We are still in the hunt for a top four finish in the league. We are in the semi final of the FA cup. Nothing that much different from our history over the last 12 seasons. Yet it is tasting all different. The Arsenal fandom who are unable to put up with perennial second best seem to have hit a critical mass and the toxicity in the air is threatening to choke the very life out of the club. Some of the fans are lashing out at the Board and the majority share holder, others at the players, but Wenger is sandwiched between the two and bears the brunt of the outcry.  Is he going to quit or will he hang on? That decision lies solely with him because there is a 2 year contract already on the table waiting for his signature. Whether he signs or not, the least that Arsenal Football Club can do to display some concern for the sentiments of the fans is re-enforce the team in a manner that would give hope that the club has finally acquired the will for the step up to the very top.

To successfully take that final step requires some brilliant signings. Signings that MUST IMPROVE the starting 11. It is a wide field with plenty to choose from, but I will not be suggesting names here. Suffice it to say that we need as our minimum requirement a brilliant left full back, a well rounded defensive midfielder who can play both sides of the ball and a world class striker.

For this exercise we constitute the present squad as :  (Cech, Ospina), (Bellerin, Debuchy, Jenkinson), (Mustafi, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Chambers, Holdng), (Monreal, Gibbs), (Coquelin, Elneny, Xhaka, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla), (Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott, Wilshere, Campbell), (Giroud, Perez, Sanogo). We assume we will be able to keep all our top players.

Come 2017/18, the 1st eleven that I would like to see is: (X denotes new 1st team signings)






To help recoup part of the fund for the three top new signings, the club would need to sell a minimum of six players from amongst the following 12 players : Debuchy, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal, Gibbs, Elneny, Ramsey, Wilshire, Campbell, Perez and Sanogo. Any deficit in the squad numbers would be filled by promoting from the academy.

Gooners, what are your opinions? Do you have names of top players you wish signed (maximum 3)? Do we unearth or do we go Galatico? And who are the ones you want sold or allowed to go (minimum 3)? Remember that buying or selling is never a trolley dash.

Planning and dreaming help make it clearer why we must roll up our sleeves and keep fighting. To the drawing board, all hands!

by Pony Eye

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments

If Wenger stays there is one thing he has to change

Nothing is nicer than seeing a youngster come through the ranks to make it big at Arsenal. It will be rarer and rarer to see an eight or ten year old make it through to the top at our club though. It really is far too hard to judge whether a young boy (and girl for the Arsenal Ladies) has all the qualities to make it to the top, and the vast majority do not get there, unfortunately.

Arsene actually tends to get youngster at the age of 15-19 from other clubs. It is far more easy to judge whether these ‘young adults’ have what it takes to become a regular first team player eventually. But it is still a gamble and it requires a lot of financial, emotional and management time investment to get them there.

During Wenger’s first ten years at Arsenal, he was very successful at buying these young(ish), unknown-to-many gems and shine them up for success. From Anelka to Henry, and from Vieira to Fabregas, to name but a few, he made us all purr with excitement from the sheer quality these players brought to our game eventually. He was more or less alone in this in the Premier League, and hence his incredible success rate during the first half of his tenure at Arsenal.

Ferguson, Wenger’s main competitor for most of the first ten years, had his own youngster who became the backbone of the majority of the successes he had with MU – the likes of the Neville brothers, Scoles, Giggs and Beckham – but he was never able to replicate that one group of talented youngsters that made it to the top gradually. And as soon as Mourinho arrived in the PL, the days of being able to afford to build a team bottom upwards were simply over. He was given unlimited money to buy 27-30 year old who were at the very top of their game and added value from the moment they arrived. Ferguson, the ultimate adapter, reacted quickly with buying ready to roll players himself – with the purchase of Rio Ferdinand at a then eye-watering £28m or so as perhaps the best example of buying for instant success. And what a difference he made!

Wenger could not respond to this new era due to the financial  restraints we all know too well. He had to keep buying and developing raw talents with the hope that Arsenal could continue to compete at the highest levels. He moved mountains with his bare hands, but it just was not enough to compete with the financial might of Chelsea and MU. And then came Man City on to the scene as the next billionaire’s toy. They actually targeted our players to strengthen their team instantly – and weaken us in the process. The BoD needed the cash to pay off big parts of the substantial bank loans, so were not overly reluctant to get rid of our established and/or promising players.

