Arsenal might finally have the new Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Ljunberg


The new season is almost upon us, and with new signings coming in fast now there is plenty of reason to be positive. I reckon Giroud will once again be the first ‘attacker’ on Wenger’s team sheet this season, but I will devote a separate post to this at some point this week.

This post is about the possibility of a serious plan B, if not a future plan A: the reintroduction of 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 without a ‘holding centre forward’. We now have the players who can come close to the most magnificent combo of attackers I have ever seen at Arsenal, if not in any team: the Invincibles of Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Ljunberg. The main reason I feel so positive about the possibility to resemble these ferocious, fabulous four is the arrival of Alexis Sanchez: he holds the key.


Alexis = Dennis in the making

For me Alexis is a player who comes very close to what the one and only Iceman once had to offer to us. I watched the Holland – Chile game again this week and studied Sanchez closely. As many know, he is a very good finisher and winger, but he can also play centrally, either up-front or, ideally, in the hole – ala Bergkamp. He can play with his back to the goal, can turn quickly and attack space and/or players with menace, has great ball control and composure, and he can also spot and execute a killer pass at the blink of an eye. On top of all that, he has a great shot and can be a fox in the box too. Sanchez in two words is ‘attacking versatility’ – just like DB10 was – and that is just what we need at Arsenal right now.

So for me Sanchez could be our new Bergkamp. This might take time, but he has the right attitude and in Wenger the best tutor to get there.


Mesut = Robert in the making

Now this will not be universally supported, but I reckon Ozil best position is in the ‘free role’ on the left. Ozil needs freedom and movement and does not naturally hold the area between the opposition’s ‘D’ and the middle line. He still does well at Arsenal in the hole and this is partly because Giroud is so good at holding onto the ball in the middle, allowing Ozil to roam freely; but this is for a different post.

I would prefer Sanchez, or even Jack, in the hole as they both are more natural in owning the area. Ozil is a great player who will ALWAYS add value to a team, with his movement and immaculate positioning and passing, and for me he will be most effective if played on the left with a licence to roam – including into the hole. As such, I can see Ozil developing in our very own new Pires, who was also not a typical left winger. Mesut will always produce assists (and penultimate assists, for a lack of a better word), but in this new system there will be space and time for him to start scoring towards 15 PL goals a season. The beauty of both Mesut and Sanchez is that they can interchange positions, which will make it really hard for opponents to eliminate our ‘creative force’.

Theo soring against Udinese

Santi, Alex and Theo = Freddie in the making

On the right, we need the ‘new Ljunberg’ and this place is up for grabs for the likes of Santi, Ox and of course Theo (and maybe Gnabry eventually). Santi is possibly to slow and lacks defensive discipline at times, and Theo lacks the close ball control skills Freddie possessed, but they both can produce the assists and goals the Swede once produced for us. I reckon Ox come closest to a Freddie-esque player but he would have to work hard to get there; maybe Santi or Theo could play there until he is ready? And there is still scope for Santi himself to work hard and become our very own new Freddie.

The Ox: ready to add the extra spark next season?

The Ox: ready to add the extra spark next season?

Theo, Joel or Alex = Thierry in the making

But who could be the new Henry? At this stage, I can see three options: Theo, Campbell and, my favourite, the Ox. I need to observe more of Campbell’s talents to be sure whether he has all the attributes to develop into a Henry-esque all-round attacker, but what I have seen until now is very encouraging. He has good close ball control and speed, he possesses a great shot and finishes well in the box, but most importantly, like Henry he comes for the ball all the way to the middle, and makes things happen once he has got it. He has presence and attitude and a good engine, despite having to improve his fitness a bit more. He is comfortable with the ball, and also makes good runs with or without it, and he can also pick a good pass. Of course, he still has a lot to learn but he is a very exciting prospect for us, and I hope we hold on to him this season (which is really not a given right now).

I reckon Theo could be lethal in the ‘free central forward’ position, IF played in front of Sanchez, with both Ozil and Santi/Ox on the wings. Key in all of this is Sanchez being our central anchor, who can play with his back to goal and orchestrate our attacks from the area in front of the ‘D’. The one limitation of Theo is attacking players in front of him with the ball (in tighter spaces): Theo needs to be released into space to be at his best and he is not so comfortable with the ball as Henry once was. I find him still more suited to the wing than centrally up-front, but would like to see more of him there with the right players around him.

