This past Saturday, Jermaine Jones, after partaking in both of USA’s recent friendlies, made his return to club soccer. His Blackburn Rovers traveled to the Emirates Stadium to take on highly-favored Arsenal.
Rovers – currently 2 points above the drop zone – had no intention of matching Arsenal’s brand of beautiful soccer. From the get-go, Blackburn’s defensive 4-5-1 signaled their intent to play for the draw.
To no one’s surprise, Arsenal dominated possession. The Gunners attempted 621 passes to Rovers’ 303. Arsenal also had as many shots blocked (7) as Blackburn attempted. Unless a fan’s objective was to watch Arsenal get frustrated, the 0-0 draw was not much fun to watch.
American viewers, though, might have enjoyed the outing, as Jones proved a vital cog in Blackburn’s defense.
We often think of formations with 3-man central midfields as a means to free one center mid to attack. But using a trio of central midfielders can also be used for the opposite purpose: liberating a midfielder to serve as a roving defender.
Against Arsenal, Blackburn used this tactic to stymie the vaunted Arsenal attack, with Jones doing the roaming. Even though Arsenal midfielders Samir Nasri and Andrei Arshavin (and later Cesc Fabregas) moved all over the pitch – exchanging passes and positions with almost equal regularity – Jones was able to match their movement.
As a result, the German-American ended up with quite the spread of tackles.
by Guardian Chalkboards
He won free kicks over just as large an area. More impressively, he didn’t commit a single foul.
National Team Implication
Against Argentina, Bob Bradley used a 4-5-1 not too dissimilar to Blackburn’s. However, Jones was one of the holding midfielders, lining up alongside Michael Bradley but behind Maurice Edu. Given Edu’s success in similar situations, Bradley’s decision made sense.
Edu, despite his familiarity with the role, struggled to influence the match. After watching Jones put together a defensive masterclass performance against Arsenal, Bradley the Elder should have second thoughts about which midfielder should have the free role in a defensive 4-5-1.
Gringos, did you watch the Arsenal/Blackburn enoucnter? Were you impressed by Jones’ performance?