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Our magnificent defence, our magnificent youth team

In the last 2 years football has changed in the EPL.

There have always been teams that would try and play for a 0-0 draw, but the last couple of years has seen a huge rise in this tendency.   This year in particular we have had team after team after team turn up and from the first second indulge in rotational time wasting, and related tactics.

We’ve even seen it at away games, when in the old days, the smaller clubs would at least make an effort.

As a result the four teams in the EPL (and there are only four) that go out to play, entertain and win, find that they end up playing only six or so games a year against a team that actually wants to win against them.  (Actually you can’t call them the Big Four, because one of them has never won the EPL, isn’t in the Champs League semis, wasn’t in the Cup Semis and has got a hang-up on walking alone).

So, clubs like Arsenal have started to evolve new methods of trying to break down the “park the team bus in front of the goal” approach.

As a result, football has changed – particularly in terms of defence.

Football originally meant going out and trying to win.   Now that is not the case, the four teams that try to win all their games are placing a greater emphasis on players who can do something against a packed defence.  In terms of Arsenal that includes Theo with his speed and crosses, Ade with his ability to take a ball down in the midst of the crowd, Cesc with his incredible passing, VP with free kicks, and Arshavin with his sudden shots, and so on.

This change includes the further development of the overlapping full backs, and a more attack minded midfield (Diaby and Cesc sometimes turning up as centre forwards for example).

Which leaves the defence isolated and struggling.

The weaker teams in the EPL accept this, because they go for the 0-0 or even a goal on the break, as per Fulham for example.

And that’s why when you see games between the top four clubs they can be rather exciting affairs.   Not always of course, but quite often.  Arsenal against Manchester, for example. Manchester against Liverpool.  Chelsea against Arsenal.  And Liverpool against Arsenal – plus many more.   But it is also why Chelsea against Everton, and the Manchester Everton cup game were so dull.

Defences left on their own as the rest of the team look for the opening to get the game going are bound to let goals in sometimes.  The simple answer is to score more at the other end – and that is the emphasis now, especially at Arsenal.

Asking for Arsenal to sign ever better defenders is, to my mind, not the answer.  There are always better defenders around, but not everyone can work the new system of holding a two man line against a team that gets in your half of the pitch four times in a game.   And besides I’d sooner see us win 4-2 than 2-0.

On another matter:  who will make it through from the yoof team now in the Yoof Cup Final?  (We got over 9000 at the Ems for the semi – which is not that bad).

Suggestions are that Luke Ayling, Tom Cruise, Sanchez Watt, Jack Wilshere (of course), Francis Coquelin,  Emmanuel Frimpong, Jay E-T, and Gilles Sunu all look good.  But they can’t all come through the ranks can they?  It would be a turn up and a half if they did.

Finally, a million thanks to our friends at GoonerNews for helping get us back on their listings.  I changed the settings on this site, and they’ve helped restore the feed from us to them.   There’s a link to Gooernews in the side bar of this site, in case you don’t know about them.

Next time: Perry Groves’ new book.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

8 comments to Our magnificent defence, our magnificent youth team

  • Nhan Le

    Agree with you on the fact that we do have good defenders. Only last years both best fullbacks in the league were ours. Hadn’t there been that Birmingham incident, Gallas would have been on the short list, too. Kolo is always great for me when he’s leading the defense.

    Not so sure that the big four are all built to attack though. I think Arsenal and MU are truely made to take the initiative where they go. Maybe the same could be said about Chelsea under Hiddink. But this is particularly not true about Liverpool’s approach.

    Rafa and Mourinho’s build team to adapt and respond to games. They play epic games against Barca and Arsenal when they need to score but “shit on stick” against each other.

    Last year someone at the Guardian lamented that it’s understandable for the like of Portsmouth or Fulham to park the bus at the Emirates but it’s pitiful for Liverpool to do that. That’s what Benitez did in the first CL game. This year, that’s pretty much what they did at the Ems even when Arsenal playing with 10 men.

  • NYmarcus

    Interesting blog. Apart from Wilshere of course, I want to see Coquelin come thru, the kid’s got bite and guts, plus skill on the ball.

    “There are always better defenders around” — not sure I agree that’s true right now because as I look around the leagues I watch and know of, and look at what top clubs are buying and not buying, good defenders (at this moment in time) are a premium and few clubs (incl. the top clubs) have really world class quality in that position. If they do, they may have 1, 2 at the most — and many of those are going thru out-of-form periods due to exhaustion. I do think Arsene needs to strengthen at the back, the problem is I don’t see a lot of good candidates for the position. Of course he and his network know what’s out there better than I do but I really believe that the pool of players that Arsene considers bringing in is far smaller than Man Utd or Chelsea or Liverpool not just because of money–more importantly, his criteria for the type of game we play are very specific and necessarily weed out a lot of good players because they can’t fit into those criteria. Our game stands apart from other clubs and it means that there are few players Arsene can fit into it.

    As to our defensive needs….far more important than buying 1 or 2 new players is simply TRAINING our team into a collective defensive unit, which is not happening. If the team were effectively coached in that, then we wouldn’t need any new players at the back.

    After the Pool game on Tuesday, Arshavin rightly said (supported by Cesc) that everyone has to take responsibility for defending, esp. when the back 5 are makeshift, 2nd choice or recovering from illness, like they were at Anfield and Chelsea. It’s not just the keeper’s and defender’s responsibility to keep the ball out. When you see Diaby strolling back and not helping while our defenders are working to keep Pool players from scoring, or RVP running back and not helping while Porto players are running en masse attacking our goal, that’s a failure in training. Total football also means collective defending, not just collective attacking. We would’ve won at Anfield and Wembley if the whole team took responsibility for defending, and if there had been genuine leadership and organizing (the way Gallas does) in defense.

  • Cape Gooner

    Tony, you were at Anfield. Was Cesc offside for his disallowed goal?

    NYmarcus – good post, agree with it all

  • ads

    CAPE GOONER
    cesc goal was offside but bendtner’s goal was not.cheating scouse bastards!!
    also think kyle bartle is the best defensive prospect.

  • Jonny Neale

    The tv replays indicated the offside decision was as close as can be – but you could not categorically say it was offside. In this instance benefit of the doubt is meant to go to the attacker.

    I’m hoping JET comes through to make the grade – of all of the yoof players he is said to be the one with the best attitude and hunger to be as good as he can be. He doesn’t even go out with his old school mates any more, as they go out drinking and to clubs. He says he just wants to focus on his football.

    As for defenders yes the clump of injuries was hard to predict but not impossible – Wenger gambled by letting Senderos go – we should have had one more central defender as cover – that said he couldn’t have forecast that Silvestre have been as poor as he has been.

  • KG

    i still dont understand y Silvestre instead of Sanderos … that Sanderos is on loan to [b]Milan[/b] of all places does say something about his defensive abilities … i dont think Sanderos would have done anything worse than fish-face.
    any links for the youth cup goals/highlights?

  • Terence McGovern

    I would have thought Tom cruise was a bit old to gve up acting for football…..;-)

  • Gooner

    Admittedly we got dominated against Liverpool for large parts of the much. But Bendtner’s goal was onside.