Arsenal – West Ham afterthoughts: Lack of composure cost the Gunners

Well there you go: high expectations and playing a relatively beatable opponent is often a recipe for disaster for Arsenal, as it was today. However, the notion that we were complacent, as some seem to suggest, is of course rubbish.. it was the total opposite: we were firing on all cylinders like Gunners possessed and did not know how to control the tempo of the game. We have seen us play such season-openers before: the adrenaline is pumping, everybody is super keen and the opponent must be destroyed as soon as possible. A few seasons ago, the Ox broke his leg in a similar break-neck-speed first game of the season, and we lost that one as well… Villa anyone?


We did create plenty of chances but very few were great ones. We just lacked that bit of composure for the penultimate as well as the final ball. And when the Hammers scored against the run of play, at a sensitive period of the game, we even became more desperate to force the ball into the goal. It has to be said that the Hammers played well as a unit and had huge bags of energy; and with a fine goalie between the poles in Adriano, and a good central pairing in defence, they were able to frustrate us time and again. For this they deserve credit.

I hated the crazy tempo with which we played today: it just felt like it was not going to work out for us all day long; and that is exactly how it turned out to be. It’s great when it pays off and leads to an early goal, but we never controlled the game; and although we created chances with this approach, our desperate tempo kept us from finishing them off. A lot of passes went astray and many a first touch was too heavy. It should also be said that we lacked a bit of luck in this game as the ball just did not want to fall right in the box today.

I reckon we need to take this one on the chin and the boys will need to find a way to start playing with more intelligence and composure. Some will say that a better striker would have made a difference today, and maybe they are right. For me, it was the lack of leadership in the middle of the pitch that made the difference. Ozil had a very good game in my opinion, even though he also got caught up in the wild tempo of it at times. Cazorla and Ramsey were very keen to force through our attacking game but I reckon at least one of them should have played a bit wiser – aiming to dictate the tempo and make sure WH would remain hemmed in around their ‘D’ area. I will have to watch the game again to see how much the Hammers’ midfield deserves credit for our lack of controlling the tempo. They definitely made it harder for us than we expected.

We missed Bellerin today, even though his replacement, Debuchy, did not play badly. Our Spanish RFB just has that bit more energy and thrust in his game right now. Having said that, Ox played well on the right wing and provided more than enough thrust there (if only we could keep him up there and away from our defence.. 😦 ) . On the other wing, Nacho was very keen and one of the most composed players on the pitch. So we had plenty of width and created many an opening from the sides, but a combination of below par finishing and positioning, and very good defending by WH, did not give us what we wanted and deserved.

Our opponent managed to do the absolute opposite with their first two opportunities: they took them both and our goalkeeper will feel a bit disappointed with letting them in. He saw the danger for the first one and decided to come out to either get the ball or put his opponent off: it backfired, but hey, at least he did not foul Kouyate and get sent off 🙂 . The second one should not have gone in, but Petr’s vision was blocked somewhat and he gambled towards the wrong corner with his bodyweight, leaving him unable to shift it in time towards the other one.

We put on Theo and then our mini-hulk, Sanchez, but they also lacked the composure and cold-bloodedness to get us back into the game. It seemed to be one of those days.

There was nothing wrong with our attitude and Arsene put out a fine team; there is absolutely no reason to ask for big changes or to start criticising the team, individual players or the manager. As a team Arsenal pitched this game wrongly and were never able to fully control it. When you go a goal behind against the run of play, the first priority is to fight for the equaliser in a composed way, rather than to up the tempo even further and end up with eleven headless chickens on the pitch. This is the lesson we need to heed from today’s encounter: more control of the tempo and space in our opponent’s half, and much more efficient use of our resources. For this we need to look at our central midfield leadership ability, but with the likes of Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, Coquelin and Arteta at our disposal, we should be able to fix it.

