Szczesny – BFG – Flamini – Ozil – Giroud: spine of a champion in waiting?


I love our spine: it is full of character, experience, ‘position experts’, and it oozes quality throughout. One Pole, two Germans, and two Frenchies; and we have some fine Spanish, German and English talents to add to it and support it.

Arsenal might be building a team around a British core in the mid to long term, but for the foreseeable future the core has not a single Brit in it. Jack and Rambo might well play themselves into the core sooner or later, and especially the Welshman has made a very impressive start to the season, but for now the spine is non-British.

You could argue that the wider spine should be taken into account, as we play with two CBs and two deeper laying midfielders who all play centrally. But for the sake of this discussion I would rather look at our narrow spine of Szczesny, Mertesacker, Flamini, Ozil and Giroud.

There are three questions that come to my mind when looking at our spine:

  1. Can we improve further on it?
  2. How will we cope with injuries?
  3. Is it the spine of an imminent champion?

I welcome your views on this today, and this post is just a means for discussion/sharing of views.

In order to give the debate some added substance, I will quickly give you my views on the above questions.

Can we improve further on the spine?

Yes we can to some extent. We could get a more experienced and established goal keeper as Wojciech is not yet the finished article; and maybe there is a CB out there who has the BFG’s ability to organise the defence and read the game as well as he does, but is faster and more agile than the German giant. But despite his lack of speed and ‘turn-ability’, I love the guy and it would be hard to find somebody who would be a like for like improvement in all the aspects he brings to our team.

Other than that, I reckon Flamini and Ozil are totally cut for our spine, and the same goes for Giroud who plays the ‘modern’ holding striker role sublimely for us this season.

How will we cope with injuries?

That is the big question, isn’t it?

For Szczesny we have two options and I rather would have an experienced PL goal keeper as our nr.2, although we still have to see Viviano in action and he might well be the bee’s knees.

For Mertesacker we have Sagna, who has been very good in the CB role when played there recently. But Sagna is also our nr.1 RB and is played constantly by Arsene and in the French national team. However, if the BFG is injured I reckon Sagna is a more than decent replacement.

For Flamini we have Arteta. It is not a like for like replacement as Flamini is better at the physical part of midfield defending, but Arteta is experienced and can play well in the deepest midfield position. In an ideal world, though, we would strengthen in this area as soon as possible. Our main transfer priority this winter?

For Ozil we have Jack, Rosicky, Santi and Rambo. Enough said.

For Giroud we have Bendtner and Sanogo and maybe Akpom. The Dane did not take his opportunity on Tuesday and it looks like closed curtains for him now. Sanogo could become a revelation but we just have not seen him play yet, and Akpom is one for the future.

Of course, we also have Theo and Pod who could play centrally but neither of them are capable of playing the specialist holding striker role anywhere near as well as the Big Ferocious Frenchman. I reckon a long term injury to him is our biggest potential weakness in the spine; if there’s one thing we have learned from our defeat against the Chavs, it’s this…

Is it the spine of an imminent champion?

Thanking The Guardian for this great picture!
Thanking The Guardian for this great picture!

It all depends on fitness and being able to play together as much as possible, especially during the big games. It is also important that Szczesny turns into a more consistent ‘safe pair of hands’ this season. So with a bit of luck, we could well have the spine of a champion in waiting this season.

But what do you think, fine fellow Gooners? And who would be your one purchase to further strengthen the spine?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

20 thoughts on “Szczesny – BFG – Flamini – Ozil – Giroud: spine of a champion in waiting?

  • Morning TA. As ever I largely agree with your summary. Szcez is one of a handful of top potential goalies, and I would have us back him, albeit with a stronger reserve to keep him on his game. Mert has been a real star, organising and smart positionally. But does he compare with Kompany, or the Vidic of a few years back? I’m not so sure. And with his build he is going to get injuries as he grows older. I wouldn’t replace him, but we need a succession plan for him pretty soon. Flam is also hard to criticise – he has been exceptional, and provides that robust leadership presence that we have lacked for so long. But, do I think he is world class, and am I confident that his body will last a tough season? No on both counts. But he is good enough that only SQ will take his place, so while I would expect Wenger to look, whether he will find the quality (at an acceptable price) seems doubtful to me – in January at least. Benders new contract I suspect closes that one, as we won’t break the bank for him. I agree fully on Giroud. On present play I would not swap him for pretty much any striker; its cover and/or someone who can play alongside him that we need. Again, if top quality at a decent price becomes available I’m sure Wenger will buy; if not then he has invested in young strikers already and I could see him buying another winger (along the lines of the Henry development model).

    Depth is our challenge, not quality on the whole. Perhaps we should just go out and buy the best sports physic that money can buy!

