We all know better than Wenger

Wenger

Last night’s defeat against Dortmund was a painful one: we were ‘out-systemed’ by Klopp and throughout the ninety minutes we had no answer to it. The Germans played with a great tempo and gang-pressed our players continuously: outnumbering them around the ball almost constantly. We were unable to build our attacks from the back and pass the ball round in midfield, and we also could not thump it forwards towards a holding striker. They played in concentrated units of three/four/five players around the ball, whereas we stuck to our positions and spaces a lot more. The crowd whipped the home players up and we looked stunned and apathetic from the start.

I really think our players were up for this though, but we just could not handle Dortmund’s system of football, the high tempo and pressing football. It was embarrassing but it might provide the team with some valuable lessons: ‘Oh the sweet uses of adversity’ as Shakespeare once said.

The responses by fellow Gooners have been varied, yet predictable: some want to change the formation and some the players, and there is merit in all of it. We all have our hobby horses, and especially when we lose we like to get them out of the stable. My head buzzes with thoughts like:

  • For 4-1-4-1 we do not have the right DM: so why play this formation?
  • Why did we not buy a proper, footballing DM this summer?
  • What has happened to BFG and Koz’s fine partnership?
  • Should we adjust our system to get the best out of Welbeck?
  • Am I mad and almost everybody sane by disagreeing about Ozil’s ‘best position’?
  • Why has Wenger changed from 4-2-1-3 to 4-1-4-1, and why did it work okay against the Nothern Oilers and not against Dortmund?
  • Etc, Etc.

Like many others, I have some reservations about Wenger’s approach to our football at the moment – formations, style of play, player purchases, etc – but we should be careful with jumping to conclusions. It is early season and the preparations for the new season were short, due to many international players returning late and CL qualification needing to be secured against a tough opponent. We did qualify but drew one or two games too many, and now we have been outplayed/out-thought by a rampant German team.

Dortmund are capable of this, as the money-no-object team in Madrid will testify. Many regard the self-adoring one as a great manager, but also he had no answer to the Deutsche Welle two seasons ago. Sometimes you just have to hold your hand up and say: we were second best and well done to the opponent. Key is to not make too much of it and move on, especially so early on in the season. It is a defeat we can afford after all.

In football, and life in general, you can always respond to a disappointment or set-back in three ways: do nothing, make changes, reinforce your belief in the road you have chosen. We are all fantasy football managers who can instantly suggest what Wenger needs to change in order for Arsenal to become a trophy-winning side. We can have these opinions and utter them without a care in the world.

But Arsene is the manager and he has an entirely different weight on his shoulders than us arm-chair managers. When he lay there on the beach in Brazil a few months ago, he day-dreamed of winning silverware with 4-1-4-1 and he got Sanchez and Welbeck, Debuchy and Chambers to make it happen. Let’s give him a chance to see this new formation and style of football through, and not jump to conclusions yet.

Keep the faith.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Preview & Line-up: Diaby, Arteta or Chambers for Flamini | Bellerin & Welbeck starts?

signaliduna_front1

Dortmund are without Reus, Gundogan, Hummels, Kirch, Sahin and Blaszczykowski, so we could be thinking we are in with a decent chance to put the Germans to the sword tonight. But Klopp does not rely too much on the quality of his players as he drills all of his squad players into one or more positions, all based around a well-defined system and style of play. That is what I like about madman Klopp, and why he remains a strong candidate to replace AW one day in the future.

Regardless of who will play for Dortmund, they will give us a game all right. The passionate Schwarzgelben supporters – the Signal Iduna Park holds over 81000 spectators – will fire their team on; and despite the injuries they will be up for this, building further on the confidence gained during their recent successes in the CL (reaching the final only two seasons ago).

We will need to be at our very best to get a result tonight, and with injuries ourselves, especially in defence, we are vulnerable. Monreal did not travel, Debuchy is a long term injury worry (today we shall find out more, apparently), Gibbs has only just returned (always a risk of getting injured again straight away) and our multi-functional replacement defender Chambers is only fifty-fifty, as he is suffering from tonsillitis.