The team is back on earth after beating the Chavs a week ago: we might have to thank the Hammers at the end of the season for giving us back our grounded-ness at the very start of it – the dreaded unbearable lightness of being has evaporated away: blood, sweat and tears are required to get us to the very top. The season begins next week: bring it on.

By: TotalArsenal.

48 thoughts on “Arsenal – West Ham afterthoughts: Lack of composure cost the Gunners

  • Hi TA

    I haven’t watched yet, taped overnight here. Anyway, my take from comments is:

    a. Now is not the time for over reaction in transfers or otherwise.
    b. From some highlights seen we dominated the possession and game, but, as you noted, it’s not possession its your composure with it that counts (as well).

    I wonder if, like me, the team wasn’t out to show how great they were going to be this year. Thus, reality check.

    Finally, every season has a few nightmare games, best to then get this one out of the way. I will look at the chart of doom after 10 games. Still looking forward to watching tonite, if but a touch less so… :-/

    cheers — jgc

  • Oh

    And my apology from last post for blowing the game. All my fault really… I called the score and Sanchez for 20ish, but got it backwards. Too much “this should be an expected win” talk from me pre-game! 😦

    apologies — jgc

  • yes this could be a blessing in disguise and a reality check for the players. the worrying thing was that none of the players tried to pick the team up, nobody took control of the matter, yes we will naturally create chances but if you have a look at the swansea and sunderland games towards the end of last season, we just seem to attack but its a little blunt and we lost and drew. other teams will watch this and realise they need to be organised and get the first goal against us. maybe we need to start letting teams have more possession and let us close them down, like against city last season and more recently chelsea

    maybe ozil should have been subbed, carzola pushed into his role and the ox into midfield alongside coquelin as it would gave us more drive in midfield

    the preseason would have been better if we lost some games as then we would see what needs to be addressed.

  • TA

    Well, I eat chicken and it’s usually headless, so I wont mind the watching, despite the cringe-worthy football you describe. I just bought a new season jersey for my birthday and refuse to be downbeat(en?)! 🙂

    I only hope that the roles players had last year that worked are going to be stuck to, so we don’t have to reinvent the continuity.

    cheers — jgc

  • Interesting call on Arteta, I think it’s a factor he’s added over the years that was underrated or perhaps more accurately, not rated highly enough?

  • Arteta clearly has limitations but he does bring discipline and structure to the team. What I also noticed is we did not use OG as a holding striker to build our plan around as much as we usually do. It looked like OG was given the free ‘Theo’ role, which I think suits him a lot less…

    Please watch it and let us know what you think… maybe even write a small analytical post… 🙂

  • I was surprised AW didn’t field the same XI (or close) as in the Shield. This starting team had not played as a unit the entire preseason. The continuity of July was absent. This group was ostensibly playing their first preseason game together.

    The absence of Bellerin’s pace proved larger than I expected.
    Ox provides that attribute– but his is a run-at style– as opposed to a run-behind or cross from the touchline type. With only a few chances to run-behind– none were able to exploit those rare opportunities.

    I recall OG with-ball-on-flank more than once trying to attack. He had so very few legit chances to hold and distribute centrally. Did Ozil-Ramsey-Cazorla put a shot on goal today?
    The team was forced to cross from distance and rely on corners– and rarely looked dangerous with second-chances. TA’s assessment that the ball just never fell where needed– was mine as well.

    Where I’m usually in agreement with AW? I felt today that the manager’s team selection was problematic in that this group hasn’t played a competitive match together this preseason.

    West Ham played to their strength and stuck to their plan.
    A shame Arsenal added the requisite additional ingredients– to the recipe for a loss.


  • TA and JW1

    Interesting points about OG and team selection, will have to watch and see. I have in past been known to prefer the more Henry-esque “free” striker roles, but seeing the with/without OG in the holding role has been (slowly?) converting me over the last season in terms of what it allows the players we have.

