Arsenal v Besiktas Afterthoughts: Let’s not be too harsh!

Rusty, ugly and below par but the team fought like lions 

It was not vintage Arsenal tonight: at times we played frustrating football that was hard on the eye. But the boys worked hard for each other and there were some real positives.

I was doubtful about Monreal being the right choice against Besiktas but he played a near blinder. Nacho was tenacious and driven and supported our attack well at times!

Chambers had another fine game, and in a way I am happy he made a mistake or two tonight. That shows he is human and there is some room for improvement: and that is what you expect from a nineteen year old who just joined a new club. He reads the game well and is so decisive with his interventions, and his distribution is very good too.

Koz showed he can be vulnerable at the right side of our defence but he still had a very good game. He works well alongside Chambers, and now I cannot wait to see the young Englishman paired up with the BFG: the German will be able to coach Chambers really well, I feel.

I also liked what I saw from Debuchy. He worked very hard again and keeps supporting the attack. The final ball still needs to improve, and so does his cooperation with Sanchez (and eventually Theo), but I like what he brings to the club.

Jack, Rambo and Cazorla were all disappointing, and the same goes for Giroud. Sanchez tries and tries and he does get a lot of the ball by the team, but the rest are yet to raise their level, which I am sure they well. We all know that our midfielders can play much better than they did tonight (or on Saturday), and we just have to be a bit patient.

But 0-0 is a good result and the boys worked hard to not concede, especially after Ramsey forgot himself for a moment, resulting in a second yellow card for shirt pulling.

Ox came on late and was unlucky for not scoring but hitting the post after a mazy, Messiesque move into the box. It would have been harsh on Besiktas though, who played some good football at times and produced the better chances. It was nice to see Ozyacup doing well and I hope the boy comes good at Beziktas. 

Although I did not enjoy watching the game from a purist perspective, I commend the boys for working hard for each other and all putting a shift in. At this stage of the season, that is all I ask for and the quality of our play will come with time.

Next up are the Toffees, and this will be a big test for the boys. Bring it on! :)

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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TA’s Arsenal Dream Team v Besiktas

With thanks to the best paper in the country, The Guardian, for the picture.

With thanks to the best paper in the country, The Guardian, for the picture.

Football is back, and although it might not be ideal to play Besiktas so soon after our battle against Palace, I cannot help but really look forward to our encounter in Istanbul. And although we won on Saturday, we all want to wash away the taste of a laboured and under-par performance with a committed, passionate, and above all winning, performance tomorrow night.

Rather than go safe and sit back to invite pressure, I hope we start with full throttle and go on the attack from the first whistle. My dream line up for the Besiktas game – rather than the predicted one as I never get these right anymore – is a 4-5-1 formation with real speed and thrust whilst also having some solid support for the back four.

I would like to see Flamini replace Gibbs for this game. We will play with Chambers again, or maybe even Miquel, and so we can do with the extra experience and calm of our French terrier. The rest of our defence picks itself right now, although I would not mind to see Bellerin getting a chance on the right wing tomorrow.

In midfield I would play Diaby if he is fit. He has travelled so he must be fine again. Diaby and Ramsey should be the deeper laying midfielders, but they are also very good in the transition and going forward. In the hole it is Sanchez for me, with OG in front of him. And on the wings, like many others have said in the past 48 hours, I would like thrust, speed and hunger and both Ox and Campbell have plenty of this.

My Dream Team:

Arsenal v Besiktas dream team

I would also be very happy to see Rosicky start instead of Campbell: Sanchez could move to the left and Rosa could play in the hole… but I would really like to see Campbell play again at some point at least tomorrow.

What it is your favourite line up for tomorrow’s game?

Let’s go for the jugular and attack from the start.

We are The Arsenal – COYG!!!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Final Note:

We hold two competitions on Bergkampesque: Fantasy Football and a Predictions League and all are free to join – the more the merrier! :)

For Fantasy Football League see link:

For Predictions League see link:

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Poor Left Wing, Sanogo ignored, Lack of Pressure from Midfield, Ramsey’s Revenge: Arsenal – Palace Afterthoughts.

Henry dog 008

When I was a kid I once got a football for my birthday. It must have been my ninth or tenth birthday: there was no present for me in the morning but my mum took me on a long bike ride, from one end of my home town to the other end, to buy me a football in a sports shop. At that time, I knew nothing about Arsenal, or even English football. My home town team were Roda JC in the Netherlands, and they play in yellow and black. The ball I chose was white and red: more white than red pentagons, and I loved it for a long time: in fact, I can still smell and picture it today, almost forty years on.

