Still no wins at the Emirates this season, how frustrating!
As pointed out by the usually very zealous media outlets, we failed to score at home in five of our last six outings, which is also very frustrating.
I think there is enough evidence to say that we *might* need tactical adjustments ahead of the next home game against Stoke City; we keep crashing into buses parked on our pitch, hoping to be quick enough to slip between the doors while before they close – somehow.
Teams like Swansea, Sunderland or West Ham shouldn’t be that hard to break up, especially when they all apply the same plan: clutter spaces in the final third, centrally.
All our technically gifted players are attracted by the space between the main forward and converge there, hoping to build a quick one-two and ghost past the defensive line, to find themselves on a 1v1 against the keeper (and square the ball back, of course!)
When fluency, movement and sharpness are there, it is hard to contain our attacking quality but, as shown by those Clubs recently, it can be done: discipline, focus and compactness can suffocate our play and leave our playmakers with little or no options available.
How many times have you witnessed our players exchanging passes around the box, with none running behind defenders and everyone wanting the ball on their feet? One too many, me too.
We need something else when playing at home, especially if we cannot score first and quickly; the more we try and fail, the more we become anxious and the worse our passing game becomes, leaving us exposed to deadly counter attacks.
I’m not saying we should abandon our habits, because it is virtually impossible not to make mistakes for opponents when Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla swap passes and position at maximum pace, I am saying we might prepare an alternative to that.
Just in case.
Liverpool sacrificed on creative player to accommodate a trio of central midfielders and make sure there was no space for our players to have time on the ball; the same did West Ham (Kouyaté, Oxford and Noble) and Swansea and Sunderland before them; all these teams decided to leave their flanks exposed, knowing that we wouldn’t exploit those areas.
It’s a gamble, a big one, but it worked in the past and teams are more and more willing to try their luck because we look unable to change our game plan.
Personally, I feel Arsène Wenger should be more resolute and bold enough to play two wingers at home, namely Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and trust Theo Walcott upfront instead of Olivier Giroud.
That would mean benching one of the three amigos from time to time but it could be worth the risk, since it would give us an extra dimension and make us more unpredictable, going forward; also, our well-documented tendency to play through the left channel is already known to our opponents, we should adjust that by having a proper winger on the right-hand side and make sure we exploit Hector Bellerín’s attacking skills as much as we do with Nacho Monreal’s.
We need to stretch other teams and create spaces ourselves because, as explained by Johan Cruijff in his book Voetbal “a football pitch length is 100 to 130 yards and its width is 50 to 100 yards; as you get closer and closer to goal, the length decreases as do spaces at your disposal. Suddenly you don’t have any space left and you can’t move any further. Where do you find those spaces you need to keep going? In the only part of the pitch that doesn’t change, its width”
We were lacking those spaces yesterday, as we did many times in the past, and we’ve been guilty of not trying to exploit the pitch in all its width.
When asked about having been offered form Barcelona winger Pedro, Arsène Wenger refuted saying that “we have many players on the flanks. Many, many players”
Might be time to use a couple of them, boss!