Simple Analysis and Roma

After the admittedly disappointing draw against Sunderland, the bloggers are attacking the team with a vengeance. Everybody seems to be on the brink of defeat, practically conceding our Champions League spot to Aston Villa when the cold fact is that we actually gained a point on them. We should have gotten all three points, but from my perspective, we created the chances to win. We merely didn’t convert them, and some of our players looked downright nervous in front of goal at times (Vela). That sort of nervousness comes when you care about the result.

Because of this result, the bloggers decided to attack. The main source of their anger is the central midfield partnership of Denilson and Alex Song. When Wenger stated that he has stats to back how effective Denilson has been, he was confirming my feelings about Neves. He’s underrated. I’m not saying he’s been one of the best players of the season; I’m just saying that the criticism is largely unjustified. The bloggers decided to use stats of their own to back their own points about how ineffective Denilson has been. Some said he didn’t make a single forward pass in the game (not true, he put van Persie through on goal in a chance he should have converted), and all he did was pass short from side to side.

Now, what they’re quoting is technically correct. The assumption though that the stats they’re using and the stats that Wenger are using are one and the same is completely false. In a television interview, Wenger talked about how the computer data he has tells him all kinds of things about players. For instance, he talked about how he can measure the speed of passes and how saving a millisecond in a pass can lead to a faster attack. That was just one example. ProZone, which is so popular nowadays, is a pay service. The Guardian Chalkboards are a free service. In the worlds of baseball and basketball, statistics are being used more and more as ways to figure out meaningful numbers in order to analyze players. In football, it’s much more difficult, because there isn’t any sort of organized lineup (like baseball) which would give statistics equal weight. But I’m pretty confident that Wenger has access to stats we wouldn’t even think of and utilizes them as such. He uses them to determine who may or may not need a rest and all kinds of other things.

To see bloggers use the very basic statistics to damn Denilson is just simple analysis. At first, Denilson seemed like a back up player to Cesc. They saw him as a playmaker, who had a similar game to Cesc. And in his first season, that’s what Denilson was. I read about how in an FA Cup game, Denilson had as high a score as Cesc did. In that role, he was developing and was an intriguing player.

This season, he is not that player anymore. Instead, Wenger saw him as a foil player for Cesc. He is playing a completely different role to what he used to play, something actually more akin to his Sao Paulo and Brazil U-17 roots. He’s had to make an adjustment, and he’s done it quite well actually. He doesn’t possess an all-action style like Flamini, so when they see the one play where he displays a “lack of effort,” they immediately say we could have used Flamini there.

When we were destroyed by injuries and conceding goals, Wenger decided to deploy a system where he has two midfielders protecting our back four. Instead of relying on a central player to dictate the team (like Cesc), he’s relying on our wing players (mostly Nasri for creativity, Diaby and Eboue for penetrative power) and van Persie to create the goals. We are playing a completely different style, and Denilson is being destroyed for not being creative. That is not Denilson’s job in this team.

And just what has happened since Denilson and Song have played as a central midfield partnership? We’ve stopped conceding goals. Do you think that’s a coincidence? It’s not.

We may have to use Arshavin in the hole when Walcott gets back to provide more creativity, but to rip our central midfield partnership of the last few games for being the reason for our failures is incorrect.

The bloggers tried to play their little games and pretend that they were smarter than Arsene Wenger. The fact is, we are not.

Tomorrow, we’ll play Roma in a game that should technically be more open. Roma have more ambition than most teams, but it will be a touch and go game. A clean sheet is the most vital thing for Arsenal to achieve tomorrow.

If the tie is alive in two weeks, when we’ll have Theo and perhaps Eduardo, we stand a decent chance at going through. I’m excited to see what this team can do. Wenger believes this team will be untouchable in three years time, but if this team has as little as the media or some bloggers think he has, then he wouldn’t say anything like that. He believes in this team, and I think we should believe in him.

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