Wenger Spoiled for Choice: Arsenal v Middlesbrough

We are back from our mid week champions league triumph with morale sky high. And why not. What with a run of 11 matches undefeated in all competitions, 6 successive wins in the epl and feather weight Middlesbrough our weekend opponent. Surely it’s another stroll in the park. Or is the stage perfectly set for a rude awakening?

If truth be told, every premiership match holds a gritty promise. Who would have thought that Burnley would cave in only in the last second by the hand of fate (pun intended). Or that the Swans would have us collectively praying that the referee goes for his final whistle. Wenger has to get his line up spot on, the team don their battle gear, and the Emirate in full voice.

Wenger’s philosophy is always to focus mainly on his strength, buoyed by his faith that his team would respond intelligently to whatever they find on the field. He believes that intelligence should not be too restricted, too structured. That is why Wenger, you can bet, cannot be engrossed with the fact that Middlesbrough is 17th on the epl table, swimming in relegation waters. He probably doesn’t even know that in their 4 away matches they (Middlesbrough) have collected 5pts against their 1 pt at home. Wenger would tell you that factoring too many details would make the wrong answer jump out. So my bet is that he is ignorant of the fact that Cristhian Stuani who plays as an attacking midfielder is their top goal scorer with 3 goals while their striker Negredo has scored only 1. If he knows much about Daniel Ayala a central defender or George Friend at left back then understand that scouts have told him about them. Wenger prefers to spend his energy knowing his players and his team.

For example he knows that his team is transiting into a more vertical, quicker passing pattern of play with a lot of player movements and interchanges. He knows that Iwobi is an excellent vertical ball carrier blessed with a accurate well tailored passing skill. He knows that Alexis at centre causes chaos in the ranks of the opposition defense that allows Ozil and Walcott to make runs into abandoned spaces with the keeper at their mercy. He knows that Theo is a goal-hound. When he sights the posts he begins to snarl. He knows Musti is a boy for a bit of a game. He knows that Le Coq is angry when he sees an opponent with the ball. I mean angry. The one he wonders about is where Bellerin gets all that energy for all those sprints. These are where Wenger’s attention are. But he is also keen to get to know more about pairings and combinations.

Getting to know the different pairings and combinations is every managers biggest headache. You know why? The next match is always a cup final. You dare not loose. It precludes all experimentations. But then managers cannot play the same players all the time. Physically and mentally the players cannot stand up to the strain of all the matches all competitions all season long. Also there is the issue of right man management of the squad. These are some of the major details of the treacherous terrain that a manager has to navigate to name a line up.

What does Wenger do versus Middlesbrough? He wants to win the match. He does not want to include tired legs. He is keen to try out new combinations. He wants to appease restive players in the squad. Luckily next midweek cup match has lessened the pressure for him of the restive players. New combinations can wait. Why fix what ain’t broken. From Wenger’s visible XI only Bellerin, Musti, Kos, Le Coq, and Ozil played the the full 90 minutes in the match against Ludogorets that we had won before the hour. All signs are pointing to the fact that the visible XI would be back. Santi has declared himself fit.

Predicted line up:

——- Cech ——–

Bel – Must – Koz – Nacho

—— Coq – Santi —–

——- Mesut ——–

Theo ———— Iwobi

—— Alexis ———-

Bench: Ospina, Gibbs, Gabriel, Ox, Jeff, Perez, Elneny

By Pony Eye

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Theo near perfect, Alexis beats the drum, Ozil goes Bergkampesque on birthday: player ratings/ review

A great win that enabled us to level with MC and surpass the Spuddies in just two games. The Swans gave us a tough second half, much helped by the harsh sending off of Xhaka, but the boys showed great resilience to hold on.

The defence did not look good with both Mustafi and Monreal our weakest points and guilty for many a chance we gave away. The KosMus partnership is not as solid as first thought but of course this can be fixed. Nacho was skinned time and again but was also not much helped by his DM partners. Stevie has some work to do with our back four.

But in attack Arsenal were breathtaking. The Swans defence was taking apart time and again by four dimensional football in which creators and finishers metamorphosed continuously and space to score goals was found with great ease. Three goals to the good guys is what gave us the points yesterday and long may our clockwork red and white scoring machine continue.

Player Ratings:

Cech: 8. Presence in goal. Our President between the sticks turns opponents’ legs to jelly and heads in a spin.

Nacho: 5. A game to forget. Pulled all over the place and left team very vulnerable.

Koz: 9. The King was on fire once again. He spared the blushes of his nearest defensive colleagues time and again.

Mustafi: 6. Needed to defend tighter to Koz especially after Nacho got skinned from our left a few times.

Bellerin: 8. Another solid game and an asset both in defence and attack.

Cazorla: 6. His defensive limitations showed once more but still supports our attack well.

Xhaka: 5. Perhaps tired from the international games but not a good performance. Gave ball away for first goal by Swans and attempt to get a card for the team backfired, however harshly it was. There is so much class in Granit that I can assure you he will bounce back.

Das Ozil, birthday boy: 9. Sublime, Bergkampesque goal. Lovely movement and maximisation of space and time with the ball caressing his feet like a devoted puppy.

Iwobi: 7.5. Team player with bags of class and overview, but Nacho was left a bit too unprotected at times.

Alexis: 9. Team player who beats the drum in attack for us. Lovely assist for Ozil’s sky rocket in the roof of the net. Just for all the dirty work alone you got to love him.

Theo: 9.9. In the right place at the right time time and again. Scored first two, crucial goals and was close to scoring three more. ‘Only’ two went in but to focus on that is not having a clue what attacking football is about. This system suits him so well.

By TotalArsenal.



Posted in Arsenal Analysis, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 55 Comments

Perez CF, Ox and Theo on Wings, Santi/Coq in DM-pivot: Arsenal v Swansea Preview/ Line-up

Swansea, home or away, have not been easy opponents for us in recent years and I don’t expect tomorrow’s game to be a walk in the park either. All games after international games are hard, but luckily we play at home which should give us a better chance to take three points. The Swans will be reenergised by the arrival of another new manager, the American Bob Bradley. The players will want to make an impression on him and I figure they will give us a game. Anything less than 100% commitment may cost us points tomorrow.

Image result for arsenal football ground images

So we have to hit the road running and play energetic and dominant football, take our chances when they come and don’t get lulled in a false sense of security. The team that can do the job will likely be:

submit football lineup

Cech in goal, full backs Nacho and Hector Vector, and King Koz and Mustafi as our CBs…. Cannot see Arsene messing with this back five. Coquelin is fit again and Santi was rested for two weeks, so I reckon that will be our double DM pivot. Always hard to leave out Alexis but with a late game on Thursday, followed by a long flight, I reckon Wenger will start Perez and put Sanchez on the bench. Walcott is as fit as a fiddle after two dreamy international games, Ozil is ready to rock again and Wenger may rest Iwobi and start Ox.

Well that is my predicted line up. COYRRGs!!

By TotalArsenal


Posted in Best Arsenal 11, match preview | Tagged , , , , | 34 Comments

Xhaka or Coquelin… Or Both?


Is there really a contest? I don’t think so.

Xhaka and Coquelin are two footballers but they are nearly as far apart as Beethoven and Picasso. Nearly as far apart as Sanchez and Koscielny. The one sure thing they have in common is that they have plied their trade mostly as defensive midfielders.

Francis Coquelin is an indefatigable winner of the ball both as a tackler, and as an interceptor and even in the air. Strong, agile and full of energy, his ability to close down opponents is hard to match. It is not an over statement to say that when the opposition has the ball, Coquelin is simply the best, so much so that his team mates feed of his great energy and commitment. However, in possession of the ball he is not exactly in that same lofty height and even less so is his movement off the ball.

Granit Xhaka is a tidy distributor of the ball, all ranges: the short as well as the long passes. He has an excellent mastery of space both defensively and offensively and that is why he seems to have so much time with the ball as well as be a defensive asset without the need for crunching tackles. His game is more intelligence than brawn. He came to this league with the reputation of the most carded player in the Bundesliga last season and because of that all Arsenal fans concluded that tackling must be his forte. On the contrary, it is precisely because he is not Coqesque in his timing of tackles that he infringed the rules that many times. Little wonder Wenger has quickly identified his talents as being more adaptive to the box to box role.

Coquelin is more of a destroyer, Xhaka is more of a box-to-box. Therefore, it is less a case of Xhaka versus Coquelin and more a case of Coquelin and Xhaka.

With two speedy central defenders who can hold a high defensive line, thereby narrowing the gap between them and the attackers, Wenger so far this season seems to have incorporated the high press to the team’s tactics. Obviously, Coquelin has been given the added task of choosing moments to move further up field to support the high press, being one of the best at it. This hardly undermines his defensive midfield role as the high defensive line has drastically shortened grounds to be covered tracking back, and Coquelin has shown ability for getting back with pace. Furthermore, when he goes up to join in the press the other in the double pivot ( eg Santi or Xhaka or Elneny) sits deeper and vice versa. The interchanges in the vertical positioning of the pivot pairing furthers Wenger’s brand of total football which encourages individual initiative within a collective framework.

