Arsenal v Spuds and the art of happily supporting our team

Arsenal players wave to fans from the bus

We all live our lives as good as we can, and if we are lucky then large periods of it are lived relatively worry free (and many of us are not going through a nice period at the moment – maybe the injury of our very own nr.14 earlier this year was an omen of what was to come this calendar year?).

When I was thirteen, during a moment of contemplation (and realisation that classical education was not for me), I came up with the five ‘V’s’ of happiness and aims in my life:

  1. VriendschapFriendship
  2. Meisjes/Vrouwen –Girls/Females
  3. VrijheidFreedom
  4. VoedselFood
  5. Voetbal Football.

Voetbal has always been a great source of happiness and had a central place in my life from as long as I can remember. It still amazes me how so many people have made this sport so central to their lives.

I spoke to a colleague the other day about her dad who is fighting an unwinnable battle with cancer. He was taken to a hospice in December last year and she feared his life would be over soon; but he has an iron will, and his love for sport and football in particular, keeps him hanging on. When I spoke to her last week, she said he had lost so much weight and hardly ate any food any more, but he was in good spirits because the Rider Cup was on over the weekend and his beloved Man United were playing. That made me quiet, realising once more what deep power sports have over the happiness of people.

Football, and for us in particular, our club Arsenal bring so much joy and ‘hope for better’ and often, subconsciously, functions as a surrogate for our hopes and dreams in ‘real life’. And we all suffer disproportionately if and when our team does not live up to our (often unrealistic) expectations. I understand how a defeat, or even a hard-fought for draw against the Spuds, can make fellow Gooners feel down. I would be a liar if I said it did not affect me.

But we cannot let this happen. We played a League game and there are 32 more to come, and we have to take the rough with the smooth. In two months time this result will not look so bad any more and other teams will drop points against the Spuds too (whose manager will get them more and more to play his way).

There is not too much to say about the game, which I only saw on quite a bad stream. They set up to play us on the counter and we dominated them for most of the first half. Our midfield was trying to find the gaps and it only seemed a matter of time; and then came the injuries to the two more defence minded players, which put us out of our stride. It took us time to get back into the game in the second half, and then they scored a goal that could/should have been avoided. But that is football – it isn’t perfect all the time.

The crowd comes once again to life and the players find the inner-animal to fight back. We manage to put them under pressure but their defensive shape is impressive and they seem to hold out. But then comes the scrappy equaliser and we fight on for the three points. Ten more minutes and we might have done it. One more substitution and we might have done it (but they were all used up). So it ends in a draw and we feel disappointed because this Spuds team was there for the taking.

But this season, as every previous season, will have many twists and turns and key is to keep believing and supporting, whilst enjoying the ride as much as desperately wanting our expectations to be met.

Supporting Arsenal in a happy way is becoming more and more of an art these days. And we should all take a bow to Terry who buried his fine farther last Friday and still manages to cheer us up. Now there is a Man in Full. :)

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners! Let’s make The Canon roar and take on the Turks with passion, power and deadly precision in two days time.

This is The Arsenal – By Far the Greatest Team and we supporters support you. 

TA

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Ozil LM – RamShere Central – Alexis & Danny to Mash: Ars v Spuds Preview

Ooh I love devouring the Spuds. I like them chipped, I like them boiled with gravy, I like them in a salad with some garlic mayo on top, I like them flattened into hash brownies, or even better, mashed with butter and a hint of mustard. And the Spuddies are tastiest when gulped down at our very own home of football. :)

TIme to play with the heart but with a cool mind.

TIme to play with the heart but with a cool mind.

Today’s NLD comes early (again): the teams still have to find their stride, and Pochettino is still finding his feet at the club. You just cannot take count anymore of how many managers have come and gone, and for that, predict what we can expect from the miscreants this time round.

We need a win to build further on our away win at Villa and to get the momentum going for two more big games this week: Galatasaray and the Chavs. I would say let’s treat this as an OGAAT and not worry about what is to follow. But I feel this a big moment for Arsenal this season: the time for experimenting is over as the next three games will shape our season to a large extent. We need a win against the Turks and we need a result against the Chavs.

