Mertesacker’s Loss is Debuchy’s Gain; Let’s get John Stones

The BFG’s injury that will mean he is out for ‘months’, as Wenger said yesterday during his press conference, is a big setback. I reckon Arsene was planning to gradually develop Koz and Gabriel as his preferred CB pairing, with Xhaka helping out in terms of organisation and leadership of our defending. By all accounts he started this process by the end of last season. Having Per on the bench offers an experienced CB to fall back on, whilst also giving Arsene a chance to give Holding and Chambers a chance to develop further.

But, with Koz needing a rest after his fabulous performances at the Euros, the BFG was much needed to get us through the three August PL games. Wenger has now indicated he needs to add CB experience to the squad and is looking in the market. The question is whether he is looking for a stopgap or long-term quality addition to the squad. Let’s hope it is the latter, as it is really hard to find a good CB anyway, let alone one that is available on an interim basis.

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My money, for the short term at least, is on Debuchy standing in for the BFG.

He played there before and did well. Mathieu is not the tallest, but with the likes of Xhaka and Elneny we have some added height in the team for the set pieces. He is experienced, though, and also stays calm under pressure; he also has good organisation abilities and will be very keen to perform well. This is his opportunity to relaunch his Arsenal career and I reckon he is the safest option from within for the short term.

Other options, like Chambers or Bielik, carry more risk as they do not have the experience and may struggle to deal with the pressure that Pool and the Foxes will put us under, no doubt. I would also not be surprised to see Wenger move Xhaka to the back for a while if he cannot find somebody in the market.

If Arsene was to bring in an experienced CB, let’s hope it is somebody with PL experience. It is late in the preseason and bringing in somebody from another league is risky in terms of letting them settle in and get used to the ferocity and physicality of the English League. Is this the time to sign John Stones of Everton? I would love that, even though he is not the finished article as yet.

I guess we will get a glimpse of Arsene’s immediate plans on Friday morning when we take on the MLS Allstars, as this is a game in which we will not want to embarrass ourselves, given the large TV audience and the staging of one of our defence’s biggest nemeses in modern times…

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By TotalArsenal. 

 

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Giroud will be our main CF, but who will be our ‘Griezman’?

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It should have been The tournament for the likes of Ronaldo, Lukaku, Bale and Lewandowski, but the Euros were not very kind to them. Ronaldo scored three goals (208 minutes per goal), Lukaku scored  two goals (201 minutes per goal), Bale scored three (178 minutes per goal), and Lewandowski scored just one goal. Nothing to write home about.

Football is changing once again and the super central forward may become a thing of the past. Defending has become an applicable science it seems;  weaker teams successfully frustrated (on paper) stronger teams by building a mobile fortress around their goal keepers during this year’s Euros. Ronaldo’s Portugal of course won the borefest, but he did not have the much desired hero role in this. In fact, some have argued that the Portuguese started to play better as a team in the final once the man with the enormous laryngeal prominence (Adam’s apple) – the lump that perhaps bottles up all his frustrations – was withdrawn due to injury.

The way to crack the solid, PTB defences is through a combination of quick, clever passing and running AND having a strong central presence to link up with and create space for fellow attackers. I reckon Wenger realised this years ago and that is why he made Giroud such a central part in his style of play. The beautifully named Didier Deschamps also understood the need for a strong central attacker in the team who can play with his back towards goal, and selected both Giroud and Gignac for his squad. If and when Giroud was substituted, no doubt to make sure he got enough rest, Deschamp brought on a like for like player (in style, but not quality) with Gignac. The French have so many quality attackers that they did not have to opt for Giroud as CF, but DD was keen to build his attack around him.

Giroud was not the hero though, that role goes to the super-talented and ultra-passionate Greizman. The six-goal Golden Boot winner said he loved to play with Giroud, and he certainly knew how to benefit from Ollie’s general presence, link up play and the space he created for him and others. France were by far the better team but, as a Dutchman, I can tell you the best team does not always  win a major final.

The Germans had Gomez as a Giroudesque CF, and once he got injured their attacking football became significantly less effective. The Italians used Pelle as a strong, holding presence and were perhaps the surprise of the tournament (and a tat unlucky to go out on penalties).