Young Hector Bellerin smells an opportunity here, and it would be great for him if he gets a start. We all know he has phenomenal speed and close ball control and is great going forward: the question is whether he can defend well enough at this level. The BFG will mentor him and together they can profit and compensate from each others strengths and weaknesses…. but it is a big game to try this out. If Chambers is fit, I reckon he will get the green light for the RW position, but with the potential of fatigue or injury (knock on wood) of our defenders during the game, there is a big chance we will see Bellerin taking part at some point in tonight’s encounter.

The rest of the defence picks itself, and it is no time to experiment with a new goalie, I reckon. So back-five of: Szczesny – Chambers – BFG – Koz – Gibbs.

In midfield, we probably see Arteta being played behind the ‘four horsemen’: Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere, Alexis. I reckon, Arsene will be keen to let these four ferocious midfielders play together again, after they were able to dominate play so well for long spells against the Northern Oilers on Saturday. There is a chance Wenger will spring a surprise with giving Diaby a start in this one, and if he is fit enough to do so, who would complain about that? The 4-1-4-1 would suit him very well (as Scottishgunner pointed out as well in the last post).

I am also quiet sure Welbeck will get another start. He had a promising game on Saturday, and away from the home crowd and the sky-high immediate expectations, he can ease a bit and add real value to the team – which isn’t just about goals and assists…

So, my predicted line up for tonight is:

Ars v Dort Sept 2014

My preferred line up is not very different. I want to see more of 4-1-4-1 now I have seen its potential against MC, but would love us to play either Diaby (if fit) or Chambers in the DM role, with Bellerin at RB.

Really looking forward to tonight’s game: two proper clubs, with fabulous managers, playing proper football at the highest level. This is why we love football. Let the battle commence!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

 

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Jack and Alexis raise bar, Welbeck impresses, Defence….: Match Review

Despite being peripheral to much of the action Alexis Sánchez provided Arsenal's winning goal.

Saturday’s game against the Champions was a good opportunity to gage how much progress we had made since last season.

The verdict in a nutshell: our defence – including our sole DM – not solid and composed enough, our midfield now bursting with quality, and our attack/ability to create chances and score goals in the biggest games has also improved significantly.

Unlike last season’s visit by MC, when they were happy to play for a draw, this time round our opponents wanted the three points badly. The Chavs have started the season well as expected and the totally unpredicted loss against Stoke, have put a lot of pressure on the Champions to keep up. The same goes for Arsenal of course, who managed once again to qualify for the CL in August, but had dropped two valuable points in and against Leicester and found themselves four points adrift from the league leaders before this big game.

MC were missing Yaya Toure who was replaced by lost-looking Lampard, and Milner was put on the left to protect the vulnerable ex-Gunner Clichy, mainly by kicking the proverbial out of Debuchy. Fernandinho was also clearly instructed to put his boot in every time Jack or any of the other midfielders threatened to get past him – because that’s when Arsenal are at their most dangerous – and the awesome Silva, very effective Navas, and efficient Aguero were there to produce the attacking football.

Arsenal had opted to start Welbeck (with Sanogo not even on the bench: was he injured?), play four mainly attacking midfielders behind him, and protect the back-four with our best option as DM, the willing but wilting Flamini. It looked at times more like 3-1-5-1, as our ‘LB’ Nacho was almost constantly situated higher up the pitch, functioning as a fifth midfielder.

First half

After a couple of minutes of MC pressure, Arsenal took over with our four midfielders (in our 4-1-4-1) formation dominating play. Jack led the charge with energetic and aggressive play both at the back and the front. Early on he produced a brilliant diagonal ball over the top of the MC defence and the alert Sanchez almost got there to head the ball past the quickly anticipating Hart. Welbeck is lively and constantly moving, never allowing the experienced MC back-four to settle. It is clear that he wants the ball in behind the defensive lines, but our midfielders expect him to play in front of the opposition’s defence ala OG, and a few balls go astray.

Arsenal v Man city

Then, unexpectedly, the stuff of dreams – or nightmares – happens. A nonchalant ball back from midfield to his defence by Silva, is quickly anticipated by Danny and he gets a free run at goal with just the keeper to beat. He produces a Bergkampesque lofted ball over the beaten Hart and everybody thinks it is going in, but it hits the woodwork and the keeper can collect. So close, and what a goal it would have been for the newly arrived attacker.

