Improvement in physicality will help most
Arsene Wenger’s current generation of players do not strictly play pretty football just because they have been nurtured that way. It is because with their physique, they have no choice.
Let’s admit it, until an Arshavin or Rosicky reveals his age to you, it is easy to mistaken him for a teenager. That is why Arsenal struggle to resist the tag of ‘babies and kids’ even when the ages of players are not printed on the back of their shirts.
No matter how well they can move the ball, their tiny look in size will never intimidate an opposing team filled with commanding personalities. This is not to suggest that Arsenal adopt the style of football thugs and bore audiences, but the Gunners need an adequate mixture of style and substance.
If you doubt that manliness in the game is a decisive factor, then is it a coincidence that the more imposing likes of Gilberto Silva, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp were more successful in playing the SAME brand of football which the tender class of Nasri, Walcott and Arshavin are depicting?.
This brings me to the point that the current team is worryingly full of short, light-weight men. Several of Arsenal’s midfielders (Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin and Walcott) are unlikely to contend never mind win a header against Carragher or Ivanovic, so dealing with set-pieces will always be a concern. And mind you, corner kicks and free kicks are not made to be defended by just defenders….if so, it would be just four/five players marking seven or eight men.
If it’s not a crime for a centre-back to score, then it’s certainly not an outrage for a forward to clear the ball away in a desperate situation. Attacking and defending is done as TEAM. Thus, we can sign the most gigantic centre-backs, but if you have only two/three men who can meet the ball in the air, you are always suspect to succumbing to the occasional long ball or deep free-kick by an opponent.
This is why when recruiting new faces for the squad, it should be imperative to consider not just age and quality but the player’s physique. Arsenal is constantly linked to the likes of Jadson, Marvin Martin, and others who are all gifted with skill but inept when it comes to grittiness.
Such players, despite all their prowess in the attacking aspect of football, only offer technical ability and nothing more. They will be brave to dribble and create goals but hide like cowards when we concede a free-kick or corner. Yes, we have had the cases of yesterday’s Mathieu Flamini and today’s Jack Wilshere who can come unstuck against bigger opponents because it is the size of their heart and not the size of their body that they play with. But such players though, are a rarity.
Visiting Stoke City would not always have been a ‘wow’ factor if a majority of Arsenal’s line-up weren’t players who struggle to even reach the shoulders of Tony Pulis’ men.
With that said, it can also be argued that persistent injuries and campaign collapses may have been reduced if the squad had a more virile and tough-minded set of players who can endure the physical rigors of the Premier League better than the boyish talents who attract tough tackles when on the ball and easily buckle under pressure.
People say we were two to three signings away from winning the title in recent years…but I say we were truly two to three inches in height away from success.
So from today onwards, when you read of a player linked to the club, don’t just make your research about how good he is but how BIG he is. Always remember that we will need that player’s height to defend a potential late equalizer moments after he has scored that potential winner.