And that brings me to the Ox. For me he comes closest to what Thierry Henry offered us for so many years. He also needs Sanchez to be in the ‘Bergkamp role’ as to have the freedom to make runs with and without the ball and not have to be the holding man (ala Giroud). Jozefos2013 excellent post yesterday, about the many options for the Ox, has made me realise even more that his best position might well be the Thierry role. Ox is brilliant with the ball when attacking space and/or players: that is his strongest skill. As such, he can play on the wing, just like Henry once used to do. But there is a real thrust in his play: a power and determination to make it to the goal and score, and for this he has the physique, the stamina, the speed and the close ball control/dribbling skills. The Ox also has a good to great shot and a good eye for a through-pass too. I would love him to be played up-front with Sanchez behind him; I reckon he would be revelation there.

I know I am dreaming when I write this, but the prospect of Ramsey and a beast of DM/Diaby (everything that sticks out crossed he stays fit for a long period!) in the double-DM pivot, supporting Ozil, Sanchez and Theo/Santi up-front with Ox/Theo as our furthest forward gradually growing into our new ‘Henry-Bergkamp-Pires-Ljunberg foursome’, has me very excited!

I doubt strongly whether Wenger has these sorts of plans for the team, at least not in the short run. And that is okay, but the prospect of having a really attractive plan-B potentially in place, and that we might have the players now who have the talents and could reach the heights of our former super-attacking Invincibles, is just fecking exciting!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Terrorist Winger, Holding Striker or DM’s Wingman: Will this Gunner Finally Break Through?!

Arsene’s Arsenal War Episode IV – A New Hope!

Since TA’s post about squad rotation and preferred line-ups I’ve been off in dream land at how I want to see Arsenal playing. Basically I would love to see a return to proper counter-attacking football – moving the ball up the pitch in seconds, killing teams off with speed and precision like in the early days of Wenger’s reign.

Before the World Cup, I remember posting a comment on this blog about how brilliant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was looking and how he could be one of the key players to England’s strategy at the World Cup – from Roy Hodgson’s comments in the aftermath of the assault on AOC in the second Stateside friendly it seems I wasn’t the only one to have that idea. I was excited by his pace and control on the ball and was disappointed for him personally that he wouldn’t get to play at a World Cup.

The Ox: ready for a Rambo-style breakthrough season?

The Ox: ready for a Rambo-style breakthrough season?

Having said that, it could end up being my favourite injury ever, and one of the best for his career as he will be fresher than any other WC squad members for the coming season. I believe/hope he can be used in a different way to last season, capitalising on the addition of the world class Alexis and the semi-imminent return to fitness of the former fastest footballer in the world (second now to Arjen Robben), Theo Walcott. If used to an effect pertinent to the situation at hand, I think his versatility can be a major weapon for the team now and in the future.

Let’s look at ways he could be deployed:

1. Terrorist winger. Ox is quick on the ball, can wriggle out of tight situations better than most without relying on his pace, is strong, and isn’t afraid to run at defenders; but at the same time, he generally makes good decisions about what to do with the ball. That decision making will become more refined with experience too. Maybe I’m expecting too much of him but as I’ve commented on a previous post, I envisage something similar to what Thierry Henry used to do to defenders.

2. Holding striker. His strength can help make this happen. Ok, he’s not as tall as Giroud but once he has the ball he can keep hold of it, hold defenders off and wait to link up with advancing team-mates. His awareness and ability to beat defenders will also add to his menace in these situations, as they won’t be able to get too tight on him in case he beats them, which will push the defensive line back and leave more space for our attackers.

3. In time, if Wenger follows up on his comment about Ox being able to eventually play in the middle: designated DM’s wingman. If we have a designated DM in the pivot Ox will have the freedom to roam forward and link up with the four front men. Using attributes already discussed, he can make defences nervous, making judicious runs into the box, passing or carrying the ball out of tight spots, drawing defenders to him and creating space and opportunities for team mates.