The near miss is a pivotal moment in the first half. MC wake up and appreciate their lucky escape and the crowd and Gunners experience the heavy realisation that this missed opportunity might cost us dearly in this game (similar to Ozil’s missed penalty against Bayern). Our inexperience of beating fellow top teams is still weighing heavily on us, and every time we miss a very good opportunity it sets us back, it seems.

Welbeck does not seem to be too much influenced by the miss though: he continues to be a nuisance to the MC defence and starts to play better when receiving the ball with his back towards goal. The first quarter of the game is for us: good dominance, one big chance, we are enjoying our football; but, it is fair to say, we do not come close enough to the MC goal to produce clear-cut chances.

Monreal offers great drive going forward and partners well with the industrious, and also defensively sound, Alexis. Every time we regain the ball in our own half we break well, with all midfielders playing their part, but especially Alexis and Jack the most driven and composed. MC’s pre-planned answer to this is to foul our midfielders as soon as they can: cynical but effective. Luckily the referee is handing out yellow cards for this and it only seems a matter of time before one of our breaks will lead to a good goal scoring opportunity.

Our style of play needs goals of course, as we are constantly taking risks with playing Nacho so high, leaving space behind him for the attacking three of MC to pounce on us. And that is, unsurprisingly, exactly how they scored their first goal. The ball breaks to midfield and Flamini’s tackle seems to be well-timed and effective, which it needed to be. But Navas, in a Marc Overmars reminiscent way, manages to collect the ball before it goes out, and runs like a hare towards goal. Nacho and Koz hesitate to make a tackle, allowing speedy G to put the ball into the box. Flamini and BFG seem still in control, but the Frenchman allows Aguero to run past him and score a simple goal. A very disappointing moment by all players involved, but especially Flamini who, with his experience and the role he is playing in, should have done a lot better. 4-1-4-1 without a proper, athletic beast of a DM, seems to ask for this sort of punishment…

Getting behind, combined with the strong sense of a missed opportunity earlier on, now make us weary, both on the pitch and in the ground. MC sense this and start playing the better football, disrupting our play with more and more ease. Ozil and Wilshere try to get it all going but we are not using the width with even Nacho not sticking to the by-line, and Debuchy being held back by Milner. It is all too intricate and easy for MC now, and Welbeck is not getting much involved at this stage. The consistent fouling aimed to disrupt constantly our flow of football continues, and we do not create anything worthy of mentioning anymore during the first half.

Second half

We start good: energetic and with purpose and bite. We get the ball into the box now but the well-drilled MC defence holds strong. Ozil gets more involved in the direction of our play but his passes (and shooting), especially over a longer distance, are not sharp enough to trouble the Oilers. The same goes for Sanchez’s final ball who does all the hard work to get near the box, but then just does not deliver the perfect through-ball.

After ten minutes the game seems to balance out, which is not good for us as we are behind. It needed a moment of inspiration, and it pleases me tremendously that it was Super Jackie Wilshere who delivered it: and in some style!

The ball was won in midfield and quick combination play between Jack, Alexis and Rambo, allowed the Welshman to perfectly guide the ball into Jack’s feet in the box. There was still a hell of a lot to do, but a quick shimmy got him past the opposing defender, and with his head held high, looking for the best option at a moment when the adrenaline is pumping like crazy, he is still able to adjust his feet to fool the MC players as if he is passing it with his left foot, to only use his right foot, daftly kicking it high and measured past the beaten Hart.

What a goal: it needed something special to crack the Oilers’ defence and Jack delivered it. Wilshere the new Fabregas? The new Pirlo? Or the new Bergkamp?! He has got it all! hahaha ;)

After three quarters of the game, soon after our equaliser, Dzeko – the ‘Giroud’ of MC – comes on for Aguero: a change which almost undid us towards the end of the game. But Arsenal now take proper control and Welbeck is everywhere again, after a quiet start in the second half. Fernandinho is lucky not to get a second yellow for bowling Welbeck over off the ball, when the Englishman is about to run into the box, or after petulantly kicking the ball away after another foul is committed on the fabulous Alexis.

Then the moment of total ecstasy arrives.

Arsenal apply pressure and a ball into the box is headed away by the fine warrior Kompany, despite being challenged by Welbeck who gives the colossus a friendly nudge in the process (; The ball ends up with Jack, just outside the ‘D’: he has the full play in front of him and instantly sees that Alexis is free. His cushioned header reaches the Chilean Master who volleys the ball high in the air and with deadly precision under the bar, past a fully beaten Hart. What a clinical, top quality finish! Alexis had been working so hard all over the pitch and he really deserved that goal. What a signing!