Gomez, Giroud and Pelle are not great CFs as the once we came to love over the years, but they are essential in the modern game nevertheless. Without them attacking teams will quickly look and play like the Germans did against the Portuguese, or the Spanish national  team in general: lots of passes and attempts to crack the parked buses with fast passes and runs with and without the ball, but very often all to little effect.

I am also convinced that if Wenger wanted a typical/traditional super CF in his team, like Aguero, or indeed Griezman as deployed by Atletico, he would have moved Alexis in there ages ago. Ultimately though, we would become too dependent and one dimensional if we were to play the Chilean fire-cracker as our CF, and we would also struggle to crack the parked buses due to Alexis’ lack of physical presence and continuous threat in the air.

There is no doubt in my mind that Wenger will play Giroud as our main CF again next season, but he will be looking for one or two players who can take on the ‘Griezman’ role. That is where we went wrong last season imo. 

Alexis is the obvious player for this but I am not sure whether he really clicks with the handsome Frenchman. Iwobi showed very promising signs and could be developed into a ‘Griezman’. The likes of Ox and Campbell also have potential. Or maybe…. Wenger is looking for his ideal ‘Griezman’ in the transfer market?

By TotalArsenal.

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Santi, Rambo, Elneny, Jack, Coquelin: Who to Partner Xhaka?

Arsene signed his annual star man early this summer. In the last four years we saw the arrival of Santi, Ozil, Alexis and Cech and I reckon Xhaka will become to be regarded this summer’s star signing, whatever happens next in the transfer window.

Defenders mainly defend and attackers mainly attack but midfielders have to find the balance between the two, and it is in the double DM pivot were football is undergoing most of its innovation at the moment.

Wenger bought Elneny and Xhaka to strengthen the central midfield area, but they are both not classical DMs. Yet they know how to defend even if they do not rely heavily on their ability to  tackle. Le Coq is the more typical DM, and it is great to have such a player in our midst: I will always have a lot of respect for him. But it looks like we are gradually moving away from the hard-ass DM so many of us love to have in our team.

I am not sure whether Francis will be having many PL starts this season, as we should expect Wenger to build the midfield around Xhaka. Granit likes to play deep and organise the midfield, and with his laser sharp diagonal long distance passes combined with great overview and anticipation of the game, he will offer something very different to our team.

When I saw Granit play for Switzerland, he reminded me a bit of Ronald Koeman, who was both a formidable central midfielder and centre back for club at country in his career. The ability to defend deep, keep it simple with calm and accurate passes, and launch attacks with a long ball without blinking an eyelid, is a great asset to the team. Players like Alexis, Iwobi, Welbeck and Theo are likely to benefit tremendously from this. It will make us play differently: more deep and compact and more focussed on counter-attacking.

Of course not every team will  play football against us and opt to park the bus, but with Xhaka in the team we will be able to find a better balance between attacking and defending. I expect him to be a natural leader and organiser of our game, even though it may take a few years before we get the full potential out of him.

Even though he is still young, I expect Wenger to play Granit in most of our games. What I am less sure about is who is going to play next to him.

Will it be a typical b2b midfielder like Rambo or Elneny, or will Wenger opt for a less dynamic but better through-ball player like Santi or Jack? And what about combining Granit with Francis to achieve added defensive solidity?

We should expect Wenger to change the central midfield combination from one game to the next. If and when we play the likes of Barcelona, Bayern, Real Madrid and possibly Man City, Granit may be combined with Le Coq to soak up the pressure better. If we play at home against park the bus teams, we should expect Wenger to move forward the central midfielders as to hem the opponent in and allow for added creative power next to are man in the hole: Granit would sit deep and Ozil would be supported by Jack, Santi or Rambo.

But what will Arsene do for the majority of the games in which opponents do not aim to totally dominate us or park the bus i.e. who will he play next to Granit in most of our away games and many of our home games?

With Granit sitting naturally deeper, I reckon we need a mobile and athletic box to box midfielder we can connect defence and midfield with their accurate and quick passes, their ability to run forward with the ball and track back quickly to make key defensive interventions. Ideally, they also contribute to the team’s assists and goals production with their late runs into the box and key attacking passes.

