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The Season’s impressions: attacking the left flank 3

By Walter Broeckx

Next in our series about last season we move on to the left flank.

A bit of a difficult flank last season. At the start of the season one would have thought that this was the spot of Podolski.  But in the first match of the season Wenger started with Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left flank.  But then Oxlade-Chamberlain got injured in the first match and missed the first half of the season.

On came Podolski. And he started rather well. Two goals against Fulham, a good performance against Fenerbahce and then….he also got injured and his first half of the season was over also.  As if it was a cursed position.

What followed was a bit of Cazorla on the flank but the absence of Podolski was covered with a fluent midfield rotation where players just moved in to that position depending on the match situation.

In a way you could say that we never really had a decent left sided winger in attack. And with decent I mean a player that has been in that position for his whole career.

When Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski came back they didn’t really came back to that position at first. Oxlade-Chamberlain played more on the right hand side or central. But the second half of the season he was floating between being fit and having all kinds of small injuries.  All a result of his first injury I think.

Podolski also had many ups and downs when he came back. Being impressive in some matches to being completely anonymous in the next. But Podolski is a bit of a strange case as a striker. He isn’t a central striker for 100% but can play there but needs to be given time. But he also isn’t the typical winger. He is half of both.

He is most suited to play with a good, fast overlapping left back. Then he can drift a bit inside and that is where he is the most dangerous. If you can give him the ball in a free position somewhere between the goal post and the penalty area on the left he can be lethal. Something we should try and should have tried to exploit a bit more I think.

I also remember him being overlooked by his team mates when he was in that position. At Stoke I remember him being completely free in his danger area but Cazorla opting to take a more difficult shot that was saved and not using Podolski to have a completely unmarked shot at goal.

What I have noticed so far about Podolski is that when he is on fire he can have an amazing impact on a match. But he can also have matches that you hardly see him. And I don’t know why this is.

He seems to be a lovable person and is always trying to create a positive atmosphere in the team and in his contacts with the supporters. I can understand why he is still so loved in his home town and at his home team FC Koln.  But he played in a different role over there and got time to grow in that role as the central striker.  Something he never got at Arsenal as there were other central strikers around and he never really set the world on fire on the rare occasions he played there.

But come to think of it it seems to me that since Overmars left us we never really ever have played with a typical left winger. Overmars was the last of them. I think this was down to having Henry who drifted to the left in those days and playing as a false left central striker-winger. Pires? No not really. Arshavin, no not really. We clearly have never played with a real left flank player since the days of Overmars. And with a real left flank player I refer to a player like Giggs in his best days.

At Arsenal with all the rotation around the central striker this isn’t really needed of course.  But I have always loved that type of player but it seems a dying breed in football these days. The fast and tricky left winger with a deadly pass.  Come to think of it they have been extinct on the altar of win at all cost-football.

So if you would ask me one position I would like to see something change it would be the left wing in attack. Or we should change the system or we could buy such a left winger like in the old days. If you can still find one.  Or is it just me being driven by some kind of nostalgia? Hell, I’m not even sure if such an old fashioned winger would be useful in our system that is based on movement all over the pitch.

Or is it just Podolski staying in his comfort zone that holds him back a bit? More and regular switches between the right flank player (Walcott) and the left flank player in matches could make them more dangerous and make it more difficult for the opposition. I once heard Wenger say that you could use Podolski coming in from the right flank. But somehow this has never been tried in matches. Maybe it was tried in training and didn’t work of course but surely something that I would try if I would be Wenger.

But then again I am not Wenger. I can only see what I see and somehow the left side from our attack is where I would try to do something if I had the money sitting in front of me. Draxler might have fitted that bill but he won’t leave Schalke is the story now so maybe Wenger thought the same as me?

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7 comments to The Season’s impressions: attacking the left flank 3

  • samrat

    curious case of Schalke and Draxlar…
    now if a player says he wont leave his current side or if he is not linked with Arsenal, I for one get exited. Who knows why.

