Van Gaal to Arsenal? Would he move us to the next level?

Dutch football media fully expect Louis van Gaal to go to England after the world cup, but they are still divided as to which club he will be managing. VI International, by far the best Dutch ‘voetbal’ magazine, reported that one part of football journalists expect Van Gaal to go to the Mancs, and the other part actually believe he will be managing our very own Arsenal next season.

The latter believe the  fact that the club have still not announced a new contract for our current manager, and the imminent arrival of three Dutchmen for coaching roles at Arsenal – most notably Andries Jonker, who has worked closely with Van Gaal a few times – could be strong signs that ‘belligerent Louis’ might end up – not at the theatre of nightmares – but at the very Home of Football.

I am a fan of Van Gaal and believe he would suit our club well, as long as he arrives with the blessing of Wenger. Over a year ago, I wrote a post about how Van Gaal would manage Arsenal; and rather than repeat myself, please see link below:

http://bergkampesque.com/2013/03/22/how-would-louis-van-gaal-manage-arsenal/

Now I am not after the sacking of Arsene Wenger; for that, I respect him too much. It is up to Arsene to decide whether he really can take our club to the next level and I trust he will make the right decision this summer.  I have incredible respect for him; especially, for sticking with the club during the financially barren years whilst being at the very peak of his career. He could have gone anywhere to win more (easy) silverware, but he stuck with us; and for this we should remain grateful.

However, I am now doubtful whether Arsene can take us to the next level; and although I don’t want him ever to be sacked, if I am totally honest, I am also not particularly looking forward to another season under his management. In the next few weeks, I will write a separate post about why I fear that Arsene will not take us to the next level (if HH does not beat me to it?!). But this post is about Van Gaal’s potential suitability for Arsenal.

If Van Gaal is indeed coming to England AND Arsene is thinking of moving upwards (or onwards), this would be the moment – the one chance – to approach the Dutchman and steel him away from the Mancs. Arsenal would suit him much better than Man United. We have a team full of young talent and experienced, yet mouldable players, and there is a culture and system of football which is close to Van Gaal’s interpretation of Totaal Voetbal. Arsenal resemble Ajax in more ways than one; whereas Man United have always looked more like PSV Eindhoven in terms of style of football. It would take a long time for Van Gaal to put his stamp on MU and for this he has not got the time or the patience, I reckon. His next job will be his last and he never stays long anywhere, so he is likely to prefer Arsenal to Man United, if he had the choice.

Van Gaal would bring a more disciplined approach to our (total) football and less dependency on the quality and form of individual players. He would use the whole squad and drill everyone into one or more positions: there would be less freedom for individuals to express themselves. The focus would be playing football in a systematic, machine-like way. For every position, there will a number of players who can play in it, but the expectations, or specific tasks, for the ‘roles’ will always be the same. Van Gaal will focus strong on tactics, but like Wenger, he will not adjust these for each and every game: it is all about perfecting the system of football that will eventually conquer all. He is a self-proclaimed relationship manager who will work very hard and close with each and every player to get them to play the way he wants them to. He is very stubborn, just like Wenger[ and he will cause upsets within the team and possible within the club hierarchy as well. But he is also a winner and very keen to manage a club in England….

So if Arsene has decided, or is close to deciding to call it a day, now might be the time to act.

But what do you think, fine fellow Gooners: Would Van Gaal suit our club? Would he be able to move us to the next level, if Arsene calls it a day?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Giroud v Davies, Pod v Wenger, Ozil v Fitness: Hull City Preview + Line Up

Hull City vs Arsenal Preview: Time to Cement 4th

Intro:

KC Stadium

KC Stadium

This fixture lines up with another important fixture in the league, Everton vs Manchester United. We will have to hope United will beat Everton and we can extend our lead to 4 points. That will nearly lock up 4th place for us, as Everton still have to face Manchester City. People say this is an FA Cup final rehearsal, but I disagree. The FA Cup final will be a different stadium, a different atmosphere, a different competition, and different players (Jack will be back for us, Long and Jelavic will be cup tied for them). That being said, this is still a big game and a definite must win for us.

This fixture last time:

Last time this fixture was played, it ended up in a very comfortable 2-0 win at the Emirates. Bendtner scored early in the first half, and Ozil scored early in the second half. I don’t expect to see Bendtner play tomorrow (or ever again in an Arsenal jersey), but Ozil will return tomorrow and I hope he gets on the score sheet again.

