Praise for Ozil and Santi but who is under-performing?

That was an impressive performance by the Gunners. I will however reserve my superlatives for Ozil & Cazorla. Those two were immense.

I am happy (though not as happy as most) that we won in such a comfortable and dominant manner. We were dominant in possession and that is something I haven’t seen in a very long while. The reason I am not in that ecstatic bubble is because we are finally beginning to play like we should, although we aren’t there yet. Far from it.

I am going to put down some bold claims that will help you understand my reservations. For me, Arsenal have a team almost as good (if not equal) to the Invincibles, man to man. Our midfield especially has so much talent that it truly disappoints me (in recent games) how easily we lose the ball & how we struggle to retain possession. With players like Santi, Ozil, TR7 & Alexis in the team, we should be able to outplay even the Chelseas of this world, week in week out. Yet even the lesser teams such as Leicester have managed to disrupt our game play.

Another thing is the fact is that we do not create & convert as many chances as we should. The evidence lies in the number of goals Theo has scored since his return. Theo’s strengths lie in his movement & finishing and that is why he has scored 3 in 3 since his return despite his lack of match fitness. That said, Arsenal should score many more goals than they have been. Again, with the kind of midfield we have, players like Giroud, Ox, Welbeck should be well into their double figures.

On Sunday we saw why I feel this way. Not only did we dominate, but we created chance after chance after chance. That is the Arsenal I want to see. With the kind of talent we have winning a game 2-0 should be considered a mild display. Teams should be hanging on for dear life when they play against us. I know that having so many top players in the same team requires a period to gel & understand each other, so consider this my impatience talking.

I know that this Arsenal we are seeing is performing at 55%, and once they have a season together under their belt, massacre of our opponents will be our daily bread.

To conclude this post, i have to praise Mesut Ozil. He is repaying his price tag and then some. Let’s just say that Alexis Sanchez has raised the bar, a bar which Ozil has been reaching out for since his return. Lord knows I can’t wait for the team to start performing at optimum levels.


by Marcus

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23 Responses to Praise for Ozil and Santi but who is under-performing?

  1. TotalArsenal says:

    Nice one Marcus 🙂

    Good discussion post. Have you recently checked Giroud’s goal and assist per game ratio… 😉

  2. geoffchase says:


    In agreement I would add from last game, Ozil had 7 key passes that created measurable chances, and no assists from them… That’s finishing not Ozil. OG is finishing well, Theo and some others need to pick it up as they come into form

    Regarding dominating midfields. I wonder if that is not a thing of passing…. It is far easier to play disruptive football and hold teams in check, without threatening much, then it is to play “straight up football”. This year we see a wildly talented City team held again and again, while a wildly talented but very defensive/countering Chelsea team go better (tho not invincibly so! 🙂 )… This negative game evens out a lot of things. A bad finishing day or an added mistake and a top team can go.

    It’s good spoiling football rather than being spoiled by good football.

    Its a theory validated by Mourinhos own success and cynicism… If AW is really out dated it is most likely in a lack of cynicism in how the game is played

    cheers — jgc

  3. omgarsenal says:

    Marcus……you are forgetting a few things that also hinder us. Opposition keepers have been uniformly magnificent against us. Referees keep turning their backs on clear fouls and a few penalty calls, our best players are being prevented from playing without fear because of this.
    the teams we play against park the bus almost universally and that is hard to beat when you face 10 defenders lining the penalty area.
    you are too negative and rather myopic in your conclusions from little evidence. Watch Adrian Clarke’s excellent tactical and performance reviews of each game and you’ll quickly realize what is actually happening.

  4. Gerry says:

    Mmnnn … Sorry Marcus, I am in the critical camp too …. of your claims in the post.

    Starting with your ‘bold claims’. You sort of side step the big claim of saying today’s team is equal to the ‘Invincible’s’, with the qualification of the ‘man for man’ bit. In so doing you are admitting that the surrounding equation is not equal? I think most sensible people would accept that in the modern era of super fit, athletic, and technically gifted players, the largely injury-free team of then would not go unbeaten through the season. So even though the ‘man for man’ exercise carry’s through, it does not make it easier if oppositions have also developed to an even stronger level.

