Theo the Panther, Iwobi the Polar Bear, Alexis the Pack of Woles: Arsenal are Full of Deadly Animals

Two games, 3-0 and 2-0 to the Arsenal, five goals, clean sheet and mesmerizing football for two times 45 minutes. It is good to be¬†a Gunner this week!ūüôā

We expected it to be hard to break the Swiss defence down, and previous Basel games on British soil proved very hard for our PL colleagues. We were warned. So what is the best thing to do: bamboozle Рor bambasel Рthem with high pressure, run around the emmental holes  like crazy killer animals and pounce as soon as possible.

Arsenal’s first half against Basel was as good as football gets. We could have scored five in that half alone, but two was still a fine reward for the attacking football we unleashed on the Basel players. Just as against the Chavs, the job was done after 45 minutes, and Arsenal once again put on the handbrake in the second half to see out the game and spare our opponents. This may sound easier than it was, as it still requires discipline and concentration. The fact that we were able to see out the two last games with such composure and maturity is also very welcome.

Eight Positives from Arsenal v Basel:

  1. Theo the panther: Walcott loves space to hunt down his pray and pounce instinctively on any opportunity that comes his way. Theo does not overthink things and sometimes this shows but often he is victorious as a result of it. His second goal was a¬†typical Theo finish: beautifully executed. But his first goal was even better: as a desperate panther he pounced on Alexis’ fine cross and left the Swiss defence for melted, fondue-ready Gruyere. What a fine brace by the reborn one;
  2. Alexis the pack of wolves ‘in one’: flipping heck I love this Alexis even more than the previous seasons’ one. What an engine this guy has, and what a desire to play football, enjoying the dirty work as much as the lofty stuff. Desperately unlucky not to score himself but he won the game for us with two selfless and clever assists. Burnley are you hearing that sound of howling wolves coming your way?!
  3. Ozil the enabling chameleon: Mezut is just so adaptive and flexible, always aiming to add maximum attacking value to the team whatever it requires. He still does not have an assist this season, yet we score about 2.5 goals per game now Рwow. He has two PL goals already, though, after missing the first few games and could have had one or two more on Wednesday. The link up play with his fellow attackers is such a joy to watch and more is still to come.
  4. Iwobi the polar bear: Alex is fast when he attacks and already has an artic cool head when it comes to decision making. He also has stamina to run and run  between the defence and attack lines, and sniffs out danger with his footie nose. A really good team serving performance on Wednesday and looking a bit better after the Cheese than during the weekend. Monreal appreciated it;
  5. Xhaka the black bear: you don’t mess with Granit. He protects the forest behind him and will pounce on you if you leave him any space. A very disciplined performance based around his excellent positioning and presence on the pitch – gave his fellow countrymen no chance.
  6. Santi the puffin: Is there a more colourful and joy-inducing animal on the British shores? Cazorla brings joy and creativity to the team with a constant and positive energy and a fabulous ability to spot and pounce on openings. What a well spotted pre-assist for our first goal.
  7. Ospina, Koz and Mustafi the triangle of doom gorillas: they did not have too much to do, but every time they had to get involved they formed a triangle of morale sapping doom. They are fast, they are hard (but fair), they don’t give up till you are well outside their domain, and if you do not get the hint you will come to regret it. A vey mature and focussed performance.
  8. Bellerin and Monreal the hyena-leopards: is there one animal that sums up our fantastic full backs? For me they have the never give up attitude of the hyena and speed and pounce of the leopard. The final part of the hunt still needs improving a bit as we need more key passes and assists from them, but they are vital animals within our team.

By TotalArsenal

Posted in Arsenal Analysis, Best Arsenal 11, match review | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Starts for Ox, Gibbs, Perez and Xhaka? Arsenal v Basel Preview and Line-up

A home game in the CL is always something to look forward to. Wenger picks his best players and the quality of the football is usually very high. I don’t know much¬†about the current Basel team but I expect them to be well organised and well drilled to defend as a unit and not give away much space where it matters most. I don’t expect them to totally park the bus and¬†to press us high up the pitch regularly, though.

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The home of football.

If Arsenal can start with the same focus, intensity and tempo as we did on Saturday, we should be able to control the game and hopefully create, and then take, the same number of opportunities. Key is of course not to underestimate our opponents and give our all to win this game.

