Arsenal-Watford: FA Cup Quarterfinal. Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Wembley or Bust?

Happy Times. What’s not to like about the Cup?

Coming off a 4-nil midweek replay victory over Hull City (to secure a spot in this one) but also faced with new injuries and three matches in six days, manager Arsene Wenger confronts a major juggling act.  How can he put together teams to try and defend the domestic cup, somehow get back into the 2nd leg of the Champions League tie in Barcelona (on Wednesday night) and make progress in the league title hunt next weekend (in a Saturday lunch-time kickoff) at Everton?

Probably by taking them one at time and keeping his eyes only on that ball which is in the air.

It’s a juggling act, for sure, but there could be cause for optimism.

On the one hand (or should I say, “foot”), Watford at home in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup seems a promising draw.   By getting through in midweek at Hull, Arsenal accomplished several things.  Misfiring forwards Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott each scored a pair of goals and Wenger was able to get full rests for other potential scorers like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck.

On the other hand (foot), those fellows perhaps only kept their bench seats because of injuries suffered during the match.  Per Mertesacker couldn’t carry on after a clash of heads and then Gabriel Paulista came off to protect against further damage to the hamstring he’s been nursing. With Laurent Koscielny already out, that meant that Nacho Monreal had to do time as a central defender and then Callum Chambers had to shift to center back from his starting position on the right.  Mathieu Flamini filled in over there as Aaron Ramsey came in and took up Flamini’s spot in central midfield.

Musical chairs at center back is less of a worry a couple of goals to the good (with a couple more to come very late on), but then Ramsey went down with a thigh injury and now faces (the dreaded) four to six weeks out.

According to Wenger, Mertesacker’s head wound shouldn’t be a problem for this round and Gabriel might also be available, as could Koscielny.  Ramsey’s thigh is the far bigger worry, but the emergence of Mohammed Elneny, who played the entire Hull match–after getting his first start in the league a week ago vs Spurs in the North London derby–plus the return of Francis Coquelin (who has now served his one match ban after his two yellows in the derby) should–maybe–be enough in the center of the park.

Coquelin’s return will be essential for this run of matches as will those of Danny Welbeck and Hector Bellerin, also rested in midweek.  We have to cross our fingers that Gabriel and Koscielny will be able to participate, at least as the week moves on.  To put it plainly, these latest injuries are stretching the squad nearly to the breaking point.  We’re also short at goalkeeper where Petr Cech is only ten days into a recovery from a strained calf that is expected to require four weeks out, while the hoped-for return of central midfielders Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere have also been pushed back.  Fun times.

Fortunately, we only play them one at a time and Wenger seems very focused upon that notion.  Down 2-nil after the home leg vs Barca and eight points behind Leicester City in the league, the FA Cup probably represents our best shot at silverware this season.  The team has the advantage of experience in the tournament having hoisted the cup in the past two seasons and the added incentive that winning it for a third time would be unprecedented in the modern era and the first time in 130 years that such a feat has been accomplished.

Moreover, getting back to Wembley might actually come as a real dose of comfort.  Long-term issues at the club have seen supporter protests (mostly over ticket prices and packages) and Wenger-Out banners unfurled as seems the norm in recent years whenever results don’t meet expectations. We need this one–rather desperately–I fear.

The win at Hull was our first since Valentine’s day when we beat ten-man Leicester City at the final whistle.  At the time it looked like that late victory might catapult us forward.  League losses at Manchester United and at home vs Swansea–in addition to drawing with Hull and losing to Barca in the cups–mean that a home win seems essential ahead of the very difficult travels later in the week. Getting to Wembley would be a victory in itself, of course, but another step in the tournament would also mean another rescheduled Premier League match; this match puts off one against West Bromwich Albion while beating Watford would mean rescheduling a trip to Sunderland.  It’s always better, in my opinion, to put off these fights against the teams nearer the bottom of the table to a point when there might be greater clarity in the relegation battle.  Having those games-in-hand could also help build momentum for a late run at the league title, if those above us drop points.

But that’s all predicated upon getting past Watford, who have not been pushovers at all.  Quique Sanchez-Flores newly promoted team has gotten to this stage of the tournament with 1-nil wins against Newcastle, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United.  They’ve struggled for goals lately in the league (losing 1-nils vs Leicester and at Manchester United and drawing nil-nil at Bournemouth) but they were victorious on their most recent travels to London, winning a league match 2-1 at Crystal Palace, a team they could draw in the semi-finals if they were to beat us.  Sitting a comfortable dozen points above the relegation places, they would relish toppling a big club and traveling to Wembley.

Indeed, taking this one as a given would be foolish.  Watford play a strong, physical and pacey game anchored by former Spur Etienne Capoue at the base of midfield and forwards Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo up front.  They’ll likely let us have plenty of the ball but they could also pounce on the counter and play for set pieces, usually delivered well by Ben Watson, if our rearguard is out of sorts.

How then does Wenger set out the team for this one?

I think he’ll go with the same team he used at Hull with changes only enforced due to injuries.  Here’s my prediction.

Subs: Macey, Gabriel, Monreal, Flamini, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck

Of course, as always, I’m not privy to Wenger’s thinking nor the more intimate details about the players’ fitness.  Certainly I didn’t see the manager using both Walcott and Giroud from the get-go at Hull but it seemed to work, especially as the match wore on.  If they go again it would show a very strong attacking intent.  Ozil, Alexis and Welbeck on the bench would signal a desire to win the tie on Sunday and avoid a replay.  Although it’s a bit harsh on youngsters like Chris Willock and Jeff Reine-Adelaide who took up bench spots in midweek (the Jeff got on when Ramsey went down), using the more senior players (or having them at the ready) makes sense given the travels (and lack of training opportunities) immediately ahead.

What do my fellow Kampers think?  Who would you play in this one and why?  Is this a must win (aren’t they all?…) because it’s our best chance at silverware or because we need it to build some spirit and momentum ahead of the tough trips to Barcelona and Everton?  Maybe there are some who aren’t so enamored by the domestic cup and believe our focus should be on the bigger competitions.

In my view, the FA Cup has been a great thing for the club over the past two seasons so I believe we should give it our full attention and do what we can to make history.  My hope is that we can give a performance and get a result to advance us–both into further travels to the national stadium and the semi-finals of the tournament we seek to win for a third straight season and towards other more far flung venues where we need our boys firing on all cylinders.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

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103 Responses to Arsenal-Watford: FA Cup Quarterfinal. Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Wembley or Bust?