  • we have a replacement lined up for mertesacker- he’s called stefan o’connor, and he’s one of the most impressive centre backs i’ve seen come through our academy.

  • I’m sick of this giroud hype he is a average striker that wouldn’t get a game in any other big club. He can’t finish to save his life Dortmund is the only big team he has scored past and that was a very very lucky goal. He only gets tap ins he hasn’t scored a goal where he has to take a touch first because his first touch is so bad he always drags his shots. Hes just lucky hes got such a creative midfield behind him that put the chances on a plate for him.

    He can not create a goal for himself everytime I watch him play after seeing Henry bergkamp wright Anelka kanu van persie Eduardo even adebayor I still can’t believe he is arsenals first choice striker. He wouldn’t score goals if he was at any mid table side and for a big guy he’s only scored one header and that wa against Liverpool last season but their woeful at set pieces.

    Last week against palace the first 20 minutes we had 80% possession but he barely touched the ball apart from a header that he missed it wasn’t because the midfield wouldn’t pass him it’s because he doesn’t know where to run.

    I know he has improved from last season with his hold up play but still he can’t run hes not mobile an he’s not the type of playa that will fire you to the title he is by far the worst striker from all the big teams in Europe.

    If we had Suarez we would hav walked this league easily just give Suarez the ball anywhere near the box and he’ll create his own chances with nutmeg or a dribble and hes also scored more headers than giroud. Can’t belive we didn’t get Suarez and got ozil.

    We already had cazorla we needed a striker there is no point in having a assist machine if your going to put a donkey in front of him, I keep thinking what must ozil be thinking he came from feeding ronaldo benzema and higuain to giroud who is slower then the referee.

    Can’t wait for Walcott to come back we need some pace up front and Walcott is our best finisher although he hasnt come close to last season form yet.

  • Can’t agree Thierry. Look at the goal against Spuds if you want to see touch, and how about the touch in Jack’s goal against Norwich. And Giroud’s movement has also been creating goals for others by making space. If the game were as simple as hoof it to the striker and job done, none of us would bother watching. By your measure then Liverpool are certs for the title as “all they have to do is give it to Suarez….” I don’t buy this, though I can’t but agree with you that Suarez is a lethal finisher and would be an asset to any PL team. We didn’t get him, and we haven’t bid for Messi either; neither fact makes Giroud or are team rubbish. Top of the PL, 6 points in toughest CL group…….. will we ever be satisfied….?

  • AB I agree with you his link play has improved and the goal against tottenham was a tap in it was one of the best tap ins you’ll see it was a great touch the way he flicked it In but honestly he is not good enough to be arsenal first choice striker.

    Even wenger thought so that’s why he wants Suarez. Everytime I watch arsenal now and I jut imagine if we had Suarez instead of giroud and I can’t enjoy our matches even when we do win because with Suarez we would be so much better all we needed was him and flamini and I would have been happy I don’t agree with other people saying we need a new defender we have Sagna.

    Suarez is the third best player in the world he can create something from nothing that’s rare but it’s also his mentality we needed its just like flaminis hes a fighter a winner chases every ball and fights to the death we don’t have that we need more characters like that giroud is mentally weak.

    Hes not someone who will influence the big matches I hope he proves me wrong but I don’t think he will. He needs to do more he can’t just rely on others creating chances on a plate for him.

    Just think back now to the goals he has scored for us how many of them has he controlled the ball first u won’t find many because when he has time he panics and drags his shots.

  • Thierry – I am sure you feel better for that?

    Your point about him only heading one goal is true. If you go back to his Montpelier days when we bought him, he only scored one header there too. I am also sure if any other manager bought him for his headed goals, they would indeed be disappointed.

    Luckily our manager did not by him for that reason .. or his pace .. or his dribbling skills.

    Comparing him to Suarez is as pointless as comparing him to Drogba. Strikers all come with different attributes, but not many have that deft touch he played down the line to Ramsey which was a pre-assist to Ozil’s first goal, or the very similar one that assisted Wilshere’s ‘Goal of the Season’?

    But if you cannot reconcile that we can only buy players when clubs are willing to sell to us, as though somehow we had a choice between Saurez and Ozil, then it might explain your limited vision of what we get from Giroud? Despite the single header in his final season in France he still ended the season as top scorer with 29 goals. He also had a sidekick who played the No10 role, which we haven’t ..yet? If and when we do play someone, yes, like Saurez along side him, then we may see more one touch goals you are expecting. Meanwhile he provides a team service, not only in attack, but in closing down players, and in defence.

    When you pigeonhole a player and build expectation around the pigeonhole you’ve selected, you should be asking yourself have I got that right, not questioning the player for doing something different?