Line-up:

PredictedvsHull

I expect Flamini and Ozil to return to the lineup, and I reckon Santi and Kallstrom will be dropped. I believe Santi will be dropped due to his small physical stature, and Poldi will stay in due to his more physical presence being lined up against the fast and physical Elmohamady. Flamini will go up against the big presence of Huddlestone. I expect Verm to keep his spot after a fantastic performance against Carroll midweek, and due to Gibbs’ late fitness test.

Key Battles:

Giroud vs Davies: Davies is a talented, physical centre back who has really come into his own this season. Giroud will face a tiring and very physical battle, especially in the air. But if he wins it, then Giroud could be looking at a goal or two tomorrow.

Ozil vs fitness: Ozil has had a long rest and after that, he will be firing on all cylinders. Being an attacking midfielder is partially instinct, but a lot of it is like being an artist. Inspiration is key. Watching lots of football and seeing what other players do is important for a CAM because it gives one an idea of things to try in games. After so long out, Ozil will have lots of ideas, but he will have to be fit to produce his usual world class passing and assists.

Podolski vs Wenger: This is another chance for Podolski to show Wenger what he can do and grab his spot for next season. Two goals mid-week is a good start, but he needs to be more consistent and score more goals per minute to earn his spot, because scoring is pretty much all he is good at (relatively, he can do other things, but not so that other players in our squad can’t do these better).

Casualties of War:

WengerWincing (2)

Arsenal:

Monreal and Gibbs face late tests, Diaby is back but not fit, and Walcott continues to be out with his ACL injury. Wilshere and Gnabry should be back soon, hopefully next weekend.

Hull City:

Hull doesn’t appear to have any injuries that I can find. Long and Jelavic will return after being ineligible for the FA Cup semi-final.

Predictions:

I predict a 3-0 to the Arsenal. Giroud, Ozil, and Sanogo will all score in a comfortable score line for the Arsenal.

Questions:

1. What are your predictions for the game?

2. What is your preferred line-up?

3. Do you think Everton will drop points again

COYG! Let’s seal 4th place this weekend!

Thanks for reading! :D

Written by: Dylan.

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Sczcesny, Fabianski or ANother next season?

A couple of well respected regulars have been debating who should be our nr.1 goal keeper.        Fabianski has done well this year, proving to be a safe pair of hands throughout the FA cup campaign. Szczesny is having a decent season, but just does not seem to be able to leave out his mad max moments in most of his games, putting his team in danger without any or little reason.

Szczesny is an extrovert chancer whereas Fabianski is more introvert and focused. Both have been prone to errors in the past and are not the finished article, but they have potential and goalkeepers reach their peak usually a lot later than their on field players.

I am interested in hearing the views of the wider Gunners’ fan base: who should be in goal for Arsenal next season: Fabianski, Szczesny or should we buy some one – and if so, who?

Over to you fine fellow Gooners!

TotalArsenal.

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4-4-2 till the end the season? Arsenal – West Ham Afterthoughts

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After the FA cup semi-final game against Wigan I was critical of both Cazorla and Podolski. I felt they did not do anywhere near enough to justify the trust Wenger put in them, their seniority in the team and the wages they collect every Friday afternoon. But yesterday, against the Hammers, they both performed significantly better, powered on by the veteran playmaker Rosicky behind and around them.

Cazorla played with a lot more zest and invention, even occasionally taking on defenders in and around the box to make things happen. He added another dimension to our attack yesterday, benefitting from Rosicky’s drive and willingness/ability to motor on our attack.

The other big positive yesterday was the Pod’s brace. We all know that if there is a chance in the box, Lulu is the man who should be at the end of it. His hammer of a left foot is absolutely deadly, especially in the box.

This has made me think again about what to do with the Pod: should we keep him and where should we play him in our formation/team?

The problem with him is other than a great finisher, and the occasional attempts to go past his man on the left flank and get the ball in the box, he does not offer much to the team. Wenger does not appear to like these sort of players: we only have to think about Arshavin, who although  a different kind of ‘left winger’ – let’s face it, neither of them really are – also had special individual attacking qualities but was neither blessed with great stamina and team spirit.

Without Theo, Jack and Ozil, the Ox still learning and Rosicky unlikely to play each and every game till the end of the season with the same vigour as last night, will Wenger opt for what looks like a 4-4-2 formation during the last games of the season? With Giroud (or Sanogo) our main target man and the Pod feeding off him with the same hunger and deadliness as he did against the Hammers?

Could this be Arsene’s new Plan B?

I thought it looked like we did indeed play more or less in a 4-4-2 formation, albeit with the full backs providing most of the width. Rosicky helped the DM-pivot duo of Arteta and (the growing on me) Kallstrom in the middle to keep things tight (and we have been looking a lot better defensively over the last two games, despite the two goals conceded), whilst Cazorla seemed to revel in his free role behind the two central attackers (with Rosa adding thrust and creativity).

