Def-counter tactics were a fluke, and here's why
In the aftermath of Man City we were all praising Wenger for the astute tactics that gave us an uncharacteristically versatile win against the Premier League champions. The def-counter (a.k.a sit-back-and-counter) strategy was effective and solid.
But the post-match comments from players and manager seem to indicate that this gameplan was unintentional, and that our def-counter approach was just a fluke on the day. This again casts huge doubt on the tactical competence of Wenger, and is a big worry for the immediate future.
Wenger's weakness has always been the failure to adapt to opposition behaviour, constantly insisting on sticking to the same gameplan, same shape, same strategy and same set of tactics - regardless of who we are playing. Barcelona away? Possession + attack. Brighton at home? Possession + attack. His lack of a 'plan B' is laughable at times.
The first quote is from Olivier Giroud after the game:
The boss’s words were, "Be brave defensively, be compact, be all together. Defend well, and we will always create chances to score." The boss didn’t say to stay back and counterattack.
So even if Wenger's intention was to def-counter, he obviously didn't give clear enough instructions. When you have Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira, Adams, etc, sure...you probably don't need to micro-manage. But with the players we have now, it is obviously crucial to give them clear instructions.
The next post-match quote was from Kieran Gibbs:
I have seen a lot of pundits say it was a change in mentality from us. I think there was a pattern in the game where our midfield had less of the ball in dangerous areas, whereas normally we are focused on dominating the game by keeping possession. We controlled the game without having as much possession as we normally do. I think that’s something to learn from and add to our game, rather than feeling we have to control every game by dominating possession.
Gibbs actually sounds surprised at the state of play, indicating that there was no def-counter gameplan.
Next quote, from Wenger himself:
They had a team that was organised to defend well with Fernando, Fernandinho and Milner from the start, so for us it was more difficult for us to keep the ball as much as we usually can.
Translation: we wanted to play possession football, but couldn't. Next quote from Wenger:
We played high up in their half and very deep in our half and it worked
Like Gibbs, the boss almost sounds surprised.