  • I agree fully about Suarez’ quality. I think Wenger would have played him alongside Giroud though, not instead. For sure he would score more goals and provide us with a creative way through when others cannot. But I think Ozil will do this too, and he will bring the rest of the team in – we got just a glimpse of what he might be like with Walcott, before he got injured, and he has not yet played with Pod, our most natural finisher. And Giroud has a key role to play here, both scoring goals and creating the space for Ozil to play others in.

    I think the thing about Giroud is when you watch him you don’t see a natural athlete, like Thierry or RVJ. He looks clumsy and ungainly; but he is pretty effective all the same. He won’t score many beautiful goals, but I am backing him to deliver us 20 league goals this year. And what is more, he works hard for the team – we need that spirit in the squad, and I’m prepared to forgive other imperfections for someone who is truly committed on the pitch. If we can strengthen around him, get better back up, or even land some SQ improvement, then all well and good; but my cup is more than half full for the time being!

    And look at it this way – isn’t it great to be debating how we can improve our squad whilst we are standing at the top of the league!!

  • Hello TA,all

    Nice, simple and outrageously beautiful post..loved it!

    The ONLY player missing from the ‘core’ imo is Rambo..he belongs in THIS core and the one for the FUTURE..why??..i’ve watched our games this season and realized JUST how vital he is in our system..and i’m not even looking at his each team there’s always THAT one player who seems to be the proverbial ‘glue’ in the team and for me it has to be Rambo…i look at how he does EVERYTHING and you need only hear Cesc’s words on his description of Rambo.. ‘He doesn’t stand out in anything in particular, but he does absolutely everything so well’..and what doesn’t this boy do(again,minus the goals)..leading tackler in the team, when he presses the opposition he just doesn’t stop..REALLY..defends and attacks in equal gusto..making him for me a shoo in not only in the first team but also a VITAL cog of our look at all this and realize that the goals he’s added to his game are ONLY a complement to the package that is Rambo! add this Welshman in our ‘spine’..he’s simple the closest thing to the ‘complete’ footballer than most and looking at his age, thank Dennis his only gunner get better!

    The others on the list, fully agreed!..The Big Pole is the crazy, loud-mouthed, cocky, bigger than life player..his development to date points to the making of a top class 15 points winning goal keeper..and from what we’ve witnessed so far, i think he’s good enough to nail a spot as our first choice goalkeeper..the ONLY issue is the hard are Fab and Viviano pushing him for a first team spot so as to avoid any complacency in the young only have to look at the almighty Joe Hart to see this..a good solid experienced goal keeper would therefore imo help in his development..pushing him hard for a first team spot and also being a viable replacement in the case of loss of form or injury

    On to the can you not LOVE this guy..imo, our very own Kompany(minus the pace of-course)..humble, intelligent in how he does his thing and the leader at the back..his partnership with Kozzer is truly complementary not to mention outstanding!..If sidelined, i’d also give Bacary the mantle of being our ‘back’ leader and who else notices that Jenko performs admirably well with Bacary at CB??? for the BFG, i say give him the armband!!

    The Flame has won over EVERYONE with his dogged approach as he does his thing with steel AND bite..the platform from which the rest of the team can build on..Gibbo bombs forward, he’s there to cover, Rambo/Jack looses possession, he’ll win it back..definitely not a like for like replacement for him..i’ve watched a decent amount of the Orcs games and i’ve been impressed by one that Bender’s broken our hearts, could he be an understudy for the Flame??..i believe he would..ONLY problem is whether the Orcs would even do business with us.. Zollo will do the job SUPERBLY but lacks the physicality of the Flame

    Onto the messiah, Ooooozil!!!..what’s there to be said about him??..watching him is like making love to a beautiful woman!..he’s revolutionized our attack and taken us to an entirely new level..he’s made those around him look like favorite asset in his game is his off the ball runs..ghosting around the pitch, pulling people out of position which his teammates Rambo in particular exploit to aplomb..Arsene will surely build the team around this for like replacement??..definitely not..but the back-ups are top class in their own right..Santi can do the job using quick and trickery feet, Rozy with his impressive ball moving skills and Jack with his tenacity and flair..adequately backed up in this position!

    La La La Giroud!!!..BEASTLY performances from our French giant..with a return of 5 goals and 4 assists in the league, he’s definitely there a better ‘holding’ striker than him in the league??.NOP!!..add to the ‘job’ he does for the team..getting involved in build-up play, defending set pieces and hassling defenders out of position and its clear as day the MASSIVE improvements in his game…he is imo the ONE player that needs to be ‘wrapped in cotton’..Theo and the Ipod may be decent backups but i doubt any would influence our attacks in the same manner as Giroud..getting a backup striker remains our priority come Jan

    All this are the MAIN cogs in our team and their performances and health will go a long way in determining how FAR we go this season

  • Ta – I get the feeling this is a slight distraction post prior to our first real big game in the league?