So now it is time to put out a formation and team that will have the best chance to get us there, give or take a couple of tweaks over the next eight days. Wenger’s plan for this season will be confirmed today/this week, I am pretty sure.

We can talk about it forever, but the only thing that matters is what happens on the pitch come 17.30. I have not seen enough of the Spuds this season to form an opinion about the strength of their team. After a late goal by Dier they clinched all the points from the Hammers on the opening day, and then they brushed aside QPR at home; but after that they just got one point from playing Liverpool and West Brom at home and Sunderland away, giving away a lead twice at the Stadium of Light.

So they are lacking form and the first doubts whether Pochettino is the right man for them, which I reckon he is, will have started to surface, no doubt. Clearly, they need to bounce back and will not need motivating for today’s NLD. We have not had the best of spells ourselves in recent weeks and could really do with a win.

Jack Wilshere

I expect Arsene to set out with 4-1-4-1 but with one of the central midfielders to sit back a lot, especially during the start of the game. The only real risk we have is playing too much attacking football, leaving our back-four – especially the BFG – exposed in the process. The Spuds will love to play counter football against us and they have the weapons to hurt us. Some might call for 4-2-1-3 with two of Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta and Flamini (or even Chambers), and I reckon they will get their wish effectively.

Many believe it will be either Ramsey or Jack next to Ozil in midfield, but I am convinced Wenger will incorporate all three. I reckon Ozil will be moved to the left, with licence to roam where he thinks he can add value (with Gibbs playing a more conservative role – and Sanchez and Ozil are likely to swap sides as well).

The defence picks itself and Szczesny is likely to be back. Danny on top and that is about it for me.

So predicted line-up:

Ars v Spuds Sept 14

I would be tempted to replace the captain with Flamini, but it is a good game for him to prove he has still got it. We need all eleven Gunners to be up for this and fire from all cylinders.

Will they be? Will I ever ask a more stupid question?

Let’s mash them Spuds! COYG!!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Theo in – Jack or Aaron out? Yeah right!

How will Wenger fit Theo in?

The time for experimenting with our attacking line-up might soon come to an end. As soon as Theo returns, I reckon Arsene will start lining us up with DAT attack: Danny, Alexis and Theo. If you are not excited about seeing these three heading our attack, it is time to pay your GP a visit, or simply book a one-way ticket to doctor GLIC in award winning Cornwall.

The return of Theo the final piece in the jigsaw?

The return of Theo the final piece in the jigsaw?

Danny – Alexis – Theo: DAT Attack to Conquer the PL

We all know what a fit Theo brings to the team, and we have missed him a lot since he was carried off the pitch sticking two fingers up to the Spuds supporters. Theo adds thrust and fast counter football and of course goals and assists.

But he is not the only one: both Welbeck and Sanchez are also fast and direct, and the three together will be a threat to any team in the PL and Europe.

Of course, an abundance of pace works best with plenty of space, and when we play the park the bus teams all that pace might become less influential. There is no doubt in my mind that Alexis can work in both attacking scenarios (pace and space or intricate and tight) and that Arsene will further develop Danny to become a fully rounded attacker – and the first signs are very encouraging. Theo, we know, is less effective when we face park the bus teams, but with the likes of Mesut, Jack or Santi spreading the balls, he could still be effective even in those situations.

But, just to illustrate the depth we have now in attack, if Theo does not hack it in such a game, we can bring on Santi, Ox, or eventually, Campbell who can all operate well in tight spaces. We are simply blessed with attackers.

If we start with ‘DAT attack’ will Arsene change the formation?

It would make sense to revert back to 4-2-1-3 and play either Ozil or Jack in the hole, and for now, play a combo of Flamini, Ramsey, Arteta and Diaby (or Jack) in the double DM-pivot.

However, it looks like Wenger will stick with his 4-1-4-1 formation, which means that either Theo or Alexis gets the free role, either supporting the striker or the ‘nr.10’ a lot. With Danny or, eventually, OG playing CF, we would have just three spaces left. And as per my post a few days ago, I would not be surprised if Aaron – or as 17HT suggested, Jack – is moved into the deeper DM role, leaving the two central midfield roles for either Ozil, Rambo and Jack.

