Thursday, January 6, 2011

Was the Chelsea Game an Aberration?

The answer to this question will decide the ultimate success of Arsenal's season. I KNOW, Chelsea were rubbish. But Arsenal worked much harder when out of possession than we had seen in a long, long time.

Against Man City, there was less of that coherent pressing. But the game came at the end of a busy period, and it would be harsh to criticise Arsenal too much after a game they really deserved to win.

For the rest of the season, the Chelsea performance should serve as a template.

When Arsenal are lazy about chasing the ball, the resultant problem is two-fold. It is easier for the opposition to get the ball into the final third, and pressurise Arsenal's rickety back line. And not winning the ball in forward areas means Arsenal often have to build from the back, and face up to two banks of four. That places great pressure on the construction of the fabled "perfect goal".

While Arsenal's opener against Chelsea came after some narrow, intricate passing, the next two goals were more characteristic of the performance as a whole. Pressure was exerted in Chelsea's half. The ball was won. Pass. Shot. Goal. Simple and effective.

Perhaps Arsenal stand off opposition teams in the Premiership on the basis that they are not technically good enough to do much with the ball. But the fact that many Premiership teams are not so refined in possession should encourage Arsenal to chase them more. They won't like it. And it's easier to score when you win the ball in the opponent's half, because then have less bodies to pass around.

If Barcelona are the ideal to which Arsenal now aspire, you only need look at how hard they work when they don't have the ball. They have superior players to Arsenal, so it was particularly galling to see them run harder aswell at the Emirates last season. Let's hope that in this year's encounter, Arsenal can at least match them in that regard.

No comments: