One of the biggest criticism’s over the last decade or so about Arsene Wenger is his tactics and in game management:
- He does not consider the opposition enough when setting out his team
- He does not have a Plan B
- His substitutions are predictable
Last night, and over the last few games, he is possibly turning a corner.
On the first point, he has always been of the opinion that if he sets his team up to play how he wants them to play, and they play to his game plan and to the best of their capabilities, the team will win, no matter who the opposition are or how they set up. It is arrogant.
It means we do not expose other teams weaknesses, and are not prepared for their strengths. And time and again we have lost due to clear under preparation.
But last night was different. There was a clear game plan different from normal. Let Munich have the ball, and hit them on the break with our pass. Rope a dope. It was like watching us play under Graham in the early 90s.
It take’s some luck. Giving the opponents a lot of time on the ball means they will create chances. You need to hope your keeper is on form, and if one gets away, it go’s the right side of the post. And then up the other end, you need to take your chances, and get some luck going your way.
And we had that last night. For a striker in such great form, Lewandowski should have buried that late chance. But great work from Koscielny and a great save by Cech kept it at 1-0. On another day, Munich would have had an early penalty (Sanchez hand ball) and Koscielny would have clattered into the back of Lewandowski giving away a second penalty and a red card.
Up the other end of the field, Walcott had a great shot saved, and then our first goal had a massive element of luck to it as Neuer repeated Petr Cech’s error earlier in the season against West Ham by coming out for a ball and getting no where near. 2 World Class keepers doing an identical error. Shows we are human.
Essentially, Wenger got his tactics spot on yesterday. As he did against Manchester United. Hopefully he continues to look at the opposition when deciding his game plan, rather than resorting to type and wrapping himself up in the arrogant egotistical bubble he has been in for 10 years.
As for substitutions and having a Plan B, Olivier Giroud is quickly becoming Arsenal’s Super Sub.
Olivier Giroud was never bought to be Arsenal’s number one striker. He was always signed to be Plan B. Back up originally to Robin van Persie, he found himself leading the line. It should have just been for a season, but Arsenal’s failure to capture Higuain or Suarez meant he was up top for a second season.
Alexis Sanchez was bought in, originally, to do the same role he does for Chile. Striker. It did not work, and for the 3rd season in a row, Olivier Giroud was our 1st choice striker. Then this season again, a failure to land Benzema left Wenger relying on the big man again. Until he decided to staqrt Theo Walcott upfront.
What that mean is Giroud began to do what he was bought for. An impact sub.
At 6 4 and strong as an ox (not the Ox, who for me is the most overatted player in England), he causes problems when he comes on against turned defences. He is able to bully them. Win every ball, and provide a great outlet. His lack of pace is not as exposed as much, playing up against two centre backs who have spent 65 minutes chasing Walcott. He is a great asset to have.
Whether it is to close out the game, or to chase the game, bringing on someone like Giroud in the last 25 minutes is a game changer. It is nice to finally have a Plan B.
What a star he is becoming. Way back in 2013 he first came onto my radar as someone who could make the step up from talented kid to potential first choice right back. Since then, he has come on leaps and bounds and has now established himself as not only Arsenal’s best right back, but the best right back in the league.
It is little more than a year on from his full debut against Borussia Dortmund where he looked shaky and out of place, to say the least. Last night he was the best full back on the pitch.
Yes, Douglas Costa gave him a few problems and did made him look a fool once, but that happens when you are playing up against someone with a bag of tricks. The importance is that after he does you once, you do not let him do you again. And for most of the game, Bellerin had Costa in his pocket. So much so that Costa swapped wings in the second half.
This season, with us playing Ramsey at right wing, Bellerin has had a big task on his hands. Both defending and basically being our right winger. And he has done well.
The last few seconds of yesterday’s game sums up his season. His ability to get forward at pace, beat the opposing full back, and put in a good cross is an asset to have. He did it against Watford as well. He is a talent.
I jokingly said that yesterday showed his naivety. In the last few minutes, winning 1-0, our right back is bombing forward and putting a cross in, rather than either sitting back so we don’t get exposed, or running for the corner. Obviously I was jesting (and got some abuse), what he did yesterday was class. To have that pace left at the end of the game and energy to get his head up and play the ball shows his brilliance. Just remember though, if he does it again, plays a poor cross, and the opponents go up the other end of the field and score, do not criticise Bellerin. You can not celebrate yesterdays brilliance then moan if it go’s wrong.
Hector Bellerin is secure as Arsenal’s first choice right back. Debuchy will leave this summer. If he continues in his current form, he will be starting for Spain at Euro 2016.
Looking in my crystal ball
So we are back in with a chance of Champions League qualification. Just 1 point off second, we are back in the game. So looking in my crystal, this is what will happen:
Arsenal will travel to Munich, and lose. Meanwhile, Olympiakos, having stolen a victory in Zagreb, will do the double by winning at home.
Bayern Munich 9
Dynamo Zagreb 3
Up next for Arsenal is a home match against Zagreb. Surely we will not see a repeat of Olympiakos. 3 points to The Arsenal. Bayern Munich host the Greeks. A win for the German’s see them qualify, and get top, with a game to go. They will go all out for the win. And get it.
Bayern Munich 12
Dynamo Zagreb 3
So that brings us to the last round of games. Arsenal away to Olympiakos. Winner takes all…
One thing is for sure, the club were struggling to shift tickets for the Dynamo Zagreb game before yesterday. I bet the sell out ASAP.