World Cup Gunners in Action: Elneny v Torreira, Super Sunday, Welbz to Start?

In the very north of Scotland you can find Lewisian Gneiss: three billion year old rock. The earth is even a lot older than this (4.5 billion years), but every time I see this ancient landscape it makes me realise how short our lives really are. If we are lucky we make it to 90 or a 100 years, but what is that compared to the Hebridian Terrane? Even though our lives are a mini blip in the history of the world, just a drop of water on a red-hot cooking stone, we cannot help ourselves wasting a lot of time by reading the Arsenal gossip sites a few times a day, if not hourly!

We all know we should use our time better and maybe the WC will bring some much needed distraction. I am saying this with hope more than anything else, as international football seldom reaches the level of quality and intensity that club games offer. Having said that, I am looking forward to see how our very own international Gunners will get on in Russia. There are some fine games to switch the TV on for in the next seven days:

  1. Friday – Egypt v Uruguay: Elneny v Torreira?! The Uruguayan could be a Gunner soon and Elneny is always a joy to watch.
  2. Friday – Portugal v Spain: Will Nacho feature and how will the Iberian nations treat this first group game: with passion or cheer calculation?
  3. Saturday – France v Australia: Giroud is no longer a Gunner on paper but I would love to see him having a good tournament.
  4. Saturday – Croatia v Nigeria: A big fan of Iwobi, I will follow him closely this tournament.
  5. Super Sunday: Campbell’s Costa Rica v Serbia; Ozil’s Germany v Mexico, and; Lichtsteiner and Xhaka’s Switzerland v the Samba boys. Four Gunners in action!!
  6. Monday: Jackless (and therefore creativity deprived) England v Tunisia: Will Welbeck start?
  7. Tuesday: Day of the GKs. Kamikaze Szczesny (ex-Gunner) for Poland and OsssssssssssssPeeeeenah for Columbia will surely be guarding the goal v Senegal and Japan respectively? In the evening kick-off, Elneny will take on mother Russia and drive her round the imaginary Pyramid.
  8. Wednesday: second  game for Torreira (v Saudis) and Monreal (v Iran). Hopefully by then the Uruguayan has been signed up and given the shirt.
  9. Thursday: another game for Giroud? The non-Gunners-involvement clash between Argentina and Croatia could be worth watching.

So plenty to look forward to from an Arsenal perspective and before you know we will be treated to our very own friendly pre-season games; and that’s never a waste of time!

Finally, just for a bit of fun, who will get to the semi-finals and who will win the WC?

By TotalArsenal

Arsenal’s fixtures for 2018-19:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/arsenal/scores-fixtures/2018-08

 

 

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Torreira to Arsenal: How the New Cazorla will Fit into Arsenal’s First 11

With both the BBC and the Guardian stating  that we are in advanced negotiations for Lucas Torreira, it looks like the Arsenal puzzle is starting to fall into place. Sokratis’ arrival seems now a formality, and Lichtsteiner has already joined Arsenal. So if all goes to plan Arsenal will have added a CB, rFB and a DM/Central midfielder; and that means that most gaps identified by the majority of the fans at the end of the season will have been filled. A new GK is apparently Arsenal’s next target.

Looking at Torreira’s videos on line, he reminds me of Santi Carzola. Lucas may not be as two footed as the sadly now departed ex-Gunner, but in terms of stature, determination, football skills and style of football, there are some strong similarities.

It looks like Torreira plays naturally deep but also likes to go forward. He is strong at dispossessing opponents without being a classic DM tackler; and with his low centre of gravity he is hard to dispossess of the ball. The Uruguayan likes to dribble forward, can spot and execute a through-ball really well and has a decent shot from just outside the box. The current Fiorentina player is only 22 but already played 71 league games in the last two seasons – with four goals and one assist in 36 league games, and 1 key pass per game on average, in 2017-18.

