Arsenal miss Carzola: Time to replace Rambo with this Forgotten Maestro


I have never bought the idea of a team knowing how to win ugly. As I see it, a team never wins ugly but can win lucky. A defensive masterclass punctuated by a few counters to achieve victory should not by any stretch of language be described as ugly. Efficiency is beauty, not ugliness. When a team plays ugly it looses, or otherwise wins lucky.

When we suddenly lost Coquelin, Carzola and Sanchez to injuries we expected the worst as far as our title bid was concerned. There was an obvious drop in our performance level. The number of chances we were creating dropped while the chances we were conceding increased. Remarkably we kept pace with the front runners. Some of our performances were below par but we hardly took notice. After all we have made the great acquisition of knowing how to win ugly, a large section of the fan base kept singing. For those matches, as far as I was concerned, we merely won lucky and that kept me nervous about subsequent matches as luck is not a commodity that is secure in anybody’s hands.

Last Tuesday we played against the in-form Southampton. Alexis was back in the team as a starter, and Coquelin was on the bench and came in later as a substitute. For whatever reasons, our performance hit the height that had been lacking over the last two months. We created our 2nd highest chances of the season, just below that of our match against Leicester where we scored 5 goals. We made 22 attempts at goal, 21 of them from within the penalty box, 4 of those from the 6yds box. Southampton had only 3 shots on target, and their goalkeeper Fraser Forster was the MotM with a Whoscored rating of 9.9. Yet some of the fans had the temerity to boo the team. Truly, nothing succeeds as success, and nothing fails as failure.

While the score line left me disappointed, the performance of the team left me elated and I am eagerly awaiting our next fixture and our next, totally convinced that our team will keep giving repeat performances of the Southampton night. The odds are very high that no opposing goalkeeper is ever going to make that 9.9 rating again.

One thing that have shown up over the past 12 years is that Arsenal is poor when leading the pack, but great when playing the catch up. This must be a kind of mental fragility but as at the moment we use the weapon that we have. Five points behind the current table toppers, with two other teams above us might just be sufficient catch-up-stimulus to trigger that transformation, the timing of which could provide us the momentum to breast the tape ahead of the others. Maybe we are just acting the script of Chairman Mao Tse-tung who about 65 years ago described China’s economic transformation program’s collapse as “the backward move before the great leap forward”. That conjures the image of a bull about to charge.

I am bullish, but I know that there is still plenty of work to do. I doubt if there is any one of us that is not missing our brain box Santi Carzola. Him and Jack potentially will be available for at least the 7 matches of April and May, the final run-in games. That is a great cheer as Santi is the perfect link between our defense and our front attacking players. He is able to transmit the ball through the middle third with speed, creativity and precision. That is the kind of environment Ozil thrives on, Walcot too, Alexis all weather. Chances upon chances will be created, but then there are seven games potentially without Santi. My dilemma is whether Ramsey is our best alternative at the moment.

I applaud Ramsey on how he has held the fort admirably. Versatile, unyielding, Ramsey is at his best in the final third. That extra touch of his, is his technique for fashioning his creative play. He is every ounce an offensive player whose enthusiasm and monstrous engine permits an overflow into defensive matters. However as a box to box his transition through that vital middle third is slow. He lacks pace running with the ball, and he is not very fond of making the ball do the running. There is also, always, that extra touch and the turns in the middle third, that permit the opposition to get into shape in their defensive third. In the absence of Carzola and Wilshere in this order, do we have any one else that can do this job as well or better than Rambo? Arteta seems mysteriously erased from everybody’s mind. Let us do some recollections.


Deep lying playmaking was Arteta’s former role before he was converted to a DM because of a gap in our team. Without doubt Arteta is one of the most, if not the most, tactically aware player that we have. He understands roles, and that imbues in him the ability to perform the role with discipline. Technically he is quite gifted, and above all he reads the game very well able to understand the intricate field dynamics of time and space. His legs might not be very much there any more, but making the ball do most of the running Pirloesque and having Coquelin behind him might just enable him give us what we want, which is transmitting the ball quickly and intelligently through the middle third to our front players.