    Will watch and see tonight I hope.

    cheers — jgc

  • Great post TA. I’m speechless to be honest. We’ve seen this type of performance from Arsenal before and it was expected. I just hope they settle into this season quickly and the weight of expectation doesn’t play on their minds for too long. It wasn’t a team effort…just a bunch of individuals out there trying to hard in an effort to force the action. Hopefully we respond well in our next fixture.

    @ TA

    haha well…I have a new found respect for parents. We just got a second puppy and whenever the deed needs to be done i have to lock them outside. It’s just not the same when two little puppies are staring at you, and then one decides to bite your forearm because he thinks you’re hurting his mum. Do parents have to lock their kids outside?

    @ Professor

    Cheers. I shouldn’t whinge though because you’ve had to contend with a lot more for a longer period of time. Does the balance ever come? I get right into teaching but then I think “shit my research”, and then trying to find time for the gym still.

  • Oz

    I can answer both!

    a. yes, kids should be locked outside, … lots… especially boy kids… so, practice now! >:-)

    b. No, never. One should, totally IMO, find the way to maximise the ratio of teaching quality and outcomes to effort. Once you are into it, streamline it and be very good but very efficient. When starting, this, plainly, sucks… As for the rest, I am always thinking that I should be doing something else, so feel free to ignore it, as it will always be there. As long as you are productively busy, it’s a great job if you can get over the tension of always feeling you might be better off doing something else! :-/

    Good news on the gym front! Since you will never actually catch up or be doing the right thing at the right time with the right effort (except perhaps by accident), there is always time for the gym! I make it a religion to disappear most days for an hour or so to run around lunch time. I find it clears more out f my brain that I think I should be doing than it actually excludes me doing. Make the time!

    My real secret? Focus on student outcomes (undergraduate and postgraduate in reverse order) and your own outcomes will naturally follow.

    Oh and remember, you’re young so the first 5 years don’t suck so much… 😀

    cheers — jgc

  • Nice sum-up, TA. 😉

    I agree to some point that this game had similiraties with the defeat against Villa. The absence of Arteta-esque presence in the middle made us open for Agbonlahor’s runs through the middle and we had no balance with Ramsey and Jack both being B2B players. Our best player on that day was Tomas Rosicky who could have been the answer yesterday.

    For me, Cech is to blame for the first goal and Ox – who I rate the most of all our Englishmen- was to blame for the second. He has done it before- trying risky dribbling at our own half only to open a counter for the opponents.

    I can understand why Wenger went with Giroud in place of Walcott as The Big Handsome Frenchman had had a text-book cameo against The Chavs. Still, as I’ve been pointing out before, it does no good for Ollie to play with midfielders that tend to operate through the middle. He needs players who open space for him so he can return them the favour with his stunning link-up play.

  • Oz, that’s why they call it puppy love…. 🙂

    Yes lock them out, give them a bone (careful here) and turn the music up (who let the dogs out?!) 🙂

    Teaching is a great job but it gets little recognition in the professional world. Most folk focus on the holidays and think it is easy. The opposite is true: I don’t know many other jobs with such a density and lack of any down time: from the moment you get in till the moment you leave the building you are being absorbed by responsibility and giving constant attention (and it does not stop there); and I reckon the primary school teachers suffer most from this, although the secondary school teachers will face more discipline challenges/ risk of being bullied by their own students. In a nutshell: respect to the teacher! 🙂

  • Agreed Admir, OG needs at least Alexis on the ‘wing’ and I am not sure whether OG and Ozil is the ideal combination: both are strong enablers but the latter might play better with a striker who likes to finish more than anything else. I also reckon OG would love to play with Alexis behind him in the hole to aggressively profit from his service through the middle.

    I believe we can play with four allround midfielders behind OG but not with the kamikaze footie we played yesterday. It has to be more controlled and compact but maybe WH did a great job in preventing this…

  • Thanks for the advice professor. Really appreciate it.i definitely think you have the right approach to working out. My supervisor does the same. 11-12 is gym time…nothing gets in the way. I need to adopt that approach.