In general approach, I favour giving Theo his wish up front and having Ox, Oz and Sanchez behind him. My reasoning is that Theo is becoming acceptably reliable in front of goal (and more clinical than OG) and practice can only make more and more perfect. Whilst Theo would not be able to hold the ball up, the pace we now have in Alexis, Theo and Ox would mean that this would not be such a crucial skill for our front man to have…even if they couldn’t carve out an opportunity immediately, they can keep the ball between themselves for the few seconds until Oz, Rambo, Debuchy and Gibbs get there.

If counter-attacking wasn’t working (as it wouldn’t against Mourinho and his anti-football) and Giroud wasn’t on the field, Ox could then adopt role 2 from my list, and even interchange reasonably freely with Theo anyway, since Theo is used to a role on the right. It would all add to a sense of unpredictability to unsettle defenders.

Role 3 may come in time; he wouldn’t be ready for it now I don’t think – and Ramsey is everyone’s first choice for the kind of role I would like to see him playing if Wenger does move him into the middle eventually, but he could certainly learn to be a superb covering option for that position.

Wenger doesn’t pigeon-hole people and he plays to their strengths, so I think Wenger will use Ox’s versatility to the advantage of the team (including keeping Alex happy with the roles he is asked to assume).

The way I see it, the kind of football we now have the squad to play this season is really an evolution of the 4-4-2 we played in the late 90s – and they are among my fondest memories of Arsenal. I’m excited about the squad we currently have and Wenger’s decisiveness so far this summer. It suggests to me that despite all indications to the contrary since 2006, he knows exactly how he wants the team playing and he can now go and get the players he doesn’t already have to make that happen. I don’t really think there is a lot of room for improvement, although I would love to see a SQ DM come in. I think our attacking options are much more multi-dimensional than they have ever been for as long as I’ve been a Gooner.

It is Wenger’s time to go for the jugular. I’m hopeful of a glorious twilight to his Arsenal career.

How do the tactically astute see it? Am I expecting too much of the boy Oxlade-Chamberlain? Do I think too highly of him? Am I expecting too much of Wenger? Am I being wildly tactically naive? If we played the way I’ve outlined above next season (with a theoretically rock-solid back 6), will it be enough to give us a shot at the title?

On a personal note, I’m looking forward to taking my three-year-old to his first Arsenal game at the Emirates Cup on Saturday so if you’re going too, no swearing please… :)

Written by: Jozefos2013

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Podolski, Cazorla, Ox, Flamini, Vermaelen, Jenkinson, Ospina: a bench to win the PL

We all know that our coming season will be a gruelling one for our core players. We only have a realistic chance of winning the PL IF we can keep them fit, and have excellent back-up players on the bench and in the wider squad. In recent seasons, Arsene has had a tendency to overplay his key players resulting in fatigue, and, in some cases, long-term injury, which in the end cost us dearly.

Rotation is the key word, and for that we need a very good bench to start with: full of experience and hunger and game-changing ability. As per previous post, we are still hoping for a quality DM who can take his place next to Ramsey and complete the team. But say we get one, and/or Diaby will miraculously (it just sounds too good to be true/possible) come good this season (and I really don’t want to entertain the rumour that JW10 will be played in the deeper DM role next season…. utter rubbish), and Ospina will indeed sign; Arsenal will then have a very strong squad to choose from.

If we take as first starters: Szczesny, Gibbs, Debuchy, BFG, Koz, Diaby/DM-Beast (tba), Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Sanchez and OG, and a bench of Podolski, Cazorla, Ox, Flamini, Vermaelen, Jenkinson and Ospina; would we then not have a team capable of winning the PL?! There are also Monreal, Rosicky, Campbell, Sanogo, Gnabry, Arteta and Coquelin to be considered (and we hopefully also get a quality back-up CB in the next few weeks). And of course there is Theo, who should return to the team in the autumn…. And there are youngsters to be considered as well.

My point is, we are not that far off from having a very strong squad now, with the arrival of Sanchez and Debuchy, and likely additions of Ospina, a quality DM and back-up CB.

Looking at the squad, I can understand Wenger to some extent – if it’s indeed true – for having some doubt whether he should get a quality midfielder after all, given the large number of current midfielders he somehow has to fit into his plans… He will be looking at Diaby and Coquelin with strong hope they will come good now; he will also want to find playing time for Ox, Rosicky and Arteta/Flamini and Wilshere – depending on his preferences for the coming season….

