Tottenham-Arsenal. Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Biggest North London Derby in a Decade?

Let’s cut right to the chase.  The North London Derby is always a big match but this one is even bigger.  Spurs are going to finish above Arsenal for the first time in over 20 years, and, if they can show they are truly superior to their neighbors in red with a win in this match, they will be able to legitimately continue their battle for the league title with Chelsea.  Moreover, they will also put a massive dent in Arsenal’s hopes for another go round in the Champions League next season.  Simply put, Spurs winning this match would leave no doubt which team in North London is on the up and which one is faltering.

On the other hand, if Arsenal could take all three points in the final derby at White Hart Lane, it would be a massive boost in our battle for the top-4 while likely ending Spurs title hopes.  While the mathematics suggest we cannot catch them in the table, we would be poised to see this season as a mere blip in our long-standing dominance over our arch-rivals, with the promise of a return to regular service next season.  After all, Spurs will be playing their home matches at Wembley while their new stadium is under construction.  That, plus their Champion League burdens, will make life much harder for them next year.  An Arsenal victory in this derby could–quite easily and very definitively–mark the high point of Spurs football and the beginning of their downward slide.

It’s easier said than done, of course.  They say that form goes out the window in the derby.  Let’s hope so.  Spurs have won eight league matches on the trot, scoring 23 goals to their opponents’ four, while keeping five clean sheets along the way.  We have to look all the way back to 11 February to find their most recent league loss, a 2-nil at Liverpool.  A week ago, however, they also lost to their title rivals, Chelsea, in the semi-finals of the FA Cup at the stadium that will be their temporary home.  The bigger teams may be more difficult for them, but we shouldn’t pretend that this Spurs team isn’t extremely well oiled and running on full power.

Arsenal won the other semi-final at Wembley over Manchester City even if it took extra time to do so.  That was the 2nd match in which manager Arsene Wenger deployed his new 3-4-3 formation.  It wasn’t a glorious Arsenal performance by any stretch of the imagination, but it yielded the correct result.  The two league matches that also featured the new formation, at Middlesbrough and home to Leicester, found Arsenal similarly stodgy in attack but also able to eke out the wins.

In my view, the added emphasis on defending has likely come with this match circled on the fixture list.  Keeping Spurs’ attack under wraps has to be job one, but it is closely followed by refusing to concede at set pieces and avoiding getting caught out on the counterattack.  In the three matches played with the new formation, Arsenal have conceded a pair of goals, both scored when we’ve pushed the ball well forward, turned it over and then failed to defend adequately as the other team broke on the counter.  It’s a trap we cannot afford to fall into at White Hart Lane.

As such, I picture a relatively cagey match despite the intensity of the derby atmosphere.  I also believe that Wenger will put out the same 11 he used at Boro and Wembley, having rested a few key players in the midweek home win over Leicester.  My predicted first 11 looks like this:

Cech

Gabriel–Koscielny–Holding

Oxlade-Chamberlain–Xhaka–Ramsey–Monreal

Ozil–Giroud–Alexis

Substitutes: Martinez, Gibbs, Bellerin, Coquelin, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck

Of course, there could be some tweaking of the line-up.  Danny Welbeck offers less of a target for high balls but more movement up front than Olivier Giroud.  Theo Walcott started instead of Giroud in midweek and forced a save from Leicester’s keeper, one of the very few shots we put on target.  Might he go again?

Hector Bellerin, Kieran Gibbs and Francis Coquelin also started on Wednesday night.  Of the three, I thought Bellerin looked the most effective and the young Spaniard might have to go again if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain isn’t recovered from the knock that saw him leave Wembley on crutches just a week ago.  Laurent Koscielny, after he hyper-extended his knee late on vs Leicester, is also an injury doubt.  Wenger suggested that Lolo had a 60-40 chance to play.  My hunch is that he will be there to anchor the rearguard.

There’s also the chance that Wenger will jettison the new formation completely, perhaps to spring a surprise on Tottenham.  Spurs Manager Mauricio Pochettino has also been switching between three and four at the back and there could be an element of one manager trying to out-guess the other.  I don’t see it happening, but other observers may have different ideas.  What do you think?

