The New Arsenal
By Adam Keys
Have we finally got a TEAM?
While it was only our first win of the season, the performance yesterday was fantastic, the kind we’ve been craving for a number of seasons; disciplined, clinical and business like, whilst still playing the kind of football we are so fond of.
This time 12 months ago we had conceded 10 goals, and only picked up one point, everyone was writing Wenger off and we were facing an uncertain future. This time around we are yet to concede a goal and we’ve picked up 5 points, things aren’t really looking that bad for a club in crisis according to some pessimistic, anti-Arsenal pundits.
The main difference this season is the way we defend, we have started playing and defending as a team. Everyone is contributing and carrying out their responsibilities, rather than relying on team mates to carry out individual roles.
We’ve lost the last of our stars and now have a team of talented players without big names and the ego that comes along with their status. This means everyone has to step up and play their part, both defensively and going forward. Steve Bould’s influence has been widely praised by a number of players and you can see why, we look more organized, which in turn leads to more confidence.
Man of the match, Abou Diaby was exceptional, winning everything in the middle of the park, showing neat footwork to get out of tight situations, giving the ball accurately to team mates and making those surging runs through the middle that put the fear of God into defenders. If Diaby can stay fit this season the sale of Alex Song will not be heavily felt, especially when/if Wilshire ever gets back to full fitness. However this is a massive ask for a player who normally only stays fit for around for four or five games at a time. Like Song, Diaby is not a conventional holding midfielder, he loves to push forward, so it is essential that he plays alongside another disciplined midfielder who knows his job and does not lose concentration and drift forward as the game goes on.
This is where Arteta comes in, he was exactly that player at Anfield, sitting in front of the back four, shielding them and giving the ball accurately to his team mates to start an attack. The Spaniard has always had a terrific work rate and has never been scared to put in a tackle, but now playing in a more defensive position we could see the best of him. Arteta is not a creative midfielder like Fabregas or Carzola, but much more a typical central midfielder who can play with the ball at his feet. With him playing in the holding role, we have a player who can start a move off with simple, accurate passing whilst also staying disciplined enough not to push too far forward that he will leave the defence exposed. His passing accuracy is as good as anyone, so he will not give the ball away stupidly in the way a less gifted, more defensive player may do. At 30, our vice captain is not short of experience, he plays until the final whistle, so it’s extremely unlikely you’ll see him switch off towards the end of the game the way younger players tend to do. Most players that are successful in the holding role are approaching the latter years of their career, as experience is crucial.
As for the final link to the midfield trio, our new maestro, Santi Carzola, do I really need to say anything? A goal and an assist, he tired a little in the second half, but when this guy settles into the pace of the Prem he is going to be one of the best players in the league and one of Wenger’s best signings for a long time.
Going forward, Theo Walcott should take a long hard look at Lukas Podolski, the man worked his socks off, offering Gibbs protection the whole way through the game and winning a number of tackles at the back. While he is not the most exciting player to watch he is extremely effective in that left wing position as he tracks back and his final ball is accurate.
The partnership of the two new boys, Carzola and Podolski was another highlight of the game, with them linking well for both goals and both providing powerful finishes. The understanding between the pair will only improve as they play more games and we could have a very exciting strike force on our hands, we are only three games in after all.
Championships are won over the course of the season, and we have a long hard campaign ahead of us, probably the most competitive to date with every team, other than Tottenham, strengthening very wisely. A well organized defense is key to a successful season and if we can iron out the mistakes at the back we can certainly have a very positive campaign. Whether we can challenge for all four trophies remains to be seen, but things are not looking so bad after all, we do have the best defensive record in the league after three games!
3rd September 2012
User Comment and Reaction
User comments on this article are now closed. If you want to continue the debate, why not do so on the Gooner Forum.
