Where can we improve?

Where Can We Improve?

By Pete

I am as much as a loyalist as anyone who frequents this site but I thought it might be interesting not only to review areas where there is room for improvement (after all nothing is perfect), but to do so constructively.  Tony has already written a piece around non-footballing issues so I won’t cover that.
So, I will work through a list of commonly expressed criticisms and review what steps, if any, are being taken to address (assuming the criticism is valid).
This is far and away the worst problem that we have had over the last five or more years.  Our incidence of injury is 2 or 3 times higher than it should be.   However I won’t rehash all the possible reasons for this but, instead, look at what we are doing about it.
Firstly, the club has invested a huge amount of money in medical facilities over the past few years – albeit with little to show for it so far – but hopefully we will soon start to see the benefit.
Secondly, the club has hired Shad Forsythe, the former German national team fitness and conditioning coach.  It remains to be seen what impact he will have – but he seems to be highly thought of.  My one caveat is that he didn’t join us at the start of pre-season – being on international duty – so will have been unlikely to have had much input into the design of the programme.
Beyond that, I remain unconvinced by the medical personnel given the correlation between the departure of the previous doctor and physio and the onset of our injury issues – although let’s see how this season goes.
Poor Execution of Transfer Deals
This is a tricky one.  It seems clear that Ivan Gazidis and Dick Law may have struggled somewhat in their earlier days – and, let’s be honest, David Dein was a hard act to follow – but matters seem to have improved over the last couple of years.  My sources tell me that Dein has not been completely absent from the scene – but has acted more in a coaching/advisory capacity.
The issue of course is that people want to buy:
– The best players
– For the cheapest prices; and
– Business concluded early in the window.
In the real world, at most only two of these are achievable at the same time.  In fact, often it is only one. Nevertheless, we seem to be becoming increasingly effective at getting our targets at acceptable prices – and are also managing to secure decent fees for outgoing players.
So, if there was a problem, it is definitely being addressed.
Difficulties Breaking Down Parked Buses
Last season, in the end, we usually managed to do this – but often after making fairly heavy weather of it.
Our preferred approach against teams who sit back is to focus on retaining possession and continuing to move the opposition around in the hope that, as they tire, gaps will start to open up.
Indeed, this often happens as evidenced by the significantly higher number of goals Arsenal score in the latter stages of games than early on.  One wonders whether a full-on surge early on – particularly against weaker opposition – may be more effective?  If this is successful an early goal will force the opposition to come out more from where they can be hit on the break – where we are strong – as well as reducing everyones’ stress levels!
Perhaps our more sedate approach is due to the need for the team to warm into the fairly intricate style of play we adopt?  However this does conflict with the magnificent teams we had 10 or so years ago where we would frequently destroy teams in the first 10 or 15 minutes of games before strolling through the remainder of the game.
Inability to Come from Behind to Win
This has not been greatly remarked upon.  However, apart from West Ham who kindly rolled over for us twice having taken the lead, I can’t recall too many other victories last season after trailing – although we didn’t go behind very often.  This issue is, I think, related to the previous problem (parked buses) except amplified.  There may also be a psychological issue in that now at least two goals are required to win the match – and we usually do need to win rather than draw.
The key here is to stay calm, don’t go chasing the game immediately, but retain morale.  Then, as the game enters it’s latter stages progressively increase the tempo – and keep going to the end.
Poor Performances against Top Rivals Away from Home
To start with, the problem last season was very much away from home – which sometimes gets lost.  At home we beat Liverpool and Spurs and drew with Man City, Chelsea, Man Utd and Everton.  Not marvellous but not bad either.  Away from home we beat Spurs (albeit quite fortuitously I thought) but lost to the rest, often heavily.  I think there are several reasons for this.
1. Being harried out of our possession focused approach early on and thus being unable to get a foothold in the game – at least not until the opposition tire in the 2nd half by which time it is sometimes too late.  Liverpool, Everton and Southampton away are all good examples of this (although it wasn’t too late at Southampton – we probably would have won were it not for Flamini’s red card as Southampton were exhausted).
2. Having fallen behind early, recklessly chasing the game straightaway rather than regrouping.  Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City are good examples of this.
3. Circumstances: Coming off a tough away trip prior to Man City, and being short of players for the other matches (remember the sickness prior to Man Utd).
I would suggest a good way to approach these matches would be to start off very tight and hopefully wait for the opposition storm to blow out – and then not to panic if we go a goal behind.  I think it is significant that the one game we did win (Spurs) came after a very early goal in our favour – I don’t think we played well that day at all, but the goal meant that it was psychologically satisfactory to sit back.  So we did, and defended very well.


