Arsenal v Roma thoughts: 4-5-1 could take us to the final

Hello and a very good day to you all.

First up today I just need to apologise for the lack of a decent post yesterday – as I mentioned briefly, I’m dealing with a fairly difficult personal situation at the moment. Unfortunately it may affect my ability to blog consistently over the next week or so and I just want to apologise in advance. I hope you can understand.

The big talking point over the past couple of days is of course Arsenal’s 1-0 Champions League win over Roma. Robin van Persie got the only goal from the penalty spot after being brought down by French defender Philippe Mexes. We then had numerous good chances to extend our first-leg lead – Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue missed the best of them – but in the end one goal was all we had to show for a good effort.

In terms of tactics and team selections I felt the Arsene Wenger pretty much got things spot on. It was a little bit ironic that after speaking about the combination of Denilson and Alex Song a lot this week the manager turned to Abou Diaby to break up the partnership. The Frenchman replaced Song in the middle, forcing a reshuffle with Denilson playing more defensive and Diaby freed up in a more attacking role.

Wenger effectively went with a 4-5-1 formation with Diaby and Samir Nasri roaming in behind van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue on the wings. Although the latter pair missed guilt-edge opportunities to improve on the 1-0 scoreline the system worked quite well and we looked more cohesive in attack than I’ve seen in any Premier League game for quite a while. The formation seems to work particularly well in Europe and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the manager go with something similar in the return leg.

In terms of performances there were a few standouts. Diaby was the best player on the park until his substitution midway through the second half, surging forward with powerful runs and causing mayhem with his dribbling. When you think that the Frenchman also had a wonderful game against Fenerbache I get the feeling that the slightly slower pace of the European game seems to suit him.

Other players who did well were the entire defence (five clean sheets in a row now), Denilson in the middle and Eboue out wide. Denilson was a stifling influence in the centre of the park and showed what he can do with a little more support in numbers while Eboue played with more gusto and less idiocy than I’ve seen in a long while. It was great to watch.

People will be ruing the fact that we only take a one-goal advantage with us to Italy but at the end of the day I think everyone would have taken the result before the match. Not conceding means that if we score in Rome the opposition will have to score three and given how effective we can be on the counter using this 4-5-1 formation I think we’ll probably get the goal we need. All in all it was a great performance, a satisfactory result and sets us up nicely to get into the quarter-finals.

With the likes of Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Juventus on the brink of elimination there’s a decent chance of us going a step further than last season and perhaps even making it into the final. A long way to go yet, for sure, but it’s an exciting prospect nonetheless, particularly given the frustrating nature of the season so far.

Finally before I go today I’ve got a pretty fun piece of news – Arseblogger has asked me to take part in the blogchat section of his very popular podcast, the Arsecast. I’ll have a link to it on the blog tomorrow but I’d encourage you to have a listen if only to hear how my Aussie accent clashes with his Irish one. It should be fun.

Have your say on Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Roma by leaving a comment.

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25 Responses to “Arsenal v Roma thoughts: 4-5-1 could take us to the final”

  1. Filipino Dan
    February 26, 2009 at 11:00 pm #

    No need to apologise.

    I think we are all quite optimistic on the Champions League and let’s hope that we can do the business in Rome and then get a decent draw for the QF.

    More imminently it’s Fulham at home on Saturday and I’m hoping we can finish Feb unbeaten and hopefully grab three points. I wonder if Arshavin will last the game! Let’s hope so!

    Finally, here’s a laugh – Kalou wants to be a Gunner! http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11670_4975727,00.html

  2. Ben
    February 26, 2009 at 11:04 pm #

    Pretty well, spot on!

  3. partyrider
    February 27, 2009 at 12:09 am #

    first time poster, long time reader, as filipo said, no need to apologise, hope all goes well.

    I share ur optimism regarding the Roma return leg, I feel we played very well apart from the middle part of the 2nd half when Roma seemed to come back into the game a bit. But all in all, a good game.

