Seeing patterns in chaos: Arsene finally has his new Bergkamp

Arsenal 2 – 0 Bournemouth Afterthoughts

Like many of us, I was not able to go to the game or watch it live on TV. I relied on the BBC website and customary precise in-game comments from 17HT to follow the match. Of course I would rather see the boys in action, but it is also quite fun to picture how the game is going merely from text snippets. Later on I saw the extended highlights on Sky and these confirmed to me to a large extent what I had already imagined.

Arsenal, after a tentative start, played with the gas paddle firmly pushed down: full of energy and desire to go TOTL. We created the perfect storm to shatter the Cherries and it could have been a lot worse for our opponents if the likes of Theo, Giroud and Ox had been wearing their shooting boots.

Having lots of energy and desire can get you far, but on its own it’s not enough. It needs to be supported by a solid, controlling spine and defence, and quality attackers who deliver the key outputs: goals and assists. We all know that when Arsenal combine desire and energy with the considerable qualities within our squad, we can more or less beat anybody on the day.

But we also need somebody who sees patterns in chaos, and who operates in the eye of the storm rather than on the periphery of it.  

And for me the key memory of this game will be Mesut Ozil being in his own ‘zen-zone’ while the rest were running wild. Of course this is not the first time that Mesut has been majestic and key to our victory, but I cannot recall many games in which he was so obviously the one superior player.


With thanks to Voetbal International for picture.

Mesut has an ability to rise above the game whilst being fully involved at the same time, and this, combined with his superior technical skills and deep desire to play beautiful yet effective football, truly sets him apart from almost every current Arsenal player. Nine scoring opportunities created in one game (one every ten minutes), leading to only one assist, whilst also scoring a goal himself, tell us a lot.

In fact, he was so good that, unintentionally, he made the rest look inadequate on the day, with especially Theo wasting some of the finest balls served by the master. Giroud also should have done better but he at least returned the service to Mesut, who then showed the Frenchman and the rest of the team how to finish a quality opportunity. I have a picture in my mind of Alexis watching the game and being sick of not being on the pitch to devour Mesut’s attacking balls; and I don’t think he will have been the only attacker in the country, and indeed the rest of the world, who would have loved to have been on the pitch with the German producing one exquisite through-ball after the other.

Mesut Ozil – the perfect blend of ‘stillness and speed’

So for me, this game, in a nutshell, was won because we had superior quality on the pitch compared to Bournemouth and we had the desire and energy to make it count, but without our conductor and master creator of scoring opportunities it could have been different.

A successful Wenger team always needs a Bergkampesque player to embody his vision on the pitch, and Mesut is very close to filling the Dutchman’s enormous boots. So let’s bless ourselves that Mesut is a Gunner and he is well on his way to becoming this decade’s Bergkamp for us… and this is something I don’t say easily! 🙂

To keep him at Arsenal long term, the rest of our attackers better step it up and learn to feast properly of Mesut’s service… we don’t want him to think he is wasted at the Home of Football, do we?!

Finally, a special mention should go to Chambers who performed well in an unfamiliar role. Is he a decent option for our DM position? Too early to say but he did not disappoint and played a key role in controlling the midfield for us.

By TotalArsenal.

22 thoughts on “Seeing patterns in chaos: Arsene finally has his new Bergkamp

  • Wonderful work, TA. I like the zen-part especially. 🙂

    Indeed, there is a phrase I use regarding Mesut. I describe his football as “Ninja Football”. His movement is like he doesn’t touch the ground, he can’t be either caught or seen, his balls are as deadly as shurikens and, what strikes me the most, it seems that he always picks the best possible solution.

    Legendary Bosnian manager Ivica Osim – who once rejected Real Madrid post and worked in Japan (sounds familiar?) – once told about Zinedine Zidane that his greatness can be seen from the stands as it always looked like Zidane was picking the best available solution, like some sort of super-computer with a deadly head with which he both won and lost one World Cup Final for France. 😀

    And, a short remark on Theo: yes, his first touch was terrible last night and he looked really poor in terms of finishing. However, he did a great job in defending (again) hustling opponents’ players close to our corner flag. Me like it. 🙂

  • Fantastic report ,TA… The writing, I think, gets better and better…

    A bit like Messy, himself. Those other boys looked stretched but the work ethic in the squad seems strong. I’m not sure how you avoided mentioning Gabriel in your piece as he was positively Koscielny-esque, IMO, at least…