We just could not compete with these teams till a few years ago. They are still financially stronger than us but we can now also buy good and experienced players to strengthen our squad without having to make a return on them necessarily. It still looks like the BoD are not doing that (enough): Xhaka and Mustafi are very promising players but, for example, right now a class below the totally matured Kante and returning ex-Chav in defence. These two made a real difference at Chelsea this season, like they would have done at Arsenal if we had bought them last summer.

On top of this, Arsene is still pushing through youngsters who even after 100+ PL games have not claimed a first team spot. And for me, more than anything else, this is the real reason for Arsenal’s inability to push on to the very top, both in the PL and CL. Ox, Gibbs, Ramsey, Bellerin, Ramsey and even Wilshere and (the now at mature age) Walcott are talented but not back-bone material to overcome the highest hurdles and push us on to winning titles when the difference has to be made. A few will at some point become really useful or key pivotal players but for now they cost us dearly time and again at the pivotal moments.

IF Arsene wants to stay and take us to the next level, he really has to start buying 27-30 year old quality players, so we can properly compete again.

By TotalArsenal.


Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Gooner

I am in Manchester, a footballing city as there are so many here ‘up North’. I love cities with two clubs that match each other and divide them into  two: it brings great energy to these places. Over the decades it is usually one team that dominates but then the fans of the other team will get their gloating time too occasionally. And the longer the wait, the sweeter the taste of seasonal dominance will be.

The owner, M, of the B&B I am staying in is a Blue. I swapped to this place after I spoke to the self-celebrating owner of my previous B&B, who said the following when I asked him which team he supported: ‘the only team in Manchester of course’; I said I believe there are two; to which he said ‘the only team with history’; to which I said, so not the only Manchester team in the here and now then?

M goes to all the home games but also likes to go to the away games whenever his wife has been made soft enough to let him out to play. He speaks with such joy and energy about his team that it makes me jealous. His team are not doing much if any better than Arsenal this season but the fans float on a bubble of blue dominance over red in the city. Such a bearable lightness of being. After decades of being overpowered and humiliated, the Blues have the hottest trainer ticket in town and easily as much money as their sorry Red neighbours to buy whomever they fancy. What a brilliant twist of faith and source of continuous happiness for the blue side of Manchester. Us Gooners have dominated the dark side of North London for decades now, but it looks like we have gotten bored with it, as we take it for granted now (even though it looks like they finally will finish above us this time round).

Two of my colleagues on the project I am working on are Leeds supporters. They still have sweet memories of the good years at the start of the new millennium, but are also buoyed by the prospect of making the play-offs and maybe, just maybe, getting back into the premier league again. The hope that this brings makes them look forward to every game: the real source of happiness for a club football supporter. Another colleague supports Sheffield Wednesday. Her whole family supports the Owls and her brother flew over from the USA last year just to be at the play off final for a premier league ticket. They lost out of course, but this season they are in a good position to make it once more to the final, and then who knows… ‘Who knows’… ‘it could be us this time’…. that is all a football supporter needs to be excited again, to have hope and look forward to each and every game.

At Arsenal, we have so much. We win a lot more games than we lose, we often play very easy-on-the-eye football, we have won the FA cup a (joint) record time, always finish in the top four and play CL football, and a football stadium that becomes more and more a home the longer we play there.

Yet we are a deflated bunch of complainers, deprived of excitement and hope, it seems. Do we really have to fall deep first in order to enjoy our team playing football again? What is wrong with us?

By TotalArsenal

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Arsenal player ratings: Only two players deserve credit

Six losses in seven games (PL and CL) have gone beyond a statistical blip. With the quality of players in the squad this is unacceptable. Against West Bromwich it is indictment galore.

OSPINA : Terrible. Not in sync with the defense.

BELLERIN: Hardworker, but his whole strength seems hinged on his speed only. He should improve his playing poise. Too one footed.

MUSTAFI: Great heart but too excitable particularly for a defender.. Why doesn’t he just concentrate on defending?

