I want to make it clear that I don’t think there is any reason to panic with regards to the start to the season that Arsenal has made. 13 points from the opening 7 fixtures is certainly no disgrace and at the end of the day a 4-point gap at the top can be cut into in just a couple of games.
But as optimistic an Arsenal supporter as I am, there is no arguing the point that things have just gone a little bit strange in the last week or two. A storming performance in the Champions League against Porto was sandwiched between a shock loss to Hull and a lacklustre draw with Sunderland and it’s pretty obvious things are not going so well after a very bright start to the season.
It’s certainly no disaster at this stage, but I do feel that there are some things that the manager could do to get things heading in the right direction again. As a result, I’ve compiled a list of 5 things Wenger can do to kick-start Arsenal this season.
(1) Bring Johan Djourou back
Defensively Arsenal are looking poor at the moment and in my eyes the only solution is to bring Johan Djourou back into the starting team. Every man and his dog can see that the William Gallas-Kolo Toure partnership is just not working – a lack of height and physical presence the main reasons – and the restoration of Djourou to the side would solve the issue. Whether it is the captain or Toure who makes way I don’t really care, but the longer the manager goes without playing Djourou the longer Arsenal will go on conceding unnecessary goals.
I’ve not always been the biggest fan of Denilson but the season he has surprised me with some good performances and a couple of nice goals. However, he’s just not the right type of player to partner Cesc Fabregas in the middle of the park, lacking both the physical presence and defensive awareness of Gilberto and the raw energy and aggressiveness of Mathieu Flamini.
While Alex Song is nowhere near the finished product yet he is more physical and aggressive, a significant improvement over the Brazilian in my eyes. As a result, Song should be brought into the side, freeing up Denilson to act as Fabregas’ understudy and allowing the Spaniard more freedom to hurt the opposition with his excellent passing and late runs into the box.
(3) Stick to 4-4-2
A 4-5-1 formation in away Champions League fixtures is fine but a 4-5-1 away to Sunderland is not. Quite simply it shows sides that are inferior far too much respect and at the same time takes this group of players away from a formation that they know well and get great results from, something that even the manager admitted after the draw with Sunderland. What’s more, it simplifies the role of the players, leaving the van Persies, Adebayors, Bendtners and Velas of the world to worry about scoring goals and the Nasris, Eboues and Walcotts to worry about creating from out wide.
(4) Pick players on merit and substitute those who aren’t performing
This might seem like a simple one but I haven’t seen it happen all that often this season. If a player puts in good performances one week then – unless they require a rest or the type of opposition absolutely forces a different type of player – they deserve to start the week after. I understand the need for rotation in modern-day football but at the end of the day the players who are in the best form should be playing. That means guys like Samir Nasri and Johan Djourou should have featured against Sunderland, for example.
Similarly if a player is not performing on the day then they should be substituted. There will always be times that a different type of player may need to come on but for the most part, if a winger is having an off day then it’s probably best to pull him off at half-time or shortly after for an equivalent player. The squad has enough depth on the bench to suggest that a player who is not cutting it can be replaced by another who will improve the side. I’d like to see it happen a little more often.
(5) Work on those set-pieces a little bit more
Offensively the boys are not doing too badly of late with Adebayor and Fabregas both scoring from corners in consecutive games. But defensively the concerns remain. Porto very nearly opened the scoring from their couple of early corners in midweek while Hull and Fulham have both scored from a corner on their way to beating Arsenal. I don’t pretend to be anywhere near the manager that Wenger is but it seems clear to me that this side have issues in defending set-pieces and they really should be putting more effort into addressing those issues.
What do you think?
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