My view remains that we lack a super quality DM/all-round midfielder and that we need to sign one asap…. But, standing in Arsene’s shoes, I can to some extent understand the dilemma he is facing right now. It looks like we simply have too many mainly attack-minded midfielders and too few who can actually defend at the required levels. And as long as we continue to play with a double DM-pivot in our 4-2-1-3/4-2-3-1 formation(s), we really need our central midfielders to be able to defend….

Other than a back-up CB, or two IF TV5 is allowed to leave, I reckon the ‘will he/won’t he sign a DM’ – and if not, who will Wenger play as his first choice ‘DMs’- will remain THE blog theme for the next few weeks.

Fingers crossed Arsene makes the right decisions and then our team is ready: with a strong first team, a quality bench and fantastic wider squad and youngsters to build on further.

Some questions for you:

What would be your first eleven?

What would be your strongest bench (maximum of seven players)?

What would you like Wenger to do re the DM situation: buy at all cost, or wait and see and work with the current available midfielders?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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The number one wish of every Gooner


A few days ago, I wrote about the potential brittleness of our defence, and although there is still a good chance that the team will get strengthened in the next few weeks, we should also hope for a more attack-minded style of play that will alleviate the pressure on our defence to a large extent.

The coming season holds the very exciting prospect of two super fast and multi-dimensional Arsenal wings: Theo and Debuchy (maybe even Jenkinson) and Sanchez and Gibbs. With Ozil, Jack, Ramsey, Santi and Rosicky in the middle we also have the sort of players who can pick them out and send them flying forward. The one thing that is missing is a top quality, defence-minded midfielder who can co-connect the back with the front (together with the B2B midfielder), who can protect the back-four and win balls to start of our attacks, who bosses the midfield with ‘Presence!’ (with respect to the American-Kiwi Prof) as well as perfect positioning and reading of the game, and who leads by example throughout the game.

We have had many discussions on Bergkampesque on the sort of midfielder we need to add to the team to get the balance absolutely right. Some, including me, prefer a more traditional DM but with good passing skills; and others want another box to box type of player who can do a bit of defending as well. On the one hand, there are the Macharanos, De Jongs and Wanyamas and on the other hand we have the Schweinsteigers, Khediras and Yaya Toures. At this stage, I would welcome any style of midfielder, as long as they are top quality and experienced.

We have become heavily reliant on Ramsey, who had the perfect start to the season and falls more into the latter camp. He has had a long break and a true professional as he is, will be chomping at the bits for another fully committed and successful season. This could be his year. He works well with either Arteta or Flamini, but it is fair to say that both are more suited for back-up than being the all-season force we require. I am still not convinced Jack should play in the double DM-pivot, but that is for another discussion.

The one player who could fully make our season is of course Abou Diaby.

A fully fit and dedicated Diaby should be THE wish for the coming season for every Gooner. The prospect of him and Rambo bossing the midfield, supporting the back four and feeding the four advanced attackers, is just so appetising. Diaby is a pretty complete midfielder, and I would settle for him in a heartbeat IF he would be able to play a full season for us.

But we know that we just cannot go down this path as the risks are too high. Let’s give Diaby a season in which he hopefully makes 15+ starts and take it from there the season after next.

In the meantime, let’s be sensible and buy a quality DM/all-round midfielder who has everything we need to move us forward. It looks like the club is seriously looking for a quality defensive midfielder, but we have been here before and recent comments by Arsene are pointing in the direction of ‘wait and see how our midfielders will come through the pre-season’. Or is this all just bluff by Wenger to land his prime target? All will be revealed in the next six weeks, and I am curious to hear your views. :)

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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How to avoid the mega-losses: Time for a Mertesacker Plan-B?

What are Arsenal doing to avoid painful mega-losses in the new season? Answer: not much as yet!

Two months ago the season finished and there are just three weeks left till the Charity Shield commences. The question that went through my mind this morning is: what has the club done to prevent more embarrassing large defeats by title contenders in the coming season?