Another area of a concern is in our goal haul. The three teams above us have 20 plus goal strikers. We don’t seem to have one but we would have made up for that lack if we can have three players who could give us 35 plus goals. Giroud is one, Sanchez is another, and I feel the time has come for Walcott to go back to the wide right from where he regularly made two digit number goals as well as impressive assist figures. Welbeck is back to cover Giroud in the striker role.

These are just my tweaks to a team looking all set for a great run. Gunners let’s have your tweaks which, I suspect, must be plenty but limited to what we can do from what we have. COYG!!!

By Pony Eye

55 thoughts on “Arsenal miss Carzola: Time to replace Rambo with this Forgotten Maestro

  • Fine post PE, and all agreed about the general sentiments about the team, our chances to win the league etc

    For me it is Rambo and Le Coq with Ozil in front. I believe this is our strongest trio, with the only exception our games against quality high pressing teams like Citeh, Barca and Bayern etc. I don’t agree with your descriptions of Rambo. He has great thrust and decent passing and a really good nose for where to be inside the box. He connects midfield and attack better than anybody and I reckon Ozil plays a lot better with a fellow runner in the midfield rather than a fellow passer. But Rambo, just like Santi, performs better with the dynamic And fitter Coquelin next to him, and having Alexis on the left rather than Walcott also makes a big difference.

    By all means, Lego haired Arteta should have cameos but Raambo is the man for me in the B2B position.

  • Well written P E and an interesting angle. Rambo is an interesting one. After he had his leg almost amputated, he struggled for a long time.,,he wasn’t playing well for a long time, but Wenger stuck with him. Then suddenly his form came back and he was scoring for fun. I would have to say in my opinion he is underperforming at the moment, but things do happen when he is on the pitch and he never stops running. I don’t see Arteta as the answer any more, I think he would need to get a number of games under his belt to become effective and we just don’t have that luxury. Plus he does seem prone to giving away free kicks lately.

    I think Le Coq returning full time will free up Rambo and hopefully he will reward us. If he does perform at the top of his game, I think the prem would be ours.

  • Rightly said. I watched Ramsey fail to create anything offensive against Southampton, and flamini failing to read the game and sense danger. On the day, I understood perfectly the CoqZorla pairing; it was arsenal’s anti-counter, anti-press tactic. I buy the idea of Arteta covering the Zorla role. He’s our own Alonso, Pirlo et al. Time for wenger to change something, but I fear he won’t. Would love to hear your thoughts on CoqElneny pair. Great post.

  • The Arteta you refer to here is the Everton Arteta.. We should only involve Arteta in the FA games with small teams.
    Rambo loses the ball an alarming amount of times. Lord please bring back Carzola NOW! try the

    We should try Elneny-Coq-Ozil. Give Rambo a rest . And please do NOT put him on the right wing again. He is awful there..

  • Evening PE. Lots of good analysis in there and a well constructed argument as always from you. I do think though that we must build for the future, and part of that future will be built around mobility and fitness and goals coming from multiple sources. In this I think Rambo must play ahead of Arteta. I agree with Retsub that he has yet to find top form – but we know that top form makes Ramsey the first name on the play sheet. He has been constrained to some degree by not having the dependable Coq next/behind him, and that is a real shame (for him as well as the team) as he has not been able to show his best as a result. Coq is the key absence from our team I think – no input intended to Santi, of whom I’m a huge fan.

    I can get really excited about the prospect of a front 6 that looks like

    Coq, Rambo

    Campbell/Welbeck, Ozil, Sanchez


    To me that formation has huge energy, pace, work-rate, creativity, and there should also be goals from many sources. Critically, Coq provides the assurance that means we don’t panic every time there is a counter-attack, and so our wing backs can also come into play. I know everyone wants us to buy some huge stars, but genuinely I don’t see a huge amount to improve on in the combination above. But we do need them to be fit and able to play together. With Jack, Santi, Ox and some of the youngsters in the mix there is a really potent attack there. I don’t really see a way back for Arteta in this mix – though he will be an important player in the background and the training field; so I hope he stays with us next year.

  • I see what your saying but have to agree with other comments here. I feel the biggest loss has been Le Coq, with him back Aaron way will have decent protection and will be free to play his game which in terms of power and drive offers so much more than Santi

  • Great Post, PE!!!