It is always hard to predict a Wenger first 11 and I have no doubt that he will tweak the team a little bit to allow for some rotation and keep his wider squad players happy. Will Gibbs or Ox get a¬†start against Basel for example? Hard to say. It is important that we do everything to win our home game against Basel as we need the points, so the first eleven should not differ much from Saturday’s team. I expect us to line up as follows:

arsenal-v-basel-cl-1st

Ospina in goal, same back four but with maybe a start for Gibbs, Xhaka to replace the injured Coq (potentially not more than just three weeks out), Alexis up top, Ozil in the hole, Theo on the right wing and either Iwobi or Ox on the left wing. There is a small chance that Perez starts instead of Alexis, but I don’t think the Chilean will allow it!ūüėČ

Looking forward to this one.

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Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal

 

Posted in Best Arsenal 11, match preview, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 41 Comments

What to do with Olivier Giroud in the ‘New Arsenal attack’?

Does Giroud still feature in the new, Alexis-as-CF, Arsenal?

Ollie G is an interesting case, because I don’t see him as a starter at all. This isn’t because he’s not good enough, as he certainly is. Instead, it’s because our style of play has changed to be based around an attacking quartet of players who are all mobile and interchangeable. The first choice seems to be Iwobi/Sanchez/Ozil/Walcott, with all of them flying around the opposition half attacking from different angles with rapid interplay. It’s hard to defend against this style of play.

Ollie G, on the other hand, is suited toward a style of game where a strong CF acts as an attacking focal point, a fulcrum around which attacks are launched and goals come from headers, knockdowns and late runs from supporting attackers. That’s how we played last year and teams were becoming adept at playing against it.

Looking at our bench for a reserve attacking quartet, we would be better to have a combination like Ox/Perez/Welbeck/Ramsey where again there is a plenty of pace and finishing ability, but, more importantly, they can play the same attacking system and maintain the same understanding with our attacking fullbacks and midfield duo. We have to play with one system and become incredibly efficient at that system, if we are to match Man City and the European giants this year.

Giroud‚Äôs role in both of these teams is not as a starter in my view, but perhaps as a very different plan B to have available when for some reason we are unable to break through with plan A. Whether or not it is generally feasible or effective to attempt a shift from a plan A to a plan B mid-game is of course up for debate ‚Äď I suspect it is not.

I sense that our team has evolved, and that the next step up for us is to make our combinations so rehearsed that they become intuitive, almost instantaneous, and able to withstand the loss of one or two individual players. But I also feel a bit sorry for Oliver Giroud because he is being, and perhaps must be, left behind by all of this.

What do you think fellow Gooners?

By davydavy

Posted in Arsenal Analysis, Attacking football | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Is this Bench the Best in the Premier League? Arsenal’s Dizzying Squad Possibilities!

It is all about backbone, leadership and squad depth…. and plenty of pairs of these of course!ūüôā

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Like many, I don’t like international breaks but the good thing is it gives Arsene and the team an opportunity¬†to work towards a deadline and then take stock. In the last few weeks post the¬†September interlull, Arsenal have been solid and moved up¬† the table considerably. There are still¬†important games to come: Basel at home and Burnley away. And after a very encouraging, successful game against the Chavs, we now have to be careful not to underestimate our opponents and work really hard to get vital wins before the next break.

Whether we will depends on the maturity and ability to focus by the players as much as anything else.

The team to beat is, of course, Pep City.¬†Some believe he¬†is only as good as the players he had at his disposal, which of course have been the pick of the world or there about ever since he started to coach, but I am a firm believer that the¬†vision to develop a system/style of football and then be able to get the players to execute it, is what really makes a great manager. In the short term, a manager can take over a great team and have success on the¬†basis of what was established by their predecessor, but in the mid to long term it is the manager’s ability to implement a competitive¬†system of football and gather the required players to execute it which will make the difference. And Guardiola is already having an added¬†positive impact on what is mostly Pellegrini’s squad.

Of course it is early days and MC have not had a hard start to the season in terms of the teams they have faced, other than MU away of course. We will have to see how they will fare against Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester and if they can win all those games than they are further then us right now.