I have little doubt that a 4-4-2 formation could be a safe way towards gathering as much points as possible till the end of the season, especially with Ramsey (and soon Ozil) coming back to full fitness and Kallstrom and Flamini being available too. But will it mean a lot of crosses into the box, with both Pod and Giroud attacking them, and with Cazorla lurking for any scraps?

Would this formation suit Pod best?

And finally, would Wenger really go back to such basic formation, even just as a temporary measure to keep us above Everton?

Over to you, FFGs :)

TotalArsenal

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BFG shows character, Pod and Santi disappoint, Fab saves us: Arsenal – Wigan Afterthoughts

Our real leader: the BFG.

Our real leader: the BFG.

We knew it would not be easy, and boy did we make it hard for ourselves yesterday. A game of great contrast: Wigan had nothing to fear, with an FA cup in the cupboard and Man City eliminated already this season; but we had almost everything to lose. And it showed.

The recent demoralising – some might say devastating – defeats against title and CL-place contenders Chelsea and Everton, as well as the loss against Stoke and the late equaliser against Swansea, have clearly had an incredible, and under Wenger unprecedented, impact on our players.

I really cannot recall an Arsenal game like this against a ‘minor’ team under Wenger. We were nervous, restless and had very little flow to our football. There appears to be little belief by our players in their qualities and our game plan, as well as any form within the team. But what we cannot say about our players is that they did not give everything yesterday to turn things round and try to win at all costs.

And despite the lack of flow and quality by our boys, they were the better team yesterday and deserved to come out as winners. Wenger had limited options for his starting eleven but I was pleased to see Sanogo start ahead of the knackered and unfocussed Giroud. Sanogo is clearly a work in progress: a raw diamond that needs a lot of sharpening up in the workshop. But what he gives us is energy and unpredictability and I liked what I saw from him yesterday for the entire 120 minutes. He is not ready to be our nr2 striker for the foreseeable future though, before anybody starts jumping on my back! ;)

For me, the real problem was that the two most experienced and successful in front of goal players – Podolski and Carzola – just were not able to influence the game enough: to add that bit of control and quality on which the whole team can build. And for what they earn and the responsibility they have been given by Wenger, this is not good enough. Both players need to play in a free role and depend heavily on the hard work of others in the team, and it was once more obvious that they cannot make our play.

We knew this about Podolski but some believed Cazorla’s best position is in the hole…. I think we know now for sure that he is not suitable for this: too slow, too ponderous and not demanding enough. I like Santi and there is a future for him in the team, but he disappointed me again yesterday. The same goes for Podolski who has ‘moments’ in every game but just does not influence the game anywhere near enough to justify a start. A super-sub for me, but I reckon he will be gone next season.

It was really good to see Ramsey back and he tried hard to motor on our team. Clearly, he is not fit enough to make a significant difference yet, but that will come. Arteta evidently struggled at times but he never gave up and fought through his self-doubts with a steely determination, which I really like about him. And his penalty, the all important first one for the team, was class.

Ox worked his socks off and was desperate to make a difference in this game. It is still clear he is also a work in progress with plenty of weaknesses to improve on, but as an attacking driver for the team he has made massive progress. He was our most dangerous man both in terms of creating and taking chances and let’s hope he will stay fit for the remainder of the season, to add the much needed thrust to our football.

I loved Mertesacker’s goal after an uncharacteristic, nervous mistake (against a player in front of him for once!) that led to Wigan’s goal from the penalty spot. There is something very pure about the BFG: he gives his all and knows about his weaknesses, yet he will give his all to get the very best out of himself – and that goal epitomised him. What you see is what you get and the man fights for our shirt with all he has got. For that we’ve got to love him.

Sagna, Mr Reliable, was once again fantastic: what a club player he is for us. Gibbs did well taking over from Monreal, but the man of the match was undoubtedly Fabianski.

He had little to do during the game, but as we were just not able to control our nerves and apply some much needed composure up-front in 120 minutes of football – except for BFG’s desperate goal and Ox’s fierce goal attempts – it was our other Polish keeper who became the unexpected hero.

There are two sorts of goalkeepers: the uber-confident, extrovert ones and the calm, calculated, introvert ones. Szczesny (and the Wigan goalie) belongs to the former and Fabianski (and Seaman) to the latter. I loved the way he stayed calm and on one spot for each penalty: focussing on the opponent and figuring them out, rather than behaving like an ape and trying to put the opponent off, like his opposite number did. Fab also has a very fine diving technique and he guessed right almost every time.

