Hull v. Arsenal preview and Wenger's Transfer Targets

Good morning kickers, I have the day off and the whole family had a good sleep in. So that’s why the late blog.

Anyway, Wenger ran the gamut today, talking about transfers, rumors, Kaka, and erm, who is that team we play tomorrow? Oh yeah, Hull City, god, they suck don’t they? This should be an easy game, like playing Stoke, or Fulham, it’s almost like having a game in hand, right?

Am I forgetting something?

Anyway, here are the highlights of Wenger’s exclusive pre-match interview.

Defensive Balance Helps Them Grind Out Wins

I believe that as long as you keep a good defensive balance, and don’t concede a goal… you have always a chance, since you have so much possession, to score one.

This pretty much sums up Arsene Wenger’s footballing philosophy over the last two years: keep the ball and eventually you’ll score. He talks about “defensive balance” but when you watch the games and see Clichy and Sagna effectively providing the only attacking width on the team, “defensive balance” is a lie. Well, maybe not a lie, but at least it’s a Wengerism. I think when he says “defensive balance” it means “Clichy and Sagna are free to go forward and as long as we have one or two players who stay near the half-way line, the team is balanced.”

The problem is that the team isn’t balanced and Wenger doesn’t even see it. He’s asked about the possession stats against Bolton and he admits that Arsenal’s 77% possession was a record for them. Morever, Arsenal had 680 some passes in that game, most of which were sideways.

This is a function, Wenger says, of the fact that teams who feel insecure about their league position are trying to secure their place in the table and do so at all costs. Wenger says that right now you’re going to see a lot of these 1-0 wins for the top four teams against lesser opponents until March when things start to “open up a bit.”

There’s a real logic here in that last bit, I’ll admit, but only if some separation starts to happen at the bottom of the table. If the whole table stays bunched up like it is then this same 10-men-behind-the-ball (the Aston Villa playing style) tactic will continue to prevail.

None of which changes the basic argument that all Gooners have been having for the last year: should we shore up defense or offense.

I’m saying both. What say you?

Nasri in the Hole

He [Nasri] is a player who likes to go left, right, and is very versatile… and has a lot of invention, with the ball. [But also] Samir is incredibly quick, because he is as well very good on the ball. So, he uses more the second aspect of his game than the first one. His runs off the ball can be deadly, but he likes so much to come to the ball that he doesn’t use his pace to go in behind the defenders. We are trying to balance his game.

I think we all sort of knew the first thing about Samir, but I haven’t seen any evidence of this super pace that Wenger claims. Worse too is that Arsenal are in desperate need of runs off the ball, and getting in behind defenses.  So, in the hole or not, Arsenal need Nasri to start balancing his game without the ball.

Irregardless, I like Nasri in the hole: which sounds really gross.

Bring on the Vela

Most people who watched the Bolton game credited Vela with changing the game and of course, the big question, then, is “Since Nasri plays in the middle, Diaby is shite, and Vela is a game changer, why doesn’t Vela play more?”

Wenger says that he was reticent to use Vela early in the season because he felt Vela wasn’t physically ready for the rigors of an EPL match. He’s ready now to start using him more because he feels like the player has come along greatly. I got the sense that we’ll see more Vela over the next few months, both out of necessity and because Wenger sees him growing and becoming a man, or as he puts it “a different animal.”

Transfers

The big question on everyone’s mind is who are Arsenal going to buy? With the second question being, how close are we to signing Andrei Arshavin?

To the second question, Arsene flat out said, he isn’t talking about it and we are not close to signing Arshavin. Arsenal are in negotiations with Zenit but that is all.

I firmly believe that Arsenal’s only hope for signing Arshavin lies in Man City landing Kaka. Because if City don’t land Kaka, they will certainly look elsewhere for a playmaker and Arshavin is pretty much the best option out there. There is no way that Arsenal could outbid City nor could we come close to satisfying Arshavin’s wage request so they would win that contest every time: Champions League football be damned.

Fortunately, the Kaka deal looks more and more likely, despite the protestations of the player. The transfer fee is reportedly up to £108m which no club could realistically turn down. That amount of money would buy a whole new team of decent talent, pay off 1/3 of a new stadium, and basically ensure top flight survival for several years.

Throw in that the player is supposedly being offered £100m in wages (60% of which would go to him, after taxes) over 5 years and really, this is an irresistible offer isn’t it?

That leaves us with Arshavin, and the boss says that “nothing has fallen through and we are very positive” which I’m taking to mean that the racist assholes at Zenit are stringing us along until they can get a better offer. If nothing better comes along, then on the last day of the transfer market, Arsenal will… maybe get the player. Maybe they’ll just have him killed or whatever they do in Russia. Wenger as much as admitted that this deal will probably happen on the last day.

Arsene did admit that he’s in for other targets but flatly denied that we are in for Hangelaand and Bullard from Fulham and Diakate from Lazio. YAY, three more targets we can put to bed!

Who will play against Hull?

Wenger ruled out Gallas and Silvestre due to injury and there is a test today for the others — basically the test is for Song, who is like a new signing if he comes back.

Eduardo scored a hat trick in a closed door practice but Wenger is not ready to throw him back into a game quite yet.  He’ll play on Tuesday in a reserves game and Wenger will assess the situation then. I may have been off on my assessment that Eduardo will return in February and we might see a cameo against Cardiff at the earliest and if not, then Everton almost certainly.

As for the tactics that Hull might employ Wenger sees a Hull side that came in to Arsenal and played a 4-3-3 but who have lost a ton of confidence and are starting to crack. Given Phil Brown’s dust-up with Kinnear the other day, I have to agree that the pressure seems to be getting to them and so I fully expect Hull to play a 9-1-1.

It’s funny, but you know who Phil Brown reminds me of? Alan Pardew. Hull City’s form right now reminds me of the form West Ham suffered late in that season as well. If you remember that 2006/07 season, though, Arsenal were beaten at home by West Ham 1-0 after they had been beaten earlier in the season and were looking for revenge.

It will take massive concentration to avoid that kind of slip again tomorrow.

Conclusion

Late kickoff tomorrow and the game is on Fox, so I’m going to be doing the liveblogging thing. This means no early blog here tomorrow, but join me here at 9:15 PST for comments and general fun. See you then.

15 Comments on Hull v. Arsenal preview and Wenger's Transfer Targets

  1. I don’t agree that it’s good news that Kaka may be on his way to city, a soon as one high profile player goes others will follow. This just puts our current position in further jeopardy, if not for this season, then certainly for next. On the bright side hughes isn’t really the manager to pull it off. If he’s trying to sign his compatriot hooligan Bellamy then that says it all! It’s been an unlucky few weeks in the premiership, ronaldo smashes his ferrari and walks away without a scratch, how unlucky can we all be. Good news that benitez wont sign a new contract, hopefully he’ll fuck off to Real Madrid and they’ll bring back Souness, that’ll be one less team to worry about. One thing I agree with is that we’ll be scrapping on deadline to make any signings that Arsene has in the pipeline.

  2. I think saying we need both attack and defensive is a bit of a cop out answer. While it’s easy to sit on the fence, I think we need more defense in order to attack. Realistically we have no problems going forward even with the string of 1-0 results lately. Arshavin will no doubt be creative in attack but as it stands we would benefit more from a central midfielder than another attacker. Nasri is doing a wonderful job in the middle but I think teams and spectators underestimate his defensive capabilities as well. Watch him closer for a game and you’ll see how far he drops for the ball. This shows determination and diligence but at the same time stifles the speed of attack. Having our main playmaker being forced to cover additional yardage on the field slows down a potential attack and gives opposition time to rally back defense. We need a very special central midfielder who can tackle, dribble and more importantly pass. Tactically we should have 2 central defenders covering the back with a sturdy central midfielder shielding them. This allows for essentially a permanent 3 man defense with the central midfielder starting any plays from the back instead of Nasri having to come back. With 3 men in front of the goal this can stifle any counterattack and allow a 7 man assault team with the 2 front men, 2 wingers, attacking midfeidler and the full backs making runs up the flanks. There is not enough confidence in Diaby, Song or Denilson right now that Cesc or Nasri feels truly comfortable to just sit in the opposition’s half and press their defense. We need to bring back a Flamini-esque player with the energy to disrupt play which will leave no doubts in the minds of the attackers. I think this is also one of the reason we have seen less of Adebayor because he has to drop deeper than he would like to collect the ball. He isn’t Henry, he’s not as quick, not as skilled, not as unpredictable but at the same time he’s not mediocre. He needs to be able to lead the line instead of playing partner to the midfield’s defensive duties. As it stands now he’s too content to play deep and allow RVP to be the center of attack. It is no coincidence that his incredible form last season occurred when he was the focus of attack and RVP was injured for long spells. Now that he has RVP who is just as prolific, they cannot both operate in the same position. This is essentially the Robbie Keane/Fernando Torres dilemma where one strike partner gets ousted out into a less effective role. RVP and Manu can play together no doubt, it’s been well documented but both need the freedom to attack without worrying about defending the middle of the pitch and that’s the missing link right now.

  3. Who knows for certain, but should kaka head to mancity we may have a better possibility of landing the russian as they’ll have their winger/am. I believe we should look to benefit from any quality castoffs from city though and wouldn’t mind a decently priced swp, who always was meant to be a red.

    Looking at chelsea, the most expensively ‘assembled’ team ever – we know they are not unbeatable and that’s what makes this city revolution not as troublesome for me. Kaka will demand the club make strong acquisitions as a condition for signing him, but we just have to remeber this has all happened before(madrid, chels). Arguably city is better on paper this season but aren’t doing as well as last year. Indications are fairly clear that it will be the same with city as the others – strong for a couple of years then fall away, changing manager, etc. Is it possible that wenger realises we can’t compete at the moment with this megaspenders and is just holding back to save the dosh for a better day? – that’s happened in the past too i believe. But as i said, who knows? As for Arshavin, i hope he goes for the club where his services are very much needed.

  4. I’m not worried about City right now, it will take time for them to build a team and Hughes is no Mourinho. You also have to consider that Chelsea had a much better football infrastructure than City when they were acquired by Abramovic.

    Hull has brought in two reinforcements in Manucho, who probably will start tomorrow, and Kilbane. I disagree with Timothy one this one because Hull will have no reason, especially at home, not to bring it to us like they did in the first game at the Emirates.

    It will be interesting to see two things:

    1) Will the Arsenal squad show some guts and character, bring it to the upstarts and lay waste to them or will they roll over meekly and be content with diagonal passing.

    This game will determine whether our team has “cajones” or not.

    2) Will Arsene revert to his negative 4-4-1-1 by packing the mid field with the likes of Denilson, Diaby, Nasri, Eboue and Song or will he stick Nasri in the middle, push Vela on the left and use RVP as the support striker?

    His lineup will determine whether he has “cajones” or not.

    Our performance tomorrow will really say a lot about who and what we are as a team and obviously nothing less than 3 points will suffice if we are to get back on track and push Villa for the 30-40 million 4th spot.

    The grand question is WHICH Arsenal team shows up tomorrow.

  5. WC, i think you’ve described alonso perfectly. We’re clearly short in that area and have been for a good spell, and though dm has been a priority for a long time now, the team, with our injuries, needs width and pace up front as well to make top four a reasonable possibility. If we’re going to compare the current squad to the bygone glories, our counter attacks were much more potent back then because any one of the midfielders could recede deep to scoop up the ball and turn to face options everywhere – strength, speed and size all across the midfield and wingers who could reach the endlines regularly with excellent pace, strength up top. Those players were all threats and created space for everyone(not to mention all the other qualities). If you’re advocating building from the center of the midfield out that’s fine, but that’s not our only need and we should bring in the best players available at the time we can bring them in. If we have a good chance to bring in the russian we should do so. If we can bring in a great dm as well, even better.

  6. I would sign Charlie to play on the wing. I could be central midfield to the left until Fabregas comes back from injury, then can move to left midfield. Nick the Goalkeeper would be un upgrade over Aluminum, at a fraction of the cost, plus he is a free transfer. Tim can be the savior as a DM. All this for the price of a free long sleeve away jersey. Arsene, are you listening?

  7. CaribKid, on the team sheet good question. I would like to say Wenger will start conservative and then sub in more attackers as the game gets on, but wenger does like to stick to his initial lineups for most of the game, we’ve been pushed around by hull a little bit which is why we may go conservative. But should we get an early goal i’d like to see us hit the gas and put on vela and pummel them, but as you say, that begs the question which Arsenal team shows up? – the team that fights or the team that just shows up.

  8. i disagree with alot of comments there first all for most footballers its about winning things and although city have alot of money there light years away from likes of arsenal and manu,ashivin is 27 and he is all ready on 90k so i doughts its about money for him i think its more about winning things and arsenal have such huge potential there is not alot wroung with arsenal that a bit of experience, there is not alot difference between manu and arsenal in there tranfer policies both wenger ferginson blood in young players early but manu have a more complete squad. another thing is since arsenal lost to manu they have not lost a game they looking atlot more solid and that mainly due dj anf gallas plus sylevestpr looks very solid

  9. @Barnaby,

    Sometimes the best method of defense is attack. I understand your reasoning totally, but we were beaten by Hull the previous game because we were not attack minded enough to put them on the defensive and they got one fantastic goal.

    Hull likes to attack and we need to push them back on their heels.

    Just my take.

  10. CK, i hear you all the way, but we’ve been burned by hull and other teams and if by chance we go a goal down early, the supporters start voicing disapproval and the team is just flat it could be a disaster(city), i don’t even want to think about that scenario any further, i’m just thinking a little caution might be a good way to start out the game. It may appear that we are on our heals too much but i’m thinking about avoiding a potential pitfall, we are away today. This is what happens when we have a few too many erratic performers prone to defensive lapses. We may come out smokin but i’m just looking at past performances and every time i believe we’re going to emerge to put in a top performance and start a run of convincing wins, i end up very much wrong. Regarding the team sheet and whatever happens in this game as well as the rest of the season, I’m inclined to state the obvious – i haven’t a clue. Other than I’d like to see us improve, we haven’t been consistent enough for me to say anything more with any confidence, it all seems very much up in the air to me.

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