    The second point is your disappointment is with the midfield? Surely it is the defence that has cost us points, if you are isolating areas? Which of course you shouldn’t, as it a team game. So then to look at the relationship between our creative side and scoring ratio without taking into account the cost injuries. Walcott had not played with Alexis until just over a month ago. Ozil miss pre-season stuff, and then got his injury. Ox, by all accounts has been carrying an injury for a while. Wilshere and Ramsey have not been in top form with their injuries and recovery, even when they get a chance to play. Cazorla you praise, yet for the major part of the season he has been playing in a position within the team structure that did not suit? Rosicky did not get a game in the first half of the season. Who does that leave?
    Oh, sorry. You just want to be impatient with the sides that have started since the Aston Villa game? If we had the Leicester result against Spurs I not sure you would have structured your post in the same manner? Albeit, I grant you, it would have been papering over the cracks in our approach to those games.

    Geoff has repeated what we have both been saying recently – off the ball movement and quick passing means you do not lose possession in the way you describe. Geoff is right on the point that it is easier to destroy than create.

    The first thing a winning side must do is create opportunities to score. The conversion rate should improve with the greater number of opportunities. But that also depends on having a balanced side that works in harmony with each other. For every change in personnel you risk upsetting that, and for me, that poses a far greater threat to our progress than the strength of the opposition. What pleased me about the last game was that we expected Boro’ to come at us the same way they did against Man City. So they dealt with that expectation by keeping the ball moving, even if it was negative possession in those opening minutes. Only then did we advance and really take hold of the game. I expect Palace will try a high pressing game, targeting players they think they can dispossess. But if we keep moving on and off the ball, giving outlets for the quick pass, we will get opportunities to score. Providing the balance of the side is not altered, confidence in scoring will improve. With it the goals.

    One of the areas we still need to be on top of, is when to make substitutions. We tire late on in games. Even Alexis. So, not only do we not want a list of players who are likely to need a rest, we need subs to cover for the unexpected knocks. Sometimes we can get a two way bonus, with say Bellerin or Gibbs, whether starting or coming on late, if the sub they exchange is with a striker, and not a like for like full back, then you get an attacking threat as well as an extra defender. Rosicky is another example of a player who can add movement going forward, but also put a defensive shift in.

    How Arsenal go on from here is in their hands, but I don’t go along with the idea that areas of failure can simply be looked at in isolation. From memory of a recent stat given, the Invincible’s only used 15 players during that season, the 4 who, in total played less than a dozen times. Compare to the changes that this side has suffered ….?

    Frustration needs to be tempered with understanding.

    Keep the faith ….

  5. Marcus says:

    TA, geoffchase, omgarsenal,
    Thanks for your thoughts.

    First thing I want to clarify is that ultimately I am not pointing fingers at any one person in the team. In fact I am not pointing finger at all.
    The article is just me conveying my feeling that the team isn’t at its optimal level. And getting excited that we are slowly getting there.

  6. Marcus says:

    I agree, but my assessment is purely based on the ability of each player vs the invincibles…for example say Ljunberg vs Walcott, Sanchez Vs Pires…etc etc. Also note that I said almost as good (and again i did not factor in team chemistry, opponents etc in this assessment).

    On your second point, I think I need to clarify further. Firstly (I will repeat) this article wasn’t written in the spirit of criticism. What I meant was yes, the midfield performed admirably. However given the individual ability of each player (Santi, Ozil, Sanchez etc) I feel we still have several gears attain before we can say that this team is operating at the top of its abilities.

    Geoff brings out a fantastic point about creating & disrupting which I agree with. One thing that I have to point out is that the speed of our passing is nowhere near where it should be. Our passing is more often than not slow and tentative (Compared to the 2007 side that had Cesc, Hleb & TR7) thus allowing our opponents time to read our game, making it easier for them to disrupt it.
    All in all I agree with the general sentiment but I feel we have room for improvement.