  1. TotalArsenal says:

    Excellent preview, Seventeenho. 👁

    I like the lineup and you are probably not far off. I reckon Arsene will play his strongest team against Barca as this is still a prestigious game the world will be watching. An early Arsenal goal could also give us wings there. Fielding fresh full backs, Ozil, Alexis and Welbeck could give us a chance there, and i expect Koz fit for the Barca trip as well. For that we need to find an alternative for Bellerin in your selection, and maybe Flamini starts as RB.

    I can also see Wenger keeping Theo fresh for Barca which could mean a start for Alexis. All hard to tell, but I am going for:

    Ospina
    Flam BFG chambers Gibsy
    Coq Elneny
    Campbell Iwobi Alexis
    Giroud

    And against Barca:
    Ospina
    Bel BFG Koz Nacho
    Coq Elneny
    Welbeckster Ozil Alexis
    Theo

  2. 17highburyterrace says:

    Cheers, TA… Training photos seem to show Gabby quite a bit (but not Kos) so maybe both he and the BFG can go again. If that’s true then unchanged from the Hull match would make sense to me…

    Playing Giroud and Theo (and Campbell) together, in addition to the fact that it “worked” up there at Hull, also does nicely to dispel the idea that it has to be one or the other. It’s probably “true” that it does work better that way but in a must-win match in front of the home crowd (perhaps more attached to their own narratives about how Wenger should do things…) it seems a wise move. Ideally one (if not both or all three) gets a goal and then can come off to a round of applause and thus appear fresher (and in-form…) for the other matches… These are tender times, I fear, and results+stats working out well would help get the fans behind the manager and his team…

    At Barca, my bet is that Welbeck starts–much as he did at Spurs–and exactly as you’ve listed it above… 😀

  3. FMJ14 says:

    Excellent preview HT!
    My Team Talk:
    At this critical stage we need to channel that focus of being unified in purpose not listening to what’s being said out there. It’s in here that matters and the success we want to achieve together. That is what makes a real team. Arsene has used the word solidarity a lot this season and it is vital we have it – so that we may win together. We must not listen to those that don’t want to be a part of that – those who can’t see or won’t respond to what is needed right now 😉
    COYG! 😀

    It is a very competitive, tough, unpredictable league this year. City drew today as you mentioned in the last comment on the last post HT.. However if the lads share something along those lines above I would be very confident going into this one. As noted the team did sit down together so it is hopeful or more than likely that things will turn our way.. Though in this league nothing is guaranteed. League opponents in the cup tomorrow and I would not really fear Deeney and Ighalo, the latter not being anything like as hot as he was earlier in the season.. The midfield duo of Elneny and Coquelin give me confidence, they are quality, solid working together and tireless for the team. I would go with your team HT with a substitute opportunity for Chris Willock after Wenger gave him high praise in pre-match build up. Replacing Walcott at some stage. I get the feeling Welbeck will play a good part.

  4. 17highburyterrace says:

    Thanks FMJ, and thanks for the very fine comment…I also enjoyed the other one on the previous post too…

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind a front 3 of Welbeck-Giroud-Walcott, which might allow a midfield three of Iwobi-Elneny-Coquelin to move fore and aft with a bit more freedom. Alexis, Ozil and Campbell would be good firepower from the bench if needed…

    As always, we just gotta score more goals than they do… 😀 Getting the first one, esp. with new bodies in MF, would make life soooooo much easier…

    We have to take these matches OGAAT but we could really ease some pressure and (maybe, even) create a bit of good feeling if we knew we were Wembley bound… We’re down to bare bones so fingers crossed for no new injuries and–ideally–some good choices (rather than tough ones) for the manager as we go on our travels…

    Everton go a goal up vs Chelsea through the guy they shunned…Lukaku… Ivanovic and Azpilicueta failed to foul him (hard enough to bring him down) outside the box and then he spun Cahill around to set up the shot. Impressive, but not such good D, too….

    Oooh and he doubles it… Chavs done for the year…

  5. Ab says:

    Evening HT. Great preview and lots of uncertainty for me on this one. As you and TA say I think Wenger will be well up for a full strength side against Barca, whatever he might say about OGAAT. He is a romantic and beating Barca at the Nou Camp is the stuff of dreams; he will hate the thought of going there and being humiliated. So the team tomorrow will be in large part shaped around Barca and the following Everton away game – which will also be tough.

    Looking at the back 4, I worry about the lack of pace at CB in your selection and also question whether we want to play Hector 3 times in 6 days? The answer for me is Mert/Gabby at CB and Chambers at RB. There’s scope to reconfigure if need be during the game with Nacho, Flam and hopefully Kos on the bench. But this feels more balanced to me?

    Moving to the pivot. There’s no question that Coq would be welcome back in our line up. But we will need him fully fit for Barca and Everton, so I wonder about Flam/Elneny in the pivot to start with? Coq is still on the mend, so lets have him really fresh for Barca. By all means give him 20 min as a sub. But 90 feels like a risk to me.

    Further forward, I think Iwobi has shown he merits another start in a cup game. Campbell I’ve really warmed to this season and he must start unless he is planned for Barca (but I’m assuming Welbs will get the nod ahead of him there) and I can’t see us benching Sanchez for 2 games running, so he starts for me too.

    That leaves the striker. And this comes down to who Wenger will prefer to start against Barca, with the other starting against Watford (IMO anyhow). Yes Theo and Giroud can play together, but a) given our lack of depth at striker do we play/risk/tire both together in a cup game, and b) is Walcott really our best RW? I’m doubtful on both fronts. I still think Giroud is Wenger’s preferred striker, which suggests Walcott starts tomorrow for me. I know many have imagined Walcott scoring against Barca on the counter; but at the moment I fear the greater likelihood is Walcott lost, isolated and invisible against Barca. Perhaps the gambler in Wenger will see Walcott at Barca as having the 1 in 10 chance of delivering a big surprise, whereas Giroud is safer but unlikely to turn a game alone. Who knows – certainly not me. But my punt for tomorrow then is:

    Ospina
    Chambers, Mert, Gabby, Gibbs
    Flam, Elneny
    Campbell, Iwobi,Sanchez
    Walcott

    After a 4 nil win, a convincing win tomorrow would be just what we need. There’s a hell of a lot to be had from this season yet if we can hold our nerve and fitness. Strong performance tomorrow would be just what we need to remind the fans and the opposition that we are still here and still a threat. COYG!!!!!