    I’ve been mocked for saying so before, but I think Santi is the big miss in the team, even if he slipped (at the penalty spot) and missed his best chance to score in his 2nd to last game…If and when we get him back, I believe we’ll be a better team…

    When it comes to the ability of players to take the pitch and contribute in a meaningful way (i.e., play at their obvious best…) there are no time-tables. Much as people believe that a type II hamstring is 3 weeks and a type III is 6 weeks (or whatever), anybody who has actually been around sports knows that reality just doesn’t work that way. If you’re inclined to trust your management, you understand why it took so long for Alexis to get back or why Coquelin didn’t start vs. So’ton. If you tend towards doubt and/or blame, you want to sack Shad Forsythe along with AW… My point: I’m not holding my breath on Jack nor Santi being available this season…and statements from the club tend to be more ambitious when we’re struggling. My real hope is that whoever plays in that part of the pitch, most likely a combo of Ramsey, Coquelin, Elneny, Flamini and Arteta (maybe…) can do a job for us so that we don’t rush an unfit Jack or Santi into action just to appease the masses…

    Because of these fitness worries, I’m trying to keep my expectations in check. Let’s get some goals and some points down in Bournemouth and, generally, take them one at a time…

    Finally, your initial point and the question of luck. I thought we more or less wasted the first half of the So’ton match and our game was very out of sorts. Bellerin had an off night and he and Campbell (who I think keeps his spot over there due to his helping Hector on D…) were the opposite of in sync. The 2nd half was much better with so much more going through Nacho and Alexis. IMO we can’t really build out of the back down the middle of the pitch w/o Santi and thus really lean on the FB’s…

    For whatever reason, maybe because they’re all left footers, I think Ozil and Nacho work the best with Giroud. Right footed, but also maybe greedier (not a bad thing) Alexis, Ramsey and Theo don’t quite see what Giroud is thinking esp. when his back is to goal. Of course, Santi is ambidextrous… Theo on the right, beyond that double chance he had, is more effective (yet still frustrating) when the other team needs goals. By the time he came on for Campbell, So’ton was clinging on for a point. I wouldn’t mind Ramsey back in that spot…

    But that’s for the match preview… Even if we only played well for 45 minutes we were unlucky to come away with just a point. Southampton are a stronger team and very capable to hurt us if we go for it from the opening whistle–see what they did to us in the reverse fixture–so trying to settle into the match makes sense to me. Bournemouth may be an easier mark, although, again, we should remember all those chances (created by Ozil) we spurned in the home match. Luckily two of them went in… If two had gone in vs So’ton most Gooners would be happier, except, of course, for the ones who never are…

    ‘Nuf said. Again, really strong post…

  • Great comments all, different shades of the same color.

    TA, to clarify my take on Rambo a bit further, Rambo’s skill sets are excellent in the attacking third, but not so excellent in the 1st and middle third. In other words the position that suits Rambo most is #10. Just happens that Ozil is there. Ozil is a #10 specialized in assisting. Rambo a #10 more versatile, but not as prodigious in assisting. Period.

    If Rambo is moved to #10 (yes Ozil is there) all criticism of him will end. His enthusiasm and energy would make his play overflow to the more defensive areas of the field which then would be recognized by all as a bonus from him and any flaw there would be overlooked.

    Retsub, I shear your worry on tinkering with any part of the team now, but I remain mindful of what a certain bloke said a long time ago that a faint heart never won a fair lady.

    Bj, spot on. CoCa pairing is anti-press, but not so sure about anti-counter. Bel looks more anti counter to me. Pace, pace.

    CP, Coq-El might just be it. Clearly you have a fair lady by your side.

    AB, I agree there is no way back for Arteta, except as a stop gap.

    I can’t wait for Sunday.

  • HT, all in your comment I agree with. That very practical side of you always shows. We should work on the premise that we go without Santi and Jack, only I can’t just stop dreaming.

