Is this Arsenal team being built from the back?

Is this Arsenal team being built from the back?

So much has gone on in the past few days it defies belief.

Our boys started the season with a respectable 0-0 draw at St James’s Park, Gervinho got red-carded on his debut for slapping Joey Barton, Alex Song looks set to join him in the naughty room after his stamp on the same man was charged for a stamp on Newcastle’s favourite philosophical criminal.

Koscielny and Co were flawless against Newcastle

Oh, and in the aftermath, Cesc Fabregas finally left for Barcelona.

Rather than getting distracted by the fireworks I have been far more focused on assessing our actual performance on opening day and in particular, how very different this team looked from last season.

For starters, there were the set pieces.

Just how cool did our new zonal marking system look? After years of benevolence it was refreshing to see some serious mental energy expended on this area of our game.

In a defensive sense we were almost flawless against Newcastle, a fact that was lost on a lot of people who were quick to make note of a lack of creativity in the final third.

One person who did not fail to notice it was last season’s most consistent defender, Bacary Sagna, who made the following comment which was lost between Barton’s tweets and Fabregas kissing the Barcelona badge.

“I think it was very important to start the season with this kind of game. We were very consistent throughout and I think we were all defensively aware, from the forward players to the back four.”

It might be early doors but this sort of comment suggests that this season’s team is one that Wenger wants to build from the back. What a refreshing change that would be.

For all the talk of a central defender being a must Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny were absolutely superb. They are two players who can concentrate for 90 minutes and it might make all the difference.

Wenger has a task to fill the enormous creative hole that Cesc and (probably) Nasri’s departures will leave. But a lack of creativity and star power may force us to be even more defensively-aware and team-focused, something that Sagna’s comments suggest has been a major focus in the off-season.

Either way, by choice and by chance, we look a very different Arsenal.

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32 Responses to “Is this Arsenal team being built from the back?”

  1. T-bone
    August 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    I agree the defensive signs are encouraging – but I’m going to wait for more dangerous opposition than a gutted Newcastle squad before getting my hopes up.

  2. Bermy Boy
    August 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Ok so does Joey Barton get a ban for starting the malay with Gervinho?

  3. beck
    August 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    make sure you come see the new impregnable arsenal tomorrow night v udinese
    tickets on general sale from 35 pound

  4. Adam
    August 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    Interesting thoughts as ever Andrew, I wasn’t able to watch the game, missing the start of the season ensured I was rather restless during a distracted evening spent with family, painfully far away from a television or the wonders of the internet.

    The one thing I noticed from the brief highlights I did watch was the apparent lack of discipline in the ranks, accruing a number of yellow cards very concerningly, in addition to Song’s lamentable moment of madness that leaves us with only Frimpong in the holding role for the next three games (in all probability). He impressed me during the Emirates Cup, but certainly not an ideal situation to manifest itself at this early stage.

    I didn’t see how these cards were earned, so I’d appreciate your opinion on whether they were all sensible bookings, or a mark of a lack of concentration and control in the side.

    Seems like a decent start to the season, but tomorrow’s game against Udinese seems already like it has the potential to define at least the early stages if the campaign.

    Keep up the good work, it’s much appreciated.

  5. leftcoastgooner
    August 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Howdy Drew,
    thanks as always for the post.
    You pose the critical question, will the team become more defensive in the post-Fabrigas era? It almost has to considering some if last years performances. But only God and Wenger know and one is as likely to to divulge as the other. We will have to wait and see.

  6. Breezy
    August 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    Good point our defense was very good long may it continue, I hope this is a change in our playing style i.e. from an out and out attacking side to a counter attacking team able to absorb pressure and break quickly like the good old trophy laden days. the players that Wenger has brought in so far seems to suggest this.

  7. pinash
    August 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

    If diaby got a red on the same fixture , gervinho on this one and white boy joey just a yellow then this is racism

  8. N7 Gooner
    August 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Good article-a breather from Cesc departure stuff so thanks!

    I really hope we get some decent cover for Kos and the Verminator…here’s hoping!

    Reading BBC live text about Man U’s GK mishap this weeken made me realise how much opponents must have laughed at poor Almunia’s efforts!

    C’mon Arsene-show us all you’ve still got it!

  9. Andy
    August 15, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    Our first clean sheet! C’mon, it was a pretty poor Newcastle team. They offered very little going forward. I’m more worried about our creativity and lack of shots on target. Hope it improves…otherwise expect a few more 0-0 games.

  10. Enloe
    August 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    I was reasonably pleased with the performance. Of course the creativity was pretty nonexistent, but overall it looked like a typical first day.

    One thing though. I hear a lot of people saying they would have been happy to come away with a point, yet I’ve never heard so much moaning from people who got the result they say they wanted. I was delighted that there appears to have been a change in emphasis from last season.

