Something Has To Change – League Cup The New Priority?

By Daniel Cowan
In Arsenal
Nov 3rd, 2012
21 Comments

Something has to change. The defeat I can handle but I can’t handle the not competing in games. Today we played like a kid on FIFA who has a PS3 but is playing on his mates XBOX and doesn’t quite understand all the buttons yet. He won’t be completely humiliated because he’s been a FIFA gamer for years and understands the basics but he won’t win because his brain is programmed to PS3 controls.

Just not the same

This is the problem with Arsenal at the moment. We play a certain way and with a certain formation but with the wrong players. We’re trying to play PS3 buttons on an XBOX controller.

We’re not moving forward at a fast enough pace because we’re not adapting quickly enough. We used to play 4-1-3-2 because that is what suited our players best and now we play variations of 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 and it’s just not working any more.

We changed to 4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 because it was the best way to get the maximum out of Fabregas. We went to a one striker system because it was necessary to get the best out of Cesc and the rest of our players had to adapt. Van Persie did not initially want to play as a striker and didn’t think he had it in him but it was necessary for him to adapt to that formation because that is what Cesc needed. When Cesc left we persisted with that formation because that was then what suited van Persie best and now he has gone but we’re still sticking with it.

Why are we persisting with a formation that is best suited to players long departed?

Over the past few weeks I have seen many criticisms levelled at the team, management, board, individual players and certain factions of fans for holding one view over another and I seem to see many false impressions. I’m no oracle of football and I do not consider my views better than anyone else’s but I just cannot understand how some issues are exacerbated and others completely ignored by so many.

Today for example, Santos was far from quality but he was certainly not at fault for van Persie’s goal. Podolski left a massive gap that was exploited and Santos was caught between a rock and a hard place. The ball was whipped in and should have been dealt with quite easily thus not creating a never-ending debate over which player Santos should have covered (as he cannot cover two men at once and if he tracked Rafael and the man he was tracking had scored or assisted he’d still be wrong). However that was not to be as Vermaelen completely scuffed a routine clearance and van Persie pounced with the deadliness we so loved last year and so prayed he would not have post-Arsenal.

Not always his fault

Who got the blame? Santos did. Vermaelen’s awful attempt at a clearance whilst under very little pressure was clearly Santos’ fault for allowing a cross to come in following decent work by Valencia and poor cover by Podolski. Completely Santos’ fault right? Wrong.

Santos is far from being a player that does not deserve criticism but I feel he is often maligned for issues that are far beyond his control. Podolski has been poor recently and many claim he is carrying an injury but if he allows himself to be passed fit to play then he must defend as he did at the beginning of the season. His lack of protection and Vermaelen’s lack of cover and willingness to wander I feel has exposed Santos far too often and has led to unfair criticism. He’s no Gibbs and he’s far from being top notch backup but he isn’t a shit player.

Santos and Ramsey are easy to criticise for some but when others, particularly fan favourites, do the same they rarely get the same treatment. Whenever Ramsey attempts a backheeled pass of any kind or a flick he is instantly berated on twitter and I have to turn twitter off because I can’t stomach the incessant “this guy is so shit and he should never play for Arsenal again” crap because that is what it is. It’s mindless, unintelligent crap.

Cazorla gave the ball away many times today with flicks and backheels. Did anyone criticise him? Did they heck. Not one tweet said a bad word about him. I had a few agreeable responses to my tweets about it but most of them were justifying him being rubbish today with “but the whole team was rubbish”.

Beyond criticism?

Santi is in charge of our creativity and we’ve been less than creative recently. Coincidence? I think not but many will justify it somehow. They’ll probably blame Ramsey who funnily enough created our only half-decent chance in the first half.

We’re trying to play a game based on a midfield and forward line of Cesc, Wilshere, Song, Nasri, van Persie and Walcott and sadly we only have two of those players.

