What Can Arsenal Do To Lessen Arteta’s Loss

Mikel Arteta’s injury could not have come at a worse time for Arsenal. The race for third spot just got tighter because of Arsenal’s loss to Wigan and to make matters even worse, they have to face an in form Chelsea buoyed by their victory against Barcelona in the Champion’s League.
It’s unfortunate for Arsenal that Arteta didn’t arrive a season before, to play alongside Cesc Fabregas. The two of them, along with Alex Song could have formed the most fluid midfield partnerships in the Premier League.
One of the key traits of Arteta’s game this season is that he has been played almost for the entirety of the season as a deep lying midfielder, a position unfamiliar to him during his Everton days, where he was deployed as the more attack minded of the two midfielders. The fact that he has altered his game to suit Arsenal’s formation is a testament to his technical abilities.
Mikel Arteta has mostly operated as a ball playing central midfielder helping them maintain possession without doing anything too spectacular(leave aside the goals against Manchester City and the absolutely sensational free kick against Aston Villa). But what Arteta does for Arsenal is make them tick. He has the ability to keep the ball rolling in midfield and an unerring ability to play a correct long ball. This simple passing method has been the key to Arsenal dominating possession in most of their games.
But now with Arteta injured, Arsene Wenger’s forehead must have grown a few more brows. The only option he has at his disposal for a central midfield position is the woefully out of form Aaron Ramsey. Wenger also has the option to play Oxlade-Chamberlain in the position, considering his quite brilliant showing against AC Milan in the Champion’s League. But going against the popular opinion of not playing Aaron Ramsey, I would suggest that this is exactly what Wenger should do. Tomas Rosicky is enjoying a rejuvenated season and it wouldn’t be wise to switch him to a deeper position.
Ramsey although operating as a “playmaker” this season has only 6 assists to his name after making 40 appearances. Ramsey’s overall game play is similar to Mikel Arteta’s. Even when he plays in a forward position he has a tendency to play short sideways passes as opposed to incisive forward ones, similar to Arteta. Also, he doesn’t have urgency in his game which in my opinion is essential for a CAM, just to panic the opposition defences. This makes him more suitable to a deeper position where he is just able to receive the ball and use it more intelligently with a little more time and space. In fact, I think Arsene Wenger has been wrong in using him as CAM for so long this season.
The other option Wenger can use is to deploy Oxlade-Chamberlain in Arteta’s position. The youngster has shown maturity and fearlessness that belies his age and there is not challenge that he is afraid of. However, the only thing that goes against Oxlade-Chamberlain is his inexperience in playing in that position in the Premier League. He will be up against the wily old veterans such as Lampard and Meireles (yes he is a veteran when compared to AOC) and has to be disciplined in holding his position. Even in the match against AC Milan where he was extremely influential, there were times when he would wander off to some other areas of the pitch leaving the central area exposed.
A less likely approach would be to shift to a 4-4-2, because Chelsea will be playing with Bosignwa, who isn’t exactly the best Right Back in the world (Gervinho and Santos had a field day against him in the reverse fixture). The team shape could be somewhat like this:
But who am I kidding; Wenger will never change his formation.
So, all in all, the first option is the most likely and will hopefully bring some confidence back into Ramsey. This match will prove to be a touchstone for him as he is most likely to be played there for the rest of the season.


Van Persie Is Leaving And Others Are Going To Follow Soon

After the humiliation at the hands of AC Milan in the Champions League, if there were any doubts in Robin Van Persie’s mind about staying at Arsenal, those should have been put to bed. And the defeat at Sunderland must have strengthened those thoughts of leaving the club, of which he has been a part for the last 7 years.

Nobody should and can blame Van Persie if he decides to ply his trade someplace else. Van Persie is at the peak of his powers at the moment and at the age of 28 this must surely be the last long term contract that he is going to sign. There can’t be any way to convince him to stay at a club that has clearly lost the plot and is destined for struggles at least in the coming 2-3 seasons.

Van Persie’s case is clearly an open and shut case, and most are the Arsenal fans are more or less convinced that this is the last of what they are going to see of the Dutch magician. But what should worry Arsenal more is that Van Persie’s departure can trigger a mass exodus at the club. Most probably Thomas Vermaelen and Bacary Sagna, two of the most consistent performers for the club, can become disillusioned because of the lack of investment in proven performers.

Thomas Vermaelen recently voiced his anger over being played at left back position, saying that he is not able to enjoy his game and is discontent even if the team wins. Although Pro-Wenger fans can argue that he has to do it for the team, it has to be said that Wenger had enough time to buy a proper full back in the January transfer window, and he chose not to. Vermaelen’s body language in the recent matches where Arsenal has lost hasn’t been too convincing and even a cursory look at him would convey you the point that he is dissatisfied with the current state of the team.

Bacary Sagna has also been one of the most consistent performers for Arsenal over the recent years and although he hasn’t voiced any concerns recently, it can be easily deduced that frustration is bound to seep into his mind at one point or the other.