Regardless of the playing personnel and the formation in which they’re set out, Arsenal will need to master the cauldron-like atmosphere that this final derby at White Hart Lane promises.  Spurs and their supporters will believe that this is their chance to make a definitive statement against their rivals from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road.  The Gunners–and Gooners–need to believe the obverse and make it happen.  The opportunity is there, and, as Wenger says, “We have one advantage, the advantage of clarity.”  Clearly we need a result from this one and getting one against our arch rivals in the final derby at White Hart Lane would be all the sweeter.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

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Arsenal-Leicester City: Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Back to League Play But With a Bump.

Can confidence gained in this past Sunday’s win over Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinal carry over into league play?  Tonight’s match vs defending champions Leicester City will be the first step in answering that question.

With a spot in the FA Cup final booked, Arsenal must get back to the difficult task of trying to get up for a top-4 finish and another go at the Champions League.  On only three days rest, the Gunners face another must-win match that could pull them to within 3 points of Manchester United and 4 points of Manchester City, clubs that will face each other on Thursday night, meaning at least one of them will drop points.  A win would also see Arsenal climb to within 6 points of Liverpool but with 2 games in hand.

It won’t be easy.  Leicester–with a full week to prepare for this match–are coming off a draw with Atletico Madrid in the 2nd leg of the Champions League quarterfinals.   It wasn’t quite enough to put them through to the semis, but they went further than any other English team and did not look out of place at that level.  Before that they drew at Crystal Palace, a revived team that thoroughly man-handled Arsenal just 16 days ago.

That 3-nil loss was a real nadir, the most recent of many this season, and it was enough for manager Arsene Wenger to decide to switch formations and playing personnel.  Playing three at the back has yet to yield a clean sheet but it has been sufficient to see out a pair of 2-1 wins, first at Middlesbrough and then at Wembley.  Are those results enough to suggest Arsenal have turned a corner?  Will the 3-4-3 be used again and is it the right approach against a Leicester team which won the league last season by being happy to concede possession and play on the counterattack?

Of course, this season has been very different for Leicester.  Drifting toward the relegation places, club chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha made the bold and controversial decision to sack manager Claudio Ranieri and replace him with his assistant, Craig Shakespeare.  It appears that it was the right move.  Shakespeare turned the team around, winning his first five league matches.  They’ve cooled off slightly since, losing at Everton before the draws with Palace and Atletico.

So, in form and well rested–and featuring players like Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez who terrorized the league a year ago–Leicester present a formidable challenge for the Gunners, but one they simply must surmount.

As much as Leicester’s playing on the break would suggest a more attacking formation, I believe Wenger will stick with the 3-4-3 and the same starting line-up that helped win the last two games.

Cech

Gabriel–Koscielny–Holding

Oxlade-Chamberlain–Xhaka–Ramsey–Monreal

Ozil–Giroud–Alexis

Substitutes: Martinez, Gibbs, Bellerin, Coquelin, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck

It could well be argued that, on such short rest, playing the same 11 is a bad idea.  Players like Danny Welbeck and Hector Bellerin were effective as substitutes at Wembley and could be considered for starting spots.  Welbeck, in particular, gave the Manchester City rearguard new problems when he came on for Olivier Giroud.   Isolated and mainly used as a target for Petr Cech’s goal kicks, Giroud was mostly ineffective.  By comparison, Welbeck’s movement seemed to enliven the attackers who began to interchange positions more freely.  Although he wasn’t able to score a goal of his own, Welbeck made good chances for himself and others, and it was his standing foot (the kicking foot found nothing but air) that must be credited with the assist for Alexis’ unstoppable blast which sealed the win in extra time.  If Wenger makes one change to his starting group, Welbeck for Giroud would be the logical choice.  A second change might be Bellerin in for the Ox, who was seen leaving Wembley on crutches.  Wenger suggested, however, that it was a precautionary measure only, and that there were no real injuries coming out of the cup match.

Of course, Wenger might choose this match to switch things up a whole lot more.  Using the full depth of his squad and/or reverting to the 4-2-3-1 formation might make sense given the tight schedule and Leicester’s tendency to concede possession.  I’m less than fully confident, but my hunch is that the formation and line-up will continue as long as it keeps getting good results and the same 11 are available.  Your guess is as good as mine, however, so have at it.

