One of the most frustrating aspects of being an Arsenal fan at the moment is to witness missed opportunities at one end of the pitch and then have to bury one’s head in our hands the next as a simple set piece threatens our ability to keep touch with the premiership leaders. Hull City have shown that their victory at the Emirates was no fluke as they lie in third position in the table. A wonder strike by their Brazilian being the difference between the two sides after Arsenal had squandered the percentage of possession of the football.
The draw at Sunderland required a last gasp finish by Fabregas, and even on Saturday against Everton, it was hard to see where the team was going after the bizarre formation chosen by Arsene Wenger. Yet given our problems, we remain in close touch with Liverpool and Chelsea. Liverpool have managed to fluke two wins against ten men through dodgy refereeing decisions, and as for Chelsea, they are talking a good game, but watching their kind of play employed by Scolari, they flatter to deceive. Manchester United pose the biggest threat in my opinion, and when they have won their game in hand, they will lie one point ahead of us.
I have concluded that Arsenal are upon the brink of a run that will re-establish firmly our position in the top four. This new found confidence comes from the expectation that with the return of Diaby who should displace Denilson, and the fact that Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott are providing the kind of pace and movement that our game thrives upon. We are close to solving the stuttering inconsistent midfield performances. But why should the return of one player be so pivotal to our prospects for the season?
Put bluntly, Denilson has failed to link well with Fabregas, and plays too high up the pitch from his back four. Denilson also plays the ball with a low tempo which slows down our progression. The linkage between our defensive midfielder and our back four is crucial because of our style of play. Arsenal do not normally punt the ball out of defence. We patiently pass the ball across the full width of the pitch, using triangular movements and one touch one-two’s to maintain possession as we move forward as a unit.
Diaby played centrally will allow us to win more fifty-fifty balls with his tenacious tackling and his pass distribution improves when he plays in a central role. Denilson’s failure to link with Fabregas has left us exposed, and his tendency to give the ball away needlessly in vital areas of the pitch has been disappointing. His inability to anticipate, the “footballing brain” as I call it was exposed again on Saturday as he allowed Everton’s Osman to run past him into a dangerous position to score.
Denilson is a player for the future, perhaps he needs to go out on loan who knows, but he is not making progress despite Arsene Wenger’s trust in him. He has been given a major responsibility and my verdict is that he is not up to the task. The midfield would then look more balanced with Fabregas being released to go into move forward areas to support our strikers and start scoring more goals. Theo Walcott also has to improve his defensive skills, but generally one sees that he is the inspiration that we need and he should be played regularly. What is clear, is that the experiment has not worked.
So that is my solution for the midfield, Diaby, Fabregas, Nasri and Walcott, they represent a midfield movement with pace, the ability to win fifty-fifty balls in the defensive areas of the pitch and link defence with attack. Samir Nasri’s movement is exceptional and reminds me of the great Robert Pires. Theo Walcott needs to add the defensive element to his game and he will finally remove any doubts about him. Fabregas and Nasri play football with a high tempo, Walcott stretches the five man midfield usually employed by teams against us, who feel if they barricade the central areas, they will stifle the Arsenal. If we could keep this midfield unit fit and together for a run of games, I am convinced that our fortunes will turn around.
Fabregas the King.