  • bc

    Fact is that the 4231 formation doesn’t really deploy wingers. The 433 does, the 442 and variations of it and also a rigid 451. Even the 352 & 343 usually involves wingers or wing backs.

    But the 4231 usually means 3 players consisting of a combination of attacking midfielders, forwards or strikers.

    I actually think with out current personnel we have Korea than enough for the 3 behindvyhe striker, especially on the flanks, where Walcott, campbell, chamberlain, gnabry, cazorla, podolski, ryo and wellington have it more than covered. With at least 2 of those being more than able to challenge ozil, wilshire, Ramsey, diaby and rosicky for the more central role. Let’s not forget that eisfeld, toral, zelalem and olsson are not far from the picture either. It is most definitely the deeper lying role where recruits are most likely to challenge arteta flamini and coquelin.

  • Linz

    Ryo,Wellington, Eisfeld,Toral,Zelalem,Olsson and Coquelin belong nowhere near the first team squad.

  • NW

    Linz is right.

    The striking option is too weak. It would be good to bring in a 25 million level striker. Emotion aside… the greedy Dutch is the one man who should be taking that spot with Giroud covering and taking on physical ruby teams.

    However, if you ask me to choose between having a good professional left wing or a 25 million striker, i rather take the left wing.

    Think about the recent game where Germany broke Portugal 4-0. They didn’t put in a typical striker. The front three were floating around. with two more mid field supporting each flank. Philipp Lahm serving as the last mid field. Only the RB Boateng going forward (really staying with that one man).

    The team does not need a “prfessional” striker if the five guys in the front knows where to run and know how to shoot.

    Giroud sometimes go to the right. Ozil goes all around the pitch. Somehow Cazorla isn’t that effective doing all the movement together with the other guys. If he is he is very deadly.

    If Giroud or Podolski knows when to get into position in front of the goals like Thomas Muller, the team would have won EPL.

    Using Podolski is tricky. He needs support to his side but he isn’t good helping the defence. So if the LB comes out, the back would be exposed.
    If Wenger finds a way to support him through some mid field movement, we know how deadly he can be. Arsenal have plenty of players in the middle. Who can do that?

    Another player the team needs to use… Ozil.

    The game proves he is still very effective. He was playing all over the pitch. Let’s also hope that by sticking with Thomas Muller and Mario gotze would give him a chance to make his shooting more effective.

    He makes all the good runs and can’t beat the goal keeper. I hope he can score t more goals new season. 🙂

  • Black Hei

    @NW

    I think the problem with Carzola isn’t his problem. It is who he is playing with. In a team, you need runners and creators. Ozil and Carzola are creators. They like to take control of the ball and make things happen.

    Ramsey, Walcott, Podolski and OX are runners. Their responsibility is to make themselves available to guys like Ozil and Carzola.

    Such roles are not fixed of course and can interchange. But Carzola’s lack of pace and strength simply means that he is far better hanging onto the ball than trying to get himself unto the end of something. Carzola is a very effective creator. He can find space, he can wiggle his way out of trouble and he has vision and a good past. He should continue doing what he is doing.

    Which is where the problem with Podolski comes in. Ramsey has stamina. Walcott has pace. OX has an explosive acceleration combined with close control. Podolski, has none of those.

    If he gets unto the end of a pass, he has a devastating end product. Otherwise he is a passenger since he isn’t a great runner, defender or creator.

    Which is where Walter is right, you either notice Podolski, or you don’t see him at all.

  • Damilare

    Off topic:

    Spain 0 – 2 Chile. At least Carzola is coming back in one piece and available for the summer.

  • menace

    The 2nd Chile goal was described by the commentators as a toe poke. Typical not understanding of technique. It was a skilfully spun shot that moved away from the keeper. If the keeper got his hand to the ball, it would have spun off the glove into the goal.