To a large extent this is a question about defending. There are two ways of looking at Arsenal’s defending: defending as a team and the defence itself. Defending as a team is as important as the quality of our defenders, but for this post I would like to concentrate on the latter. And for the avoidance of doubt, I see the defence as the GK, the back four and the two deeper laying midfielders.

Against Mansour City away, our defence got significantly weakened after Flamini was substituted in the second half. Against Pool away, the defence had a nightmare from the start and it was even worse against the Chavs away. These were big, big losses that hurt the club, the players and the fans a hell of a lot. I am sure not to be the only one saying that more of these heavy losses in the new season will be unacceptable. Of course, every club can have a bad day in a season, when everything goes wrong and the players get a real spanking. But with heavy losses against the above mentioned teams and a similarly painful one against Everton away in just one season, we cannot use the ‘bad day at the office’ excuse anymore.

Something needs to change.

And the club has not added to our defence with only weeks to go to the new season. Sagna and Fabianski left, and rumours remain strong that the Lion of Flanders is on his way as well. We got Debuchy to replace Sagna at right back, but nobody else has been signed to strengthen our defence.

We have been crying out for more metal and energy in our double-DM pivot and the links with Khedira were promising for a while. But nothing has happened and the momentum seems to have gone. Quality central midfielders – either DM (my preference) or all-round midfielder ala the German rock – are hard to find. I guess we can cope for a while with the Flamini-Ramsey combo and a fit Arteta can add value as well. However, to really make a step forward we need to add real quality and the sooner this happens the quicker the new signing can play himself into the team.

We also still don’t have a replacement for Fabianski, which could bite us in the arse badly at the start of the season. Whoever we will get, they will need to practice with our back four to get to know how we play and there is now very little time left to safeguard our keeper-cover. An injury to Sir Cesny and we could be in trouble.

But just as pressing is the Centre Back situation. Sagna provided cover for BFG but he has now departed, and TV5 might be on his way as well; which leaves us with just a tired/initially unavailable BFG and Koz. One injury or a straight red, and we could be in trouble.

So what is Wenger going to do here?

Is he going to push Ignasi Miquel forward? Or does he have plans for Jenkinson, Nacho Monreal or even Flamini to become back-up CBs? Or is he going to buy? Some might argue that we need a quality replacement for the BFG in the big games anyway, as to give us a defensive plan-B when necessary. The Germans left the BFG out in the final games and they looked stronger for it (as they like to play with a high-line which can leave our Per very exposed) and we might need to do this as well.

So, fine fellow Gooners, let’s be having your views:

What do we need to do to strengthen our defence significantly in order to make painful mega-losses against our competitors a thing of the past?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Ooh Cesc, what have you done?

‘If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?’

William Shakespeare

Why did Mourinho go for Cesc? Why did Wenger not take him back? And why did Cesc opt for the Chavs?

Questions we all have answers to, but none of us knows the exact truth. The latest comments by the narcissistic one have all the signs of a killer whale tossing a baby seal in the air for fun, showing off to the rest of the world – and especially Wenger – what he has caught: “I think he really wanted to come to us. As you know, Arsenal had an option where they could interfere but I think he was not open to that. He was very much in our direction. It was an easy job for me.”

This is Mourinho bluffing, as he knows he will need to get the supporters behind his pivotal man. Fabregas’ statement straight after his transfer was announced made it clear to all of us that the Chavs were his second choice. This will always stand for me. I said at the time that our former captain took a big risk with that statement, and the self-celebrating one is now desperate to turn perception round; but what is done is done and eventually it will end in tears.

I have no doubt Cesc wanted to come back and I remain disappointed in Wenger for not letting him back in. And despite everything, our ex El Capitan remains one of my favourite former Gunners. But we have to move on and so does Cesc. What I am also disappointed about is that Cesc opted for the Chavs and Mourinho: a club almost hated as much as the Spuds and a manager loathed by the whole of Spain and every Gooner. I am sure there will have been personal and financial reasons for him to do so, but I never thought Cesc would have made such a devastatingly poor choice.

A once great Gunner has become the play thing of his former master’s – and second father’s – fiercest enemy. I am sure Freud would have had a lot to say about this and Shakespeare would have written a beautifully tragic play about it, if they were still alive. Ooh Cesc, what have you done?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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What to do with Ozil | Sanchez the dream attacker | Khedira the final soldier?