The books
The complete Arsenal Anniversary series is to be found on the Arsenal History Society site.

39 Replies to “Where can we improve?”

  1. Pete
    Good points.
    Perhaps the Brad Forsythe effect is already taking place, as I understand Kos is fit to pay tonight & Gibbs will only be out for “up to three weeks” something unheard of with his past injuries.

  2. Where can we improve? That`s a point that could be argued to eternity. Having followed the Gunners for over sixty five years I have to ,regrettably, say that all English clubs, without exception, are close to extinction and being as `money` is the only God the game will eventually move to Gods own country, America. There will be the the Los Angeles Batmen and the New York Supermen and they will dress accordingly. Think I`m kidding? Ask Charles Orwell!

  3. Bloody hell Jack, that’s a bit depressing. I know football’s awash with too much money but I’m sure it’ll plateau at sometime in the near future and can’t see the US dominating in the comedy way you suggest. I don’t see how this answers Pete’s question though, and who’s Charles Orwell?

  4. @Aussie Jack,
    Your tongue in cheek comment, Jack, is very close,IMO,to the truth.
    The professional game is now big business not a sport.
    And the love of money is steadily taking over.
    For even the average successful player, transfer fees and wages are escalating at an quite obscene rate, which simply cannot continue to be sustained.
    And ticket prices are increasing greatly, to test the loyalty of the supporters…..the real core of the club.
    How this will all end and sanity regained is difficult to predict.
    A financial meltdown leading to a fees and wages cap, could happen.
    The FFP regulations, if firmly applied, might assist.

    NB. But when I see Suarez already on the field of play for Barcelona, I hold little hope for the future…

  5. Yes America has taken a “shine” to football and i am sure they are planning to share a part of that “pie” too. Just look at what is going on concerning football in USA.

    One thing we need to improve is our form from one game to the next. We now have enough players to rest “current non-performing” or “tired” players, so they don’t have to be used until they break.

    Our new part of defence did well, but is still gelling together so we can have confident variations in defence.

    All in all, the team is improving daily.

  6. We could improve if AW was less prideful. Fabregas is better than any midfielder we have and will haunt the season….disgrace that we don’t have him grrrrrr

  7. My comments will definitely not be welcomed, however, it require some airing.
    Arsenal requires first and foremost new leadership with a new philosophy and vision. Leadership in any venture/business requires clinical honesty and strategic planning. One has to start with oneself, then with the stakeholders and it then requires the character to act on the results of the findings. No venture/business has ever turned around successfully without some painful and brutal decisions being executed in line with the new vision and philosophy. Patching up of voids, especially in the key areas, has never and will never solve recurrent problems.

  8. Some great points Pete. As much as we may be loyalists, no harm in praising the club to the hilt, nor is there any harm in constructive criticism, there are areas in which we can improve and I think you touch on them perfectly. Injuries….a serious hindrance, the appointment of Shad suggests the club realise this. Wenger has hinted sf may not be the final appointment either. There have clearly been problems with the academy, rumours of behind the scenes tensions affecting day to day running…..looks like things have again been addressed on this front. Agree with all your tactical observations, city away, let’s just imagine it is Bayern or Dortmund away and play accordingly. I for one hated to see the kamikaze tactics employed at Chelsea, hope all concerned learn from that. I wonder if that was an anniversary indulgence from our manager! Sorry only kidding. Would also like to see more rotation! Play Rambo every game, at the intensity he plays at results in one thing, shad Forsyth or not. I hope the club are employing the very best most modern up to date techniques and prep in every game.

  9. I wrote this prior to the weekend.

    I think the Palace performance supported my views around “bus parking” – but we DID manage to successfully come from behind to win.

    On the injury front, Palace wasn’t great with Gibbs picking up a soft tissue injury. Koscielny also seems to be managing his achilles which is not great news medium term. Suspect we will lose him for a period in a month or two. Unclear what Sanogo’s injury problem was – but doesn’t sound great either. Ospina also out.

    So not the best start – but let’s see how it goes.

  10. While I agreed most of the point raised in the article, I beg to on the part where “Ivan Gazidis and Dick Law may have struggled somewhat in their earlier days” is concerned. While Mr Dein had been magnificent at his work, I doubt he was able to do much given our financial situation at that point of time. No doubt we had accumulated a large pile of cash in the bank, but looking at the overall financial situation throughout the early years of Emirates up to season 2013-14, we are in fact more like a mid-table team in terms of financial league (there is one).