No matter what, this match will be a tough one.  After the recent wins, the home crowd, perhaps recognizing the importance of the match, might more readily do their part and act as a real 12th man, getting fully behind the team.  Hopefully that–plus the burgeoning confidence those results have inspired–will be enough to see the Gunners through to win another one.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

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FA Cup Final: a Reward for Humility and Sacrifice | Plus Player Ratings

Unless you are a diehard Wenger-Out Campaigner, you will have liked that win as much as I did. It was not pretty; in fact, it was humbling. The manager and team sacrificed style and reputation for attitude and result, and they delivered. It was a weird, schizophrenic sort of experience: Citeh played like the old Arsenal: better and more dominant football but leaving new Wembley empty-handed with nothing else left then finishing in the top four. Guardiola will be philosophical about and he can afford to do so, given that it is only his first season at Man City. But for Arsene this was about survival: avoiding humiliation and fighting tooth and nail to get through to the final.

I was critical about starting with a 3-4-3 formation but it somehow did the trick. We kept our shape well when pressed back, and when we captured the ball  we were regularly able to escape the press. Giroud was not really into the game and neither were Alexis and Ozil, but as a team we kept fighting and, helped by a few dollops of luck, we somehow got there. Luck is such a big factor in a game and yesterday we enjoyed a lot of it: they hit the woodwork twice and the ball bounced back kindly; and they also had a goal disallowed that could easily have stood. Yet, I feel in footballing terms, we had the better chances in the second half and in extra time. There was something about this game that told us we would end up victoriously, and indeed we did. Maybe it was because our players were more hungry, or should that read desperate?

It was a true team performance and the likes of Nacho, Gabriel and Koz fought like their lives depended on it. In midfield, Xhaka was the organiser and excellent reader of the game and Rambo the connector. The Ox added verve from the flanks and, in my view, played his best game in an Arsenal shirt yesterday. What really made the difference was the introduction of Welbeck. Giroud tried hard but he lacked strength and was well-marshalled by the MC CBs. Welbeck was wasteful with his chances and opportunities to play in others, but his energy and mobility was too much for our opponents. To me he made all the difference without playing anywhere near his best.

Player Ratings (excluding subs):

Cech: 8 – made it too easy for Aguero for their goal but his fingertip save from Toure’s stunning effort on goal was superb

Ox: 8 – great going forward and not bad defensively – he was regularly an outlet and took on the MC midfielders and defenders time and again

Holding: 8 – calm head and reads the game well, with excellent positioning and good distribution of the ball

Koz: 8 – mean and energetic – fine captain

Gabriel: 8.5 – attitude, grit, aggression but also intelligence and calm – best performance in an Arsenal shirt by him until now

Nacho: 9 – gives his all and scored a potentially season-defining goal – just loves to score against Mancs in the FA Cup

Xhaka: 9 – quickly growing into the pivotal player in midfield. The team should use him more to get the full value out of him, but that was a fab performance nevertheless.

Rambo: 8.5 – it takes Aaron a while to get going but the Rambo Royce engine is purring again, and when he does those box to box runs he adds value everywhere. Superb second half

Ozil: 7.5 – always making good runs and looking for a key pass, but he lacked sharpness at times

Alexis: 8 – an extra half point for the composure for the goal, and he worked hard again. His passing is too predictable and inaccurate and I don’t rate his wing play, but he keeps scoring the important goals and that goes a long way in football.

Giroud: 7 – This was not his day but he also was left too much isolated up-front by the likes of Ozil and Alexis.

Wenger: 10 – turned a tentative team performance in the first half into a more confident and dominating performance in the second half and then again in extra time.

By TotalArsenal

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Arsenal-Manchester City: FA Cup Semi-final. Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Season-Saver on the Line at Wembley

For Both Wenger and Guardiola?

A Chance for Redemption and a Place in the Cup Final for Two of England’s Biggest Clubs and Their Managers.

This year’s FA Cup is different.  At the semi-final stage there are no minnows nor Cinderella stories.  The top two Premier League teams, Chelsea and Spurs, with just 4 points separating them in the table, played their derby today.  It was an end to end affair with Chelsea now looking very good for a domestic double after their 4-2 win.