He made the real difference yesterday and is the reason we are in the FA Cup final. I hope we are still able to sign him up, and if not, that he will find a fine club where he can be the nr.1 goalkeeper for the rest of his career. This he deserves.

So, Hull in the final and still a great chance to win the FA cup. But the Hammers are up next and they will smell blood and tired bodies. More character will be required from our players and we, the fans, need to stay fully behind them.

TotalArsenal.

 

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Six PL games to go: where will Arsenal finish?

images (2)

Technically, the double is still a possibility, but even the biggest optimist will have given up by now.

If it was not for the incredible bonus of still being in the FA-cup, with a great chance to win it this time round, we would feel quite deflated right now. Having been top of the league for so long, it looks like we have to battle it out for fourth place once more; and our game against the Toffees this weekend will be another game of the season event.

For me and many other Gooners, it is this annual déjà-vu experience that is so frustrating: the realisation that we once again are not able to push through to the next level – that feeling that we are standing still. Whether we win the FA-cup or not, deep down we know that we are still short of breaking into the very top of national and international football. As such, it constantly feels we are not making much, if any, progress.

This, however, does not take away the importance of winning the FA cup this season. For all the young guys in this team it is just the tonic they need. I want the likes of Ramsey, Gibbs, Ox, Wilshere (hopefully), Jenkinson, Szczesny, and one or two others who form our long-term future, to experience winning something; and they will not get a better opportunity to do so.

The optimists – often also Wenger-loyalists – point towards key injuries and/or the fact that transition takes time. The doomers point towards lack of tactical qualities of the manager, or lack of player purchases and/or lack of investments – having ‘real balls’ – by our major shareholder. I said last season that I would give Wenger one more season to start making real progress, and will leave it till the end of the season to pull my conclusions.

Looking at our remaining six games, they are all winnable; and if we beat Everton this weekend it might well spur us on to get 18 out 18, which would leave us with 82 points at the end of the season. Now, where would that leave us?

Remaining games of current top four:

Arsenal: West Ham, Newcastle United and West Brom at home; Everton, Hull, Norwich away.

Liverpool: Man City, Chelsea and Newcastle United at home, West Ham, Norwich, Crystal Palace away.

Chelsea: Stoke, Sunderland, Norwich at home; Swansea, Liverpool and Cardiff away.

Man City: Southampton, Sunderland, West Brom, West Ham and Aston Villa at home; Liverpool, Crystal Palace, Everton away.

Current League table:

Liverpool: Played 32, 71 points (GD 49)

Chelsea: Played 32, 69 points (GD 38)

Man City: Played 30, 67 points (GD 67)

Arsenal: Played 32, 64 points (GD 19)

Everton: Played 31, 60 points (GD 18)

Liverpool are on a role, but I predict it will come to an end soon. I can see them drop points in at least four of their remaining six games and we might well still catch up with them.

The Chavs have the easiest run-in of all of our competitors and they remain the favourites to win the league. I really hope they don’t, but I reckon they will. They might drop points against Liverpool but should be able to win the rest…. We need another surprise away loss by the Chavs to catch up with them and let’s hope there will be a couple of Welsh Whirlwinds blowing….

Man City are only three points ahead of us but have two games in hand. With five winnable home games they should be uncatchable for Arsenal, although they could drop a lot of points against the Liverpool clubs and CP. If they were to drop two to four points at home, we could still catch up with them, but let’s face it, this is highly unlikely.

So, in fairness, the PL title is a battle between the current top-three, and unless all three slip up disproportionately we will not win the league, even if we were to win all six remaining games. However, there is still every incentive to try and win each and every game, both to secure a top-four finish and see whether we can still finish third or even higher.

Let’s continue to OGAAT and finish as strong as possible: fight for every point till the end.

COYG! :)

Just for fun, a few questions for debate:

Who will win the league and why?

Other than Arsenal, who would you like to win the league and why?

What will be the top-five at the end of the season?

What was, according to you, an acceptable finish for Arsenal at the start of the season?

What is an acceptable finish for Arsenal as things stand now?

Do you feel the club has made progress this season and why?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Arsenal-City Review: Is this the (latest) season changer?

The Flame

The Flame

First up, read nothing but this! Not only am I a great writer but all the others are misleading. This feeling of course is true of any match report and news. Read enough and you can find any interpretation you want. I read many, all of which said that in the first half City owned Arsenal. Oh, and we were lucky.

Second, for those who wondered, no, I never expected my 4-2-4-0, but a man can dream a little, no? :)

Hmm, so I got to watch on Arsenal TV, courtesy of Sky Sport who likely scheduled it to show a blood bath, mostly for those who also watch NASCAR for the crashes.