    Because I’m only new I fall into the trap of replying to every student email straight away. So while I’m getting paid consultation time I end up doing more. I want to help but I understand positive feedback is essential for future job perspectives. My last semesters feedback score opened up a lot of doors this semester. Thanks again professor.

    @ TA

    Hahaha good advice. Agreed. I think the teachers who put in and care are under appreciated.

    I’m still disappointed in our efforts yesterday

  • TA, Very nice–and timely–write up in difficult circumstances. (Sorry that I couldn’t get back to it yesterday…busy, busy…) We were all hoping the feel-good factor could continue. That we were so quickly slammed back to the reality of the difficulty of the challenge is a bitter pill to swallow.

    It’s tempting, in the heat of any tough moment, to assign blame and look for simple solutions. Like you said, it’s not that any one player (except maybe Cech) really played so far below their level, rather that everybody had a rough outing and were maybe trying to add that little bit of spark which just wasn’t coming off. By contrast, the Hammers guys looked relaxed, playing at the top of their ability and not getting in their own way when they had chances to make plays. Their goals were well executed and their defenders (and keeper) did all the right things to thwart our chances. It makes it all the more frustrating that they played in a good spirit (not too much fouling nor time-wasting so we can’t trot out some of the more usual complaints)…

    As such, yesterday (and this morning) I was thinking it was a case of Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong…” WHU even was getting some help from the linesmen, early on at least…) which makes it funny that you’re then linking to Murphy himself. That Murphy (Danny) has it about right, that forcing Arsenal wide is a very sound strategy–perhaps even moreso when we aren’t using our pacier fullbacks. My thought is that Debuchy and Monreal have a bit less faith in their recovery speed so that they were reluctant to push all the way to end-lines. Angled crosses were tossed in but those are always low percentage plays. As nice a target as Giroud presents, he doesn’t score a ton of headers… As others point out, OG himself took over a lot of wide positions which really limits the idea of “target men” in the box…

    Additionally there was a critical lack of desire to play the ball out wide and make those FBs run. The play which really cast the die (for me at least…) was Ramsey taking the shot from 22 yards rather than playing Debuchy in when he was “in acres” to his right (around the half hour mark, maybe?)…

    It’s not the first time I’ve seen such a struggle. Versus Liverpool last year we got similarly narrow but Bellerin (cutting in, Ramsey wider, feeding him…) got the goal. If we had scored first I’m sure we could’ve seen out the win. That we didn’t and got beaten at a poorly organized set piece (and then later on a turnover in a bad spot) really hurt. Keep working on it and full commitment to the high line OR full commitment to tracking the targets is necessary. Le Coq playing everybody onside was exactly what wasn’t needed.

    Pulling him (for Theo) only exposed us a little but we were still unable to make chances. IMO–when needing a goal in particular–the MFs need to work harder to get to the by-line and then do the pull-backs. (Notably, Le Coq himself had the best of those sorts of plays in the first half with the pass he put on Ollie’s chest…) Trust me, I’ve got nothing against the Ox, but if he could use all that pace and power and add the pull-back to the top of the box (the 3-Ps?…) he would be the complete winger. As it was he was central too much for my taste and overplaying the ball (including turning it over for the 2nd goal). Did he cost us the points yesterday? Hell no… It’s just an observation of ways he could have helped that were not taken.

    It’s likely a function of the way the team is built. With so many guys who have been “main-men” at various levels of their careers, only experience can teach that moving away from the ball (and out wide into space) is the thing to do. Needing two goals, and with fans wanting to see shots and direct moves on goal, the older guys who we need more central (Giroud, Theo and Ozil) took balls out that way–making nobody happy. Alexis came on and tried, but, with little practice with his mates, it’s no wonder he couldn’t make much headway through the clogged center.