    But in the spirit of the questions asked.

    Q1-: Well of course it can be improved upon as we don not have the best players in the world for 4 out of the 5 positions. The real question is can we improve on back ups for these key positions?

    That is a whole different slant, where we could split it into two categories. 1, Do we need to; 2, Can we get by with what we have?
    GK: 1, Not urgent, unless Fab leaves; 2, Yes we can.

    CB(Per): 1, Yes; 2, Yes, but with risks. Remove Sagna from RB leaves a weakness elsewhere.

    3, DM(Flam): 1, Yes; 2, No,if you want to fulfill the final question? Arteta is not like for like, and it is that difference that we are noticing right now? Perhaps you may be able to support your argument after tomorrows’s game, we shall see?

    4, CAM(Ozil):1, Perhaps in the summer. 2, Yes, but none are as good.

    5, ST(Giro): 1, Yes, but not a replacement, rather an alternative; 2, Probably, but he does create the need to play differently without him. Bendtner is the nearest like for like, but he needs better support than he got on Tuesday. Akpom I would put next, but he is more mobile but needs more opportunities to play at this level. Sanago and Gnabry I think of as more SS than ST, but we have only seen glimpses of the former? Podolski with Ozil close by his side would be an interesting option, but play would have to come from the wide player, he is not your ‘hold up/target man’. Likewise with Theo, and he can only use his pace whe there is space to run into? Conclusion, best hope he does not get injured?

    Q2 – Injuries? Mostly covered in my ‘Can we get by’ answers above. But in the pre-TW period, the answers are more critical in the DM(FlaM) position, followed closely by CB(Per).

    Q3 – Perhaps this will be answered better during the ‘Interlull’? Get 6 points, or even 4, and we may hang in there until January. Two or less points from these two big games, which is my big fear, the picture of of imminent champions changes to possible top 4? The reason for my fear is what Flamini brings, and what we lose in his absence? If either Hayden or Yannaris had been given a starting role on Tuesday in this vital DM role, we would know a whole lot more before going into these matches. That is my only comment on the COC match I will make. Opportunity missed!

  • Great post TA

    All succesful teams tend to have leaders running through the spine of the side.

    Merts and Flamini have it, and the young Pole and big Frenchman are developing it

    Kos is a very insular player, focussed on his own game. Dont get me wrong TA, great player, but not spiney enough for my spine list.

    I to have a delicious spine TA. Many a women have stroked the fine contours of my delightfuly hirsuit back and swooned at its pristine texture only to yell “ooohhh Terrrry”

    Just thought i would throw that in. hahaha

  • The Netherlands Necrophiliac has not said New Post on the last post !. It`s OK, I did it !. Probably too busy trying to find out the name of the last girl he shagged…….it`s a bastard when there`s too much moss on the tombstone !.

    Nothing better than Szczesny out there at the moment. Look at golden boy Hart !….gone from Head and Shoulders above the rest too…..”I`ll lick the spunk off your shoes mister !”…in a couple of months !…..don’t listen to our Tampon Tarzan…..Szczesny is Class !.

    I`m OK with the CB`s, but if a Chiellini came along, then so be it.

    Pogba all day for me !.

    Suarez or similar and a proper winger …….Xerdan Shaqiri……that`s it, the thought of them has made me shoot my lot !……… can now commence licking my shoes Hart baby !. hahaha

  • Another fine post Totes and a fresh perspective on our current team. 😀
    I think GK is vulnerable but hoping his recent MOTM performance against Palace will give Chezzer the confidence to kick on for the rest of the season.
    If I had to choose one key area it would be a ST not only as backup but to keep Giroud on his mettle. Although OG is so self motivated which is why i rate him so highlt.
    Backup for Flamini would be next but ST is número uno for me! 😀 I’m not sure if its a realistic target or not because I still think he’s 90% bayerns but I would like
    1. Lewandowski or
    2. Reus
    3. Jackson martinez

  • TA,
    Good post and all agreed except i feel 2 players have been missed out and future Theo should become in to the frame. But the 2 i was thinking about is Gibbs and Arteta, Arteta though he has been over looked a little lately due to the return of the Flem is so so very important to us and i feel he has a massive part to play tomorrow v Liverpool.
    I have been a little nervous over this match last few days but after hearing Arsene talking today he put me at rest when he reminded me of this teams mental attitude which is top top class. There run at the end of last season when they simply had to win all games was a serious test which they past.
    I think we should try to sign Lewendolski in January , as he is a realistic chance because his contract is nearly up.

  • Cheers guys – really good reading your comments and I will respond at some point tomorrow. First, I have to get Oz’s pre-match out! 😉

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