How can Arsenal improve further? Transition, Transition, Transition!

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It’s all about the transition!

There has been recent commentary on a range of tactics and what makes us succeed or appear to be less successful. In particular, the area around defense and how we defend has arisen with strong sentiments around Arsenal “allowing” other teams to score or laying too far back.. In my opinion, no one is allowed to score, but the game is, in fact, a game, which implies both teams have a say in the outcome. Which is to say this isn’t La Liga with (nowadays) 3 teams beating up the rest who are of a clearly lesser level in many cases.

So, what is it about? What differentiates our successful periods from periods less dominant? Some say it is Flamini, no Flame, no game, might be the succinct response. Others imply we relax after scoring early and let others back in the game. Still more point at supposed weaker links, Arteta or Scz, or immobile Germans for defensive issues.

To me, in my analytical way, experience says two things:

1. There are two phases to the game – when you have the ball and when you don’t.

2. There are three often interchanging roles of each team in a game – on top, even handed, and behind the 8-ball, which is to say pressurizing and under pressure, with the middle being the arm wrestle tussle for control.

Equally, a physicist will tell you that if you expend excessive energy with the ball and pressurizing, you will, in a zero sum game, have to rest at some other time (and be pressurized). In contrast, a serious football fan will tell you to never give up the initiative. I will tell you that football is all about being able to count to 3 or 4, a game of numbers.

More succinctly, most goals come from gaining numerical advantage. Even JWs wonder goal #1 vs Norwich had local 2-1 advantage for every touch to break through 4 people (2-1 at a time).

Finally, however, it is a game and both sides play a role and try their best. Especially in the EPL, where the guaranteed wins have come fewer and harder every year of recent. Only Sunderland seem a sure bet right now and even that will possibly change before they are relegated (as seems likely at the moment).

So, what makes Arsenal right? And what is different when we are “wrong” or “off”? How do we maximise our numbers and minimise the opponents?

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To me it’s all about the transition. Every team plays with and without the ball. The critical moments are what occur right after the ball changes hands and how one “finds numbers”.

For the moment let’s presume that we lose the ball and the other team (Whomever FC) do not immediately hoik it up field or turn it back (i.e. they aren’t Stoke and act rationally). What happens next or should happen next.

When we are going well: We race back and get in front of the ball which is critical to making sure the opposition do not get numbers. Hence, we all love fast counters because they give you numbers and we all groan when the ball goes sideways on a rapid Arsenal counter.

The entire goal is to get in front, with reasonable shape (2-3 layers) and, this is the key, aggressively front the ball. That aggressive first “fronting up”  should push the ball sideways and slow the opposition transition.

The next key step is shape and aggressively moving forward, as a unit, so that the next pass goes back and then the next…

When we are successful, we bully teams back into their own end, even without the ball! When we are not they are allowed to play or move to easily.

Flamini gives us a lot of this “first fronting up” which allows players to get back, as well as the vocal organisation. If there was an argument “against” Arteta it is that he is perhaps too passive this way in comparison and a little too passive on the counter (when we are on offence). Not always but enough. Hence, Flamini’s importance, but, an importance that can be replicated.

The benchmark is Napoli, this year at least, and watch the game again at and you will see that we never let them get a free forward pass with the ball, or barely so. Aggressively fronting through most of the game we bullied them time and again into passing all the way back to Reina. Not beautiful Wenger-ball perhaps but beautiful to watch and a sign of utter domination. Combined with incisive attack finding numbers and advantage versus an increasingly frustrated and confused opposition, and the outcome was certain.

When we are not going well: Well just the opposite, too passive and too slow to front the ball. The opposition gets better numbers or is allowed the opportunity to find them. Our slack period as we caught our breath was about this. We didn’t adapt tactics and effort to be more solid, and to me, it starts with someone getting in the face of the ball carrier. Without Flamini it was likely needing to be Cazorla (fatigued) and JW along with Arteta and Ramsey. If one is missing and the opposition comes through that area…

IMO, here is where JW is weak. He is aggressive as hell at coming back but doesn’t get in front preferring to come from behind or the side. As a result, he either gets the ball (good) or fails and doesn’t force the attack to slow, instead inadvertently actually pushing it forward (bad). It’s also where Rosicky is better or more experienced. Its not all JWs fault by any means but you defend as a team and if one or more elements aren’t in synch..

On attack you ask? Well the same holds in reverse really. When we go well we are incisive and forward. This is where Ozil has really helped us be more direct, and where, again if you want to see Arteta as a negative, he is perhaps a touch more cautious. Equally, JW at his best drives the game forward and finds numbers, TR the same, which is why they are always “visible” when going well on attack.

Equally, in this context, one could readily argue that JWs goal vs Norwich was Norwich allowing Arsenal to aggressively strike forward to find numbers 2-1 each time to remove a player in what was at the outside 3 vs 5. IMO, that’s unfair to Norwich and Arsenal as that was perfect aggressive play and not much stops that!

So, in summary, no one can dominate all of a game and all of the ball. There will always be times when we don’t have it and where after huge efforts on our part the other team is dominant. It’s how we respond and the basics we follow that, to me, determine the outcome.

In fact, I like it this way. It’s a game and if the other side has no chance what’s the fun? Better then to root for the underdog which is about all the fun there is to be had (again my opinion) in any Barca game that isn’t vs RM or Atletico. No games at all are like that in the EPL these days based on recent results that have helped put our team at the top of the table.

Finally, it is all about the players. If I examine our team now, I would say that Flamini is the glue that stops opposition transition the best and that makes a huge difference to half our game. Ozil, as is well discussed, adds the incisiveness we lacked last year as well as another SQ threat with Santi, and the super emergence of AR and OG this year. Questions, they come around Arteta adapting just a little in my opinion and JW, as he comes into form, finding the defensive half of his game gaining maturity. These will both come with time.

So, what do you think? Football is a very simple game with a at least a billion interpretations on how to play it best. Hopefully, this note at least fills the period between what I hope is a great, pressuring, perfectly transitioning domination of Dortmund and the weekend vs CrystalPalace!

To me it’s all about the balance defined by how we transition and thus whether we can dominate the ability and opportunities to find numbers and advantage or if we have to rely, as we did all too often in past on some magic from one or another player.

This year, I think we have the team to not to have to rely on magic too often … which is the first time since perhaps 2004ish and thus very good!! As long as we stay solid in the transition!

And a last question, if with way of looking at it in mind you could get any player in January who is it and why will they help us in transition?

Written by: JGC

56 thoughts on “How can Arsenal improve further? Transition, Transition, Transition!

  • wow, what a master piece – oh yes, i can’t help but agree with everything and re-read it again 😉

    absolutely 1st class @ JGC – well done and thank you for writing this master piece

    agreed, football is a simple sport only made complicated by a few people 😉 and indeed, Flamini is the glue that keeps us sticking, ticking, and on the ground running !

    in January any player ? Suarez or Rooney – either one be perfecto and they would certainly help us get right up there at the very top across Europe as well.

    PS: the silence today at Arsenal FC and the website is rather baffling as not a single player (fit) has even tweeted anything, very odd – it could also mean that AW has been giving them an earful and discussing tactics and so on – normally on a thursday , you get the injury news put up before the press conference on friday where AW gives in a more detailed update.

  • fantastic article JGC, and i agree with its main premise.

    The main difference i see in 2013 as opposed to previous years is to some extent the abandoment of the high line and the high press, replaced with an emphasis on an edge of the box line with the midfield dropping back to provide very little space between the the back four and midfield.

    Personaly, i think this tactical defensive shift has been vindicated by results.

    We are not the greatest at winning it back, so numbers deep seem to provide decent protection to the back line.

    Players have stepped up to this responsibilty very well, its allmost becoming second nature to them.

    Two areas of weakness, and all teams have them, is that when the game becomes stretched some of our payers lose the physical battle and are to easily by passed

    The second, and forgive me if this sounds to simplistic and brutish, is the lack of enough players outside the backline willing to stick there head into an area of flying boots or the willingless to head butt some one. Thats were Flamini comes in. Apart from his experience and tactical nous, he is also a bit crazy, and i like that.

    Great post Proffesor

  • This is one of the best blogs I have read on the Arsenal so far this season. The analysis is very on point. Arsenal’s bane ,especially in the Dortmund match ,was our inability to defend properly and allowing Dortmund to impose their game plan on us. The Napoli game is a good reference of how to dominate a game and impose your plan on the opponent.
    I also agree that JW is not exactly the superstar the press makes him out to be. He is guilty of over playing (trying to do too much) and shirking his defensive duties. Any good midfielder must be able to win the ball, hold the ball, pass the ball accurately offensively or defensively. Most good midfielders are very frugal with their touches. Don’t hold on to the ball when a pass is necessary. JW will do well to keep his game as simple as ever. Watch Rosicky, Xavi, Iniesta, Silva,Toure etc
    We as a team, should also shoot more often.
    Looking forward to getting back to winning ways on Saturday. COYG

  • good points @ Biodun

    and thanks for the approval re- blog – nice comment and hoping to read more comments from you in the future.

    agreed, our young gunners can learn a lot from Rosicky…Santi (in particular for JW) and Ozil.

  • allow me to point something very relevant out here,

    what do you think the reason is for Dortmund to be mostly on the losing end vs BM, if not Always ?

    the answer is simple – WIDTH – BM , have 2 very fine wingers and they are the ones who have managed to out do Dortmund from the last 18 months, at least on a very consistent basis.

    we are blessed to have the likes of Theo/Ox/Poldi but sadly, they are injured but the point i’m trying to make here is that we have the right players and right options to use against most teams in Europe, if not all , as long as we are not hit by injuries as such.

  • Dortmund have a superior 1-1 record against BM over the last five years, JB… The reason they lost the final was experience and dark ploy by the lederhosen to undermine the Gelb-Schwarzen…. steeling and tapping up their key players before the final has even been played…

  • note how i used the last 18 months and not the last 5 years @ TA

    it wasn’t just the final they lost though, they lost their domestic cup semi final, league games e.t.c e.t.c

    it wasn’t a one off and they have been extremely consistent vs Dortmund from the last 18 months or so, it’s no fluke nor does it have anything to do with the whole Mario Gotze affair, either.

    not for me at least.

  • JB,
    I agree, mainly with the Theo part i think we missed him badly v Dortmund and we are very very much in need of last seasons top goal scorer for us to put his boots back on. His pace alone scares defenders before they even kick off.
    I still think we were better the Dortmund the other night except as TA pointed out the first 15 odd mins in the first half where we started with under hitting passes, lack off power and also missed placed passes and quite a few of them.
    The future looks bright, but we have a very tough fixture list ahead
    I agree and i think your point is very important, even more so with the fixtures we have coming up. They need to learn when a draw is a good result, the games we have coming up are so important and winning them is important but if you cant win then dont lose.

  • allow me to correct, they may have not lost the league games but they were outplayed in the super cup or whatever they call it, in the semi final due to their wingers causing them plenty of problems down the wings.

    the point i’m making is that we can do the same when we have our wingers back to provide us with a lovely balance.

    agreed on them having the upper hand in the last 5 years over BM…i was only taking the last 18 months into consideration.

    where is HH ? the Dortmund specialist ? 🙂

  • Very,very nice perspective on the game jgc, and so well articulated, it’s difficult not to agree with the analysis. Thinking of the Napoli game, or the BD one, your post highlighs the keys to, if not the result, the periods of domination. I’m tempted to add (but you actually already pointed it out), and it is also reflected in the squawka article linked in the previous blog, that beyond the individual aspects – this player doing this better or more naturally than another, the collective aspect of handling that transition is key.

    Look how we collectively harassed Napoli, how BD each time they lost possession tried to have (and that’s very extreme) up to 4 players not fronting but boxing the player with the ball on all sides. Conversely, and I’ve looked a second time at large extracts of both games, look how successful attacks start often the moment you have collective movement, multiple players making runs and calling for the ball, in sync.

    The difficult part is of course being in sync, and how to manage the “when” – if doing a 4 player press but fail to stifle the ball, and it’s space and opportunity for the other team, burst forward with 3 midfielders and miss a pass, here comes the counter attack, and of course, can you handle that volume of movement 90′? Probably not, so you have to also be able to regulate, and launch attacks in sync. And yes, sometimes we feel Arteta might be regulating too much, or Jack is conversely too systematic pushing forward, but it’s the collective understanding of where the team is in the transition that only good/great teams achieve (Barca being the masters at this). And we’ve seen it, at times, with Arsenal this year.

    Not sure I’m making sense, but that was my thoughts…


  • Very well written post, jgc, and you are making some very valid points. You are right that a team cannot dominate constantly – unless your Barcelona in recent years – and has to let go a bit and fall back.

    But in my opinion we don’t do this very well, unless we play both Arteta and Flamini in the double DM and even then it is not a given that we will not concede during these periods. Nine goals in eight games conceded in the PL until now does not make beautiful reading for the defensive side of our game, but 18 goals in 8 games does. You will argue that as long as we keep scoring more than we concede we are going to be fine, and might even point towards MU’s success with this approach in winning the PL last season again. And you might well be right in the end, but I feel that if we do not cut out these periods of sitting back too deep and inviting opponents to close to our box, and very often conceding in the process, we will be pipped by the Chavs for the title. As soon as our goals dry up (and there are always periods when this happens), we are likely to start to drop points, unless we can get more and more clean sheets going forward.

    So yes, let’s transition better and remain more solid in front of the back four when we need a breather during the game. If we don’t, we are likely to miss out on silverware again this season, which can still be avoided if we learn to keep opponents further away from our box rather than letting them into our soft underbelly too frequently and easily.

  • JB, Biodun, Terry…

    Thanks for the kind words. For me, this january, hmm, your choices sound good. I’d prefer Rooney as quite simply I cannot get a good feeling about Suarez. Talentwise tho.. wow

    I might just give an edge to getting a 20-22 year old top DM, Flamini-to-be and work them in more. If such were available and willing!

    Like Biodun and Gerry, I think we do lack a touch of steel. JW has it but is perhaps a little reckless with it. AR has it too IMO. But with one more for Arteta / Flamini I think we’d be good. Down the wings we are often a touch too nice which reduces some small bit of Presence!:)

    Biodun, welcome to the blog, and thanks for the kind words! I agree mostly about JW. He **has** the talent but he is sometimes more reckless I think. Specifically, I think he offers chances for others to get numbers by wanting to *immediately* get the ball back rather than some patience. As I said, I think maturity and increasing fitness will see that decline. You are correct that TR is a good role model for the missing element of maturity in his game.

    Equally, this would perhaps also include TRs excellent movement off the ball when he is not going to get it, just to pull other players on the opposition out of position… To, of course, create the opportunity to create numbers! 🙂

    Equally, vs BD, fast ball movement (passing) and “slow feet” (less running with the ball, more passing fast) is the key element. IMO… That was perhaps a team flaw as much as not but something in changing tactics we could get better at.. Especially with Ozil who is the king of taht type of play..

    cheers — jgc

  • JB, not only they have wingers, but these 2 are amongst the top wingers (I should say players) in the world… So talented that they play inverted but still consistently/constantly overtake their fullbacks and can cross efficiently with their “bad” foot. And when they get back inside on their good foot…

  • ah, JGC wants Pogba over at Arsenal, i see – don’t mind him at the emirates one bit but he also comes with “baggage” .

    good points @ The Punter


    be that as it may, we have the fastest winger in the world aka Theo says Fifa ?;)

  • TA (And Terry and Alcide),

    Good points. I would half agree with your analysis. IMO, we will gel more as a defense as the year goes on and clean sheets will come.

    Equally, if you sub or rest when you get up, you will concede more. Ie goals against is a rough stat. When were the goals conceded. Any when you are 2 or 3 up count less, … potentially…

    However, you are right that we need to defend better. And this is part of what I am on about in that we need to be more consistent as a team. Specifically, despite comments on Arteta, I think we have all the right players, but we dont always get in synch as a team or not quickly enough.

    Per Terry’s comment, I think we do sit more and that’s fine, but it requires aggressive fronting the ball. Or aggressive boxing, as noted by Alcide, which is a much more aggressive approach that wants to win the ball right now.. which BD did very well, but requires greater effort and coordination as a team.

    Thus, we need to be more organised and even with Flamini going well, I think this will happen more as we go onward. I will go on a limb and predict that we have more clean sheets in the EPL this year then last (or the same number).

    But, to me, it’s still about how we manage transition. There will always be some mistakes (goal #1 against BD) and such but overall, strong transition and team defense will win games. It just doesnt appear second nature entirely yet. … Yet! 🙂

    cheers — jgc

  • JB,

    I was thinking more Germanic in origin myself, but someone like Pogba or more B2B but willing like AR to do some dirty work on defense.. Another AR clone would be fantastic too..

    cheers — jgc

  • TA and JB

    I suspect it is experience defending as a team, out wide and in the middle. There is not much to choose from between the two sides going forward, thus the difference must be on defense…. IMO, no one defended better last year than BM .. except vs us! 🙂

    cheers — jgc

  • TA, I wonder what is our ratio of goals conceded on counterattacks vs. when sitting back vs. set pieces… I must say my memory fails to even give me the beginning of a guess. What I do recall is that in 90% of cases, we conceded when leading by one or 2 goals… Not sure what to make of that though… Are we sloppy when ahead? Complacent? Sure of our ability to score?

  • In support of my last…

    From 2012-13:

    Bayern Munich (C) = 29W-4D-1L + 98 GF vs 18 GA == GD = 80!!!!!
    Dortmund = 19W-9D-6L + 81 GF vs 42 GA == GD = 39

    18 GA for BM and 42 for BD who were 4th worst in the Bundesliga for goals against behind BM and teams with 39 and 40 GA… BM with 18!!!!!!!!!

    I think they were good at defense and thus good in the defensive transition

    cheers — jgc

  • JB, fast is one thing, but I think Robben or Ribery are as explosive on the first 3 meters, and their ball control is a tad better 🙂 but you know that :), and hey, Theo has quite a few years of improvements ahead of him.

    Pogba would be ideal for me – does everything well, defending, tackling, positioning, dribbling, good engine, relatively fast, gets headers, mature yet is so young and will beef up physically (he’s already stronger than he looks). On top of that he is “elegant”. Like an f22 in the air, he could be a “field dominance” player, a viera. And the fact that ManU didn’t see that and let him go is a plus 🙂 (Fellaini… Hahahahaha). Juve might not make that mistake though… Does it show I like him?

  • Further points on BM and BD and transition


    BM GKs made *only* 75 saves and conceded 18 goals total of 93 shots on goal against BM

    BD GKs made 77 saves and conceded 41 goals total of 118 shots on goal against BD so thgey faced 25 more shots than BM or almost 30% more.

    That’s at least partly transition defense. Dont know the difference for total shots as I couldnt find it.

    cheers — jgc

  • Alcide, a lot of goals are conceded by us being porous in the centre of our defence/midfield during certain periods and not so much counter-attacks this season. Somebody should write a post about our goals conceded and how they happen…

    Night all, bloody early start tomorrow. 🙂

    Good point about Bayern’s defence, jgc, and it links perfectly with our sub-discussion tonight. 🙂

  • It is yours, Alcide, if you are up for it! 🙂

    ‘This year, I think we have the team to not to have to rely on magic too often … which is the first time since perhaps 2004ish and thus very good!! As long as we stay solid in the transition!’

    That is it in nutshell, Geoff! 🙂

    Now lets hope the furry animals do not come up with their theories of how to remain solid in transition…. 😛

  • Redders goes walkabouts and is replaced by Professor … swallowed a dictionary and the other probably has a NASA space probe up his rectum…..not sure who has what, but both fcuking intelligent beyond a simple game of footers !.
    Seeing as my fellow Neanderthals are saying it was a great post, I shall agree !. hahaha

  • point conceded – you win @ TA 🙂

    yeah, someone German would fit in like a glove @ JGC

    ha ha, that was tongue and cheek @ Alcide but honestly, Theo mostly gets slack for all his runs and hard work due to his finishing and technical abilities, mostly it’s unfair and we don’t appreciate it as much, however, his pace on his day combined with decent finishing/crossing can be a real handful against any opposition.

    ah yes, we can see the French connection there 😉

  • One player for transition………………………Pogba !.

    Two reasons…..1) he has it all…….2) his name sounds like a Klingon warning….POGBAHHH !….=…..Hands off Cockie !.

  • Hi CM and JB

    Any good B2B type with a defensive turn of mind would be good. IMO, a disciplined german type, work with that CM (!! 🙂 ), would be good… Even if they arent actually German! 🙂

    CM, really!?!?!? Everyone, everyone, knows the probe goes in through your eyeball!!!! 😛 🙂

    cheers — jgc

  • Morning guys 🙂

    Not another b2b for me, let Jack and Rambo fight fort that one but a 24 year old quality DM would be a nice luxury to have.

  • Geoff – We/they/your students/et al do not call you ‘Professor’ for nothing, eh.

    In a word – BRILLIANT!

    You bring Presence! to blog writing like no other. The fact that I cannot find a ‘However’ moment to add to it is testament to that …
    … which is probably why my best thought sunk to a glic-ism, on the response to TCM about the ‘probe is inserted in the eye’ ..

    My thought … ‘Is that so you can see it coming’ ….

  • No, let me put that out of my mind, and be serious.

    I think you found the right base to make a comparison with – The Napoli game.

    It simply was the best the ‘team’ has played in years. Your conditional analysis says that game would work against any team we play, and I would agree. The keys are there.

    Which is why I think we may have less trouble in attaining that level against our future opponents later in this year. Players are human. They pick up their top game when the challenge is stronger?

    But also, we need to find the right chemistry between players. That Napoli game worked well for the players who played, without it necessarily being our ‘strongest 11’

    Strongest 11 and question mark go together like a sweet and sour sauce amongst writers and readers on this BK site – What suits somebody’s taste is an absolute yuk! to another.
    But I was thinking of the likes of Theo, who I consider our only winger, the rest are wide men, and other who did not play.

    So how do you change the personnel, as you have to from time to time. Remember there was no Santi or Jack in the starting line up, not to mention Theo and Poldi, or even Gnabry who had an excellent game the previous weekend?

    The point being, you have to, at least match, the output of the 11 that did start, and preferably improve upon it.
    Worst case, you make changes that take away something from a player’s game, and that brings the whole house down?

    TA – it is all very well you ‘tut tutting’ about talk of individual players, but I think you have to be open to some comments, that however much you find it unthinkable, there are times when current form, style of play, integration into the team, whatever, that at some point there may be a case?

    I am one of the first to defend players like Gibbs, Szcz, or Arteta when I think they are being unfairly criticised. Perhaps you should write a blog and explain why you think that JW or Ramsey are our key B2B players? I stated my case why I think Ramsey should be a CAM, rather than DM-cum-B2B. I would also say at the present time Jack is not in my starting 11 either.
    I am quite happy for JW to come on as a sub until he regains his fitness, if that is his only problem? I have a sneaky feeling that the Ozil signing has taken his ‘golden boy’ crown, and he is struggling to contain himself in his attempts at reclaiming it?

    JB – This bit is for you too

    The four league games we have coming up, if we win them all we remain ‘Top Of The League’ .. Your term TA, TOTL. I think that will give us more confidence going forwards than some slightly misplaced effort at beating the Chavs in the COC? Football is a tough game. There are winners and losers. Last season we were not going to win anything, so perhaps we could afford to keep playing Ramsey when not the most productive member of the team. This season is different. If we keep winning we are league champions.
    Yes, League Champions! It is ours to lose?

    No of course we won’t go undefeated until the end of the season. But who we lose to may be more important. These games against Liverpool and Man U are those mythical ‘6 pointers’. Lose either or both, only inspires them more, and put us down. Win against the Chavs only puts us into the next round, and may cost us an injury or two to key players. Maureen is not beyond sending out Ramires to ‘stop’ Ozil is he?

    So to do the best we can, getting back to the magnificent post by Geoff, requires a team effort to replicate what they did against Napoli. If that means some technically better players missing out, or them pushing other players into positions where they do not play to that level, just to accommodate another, then I am happy with that.

    Some players are for the future. That includes JW for me. The likes of Yennaris and Frimpong for example. If either plays a classic DM role in the COC then they would be my choice behind the Flamteta partnership. Unfortunately that may not happen?

    Which is why Geoff has very astutely opened up another area for the January TW purchase – that of getting vulnerable back ups for our key players. Flamini, in just 7 games has made himself one of those key players, and in my eyes, we have not an appropriate player for the short to medium term?

    Perhaps it is time we accept we are okay in the ‘scoring’ department, and can get by in the CB department, but we are very fragile in th DM if we want more wins like that of Napoli, after Christmas?

  • Gerry,

    Great response… for the sake of interested discussion, I am not too too sure we had a huge dropoff against BD. Oh, some, yes.. but huge, no…

    Consider this. We hit woodwork twice, well earned and taken. A few millimeters from 2 more goals and a confidence sapping impact on BD.

    We made a mistake for one goal, it happens. The other was a wonder goal. Where their magic man got the winner for them, ours hit woodwork. Twice. That’s football!

    Equally, we can pass very fast and did not against BD, or not enough to dominate their press and make them pay. That’s a failure of tactics on the day, and again, as you noted, a function of humans! 🙂

    Yes, a little tighter and we might have had the second anyway, but, that level will come.

    I think overall in more direct response, some players change and adapt, or grow and others do not. AR has, JW will, some others might not. That’s what sets the team going forward.

    That all said, the good news is that the things that *might* ail us, just a little… Well, they are all things fixable in team chemistry (over time) and shape/tactical responses (gelling and practice).

    The other good news, we are not short the talent or magic men. Thus, the easy stuff is what is left to master. I think there is thus good upside for this team and am not concerned about ths “draw in the loss column” vs another top 10 in Europe team. We will get ours…!

    Regarding JW and AR et al. They have the talent to play all midfield roles. AR can right now I think, JW will mature and get fitter into it. That said, *where* they play is then just a matter of most need on the day and injuries. Recall, AR started earlier this season next to Flamini and started scoring. As Arteta ccame back he went wide, mixing with Ozil and kept scoring..

    Team defense will improve, it’s one of the few things that can really at that level, and is easily done. The clean sheets will come, and we will be away…

    cheers – jgc

  • TA,

    Per above, I have to say I dont differentiate between B2B and DM. Mids that play the middle of the field, barring #10s like Ozil, are either more offensive or defensive minded in my world. Ie, everyone touts Yaya as a DM but he plays both ends and can score a fair bit. He’s just more defensive minded or played that way.

    Ie its more about state of mind and how they are played or like to play. Equally, Song was played defensively but was offensively minded. Hence, his lapses that didnt help …

    Thus, I think we agree, I just call it a defensively minded B2B!

    cheers — jgc

  • Oh, and by mids who play the middle of the park, I mean, not wings or outside types like Theo or Di Maria…

    cheers — jgc

  • An excellent article, which I agree with almost 100%! I would, however, add two points:

    Firstly, the importance of learning from our opponents when possible. I believe that, although we were a tad unlucky against Dortmund, we have to give them praise for being the best team we have played this season (by some substantial margin). Klopp has clearly drilled into his side the need for all 10 of his outfield players to defend all over the pitch when they don’t have the ball. In this area, they were substantially better than us. NO-ONE IS TOO BIG TO DO THE DIRTY WORK!

    Secondly – and, I believe, most importantly – is our mental abilities and approach. I have been saying for the last 5-6 years that what we have been missing is a ‘mongrel’. Suddenly, with the fortunate acquisition of Flamini, we have that man!

    After Dortmund went ahead for the second time on Tuesday, I believe our heads dropped. I’m absolutely certain that if Flambo had been on the pitch, this wouldn’t have happened – and I believe we could have equalised again.

    We desperately need to have this type of character in the side to balance out the beautiful football we play. Is it a coincidence that, without Flambo, Ramsey had his poorest game of the season? I think not!

    I am pro-Wenger, but honestly believe he has yet to realise the importance of ‘character’.

    All hail the genius that is Flambo!

  • Hi Tapps,

    Good points. I think on your first we are saying the same thing, it’s a team thing and you are right it’s sort of grunt work to hustle back and give shape. Especially when the ball is somewhere else (ie. little glory to be had doing it). But, as we agree, its critical

    Equally, BD were the best we have played and as I;ve noted, it coulda been 2-1 the other way. Closer then I think some folks believe. So it goes.

    For your second, I too have noted in way past that some mongrel was needed. I think tho that finding mongrel and the ability to play the ARsenal game is very hard and that AW is unwilling to compromise talent for mongrel.

    So, actually, I believe AW recognises the need. In fact, need I say more than Campbell, Viera, Adams? 🙂 .. Just mongrel with talent is hard. Very very few have it. Those guys did. Flamini does. Yaya most certainly does ( as does Kompany a touch further back), but then … Relatively quite few tho I am sure we could name 20 on the blog, they are all desired and top qualities.

    So, to the rest of you… who is that “talented mongrel” out there that we need to augment/complement Flamini? Especially, IMO, a younger 22-24 year old with all the talent and potential to be such? Pogba?

    Some very good points…

    cheers — jgc

  • TA@11.05

    If I thought there was a post in it, I might consider that option. But if we both accept jgc’s definition of two types of B2B player, then I would say both he and Ramsey are attack minded?

    Just a quick note; I did not say Jack was not a B2B player, just that he would not, at THIS moment be in my starting 11 … he is for the future. It was not long ago you were arguing his best position was as in his shirt, the No 10? I was coming around to agree with you on his play as a B2B.

    The reason why he would be in my starting 11 is that, when he drops his shoulder and turns an attacker, he more often than not carries the ball too long. His shining moment was that wonder goal. He saw the space, passed it quickly, two passes later he got a one two with Cazorla, although slightly behind him still managed to flick it to Giroud. Giroud’s flick back was more controlled* and it dropped neatly in his path for a tap in. – * I reference that to Giro’s flick to Ramsey down the line in Ozil’s first goal in the Napoli game. – Take that piece of magic away, along with some other good work in that game, but he has struggled to be a playmaker, or even a consistent link man int that position. It is not that he has not got the skill, but Geoff did point out an attitude problem with his opening tackle, deserving of a yellow card? To be in the side that Arsenal want to be, he has to do better.

    That would be the sum of my post.

    I really thought, on the back of his late entry into the Napoli game, followed by the Norwich one he finally got the hang of it. What did we see in against Dortmund? 15 tackles, and only 6 successful. True, he was playing in the advance role, but I put it too you this way. If that had been Ramsey in uber confident mood tracking back to where he gave the ball away that led to their first goal, then uber confident Ramsey would have seen the pass to Ozil, made it, and be scampering up the field to do a swift one-two on the counter. Which is why, just at this moment Jack should not have started where he did if there was an option, and there was. Cazorla came on sharp as a pin. He may not have last a full hour, but what he gave to the team while he was on was immense.

    And here I come to Geoff’s point that Ramsey played the early games with Flamini, and with great success, it has to be said. But put those performances against the two without Flamini, and the picture looks slightly different? I would argue that against lesser opposition, and that includes Spurs, ha ha, we were perhaps confident enough to play the single DM, but supported by a collective defense?

    When it came to the Napoli game we needed that double pivot to give the sound platform for the likes of Ramsey to keep on with his free flowing links with Ozil. When we lost Flamini in the Norwich game, his game dropped as he was tied to the defensive position. For about 45 minutes Norwich held sway. Substitutes breathed new life into the side, and once again, Ramsey was off again doing his free running magic.

    So I say again, when the big games come up, I don’t want Ramsey tied to a defensive role. Against ‘Palace and a restored Flamini we could probably be okay with the single DM if Arteta needs a break after the clattering he took against Dortmund? He is not getting any younger.

    Finally, one Geoff’s on the point on Dortmund game; We did not drop our game too much?

    I would agree if you take the view that you are only as good as the opposition allows you to play? But that cuts both ways. To say Dortmund defended well is also a moot point. Hummel’s spillage to Cazorla when he went on to hit the bar was not an isolated example?
    Where our game dropped was on the quick passing. That needed Jack and Ramsey at their best, moving the ball forwards quickly. So in turn we allowed them to play their game well?

    The positive thing to come out of it is we know we can play better?

  • Hi Gerry,

    I mostly agree. I think JW tries “too hard” .. Doing less for him would be more for the team (and him). Weight of expectations? He often holds a bit too long or tries the too hard pass (it came off vs Norwich but..). It’s a delicate balance but I think he is pressing too mmuch and its actually holding him back perhaps..

    I agree about AR being tied defensively. Equally, the fast passing which is what I was also on a bit about in the para above really. Fast ball movement is how you beat over pressing which is what BD did.

    IMO, we didnt drop much in the BD game. Slow start but that’s fixable and happens. I think we just did not fully adapt, but were mostly even overall. AGain, we could have won 2-1 or 2-2 with some luck (we dont hit the bar once, and/or they do)..

    Gerry, and yes, we will improve because as long as the players buy in team defense is the single easiest thing to fix as it isnt about talent but dedication and hard yards (i.e. attitude)!

    cheers — jgc

  • Hello my fine feathered friends! 🙂

    JGC, that is a masterful Post that took some reading and I took a lot from it.

    I was delighted with some of the subtle interplay with the terminology used in parts, which made the points you were expressing even more telling.

    I could not list them all, but once I read one or two I was hooked;
    ‘the game is, in fact, a game’ — and let’s face it, who could argue with that?

    Followed by: ‘a physicist will tell you that if you expend excessive energy with the ball and pressurizing, you will, in a zero sum game, have to rest at some other time (and be pressurized)’. This is clearly a reference to the process of placing the neck of the bladder into your mouth and blowing up the ball to the correct pressure and then letting it all blow back into your lungs.

    However, my clear favorite was: ‘I will tell you that football is all about being able to count to 3 or 4, a game of numbers.’ That is such an intriguing perspective that I could not help but race on just like I was reading an Alan Furst spy novel to see how it all squared up. [I could have said ‘worked out’ rather than ‘squared up’ but I thought the latter reflected your numerical analogy]. 🙂

    All tongue in cheek comments aside, I can honestly say your work was enjoyable and full of profoundly sensible points, which at the end left me feeling I agreed with you, but not quite sure how you had achieved that sublime state of concord.

    It is not a secret that I am incapable of writing interesting Posts myself, but I can recognize talent when I see it, and l look forward to more from you in the future. Thank you. 🙂

  • Thanks Gerry. I can see where you are coming from but I cannot agree with you on your points re Rambo or Jack. Rambo’s best position long term is next b2b IMO where he combines def discipline with thrusting forwards. Same goes for Jack CURRENTLY – long term he is nr 10 for me. Jack is our most complete midfielder: can do it all + he has mongrel in him and always plays with passion. First on team sheet for me – have that one hahaha! 🙂

  • Hi TA, 🙂

    Your gravatar has certainly seen you change for the better. Was it caused by the snip?
    Clic Monster gave the same treatment to Terrible Terry, but now even his namesake John Terry won’t touch him!!

    Apart from that I see the blog is going well with some great conversations. 🙂

  • Hey guys, good discussion here even if it’s taken me a bit of pondering to wrap my mind around it… Gerry, I was the guy who singled out Jack’s nervy and very late opening tackle vs Dortmund… I think we’re on the same page about him and Ramsey–that they are young, talented but with (still) plenty to learn. Jack needs fewer touches on the ball (and more development with his weaker foot, Rambo needs to learn that what is OK near the opponent’s box isn’t near your own… (He’s fit enough that he will pop up everywhere no matter what his nominal starting position might be…) Playing the two together is something we will relish in the future, but maybe hurts us a little vs the very best pressing teams right now. Flamini, wow, what a fillip he is (when he’s available)…

    Of course the post itself is very interesting, jgc, and it reflects somebody who’s played and coached the game. My reaction somewhat matches RA’s but it took some reflection to get me there. Overall, very enlightening and a far cry from the more standard fantasy dreams of names and formations and teamsheets…

    The fantasy manager approach is so tempting and it’s all too easy, given the way the game is presented (on telly and by the media) to focus in on the moments (and the players…) upon which the matches turn. Likewise, it’s often difficult to pick up these team dynamics when the camera is so trained upon the ball. IMO, we’re a ways off from fully adopting a team approach as you’ve described it, but we’ve certainly morphed into a better “transition” team in the past two years. The players who have been very influential in that development, I believe, are Cazorla and Walcott, the former for his quick control and incredible range of passes (with either foot!) and the latter for his speed and his presence as a primary or secondary (after a Giroud knock down…) upfield target. Starting the Dortmund match without that pair gave us much less of a pressure relief valve, I thought…That we were able to dominate spells of the match and with a bit of luck would’ve won it are a testament to the development of players like Giroud and the younger MFs. We’ve got a ways to go, but if the lessons can be learned, I like our chances (to improve and get results) with each coming “big” match.

    Oh-gaat, however, and we must hurdle the stumbling blocks directly in our path. A result (all 3 pts), nobody hurt and a bit of rotation tomorrow in Croydon and then a good performance from the youngsters back on our side of the river in the CoC before the big week of Pool (home), the return match in Germany and the trip to OT… This is a real “management” challenge, to keep the squad fresh, give opportunities where they are needed and maintain perspective–amongst the support as well. Assuming we go out of the CoC, the Pool match will loom large in the collective hand-wringing, even if it’s the very same 3 points we “need,” no matter what happens in midweek…

    But now I’m getting ahead of myself. Early news suggest Ozil is coming down with the bench warmer virus ahead of tomorrow’s match and maybe Jack actually did hurt his ankle? Thus Mikel, Santi, Sicky, Flamini and Ramsey with Messy on the bench if that group can’t make the goals happen? Is this the match to get my speedy CB pairing in (TV5, LK6)? Will there be switches at FB?

    Who knows? Who cares?… (Luckily Arsene does…and if things go tits up, as we say, we can all uncross our fingers and point them at him…)

  • Ah geez…Why does everybody run away when I post? My comments just too silly to warrant a response, I suppose… Or maybe (hopefully) people are already onto Friday pm activities… I should start my own on the earlier side as tomorrow is a 4:45 am kickoff for me 😯 …

    Hey 007–All week I’ve been meaning to congratulate you on your 5 for 5 in the UMF… Nice Job! Amazing that you can be so wise in picking the matches yet still insist there’s a chance of us getting Suarez or Rooney in January… 😉 I’m with those suggesting a younger, deeper lying MF of German descent (a Bender Bro, and not the one we just played…) Actually, my bet would be that we aren’t doing anything in January unless our # of newly injured > # of those returning… AAH WTF DIK (as always, however, wtf, do I know…)

    😀 Happy Friday, all…

  • 17 and RA

    Thanks very much for the kind words!!

    17, agree about the fantasy manager approach, tho it can be fun at times!! 🙂 I think it’s best use is considering that it is a team sport! Thus, adding players not only adds a missing element but also changes the dynamics themselves.

    Case in point: Gibbs and Monreal::

    When Nacho came last year there was little to choose between them and each offered interesting looks, but whichever played didn’t matter too much, no matter peoples fixed preferences.

    However, add Ozil, and suddenly the ball moves more, just as intended! BUT, now with more ball movement, the more aggressively over lapping Gibbs seems much more the interesting proposition, and Monreal much less so… Talent to talent they are kind of equal but different strengths. Add Ozil though and it puts, I think, huge impetus for Gibbs as the far better fit to how we play with him. To my mind, more than last year… Team dynamics that change affect more than one player or position.

    Similar things may, with the emergence of AR and arrival of Ozil, be at play here for JW. At the moment, or may well be what pushes him, my opinion, to try to hard… Just some thoughts to ponder

    Bay Area later next week but not sure how much I will get out. Haven’t seen much of kids in last 3 months so will be busy family wise, but meant before now to say thanks for the invite!

    Cheers — jgc

  • Geoff, just popped out for a little trail run…The fall (autumn) weather is spectacular right now and the forest service is building new trails in my area…Not sure if they’re back at it now that the shut down is over… 3 kids (right?) is probably too many for us to host, but Tahoe (if the weather is benign…) is ALWAYS a worthy side trip… Big matches coming and my telly (and my coffee set-up) is nice…Also, think about the SF Gooners at Maggie McGarry’s in North Beach (SF) if you’re looking for a shorter (early morning) match-watching venture…

    Complete agreement that the individuals *allow* the different team dynamics and I really appreciate and enjoy the scouting articles about how one player might work with the existing team. I just sometimes have to look away (or at least roll ’em…) when people talk about the 5-6 players we need as if they’re completely interchangeable parts… That those people are (probably) beating me in the fantasy leagues, however, doesn’t strengthen my position… 😆

    Interesting that you mention Gibbs and Nacho…It’s blasphemy, but I think Nacho is the better LB (at the moment) but that the upside on (still) young Gibbs is much higher (so it’s good to get him match time)… Pace is pace and KG has it. He’s also toughened up significantly when it comes to 50-50s. His game going forward, however, seems pretty limited (to me)–too shy to really use his right foot and not much of a by-line crosser. His crosses from deeper (like Sagna’s on the other side…) are pretty strong and he can make those diagonal moves at the near post and finish in style (1-2s with Ollie, for example). Nacho (also one-footed as most fullbacks are…) tends to push more to the byline but keep an eye out for the pull-back assist, which he can execute. I’m looking forward to him and Bendtner/Akpom linking up in this manner in the mid-week vs Chelsea…

    Also, true about young Jack, who, with his “issues” plus the emergence of “he scores when he wants to” AR, may be pushing a little hard. I worry about Theo doing likewise upon his return. Ozil opens up sooooo much space and his passing is second to none. As such, there are opportunities in abundance for the other attackers. Too many of those, however, can read as “pressure.”

    Anyhow, back out there, still got wood to chop…

  • 17HT – Sorry on both counts. The 5 o’clock shut down,and the mis directed credits.

    Whilst thinking of time, for all you non- UK residents, our clocks return to GMT at 2.0am Sunday morning. So if your looking for feeds for any matches after that they will be an hour later .. but you are all probably aware of it 😀

    I hope the rumour of Ozil sitting this game out is perhaps to put him in the COC to ‘guide’ the young ones around? It may be a ruse to confuse temporary manager of COP of course?

    On the Gibbs thing I am beginning to appreciate him in other areas of the pitch now too. His ability to trap a ball on and around the centre circle when we have corner, and means we can be back on the attack should they clear it and try and push out. I also think there are a few more goals in him as well, when he cuts inside with one-two’s?

    I just hope there are not too many changes to the team, even if the ‘resters’ are on the bench. The were no surprises in the squad list, as I saw Ryo in the pictures training, so it could be the same again? I also saw one of Frimpong … he looked a bit on the heavy side?
    Not sure if he is in full training yet?

    I cannot think our last result will give ‘Palace players much hope either .. the old ‘wounded animal syndrome’ more like? One thing for sure, we could do with upping our goal difference, so I hope the will be a more controlled use of transition, rather than the sitting back and inviting trouble?

    Busy day tomorrow if I am going to get everything done before kick off, so my messages will be somewhat shorter. I might also try the double view on the ‘Player later if it is up and ready by Sunday. The extra hour in bed will cover it nicely?

    Night all ..

  • TA – For now I think we can agree to differ 😀 Hopefully it will look different before the season ends?

  • Difference is not a bad thing Gerry 🙂

    But I know you are good at supporting our players too and want the best for the team. And that’s what I really rate about you.

  • Gerry and 17

    I think that the main thing is that Ozils presence amplifies KGs good points more than they do for Nacho… Changes what was a 50-50 call perhaps without Ozil into something different… Ie a new player effects other choices and thus the overall outcome team play in ways that may not be evident at first glance!

    IMO, Nacho is the better pure defender and a good crosser. KG is more diverse on attack and creates serious stress on opposition defenses with his constant overlaps and ability to get to the byline and cut back. That was less important without Ozils magic passing in the final third of the field… Now with it, KGs presence there offers opportunities that weren’t there nearly as much beforehand, and thus slightly marginalizes what Nacho has to offer relatively speaking

    That said, we are well spoiled for choice there! 🙂

    Cheers — jgc

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