    No need to panic (nor look to finger blame on any one player or combination of players…) nor suggest salvation can only be found in the TW… so I guess I’m agreeing with TA (and Danny Murphy and lots of others)… It’s all about the reaction to the the adversity–which we all knew would come, even if we hoped it might wait for awhile…

    Hopefully we see it on Sunday in Croydon…

  • Nice follow up comment, 17ho, and mostly agreed. I thought Nacho had a great game yesterday and together with Koz he was my man of the match. But he works a lot better with Sanchez who is more a natural on the left mid-wing. I would love to know how much Nacho ran yesterday and it would not surprise me at all if he is in the top two/three of all Arsenal players. But yes the full backs can do a lot but once they are near the box they need to lay it off or cross it to the big fellow. Nacho did everything right but it just did not click with his men in front of him. Bellerin is the most complete wingback in our team and yes we missed him.

    All agreed re Ox and that is why I wanted him to be loaned out. Having said that he brought a lot of thrust to the game and was obviously flying high on his winner against the Chavs. He remains a huge talent in progress and maybe he will come good this season. Fingers crossed.

  • Well, we’ve had this discussion before and I think Ox can definitely help more than he hurts us…Just a few more tricks in his game at the attacking end…and a few less at ours where they can really sting. Ramsey (who also made some bad decisions yesterday) did a lot of learning the hard way. The next step in his development has to be in finding ways to be a better teammate at the high level to which we aspire–not at a lower one…

    That’s the thing, it’s a team game so not always about individual moments of glory (or the inverse) but about finding ways to contribute even if they go unnoticed by the (average) supporter or don’t put you on the back pages… That’s also why buy, buy, buy is not always the answer, too… (Re: Nacho: some are singling him out for losing Kayoute on the first goal, but I agree with you, that he had a good match and that it was a group problem…)

    For me, I just wish we could look at this as a real “life-boat” situation, i.e., we’re all in it together–and we’ll be following our team through thick and thin. Rather than pointing fingers, let’s do what we can to lift the boys. Admittedly, writing on the inter-web does very little. If I was in the stadium, however, I try to gee up whoever was looking down…i.e., “We love you Petr Cech; (get us a) Clean sheet in Croydon, etc., etc.” The boys (and the manager) will figure it out but the urge to (always) tear down and rebuild (even if it’s all in our own heads and thus quite moot)…should be resisted…

    …In my opinion, of course… 😀

  • To spice things up, there’s talk that Benzema is flying in for his medical…

    Unfortunately, the journalist breaking the news is not wholly believable (in parts at least)… Please use your favorite (favourite?…) search engine to look up Jeinny Lizarazo, if you must… 😦 😀

  • 17 and TA,

    Only watched some last night but your comments and the article match mine. “We was unsmart” sums it up. Too many down the center is more so. The end results were:

    a. Ozil got crushed. He is a delivery guy who thrives on pace and space. We have pace, we didn’t use space and thus… Constantly surrounded with little places to go but back. We still got off many shots from good spots in or close around the box. Credit to him and others for that given the game

    b. OG was similarly surrounded.

    c. We had little wide to get the ball out to easily in transition, leaving Coq and others stuck with the ball. The fact they then tried to be a bit too cute with it doesn’t help. In that situation and with a guy like Coquelin, you want the easy diagonal forward and out to a wider player. If they are not there and the other team can collapse on your ball holder… bad stuff will done happen…

    Suffice to say composure wasn’t a strong suit and some may have overplayed in too much excitement, but … I am hopeful that:

    d. Things will settle next week and some focus return

    e. We will see wide players stay wide and stick to roles, rather than trying to do it all whilst dancing like TAs headless chicken. To this end, we did better last year with Santi deeper with Coquelin, Ozil forward, and AR/Sanchez wide. Arteta could play that deeper role well too or perhaps Arteta and Santi, but that makes us rather small and touchable..

    Note, I think of this as an adaptation of not having Bellerin / Gibbs out wide. Both are wide attacking fullbacks. Nacho and Debuchy are the better defenders perhaps but not as adventurous or pacey. With Bellerin and Gibbs, you do get width, with some added risk, without you may have to add it more, especially in the middle third of the park.

    f. We will hold the ball less and be direct through passing, movement and space… not much of any of which were evident barring movement (lots of not so useful).