  6. TotalArsenal says:

    That is a fine comment, 14. I am worried about Igalo though. He is the sort of player we would like at Arsenal and I expect him to play a blinder tomorrow.

  7. TotalArsenal says:

    AB, very well argued starting 11 and I reckon you will be very close, and possibly closer than me. I feel that Le Coq needs to play to get a bit of game rhythm but might be taken off after 70 minutes.

  8. TotalArsenal says:

    Love that Wenger picture, Seventeenho 🙂

  9. TotalArsenal says:

    Actually, corne to think of it, with Rambo out and Santi and Jack still unavailable, it is Elneny who is most needed to stay fit, so I wonder whether he gets a rest or starts on the bench.

  10. TotalArsenal says:

    The Chavs looked very ordinary today. It is totally amazing how they sank so deep after winning the league last season. Whoever takes over there has a big job to do…

  11. Ab says:

    TA. The joy to see from the plight of the chavs is the folly of short term glory hunting. Maureen doesn’t know how to bring on players, only how to assemble already proven quality players – he excels at this its fair to say; but its all gloss and no substance. Clubs following this path are going to get a quick fix of success, but fall back again shortly after, as the Chavs have despite all the millions spent. United have been moving in this direction; and their good fortune frankly has been the injury crisis reminding them of what blessing they have in an outstanding youth system. Sadly, as I was enjoying watching that get dismantled. We have never abandoned our youth system, though it has not been as productive in recent years as some. But a model based on bringing through, and supplementing with quality, is surely the model that will bring sustained success; as we have seen through the Wenger years.

  12. Ab says:

    You are right also that Elneny is in danger of being over-worked here; and with all the other injuries is not one we can afford to break down. My sense is he had a great engine and hasn’t been over used since signing. So could he manage 3 in 6 days? With a sub after 70 tomorrow, and prob again at Everton, I’d hope so.

  13. TotalArsenal says:

    But what if he gets injured tomorrow, AB? Agreed that he can do three games but I am worried about lack of cover. What about Coq and Flam together with Jeff replacing Coq after seventy minutes?

  14. Ab says:

    That’s true TA. But I figure Coq would be the bigger risk of the two. Elneny looks competent to me, and may grow to be much more. But Coq is one of our first choice pivot players, whereas Elneny is prob 3rd choice at present. No issue with him at all, just where he is in the rankings at present. Of course, so far he is rising to occasions. And long may that continue

  15. TotalArsenal says:

    As a box to box player he is first choice right now, AB, but I can see your point re Le Coq. The good news is that we can look forward to seeing them all play over the next few weeks. 😜

  16. Pony Eye says:

    Great Pv, HT. Tough guessing the line up in this fog of 3 important matches in 6 days.

    Against Everton. Loose and its final farewell to being champions of epl. We, also, might then find ourselves on equal points with the 5th placed team West H and a fight for dear life to remain in the top four would suddenly have begun.

    Against Barca. We fight for pride. We wouldn’t dare a 6-0 spanking by the rampaging Barca. That would hurt our moral badly for the rest of the season.

    Against Wartford. Very important match as it is our best chance for silver ware. Loose and possibly loose again at Barca, and it is a downward spiral in our self belief.

    Strategy. To play our 90 -100% 1st team each match without prejudice to fatigue.

    WTFORD BARCA EVERT
    GK Osp* Osp* Osp*
    RB Bel* Bel* Bel*
    CD Gab Per Per
    CD Kos Gab Kos
    LB Gibbs Nacho Nacho
    DM Coq Coq Flam
    CM Eln* Eln* Eln*
    WR Camp Welbk Camp
    AM Iwobi Ozil Ozil
    WR Alexis* Alexis* Alexis*
    CF Welbk Theo Giroud

    A total of 17 players to be used as starters for the 3 matches.
    4 players (asterisk) start the 3 matches. Choice of players not randomly done. Apart from giving players rests the choices have something to do with the strengths and weaknesses of opposing teams.

  17. Cheers AB for the thoughts on the line-up. I think I probably would’ve picked Gabby at CB if I’d seen the training photos before I published the preview (with Chambers moved to RB and no Bellerin). Personally, I’m more concerned about playing Flamini as a starter in our stadium as he (and the BFG) are such targets of extreme criticism for (a section of) our supporters… One or the other, maybe, but not both unless absolutely needed. Subbing Flams in late vs Barca rather doubled the size of that hole, if you play the one-man-must-take-all-blame game…

    I’m less concerned about Elneny and Le Coq’s fitness. This is crunch time and our midfield is down to just about nothing beyond those two (with Flamini and Chambers as emergency solutions)… Ozil has Iwobi as back-up, but that’s it… Let’s hope all these games are played in a good spirit (no malicious fouls…) and we should be OK, maybe… Between ice baths, massages and some light training, 3 matches in 6 days doesn’t seem so bad for guys paid as they are. Besides, Elneny looks like he can go all day long and seems to play a controlled sort of game. I also think he might be ready to score a goal or two now that’s he’s tasted some cross-bar with that nice volley up at Hull…

    TA, Agreed that Igalho is very good (very strong and quick and decisive) but he also looks like he’s got that “striker’s mentality” (big ego/selfishness) which may be taking away from his team game. Deeney is strong and works hard. Gotta just stay focused and nick the first goal…and then remain focused… Definitely not an easy match and Watford should be playing with a nothing to lose attitude… I didn’t mention it, but we had to play very patiently when we played them in October in their stadium. In fact, it was nil-nil at half-time before we made the breakthrough for the flattering 3-nil scoreline…They’re struggling to make goals but they haven’t exactly been easy for us to come by either…

    Anyhow, I’m looking forward to it even if we lose an hour on the move to US daylight savings time and it was already an early start…

  18. Pony Eye says:

    ———-WATFORD———-BARCA———–EVERT

    GK———-Osp——————-Osp—————Osp
    RB———-Bel——————–Bel—————–Bel
    CD———-Gab——————Per—————–Per
    CD———-Kos——————-Gab—————-Kos
    DM———-Coq——————Coq—————-Flam
    CD———-Eln——————-Eln—————–Eln
    WR———Camp—————-Welbk————-Camp
    AM———-Iwobi—————-Ozil—————-Ozil
    WL———-Alexi—————–Alexi————–Alexi
    CF———-Welbk—————Theo————–Giroud

  19. Pony Eye says:

    Sorry 2nd time,
    LB———–Gibs————-Nacho—————Nacho

  20. Pony Eye says:

    Note: the Barca front 4 is assembled for pace (counters), while the Watford’s is for picking their way through. Everton’s need a focal point in Giroud.