    The very reason why we were able to re-negotiate a better deal with Emirates is surely due to the fact that we have been consistent throughout the years (and yes, as much as we wanted, we would like to win the championship instead of JUST finishing fourth every season – please do not insult the intelligence of Mr Wenger by saying/suggesting that he started out a season in wanting to finish ONLY fourth). No doubt that the German Contingents in our squad may have a factor in PUMA deciding to sign with us, the fact that NIKE, despite all these years of successful partnership with the Gunners, did not see any value in Arsenal, speak volumes about how it views Arsenal’s future.

    For the doubters who thinks Mr Wenger like to do business in the last minute, please take a look at how Vieira and Remi Garde were signed in the first place. To what I understand, and I stand to be corrected, these players were practically signed by Mr Wenger even though the latter was not even the Arsenal manager then.

  11. @Kurt.
    Arsene was serving out his contract with Grampus 8 of Japan but had already signed a contract to manage Arsenal.

    We now know that he was regularly in contact with Pat Rice. Arsene asked the club to sign
    Vieira and Remi, which the club did. Both players arrived at the club before Arsene.

    It is think more than likely David Dein was involved in the adminstration of the signings.

    Pat has told how he was told to go and meet Arsene at Heathrow. In the car back to Arsenal, Arsene asked Pat to be his assistant manager.

  12. Kurt – I never said we started out any season only wanting to finish 4th! I have always had high hopes and, but for bad luck with injuries and questionable refereeing I think we would have won the title in 2008, at least.

  13. Some of our overlapping defenders need to up their attacking threats to become more fruitful and thus, stop being only assistors but scorer of goals too. Koscielny and Mertesacker are exonerated from this guilt. Debuchy has just join us, so we keep in watch. Sagna did not contribute a single goal to Arsenal goal tally last season. Neither did Gibbs and Monreal scored any Premeir goals too. One of the attributes of a morden defender is his ability to overlap and give an assit or score by himself. Look at Chelsea defenders of Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic and Azpillicueta who have been comtributing significantly to Chelsea goal scoring efforts. Sometimes their goals win a match for Chelsea. But in our own case, only Kos’ and Bfg are making significant contributions to Arsenal goal efforts. The boss has to address this lapse in Arsenal’s RB to make it complete effectively in terms of scoring goals. The ideal thought is, let the 4 first choise Arsenal defenders contribute a minimum of 20 seasonal goals for Arsenal.

  14. @colario

    I knew about Mr Wenger serving out his contract with Grampus 8. My point being that Mr Wenger had been accused of procrastinating in signing players until the last minute – an accusation that coincide with our financial restrictions. How often do we hear pundits and fans accused Me Wenger of doing that? It is true that Mr Wenger did come out publicly and said that if he wanted to sign a player, he would have the cash to do it, after all we did have a large pile of cash in the bank. What he did not say but, in my own believe, was that once we signed the player, we would be financial unstable as a large chunk of the cash would be eroded. Given that there was no guarantee on the success of the signings, it should further mean that we were taking a higher financial risk that might sink the club at the end of the day!

    By signing both the players and asking Mr Pat Rice to be his assistant well in advance, Mr Wenger demonstrated that he is a Man of Vision, not someone portrayed by the media and some of our very own fans as being a miser (remember the spent, spent, spent banner), or worst – “you don’t know what you are doing!”.

  15. Samuel – While I hope our defenders can contribute more I think it is optimistic to expect 20 goals between them, even if you include assists?

  16. The name: James Alexander Gordon, probably doesn’t mean anything to most Arsenal fans, however for many years he was the voice of 5 o’ clock Saturday footbal.

    As he read out the football results so millions of britains (majority possibly knowing very little about football) listened to the note of his voice and checked their football pool coupon. If his voice was ‘high’ for the home club that meant a home win on the football pools. If it was medium a draw if it was down a loss for the home club. On the sound of his voice so the nation learnt if they had won or lost on the ‘pools’ that Saturday.

    His voice never falted and he never made a mistake in over 40 years of reading the results. For many fans his voice was the only way you learnt the fate of your team that Saturday.

    I would listen for Arsenal’s away score. I knew by the way he said the name of the home club if we had won before he mentioned the score for the home club.

    If we had won our game I would wait for the ‘Pink edition’ of the evening paper with the results and hopefully a report on the
    game. If we lost I didn’t bother.

