Friday, May 21, 2010

Time To Separate The Men From The Boys (Part 4)

So now that we've wrapped up the individual ratings how 'bout we look at the team as a whole?

With all the cash splashed around by Manchester City in the summer, which saw them sign Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure from us for a combined total of approximately £40M coupled with the fact that we only signed Thomas Vermaelen in the summer transfer window, many pundits believed that Man City would break into the top 4 at our expense. There were even a few who suggested we'd be lucky to even place 5th.

Arsene Wenger had a plan to ensure this wasn't the case. He decided that this season we'll switch from playing the 4-4-2 formation, for a more Total Football approach, opting for a 4-3-3 instead. It seemed to work wonders as on opening day we gave Everton a nightmare start with a 6-1 drubbing at Goodison Park. Something notable about that victory was that 5 of the 6 goals came from midfield.

Our attack took a few games to get going under the new formation but once it clicked we became the best attacking team in the Premiership, scoring the most goals. That was until October when Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner both got injured and our strike force weakened.

While our attack flourished, our defence suffered. We had a serious problem defending set pieces, especially corner kicks and we also had a problem defending balls coming from counter attacks down our left side. It caused us to drop a lot of points and fall 11 points behind leaders Chelsea and Manchester United in the title race.

If there's one word that was relevant to this season's performance it's 'fortitude'. The team showed a lot of fortitude to claw their way back from an 11 point deficit to actually lead the Premiership early in the second half of the season. We fell away again, this time to an 8 point deficit, after losses to Manchester United and Chelsea and points dropped in a draw with Aston Villa at Villa Park. It was fortitude (and Nicklas Bendtner) that saw the team come back from such a huge gap to be in the title race once more up until mid April.

Our title dreams ended when we played Tottenham at White Hart Lane and lost 2-1. We just didn't play with any heart or desire. The absolute craven performances weren't over yet as days later we played Wigan away and were up 2-0 but with 10 minutes to go we somehow found a way to snatch defeat from the hands of victory and ended up losing 3-2. Another week later we found ourselves on the wrong end of another 2-1 scoreline away at Blackburn. The lousy performances continued that day and we found ourselves on the final day in a fight for 3rd place with Tottenham. We won our match convincingly against Fulham but it's upsetting to know that we let things get to that point.

Overall though, the team has improved in terms of our fluidity in front of goal but there are two main things which Arsene Wenger needs to address in preparation for next season. We need to work on our set plays and counter attacking tactics and we also need to do something about those players in the team who can't really seem to motivate themselves when they need to most.

It's a bit tricky to give this team a rating as there are improvements which are noticeable but there seem to be problems lingering from seasons past that we still haven't overcome. I'd say a 6.5/10 seems fair though.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Well thanks for reading, until next time. Bye!

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