Jack and Mesut can lift the team towards the title, if played in the right position and fitness is kind to them (especially Jack)

Jack and Mesut can lift the team towards the title, if played in the right position and fitness is kind to them (especially Jack)

Mesut Ozil is a fine player and at times it takes a trained eye to appreciate him. We are obsessed with goals and assists, and other stats, and yes they have their value. And Ozil’s stats are nothing to be ashamed of: the opposite actually. But you can also just look at him when in action. Ozil adds value to everything he does and that’s what makes him invaluable to a team. His running off the ball and positioning on the field is excellent and his first touch and passing ability are second to none. But whatever he does, with or even without the ball, it adds forward impetus to the team. He is efficient and effective and the proverbial oil to our team.

It is no surprise that Khadera, Mueller and Kroos got all the plaudits for Germany’s humiliation of the overhyped Brazilians. Ozil will not even mind, as he will be happy for the team. I have never seen Ozil play a bad game; at worst, he had a few under-par games last season. For Ozil to do really well the team have to do well, as the silver service he offers requires team mates with fine taste buds. And for Arsenal, it is all about balance: when we had it last season the team purred occasionally, but when we did not, we often looked unimaginative, predictable. Ozil cannot fix us on his own, but he has so much to offer and we should bless our socks he is a Gunner. And to the few doubters I say: you either see it or you don’t, and if you don’t you cannot be helped! :)

Watching Ozil play for Germany has strengthened my belief that he can play everywhere behind the striker and does not necessarily need to play in the hole. This is important, as we need to be able to slot in Jack if and when he reaches full fitness in the coming season. Regulars on Bergkampesque know that I was desperate to get Fabregas to come and join us, as I feel we are missing our former/a conductor in the current team. But now he is not coming we need to look at how we can get the best out of our squad. And Ozil is versatile and can play everywhere but it remains to be seen whether he should play as our CENTRAL conductor again next season… I believe he is best served with a ‘free role on the wing’, interchanging with the nr10 – Jack, Sanchez, Rosicky, Santi – frequently.

The additional fire power up-front of Sanchez is just perfect: another versatile player who can both assist and score a lot of goals (one in three for Barcelona and even better for his country, says it all). We will now be fielding a very strong attack, especially when everybody is fit. I would love us to play regularly with OG upfront, Ozil and Theo ‘on the wings’, and Jack or Sanchez in the hole. But we can also play with Ozil in the hole, Sanchez and Theo on the wings and OG to hold it all together; and what about Sanchez as the holding striker, Pod or Ozil and Theo on the wings and Jack, Santi, or the almost forgotten Rosicky, in the hole? Add to this the likes of Ox, Sanogo, Campbell, Eisfeld (is this his year?) and Gnabry and you can see Wenger has a lot to play with: mouth-watering prospects, and surely we do not need another attacker now!

Key is, though, that they get good support from the ‘Double-DM pivot’ players. Ramsey has arrived as a first choice player and he has become our very own ‘Kroos’. A fully fit and rearing-to-go Flamini can do a job for a while, but as said on many occasions, we need to strengthen in this area during the summer. The overusing of Flamini cost us dearly as his discipline started to slip the more knackered he became. I expect him to be rearing to go and do a great job again, but it will not be enough for the entire season.

So the rumours re Khedira are encouraging, although it now sounds he might not be coming after all. This is the most important position for Arsenal to fill as the World Cup demonstrated to us once more. The phenomenal likes of Macherano, Khedira, Schweinsteiger and De Jong have been among the real superstars in Brazil. Key for me is that Arsene now appears to take the filling of this vacancy very seriously, and Khedira would just about be right: he can be our new Vieira, who we never really replaced. I still prefer an outright DM (who can pass as well) but I would also like us to put the wall of RamDira in front of our back four and behind our magical attacking options.

So, things are looking up, especially if Arsene does get us that quality DM, allround powerhouse of a midfielder as soon as possible. Add a RB (seems sorted?) and a young, up and coming CB and we are ready for battle – and Vermaelen needs to stay, tough titties! :)

Less than a month till the Charity Shield opener and many friendlies and Emirates Cup before that…I am starting to sniff the new season is upon us. CoYG!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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