Some think that the easiest way to sort out our problems is to sack Wenger but I disagree. I’m not a WOB or an AKB and certainly do not think Wenger is above criticism because he’s not. He’s the greatest manager the club has ever had but that doesn’t mean he’s infallible. My issue with Wenger is not that he doesn’t see the things we supporters see but that he chooses not to act on them. I have one reader I’m sure will read this and will write a response along the lines of “clever you, of course Mr Wenger knows absolutely nothing about football and his knowledge isn’t a patch on yours and you know exactly what he is thinking… remind me how many years you’ve been managing now”. I think we can safely assume that Wenger chooses not to act on certain things because he hasn’t acted on them. A man of Wenger’s intelligence cannot miss the things that are so blatantly obvious to us supporters so he must be choosing not to act on them.

It’s clear that our system is not working for one reason or another and yet again we have no plan B. We are not Barcelona, we do not have Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta or Cesc Fabregas and we do not play in La Liga so we do not have the luxury of playing our game until the opposition breaks. We are Arsenal and in my opinion our true brand of football is far more entertaining.

We are not these guys

These are the problems I think we have on the pitch and how we can fix them.

Our first problem used to be defence but we’ve managed to get on top of that to some extent since the appointment of Bould and the emergence of Mertesacker as our best defender (as I predicted he would be… sorry, had to blow the trumpet there). The problem now is the strength of our backups. Jenkinson is a fine backup for Sagna and I feel that he is very unlucky to be out of the side at the moment especially as I see no improvement on his presence by Sagna being back. Koscielny is a quality backup but for Vermaelen (although I consider him superior to Vermaelen) not for Mertesacker so we lack backup for when the big man is out. Santos is not good enough backup for Gibbs and that’s not because he is not talented enough but because of the system we play. Santos is perfectly fine backup when he has protection in front and protection cannot be true protection in the form of a forward and left forwards are what are expected to protect him at the moment. Gibbs can soak up that pressure, Santos cannot.

Our second problem is creativity. The problem not being that Cazorla is not creative enough but that he is practically our only source of creativity and if the pressure of expectation doesn’t get to him then opposition players marking him out certainly will.

Purveyors of 4-1-3-2

When we bought Cazorla I pondered if him joining would see Theo move into the middle because I felt that he would bring something special to our wings. He is more than capable of playing in the middle but I felt then and feel even more strongly now that he would be best suited to playing wide for us. He has lost some pace over the years, you could see that today, but his quick feet and sharp brain would bamboozle most full-backs.

He is playing in the middle at the moment because we’ve missed having someone with Cesc’s passing ability in the middle but Cazorla is not Cesc and despite a few saying he is or wishing he  was better than Cesc he sadly is not.

Wilshere is more than capable of being our creative midfielder and in Ramsey, yes Ramsey, and Eisfeld we have two very excellent young players with superb vision, the only question is can they reach their potential. Ramsey looked stellar before his injury and a very tough year and fans constantly being on his back have only hampered his chances of getting back onto the course his rising star was following.

Our brightest young talent before this

Wilshere is far too difficult to shackle and if he was our creative central midfielder I think other teams would be in trouble because you cannot mark him out of the game. This is a guy who dominated the best midfield in the world twice at the age of 19. Plus, we’d still have Cazorla’s creativity out wide and even though there is no love for Nasri we cannot deny we benefited from his quick feet out wide and Cazorla could be that and more.

Our next problem is playing injured players. If Podolski is carrying an injury then he should be in the treatment room and not on the field. If we insist on playing with a wide forward then we have to play Arshavin. Sure he can be frustrating, lazy, nonchalant and poor in defence but he is our player and a talented one at that so we should use him. At least until Podolski is fully fit again.

Our biggest problem is forcing players to play to a system rather than play a system to the players. Wenger over the years has changed his formation to best suit the players he has so why are we sticking with something we know isn’t working.

Carrying a knock?

Chamakh’s career and estimation by the supporters has probably been irreparably damaged by our system. He is not a lone striker and chucking him on towards the end of the game as a lone striker or out wide does him and us no favours. He showed towards the tail-end of last year and when Giroud came on against Reading that playing him with a partner brings results. He can play others in, suck in defenders, create space, flick balls on, power in headers and even stick in a few with his feet too. Chamakh could be very dangerous for Arsenal but he needs to play with a partner be that Giroud or Walcott.