  • I have to disagree with your comment replacing Ramsey by Arteta. This change will take us backwards not because we miss Ramsey that much but Arteta is not fit in that position. Arteta might help the team for 10-15 minutes to sub tiered player but no more. When we talk about Ramsey, for me he did not improve his game for the past 4 seasons. As a matter of fact, he went backwards fast becoming useless player in the team. When he gets the ball he spins in circle confusing everyone including his team mates disrupting the team formula. Carzola and Couqlin are the best combination we could have, in Carzola’s absence, I would go with Elnany any day. Tha advantage of Elnany is Couqlin does not have to stretch his self too much, so he will not get injured often. This is similar to the situation in the back. When kishelny pairs up with Mert, he has to cover for both, so he is prone for injury or gets carded. If he pairs up with Gebriel, the back will be more solid, allowing mid-field players to press forward.

  • Good post PE
    I hope Rambo has a good cover up in the absence of Carzola having been good form despite of parterning off form Flamin. Anyway Ramsey is a bit slow with the ball,selfish and passes 50 balls which brings injury.However Carzola is a big miss because his movements and passing accuracy are better than Ramsey,I believe Elneny can well suit in CoqEln combination in the coming fixture against Bournmouth because he (Elneny) recently had a 95% passing accuracy in the last FA cup tie against Burnly.Ramsey is good player and very soon will find his best. I can’t wait for tommorow #bournmoutharsenal f.c.

  • Blazor,

    I have to agree with you regarding Elneny. He is the best fit to replace Rambo.


  • BZ, you sound as if Rambo is just no good. I disagree with you. We all think that once Rambo is playing centrally then he is playing his position. Centrally but further up is what suits his skill sets the best. Notwithstanding that he might still be our best option at B2B, imo, he is being played out of position. Just the same way we played Arteta out of position as a DM.

    If we want to appreciate Rambo’s contribution, we should imagine what the performance of our darling Ozil will look like as a B2B.

    In the case of Arteta, without his series of injuries, he was very much ahead of Flam in Wenger’s pecking order. I wonder where the prejudice of his hopeless form came from. Apart from Santi, he remains the best we have passing the ball out from the rear. That job is not Le Coq’s forte. Ramsey indulges in the one touch too many. Flam is not a great passer of the ball. Elneny is an untested quantity. Passing the ball out from the rear is the heart of our playing style and it degrades our game using a player who is handicapped in that role.

    IMO, Arteta’s weak point is his age (legs) and that is why I will never recommend him as a DM. Pirlo, with legs gone, still managed so much mileage for Juventus. You can always get that extra mileage from technically gifted intelligent players like Arteta. They know how to compensate.

  • I vote for Elneny to rest, sub or replace rambo or flamini. He is fresh, fast and possibly flamboyant. I like that he shoots from outside the box.

  • Cheers PE

    It is all perception and interpretation but I don’t see Rambo as a Nr 10 but as the quintessential box to box midfielder, in fact I cannot think of a better or more typical box to box midfielder in the PL. The engine and drive, ability to defend and attack, a good passer with ability of a decent through or diagonal ball, and never say die attitude, all of this has das Rambo. Pivotal player in the team and needs to play next to Le Coq.

  • All these shades of opinions, a thousand and one dramas are playing themselves out in one skull, Wenger’s. I was minded to pity him, but remembering the pay packet, I started wishing I am in his shoes. Tight, uncomfortable but with paddings that make them bearable.

    Tomorrow we will know how he resolved the dramas, and whatever surely is a team hungering for the title. We can afford the luxury of this debate because we really do have strength in depth.

  • That was a good read PE…

    Personally I think that the combination of injuries and Father Time have pretty much made Arteta ( and Rosicky ) inconsequential to our team this season.

    They are both great players, but the rigours of the EPL has just taken its toll.

    I like Ramsey, always have, but it was significant that when Santi n Coq were fit and firing, that he was on the right wing…

    I agree with those that say we’ve missed Santi, he is a very intelligent footballer and has done brilliantly to convert from being an attack minded midfielder, into a schemer.

    Very much a modern day Alex James…

  • Kev, I think he was on the right wing because he is more versatile than Santi, who is too slow for wing play. Rambo as b2b is the future but Arsene might reintroduce Santi there once he is fit again to be able to start all his best players in the key games.