We had the Oilers rattled and had two choices: sit back and see out the game as best as we can, or attack for the third goal. Both are risky approaches and we all know what happened next.

We had one great opportunity to score the all important third goal – ‘two goal cushion goal’ – when good link up play by Welbeck, and fine combination play between Ozil and Jack let to the latter clipping a masterly ball over the now tired MC defence. Ramsey did well to anticipate it and beat the MC defence, but his finish lacked the control his fellow midfielders had been demonstrating earlier. Three moments of total quality were perhaps too much to ask.

MC were adamant that Jack handled the ball in the box before our attack, but if you look closely, you will see that Jack’s arm was tucked back by a MC player which then sprung it forward towards the ball. Never a handball. :)

Then came the near sucker punch. A simple corner, badly defended: a free header for Demichelis, followed by a ‘nearly safe’ by Szczesny, or even Flamini: 2-2. Our ecstasy levels dropped immediately and the emotional roller coaster was almost completed. Giving away the hard fought for lead so soon, just as we did against Leicester before the interlul, was a painful experience for all.

After that, we somehow held on for the draw as the Oilers smelled blood. The woodwork and an excellent low safe by Szczesny, both from goal efforts by Dzeko, saved us. At this stage our defence were pulled all over the place, as Citeh combined with menace and intent – attacking a lot better now that Dzeko had taken over the central attacking position from Aguero and Silva could move closer to our box.

A draw was a fair result in the end. Our midfielders and attackers worked hard to get us in front but our soft underbelly of a defence/DM unfortunately cost us once again. Debuchy’s horrible injury did not help, but I expected more organisation and leadership from our experienced CBs and DM in the latter stages.

There is little time to learn lessons from this truly fantastic, yet educational game, as Dortmund await tomorrow, which will be another top-level encounter for everyone involved.

But the two big positives are that Jack is starting the hit the form many of us knew he is capable of, and Alexis is the sort of all-round attacking player we have all been hoping for. On top of that, Welbeck had an encouraging start to his Arsenal career, and once Ozil and Rambo start to hit proper form we will do some serious damage to our opposition. Let’s hope this starts on Tuesday night.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Akpom composed & deadly | Zelalem plays like Ozil: U21 Match Report

The Young Guns – Aston Villa v Arsenal

Under 21’s

Chuba+Akpom+ir6OLDOc5zsm

This was a game Arsenal should have been expected to win, as they have been in good form this season, and they were aided by the experienced pair of Diaby and Coquelin. However, they were made to work hard for their victory, which keeps them at the top of the table.

The full line up of: Martinez in goal; Ormond-Ottewill(B54) LB; O’Connor and Hayden the CB’s; Bellerin RB. Midfield: Diaby And Coquelin Holding, and Crowley AM; (1st half) Zelalem CAM, and Akpom up front. Maitland-Niles was sort of somewhere between second striker, winger and AM.

The first piece of action from the Gunners’ came on the counter, with the ball played out to M-Niles who showed good pace, drifted into space from the left and hit a beautiful controlled curler that hit the bar, with the keeper beaten all ends up. Sadly, that was the last time he was seen out there during this half. Arsenal really struggled to control the game through some sloppy passing. Zelalem hardly got a touch of the ball, Coquelin and Diaby were trying difficult passes that Villa were able to cut out.

However, the solid central barrier of O’Connor and Hayden – the latter had the captain’s armband – meant Martinez was never troubled, despite getting a series of corners off other defenders. These were not always cleared effectively, but Martinez claimed everything that came his way.

Going the other way, Crowley showed some good skills, but had a couple of long range shots when a pass might have been better. Akpom’s 1st goal came about not from a tremendous build up play, rather more a case of a defender trying to be too clever and allowing Akpom strength to rob him just outside the Villa box. He showed a neat bit of skill in committing the keeper one way, skipping past him and cutting it back into the bottom left hand corner. A real composed finish which was all  by his making. He had a glorious chance to double the score when showing some real pace to get clear of the defence, one on one with the keeper, but he took it too close to the keeper who just managed to get an outstretched leg to it. And the half ended with just the one goal lead.

