Wolfgang Amadeus Mesut: Arsenal’s nr1 Conductor Ozil holds the key to Silverware

Mesut Ozil would always be one of the first players on my team sheet if I was the Arsenal manager. I have never seen him play a bad game but in some games he is more effective than others. In order to fully appreciate him, though, you have to see him play live: not in an arm chair but in a football stadium, which I know many Gooners are unable to do.

His creative genius and willingness to work hard, combined with his desire to ALWAYS add attacking value to his team with every ball he touches, make Mesut so special. His running with and without the ball is superb, and his ability to find the killer pass is unsurpassed. He is not a loud extrovert but a humble introvert who lets his feet do the talking – this, among many other qualities, he shares with his nr10 predecessors, Cesc Fabregas and the great Bergkamp. And the English game has been blessed with the services of three of the finest European nr10 geniuses – two of whom are luckily still in action and should meet each other once again tomorrow evening.

It is fair to say he has not yet reached his peak this season. Mesut had ‘just’ 2.3 key passes and 57 passes per PL game, and he scored one goal and is yet to produce an assist, this season; whereas he reached a brilliant 4.2 key passes and 65 passes per PL game, and scored 6 goals and produced a whopping 19 assists, in 2015-16. But it is of course early days, and I rather see him peak towards the end then at the beginning of the season.

Some believe Mesut is still tired from the Euros but I reckon he is simply lacking form and has been given time by Wenger to improve it gradually. Tomorrow, against the Chavs, he needs to be close to his best form if we are to find a way through the parked blue and white buses. Mesut will be 28 next month and is reaching now his best footballing years. If we are to win the league we will need a strong core of six to seven players of top quality and the right attitude. Mesut will be one of them.

With Alexis as CF and excellent runners next to him with the likes of Iwobi, Theo, Ox and (possibly) Perez for Wenger to pick from, Mesut has to find his form to be our nr1 conductor once again. The sooner this happens the quicker Arsenal can reach top level.

No pressure Mesut but tomorrow you have to rediscover your inner Mozart and make the troops play to your tunes. Ich glaube an dich!🙂

By TotalArsenal

 

Posted in Arsenal Analysis, Attacking football | Tagged , , , , , | 25 Comments

How to Beat our London Nemesis: Santi, Xhaka and Ozil to feed Alexis and Theo

My Best Team Against The Chavs – our London Nemesis

It is about time we beat the Chavs again, I am sure you agree. But how can we do it?

By outpassing them, just like Pool did last week Friday. But we also need to defend their counter attacks really well and keep all eleven players on the pitch.

cropped-coquelin1.jpg

This will not be easy and it is fair to say that this London derby will be our  biggest test yet this season. Having said that, I reckon we have what it takes to finally win a PL game against the Chavs again, and let’s hope the referee will be able to deal adequately with all that will be thrown at him on Saturday evening. This is of course as key a factor as anything else.

They will be okay with sitting back and play us on the counter, and we all know how many times we have lost to them through their counter attacking football, feasting on the space we had left for them. Part of me wants us to sit back and invite their pressure, so we can beat them on the counter, but we are now too good a team to not go and attack them and win the game the Arsenal way. Luckily, with Koz, Bellerin, Mustafi and Nacho we have four fast defenders who can play a high line to great effect.

How should we then line up? Well the back five are obvious picks: Cech, Monreal (although a Gibbs start is not inconceivable) King Koz, Mustafi and Bellerin. Coq is needed for his steel, but he will have to check his temperament a bit, as he is likely to be one of the players to be provoked by the infamous neck scratcher. Rambo is not yet ready and Santi is playing so well at the moment that we cannot leave him out. So Xhaka is likely to miss out once again, but his time will surely come. I am a bit worried about Santi’s lack of box to box mobility though, especially if and when we lose the ball. The Chavs have some fast players and our box to box midfielder will have to track back and support his fellow DM/Defenders regularly. If we are to play Cazorla, we need the full backs to be very disciplined: only one of them can go forward at any given time.

I reckon Santi will play, but I would be tempted to play him in the hole this time, with Mesut moving to the wing (in a free role). Next to Coquelin, I would be tempted to play either Xhaka or Elneny, as they both have the engines and legs to do the full on B2B stuff required against the Chavs; they also give us that extra bit of defensive steel in front of our back four. With the Chavs likely to sit back and forcing us to pass our way all the way to the goal, Xhaka carries a fine threat with his long distance cannonballs. Elneny also has a decent long distance shot, so either of them would do for me.