Of all our midfielders, I reckon Rambo and Elneny are the strongest candidates with the Egyptian probably being back up to Aaron. I know that many believe that the Welshman is a nr.10 more than anything else, and his recent classy performances for Wales in a more advanced attacking midfield role would support this, but at Arsenal, with Ozil (and Jack and Santi) being very strong options for the nr.10 position as well, I reckon Aaron fits best into the b2b role.

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But what do you think?

By TotalArsenal.

 

 

 

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The Ox chips a weight of his shoulders, Zelalem brings balance, Macey impresses: Eight Friendly Observations

 

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The Ox defied gravity with the loftiest of chips 

RC Lens 1 – 1 Arsenal

After 2.5 months of no Arsenal footie, we finally saw our boys play again. An early friendly is notoriously hard to take any lessons from, especially when Arsene makes so many changes during half time. I only saw a summary of the first half but did manage to see the whole of the second half. I invite fellow bloggers to share their views on the match and here are my eight observations:

  1. The Ox’s horns are sharp. Alex played with great hunger and his drive forwards was an inspiration to the team. He produced more than decent attacking play for others, and he leveled the game with a sumptuous chip good old Dennis will certainly approve of. And Gnabry deserve credit for a nice weighted through-ball (even though is overall game did not impress tonight).  Early days of course, butAOC’s display and finish will have pleased Arsene tonight.
  2. Chambers looked sharp going forward when he was deployed as FB. He linked up well with the Ox and put a few half-decent balls into the box. However, defensively he looked less secure and let’s hope this is simply due to rustiness.
  3. Theo did not impress much. He did not lead the line in such a way that inspired his younger team mates and his timing and positioning in the box were nothing to write home about. Again, it is early days and let’s see how he will fare during our North American friendlies, but he will need to step up significantly if he is to remain in Arsene’s mind for regular starts.
  4. Iwobi looked lively and confident and he played some fine through-balls; let’s hope he can build further on his impressive PL debut at the end of last season.
  5. Without a ‘holding CF’ we lacked structure in our game as our creative midfielders seemed to struggle putting their stamp on the match without having the benefit of linking up with someone in and around the box. However, the arrival of Zelalem saw us play more intelligently, passing and holding on to the ball better and also making better runs in and around the box. Had the game lasted ten minutes longer, I am sure we would have won it. Zelalem is a very promising talent and let’s see how he will do during the remaining pre-season games.
  6. Joel Campbell, Kieran Gibbs and Per Mertesacker tried hard to put their stamp on the game but they were all still a bit rusty. Especially Kieran will have to use these opportunities to convince Wenger that he is more than a decent bench warmer. But I loved his attitude and some of his attacking play was promising.
  7. Matt Macey looked composed and made a very decent safe half way through the second half. I never saw him play before but first impressions are good. How hard is it though for a GK to break through at a club like Arsenal?
  8. Wenger looked rested and driven during his break time interview and that is always nice to see.

These are my initial impressions; what are yours?

By TotalArsenal

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RC Lens v Arsenal: Starts for Chambers, Gnabry, JRA and Iwobi?

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Tomorrow Arsenal will play their first proper preseason friendly against RC Lens in NW France. Once we start to play the pre-season games time will fly and before you know we will be kicking off our new PL campaign against Pool.

You can watch the game live for free on the Arsenal App on Arsenal.com  http://www.arsenal.com/lensarsenallivevideo as long as you sign of up for digital membership. The game kicks off at 7PM so make sure you don’t miss it.

The starting 11 are hard to predict but I reckon it will look something like this:

We may also see starts for Jeff Reine-Adelaide and the Ox which would mean that Campbell, Gnabry or Iwobi start on the bench. It does not really matter who starts but it will be good to see a settled and well-rested back-four as well as the trusted workhorses of Elneny and Coq trying to dominate the midfield.