Walcott is another example. Time after time he proves that his ability in front of goal is comparable to the top scorers in the league. He hangs on the shoulder of the last man and times his runs to perfection and the majority of his goals come from central positions yet his ability to lead the line is constantly questioned. Play him with a partner and they can lead the line completely negating the question can he lead the line leaving him to stick the ball in the back of the net. Mark my words, Theo will become one of the leagues most dangerous strikers when he is eventually played as a striker and believe me it will happen. Either with us or against us because someone else will give him that chance.

Some say that a top four team wouldn’t buy him but that’s of no relevance because all he has to do is bang in the goals for a mid-table team and someone else will buy him. He’s only 23 so 2 years at a mid-table team as a striker and United, Chelsea or City could easily snap him up whilst he is in the prime of his career and we’ll all rue the day we sold him.

I’m going about this the really long way but in simple terms we need to change our formation and we absolutely have to go with two strikers if we are going to compete in this league again.

Excuse the language but the point must be made

My good friend and fellow blogger @goonerdave66 wrote an excellent piece on why we need two strikers that you simply must read.

We showed on Tuesday night that we best suit a two striker system. When we converted to a two striker system we scored 6, that’s SIX, goals in 75 minutes. Sure it was against an inferior team but let us not forget that the supposed inferior team scored 5 against us and we were playing with our “inferior” players so imagine what our big guns could do in that formation. Wilshere and Cazorla would have a field day creating chances for Walcott, Giroud and Podolski to smash in.

There are five things we must do in order to win the premier league next season because let’s face it, we’re not going to do it this year bar a miracle.

  1. Revert to our old 4-1-3-2 system or any system with two strikers
  2. Put Cazorla on the wing and move Theo up front
  3. Stop playing injured players
  4. Get a back up for Mertesacker who can gel with Vermaelen and/or Koscielny because they’re like the Gerrard and Lampard of defence
  5. Prioritise the League Cup this season

Number five may surprise a few of you but we need to win something to give the team some belief and realistically that is our best shot. Only one team of significant threat remains in the competition and that is Chelsea.

I do not consider the League Cup to be of much significance in a normal season but I concede that this and the 4 or 5 before it is not a normal season and I would very much like a day out at Wembley again.

This has to be the priority

Our priority this season has to be to finish in the top 4 and to win the league cup. We have enough money in the bank to not have to worry about prioritising the Champions League because we will most likely go out before the quarter finals. Our main focus this season has to be domestic. We have to be the best of the rest (as has been our speciality) and we have to win a cup. We need the belief to enable us to push on.

We’re in the quarter finals so we have to ensure we make the semi’s, then the final and once we have won that at the end of February we can focus our entire efforts on finishing in the top four and maybe even the top three again.

I still believe that Wenger is the man to take us forward because lets be honest, who is there out there? Guardiola is a fine coach for sure but remember he spent well over £200m and inherited the most talented group of players for decades. Wenger built his from scratch.

Something has to change and it starts with our formation and winning the league cup.

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About "" - 509 Posts

I am a South London born Gooner now living in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. I'm a husband, daddy, podcaster, trainer enthusiast and aspiring author. My work is my passion and for that I will always be grateful. Here is where I write my thoughts and views on Arsenal Football Club, the greatest team the world has ever seen.

21 Responses to “Something Has To Change – League Cup The New Priority?”

  1. Aman says:

    Great article! I agree with almost all the points. Even in this formation, if we can move ramsey to the mid, wilshere as AM and cazorla on the right, it can make a difference.