    That’s it from my watching…

    Oh, and while I am not a rumormonger 17, I found many of your reporters parts believable .. very believable! 🙂

    cheers — jgc

  • Oz

    The key is to replicate the personal teaching in ways that maximise your time contribution (eg with students) to achieving that end, and minimise the more distracting ones. How one delivers the teaching and uses TAs or others around it can make a big difference to your workload without reducing what students feel they received. A tricky and very specific local balance, I admit. Always happy to email offline to chat about it

    cheers — jgc

  • 17ho, the lower level is still PL level and Ox could do with playing regularly for a Crystal Palace or Everton, to name a few. I cannot believe he made that mistake again yesterday and to me it looks like he should be learning to get over this somewhere else. On the other hand, the goal against the Chavs, the winner in the end, was special and maybe we should keep him for that reason alone. 😉

  • Hi TA, just saw you guys back online.

    Disappointed with the listless display of our lads though.. and somehow TA I agree with what you mentioned the last time: Drop the Ox..

    he cost us the second goal, and no one near him bothered to move a muscle to stop the goal except Cech whom is out of position.

    We somehow lack the movement and the speed which Bellerin can provide.

    So bring on the next team and hope we bounce back strongly?


  • Ah yes I forgot to mention this: fast tracking Alexis is not a good idea.

    He came on and brought more urgency to the attack, and the best was we managed to get a few shots on goal in the process.

    However I will not rush Alexis back for the full 90.. he will injure himself if Le Prof starts him the next game.

  • @ professor

    Cheers for the advice and offer. I told the mrs too (in the same position). We both got nose bleeds looking at your CV. It is ridiculous! What a career!

    @ 17

    I agree with your comments regarding the ox. Great player and I rate him highly but I just think he needs to reign it in a bit. I think he’s got more tools than theo, but he tends to run himself into an alley often. Needs to hold the shape more. In saying that his team mates should be mindful of it and move out wide so we don’t get too narrow.

  • Next up (17HT/TA may add in selectively to the match preview later):
    Crystal Palace v Arsenal @Selhurst Park

    Referee for match: Lee Mason
    Matches involving Arsenal in 2014/2015 season: Arsenal(h) 4-1 Newcastle(a), Hull(h) 1-3 Arsenal(a)

    Fourth official: Robert Madley

    Players to watch:
    Crystal Palace: Yohan Cabaye(MF), Damien Delaney(DF), Wilfried Zaha(MF), Pape Souaré(DF), Jason Puncheon(MF)

    Arsenal: Cazorla, Giroud, Özil, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain

    The pressure is there. Spotlight on our attacking players to conjure up a win; Palace will look to build on their victory against Norwich, where Cabaye was their standout player.

  • TA,
    Good summery. You are totally right it was a manic performance.
    It has took me til now to get over the disappointment and read all the comments etc.
    I think what gutted me most was all the hype around Cech and it was 2 very savable goals that he let in. I even started to wonder if Chelsea had offered him money to let goals in. I think that was a step to far on my behalf, he might be a world class keeper but it does not mean he does not get nervous at some point like a big debut.
    Ramsey was greedy and the moment when he should have played Monreal or Doubchy in was the turning point, we needed to take that chance as WH played as good as i have seen them in years and years.
    I to felt all game as soon as they scored that it was not going to go our way.
    Now the pressure is on , no doubt about that, every player has said all season we need a good start and we do..
    I also share some of the guys view that this could be a blessing in disquise .

    Alexis from the start, Theo or Giroud.?? That is up to the boss, who ever is in best form and scoring in practice plus depending on the team we face.

    It should also remind our team not to expect to just turn up, this is the EPL no easy games here

  • Proudgooner, I would say play both Theo and Giroud..

    Theo can swap positions with Rambo on the wings, and Santi drop back alongside Le Coq.. please do not put Rambo in the CM position ever again.

    The passes out from midfield is just atrocious.