KOSIENLY: Not exactly same Kos. Still fine enough but looks like he is beginning to slow and also he is totally unable to organize his men.

MONREAL: The wrong side of 30 has started announcing itself.

XHAKA: No high press from West Brom suited his game. Composed distribution of passes. 👍

RAMSEY: Hollywood would always elude him, until he learns how to play serious (tactically).

CHAMBERLAIN : All the ingridents are there but he needs to bring them nicely together by adding the use of space without the ball to his impressive repertoire.

WALCOTT: Now you see him, now you don’t. That’s not good enough for top flight.

WELBECK : Sits between two stools. Half a midfielder, half a striker. He should make up his mind. Sub role only for now as he is obviously still coming back.

SANCHEZ : Against a team sitting deep, putting him out wide is a misuse. Credit to him, he still made the best of that misuse. 👍

TEAM : So poor without the ball that they are a pain to watch when the opponent are in possession.

WENGER : Is he defense blind? More pragmatism is demanded of him. Is it now too late in the day?

REST OF THE SEASON: We must keep fighting if not for any laurel at least for our pride!


Posted in Uncategorized | 41 Comments

Banners Flown or the Beginning of a Banner Run-In? West Bromwich Albion–Arsenal. Match Preview, Predicted Team.

This is where it all began–the banners amongst the traveling “support” telling Arsene Wenger that his services as manager at Arsenal Football Club were no longer desired.  What year was it?  2014 maybe, but who can remember?  For what feels like an eternity, Arsenal fans have seen title challenges fall away and watched what feels like an annual right of passage–each February from the first elimination round of the Champions League.  What’s the point of trying for another top 4 finish in the league if that’s all that can be expected?  Sports should be a respite from our boring lives.  Consistency?  No thank you…

Even if the results haven’t actually gotten worse (in fact, we finished 2nd in the league last season and won a pair of FA cups in the proceeding campaigns), the sense of futility (sameness?) and the toxicity of the Arsenal environment only grows.  A fund had been raised to hire a plane and fly another message to the board: “Wenger Out. No New Contract.”  Due to bad weather, it will have to wait.  Instead, only the hand-held ones will be on display.

But that’s the “game within the game” or maybe the battle amongst brothers.  Arsenal supporters all yearn for success–or at least easy answers and change for the sake of change–but there’s an actual match that must be played and it will be against an always resolute opponent: Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion.  If Arsenal can win it–and make no mistake, with Wenger still at the helm, ALL matches are ones he must win–the protests will be held over until the International break is done and we host Manchester City.  If we cannot… Well, let’s not go there unless we must.  As the song goes: “Oh to be a Gooner..”

Pulis’ team is having a fine season and have already reached the 40 point mark finding itself in 8th place in the league table.  Their last two outings have been poor, however.  They failed to score and were beaten 3-nil at Everton last weekend, and, even worse, allowed two Crystal Palace goals while scoring none themselves in a home match the weekend before.  Pulis, always a strong motivator, will want to right the ship and will surely have his players well focused for the task at hand.  And, although his teams have a reputation for defending first and foremost–and that such a tactic might also be aided by the rough weather–he’ll also know that an early goal will only fuel the rancor amongst the traveling support and put extra pressure on Arsenal to come at his Baggies and perhaps leave themselves exposed for counterattacks.

And, we must remember, WBA are no Lincoln City, the non-league team we were able to beat in the FA Cup last weekend.  Instead of part-time players and former tradesmen, West Brom have several players who have played at much more renowned clubs.  Ben Foster, the former Manchester United keeper, anchors it all, while other former Red-Devils, notably Jonny Evans and Darren Fletcher, will likely play ahead of him.  Nacer Chadli and Jake Livermore did time at Tottenham and now take up midfield roles with the Baggies.  Solomon Rondon (the answer to the question “Who ate all the empanadas (Spanish for pies)?” is a big force up front and he could be paired with Hal Robson-Kanu who impressed in the 2016 European Championships with Wales.

How does Wenger, under so much pressure that he cannot afford a mistake, set up his team against the Baggies?

