Time for Change: Alexis CF, Rambo Left Wing, Elneny box to box Mid


Once again the dream seem about to be shredded and Arsenal fans are huddled together seeking warmth from their very cold bodies. The sky is overcast, and dark shadows of doubt are beginning to appear. 11 games to go and many have started looking nervously over their shoulders wondering if its another nail biting struggle for a fourth place finish. “Can it be fixed?” they are asking as they search each other’s faces, eyes refusing to meet eyes.

Amazing skys 024

Per is way way safer than Gabby. Raw determination pales before intelligence. I here rest my case on this issue.

Rambo’s will and determination to run into the opposition’s box creating a sudden overload is without equal within our squad. It is a vital attribute treasured in football. Rambo also has a wide range of technical skills as well as a huge engine. Because of these latter qualities we, including apparently Monsieur Wenger, were shepherded into believing that a versatile role ( B2B) hangs perfectly on him. B2B is a role that is delicately poised between defensive and offensive duties. What many of us don’t fully recognize is that defensive ability has everything to do with attitude, almost.

First and foremost a defender must be able to recognize danger to his team, actual or potential. Secondly that recognition must cause energize the defender into a countering initiative. Observe Rambo very well and you will see clearly that energy courses through him when he is pushing forward into enemy territory, but tracking backwards he looks drained of energy. In contrast, think of Bellerin tracking back, or Nacho, or Coquelin, not to talk of the CBs. The difference is stark. In short, Rambo, despite his large repertoire of skills lacks the true defenders awareness and attitude and instead is an amazingly committed attacking beast. Playing him B2B therefore means the balance of the team is skewed very much against defence. We all know that the possible costs of one man less in the defence far out ways the possible gains of one man extra in attack, so that if there has to be any such skewing it ought to be in the other direction.

Is it a glass half full or half empty? Is it Rambo out quickly or Rambo the unfortunate victim of a gross misuse? Just imagine darling Ozil given a huge defensive responsibility or rather don’t try to imagine it. Is Rambo a hero vilified? It’s all balanced on a knife edge. I want thim out and I want him in!?? That’s me of course.

Quite often in solving one problem, another is created. If Rambo is removed who can effectively replaces him in that pivot role, Santi being still unavailable. If he has to be reintroduce somewhere else where is he to be placed and who goes. The latter task appears easier, so I will start there.

I have made reference to Ramsey’s impressive qualities capped by his fairly unique (as far as our team is concerned) ability to cause unexpected overload by his intelligent late runs into the opposition box. He definitely is a good material for a place in our front four. #10 is out because the untouchable Ozil is there. #9 is also out because his skill sets don’t tally with that position. Wide right? Ramsey hasn’t got pace( speed). He also likes drifting inside which leaves the ball on his weaker left foot. The high point of his play is his runs into the box, but having to come from the right side of the field constrains his ability to finish a ball laid to him with his stronger right foot. Wide right therefore does not maximize his huge potentials. The only position remaining (front 4) is wide left but Alexis is there!

Alexis is yet to find his form with nearly thee quarters of the season gone. Or is he actually fully in form but completely neutralized by epl defenders who have wizened up to his game from the wide left position? The defenders know that he would cut in. They also know that they cannot do anything to stop that. So they leave him alone to cut in. Then they pressure him, quite often from all over the places knowing fully well that he is unsighted to give a pass with eyes fully on the ball, fruitlessly intent on forcing out a space to have a crack at goal. This play repeats itself with such monotonous regularity it’s now almost painfull to watch.

Sanchez has a wide range of mesmerizing techniques and it is a pity that he is constrained to operate in a narrow band that has been so well found out. From the center as a front man Sanchez would be able to employ his full range of dazzling techniques. Those tecniques heighten in potency in high pressure areas of in and around the box, and because his style elicits fouls from the opposition, penalty kicks in our favour, amongst other calls, would to be regularly guaranteed.

Sanchez can also operate effectively from the wide right position where he has to employ a different set of skills, that the opposition is yet not familiar with. You have noticed that his sideway-swing footed shots are much weaker than when he puts his laces on the ball with forward-swings. It Is of interest to know that different groups of muscles controls those two different tecniques of hitting the ball, and that one group of muscles might have gotten better developed in him than the other. Cutting in from the right Alexis hits the ball invariably with the sideway-swing footed shot. Striking at goal coming from the right creates better chances for putting his laces on the ball with a forward-swing footed shot. His high shots rate at goal would, most likely, yield more from the right. His crosses that we have seen from that side are also quite difficult to deal with for the opposition.

You must have already guessed that I want Alexis moved either wide right or center as a striker, and the vacancy at wide left filled by Rambo. Rambo loves the central attacking area of the pitch. So when he cuts in from the left he is moving towards his comfort zone with the ball on his right foot. Furthermore the space created behind him allows our left full back to overlap, and I believe Rambo will interact better than Alexis with that overlapping. Finally and maybe most crucially Rambo’s unexpected runs into the opposition box from the left allows any well placed ball to be finished with his better right foot. Some of his loveliest goals have come that way.

Walcott has been given a long long rope which he has only used to hurt his standing. His overall work rate is so low that only efficient utilization of his opportunities would have compensated adequately. Sadly that is no longer forthcoming and in this last stretch of the race it makes no sense risking using him.

Welbeck has been impressive since his return. People describe him as a hybrid of Giroud/Walcott. I see him more as a midfielder/striker hybrid. With his high pressing energy, he fills in well in any of the front thee positions.

Giroud is amazing in the air both offensively and defensively. His holdup play is sufficiently impressive. Still, somehow, you go home with the nagging feeling that a team aspiring for the very top needs a little bit more.

Back to the nearly forgotten task of filling the vacancy of who plays with Coquelin in the double pivot role vacated by Rambo. Santi is the obvious choice followed by Jack, but both are unavailable. Other contestants in my opinion are Flamini (not a great passer), Arteta (must have lost too much form), Elneny and Chambers. I am yet to put a label on Elneny but one thing I already know is that he is not a DM. He is a tidy pass and move player but I worry if he has got much else beyond that. Chambers deserves more credit for his ball playing ability, but his poor head must be spinning by now having to play in so many different roles. If I have to place my money somewhere, it will be on Elneny with Coquelin mopping up behind him. Thus;


I am seeing shafts of sunlight breaking through the dark clouds. Gunners let us get from you how you feel our day can be cheered.

welsh jesus

By: Pony Eye

23 thoughts on “Time for Change: Alexis CF, Rambo Left Wing, Elneny box to box Mid

  • Excellent, thought-provoking post, Pony Eye. 🙂

    Will it happen now? No chance, but for next season there is scope for the changes you envisage. I quite like the thought of Alexis as CF and Rambo on the mid-wing – right rather than left for me – with Elneny walking like an Egyptian in the centre of midfield.

    For the next eleven games, I reckon Wenger will go back to what he knows works best. Giroud as a CF, Alexis and Danny on the midwing positions and Rambo and Le Coq central. If and when Santi comes back, he might push Rambo out wide and that might be a good thing, or not. Rambo has to learn to find the balance better and I thought he was brilliant against Barcelona. A good talking to by Arsene should do the job.

    Long term, there is also potential to move Ozil to the left, Rambo in the middle and Alexis as CF, with Danny filling the right mid-wing position.

    Good stuff PE. 🙂

  • “Will it happen now? No chance, …” @ TA. I agree with you, but one change that I am longing for is Alexis out from left wide. It has become a cul-de-sac for him. Wlbk goes there, Alexis goes wide right and every other thing remains same. Anyway what is one scared of making just one more change. The boat after all is already rocking.

  • Evening eye of the pony

    I reckon that is a very good plan, PE. It is true that Alexis looks like he is in a cul-de-sac and a change could do him good. Key is also to get the triangles between him, Ozil, Ollie, Monreal and Rambo going again, wherever he plays. We need to add another dimension to his game which happens when we play it tight and start pinging the ball round.

  • West Brom do us a big favour and you can say about Pulis what you want, but I appreciate the competitiveness with which he sent out his team tonight.

  • Good article but why have we suddenly put aside Campbell in our teams yet the team was winning with him and is now losing with him on the sidelines. Based on form he was playing better than Sanchez, Giroud, Walcott, and the OX. We miss Santi who gives the team attacking and defensive balance. Ozil despite his excellence lacks that extra bit to win games by himself the way Gerrard used to do for Liverpool and Yaya did for City. Ozil never wins us big matches. Ramsey used to do that but now he has lost that balance to his game to make a difference when the team is playing badly. Maybe a fully fit Jack will provide that but presently we can not count on him because of his fitness issues. Why does Arsene not give a chance to Iwobi?

  • Had Walcott concentrated on being a better winger he would have been a much better player than the degenerated player he is now

  • Simba,

    When it matters most no one in the team is able to help Ozil and Alexis.

    Iwobi is not used to big games, so we cannot afford to play him.

    Campbell maybe should play on the right in place of Theo, and Welbeck up front.

    Thats my take.


  • Simba,
    Like you I was also surprised Campbell has not had a look-in the last couple of matches, as I do rate him ahead of Theo and Ox. But, imo, he is behind Welbk in both wide positions. Am glad to see that Sanchez has seized being a sacred cow to you. It frees one’s thinking. I very much want him (Sanchez) out of left MF, but shifted to right MF while Rambo or Webk takes over the vacated left.

  • Jk,

    Am with you that Iwobi is not quite ready for the big step up, at least not with so many players, including Campbell, ahead of him. He looked completely lost when he was introduced against Man U. What do you think of Sanchez as our front man or right wide?

  • Jk, that’s an exciting line up. Ozil providing, Campbell, providing, Alexis rampaging, Welbk blitzing. Wenger is vaunted for his attacking football, but I do see a lot of conservatism in his selection of personnel. Maybe age has a say in what appears to me as his philosophy of ‘ ultra conservative adventurism’. Why can’t we think beyond Theo and OG in the striker role?

  • Pony Eye I have enjoyed your post over the last few months, and your ideas here make it another genuine pleasure. Perhaps the HT style is rubbing off on you?
    TA is quite right to say your selections have little or no chance in reality, because you are not thinking like Arsene Wenger.
    If he wants Alexis to play on the right side he will not announce in team selection. He will simply tell the player to switch sides more often?
    If he wants Ramsey to attack more down the left, then Ramsey will do it from whatever position he is ‘nominally’ playing in.

    You also need to ask yourself why Alexis is deployed on the left? Why Ramsey is used in deep midfield?
    Changes for changes sake will look like panic decisions. Arsene Wenger is too stubborn for that.
    He first will look as to how players can play better that their last appearance. Their deployment therefore will remain constant, unless there is a specific threat from the opposition. I don’t think he will see that in the Swansea side. Instead, he will work on how the team can play a better game as a collective unit, rather than looking for any single player to win the match.
    That applies in all 3 areas of the team: defence being solid as a unit; midfield carrying out their defensive duties as well as supporting the attack; Strikers to look for space and movement, and be confident that the ball will find them.

    My guess is Swansea will stay deep, play quick balls over the top, and wide players to join in at pace.
    To counter this, I think AW will keep Bellerin and Monreal deep for the first hour. Draw them forward and try to hit the with a quick counter of our own. So with Campbell on the right, Alexis on the left, (sorry PE), and Giroud as the pivot. A subtle change could be a 4-3-2-1, with Alexis and JC more central to help get back possession and still be in able to turn and run to the spaces …
    the ball will find them!

    If they play like statues, then we may be grateful of a 0-0 draw?

  • Gerry, that’s a classy comment and analysis. I like how you distinguished the nominal position of the players with their transitional roles. Not being a student of rigidity, I appreciate the nominal announced position as indicative of only the centroid of one’s play. So when I suggest this player at center or right or left I mean them only as the centroid of their play, where their heat map is densest. For example I wish the centroid of Alexis play to be either center front or wide right. Note that it a mere wish, a strong one though.

    Swansea is a pass and move team but unlike Barca they don’t compress their oponents, so l don’t see why we should make it defense heavy with a 4:3:2:1 formation especially as we are playing at home. Am surprised you didn’t include Welbk in your attackin 4.

  • This is the word that year by year
    While in her place the club is set
    Every one of her sons must hear,
    And none that hears it dare forget.
    This they all with a joyful mind
    Bear through life like a torch in flame,
    And falling fling to the host behind —
    “Play up! play up! and play the game

  • PE, I am sorry you saw that formation as ‘defence heavy’. With the same players I had in mind you could reverse it and have a 1-2-3. Is that defence heavy? Equally a 4-3-3 would be the notional positioning for remaining compact when defending?

    What I had in mind was how to dispossess Swansea by using the two attackers that are capable of doubling up with the midfield, but without getting sucked in too deep into our final third. One or other of them needs to be near Giroud so we can spring the counter from a higher position.
    Welbeck would not fit in with this plan. Moreover, I agreed with the suggestion elsewhere that AW may be mindful of giving Danny 3 quick games after a 10 month lay off? Plus, somebody needs to be fresh for the weekend game?

    Whatever you may have seen how Swansea have played before, it is likely to be different tonight.
    They will try and get at least 6 players in and around their box if we attack in a pedestrian manner. A win would be a bonus for them, but a draw is an extra point for survival. They will not risk losing until they have to.

    We on the other hand, not only need to win, but a performance to raise the confidence level. In an ideal world, try and get it wrapped before half-time so we can rest our key players.

    TA – Football is not won on the playing fields of Eton. Something more like a Chilean coal mine I think?

  • Gerry, it is almost as if you are saying that the notional positioning can be done away with. Just throw 11 intelligent players unto the field, they would know what to do. Theoretically that would be the ultimate. They would individually and collectively respond intelligently, moment by moment, to the ever changing field situation in what would be best described as a formless formation. Wow!

    A structure to house the philosophy is inevitable. It could be made very roomy for improvisations.

    TA, that bit flowed like the gunners in full flow and I can tell you that it inspired that Gerry chip in that tailed off with reference to ‘ a Chilian coal mine’. Bergkampesque the Arsenal way.

  • Not heard from the fine gentleman that is Seventeenho for a few days. I guess he has been immersed in election outcomes and debates! 🙂

    There is me hoping he found some time to do a match preview…. 😉

  • Hey, TA… I’m around…and in fact I had a preview I was working on before you put out PE’s post… The timing kinda messed me up but I liked the post (this one) and just sort of closed my Arsenal mind off yesterday afternoon/evening, while trying to figure my way forward. A night’s sleep did the trick and I should have a preview ready to go here in a bit…

    PE, I like the hopefulness and I think I agree with some of your ideas. Overall, however, I’m with TA and Gerry in that I don’t think AW will make such radical changes to the starting (or centroid–cool word, btw…) positions and that what really should happen is communication between players to switch sides and/or cover for each other as the match is underway. Maybe that will be easier tonight as there could be some periods of extreme quiet there in the stadium so close to the Islington Central Library (on the Holloway Road, where I spent quite a bit of time, back in ’06)…

    It might also be easier if the BFG comes in for Gabriel who, it seems, still needs more English…

    Frankly, I think the issue is that Ramsey and Alexis–no matter where they nominally start–need to work more with their teammates and start looking for them a touch or two earlier. Put Giroud back in and it should be much easier as he’s a big enough figure that they should see him (with the corners of their eyes…) even with their heads down. Maybe the red with white sleeve shirts will be better than the sweaty yellow ones… I dunno, we’re all grasping at straws here…but at least we’re trying. Better, IMO, that only grasping for torches and pitchforks and wanting Bouldy in…

    Finally, I’m not so sure about playing Rambo as the inverted winger (on the left) while making Alexis the regular one (on the right). For me, you want Alexis in the box as much as possible and Bellerin covers so much ground (and is an improving crosser of the ball and not bad going diagonal and direct, either…) that I think Rambo in the free role over there makes more sense. Like you say, however, these are secondary questions predicated on having more solidity in our central areas, i.e., players who can bridge attack with defending… Unfortunately, we’re getting bad news about Santi and Jack just as these needs become more glaringly obvious…

    Anyhow, back to work on the preview, but well done…

  • HT, anytime you are silent, it is deafening. I admire your very practical approach to things.