    Ozil game is based on a couple of things: gliding around without the ball filling spaces left by others (and thus suggesting which spaces his teammates should fill–i.e., so the team uses the entire pitch…) and–when he’s on or near the ball–pulling out of moves that he cannot make happen, but luring defenders into believing they can. Yes, sometimes, as former writers on this site would say, it makes him look like a lazy part, you know, when the defender beats him to the ball. If however, the defender swipes at air and the ball is already gone… 😀 …

    In other words, amongst his teammates he helps temper the headless chicken approach far too typical in English football whilst simultaneous preying those same over-aggressive mindsets in our opponents. It’s no wonder that many former English footballers, now pundits, dismissed him as he was learning the game in the new setting. Luckily, most of them have no problem being wrong, over and over and over, esp. if they’re Gooners and like the results he’s helping us get these days.

    We cannot be a one-man team, however, so our other quality guys: Alexis, Theo, Giroud and Ramsey (plus injured guys Jack, Sicky and Santi) need to get fresh and/or healthy sooner than later. If they don’t, teams with pacier defenders will start double and triple teaming Ozil even if it allows the occasional 1v1s with keepers. Luckily, Ozil plays sufficiently between the lines (running those extra kilometers in doing so) that most defenders don’t have the daring to break normal positional discipline and follow him.

    I won’t go into the whole avoiding injury bit (which makes him the cunningest lazy part of them all, insufficiently ‘ard and all that…) as I wouldn’t care to tempt fate and it’s late in the day and I’m pooped. I missed the Leiceister-Man City match but a draw works for me. Top of the table at the half-way mark seems not so bad… Again, very good stuff…Cheers!

  • Thanks Admir, Zidane was a very special player, and the central midfield duo between him and Davids at is one of my favourite ones ever. Only the great can be simultaneously in and above the game, and Mesut is one of them.

  • Cheers 17ht 🙂

    Yes Mesut is excellent at avoiding being clattered, whilst not fearing fighting for the ball if there is something to gain from it.

    Agreed, Gabriel played well too, but then I am a big fan of his so it did not surprise me.

  • Observations from the game.ox played his best 90 mins in a long time. Not theos best game, but he produces in big matches, and will continue to score. He is relentless, if not flawless. .
    Most impressive, chambers.. once he got comfortable, he showed he can really play football. His passing instinct looked above average, even dribbled away from 2 opponents on one play. I did not expect much, i thought he’d play it safe in front of our box.
    This should even help his confidence at cb.

    Ozil, nothing more to add. Just pay him whatever he wants. Overpay if necessary….extend him, Lock him down.

  • All agreed TA. I don’t fear us losing Ozil – he looks to be enjoying as much as thriving being the main man at Arsenal, rather than an adornment at RM. And he must be pretty much top of the pile for player of the season at this rate too; why would you turn your back on that?

    The big positives were Gabby and Chambers. The assumption is that Chambers is BFG’s successor, but if he makes a good fist of DM then stranger things will have happened. He can certainly play the ball in the manner of a CM and at 20 his potential remains huge. Gabby seems a direct replacement for Kos to me – not that I’m in any hurry for that, but I’m not sure Kos’ body will hold out too far into his 30ies. But I’m not sure that we’ve yet had anything to suggest that the Kos/Gabby combination is one that could be fruitful, even with the commanding Cech behind them?

    Its great to see progress with some of the youngsters – we’ve already had this with Campbell this season. We still look like we don’t have a long term succession plan at LB though, even though we have no problems there for the moment of course.

  • Yes AB. The Gab for Koz more than BFG, but when we have play a high line, both Gab AND Koz could be our best pairing. The one for us to get is Stones, not that he is the complete packages yet, but he looks like the BFG type with added speed and mobility.

  • I guess Wenger has Nacho and Gibsy for the LB position and is not worried too much about the long, long term cover, and there is plenty of money to buy a ready made once necessary.

    Personally, I would love to move Nacho in the DM role occasionally and give Gibs more time on the left.