 

So a new and fit Cazorla with an extra strong ability to dispossess opponents of the ball in midfield – with 2.8 tackles per game he is sixth best tackler in Serie A (and 2 interceptions per game is not bad either for a 22 year old) – may just be what the doctor ordered. I reckon he will be competing with Elneny and Maitland-Niles for the position next to Xhaka in deeper midfield. He could also start instead of Xhaka in some games, of course.

Our new ‘First Eleven’ or ‘First Sixteen’ could look like this:

submit football lineup

Of course we will have to see how the likes of Lichtsteiner, Torreira and Sokratis will do in the PL, but I like the way we are going for proven and talented players who will bring a bit of grid and solidity to the team. Less than two months to go till the start of the new season. Get those players signed up and… Bring It On!

By TotalArsenal.

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Get Jack on that Plane, Campbell no Iwobi, Welbeck Scores! England Observations

If you managed to watch the whole England v Costa Rica game without falling asleep, then well done you! We football junkies need to feed on every morsel thrown at us, but boy was last night’s ‘friendly’ tedious to the extreme. England have a system of play that consists of high energy and pressing high as well as quick passing with the aim to get through parked defences. Costa Rica sat back and further back and struggled throughout the game to get anywhere near the England box. They just could not deal with the energy of the English and the lack of available space to play the ball. It made for a very one-sided and boring game.

From an Arsenal perspective we can make a few observations:

  1. Welbeck scored! He came on late as a sub once again, but this time he found the net from close range with his head. He showed Dele Alli where he wanted the ball and, whether everybody’s favourite warm and cuddly Spud meant it or not, he delivered it perfectly and Danny pounced, needing the post to get it into a wide open space ahead of him. This will have done him a world of good and let’s hope he will get a few more during the WC. We all know that he gives his all, but he needs to improve his bread and butter stats.
  2. Campbell had a poor game. I am a fan of Joel and would not mind to see him back at Arsenal, but last night’s showing was anything but convincing. He was isolated a lot and once he got the ball he tried to get the game going, but, unlike Iwobi a few days ago, he did not manage to hold onto the ball long and make space for himself and others. He had a few half opportunities to create a chance for others or to have a go himself, but time after time he fluffed it. His willingness to put pressure on defenders and midfielders was unimpressive, but then again, so was the entire Costa Rica team’s. It just seems that the English soil is not suited for him, and let’s see whether he’ll do better during the much more meaningful WC games in Russia.
  3. England miss (a) Jack Wilshere. I like the fitness  levels and willingness to press high of the English team, but what it lacked was a creative conductor. It is all very frantic and not easy on the eye, and quite inefficient if you ask me. Without an Eriksen, De Bruine or Ozil, England lack a player who can see gaps in front of him or spot movement early and then pinpoint deliver a throughball or cross. In short the Tree Lions lack inventiveness, a creative scalpel. I know that Jack’s fitness levels are a continuous issue and it is now highly likely that he will not progress much further, but England still could desperately do with him. If not in Plan A, he would be good to have on the bench and come on in the second half to find the holes in the tiring parked-bus defences and make the difference.

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By TotalArsenal

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Not Sexy But Lichtsteiner will Bring at least Three Improvements to Arsenal

Stephan Lichtsteiner is not the sort of sexy first signing by Emery we were all hoping for. In fact, had Wenger still be in charge and a Swiss 34 year old right back was his first squad addition this summer, we would almost all be jumping up and down and storm the Emirates with pitchforks and torches.

Yet this ex-Juve player is a sensible addition to the team and shows that Emery’s first focus is on improving the squad’s strength in depth and experience levels within the team.

