One of the most remarkable things about this season so far apart from the painful fact that we trail the scum in the table, is the fact our central defender Vermaelen is top scorer. Now is the fact that we have had thirteen different players score goals in the Premier league a good thing or something to worry about? Well it must be good news as we now have the highest goal difference in the league with +14 trailing behind the leaders Chelsea with +12. This is with a game in hand. We have scored the most goals with 24, 6 more than Chelsea and 9 more than Man Citeh who sit ahead of us in the table by one point having played the same number of games.
The players are:
Thomas Vermaelen 4, Cesc Fabregas 4, Robin van Persie 3, William Gallas 2, Andrey Arshavin 2, Abou Diaby 2, Tomas Rosicky 1, Eduardo 1, Theo Walcott 1, Aaron Ramsey 1, Denilson 1, Emmanuel Eboue 1, Niklas Bendtner 1.
The goals have come from a variety of set pieces and open play, 14 of the 24 have come in the second half, with 6 being scored in the last 20 minutes. What has impressed me with this spate of goal scoring is the way that we now seem to have players queuing up in the box to score. Undoubtedly the change of formation has contributed to this, but what I must point to is the excellent play of Alexandre Song, whose defensive midfield role has exceeded our wildest expectations this season. His ability to do the unattractive work of regaining possession and breaking up counter attacks has enabled Cesc Fabregas to play higher up the pitch. The return to form of Cesc Fabregas has also been instrumental in our resurgence with the Spanish midfield genius notching up 8 assists, the highest in the Premier league.
Robin van Persie despite my initial reservations has been able to hold up the ball well and provided 4 assists. He can still improve on his set pieces, and I recall when Thierry Henry started taking free kicks, his first dozen or so were not than convincing and lacked pace, but slowly with persistence, Thierry Henry became a deadly striker of the dead ball. I expect that Robin van Persie with all the talent and skill that he possesses to emulate Titi and in the final third of the field as teams concede professional fouls to our relentless pressure, the Dutchman’s persistence will start to pay dividends. This really brings me to the point of this blog. The numbers of players who now make themselves available in the box is in stark contrast when one recalls many occasions at Highbury, the flanking rapid counter attack was left with virtually no-one in the box.
Having Fabregas on form and with his ability to deliver passes with ruthless precision is that there has been less reliance upon a lead striker especially useful when that player is short of confidence or out of form. Next with goals coming from unlikely areas of our formation it means that opposing teams will find it more difficult to set up against us. The time honoured philosophy was to stop supply to Fabregas and pack the central areas in front of the 18 yard box and prevent Arsenal passing the ball through the middle. Adebayor provided the aerial option or plan B which meant that when teams could not be sure that Arsenal would play the ball on the ground, they were certain that the Gunners would revert to the longer ball to Adebayor who with his height and good upper body strength, would still pose a problem and this was evident in the way that the Togalese striker often drew at least players towards him. However with his lack of motivation last season he seldom managed to stay on side for this tactic to work.
Now teams have to worry about Vermaelen ghosting in from the back post at corners, or a midfield player making an angled run onto a deft pass from Fabregas splitting the defending centre backs and making the discovered chance on goal look easy. This is a different type of attacking play but the style remains loyal to the concept of Wengerball, which in essence means the application of highly technical retentive ball skills in a small area in order to pass the ball to a team mate who has made the run into the areas most likely for the team to progress towards goal. Wengerball is deadly efficient and high paced. The one touch movement is the hall mark of Wengerball and I am so happy to see it return with this squad.
Adebayor has scored 4 goals for Manchester City, his move to Eastlands forced Wenger to rethink his attacking strategies. Having skilful players like Arshavin who really has yet to hit top form this season, and Rosicky in midfield means that Fabregas’s centrally placed creativity can be supplemented by the wider players who also possess similar skills to the Catalan. I have been very impressed with Rosicky’s pass distribution and if he continues his progress without a prolonged injury, I will seriously have to apologise for what seems now to have been a foolish knee jerk blog where I called for the Czech’s contract not to be renewed. Such is the reluctance to taste humble pie for a blogger like myself.
Adebayor’s departure also healed divisive cliques in the dressing room and despite the number of players who have managed to get their names on the score sheet, there is still a need in my opinion for a specialist striker who can turn a half chance into a goal, these opportunities often come in closely fought contests and against the top teams. Will the Gunners fall short due to not having replaced Adebayor? It is one hell of a gamble by Arsene Wenger based upon the early season need to conserve precious funds in case of non qualification for the Champions League Group stages. A very friendly group draw means that we are at least assured of getting to the knockout stages with all the valuable media, sponsor and gate revenues that comes with it.
I now hope that Le Boss will not buy a striker in the January transfer window, as I am a firm believer that we have a dedicated striker in Eduardo who is more than capable of turning draws into wins in the final stages of the season as the middle to lower placed teams shut up shop and place negative football in order to preserve their Premier League status. The priority this window must be Song’s replacement when he goes to the African Cup of Nations tournament. The loss of Song’s influence will mean that we lose Fabregas’s presence in the final third and then inevitably the goals will dry up.
Perhaps this weekend’s game will see another strategy put into operation with regard to strikers, and if Eduardo has survived the International break without injury, then we could see him start again the team that so almost cruelly ended his career. Eduardo is a natural finisher and has yet to get regular starts in the team to remind us of his potential. Am I alone in hoping that soon the quiet Croatian of Brazilian heritage will finally get a run of games in the team, despite the good form of the current set of players being used?