Robert 16:02pm 3rd Sep 2012
Theo Walnutt should **** off to Liverpool in january.He has no place at the new Arsenal and take Gervinho with him.No room for passengers - Post No. 28665
RVP 16:27pm 3rd Sep 2012
I wouldn't blow my trumpet just yet since it's only 3 games and Liverpool gave us plenty of space hence the reason we score even though I admit that our defence is better so far. There's a long way to go and we should still keep on putting pressure on the board since once we win a couple of games we seem to forget about the lack of ambitions of the club so I'll hold my breath a bit longer...! - Post No. 28667
Michael 17:24pm 3rd Sep 2012
Arteta at Anfield!!! Only on away days. I liked him at Everton, I like him even more now, a great player. - Post No. 28671
GoonerInScotland 17:30pm 3rd Sep 2012
Forgive me if I'm wrong, but didn't Arteta play at Goodison? And Ibrox before that? Unless I missed a few years somewhere I don't remember him playing at Anfield. - Post No. 28672
Theo Jensen 17:38pm 3rd Sep 2012
I very much agree with the key themes of your article. RvP really papered over the cracks last year for me- we were trying to use Song or Ramsey as playmakers and they just weren't. It helps to have someone of the Spanish 'mould' as a playmaker and Cazorla has fulfilled the void left by Fab's departure. The wings with The Ox and Pod. were far more tenacious in attack and defence. The only thing is, with this new style we seem to focus less on chances being created which is fine and in terms of priorities favouring defence I completely agree, but Giroud isn't clinical at finishing. Even in France it's many tiers down from the EPL, and he was granted a lot more time and space. Still, I suspect had RvP stayed there may have remained this attitude that everything will revolve around him and we won't worry about the defensive side as much, so it could be a blessing in disguise? - Post No. 28673
billthered 17:44pm 3rd Sep 2012
Early days but if we continue to perform until january then we can buy from a position of strength instead of panic buying and maybe some of the dead wood can find themselves a conference league club or better still abroad so we dont have to hear about them ever again. - Post No. 28674
maguiresbridge gooner 17:56pm 3rd Sep 2012
A well organized disciplined defence is key to any top team who wants success hopefully at long last arsene has realised this hence the appointment of bouldy.There is still plenty of work for him to do but you CAN have both,the defence and the kind of football we want to see. - Post No. 28675
Son of a Gun 18:10pm 3rd Sep 2012
It's Cazorla, not Carzola... just call him Caz! - Post No. 28681
Jack 18:52pm 3rd Sep 2012
@Robert, 11 goals and 13 assists last season, 13 goals and 9 assists the season before. Hardly a passenger. - Post No. 28682
MarkH 19:26pm 3rd Sep 2012
Great team performance,but, the only down side- a late, high malicious tackle by St steven of Gerrard that could have injured Vermaelen. Not a word from the ref, or the Sky experts. seems somethings never change - Post No. 28684
Marble Balls 19:43pm 3rd Sep 2012
I share your cautious optimism and most of your points but I can't agree with your dismissal of the new potatoes, much as I'd like to! I fully expect Dembele to prove far more effective than the overrated Moderate ever was, while Vertonghen has to be an improvement on Leadlegs and signing Dempsey and Lloris hasn't exactly weakened them either. I wouldn't have minded us signing any or all of that lot! - Post No. 28685
LJB 19:57pm 3rd Sep 2012
Look,Liverpool gave us the freedom of merseyside in midfield;people are going totally OTT about Diaby.Its funny that when we have a good result all Wengers mistakes are forgotten.Well our incompetence in the transfer market will come back to haunt us.By the way last season we got 6 points from the equivalent fixtures;thats 17%more than this season.Just saying. - Post No. 28687
martin wengrow 21:05pm 3rd Sep 2012
The old chestnut that no team have ever won the title with a poor defence is so true. Here's hoping for a new era of glory for the "new" Arsenal. - Post No. 28691
Green Hut 21:42pm 3rd Sep 2012
Good defensive displays so far this season, Stevie Bould's influence is evident, but can someone please tell me why it takes the world and his wife to be screaming at Wenger to do the bleedin obvious for him to actually do it? Over reliance on youth, underperforming fringe players on big wages, now our lack of defensive coaching. Why couldn't he have sorted these things out years ago before man city got good and chelsea started spending their dirty money again? Of course he's still not spending the £50m burning a hole in his pocket, that will probably be the hardest nut to crack given his record, even when we were winning things in dim and distant past, but surely a manager on £6m+ a year shouldn't keep having to be told what to do? - Post No. 28692
GoonerRon 21:49pm 3rd Sep 2012
I am definitely encouraged by the performance and just hope we can have a bit of luck with injuries and that the experienced heads in the team keep us focused for the next game. The orchestrated work rate and hunger demonstrated so brilliantly at Anfield should not be reserved for just the big away days. Cannot fail to be impressed with the sea change in our collective solidity, also brilliant to see the will-to-win-fist-pumps from Mert and Poldi at the end of the game. ****ing love it. - Post No. 28693