  • Im not fully convinced by Gibbs I fear, not as a first choice LB at any rate. Nacho is brilliant. But he is 30 and still constantly linked with returns to Spain; the latter might be complete bollocks of course, but even so. Our model generally seeks to grow into roles, and only buy ready-made when a) the growth plan doesn’t work out and b) there’s an exceptional quality player available (Ozil, Sanchez, Cech). I don’t see the success plan at LB, which I find odd. Wouldn’t surprise me if we bought a 19 yr old for this space in the not too distant future.

    Nacho in DM? I’m sure he would do a good job, but why take him out of a place where he is doing an outstanding one? I’d be keen to see the experiment with Chambers continue, until we get a chance to see how Beilik is shaping up. We may of course by buying Elneny or another for DM cover in this TW, which will add to options; whether he is ready for PL first team play is another matter. I think Chambers deserves some investment in playing time; hopefully he will get this in the cup if not the league. It wouldn’t entirely surprise me if we had Chambers and Flamini starting at the weekend; Rambo must be due a rest?

  • HT. Thanks for the answer in the previous discussion to my question on your skiing habits. I’m very envious of you, having access to that quantity and quality of skiing every year. I used to go to the alps every year and loved it, but the difference between occasional skiing and being out all season is massive; sadly I never did a full season. Now my boys are getting to the age where I need to start them – but its pretty excruciating the costs for a whole family in peak holiday season. Got to be done though if they are to grow up skiing, with all that comes with it.

  • Where are you these days on Wanyama TA? I know you used to be a fan, and understand why. He has gone down in my estimation slightly over the last 12 months though. Schneiderlin seemed the better of the pair – and if we weren’t minded to go for him i don’t see why we would come back for Victor. Equally, for all the fact that he dominated our slight midfield recently – he was also himself bossed totally by the spud Dembele. Quite apart from me being very doubtful that Wenger would fork out big money for a DM mid-season; I’m no longer so sure that he would make as big an improvement to our squad as I once was.

  • Agreed to a large extent re Wanyama, AB. I reckon he would be good back up for Le Coq and would accept that role for a few seasons at least. So I would love him to come but my estimation has gone a bit from two seasons ago.

  • Hi T, Ox finally looked like he wasnt trying to make highlight reel on every touch.. didnt sprint every time he had the ball… yet, though not trying too hard, his talent is still obvious.

    I know Wenger loved his performance, because he took him off very late, so that he could have applause of the fans. Sure sign from Arsene.

    Also noticed Ox made a point in post game to mention a few times that he wants/needs minutes.

    I look at ox like this:

    A stock you bought at 15 per share, but not moving yet.. but has potential to go to 80…. and if sold it now, you could recoup some of your money, to avoid a loss.
    I would hold it for sure, because the same potential is still there, even though there is some frustration.

  • TA… I’m looking forward to your next post. Again, this one is excellent (I love the photo of RvJ trying to grab back our Messy)… Shame it’s gotten so few comments, but whatchagonna do?…

    I’m actually working on a couple (of posts) myself but have lost some time this morning having a bit of trouble with the WordPress software. Now I need to get ready for another ski outing… Perhaps I can switch machines (computers) and have better luck… I’ll get in touch this afternoon (your late night) about this stuff…

    On additional topics which are being discussed… My take on the Ox’s performance is not quite as positive as JNYC’s… It may be because of the lack of opportunities but, as good as his individual play can appear, the connection with teammates seems distinctly lacking. He’s so strong on the turn and he’s got an additional ‘self-pass’ move to get around defenders that is really getting polished. If only he could get that final ball to his teammates or into the net…

    Obviously, goals (or assists) would be a massive tonic for the player, but I just wish he could find a more moderate gear (if you will…) so that he appears to be working on the same page as others on the pitch rather than purely relying on that burst of pace to get by defenders on his own. This is what Ozil is doing sooooo well, at the moment—moderating his own play to bring in his teammates (who often frustrate with what they do with the great service)… Ox is not far off, I think, but the margins are fine and he seems (almost always) on the wrong side of those margins. JNYC’s investment analogy, however, is spot on. When he starts getting it right, confidence could soar and very good things could happen. That said, it needs to happen sooner than later or more Joel Campbells (Mohamed Elnennys…) are going to get the Ox’s minutes…

    The match on Saturday could be another chance for him or maybe JC gets back in… What do folks think? Ox scored one (of the seven…) in the same fixture 3 years ago…

    Anyhow, Happy New Year everybody!

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