Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Why Park’s hard-working performance was the key to hard-fought victory against Bolton

On Inside The Formation we'll look at an individual player's performance and analyse their input into the game. Joss Bennett looks at Ju Young Park's performance against Bolton.

It was the signing everybody seemed to question in the wake of deadline day. A 26 year-old ‘nobody’ from Monaco, Park Chu-Young was relegated from the French Ligue 1 and knocked out of the 2010 World Cup before he had the chance to make an impression. Critics immediately slammed Wenger for his predictable turn to the French leagues for help.

Several impressive displays for his country later – named national captain of the South Korean side after Park Ji-Sung’s retirement – and he’s the man everyone’s talking about, even despite the form of star-striker Robin van Persie.

His stats prior to joining the Gunners for £2.6m this summer – 9 assists and 13 goals in his first two years at Monaco (2008-2010) – suggested he might be used in a more rounded role; offering a similar sort of threat as Van Persie and acting as a traditional ‘No. 10’, or secondary forward. Interestingly, in his third and final season at Monaco, he nearly doubled his goal tally from the previous season (8) – scoring an impressive 12 goals but he didn’t manage a single assist.

The latest stats suggest an interesting development into more of a ‘No. 9’ poacher than previous years – also shown by his massive average of 2.7 shots per game in the 2010-11 season. On the evidence of his performance against Bolton, this trend appears to have stuck with the Korean so far; a positive sign for fans complaining of too much tiki-taka and not enough shooting.

However, a slightly wayward shot accuracy of 36.7% last season (12 goals from 87 attempts), and 40% in his first season suggest he is also comfortable with dropping back and taking shots from outside the box. Again, this was clear against Bolton when he twice went close with long-range efforts in the first half after struggling to get in behind the Bolton defence for much of the game.

Despite the aforementioned development into more of a traditional ‘poacher’, there were aspects of his game against Bolton that could clearly be associated with Van Persie. The Korean kept the Bolton defence, and ‘keeper Adam Bogdan, on their toes with some clever movement off the ball and link-up play with Benayoun, who seemed to immediately gain an understanding with him.

Despite being caught offside a number of times, Park’s runs in behind the defence clearly worried the Wanderers’ boss Owen Coyle, who instructed his team to defend deeper after half-time. Fortunately for Arsenal, the plan backfired and despite an early Bolton goal and a late surge, the Gunners were able to largely dominate with Andrei Arshavin and Park both exploiting some particularly poor defending to win the game.

Indeed Park’s movement in the first half indirectly forced the error for his match-winning goal. As was the case on several occasions earlier on, Arsenal counter-attacked and the Korean made his move too early. From there on, Gary Cahill and Zat Knight seemed to lose all positional sense and instead of closing down the man on the ball (who had limited options with Park running offside), they dropped back to play Park back onside and allow Arshavin to play it through to his left.

Park’s superb finish from the edge of the box will be what’s remembered, but the Arsenal manager will be encouraged by a hard-working and rounded display that offered some justification for what appeared at first sight to be a rushed and desperate signing.

Joss Bennett is co-editor and head writer of Arsenal blog Arsenal Report - a site for all Gooners interested in tactics, stats and the inner workings of the club. You can follow him on twitter and his read is work at Arsenal Report.

Video produced by CWDailyGooner.
Culann Davies is founder, head writer and video editor of Arsenal blog CWDailyGooner - a site for all Gooners interested in analysis of Arsenal's first teamers, youngsters and loanees in video form. You can follow him on twitter and read his work at CWDailyGooner.

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