“The Arsenal Way” Must be Undone for the Last Time


Yesterday showed us that “The Arsenal Way,” the possessive, intricate, and alluring play style the club often affiliates itself with, isn’t a realistic approach for the Gunners anymore.

Drawing AS Monaco, the current fourth-placed team in Ligue 1, in the first round of the Champions League elimination stages was supposedly a lucky tie for Arsenal. Yesterday however, that thought was disproved as the Gunners were exceptionally wasteful in front of goal and in possession.

Olivier Giroud, on a good day, would’ve had a hat trick. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez turned the ball over on countless occasions, and to cap it all off, Arsenal’s defense, led by the formerly cutthroat Per Mertesacker, was woeful.

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This was the story of the night, and if you missed it, here is an unbiased rundown of Monaco’s lethal last two goals.

After Alexis gave the ball away – a common theme of the game – soon after half-time, the Gunners somehow managed to get themselves caught too far up the pitch in the 53rd minute while only one goal down, allowing Monaco to lethally double their one-goal lead.

This happened again in the 94th minute after the ball was foolishly given away by Arsenal’s only goalscorer, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and suddenly, unbelievably, Monaco had a stunning three goals showing on the scoreboard.

Taking a step back from that 1-3 loss, Arsenal is undoubtedly inconsistent. This doesn’t just show on their record, but also in their in-game tactics.

One match, the Gunners will be efficient as ever, even if it means letting the opponent rack up possession in front the Arsenal goal, and will catch that opponent on the break in a swift counter attack, many-a-time ending up with a goal.

The next match, showcased by yesterday’s game, the Gunners will attempt to play with possession and intricate, attractive, even sometimes rapid build-up play. If urgency is lacking however, this engaging strategy, commonly referred to as “The Arsenal Way” turns into some careless, inefficient style in which the Gunners find themselves behind after quick, efficient opposing counter attacks.

Here, the point is that Arsenal is too unstable to not play on the break, especially against stronger opponents.

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Take the November 22nd home game against Manchester United as an example. Arsenal ended up with 61% of the possession and 23 shots against the Red Devils, and still managed to lose 1-2. The match was characterized by Arsenal’s inefficiency. So was the New Years Day match-up against Southampton, where Arsenal had 59% of the possession and six shots on target and still lost, getting shut out in the process.

Now, contrast those games with the late Manchester City, Aston Villa, and Crystal Palace matches. In all of these, Arsenal had less possession and the Gunners sat back, allowing these sometimes even weaker opponents to enter the Arsenal half.

Then, once the ball was given away, the Gunners would fiercely break to earn several energetic, needed goals, and in each of these three matches, Arsenal claimed victory. Though urgency still must always be prevalent, this counter attacking strategy, though it may not be as graceful as the style the club says it lives by, is the best strategy for the Gunners in tough matches, and Arsenal’s record shows it.

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Focus is demanded for every Arsenal player on the field as most of the time is spent on the defensive end, but when Arsenal does play in this counter attacking manner, the focus seems to be there– as showcased in the latter three games mentioned above.

When playing “The Arsenal Way,” which was demonstrated yesterday, too many Gunners can lack the focus, ruthlessness, and determination to retain purposeful possession, goal-scoring efficiency, and sufficient defensive form when it counts. Therefore to keep this season alive, the Gunners must take full advantage of playing on the counter even if it means “winning ugly” and doing away with the familiar, unpredictable “Arsenal Way.”

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