Despite being a Liverpool fan, I have always been admirable of the possession football that has brought Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal sides success over the years, however, I am afraid to say changes must be made to avoid falling too far behind their rivals.
Wenger’s philosophy continues to bring his side success in attack, however, his side are beginning to look increasingly fragile in defensive areas, which is a theme that has become apparent for many Premier League sides so far this season. Arsenal have never properly replaced Patrick Viera, who offered so much stability in front of the back four. Alex Song posed as a player with the potential to replicate Viera’s work, however Wenger appeared happy to sell him to Barcelona. Without a ‘Viera’ type player in front of the Arsenal defence, they have never appeared to same dominating side that they were years ago. Their weaknesses at the back have recently come to light again having given up a three goal lead at home to Anderlecht in the Champions League, before losing to Swansea, having led. Both are perfect examples in presenting the problems of Arsenal; as a team, they are very strong in attack, however they continue to look like a side that will give the opposition plenty of chances and a side that look vulnerable in defence.
The resigning of Mathieu Flamini sums Arsene Wenger’s naivety in the transfer market ever since losing Viera. Though Flamini carries admirable tenacity, he clearly does not possess the tactical awareness and ability to impact a game defensively in the manner that Viera did and the manner that Arsenal need a defensive midfield player to. The importance of this position is being proven by Chelsea star Nemanja Matic, who is having a huge impact in the way Chelsea are able to attack with freedom without the worry they will be left exposed at the back. It is vital Wenger brings in a quality, reliable and consistent holding midfielder that can serve the club for many years in order to ensure the club are able to compete at the top of the table with the other biggest clubs where they belong. Recent games have also displayed the lack of depth in defensive areas with left back, Nacho Monreal, having to feature regularly as a makeshift centre back, as a result of the injury to Laurent Koscielny. This has cost Arsenal, with Swansea’s winning goal exposing Monreal’s inferior Ariel ability and his unfamiliarity with the position. In Arsenal’s defence, they have suffered terribly from injuries to defenders, however Wenger must look to buy another commanding centre half that is capable of bringing leadership qualities similar to that of Tony Adams. Alexis Sanchez poses as one of few positives as far as Arsenal are concerned lately, given the clinical finishing he has displayed to compensate for the amount of goals his side are conceding. He appears head and shoulders above many forwards in the league and is forcing the question as to why Barcelona ever let him go.
As for Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino is struggling to find a way to bring success to White Hart Lane. The post Gareth Bale era has shown little signs of promise as of yet, with Pochettino recently claiming the players need a ‘change in mentality’.
Tottenham look no-where near the side that earned a Champions League spot years ago and the side that people believed would go on to challenge for the title in the near future. The latest home defeat to Stoke was greeted with boos around the ground, with Spurs fans clearly unhappy with the lack of progression being shown. Like Arsenal, there is no apparent leader within the side, which is resulting in a lack of organisation and tactical understanding. As important a player Bale was, the leadership of Ledley King in his prime cannot be disputed. An inconsistency in the performances of Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen is depriving them of demonstrating their proven quality to the extent they are able to provide stability to the Spurs back line. Both have the defensive traits required to make them great defenders, however they fail to show the consistency of defensive partnerships such as Gary Cahill and John Terry that is bringing Chelsea so much success.
Pochettino’s side have, as of yet, failed to recognise a style of football that suits their players. I believe Spurs are desperate for a world class forward and I am afraid to say that they missed out on the opportunity to bring one in after selling Gareth Bale. At the time, they were a club with high potential, however they have been extremely poor in the last year, making it less likely they would be able to attract a world class forward at this moment in time. Given these circumstances, it is vital the manager is not afraid to make big decisions, such as placing his trust in Harry Kane and Andros Townsend. Kane is the club’s inform striker at the moment, therefore his confidence must be picked over the experience of Adebayor and Soldado. Likewise, Andros Townsend has proven his ability to increase the tempo of the game, which is what Spurs desperately need. Their transition from defence to attack is a lot weaker than the teams they hope to compete with and Townsend can improve this due to his speed and skill when travelling forward with the ball. I have always said a player needs time, therefore I continue to believe that Erik Lamela will prove to be a top player. He has all the attributes to be a great attacking midfield player, and he has shown this during his time at Roma. In my opinion, he must be played behind the striker, to give him the freedom of not having to track back and defend and simply being able to focus on how he can impact the game in an attacking sense.
Forget the loss of Gareth Bale, I believe the loss of Luka Modric has been equally as big. For me, the Croatian is one of the most underrated players in the world and is often over shadowed by Ronaldo when he plays for Real Madrid. The club must find a player to bring the same quality, composure and tactical awareness that Modric brought to the side, however it is easier said than done. Spurs can return to being a team with potential, but they must bring in a leader, they must find a style that suits them and brings success and they must improve their transition from defence into attack. As a Liverpool, I now understand the pain of Tottenham fans, having lost Suarez, and I am fully aware of how difficult it is to find an alternative way to play in order to suit new and, admittedly, weaker players.