Saturday, May 21, 2011

Arsenal FC Analysis: Identifying the Five Biggest Weaknesses in Gunners' Squad

It has been a very disappointing end to a season which promised much but fizzled out in spectacular fashion. Arsenal supporters have been made to watch their team showing very little fight in many games towards the end of season. Also, Wenger has looked increasingly like a manager who understands his team's weaknesses but cannot do anything about it.

The game against Fulham is the last game for the Gunners and it is important that they are motivated to perform at their best. In the last home game against Villa, Arsenal went down by two goals early in the match and fans were frustrated with the Gunners' performance.  It is important for Wenger and his team that they can secure a victory at Craven Cottage which could provide them a mental boost ahead of the summer which will see many players leave the Emirates.

Arsene Wenger has placed great faith in the team and it is time for them to step up and win trophies. He has come under immense scrutiny for the various decisions he has made and is likely to analyse on where Arsenal went wrong this season. This article is one five aspects which the Gunners can improve on to be stronger next season.

1. Shaky Defence and Defending against Set-Pieces in particular

Arsene Wenger had a big void to fill at the end of last season when William Gallas, Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre leaving Thomas Vermaelen and Johan Djourou as the only senior defenders left at Arsenal. The French tactician brought in the inexperienced Laurent Koscielny from Lorient and Sebastien Squillaci, who was never highly rated, from Sevilla.

The injury to Thomas Vermaelen early in the season combined with Djourou's long term knee problem meant that the two new signings had to play together in a number of games. They did not have good understanding and the whole team struggled in defence. Since the introduction of Djourou as one of the centre backs, the defence has improved but is certainly not solid.

The team looks very vulnerable in set-pieces and has conceded a lot from set-plays, which is a cause for concern. The inexperience of Koscielny and Djourou at the highest level has not helped them and Vermaelen will have a huge role to play next season. However, for Arsenal to have stability at the back, they will need a strong tall defender who is good at dealing with set-pieces and provide stability at the back.

Also, one must admit that the team has collectively failed in their defensive duties and not all the blame can be shifted on the defenders alone. It is important Arsenal sign a good defensive midfielder like Scott Parker who is bound to provide more protection to the backline.

2. Lack of width combined with poor crossing ability

Arsenal have many exciting young talents who have great potential to succeed in the future but as a team, they lack width required to stretch defences. The team which consists of the likes of Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere is capable of breaking down the defences with lovely interchanges around the box, but if that is not working, they rarely have a proper plan B.

Lack of width is one of the most notable features of this Arsenal team as opponents have closed down spaces in the middle leaving the option of using the wings to deliver useful balls into the box. However, Arsenal's lack of height in their team along with poor crossing have meant that it is easier for opponents to deal with danger from wings.

One of the main reasons why Arsenal do not have width is because their wingers are primarily versatile attacking midfielders who are more comfortable playing in central midfield. Theo Walcott is an exception that he cannot play as a attacking midfielder but he is a player who favours playing centrally as a striker and his crossing is not great.

3. Confidence to Shoot from anywhere within range

Arsene Wenger has emphasized on playing the game in the right way and passing and unselfish play is important at Arsenal. However, many of the players do not take on the shot when there is an opportunity to do so. They often opt to pass it to a player who they think is in a better position and it leads to the play being broken up in several occasions.

Robin van Persie deserves a special mention for his decisiveness in front of goal and seems to have the confidence to convert half-chances. His audacious attempt to beat Victor Valdes at his near post was integral to the victory and it is likely that most Arsenal players would not have attempted to shoot from such angles.

Jack Wilshere is one player who is always looking to find a better placed team mate and also needs to work on his finishing. Chamakh is not good at shooting with his feet and is one who looks for support even when he can attempt a shot on goal. Even Nasri who is very good at shooting often tries to find players in better positions instead of attempting to shoot.

Arsenal need to get more shots from outside the box and the players must need to be more selfish in front of goal. Cristiano Ronaldo is a player never short of confidence and one of the main reasons why he has been so prolific is his confidence to take a shot when there is only half a chance. Players like Nasri and Fabregas who have the ability to shoot from range should be encouraged to do so if they have the opportunity.

4. Set-Pieces

Arsenal have had difficulties in defending from set-pieces this season but one of the other things is that they have also scored much from set-pieces. Robin van Persie, who is usually quite good with his set-pieces, has been disappointing with his free-kicks though to be fair to him, his corners have been quite good.
Samir Nasri has had one or two of his free-kicks hit the post but on the whole, Arsenal have not had success from set-pieces. Cesc Fabregas who delivered that scintillating free-kick against Aston Villa last season has not been taking set-pieces of late as he has been disappointing in this regard this season.

Since they lack aerial threat if both of Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner are not playing, they have not had much of a threat from free kicks which are too far as well. It is important that Arsenal do work on their set-pieces as well in the summer because scoring goals from free-kicks could be crucial in the context of a game where the Gunners might not be able to break down the opposition.

5. Steel, Determination and Leadership

As much as Arsenal have been blamed on the footballing aspects of the game, it is their mental aspect which has been a big hurdle for the Gunners. Though the players do want to end this frustrating title drought, they have lacked the mental strength to win the Premiership. A team which has squandered two goal leads on no less than three occasions has to be considered to be fragile.

Patrick Vieira was one of the former Arsenal captains who could motivate his team mates to perform at their best in the important games. But with a number of experienced players leaving the club in the past five years, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie are the leaders of this young team. However, captain Fabregas has struggled to cope with the pressure of captaincy and he has often put too much pressure on himself in order to win.

Also, he has not been able to inspire the team when the team is under pressure like the games against Tottenham and Newcastle. Arsenal need leadership in their ranks and Wenger should need to bring in some experienced personalities into his squad who can instill the right attitude in the team.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure Wenger wud've identified these weaknesses.but the main weakness of wenger is his inability to spend higher for a given player.

Vijay Murali said...

If Wenger has identified these problems, then good for Arsenal because he certainly needs to ask the players to work on set-pieces and on many other things..

He is a great manager without doubt but the team has not made any big progress from the last season..