  4. Anonymous
    February 27, 2009 at 12:22 am #

    the formation is very similar to the one that took us to the final in 2006.

    though i fear it may not work as well when fabregas returns to fitness and is reinstated, as his passing and technique differ quite a bit from diaby’s/nasri’s aggressive runs and dribbling x

  5. Fatboy
    February 27, 2009 at 12:34 am #

    @ SF – Glad you’re back mate. Good summing up of Tuesday’s game (thought you skipped a bit lightly over your buddy Bendtner’s performance, though!). I agree about Diaby being more comfortable in Euro games. He gets caught in possession a lot more in the Premiership. Fair point about Real, Juve and Inter possibly going out, but it will mean we’ll have Chelsea, Liverpool and Man U to worry about. Frankly, I’d fancy our chances against continental opposition more than playing Premiership sides. I know we haven’t lost to any of them this season, but the way Man U are playing, I wouldn’t like to play them, and we were pipped by Liverpool in the quarters last year remember.

    @ Anonymous – I think 4-5-1 will work just as well with Fab back. His vision and passing ability would complement Diaby or Nasri’s direct running. Fab can carry the ball successfully as well.

    My concerns are that we are knocked out of the CL before we get the sicknotes back. With a full squad to choose from I think we can match anyone. However, our severe lack of quality in our squad players means we don’t have the back up that our competitors have.

  6. Luxinbrasil
    February 27, 2009 at 12:38 am #

    Im more than happy with the one nil win….i have read a lot about how the tie is still wide open but as youve pointed out SF Arsenal have kept clean sheets for the last 5 games…and on the counter we will have much more chance of opening Roma up and getting that decisive second…..Itll be a rip-roarer of a game im sure!

    Hope things sort themselves out for you mate…Theres always Arsenal!

  7. Johno
    February 27, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    Blog when you can SF they’re always worth reading.

    A good result against Roma, a pity we missed a couple or three good scoring chances.

    My man of the match was Denilson, he had arguably his best game for Arsenal so far. I believe that his pairing with Diaby helped to define his more defensive role and allowed him to concentrate on winning the ball and disrupting the Roma midfield. His quick lay-offs to team-mates in space enabled more rapid movement both of the ball and players.

    It is by no means job done but we stand a very fair chance of progressing to the next round.

    Prepare yourselves for some bad news as Arsenal financial accounts will be published today. They will show an increase in profits but will point to a growing problem with debt due to the lack of sales at Highbury Square due to the recession and failing housing market in the U.K.

    With season ticket prices for the coming year frozen and a fall in corporate and hospitality package revenue due to the above mentioned recession, less money will, be available for transfers in the summer and may restrict the amount on offer in new contracts for the likes of Walcott and Van Persie.

    As Arsenal should be affected no worse than other clubs it is not necessarily all doom and gloom, though failure to qualify for the Champions League next season would certainly exacerbate the situation.

  8. Ezra
    February 27, 2009 at 1:23 am #

    I personally think that that no matter what Eboue will never play satisfactorilly on the flunks ok he can ran with the ball and the this happens; a dive,a lost possesion,a poor pass,poor cross,a foul at the end you will realise there is; no assist, a stranded Sagna having 2 deal with a winger and a fullback, no goal, not even a chance 2 score with a ball from Eboue and you tell me he had a good game PLEASE!

  9. Fatboy
    February 27, 2009 at 1:45 am #

    @ Johno – spot on about the finances mate. It will be interesting to see what figures come out.

  10. Gibbs
    February 27, 2009 at 1:49 am #

    There’s no need to apologise SF, your well being comes first.

    Anyway, great summery of tuesday’s game. I agree with everything said. Unfortunately, Diaby is injured (again), i hope it’s not too serious.
    I’m looking forward to the arsecast tomorrow, it should be a good one.