He certainly played a strong squad against Lincoln City and I suspect he’ll go with that same group again, with the exception of starting Mesut Ozil (who came on for the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the middle of the first half) and replacing Kieran Gibbs (who seems to have caught the illness which had gotten Ozil before him) at left back.  That would make for a starting 11 as follows:






Substitutes: Ospina, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Coquelin, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lucas

Of course, he could also choose to mix things up a bit by going more defensive in midfield with Coquelin or choosing to use Alexis up front and keeping Giroud in reserve if goals are needed late.  The manager was far from definitive in his pre-match comments about the health of other flu stricken players (Iwobi and Welbeck) and on the recovery of injured guys like the Ox and Mohamed Elneny.  Still, with the pressure he’s under and the fact that the Lincoln match was one of his only successful recent outings, I think he’ll only tinker as he must.  As I said before, it’s a must win match and only such a result see the banner carriers leave the Hawthorns somewhat sheepishly.  They’ll be back, of course, after the international break, but most Gooners could probably use a respite from the angst surrounding the club.

But what do I know?  How do my fellow BK-esquers (the few, the proud..) feel about the match and what are your predictions (or desires) for the game?

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 58 Comments

Ozil or Ramsey or RamZil?



Rambo is an interesting study. Though a versatile player, it has been difficult identifying a best role for him. Ramsey must do the late runs into the box, irrespective of the role assigned to him. Nothing can ever stop that. Nothing. He is a maniac as far as wanting to get at the end of every offensive move is concerned. Against Lincoln, from the midfield, he had the highest attempts at target (tied with Walcott at 6) and walked one of them into the net. That’s his orgasm.

Is he a pain in the neck? Absolutely, if he has been given a role that is undermined by such runs. Are deep runs into the box necessary? Absolutely, because they cause sudden overload that catch the defense flat footed. Clearly then Ramsey can be a great asset or a liability in equal measure depending on the role he is playing. Unfortunately, roles are so interdependent that one wonders if there is a place in the team that can accomodate his intractability.

Rambo has a monstrous engine. He is technically very gifted, but lacks speed and agility. He loves to be involved, never one to hide but gets too sucked to the ball at the cost of spatial awareness particularly in the defensive phase of the game. He is like a precious stone that has defied polishing. Should it be thrown away, locked up in the safe, or hung on one’s neck with pride? Little wonder opinions are so split about him. He is good, he is bad, he can be ugly.

Rambo has little regard or discipline for structure, and a guy like Pep Gourdiola wouldn’t tolerate him, but in fairness to him he compensates mightily with his huge lungs. Ozil operates best in freedom, but his freedom exists within a tactical framework. Rambo’s boarders on licentiousness and to be forgiven, he has to pay with tons of sweat. And does he?

Rambo is an enigma who divides opinions but even for those on the negative side of the divide, there remains a vague sensing that there must be a right role for him. Obviously not #10 as Ozil is there already and Aaron doesn’t quite fit the description of the man in the hole. A member of a midfield three?  Or does he pair as a double #10 in which one is a creator, the other a jack of all trade with a penchant for getting at the end of things? What about a hybrid of all of them? A midfielder, a creator, a goal scorer. Frank Lampard who was the very best of his generation comes to mind. He was a midfielder who was always there in the box banging in goals. Lampard is the all time leading goal scorer for Chelsea and has a career total of 193 goals. No midfielder had ever scored more than 150 goals. Lampard is a precedence that gives hope that Rambo’s box runs can become an invaluable asset to the team. Clearly a double pivot does not provide the security for such unfettered runs. A three man midfield does.

Rambo’s presence in the middle 3 of a 4:3:3 is particularly interesting because of the energy in his will for upfield verticality, which his special lungs are able to sustain over the course of a game. In comparison, our 4:2:3:1 offensive capacity (i.e. 4 attackers) is not compromised number wise because Rambo invariably joins the attack while our defensive shape remains uncompromised as there are still two midfielders manning the spaces.

However, the 4:3:3 has its ripples. The #10 role vanishes. The centre of the front 3 is the striker, and that’s not a role for Ozil who likes to play with men in front of him. Move him wide right, and Walcott is displaced. Move him wide left and he becomes an orthodox winger which amounts to a gross misuse of his creative talent. What then? Is he out of the team in a 4:3:3? It is pertinent to note here that when Wenger played 4:3:3 against Bayern, Ozil was indisposed. Again against Lincoln, Ozil was on the bench. Can £42.5M be sat permanently on the bench?

