Mustafi is a Winner, Granit-Rambo boss Midfield, ALO the Dream Attack: 8 Observations

That was just the sort of game the team, the supporters and the manager needed. We were up for it from the start and never looked back. After all the years at the club, Arsene is still able to fire up the troops and get the canon to roar and roar. And let there be no doubt it, a loss against the Spuddies at home would have been devastating in more than one way.

The players got the supporters going from the start and that created a brilliant home atmosphere that was needed to play the sort of pressing, energetic football that proved simply too much for the sorry Spuds. It was about time Arsene’s Gunners beat Pochettino’s swamp dwellers; and with two goals to the good guys and a clean sheet, it was a spirit lifting performance for everyone red and white.

Eight Observations from a pivotal victory through harmony:

  1. The Mustafi-factor: Playing three at the back is very different from playing four in defence. There is no time and too much space to try and control everything that happens at the back; what is needed is three very mobile, athletic, dynamic CBs who fire-fight regularly and focus hard on eliminating the players that attack their space. Mustafi, Koz and Nacho are three such players and when we play them together we often keep clean sheets and win games. On top of this, Mustafi scored a cracker of a goal that made us all sing one-nil to the Arsenal; he is the sort of player that makes a difference in a crucial game.
  2. Mesut had another top game. I never understand why there is still doubt re Ozil’s importance for the team. His passing stats are excellent and nobody produced more assist (45 now) since he joined the PL. He is not an in-your-face player but one who always looks to add value to the team. Let’s embrace him and show him the support he deserves. And well done to the home fans who gave him a collective standing ovation.
  3. The collective mobility of ALO ALO was just too much for the Spuds. Alexis, Lacazette and Ozil pushed up high and covered sooo much space that the defenders never were at ease when playing out the ball. I loved the way they interchanged positions, and Lacazette’s assist from the right to Alexis in the middle was a great example of this. ALO has only started three times this season; let’s hope Wenger will play them more regularly from now on.
  4. Xhaka and Rambo are quietly growing into a formidable duo in midfield. The Spuds’ strength is in the centre of midfield but Granit and Aaron were on top for almost the entire game. Rambo powered forward and Xhaka supported the CBs when needed, but they played as a duo together most of the time.
  5. The full backs had mixed games. Kolasinac was relatively quiet in attack but a great support for Nacho and the other CBs in defence (especially set pieces). Bellerin had a very good attacking game with a number of key passes and almost a great assist for Lacazette. He had the pre-assist for Alexis’ goal by playing a Ozilesque pass into the box that the Frenchman pounced on.
  6. Cech was solid and oozed that vital calm behind the three dynamic, frantic CBs. Judging from yesterday’s performance, Petr is capable of playing at least a few more years for us.
  7. Iwobi looked good from the moment he entered the pitch. With two goals against Argentina in midweek, Alex is full of confidence and it showed. I think Wenger did well not to start him as he did against Man City, but as a sub he helped to keep the momentum and the ball with Arsenal.
  8. Eleven games unbeaten at home, eleven wins in fact. Let’s work on the away form and we can go from strength to strength. Keep the Faith FFGs!

By TotalArsenal

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Live Blogging the North London Derby: Join us for the Big One

The line-ups are in, the espresso’s been pulled and we’re just about set to get going on a big, big (big) North London Derby.  The early kick-off is tough–especially if you’re watching in California as I am this morning.  Still, I did not need an alarm to get up for this one, 4:30 am kickoff and all.  As an extra bonus, my television coverage is in 4K this morning so I can see every straggly hair of Mesut Ozil’s “beard.”  Good times…

Here are the starting line-ups:

Arsenal: Cech, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac, Ozil, Sanchez, Lacazette.  Subs: Mertesacker, Wilshere, Ospina, Iwobi, Welbeck, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin.

 
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Sanchez, Dier, Vertonghen, Trippier, Sissoko, Dembele, Eriksen, Davies, Alli, Kane.  Subs: Son, Vorm, Llorente, Foyth, Aurier, Winks, Walker-Peters.

Referee: Mike Dean

So, what do you think?  The Arsenal set up is exactly as I thought it would be.  My biggest surprise is that Theo Walcott hasn’t made the bench.  With Olivier Giroud also out due to injury that leaves not a lot of attacking power in reserve.  The Totts line-up seems fairly aggressive given that I rate Moussa Sissoko as a very undisciplined player who cannot stop his attacking instincts no matter where he’s positioned.  The other Moussa–Dembele, however, is a strong presence in the center of the pitch as is Eric Dier.  Do Arsenal catch a break with Toby Alderwiereld out injured?  Perhaps.  My thought is that our own defense will need to be plenty strong to contain the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.

Yours?