See the source image

So what is he likely to add to Arsenal’s squad:

  1. Stephan will bring leadership and the ‘experience of winning’ to the team, both on the field and in the dressing room. He is the current captain of the Swiss national team, and if you have ever seen him play for club or country you will know him as a very focused, professional and no-nonsense defender with a strong engine. He will fit in straightaway and know what is expected of him. I have no doubt that he will improve the leadership ability within our team.
  2. Although he is 34, Lichtsteiner is still very fit and driven. He played 37 games on average per season (32 last campaign) for Juventus and is as hungry as ever. He will not be our automatic first choice right back and this is ideal to get the best out of Bellerin. Hector is a great talent and could become an Arsenal-Great, but his progress has stagnated a bit. Working with Lichtsteiner, a Master in his position, should help the apprentice tremendously in making that last step to a top-top wing-back. I can see them playing both a lot of games and provide real attacking thrust and defensive solidity to our right wing next season.
  3. Granit Xhaka is top captain material for Arsenal. Lichtsteiner’s compatriot has charisma, seriousness, a hard-edge and sits in the ideal position – central midfield (deep) – to see the game in front of him as well as behind him and function as the on-field strategist and team-coach. But he is still a bit young and hot-headed at times, and he came with a reputation from the Bundesliga which of course the referees jumped on straightaway (Arsenal players can get kicked about without any repercussions, but oh dear if a Gunner decides to do something back…). Xhaka will play regularly near, and often next to, the Swiss captain, and I reckon Lichtsteiner will teach him a few captain-tricks and insights along the way.

So a sensible signing that will strengthen the team and provide fine cover and a bit of competition and learning-opportunities for the fine-haired fashion-man. Next questions to answer is who will he have to play with at right-side CB: Mustafi, Chambers, Sokratis, ANother??

By TotalArsenal.

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Top Five La Liga Player for Key Passes and Crosses: Bring Him Back to Arsenal

Despite playing for a team that got relegated in La Liga last season, according to Whoscored this player finished fourth in producing key passes per game: 2.3 on average. That is just 0.1 per game less than the giants Messi and Kroos (second and third), and 0.4 less than the impressive Jonathan Viera of Las Palmas. It is also 0.6 better than Luis Suarez’s 1.7 key passes  on average per game.

Furthermore, this 29 year old Spaniard finished fifth in producing crosses per game in La Liga: 1.5 on average. Despite his team’s relegation, he managed to score eight goals and produce six assists in 35 league games for Deportivo La  Coruna (together with Juanfran he played most games for his team last season). In his final ten games he scored four goals and produced three assists and that shows us that he gave everything to avoid relegation for his team.

This player is on Arsenal’s books, and I think by now you know who I am talking about: Lucas Perez, of course.

Perez's highlight with the Gunners was a hat-trick against Basel

I really liked Perez at Arsenal and was surprised and a bit saddened to see him loaned out to Deportivo during last summer. We could have done with him, especially in the UEFA league games, and I am not sure what happened between him and Wenger that made the Frenchman loan out such an effective, hard-working (with and without the ball) team player leave again. To be fair, he did not have a fabulous 16-17 season, with only 11 appearances (many as a sub), one goal and no assists; but he did produce an impressive 2.6 chances and 2.4 dribbles per 90 minutes of football.

I reckon we have missed such a player during the last campaign, and as he plays predominantly on the right – where I expect Ozil to play again next season – he could be excellent back up for the German whilst also making many starts in the cup competitions. Lucas has the character, passion and quality to push the other attackers hard and it looks like that’s what Emery is all about. Obviously, he also costs nothing which allows Emery to spend his budget on other areas of the team. For me it is a no-brainer to bring Lucas back to the Home of Football.

By TotalArsenal.

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Death of the DM Beast: Who will Emery Play in Deep Midfield?

coquelin

Emery’s team with the ball is very much like Wenger’s. He likes to play with a back four but with the full backs pushed up the field to provide attacking width, as he favours inverted wingers. He also prefers to dominate possession. Glimpses from his interviews and the patterns of the last three teams that he has coached show that he is clearly more defence-conscious than Wenger. For example, he demands greater positional discipline from the player sitting in front of the central defence.

But what kind of player does he want in that holding role? Ideally he should want a well rounded footballer who is as good a destroyer as he is a ball player as he is a deep-lying playmaker. Unfortunately, such a supremely well rounded player does not exist and Emery has to choose a player whose skills fall largely within one of the categories, even though the boundaries of distinction are blurred.