  • Alex James, wow Allezkev, my Dad used to rave about him.

    Whichever formation we choose tomorrow, the big question is where will the goals come from? Take Alexis and Giroud out of the equation and we are striuggling for goal scorers.

    T A. On the presumption that Leicester and Spurs don’t have the depth of squad or previous experience of being at the top ( I can sense regretting this statement). I would be happ with anything but a City win.

  • Going to disagree T A. If The Mancs start putting a run together we might have trouble catching them.

    Spurs always get a nose bleed at this level, but they do look stronger this time. Hopefully Vertonghen being injured will unsettle them.

    I would be very surprised if Leicester go the distance, but if our boys can’t win it, would love to see Leicester win it.

  • I know people don’t like the saying ” if we can’t win it this year we never will”. But in truth with Chelsea screwed up and United off the pace, it’s a big opportunity for us. If one of the big boys had put a decent run of games together they would be out of sight

  • City v Leic. Who has not lost money betting on Leicester’s crumble. My money is permenently on that bet. So I root for Leic to win today, crumble tomorrow.

  • I’m with Retsub on the results tomorrow – I’d take a Leicester win over a City win. Draw the best no doubt. Spuds are worrying me I confess. We need to deflate them at the lane, but it won’t be easy by any means. They are playing a bit like Fergie’s young team in the 90ies, which Hansen so memorably wrote off. I dearly hope that I’m overstating the comparison.

  • AB. We are thinking along similar lines

    If City win li, it’s cost them a bucket load of money. In other words they paid for it

    If Leicester win it, great an underdog story

    If Spurs win it. Nooooooo lets not even contemplate that

  • Fantastic post PE! You managed to get to the top of NewsNow stories without putting in the title that we signed someone! Thanks for the analysis of how we have actually performed recently as well very informative. It really does show how highly unlikely it is this poor run of form will continue.

    I have to agree with TA about Ramsey, and again now that Coq is back it should help with establishing a more balanced centre. Then Elneny can help prevent further injuries to Le Coq by sharing the workload across the season, and he can also help Ramsey by offering competition in that box to box role. It doesn’t always work out for Ramsey so Elneny can hopefully spur him on to hit the heights he is capable of. If we get Ramsey firing on all cylinders with Ozil playing well, the team defending as a team and taking our chances we will win the title.

    MC vs LC a draw but could go either way!! I want a LC win with Vardy, Mahrez and Aguero to get niggling injuries that keep them out for an unexpectedly long time. 🙂

  • i loved elniny’s ball , he should pair coq up ere and put ramsey on e wing , sme say ramsey is awefull there bt his workrate brings enormous bakance to e team , he brings a certain dimension ,bt for now i will put elniny n coq ere and see how it goes

  • Leic 1 goal up. FMJ, your niggling injuries much better than my wish for 5 straight red cards, 3 to Leic, 2 to Man C. 😋

  • Hello, people! 🙂

    As much as I like Mikey, I think he is well past his best. Whilst he will always have a special place in my Arsenal-coloured heart, I see him in only one role at Arsenal FC – as a coach. He is intelligent and loyal person so I can see him passing the right virtues on our youth.

    MC-Lei – I would prefer a draw. Either team would gain momentum with a victory, not to mention that Leicester would open an eight-point gap before our game against Bournemouth. A draw at Etihad today, our victories against Bournemouth and Leicester and a victory for City over Spuds – that’s what would suit us the best. We would have three teams with the same number of points on the top with Spuds – if they win today – just three points behind.

  • Am watching the Leicester game on an iPad with no volume (guests in house). Haven’t seen a lot of Leicester, but the guy who is impressing me is Drinkwater. He is like rock in front of their defence.

  • Fully agreed about not giving either a sense of momentum, Admir, so a draw suits us best. An eight point gap with the Foxes I would not like.

  • FMJ 🙂

    I am intrigued to see how Elneny will fit in over time, but like you I feel he play a big role in resting Coq and Rambo regularly.

    I believe in karma so no bad wishes on any opposition players for me. 😜

  • Drinkwater is a good player, Retsub. He does a lot of the dirty work that makes the others shine. Mahrez is a jewel though. What a find by Ranieri!

