Europa 101…

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Arsenal welcomes FC Koln. today at the Emirates and let’s face facts over window dressing this – it’s not the ideal state to be in and contrary to popular belief – this club competition is not your Carabao Cup or another decorative trophy. We do not want to be in the Europa League, but we were more mediocre than the top 4 teams in England last season, so we deserve to be.

Games will be played on Thursday and most of the subsequent premier league games will be scheduled for Sunday. This schedule gets even more packed at the latter half of the season or “the business end” since we have other competitions like the FA Cup and the crucial Carabao Cup

The money aspect is minuscule as compared to the champions league. But winning the Europa League will give the winner direct entry into the champions league even if they do not qualify from their domestic league. Manchester United was smart to focus on this aspect and now they find themselves in the UCL despite finishing below us.

The bottom line that an Arsenal fan should not ignore is this – despite us not ideally wanting to be in this league, its gives a very good opportunity to do well and progress in it. It would help nurture younger talent and also allow Wenger to try some new styles with the team. Youth teams players can be given an opportunity to express themselves and build themselves up towards the first team. I am looking forward to seeing Jack Wilshere and Reiss Nelson start today’s game and it’s going to be interesting to see if Wenger tries to do something different – it is his first time too here.

Progressing throughout the tournament won’t be easy since we have a very long way to go before even reaching the finals. To put things into perspective, from September to December the champions league eliminates 16 teams and keeps the best 16 in Europe – these teams enter the knock out in February. It’s brief, short and sweet. You have the best teams in Europe playing here and Manchester United.

In the same time, the Europa League (Sept-Dec) eliminates 24 of 48 teams (4 teams 12 groups, with top 2 qualifying) with 24 teams progressing to the next round – the third place teams from the champions league group stage (8) join these 24 and collectively 32 teams play it out in February. From 32 teams, you have the knockout phase to eliminate 16 teams and the rounds continue until you reach 8 teams and 4 teams for the quarters and the semis.

It is a long tournament in that sense and it does become grueling for any team who is thinking of competing seriously about it.

Am I excited about the Europa League?

Honestly, I see it more as a platform to show and understand teams skill-set over an actual competition. Make no mistake about the fact that it is not easy to win. But yes, it doesn’t get my excitement to the level the champions league does (that being said, if we win I will be elated). This is of course, independent of the fact that we have a BETTER chance to win the Europa League than we have a chance to win the champions league – but I do feel the way I feel because I have this thing bad habit called “expectations” from Arsenal.

It is a hard pill to swallow, us here, and the likes of Liverpool and Spurs in the champions league. More so for Arsenal fans since this is our first (hopefully last) season in the Europa League and as once, long ago in the dark ages, our great manager did say

“if you eat caviar everyday, its difficult to return to sausages”

We are definitely not used to sausages, but a man’s got to eat what a man’s got to eat…

If you want to beat Chelsea, don’t be so predictable…

Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal and Oscar of Chelsea

The first real test for this Arsenal side is going to come this Sunday against a team which has revolutionalized the art of the 3 man defense and a competent and fully functional midfield.

When Conte got thrashed 3-0 at the Emirates last season, it might have seemed that he would not have an instantaneous answer to what the premier league had thrown at him. A three man defense may have worked for Juventus in Seria, but getting it right and effective in the premier league given the league’s pace and quality of football seemed out of reach.

But what he did in response to that Arsenal defeat was astounding and he deserves all the credit because his tweak from the 3-5-2 to a 3-4-3 formation made Chelsea win the premier league.

The man understood that attacking and defending are two sides of the same coin and one without the other is a dangerously short-lived team (one perfect example is Barcelona under Vilanova)

With new signings such as Morata and Bakayoko, Antonio Conte seems to be very serious in continuing his formation style of 3-4-3.

Make no mistake, this formation will stay and what makes the formation even more full-proof is the presence of players like Kante – something the world of football was missing since Makalele.

Arsenal line up for Chelsea game and the tactics to be adopted.

lineup (2)

The golden rule against teams like Chelsea, Manchester United or any other counter-attacking side is this :

DO NOT LOSE THE BALL. IF YOU DO, EVERYBODY GET BACK & GET THE BALL BACK!

Sir Alex Ferguson made a very astute observation regarding Wenger. I am going to paraphrase a bit from his book in which he spoke about the tactics he used against Wenger.

He said the best way to play against Arsenal is through patience and awareness. Patience is for waiting and not getting frustrated because if you are facing a team like Arsenal, it’s less likely that you will have more possession of the ball. Awareness is to make sure you “intercept” the ball and quickly break for the counter – the key to beating Arsenal is counter-attacking football. This is true. 100%.