Whoever starts, I am sure they will be playing to impress and gain important match fitness. Join me tomorrow on the blog as the game progresses.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

What if Arsene signs no more attackers? PL Starts for Iwobi, Theo and Akpom just as exciting

Reading through the various blogs, you get the feeling that fellow Gooners’ happiness is largely dependent on Arsene Wenger spending enormous sums on new players. It is like they have stopped breathing properly and are in constant state of dissatisfaction, or even despair. We know from many transfer summers that Wenger will do it his way, which means he can suddenly surprise us with a well known quality new player or one none of us have ever heard of… he can also decide to make do with the squad he currently has. Whatever happens it is out of our hands, and as we all have heard more than once before, you should not worry about the things you cannot influence.:)

I would be perfectly fine with Arsene giving the likes of Theo, Iwobi, Gnarby, Sanogo or Akpom a chance to prove themselves during our August games. Wenger will rest many, if not all, of Rambo, Ollie, Alexis, Sanchez, Mesut and Koz till after the international games in the first week of September, I reckon. He needs to do this in order to avoid fatigue, injury and/or lack of form of these key players during the key phases of the season. We especially need them fit and focused  towards the end of the season and this can only be achieved with a good post-Euros rest.

No doubt Wenger will still look for another gem in attack, but the adage of adding extraordinary quality if and when this becomes available will of course prevail. There is not much easily available quality that will clearly improve our squad out there, and I reckon the chance of us singing a gem of an attacker, or a  indeed a CB, are not more than 40%.

Is this cause for grave unhappiness for Goonerdom? Not for me. I reckon we will start strong as a result of a good core of players being fully fit and not having participated in the Euros. Cech and Xhaka were eliminated early and should be able to take part in the early part of the season. The same goes for Jack Wilshere who has hopefully continued his progress in becoming fully fit again.

Mertesacker, Bellerin, Nacho, Gabriel, Santi, Elneny, Theo, Coquelin and Chambers have not played much if at all this summer and should be able to make a strong start to the season. The signing of Xhaka gives us a lot of options in midfield now, and I expect that we will play very compact and hard to beat. This is a prerequisite to success, especially during the coming season when the likes of MU, MC, Chavs and Spuds will all be leaning back on mean and nasty defences. I reckon it is really important to get the defensive balance right first and for all. With Xhaka, Coquelin and Elneny we have three fantastic defensive midfielders who all have something special to offer: finding the right balance will be key and I cannot wait to see how Wenger will have us play in the centre of midfield.

With Ozil rested, we will see Santi and Iwobi play in the hole, or will it be Jack who will start there? All mouthwatering prospects especially if they are covered and supported by the likes of Xhaka, Elneny or Coq.

Many have expressed a desire to see Theo leave the club, including yours truly, but I reckon Wenger will have been working to get his confidence and form back to his very best, this summer. With Ollie being rested in August, Theo has a brilliant opportunity to shine once more and I expect him to have a strong start to the season. Teflon Theo is capable of this and we all know that Wenger believes in his players as long as they work hard and listen to him. It is fair to say this will be Theo’s last chance to establish himself as a first team Gunner, so let’s see whether he will do it.

I have high hopes for Iwobi and Akpom to make significant progress this season and I anticipate Wenger will give them both starts in our August PL games. Then there is the very talented Sanogo who has hopefully worked hard on his technical finishing, which is the only area in which he is lacking. He can do Ollie’s ‘holding CF’ role: he is strong and holds on the ball well, he has a good first touch and passes well, he positions himself well and has a natural anticipation of where he needs to be in the box AND he is fast. He is also not bad in the air. He probably is not ready to play a big part in our new season, but I still hope we will see him play occasionally.

Gnarby is another player who needs first team time and I reckon we will see him get 20 to 30 minutes in the August PL games. And then there is the Ox of course; no doubt he will get another chance to burst through and become a first team regular.

Team to beat Pool and Foxes:

——-Cech——–

Bel – BFG – Gab – Nacho

—-Coq–Xhaka—-

Jack—Santi—Iwobi

——Theo/Akpom *——–

* Bring on Sanogo if either of our opponents decide to park the bus…

So for me there is plenty of positives to look forward to even if we do not sign another world class player. Wenger can experiment a bit with the attackers mentioned above whilst falling back on an experienced and solid back-four and midfield. And then in September he can gradually reintroduce the super Euros’ starts Koz, Ozil, Rambo and Ollie and Copa America winner Sanchez.