We are five points behind and that really is a few too many to feel comfortable at this stage. We need them to drop points and let’s see whether¬†it will happen against our North London rivals this weekend. I am not underestimating the Spuds this time round, even though they are very capable of farcically imploding towards the last six weeks of the season once again. So I am not wanting a Spuds win against the Northern¬† Oilers: a draw would be just fine.

But as always, we need to focus on our game and try to get as many wins as possible by the OGAAT principle: one game at a time. To achieve this we need a strong backbone and leadership in the team, and we also need squad depth. 

The question is whether Arsenal have this now. The best way to establish this is to see how we will deal with adversity, but other than the first game of the season against Pool we did not really have to deal with much of it. Although it is fair to say we did well when Arsenal went behind against PSG and somehow managed to get back in the game in the second half, helped by Lady Luck it has to be said.

What really encouraged me was the way that Koz and Mustafi, supported behind them by the cool and experienced Cech and in front of them by the beastly Coq, controlled the game, both technically AND psychologically. And when le Coq went off injured, Xhaka did very well in replacing him both technically and in terms of presence on the pitch. And the latter is as important as anything.

Mesut Ozil

On top of this, we had Ozil and Alexis leading the attack with both intelligence and a guttural hunger. And our wing-backs, Nacho and Bellerin, were also dominating proceedings with their feet and their personas. To complete it all, Santi, Theo and Iwobi had strong presence and hunger without ever looking to hide behind their team mates. That is what I loved more than anything else about our team on Saturday.

Our first team against Chelsea:

submit football lineup

These players now more or less are our first team players, and after the Chelsea demolition there is good reason to believe we have the backbone and leadership to go all the way this season in the PL, and maybe even in the CL. However, we all know that fatigue, injuries and possibly suspensions will affect our team.

Just as well then that Wenger did not sell anybody whilst still adding to the squad, which will allow him to rotate and also deal with unexpected setbacks, like this Saturday when Coquelin had to come off. This is just as important as having a strong core of leaders and winners in the team.

Yesterday we had Gibbs, Perez, Giroud, Ospina, Ox, Holding and Xhaka on the bench: seven players who all deserve to be there if not a place in the starting eleven.

Ramsey, Gabriel, BFG, Elneny, Debuchy¬†and Welbeck were not on the bench, and they are¬†all fighters for the cause with¬†leadership qualities. Once they are fit, our options for the bench are mouth watering; and can you imagine what availability of all would mean for Wenger’s possible strongest first eleven team?

Our bench could be, when all are fit: Perez, Giroud, Welbeck, Ramsey/Xhaka, Gibbs, BFG/Gabriel and Ospina!! Would this not be the best bench in the premier league?!

So there you are, we have a¬†strong core with backbone and leadership skills and a squad depth that makes you dizzy with first team selection possibilities. As dizzy as looking at the ceiling of the wonderful Sagrada Familia…

Bring on our next opponent is all that’s left to say!

By TotalArsenal

 

 

Posted in Arsenal Analysis, Best Arsenal 11 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Costa Skinny-Latted by Koz and Mustafi, Alexis the CF Beast, Home-Grown Iwobi Arrives: 8 Positives Arsenal v Chelsea

Sometimes you need a bit of time after such an Arsenal performance: to let¬†all the goodness¬†stew and sink in. It is fair to say that the game only really lasted 45 minutes. The Chavs were hoping Arsenal would not push on and spare them in the second half, and we did. I have a strong feeling Wenger¬†told the troops to show mercy for Conte’s men at half time, but this would have been very different if the original¬†gatherer of¬†yesterday’s first Chelsea 11 was still managing that team. For that Arsene¬† has to wait a couple of months.ūüôā

Theo Walcott scores

Arsenal outclassed¬†Chelsea in every department. We had more energy,¬†better¬†healthy aggression,¬†better running, better passing, better tempo, better creativity, better chances and better finishing. The only area I was less happy about, and on another day it could have cost us at least a goal, was the cover for our left back: either Santi or Iwobi left Monreal dangerously exposed on more than one occasion in the first half. I guess that is why Wenger called the first half performance ‘near perfect’…

There are so many positives to take from the game, but the one that matters most is that we played as a team; in fact, we played as an all conquering machine. From defence to midfield to attack, we almost always were in control through our collective, fully integrated approach to playing football.

