Poor Left Wing, Sanogo ignored, Lack of Pressure from Midfield, Ramsey’s Revenge: Arsenal – Palace Afterthoughts.

Henry dog 008

When I was a kid I once got a football for my birthday. It must have been my ninth or tenth birthday: there was no present for me in the morning but my mum took me on a long bike ride, from one end of my home town to the other end, to buy me a football in a sports shop. At that time, I knew nothing about Arsenal, or even English football. My home town team were Roda JC in the Netherlands, and they play in yellow and black. The ball I chose was white and red: more white than red pentagons, and I loved it for a long time: in fact, I can still smell and picture it today, almost forty years on.

Red and white are great colours, and of course those of our beloved Arsenal. And yesterday, the North of London was red and white all right. From the moment I arrived at Cockfosters’ tube station, I was surrounded by it. The sky was blue, most people were wearing The Shirt, and the sun warmed whilst spreading a golden glow over us. It was a truly beautiful sight. And the closer I got to the Highbury and Islington tube station the more intense it became.

There was a strong sense of anticipation in the air yesterday: a positive buzz of good things lying ahead; and the reason for this is of course the high hopes felt by many Gooners after some astute signings by the club this summer. And the one that epitomises this positivity is of course Alexis, as everywhere I looked on the way to the home of football I could see his first or second name reflected on the backs of many, many fellow Gooners. Sanchez has become the embodiment of our hopes for further progress and the shiniest silverware, and with good reason.

The stadium looked extra glorious yesterday. The early evening, August sunlight lit up the East Bank warmly and there was a sea of red and white everywhere – more than I have ever seen before, somehow.

First Half

No diaby, not even on the bench, but both Ramsey and Arteta in the double DM pivot. Jack in the hole, as hoped and predicted, and Santi and Sanchez on the wings, with not OG but Sanogo as our ‘holding striker’: not a formation I would have chosen, but definitely one capable of taking three points from the well supported Crystal Palace team.

The start was good and it looked a matter of time before we would score a goal. Jack was conducting play and there was plenty of movement in the team to find good passes and create opportunities. But we lacked cutting edge as our combinations just did not produce clear cut chances: was it rustiness or nerves, or was the ghost of Pulis still hanging around our ground like a bad smell?

Pulis’ ex-team were definitely playing like one of his infamous Stoke teams: well set-up, physical, cynical serial fouling, time wasting; and they made it really hard for us, especially after we lost some of our initial zip and thrust in the second part of the first half. Gradually we lost control of the midfield: nobody was using Sanogo anymore to hold up play, and the only one moving IN their designated area, other than Yaya, was Sanchez. We still managed to set up some attacks from the right, with both Alexis and Debuchy, although still getting used to each other, combining well to penetrate the CP defence. Unfortunately, when they did so, Sanogo was often isolated as neither Jack, Ramsey nor Santi were supporting him in the box enough.

On the left we were very weak. Santi did not hold his position and Gibbs was, understandably, holding back a lot. This did not help us in stretching the CP defence and midfield, and it became really easy for our opponents to stem our attacking intent. Jack searched and probed for opportunities but there was very little for him to set up (I could see this really well from the Upper Tier in the North Bank). We also played quite deep, and both Ramsey and Arteta did not push up enough to populate the midfield in front of CP’s ‘D’. Add to that the continuous fouling and the referee’s unwillingness to punish this, and you can see why we were not able to dominate the game more in the latter part of the first half: lack of width, lack of pressure on their midfield, lack of movement, too low a tempo and not enough pressing.

The supporters became restless, and then on top of all that, they score – so typically – from a corner. It is fair to say we did not defend the corner well, but it was also a pretty good ball into the box. Without three of our four best set-piece ‘defenders’ from last season – BFG, Giroud and Sagna – we looked vulnerable during CP’s corners…. and we paid for it.

Luckily, the man who only scores important goals for us, it seems, came to the rescue once again – and from a set-piece of our own. Violently happy, Koz we love you! – Bjork’s tune – went through my head, and we could all breath again. 1-1, just before the break, was just what the doctor ordered. And the stadium regained its positive vibes again.