Arsenal and ManCity will battle tomorrow for the chance to play Chelsea in the final, but, in truth, it’s a match that will also have a bearing on the league run-in.  The winner should get a huge confidence lift ahead of their remaining league games.  City are in the better position there, sitting in 4th place some 7 points ahead of the Gunners (although we have a game in hand).  It’s not determinative, of course, but football is not played in a vacuum, and both teams have tough matches yet to play.

Unfortunately, in the modern era of huge money in English football, The FA Cup is not quite the prize it once was.  Just ask Louis van Gaal, the former Manchester United manager, who, last season, lifted the trophy as he was simultaneously being replaced by that most mercenary of managers, Jose Mourinho.  The cup was not enough and Van Gaal was adjudged a failure for failing to bring Champions League football back to Old Trafford with a top 4 finish.

Pep Guardiola, in his first year on the other side of Manchester, has echoed Arsene Wenger’s sentiment that finishing in the top 4 is the more important prize.  Still, if you make the trip to the national stadium, why not go for the trophy that you can actually hold in your hands and lift above your head?  Getting this far leads to some fixture congestion for the run-in, but there will be only one extra match–the final–and it will come after the European places have been settled.  In disappointing seasons for both men, playing in that extra match will be an opportunity to put some gloss on their campaigns and take another stab at Chelsea who very well may have already lifted the league prize.

Guardiola’s team must be seen as favorites coming into the match.  After a mid-season dip that saw their title challenge fade–and witnessed a desultory exit from the CL to AS Monaco–they have found better form in recent weeks, punctuated by last weekend’s 3-nil victory at Southampton.  That match saw the return of Captain Vincent Kompany in central defense and his set-piece goal–not to mention the clean sheet–reminded Blue-Mooners just how much he’s been missed.  That part of City’s team has been the weak link.  35 league goals against (compared to Chelsea’s 27 and Spurs’ 22) probably tells the tale of how Pep’s first attempt to conquer English football fell by the wayside.

Of course, Arsenal’s 40 goals shipped in league play tells an even sadder tale and helps explain why we’re on the outside (of the top 4 places) and looking in.  It might also explain Wenger’s decision, a week ago at Middlesbrough, to make a major tactical shift by playing three at the back.  Even though it was against the lowest scoring of all PL teams, it did not yield a clean-sheet nor a particularly convincing performance.  Luckily, Arsenal showed that small bit of extra quality in front of goal and were able to eke out a 2-1 win at the Riverside to finally take some road points after four consecutive away defeats.

The unveiling of the tactical change–especially against such a poor attacking opponent–must have been a rehearsal for the more difficult tasks ahead, and, hopefully, with an extra week to practice it, the 3-4-3 will perform a bit better this weekend as well as in matches to come.  As such, I think we’ll see it again along with an unchanged first 11.

Cech

Gabriel–Koscielny–Holding

Oxlade-Chamberlain–Xhaka–Ramsey–Monreal

Ozil–Giroud–Alexis

Substitutes: Martinez, Bellerin, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi, Walcott

Or maybe not.  It’s possible that Wenger was merely trying out some new ideas while giving rests to some of his players ahead of the congested run-in schedule.  He could rotate again–and revert to his more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation–for the semi-final.  Let’s remember that this one could go to extra time (and penalties) if there’s an even scoreline after 90 minutes.  Then, on Wednesday night, we host defending league champions (and recently revived) Leicester City before traveling up the Seven Sisters Road for a North London derby at White Hart Lane next Sunday.  Arsenal’s squad depth seems strong and this could be the time of the season when it needs to be fully deployed.