Red and white are great colours, and of course those of our beloved Arsenal. And yesterday, the North of London was red and white all right. From the moment I arrived at Cockfosters’ tube station, I was surrounded by it. The sky was blue, most people were wearing The Shirt, and the sun warmed whilst spreading a golden glow over us. It was a truly beautiful sight. And the closer I got to the Highbury and Islington tube station the more intense it became.

There was a strong sense of anticipation in the air yesterday: a positive buzz of good things lying ahead; and the reason for this is of course the high hopes felt by many Gooners after some astute signings by the club this summer. And the one that epitomises this positivity is of course Alexis, as everywhere I looked on the way to the home of football I could see his first or second name reflected on the backs of many, many fellow Gooners. Sanchez has become the embodiment of our hopes for further progress and the shiniest silverware, and with good reason.

The stadium looked extra glorious yesterday. The early evening, August sunlight lit up the East Bank warmly and there was a sea of red and white everywhere – more than I have ever seen before, somehow.

First Half

No diaby, not even on the bench, but both Ramsey and Arteta in the double DM pivot. Jack in the hole, as hoped and predicted, and Santi and Sanchez on the wings, with not OG but Sanogo as our ‘holding striker’: not a formation I would have chosen, but definitely one capable of taking three points from the well supported Crystal Palace team.

The start was good and it looked a matter of time before we would score a goal. Jack was conducting play and there was plenty of movement in the team to find good passes and create opportunities. But we lacked cutting edge as our combinations just did not produce clear cut chances: was it rustiness or nerves, or was the ghost of Pulis still hanging around our ground like a bad smell?

Pulis’ ex-team were definitely playing like one of his infamous Stoke teams: well set-up, physical, cynical serial fouling, time wasting; and they made it really hard for us, especially after we lost some of our initial zip and thrust in the second part of the first half. Gradually we lost control of the midfield: nobody was using Sanogo anymore to hold up play, and the only one moving IN their designated area, other than Yaya, was Sanchez. We still managed to set up some attacks from the right, with both Alexis and Debuchy, although still getting used to each other, combining well to penetrate the CP defence. Unfortunately, when they did so, Sanogo was often isolated as neither Jack, Ramsey nor Santi were supporting him in the box enough.

On the left we were very weak. Santi did not hold his position and Gibbs was, understandably, holding back a lot. This did not help us in stretching the CP defence and midfield, and it became really easy for our opponents to stem our attacking intent. Jack searched and probed for opportunities but there was very little for him to set up (I could see this really well from the Upper Tier in the North Bank). We also played quite deep, and both Ramsey and Arteta did not push up enough to populate the midfield in front of CP’s ‘D’. Add to that the continuous fouling and the referee’s unwillingness to punish this, and you can see why we were not able to dominate the game more in the latter part of the first half: lack of width, lack of pressure on their midfield, lack of movement, too low a tempo and not enough pressing.

The supporters became restless, and then on top of all that, they score – so typically – from a corner. It is fair to say we did not defend the corner well, but it was also a pretty good ball into the box. Without three of our four best set-piece ‘defenders’ from last season – BFG, Giroud and Sagna – we looked vulnerable during CP’s corners…. and we paid for it.

Luckily, the man who only scores important goals for us, it seems, came to the rescue once again – and from a set-piece of our own. Violently happy, Koz we love you! – Bjork’s tune – went through my head, and we could all breath again. 1-1, just before the break, was just what the doctor ordered. And the stadium regained its positive vibes again.

Second Half

However, things did not improve much initially. Nacho brought more drive and aggression than the substituted and apparently injured, Gibbs. But Santi remained all-over the place, which is fine as long as he adds value to our attacking play, which he did not do enough imo. Jack lost a bit of his composure and precision in passing the longer the game went on, and Sanogo never really got into the game (for which he was little to blame IMO). Luckily, Wenger did not wait long to bring on the much more trusted Giroud for Sanogo, and, a bit later, Ox for Jack. Where Giroud added a lot from the moment he started; Ox’s input was less effective. However, Wenger moved Sanchez to the left which added a bit more thrust to our attacking play, and Arteta and Ramsey pushed the Palace midfield a lot harder in the second half.