  11. sa gunnar
    February 27, 2009 at 2:11 am #

    the formation should stay at 4-4-2, with eduardo coming back next week and not sure if walcott will return too.I couldn’t stop swearing when eboue and bendtner miss simple opportunies to make it about 4-0 at least.The tv presenters and guests were saying that arsenal could struggle with the crowds and home adv,but the italians are weak when playing the english so arsenal could put it to rest, hope so.Eboue did do something that impress crowd and me alot, he ran with the ball unlike the other players,that what arsenal need. denilson and song seem too defense, good but the role they play is to attack which seem much often absent.

  12. Jess
    February 27, 2009 at 3:06 am #

    Hey Spanish,

    Hope everything works out o.k for you. We’ll miss you. Great post.

  13. Radads RSA
    February 27, 2009 at 3:41 am #

    @SF,Great post for our 1st CL KoR, Dont worry much abt apologizin mate,with or without posting, you know that we’re always happy to chat to each other here(even abt some crap topics, but its just good to share opinions btwn Goons).
    Back to the game,Thats what we ve been always needin, an attackin mdfldr who can cut the axe median line by attracting defenders to concentrate in the centre and leave a comfortable space for strikers and wingers to attack.We were far more efficient than any of our last 5 games.To me, that game was a much better game to watch than our 4-0 agst Cardiff, we had more organised attack, more runnin from wings to centre, 18 goal attempt!!!!whaoooo!!, our bad side durin that game: Bendtner’s uggly first touch and nervy attitude in front of the goal which caused him to fail to score goals, he had 3 clear chances and he couldnt even score 1, Meeuhhhh!!!, eventhou, his overall performance were good and especially his run to skip defenders.
    We all know that we’re gonna have a very tough game in Roma but Im not worried, Why??? 1st: De Rossi wont be playing, 2nd,Dudu,Ade, Walcott and may be Fabuluous, will be all fit by then.So keep up Goons, so far so good!!cant wait to see Arshavin play next saturday agn.

  14. Radads RSA
    February 27, 2009 at 3:46 am #

    Dont blame Eboue for not scoring, cos we all know his poor quality of scoring goals, he defntly had a good game thou!!!Diaby was astonishing along with Clichy (My favrite)

  15. ramugunner
    February 27, 2009 at 5:06 am #

    Nice blog Fry but I have to disagree with you about our chances in the Champions league. If we get past Roma, we will get back our class players like Cesc, Edu and Rosicky for the next round. Also, winning the big cup might be our only chance of qualifying for CL next season. This reason can motivate Arsene and his players to win the big cup at any cost. So, it’s not impossible but managerial tactics is one of the most important thing required to win a Champions league. Arsene is not a great manager in terms of choosing a right tactics.

    Eg: Like last season Arsenal team was far better than Liverpool team but they beat us. Why Pools beat us in two legs? Because of Benitez’s tactics. What he did was he attacked our weakest link in Senderos and scored twice. Tactics and team substitutions are always spot on under maangers like Benitez and Mourinho. This is the main reason those managers are more successful than Arsene in the champions league. I certainly believe we have a chance but I don’t see of winning CL under Wenger.

    Thoughts?

  16. Gibbs
    February 27, 2009 at 5:39 am #

    @ ramugunner

    Are you serious mate? Arsene is not a great manager in terms of choosing the right tactics? Where have you been in the last 12 years fella? The last time i checked, we lost to liverpool last season because of two aweful penalty decisions made by the refs. Wenger’s tactics were spot on in both legs, luck was just not on our side.

  17. MoMONEY
    February 27, 2009 at 6:16 am #

    Gotta agree with Gibbs- Tactics does not make Adebayor miss that sitter. It does however bring on Walcott to completely change the game…

    If this team is kept together for a coupe years it will be SCARY good. Invincibles status. Just wait and see.

  18. Tubes
    February 27, 2009 at 6:41 am #

    Hey Spanish, Hope all goes well for you.