We may drop a few points in August but of course this could also be the case if we added the likes of Higuain and Mahrez…. There are no guarantees in footie and Wenger will make a balanced decision, no doubt about it.

So my suggestion is to not succumb to signingitis but to sit back and see how our team will do during the preseason, and how Wenger will set up the team. I reckon we will see a strong start to the season and our squad is deep and strong enough to have a good go at playing attractive footie and winning silverware in the process. All to play for and bring on RC Lens on Friday!

By TotalArsenal.

 

 

 

 

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Joachim Low’s Germany Shows How Arsenal Will Play Eventually

Tournament football can be soooo cruel. After winning every game during the qualifiers and getting through the group stage relatively easily, England were unable to shake off a determined and well organised Iceland and are out of the competition. The players are already back on the bleak Brexit soil and will all want to hide away for six weeks till the PL starts again.

As with so many games during the Euros, the clash between the Icelanders and Ingurlanders reminded me of a typically frustrating Arsenal game. An on paper inferior team comes with a clear plan to defend to the Emirates and we struggle to break them down and lack the defensive discipline when the odd chance falls to the opposition. To see the England defence getting beat by a Stokian fecking throwie, just 34 seconds after kick off from Rooney’s well taken penalty, is just so humiliating for the inventors of the game. The Iceland winner, on the other hand, was a beautifully crafted team goal; one that England so desperately wanted to make but was incapable of  – and yes, ‘Head and Shoulders’ Hart should have done better, but it was a well worked attack nevertheless.

Jack’s introduction did not make much difference but this was not down to him. He was playing very deep and had to share the role of playmaker with Rooney, who also  remained relatively deep. In my opinion, England needed Jack to direct play from deep and Rooney to populate the area around the D, with Kane in the 18 yards box and plenty of movement on the wings. I disagree with the general sentiment that the players did not show enough passion or work rate against the Icelanders; it was not that at all. The truth is a lot more embarrassing for the three lions: there was not enough meaningful movement in the areas were Iceland could be hurt and the technical discipline of the players, bar none, was well below par. First touches were awful, passes were constantly over-hit, long distance shots and free-kicks were way off target, etc. It was just like there was a shifting weight inside the football that made it impossible for the English players to play accurately….. a problem the Icelanders did not seem to suffer from..

Holland were beaten by Iceland in a similar fashion to England, and although the Northern European country’s population is so much smaller than either of the former countries, they clearly are not a rubbish team. They are a good example that a team with a clear plan, strong discipline and team spirit can go a long way; and we will only see more and more of these sorts of teams, both nationally and in the PL, in the foreseeable future.

The Germans have the best answer to these, I reckon. Against the Machiavellian and naturally defence-minded Italians, the German system will be tested to the limit, and I cannot wait to see this game. As we could see during the Germany v Slovakia game, key to crack the PTB teams is: constant movement, added width from the full backs and a number of incisive and technically very capable creative midfielders; and key is also that the ‘wingers’ can play close the the CF and add both a goal and assist threat. Furthermore, you need a strong and multi-disciplined double DM-pivot such as the combo of Khedira and Kroos.

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The Germans effectively play the way Arsene wants his Arsenal to play. The difference is that we are still looking for one or two players to make the system really work. Giroud plays in the Gomez role – the Germans started the Euros with Gotze as a ‘false’, very mobile nr.9 but seem to play now more effectively with a holding CF – and around him we need two dynamic ‘wingers’ to benefit from his hard work and presence in the centre to create space, link up play and offer genuine goal threat at the same time. These ‘mid-wingers’ need good close ball control and passing ability among other skills, just like Muller and Draxler have. Alexis Sanchez can play in such a role but he is certainly not uber-suited for it. But he will do for us; it is the other wing where we are still in need of a better alternative to Theo, the Ox and Campbell. And I expect Arsene to either buy or put his trust in Iwobi in the coming season, whilst hoping that Welbeck (our future Muller?) can still make a difference in the second half of the season.

If you want to know what the final Arsene team will look like, have a good look at the German national team. And if you wonder who will replace Arsene eventually, I reckon that Joachim Low will be a strong candidate. A real shame that by the time this is likely to pass, we may well no longer have free movement of EU members!😉

By TotalArsenal.

 

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