Arsenal without the ball against a good counter-attacking side is as good as a group of headless chickens because when it comes to defending we may still be average (I am being biased since we are below average). But when it comes to “defending against counter-attacks” we don’t have any answer. It’s the only tangible weakness of this Arsenal side.

My guess is Conte will be ready for this. Not only will he tell his team to take the game to us (being a home game) but as a PLAN B, he will make sure his team is setup to counter – effectively.

The thing with games like these is that they have to be contested as a team and your marquee players performance will only help your team. Arsenal has to perform as one unit and if Ozil or Sanchez or Lacazette step up that’s a re-enforcement. The game vs Bournemouth was a feel good factor for Arsenal fans. It was like getting prize money at the casino worth 100$ after losing 500$ till then – the 100$ makes you feel good, but don’t get your hopes up, yet.

Tactically, I believe that Arsenal needs to keep possession (and will be allowed to some extent) and attack with 2-3 game plans. This includes crossing to Lacazette and others if needed, playing quick passes – long and short in order to get balls into the box and thus attempting to break down a resilient Chelsea defense. Simultaneously, however, Cech must be protected.

The key, however, will be to defend strongly when Chelsea attack – be it counter-attack or normally. Kante will be hungry to nick the ball of any of our midfielders to start countering so nullifying him will help us immensely. Ozil needs to step up and maybe draw Kante out of his natural position in order to allow Ramsey & co better passage. Xhaka needs to be more aware and another lack luster performance by him can actually see him benched in the future. Players need to maintain their shape, even if they lose the ball. The Barcelona pressing system is something which won’t work very well against Chelsea becuase they prefer to distribute the ball and attack in numbers, so it’s better if we preserve our energy till it’s needed and not run the risk of losing our basic formational structure. We should play a 4-3-3 and this shape should not be compromised under any conditions. This is my opinion, but Wenger may opt for the “defensive suicidal formation” 3-4-3.

I have my doubts about this structure and the only reason I do so is that it takes more than 2-3 months for a team to get used to this formation completely. We have had pre-season and 4 games to do the same. I am going to do some research on this and publish another article regarding the loop-holes in the 3-4-3 or the 3-5-2 and why some teams are better off without it, so I shall come back to this later.

Overall, this is going to be one tough game for Arsenal. If they win, their confidence will sky-rocket because beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is nothing close to easy.

Get the tactics right, get the mentality of the players set and keep the shape and discipline (even if you want to play the 3-4-3) – we can do this if these 3 things are addressed and win.

If not, expect another cricket scoreline this week

Liverpool 4 – 0 Spineless FC

Alexis

Let’s just try and be objective about what happened at Anfield on sunday.

Arsenal’s lack of organization is something I will talk about in detail in my next post. This is something that  I have called and foreseen a long time ago. It really does appear to be coming true (how I wish I was wrong).

What we witnessed on sunday should be made into a DVD and shown to children in football academies of what you should never strive to do. It was pathetic and Wenger as usual in his post match conference, when asked about the reason, conjures this :

That question is very difficult to answer straight after the game. There are some reasons but I don’t think I have too much to come out on that at the moment.

Really ?

Can you not call it like it is. That the defense lacked organization. That we needed to adapt quickly to the first goal and we didn’t. That the players seemed off and that we needed to have a better game plan.

No. Instead cite the “good” performances vs Stoke (we lost) and Leicester (we just won)

Last season I said that after 30 games. We’ve played three games, one at home and two away. In our two first games we were quite good and performances good. Today was not acceptable. Today was not acceptable at that level.

Good ? or Lucky ??

To those people who saw the game on sunday, my heart goes out to you. We played so badly that it’s hard to digest a performance like within the first 3 matches of the season.

This is the Arsenal, or what’s left of it. So bloody disgraceful.

ANALYSIS :

For today’s post, I have decided to do a quick summary analysis of the way these spineless turds played on sunday. To compare, I have listed out what Liverpool did in each situation also.

Please be warned if the photos are not very clear, this was my first time with a camera.

The below figure shows a Liverpool side where each player has a rough idea of where his position should be.

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It is important to note here that Liverpool does not have possession of the ball and thus this is the default (without the ball) set structure of the team i.e a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 depending on the situation.

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The above figure is when we were trailing 1-0. Liverpool now has possession of the ball. Look at the formation. What exactly is this?

Seriously, what exactly is this?

5-4-1 or a 4-4-2 ??

Who knows where Alex Chamberlain is?

Not his fault though, he has not been instructed properly. Just told to ‘do your best’

5 mins later, we have this…

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Just look at the clueless Bellerin ball-watching, not even aware of the full-back calling out for a through ball. Just look at the space!

