“Arsenal’s Biggest Problem: Depth in Attack”

By on October 7, 2009

Robin van Persie goal Fulham

I have found that listening to most podcasts is not good for my health, especially my blood pressure. With very few exceptions, most notably the Guardian’s fantastic Football Weekly, the drivel spewed forth in these little mp3s is enough to make one scratch their eyes out. None more so at times than the BBC’s 606.

In the past two weekends, new co-host, Gabrielle Marcotti, a so-called football pundit, has spouted a ridiculous analysis of the Arsenal side made even more so when you consider that the man is paid to watch, write, and talk about football for a living. Listen here to a brief clip of Marcotti talking about Arsenal’s major flaw (and, no, it’s not the defense):

Gabrielle Marcotti on Arsenal’s biggest problem

“If van Persie is fit for the entire season, that means you’ve got a real top drawer center-forward. If van Persie goes missing for a long stretch of time, then I don’t think that there is a natural center-forward who can replace him.”

Come on, Gab, you can’t be serious. If you listen further, you will hear him say how our only genuine forward is Nicklas Bendtner. I will now give you a minute to calm down after laughing hysterically…

Carlos VelaOkay, we’re back. First of all, to call van Persie “a natural center-forward” makes me question how much Marcotti has actually seen of him. van Persie has never been a classic center-forward and, up until this season, almost always played off the main striker. That is why when we played 4-5-1 in the last two years, van Persie tended to be on the bench because Adebayor played in the center. And for Holland, van Persie has played wide right far more than he’s been played down the center.

Even in this 4-3-3, van Persie’s role is hardly that of a true center-forward, even if that is where the little circle with his number shows him in the pre-match lineups on the television. The main difference in van Persie’s role on the pitch between this season’s 4-3-3 and the 4-4-2 of seasons past is the positioning of the players up top with him. That is the adjustment he needed to make; it wasn’t so much in his own game but in how he could better integrate those around him coming in from the wings,  rather than having a striker just off of him.

The second part of his claim is that Arsenal have no other “natural center-forward” to replace van Persie if he gets injured. He concedes that we have Bendtner but says that Bendtner has played on the right this season. That’s true, but does he think Wenger would not move him back into his natural position if van Persie was injured? Especially considering the wealth of options we have to deploy on that right side if Bendtner moved to the middle including Walcott?

I also wonder if Marcotti has ever heard of a guy named Eduardo. Eduardo is far more a “natural center-forward” than van Persie is.  Don’t tell me the media has already forgotten about Eduardo just over a month after turning him into British football’s public enemy number one. We also have Carlos Vela whose natural position is as a central striker and can hold the ball up outside the box to bring the wingers deeper into the attack much like van Persie has this season.

And then, if you can stand listening until the very end, you will hear him say this is all a problem because we have not replaced Adebayor. WeEduardo lead the league in goals scored, for fuck’s sake, and have a game-in-hand. What more can we do? Have we not shown that we do not need Adebayor and that we certainly don’t miss him?

He seems to be implying that Arsenal have a problem with depth up top. But we all know that we are deeper up top than anywhere else on the pitch and possibly deeper there than all the other big 4 clubs. On Sunday, we had Walcott and Bendtner on the bench and in another few weeks we could have also had Vela and Nasri there as well. How anyone can question our depth there is absolutely beyond me, let alone a “professional.”

His lack of knowledge of the Arsenal squad is appalling for someone who, unlike all of us, actually gets paid to watch the game. And it’s not as though he made a mistake. This was the second week in a row where he continued to put forth his “analysis” of Arsenal’s biggest problem, depth in attack. Marcotti’s comments were so nonsensical that I can’t tell if he is lazy or ignorant, or both.