    My post has variously been referred to as too radical for Wenger. All that that lengthy post said is relocate Rambo to right wing as he hasn’t got the right defensive mentality and as he will be worth a lot more there giving us goals. Find a new position for Alexis who now runs repeatedly into blind alleys from the left. Does it still appear too radical? Maybe having to fill Rambo’s vacated position tilts the scale.

    Good point there, HT, about our loosing Bellerin’s runs with Sanchez right wing. On second thought Ozil plays rather high up the field and to close the gap between him and our other CM, means we have to push up our defense line. Per is exposed but if Bel is made to play more conservatively (something must always give somewhere), Per-slow-train-approaching will be covered. I will keep hoping that Wenger is more radical than generally believed.

  • My final word on this post is something I might have added on Monday, as it is more a general, bigger picture view, that has echoes in HT’s comment above/

    It is my personal belief to think what AW has in mind, you have to think who is his ‘main man’.
    In my observations, many people when commenting about the ups and downs that go with following Arsenal do so with a far too narrow viewpoint, and as such their remedies for any perceived weakness is also too narrow? Like blaming one or two players. Change those and all will be well. Except it rarely works out that way …

    The following is my conclusion, but feel free to argue an alternative.

    I believe that when AW signed our most expensive player he knew he had a gem to which he could build the team around. I speak of course about Mesut Ozil.

    However, some problems that have arisen out of this plan. To keep it simple, it is twofold dilemma.

    First has been not having (fit) players that can make best use of his vision for a lot of the time. Akin to that, the club not being able, for whatever reason, to bring the new players that AW sees as giving that little ‘extra’ factor.

    Secondly, the best players that we have, would likely play better in the similar position to that of Ozil. For that to happen effectively, they too would need the team to be built around their style of play. The simple reality is that the team is not built around them. In fact AW should make it clear to them, from Alexis down, that the team does not function well if they deny Ozil the opportunities he can create by their lack of movement. Or alternatively, selfish movement that does not include a team mate.

    This is the bigger picture. Players you might want to see play instead of X,Y or Z will not be able to give you what they are fully capable of, because the team is not set up for them to be the hub. That is largely Ozil’s job. Therefore, unless you can be sure that X, Y, or Z will compliment Ozil’s passing game, and by that I mean having the football intelligence to either draw defenders away with their movement, or move themselves into a space where a forward pass can be made, then they are unlikely to be included.
    If they are selected and fail to manage either of the above, then they will not meet with Arsene’s approval. As demonstrated after the last game?
    Above all, he wants them to do it on a consistent basis, which is another part of the problem?

    Who scores and how we get to the position where strikers can score requires players who can get to where the ball will be played. Move it on quickly to anybody who is in a position to shoot …. It is a team game and it needs all players need to play their part.
    That is the simple reality that the team need to focus upon. Speed, movement and accuracy … from everybody.

    If you were building a computer and you put the very latest graphics card that will produce super smooth action pictures on your monitor, you don’t want a crappy old CPU that cannot process the data quickly enough. Or an power unit that makes everything run slow …
    No, you try and get the best compatible parts that work well with your most expensive piece of kit, at least until you can pick something better?

    That, I think that is the type problem AW is wrestling with right now? I’ll repeat the misquote I posted on Monday … ‘If everybody in the team was up to Ozil’s level, we would be out of sight in this league title race.’

    It is not a blame game, just pointing out that the imbalance between the various players is not easily fixed, and even harder to patch up while confidence is low?
    Personally I am confident about getting a win tonight, as I am pretty sure AW would have spelled out some of the above. Secondly, Swansea are not as good a team as they were.

    Keep the faith …

  • Hey Gerry, that’s a fine comment and probably should be turned into a post…Ideally after we secure the 3 points tonight… I agree with everything you’re saying…Of course many folks were awed by Alexis drive and determination and underwhelmed by Ozil’s more cerebral,team oriented play; our two big money buys do present real contrasts in style. (As did the two guys who were fighting for that B2B MF spot, Rambo and Santi….) To me, the real key to our season (which hangs by a thread…) is the ability of these two to work it out…

    Unfortunately, for the moment (apologies…), I have to bury it (your comment…) with a….

    New Post…

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