First of all before I get started let me make it abundantly clear that I do believe teams employ a “certain” strategy against Arsenal, and that strategy is to kick players and disrupt play. However, I see little wrong with that if done in a “fair” manner as Wenger would say. It is aggravating dealing with injury after injury, but I don’t think there is much connection between the way teams play against Arsenal and the number of injuries suffered. What I do tire of, is hearing Wenger talk about it. When Wenger knows what the opponent is going to try to do against us, why complain? You know what they’re going to do, so do something to counter it. And complaining isn’t the “something” I had in mind.
It really is this simple, Arsenal can stop teams from fouling by doing one thing (and Wenger complaining). Start punishing teams with set-pieces and free-kicks. There is a reason that these are the rewards for suffering a foul, because they are better opportunities to score. However, Arsenal don’t seem to have great success from them. I’m sure some stat crazed fan will come after me with figures that say we are good at them, but that’s not the case. If we were better than we are, we would be making teams afraid to foul us, something we clearly are not doing. This is the best, and most productive way to protect our players. Not counting on the ref to call fouls, not complaining in the press about the “art of tackling”, but punishing teams that choose to foul.
Arsenal now have the aerial threat to attack teams from set-pieces, it is time to start showing that on the pitch. If Arsenal were to start putting teams under the gun from any set-piece within 40 yards of goal, defenders would start to think twice before going into that challenge. And if they do lunge in, then so so be it, punish them for it by scoring from the free-kick. It really does feel at times as if Wenger chooses to not even consider the advantage that can be gained from set-pieces. Just look at the majority of corners this season, not even clearing the first line of defenders. Until Nasri rattled the bar from over 30 yards out this past weekend I struggle to remember the last time we looked truly threatening from a free-kick. I think that was a true shock to everybody, even the commentators said that was surely too far out to have a go at goal. Just think how much it would change the game if defenders always had that threat in the back of their mind. Be it a direct shot on goal or a nicely crafted and executed set-piece.
So, it isn’t the ref that you should count on to protect players, it is you Wenger.
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