  21. Pony Eye says:

    OGAAT might not be the best when there are 3 games in 6 days. Overview is necessary. Instead of one we have three aka TGAAT.😉

  22. Inneresting stuff there PE but it’s too late in my evening to deeply dissect all of it… Both of us agree that it’s a big week for Elneny (my new avatar guy)… I was also thinking about Ospina as it’s an extremely big week for him too…

    Each match builds (or tears down…) ahead of the others… so they really cannot be seen in isolation, IMO. Full focus on the task at hand, however, seems absolutely essential. I’m hoping we also get a bit of a 12th man tomorrow rather than the “here we are now, entertain us” attitude we often see at the home league matches… It seems promising hearing that the match was a sell-out soon after the win at Hull…

    See y’all bright and early…

  23. Gerry says:

    Fascinating preview HT, covering the various angles, twist, and turns that could unfold over the course of this week. But I agree fully, the way to handle this is indeed to take each game as it comes, and let the next one be sorted at the time.
    Sorry PE, but projecting the sets of teams for the forthcoming matches is great idea …. in theory.
    Alas, we are playing players that if not already injured, are on the verge of injury. What AW will be doing is keeping out the players who could do with a little more time, and probably, where possible, keep the playing time to those most vulnerable down to a minimum. The next match selections will be from those left standing.

    I read this late last night, so I have had time to think it through a little. It has allowed others to say what I might have said, which is no bad thing, but I will try and add a little bit here and there.

    As you rightly point out HT, we are handicapped in our, somewhat immaterial, discussion as to the full fitness of all players. So we’re groping in the dark for preferences to play, whilst the real ones are left to AW. But starting with your offering HT, the first thing I saw that I hope will not happen, and that is down our right flank. Personally I don’t think Bellerin and Campbell compliment each other.
    Yes, I see the logic of having Campbell being useful in tracking back and helping out with the defending. But I think the link going forward is what destroys Bellerin’s advances in our opponents half.
    I also agree with your second thoughts regards our attack. Will AW risk both Giroud and Walcott?
    More importantly, will he leave Alexis out?
    My thinking is No!, in both cases.
    Thirdly, the defensive pair of Coquelin and El Neeny. As I pointed out after the last game, El Neeny rarely tackles. That puts a lot of pressure on Coquelin, especially after his red card last time?

    To bring that all my thoughts together, I come to the following conclusion. Remember this is how OGAAT should work. Forget about Barca or Everton. THIS game. The one that secures our place in the semi-final of the FA Cup. Another trip to Wembley where we remain unbeaten for a long time. This game is the important one. The only players you might discount out of selection are the ones that might need a little more time. Sadly, that probably applies to both Koscielny and Gabriel? There may be others. Monreal for example? My guess he will make the bench again for a CB subbing.
    So the reasons for selecting ‘my’ team are these:
    Ospina – A given, unless disaster strikes in the warm up.
    Gibbs – Despite playing his third game on the trot, he has had a light season, and buys Monreal a bit more time. But this could go either way.
    Gabriel – For once a player acted sensibly and did not make his injury worse – Ox please note! – By telling the physios that he WAS coming off, I think he will be available for most of this game. I fancy Koscielny, if rushed back too soon will cost us dear.
    Mertersacker – Another given … even if he is wearing a Nelson type eye patch!
    Flamini – This is the most unlikely to happen, but it has merit, and danger. The biggest danger is him getting injured by playing consecutive matches without sufficient recovery time. However, the pro’s outweigh the con’s, imo(and it is my team :D). I think he is better at preventing crosses than both Bellerin and Chambers because of his experience. Playing at RB the play is mostly in front of him, providing he does not try venturing forwards, Bellerin style. This will protect Mertersacker from being drawn out of position. He may not last the 90 minutes, but hopefully that will not be so important as keeping a clean sheet?
    Coquelin – Another given. Has worked his way back after injury, and just needs to get that confidence he had last season.
    Chambers – He will play, but where might be key. I want another tackler in that defensive pair, and I think these two will compliment each other for pace and when to go forwards, providing they don’t both go at the same time.
    Alexis – For me a certainty. He must think he is close to his best after ending his goal drought? It would be foolish not to deny a chance to prove it.
    Campbell – Not a certainty by any means. But without an advancing fullback filling the space on the wide right, he should find he has space to run into, where balls can be played to him on the run, rather than the static ones when he comes inside.
    Ozil – Not a given, but if you are looking at this game as a possible season defining game, why would you leave him out? He has been rested after the very hard Spurs match. I take on board your(HT) point about him not quite gelling with Alexis. Although I think Alexis should take most of the blame for that for not involving other players when he gets the ball? Perhaps that was brought up in the players ‘meeting’? Certainly a better showing last time, but with different personnel.
    Giroud – More ore less a given. Not least for his defensive work at set pieces. But like Alexis, he will be looking to build on the confidence gained from the last game.

    Casualties who will get a chance from the bench?
    Walcott – Not that he had an outstanding game last time, but the goals late on means he might be an impact sub?

    Iwobi, naturally. Brilliant in the last round, but I can only see him displacing Campbell this time, not Ozil. It would be a big ask for him to replicate that against a far more dangerous opponent. Watford have no fear of relegation and will give their all in this.
    El Neeny is in a similar position as Iwobi, and it is a tough decision to leave him out. Unless Ozil has any hidden injury, which would be the best position for him, then he too misses out if AW follows my thinking.

    The good news for that pair is, my thoughts and AW’s rarely coincide : D

    Cheers,
    Gerry

  24. TotalArsenal says:

    Ighalo is indeed quite selfish but you would expect this in his position, and seventeen PL goals and assists in 28 games is some return on selfishness. I can see him play in a Alexis – Giroud – Ighalo upfront for us, but need to look closer at his defensive cover and work rate.

  25. TotalArsenal says:

    Gerry 🙂

    There are only two E’s in Elneny.

    You are probably right that Ozil will start today, even if it is just for seventy minutes.

  26. Gerry says:

    TA – You are right … but two ‘N’s. Some lazy journo misprinted it and I never bother to check.
    😀
    Regards Igalo, I would rather Mahrez any day of the week … Damn it, splash the whole £75m budget and get Vardy as well!

    But sticking to this one game theme …. If Iwobi plays on the right, then I’d have Bells at RB, providing Chambers is part of the double pivot at DM.