Second Half

However, things did not improve much initially. Nacho brought more drive and aggression than the substituted and apparently injured, Gibbs. But Santi remained all-over the place, which is fine as long as he adds value to our attacking play, which he did not do enough imo. Jack lost a bit of his composure and precision in passing the longer the game went on, and Sanogo never really got into the game (for which he was little to blame IMO). Luckily, Wenger did not wait long to bring on the much more trusted Giroud for Sanogo, and, a bit later, Ox for Jack. Where Giroud added a lot from the moment he started; Ox’s input was less effective. However, Wenger moved Sanchez to the left which added a bit more thrust to our attacking play, and Arteta and Ramsey pushed the Palace midfield a lot harder in the second half.

I thought all our midfielders and attackers, except for the simply fantastic, albeit not fully perfect, Alexis, had under-par performances in this game, but the introduction of Giroud helped them all to improve their game gradually. It did not seem enough, however, to score the much needed winner. The team kept pushing but CP held strong, albeit with some unsporting behaviour, in terms of time-wasting and continuous fouling, which the frustrating, pie-gobbling referee Moss was far too lenient about. Puncheon’s dismissal was well deserved but seemed too little too late…

But luck was on our side, and it was the sweetest of ways to send Stoke-South-of-the-Thames home empty-handed: by scoring a Pulisesque late winner from a set piece by nobody other than Aaron Ramsey. It was ugly, but it was hard fought for, and we all did not care one iota. A giant, collective sense of relief swept through the stadium and we all sang the Ramsey song with real gusto.

We got away with this one; and with three points in the bag, we can afford the lessons learnt from this performance. If and when another park the bus team comes to the home of football, we need to push up more and conquer the midfield, we need to spread our opponents by using the wings on both sides wisely and run more intelligently, and, most importantly, we need to trust our CF to hold on to the ball and allow the rest of the team to feed of him.

On the way back I listened to Talk ‘Sport’ for a while (was desperately trying to find out the scores of the afternoon games). We know that most of the pundits there are opinionated simpletons, who like to stick to simple mantras in order to rile their mostly gullible audience. Stan Collybore just kept saying Arsenal needed to buy a SQ CF if we wanted to push on. He had actually been at the match and this was the main thing he kept repeating. A striker can only score if he gets the service, whether it is Sanogo, Giroud, Falcao or Cavani. Sanogo worked hard but did not get the ball anywhere often enough to set up attacks, produce assists or hit the net himself. Maybe one day, Collimore will realise that Arsenal have actually moved on and do not play with a classic CF anymore….. or maybe not.

We spread our goals throughout the team and with a goal by Giroud, two by Ramsey, one by Cazorla and one by Koscielny in the last two games, we are doing just fine. And we ain’t seen nothing yet: once this team starts clicking together properly, and we add a SQ DM/B2B (and a CB of course) to the team before the TW shuts, the Canon will roar and roar.

Sanchez was a joy to watch and I feel privileged to have seen his first game at the home of football.

My last word is for Chambers, whose reading of the game and interception skills were very impressive again yesterday. What a signing by Wenger – chapeau! 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

35 thoughts on “Poor Left Wing, Sanogo ignored, Lack of Pressure from Midfield, Ramsey’s Revenge: Arsenal – Palace Afterthoughts.

  • TA great write up, very atmospheric almost as though you were actually there (kidding). You certainly get a different perspective at the game and you have captured it well. Totally agree with your match report, but at least we won. That horrible game against Villa left me feeling empty for ages. Really important that we pick ourselves up for Istanbul and Liverpool.

    Hopefully we will still get a beast in defensive midfield. I watched the Newcastle, City game today and although the bar odes did pretty well, City are very strong physically with Toure, Fernandinho and Fernando in midfield

  • Cheers Retsub 🙂

    Yes the win is what mattered and I am sure we will learn from this first proper game a lot going forward. We all want that extra power and drive in midfield and let’s hope we will get it….

  • TA

    Great write up. Watched it last night on Sky (Arsenal TV is shown somewhat randomly but sometimes the timing is good!).

    Anyway, the one thing I would add would be a semi-repeat of my comment about Santi a bit back. CP had 10 or even 11 back in 2 rows + GK within 25 meters most times. And… When teams park the bus, Santi’s motion and trickery go to naught as you don’t have the space or flow to manipulate the other side. He only really looked effective in short bursts on counterattack here and there.