Whilst Arsenal had the better chances, Villa could, or should have made more of theirs. On one occasion they had a man over when both Bellerin and B54 were caught up-field, leaving acres of space behind them. Both the full backs made some great overlapping runs down the line which did not bring any joy in front of goal, so one suspects that one of the ‘holding’ midfielders were not holding their positions?

It was to change in the second half.

Bellerin’s runs over the halfway line were noticeably curbed. Zelalem suddenly became Mr Available rather than Mr Invisible in the first half. M-Niles now was instructed to stay on the right, and thus keep Bellerin from advancing too far forwards … But it was Villa that came out with the greater threat.

Gedion+Zelalem+TbglDkT6fKbm

Their first attempt went through Bellerin’s legs and deflected past Martinez’s far post. Another saw our keeper make a last minute stop as a ball sped towards the inside of the upright. Although his parry went straight to a Villa player, he was ruled off-side when the ball came in … and from two yards he skied it anyway, which sort of summed up Villa’s night.

Meanwhile our attacks were looking much more menacing with Zelalem getting involved much more. M-Niles cut in from the left and hit a tame shot on his weaker side. Hayden found himself in the opposition box and cut a precise pass/cross to the far post. Unfortunately, both M-Niles and Akpom were waiting, and the former put it wide. A similar thing late on with Bellerin: having a mazy run off the right wing took him past three defenders, one of our strikers, only to come to a halt when Akpom helped make a double barrier with the defender clearing.

Finally though, Akpom was on to a trade mark Zelalem pass that Ozil would have been proud of, squeezed past two defenders as the keeper came out, and as he was falling he toe-flicked towards the far post with the keeper helpless, and it curled in off the post. Similar to Sanogo’s 4th against Benfica, except this had further to travel.

So top honours went to Akpom, who might have had a second hattrick, but has now scored 6 in 3 games for the Under 21’s!

Of the others, Diaby got through 90 minutes. Held on to the ball well, but will need a few more games like this to get his real sharp passing going.

Bellerin was ever keen to get forwards but played a more disciplined role in the second half. He made some good defensive tackles too, but also lost out a few times when over-doing the trickery.

Hayden had an impressive game, giving out an unruffled calm worthy of Per himself. If I was to be picky, I would say he could direct his clearances at teammates rather than just clear the lines, but that is being really picky!

Coquelin was hard working, but sadly he doesn’t look the part for a step up, and time is running out. He will get more opportunities at this level, but his passing is a bit wayward.

B54- Brandon Ormond-Ottewill to give him his full title made some great runs down the left, and followed it up with some dangerous crosses. He has not had the exposure that Bellerin has had, and has a little more time to develop, but is a lively sort who may just be right to take over from Nacho in a couple of years?

O’Connor is only in his first season and will benefit from having Hayden around. He should take advantage as he will get a new partner pretty soon, I think?

Whilst talking of defenders, Martinez in goal looked like somebody who had stepped down a level. I think he will be anxious to strut his stuff with the first team whenever he can.

Crowley has a touch of goal thirst on him from what I saw. Somebody will be having a word in his ear to tell him he is a creative midfielder, and that creativity should be directed at others first, and should only shoot when there are no better options available. That was not the case tonight, but he is one of the younger ones stepping up. Skillwise he looks the part.

Zelalem was a tale of two halves. When he can nail his second half display into a 90 minute performance, he will be a force to be reckoned with, and this second 45 will do his confidence the world of good.

I felt I was robbed of seeing the true Maitland-Niles tonight. He may not have the high profile of some of his team mates, but I see a very good player developing in him. He may not make it through to Arsenal’s first team anytime soon, or maybe not at all? But he will do any side proud for effort and no mean skill on the ball.

Chuba Akpom? What don’t you know already? He is tall, strong, quick, with a deft touch around goal … and he has got his head down to get a first team start. The COC beckons, and with a slight vacancy for pace down the left side, he could make more than one appearance … this season.

Overall, it was Akpom who made the difference in the scoreline, but all can be happy with some parts of their game. As to claims for a spot in the Southampton COC tie, Hayden is the standout for me. Others will have to see who is rested.

Written by: Gerry.

