Arsenal vs Bolton Wanderers: A tactical, positional and psychological analysis
Written by Hunter on September 26, 2011 19:30
Well it was high time Arsenal put together a full match and capped it off with a win and a clean sheet. With all of the problems of that last few months, to most Gooners it seemed this would never happen. But thanks for a 5 star performance from the club captain, the match was done and dusted just after half time.
Today we will start with a look at the current club talisman and captain, Robin van Persie.
With his two goals this weekend van Persie reached 100 goals for the club. This is an absolutely incredible strike rate, especially given his injury record. 100 goals in 162 matches is a better return than Torres, Drogba, Villa or Wayne Rooney as van Persie epitomizes everything Arsene Wenger looks for in a player; mobility, technical skills and football brains.
It’s refreshing to see his injury situation behind him and one can see that when he gets a run of matches he is easily in the top 5 strikers in the world.
Robin is the last of a dying bread at Arsenal. He is one who was allowed the time to learn the game under two of the best players to ever play in England: Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. There are not two better strikers to have learned the game from and it shows in Robin. The club don’t seem to realize the value of the knowledge passed down from the older players in the squad, but Robin is surely one who does.
Against Bolton the thing I noticed first and foremost about van Persie was that he was moving higher into the opposing box than he has been in the last few matches. Usually he drops deeper to receive the ball but that then leaves the opposition box empty and there is no one there to receive the final pass.
I tend to think Robin is less of an out and out striker and more of a number 10 a la Bergkamp, one who is capable of playing as a lone striker, but is even more efficient when able to face the opposition and provide passes to others. No matter which role he is in for the club (or for Holland), it seems he adapts well and is always the best player on the pitch.
His first goal against Bolton showed his excellent ability to take on players in 1 v 1 situations and be direct. As he received the pass from Ramsey there was only going to be one outcome. The more he drifted to his left the more sure I was that the next touch would end up in the back of the net. As you can see, the run he made from right to left took 3 defenders out of the play and left him 1 v 1 with a midfield player who had just sprinted 60 yards back into his own penalty area.
Robin’s ability to free himself in the build up was excellent. By moving diagonally across the defense he created confusion between the opposing center backs, which allowed him the space to receive the pass from Ramsey and move into a 1 v 1 situation. Football in its essence is about creating mismatches on the pitch and Robin is an expert when it comes to this.
If we are to look at some of the best teams in the world like Barcelona, their game is made up of mismatches. By playing high up the pitch and using constant movement, they create mismatches all over the pitch. When you look at the way they play it’s always a 2 v 1 in their favor when they attack. This is a concept well understood by Robin and surely is something that needs to be taught to the other strikers in the squad.
If we look at his second goal you see again that the well timed diagonal run (though much shorter than the first) to the near post took the defenders of the equation and allowed him an easy touch in. Credit must also go to Theo Walcott who provided and excellent ball with pace in behind the last defender.
This means that even if the defender gets a foot to the ball, it could end up in the back of his own net because he is running toward his own goal. Excellent play all around from both the striker and the winger.
The future of this Arsenal team relies on the health and production of van Persie. There are many of us who cringe when we think of the contract negotiations that are to take place. We can only hope that somehow he can be convinced to remain with us and continue to provide us his moments of brilliance.
Robin van Persie has shown that he has the ability, the attitude and the mentality to be a real leader on this team. It would be wise of the club to surround him with similar talent, or risk losing him next summer.
I know I speak for many when I say that I would love to see him end his career at the Emirates.
As always feel free to comment. Until next time fellow Gooners!