As much difficulty as Arsenal has gone through in this early season–it all goes out the window when we face the old enemy from up the Seven Sisters.

Come on you Gunners!!

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 186 Comments

Time for Jack and Welbeck to Help us Mash the Spuds: Preview|Line-Up

The NLD is up tomorrow and what an opportunity to pump up the veins and  get our PL campaign back on track. It is hard to admit it but the Spuds are looking not too shabby this season. The Spurs manager is their biggest strength and Wenger will have to get his formation and tactics right to mash the Spuds into easy digestible portions.

Pochettino’s tactics are quite ‘Italian’, based on solid, deep defending and having a few lethal attackers who can pounce on the few chances they may produce. At times they remind me of a poorer version of the AC and Inter Milans of the late eigthies and early nineties. His other quality is developing talented players relatively quickly into very good players and making the team cohesive and an ‘as one’ unit. Real Madrid will take him away in June, no doubt.

Arsene will have to decide whether to attack/ take the initiative from the start or play a bit more conservative. Against MC he went for the former and it ended up in tears and I fear it may go the same way against the Spuds.

I am fed up with predicting Arsene’s first eleven, but these are the eleven I would go with:

submit football lineup

Enjoy the game FFGs. Let’s mash those Spuddies!

By TotalArsenal 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

Arsene Already has a Replacement for Alexis Sanchez – In fact, he has Two

Our game against Man City left us with many thoughts about the team and players, as well as our tactics and other choices the manager made. During a game like this we need the big players to stand up and lead the rest. There is no doubt that Alexis tried his best to do this, but his passes were well below par time and again, and the longer the game went on the less involved he became.

Alexis’ stats for last season were great, and if you mainly watch him perform for us on Match of the Day you will simply love him. I believe it was a big mistake to play the out of form Iwobi in Alexis’ position last Sunday and to leave the unknown to MC, but already deadly for us this season, Lacazette, on the bench. Wenger made another change by moving Alexis into the CF position, and it just did not pay off. The Chilean firecracker worked hard to get involved and hold onto the ball so others could find space around and behind the MC defence to spring an (counter) attack; but Iwobi and Ozil are not lethal attackers and Alexis was not able to pass to them accurately anyway. Alexis is a naturally predatory, selfish player with limited passing qualities (even though ever so often he produces a world class one), and this showed once again against the league-leaders.

And it is this lack of passing accuracy that makes me believe that Alexis will not get a new contract and will be either sold in two months time or allowed to run out his contract. Lacazette is the one who can score the goals Alexis scored for us last season, so Wenger will now move for a better, all-round, wing player, if you ask me. He could do this in January, and the rumours re Wilfred Zaha are interesting, but he could easily wait till the summer, as to find a quality/long-term addition to the team.

gun__1458393795_Welbeck-Everton

It looks like Iwobi will be the player to replace the Chilean in the mid to long term. Alex is not having the best of seasons but that was to be expected. Young players go through dips, but Iwobi has so much quality that he will get out of these relatively quickly again. His passing is great and his football intelligence is extraordinary for such a young player. The only thing missing is a constant goal-threat, as too many opportunities go begging. It will come.

The player ready to replace Alexis on a permanent basis is of course Danny Welbeck. For this we have to hope he will stay fit for longer periods now he is reaching the most important years of his football career. I have no doubt that if Welbeck can stay fit Wenger will not look anywhere else for an Alexis replacement. He also knows he can play Iwobi as a replacement if need be. However, Welbeck’s fitness issues will need to be closely monitored, and if he does not stay fit for most of the remainder of the season, Wenger will (have to) go for a quality replacement in the summer.

A front-line of Welbeck/Iwobi and Lacazette, supported by Ozil, looks like the future to me. There would be plenty of movement, running, passing and energy between them and they could develop into a deadline threesome within no time. For this we would need to sign up Mesut but that is for another post.

Alternatively, I reckon Lacazette could play from the left as a Winger/supporting CF, with either Giroud or Welbeck, or even Theo, as his partner. So there are plenty of post-Alexis options even without buying this January (which always seems to be hard). Maybe it is time to start gradually weaning ourselves of Alexis and start building towards a front-line of Welbeck/Iwobi – Lacazette. Both Giroud and (to a lesser extent) Walcott can play an important role too this season. And there are a few young players who could break into the first team, given a chance.

I reckon Alexis will still play an important role this season (to get us back into the top four), but I must admit I feel he is holding ‘our game’ back and look forward to playing without him going forward.

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 32 Comments

Of Course Arsenal Lost at Manchester City. What Did You Expect

…Would Happen in a Football World That is Patently Corrupt and Where the Rich Only Get Richer?