With Ozil on the wing and Santi in the hole, we need two proper goal threats up-front. We can pick from Theo, Perez, Akpom, Alexis and possibly Giroud. I have a suspicion that Ollie’s toes are absolutely fine, and although I don’t expect him to start, I can see him come on as a substitute to score the winner towards the final minutes of the game.

I fully expect Wenger to play Alexis as our CF once again. This is the new plan for the season as far as I can see it, and I love it. That leaves me with one remaining ‘midwing’ position to fill and  I would either pick Theo, Iwobi or Perez. Given Walcott’s recent form and his fearlessness in front of London opposition, I am opting for him to complete my dream 11 to beat the Chavs:

submit football lineup

What do you reckon fellow Gooners: is this the team to take all three points from the Chavskis?

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Best Arsenal 11, match preview | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Akpom CF, Ozil nr10, Perez and Ox on the Wings: Arsenal Predicted Line-Up

Did Arsenal ever have such a deep squad as we have currently? Well I don’t know about you but I am looking forward to how our current ‘second choice’ players will do against the Tricky Trees, or is simply ‘The Reds’ more appropriate? You tell me.

We will be meeting two ex-Gunners at the City Ground tomorrow: Henri Lansbury and Lord Bendtner. One just did not make it to the top level but looked promising for a long time, and the other one has tonnes of talent but lacked the focus to make it at THOF. Nottingham Forest is still a famous name in football and we all know why, and there is no doubt that the locals will be looking forward to playing Arsenal at home and give us a hell of a game tomorrow.

Image result for nottingham forest football ground images

17HT, the one who used to do match previews for us for a while, and I watched a similar game live last season; Arsenal were abysmal and Sheffield Wednesday knocked us out of the League Cup. I hope we will play a lot better tomorrow and do the away support proud. To achieve this we need to field not just a strong team but, even more importantly, a committed team. For me, that means we need to select those players who are hungry to play. And there are plenty who are desperate to play some meaty football tomorrow.

NF made it to the next round by beating Doncaster and Millwall away (both 1-2), but they are not doing that well in the Championship with just three wins out of eight, and currently sitting in 13th position of the league table. This weekend’s loss against the Canaries at home is further evidence that they are there for the taking.

So how should we line up? It is hard to predict the line up but if we base it on a combination of players who need a game and anticipated appetite to give their all, I reckon we could see something like this:

ars-v-nf

Ospina seems to get the cup games, Gibbs, Holding and Debuchy all need a game and will be hungry. Arsene has said that Gabriel could play which I reckon means he will play. Elneny and Xhaka need a game and will be very hungry. Ox could do with another start and, to please some of the regular BKers here, I have put him on the right wing. Perez needs a game and could well start up front, but as I reckon Wenger wants to play Akpom as well, it is more likely that the Spaniard will start on the left – with a licence to move centrally as a second CF regularly.

I also think Ozil will start tomorrow. Mesut has yet to hit form and started to play club footie again only recently, so another game to get him up to speed and get the best out of Akpom, Perez and Ox should do him good.

Let’s hope our boys do us proud.

COYRRG!

By TotalArsenal

 

Posted in Best Arsenal 11, match preview | Tagged , , , , , | 49 Comments

Iwobi’s Best Game, Alexis Brings Theo and Iwobi to Life, Motoring Mustafi: 8 Positives Hull v Arsenal

Now that is the Arsenal most of us love so much: dominant, creative, strong and banging in goals left, right and centre.

After the midweek CL game, legs could have been tired and minds preoccupied, but we started the game with a ferocious tempo and appetite that drove the Tigers back in their proverbial cages and made us dominate the proceedings. When you play from home against a team that has made a good, ‘against expectations’, start to the season and which was rested during the week, you need to start well to set the tone and not get overwhelmed.

And that we did!

Hull City v Arsenal - Premier League

Arsene had opted for the same back five and double DM pivot as on Tuesday and for Alexis as our CF, once again. Ozil played in the hole/free movement role and two quick and energetic wingers, Iwobi and Theo, to complete the attack. A selection pattern is developing and it worked a treat this time. Rumours are that Giroud has a toe problem, either from a PSG player or Wenger’s punishment for reckless behaviour on the pitch… So on the bench we had the Ox and Perez to support the attack if required. It turned out that we did not really need them.🙂

I guess the omission of Xhaka and, to a lesser extent, Elneny still surprised many of us, as both would have been raring to go, but we can see why Wenger is sticking to his settled DM pivot couple CoqZola: they were solid and dominated the game for the first seventy minutes or so. More about this later.

Maybe more of us are starting to see why Wenger wants to play Alexis as our ‘CF’ this season.