So a midfield and attack of:

 

————–Rambo/Jack—————

Theo—Jack/Rambo—Ozil— Alexis

——————Danny——————

Many will argue that Flamini or Arteta will play in the deeper midfield role, and that either Jack or Rambo will be benched. But I just cannot see that happen. Once Theo is back, and all midfielders and attackers are fit, Wenger will have to make a choice, and I reckon the above will become Arsene ‘best six’.

But what do you think, FFGs: what will our team look like once Theo returns?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Enough evidence that Wanyama or Schneiderlin are the missing link?

Arsenal v Saints Afterthoughts

I am sure not to be the only one who isn’t too sad Arsenal are already out of the League Cup. Yes a great competition to blood the youngsters – I still have great memories of witnessing Arsenal putting Sheffield United 6-0 to the sword – but also an added pressure on Wenger and the team.

The media regard Arsenal as their favourite potential banana-skin victims, and so our cup games often end up being televised. As a result, Arsene often opts to play a stronger team than needed, even though I am sure he does not rate the competition very much, which could easily lead to fatigue or injuries to key players. For example, in yesterday’s game we risked Alexis and Jack, who both could have done with a break after a hectic, intense start of the season. But Wenger had to match the strength of the Saints’ defence to some extent in order to avoid a potentially humiliating outcome.

I watched the game on a half-decent stream and really enjoyed it. Both teams played some very good football, both tactically and technically.

Almost all of us would love Arsene to buy a really solid, beast of a DM and if you, like me, enjoy the art of midfield defending, you will also have wetted yourself from watching both Wanyama, and especially Schneiderlin, bossing proceedings through large parts of the game.

english-premier-football-park-morgan-schneiderlin-of-southampton-celebrates_3197666

Still, during the first 20-30 minutes the best midfielder on the pitch was our very own Abou Diaby.

He was strong and incisive, sprayed passes around and produced a couple of exquisite through-balls, and during that time he and Wilshere were in charge. Is it fair to say that Arsenal started to wilt from the moment Diaby lost that initial drive and power?

I, for one, strongly felt that as soon as the Saints levelled from the penalty spot, we would end up losing this game. Somehow, our opponent wanted it more on the night, or was it just that their line-up was stronger?

I reckon we gradually lost the battle in midfield as both Wanyama (calm, organised, strong, disciplined) and Schneiderlin (energetic, seeks the one to one battles, good positioning) gradually took control of the midfield.

After their stunning second goal, Southampton showed great team composure by both breaking up our build up play from the back and putting up a formidable defence if and when we managed to get to the area in front of their box. There was almost no way through, and without a strong presence of a (holding) striker in the box – Podolski is not that sort of forward – and Rosicky and Campbell struggling to impose themselves on the game, we were simply not strong enough to hurt the Saints on the night. We had our chances but not many, and if and when they arrived our players felt pressure to not miss them…

For me, that was the game in a nutshell.

I should repeat what I said yesterday, that Alexis was impressive and his goal was simply sublime. Our defence played well: Ospina oozed calm and, in my view, could not have saved the Cline screamer. Bellerin is making progress and gaining confidence, Chambers looked solid and composed, Hayden did well too and Coquelin did surprisingly well as our LB.

Campbell struggled quite a bit in the first half, but had a good spell early on in the second half (I guess Wenger had a word with him). Rosicky was rusty and tried to overcompensate this with his drive, and he will not be impressed with himself after giving away a cheap penalty. Pod is an impact sub and cannot lead the line for us; there is not much more to it imo. A real shame we did not see much of Akpom, but let’s hope he will have some time in the first team soon.

Although the competition does not mean much to me, I still feel a bit down. It’s not because we lost the game, or we are now out of the competition, or even that it felt all the way we were not going to win it on the night. No, I guess it is to do with those performances of Wanyama and Schneiderlin for the Saints, and the fact that they are not ours, and that they made the difference on the night.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Arsenal v Saints almost certain line-up: Ajayi, Akpom, Sanchez, Hayden to start

Arsenal v Southhampton

Capital One Cup

Chuba to lead the line?

Chuba to lead the line?

The provisional squad was announced early, possibly to encourage Koeman to reciprocate with an equally youthful squad? But barring late injuries, illness, or a Southampton ‘A’ team, this is it.

