Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Bould Effect

We went in to Sunday's clash with the fear of the unknown in terms of what sort of performance could we expect. In truth, not outcome from the game would have surprised me. This was a Liverpool side that looked lively against City and they probably deserved to win the game and they welcomed back Daniel Agger from suspension for our match up, so we thought we were in for a game.

Starting with our defensive approach, Wenger was quick to play down Bould's role in the three consecutive clean sheets but the the difference in this side defensively is unbelievable and I noticed a couple of things that have changed tactically from last season. The main factor was the defensive work of wingers Podolski and Chamberlain. The desire to defend reminded me of the days of Vieira & Petit. It's always been a weakness of our style of 4-3-3 as it was illustrated in the memorable 4-4 game at Anfield, great going forward but no support for the full backs, which invariably in big games away from home you'll often see us getting punished.

Then there's the play of our wingers, they defend wide as shown in the illustrations but we seem to bottle neck our attacks. Neither Podolski nor Chamberlain tried to hit the byline, something Gervinho tries at every opportunity and Theo tries more often than not. This offers much more support for the front man and this poses questions for the defenders. Look at Cazorla's goal, Liverpool players don't know whether to stick or twist. Do they close him down or stay with their man, either way there's a good chance it ends up in the back of the net.

For the first time this season our play also had much more of a purpose to it. We haven't really attacked with any real conviction in our opening two games but the sharpness was there with the players on Sunday, notably in the form of Abou Diaby. He slowed attacks down at Stoke, he sucked  the momentum out our play in order to keep possession. On Sunday he was like a dog with a bone and didn't we benefit from it. The pressure's on Diaby to deliver these performances on a regular basis as I believe he's far too inconsistent and his games to performances ratio is around the 1/7 mark, harsh you may think but he should dominate games and all to often he's a passenger but hopefully this is the start of things to come.

Then there's Mikel Arteta's role in all of this, our new converted defensive midfielder. Here's a caption of all of his work on Sunday.

Now the thing that stands out like a sore thumb is he doesn't contribute anything in the final third. I'm not sure why that pleases me but it's nice to see such disciplined play in our team. He is sacrificing his attacking ability in order to help the side and this for me is the biggest plus of our new demeanour. Hear that Mr Song? Arteta has protected the defence and it has allowed Vermaelen the odd foray forward but in truth the new captain has also calmed down his style of play somewhat. It's all very much positive coming from a game where we couldn't really predict what was going to happen.

I like this new style of play a lot, for too long we've be vulnerable and I've always expected us to concede and teams that win trophies don't have that in their makeup. Whether this is a flash in the pan remains to be seen but the start to our defensive improvement is well under way. It just remains to be seen when we'll score a trademark corner because it's coming sooner rather than later. 

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