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How missing your central back pairing handicaps the attack.
By Walter Broeckx
This may cause a few people raise their eyebrows. So let me explain.
This season Arsenal had for most of the season a very fluent and attacking game. We then always give credit to the attack and midfield. After all it is the passing of Cesc, the dribbles of Van Persie, the tricks of Arshavin that catch the eye.
They get the credit and rightly so. They are the players that make the Emirates rock at times. They score the goals and give the assists. So what have central defenders have to do with the attack.
I’m not talking about the fact that Vermaelen has scored 7 league goals this season. No I’m not talking about Gallas scoring another 3. Yes it is very welcome when your centre backs score a few goals and yes one could say that we miss them a bit for the fact that they can score a few goals between them.
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No because of their absence we lack something else. Something that is more invisible and that at first sight does not catch the eye.
The last games we had to play Campbell and Silvestre at centre back. Campbell gets all the credits for his tough defending and Silvestre is the person who gets all the stick for his past. I think on the defensive side they were not that bad. If you analyze the goals when they were both on the field than it was Sagna who played Bale onside when Campbell and Silvestre had moved forward.
If you take the first goal from Wigan it was the fact that no midfielder tracked the run of Watson which allowed him to take his shot on goal. The second goal was the fault of Fabianski who lost the ball. And the third goal could be blamed on both of them but I think it was again our midfield that lost the ball and did not follow up. But even if we blame both of them, 1 goal on their account is not dramatic. And on the other hand Silvestre also scored a goal as Vermaelen and Gallas do at times.
So why am I saying that they give us a handicap in comparison with Gallas and Vermaelen.
In fact it is not just me that is saying it. It is someone that most of us will see as a very reliable source. It was our captain, Cesc who has said this in fact. He has said this sometime in September or October.
We all know Gallas and we know that he is not only a good defender but also a very good and skilful player. He can play with the ball at his feet, he can dribble an give a good pass.
But Cesc then was talking about Thomas Vermaelen. He said that his passing was so good and precise it was almost as if we had an extra midfield player. Vermaelen also has a very good technique, like most Ajax players where they train on technique, and he can pass to the midfield at the right tempo and with the right speed. He can create openings and when needed he also can kick an measured long ball to the attack or switch from one wing to another.
But if you take Campbell and Silvestre, and I will not take much away from their defensive qualities, when you look at them with the ball in their feet…. well this really is different from Vermaelen and Gallas.
If Campbell runs forward it seems rather clumsy. He never was the best in skill and this is really to see now. Most of the times he does not bring up the ball like Gallas but he puts it in the air. Silvestre is the same. He does puts his passes in like Vermaelen so he also just ends up with putting it in the air to the strikers.
But because of the lack of good passes going to our midfielders they cannot collect the ball as they are used to. Normally they get a perfect pass in their feet for 90 % of the time. Now they have to stretch themselves before they really can do anything with the ball. And for the strikers it is the same. They mostly get balls with the right weight on it and in the right place but now most of the time they are faced with ball in the air that are much harder to control – or even uncontrollable.
This means that most of our midfielders and attackers are not getting the balls they are used to get and this makes our attack less dangerous than before. When we still had Vermaelen we had one centre back who could bring the ball up with some quality. Now we don’t have him no more our game that is based upon technique and a nice build up game is disrupted by the absence of Gallas and Vermaelen.
Song is a player who also can bring a quality ball to the midfield but he is out too. So this means that we are facing a major attacking problem because our central defenders we have left are good defenders but not good enough any more in the their build up play.
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