Archive for July, 2009

It’s 4-3-3 in 09/10

1 comment July 31st, 2009

Towards the end of last season, after Barcelona’s stylish system overthrew Manchester United to raise the Champions League aloft, many Arsenal fans pondered whether or not a similar formation could be employed at Arsenal.

For a long time, Arsene was a resolute 4-4-2 man.  Recent years have seen him experiment with 4-5-1, 4-1-4-1, and even 4-2-3-1.  In each of those experimentations, the system has appeared to be a step backwards: a negative, defensive effort to prop up our weakening midfield.

This pre-season, however, Arsene has taken a somewhat radical step.  In all of our pre-season friendlies (bar the opening game at Barnet), he has fielded a 4-3-3 system akin to the Catalan side.  This culminated in a solid first-half performance against Hannover on in midweek, with Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin playing either side of a central Robin van Persie.  Cesc Fabregas started alongside Alex Song and Denilson in the midfield, and it worked a treat for the only goal of the game – Bendtner’s ball from the right brought under control by Van Persie, who turned and played in the forward-rushing Fabregas to score.

It’s not difficult to fathom Arsene’s thinking: we have a surplus of attacking players, so fitting three into the system is obviously beneficial.  Furthermore, we currently lack the Flamini-style midfield player required to allow Cesc to flourish in a 4-4-2.  As far as existing partnerships go, Denilson and Cesc lacks power, Nasri and Cesc lacks tackling ability, and Song and Cesc remains relatively untested and seems somewhat undynamic.  Using three central midfield players allows Arsene to cover more bases.

I could look very silly if tomorrow we commence our Emirates Cup campain with a traditional 4-4-2.  The indications, however, are that we will persist with this new formation – both this weekend and in the future.  There’s no need to pinpoint which individuals will play where – part of the system’s beauty is its fluidity.

It’s this shift in tactical intentions that gives the tiniest bit of credence to those Patrick Vieira rumours.  It’s far easier to imagine the elderly Paddy sitting at the back of a midfield three than striding around in a pair.  That said, I maintain that I’d be absolutely flabbergasted were this to amount to anything.

There’s a few other transfer rumours about today: Blaise Matuidi (credible), Marouane Chamakh (incredibly boring), and Daniele De Rossi (inconceivable).  I do however think that Arsene will dip into the market again, especially if, as seems somewhat likely, Emmanuel Eboue completes a move to Fiorentina.

Finally today, RIP Bobby Robson: an absolute gent and a top football man.

Goodbye Kolo

1 comment July 30th, 2009

So the final Invincible has fallen.  People will point to Gael Clichy, but he was a substitute behind the husband of that X-Factor judge from Girls Aloud (â„¢ arseblog).  It’s strange and sad to wave Kolo goodbye – he really is one of the few you envisage remaining at Arsenal for their entire careers, but with Arsene’s ever-stricter age policy those players will become rarer and rarer.

I remember him bursting on to the scene, almost literally, as an impact substitute in the wide midfield positions.  His first goal came in a game at Stamford Bridge where he came on as a substitue to bundle in an equaliser.  It was that same game in which he hit a free-kick from fully forty yards that zipped just over the crossbar.  The power and enthusiasm he showed on that day would be the hallmark of his early years at Arsenal.

Many expected him to mature into a marauding full-back: it was a surprise to those who’d condemned his lung-bursting runs as resembling a headless chicken when Arsene decided to pair him with Sol Campbell at the start of the 03-04 season. But the partnership clicked, with Toure’s speed proving an ideal match for Campbell’s aerial prowess, and we went the entire league season unbeaten.

Over the coming years Kolo matured into our first-choice centre-back, but arguably never recovered from Campbell’s departure.  Whilst a partnership with Philippe Senderos showed promise, William Gallas and Kolo were incompatible both on and off the pitch, and for long spells of last season the Ivorian was in and out of the side.

A bout of malaria is often cited as the cause of Kolo’s physical decline, but it’s difficult to know if that is the true reason.  What is clear is that he’s lost some of the sharpness that allowed him to overcome his positional naievety.  With Vermaelen (who will inherit Kolo’s number five shirt), Johan Djourou and Gallas all arguably ahead of Toure in the pecking order, perhaps Arsene felt he deserved a few years of first team football and £100,000+ p/week.