    Equally, JW and all others struggled to run at them. In this, the loss of Pulis hasn’t sunk in yet. Whether he was there or not, this was sit back, tackle hard and etc, as you noted, and that will frustrate the best of teams. That said, it’s hard to look incisive and attacking against that sort of thing no matter how good you are.

    Sanogo to me looked a bit lost. For service and even when he got it for what to do. IMO, we do need another CF (or to have others like Theo/Alexis there at times) so he can get some experience elsewhere. But, that’s just me and I would take the B2DMB and Central Defender first. If we can get any of them.

    And finally, yes, seems like any last players will be near last day. The early TW action appears done and the rest seems to be the waiting “chicken” game mixed with teams needing to order their TW exchanges (i.e. I don’t get rid of A until I have replacement B), which means with enough of that sort of issue, things go to the line.

    cheers — jgc

  • Glad you enjoyed the result and Alexis, TA, even if the game itself was predictable. Tactically at least?

    It is a worry going in to the CL tomorrow night, with all the travelling, etc, and a key player down.
    This two legged affair is key to how the rest of the TW will go. The club needs the guarantee of the minimum £30m to go out and get key players, not to mention, attract them to us over our rivals.
    Worst case scenario, Per gets injured. However, like Gibbs on Saturday, it seems like a gamble they will take. We need his organisation full stop. More so if Kos suffers any reaction?Especially as Monreal will be at LB. However, those that did not figure much, or at all, like Flamini, Giroud , Ox, Rosicky, Campbell, and this time hopefully, Bellerin on the bench at least, to help shore up defensively, and still be a threat going forward? So we should be okay.

    Sorry, I digress from your article. I said my thoughts late on yesterday, knowing you were travelling back from the game.

    The parked bus was expected, and why I suggested the need for Bellerin’s pace down the right, with Alexis on the left. Having Cazorla on the left who drifts to the middle and play balls to his right, Jack in the middle and doesn’t stray far in either direction, but at least passes out wide to both wings, AND Alexis on the right, nearly all our attacks were concentrated in that right hand corner, with Debuchy pushing the number of players to possibly 15 of the 22 in that sector, it was no surprise that Sanogo could have no meaningful contribution?

    As I stated yesterday, my observations of Gibbs meant his attacking presence was nil. I think his injury meant he was not willing to push hard going forward if he had to check back quickly. When he ran back to defend, he seemed to do that quite freely, but the difference was, he could overtake the attacker and pull up gently once he got himself in position to defend? I am speculating with only my own eyes for confirmation, but it all points to an achilles tendon issue?

    This is why, imo, our attack was one sided. Only when Ox came on and Alexis moved to the left, where I think he is less comfortable, but still very useful, did we really keep pressure on Palace. We got through it, and the passing will (hopefully?) improve. But more imagination is required if we are to beat every PTB that come our way?

    So to the transfers that might help?
    Without CL we don’t get Reus! But even Santi would not ignore him down the left I suspect?
    Nor will we ..ditto … ditto ….ditto! if we sign Vargas. but on loan. Interesting?
    Rabiot is not a DM, but could be very useful.
    Manolas should have signed and be ready for Everton, hopefully?
    Cavani, in your dreams, and not before CL spot is assured can you even start to drift off.
    Carvalho double ditto!!!

    Keep the faith ..

  • Glad you had a great day out, Totes !…………………………seriously though !, your birthday and all you got was a football !………tight fcukers !. hahaha
    I knew this was going to be a hard game, we were always going to be trying to unravel a tightly knitted bus and I was impressed by the genius of the Pulis effect of playing Chamakh as a SQ DM Beast !.
    At the end of the day it`s all about the result and we had our first opening day win for 5 years which put us temporary TOTL, but now we are temporary second, one game gone and we are already playing catch up !.
    As my post as BK Technical Director of Football, I was going to slag JW10 off, but Arsene did comment that he (JW10) had been sick for the last few days before the match, so I will let him off !.
    Gibbs did his hamstring and Kos has a foot injury and Diaby broke a finger nail and was pronounced dead at the training ground, not before the Arsenal medical team tried to pull out all the stops !, here is the last picture before his tragic death by broken nail, the funeral is next Wednesday and his ashes will be scattered on the pitch before the Besiktas game to help fertilise the pitch as the fcuker never played on it !.

