At times it feels like those who write about the Premiership could quite easily get away with looking back to an old article and just using Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V. Some things just don’t change. Richard Keys and Jamie Redknapp will continue their unspoken love while the third, unwelcome analyst becomes the awkward third wheel. Dimitar Berbatov will always be branded as a laconic genius when it works and a lazy git when it doesn’t. And Didier Drogba will score against Arsenal. Like night following day the Ivorian has caused Wenger more nightmares than Almunia coming for a cross.
What more is there to say about today’s match? Well on the bright side, after Fabregas makes the pre-programmed migration of the Iberian footballer over to Spain, Arsenal already have a ready-made replacement. Samir Nasri has always given his best performances in an Arsenal shirt when Fabregas isn’t playing. He revels in the role that Fabregas occupies and offers consolation about the loss of the world cup winner. While it must be frustrating for Wenger, unable to have both Nasri and Fabregas on song simultaneously, there must be some relief in knowing that Nasri is creatively able to step up. Nasri is not on the same level as Fabregas but when Guardiola drops off the huge bag of money in exchange for Arsene’s seven year babysitting service the money least doesn’t need to be used to find the new creative spark.
The other positive to come out of today’s game is that Drogba is going to be 33 by the end of the season. His reign of terror will soon be over. But if Wenger switched to the currently fashionable 4-2-3-1 featuring two proper holding midfielders Chelsea would have been significantly less effective on the counter. Alex Song is becoming a solid defensive shield but Wilshire was played too deep and doesn’t yet have the tactical and positional awareness to perform the role.
It’s a constant puzzle that the two of the most successful managers in the Premiership era (Wenger and Ferguson) are actually not that clever tactically. Ferguson struggled for years in Europe trying to persevere with inadequate 4-4-2 while Wenger seems to be wilfully making the same mistakes repeatedly against top level opposition. Chelsea and United have used the same counter-attacking strategy against Arsenal for the past few seasons. The pattern always remains the same. Arsenal dominate possession and space but get sucker-punched on the break. Going forward everyone knows the wonderful football the Londoners are capable of playing but the problem is the lack of anyone who can read the game in the way Roy Keane or Claude Makelele.
FTW tries to always avoid footballing clichés and refuses to ever use the words “Arsenal need to buy a big strong centre-back”. That isn’t the problem. Without Queiroz Manchester United look significantly worse defensively and Wenger has the exact same issue. The players are good enough but against the top teams Arsenal are being tactically beaten before they even set foot on the pitch.