Mandy Dodd 22:46pm 3rd Sep 2012
Very encouraging, love the commitment of this team, Bould is proving almost as good an appointment for us as AVB - Post No. 28695
Canterbury Gooner 2:14am 4th Sep 2012
@LJB- we actually got 7 points from the fixtures we've had for last season's equivalents. Except you don't mention that against Sunderland only Szczesny's world class saves and RvP's brilliance bailed out our wobbling team (symptomatic of much of that autumn period). Liverpool completely dominated us at Anfield last season, yet we fluked a win. Did you watch the game this time round? They were pressing us very tightly for spells- that's why Diaby was a standout performer because his turns created so much space. - Post No. 28697
CanadaGooner 5:56am 4th Sep 2012
Sky Sports is a disgrace to football. they need to reel their pundits and presenters in; we're (viewers) paying their salaries. i watched 'football today' on sky and all i could hear was "they're not going to win the league", well, did any of these empty barrels (pundits) predict man utd were going to be on the verge of winning and then losing the premiership last season? did they predict chelsea would win the CL? bunch of idiots with their stupid comments. if midway through the season man city or man utd go 15 points clear then such statements can be made and it wont be an issue. as an arsenal fan and a realist, we know where we'll most likely end the season, but i'd rather not be hearing that on sky sports! - Post No. 28701
Any Old Iron 8:14am 4th Sep 2012
I too attach great significance to a team's backline. I liked what I saw from us at Anfield. How refreshing to see the ball being hoofed into the stands instead of Clichy and others playing one-two's, Djourou dwelling on the ball, losing it or slipping. Worst still Clichy shielding it on the by-line when putting it out is best. Good stuff indeed. I'm encouraged by this start defensively. Tougher tests on the horizon. Taking no prisoners defending will be a sound base from which to hit the opponents hard with fast raiding counters. We can ruffle a few feathers certainly. Injuries have blighted us in the past, please be lenient with us 'o father time, this time! Dare I say this team has suddenly found 'tactical nous'. Wenger listening to others... - Post No. 28703
Radfordkennedy 9:19am 4th Sep 2012
Stevie Boulds influence on big Per and Jenkinson is startling,two old adages about basic defending is very much in evidence 1/ they cant score from row z,and 2/ unless you have time under no circumstances let the ball bounce in the penalty area,obviously stiffer tests are to come but there is nothing like confidence to focus the mind. Although i was so pleased for Diaby to get the man of the match on sunday,I thought Jenkinsons performance was top quality,a player not unlike a young Pat Rice,not blessed technicaly but willing to work hard,concentrate and put in a shift for the team.Good to see some team spirit as well geeing each other up,shouting and clapping each others efforts,this was in direct contrast to the side that quite literaly shook with nerves on occasion last season. - Post No. 28704
Website Editor 9:26am 4th Sep 2012
Just to clear up some confusion that seems to have been created, when the writer says 'This is where Arteta comes in, he was exactly that player at Anfield, sitting in front of the back four, shielding them and giving the ball accurately to his team mates to start an attack.' - he does not mean he used to play there, he is referring to the match on Sunday, the location of which was Anfield. - Post No. 28706
MRMROD 11:06am 4th Sep 2012
Well drilled/ organised defence; Arteta ala Petit protecting the back four; hard working quality players on the wing; a currently fit Diaby; and a new striker who looks good on the floor and in the air and who's not afraid to put himself about (the goals will come) and a strong bench with players to return...all positive stuff but the tests will come this month! Lets see where we are at the end of September...Up the Arse! - Post No. 28708
Reg 11:38am 4th Sep 2012
Question: Why if Steve Bould is doing a great job organising the defence did it take 5 years to get rid of Rice and get Bould in to sort out the defence?.Arsene Knows hoo-ray - Post No. 28709
Mike 11:54am 4th Sep 2012
I don't see why people say Liverpool played poorly - they played quite well paticularly in the first half. Give Arsenal some credit - they were organised and countered particularly well especially via Diaby and Carzola. Last week people were saying this was the first real test, now some are saying Sthhampton will be the first test - Well done Arsenal, a well constructed win during a difficult away game - long may it last - Post No. 28710
Tony Evans 12:22pm 4th Sep 2012
Green Hut (28692) Could not agree more. Someone has finally got through to Wenger and we are seeing good positive signs for a change - solidity and effort most notably but why the hell has it taken so long for this to happen? Early days though and a long way to go. - Post No. 28712
Gee 13:00pm 4th Sep 2012