Wake me up when Sepp-tember ends…

Caught in another International break, I’m left to ponder if there’s any football worth watching.  I’ll probably try and catch the World Cup playoff games between Granit Xhaka’s Swiss team and Northern Ireland–the first leg actually being played right now–believing that it might not be fixed.  The winner will fill out a group in next Summer’s tournament in Russia, and, who knows, maybe even spring an upset over a traditionally superior footballing nation.  Then again, if the selection of the host countries is bought with money, why shouldn’t the results of the World Cup itself also be purchased?

Likewise, after losing 3-1 at Manchester City, why shouldn’t Gooners also give at least a thought that the fix was in.  Is the linesman who killed the game by awarding City its third goal driving a nicer car towards his bigger and more luxurious house?  Is there not an intrepid Arsenalista out there who might enjoy a little leg-work to find out such facts?  It has to be better than trudging north for another dark afternoon in the away end knowing that the Gunners have the slimmest of chances for getting a result.  Plenty of pints, however, might make both jobs go down a bit easier..

But that’s just the way football is… Or is it?  Let’s ask Sepp, whose principal defense as corruptions trials begin in New York this week, is that others should join him in taking the fall.  Of course, some might argue, that’s international football, the club game is different, and, besides, Arsenal should be able to compete with the best clubs in England–and Europe.  Now that we’re 12 points behind Man City, the Premier League title seems gone.  And, having dropped out of the Champions League–after seven straight round-of-16 departures–many Gooners are glad that we don’t have to make our annual autumn passage towards a late-winter beating in that competition.  Put simply, Arsenal are not competing at the level, and, in my opinion at least, a change in manager or a turnover of players will not get us there.

Moreover, we were only a desperate 70+ million dollar bid for a promising but very inexperienced Thomas Lemar from losing the player many believe to be our best–Alexis Sanchez–to that same club that’s 12 points ahead of us–and nine points clear of everybody else.  Do the rich always need to get richer?

It seems to be so.  Moreover, it’s a situation that is (somehow) tolerated by most punters–those who have given up on football years ago won’t be reading this post.  Do folks actually believe the smaller clubs have a chance?

And, make no mistake, despite proclamations a decade ago by Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal are a smaller club.  Yes, we have a big stadium, filled (or unfilled…) by supporters who pay obscene prices to attend (or not attend…) our home matches, and, yes, we have a billionaire owner.  The other thing we have–unfortunately, I guess–are our “values.”

We spend what we make, which, again, of course, is what all the other clubs in England and Europe are supposed to be doing.  Financial Fair Play rules–not quite as big a joke as the names Blatter drew out of his hat that night (after Russia 2018 came Qatar 2022)–is rife with clauses allowing abuse.  How can City pay Alexis’ wage demands on top of all the others?  They must be selling a lot of shirts.  Paris St. Germain scored both Neymar AND Kylian M’bappe in the last window.  If you can explain it to me, please do so, but I’ll be napping soon enough.

Maybe I’ll be napping anyway given the quality of the aforementioned Northern Ireland–Switzerland match I’ve got on the television.  City and PSG stacking the deck means the quality–at least at the top of the game–must go up, right?  Maybe spreading the best talent to more teams would actually make the game (or more of the games) more competitive.

That’s my belief, what do you think?

In the older (and better?) days Arsenal supporters saw the North London derby as a must-win match against our (lesser?) neighbors up the Seven Sisters Road.  Now, with Spurs building a new and bigger stadium, adding to their brand by playing (quite successfully this autumn) in the Champions League and sporting some very interesting English and foreign talent (including their Argentinian manager) I’m actually looking forward to the NLD more than ever.  We’ll likely be underdogs in nine days time–even in our own stadium–but, long term at least, we should be competing with our neighbors on relatively level footing.  Call me crazy, but this seems kind of, well, the essence of sport.

As they say, everybody has an arse, just as everyone has an opinion.  With Arse-nal, maybe there are even more arses–and (thus) opinions.  🙂

Let’s be having them, eh.

What do you think about the direction the game is headed?  Does it just imitate the real world where the richest folks seemingly must get richer?  Spending your Alexis money on fellow Arabs who could really use it doesn’t seem on the radar of Prince Mansour, while paying taxes–and perhaps allowing governments to get resources to those who need them most, seems at odds with keeping yourself–and your money–in paradise.  Do values have any place in football?  Do they have a place in the real world?

Sorry if this isn’t a tactical analysis or (another) lamentation of miserable (miserable) Arsenal.  It’s just–as I watch 35 million pound Granit Xhaka blast high and wide from 30 yards–my take on international football and football as it fits into our international lives.  What do you think?  (Or feel free to ignore this stuff and talk about anything else Arsenal.)

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments

Live Blog–Man City-Arsenal: Iwobi, Coquelin in; Mertesacker, Lacazette out. Wenger Sets Up to Deny Pep’s Boys?