Key in this all was the way we pressed the Chavs and never let them settle. We had already witnessed eight days ago what high and vigorous pressing of¬†Conte’s men¬†can do them, when Pool destroyed them in just 45 minutes at the Bridge. We did exactly the same. They might have a few fast attackers, but as a team they lack energy and tempo, and they do not have the sort of¬†quality players anymore who can dominate proceedings on their terms. Those days are over.

Key was also our dynamic, hungry yet disciplined¬†CB duo, the fire in Coquelin’s belly and the creativity of the likes of Santi, Mesut and the superb Iwobi. Add to that the energy of the full backs, Theo and CF monster Alexis and you have our team summarised in a nutshell.

Eight Positives from  a great win at THOF:

  1. The unpredictability of our attacking football: we were so dynamic yesterday and once again we spread the goals and assists. The Chelsea defence just did not know who to concentrate on to eliminate our danger. The first goal was the result of a clever, never-give-up hunt down by Alexis on the sorry Cahill. After that he had to chip the keeper which Alexis did with great composure. The second one was orgasmic and I am sure not to have been the only one who made the accompanying sighs of pleasure when the goal was being created by the slick and sexy moves of Ozil, Iwobi, Bellerin and Theo. The third was also very sexy and really good to see that Ozil was fed by the unselfish Alexis to score his second PL goal this season.
  2. Arsenal have scored 20 goals in all competitions already this season with nine different goal scorers. I have always said that Wenger would like our goal threat to come from a variety of players rather than being over reliant on the one ‘Van Persie’; and we are spreading the goals alright now, based around our Total Football approach to the game!;
  3. It is great to buy a top quality player and see them succeed but it will never surpass the joy of seeing a youngster make it to the big stage. This season it is Iwobi’s turn and boy has he been brilliant until now. Alex fits in so well at this Arsenal team. He has great close ball control and has that rare little bit of extra time when on¬†the ball,¬†and his confidence is growing every week. He had a lovely, well spotted¬†pre-assist for our all important second goal. Iwobi is a team player despite having two ‘I’s’ in his name, and he is currently our king of assists with three already. Go and watch him live if you can, is all I can say;
  4. The partnership between Mustafi and Koz is starting to look very good. Together they dealt really well with pantomime villain Costa who they totally skinny-latted;
  5. I have covered my views re Alexis as our CF on here many a time, but it is good to see how many are now agreeing that he is really lifting this team to another attacking level now. He now has four league goals and one CL goals but he also makes space and opportunities for others, with Theo already netting three league goals and Ozil having two league goals to his name. The whole team was MOTM, but if I had to choose one player it would be Alexis;
  6. The collective chasing and harassing of the Chavs, never allowing them to settle and then getting the job done in just 45 minutes. Class. And Theo’s hunger and discipline stood out yesterday: this is the way to play yourself back into our hearts my friend.
  7. The home support was awesome: it is a good example that if and when we play well and give our all the supporters will follow. It would be great if it worked the other way around sometimes as well, but yesterday the fans did their bit to overcome the much loathed opponent from West London;
  8. Wenger deserves credit for his first team choices and tactics: they were spot on and credit should be given by the entire Gooner community.

There are plenty more positives to add, so please do so.

By TotalArsenal

Posted in Arsenal Analysis, match review | Tagged , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Wolfgang Amadeus Mesut: Arsenal’s nr1 Conductor Ozil holds the key to Silverware

Mesut Ozil would always be one of the first players on my team sheet if I was the Arsenal manager. I have never seen him play a bad game but in some games he is more effective than others. In order to fully appreciate him, though, you have to see him play live: not in an arm chair but in a football stadium, which I know many Gooners are unable to do.

His creative genius and willingness to work hard, combined with his desire to ALWAYS add attacking value to his team with every ball he touches, make Mesut so special. His running with and without the ball is superb, and his ability to find the killer pass is unsurpassed. He is not a loud extrovert but a humble introvert who lets his feet do the talking Рthis, among many other qualities, he shares with his nr10 predecessors, Cesc Fabregas and the great Bergkamp. And the English game has been blessed with the services of three of the finest European nr10 geniuses Рtwo of whom are luckily still in action and should meet each other once again tomorrow evening.