Wenger might also keep the three central defenders but opt for some subtle tweaks given that City present a rather different challenge than Boro did.  Starting Hector Bellerin (and his new hair-do) as a wing-back (in place of the Ox) might help slow down Leroy Sane who has scored against us in both league matches this season.  Likewise, at the other wing-back position, the pace of Kieran Gibbs could be favored over Nacho Monreal’s attributes.  Playing Francis Coquelin or Mohamed Elneny in central midfield (in place of Aaron Ramsey and/or Granit Xhaka) might aid our defensive solidity or help maintain possession against a team that should be far more capable of keeping the ball themselves.  On the other hand, if we are planning to cede the bulk of possession to City, using Theo Walcott as a front man might be preferred to the slower (but bigger) presence of Olivier Giroud.  A final idea might be to get back to a recipe for success from the first half of the season and try Alexis at center forward and reinstate Alex Iwobi as his support on the left.  I’ll stand behind my prediction for an unchanged first 11 (and the Boro match being a rehearsal for this one) but, as always what (t** f***) do I know?  Who do you think Wenger will play and how would you approach this one if you could replace the man himself?

Replacing Wenger… Hmmm…

That subject–and the troubles surrounding our club that it represents–will hopefully be put to one side.  Supporters who opt to travel across town to the National Stadium might choose to put the banners down and support the team to their fullest.  Maybe a few might even opt to wear a yellow ribbon in their hair.  It’s not the merry month of May but it sure would be sweet to win ourselves a return visit at that time.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 80 Comments

What has got the Gunners and Gooners buzzing again?


There are some positives we can already point at from our use of the 3:4:3 formation in our match against Middlesbrough.

The first is psychological. The Arsenal world, the fans, the players, the management have all been in the doldrums in the last three or so months and there was nothing that could raise excitement anywhere to check the downward spiral of our morale. The 3:4:3 seems to have suddenly gotten everybody buzzing like a besieged camp that have just sighted help galloping furiously to join battle. Though our 3:4:3 performance against Middlesbrough was nothing to write home about, our excitement persists as the match gave us our first away points in five games. Our situation needed to be fixed and 3:4:3 fixed it. Isn’t football all about now, now, now and dreams?

Our 3:4:3 performance is a long way from the finished article. I don’t see us using it this weekend in our semi final FA cup clash against Mancheater City. But come Leicester next midweek tie, I can see the 3:4:3 back, better and guiding us to another victory. Have we Gooners now gotten the Plan B that we have been clamouring for?  Wenger indicated that a 3 man central defence gives extra security to the quick getaways, the long balls for example. If so, it is suited to games against teams that we dominate territorially who invariably hit us on the quick brake.

Holding was my best in our 3-man defence. Awareness and intelligence are natural by-products of his calm disposition. Just the very qualities that Gabriel, who was my worst of the three lacked. Gabriel is a safety first player, a last ditch tackler, a first time clearance man. He lacks the confidence to make any but very safe passes and ever so often in our game against Middlesbrough he resorted to passing the ball back to Cech to hoof out. Cech’s 46% pass success rate meant gifting the ball in excess of 54% of the time to the opposition when hoofed and exposing us to the weaker side of our game. Koscienly was not at his best, but that must have been due to his being given the center role for organizing the other two. Ideally the flank 3-man defenders should be the front footed players (Koshienly and Mustafi) and in between them should be the reader of the game, who sees the runners, the passing lanes, the empty spaces. He should be the man who organizes the defence and as it were, takes care of the left overs from his battling mates. Fitting such a bill is without doubt a fit BFG. Otherwise, can the young Holden, naturally talented in those directions, be able to shoulder such a sensitive responsibility? Wenger 20 years ago would have braved it. Now, am not so sure but that does not mean a negative against him. Dicey should be the word of choice here.

For the wing backs, Oxlade came off with very good marks. Going forward, I’d say he edges Bellerin, but one remains sceptical about his ability to keep a 90 minute defensive focus. Monreal has a better savvy of football than Gibbs, But wingback demands a lot of linear play and that’s not Monreal’s forte. This fact might tilt it in favour of Gibbs.

In the central midfield, Xhaka and Ramsey performed creditably well. But in what system would we not miss Santi? The 3:4:3 encourages the opposition to venture upfield a little bit more, leaving a little bit more spaces behind them and inviting a little bit more quick transitional response. Quick vertical passing, quick running with the ball. Our central midfielders should tune in more to this fact.