    Koscielny was superb on the ground, with Vermaelen excellent in the air. Gibbs had some driving runs and decent delivery, and Sagna kept Gutierrez and Obertan pretty quiet. And SZCZ was massive. It’s been a long time since I saw the back five look that good.

    @pinash: Oh stop it. The past two games at St. James Park have been appallingly officiated, but that bullshit racism theory needs to go out the window right now.

  11. theicehammer
    August 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    What i saw was a team that could not punch its weight in the last third because of the lack of bodies being able to get into the box when ever Gervinho was able to reach the dead ball line and put a cross in. Fab’s and Nasri were an obvious miss due to the lack of cutting edge, again in the final third. Using being rusty as an excuse for the performance is poor, owing to the fact that Newcastle were also playing their first game of the season with a weaker team than last season. I witnessed Arsenal having the ball for long periods making pass after pass after pass with not even a shot or a shot on target. The defense did not concede a goal which is a plus i suppose. I consider that if Wenger does not strengthen this squad it will be a cold hard and long winter. But as many will say as per the last few seasons, “Its still early days”
    I still expect them to qualify for the champs league.

  12. theicehammer
    August 16, 2011 at 12:12 am #

    @enloe, if you study all mediums of football when it concerns supporting one player or the other, for what ever reason and one is aware of exactly what is occurring then in many cases it is apparent. Cant say i support @pinash in this instant but he has a point.
    @Andy (Your first clean sheet) i totally agree with your statement. Arsenal are ment to be a big club for crying out loud.(Breezy)

  13. Gruggy
    August 16, 2011 at 1:23 am #

    I too was very pleased with the sides defensive display. However, it was against one of the worst offences in the league. Liverpool, Man U and even Udinese will be a more appropriate test.

    Put things into perspective as well guys :

    * Liverpool spent 50m this Summer and couldn’t beat Sunderland at home. Their only goal coming from a set-piece.

    * Man U were lucky to beat West Brom.

    * Chelsea and the 50m Torres couldn’t overcome Stoke.

    * Yes, City won 4-0…Against a team playing top flight football for the first time in a generation.

    0-0 away to Newcastle, with a man down suddenly isn’t a bad result.

  14. Darragh
    August 16, 2011 at 2:00 am #

    Real test will come next week against the likes of Carroll and Suarez. Downing will be firing balls into Carroll from wide areas so our full backs will have to be right on top of him to stop him crossing. Newcastle don’t exactly have a lot of firepower up front, there was little in the way of thorough work out of our back four.

  15. Terry
    August 16, 2011 at 4:31 am #

    Agree with all the comments above about our defence and lack of chances created. Now that Fabregas is gone it’s going to be interesting to see how the Nasri situation pans out. Part of me wants AW to tell him to sod off and take his greedy butt elsewhere, but he can be a great player for us and gives us more options in and around the penalty box than Rosicky say. Gervinho showed some promise – at least he has pace. Hope he doesn’t become another one of those players who won’t shoot and looks to play one too many passes. I thought he had a couple of moments where he should have pulled the trigger but he dithered. But from what I saw in the pre season as well I think I am going to like the cut of his jib, but not the hair! Great to have Vermeulen back. Best thing out of belgium since Leffe.

  16. Terry
    August 16, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    Also, caught a bit of Man$ity vs my second team the Swans. How good did Aguero look when he came on? Maybe we could get Tevez after all if he sees that he won’t be first choice this season…Just a thought

  17. Ianinja
    August 16, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    Always thought that Nasri is a very inconsistent player. Sell him now, the guy made it perfectly clear he wants to leave. It would be hard adjusting the midfield but the club’s honour is much more important than a player’s demands.

    So what if we finish 5th or mid table, at least this will the teach the younger ones who want to break through what it means to wear the shirt. Arsenal msg should be ,” Either you’re with us or you’re against us.” If i was Arsene I give Nasri an inverted triangle choke as a parting gift.

  18. Shard
    August 16, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    Great blog Andy.. The defence was great in that match. Szczesny was very very good too, as was Koscielny. Ramsey didn’t have a very good game though, while Rosicky was good in parts. On to Udinese tonight. We need a clean sheet and a couple of goals. Will they be forthcoming?

    @laninja

    I am curious as to what that ninja move is..

