The best of Wenger's Arsenal, moments to remember!

I was recently watching the “49 unbeaten” DVD with my cousin and certain games just blew me away.  There are particular moments during this game that exemplified what made Arsenal.  At times, the commentary said it all:
November 1st 2003: Leeds United vs Arsenal
At 1-0, Dennis Bergkamp released Freddie down the right wing: “Ljungberg breaks, nobody with him for the moment…but three are arriving…”  Suddenly, Gilberto, Henry and Pires burst onto the screen as Arsenal broke down field.  From a seemingly weak attacking position, the pace and drive of those in support allowed Arsenal to grab a goal on the counter attack.  The blistering pace of the three supporting players made Ljungberg’s job easy. 2-0, just like that.  As the goal was replayed, the commentator picked the perfect words: “Freddie Ljungberg appeared to be all alone there, but then suddenly, he had three for company”
From a Leeds United corner, Touré cleared the ball and it eventually reached Henry inside our own half.   A quick pass to Dennis sprung the next counter, and ultimately the next goal.  Again the commentator played a great part: “Here comes the Arsenal sprint relay squad again.  Bergkamp to Parlour, three more up with him…”  We had 4 on 4 on the counter and eventually Henry stroked home a rebound.  The swiftness with which the side got from one end to the other was extraordinary.
April 25th 2004: Tottenham Hotspur vs Arsenal 
This day will live long in the memory.  Unbeaten for 34 league games during the 2003/04 season, the team went to the Lane looking to clinch the title in the enemy’s back yard.  We all knew what happened and how satisfying it was to see the celebrations afterwards.  The wonderful thing was how we did it.  Granted, it was only a draw but the way we scored the two goals were something else.  Again, I’m going to use the commentators and first Martin Tyler:  “…And Henry who ran away from Tottenham famously at Highbury…but on this occasion he looks for Bergkamp, who in turn looks for Vieiraaaa…”  The ball was in the back of the net.  Some 15-20 seconds had passed and the ball was in the net.  This commentary lasted from the edge of our box to the goal of theirs.  “Yet again, in a matter of seconds, Arsenal have turned defending into classic counter attack…”  We then heard the wise words of Andy Gray: “Absolutely Stunning, Tottenham just couldn’t deal with it.”
Minutes later, the lads were passing the ball around the centre of the park in a seemingly unthreatening manner.  Suddenly the ball was moved forward by “Pires, the conductor, centre stage, Bergkamp, Vieira, for Pires, 2-0…” This time, Andy Gray couldn’t wait to analyse it as he just states “What, a goal!”  Back to Martin Tyler again: “What you’re seeing here is what we’ve seen all season, the sheer class, of Arsenal.”  Andy Gray then summed it up: “Master class doesn’t do it justice, football from another planet”
Andy Gray was spot on with his final judgement of the second goal.  It was out of the ordinary and something this country had never seen before.  You may ask why I have used these two examples to start this analysis.  The moments above all have something in common – they are all attacking instances of play that involve pace, skill and swift passing.  It was style in which Arsenal had played all season.  I recently heard Arsene Wenger state that this was the best team he’s worked with.  I beg to differ, strongly.
What made Arsenal so good was that however deep a team played, we all knew the team would score.  Once this goal went in, we were brilliant at soaking up pressure before springing a blistering counter attack.  I doubt that Wenger has changed his desire to play this way, but there is no doubt that this team cannot play in the same manner as the actual best team Wenger has worked with.  Why am I talking about it now? You might ask this but I ask you to think about Sunday’s game with Liverpool.  After putting them under immense pressure for the first 25 minutes, we deservedly took the lead with a fantastic goal.  I then expected to see Liverpool come back and I got what I expected.
The problem was that the Arsenal players didn’t respond in the best way I feel we are best equipped to do so.  Clearly our defence is not good enough to push so far up the pitch.  With the full backs attacking so much there is an awful lot of space to cover and the long ball kills us way too often.  The Emirates’ pitch is far larger than the one at Highbury and we need to take advantage of this.  If we had sat deeper and allowed Liverpool to come onto us, we would leave space up field to take advantage of.  Instead, we were happy to allow Liverpool to do this exact thing.  Soak up our methodical but ineffective passing game and break with one long hoof.  That’s how we should do it, except not the hoof bit.
Later on in the game, at 1-1, albeit with 10 men, Song broke out of defence and Liverpool were caught with two back.  I was screaming “Break, Break” but I was astounded to see that Diaby was the only one up in support.  Where was Denilson? Where was Clichy? Where was Van Persie? Where was Nasri? I am tentative to criticise the last two as I feel they were the only ones really busting a gut to get a goal but they still let us down here.  The best way for us to play football is with pace.  Our players are full of running and one counter attack can change a game just like that.
We had another moment where Denilson broke and had no options whatsoever.  He had no other option but to run and run and eventually fire in a shot from an impossible angle.  Two or three years ago, there would have been 4 or 5 players up there with him and he would have 2 or 3 of these players in better positions.  That is how Arsenal played the best football.  The players we have are capable.  They just don’t show.  They have the enthusiasm, the flair and the energy to do it.  They seem to prefer the slow passing game which is still failing to break sides down.  At places like Fulham, Stoke and Mid dlesbrough, if you sit back, the home fans crave their team to come out and play and that’s when we can pick them off.   Instead we allow them to do this.  Against Hull we went 1-0 up but continued with a frustrating passing style that allowed them to counter against us.  Then we were in trouble.
One problem stems from the back.  We cannot defend 1-0 leads, but I still think we go about it the wrong way.  I understand pushing up at 0-0 at home.  Once we go a goal up, a change in focus, in my eyes is needed.  It is clear that we need 2 goals to win a game with our current set up.  If we allow the centre backs to sit deeper, protected by Song, we can spring counters with the likes of Nasri, Clichy, Van Persie and Ade.  Song can fill in where the full back would be and we know that one ball over the top will not counter our counter attack.  Maybe Wenger doesn’t believe in our defence holding leads sat back but remember Chelsea away, Manchester United at home. Those were the best defensive displays I’ve seen from our boys in a while; and they were on the edge of our box.
In an attacking sense I don’t know why we are sluggish on the counter.  It might be that certain players dally on the ball too much.  It could be because of those who are injured.  Rosicky was brilliant at breaking out and Theo’s pace is a massive bonus when it comes to this.  I think Hleb’s leaving was a problem.  His eye for a pass was so important in this.  It could also be that Wenger is encouraging his side to play in a different way.  To try and pass the ball for 90 minutes and pass a side off the pitch.  I tell you right now, allowing the other team to have the ball, robbing them, and breaking up the field in 20 seconds, is far more effective and exciting.

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