Some fans will crow at a £13.75m profit on a player who was no longer first choice – most will miss a fantastic servant and an absolute top man.  When Man City come to the Emirates it’ll be fascinating to observe the varied response of the crowd to Kolo and Adebayor.

He might not be the last man out of the door either – watching the end of it seems Emmanuel Eboue could be about to follow him.  Watch this space.

ps. If Patrick Vieira rejoins Arsenal, I will eat my banner image.

Arsene as good as confirms Kolo is off

Add comment July 28th, 2009

In an exclusive interview with ArsenalTVOnline, Arsene Wenger seemed to suggest that Kolo Toure is, as reported, on the verge of a £15m move to Man City:

“We’ll see what’s happening in the next 24 hours … we have many centre-backs, seven centre-backs and I’m in a position where we have to play some in midfield… but of course Kolo is a very good player – we’ll see what happens in the next 24 hours.”

Arsene also spoke about the possibility of bringing in some new players:

“At the moment I’m more focused to get everybody fit for the start of the season.  We are looking for opportunities as well, but at the moment we still have some pre-season games to see what we really need, and when the time has come we will do something … I wouldn’t like to set any time on that.”

If, as mooted, we sell Kolo (and possibly Eboue) in addition to Emmanuel Adebayor, the pressure on Arsene to spend will be greater than ever.

Arsene’s comments were made after a 5-0 friendly win over Szombathelyi Haladas, in which Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo grabbed two goals each, with Robin van Persie adding another from the penalty spot.  We lined up in a 4-3-3 formation yet again, and it seems that Arsene is maybe adopting a quantity over quality approach in the middle of the park.  You can watch the highlights here, and check out an extraordinary penalty miss from our opposition here.  Thanks, as ever, to 101greatgoals.

That’s yer lot for today.  More comment on Kolo  if when it happens.

Arsenal could be a whole lot less African come August

Add comment July 27th, 2009

With the Cup of Nations coming up in January, perhaps Arsene Wenger has decided to ditch his African contingent and go for a more streamlined and consistent squad.

Emmanuel Adebayor was the first to go.   After ringing around other top clubs to see if he could do any better, he eventually settled for Manchester City.  Adebayor has been talking as fast and as furiously as ever over the past few days, but as he’s no longer an Arsenal player I’m not sure most of his remarks merit comment.

One thing that did irk me was his declaration that City ought to pursue Kolo Toure – a move that seems all the likelier now that John Terry has declared himself a Chelsea boy for life (as long as they give him a bumper new contract, of course).  Some reports today have even suggested a fee for Kolo has been agreed.  With Vermaelen, Gallas, and possibly even Djourou ahead of him in the pecking order I can understand why Kolo might decide to go, but I’d still be very sad to see it.  That’s a primarily emotional response, so I’m not going to attempt to justify it with the whys and wherefores.

I’d be far more comfortable with the departure of Emmanuel Eboue.  Fiorentina officials are reportedly flying to London to meet Ivan Gazidis on Tuesday, and I think that we’d be mad not to accept the mooted €9m fee.  If Eboue and Kolo do leave, we’re a little light at right-back – the obvious deputy to Sagna is Toure -  but perhaps Djourou (in that link refers to Vermaelen as a ‘Dutchman’), Gallas, and even Gavin Hoyte will able to fill in there.

Again, I’d only really be content with selling all these players if the money was intelligently reinvested.  I hate to be a bore, but the one of the remaining African’s in the squad would be Alex Song, whose departure to the Cup of Nations would leave us short in that familiar old role of central midfield.  Get it sorted, Arsene.

The presence (or otherwise) of Toure and Eboue in the squad to face Szombathelyi (pronounced: ‘Zombie City’) tonight should be fairly indicative as regards their future.

Before I go, I’ll just point you in the direction of arseblogger’s piece on Red & White / The Spinternet.  Worth reading.

Gunnerblog is on a little holiday

43 comments July 25th, 2009

Back in earnest next week.

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