  7. Gerry says:

    At last I was not alone in thinking you were being critical, Marcus. It must have been the use of words like ‘failing’ rather than words like ‘improvement’ that did it?
    Either that, or I just proved Geoff’s point about it being easier to destroy than be creative 😀

    Regards to the added point in reply regards passing. It is exactly what Geoff has said. When we are good, and have movement, we are good, and the passing is of the highest order. Have a look at the speeded up video of the 11 man passing move with Giro’s first goal.
    We all know the first half of the season it was not great, but there were mitigating circumstances with the constant changes in line ups. But the Spurs game apart, we have been pretty good, even in the first half of the Leicester game? What we did against Boro’ was not allow them back into the game, which I think shows improvement? Much as you might belittle the status of a team like Leicester, they did show they could play some good football. Palace will be very similar, in so far as a united team working very hard for their new manager. But provided we do not do anything drastically different with our team, we should again come away with the right result.
    We shall see …

  8. AwayGunner says:

    Re passing: I’m not sure that it’s only about slow passing vs fast passing. Similar to a dribbler trying to beat his man, it’s all about the sudden change of pace or in this case tempo, if you will that plays such an integral part in unlocking defenses. Slower, methodical possession allows time for the possessors and movers to draw their markers out of shape. The slower approach creates the hole and then the sudden change in passing tempo quickly exploits it. Further to that, slower build up also facilitates a much better retention rate.

    I completely agree that our midfield is both capable of more and making steady progress. We’re definately on the up, I pray we stay healthy.

    Great post Marcus


  9. FLO8 says:

    Provocative and interesting post Marcos. I agree with you that Arsenal have under performed this season and have not been defensively sound or clinical enough in matches. The losses to Swansea, Southampton, Stoke and Tottenham and draws versus Hull and Leicester support that argument. Obviously long term injuries to key personnel like Giroud, Walcott, Ozil, Debuchy and Koscielny have not helped. That said I think this Arsenal team has much better quality in depth than the Invincibles and the aforementioned players’ replacements – Welbeck, Ox, Cazorla, Bellerin, Chambers/Monreal – had more than enough quality alongside the likes of Alexis, Ramsey, Flamini, Gibbs, Per and Szczesny to overcome those aforementioned teams.

    I think your partially correct that the side’s underperformance can be traced to some of those replacements and their lack of contribution in certain aspects (Welbeck and Ox – lack of clinicalness in front of goal; Ramsey – a lack of creativity, clinicalness in front of goal and accuracy in passing; Flamini, Chambers and Monreal – a lack of defensive assurity). That said, I also agree with Gerry’s comment that on field team balance, on and off the ball movement and continuity in the IX are critical factors in delivering consistent performances. Unfortunately this season we lacked in each of those departments at various stages and inconsistent on field results have transpired. Hopefully we’ll have an upturn in luck on the injury front and greater continuity in the first IX as the season goes into the final stretch.

    I have to say though that I don’t agree that man for man the current Arsenal first XI is equal to that of the Invincible team, who I think would still be a title challenger if they were playing today.

    GK – Lehmann > Szczesny
    RB – Lauren > Debuchy
    CB – Koscielny > Toure
    CB – Campbell > Per
    LB – Cole > Gibbs
    RM – Ljungberg > Walcott
    CM – Gilberto > Coquelin
    CM – Vieira > Cazorla
    LM – Pires > Sanchez
    CAM/CF – Bergkamp > Ozil
    ST – Henry > Giroud

    Personally I think only Koscielny would have had a chance at cracking that classic first IX.

  10. retsub1 says:

    Interesting post Marcus, I think as TA pointed out recently, the upturn in form has created a lull in responses and your post deserves more comments.