    At least Stretch will get his ghost on the pitch, talking of which….Stretch likes to practice being a Ghost just in case there is an after life !…..he moves objects about, slams doors and stands at the end of beds in strangers houses !.
    As for the match, we looked ring piece rusty and as Wenger said….”the game came a week to early ! “. All wins are a great result imo, but if I was going to be a little bit picky I would say we played with the consistency of shit and were rubbish and lucky it was only Crystal Palace. Why the fcuk did we play Sanogo when we had a latter stage World Cup player in Campbell !.
    If it were upto me, I would only play Campbell, Sanogo and Giroud as impact subs and play a false 9 system. Here is Le Munster Coq`s new system to beat all bastard comers !.

    Debauchery Chambers Koz Gibbs ( if he`s still alive )
    Ox Ramsey Rosicky Ozil Cazorla Alexis

    Walcott when back will alternative start !.
    This line up does not have a SQ DM beast as it`s not worth talking about as Daft Wenger has already said they are extinct from the modern game ( yes, I know, the bastard thinks he knows better than all us lot put together ! ) !. It has pace, technique and skill, all that football is about !.
    If you disagree, then………….Shutten Zee Fucken Uppen !…….yes my German accent is coming on strong all the time and I`m becoming quite fluent in it and could quite easily hold a conversation with the group of Arsenal Germans !.
    Right, off to practice my German accent with the sweet little old lady in the village !. She hasn`t been out since the war and suffers from Agoraphobia, I shall try and comfort her and tell her that there is a cure just around the corner !.

  • @TA & @Cockie Monster we can’t play Ozil or Santi wide, Santi played CAM in his first season and was so effective we gave him a song last season and Saturday out wide and we bitch and moan he has not got the pace or strength to beat players consistently one on one he we’ll get pass one but they will recover as he hasn’t the pace to get away so he drifts in field through frustration and just because it’s where he plays, well as for Ozil you heard the Germans and saw how he played in the World Cup and that’s not the quality of the premiership so he certainly can’t do it there he can drift one and then but can’t rely on him on the wing.
    Wenger said after the game we lacked pace and we did along with natural width hence playing Santi out wide meant we spent the whole game passing it to Sanchez looking for width there with Campbell and the Ox on the bench I wonder why, as for Sanogo he never had much service but neither did Aguero and he scored in less than 3 minutes of coming on fair play they played against different tactics but it’s that SQ. In midfield I see one big problem ARTETA useless and worse still first name on the sheet.
    On a positive note we got 3 points it’s the first game and end of the month we will see some cohesion and should all be sharp and raring to go although that’s when the international break has been so tactically schedule I just want my red army I have had more than enough of internationals after the World Cup.
    3 points onwards and upwards COYG

  • Great comments guys. I will get back to you later. Somehow this post did not get onto NewsNow. It is either to do with the Java virus thing or they did not like my initial description of that sports radio programme I loathe so much… 😕

    Catch you later! 🙂

  • Nice report Totes…..Love the description of getting to Cockfosters and seeing a sea of Red and White. It reminded me when I went to a European final in Belgium, against Valencia many years ago, when we lost on penalties. I’ve never seen so many Arsenal fans at an away match as I see that day. All over the place. It fills you with warmth.

    As to our problem of playing against PTB sides. At times I see us with 4 or sometimes 5 players in our own half when we have the ball and proceeding to go forward. With teams that play 10 men back, why do we need Arteta/Wilshere/Santi and co come back and retrieve the ball when we already have Chambers, Kos, Gibbs and Debouchy back there?

    When attacking these sides we need to play with width, players who hg the touchline. Santi is not that type of player, surely Campbell would have been a better bet out wide left?????

    The only time Palace committed players forward was when they had set pieces. Most of the time they left players back to hold onto what they had, at first a draw and then a 1-0 lead.

    Why can’t we afford to leave three up front = Wide left (Campbell/Ox/Sanchez) wide right (Sanchez/Walcott/Campbell).

    Attack them down the flanks and get plenty of crosses in. Some times just causing havoc with whipped in crosses will cause defenders problems, and seen on Saturday you some times get a blocked save and a follow up.