  27. Gerry says:

    Final comment before I dig out the ‘lucky’ bobble hat from under my pillow …

    Re the last comment on Chambers. I think it will be essential that we have two ‘tacklers’ at DM.
    Essential to enable Bellerin to get forward, or Campbell to stay forward(and wide) on the right. Likewise the Gibbs/Monreal choice on the left.
    Elneny ( 😀 ) will be better suited by a continental ref. Whereas Chambers, or indeed Flamini, might fall foul under such a ref?

    However, none of this will matter if they do not pass and move like they did in the previous round!

    They should also take a leaf out of Klopp’s game management, and conserve some energy level for the final 20 minutes if it is still tight? Watford certainly will not let it go until the final whistle.
    Be warned!

  28. 17highburyterrace says:

    Dark out here with the time change but here we go…Weather looks nice in London…

  29. 17highburyterrace says:

    Arsenal 4-2-3-1: Ospina; Chambers, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Gibbs; Coquelin, Elneny; Campbell, Özil, Sánchez; Giroud
    Subs: Macey, Bellerín, Monreal, Flamini, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck

    I certainly didn’t do to well with the team selection–Ozil and Alexis go and Gabby at CB, Chambers at RB…

    Mostly Arsenal thus far with plenty of stroking it around at the back but our attacks are snuffed out near their box… Alexis sent a nice ball out wide but Chambers can’t get his foot around the cross…

  30. 17highburyterrace says:

    GIROUD….Offside… Replay shows it was by inches at most…

  31. Elneny hits one over after great work from Ozil and a nice layoff from Campbell… 2nd one he’s rushed and failed to put on target…

  32. 17highburyterrace says:

    Nobody around?… Arsenal finishing just isn’t there… Halftime talk centers around Gabriel’s two footed lunge which didn’t even draw a whistle, let alone a card, while it looked a pretty clear straight red. Elneny and Campbell are both industrious but also unable to take their chances. On the plus side, after a very quiet start, Ozil was beginning to take over with his skills in and around the box. Alexis is working hard but all in wide positions. Other end we look very vulnerable on the break if Watford ever find the correct final ball… They haven’t yet, so not much action for Ospina…

    Anybody?…

  33. 17highburyterrace says:

    1-nil Watford on the long throw in…

  34. Ab says:

    Intermittent listening HT. Feels like deja vu. Horrible.

  35. 17highburyterrace says:

    Sorry folks… I’d love to be wrong but I just don’t see a comeback here… Watford have actually had two pretty good chances to get a 2nd…Make that 3…

    individually our players do some good things (oooh good chance from Campbell on the left now into Giroud, for example) but it’s all too slow and w/o much togetherness…

    There it is… 2-nil Arsenal just standing there…

  36. 17highburyterrace says:

    OK…Not much fun watching this and talking to myself so I’ll see ya later…

    This seems like it will be a very difficult week for the club,,,

  37. Ab says:

    Our confidence just seems in tatters. We can’t get our game going at all by the sound of it. i don’t understand it I confess. This is where a close and familiar squad should be delivering benefits; but its just not happening.

  38. FMJ14 says:

    😦

  39. FMJ14 says:

    Got to stick in there and do our best in difficult circumstances

  40. FMJ14 says:

    I’m talking generally not about this game..

  41. Ab says:

    too little too late I fear

  42. FMJ14 says:

    Come on!! 1-2

  43. Ab says:

    Great for Welbs

  44. Ab says:

    Grief! We could have done it!

  45. njk84sg says:

    Lousy ref and bad finishing cost us

  46. Admir says:

    @njk – you mean the lousy ref who spared us from the first-half red card? Or because he correctly ruled out Giroud’s first-half goal?

    There is nothing to be said about the game. We simply don’t have enough quality and that’s it.

  47. FMJ14 says:

    That meeting Theo talked of didn’t seem to work or wasn’t a very effective meeting..

  48. FMJ14 says:

    The vibrancy just wasn’t there until our first goal, but as Ab says, too little too late..

  49. allezkev says:

    That pretty much puts this season into perspective.

    We’ll probably win enough games to finish 4th, maybe 3rd, but this a season, a missed opportunity, that won’t be available to us next season with Guardiola at City, Conti at Chelsea and a.n.other at ManUtd…

    The atmosphere at the ground was fairly muted until Watford scored, then the Hornets fans went into party mode, and who could blame them.

  50. Admir says:

    @allezkev

    With Simeone at Arsenal, we would be well-armed for the battle.

  51. FMJ14 says:

    Perhaps the players didn’t create that team solidarity because they are or started to listen to the media and the fans and are starting to want a new manager? 😕

  52. Prince says:

    Will not suprise me one one micro bit when Ozil puts in a transfer request.
    This Arsenal is a shiny looking lamborghini.. get in for a test drive…it has two gears= very slow and a fart faster.
    What solidarity?? The solidarity of choking together..
    Paulista doing well to join the elite club with cygan the swiss bold the other swiss guy with two left feet and the experienced french guy who fashioned a hearing aid.. Paulista should have been sent off three times in this game..
    Pumas new advert for the Arse “Faster Future FUCKED UP”
    The only way i see this club going places is for the mute Yank at the top to leave with his boardroom dwarves and BRING BACK DAVID DEIN

    Theres always next year, right? ….Doubt it……
    even the ghosts are getting bored of stirring.

  53. TotalArsenal says:

    Hey Princey 🙂

    Good to hear you are still firing on all cylinders.

  54. TotalArsenal says:

    If you concede twice at home then it is going to be hard to get something from the game. It is a real shame that our defence is still not as good as it should be for a top club like Arsenal. At the start of the season it looked good at the back but we are shipping far too many goals. We have not had a good defence since Sol Campbell went awol and we pay for it every season it seems.

    But, we had a very good, incredibly long FA cup run and we only needed a bit of luck in the end to get another replay. It was not to be and so it is. Arsenal is always a woman to me. 😉

  55. Admir says:

    @TA, our defence today was a make-shift one. Čech, Koscielny, Bellerin and Monreal are members of the starting eleven which leaves us with Per, arguably the weakest link, as the only standard defender. Gabriel is still too raw while Chambers should be given a chance in the central defence.

    That being said, conceding two at home (or away for that matter) is not a problem when you score goals. We don’t score because Arsene Wenger puts his belief in mediocre players like Theo and Ollie. Neither of them should be leading our attack. Zlatan has announced that he is going to leave PSG and at 35 he has forgotten more about football than both Theo and Ollie will ever know combined.