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Van Gaal is doing Welbeck a disservice

Van Gaal today (from BBC website): “He [Welbeck] played three seasons for the first team, but he doesn’t have the record of Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney. And that is the standard,” and “That is why we let him go, because of Falcao, but also to allow the youngsters to fit in. That is the policy. That is why I am here.”

Well, what is the gracious Dutchman comparing Welbeck against? Rooney is now 28 and Van Persie is 31. So surely, he should compare DW23’s current goal scoring record against the records of the mega-earners when they were 23.

 

Welbeck Van Persie Rooney
Club PL games and goals scored when 23 (goals per game) 92-20 (0.22) 111-25 (0.23) 224-80 (0.36)
International goals scored after 28 games  (goals per game) 28-10 (0.36) 28-9 (0.32) 28-11 (0.39)

 

So, compared to Rooney, Welbeck is well behind in terms of PL goals per game by the age of 23 (0.36 v 0.22), but not so far off in terms of goals per games in international matches (0.39 v 0.36); and I predict Welbeck to catch up with Rooney soon if he keeps getting starts for England. We all know that Rooney had an incredible successful start of his club career and that Welbeck has not been given the same first team exposure at a similar age. Nevertheless, it is fair to say Rooney performed better by the age of 23 than Welbeck does currently/ at the same age.

However, compared to Van Persie, Welbeck has nothing to be ashamed about. His PL tally is slightly worse, and his international record after 28 games is slightly better. They are even at the age of 23 and we know how the traitor developed subsequently: and this should offer encouragement for Welbeck.

All Welbeck needs is the confidence of the manager, patience and a good run of games – hence his sheer enthusiasm for coming to the home of football. Van Gaal needs instant success and is under a lot of pressure. Falcao is a proven goal scorer and I understand why he got him. But don’t put the boot into Welbeck with unfair statistics. It was a classless thing to do, and oh boy will Danny be motivated to proof him wrong, time and time again!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Line-Up against MC: Rosicky to start, FlamShere in midfield, Sanogo or Welbeck?

Is it time for Rosicky to start a match?

Is it time for Rosicky to start a match?

Over the last few days, many a Gooner has given us their predicted/preferred line-up for the game against Man City on Saturday. As I far I can tell, nobody has predicted exactly the same line-up, which tells us both that we have a lot of players ‘to play’ with and are still undecided about our best eleven this season.

This is one of the nice things of blogging: predicting and dreaming about line-ups. I have predicted the line up many times but seldom got all eleven correct. This is partly due to Wenger often doing something unexpected AND my inability to keep the personal preferences fully out of the equation.

It looks like Ramsey’s twisted ankle is not too bad, and he might even play on Saturday. As others have noticed, Aaron is not firing on all cylinders at the moment, despite the goals he has bagged already. But he scored the all important second against the Northern Oilers during the Community Shield game in August, and if he is fit, he should play in my opinion. On the other hand, we have a big game in and against Dortmund midweek, and maybe it is better to rest Aaron for that bruising encounter.

It is also not clear whether Ozil is fully fit again. He missed both the Germany games but I have a gut feeling he will play on Saturday. Mesut is another player who has been struggling for match fitness and form a bit, and after two weeks of rest, this is the one for him to shine in and ‘re-launch’ himself.

Many predict a start for the Basle Brace hero, but I am not so sure. I reckon Wenger will start Sanogo as this game might just come a little bit too early for Welbeck. It takes time to settle into a team and get to know your team mates, and there would be a lot of pressure on Danny. I feel he might start against Dortmund instead, away from the home crowd and with some more days of practising with his fellow attackers under his belt. It would also be typically Wenger to persevere a bit longer with Sanogo and place Welbeck on the bench.

Many have Santi starting in the hole, as they assumed Ozil would either not be fit yet, or be played on the left. I am not a big fan of Cazorla in the hole, as he stays too close to the box and does not track back enough. Our midfield and attack are often too disconnected when he plays there, and he has not got the thrust that, for example, Jack or Rosicky have. These two are also better at bossing the midfield, whereas Santi’s strength is playing just outside and inside the box (an ideal formation for him would be 4-4-1-1 with him behind the striker). Personally, I would play Alexis in the hole in each and every game: he is the perfect mix between an attacking midfielder (Cesc) and a nr.10 (Bergkamp) and I would love him to take that role as our first choice; but that is unlikely to happen on Saturday.

