Posts Tagged ‘tactics’

Being an avid social media user, I have had the displeasure of seeing many different types of infighting between Arsenal fans. Foreign vs local, the Arsene Knows Brigade vs Wenger Out Brigade, pro-snood vs anti-snood, and the list goes on. What struck me recently and inspired the idea of reaching out to fellow female Gooners was that I’ve had very little interaction and experience in the debate of male vs female supporters.

Most of my experience in relating to fellow fans has been online. When I first started supporting Arsenal in 2008, I found a community of fans on a site called LiveJournal. I spend the majority of my time on ONTD_FOOTBALL and later branched out into ArsenalBBS. I didn’t conciously notice at the time, but all the fellow fans I interacted with and spoke to were female. While there was infighting that us Gooners have become accustomed to (you haven’t seen an online war until you’ve seen the fallout after a Sergio Ramos hair cut; I’m firmly in Team Long Mane) no-one ever questioned my knowledge or support of Arsenal based on my gender.

When I left the cozy confines of LJ to venture further afield to the new frontier of Twitter, I began to interact more with male Arsenal fans and for the most part it has been a good experience. In fact I never even considered the fact that I was female fan amongst male fans until recently. The majority of topics I discussed with my fellow female Gooners also extended into similar conversations with male Gooners. We talked about tactics, new signings, Pat Rice’s shorts, Arsene’s water bottle hatred and his often inexplicable substitutions. I’ve met male Gooners who are bigger fans of individual players than I am, who created parody accounts with us, who debated the merits of our One True Pairings (OTPs) and shared our collective sobs and heartbreak when that man Fabregas left. Over time I learned the art of the subtle unfollow for Gooners whose tweets I didn’t enjoy and I remained content with my eccentric and eclectic group of Gooners.

Then Robin van Persie happened, and in the midst of my shock, tears and crushing loss of faith in loyalty in football, I began to notice a different kind of reaction. Other Gooners began to tell me how to feel about Robin. I was told my opinions weren’t valid, that I needed to get over it and to “stop being so emotional already!” I noticed this happening to other female Gooners and the majority of the people doing the admonishing were male. I had my first experience in being told my thoughts weren’t valid because I was female. It isn’t an experience I’d want to endure again, but like most unpleasant experiences it pushed me to learn and to grow. I decided to reach out to my fellow female Gooners and listen to their experiences, hear how they became Gooners and discuss their experiences. It has been moving, informative and eye opening. There has been a lack of Victoria Concordia Crescit in our club lately – especially in the boardroom – so maybe it’s time for us supporters to show them the way.

Remember to check in tomorrow where I discuss the road to Goonerhood with @mimsicality@GreenieJules  and @SandraHelena39 and others.

While writing this series of blogs with the ever excellent WengerBoy1 (find him here!/WengerBoy1) we discussed how often we see our defense being blamed and agreed that it was an easy assumption to make but not necessarily correct. With a season of some unfortunate results such as  the unmentionable game against United, it’s easy to understand why people believe that our defence is just not good enough.  However while we have a knack for making defensive blunders and causing heart-attack producing moments, I believe that our backline – when not injured – is solid.

Bacary Sagna

Sagna is probably the best right-back in the league at the moment. He is consistent, breaks down attacks and has a surprising aerial ability for a player his size. He is tenacious when attacking and his dependability allows Walcott the space and security to keep pushing forward without worrying about being caught out.  While there are times Sagna can be outpaced and manoeuvred by skilful forwards, he is one of Arsenal’s most steady and important players.

Laurent Koscielny

Koscielny is Arsenal’s best defender and has been brilliant this season. Calm, solid, pacey, and strong, Koscielny has given consistent performances despite having inconsistent partners. He has faced the likes of Messi, Aguero, Ibrahimovic and Ba and remained controlled and comfortable while doing so.  So far this season he has proven his ability in tackling, clearances, interceptions and positioning while offering up one assist and a goal.  Koscielny has provided 2.7 tackles per game and has an impressive interception rate of 2.8 per game. This puts him ahead of defenders such as Vidic, Cahill, Ivanovic and Kompany. Perhaps it’s time we all forgave him for the Carling Cup error and appreciate his defensive skill.

Thomas Vermaelen

Verma is our most popular defender and brings an aura of steel and hardness that has been lacking from Arsenal in recent seasons. While there are times when he lacks alertness and pace, he offers a sense of leadership and organization that is vital in our defence. Vermaelen often makes important clearances, tackles and provides matchwinning goals.  He has struggles with injury and spent plenty of time this campaign at left-back. When given the chance and a consistent run of games, he and Koscielny have blossomed into a formidable due and the match of any other centre-half pairing in the league.

Kieran Gibbs

I have debated between Gibbs and Santos as our no.1 left-back for quite some time. Until I realized it’s not necessarily a choice between Gibbs and Santos that I was struggling with, but the need to understand the role of a left-back at Arsenal. In truth Gibbs and Santos are pretty much interchangeable; they are good players, maybe not great, and assets going forward. They can both struggle with their defensive duties and put unnecessary pressure on our centre-backs. At first I thought this position was the weak spot in our defence, when in truth I didn’t understand the tactical reasoning behind this. More than any other defender it is important for our left-back to have the ability to go forward and provide an outlet. Whereas we have Walcott’s pace and directness on the right-wing, the players on the opposite flank tend to cut inside onto their more natural right side. In order to provide width to our attack we need a defender with the pace and attacking prowess to move forward and on the overlap, allied with the ability to whip in a cross. So while the left-back is an important part of our defense, it is an equally integral part of our attacking play.