In Emery’s interview published by Get French Football News, he gave a clear indication of his preference when asked a question to that effect. He said ……….“But when a team has the ball 70% of the time, that is more important than knowing if you’ll struggle when tracking back. You are the one dominating the matches. That’s why your defensive midfielder’s output during moments when you don’t have the ball is less important. Because those periods don’t last as long. If I were to put a destroyer at defensive midfielder, there’s a significant trade off between what I can do during build-up play, rather than what I can do in defensive situations. Of course, Thiago Motta needs to (do) better without the ball. But if you analyze Xabi Alonso or Sergio Busquets, the same could be said for them. They struggle during those periods, but they contribute so much more while on the ball. I don’t think this position was a weakness for PSG ……..”

He clearly prefers to trade off some defensive attributes for offensive gains. Therefore as far as the holding role is concerned Emery’s views fit with Wengerism. The debate is on the extent, and it is here that Emery’s insistence on greater positional discipline tilts slightly more defensively.

What this means is that our yearnings for a beast of a defensive midfielder is likely out of the window. Either Xhaka retains his position at the base of the midfield albeit with more positional discipline, or we should expect the recruitment of a more athletic Arteta type for that role. For example, Rodri Hernendez of Valencia would have been perfect but Atletico Madrid have already taken him.

Emery’s similarity to Wenger in his attacking philosophy should not be a cause for alarm. To start with, Wenger achieved a lot as a coach. Secondly, Emery is a complete departure to Wenger in his defensive philosophy. He likes front footed defending, winning the ball back quickly, which, we all know, wasn’t so much part of our game under Wenger.

Bearing his preference in mind, who do you suggest Emery should put at the base of our midfield?  Or would you insist on a destroyer of a defensive midfielder? We can’t wait to make first hand contact with Emery’s DNA.

By PE

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The People’s MOTM, this 22 year-old Gunner is One to Get Fully Behind

It is fair to say that Alex Iwobi has his critics among the Arsenal faithful. He was only six weeks old when England beat the mighty Oranje in 1996 (4-1) and that tells you how young he still is. Yet there really are already more than a handful of Gunners who want him sold! They have seen enough, they tell me. Everybody is entitled to have an opinion, of course, but come on: give the boy a chance!!

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/44343704

Yesterday, Alex was voted Player of the Match by the fans, and quite rightly so (see link above). The Super Eagles were played off the pitch by the Three Lions in the first half, but Alex was the only one who dealt well with the impressive press that was applied by the home team. He constantly held on to the ball and made space for himself without it and with it. He then found a fellow player in enough space to pass the ball to regularly, and thus start an attack from beating the press. I was less impressed by Iwobi’s fellow midfielders who often lost the ball when the slightest bit of pressure was applied to them, which then left the defenders exposed time and again. England scored twice and should have scored more goals as they outclassed Nigeria completely during the first half.

However, Gernot Rohr did a fab job in making tactical changes – three at the back and four substitutions – and getting his team re-focused for the second half, whilst England’s boys clearly felt they had done enough in the first half and/or were unable to respond adequately to Nigeria’s changes.

See the source image

The Super Eagles scored within two minutes and then their wing-tales were up, the away crowd were behind them even more and the midfield was dominated by the visitors till the end of the game. It was Iwobi who set up the deadly attack with a fine ball to Ighalo from the centre of midfield; the former Watford striker hit the post with his precise diagonal strike and he was unlucky not to score; but the ball bounced back towards the ‘D-area’ and there was Alex to calmly steer it past defenders and keeper to score a fine, Ramseyesque goal.

Alex kept making himself available and linked up the midfield with attack constantly. At the end he tired and he may have picked up a small injury, but Rohr was not going to sub his best player – one of only five players who played the whole game.

With 1.4 key passes per game, 5 assists and three goals in 26 PL games last season, our 22 year young brightest attacking star from our youth ranks is one to get fully behind and believe in. And I cannot wait to see more of him at the Oranje-deprived WC in a couple of weeks time. 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

 

 

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