AFCB’s tactics guru Andrew Enloe looks at how we coped without Walcott and van Persie and presents his case for Carlos Vela to play on the right…
We could be forgiven for being optimistic after seeing Robin Van Persie superbly play in Theo Walcott during Arsenal’s match against Blackburn two weeks ago. They are two players who, when fit and on form, cause massive problems for opposition defenders. They allow Arsenal to aggressively press in midfield and they create space for other players.
Naturally they would both be injured early on in the season after looking quite good initially. So the main question going into the match against Bolton was, “How will we cope?” A match against Bolton would show just that.
Though Bolton have a reputation as Arsenal’s ‘bogey team,’ it’s difficult to understand why. It is true that Bolton were a formidable force under Sam Allardyce but he has moved onto Blackburn where he is creating a team in the same mould. The current incarnation of Bolton Wanderers is a team in transition and Arsenal have a truly excellent record against them. Owen Coyle has signed some fine ball-playing midfielders like Stuart Holden and Martin Petrov and has given our Jack Wilshere some valuable Premier League experience. Even though they still retain a few thugs there is a marked difference between Coyle’s team and the Bolton of old.
Arsenal started with a back four which had never played together; Eboue, Koscielny, Squillaci and Gibbs. I thought they passed their test. Wenger often played Eboue in home games last season and I thought the threat of his attacks kept Martin Petrov from committing too much forward.
To be honest the boys looked like they’d never played together on Bolton’s goal. I’ve been impressed with Koscielny this season. He was superb against Blackburn. But he has made two mistakes this season as far as I can tell and both have resulted in goals. For this one it looked like Koscielny was caught between heading back to Almunia and heading it to Squillaci, who had initially challenged Kevin Davies in the air and lost. Against a player like Kevin Davies you always need to be ready for the second ball because he will win his fair share of headers. It didn’t look like Koscielny was ready. It will take him some time to get used to the pace and physicality of the Premier League but I’ve seen enough to convince me that he can iron out those mistakes.
In midfield Wenger chose to rest Diaby (after two tough games for France) and play a midfield of Song, Wilshere, and Cesc. In front of them were Rosicky, Arshavin, and Chamakh as a traditional No. 9. Cesc was truly excellent with his long passes and deft chips. Bolton made the same mistake Blackpool did with a suicidal high defensive line and Cesc and Rosicky played passes behind them all day.
As mentioned before, a lot of focus was going to be put on how the forwards played in the absence of Van Persie and Walcott. Van Persie’s replacement, Chamakh, is relatively straightforward. He is a far more classic striker than Van Persie, who likes to drop deep and spread the play. Chamakh’s role further forward has given other players, such as Diaby, an opportunity to exploit the space between the midfield and strikers.
Though Rosicky is always dangerous, I would like to see Carlos Vela given a chance out on the right. The problem with him out on the left is that he is completely and totally left-footed, so when he cuts in the angle for a shot is completely cut off. Look at the superb juggling run he improvised against Blackpool, followed by a horrible attempt at a right-footed finish. But look at how easy his goal against Bolton was. It was an obvious far-post finish, and he duly obliged.
Andrey Arshavin should have had a few goals in this game, but it’s worth noting that he frequently puts chances like those away. When he cuts in from the left he is always poised to shoot to the far post with his stronger right foot. I believe the same should be tried with Carlos Vela.
I will admit that I really want to see Carlos Vela succeed at Arsenal. I’m from the United States and have seen him tear apart American full-backs. It’s frustrating to see him utterly dissect your national team’s back line and then fail to take his chances for that other team you support. But I feel that in Walcott’s stead, Vela could be a potent weapon cutting in from the right. Seeing the way Arshavin was poised to score when played through by Cesc and Rosicky, I just can’t help but feel that Vela should be given a chance to do the same.
- Koscielny and Squillaci misplaced one pass between the two of them the whole match, Squillaci with a 100% record. Koscielny also made an excellent 9 interceptions throughout the match.
- One of the reason Vela’s goal was so special was the patience from the midfield. Cesc’s chip over the Bolton back line was the first time in the 20-something-pass move that the ball had gotten into the final third.
- For all Coyle’s talk of playing the ball on the ground, it’s telling that Bolton’s goal came from a long ball to Kevin Davies. To be fair, it would be stupid not to use him.
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