Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Midfielders Need To Start Firing

As the race for third place heats up between Arsenal and Liverpool, the two clubs could only see the shadows of Chelsea while Man United not even in sight. Once again, this season, the title race was over before Christmas and it just talks about the gap between the 'top 2', the 'other 2' and the rest of the league.

It's fairly obvious to see that there's still a lot for both Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez to do in order to edge closer to the 'top 2'. Leave the discussion of what the duo will have to do to probably after the season ends but one will have to wonder why are these two teams so far away.

It's definitely not the quality of the sides.

Arsenal are more than capable of beating the top sides. They demonstrated their ability by beating ManYoo twice, home and away. But injury has taken it's toil on the London side. As of now, Henry, Adebayor and van Persie, 3 of strikers of theirs are out injured while William Gallas missed a large portion of the season through injury as well.

Whereas Liverpool had a torrid time at the beginning of the season. They started off badly at Bremall Lane and didn't looked convincing at all away from home until they beat Wigan 4-0. They didn't have the momentum and before they knew it, they're too far behind.

But all these reasons (or excuses) aside, there's one thing I'd like to point out. There's a distinct similarity between this two clubs and that perhaps, is the reason why they're chasing shadows.

The midfielders ARE NOT SCORING.

As midfielders, it's not only your job to supply strikers with assists but also to chip in with a couple of goals. No, couple of goals is not enough. You need someone to take up the mantle of scoring along with the strikers.

Back in the 'Invincible' season of Arsenal, Bobby Pires and Freddie Ljungberg were in the top of their game. The Frenchman will regularly score beautiful goals playing on the left while Ljungberg is probably, a predator in the box, cutting in from the left. And with Henry scoring like nobody's business, they went on a 49 games unbeaten streak.

Then to the dominance of Chelsea. It was a team that's built around one man and that's Frank Lampard. Just take a look at the number of goals he scores from his attacking midfield position and you'll know why he seldom misses games under Jose Mourinho. Add in Robben and Joe Cole, it's guaranteed goals.

Now on to United's reign (a wee bit early but...). When they sold their top scorer, Ruud van Nistelrooy, to Real Madrid, many critics says that United will struggle with goals. But how wrong were they.

Revitalised were Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. The two remnants of the great 1999 team found their renewed hunger and is probably one of the reasons why ManYoo are where they are now. Not with the assists, but also with the goals.

Striker wise, Rooney still needs to be a little more consistent while Saha isn't reliable enough as he's too injury prone. But that burden was placed on the sole shoulder of Ronaldo and did he took them well.
He's been firing at all cylinders since the very start of the season and doesn't look like stopping at all. His divings and cheating antics aside, he has been by far the league's best player. The number of goals from his winger position speaks of itself and it sort of reminds me of how Arsenal were successful with Pires.

Depressingly, looking at the state of Liverpool and Arsenal, one could say that the midfielders are not contributing enough in terms of goals.

Arsenal: Gilberto (8), Flamini (3), Rosicky (1), Hleb (2) and Fabregas (0)
Liverpool: Gerrard (5), Luis Garcia (3), Xabi Alonso (3), Mark Gonzalez (2)

Those numbers are not so nice to see. Gilberto scores a hell lot from penalties while it's just mind boggling to think that Rosicky, Hleb and Fabregas are all out scored by a defensive midfielder, Mathieu Flamini.

Whereas Steven Gerrard haven't been as influential as he used to be. Of course, we're comparing to his statistics last season which showed 23 goals in all competition but honestly, anyone could tell he hasn't been able to impose himself in games. Perhaps it's him shafted to the right but hey, didn't he play there last season?

Now look,

ManYoo: Ronaldo (17), Giggs (4), Scholes (5), Park (4)

That's 17 goals from a winger. It's more than all the goals from both sets of midfielders at Liverpool and Arsenal.

And that's also the reason why Chelsea are playing catching up as their midfielders are not as potent as before as well. Only Lampard manages 11 while Ballack only 4.

Perhaps, that's why teams struggled in the league. Every member of the team needs to contribute to the score sheets and even Paul Robinson showed that goalkeepers shouldn't be counted out!

It's rather obvious that football is about scoring goals and if midfielders don't step up, then it's always fighting a losing battle. Depending too much on strikers is dangerous and who knows what will happen when your star striker goes out injured. Who are you going to turn to?

So, midfielders will HAVE to step up their game and contribute more. It's just so ironic that we talk about how big a talent Fabregas is yet he's still to score in the league (sorry Siren!). Assists aside, there's much more to a midfielder's game. Unless they are ready to take a fair share of the burden of scoring with the strikers, teams will struggle.

Step up or lose out.


Louis` said...

Hey drogballs,

I guess you got it spot on. I agree that our mifielders aren't performing to the standards which played a important part in our disappointing league form this season.

Gerrard is not scoring goals as much as he always does. Our wingers? Gonzalaz 2? Pennant 1? Who else? That truly shows why we are fighting for 3rd place instead of the top.



Yea, I think Gerrard's form has been found wanting this season and maybe we depended on him too much.

Even strikers struggle to score goals. Finishing in some games were poor and when even strikers can't score, then it's going to be a problem.