In the Lincoln match Ozil came in to replace injured Oxlade in the 27th minute and almost instantly the team started playing more intelligently. Did we revert to our more accustomed 4:2:3:1? Wouldn’t that have been too risky, even against lowly Lincoln, with Rambo in the double pivot role? Ozil played deeper and in the process gave cover to Rambo’s upfield “pilgrimages”. Ozil actually played in a midfield three!

Ozil cannot tackle. He is not at home with brawn and power. But defense is not all brawn, it is also brains. He knows how to quietly take care of the abandoned spaces housing the opponents attacking corridors and passing lanes. That, technically is an important part of defending that would be lost on many but a few with keen eyes. Ozil’s ego never on parade on the field sets him apart. Sometimes when am watching a match, I see just egos scuttling around the field. Egos that come in different shapes and sizes but non that I have seen amongst them goes by the name Mesut Ozil. One of his most amazing quality is his paranomic view of what is in front of him. He is able to see the whole as well as its details in one flash of a vision. The more of his men in front of him, the more dazzling his creativity. Maybe one of the errors in our formation this season is in pushing Ozil further up the field in the attempt to turn him into a goal scoring #10. We wanted him to reflect our own egos, to be made in our own image. This is why he is being nailed to the cross. Nobody understands him and everybody is asking a different of him.

Likely too, one of the reason that might have also informed pushing Ozil further up the field is his inability at aggressive defending. The irony in this is that in today’s football, the final third of the field is the area for the most aggressive defending (high pressing) while the middle third tactically requires the least aggressiveness and therefore best suited to Ozil’s more passive style of defending. Everything seems to be pointing to Ozil playing a deeper role.

Ozil and Ramsey together in a midfield three, demands that the remaining of the combo 3 should be the deepest lying. For sure that’s a 4:1:2:3 formation, with Rambo and Ozil being the 2. While Rambo moves vertically up and down his default position, Ozil, more or less, adjusts horizontally to the dynamics of the game. This arrangement tallies with what Arsenal played when Ozil replaced Oxlade in the Lincoln game and quietly, without any high drama, brought back intelligence into our game. Throw away all the formation models and the gist here is Ozil plays in a position where he has more of his mates to targets and where at the same time his presence frees Rambo to make his box runs.

This arrangement does not exclude other combinations of our midfield players but Ozil deeper than where he has been playing this season is the cue, irrespective of the label assigned to it.

By Pony Eye

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

How ever high you’ll fly your plane, Wenger the Eagle will soar above it

The Champions League is over for Arsenal, and we know we are not going to win the league this season either, but FA Cup glory is just two big wins away. I don’t know about you, but if we win the FA Cup by beating the Northern Oilers and than the Chavs or Spuddies (ideally) in the final, I reckon our season would still have come good. Wenger can then either leave on a decent high or indeed stay on for another year. Both options have their plusses and minuses, but it will be entirely up to him.

There is still every chance that Wenger will have Arsenal finish in the top-four; and who would bet against him? If he wins the FA Cup as well, I reckon 2016-17 will still be regarded as a successful season. It would also lift this team for the coming season and Wenger can add to the squad whilst letting one or two players go who are past their best or do not fit in anymore. From now on, Wenger should bench Alexis and give Perez and Giroud a chance to gel and deliver the goods together. Theo and Danny may also have a strong finish to the season to get us over the line.

Yet some are putting money on the bar table to pay for a sorry plane to fly over the home of football and demanding Wenger to va moosh. Wenger, the human eagle, will soar above it, no doubt, but just have some class ffs. The season is not over and there are plenty of very big games to come as well with both Mancs club still visiting and a NLD game in the league alone. The FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, and then hopefully the final there as well, will also be fantastic football occasions we all live and die for. So let’s get behind the team full-hearted once more, stop the winching and take ourselves a bit less serious again.

Victoria Concordia Crescit or just COYGs!

By TotalArsenal.


Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments