Kos shows Moss who’s Boss

What a bizarre game that was today. Arsenal were totally in control but just lacked that bit of sharpness to get the all important second goal and settle our nerves once and for all… But then, a totally unexpected and uncalled for red card for Granit Xhaka gave the Clarets colour back to their faces; and his rusty replacement, le Coq, clumsily gave away a penalty in extra time to cheaply offer them an opportunity to take a rare, and probably never envisaged, away-point back to Burnley.

They scored the pen, even though Cech, for once, was very close to saving it, and it looked like we dropped two very big points. Fortunately, Koscielny had other ideas and forced a penalty for ourselves from the linesman, who left Moss with no other option then to point towards the penalty spot. With just a few seconds to go Alexis produced the calmest of Panenkas – apologies for the tautology – only to burst into total extacy when he realised his wickedness had been successful. That celebration had me go all emotional, but then I am a romantic. 🙂

I thought the team was set up perfectly for this match with Xhaka and Rambo interchanging vertically constantly and bossing the midfield with ease. There was plenty of movement up-front from Ozil, Giroud, Alexis and Iwobi, and even though Burnley played very disciplined defensively, we made chances on a regular basis and played some fine football in general. Just a shame the attackers were more interested in the colours of their footwear than in their deadly shooting precision, before the game.

The Swiss hothead and Welsh duracell are slowly starting to form a fine duo in the DM pivot, but it is a real shame that they will not be playing together for a while now, after Xhaka switched off for a second to lunge forward with two stretched legs and get a straight red. Other referees would possibly have given a yellow card rather than a red as there was no malicious intention, but Xhaka should know much better by now. He comes with a reputation and Moss, who consulted the linesman to be fair, did not hesitate much before showing Granit the dominant colour of his country’s flag – and for the second time this season. Before his sending off, Xhaka had played some sublime football, dominating the midfield with flair and distributing the ball with clockwork precision. He read the game well and intercepted powerfully a few times, just a shame that he has not picked up yet that his ‘Most Wanted’ picture is on the wall in every referee’s office. Stay calm and strut your stuff, Granit, if you want to succeed in this league. Wenger has a job on his hand to train these sorts of fouls/moments of madness out of him. Maybe he should show him a video of Joey B, who was also briefly on show today…: ‘Do you want to end up like him, Granit?!!’

Mustafi scored our, and his first for the club, goal with a well placed header from an Ozil precision-rocket corner that found its way to the far, unprotected, corner and beyond the outstretched hand of Heaton. It is amazing that he has yet to lose with Arsenal, and we can only wonder what our position in the league would be right now had he not been injured during the two crucial PL away defeats in December. The spirit of Koz and Mustafi – KozMus, owners of space and time – is a joy to watch and vital for winning any silverware this season. With the cool and fearless Cech behind them, and the hard working Gabriel and Nacho working besides them, they are a defence to be proud of and believe in. Having said that, in terms of having width and attacking menace on our right side, Bellerin is the better option as FB and we missed him today.

Koz and Mustafi saved the attackers’ blushes today but I am sure they will be back to scoring ways soon. With Xhaka most likely out for four games, it is now up to Coq and Rambo to form a winning partnership in midfield. Against the Saints they will get a very tough test.

Well done the boys for winning three very big points and moving to second in the table despite all the adversity. They did the Shirt proud today.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in match review | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Arsenal-Burnley: Gunners Can Go Second With a Win vs Clarets

After Saturday’s results–Liverpool’s shock home loss to Swansea and Manchester City playing Tottenham to a draw–Arsenal can move ahead of all these clubs and into second place.  A win would get us within five points of league leaders Chelsea who play Hull City just after our match concludes.

Although Burnley have notched only a single point on their league travels this season (at Manchester United, however) they have been playing well recently and would find themselves back in the top half of the table if they could pull off an upset and win at the Emirates.  Sean Dyche, managing his 200th match for the club, would love to celebrate with a result that catches up to his team’s fine road performances and matches their recent winning run at home.  Burnley have gotten much better results at Turf Moor.  In just the past week they’ve beaten Southampton in league play and added another home win in a midweek FA Cup replay vs Sunderland.

Gooners will also remember that it took a very late and controversial goal from Laurent Koscielny to beat the Clarets when we played them at their place earlier this season.  In that match, Burnley were very well organized and were able to frustrate our attacking game while appearing dangerous several times from set pieces and on the counter.

They will surely set out again to defend first and will not mind giving us plenty of possession.  How then does manager Arsene Wenger set up his team to break down a resolute Burnley squad?

My guess is that he goes with almost the same group he put out a week ago at Swansea City, switching only his fill-in at right back, Gabriel Paulista, for the usual starter, Hector Bellerin, just back from injury.  Here’s the group I think Wenger will play:

Substitutes: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Coquelin, Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Welbeck, Perez

Many observers would prefer Alexis to start as our center forward with Olivier Giroud, who hobbled off with an ankle knock at Swansea, relegated to the bench.  Wenger has suggested that Giroud’s injury isn’t serious and I think he’ll be keen to start the big Frenchman who has scored in each of his last five matches.  Some feel that we can break down the parked bus teams better with the pacier Alexis up front.  My feeling is that teams who choose to sit deep nullify our pace by leaving less space in behind their back line.  As such, deploying Giroud, a slower but more natural target man who can play with his back to goal, seems the superior tactic.  To each their own, of course, but my hunch is that Wenger goes with Ollie up front once again.

Others might prefer additional changes in the squad.  Francis Coquelin, also just back from injury, might be preferred to either Granit Xhaka or Aaron Ramsey at the rear of our midfield.  The Xhaka-Ramsey double pivot started very slowly at both Swansea and in our FA Cup match at Preston North End, where we were quite fortunate that we only went behind by a single goal before the duo worked out the kinks and the team scored a pair of goals to seal the victory.  We didn’t do much better in previous matches with Coquelin in the team, shipping three goals in the first half at Bournemouth and taking more than 85 minutes to finally break a deadlock vs West Bromwich Albion back on Boxing Day.  No matter who plays, winning the midfield battles, moving the ball forward cleanly and at pace, and getting off on the front foot vs Burnley will all be keys to victory.

What do you think?  Who should Wenger play and how can we beat a Burnley team that will surely be both motivated and resolute?

Arsenal have tough away matches on the horizon at Southampton (FA Cup), Chelsea (Premier League) and Bayern Munich (Champions League) so it’s tempting to look past this one.  The chance to go second in the league should be a motivator but we also need to build upon the good result and better performance a week ago at Swansea and put more stodgy efforts (and a pair of road losses back in December) further behind us.  As we know, however, there are no easy matches in English Football so here’s to a focused, committed and commanding performance along with the three points.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 122 Comments

Southampton-Watford-Chelsea in 8 days: Arsenal Team Selection Implications

If you were Arsene….

I don’t think many of us get excited about another cup game against the Saints. Especially away they are a hard team to beat, and our performances against them over the last few years are in general nothing to be proud of. Luckily, Southampton have a lot of arrows on their bow right now and if we play them at a high tempo and mean business from the start, we should be able to beat them.

There are four months left till the end of the season and now is the time to play in top gear. Part of me thinks that we cannot compete for all three silvery pots in earnest. In Feb, March and April too many big games feature for us and not playing in the FA cup anymore could really help us to keep the team fresh for the crucial PL and CL games. On the other hand, it is the FA Cup and we should not treat it as some throw away competition.

Hard for Wenger to strike the right balance, as he knows that selecting a weakened team, as he did against them recently in the Micky Mouse cup, will almost certainly lead to elimination. Not playing the likes of Koz, Ozil and Alexis against the Saints is a recipe for disaster, but playing them comes with a risk of them getting injured or fatigued – all three played a lot of games in the Summer and we need them to stay fit and fresh till the end of the season if we want to win anything this time round. Just three days after the FA cup game we play Watford at home and then the Saturday after we have an early kick-off London derby with the league leaders.

So three games in eight days… what should Wenger do re team selections? Over to you!!

By TotalArsenal

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 37 Comments

Iwobi puts Panic into Defenders | Ozil is Back, Beauty is Back | Alexis/Giroud Two Top CFs | Danny is Welbeck

Winning in Swansea was sweet and our Northwest rivals dropping valuable points even sweeter. We all knew that we needed a win against the Swans but not many were confident that the boys would be able to overcome a team that we have struggled against in recent seasons and would be out to play for their new – third this season – manager. The boys are so confident in their ability to turn anything round again that they once again did not bother much in the first half. Of course this is nonsense, but what is a worry is the team’s apparent inability to gel and play at the right tempo and intensity from the start.

As discussed in previous posts, this is largely due to the lack of cohesion and dominance of our midfielders in the DM pivot. Rambo and Xhaka are fine midfielders but they are struggling to play together effectively and as a result the whole team often suffers, as these two players have a pivotal linking, protecting and enabling role in the team. Luckily, Arsene is time and again able to lift their game significantly during the second half of recent games, which has made a huge difference. We have to hope that the boys will soon start to play much better together from the first kick-off.

Eight Positives From Game:

  1. Giroud keeps delivering and Wenger knows he has more than one quality option for the CF role. OG has 13 goals from 18 attempts on target and only needs 71 minutes for each PL goal on average, which is fecking awesome (best in the league by some distance). Losing twice in a row against the Toffees and Citeh seems to have made Arsene realise that he needed to put Ollie back up-front and either rest Alexis or play him on the wing. The Chilean firecracker does not seem too happy about this but I can see why Wenger wanted to freshen things up. It has worked out very well, with three wins and a hard fought draw in Bournemouth, but I have no doubt that Arsene will play Sanchez as CF again sooner or later. Key is not to become too predictable and over-reliant on the one player. Hopefully, Wenger can explain this to AS-Baby. 🙂
  2. Iwobi is dancing his way into this team. He is learning very quickly and the combination of incredible close control of the ball, great vision and fabulous passing ability is making the team play much better. Alex was for many the MOTM and quite rightly so. Often a young player does well initially and then starts to struggle with dealing with the expectations by the fans and manager, after which they usually struggle with form and self-belief for a long time before possibly coming good again (the Ox being a prime example). But Iwobi, just like Bellerin last season, appears to be able to keep growing steadily and is becoming a regular first team player as a result. His final ball, especially on goal, still needs improving but luck was on his side with two strong deflections leading to two Swans’ OGs. He is starting to put panic into defenders which is a sign of a quality attacker.
  3. Cech is a safe pair of hands. Made a very good safe in the first half and just does not do anything that makes his fellow defenders nervous. Petr is no attention seeker; he is the night-watcher.
  4. Ozil is back – Beauty is back. Our German conductor is endlessly mobile and inventive on the pitch and we have missed him. All the rest re him has been said many a time: Mesut is Mozart!
  5. Gabriel is becoming a very good utility defender, being able to replace both Mustafi and Bellerin with relative ease. The combination of Gabriel and Mustafi needs more work, but I am happy to play him with Koz in any defensive combination.
  6. Three clean sheets in the last four PL games, after conceding at least one in the previous eight PL games, is giving us hope that our defensive play is improving. It is by no means perfect, but if we can build further on this we have a good chance to get much closer to the Chavs in the next couple of months.
  7. Alexis, despite his shenanigans when he gets substituted, is playing very well for the team and is joined top scorer in the Premier League with 14 goals already. On top of this he produced seven assists which makes him the best attacker in the league. Wherever he plays he always creates danger for the team and is an outlet for fellow players. Let’s never forget this.
  8. Welback is beck. All digits crossed he will get fitter and fitter and help us win silverware this season. The attacking combinations we can draw from with players like Welbeck, Alexis, Giroud, Perez, Iwobi, Ozil, Theo and Ox are almost endless. The versatile and enthusiastic Welbeck really adds a lot to our attack going forward. He could be the difference come May.

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Arsenal Analysis, match review | Tagged , , , , | 18 Comments

Swansea City-Arsenal: Back to Winning Ways in Wales

Coming off a pair of matches where Arsenal started slow but managed to finish strong, the Gunners will be looking to give a more consistent performance and bring all three points back to North London.  Swansea City, mired just off the bottom of the Premier League table on just 15 points, will have other ideas and will want to get a result for their new manager, Paul Clement, their third in a season which has barely passed the halfway juncture.

Last season, Arsenal won this fixture 3-nil but Swansea has been quite a bogey team for us in recent campaigns.  In 2014-15 we lost both home and away to the Welsh team and we lost to them again at the Emirates this past March.  In our most recent match, back in October, again on our home pitch, it took all we could muster to hold them off and finish with a 3-2 scoreline.  That one looked comfortable early on but Swansea came back into it with a pair of goals and our nerves were well tested having to play the final 20 minutes with only 10 men after Granit Xhaka was shown a straight red card.

Swansea have a strong spine of players including former Gunner Lukas Fabianski in goal, Gylfi Siggurdson in creative midfield and the large figure of Fernando Llorente up top.  Mo Barrow also looked very threatening on the right wing the last time we played.  Center back Neil Taylor is their one big injury miss.

Arsenal have plenty of injury issues of our own but we should get a boost with the return of Mesut Ozil in midfield.  Ball control and spacing were problems early on at both Bournemouth and Preston North End and Ozil’s return should help.  He’ll likely slot back into his #10 role just behind the lone striker, but who will that player be?  Olivier Giroud has gotten the call in recent matches with a small run of starts.  Many observers, however, feel we’re stronger when Alexis Sanchez plays up top and that Giroud should be used off the bench.  Danny Welbeck is also back in contention after his first minutes of the season at Preston.  My hunch is that Giroud, who just this week had his contract extended, starts again with Alexis back on the left wing, while Welbeck, along with Lucas Perez, should be available from the bench if we’re chasing a result.

Giroud’s countryman–another player who has just re-upped his contract with the club, Laurent Koscielny, should also be restored to the line-up.  Kos went off with a knock at Bournemouth and without him in the FA Cup match at Preston we looked very out of sorts at the rear.  One player who has not recovered in time, however, is right back Hector Bellerin.  With Mathieu Debuchy still injured and Carl Jenkinson said to be on his way to Crystal Palace, Gabriel Paulista will likely be Bellerin’s replacement, playing just to the outside of our other center back, Shkodran Mustafi.

Who will play ahead of Gabriel on the right?  I’m guessing it will be Alex Iwobi who had a man of the match performance at Preston.  In that one, he played in a more central role so it’s possible he could get another shot there or, perhaps, on the left.  Alexis Sanchez, rested for the Cup match, could probably use more time off and a real Winter break.  If manager Arsene Wenger is thinking along these lines it might mean that there’s a spot for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  Much as Alexis has appeared a frustrated figure in that left wing role in his recent matches, I think our need for his skill and drive is too strong and he’ll have to play.  Finally, in deep-lying midfield, where we’re missing Santi Cazorla (possibly out for the remainder of the season after another surgery), Mohamed Elneny (with the Egyptian team at the African Nations’ Cup) and Francis Coquelin (to a muscle injury), it almost has to be Xhaka and the player who came up through Swansea’s arch-rival’s ranks at Cardiff City: Aaron Ramsey.

All told, my predicted line-up looks like this:

Substitutes: Ospina, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Reine-Adelaide, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Perez, Welbeck

That’s just my best guess, of course.  Who do you think Wenger will select and who would you like to see in the line-up?

Whoever he picks Arsenal cannot afford another slow and disjointed start and hope to pull off another come-from-behind result.  Securing all three points with a strong performance would also help send a message early in the weekend’s matches before league leader Chelsea plays the Saturday evening match at defending champions Leicester City.  Then, on Sunday, Manchester City have a fixture we lost–Everton away–while one or both of Liverpool and Manchester United will drop points when they play each other.  As such, this is an opportunity we need to grab with both hands.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 71 Comments

What did Arsene tell Giroud to Sign so Quickly?

Koz – Coq – Ollie Signatures Secure the Spine for Years to Come.

The announcement of new contracts for Koz, Coq and Ollie is music to our ears. In one go, Arsenal have ensured the continuation of our spine. With Cech and Ospina we have two fabulous goalkeepers; and with the newly signed Mustafi and Holding and the solid, vastly improved Gabriel and Koz, we have four fine CBs to pick from. And of course there is still the experienced BFG to return to the squad at some point this season. SO the bottom of the spine is sorted. The full backs are sorted too..

In the centre of midfield, we have the newly signed Elneny and Xhaka, and Coq. On top of this we have the more box to box like central midfielders in Rambo and Santi. I am not saying all is brill in this area, but it’s  more a matter of getting the combinations right rather than having to buy new players. Wenger could add another favourite collectible, a central midfielder, in the summer, but surely it would mean that one of Rambo or Santi would be sold. We also have a rejuvenated super-Jack coming back at the end of the season, and he could well make the best fit with Xhaka or Coquelin in the centre of midfield. I have no worries whatsoever about the quality of our squad in midfield.