  • NJK84sg

    interesting comment. I like AR down the middle. Do you think the passes were bad or was there no one staying wide and finding the gap to be passed to? I am of either mind on this and just curious as to your opinion.

    cheers — jgc

  • Arsenal’s bread, butter & jam: Midfield combination play.
    (With reference to article from FFT – FourFourTwo online, “The modern central midfielder: why the Premier League is struggling in Europe”)

    Page 1 of 3:

    “The modern all-round midfielder is an agile dribbler who shifts and slaloms away from trouble, is a composed distributor who links the lines, and is an intelligent presser and tackler, flitting across the pitch performing multiple roles.”

  • (“The modern central midfielder: why the Premier League is struggling in Europe”)
    Page 2 of 3:

    “Both Juventus and Barcelona are powered by the energy of these players: Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, and Ivan Rakitic all glide effortlessly across the pitch, acting as regista, destroyer, and playmaker in a cyclone of furious energy. But in the Premier League, where tactical nuance is bludgeoned by giggling oligarchs hurling money into a league designed for profitable stasis, these players are nowhere to be seen. It is no wonder England’s impact on Europe has steadily declined this decade.”

  • (“The modern central midfielder: why the Premier League is struggling in Europe”)
    Page 3 of 3:

    “Cazorla’s new role

    Perhaps surprisingly, it is Arsenal, so often accused of outdated tactical strategies drilled by an ageing coach, who already utilise a complete midfielder. Recognising the new necessities, Arsene Wenger shifted Santi Cazorla from a high playmaker position to a deeper role at the beginning of last season.
    {See both diagrams in page, complete take-ons (stars) and tackles (crosses)}

    The impact has been monumental, and leaves Arsenal looking capable of a title challenge for the first time in a decade (and may be partly why they lost last Saturday, instead fielding the industrious Coquelin).

    It seems symbolic that the Premier League would begin to catch up with Europe not by innovating or cultivating young players to new and challenging positions, but instead by pulling a 30-year-old playmaker back and sticking him in unfamiliar territory.”

    “But in Cazorla’s shift, we see how the standards of modern football have dramatically risen; as tactical strategies become hyper-intelligent, interconnected swarms, and as the technical quality of the individual continues to increase, the modern central midfielder must now boast all the traits – dribbling, agility, speed – of an attacking playmaker, while maintaining the composed passing and defensive poise that the position has traditionally required.”


    We may be surprised should AW field a more forward-thinking starting line-up vs Crystal Palace this weekend:

    Cazorla, Ramsey (CM)
    Özil (AM)
    Oxlade-Chamberlain (R-AM/RW), Giroud (CF), Walcott (L-AM/LW)

  • JM

    very interesting… I would say that I mostly agree and that Santi has added a (small) measure of tackler (not destroyer per se) to his CV. Equally, the combination of Santi and Coq last year gave us two such players, admittedly in 1 who was all facile style and 1 who was all destroyer to a large measure…

    I agree that Santi to the deeper role was where we did well last year. And can again, if, and only if, we can also keep some width to use all the field.

    cheers — jgc

  • Jgc, the misplaced passes were more crucial IMHO.

    And Santi has to stay back and be the playmaker from the back.

    Rambo can stay out wide.. he is getting used to the wide spot.


  • There might also be a needed adjustment to our backline this weekend, since there has been no further diagnosis on the muscle/bone injury to Bellerin (listed with slight doubt to return).

