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July 2021

Need for speed

By Walter Broeckx

Ah the life of a football supporter.  Easy in the good days. A bit more difficult in the bad days. And we seem to hit a few bad days for the moment.  There is no denying that.

From the game against Schalke and Norwich it is clear to see that without players who bring speed to the team we struggle.  We have a few players with some speed like Walcott and The Ox to play on the right flank. And on the left flank we have Gibbs who is also blessed with some speed and who can join the attack with his overlapping runs.

If we analyse the defeats so far we see that the game against Chelsea was lost because of 2 mistakes when defending set pieces. We weren’t outclassed in that game. Without the two mistakes we could have won it or got a draw.

But the defeats against Norwich and Schalke showed that the team played at the same speed for most of the time. No acceleration. Almost no player with a good timed run in to open space.  On the right hand side we usually had The Ox or Theo there. Their pace is stretching a lot of teams and when they play on the wing they can open up the defence. With both being out we don’t have the speed over there.

On the left flank we had the good combination between Podolski and Gibbs. Very influential in the first games of the season where they found each other rather well. Gibbs with the overlapping run and some good combinations with Podolski. Podolski looked really good with Gibbs behind him and Gibbs look good defensively with Podolski in front of him. That combination has been gone for the moment. Let us hope that they can play together as soon as possible.

But since we lost Gibbs we look a different team. There is no speedy left back/winger to do the overlapping runs and open the defence on that flank. And if you combine this with the absence of Theo and The Ox on the right flank you know exactly where the problem is in attack.

Cazorla has no wide options to stretch the opponents defence and make them spread their defenders so that gaps open up from where Podolski and Gervinho could run in to. So we get a kind of short passing with no real advantage or chances as a result. And that makes it easy to defend.

If we would have Theo, The Ox or Gibbs back Cazorla will have the options again and we can put more pressure on the other teams with our speed.  The only player who can do this now is Gervinho. And maybe Wenger can go for another youth player and put Gnabry on the field. He has speed and looks a promising player. Maybe he can fill the gap till Theo and The Ox are back? But we cannot put our hopes too much on the youngster. Can we?

Another option could be to bring in … Sagna. If he is really fit. Now I don’t know if you remember it but he used to run up and down the flank before his broken leg and bring something to defence and attack. A bit like Gibbs has done in the first games on the left flank.

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Now I know that you will say: dropping Jenkinson? Well maybe it is time to give him a rest?  In troubled times you need players who have a lot of experience and Jenkinson is still a rough diamond and Sagna is a seasoned warrior.  And I do think, no I am sure of it, that Sagna is attacking wise much more important and can bring more than Jenkinson.

I think it is amazing to see how good a defender Jenkinson has become in this one year at Arsenal. Really and utterly amazing. But his game going forward still needs a lot of improvement. But I am sure that the first thing to learn him was to defend in a proper way. And I think as a right back he is now very capable of doing this. He is almost always in front of the central defenders so he will not play players onside. A very important thing to do. But going forward he is only effective when he can run with the ball in front of him along the line. He can’t go inside as Sagna can and the passing range of Sagna is bigger. Experience shows of course.

So I think it is vital to restore the partnership Gibbs-Podolski on the left as soon as Gibbs is injury free. And it will be vital to have or Theo or The Ox back on the right flank supported by Sagna. On that moment we will have back the overlapping runs from our backs, we will have the speed on both flanks and our midfielders will have options on both flanks.

But never has the “need for speed” been bigger in this team than now in my opinion.

And then we can hope that with the other injured players like Diaby and Rosicky back in some 2 weeks if all stays well and like the prognosis is now.  That would give us more options in midfield.

And of course we then still have Jack Wilshere. Some call him already injury prone. But let me doubt that.  He had one major injury with his foot that needed surgery and the heeling didn’t work out as planned. He then also had a problem fixed in his knee. But before that Jack was almost never injured. In fact the reason why he played so much in his first season was because of him always being fit. Maybe it would have been better if he would have had some injuries.  And some rest to recover.

Now it wouldn’t be wise to expect Jack to be the answers to our questions as I think the answer lies on the flanks and in bringing in speed in to the team. But with Jack his vision and his eye for the unmarked player and his fighting spirit he will bring also something extra to the team.

But for now we only can swallow the bitter pill. Wait for the injured to return to full fitness. And when that happens we will see the real quality of this team.

And until then I will do what I always do. I will support my team. I will wish every player to hit form as soon as possible and to do their best. And I, I will support them.  Because that is what a real supporter does in the bad days.

I will not desert you my Gunners!