His movement, running off and with the ball, constant energy and involvement in the game is making all the difference. But what I loved most of this game is that Theo and Iwobi really are starting to understand what they need to do, and especially where they need to be, when Alexis goes deep(er) to create space behind him.

Attacking football for many is a matter of getting the ball to a super CF in dangerous positions as much as possible… and he will do the rest. But it is not that simple (any more). Winning football is about dominating proceedings and creating chances – and then taking them – through creating space, excellent passing football, team pressing, and clever running off and with the ball. Anyone can score and goals are ideally spread among a number of players, so we are less predictable and dependable on the one Aguero or Ibrahimovic. If you have watched the first halves of MC – MU and Chavs – Pool, you will know what I mean. And Arsenal’s first half display against the Tigers fits with these performances albeit against lesser opposition.

Of course we dominated the second half too but that was further influenced by the Livermore sending off. The only negatives of Saturday’s game were the missed penalty and the penalty we gave away, totally out of the blue. But also that is football.

Eight positives from Hull v Arsenal:

  1. Iwobi’s best game in the mighty red and white colours: he played so mature and composed you would believe he has been in Arsenal’s first team for years. He assisted two goals and you could argue our first one should have gone to him anyway. He has that rare ability to create time for himself when on the ball, and then he makes virtually always good decision on what to do next with his head held up. His passing and running with the ball is sharp but his sense of creating opportunities and executing them on the spot is even sharper. He also is often in the right place at the right time in and around the box, which again is very special for his age at the highest level of football. And I loved how he worked with Ozil, Sanchez and Theo. My MOTM;
  2. Alexis’ ability to create space and link midfield with attack AND Theo’s and Iwobi’s ability to benefit from this and link up with the fabulous Chilean (as already explained above). Before the game Arsenal had the best conversion rate of the league, and with four goals from nine attempts on target, I reckon this will have been enhanced further;
  3. Mustafi’s drive and reading of the game is awesome, and his partnership with Koz is blossoming quickly. This is allowing his CB partner to take it a bit more easy and preserve energy, which is just what the doctor has order for King Koz as the season is long… I loved Mustafi’s reading of the game and interventions, his drive to link up defence with midfield. In a way, he is our pace setter from the back. Long may it continue.
  4. Coq-Santi DM pivot. Wenger has been indicating that Xhaka is doing very well and now needs to be linked up with a DM partner as their collaboration and mutual understanding are pivotal to the team. Coq and Santi, as a partnership, are ahead right now. He also sees Xhaka as a box to box player, given his enormous energy, rather than a deep laying ‘Pirlo’, so it seems. So Granit needs to find himself a deep laying DM, which could be either Coq, Elneny, or even Santi. Let’s see what will happen midweek against NF re this;
  5. Theo is in his element. Theo will often frustrate us but playing in this ‘Alexis the holding AND mobile CF’ system, he is likely to thrive and deliver the goods more regularly. It creates space for him to which he is not just addicted but also very dependent on. Theo is a chancer and sometimes his attempts come off spectacularly and sometimes disastrously, but as a ‘second CF’ on the wing he will get his goals and assists. He scored a fine goal and was involved in a lot of our attacking play. Theo may have found himself a new lease of Gunner life;
  6. Ozil, Bellerin and Monreal featured less prominently in this game it seemed, but their running (with and without the ball) and passing were still vital for our dominant TEAM play. Mesut’s final ball is still not as sharp as we are used to, but can you imagine how we will play once he finds his form?! Chavs be warned!🙂
  7. The quality of the bench. We are still missing the likes of Ramsey, Welbeck, BFG and Gabriel, and Ollie was left at home nursing his big one, but to be able to bring on Xhaka, Perez and Elneny to close out a game is a thing of beauty. And Granit’s bullet into the left corner for our last goal topped it all off;
  8. Wenger for evolving our game once more and getting the very best out of his players. Time to get fully behind him once more. The season just kicked off properly.

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Arsenal Analysis, Attacking football, match review | Tagged , , , , | 26 Comments

To Hull and Back with 3 Points? Starts for Perez, Giroud AND Alexis, and Xhaka/ Elneny could do it

Preview & Predicted Line-Up

I have more or less given up on predicting the starting eleven. The squad is big and Arsene needs to keep a lot of players happy; but he also needs to field a team that has a very good chance to get a result and for that he needs to choose his players carefully.

Against PSG Arsene surprised us with selecting Coquelin and Santi for their second starts in four days, leaving Xhaka and Elneny on the bench. He also opted to start with Giroud and Perez on the bench, giving rough diamonds Ox and Iwobi a chance to shine at the highest platform of club football. Arsene knows a lot more about his players than us, and I have peace with his choices, even though I would have preferred a different line up on Tuesday.