Wojciech Szczesny

Larger than life, passionate, talented and a true Gooner,  Szczesny has been inspiring and a revelation of a goal keeper.  While many of us were crying out for a keeper, Arsene had this man up his sleeve.  Saver of penalties and man of strength perhaps, the best thing Szczesny inspires in this team is confidence. The players trust him and this allows them to focus on their own duties instead of worrying about what is going on behind them. His double save at Anfield from Kuyt’s penalty was the stuff of legends and he secured us a spot in the Champions League with another penalty save against Udinese.  While there is room for improvement in his game – his distribution and record against free-kicks need improving  – Szczesny is one of the most promising keepers we’ve seen in the league and the long-term option for Arsenal.

Thanks to Darren_V_ for his tactical help on this blog.  Follow him here at:!/Darren_V_

After the euphoria of the home win over Manchester United had subsided, I found myself wondering what exactly had gone wrong this season. Despite the odd blip we started so well, especially in the middle third of the season. And then everything just seemed to collapse. How is it possible that we had overcome the Mancs, Chelsea and Barcelona but failed against the likes of Newcastle, West Brom and Sunderland?

Is it our players? Do we not have a solid or deep enough squad? Did I put too much faith in the enigma that is Theo Van Nasregas? Maybe it’s our tactics? Should we adapt our formation to take into account the opposition? Is our defence really that bad? Could it be that we actually lack in Arsene’s fabled “mental strength”? And my greatest fear – are we really just a bunch of chokers?

Like any good blogger, when I don’t have the answers I turn to those with greater amounts of knowledge and wisdom. My fellow LPG blogger and podcaster extraordinaire Zara chose to tackle the issue of our squad and potential ins and outs this summer. The excellent author of Steve Rowe was kind enough to share his view on our tactics and – sometimes – lack thereof. And contributor to and Twitter legend Sameer will discuss where and how we lost our mojo.

First up, here are Zara’s views on what additions we need to boost our squad and who needs to leave for the benefit of our club…
First of all, I just want to clarify that these are my views. Obviously I am not a premier league football manager or anywhere near as prolific or amazing as Arsene but it’s just based on my observations throughout the season and from recent transfer ‘rumblings’ which I am finding very entertaining right now but I’m sure I will tire of in a month or so. Mind you, I do not think a lot of Arsenal’s problems can be solved by buying a new player and much change has to be made in the development and training of our squad (particularly when it comes to team morale). I don’t believe making wholesale changes to our squad is an effective method to achieving our goals but I do think that we need to make several changes in our personnel to improve our overall performance next season.


It’s a widely known fact that Almunia’s days at the club are probably numbered. I cannot see Arsene going for a Buffon, Reina or a Stekelenberg this summer since I firmly believe that Szczesny will be our #1 for many years to come and Fabianski is a capable #2. It would be imperative to however sign an experienced goalkeeper to replace Almunia. Someone preferably with PL experience as well.

A proper #9

We’ve surely lacked one since that thug from Birmingham ripped Eduardo’s leg out (and just when he was gaining momentum as well) and if speculation of Bendtner wanting out, and the very real possibility of Vela being sold it is imperative that we get a proper striker. Robin’s been fantastic this season but imagine the heights we can achieve if he had a proper partner he could feed the ball to. One of the prominent names that have emerged so far has been Benzema from Real Madrid. Although he would be a perfect fit with the current team and gets along well with Nasri, the hefty 20 million price tag indicates it’s probably BS. Perhaps we don’t need to look beyond our own club for the new #9. Many have stated that Theo would be more suited to a forward position instead of being utilized in the wings. Although I can see Arsene’s reasoning for using him as a winger (his blistering pace), I’m not sure he has the confidence and no-nonsense nature of a proper fox in the box.

A Defensive Midfielder or a Centre Back

Koscielny and Djourou have done a great job this season despite a few individual errors here and there. Squillaci…not so much. *Insert stat of how many goals we let in this season*. With the imminent return of Vermaelen, hopefully this area will be considerably strengthened next season. Despite that, we are still missing a crucial piece in our defensive set up. Some might say it’s the English defender (Cahill! Jagielka!) but I think what we lack most is experience and someone who is not afraid to boss the rest of the team around. Verma did a decent job of it last season and this was one of the things we missed most from him. Another loudmouth addition would be ideal. Perhaps a Mark van Bommel? And since Vermaelen can also be a back up for Song when needed (he has played in defensive midfield before), I think either a DM or a CB signing would be ideal.

A Winger

We have hardly seen Denilson play this calendar year and this leads me to believe that he is on his way out since we have also not heard about any injuries he may be incurring. Many are also not satisfied with the level of performances Diaby has put in this season and his overall temper. Although I believe that he has the potential to be an Arsenal legend one day, Arsene may decide that he has been taking a gamble with him for far too long and choose to cash in his chips in the summer. This opens up room in our midfield. It will be interesting to see if any of the reserves players make their way to fill the void next season. Perhaps we’ll see more of Frimpong or Lansbury or maybe even JET. There has been a lot of speculation that Arsenal may be making a move for Eden Hazard in the summer and if this is true it would a fantastic addition to a midfield that already boasts the likes of Fabregas, Nasri, Arshavin and Wilshere. He is arguably the player of the season in the Ligue 1 and it has been encouraging to hear that he would be keen on a move to Arsenal.

Overall, although there does need to be a change in personnel at the club this summer, and some may say even a drastic change looking at the ambitions of Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City, I believe that there also needs to be drastic changes made behind the scenes. The mentality of the players needs to be studied and much work needs to be done to build on their mental strength. Our season has been downhill ever since we lost the Carling Cup and most of the players seemed to have lost their sense of belief in themselves (except perhaps Robin and Jack). It’s a good thing there isn’t an international tournament this summer. I hope our players get the long rest they deserve and reflect on the past year in a fruitful manner. We can only learn from our mistakes and move forward.