I thought all our midfielders and attackers, except for the simply fantastic, albeit not fully perfect, Alexis, had under-par performances in this game, but the introduction of Giroud helped them all to improve their game gradually. It did not seem enough, however, to score the much needed winner. The team kept pushing but CP held strong, albeit with some unsporting behaviour, in terms of time-wasting and continuous fouling, which the frustrating, pie-gobbling referee Moss was far too lenient about. Puncheon’s dismissal was well deserved but seemed too little too late…

But luck was on our side, and it was the sweetest of ways to send Stoke-South-of-the-Thames home empty-handed: by scoring a Pulisesque late winner from a set piece by nobody other than Aaron Ramsey. It was ugly, but it was hard fought for, and we all did not care one iota. A giant, collective sense of relief swept through the stadium and we all sang the Ramsey song with real gusto.

We got away with this one; and with three points in the bag, we can afford the lessons learnt from this performance. If and when another park the bus team comes to the home of football, we need to push up more and conquer the midfield, we need to spread our opponents by using the wings on both sides wisely and run more intelligently, and, most importantly, we need to trust our CF to hold on to the ball and allow the rest of the team to feed of him.

On the way back I listened to Talk ‘Sport’ for a while (was desperately trying to find out the scores of the afternoon games). We know that most of the pundits there are opinionated simpletons, who like to stick to simple mantras in order to rile their mostly gullible audience. Stan Collybore just kept saying Arsenal needed to buy a SQ CF if we wanted to push on. He had actually been at the match and this was the main thing he kept repeating. A striker can only score if he gets the service, whether it is Sanogo, Giroud, Falcao or Cavani. Sanogo worked hard but did not get the ball anywhere often enough to set up attacks, produce assists or hit the net himself. Maybe one day, Collimore will realise that Arsenal have actually moved on and do not play with a classic CF anymore….. or maybe not.

We spread our goals throughout the team and with a goal by Giroud, two by Ramsey, one by Cazorla and one by Koscielny in the last two games, we are doing just fine. And we ain’t seen nothing yet: once this team starts clicking together properly, and we add a SQ DM/B2B (and a CB of course) to the team before the TW shuts, the Canon will roar and roar.

Sanchez was a joy to watch and I feel privileged to have seen his first game at the home of football.

My last word is for Chambers, whose reading of the game and interception skills were very impressive again yesterday. What a signing by Wenger – chapeau! :)

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Arteta, Flamini or Diaby | OG or Sano4goals | Jack, Santi or Sanchez in the hole: Predicted Line-up

Just a quick one as I am knackered from a long drive today.

The PL season starts tomorrow and I will be lucky enough to be at the game! The departure of Pulis makes for a messy situation but we should just focus on winning all three points with a fine performance.

I am hearing Diaby is fit to play, and if so, I reckon he will start tomorrow. Wenger needs to test him and give him match practice, and the game against CP is ideal for this. I expect Jack to start in the hole and Santi and Sanchez to play ‘on the wings’, and OG to start ahead of Sanogo. The line up below is the one I expect tomorrow, with maybe Arteta instead of Diaby, but I am going for the Frenchman as I would love to see him play again. :)

Predicted Line Up:

Arsenal v Stoke 14 15

I am hoping for a professional and passionate performance and three points in the bag.


Written by TotalArsenal.

Note to all regular readers and bloggers on BK:

VCC organises a fantastic competition called the UMF League. It is free to join and you have to predict five pl games results every week. If interested go to page called ‘UMF League 2014-2015′ at the top of the blog, and just pick predictions for five weekend games – the rules are also explained on that page. :)

You can also click on link below:

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What to do with Alexis? | Arsenal Best-11 | DM or B2B? | PL top six prediction?

Five discussion starters

1. What to do with Alexis Sanchez?

What is Alexis’ best position? The man can do absolutely everything: classical wing play, hold up play, fox in the box, conductor in the hole, Central Forward. But where will he be most effective in your opinion?

2. Classic DM and box to box OR two box to box type midfielders?

it looks like Wenger will not go for a more classic DM like Nigel De Jong or Wanyama but opt for playing two all round midfielders who can equally support our defence and attack. He has a lot of midfielders at his disposal but very few can actually defend or possess the physicality to offer real presence in midfield. Or is Chambers his defensive option in midfield? What would you like to see happening?

3. Everybody is fit and we are playing a top team: what is your first eleven?

4. Which three things would you do to ensure we do not lose any top games any more, in terms of player selections, formations and tactics?