    With defending corners, we should have our full backs on the posts. Our team lack the physical strength and also lack height so we will always be attacked at set pieces. Managers long ago have sussed that out, even a blind man can see this.

    All in all it was a satisfactory display in achieving a win on the opening day. We got the cob webs out of the way. No onto Besiktas.

    Last comment, it is a bit worrying after just one game into the campaign we are struggling with injuries, especially at the back. Wenger had left us really short in that department.

  • Off the post topic: The Fantasy Premier League is now set up.

    But for those who have not joined this, or any other Fantasy League, here are the basics, as nicked and abbreviated from HH’s piece at the top. I am hoping that Totes will edit that accordingly, including the code, which I have included below.
    The League title is: BK Best Bloggers … Good luck to all that enter. It begins from this Saturday!
    The code to join the league is: 2437091-597515.  To join a league, click on the subheading “leagues” and type in the code to join.
    £100 million to spend on your Fantasy Premier League team at http://fantasy.premierleague.com.
    Create a FPL account
    Team must consist of 3 Forwards, 5 Midfielders, 5 Defenders and 2 Goalkeepers.
    You choose 11 players from your squad of 15 to start each week – Formation is entirely up to you, but you must have a minimum of 1 GK, 3 DEF, 3 MID, 1 ST at those respective positions.
    You are given 1 free transfer each week to swap a current player on your squad out for another player.  You can never have a negative value in transfers (i.e. your squad’s total value must be £100m or less, or the transfer will be rejected, as it will if you have more than three players from any one team).
    If you do not use a free transfer in a given week, you will have 2 free transfers the week after.  You can never have more than 2 free transfers.
    If you decide to make 2 transfers in a week and only have 1 free transfer, you will be assessed a 4 point hit on your scoring totals at the end of the game week.  If you make 3 transfers in a week and only have 1 free one, you will be assessed an 8 point hit and so forth.
    You are given 1 wildcards that can be used any time during the season for unlimited transfers for the game week you choose to activate it in. Also one of the wildcards can only be used in the month of January( while the TW is open).
    See scoring: http://fantasy.premierleague.com/rules/
    This is done automatically, and updated when the matches are completed.

    Tips: Be careful of blank game weeks since certain clubs do not play in a given week due to scheduling conflicts.  Also, if a club has a blank one week, they will undoubtedly have a double game week in another week.
    Note: Captains earn double points in a given game week. You must also choose a Vice Captain in the even that your captain does not play.
    Your bench at the bottom of your “pick team” page is important. Automatic substitutions will occur if any of your starting players do not see 1 minute of game time, and your bench is arranged in a 1-2-3 format, where by the 1st player on your bench will be the one chosen in that order.
    It is also wise to look a few weeks ahead to see which fixtures that players you’re looking at have regards future point prospects.
    Teams must be finalized each week by 11.30am Saturday morning.
    For a full, in-depth walkthrough of the rules of FPL, please defer to this:http://fantasy.premierleague.com/rules/


  • Excellent post TA, i think CP are a more solid and well drilled unit than most people give them credit for i thought the win was job done move on.
    I still can’t quite work out why we still play with only one striker and FIVE midfielders who aren’t going to make striker type runs into the box except for Ramsey (he left it late though lol)

    we’ve got a pacey, strong, play wide or come in, world cup impressing, LEFT footed striker – Campbell
    A tall, pacey-ish, stronger than he looks, looking to actually make runs, big man in the middle – Sanogo
    another pacey, strong, play wide or come in, world cup impressing, RIGHT footed striker – Sanchez (or Chambo)

    That’s a front three right there who would actually give the midfielders options so they don’t have to make them themselves;
    4-3-3 all the way, push those attackers way up the field where they are more useful – (my insane formations will never be tried so might as well give up lol)

    Back four

    Wilshere Chambers Ramsey

    Campbell Sanogo Sanchez

    I think this formation actually allows everyone to play in the positions they want to be in and gives us so many more attacking options, just can’t figure out why we don’t play it.

    Btw with Walcott fit and a change for OX instead of Sanchez (i feel he’s a little faster)

    Campbell Walcott The OX

    How deadly would that front three be!?

    But no we get one up front and all the others are either not used or in midfield mode.

