Hansen was very old school in his analysis of the Arsenal West Brom game on Saturday’s Match of the Day. When swinging into his usual tactical musings, he explained that West Brom, more so then Arsenal were organised defensively, had leadership, organised themselves where Arsenal did not.
Mostly this is fair enough. Hodgson may have had a bad time at Liverpool, but one thing he rarely does is lose goals like the shocker Arsenal conceded to put West Brom 2-0 up, let alone concede shockers like that twice in three weeks. (Sorry for reminding you about Birmingham again Arsenal fans.) In doing so, Arsenal manage to shoot themselves in the foot time and time again.
But unqualified as I am I do disagree with one point Hansen made, and that was his point regarding comparatively, Arsenal and West Brom’s defending positions on corners. West Brom, Hansen argued, used their centre backs better at corners by playing them in the area on the edge of the 6 yard box that defending teams don’t want attackers to win headers in, along with another tall player. (Like, in West Brom’s case, Scharner.)
Arsenal on the other hand, didn’t do this. The central defenders in fact took up completely different positions – one at the near post and further toward the back post. According to Hansen this cost Arsenal the opening goal, and it’s an understandable claim – West Brom pulled two defenders away, Arshavin completely let his player go on the edge of the box and West Brom powered into that central area, Steven Reid doing the simple but vital bit of powering the ball past Almunia with his noggin. In fact, Hodgson and Arsenal have history with this tactic – Hangelaand scored a very, very similar goal for Fulham when they beat Arsenal in the opening stages of the season three years ago, a result which kick- started Arsenal’s season of complete mediocrity in 08-09.
As Hansen went on to say, ‘it’s not good enough’, and he’s right. For the wrong reasons. It wasn’t Arsenal’s style of defending that deserted them for the first goal, it was Almunia. Yes, he was at fault for both goals (Not the greatest shock to be fair).
West Brom’s defending was perfectly well and good – as Hansen said, it covered the main area of danger – the central space in front of the six yard box which an attacking player could arguably run into and bullet a header into the back of the net. Fair enough. But, shock of shocks, there are other angles to attack from.