  19. theiceammer
    August 16, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    @Ianinja, i feel your pain mate about what has occurred with Nas and Fab, but please dont let it cloud your judgement on how well you think potential world class players played. How you use the word “inconsistent” as a tool to bash Nasri with is beyound me. All players have bad games from time, come on mate, the fella is class.
    So what if “you” finish 5th, tell that to 60,000 screeming fans. You must understand or realise that people like you or me are just fans and supporters of a football team who cant go anywhere else. Its different for players. They mostly persue reward ££££$$$$ and glory and if they need to move on to get it they will. Its the same as i would do in my career should a better situation develop for me and my family.
    I saw fabs this morn on Sky News kissing the badge of his new team shirt, thats reality…. not the fantasy image you or i might have about a player. At the end of the day he was and still is a world class player who gave me moments of pleasure and heart ache throughout the past 6 years. Why, because I am a football fan who just happens to wear the claret and blue.
    “With us or against us” what a joke.

  20. theiceammer
    August 16, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    @terry, i also watched the game. That Aguero looks special. What 35 mil can get.

  21. deogratias
    August 16, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    Am very happy that Fab has gone to a team he thinks is better than Arsenal…but does he have any where to play is going to end up like Flamini,Hleb,viera who one time wanted to comeback to Arsenal. Let any one who wants to leave go,we are still in the big 4

  22. lien
    August 16, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    I do find it interesting that according to Wenger Fabregas is not fit. He hasn’t figured in any of our games preseason, the excuse being he wasn’t fit. He was either injured, not ready, not fit, had a strain etc etc. Then he flies to Barcelona and as if by magic he is 100% fit and in Barca’s squad for tomorrow night. Get your dream move and suddenly you are no longer unfit, I’m also willing to bet he’s fit throughout the season as well. Arsenal knew all summer he was going, they grandstanded about getting a minimum of £40million and what did Arsenal get? They got what Barca were willing to pay, just £25million with add ons that may not come to fruition plus some money out of Cesc’s own pocket. Barca said we are having him and this is what we are paying, we haggled for weeks all for nothing when we should have been bringing players in. Pathetic from Wenger and Gazidis.

  23. lien
    August 16, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    wengers comments are simply cringeworthy. he put down a journalist who asked him a second time in response to wenger saying no players would leave. the journalist knew what was REALLY going on and cesc and nasri were going, which is why he asked wenger a second time. wengers wry smile after the put down (thinking it was clever) was horrible to watch. its amazing how arrogant wenger is. he believes he is so smart that no one else can see his grand plan. although we see clearly and his plan had failed and by him persisting with the vanity project, all know we will continue in a downward spiral. his belief in himself borders on delusion. its as if wenger lives in an alternate reality. the simple fact is wenger is not a man in control, he is out of control. but in his own world, he is a great man and no one else is capable of understanding his plan and we are all stupid for questioning him. i watched a documenty last night on some guy who genuinly believed he was the US president – wengers belief that he is the most intelligent man in football could be turned into a sequel of this type of documentry.

  24. Filipino Dan
    August 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    If Rosicky is injured for tonight I think we have to play Frimpong – just to give him match experience for the upcoming games against Liverpool and United!

  25. Gruggy
    August 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Song has been suspended for three matches :
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/aug/15/arsenal-alex-song-gervinho-bans

    I hope an internal fine of some sort has been issued as well. Stomping on the ankle of an opposition player is completely negligent and totally unacceptable.

  26. Antek
    August 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    In case anyone is not aware, the game is on ITV1 tonight.
    I really think the idea of getting behind the team is the way to go.
    C’MON YOU GOONERS!!

  27. Per
    August 16, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    How can Song get a three match ban while Barton escapes unpunished (again)? Seriously? I do not understand how the FA thinks…

  28. Francis
    August 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    Another nice post andy,the defence does nt have a problem as long as squillaci is 4th choice,meanin we’d hav to have 2 injuries b4 he gets to play,and my guess is he might play very few matches,last season we conceded more goals wen squillaci was playing with vermaelen back,i hope he does nt play 4 us again

  29. Francis
    August 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    Andy,ever noticed how lucky we hav been when ever djourou plays in our back 4?he is the only arsenal player dat has never lost playin against chelsea in d last 4 years,when he plays we tend to win most of our games,last season wit him in d side we lost 5 times,in all competitions,he is a lucky chap nd culd be our lucky charm,i’d prefer him being the ideal partner for vermaelen,he had the best statistics 4 all our CBs last season

  30. Ianinja
    August 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    @Icehammer you missed the whole point but I am too tired to explain. Nasri is inconsistent is not an assumption, its a fact. Arshavin has the most assist after Cesc. I’m not hurt, I just want to get rid of Nasri asap. For the 60000, well…. they can read Walcott’s book to pass the time.

    @Shard
    inverted triagle choke—> http://youtu.be/GPQF0mP5tOs

  31. Sera
    August 16, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    I didnt see the defensive thinking that positive, as gervinho, van persie, arshavin ran into nomansland without assistance from central midfielders. i think you need a stronger striker, than van persie is for that way to play

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