Chelsea are the masters at exploiting the gaps left behind them. There are always empty spaces in midfield and we are particularly vulnerable to diagonal balls aimed at flying wingers who link up with the advancing midfielders while our absentee defenders try to back track to plug the gaps that are there.

The centre backs are drawn apart because one of them has to move out to confront the winger and that leaves another gap in the centre of our defence and we see panic there rather than a solid centre in front of the Goalie.

Okay but no the solution

Elneny is quick and he plays the ball off efficiently, but he does not strengthen our resistance in defence. He looks for spaces to get into and he does not watch the opponents to spot the danger signs. We don`t have a Vieira or Petit who used to be a solid pairing in the “they shall not pass” mode.

For at least 10 years, we have not had anyone of that mould in our team and we don`t have the pairings throughout the team which are the lubrication of the machine.

We are what we are and we have to do our best with the personnel that we have to try to ingrain a shape to the team and a method to play to it, into the psyche of our players. Chelsea are disciplined, and so are Spurs. Every player looks as if he knows what part of the jigsaw he is and where his place is. Liverpool are much the same, but they are let down by a poor defence, so they are not a top 3 team.

Man City are the nearest thing to a complete team in the league. They have powerful midfielders e.g. De Bruyne and deadly scorers in Aguero and Jesus. They have very mobile wingbacks and generally, they all play quickly and accurately. There are pairings and triangles all over the pitch, which gives them opportunities to switch play. Man Utd. are not as accomplished but they are a physically huge team and they play at speed. They are not top dogs at this point but they are getting there. What they lack in the smoothness of City, they make up for in power.

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My order of merit is 1. City, 2. Spurs. 3. Chelsea 4. Utd. 5. Liverpool. Unless we sign better midfielders and devise a system, which the players understand, and can be disciplined in its execution, I do not see any prospect of breaking into the top four again. Wenger signed these players and whatever it was that he saw in them, it is not apparent on the field. He has resorted (infamously at Liverpool) to playing people in positions they are not meant to play in. Bellerin at left back and Kolasinac dropped while Ox filled Bellerin`s spot?

The result of his poor judgement of players and his inability to present a credible opposition to the top 5 teams has, and will in the future, cost us any chance of making the top 4. We concede between 4 and 6 points to each of them every season and that is just criminal. We used to have the odd bogey team, but now we have 5 cast iron teams that we just cannot get the better of.

I dread to think of what will happen on Sunday with the team so ill equipped for the contest.

Image result for wilshere v cologne

In closing, I am delighted to say that Jack Wilshire came through the match unscathed and he showed glimpses of what we have missed from him. Best wishes for a total recovery. That little dummy which took two players out of the game in their own box and led to Bellerin`s goal, was a touch of magic.

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6 Responses to Don’t let the Win over Cologne Disguise another Poor Display and Odd Selections ahead of a the Real Test

  1. Northerbof. September 16, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

    Excellent stuff.Few bloggers ever mention the holes created on our flanks by absent backs WANDERING back from the opposition half whilst goals are being scored from their vacant positions.You did this well but as Arsenal have been guilty of this for at least a decade I see no hope of it ever being fixed.Ferguson relied on these gaps each match.City have scored at least 3 times from a break from a corner with all our lot milling about in their half. No other team ever does anything as crass as this more than once .

    • Victor Thompson September 17, 2017 at 11:54 am #

      Hi Northerbof, thank you for your comment. It is nice to hear a comment which is similar to mine. Writing these blogs is a kind of safety valve. I like to look back on my previous ones and the comments I get. Very often a thread appears which shows me that they are not all in vane. I hope that anyone who follows my blogs finds some value in my opinions. many of my forecasts have already taken place and if I can spot the faults mainly down to Wenger, then it must be obvious to those in control that he should be aware of them too.

  2. Tim Casey September 16, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    You obviously like your Arsena glassl , half empy. Obviously Wenger is a poor tactician and no interest in setting up the team to defend. It is frustrating for all the supporters, how nieve we are for away games at the other top sides. We proved at Wembley with Mertesacker we can defend and close down the space.

    Surely Wenger can now see the open attacking play with no discipline, will again bring failure. Unfortunately with Coquelin injured, this further limits our options. If we go a four at the back, playing players in the correct positions. And insist the midfielders protect the defence. We have the players to get a result. I am optimistic we can win

    • Victor Thompson September 17, 2017 at 11:43 am #

      Thanks for your interest Tim. I do not like my glass half full and that is why I try to explain why I say Wenger is tactically naive. As you say, without Coquelin ( who is not quite top class ) we have no naturally defensive midfielder and no one to dominate midfield. That is because Wenger did not sign anyone for that role and therefore we have an imbalance in the team. We should have an embarrassment of riches with the number of attackers we have but as if we didn`t we add Bellerin to the mix as he is more often in the opposition half than he is in ours.

      There is an inevitable traffic jam in the final third and no width between the forwards. It becomes a game of chess and they exchange sort meaningless passes at slow speed and it is easy for the opposing defenders to pick off. The constant tactics to take us apart are used by all teams by playing long diagonal balls over us and by-passing the midfield.

      Chelsea in particular immediately send the storm troopers on a charge to support the wingers and they suddenly have total control of the midfield because half of our team are still in retreat.

      This happens so regularly that our glass is constantly Half full!

  3. Akan September 16, 2017 at 5:53 pm #

    Most of your analysis of the game against Cologne was point except that we started with 2 wing backs in the first half Bellerin on the right and Maitland Niles in the left wing back position and that is what caused the disarray and imbalance of the team. This disastrous team formation soon became a calamity when the goal keeper had to come out to clear a ball because the defenders, Mertersacker in particular, were too slow to deal with and we found ourselves one nil down. It quickly became glaringly obvious that this particular experiment was not going to work and the only surprising thing was that he waited until halftime to make the necessary adjustments. Maitland Niles is a very ‘seriously’ good central midfielder either attacking or defensive even at this stage of his career as he was able to showcase in the second half when switched to his natural position. He reminds so much of Micheal Thomas. I fear Arsene Wenger’s dabbling with playing him all around the park is going to curtail and ultimately damage his development like he has done with so many promising prospects recently. It is very noticeable that a number of young prospects have made the decision to leave the club permanently in the last transfer window as the reality hits them that they will not be going anywhere with Arsenal under Wenger, its clear he cannot develop young players anymore (if he ever could). Another habit he (Wenger) has developed over the years is to have two maybe three world class players in the squad while the rest are made up of mediocre dross and his personal favourites who will get into the team regardless of whether they are any good or not. The top class player soon recognises the folly and questions his sense of trying against the odds, making all the effort to drag a team of average players to his level and win trophies and wants out. The list of players who have faced the issue given up and moved elsewhere to win silverware is very long. The list of average dirge players Wenger has pitched to the fans as world class acquisitions is even longer, Xhakha is the latest one.

  4. Victor Thompson September 17, 2017 at 11:48 am #

    Hi Akan, Obviously we are of a like mind and I have also spotted and remarked on Wengers` inability to nurture and coach young players into becoming complete mature footballers. He is now doing to Maitland Miles what he did to Oxelaide Chamberlain and playing him in bit part roles all over the team.

    Klopp is going to have to undo a lot of the mistakes Wenger drilled into him. He was a naturally talented youngster when he came to us and he had not really matured when he left.

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