Have Arsenal Lost Their Offensive Identity?

OK we have a developmental manager who has chosen a youth policy based on talent, technical ability, pace, intelligence and most importantly potential.

The one thing about youth is you never know when it will flower. But there is a price….!

You know what; most of us accept that price.   

Not many fans would take going to a Carling Cup Final with a mix of youth and fringe players against Chelsea and cheer the team off when we lose. Not many fans would go to Spurs and watch us get beat 5-1 away with a 17 year old Left back and a keeper although talented completely petrified. Not many teams would go into a last 16 game in the champions league (PSV) with two 19 year old centre midfielders (Cesc, Denilson) accept it, lose and move on.

I think that patience and understanding for the managers policy is sometimes dismissed too readily.

The price to pay especially going forward is where do we play forwards who are developing into their best roles. Come the big moments last season we basically had an “offensive identity crisis”.

To win big games you need to know who you are and what you are doing. It cannot be done on the spur of the moment.  This is best epitomised by Robin Van Persie.

Van Persie – Our best player last season yes? Well where you would play him, Left or right in a front 3, in behind the main striker or as the main striker. If you polled Arsenal fans you could probably get a number of different answers all with palatable arguments for and against. But therein lies the problem. If we don’t know how to deploy our best forward then how can we develop an offensive identity? How can we develop that seamless efficient forward game when we don’t know our identity?

Arshavin – Next season’s best player. Problem is the same left, right in a front 3? Play him deeper behind a front 2 in a free role, wide left or right in a midfield 4? Is he best behind a front man as second forward?

We go on….

Walcott – the future we are told. Do we play him as a forward Michael Owen style next to a physical working forward? Do we play him as a winger in a midfield 4 or do we develop him into the new Mark Overmars on the left. Or is he really a stocky, bouncing, twisting new Sylvain Wiltord

Nasri – Do we make him Iniesta or do we make him Pires. Is he an old school half back or a new school Pires play-maker swooping in from the left? Could Nasri allow Cesc to be Xavi?

Could Nasri defend as we want him to – he showed it at Anfield this season when he ran down Alonso countless times.

Diaby – Super talent. We have managed to confuse him to such a point he ended last season devoid of confidence. Is he Vieira or the first 6 foot 2 left winger (I doubt that?) – Is he our Steven Gerrard? He has power, pace and a finish but is he best in a tight midfield 3 where he can run free and impose himself from a central role. His dribbling skill is harder to read centrally as he can go both directions left and right and stride away.

Vela – A super talent. Is he a front two forward or again happy wide in a front 3. He showed signs when playing with Eduardo that he could flourish as a forward but again his offensive flexibility rather than answers questions, it poses more.

Wenger has to answer these questions. I have my thoughts…….

I am a fan of the Dutch/Barca style. I want Arsenal to pick a team and formation best suited to its players.

I want to see a front three of Van Persie right, Arshavin left and a central forward who can link, finish and offer an intelligence to stay onside and complete the simple functions of football. You know…first touch… work rate…intelligent box running….. Etc!

I want to see a midfield three has one physical hardworking pressing holding player and two slightly more offensive workers but in a tight narrow formation that leaves room for our forward thinking fullbacks to stride into. It allows the players we have, and will no doubt buy, to flourish and most importantly give Cesc the legs he needs around him. Surely it’s time to create that armchair to allow our captain to be the player he so nearly is.

Most encouraging this pre season is we seem to be linked in the transfer market with the type of players we need to provide the spine and base to allow us to re-discover that offensive identity.   

Spinal players who will bring back that balance of work versus flair. Players who have yet to achieve all in the game and are hungry. Players who have that work ethic we have lost.

Then we can win the big games when it matters.

Over to you Arsene!

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