  • Mc V Leic. I don’t know what I want anymore. Looks like head you win, tail I loose. Am now focusing on myself only, our match tomorrow.

  • Wow really is the stuff of dreams this !! .. Now for those injuries .. or straight reds PE 😀 oops yes need to watch out for karma! Thanks for reminding me TA. Ok I don’t wish for any injuries or red cards.. I will just let the karmic consequences play out and see what City or LC have coming to them. Looks like City have not been behaving themselves!

  • Me too Retsub, the momentum will be huge for LC. Though the Mancs are getting hammered now. No way back for them in this one.

  • sh**ty’s defense is just sh**.

    And they have waved the white flag with sloppy passes.

    I was rooting for them at the start but the whole team plus the ref made me gave up.

    No way Pep will win the league with them in this manner.

    Lets play our own game tomorrow and cut the gap.


  • Impossible to prove but I hope this is the result of the Pep decision and how it was done.

    What has really impressed me about Leicester is their running off the ball. When they attack.they really create space.

  • Wow… Slept in (just a bit) so I only tuned in the match at around the hour mark… Wow…Of course, we can cut the gap but we’ll need to start playing much, much better…

    TA, Mahrez joined LC when they were still in the Championship (Jan 2014) so not a player who Ranieri brought in. He terrorized us last season in our home win (2-1) where we were more or less booed off the pitch for allowing it to be so close. We’ll need a bit more from the 12th man this time around if we want to stop the cinderella story…

    First things first, of course, and we need to play some better football and (take full points) down in Bournemouth…

  • Ok so here is how it will go.. Win at Bournemouth with a hard fought clinical performance.. then next week ARS vs LC on my lucky number 14 – Feb 14th a game where we will be the ones, the eventual champions, to finally smash them out of dream land and back down to earth.. reducing the point deficit to just 2 between us and them. 😀

  • Fully agreed HT and I suspect Wenger will have made his players mindful on the taking chances bit following the Saints game and we will be more clinical. Definitely need the 12th man supporting the team – hopefully this post by PE and your previous post helps in some way. We also need the ref to be a bit more present and not allow the clever tactics teams like Southampton use on us to disrupt our continuity of play.

  • Yes Total, you have a good point about Ramsey on the flank re: pace/ work rate…

    I also think that Cazorla is a little more disciplined and doesn’t go charging forward at the drop of a hat…

    Retsub, if your Dad saw Alex James play, then he was very lucky and I’m very envious.
    What a wonderful footballer he must have been and what a fabulous time to be an Arsenal fan…

  • You know what, with Arsenal’s resources and squad, we’ll only have ourselves to blame, despite the injuries, if we blow it this season…

    So good luck to Leicester City…

  • AK fully agreed. We need to worry about ourselves not the opposition. And we haven’t found the consistent form that is needed. We may yet, and I sincerely hope we do – I’m no doomer. Chavs, and Manure are prime examples of how to shoot yourself in the foot – they have everything in their favour but can’t produce. Leicester (and increasingly spuds) are examples of teams doing the basic teamwork really well and largely staying focused on the job – very few stars involved in their teams.

    We have a stable squad, money in the bank, and some top quality players across the first team. If we can’t find the consistent levels of effort and form we have no one else to blame. But the margins are so fine here; we just need the rub to go with us over the rest of the season. I’m taking nothing for granted tomorrow – I suspect it will be a tough game, and we will do well to come back with 3 points. We need to get out of this mini-dip fast however.

  • Thanks Totaal…

    I’m sure the game vs Leicester will be a great match…
    Leicester will come to the Emirates, keen to avenge their worst defeat of the season and that should make for a top contest…

    I reckon Arsenal will beat them, maybe 3-2 or 4-2.
    It has all the ingredients for that type of game imo…

    But 3 points tomorrow are vital….

  • Good points AB, especially about the Sp**s, they’re looking ominously dangerous…

    They have a young, bright and very impressive manager.
    Let’s hope he moves on very soon eh? 😉

  • I hate to do this….after such a good post with the title that made it #1 on NewsNow…but there’s a match to be played and thus a…

    New Post

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