So for once, I do not have to make too many difficult decisions on our team, as it will be, no, seriously, it WILL be the following:

ars v Sou sep 14 final

Or to get a proper 4-1-4-1 formation, see:

http://sharemytactics.com/26560/

Why am I so certain? Just a brief run through:

Ospina is a given, Bellerin is a given because Chambers is going to be needed as cover for the CB’s, with Monreal out for 4 games, so he needs his CB hat on here. Gibbs, not certain, but unless Flamini drops back there, there isn’t another LB in the squad.

Hayden, in his best position, and AW tells us he is ready for this level (I concur). Flamini a given, as Arteta played in Saturday’s game, and Coquelin with Hayden would be too much of a gamble, and the Frenchman is a useful sub. Cazorla plays central, because he will not start next Saturday?

Rosicky deserves a start in his favoured right side, Campbell on the left, but expect a lot of movement between these three. Akpom up front because ….err, there isn’t anybody else? Nah, not even Poldi as CF.

Bench: Szczesny; Arteta, Coquelin, Diaby, Wilshere, Podolski, Zelalem.

How will this pan out in the game, using the much vaunted 4-1-4-1 formation?

My guess is the DM role will alternate between Hayden and Flamini, but I expect Hayden to be the more advanced of the two, leaving Flamini to clear up should he need to. Hayden is an excellent ball player, and has the physical strength to brush past the formidable DM pairing that Southampton have, should they both play? He would be an ideal player to have deep if a long range shot is on, such is the Podolski like bullets he can provide.

However, his primary role going forward will be to provide Cazorla with passes, and be available for the return.

It will be Cazorla’s job to feed the wide players, Gibbs and Campbell one the one side, and Bellerin and Rosicky on the other. I think these wide partnerships look to be very complimentary, and should prove an exciting blend of pace and shooting power, and equally good at picking out Akpom.

Akpom’s movement in and around the box will be key. It is his big chance to show just how much he has developed since those pre-season games of last season (2013). Not only is he big and strong, and has quick feet, he also has alarming pace for a striker. He will frighten any defence into mistakes, so penalties long before shootout time are very much on the cards. Because of his pace, somebody will have to try and stop him if we get a quick release from a turnover. That could bode well for Campbell to become the second striker, and we have seen just how effective he can be when given the space?

That is the positive side going forwards. Things will not be quite so rosy on the defensive front?

Without Per Mertersacker to organise the defence, a rookie CB alongside a very competent, but still a rookie partner, I think it will fall to Ospina and Hayden to set the cover at set pieces, and Flamini and Hayden to sort it out in open play. On the positive side, Ajayi is solid enough to hold his own against a physical assault; and Chambers is quick in the ‘Koscielny’ role, and two very pacey wingbacks to make last ditch tackles, should our lines be breeched. Providing they keep calm and don’t get too fired up, the Flamini-Hayden brick wall in front of the CB’s should keep most threats at bay, but I think Ospina will have his World Cup credentials well and truly tested?

What we will not know is just how many Academy graduates will appear in the Southampton ranks, as they too will want to test the depth of their squad to some extent? They also have some key injuries: Yoshida, Ward-Prowse, Rodriguez, Alderwerield, and Under-21 player, Gallagher. Listening to Koeman talking ahead of this game, he seems to be taking it a little more seriously, which is understandable if they haven’t got other midweek games to worry about.

We may see the return of Boruc in goal, or Davies, but it is the defence where they are likely to be strong. They have lively full backs in Clyne and Bertrand, and the very solid Fonte, who will probably partner Gardos in the middle. Again, in midfield they are strong, despite departures. Wanyama looks certain to start, but Schneiderlin could be given a break, as they have Mane, one of many good signings they made, who is back from AFCON knockout games and could be a real threat, along with the lively Cork and Tadic, and that without troubling regular, Steven Davies. Up front they can choose between Long, Mayuka, and Pelle. I suspect they may go for a 4-4-2 setup, as this is a knockout game

It will not be an easy game to win; that is for sure. But it will be fast and furious.

Unless Arsene changes the squad he has announced, then the team is unlikely to be much different from what I have set out. Argue about it by all means, I am only going with what has been announced.

Above all, enjoy the game; the players, as you can bet your life, will be doing their very best to carry it off.