Personnel wise, our double pivot is very well stocked. There is Elneny who is something of a mix between Xhaka and Coquelin.  He is excellent at pass and move, very good at closing opponents down quickly and he has a monster of an engine to go with those. Santi we all know and love, as he is forever using his excellent skills and unique reading of the game for the team. Our double pivot vis a vis our personnel is almost a matter of any two numbers can win. Also, there is the versatile Ramsey the subject of the last but one BK post, whom in my humble opinion would serve the team best as an attacking midfielder. Though versatile, he is attitude wise, first and foremost an offensive player. Attacking mid-field would afford him a role where he would be making his box runs unfettered. That would give the team a perfect balance with Sanchez a natural false #9 leading the line. Wenger can always use his versatility in any of the attacking midfield three positions to tweak his tactics depending on the opposition. His huge engine and love for being where the ball is, would always cause his play to overflow into defensive duties to the benefit of the team.

The bookmakers are predicting a photo-finish of many teams. The good news is that we are everywhere in their pictures. We are in good form, the Emirate is buzzing. Long may it last.


By Pony Eye

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Iwobi King of Assists, 2.3 PL Goals per Game, Top of the Table at Christmas? Arsenal Prediction Time!

After five PL wins in a row, an away draw against PSG and home win against Basel in the CL, you would expect all Gunners to be happy as Larry. But if you look for trouble you will always be able to find something you fancy, as is human nature. Some are only happy when it rains after all.🙂

The interlull offers a good time to do some predictions. We have all seen the team play about ten times now and we know that a number of players are close to becoming fully fit again, so let’s do some Premier League predictions for the period from the start of the season until Boxing Day:

  1. Arsenal have scored 16 goals in 7 PL games, an impressive average of 2.3 goals per game. Giroud has yet to start a game and Ozil has not produced a single assist yet: will we continue with this average, go lower or go higher between now and Boxing Day?
  2. Our current PL king of assists is Iwobi with three: who will be our king of assists at Boxing Day? Actually, who will be in our top three of PL assist producers?
  3. Arsenal conceded a painful four goals in the first PL game against Pool but since then we conceded only three in six games: How many goals will Arsenal have conceded between the start of the season and Boxing Day?
  4. What will be the top five in the PL at Boxing Day?
  5. Who will be in the bottom three of PL table at Boxing Day?
  6. Who will be our PL top three goal scorers at Boxing Day?
  7. King Koz has scored two PL goals already: will he score any more goals/ and how many?
  8. There are nine PL games between now and Boxing Day, and Arsenal have won 16 points from the first seven games: how many points will Arsenal have after the Boxing Day game?

Just a bit of fun fellow Gooners. I am off for a few days so plenty of time to give us your predictions.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

This midfielder’s Return Will Complete Arsene’s Arsenal Revolution

I don’t know how many times I have seen fellow bloggers write, less on BK but regularly on other blogs, that Wenger needs to be replaced by a younger manager with a modern and fresh style of play. There seems to be a belief that older managers cannot be inventive and ‘fresh’, like Klopp or Guardiola for example. The opposite is true.

Wenger is always innovating the way we play; in fact, I sometimes wish he would stick longer with a certain system of play rather than moving on too quickly. Having said that, I am very excited about Arsene’s change of style this season.

He seems to opt now for speed and movement by all 11 players, rather than have a few players in the spine around whom the game is played i.e. the BFG at the back, Cazorla in the middle and Giroud up top.

It is still early in the season of course and Arsene may well revert fully back to the system of play of previous seasons, but the success of the last few games, both in terms of style of play and results, may have encouraged him to stick with it now. And there is a buzz around Arsenal now that nobody will want to lose anytime soon, and especially not Arsene.

Mustafi has been a revelation – see also last post. He adds speed and bite to the defence and is already one of the top ten most successful passers in the PL. Up front, Wenger has made a personal wish come true by turning Alexis into a beastly, all conquering CF.  This has added speed and mobility to the attack, whilst Sanchez is also pretty good at coming for, and holding on to, the ball ala Giroud. Alexis is supported by pretty alround ‘midwingers’ who add  bite, speed, creativity, assists, and goals: Theo scores when he wants and Iwobi is in the top three of PL assist makers, and long may it continue. And Perez, and sooner or later Welbeck, are ready to compete with them for first team places.

The final piece in the speed-mobility jigsaw is pairing up Rambo with either Xhaka or Coquelin.

