Wenger’s blunders see Arsenal drop points


Normally I’d be thrilled with a 2-2 draw against the current holders, but Arsenal only taking a single point away from City at the Emirates in the lunch-time special should certainly be bemoaned.  At the risk of seeing like such a pessimistic supporter time and again, it must be said that we were made to pay yet again for Arsene Wenger’s pragmatic nature and lack of tactical wherewithal.

To be honest I do not know where to even begin, but Arsenal certainly were in their usual way of things.  We controlled the match from the off, were in possession quite well and even outworked City in all areas of the park to win the ball back and fight tool and nail in midfield.  Debutant Danny Welbeck had almost put us 1-0 up after he was free in the area, but his chipped effort over Joe Hart could only find the post.  Arsenal was in control and looking strong; and then, in classic Arsenal fashion, all it would take was one counter-attack to put us 1-0 down.

Jesus Navas would find acres of space in behind Nacho Monreal (shocking) after the Spaniard left far too much real estate behind him.  His countryman would burst into the final third and pick out Sergio Aguero who was more than happy to convert the diminutive wingers cross from six yards out – quick, direct and incisive.

Sergio Aguero wheels away after finding the opener for City (image courtesy of the Premier League’s official Facebook page)

Once City found the net once, they collected themselves and found their footing as you would expect them to, but Arsenal would respond well in the second half.  Jack Wilshere put in his best performance for the club in quite sometime, especially in the second half where he would cap off his display will a brilliantly taken goal.  Alexis Sanchez would win the ball back in City’s half, dish it to Wilshere, ho then steamed forward and found Ramsey at the top of the area – the Welshman did well to return possession to the England international, who would then shimmy past his marker and apply a beautiful chipped finish past Hart.

Arsenal were not done there, and neither was Wilshere, when his header back into the area after a poor City clearance found Sanchez free in the box to unleash a fantastic first-time volley bending past Hart at the far post.  Pure elation ensued in north London, but it would not last.

Again, in classic Arsenal fashion, zonal marking would bite us in the butt with less than ten minutes remaining when Martin Demichelis rose highest in the box to head home past Wojciech Szczesny after he was left completely unmarked.  The match would end by that same score line, but we are left with plenty of questions remained unanswered, as per usual.

Wenger’s tactical blunders

  •  The 4-1-4-1 formation
  • Mesut Ozil and Nacho Monreal deployed as the left sided tandem
  • Zonal marking

While the 4-1-4-1 did a very good job affording us the ability to work hard in midfield (shocking, I know), what it did an awful job of was giving Danny Welbeck support and supply lines.  After our early surges in the match, once City settled, the gap between the flat-four midfield and Welbeck was evident and glaring.

Not only was this not a match where we needed to play a build-up style of possession, but players needed to be deployed further forward on the tactics board if Welbeck was to truly be effective.  He worked hard surely, but he could have done so much more if we were in a different formation.

Yet again, Mesut Ozil was played completely out of position and used as a left-midfielder.  To make matters worse, with Kieran Gibbs still not 100% fit, Nacho Monreal was again tasked with filling in for the England international – they were both certainly responsible for City’s opener.  Not only is Mesut Ozil not a left midfielder (nor has he ever been), but his entire nature of a footballer is s a number 10; not used to working hard, not used to tracking back to defend, Ozil has relied on midfielders behind him to win the ball since his days in Germany – asking him to perform in a completely unfamiliar role, and in a formation that does not suit the majority of our players, is never going to work.

As for Monreal, well he should never be playing at all to be honest.  Considering how injury prone Gibbs has always been, one can only wonder why Wenger has not gone out and brought in a more reliable back up.  His inability to mark players and his complete lack of spacial awareness let Navas in behind him far too easily for City’s first goal.  Considering Ozil was his partner on the left, the German international could not be relied on to track back to help him out – this was a match that screamed for Alex Oxlade Chamberlin, who for some reason just cannot get a game.

And finally, our old friend zonal marking completed the tactical mistakes on the day.  It’s truly baffling that, in this the 21st century, that Wenger insists on continually relying on a defensive scheme that drew it’s last breath years ago.

While it would be foolish to expect every player to mark a man (that causes it’s own issues), it’s about a defensive balance when defending set-pieces.  Common knowledge dictates that you put your best aerial defenders on their most dangerous dead-ball targets, while the rest of the defenders fill the gaps.  In a league where set-pieces have become so crucial to offensive success, you just have to wonder when Wenger will learn his lesson, if he ever will.

On the whole, it’s still early days in the league and we have yet to lose in four outings.  That statement should instill a bit of confidence in all of us, but when you sit back and think about it just a little longer, you realize that we struggled against Crystal Palace, we only played for 45minutes against Everton, we were terrible against Leicester City and we dropped points again today.

While there may be 34 matches left, but with the fixtures about to come thick and fast with Champions League and then the domestic cups, you have to ask yourself if this a frustrating sign of more anguish to come – I certainly hope not, but I would not be surprised if it is.

Andrew Thompson is a contributing writer at We Are Hooligans, Outside of the Boot and The Modern Gooner – you can follow him on Twitter @AFCBvB1410