Oi Gooners! I’m still thinking about the game against Manchester City, I’m still wondering how on Earth we were one down at half time and I’m still asking myself who intervened to ensure we would hold on in those painful final minutes. It was a great match, wasn’t it?
Insane pace, unbelievable commitments, awesome pressure on opponents, very high on the pitch…wait a second. What? Arsenal pressing high on the pitch? No way!
I didn’t realise it until I watched highlights of the game but Arsène Wenger asked his players to harass opponents well beyond halfway line, something I wasn’t used to seeing. It was great to watch, though. A bit audacious and risky, perhaps. But a real joy to watch.
Should he continue to ask his players to do that, the reward could be great for all of us: with Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck ready to put pressure on defenders in order to disrupt their passing, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil and Jack Wilshere could easily win the ball back in the final third and catch rivals off their marks.
It sounds great and it could result in more entertaining and more exciting games against lower opponents, who would be unable to cope with our pace and our technique. We could see some of those 6-0, 7-0 we used to see a dozen years ago…
What about adopting the same strategy against top teams?
Well, on Saturday we had a glimpse of what could happen: quick counters, acres of space at the back and plenty of chances for our opponents – that’s the bill you have to pay when you decide to play that football.
Having Per Mertesacker at the back and deploying a high defensive line could sound dangerous, however – if played the correct way – this strategy could win us big games, too.
We are often the ones who are being bullied by intense pressure and cynical fouls (Chelsea away, i.e.) but we could be those who force errors from opponents’ defenders and midfielders and take advantage of a ball lost in the wrong place.
As I said, the likes of Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez have skills and hunger needed to work tirelessly on the front line, making life difficult for centre-backs and defensive midfielders; if our midfield and defensive line work as a unit, it could result in a very interesting path to follow: put pressure high on the pitch, force a long ball from opposite centre-backs and start again, closing rivals higher and higher on the pitch.
Basically, that would mean playing the same football Barcelona were playing in early years under Pep Guardiola. I mean the furious although beautiful football that helped them blowing away any opponent in Spain and Europe, not the slow, boring tiqui-taqua football.
If Arsène Wenger promises we’ll skip cheating, diving and dramas, I would take it any day.
Except for Sergio Busquets and Gerard Piqué, Barcelona was never a very physical team – but their synchrony and solidarity was just unbelievable.
The way they used to move across the pitch at perfect tempo was great; their passing game was accurate and quick – and I do believe we could do the same with current team.
Our players have the technique and the awareness needed to pass the ball and move around, our attackers (bar Olivier Giroud) can swap position across the offensive line and our full-backs love a marauding overlapping whenever they have a chance – why not going for it?
It is difficult at the beginning as it’s a very energy-consuming strategy and it requires some great understanding between players – something we are lacking at the moment.
Mikel Arteta might not have the same power Sergio Busquets has but he definitely has the same awareness and positioning skills, which could be enough for the job he’s requested to do.
Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky can pass the ball around for months without giving it away and Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck could do what Pedro, Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi used to do on regular basis.
We don’t have a Lionel Messi, I get your point.
None except Barcelona has, by the way. We might not have a 50+ goals-per-season striker but we have at least two 20+ goals strikers in Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott, plus Danny Welbeck and Olivier Giroud.
We have enough firepower in four players to replace one single out-of-this-world player, I would say. Anyway, had we Lionel Messi we know that he would get an odd injury and stay out for several months.
It would be great if Arsène Wenger’s new approach would result in that kind of football, maybe that explains why Mesut Özil is being deployed on the left wing – perhaps he sees him as our own Andrès Iniesta.
It would be a very long shot but we could suddenly find ourselves in a brand new Wengerball era, 18 years after the first one.