In the hole, we have Ozil and the fast developing Iwobi, and both Santi and Jack can also play there. So no concerns whatsoever re quality options for this most pivotal of roles in the team.

Up-top we have Giroud to lead the line or to function as our super-sub. Both work for me, and I reckon the longer Alexis dithers about signing a new contract the more we see Ollie starting games in the next few months. Don’t be surprised if Alexis gets gradually marginalised with Wenger choosing the trio of Welbeck – Giroud – Perez more and more. I still really like Sanchez as our CF and with Welbeck, Theo, Perez and Ox to play on the ‘wing’ we have some fine options to hurt any opponent. I would love us to try a youngster on the wing and buy super quality in the summer and then let both Ox and Theo go, but I know this will not be totally popular with my fellow BKers! 🙂

The fact that Giroud signed a new contract so quickly must mean that Wenger was able to convince him that he is still very much in his, and/or the club’s, long term plans. I would love to know what Wenger actually told him…! Now for Ozil and Alexis to follow soon. I think the former will sign sooner or later but the latter may prefer to have one more, financially very attractive, adventure somewhere else. I would love to keep him but if he were to go I am sure we have the money to get a good replacement. A swap with Griezman perhaps?! 🙂

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So for me, from a squad point of view, the future is looking very bright red and white indeed.

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Ozil’s Refusal to Commit to Arsenal a Sign on the Wall?

2016 saw the loss of many beloved pop and film stars, Brexit, Trumpin and a colossal attack on the importance and value of telling (and protecting) the truth and respecting human dignity. So many of us were happy to see the backside of it, but not without the trepidation that more horror shows may well follow in the new year.

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2017 is also a big year for the club. Arsene’s contract will run out this summer and key players are stalling their contracts talks to see what will happen with him  and/or get a better pay deal. I have no doubt that the decision is with Wenger, as the club will be very keen to keep mister consistency in charge at the home of football. Wenger is as good as a guarantee the BoD can get for  Arsenal to qualify for the CL qualification and make it through the  group stages every single season, and this goes a very long way for the shareholders.

CL football offers prestige and gravy trains full of income, and changing the manager will put this at risk, whoever they would pick as Wenger’s successor. On top of that, Arsene won the FA Cup twice in the last two years and finished second in the PL last season: gradual progress is now being made and there is every reason to believe that more silverware will follow soon. Not all supporters see it that way, though, which is something the BoD as well as Arsene himself will be very much aware of.

I don’t know what will happen but my gut feeling tells me that Arsene is probable going to leave this summer. The only thing that may change his mind is the team winning the PL or CL in May. He knows that he has the players to win something now and let’s hope it will happen. But he is not getting any younger and he may just fancy one more new challenge before he hangs up his raincoat for good.

If Arsene was to go, let there be no doubt that we will enter a challenging, but also exciting, new phase. However much he is trying to leave a solid foundation behind, whoever takes over will need to be able to work with the current players, give or take a few new signings in the summer. They play well to very good under Wenger but how will they do under a new manager? It all depends on who this is going to be and how much they are able to continue Arsene’s approach to style and tactics of the team. They will also need to be able to convince players that their future is best served at Arsenal.

It is very important to hang on to our key players as they will be in demand and other clubs are able/willing to pay even higher wages. All of a sudden, our much advertised and valued consistency could be under threat. Ozil saying he is stalling contract talks due to wanting to know what will happen with his protector and appreciator Wenger, tells us at least that the club have not yet been able to provide clarity/ resolve the contract situation with either Wenger or indeed Ozil.

I would love to have more clarity re Wenger’s and Ozil and Sanchez’s future and let’s hope the club will provide it rather sooner than later. Surely, waiting till May/June is not an option…

So what do you think fellow Gooners:

  1. Are we reaching the end of Arsene’s tenure?
  2. Or merely the beginning of the end?
  3. Or even just the end of the beginning? 🙂
  4. What would you like to happen re the management situation?
  5. And on a scale 1-10 how confident are you about our competitiveness in 2017 and 2018?

By TotalArsenal. 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 35 Comments