It is on occasion forgotten that Henry didn’t do it all on his own. Most of the time he had Robert Pires to help him. It took over a year to get right, but when it did work it was stunningly simple.
Henry could always be relied upon to spend some of his game on the left wing, and when he did that he would invariably drag two defenders with him. Pires would then toddle into the centre forward position ready for the pass that allowed him to score.
It worked so many times that it was always a wonder that other teams didn’t get it – but it is a measure of the quality of these two players that they got away with it for so long.
Repeating the trick is harder, although we’ve seen it start with Adebayor taking increasing numbers of excursions to the left wing. Now we are starting to see why – Nasri is turning up in the middle more and more often. We’ve even seen Bendtner going out left, so Nasri can work more and more down the middle.
OK, Nasri is not Pires – not yet. But don’t forget that Nasri is younger than Pires was when he joined, and Pires had a very dull and ordinary first year with us (of course we now forget the cries that he should be dropped – what we now remember is Player of the Year and the rest of the team bowing down to him when he hobbled up to collect his championship medal). On that basis Nasri is operating above schedule.
This could be the magic that Wenger has seen and is trying to develop. Adebayor playing down the middle but confusingly ending up on the left wing, Van Persie playing behind the front player (and I have to say Van P is looking better and better to me. I know the game was against an ordinary lower league team yesterday, but the last goal showed focus and concentration, and a lot of skill), with Nasri drifting into the middle.
Nasri spent a lot of the past year injured, and that is why he was available on a transfer. People talked of the new Zidane, but that was more in hope than expectation. But Wenger’s insights are generally more right than wrong. It is not functioning anything like fully yet, but I think this is where it is going.
PS: Don’t forget Highbury High next week. Including “It’s Football Jim, but Not As We Know It” – a stunning and remarkably amusing little number written by someone.
(c) Tony Attwood (come on guys stop nicking my text and sticking it up on other blogs – go and write your own) 2009.
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