Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Is Plan B Finally Available?

No, not that Plan B.

Wrong Plan B.

Champions League Match Day 2
Arsenal 2-0 Porto.
Henry 38
Hleb 48

For years the knock on Arsene's Arsenal was a lack of a plan B, so when their quick short passing and fast running 4-4-2 work, they thrashed teams 4-0 playing the prettiest soccer out there, but when it didn't work, mainly against teams playing very defensively behind the ball, Arsenal banged their heads against a wall for 90 minutes rather than adapt. It looks like that is changing.

It's 2-nil and Hleb actually shot the ball;
this calls for a group hug.

First off Wenger used what for him is the dreaded 4-5-1 last year in the Champions League and it got him all the way to the final. so he is now not afraid to utilize this formation when needed, and to his credit when Arsenal do play 4-5-1 it isn't the traditional dour defensive-minded way of playing it; instead he uses the extra midfielder to utilize more possession and quick passing game especially in midfield.

But in the last two games there is something else, and it is very striking because it is such a strange sight for an Arsenal team. They are putting in lots and lots of crosses from the wings into the box. I think between yesterday and last weekend I have seen more crosses from deep on the wing or corner than I have ever seen in 8 years of watching them play. Henry has scored a headed goal in each of the last two games, which is just remarkable (his goal yesterday was his 50th goal in Champions League play). I believe before Saturday the number of his 215+ goals for the club that were headed in were less than 5 and I am damn near positive that it was less than 10.

Perhaps Wenger is adapting Arsenal's style of play to the new super large field (biggest in the EPL), or perhaps realizing the success of his successful use of 4-5-1 last year instead of his historical stubborn insistence of playing 4-4-2 all the time just to prove a point, he is further diversifying his portfolio so to speak. Either way I really like it, because it makes Arsenal much more multi-dimensional and difficult to prepare for, defend, and adapt to.

This week marks 10 years for Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and in England, and in my opinion he is both the greatest manager Arsenal have ever had but also the greatest manager in all of England over that time. No disrespect to the accomplishments of SAF at United, but Wenger competed with United and regularly beat them with about a third of the budget and financial resources, and he is in the process of completely rebuilding his team for the 3rd time, while also completely revolutionizing training, nutrition, and overall atmosphere of the English game. And as good as he has been and as much as he has accomplioshed, this new development makes me think that there is more greatness to come in the form of a more varied attack.

The man, the myth, the legend.

I am a believer that the opening loss to Citeh and draws to Villa & Boro were flukey and these kids can contend for titles this year, and I'm pretty damn excited about how they are playing currently.

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