    Thank you James Alexander Gordon for the memory of a valued time that will never come again, made rich with excitement by your voice coming out of the radio. Arsenal high- Tottenham low! 🙂 🙂

    O wonderous football results announcer may you Rest In Peace.

  17. Colario – I’m with you. James Alexander Gordon – Thank you and Rest In Peace.

    With regard to injuries – all injuries are results of tackles. Some tackles not even noticed might stress the knee or tighten (spasm) the muscle. The knee in the back of the leg generally precedes hamstring injury. The physios etc. help reduce the time of injury but do not avoid the cause. The cause is poor officiating.

  18. @Pete
    Oh dear, please accept my apologies if that is what my writing made you thought of. I did not have the intention of suggesting that you have any thought of this kind “I never said we started out any season only wanting to finish 4th!”. Those words in the brackets are meant for the AAA and ABW/ABA (Anyone But Wenger/Arsene)!

    I share the same sentiment in you with regards to 2008. If not for the petulant act by Gallas, a stupid foul by Clichy in conjunction with a bad referee, and an unwanted broken leg for Eduardo, we would have won the Championship!

  19. Pete,

    On the injuries, like you, I don’t want to rehash why they keep happening. I recall Arsene throwing the media a bone about “investigating” the cause(s) of our injuries. One disingenuous Untold commenter confused the appointment of Forsythe to mean the said “investigation” was carried out. Bollocks! Personnel change in organisations happens all the time. It remains to be seen what impact the German ‘magician’ will have on our injury issues if we continue to get kicked all over the pitch like we saw again on the opening day. Fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

    I disagree with you on the transfer issue but Kurt already said most of what I would have. We were constrained and the manager did his best to get us through our most difficult period without jeopardising our financial security. There is no new approach to transfers in the club, we just happen to have more money to spend. That’s it.

    Your point about our inability to come from behind is not an issue from last season but Arsenal currently hold the record from most number of consecutive matches won in the EPL after coming from behind. I think it is 5 and it was set with the 2-1 home victory over Newcastle in the 2011/12 season. I think coming from behind is actually one of our strengths, as the last game of last season showed.

    I am currently putting some words together about our big away losses last season and should be ready in a few days.

  20. LP from South Africa – it is not a case that your comments won’t be welcomed because anyone disagrees, it is just that you make an assertion without any evidence or theoretical background and therefore you don’t help us understand how you reached your conclusion.

    It can be argued that Arsenal has had a very clear business model and plan which allowed the development of the stadium while keeping the club in the top 4 – and that this was an extraordinary achievement. Now the club is moving on. That is a position that can be backed up by historic fact and analysis of what ARsenal has done and what people have said. Your position has none of that back up.

  21. @Samuel,

    I will be happier if our back four are able to restrict the teams from scoring more than 20 goals! As what Pete said, it is too optimistic to expect you want wish for, even we include the assist. On the other hand, I would prefer ALL our midfielders to contribute an average of 5 goals per EPL season per player, and our Regular strikers an average of 15 EPL season. Am I too much in asking for that ?

  22. In my opinion, we need some strategic world class legs in some areas: Djourou is just ok as striker but Arsenal deserves somebody better (just imagine we have d moulds of Suarez, Cavani etc). Wilshere needs to up his game; please count with me in their next match the number of build-ups that get terminated or frustrated when Wilshere gets d ball! Gibbs/Monreal need to be more combative as left full backs; to me, they are too fragile for defensive covers. Overall, let ALL our players practice more on ability to shoot-at-sight, with precision and more power, and immediately after any strike,there should be follow-ups in d box 18.

  23. IP – What exactly is wrong with the current leadership? To my mind they have been absolutely outstanding in successfully transforming the club over the last 15 years or so. I remember the joy we all felt when David Platt sneaked us 5th place in the last game of the season at home to Bolton to secure UEFA Cup qualification.

    In fact, I challenge you to name a club leadership that have been so successful in terms of enhancing the relative standing of a club. Anywhere. And throwing money at it does not count – which you would seem to agree with as you refer to it in “business” terms – and no business is successful with the size of losses we see at the likes of Man City and Chelsea.

  24. To stop injuries you need to speak to two departments.

    1) English ports media who purporte the myth that Arsenal don’t like physical football and the way to beat them is to “get tight”, “let them know you are there” or “play industrial football” or any other way of saying foul them .

    2) Match officials who believe the myth therefore allowing greater leeway to opposition players to foul as they believe we are soft and don’t like the physical stuff.

    It is no coincidence we have suffered the most broken legs.