  2. ASNLthruNthru says:

    very sensible (steve bould type of) approach. unfortunately Wenger calls all the shots

  3. a formation with two strikers seems the only solution….sagna per tv5 gibbs; cazorla ramsey wilshere podolski; theo giroud

    no disrespect to arteta but i just cant fit 3 center mids in there :p

  4. isaac says:

    hi. Thanks for the article, i would like to agree with on chang’n our system/style of play, and also the fifth point. Cause these two wil actualy bring the rest in place. Plus I always fancied walcot as astricker, with his skill & pace, he’l take on any defence. And lastly i miss roscisky, every game to him is like his last on earth. Cheers.

  5. dboy (RVP WAS RIGHT. NO AMBITION) says:

    SO SO SO SAID will it change people arestill talking about changing formations, while other teams master these formations HMMM I just wonder what could be wrong???? MUST BE THE AKB’s after all they are allowing this situation to continue.

  6. Jerry Johansson says:

    It is not that Wenger does not understands the problem, that’s not why he must go. But rather that Wenger doesn’t seem to want win as badly anymore. At least it is not his first priority it seems. I mean look at Alex Ferguson, what did he do When Rooney threatened to leave? He did everything in his power to keep him. And then look what Wenger did in the same situation? Wenger sold Van Persie, and not just to anyone, but to one of our main competitors.

    Do somebody who is obsessed about winning, do that? Really? Would Ferguson go seven years without titles, and still happily continue to sell his best players?

    Wenger seems to be floating above football in this stage. He is some unquestionable genius going about in his masterplan of “what’s best for the club”. He is a club representative rather than a manager. But that is not the managers job.

    The manager in a top club should think about what is best for the team. What needs to be done to win. Winning should be above everything else for the manager, no matter of price and the costs. It is the boards job to put economic restrictions on what the manager can and can not do in order to win, and keep the economy somewhat balanced. But in Arsenal there seems to be a whole lot of accountants and no winners.

  7. Obie says:

    You’re an intelligent man and I completely agree with you.

  8. naz says:

    I love wenger for what he has done but I believe he has lost the plot. When he came to arsenal he brought new ideas and techniques now he seems to be devoid of anything fresh. Last season he was lauded for getting arsenal to 3rd after a poor start but he is the man that caused the poor start by not adequately buying in the first place. Wenger no longer talks about team ‘spirit’ he now just says they weren’t good enough. He clearly is a very frustrated man. The team has no confidence because I believe wenger has lost his confidence. Good article and fully agree something has to change.

  9. Ali says:

    I totally agree with you mate. we need to freshen things up because its just not clicking. but these are the problems we need to tackle:
    1) we NEED consistent players. sure we have a few like sagna, arteta and cazorla. but what about the ramseys, girouds, arshavins, walcotts and vermaelens? these are all talented players. but can they provide quality performances week in and week out? i don’t think so. you see an instrumental and match winning performance one game, but the next they look severly ordinary.
    2) you mentioned moving cazorla to the wing, but i’m going to have to disagree with you on that one. cazorla is best played through the middle where he sees a lot of the ball and moves into pockets of space between defense and midfield. if he’s pushed out to the wings that will limit his creativity and touches on the ball, and we certainly don’t want that.
    3) now focusing on our attack. does giroud fit the bill? no way. he is not in the same league as van persie and there is no point even comparing him to henry. plus we don’t play to his strengths. we no longer have the same menace to our attack that players like henry, bergkamp and pires brought to it. its just not the same enthralling arsenal. coming to podolski, sure he’s efficient, finishes when given the chance, but he does not have that flair and guile that we need so badly to be injected. we need attacking players who are capable of pulling a rabbit from a hat!
    4) you mentioned playing theo upfront and i completely agree with you. but if he has to play there in a 4-1-3-2 that would only be possible with cazorla going wide. so why not play him as a lone striker like we did with gervinho and see how that works? even though its not a change in the system, it would still freshen things up and inject pace into our build up.

    I’m from India and have been a massive arsenal fan since the time I was a kid. there has been a steady decline from the 03-04 season to the current one, and that’s sad to see. our inability to retain our star players and a fading winning attitude have resulted in this. pointing fingers is easy, but it all goes down to a lack of ambition and that has to change!

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Thanks for your comment.