For the front thee in a 3:4:3, the two flank player are tucked in away from the flanks, more like the inside forwards.  They are relatively freer from specific defensive duties. For Ozil or Iwobi and even for Sanchez that’s what the doctor ordered. Interchanging positions between the two “inside forwards” becomes even more seamless. They have the license to roam, not least, dropping back to help the central midfielders. Talking speed, directness and decisiveness, the striker that jumps out for me is Lukas Perez.

This initial stage of our 3:4:3 looks like our Plan B. With time, who knows, it could evolve into Plan A. In a way it is a journey of discovery. At the moment it gives us the thrill of a pre-season – what’s in store. Am already imagining  Kolasinac or Mendy as our left wingback! No doubting it, the thought of another 3:4:3 when Leicester come visiting next week is like revving the buzz.

By Pony Eye

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Theo and Alexis on the Bench, Giroud and Rambo to Start: Middlesbrough v Arsenal Preview and Line-up

Oh how we like to wallow in negativity. I am sick to the teeth with the fan base complaining about everything Arsenal, from the players to the manager, and from the BOD to the main shareholder. Where is the perspective and where is the essence of being a supporter? Are we supposed to support the team or is it the team that should support us? In my view, very few get this anymore. The team is there to make you happy and if they don’t do it you get very angry with everything Arsenal. I cannot stop you but don’t expect any sympathy from me on this site.

We are of course victims of our expectations, and  they are always high at Arsenal. So what if we finish sixth or seventh? Are Arsene and the team not allowed to have a bad season once in a while? It is remarkable that we have been in the top four for the best part of 20 years and tasted Champagne League football as long as we can think back, and that against challenging financial circumstances,

We are now in good financial health, are managed sensibly by the BOD, keep hold of most of our quality players, have a decent to good transfer budget every season and a manager who cares for the club. It may be time for Arsene to move upwards or onwards, and we will see what happens this summer. All to play for again next season that’s for sure, but let’s see how this one finishes first.

So tomorrow we will play low scoring Middlesbrough away. It is of course key to get back to winning ways and playing away may be an advantage: the manager and players can focus on the game at hand without too much disruption from the (away) supporters. I don’t think the chosen first eleven matter that much. What really matters is the mental preparation of the team and the desire to work their hearts out for the shirt and the manager. Except for one or two players, I have no doubt that they will all give their all again tomorrow, and that is all we can ask for.

Preferred Line-up:

Cech

Bellerin – BFG – Koz – Nacho

——- Xhaka —- Elneny ——-

Rambo—–Ozil——-Welbeck

———–Giroud——————

It is about time to have a proper centre forward in attack again and Ollie is simply ideal for this as a ‘Holding CF’. Theo and Alexis have their merits but, for different reasons, are not team players, so, for me, they can warm the bench. With Rambo and Welbeck we have proper cover for the full backs and allround team players, and they also strengthen the midfield. It may not be a team for the purists, but it is a team that will play together and fight for the course, and that is the most important thing right now.

I guess Wenger will not go for the above. He will probably go for Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koz, Nacho, Xhaka, Elneny, Alexis, Ozil, Theo and Wellbeck, and that would be fine with me too.

The team are feeling low and need our support more than ever. Let’s get behind them once more, cause that is what we supporters do. Victory Through Harmony and all that.

By TotalArsenal

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 47 Comments

How Arsene Wenger can Change Things Round

WENGER, THERE IS NOW NOTHING TO LOOSE.

In my comment somewhere before the Crystal Palace match, I wrote that there was no margin for error left in the season for the team. I was thinking about top four placing. After the Crystal Palace game my perception took a completely new angle that has me now saying that there is a huge margin for error for our team. Currently sitting at 54 pts we are guaranteed, come what may, that we can’t be relegated. Isn’t it such a liberating thought? So why shouldn’t Wenger just put the patient on the surgical table and use his scalpel with impunity. The only reason I can think of why he wouldn’t want to do that is if he is being rather mindful of his hot seat. We the fans have gone beyond that care. We loose our remaining 8 matches, we end the season at 54 points, mid table, and that’s neither here nor there as things currently stand. We simply want ingenious thinking back in the management of our team. We have a rich enough squad. The problem is that the best is not being gotten out of them. Wenger has become too cautious to venture creatively.