5. What is your PL teams top six at the end of the season?

Looking forward to seeing your responses, and remember it is just a bit of fun! :)

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Santi and Rambo deliver, Chambers rocks, Jack dominates: Afterthoughts.

Five quick conclusions from smashing the Northern Oilers.

it was a very good win in which Arsene got the tactics right. I did not think we would have much of a chance with Arteta and the recently lethargic looking Cazorla in the team, but I was very wrong. The five in midfield dominated the MC midfielders with their energy, crisp passing and creativity, and if and when this is the case, Arsenal just look awesome. Some will say, the northern oilers did not turn up for this game, but I rather believe we never allowed them into this game, especially after we scored a very fine counter attacking goal by the obvious man of the match, AR. One half of energetic, attacking football was enough, and we should be hoping for many more of these very incisive first half displays this season.

Five afterthoughts:

1. Santi and Ramsey show their maturity

Despite our dominance in the first part of the first half, we did not look like scoring; that was until Santi took his chance with composure and precision. The same goes for Ramsey’s all important second goal of the match that effectively killed off the game. We often lacked this in previous seasons and to see both take their chances in front of a large crowd is a very positive sign.

2. Sanogo is a good stand in for OG

I wrote recently about OG’s importance to the structure of our team and enabling role towards our midfielders. Sanogo fulfilled the OG role very well yesterday. As an attacking force we were unpredictable and Sanogo worked tirelessly to create space for others, to hold up the ball as to allow the midfielders to join the attack, AND to provide a constant attacking threat himself in the process. I love this guy.

3. Jack pulled the strings and had YAYA in his pocket

We will continue to have a debate about Jack’s ability and importance to the team for a long time. I am really tempted to say: you either see it or you don’t. He gave structure to our attack and played a big part in us owing the midfield. On the day, he outshone Yaya all the way. JW10 a regular starter this season if fit? You Betcha!

4. Wojciech still has not learned

I am a fan of Szczesny but also very happy Ospina will be a real competitor for him. What the Pole misses is maturity, and especially, judgements skills. We were winning handsomely, and yet, if you look back at his decisions in the last twenty minutes, you just shake your had. It sometimes looks like he gets bored when he has nothing to do, so he decides to join the fun because of it. Two kamikaze clearances in which he could have easily injured himself spring to mind. His decision making from set pieces was also below par in that period. Time to be more mature now,Wojciech!

5. Chambers is an awesome signing

He was born in 1995, and yet, he plays with such maturity. There is plenty to learn for Chambers, as you would expect, but boy this boy can defend. He has a great nose for danger and where THE BALL will be in the next two seconds, he is strong as an Ox, and his decision making AND execution skills are extremely good: what more do you want from a defender?! I love this guy and cannot wait to see him tested in midfield: what a multi-functional weapon!

Written by: TotalArsenal.



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Ramsey is Right – Starting 11 Arsenal v Man City

It was good that Ramsey came out saying tomorrow’s game against the Northern Oilers will be taking seriously by the team. It is a great opportunity to build confidence and momentum and to win another cup, however small it is. We must also guard for the pontential of an embarrassing loss and that’s why the only way of treating this game is ‘a must win’ approach.

A win will do us good, so let’s go for it, and these are the eleven players I expect to start tomorrow:

Defence and GK:

With the Verminator now heavily linked with a move to the Barca bench, and the BFG still not deemed ready, the CB duo is most likely to be Koz and Chambers, with Debuchy and Gibbs as our full backs and Szczesny between the poles.


With Diaby apparently injured – or is that just a rumour? – the central duo should be Flamini-Ramsey. It will be interesting to see who will play in the hole, with Ozil still being rested. Will it be Cazorla, Jack, Rosicky, Ox or Sanchez? I would love to see Sanchez there but he will be needed on the wing. Any of the others will do, but I am going to go for JW10. This is the season for him to break through, and this is the sort of game to announce himself. Come on Jack, don’t let me down.


Sanchez and Ox on the wings with either Sanogo or Campbell in the middle. I am going to go for Sanogo as he can play the ‘Giroud’ role best of all. No doubt, Campbell will get playing time and he might even start instead of Ox, or even Sanogo.

So, my predicted staring eleven for tomorrow is:

Szczesny, Debuchy, Chambers, Koz, Gibbs, Flamini, Ramsey, Jack, Sanchez, Ox and Sanogo.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners – Let the Canon Roar! :)

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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