Keep the faith

 Written by: Gerry.

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Do Arsenal already have their own ‘Schweini’?

Bastian+Schweinsteiger+6fL8btJ1cpsm

If the events on Tuesday night and the previous weekend tell us anything, it is that a result should never be taken too seriously. Yet we all love to draw big conclusions from single events; and it’s even better when two single events have the same outcome…. it might lead to a fine theory; or it is often the conception – or the reinforcement – of our very own hobby horse(s).

The Dortmund loss does not make us doomed for winning the CL this year; and beating Villa comprehensively does not make us strong candidates for claiming this season’s PL title. Cups and titles are won by the OGAAT approach: one game at a time, leaving the past behind.

The season has only just begun, and it is hard to draw any conclusions on how it will end for Arsenal. The player purchases have been good to fantastic, although we left ourselves potentially a bit vulnerable at the centre of defence and midfield (DM). The late return of WC stars/relatively short preparation for the new season, the two CL qualification games and the international break – just when the PL got started – have all hindered Arsene in putting his stamp on the team and properly implement his chosen style of play, formation (4-1-4-1) and team tactics.

He clearly is still working on getting his new 4-1-4-1 formation to become the footballing machine he has in mind. The combos of Wilshere, Ozil, Ramsey and Sanchez, or Ox, Rosicky, Santi and Diaby/Campbell – or any combination as you see fit – have great potential. With the right man in front of them – OG, Welbeck, Walcott, Akpom? – and a solid player behind them, this could become a deadly, all concurring midfield foursome.

The notion that Arsene is compromising the effectiveness of the team in order to fit Ozil, Wilshere and Ramsey in, is incorrect. In my opinion, it is actually the other way round: he had a plan and got the players to execute it: and the signing of Alexis has been the icing on the cake.

I am starting to like the idea, advocated by the likes of Gerry (who partly inspired this post) and others, that Wenger is actually after a ‘footballing DM’ – a Bastian Schweinsteiger type, rather than a classical ‘destroyer’ type – but is either undecided who this should be, or has not been able to get his man as yet. However, after years of waiting for a DM, I do not know what to believe anymore.

He might, of course, also be working behind the scene to get one of his current midfielders to adapt to this role. I have no doubt that Diaby could be our ‘Schweini’ but we all know it would be mad to bank on this. Whoever plays the sole, deeper laying midfield role will need to be super fit and able to play (almost) every week. With the best will in the world, this is not going to happen for Abou this season, if at all.

Arteta and Flamini have each been played in the deeper role but they both have limitations, and are best used as back-up going forward. Arteta is the sort of player who initially gets better the longer he plays, and he might now enter a good spell. But I seriously doubt whether he can be our fulcrum in midfield for the whole season. I believe it would be a big mistake to bank on one of Arteta (sorry 17HT :) ), Flamini or Diaby to fill this very important position, or indeed to simply believe that between the three of them the role will be covered this season. In the big games, we need a big player in the Schweini role.

An interesting sub-development is the imminent re-emergence of Theo into the team. Once fully fit he is likely to get a starting role in most games. It will either be as our sole CF, which I very much doubt, or as our (free-to-roam?) right (or even left) ‘winger’. If the latter is the case, one of Jack, Mesut, Alexis and Aaron will have to move…

And I reckon it could be Rambo: not to the bench, but, here it comes….. in the Schweini role. He really has everything in his locker to make it there. This is predominantly a gut feeling, just based of having seen both players in action. But looking at ‘Whoscored’, both players are rated with the similar strengths (both, notably, have no weaknesses, indicating their ‘all-roundness):

 

  Strengths – Very Strong Strengths – Strong Style of Play
Ramsey Passing, Defensive Contributions Key passes, Holding on to the ball Likes to do lay-offs, likes to dribble, likes to tackle
Schweinsteiger Passing, Direct Free-Kicks Key passes, Long Shots Likes to do lay-offs

