Do we Arsenal fans need a reality check?

Last updated : 20 February 2003 By Nicosia Gooner

De Jong celebrates his equaliser for Ajax at Highbury
It was only 3 days earlier that we all felt top of the world and its so unfair that Arsenal should do this to us and bring us right down to earth again; how is it possible that within a matter of days our football can vary so much? Is it tactics? Is it team selection? Is it the opponents? Is it the location? Or is it the player's physical condition and state of mind?

Well, I suppose it will not make me an Einstein if I was to say it was a combination of most of the above; so lets analyse these points and see what could sometimes makes us so depressed:

Tactics / Opponents / location – I have put these three together because I believe our tactics can vary depending on our opponents and where we play. Can anyone really doubt that we have found it difficult to break teams down at Highbury when they play a very defensive football? We have a very narrow pitch (is it the narrowest in the PL?) and opponents can make it really difficult by playing extra defensive midfield players down the wings i.e. their objective is to stop one of our strengths which is the 2 full backs (Lauren and Cole) overlapping; this normally creates space down the middle because extra defenders need to come to the wings and help their full backs.

Against ManU we had lots of space because they were prepared to attack us, they have a wide pitch and our skill won at the end. Against Ajax unfortunately we had to deal with, at times, up to 9 defenders; its interesting that an "expert?" on the radio, refer to the Ajax tactics as 6-3-1 i.e. the played with the traditional 5 (3 centre halves and 2 wing backs) plus another player (Christian Chivu) behind them to stop possible runs by Henry. In addition, 2 of the midfield players played wide to stop our full backs and therefore forced us through the middle.

Was is it the wrong team selection? Well, the only player that I believe would have improved the team was Edu because in my opinion, he has the ability to create the unexpected chance as he did for Wiltord v manure. However, I am only saying this after seeing the Ajax tactics and long thoughts after the match. Why Edu did not come on I have no idea but I suppose Wenger gambled on the 2 forwards i.e. Jeffers and Kanu.

I don't go with the idea that either Parlour or Jeffers should have started the match. I don't believe that Parlour has the ability to beat a packed defences; Pires and Wiltord who have superior skills to Parlour couldn't do so why would Ray? I really rate Jeffers but not in place of Bergkamp and I am sure that nobody would suggest that he should replace Henry. I know that Henry had a very quite game but that is due to great tactics by Ajax rather than Henry's inability. If any of you have watched Zidane against the Czech Republic last week would no what I mean; he had a nightmare and he was crucified by both the fans and the media.

Its funny, but Cygan who has been heavily criticised by so many of our fans had an excellent match against the so called Swedish (Zlatan Ibrahimovic) superstar. I am sure that most of you have already realised that Cygan best matches have been against foreign opposition; to me this isn't a surprise because he is technically very gifted and his only weaknesses at the moment, are the pace of the English game and the high balls. Cygan won all the high balls v Zlatan even though he was slightly shorter and at no time Zlatan had created any problems for Cygan. I would ask you once again, please give him time to get used to the English pace as players such as Pires, Wiltord, Freddie etc. had to; if there is still no improvement in the first 3 months of next season then I would accept that perhaps he isn't the answer.

Another factor I believe is that the Ajax game came too soon after that brilliant performance v manure when the players were still in the clouds and thought they could beat anyone by just turning up; another good lesson for them in my opinion.

Last Tuesday's tactics was a master stroke by Koeman but would it work in Amsterdam? I believe that we have a very good chance of beating them over there because there is no way that they will play this tactic again and they have to come out and attack us; and who is the best team for the counter attack?

What is really worrying for me at the moment is the expectation that some fans have, and who go as far as to say that anything but a treble would be a disappointing season; have we really become that arrogant? And can we ever turn round and criticise ManU fans in the future for being arrogant? Of course I would love us to win the treble, who wouldn't? but to actually say that it would be a disappointment if we "only" win the double is beyond belief as far as I am concerned. I think that some fans should get a reality check, it only takes 3-4 bad matches for us to end up with nothing.