    2010-11 all over again, except we didn’t beat Barcelona and we won’t have a long grief over a lost cup final. And, to the further extent, it will be a miracle if this team ends up fourth. We basically play like Chelsea had played under Maureen in the first half of the season.

  56. Ab says:

    There is I think no escaping the disappointment of today’s result, and also the significance of recent results on our season as a whole. Whilst other teams have been through a host of self inflicted changes, which have destroyed their seasons, of the to 4 our club alone has had stability and continuity. This was a season where that should have counted. And we will have to reflect carefully on what our inconsistency tells us about the set up at THOF.

    Days like today are not the best time to make judgements; they are bound to be deflated. But the sense of underachievement is inescapable at the moment. It frustrates the life out of me to see how dominant we were in the last minutes of this game, and ask why we didn’t apply ourselves like that previously; we would surely have won had we done so. But we know that this side tends to bounce back. When will that be? Surely its too much to ask that we put Barca to the sword? But we cannot roll over on Saturday at Everton or we will truly be in a fight for top 4 to crown our misery.

    I will mull further before more comment. A tough day all round.

  57. TotalArsenal says:

    Conceding two at home is at least one too many, Admir. And How many goals did the Chavs and Citeh score this weekend? We managed one but conceded two and… That is at least one too many. Simples.

    And why care about Zlatan, who is playing in the easiest competition in the world right now? Ollie, as a holding CF, is great but he relies on others contributing to the goal scoring as well and that is where the real problem is: Alexis, Rambo, Theo, Campbell and Ozil have not scored enough this season, and with that Arsene’s attacking system is failing right now. Something he will clearly have to sort out if things will not change imminently.

    A very long cup run came to and end. Instead of being down on it why not celebrate how well we did in this competition?!

  58. TotalArsenal says:

    AB, Citeh and Chavs have very stable and established squads and are also struggling right now. The PL teams are better than ever this season as anybody but Villa and Newcastle can beat anybody. Like you I am disappointed and it might be true that we are going under achievers this season, but yes, let’s wait and see how the rest of the season unfolds.

  59. Admir says:

    @TA, what is there to celebrate? Being beaten at home by the bottom-half team…again?

    This was supposed to be the best Arsenal team in a decade. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the worst. When we lose to Bayern or Chelsea, it’s about the money they have. When ten times cheaper teams with young, brave and fresh managers beat us, we don’t mention the money anymore. Ighalo’s wage and Walcott’s wage won’t be compared because that would shatter the image of Arsene as a miracle-worker who wins while spending peanuts and recognizing talents.

    Unfortunately, Arsene won’t leave because he is a smart coward. He has safe 8 millions per year and no responsibility at all. If he goes anywhere else, he would get sacked in a year.

    At Arsenal, as long as that wig-wearing moron is our majority owner, Arsene can experiment as much as he wants.

  60. allezkev says:

    Admir, I like Simeone, he’s done a great job at Atletico, in a league-competition dominated by two absolutely gigantic football clubs…
    He’s edgy but is a great motivator and tactician, he also expects his players to give him everything and they rarely disappoint. And all on a small budget in comparison to the big boys…

  61. njk84sg says:

    @admir,

    The Giroud goal looked perfectly in line for me.

    The ref was fooled by too much time wasting and rugby footy.

    And, i would not even play Gabby for the next game. Look at the games we played Gabby for the full 90.. atrocious stats there.

    JK

  62. Admir says:

    @allezkev

    I agree. Unlike someone else, he doesn’t look for excuses, he searches for solutions. And, for most of the time he finds them.

    Simeone motivates his lot to go through a brick wall for him. Arsene can’t motivate a 110k per week paid striker to look at the wall.

  63. TotalArsenal says:

    Admir, if you cannot celebrate our record long cup run and accept that sometimes you just don’t win a game in this competition then I leave you with your anger and typical one liners. Clearly as team we are struggling right now but why all the cheap vitriol?

  64. allezkev says:

    Admir, I think that the Arsenal players like Wenger, admire him and maybe have affection for him, but they have a funny way at showing it…

    I can’t help but feel concerned when Arsene sends on a raw youngster like Iwobi, to chase the game. I know we have injuries, we always have injuries, but that’s asking a lot from a young player in such a vital game.

  65. njk84sg says:

    Guys,

    Dropping Gabby will solve the issue. Replace him with Chambers and we might be good with the defensive holes plugged. I feel that the DMs have not played their part in dropping back when we are a goal down.

    Overall we are bad in covering our lines.

    JK

  66. retsub1 says:

    Is would be very wary about playing Chambers. He look very short of confidence to me. He gave the ball away quite a lot yesterdat

  67. Gerry says:

    Well I am not going to add too much, as the gloom has already descended …

    I am with TA on this point. The FA Cup is a competition, and only one team can win (… or face a replay like ‘United?).
    Watford, despite their position in the league, are defensively, a well organised team. They scored two goals. One poorly defended from a corner. The other, a once in a lifetime shot that was hit so crisply no keeper in the world would have saved that.
    It was always going to be a tough game to win, made tougher by the things that should have been under our control, and were not.

    What went wrong for us? I cannot complain about the team selection as it was more or less how I thought it should be. However, I did stress the need for a second tackling midfielder in the DM slot. The reason for that was to enable both FB’s to get forward, particularly Gibbs, as this would have had Alexis starting point a little closer to Giroud in our attacks.
    That said, whereas in the previous game our pass and move game was that much sharper, in this game it wasn’t until the final twenty minutes did it get anywhere that …Collectively at least, as HT pointed out.
    Perhaps Iwobi was the missing link?

    Whatever.

    That game has gone. Unlike some, even before the game, who were writing off our season, and therefore AW must go, I still think we are still very much in the title race. Just a couple of league wins and the picture will look a whole lot different?

    Yes, there is this second leg at Barca to get past without adding further damage, and that will not be easy. I am not sure what would be considered as ‘acceptable’? Perhaps, at worst, a good team performance, but still lose 2-0? Anything worse than that, on either front, would be very bad, but stranger things can happen … a 2-0 win and we get through on penalties ….

    The Everton game is far more straightforward. We need to win.

    As for Arsene’s future? I think there will be two indications to look out for that might suggest he, I repeat, HE, will call it a day at the end of this season:
    One,- Player or players openly voicing their disappointment with him or the Cub’s policy?
    This, for the moment at least, is the less likely scenario.

    Two,- Any noticeable sign of the board not backing up his choices for new signings?