Six midfielders to thwart Manchester City’s threat?

Here are the line-ups:

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Coquelin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis.  Subs: Macey, Debuchy, Elneny, Wilshere, Walcott, Lacazette, Giroud

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Stones, Delph, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling, Sane, Aguero.  Subs: Bravo, Danilo, Gundogan, Mangala, Bernardo Silva, Jesus, Toure

It’s listed as a 4-3-3 formation, but, to me, it looks like we’re setting up as a 4-6-0, indicating that Arsene Wenger wants to win the match in MF and take the attacking moments as they come.  And why not?  Limiting the City attack–one that has put up some gaudy numbers thus far this season–seems wise enough.  They’ve averaged 3.5 goals a game in the league to this point and scored 4 at Napoli in midweek.  What do you think?  Is our best shot at a result trying to limit them (while maybe nicking a goal or two ourselves) or would hell to leather have been the better opening strategy?  At least we’ve got some real firepower on the bench in Lacazette, Giroud and Walcott.

What say you?

Don’t be shy.  Please join in as I try to keep up with the action with some descriptions of the game.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 163 Comments

Sead, Jack, Aaron, Granit to Boss Midfield against Man City: Line-Up|Preview

These are the sort of days us club football supporters live for. We know that after today we will fall in a dark club-football abyss with yet another fortnight of international football on the cards. But today it is a football feast as we travel to the money-for-glory Northern-Oilers, who are flying high on their investments in both (probably) the best manager in the game and a fabulous squad of players. They are flying higher than Icarus once did, so let’s present them with hellish, blinding, relentless canon fire and bring them back down to earth.

Wenger has a good record against Guardiola, despite always being the poorer manager of the two, and from the interview with him on Arsenal.com we know that he has been preparing well for this pivotal match. A win would be just what we and the competition needs…. and a loss would create a massive gap between them and us – one that we are very unlikely to bridge during the large remainder of the season.

Arsene does not want to sit back and absorb City’s pressure for 90 minutes, but he also realises that we cannot impose our game on them, as this would leave too much space for Guardiola’s men to attack us with ease and deadly consequences as soon as we lose the ball in midfield.

Wenger’s best game against Guardiola was our 2-1 win against Barcelona at home a long time ago (it seems). Who does not remember the Wilshere-Fabregas instigated counter-attack from deep in our own half that was finished so brilliantly by Arshavin? I reckon our best chance to beat MC is once again by fighting them in midfield tooth and nail and sitting back as our base position. We need to be able to keep the ball when we have it and pass our way out of their suffocating press. In my view, Arsene needs to play five in midfield with one/two mobile attacker(s) ready to be at the end of a counter-attack or receive the ball from over the top. We need to keep them away from our ‘D’ area and protect our flanks by doubling up, or even tripling up.

Alternatively, and Wenger may well be tempted to do this, we can opt to push them back in their half and play our game – similar to what we did against the Chavs in the FA Cup final. But I hope we do not try this.

If there is a weakness at MC it is their CBs, and the likes of Alexis, Lacazette, or even Theo, could cause a real threat in this game. I would opt for Alexis and Lacazette in attack, but Wenger may be tempted to play Theo up-top for his added speed and ruthlessness when a ball is played over the top.

At the back we are likely to see Cech-Nacho-BFG-Koz, as Mustafi still appears to be unfit. The BFG is a brilliant organiser and interceptor and his lack of speed will not be exposed too much as long as we play compact at the back, and a lot deeper than usual (which is to be expected).

The big decisions Wenger has to make are what formation will we play and who to play in midfield. Luckily, he has plenty of options with Jack, Rambo, Ozil, Elneny, Xhaka, Bellerin, Kolasinac and Coquelin, and even Debuchy, all available. Wenger may stick with 3-4-3 on paper but surely we will see a compact formation that looks more like 3-6-1 or 4-5-1 or 5-3-2, or, most possibly 3-5-2.

In terms of midfielders, Wenger will have to go with experience, ability to control the ball in tight areas and passing skills. Ozil is a sure start. Kolasinac is a sure start. Rambo is a sure start (but his discipline will be a key factor). Xhaka and Hector are question marks. The former may struggle with the lack of space afforded to him, but then again he is the one who can play a ball over the top with precision… The latter is still a work in progress and his final ball when he is attacking is not yet good enough.

My gut feeling is that Jack may start in this game, possibly next to Rambo in the centre of midfield, or next to Xhaka with Rambo playing on the right side of midfield. We need proper, ball-loving midfielders in midfield for this one. So my predicted line-up is as below, with both Mesut and Alexis playing a little deeper than usual so we can win the battle in midfield.

Predicted Line-Up:

submit football lineup

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal

Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments