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Talking Tactics: Arsenal v Norwich City

The Norwich City game seemed like the perfect game to play right after an international break. Arsenal was expected to go into Carrow Road and easily seal three points. However while a composed and organized Norwich showed up, Arsenal limped into the game showing signs of complacency and fatigued and in the end gave Norwich City their first win of the season with the game finishing 1-0 to the Canaries.

The Norwich City game seemed like the perfect game to play right after an international break. Arsenal was expected to go into Carrow Road and easily seal three points. However while a composed and organized Norwich showed up, Arsenal limped into the game showing signs of complacency and fatigued and in the end gave Norwich City their first win of the season with the game finishing 1-0 to the Canaries.

Congestion in the Middle

Norwich City elected to play in a flat 4-4-1-1 ensuring that the midfield would be congested. The congestion limited Arsenal’s ability to string passes or set up scoring chances. Wide players also constantly drifted into midfield further limiting the space with which to work and ensuring Arsenal played directly into Norwich’s game plan. There were some bright moments in midfield however but overall the congestion coupled with poor movement made our midfield extremely static. Cazorla’s space was limited due to wonderful tactics employed by Norwich (more on this later) while Aaron offered no movement in support. Arteta had a steady solid game but could not contribute much going forward as he was constantly dragged back to check the runs of Hoolahan. The congestion in midfield meant that Arsenal were limited to using long balls (23 accurate long balls) to create space as through balls (1 accurate through ball) were not coming off. The lack of space also limited shots from midfield and Arsenal finished with a measly 2 shots on goal from midfield players. Arsenal’s midfield was ineffective against a compact Norwich side that provided Arsenal no space in the middle instead pushing Arsenal wide to create chances.

Go Wide!

While the midfield was congested, it provided a great opportunity for the wide players to take advantage of the freedom they were given and boy did they let us down. Both Gervinho and Podolski had days to forget with both finishing as our worst outfield players respectively. Both players showed a lack of imagination and instead of providing speed and directness were happy to instead drift into midfield adding to numerous bodies already there. Podolski was guilty of constantly resetting play instead of supporting Giroud while Gervinho was simply lost. Both players could muster only a single shot on goal and were largely anonymous. The wide players were not helped by the fullbacks either as both Santos and Jenkinson provided nothing going forward with neither able to muster a single accurate cross. While Jenkinson was solid defensively, Santos was constantly caught out of position that Bennett was happy to take advantage of.

To make matters worse, Giroud (who was industrial throughout) and our two wingers were never on the same page. Simple knockdowns and link ups were constantly misplaced and there was a distant lack of communication in the final third. What Arsenal needed on the wings was directness, something that both Podolski and Gervinho simply refused to provide. The Ox came on and immediately had a positive impact and it was devastating to lose him so quickly. Like the West Ham game we also sorely missed Theo Walcott, whose style (speed and directness) would have been ideal against Norwich City. With Norwich playing compact, space was available to be exploited on the wings but our lack of movement in wide areas put added pressure on our already congested midfield nullifying our attacking impetus.

The Cazorla Blueprint

Chelsea, a few weeks ago effectively shut down Cazorla and with that Arsenal’s creativity was lost. Norwich also did the same by putting Tettey on Cazorla thus limiting his space in the middle and Arsenal did not look like scoring the entire game. Even with Cazorla finishing with 4 key passes he didn’t offer the same cutting edge that we are used to seeing from him. What compounded Arsenal’s problems was that nobody really stepped up with Cazorla being marked out. Ramsey had a day to forget with his movement and passing being very poor. He didn’t even get into good shooting spots or provide a single key pass in the entire match. If this game was any indication of to expect then it will be of greater worry in the future as we will need to rely on players like Wilshere, Diaby and Rosicky; all of who are coming back from injuries to the share the creative burden with Santi if Cazorla is tactically shut down in games. A worrying blueprint to beating Arsenal is emerging here as teams have shown that they have success against us by simply nullifying Cazorla which begs the question… Are we still a one man team?

Other Musings

  • Vermaelen has been a bit of a maverick lately however his recent performances makes his choice as captain a bit concerning. I have always maintained that our best pairing at CB is Koscielny-Per and having a CB as captain limits our ability to rotate and play the best pairing
  • Arsenal urgently requires a winger who has goals in him. While both Podolski’s and Gervinho’s early form has shown promise their inconsistencies puts a lot of pressure on Giroud and the midfield to provide a cutting edge and score goals
  • Giroud has a fantastic work rate and while he has good understanding with the midfield, there is a total lack of cohesion with the wingers so far
  • Jenkinson has been an absolute revelation this season but Sagna will walk into the team for one simple reason, what he offers going forward. Corporal Jenkison has been fantastic overall bar his final ball, nothing deputising for Sagna won’t fix however
  • While I cannot wait for Jack to be back, the midfield player I am most hoping is back soon is Diaby. Having a physical central midfield gives us versatility and guile in midfield that comes in handy especially against teams that are compact against us. An ideal line up would be having Jack as the AM with Diaby and Arteta playing behind him and Cazorla and Podolski playing on the wings

In the end, Arsenal were disappointing and watching their lack of effort was simply painful especially as they were playing a very average Norwich City side. However Norwich played to their strengths while Arsenal decided to simply show up and that in this league is unfortunately not good enough. While dropping points to Chelsea by being complacent could be justified, doing the same against Norwich is simply unacceptable. One bad showing does not automatically make Arsenal a poor team but grinding out results when not on form has always been the mark of a title contender and unfortunately on this showing Arsenal proved that it still has ways to go before we can be considered as such.

Keep the Faith.

Joel Pereira – @joel_pereira

INFOGRAPHIC (by DAG) – click to make larger

 

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