14 comments to Need for speed

  • gunnerfan

    Wenger must make sure the priority for any defender is to be able to defend. The problem with Wenger he wants everyone to attack with no emphasis on defence.His mantra seems to mirror that of keegan. The latter was reported to have said if the other team scores twice,he will score thrice. Brave words. It aint easy to score. It’s much easier to defend.
    As for speed,if you wtach teams like Ajax,Dortmund,braga,etcthey don’t waste time with passing. Two three passes. Bang the ball is in the net. Perhaps Arsenal have a different style but frankly if it aint working why not ditch it.

  • Sensible Opinion

    When can we discuss a replacement for the over-paid and over-rated Wenger? Its sad to see a decent person like him becoming a has-been before our very eyes. No trophies in over 7 years and on £7M+ a year and a club charging the highest prices for mediocre performances by mediocre players at best…you could’nt make it up. Enough’s enough.

  • nicky

    The short answer then, Walter, though it may be strikingly obvious, is that we want our injured back asap.
    During the past (say) 5 years we seem to have been badly hit by the absence of too many key players for too long during vital periods in the season.
    Being without both our recognised fullbacks at the same time is a case in point. While Jenkinson has performed well and will succeed Sagna eventually, he has much to learn.
    The absence of Gibbs is more serious. In my view Santos is not and never will be a fullback. This was glaringly obvious in the game against Schalke when his defending appeared to be at fault whenever there was an attack down the right flank.
    We can expect the imminent return of some of our wounded in a matter of days and on the law of averages we can only hope for a period of injury free football.

  • Mick

    @Sensible Opinion
    Shame your comments didn’t live up to your name!

  • nicolas

    Can we talk about how bad our attack has been in the last games?
    Yesterday we had 1 shot on goal! 1! And to top it all, it came on the 93th minute! No wonder we didn’t score. Would you Walter be interested in making some statistics on our shooting this season? Maybe include a chart also how/where we have scored? And how have we conceded? I think it would be very fascinating. What do you think?

  • nicky

    Well said. Wish I’d thought of it!

  • Mandy Dodd

    Agree Walter, sign theo up! All you mention has huge repercussions on the attacking side….And on the defence, there was no threat from out right last night so they could ignore it and hit our left, how different if theo or ox had been playing. not to have a go at rambo but he is not suited to that position, a great engine, but a one paced engine… relative terms of course.We play a passing game, if that breaks down, or is broken down, we need pace, we have had neither in the last two games. Other teams rely on the basics, we are not conditioned to be say a stoke, without passing and or pace, we have little to offer. We need to develop jenkinson, but Walcott and bac are needed in the mean time to get us out of this slump. But still , our level of injuries are worrying

  • Pat

    Very interesting analysis Walter. It rings true. We did look rather sluggish.

    I noticed Cazorla was getting frustrated at times. This may well relate to the points you are making about the wide options when Theo, Ox and Gibbs are playing.

    Looking forward to seeing them back!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Would have to agree with your points ,Walter .The left side was exposed in both the Norwich and Schalke games .When Podolski plays on the left he does try to support Santos but I felt Gervinho was not tracking back when he was on that side .
    Many a time Santos was double teamed ,and not having played much was always the last man and very often playing their srtikers onside as we pushed up.
    We need to freshened up the team and would not be too unhappy to see Serge in place of Gervinho.Ramsey also appears tired and maybe better to let him come on as sub .
    We need a kick up the Arse-nals !
    Up the gunners !

  • ARSENAL 13

    I think we missed Giroud yesterday. Playing him up front would have opened an alternative route.

    And Santos…..he looks drained already. How can a premier league player be so unfit.

  • rk

    Arshavin must be played. If he has been a victim of competition why not rest Ramsey or gervinho? The guy has been waiting in the bench for a very long time. In the match against coventry he played nicely. If you have cazorla and arshavin making runs and having more of the ball in the midfield we can probably create more chances. The most decisive moment this season is now, going to play Man utd with the kind of run, its tough. Next two games is must win or UCL qualification will be doubtful. Otherwise we can hear RVP was right 🙁

  • FunGunner

    Really good, thoughtful analysis, Walter – agree with ou there.

  • FunGunner

    A thought from me, Walter – the need for speed isn’t just about sprinters. It is possible to compensate for the absence of quick players by passing quickly and thinking quickly and anticipating situations – breakaways or transitions for us, etc. So perhaps that is where we fell down a bit on Saturday and against Schalke. What I am talking about was epitomised by the goal – one big man (Holt) reacting more quickly than another big man (Mertesacker) when Mannone palmed the ball back into play. Mental slowness rather than physical slowness.

  • Mahesh

    Is it just me, or that we always seem to face United after such a run of games? (at least for last couple of seasons, IIRC). I used to think that it was because of referees (or some other powers) that want us to be in bad form (or at least lose the confidence) leading up to Utd game. But, this season it looks like we are ourselves hitting a bad patch. Why can’t we meet (and beat) them when we are playing good?:(
    [Note to self: I must be getting paranoid]