  25. Boo – Thanks (and very much enjoyed your recent article). Regarding transfers, I do think that Gazidis and Law could have been more successful in their early years with the club – I don’t think it is fair to expect newcomers to the club and the country to be at the top of the game from Day 1 – but I think they are doing a good job now.

    I completely agree with you that they had no money to play with – and also acknowledge the, in general, good prices they got for players moving away. And some of the sell-on clauses have been very shrewd indeed.

  26. Kurt – No problem! Appreciate the comments – always good to get feedback.

    By the way, everyone, I am still working on the “Success Criteria for a Football Manager” article – as requested by Rupert way back. A lot to it though. It might be a series…

  27. Arsenal are clearly a team that feed off posession and need to dictate the pace and get into their stride. Most teams struggle to break down a team that parks the bus, just ask Barcelona when Chelsea did it to them. You have fallen short of suggesting any signings but would a dedicated ball-winner able to step in for Arteta not swing the posession stats away from home in favour of Arsenal against the toughest teams and therefore improve results ? I think it will help enormously having Theo and Alexis breaking on the counter away from home when Arsenal do not dominate posession but neither has ever had a high pass completion percentage so if they both play you do need to compensate. You will spend much of the game defending.

  28. @Remi Djourou isn’t much good as a defender but i’m pretty sure that he’d be a real donkey as a striker. Sorry, if it wasn’t me it would’ve been someone else. You meant Giroud.

  29. @Remi
    Please make an effort to get the striker’s name right. For those who keeping saying that we need this and that, I would like to ask, including the man himself: Is Gary Lineker a world class player himself? How many Championship medal was he able to show the fans? Football is a team sport, and we need a balanced and blended team to get the maximum result out from it!

    While I am not a die-hard AKB (because sometimes I wish that he could make a substitute earlier in some games), I am surely a “In Arsene We Trust” fanatic!

  30. Kurt,

    My brother, you an AKB. We don’t worship Wenger and none of us believes he gets it right all the time. We just believe that when it comes to managing Arsenal, he definitely knows better than anybody else around.

    I agree with about about our substitution timing but I think we’ll both agree that he gets it right more than wrong.

    My own beef with Arsene is his engagement with the 4th officials. The fuckers often used the opportunity to gesticulate harshly to him to get back to his seat. On such occasions, he would look diminished and the rival fans would latch on and accuse him of whining. I would prefer he spends his time rallying our boys, even if it is only for show. You see footy fans lap that shit up 🙂 When needed, he could send Steve Bould to complain to the 4th official.

  31. We always tend to play the same players for all kind of cups.The 11 starters are most of the time same.The body of the athlete it can take only up to some point.Take Gibbs as an example he is not able to play 2 games a week when at this level 3 is a minimum requirement.To me the total number of the squad does not reflect the equal share of the burden for the entire season.That is the issue and the solution is to bring able players for the task.

  32. Regarding the few comments on United States and their re-entry into football, Their national team is already ranked above England
    Many years ago the then British Athletics Coach Ron Pickering stated that in his opinion it was thankful that the USA played American Football as without it releasing those magnificent athletes onto the world scene would mean they would dominate almost every sport.
    Living now in North America we are seeing registrations in Canada for youth football exceeding those for the traditional game of Ice Hockey. This time the build up is slow and sure and looks well rooted. And the USA does not like losers

  33. Shad….injury reviews….hmmm….who knows. I believe things are going on behind the scenes to improve things, as mentioned the youth set up, and no doubt shad himself, as well as perhaps things we know nothing about. A club like this cannot stand still. I certainly attach no blame to anyone at the club, and recognise the clear role of the pgmol, and indirectly the media, as well as the perceptions of other clubs in our injury situation, but as I have often said, the fact that exactly the same thing happens to the kids not exposed to the pgmol leads this observer at least to believe there are other issues compounding lack of ref protection. Ivan is a smart guy, injuries cost money, arsenal are a corporate, he would not be a proper CEO if he did not investigate injuries, and indeed a multitude of other issues on a constant basis and act on his findings. Whether shad is a result of this, we do not know, nor do I really care, I am just glad he is here and that the club seem to be leaving no stone unturned in a quest for constant improvement….and that is as it should be. But more importantly, good luck boys tonite!

  34. Another improvement would be:
    I’ve noticed where we lose the ball most, and it’s when one player passes to another and he passes it back, when there are other players free, then we usually lose the ball. Coincidence?

    This defence part II is holding it’s own, and i think we will get a goal soon. Hope our defence continues to keep a clean sheet.

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