    @ MoMoneyo

    I think your being a bit optomistic in assuming that this team, if kept together, will be scary good. There are players playing for us at the moment who are just not going to improve enough to be Arsenal quality (Song, Bendtner and Diaby to name a few). Yes i know the 3 of them will have good games but they’ll never be consistent enough in my opinon, I mean if Bendtner cant control the ball now then he’ll never learn.

  19. Ronaldo7
    February 27, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    Hey Spanish…Hope all is well for you mate.

  20. MoMONEY
    February 27, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    @Tubes

    RVP
    Cesc
    Arshavin
    Walcott
    Rosicky
    Nasri
    Eduardo

    That is more then enough quality quality players- all with experience… Yes some will not improve too much and may never be good enough but those I just mentioned are enough to make us incredible. Throw in a DMF (but I think Denilson will be able to do it here) and maybe a striker instead of Adebayor and we are set. Plus we are financially stable…

  21. Spanish Fry
    February 27, 2009 at 10:45 am #

    Cheers all. The Arsecast interview has been done and will be up later today. Feeling a little self-conscious. 🙂

  22. tina
    February 27, 2009 at 3:21 pm #

    we did our best,though we got one goal our other counterparts from london got a nil-nil result and we created plenty of chances,i feel we can up our game tremendously with the return of Fab,Walcott and the rest.still keeping the faith.

  23. ramugunner
    February 27, 2009 at 6:34 pm #

    Gibbs, MoMoney: Guys, I have watched every single Champions league game for last 12 years(Arsenal’s games). Arsene is a brilliant manager but the fact remains he has ZERO CL title in 12 seasons with Arsenal.

    He couldn’t win CL with players like Henry, Bergkamp, Pires, Adams and Vieira. This season, to dream of winning CL with players like Eboue, ‘Bayor, Toure and Billong Song looks very unrealistic. And the quaterfinal tie against Roma is far from being over.

    Ottmar Hitzfeld won 2 Champions league title with Munich and Borrusia Dortmund(yes Borrusia) in four years time period. Mourinho won back to back European titles(Europa and CL)with Porto(Yes Porto). Benitez led Liverfool’s to two Champions league finals; winning one of them in his four years reign in Liverpool. Also Ancellotti. All those manager’s have something in common. That is Managerial tactics in big moments.

    Don’t you guys know why Wenger doesn’t have a European title(even Europa) in his resume?

    I don’t mean he is a bad manager but record tells that he is very incapable in European League. And I am talking about facts.

    Don’t get me wrong though. I would be very happy if we win Champions league under him. Not to have even one CL trohpy under our belt hurts a lot. We were very close during 06 seaosn only for Almunia Clown to screw it up.

    For god’s sake Red Star Belgrade, Steau Bucuresti have won CL trophies with very inferior teams than Wenger’s teams. Fact again.

  24. ramugunner
    February 27, 2009 at 6:53 pm #

    Tina; United are not London Counterparts. Can’t wait to see Cesc and Walcott in action. Cheers!

    About striking option:

    Personally I think we need to shake up our attacking force coming summer. If we get rid of ‘Bayor or Bentdner and get an in & out striker with good finishing will be awesome. There is a big chance we might lose RVP this summer(Barca will seriously bid for him). The best possible move for Arsenal is to sell ‘Bayor for a decent price and buy Villa/Benzema. RVP + Villa/Benzema can threaten any team.

    Also, We need to sign a proven international level goalie and(possibly) an experienced Defensive midfield. Denilson has looked good when playing in CDM role last few games. Nice improvement. We will find out more about his ability by the end of seaon. I think it depends on if Denilson/Cesc midfield can be a premier league winning standard midfield. Song cannot be trusted for me.

  25. kiran mathews
    March 12, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    a man its not 4-5-1……4-2-3-1
    means 4 defenders ….2 DM players …one CAM thats nasri…And two wingers and a lone striker….but bendter should replaced by someone …he is missing chances…..

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