Against Hull I expect a tight game with a lot of possession for the boys in red and white and the Tigers attacking us mainly on the counter. So a good game to bring in Ollie as he can help us crack open the Hullish parked busses.

On the wings I would like us to play Perez and Alexis, and give Theo a chance to come on if the game was to open up properly, and if he is indeed fit enough to play. Ozil needs another game to play himself into form and the prospect of playing with Giroud, Perez and Alexis should surely excite him.

The double pivot is a harder choice to make. If Hull will indeed park the bus for most of the game, then Santi is a good one to have in terms of supporting Ozil in finding gaps. But Santi already played two games this week and we don’t want to see him get injured. Maybe it is time for Xhaka and Elneny to start this game. Both can push up and support the creative side of things, and both are good to keep the Tigers hemmed into their own half.

The back four pick themselves again, although I would not be surprised to see either Debuchy or Gibbs, or even both, get a start.

My ideal starting eleven for tomorrow game is:

ars-v-hull-september

Enjoy the game fellow Gunners. COYRRG!

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Best Arsenal 11, match preview | Tagged , , , , | 68 Comments

Ospina gives Cavani Nightmares, Alexis our new CF, Mustafi Class: PSG – Arsenal Review and Positives

A vital away draw against the group favourites in a hot and sweaty Paris after conceding a goal within the first minute: our boys did us proud.

Yes we were lucky at times but we should not underestimate the sequence of events in this game: there was plenty of adversity to overcome and to do so is the making of champions. How many times did we see the likes of the Chavs and MU grind out a result with big dollops of luck over the last ten years and eventually win the league or CL? It requires backbone and Arsenal have it.

Although I would not have started with Coq and Santi in the double DM pivot necessarily, I can see why Wenger went for the same duo from the Saints game. Francis offers defensive solidity and Santi is good when under pressure at the back. But more about that later. With Theo out injured and Perez needing a bit of time to get used to the way Arsenal play, Wenger had to fall back on Ox and Iwobi to play on the flanks. Regular readers on BK know my views on the Ox as well as Iwobi.  I reckon the former is not going to make it and the latter should be given more chances to shine. And as soon as Perez is fully integrated in the team I reckon the time for the Ox is up, but that is for a future post.

The obvious issue for Arsenal at the moment is the solidity of the back four. In the last two games we have given away a large of number of half and full-fat chances and that is an area of concern. A logical one, though. Mustafi looks already at home and is the sort of modern CB we have all been craving for. But it takes time before he and the other quality defenders and goalkeeper will gel into a solid and controlled defensive unit. And if we then concede a goal in the first minute, against a team that was still looking for its seasonal mojo and then gets the perfect lift/gift for crowd and players, you know it will be a difficult game for our team. I feared the worst initially.

You can blame Wenger for choosing a first eleven you do not agree with, and I have some sympathy with that, but the bigger picture is that we conceded a rotten early goal which gave the Parisian Oilers a great boost of confidence at the Parc des Princes, and we played a CB pairing with just 90 minutes between them. After the goal we were put under a lot of pressure and our DM pivot was pushed right back, divorcing the attackers from the much needed link-up play, who were struggling to get their game going on their own against a number of strong PSG central midfielders and defenders.

It was a typical game in which we needed a mobile, continuously running B2B midfielder and that, my dear friends, Cazorla is not. And that is also why le Coq is often seen up front, lately.

You could see the effect of Wenger’s team talk in the second half. We dared to push up more and our midfield started to link up with our attack better. We started to play better even though it did not lead to many chances for us and PSG were given some very oohlalah opportunities to score the all important second goal. Rather than going for the cheap, guttural ‘Alexis is not a CF’ I would like to focus on the lack of cohesion and understanding by the mid-wingers of how to play with Sanchez and, to some extent, by Ozil. Many reckon that Mesut deserves a better CF than Ollie, but I reckon the Frenchman is the perfect link-up player for all his magic to come to fruition. Mesut and Alexis also have a good understanding, so I don’t think it will take long for both to adjust to the Chilean’s new role.

Whether you like it or not, Alexis is our new main CF for the season. And just like getting used to playing with Mustafi at the back, the team will also have to work hard to get the best out of what Alexis has to bring, which is a hell of a lot. When the midfield did not come to support the attack, Alexis did well to go and do the link up himself. That then means that one of the midwingers needs to utilise the space made available up-front. Ox does not get this and Iwobi is slowly improving re this. On top of this, they need to learn to balance attacking with supporting their full backs… a work in progress (especially given Aurier’s freedom on our left).