I reckon the back five will be unchanged and both Flamini and Wilshere will be played in the ‘2’ of the anticipated 4-2-1-3 formation (rather than 4-1-4-1). I am a big believer of playing Jack in the hole, but he is not ready for it as yet (as we need regular goals from this position, and his final pass needs to improve a bit further). I also liked what I saw of him in the deepest midfield role in the ‘diamond’ against the Swiss: there is a potential Pirlo in Wilshere. So, in order to provide a solid, no nonsense double DM pivot, I reckon we will see both Flamini and Jack ready for battle on Saturday.

That leaves us with the wings. If Ozil is fit, he will start on the left with Alexis on the right (and Cazorla in the middle). If not, it might be Rosicky on the left and Sanchez on the right; or Sanchez on the left and Ox on the right. Whatever it is, it will be a strong attacking line-up, although I am still not too impressed with Ox’s form to warrant a starting place (and I know that many will disagree with me on this). :)

Predicted Line-Up:

Arsenal v MC September 14

Preferred Line-Up:

Ars v MC preferred September

The idealist in me would like Welbeck to start, just for the fun of seeing a new toy in action. I would like us to play with a solid midfield against the Oilers, keeping it tight with our passing and giving them very little time to settle. Rosicky is both so experienced and so passionate that I would love him to start. He had a decent game as captain for his nation against Holland and will want more now. Ozil on the right or left: it does not matter to me, as he will have a licence to roam and help out Welbeck and Alexis whenever possible. And yes Alexis in the hole for me. :)

What do you think fine fellow Gooners – and what are your predicted ad preferred line-ups now we are getting closer to Saturday?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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A Brace in Basel for Welbeck is just perfect timing

A Danny Double in a hard-fought victory over the politest football nation in Europe. Nice. Very nice. This will do his confidence a world of good and is just what we needed before he joins his team mates at the home of football tomorrow. Talent and confidence are the two biggest commodities in football – or indeed in any sport – and DW23 will arive at the Grove with a smile from earlobe to earlobe.

I must admit I have been looking thoroughly at Welbeck for the first time ever today, and I did so with the main aim of judging how well he will fit into the OG role. His hold up play is good but could do with further improvement. His aerial dominance, especially from long balls from the back, is also not at Giroud’s level, but can undoubtedly be bettered.

But his movement was great and his energy levels are very impressive too. Did you see the interview with Shrek and Welbeck at the end of the game? Rooney had been substituted five minutes earlier but was still out of breath and looked shattered; Danny, on the other hand, was fresh as a daisy and radiated with confidence and happiness. What an athlete.

What was very clear tonight is how much DW works for the team; not just sitting back centrally for the ball, but being a nuisance all over the pitch when not in possession of the ball. And when the ball is regained by the team he makes smart and energetic runs into the available space. He is also good at carrying the ball forward, taking on a man, and attacking space with real intent.

Switzerland v England

Although he was a bit lucky with the contact on his shin for the first goal, I was very impressed with his run. He saw what his former team mate was going to do and chose instinctively to run towards the right side of the goal, whilst Sterling made a clever run towards the left side. Rooney did well moving with the ball forward and releasing it just in time for Sterling, who made a great run and put in a peach of a cross towards the fast running new Gunner. How often have we seen two or more players matching each others speed in the last year at Arsenal? With Sanchez, Theo and Welbeck (and Ox and Rambo and the ‘wingbacks’) we now should see a lot more of this. Especially during counter-attacks. Nice.

Welbeck’s second goal was even more enjoyable. Firstly, he was fit and able to make another clever and energetic run after being at it for 90 minutes already. Secondly, his first touch was good, he kept his balance and took time to make a decision; and his subsequent execution was perfect. Finished like a top striker.

So there is plenty of reason to be positive about our new signing and his performance tonight. His pace and ball control skills have been a joy to watch, and although there is plenty to learn for him he showed tonight that he can hit the ground running at Arsenal.

There will not always be so much space available for him to shine of course, and we will have to see how he does against the park the bus teams in the CF/Holding Striker position. But this game, with a brace in Basel, is just what the footie doctor ordered.

Cannot wait to see him at the Grove. Our army of midfielders will be licking their lips!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

 

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