    Currently, the rumours are full of players he would want to add to the current squad, and they are very much in keeping as to the type of player he wants to bring in; athletic, very skillful on the ball, and plenty of stamina. Which is why players of African and South American descent are highly featured.
    Forget about ‘inquiries about’ or ‘or bid made’ stuff. ‘Sale agreed’, and confirmed by the club not any agent is what matters. If nothing has happened along these lines before the summer transfer window, I would say his future has been decided.

    Not that that means that one of the top fantasy managers will fly in and save the day. Kroenke has already stated he did not by shares in the Club to win trophies. That means no high salaried manager with a wallet busting transfer budget will be on offer. What potential manger will want to sign up to a profit making organisation where success is relative?

    Well perhaps an ‘in house’ one like TH, or PV ,or DB, if they think they can do both?

    End of the 2017 season is more likely, if AW is given a transfer budget to match his ambitions?
    With or without a title win, the answer to the above question will be key.

    Cheers,
    Gerry

  68. TotalArsenal says:

    She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes
    She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
    And she only reveals what she wants you to see
    She hides like a child, but Arsenal is always a woman to me

    She can lead you to love, she can take you or leave you
    She can ask for the truth, but she’ll never believe
    And she’ll take what you give her as long it’s free
    Yeah, She steals like a thief, but Arsenal is always a woman to me

    CHORUS
    Ohhh… she takes care of herself
    She can wait if she wants, she’s ahead of her time
    Ohhh… and she never gives out
    And she never gives in, she just changes her mind

    And she’ll promise you more than the garden of Eden
    Then she’ll carelessly cut you and laugh while you’re bleeding
    But she’ll bring out the best and the worst you can be
    Blame it all on yourself ’cause Arsenal is always a woman to me

    CHORUS

    She’s frequently kind and she’s suddenly cruel
    She can do as she pleases, she’s nobody’s fool
    And she can’t be convicted, she’s earned her degree
    And the most she will do is throw shadows at you,
    But Arsenal is always a woman to me

  69. davydavy says:

    Ah the FA Cup is such a wonderful tournament, one of my favourites in fact. Every team in the land can play, and any team can beat anyone else on the day. Yesterday was Watford’s day and congratulations to them.

    Should we complain? Hardly – we have just finished the best Cup run of any team in decades, and in that typically unpredictable way that is what makes the FA Cup so special.

    I’m disappointed of course, because I thought we were going to win it for a third time, but that’s life. If I find myself thinking that we will win just because we are a better side then I am no student of the game. So I’m with TA on this one, and I will add that this cup run has given me great joy over the last two years and memories that I will hold forever (like getting up at 3am to see Hull City take a two-goal lead within eight minutes, LOL)

    Onto where we need to go from here, it’s clear that we have issues both in defence and attack. Gabriel clearly isn’t ready to be a regular first-team starter, we are missing a backup right-back to spell Hector Bellerin, and our defence is too often left exposed when we lose possession. This last one we need to work on pretty sharpish if we want to finish the season strongly. I agree TA that Giroud’s fellow attackers are not contributing enough goals, but it’s still my view that we are playing to Giroud too often and too predictably, a bit like Man Utd when they gave Fellaini playing and they just lump it forward, except in our case it’s all flicks and half-chances.

    Let’s get behind the team and the manager and finish the season the way we always gave done in recent years, and get enough points to celebrate St. Totteringham’s Day again. Who knows, if we do really well we might catch up with Leicester, who are in line for a tricky run in. I’m not interested in talking about sacking the manager, and I certainly wouldn’t want Diego Simeone and his cynical brand of aggressive anti-football here at the Emirates. When Arsene moves on, I’d be hoping to see an Italian manager come in like Conte or Allegri, but that’s just me.

    COYG, and bring on Barca!

  70. TotalArsenal says:

    Love it davyx2. Fine uplifting and honest comment all the way from Auckland! 🙂

  71. TotalArsenal says:

    Ah just read Gerry’s comment. Nice one too 🙂

  72. Pony Eye says:

    There are criticisms and there are criticisms. For a real fan not to criticize a below par performance is him lying to himself and to others. But in criticizing the team that you love you must purge yourself of all vitriolic which destroys and never builds. Is it not Wordsworth that said that his best poems ” ……. are emotions recollected in tranquility “?

    I am now recollecting 2016 in tranquility. All competitions :- 6 W : 5 D :5 L. By any loose measure that’s mid- table stuff.

    Arsenal should be, by pedigree, by the size of her wallet at the least, a top 8 European team. The players that we have who can easily find a home in the XI of at least one top 8 European team are; Cech, Bel, Kos, Nacho, Coq, Santi, Ozil, Alexis, (Wilshire?). 9 of them, but interestingly no striker named. That area is our weakest link and our performance bears it out. We don’t just put away the chances being created.

    High time we assume a bit of the galactico mentality. Find the gaps in the team, find the right plugs for them, and get them. Get the damn plugs!

    Meanwhile working with the materials at hand, Welbk is my 1st choice striker. Welbk’s movements and ball skills creates spaces that bring our Mfders into play much more effectively than Giroud’s static style. Walcott, imo, evades responsibilies and we should be man enough to cut our losses there.

    Strange that not many are casting their glances over their shoulders. Are they too afraid of the possibility lurking behind? I’d rather stare it straight in the eyes so I can see when it’s left jab departs…….WHMUWHMUWHMUWHMUWHMUWHMUWHMU. We need to move into overdrive! Who knows, we might even catch the Spuds and the Mavericks.

  73. 17highburyterrace says:

    OK, just about 24 hours and my strategy for coping was…moping…until folks kicked me out of the house and into the absurdly bad (sideways rain/snow/sleet…) weather we’ve got around here. On the plus side, I had a fun companion for my walk (there might have been enough “snow” to try skiing…) AND the precipitation was bad enough as to render the satellite television useless… Do I really need to see Harry Kane score a brace against Villa? Probably not…

    The situation as I see it is this: Total pressure to win (all matches, any other result is a referendum–no such thing as bad luck, bad calls or bad form) + not enough quality players due to injury but also (perhaps) due to buying with an eye to the future rather than immediate needs or possible immediate needs if players get hurt, don’t come back from injury etc. = everything needs to fall our way or else…

    The version of “or else” we had yesterday is that we have a defender who has lost his mind and doesn’t have enough English, maybe, to get it back. Mertesacker and Chambers down the right means (and Campbell, who, though he runs a bit with his head back on his shoulders, leaves me flat…) there will always be pressure in the center of the pitch and it was all too much for poor Gabriel. He avoided full goat status by missing the own goal in the NLD, should have gotten it for the zero-thinking horror tackle yesterday in the first half (and a 2nd one not long after on the touchline). Ighalo is one of the better forwards in England, but the first goal was far too easy. All he had to do was read the throw-in and the move of the guy who headed it his way, while Gabby-given the exact same information–did nothing… Many supporters love guys who “at least show they’re up for it” but when your choices are pure go for it vs nothing, you’d better get every decision correct. Finally, after a series of bad choices, one got punished.