      On the first point I think we have a number of consistent players but even if we only have the ones you said I would have to leave Cazorla out because he has not been consistent at all. He set the world alight against Liverpool but has been variable since.

      On the second point, he could see a lot of the ball. Nasri saw plenty and in a 4132 he would be reasonably central. At the moment he sees loads of the ball but has done very little with it in terms of goals, chances and assists as he is marked out of the game too easily. Je can see all the ball he wants in the middle but it counts for nothing if he does nothing with it.

      On the third point I disagree regarding Giroud and also question what is to be gained in comparing him to Henry or van Persie? He is only compared to RvP because we still play the same system. He looked different class against Reading and was quality re West Ham. He cannot show his best because he isn’t getting the service and re RVP, Robin was never top scorer of a top league before Arsenal made him one, Giroud was.

      On the fourth, I’d be happy for Theo to lead the line in the current formation but doubt we’d see that. It’s certainly an option and one we should explore.

      Thanks once again for your great comment and for taking the time to write such a long one. I hope to see you on the comments section again sometime.

  10. Redbaron says:

    Nice article. I just get the feeling Wenger’s man management should also be called into question. Look at the amount of injuries we are carrying so early in the season. I think cazorla has played almost all the matches completely(prem + Champions League + Internationals). Surely fatigue should be a factor in his declining performance?
    And of course Wenger’s ‘obstinacy’, while great in developing talents, is not so good for the team during matches. Today Rooney hounded Arteta to no end. With Jack on a booking and tiring, it would have made more sense to throw in Coq as DM, pushing Arteta further up and probably giving more impetus to attack (His long balls are very accurate).

  11. Gunner4Life says:

    I completely agree … we have become too predictable and are not playing to the strengths of our current crop of players.

  12. dboy (RVP WAS RIGHT. NO AMBITION) says:

    We have all the AKB’s (that’s the ARSENE KNOWS BEST brigade) coming on and commenting about how he should have changed his line up and who should have started the game and who shouldn’t be in the team and how the team lack’s motivation and determination. But i realize that they are to embarrassed to put the blame on Wenger. In case you didn’t know Wenger changed from coach to politician and economist. Hence the fact that there is no one to motivate the players, work on their technical abilities,choose the right formation when facing different teams, draw up a game plan,choose the right inform players. No his to busy dreaming about his post match brainwashing session with his IN ARSENE WE TRUST brigade (that would be the post match interview)after we lost of-cause. They come on here complaining about things we have been warning them about for the past three seasons and they still don’t get it!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!! I didn’t know they still brainwash people in this day and age. IN ARSENE WE TRUST sounds politically motivated. I just wonder who is gaining from this???

  13. @gunner_doc says:

    Finally someone sees things my way,I have always believed we’d be better playing with two strikers,and also that chamakh isn’t as shit as our present formation makes him look,he did so well in Bordeaux cos he had a strike partner,watching the team these past few weeks only brings sadness,something really needs to change.

  14. Iy says:

    Very good article. Agree with most of the points stated, esp the #1 and 5. I still believe the manager has it in him to turn thing around, however, will he get the kinda support he needs from the board, who, I believe, are the real villains of the shambles we are currently witnessing. Imagine, we have already lost to not-so-good Chelsea and Man-U sides, not to talk of Norwich.

  15. Dan says:

    Dan, I enjoyed this piece. It was thoughtful and thought stimulating. I would love to know what Wenger is thinking sometimes. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, isn’t it? Which makes you wonder why the best manager the team has ever had (in most respects) is one of the least tactically flexible and most predictable.

    I can understand playing the same 11 as at Norwich. They’re not bad players, but they played awfully that day and maybe they can redeem themselves against even tougher opposition. That would lift everyone’s spirits. What I don’t get though is after watching his team look second best, lacking incisiveness and a goal down at the half, why not change something? Why not try two strikers? Why not make a substitution? why not push Cazorla deeper to help Arteta move the ball from defence to attack?