We need a player who connects defence with attack, supporting the deeper sitting DM  and our nr10 with continuous horizontal and diagonal runs, slick passing, interceptions, assists and goals, etc. That player is Rambo: the quintessential box-to-box midfielder. This does not mean there will be no first game time for Cazorla or Elneny. Santi can be played regularly as second midfielder in the DM pivot, or as Ozil’s best mate in an occasional 4-1-2-3 formation; indeed, Santi can also replace Mesut in the nr.10 position, if and when required. The Spaniard could become our super-sub and as such a very important player for the season. And Elneny is also a very useful player to have for a number of positions.

But once Rambo is fully fit he will most likely get regular starts to complete Arsene’s revolution based around speed, energy and mobility, and I cannot wait to see this team take to the stage once all are available:

submit football lineup

By TotalArsenal



Posted in Arsenal Analysis, Best Arsenal 11 | Tagged , , , , , , | 23 Comments

KosMus: The Arsenal CB Pairing that Rule Time and Space

Until recently, I have always believed that a good defence consists of a centre back pairing of an organiser type and a wild ‘kuitenbijter’, a carve biter, type. One has the overview and organises their defence and the other one operates as the first soldier of the defence, with ferocious energy and an unrelenting desire to win balls in the air and on the ground, and defend the box area with whatever it takes. The former is usually calm and tall and physically very strong and the latter is simply an energetic, fast, beast of a defender.

We all know the Arsenal pairings we have come to love over the years. For me the dream couple was probably Campbell-Toure from the INVINCIBLES (see below) but Adams-Keown were also brilliant of course. I am sure those who go back a lot longer than me will come up with some other fine Arsenal CB pairings.🙂

Arsenal "The Invincibles" XI

In recent years, we have struggled to get the CB pairing totally right. The BFG-Kos combo did come close to a King’s couple of CBs, as they fitted the above mentioned short role descriptions to a large extent. Especially if and when we played in a more compact formation and game plan, Koz and BFG made us look solid and in control for many a game. Unfortunately, the BFG’s extraordinary ability to read the game and organise his defence was occasionally undermined by his Achilles’ heel: his slowness in turning around his own axis and lack of recovery speed. And Arsenal are not the sort of team to sit back a lot and absorb pressure: we love a high line and hemming the opponent into their own half.

The downside of this style is of course the space left behind the highline which makes us prone to deadly counterattacks/balls over the top; and boy have we suffered from this at times in the past. Last season, I regret to say, the BFG was our weakest defender in for example the key seasonal games against Chelsea and Barcelona at home. This is what Wenger, who will never directly name and shame a player, had to say after the Barcelona game: “Barcelona is a great team, we knew that. Nothing new. We put a lot of energy in the game. Technically we were very average. Once we look like we dominated the game in the last 20 minutes we gave the goal away, similar to Monaco. Very naive. Two goals makes it realistically very difficult if not impossible. We will have to go out there and fight. There was room to score but we didn’t. And they are lethal. One thing we could not afford – and we knew before the game – was to let them counterattack”.

I had a feeling back in February that Per’s time as first choice CB would be up in the new season. We don’t really know what Wenger’s plans were regarding the first choice CB pairing for this season, but the bad injuries to first the BFG and then Gabriel, before the season even had started, forced his hands in the transfer market anyway. He had already bought Holding – ‘one for the future’ – in the summer, and the young Englishman impressed us all with some fine performances. He also gave Chambers a few  games to show him that he could be ready for regular PL starts, but Calum was not up for the task unfortunately.

Wenger then bought Mustafi from Valencia and rushed back Koz to make them his first choice CB pairing. And what a difference they have made. They have played five times together now, two CL games and three PL games, and conceded just two goals in total. Of course, it is still early days and we have to give it at least 20 games before we can say that KosMus are the perfect rulers of space and time, but the first signs are very promising.

And this is not just reflected in our fine, post-Liverpool, defensive record – to which Holding has contributed as well – but also in the style of play it has allowed us to play as a team.

Neither Koz nor Mustafi are the embodiment of Campbell or Adams; it is more like playing two perfect Koscielnys, or two beastly Toures, with both players happy to push up high and having enough confidence in their recovery speed and ability to intercept and deal with any counterattacks coming their way. Together they organise their defence very well, lead the team all over the pitch, and give away very few chances: they have been in control, sometimes in total control, in almost all games, except the PSG game perhaps.

It is fair to say they also get great help from the full backs and the deeper laying DM (Coq or Xhaka) for which they deserve massive credit.

There are promising signs that KosMus is the CB pairing for the future: the rulers of space and time Arsenal have been needing for so many years.

By TotalArsenal

Posted in Arsenal Analysis, Best Arsenal 11 | Tagged , , , , , , | 34 Comments