It is fair to say he has not yet reached his peak this season. Mesut had ‘just’ 2.3 key passes¬†and 57 passes per PL game, and he scored one goal and is yet to produce an assist, this season; whereas he reached a brilliant 4.2 key passes and 65 passes per PL game, and scored 6 goals and produced a whopping 19 assists, in 2015-16. But it is of course early days, and I rather see him peak towards the end then at the beginning of the season.

Some believe Mesut is still tired from the Euros but I reckon he is simply lacking form and has been given time by Wenger to improve it gradually. Tomorrow, against the Chavs, he needs to be close to his best form if we are to find a way through the parked blue and white buses. Mesut will be 28 next month and is reaching now his best footballing years. If we are to win the league we will need a strong core of six to seven players of top quality and the right attitude. Mesut will be one of them.

With Alexis as CF and excellent runners next to him with the likes of Iwobi, Theo, Ox and (possibly) Perez for Wenger to pick from, Mesut has to find his form to be our nr1 conductor once again. The sooner this happens the quicker Arsenal can reach top level.

No pressure Mesut but tomorrow you have to rediscover your inner Mozart and make the troops¬†play to your tunes. Ich glaube an dich!ūüôā

By TotalArsenal

 

Posted in Arsenal Analysis, Attacking football | Tagged , , , , , | 32 Comments

How to Beat our London Nemesis: Santi, Xhaka and Ozil to feed Alexis and Theo

My Best Team Against The Chavs – our London Nemesis

It is about time we beat the Chavs again, I am sure you agree. But how can we do it?

By outpassing them, just like Pool did last week Friday. But we also need to defend their counter attacks really well and keep all eleven players on the pitch.

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This¬†will not be easy and it is fair to say that this London derby will be our¬† biggest test yet this season.¬†Having said that, I reckon we have what it takes to finally win a PL game against the Chavs again, and let’s hope the referee will be able to deal adequately with all that will be thrown at him on Saturday evening. This is of course as key a factor as anything else.

They will be okay with sitting back and play us on the counter, and we all know how many times we have lost to them through their counter attacking football, feasting on the space we had left for them. Part of me wants us to sit back and invite their pressure, so we can beat them on the counter, but we are now too good a team to not go and attack them and win the game the Arsenal way. Luckily, with Koz, Bellerin, Mustafi and Nacho we have four fast defenders who can play a high line to great effect.

How should we then line up? Well the back five¬†are obvious picks: Cech, Monreal (although a Gibbs start is not inconceivable) King Koz, Mustafi and Bellerin. Coq is needed for his steel, but he will have to check his temperament a bit, as he is likely to be one of the players to be provoked by the infamous¬†neck scratcher. Rambo is not yet ready and Santi is playing so well at the moment that we cannot leave him out. So Xhaka is likely to miss out once again, but his time will surely come. I am a bit worried about Santi’s lack of box to box mobility though, especially if and when we lose the ball. The Chavs have some fast players and our box to box midfielder will have to track back and support his fellow DM/Defenders regularly. If we are to play Cazorla, we need the full backs to be very disciplined: only one of them can go forward at any given time.

I reckon Santi will play, but I would be tempted to play him in the hole this time, with Mesut moving to the wing (in a free role). Next to Coquelin, I would be tempted to play either Xhaka or Elneny, as they both have the engines and legs to do the full on B2B stuff required against the Chavs; they also give us that extra bit of defensive steel in front of our back four. With the Chavs likely to sit back and forcing us to pass our way all the way to the goal, Xhaka carries a fine threat with his long distance cannonballs. Elneny also has a decent long distance shot, so either of them would do for me.

With Ozil on the wing and Santi in the hole, we need two proper goal threats up-front. We can pick from Theo, Perez, Akpom, Alexis and possibly Giroud. I have a suspicion that Ollie’s toes are absolutely fine, and although I don’t expect him to start, I can see him come on as a substitute to score the winner towards the final minutes of the game.

I fully expect Wenger to play Alexis as our CF once again. This is the new plan for the season as far as I can see it, and I love it. That leaves me with one remaining¬†‘midwing’ position to fill¬†and¬† I would either pick Theo, Iwobi¬†or Perez. Given Walcott’s recent form and his fearlessness in front of London opposition, I am opting for him to complete my dream 11 to beat the Chavs:

submit football lineup

What do you reckon fellow Gooners: is this the team to take all three points from the Chavskis?

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Best Arsenal 11, match preview | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments