Is Arsène Wenger taking the Carling Cup more seriously? Comparing Arsenal selection policies since 2004

Arsène Wenger has a well-known reputation for using the League Cup as a stepping stone for star young players, the likes of Fabregas, Van Persie, Walcott and Alex Song are all established first teamers who have played in previous campaigns. This season Wenger’s selection policies have changed, but how much, and does this mean he is desperate for any success?


Courtesy of Wowtheworld under Creative Commons Licence

Much debate centred over whether Wenger’s youth policy devalued the competition. The answer is yes. However, the value of a fourth competition, with an unbalanced system where the richest teams enter with only four games to the final is debatable. That debate continues elsewhere (see WSC here and here).

In light of the fact that Arsenal have won no major trophy since 2005, Wenger is under pressure to take the League Cup more seriously, and use first team players to try and pick up a trophy, creating a winning mentality.

This season a change has been noted in the approach, with much of the press picking up on the fact that Arsène Wenger has actually been taking the League Cup ‘seriously’. The question is, how different is the policy compared to previous years?

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Arsenal Score Six: How they took Braga apart: Highlights of The Fab Four – Wilshere, Fabregas, Arshavin, Chamakh

As Marouane Chamakh left the field last night, his name reverberated around the stadium, and for good reason. The striker has been a breath of fresh air for an Arsenal side which has all too often struggled with injuries up front. Together with the passing of Wilshere and Fabregas, and the movement of Arshavin, Arsenal pulled a new Braga side apart last night, scoring six goals.

Technically Chamakh is gifted, but this is only one of his strong points. He has the ability to create space for others, in holding the ball up superbly with a mixture of balance, strength and exquisite control. His touch is good enough that he generally holds on to the ball, even in very difficult situations, and his aerial strength means he can win headers and make knock downs.

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Braga’s Brazilian counter-attacking analysed: Champions League Scouting – Arsenal vs. Braga

Os Arsenalistas are about to face their namesakes, in a clash which sees Europe’s most consistent Champions League Qualifiers, Arsenal, take on S. C. Braga in their first campaign.

The 2009-2010 league season was excellent for Braga. Under Domingos Paciência they led the Portuguese league for much of the season, losing out to Benfica in what was a two horse race. Finishing second was still an unprecedented achievement for a club generally considered inferior to the ‘Big Three’ – Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon.


The 2009-10 Liga Table

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Astute purchases pay dividends – Koscielny and Squillaci tested by Bolton

In seasons past Arsenal have been stereotyped, not without reason, as defensively fragile and naive. Arsene Wenger has sought to address that this season with the signings of two new centre backs, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci after a clear out of the defensive deadwood within the squad.

Against Bolton the back four was totally untested, consisting of Gibbs, Koscielny, Squillaci and Eboue. Last season the equivalent rotation would have left Arsenal with players like Silvestre at the back, players who never inspired confidence at the best of times.

Koscielny made only his third appearance for the club, whilst Squillaci made his debut, and apart from one obvious error from Koscielny they coped well with the threat of the physical Kevin Davies, Lee and Elmander.

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Understanding the development of Theo Walcott – Positioning and technique: Analysis and Discussion

Theo Walcott has been subject to a rollercoaster of criticism and praise in the five years since signing for Arsenal in January 2006. Here we attempt to understand the evolution of his game. Before signing Theo, Arsene Wenger highlighted some of the key attributes of his game which are all running themes in his development as a player – pace, positioning, and decisions:

“I like the timing of his runs, his determined attitude, the fact that he can play in different positions up front and that he is calm in front of goal…The composure he shows in decisive moments doesn’t change, whether it’s in division one or the Premiership – you have that or you don’t have that. He has determination as well as electric pace.”

That Theo’s pace would be his main attribute in striking fear into defences was apparent from his debut for Southampton against Wolves in 2005, and the use of pace was clear in many of his early goals at Southampton. However, positioning is key in bringing the best out of players, and Walcott needed to be placed carefully to allow his game further to become effective at the top level.

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Marouane Chamakh: His playing style analysed in detail – Bordeaux and Arsenal Scouting

Having discussed the tactical possibilities available to Arsene Wenger with new signing Marouane Chamakh, it seems appropriate to follow up with a more detailed study of the way Chamakh actually plays, based on matches he played for Bordeaux in 2009-10.

Under Laurent Blanc Bordeaux used a clear 4-2-3-1 formation, relying on attacks from the wings, with Gourcuff running the centre of midfield. The team played good football, building possession from the back, and attacking with three creative players and Chamakh. Their formation is visible in this screenshot of the Lyon vs. Bordeaux Champions League Quarter Final first leg in 2010. The fullbacks are marked orange, the holding midfield yellow, attacking midfielders in blue, and Chamakh as striker in pink.

Chamakh played a crucial role for Bordeaux, leading the line and scoring goals, a constant threat to defenders. His style does not involve running with the ball or outpacing opposing defenders, but rather linking up with midfielders, and holding up the ball, in the ‘false nine’, and converting crosses in the box.

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How Marouane Chamakh can slot into the Arsenal system: Tactical Analysis 2010 – 11

Marouane Chamakh could essentially pose Arsene Wenger a selection problem this season if Arsenal stick to their current tactical set up, but ultimately he provides excellent cover for a team which has been stretched far too often over the previous few years.

In 2009 – 10 Arsenal played with what was widely regarded as a 4-3-3, but in effect was a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation. This consisted of two central midfielders holding the centre of the park, whilst Fabregas played between the lines. Two wide players, usually Arshavin and Nasri, looked to cut in from the flanks, whilst a single striker played as a ‘false nine’, dropping deep.

Chamakh At Bordeaux

Chamakh actually has the attributes to play in 4-2-3-1, as he played the stiker’s role in this formation at Bordeaux. The team played two slightly deeper central midfielders, with attacking support from three forward midfielders. Their line-up against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League is a good example of  Bordeaux’s system in action.
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The Economic Vindication of Arsène Wenger

Arsène Wenger has had a tough time in front of the media over the last few years. Arsenal are still playing the high class, crisp passing game everyone loves (or loves to hate), but silverware has not been forthcoming. Recently the economic figures have been released, revealing that Arsenal’s turnover is exceeding Premier League records, and this in itself can be seen as a step forward.

A graphic from the Guardian

However, the harshest critics are those who completely lack perspective. The easiest way to visualise the project that Arsène Wenger and the back-room staff at Arsenal have been working on is to split it into three stages. The first stage was the moulding of the club in Arsene’s image, and the transformation of Arsenal from a good team into a successful, world class team. This was completed, with many years of silverware, and high achievements.

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The Results – Run-in predictions for Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea: Did they work?

As the final few games of the season approached in May I attempted to analyse the possible results and predict an outcome to the title race. Now in June, with the season well and truly behind us, it seems a good point to dissect the results and have a look at what actually happened in those last few games.

The original prediction was based on the last eight games Arsenal had to play, and compared the individual records against each team and the final eight games of each season. These methods both provided a result of 15.8 points from eight games, which would have put us on 80 points at the end.

In reality Arsenal achieved 75 points, and so actually fell short of the prediction by 5 points. A massive amount in real terms. Meaning we took 11/18 points or 61%.

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Video: Arsène Wenger at AS Nancy in the 1980s – looking very old school!

Arsène Wenger is looking rather retro in the clip below, which I believe is from his early days at AS Nancy-Lorraine. From my basic French he seems to be age 35. That would date the video to 1984, his first season as a manager.

A French Arsespeak reader has kindly translated the interview, transcript below.

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