Luckily, the midfield pushed up to take the game to PSG in the second half, and we played much better then. And it is fair to say we played better again when Ollie arrived, as the team could fall back to their old system of attacking our opponents. When we scored the goal there were four Arsenal players in the box. Mesut put a good, fast ball into the box and the first touch of Iwobi was pretty perfect; he then unleashed a well executed shot but it was at the right height for the keeper who still saved well. Luckily, the rebound fell to Alexis who finished like a proper CF: a well placed and venomous shot beyond the reach of the goalie.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game against PSG

Both teams had chances to win the game after that and PSG deserved it more than us to be fair, but we showed resilience and fighting spirit to hold out and a very valuable point was brought back to the home of football. And with a draw in the other group game, it has been a pretty perfect start for us in this year’s CL campaign.

Eight positives:

  1. Ospina, our uncontested MOTM, was sublime. He has great presence and energy and Cavani will be having repeated nightmares of him this Autumn.🙂
  2. Mustafi’s passing and positional play. Only his second game and he looks class – just needs to be integrated into the defensive unit, which takes time.
  3. Alexis’ goal: great finish at a crucial point in the game.
  4. Iwobi’s attacking play: great first touch in congested area for his shot on target that led to Alexis’ goal and could have won it for us later on. He still has a lot to learn but you can see he is destined for greatness if he can continue his progress.
  5. Koz: battered and bruised on Saturday, but no stopping him on Tuesday. What a spirit! Violently happy, Koz we love you (yes from the Bjork song).
  6. Bellerin: nobody attacks us these days from the left a lot. Why is that? Only 20 years old and such an established Gunner already. WOW.
  7. Wenger: for turning the game round with his team talk at half time. Not by taking out players and blaming them, but by talking to all his players and making them play better. A typical ‘McGregor Y-manager’.
  8. Coquelin and Santi: for playing two games in three days and being able to adjust and turn round the game in the second half.

Next up in the CL are two home games and let’s hope we will play with the same fighting spirit and be a bit more ‘gelled’ by then.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Arsenal Analysis, match review | Tagged , , , , , | 34 Comments

Xhaka/Elneny in DM Pivot, Alexis CF, Ozil to Rule, Theo/Perez on wings: Preview and Predicted First 11

We love the group stage of the champions league as some of the best games are being played in this competition every season. It is quite special that the two favourites of the group meet each other in the first group game, rather than in game three and four as usually is the case. PSG are yet to hit form and the same goes for us to some extent, so both teams could do with a very good match of football and three points. A good performance and a draw would also probably suit both clubs. With a bit of luck we should witness a feast of attacking football tomorrow.

For Arsenal this is an opportunity to lay down a marker in Europe, England and for ourselves. We need a good game and I reckon Wenger rested Sanchez, Giroud and Xhaka so he can field a very strong team in the capital of his home nation, even though I don’t expect Ollie to start. A good start is not crucial in this competition, but as we are playing the favourite team to win the group stage, a win tomorrow would give us a strong position to win the group eventually: an absolute necessity to get far in this year’s CL competition.

PSG like to play football and push opponents into their own half. If they do that we will have the weapons to punish them on the break. Arsene could start with Giroud and play a France national team style formation with Alexis (as a Griezmann) behind our solid Frenchman. He could also opt for pure speed up-front with Alexis as our ‘holding CF’ and with a licence for him to take on defenders left, right and centre.

I have a feeling that Giroud will have to miss out on a start in Paris. Wenger would be sentimental enough to allow Ollie to shine in their joint capital, but this is too important a game to not do the right thing. And against a team that is able to push us back into our own half, it is better to not start with a slowish holding CF. So I reckon we will start with Perez – Alexis – Theo, but would not be surprised if Iwobi gets a chance instead of Perez or Theo.

At the back, I think we will see the same GK and defenders as against the Saints. This leaves us with midfield and this is a game for Xhaka, no doubt. His ability to launch our attackers and get Ozil involved as quickly as possible, should be absolutely key tomorrow. Who shall we play next to him then: the steel of Coq or the immaculate passing of Elneny; or is Santi ready to start once again? Really hard to predict who will play in the double DM pivot, but I feel Xhaka and Elneny will get the nod, with both Coquelin and Santi coming on at some point in the second half to shore up the game and/or replace tired legs. And tired they will be tomorrow evening.

So my predicted starting eleven looks like this:

submit football lineup

What do you think fellow Gooners: Will we win this game and is this the starting eleven to do it?

COYGs!!

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Best Arsenal 11, match preview | Tagged , , , , | 42 Comments