    And by the same token, why let Santos struggle so much? Clearly they were targeting his side just as Reading and Schalke did to great effect.. so if Podolski isn’t protecting him (as you quite rightly pointed out, he’s been left out to dry by his partner on the left side more than once), have Ramsey move to that flank instead or replace Santos with Jenkinson or both. It doesn’t seem complicated so it boggles my mind that these relatively simple adjustments aren’t made.

    In hindsight the losing team always makes all the bad decisions but it’s hard to think that we could have looked any worse and at least it would feel less like we’re banging our heads into the same concrete wall week after week and expecting the wall to crumble.

    I do disagree with you about Cazorla though. I think teams have found a way to minimize his effectiveness by shutting down his favored passing avenues, getting super tight to him and trying to muscle him off the ball at every chance. He needs some help up there, but there is very little quality around him.

    I agree we need to look at going 4-4-2, mostly because we no longer have the technicians required to unlock a packed defence. Cazorla can’t do it by himself. That we’ve been at our most effective on the counter attack this season is no coincidence. A 4-4-2 would make us a lot more direct and would play to the strengths of Walcott, Gervinho and Podolski.

    Podolski has one of the best conversion rates as far as turning shots into goals. The fact that he spends most of the games on the left touch line playing 1-2s with the fullback is a travesty. At his best, he can be a threat down the left but against a packed defense he’s not the greatest. He needs to get on the end of crosses and get set up to take shots, because he’s a pure goalscorer. We need to find a way to get him involved.

    And Ramsey, I love the guy I really do. But you can’t be surprised that we create nothing at with him as one of a forward three. He is not ready to be deployed as an attacking force; he can neither dribble past anyone, out-sprint anyone, find team mates in dangerous areas often enough or shoot with great accuracy. For me he’s best as a withdrawn midfielder where his stamina and enthusiasm are much needed at times. To deploy him so far forward was a very defensive gesture from Wenger, and a seemingly unnecessary one because Sagna can more than hold his own on the right. If anything, Ramsey should have been on the left where Santos is a very creative player and could have used a dedicated and disciplined presence ahead of him.

    This has gotten too long so I’ll end it there. A blog to answer your blog, and both in agreement I think. Cheers.

  16. Jason says:

    Were way too predictable, the players, formation, style of play, weaknesses, substitutions. All of this is decided by wenger at the start of the season and doesn’t change it regardless of performance, results etc etc. it’s an exageration you might say but our performances not only this season but last as well at times have been bloody awful. Slow passing, no speed of thought, no pace, no counter attacking, no creativity for long periods in games, this is ultimately down to Wenger, it’s time for something different, step aside and give the board something to worry about instead of counting their large cash deposits. It’s not all Wenger’s fault but nothing will change in the forseable future with him still in charge. the club has gone stale and is suffering from a lack of amibition on the pitch.

  17. srivarthan says:

    very nice mate

  18. Adeniji ademola abdulahi,nigeria says:

    Gud job mate,excelent write up

  19. TheGoodGooner says:

    Great article and agree pretty much completely. I am desperate for us to change to 4132. I agree that Cazorla can be just as influential out wide. Look at what Arshavin has done on the left in the last couple of games. He changed the QPR game and was vital against Reading. Whatever Arshavin can do, Santi can do better.

    Moving Theo up front in a 2 striker brings up another problem. I want him up top with Giroud/Podolski but then who plays on the right? Ox doesn’t like it, Ramsey can’t do it, gervinho is much less effective there and Gnabry isn’t ready. The only reason he isn’t starting out on the right these days is due to the contract situation. Why would Wenger want to continue to develop a player who’s on his way out? I also think he’s hoping Ramsey becomes the new right-sided Nasri because we have too many CMs but that won’t happen.

    Everybody is desperate for a new striker but I agree that our problems can be solved with a formation change…..and a new right sided player. Not sure if this new player should be in the wide attacking midfielder type or classical winger type.

    @TheGoodGooner

  20. jad05078 says:

    Someone please get AW to read this article please!
    Lets save our Arsenal ASAP!

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