Arsenal’s weaknesses have been prevalent in a season more perilous than any under the Wenger regime. Arsenal have neither an experienced nor a competent holding midfielder. Their central defense has been inconsistent. Incompetent moments at the back have cost them points. As of right now, they are the favorites to drop from the Champions League places.
The obvious, standard move would be to acquire a burly, possibly English midfielder to provide some steel or a veteran defender who can play with either Toure or Gallas. Arsene Wenger, paradoxically, has spent the entire transfer window signing Russian attacker Andrei Arshavin. Wenger seems to be intent to get the player Arsenal least need. But, here is a possible explanation.
Arsenal did not beat West Ham, but after Vela entered the match they, for one of the few times all season, played Arsenal football, even if it amounted to nothing.
Two elements make Arsenal’s system successful.
When Arsenal play well, they dominate possession of the ball. They shuffle it up and down and from side to side looking for an opening. They keep the other team on the back foot.
To capitalize on the possession, Arsenal need penetration. They get through the first line of defenders, with an incisive pass or a skillful run. The defense panics. The wall-passing and five-a-side skills come out, and Arsenal attack the goal. Total football. Lovely.
In most matches this season, Arsenal has reasonably held possession. The problem has been in penetration. Which is no coincidence, considering major injuries to players like Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas, Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky. Arsenal have not penetrated all season, resorting to hoofing the ball up to Adebayor and hoping something happens.
Arshavin could replicate the role of these players, providing his own invention and creating additional space for players such as Nasri and Vela. If he gets the system working, Arsenal’s game will hold opposing teams behind the ball, thus mitigating their need for a defensive midfielder and a defender.
Could this work or has the esteemed Arsene Wenger truly lost it?