    Still i don’t think any formation would have been overly significant against CP, eleven men behind the ball is what it is – a pain in the arse to break down and the only time it is made slightly easier is if you can catch them on the break from one of their corners or attacks, which we didn’t do.
    So oh well we didn’t play amazing football, we got the win! lets run riot on Tuesday! COYG!

  • Yes Retsub, the Rovers are in. Still waiting on VCC.

    The more the merrier though. I quite enjoyed it last time, and even got to second spot one week!
    I had a routine of checking points on Tuesday, mull over a transfer, then come back Thursday and check the injury list – which are good for real time too – then slap in a team.
    One or two bad calls cost me, such as missing the January ‘freebie’. Good fun though.

  • Steve, I agree it is difficult to beat the PTB. You need pace on both wings for a start.
    So many passes that were ‘eye of the needle’ sort, with nearly everybody camped in the same quarter of the pitch, it was no surprise the see so few reach their target?

    Bellerin nearly made the squad, and he would have been an option on the left, as he can pass with both feet. Makes the trip to Turkey as I understand?

    They will have to learn how to do it as Palace will not be the only ones for sure?

  • Gerry, fully agreed re the wing situation. When Ozil plays he will move left to allow Santi to move to the middle but Jack likes holding on the middle. As a result Santi looked ineffective.

  • Hahaha Cockie, that ball was one of my best presents, not in monetary value but in emotional one.

    I don’t like the false nine system, but see where you’re coming from. If anything, the game strengthened my belief that Giroud is the first attacker on the team sheet again this year. That tent pole! 🙂

  • Vickers, it is great to see so many supporters together, isn’t it?

    Great observation re our midfielders playing too deep at times: that was exactly one of our main problems.

  • Yep TA he is looking really good. I hope Wenger is right this time about not taking Cesc back, but it’s not looking good at the moment

    Really annoys me seeing him in scummy blue

  • Well balanced comment, Steve, and I love the line ups. 🙂

    I want to see more of Campbell as well: he offers drive and penetration, which goes a long way.

  • It’s a funny old thing supporting a. Football team, be it Rochdale or Barcelona you adopt a team and in the vast majority of cases you are hooked for life. You cheer , you cry you moan, but there is no way you can change your loyalty. In my case it wouldn’t matter if Arsenal got demoted to the the local Sunday league they would still be my team. I remember that Michael Thomas moment at Anfield. My son was two months old and not sleeping well. Michael scored that goal and I went crazy. My wife pulled me down off the ceiling and told me to be quiet in case I woke the baby.. “Wake the baby? This is the greatest moment of my life”. Oops other than etc etc

    On the other hand you get players who are idolised by supporters. Then the day comes where they want more money. Or “trophies”. And any loyalty goes right out of the window.. Then of course you have sleaze bags like the chinless wonder (Nasri ). Who claims he never had any loyalty in the first place. When supporters kiss the badge they normally mean it

    Funny old game

  • Just watched the Chelsea game…………….what a mistake to let Fabregas sign for the Chavs. 😦

  • It is a funny old world indeed. Every ten years or so I somehow start to really like a player and want to do really well. It started with Willy van der Kuilen of PSV Eindhoven, then it was Van Basten, then Dennis, then Cesc and now it’s Jack.

  • Jack worries me a little. I am a big fan of Rambo. I defended him all through the bad times, because 1 he had shown he had talent prior to Shawcross and 2 I like defending an underdog. If you has asked me two or three years ago About Jack I would have said he would go on to be a great player. Like Rambo he had a very bad injury, but he doesn’t seem to have changed his game or adapted in any way. He does seem to run into a lot of blind alleys and is probably the most fouled player in the prem. really hope he steps up his game, but at the moment he doesn’t seem to be progressing

  • I like Rambo too and have written many a post in defence of him. 🙂

    But Jack is special and he IS getting back into the groove now. As the conductor he will have to take risks and hold onto the ball too long sometimes, in order to wait for an opening to arrive. He’ll come good and hopefully this season.

  • And Jack is being fouled because they are all aware he is the one who will create something anytime soon. It’s killing football but nothing to be done about it.

  • Only if he keeps getting injured, vickers. If he stays fit all season he will help us win the league (if we strengthen our defence and DM).

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