    Some really interesting responses as well. FL08. Agree with you totally about the invincibles, I think Toure may shade it because Kos and his injury record. I don’t think that is in anyway negative on the current team, it just shows what a fantastic side the Invincibles were

  11. steve says:

    Yep not much i can add to these comments tbh,
    FLO8, I was going to post a comment that included that exact comparison yesterday lol, but i deleted it because to truly capture the essence of the players in the Invincibles i ended up including lots of youth players and the team looked very strange.
    I think what a lot of people forget is how fit, pacey and well managed all the premiership teams are now, and even the lower table teams have one or two special players that can turn a game. Ten years ago it was more like the Spanish league now, where two or three teams at the top of the league were head and shoulders over the rest – its the very reason none of us were ever worried about Chelsea doing an unbeaten season.
    However saying that the Invincibles playing now would still be out of sight!!! 🙂

    Right my go FLO8;

    Henry – pace of Walcott, Build of Welbeck, Finishing of Giroud, the only one that comes even slightly close is Akpom

    Bergkamp – the vision of Ozil, comfortable on the ball like Cazorla, the passion of Wilshere, the trickery and tenacity and finishing of Sanchez, the strength of Koscielny and a technical ability all of its own, NOBODY even comes close! Maybe Crowley if he doubled in size or Zelalem if he beefs up and increases his goal scoring could be worthy of cleaning the great mans boots.

    Pires – speed, trickery, passing, tenacity and sublime finishing, the closest match if he could increase his passing ability is Sanchez.

    Vieira – Strong, imposing, commanding, an engine like Ramsey’s with passion to spare and a stride that could take him into the oppositions half in a blink of an eye, not even close in this current team. Maybe just maybe either Bielik or A-M-N from the youth team (Diaby being laid to rest a long time ago).

    Silva – A blend of Coquelin’s effectiveness at defending and Arteta’s calmness and experience and passing, he could battle for the full 90 no problem at all. My hope is that Hayden becomes exactly this type of player but with more experience i do not see why Coquelin cannot emulate his great contribution to the team.

    Ljungberg – Strong, pacey battler down the wings, great in the dribble and running in to score, the best comparison i can make is probably a blend of Walcott and OX, this is what i hope Gnabry will turn out to be one day.

    The defense although the easiest to draw a relatively close comparison individually is collectively nowhere near as good as the Invincibles;

    Cole – Gibbs

    Toure – Koscielny

    Campbell – Gabriel or Chambers (Campbell had pace don’t forget lol)

    Lauren – Debuchy

    Lehmann – Szczesny

    It was easy to see whilst doing the comparisons that many of the players from today have a particular specialism at the detriment of other areas of the game whereas the invincible players held high levels of each attribute and i think that is the most significant difference between the two teams. It was always the case that when thinking of an Invincible player he would be a perfect blend of two or three players from the current squad and that is maybe why we are never happy with what we have atm – if only Walcott could be stronger and actually dribble past people like OX, if only OX could make runs and finish like Walcott, if only Ozil was stronger and battled more, if only Giroud was quicker, if only Welbeck could finish, if only Cazorla was bigger and more imposing, if only BFG had some pace etc etc etc. I don’t remember there being many “if only’s” in front of any of the Invincibles, this probably also contributes highly to debate about team selection as individuals rate particular attributes higher than others and since no one player has that invincible level of all attributes arguments about player choice ensue.

    Interesting little exercise tbh, i encourage others to have a go, pick the most like for like players from both teams and submit your list – something fun to pass the time 🙂

  12. The Cockie Monster says:

    I know Marcus is a Gooner, but I didn`t know he writes from an asylum !. hahaha

    Imo only 3 current players would transfer into the invincibles team……….Koz for Toure would be an even match. The next 2 are genuine SQ world class…..Ozil and Alexis for Pires and Freddie !. I cant stress enough how long I have rated and wanted Alexis……… just for his work rate alone he would get into any Arsenal team let alone his amazing skill factor !. That’s about it, although I do think a few players would get into the Invincible squad….Rosicky, Santi, Ox and Theo for definite !. Remember the invincibles had Wiltord, Reyes, Parlour and Edu !. It is possible that Squad strength was similar, but the invincibles were stronger as a 1st eleven by miles !.