The Defensive midfielder is a bit of a myth. Since Makalele everyone thought you need a pure destroyer in the middle of the park tackling and intercepting and barely leaving their own half. Man United have never really had a DM as such. People cite Keane and Fletcher but these have more to their game and offer something offensively too. Football is evolving you do need to be able to do more than just hare round slamming through people. You need to be able to pick passes both long and short. You need to be able to read the game and be positionally excellent. But to play this deeper role you need tactical nouse and discipline. This is something Song never had. This is possibly why we were looking at Sahin. Silkier but tactically sound. Arteta and to some extent Coquelin can play this role for us this year. whilst Coq maybe a bit more aggressive we have seen he is cool under pressure and good on the ball with a range of passing. Where I think we still lack is up front. Just another competent body to give Giroud a breather would have rounded the squad off nicely. However so far so good. 5 points is a fair start and now we need to add to this with 3 points at home to Southampton. Unfortunately I only see us getting 1 or 2 points from the City and Chelsea games thus blowing us out of the title race by the end of the month, but we are comfortably going to finish 4th this year. - Post No. 28714
El Bodgeo 13:11pm 4th Sep 2012
Good assessment of a good solid performance. Agree that Arteta was outstanding with Diaby a close second. However, Giroud looks like a duff signing already. Looks completely shot of any confidence which is baffling after 2 and a bit games. Looks like a cross between Bendtner & Chamakh. Benakh? There's been too much natter about defensive midmielders during the window, for me we are lacking a decent forward. Lets hope Benakh finds his feet and scuffs a few in. - Post No. 28716
GoonerRon 13:22pm 4th Sep 2012
@ Mike - I totally agree with you. I've seen some reports saying Liverpool were awful which just wasn't the case. They controlled possession for decent periods and carried danger to our defence up until the last minute. To some, I think it's a convenient excuse to not have to dish out any praise whatsoever to Arsenal. - Post No. 28717
GoonerGoal! 18:38pm 4th Sep 2012
Great performance, but Liverpool were so poor it was relatively easy for us. We'll know much more by the end of Seoptember. Remember, "One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy." (Aristotle) - Post No. 28722
LJB 19:00pm 4th Sep 2012
Look,Liverpools attack is so poor they are thinking of signing 37 yr old Del Piero as a striker!!!A better player would have punished Jenkinsons diabolical crossfield pass,Agger should have scored that free header and Sterling hit the post.Arsenals defence has not been tested full stop. Canterbury yes i concede we got 7 points last season ;therefore we have done even worse than i thought.Who saved us again?Oh yeah that guy that just scored a hatrick for MU,gaining them 3 points they wouldn't have otherwise won.Giroud just looks slow and holds the ball up nowhere near as well as Andy Carroll, which says it all really.Oh and i didn't watch the game,i was THERE mate. - Post No. 28723
Canterbury Gooner 22:08pm 4th Sep 2012
You miss the point that we're firstly missing Szczesny, Sagna and Koscielny. Secondly, we've only had three games and already look far better defensively. The point is, overall as a team we are better and were far luckier overall last year than this year. Did you notice Liverpool had 53% possession while you were there? - Post No. 28726
Jason B 23:52pm 4th Sep 2012
Good article.A few green shoots of optimisim.If we can take 3 points from Southampton and a good win in Montpellier should set us up nicely for Man City and Chelsea.One step at a time,though. - Post No. 28729
GG89 8:32am 5th Sep 2012
Yes we got 6 points from the equivilent fixtures last year, Giroud lacks a bit of technical skill, Diaby may get injured again and very soon, Liverpool give a lot of space away, Jenkinson looks like a championship player etc etc etc.... But for me I like the team better already, more balanced and defend better as a unit.... great! Can we get some more ex players to support the midfield and forwards with the knowledge.... Go Bouldie, he's got no hair but we love you.... - Post No. 28730
Gary Gooner 13:30pm 5th Sep 2012
Great win, everyone who is, stop bloody moaning and just enjoy a good performance and victory over the mickey mousers. I personally am really enjoying watching this team more than i have done with others in the past as they seem to be more of a unit and willing to run their nuts of for the cause. I wonder if Manure are going to be called a one man team as we were last season, i think not. COYG - Post No. 28740
That sums it all up 16:20pm 7th Sep 2012
Simply loving Arteta. Great to have a player of immense skill and disciple and with an experienced head on his shoulders. Seems to really enjoy playing for us too. Re: Walcott - given that Bould seems to have fostered an ethos where wingers take on more defensive responsibility - should we not give him more of a chance to prove himself in this regard? - Post No. 28783
Camel 15:32pm 8th Sep 2012
If you supposedly support Arsenal, you better know the name of your best player - Cazorla, not Carzola. Is it that hard? - Post No. 28791
11th June 2013
Online Ed: Just give us a couple of years, says Ivan Gazidis at annual q&a