Let us for example talk our formation. On paper it is 4:2:3:1. In reality our full backs play more as wing backs which leaves us with a formational shape nearer to 2:4:3:1.Two at the back?  No wonder we have shipped in 39 goals already. Walcott and Bellerin, both right footed occupy the same vertical strip meaning we are almost playing two wingers on one side of the field. That is far from an economical structure. On the other side of the field the arrangement is better with Moreal bumping forward only when Sanchez cuts in, which is often. Therefore it is the movement of Sanchez that transforms Monreal from full back to wing back. It is a better synchronized pattern. But don’t forget that when Monreal bumps forward we have left behind only a back 2. Can we go 3:4:3 instead? Now that we got nothing to loose, why not.

Let’s talk Ozil. Ozil arrived here with the label of the best #10 in the world, and most of us not least a Mr Wenger, are securely imprisoned within the four thick walls of this label. Go and study Ozil’s assists and meet the facts that over 75% of them come from dead ball situations and from wide areas. But being imprisoned we insist that Ozil stays in the central areas as the #10 where incidentally his abject defensive qualities are over exposed. Ozil needs space, the kind of space only the wide areas can give, or otherwise he needs a quick transition team like Real Madrid of Ronaldo, Benzema and Angel de Maria era. But even then, Modric was preferred to him. Wenger needs to brake jail. He can’t get a better moment for that brake than now that there is nothing to loose. Ozil out wide.

Let’s talk Sanchez. In terms of high drama, goals, assists, twists and turns, bursts of energy, he is our stand out player. He started the season as our front man and the goals and the assists were in flow. But there was a negative to his otherwise outstanding role of leading the line. He couldn’t accommodate the fact that sometimes strikers are isolated up field and in such situations they have to do little more than bide their time. Sanchez is an action man. He would rather race to close down the opposition, frustrated that his mates tracking up from their defensive duties have not raced some 30 meters at full speed to come and join in the high press. Result. Recriminations galore a la Sanchez. The harmony of the dressing room gets threatened and there is little doubt in my mind that this is the major reason why Wenger put him back to the wide areas. But does this wide left area bring enough out of him? His play there has gone predictable and sterile for his standards. Ozil thrives in big spaces, Sanchez in small spaces. Sanchez is a prolific goal scorer but he admitted himself that he prefers assisting goals to scoring goals and that assertion is there for all to see. The role that is tailor made for Sanchez is that of a support striker, which, with a little adjustment to suit our formation becomes #10. Strangely this is one role in the front four that Wenger has never employed him. Did Wenger not see it, or was he being too mindful of Ozil? Now that we have nothing to loose, we can afford the experiment of Ozil and Sanchez interchanged in positions. If it is a 3:4:3 Sanchez plays as a false #9 so he is never isolated.

Let’s talk Walcott. I had always thought that for top managers their first demand of players is consistency. For sure that is one thing Walcott hasn’t got. You have to be an impulsive gambler to be fielding him regularly. Some days you hit the jackpot. Most of the days you track the long distance home not having a dime anywhere for a cab. Has Wenger of today hinged his tactics on hopefulness, on the double zero? There is absolutely nothing creative about double zero. It’s one long shot.

Let’s talk central midfield. Xhaka stood out against Crystal Palace. He has proved himself as a marvellous distributor of the ball. His defensive performance has already improved but it would always be short because he lacks acceleration, those first few strides from static position. Elneny also lacks acceleration and therefore cannot compliment him. Defensively Coquelin can, but he is so poor with the ball, not at all good enough for Arsenal. Ramsey has little regards for the shape of a team and that’s not good enough either. Oxlade can tackle with pace and power, he is also good with the ball but he lacks concentration and defensive awareness. Is the choice of who partners Xhaka now a question of the best of a “bad” lot?  Or now that we have a huge margin for error do we think Metersacker as a DM? We remember his talent as an organizer, his passing intelligence, his aerial ability. And if he is pushed back a little bit deeper, would that not become a 3 man central defense for a 3:4:3 formation? Or is there somebody else you can conjure up from the squad? I can’t wait for the summer window.

We have a squad that should be doing better. Maybe all we need to do is think outside the box. We have got nothing to lose, so Gooners let the fun begin.

By Pony Eye

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