Ramsey has a slightly inferior passing accuracy (this season 85.9%) than Schweinsteiger (last season an incredible 89.9% – he has yet to play this season), and also wins les aerial duels per game (0.8 v 2). The latter could be explained by the height difference or the positions both have been playing in – Ramsey is half a decimetre smaller. But then, Ramsey scores and assists a lot more than Schweinsteiger: 10 goals and 7 assists in 20 PL games v 4 goals and 4 assists in 22 Bundesliga matches last season. The latter could be explained by Ramsey playing in a more attack-minded midfield role than Schweini.

images (2)

When you read ‘Whoscored?’ valuation of Ramsey you cannot help but think that sounds like a good all-round, defensive minded midfielder to me: defensive contributions, holding on to the ball, likes do lay-offs, likes to tackle…

Clearly, Ramsey’s ability to make clever, timely runs into the box as well as finishing off chances should also have been added to Ramsey’s strengths by Whoscored?. And the question remains whether playing Aaron deeper would deprive us too much of his goals and assists this season. But I would like us to try Ramsey in the sole, deeper laying midfield role a few times and see how he will do. He has the stamina and the passion, and all the necessary skills; and let’s hope he can stay injury free this season.

I have a feeling he would be a revelation and might even become our very own Schweini.

What do you think, fine fellow Gooners?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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A Mere Papering of Cracks? Villa v Arsenal afterthoughts

First One for Danny!

First One for Danny!

On the heels of Arsenal’s first defeat since (Everton away in) April, many an observer–even would be supporters–have trotted out the usual narratives.  Wenger has lost the plot, we’re playing the wrong players in the wrong positions, there’s no tactical flexibility, our record signing Ozil(shaven) can’t be arsed and the sky is–literally–falling.

We’re entitled to these reactions and living in the moment, but scanning my science blogs, I could find no evidence that the sky was–literally–descending upon us.  Could it be that daylight is waning and the weather merely getting a bit worse in on our part of North London?  It may, of course, have something to do with the calendar.  Still with only a single match remaining before the official start of Autumn, the trip to Villa Park loomed larger, perhaps, than it might at another time of year.  That we couldn’t match their current point total in the league–no matter the result–also did not bode well.

Admittedly, the defeat at Dortmund did feel a comprehensive one and many suggested the 2-nil score-line flattered us.  Another narrative is that Arsene’s Arsenal simply cannot play against the bigger teams.  With Villa having beaten Liverpool at Anfield and having the week off (whilst we took our full body blow), nerves amongst Gooners were understandable.  Looking at the table alone (which, I’ve been told, “does not lie”) they had to be considered as one.  With our next two league matches being derbies–Spurs at our place, Chelsea at theirs–the result, at the very least, seemed, er, rather consequential.

Here in the mountains of California, the smoke from our annual wildfires only barely clearing with a little lucky wind, I awoke to a line-up I liked.  Alexis Sanchez, even if he’s already become a huge fan favorite, was rested in favour of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  Santi Cazorla came in for Jack Wilshere (who took a knock late on at Dortmund).  Calum Chambers, recovered from his sore throat (tonsilitis), was the preferred 19 year old at right back (over Hector Bellerin), and both Kieran Gibbs and Mikel Arteta (both just back from injury and/or a respite…) kept their places.

Danny Welbeck, who had spurned scoring opportunities in his first two matches for Arsenal, also remained the point of attack.  Curiously, younger forwards, including Yaya Sanogo, Chuba Akpom and Joel Campbell and the all-purpose defender, Isaac Hayden, called for by many a Gooner in the wake of the Dortmund disaster, didn’t even find a place on the bench.  Perhaps in the Capital One Cup to be played in midweek?… On my television feed, the line-up was even listed as a 4-2-3-1 rather than the much maligned 4-1-4-1 we’re (supposedly) playing even if Ozil persisted on the left of the 3 (Santi in the middle, Ox on the right) and Ramsey was the player (nominally) brought back to help out the Captain.  I’m not a stickler for formations and I tend to buy the idea that the number of players at the back is (more or less) all that matters and all else flows from there.  I’ll leave the discussion of what was actually played to others.  To borrow my favorite English saying (heard mostly in the Tube…) “Sorry…”

The match itself started with Villa on the front foot and Arsenal struggling to string passes together.  Ramsey looked a central figure but first touches appeared overly aggressive if not just plain heavy.  Additionally, the air in Birmingham looked lighter than the players favour and several long balls flew into touch.  As such, as in Germany, possession was lost cheaply and Villa looked to be creating more menace throughout the opening stages.  That several corners were conceded (the source of the last league goal scored against us in the league) did not help settle nerves.  Another set piece provided their most dangerous moment (in the 23rd minute), after an unwise challenge from Calum Chambers, which earned him a yellow for his troubles.  The cross sailed over all defenders and allowed a well taken chance for Kieran Clark with a diving header.  Szczesney moved out of his goal mouth but maintained his feet and used his entire frame to block with his left leg and right hand.  A pivotal moment, especially given the way the opponent kept Liverpool at bay a week ago after an early goal.