    Debuchy (enforced if Bellerin’s fitness concerns), Gabriel (prompted as Per could be isolated vs Palace’s forwards, ie a 1vs1 or 2vs1 situation in a counter-attack situation, should Debuchy be unable to track back quickly), Koscielny, Gibbs (enforced, to work better with either Walcott or The Ox in front; and provide more attacking thrust on at least one flank)

    Cazorla(c, CM), Ramsey (CM)
    Özil (AM)
    Oxlade-Chamberlain (R-AM/RW), Giroud (CF), Walcott (L-AM/LW)

  • Interesting line up JM. Lots of potential going forwards, but would have me biting my nails every time CP had the ball – not a lot of cover for our defence, and a big ask of Kos/Cech to hold the back line together……, feels far riskier than I think Wenger is prone to being. I suspect he will ask his players to reflect on their last performance and step up to their real standard/potential; other tactical changes are likely to depend more on the injury situation. The Santi v Rambo conundrum in the central space, alongside (assumably) Coq, remains; and it is a tough one – we do look better at present with Santi in the centre, but when Ramsey is really firing, we know well what he can do for us, nearly taking us to the title the season before last. Can we find a way to have both playing to the their best, with Coq there still giving us real defensive cover???

  • AB, after the first game, I guess Coq is trying his best to give us options upfield. With the team being more mobile we will see Le Coq being better defensively.

  • @AB,
    We played the last 30 mins vs West Ham w/o Coquelin (subbed in by Walcott) with little to negligible hiccups. That is more or less in similar to the could-be midfield+attack line-up above.

    Furthermore, Palace has injury issues with F.Campbell & Chamakh, and were more reliant on Cabaye’s probing in deep-midfield and both flankers in Zaha’s & Puncheon’s delivery & trickery. (Of course, they have also Bolasie, Jedinak, Bamford & Wickham to call upon from their squad to mix it up, and come out attacking since they are playing at home).

    Need Ramsey’s engine throughout 90mins+ to possibly shadow Cabaye (when he moves in between DM/CM/AM positions) and Cazorla’s ability to deliver better long out-balls to Giroud & company when our defence is pressed.

    We can play at higher line with the above line-up, to close up gaps between defence & midfield, midfield & attack. Gabriel & Koscielny provides better recovery tracking should it be required. Cech will have to manage his options in the no-man’s land between his defenders & his goal area, when attacking or collecting stray loose balls.

    Also Walcott to combine with Giroud as a secondary forward outlet option and passively occupy the attentions of Palace’s fullbacks from linking up with their attacking flankers in any counters.

    We should make our chances count (ie. score goals) with a forward-thinking attacking line-up as such. (if not, we won’t at all).

    Coquelin, Arteta & Alexis (for match-fitness) could come in later to shore up our defence and provide counter-attacking options. (be it remaining 0-0 or we are hopefully leading). Don’t lose if we can’t win.

    The above is a projected scenario w/o a recovering Bellerin and rested Mertesacker & Monreal. Between now and then(this weekend), there could be new developments (for better or worse). Hopefully AW will have more possible options available and field a competitive squad.

  • ‘Morning fellas… This is an interesting discussion and I think–if I can find the time here–I might try and get a new post going with a bit of summary… One thing I will say is that I don’t think we’ll be seeing too many changes to the line-up at the back. In the same fixture last season (vs CP in their stadium) Gabriel came in late to shore things up and it was a disaster–we gave up a quick goal and almost a 2nd which would have resulted in a draw (and 2 points dropped). Nope, we need to be solid at the back but get our attack in gear and netting some goals… The question is how to do it?…

  • Oops, simulpost there w/JM… Overall, I like your thinking but I also believe that Wenger goes into a MORE conservative mode if the group is struggling…My hunch (and I’m just one voice, of course…) is that Le Coq will play (ahead of an unchanged rear-guard) but he’ll be asked to keep to his defensive duties. Santi drops in next to him which puts Alexis on the left, Ramsey (or Theo) on the right and Giroud remains up top… WTF, do I know, as always… 😀

  • ‘Perhaps surprisingly, it is Arsenal, so often accused of outdated tactical strategies drilled by an ageing coach..’ Oh dear oh dear, and you still felt like copying this to all of us, JM?! 😦

    Sorry, what a load of bollocks. Santi has done well centrally deep, but the it is Wilshere, with Ramsey a close second, who fits the bill of the all round, modern midfielder best, unfortunately he is injury prone and does not get enough protection in the PL.

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