  13. retsub1 says:


    Gonna disagree with you big time. In my opinion Pires and Freddie were pure class noway would I trade them. This won’t be popular, but I think they are both more effective than Ozil, great player that he threatens to be.

    Alexis is on the other hand pure class, but Henry, Bergkamp, Pires and Ljunberg were stunning together and I wouldn’t change one of them

  14. The Cockie Monster says:

    Big Time retsub1 !….right !…. gloves off you bastard !…….hahaha

    Yes, they were class, but after Bergkamp and Henry….The Sanchezmanian Devil is my next best Arsenal player….yes !….even in just a short time !….but I have been following him for years and he reminds me of a George Armstrong on performance enhancing drugs with fantastic skill !. 🙂

  15. jnyc says:

    Marcus, thanks for taking time to offer a post, its a great conversation starter, and the subject is worth thinking about. I find myself being so positive about many of our players now that we’re doing well as a team. But we shouldnt get too comfortable. We need to look at areas we can improve always.

  16. James Bond says:

    am with Glics on this one – ditto .

    as a squad, we have a better one as opposed to the one we had 10 years ago .

    starting 11 – invincibles be miles ahead though

    the only current player who be first choice in the invincible’s team be Sczny . Sczny over Lehman and any other Arsenal goalie, any time of the day, week , month , year and you name it – he stll be ahead, even at night


  17. retsub1 says:

    Ok Cockie will get the gloves on. At least we are singing the praises of the players. Must be a positive.

    JB. I must admit I was surprised by something I saw today. According to stats your man Ospina is pretty poor on the distribution side. I thought it was ok but there you go.

  18. Marcus says:

    Thank you all for your comments,
    Only those three?
    Lehmann – Ospina/Szczesny
    Lauren – Debuchy
    Kos – Campbell
    Pires – Sanchez
    Ljunberg – Walcott
    Bergkamp – Ozil

    For me, the above comparison paints a better picture. And (again) I will reiterate, the comparison looks at it in three ways: almost as good as, as good as or better than. For example, I think Ospina is as good as Lehmann, Ozil is almost as good as Bergkamp & Sanchez (to me) is better than Pires.

  19. Marcus says:

    My feelings exactly!

  20. retsub1 says:

    I guess everyone is entitled to there opinion, it’s wha makes the world go around. Here’s my view on the comparison

    Mad Jens or Ospina. Not even close. Jens

    Lauren /Debuchy. Maybe

    Kos/ Campbell. Campbell for me

    Pires/ Sanchez I would go for Bobby, he was a key component of the Invincibles….but close

    Ljunberg / Theo.
    Freddie for me

    Ozil/ Bergkamp. With the greatest respect if this was a boxing match it would be stopped after 30 seconds. I am not saying that Ozil doesn’t have the potential to be a great, but I would rather have a one legged Bergkamp

  21. TotalArsenal says:

    Some great comments and some put a smile to my face. Thanks guys.

    Comparison are very hard and mostly based on subjectivity.. and nothing wrong with that of course. The question you should ask is how well the Invincibles would do in today’s PL environment, and I think our current squad is a lot stronger than many think, even compared to the Invincibles.

    Would Koz, Ozil, Theo, Rambo, Debuchy, Sanchez and Giroud have done well ten years ago… I think they would… very well indeed.

    But the Invincibles were great back then and that is how we should remember them. Simply as greats.

  22. henrychan says:

    Hi all..
    I won’t comment to this post.. Sorry marcus..
    I want to give my prediction here..
    Arsenal and WBA away win..
    MU.. Spurs and Soton all draw.. thx

  23. TotalArsenal says:

    New Post New Post 🙂

    Marcus hopes Thierry is back for good.

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