The truly pivotal moment happened nine minutes later.  Playing the ball deep out of our own half (Chambers protecting the ball like a more experience player and exchanging passes with Mertesacker began the move) a series of lightning fast one touch passes between Ramsey, Cazorla and finally Welbeck sprung Ozil off the shoulder of the Villa highline and he finished calmly with his better foot.

Now Villa had to attack, and the 2nd goal came almost instantly.  The camera was actually on Wenger as Gibbs took possession and passed smartly to Ozil who one-touched to Ramsey before receiving a lovely return ball out wide.  Scorer and assist maker reversed roles with an inch perfect cross from Ozil and an easy finish (no shin this time) from Welbeck to break his (Arsenal) duck.  Ozil in the center, Ozil on the wing: the record signing who just doesn’t care, suddenly everywhere?

Narratives turned upon their heads as well as points secured.  Villa, shocked by the turn of events were still unable to get back to work.  Kieran Gibbs, who was key in dispossessing Villa to start the lightning move on the 2nd, again played a key role, poaching another pass even deeper in their territory and crossing to rampaging Ramsey at the far post.  Defender Cissoko, caught, needed the most precise of clearances, but found his own goal instead.  3 nil.

That would be all the scoring in the match but Arsenal would secure the points through possession and trying for more.  Our best 2nd half chance was likely a throughball from Oxlade-Chamberlain to Ramsey but the latter’s first touch was a near whiff.  Late on, after gorgeous one touch work on the left from Ozil, Cazorla and subs Jack Wilshere, Lucas Poldolski and Tomas Rosicky–What?  3 attackers subbed in when we have a score-line to protect?!? — I guess Wenger felt the need to get more attackers involved (and we have far more of them healthy as compared to defenders) and, maybe, the score-line was doing the protecting–of the manager–in this case.

So, a result to freshen the spirits after the poor showing in Europe or a mere papering of cracks?

That’s for my old friends, a certain blogger who confuses Cookies and Monsters (and knows his cracks, amongst other things) and the one who demands Victory Con Cordia… It’s a bit of a no-win for the club despite the fact that we’re still looking up at Villa in the table.  They (and early season surprise club, Swansea City) lost today but they are traditionally a mid-table club (at best) and it all could have been a whole lot scarier if their early aggression had led to an opening goal.  Our goal scoring happened so quickly that it’s almost hard to appreciate them and they can’t possibly suggest that our problems have been ironed out.  Bigger tests await which will “prove” if we’ve turned a corner or merely gotten a fortunate few points.

Amongst the players there could be some realignment of opinion about our record signing, given that he both scored and assisted.  Our newest signing might also gain a measure of confidence having done likewise.  Already (previous post comments), we’ve seen some debate about the relative contributions of Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain.  I’d give a shout out to the emerging right hand partnership of Chambers and the BFG and the two Spaniards who performed their duties well and showed a bit of their “technical superiority,” especially as the match moved on.   Kieran Gibbs and Koscielny on the (much) pacier (left) side of our defense (American spelling there…) also had good matches.  Szczesny stood tall in his one moment of true examination.  Best of all, maybe, is that we appeared to finish the match without any fresh candidates for the physio room.

Of course, that’s only amongst the players who actually played.   (Abou Diaby even looked alright after a full 90, even if it was only on the bench…)  A new group will surely come in for the midweek cup match to reveal further truths about the depth of the squad… Do we move on to predictions for that one or continue to breathe sighs (of relief) or dissect this one?

What say you Fine Fellow (maybe not Freaking Out–if only for a moment…) Gooners?

:D

Written by: 17highburyterrace

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