Half 1: I saw City get the one and it was deserved. Good break, good shot and good rebound finish. Equally, well defended over a turnover, forced the worst available shot, which was unfortunately excellent and off the post or Scz and the post. And once you’ve the rebound like that, well it’s anyone’s story.

Each side had moments forward and some pressure. City had more shots, but few of any threat or intent. Arsenal had less BUT they were probing a lot more. Just missing going forward in the last effort. Equally several opportunities to get something in the box. For motion with intent we had less ball but, really it was a game of midfield back and forth. City, more ball and shots, Arsenal more threat/probing.

The common factor, both sides defended really well as a team and both did so relatively deep. Key point CM noted. City and DeMechelis were slightly the better. Arsenal were also the less lucky, the rebound (admittedly after pressure) and a realistic contact and penalty not called early on.

Players of the half? OG was very good but a bit lonely. Team defense and Gibbs especially, also. Pod going forward, not so much going back (thank you Gibbs), and TR was always present, almost opposite of Yaya interestingly.

Who won the half? On points, clearly City, on pressure, perhaps Arsenal. How can I say that with less possession and less shots? Well 3 yellows to City to 1 to Arsenal, and invisible Yaya (Toure), and a large number of corners to Arsenal for a team with lesser possession, shows that we were winning, if only just a very very little, most places BUT the all important scoreboard. Still we were forward enough and with some threat just not quite coming off. As we now know the second half would bear a bit of all that out..

Half 2: I won’t reiterate in detail, really. Very much like the first half but we had more possession so the game ended almost equal. Again, with few exceptions Yaya was invisible. The one time,  early in the half at 50mins saw them with a great chance well covered by Scz whose luck turned on rebounds from the first half.

One minute later, it’s all open, and first TR and then Santi are at goal with venom. And then in this open phase, at 52:44, FLAMINIIIIIII!

All that probing that the pundits were calling useless or signs of failure .. Well, one probes not to always score, but to eventually score. The eventually came despite still very good team defending by City.

This ushered  in some Arsenal dominance and almost immediately Sagna offers an almost second goal cross. We were definitely on top in ways the pundits said City were in the first half. But, for real.

This ushers in my thoughts on pundits and The Jordan Effect. If Michael Jordan did something ridiculous, it was amazing and he got the foul! Anyone else was an idiot. Seems that way with Arsenal, so read nothing but your unbiased correspondent here! :)

Then the Pod almost got it for us… Then and then and … We were definitely playing with them.

The rest played out as we know. We won half two decisively but not dominantly, and they did get some opportunities as befits a top team in any game, and thus we were not dominant or lucky enough to pull it out. A “fair” draw in my final thoughts on it.

Overall: lots of good probing, lots of good team defense, and what looked like two top teams having an even or near even go at it. City don’t leave thinking we aren’t top tier and neither should we in my opinion despite our penchant for a wee touch of gloom.

Player of the game: Demichelis, his defense was the extra thing that kept it for City. My opinion but he was disruptive everywhere.

Luckiest keeper: Draw. Both were lucky once.

Impact player: Draw Flamini and Rosicky, with honorable mention to Sagna who very quietly had about 8m crosses in.

Invisible players: TV, Yaya, Nasri. Not bad but not there really. Not OG who was part of the goal with good hold up, but also somewhat lonelier as we sat back a touch. Something we must solve if we play more this way, although the injured would help there with more B2B types off field just now.

Now my thoughts on signs and portents: No, Prince, I am not a believer but for lightening pre-match it was fun. However, I will point out I got the deeper defense, lineup, and half the final score right. Don’t knock the burnt offerings! :)

So, will this be the end of season changer?

I have to believe that our confidence will be lifted. We played well and evenly for the most  part with what is likely the top team in the league. My thoughts:

A. Confidence should be high just when we need it to get through the injuries and the season well. We may not win the rest of our games but we could. The same for all our competitors so…

B. We can play well with a very depleted team, which again has to help going forward and next year.

C. Our need for steal down the middle is clear, though we did well today. TV to DM might be a better deal than trying to find the perfect beast DM for many £.

But, will it change the season?? Well, like the burnt offerings, it’s hard to tell. But, back to my portents.

I was at church with family having seen the scoreline. Sat there contemplating as one does and of course “football is life” when suddenly the ground is shaking. Yet another bloody earthquake here in Christchurch, though a mere 4.0 it was shallow and thus relatively intense in shaking.

So, I was contemplating life and Arsenal and many things. At church… and the earth moved !!

Read into it what you will!! :)

Cheers — jgc

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