Now, it should be noted that Arsenal has shifted to a 5-4-1 and they were trailing at this point with no threats to the Liverpool goal (excluding Welbeck’s sitter) Liverpool, on the other hand, has still kept their structure(a little stretched), despite being the ones in the lead.

Liverpool, on the other hand, has still kept their structure(a little stretched), despite being the ones in the lead.

Yes, Mr. Wenger. A 5-4-1 when we trail 1-0…did you ever think about switching from a 3 man defense to maybe a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-1-1?

2 mins later…Arsenal tries to attack.

Liverpool does not have the ball, just look at how they setup/re-shuffle accordingly. All Arsenal players are marked via zones. For 6 Arsenal players there are 6 Liverpool players on screen (barring Mane who is still tracking back)

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Sanchez has the ball, but there is nobody fucking available. Why ? Because Bellerin is strolling around near him and if I am not wrong, Xhaka is chatting up with the Spaniard. The only 2 people trying to do something is Ozil and Welbeck, but given the brilliance in their positioning Sanchez can’t seem to find anyone free.

1 min later after Arsenal loses the ball and Liverpool attack…

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Mane is free. The defense for some reason has become narrow. It looks like the formation and changed to a 5-2 something. Chamberlain has no clue who is at the back of him. Bellerin is again ball-watching. This was a similar position where he was caught out and could not deal with an incoming tap in (missed) by Salah (thank you, Petr Cech).

When you lack organization and instructions the above pictures are what you get. School boy defending and a shambolic shameless performance. There is no leader at the club and there is no will.

Arsenal’s will probably finish 8th or 9th this season given the way they are playing and while this is pretty disgusting it is the most realistic thing which fans should get tuned with. This is not going to be our season, in fact, I do not know what will be our season. Don’t put your hopes up and think a comeback is on…the problems lie at the heart of the team and in its structure and formation. If you send a navy seal unarmed vs someone who has a gun, no matter what seal training teaches you, the latter has leverage.

Arsenal right now is the navy seal (actually even worse, they probably have no training) and the season is the armed man.

In the words of Tyrion Lannister, yes, sir, we are truly

“fucked”

Arsenal’s consistency is appalling…..

Bale

Did you catch the North London Derby ? I did. And I must say that it was exceptionally shitty. Blank for a second, ok, let me explain. I don’t find Spurs a very good club, and given the fact that they beat Arsenal with a 2-1 scoreline just goes on to prove my point even further. These says beating Arsenal is no big deal, and it will continue to be so until something changes in the club. FACT. Period

Apart from the routine shambolic defending which the club consistently display week-in and week out, this time it was the irrelevant contribution of the attack which made this derby even more atrocious. Arsenal had 2 shots on target  of 11 shots taken, one of which was a deflected goal by Mertersacker…. **clapping**

As a supporter of Arsenal I now view matches in a different perspective. I don’t look towards the weekends, have stopped tracking the Arsenal news and lately I choose to ignore the ‘stinging comments’ from people in my social life.

Its not that I don’t support Arsenal anymore, its just that I have lost faith in my team due to its consistent mediocrity shown throughout the years. Arsenal believe it or not are a mediocre team and have been a mediocre team for the last 3 years. People will question my premise by saying Arsenal have consistently finished in the top 4 for more than a decade or so and that the top 4 teams of any league cannot be mediocre because they play in the highest level of club competition in Europe. Yet, do riddle me this :

In 2009-10 Arsenal finished 3rd(75) 11 points behind champions Chelsea(86). 11 points adrift of 2nd place (85)

In 2010-11 Arsenal finished 4th(68) 12 points behind champions Manchester United(80). 3 points adrift from the top 2(71)

In 2011-12 Arsenal finished 3rd (70) 19 points behind champions Manchester City/ United(89).

Please tell me you are seeing a trend here.

Right now Arsenal are 24 points behind United with 10 matches to play. Forget the rest.

I know I crib. I know I get pissed off, but is it wrong for me to get pissed off at Arsenal for not even TRYING to compete. Some idiots will consistently say, “Get behind your team, now is the time they need it the most.”

Well, have I not been behind them all these years. I don’t ask much from Arsenal. I literally don’t. All I ask is for the club to remain competitive. Is that also too much ?

I don’t live in London, so I will never have an option to go and see games. Honestly, I’m glad because I rather spends 75 pounds on something worthwhile.

Today morning, I happen to glance over news reports(BBC) that Wenger stopped Bould from holding his training sessions after the first few games of the season, opting to go back to his traditional ‘mute’ defending methods.

*Salut*

This has helped us in leaps and bounds. Conceding 2 in the first 5 which included City and Liverpool, now we’ve bagged 30 more.

PS : And for those who say its one more than United. lets be honest, its not that United have a fantastic defense, they just compensate the goals conceded via their attack.