These 7 years of trophy less disappointment have created an unforeseen amount of pressure on the players. So much so that every match is a “perform or perish” situation for all the players and for Wenger himself. Ryo Miyaichi, currently on loan at Bolton, recently said that there’s just too much pressure at Arsenal and he is enjoying his spell at Bolton because the atmosphere at the Reebok stadium is much lighter and friendlier. It is difficult to predict when such an atmosphere will be coming to Emirates, and if the aforementioned trio decides to part ways, it is safe to say that it won’t be there any time soon.

One-Man-Team jibes don’t suit Arsenal

Over the last few weeks, Arsenal have been on an incredible run of games, now winning 7 out of their last 8 matches in all competitions. I say its incredible because no one was giving them a chance to recover from their early season form and lack of world-class players. How they have turned the tide is a testimony to the resolve, commitment and rise of a new fighting spirit in this squad.

The media always seems to be on Arsenal’s back, finding reason after reason to launch accusations or ridicule towards the club. The latest one being, labelling Arsenal as a one man team. Much of Arsenal’s renaissance has to be attributed to Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman has been in scintillating form this season, having bagged 10 goals in the league and an additional 2 in Europe. While it is true that Arsenal depend heavily on  Van Persie  to score goals, calling Arsenal as a one man team is going too far. Van Persie has been scoring crucial goals for Arsenal this season, most notable being the brace against Sunderland, but underrated players like Arteta, Ramsey and Gervinho et al. have not been getting the attention that they deserve.

In my last post I praised Arteta for being consistent, while hoping for  Aaron Ramsey to finally deliver upon the promise, and he seems to have taken note of it : ). The Welshman has now provided two assists in the last two games both of them being of the highest quality. Elsewhere, Gervinho has suitably filled the gap left by Samir Nasri. The Ivorian is a tricky footballer to defend against because he always has a step over waiting for you. Against Chelsea, he effortlessly went past Bosingwa on multiple occasions as the Portugal international seemed confused as to when to tackle him. What this does is create space and time for the central midfielders to make late runs into the box. Also, Theo Walcott produced a good performance on the right-wing, putting in pin-point crosses  in the first half from which both Gervinho and Van Persie should have scored. Nonetheless, Walcott’s goal was just the reward that he deserved on the afternoon. The defending has always been appalling from Arsenal and will continue to be so, until Wenger changes his tactics of defending with a high backline. Against Chelsea, they were ripped apart in the opening 10 minutes because of the high backline, but were fortunate enough not to concede any goals. Only Laurent Koscielny has performed consistently at the back, and is proving to be an absolute rock at the heart of the defence. Koscielny is another player who has not been getting any attention, maybe because of the reason that he is a quiet lad and not a goal getter like Thomas Vermaelen.

One reason for Robin Van Persie’s scorching form maybe the reason that Arsenal have started playing a far more direct game as compared to the slow build up game, which was Arsenal’s trademark during the Fabregas era. This can prove to be a good platform for someone like Walcott as well, as he can be absolutely lethal with a sharp early ball played behind the defenders.

Every team has players around which the entire team is built. Manchester United had the Beckham era, the Ronaldo era and now the Rooney era. So have Arsenal had the Viera era, Henry era and the Fabregas era. Perhaps, they are now entering the Van Persie era and the Dutchman absolutely deserves the recognition. But in the process, due recognition and acclaim is also deserved by his teammates, who have shown tremendous heart to have comeback from the position they were in.

Mikel Arteta – Is he really under Fabregas’s Shadow

One of Arsenal’s frantic deadline day purchases was Arsene Wenger’s long term target Mikel Arteta. The 29 year old Spaniard, once part of the youth system at Barcelona has been a steady, if not spectacular, performer in the Premier League for quite some time now. His signing was one of the few bright spots during Arsenal’s tumultuous summer during which they lost their star players Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Although, Arteta was bought as a replacement for Fabregas, it is clearly evident that he is not in the same class of his compatriiot. However, what Arteta provides for Arsenal is versatality. He has had experience playing on the wings at Everton, and as central midfielder and as a central attacking midfielder. He is also a better tackler than Fabregas.

In my opinion, recent performances from Arteta have been extremely consistent. He is Spanish. He was part of Barcelona’s youth system. My point being, Passing is in his Genes. And this is what suits Arsenal. He was used as a central attacking midfielder on his debut against Swansea and he immediately showed his ability with two extremely well played through balls within the first ten minutes itself. However, in recent matches against Marseille, Sunderland and Stoke, Arsene Wenger has started using him in a slightly more deeper role while playing Aaron Ramsey in an advanced position. So instead of filling Fabregas’s boots, Arteta has started performing the role that Xabi Alonso performs so admirably for Real Madrid and Spanish national team.Spraying the ball throughout the match and helping Arsenal keep possession. And he is doing it extremely well.

While it may not be what the fans initially expected of him, but it has started paying dividends now as the Arsenal midfield now looks more compact than at the start of the season. He has forged a good understanding with the ever improving Alex Song, wherein one of them sits deep when the other one attacks, thereby always providing Ramsey or Rosicky with an option to pass the ball onto.

One criticism that I have regarding his game is that he plays too much through the centre.With Fabregas’s vision it was possible for Arsenal to play this way, but Aaron Ramsey has not yet shown the same capability.

Hopefully, Arsenal’s squad will start gelling together soon and Aaron Ramsey finally starts catering to his hype and you never know we can have the same old Arsenal back, playing football at its fluid best.