    So what? Gabby is just one guy and he’s still got potential, maybe, to be a pretty good defender. He’s just feeling the pressure of the situation and reacting to it, IMO…same as all the others. Players need to embrace pressure, but when it’s all negative, all the time, they tend to crack. One goal down and the momentum shifts… Watford fans make their noise, Arsenal fans, grumbling heard between chants and then we need to be doubly lucky… Their guy scores a cracker, our guy (Elneny, for example) rushes two finishes but the third one swerves to the keeper’s chest…Another (Welbeck) makes a great run and beats the keeper but then turns and fires and misses the entire goal sitting at his mercy… A replay or a narrative confirmed? What does the support truly desire at that moment? The loudest ones, I’m guessing, are feeling rather chuffed, I fear…

    It’s all a huge negative spiral but the usual mechanism (fire the manager…) doesn’t exist at Arsene-L for breaking it… But that maybe deserves its own post…

    We need to build something positive and the only path is results. Did anybody watch Barca-Getafe or Everton-Chelsea this weekend? I saw parts of those matches and our next two opponents are so far better than we are–one in terms of pure football quality at every position and part of the game (what with all our injuries)…and the other, with their supporters, maligned manager and solid players, at keeping focused and riding a positive moment at their club. (And they will be playing their 2nd match in 7 days, not their 3rd match in 6…) Looking with a logical eye, we don’t stand a chance. Except that this is football and you never know. If we could get a win in either match (actually we need a 3-nil win at Barca…so just a face saving performance might help for the next one) it would be (for me) completely miraculous. That’s what I’ll be hoping we can do… Am I expecting it? Hell no…

    Still, for me, it seems more likely (and better, again, for me…) than wishing for Diego Simeone (the poor man’s Mourinho? the rich man’s Pulis?…) at our club…

    If not then it’ll be more spiraling down… Circles of hell I think the Italian guy (Dante) called it… which I need to try and enjoy…just for the spectacle…

    😀 😦

  74. Admir says:

    Simeone is an improved version of George Graham. He would make us competitive again both in England and in Europe.

    I was all for Pep at Arsenal due to style of play but he went for City’s billions instead. I don’t want Arsenal to be a primary school for our legends who would eventually get boos if things don’t go the right way (no Dennis, no Thierry, no Patrick).

    Conte opted for Chelsea. Allegri managed to lose a title with AC Milan despite having a solid lead, Zlatan and Thiago Silva. He has done well at Juventus but I can hardly say they play exciting football.

    Speaking of which… Arsenal haven’t played exciting football since the days of Cesc. Sure, there are occasional exciting performances against the teams who are defensively naive but on a regular basis? No. Sideways passing, slow movement, set-piece exploiting, knockings down from that big rhino in our attack. TA makes a fundamental mistake like our manager does – you don’t adjust top-class players like Alexis and Ozil to mediocre players like Giroud but vice versa.

    That’s why we don’t have a moral right to be spoiled regarding the type of football our – hopefully soon appointed – new manager is going to apply at Arsenal.

    Simeone wants aggression, transition, movement and discipline. All things that this Arsenal don’t have and desperately need. If there is a better choice I would be glad to hear the suggestion.

    Now, 17 has a point. If Arsenal lose to Barcelona and Everton (and it is very likely to happen because a) we are shite on both ends of the pitch, b) they are good and c) FA sucks beyond eternity as their scheduling of our match against Everton proves), our season is effectively over. There is only one remaining goal left afterwards and that’s fourth-place trophy that West Ham look more capable of taking than our lot.

    What hurts the most is how little this team needs to be the best in England despite the referees who have been fukcing us for the biggest part of the season. I was watching Spuds and couldn’t help myself thinking that only player that would walk into our team is Kane but they are still above us. (No Alli, certainly not Eriksen or Lloris, maybe Aldesomething.) Splash 50-60 millions on a world-class striker and we are top of the league again.

  75. TotalArsenal says:

    Admir

    Football is not just an adding up exercise, as in the more talent the better a team will do. It is about chemistry, style of play and tactics, and that is what you are not getting. Name me a better holding midfielder in Europe…is all I am saying. This is the bit you, and many others, just do not get.

    Now I know you are not stupid so that is why it still surprises me that you could even connect the name of our team with Simeone. Never ever going to manage at Arsenal.

  76. TotalArsenal says:

    Good comments by PE and 17HT, both with their own view of what is wrong and how we should deal with this/another setback.

  77. Admir says:

    Holding midfielder? Or you meant holding striker?

    Lewandowski. Except Lewa is more mobile and far more effective in front of the goal. Benzema is another one but his strength is subordinated to Ronaldo’s ego at Real Madrid.

    But that is not the issue. The question is (and it was a valid one raised by, I think, Pony Eye in one of the previous threads): do Arsenal need a holding striker in the mould of Giroud at all? I mean, we have scored 71 goals this season in all competitions. Yes, Giroud has scored 20 of those. But here is a problem: we had scored 86 come March last term as we had had Alexis in a red hot form. With Giroud in the starting eleven, Alexis doesn’t get enough space to use his main strength. No wonder our two best league victories inspired this season have been inspired by Alexis and have happened with Giroud only as a substitution (Leicester 5:2, United 3:0).

    That’s why I am saying we need a mobile world-class striker. We have been stuck with Giroud for four seasons without his single league return of 20 goals and Theo’s decade is one of the saddest stories in more ways than just one. If Arsenal can afford the second most expensive manager in the world, then Arsenal can pay a world-class striker as well.

    Wenger and Kroenke have forfeited the battle against The Oilers and we will finish below them next season if Wenger stays until the end of his contract. If Arsenal want to compete for the league and Champions League, we have to bring a manager who can cut the gap between us and The Oilers using the resources he has. Simeone has managed to win La Liga in front of Barcelona and Real Madrid with a team that had been battlng against relegation prior to his arrival. The other manager who has shown that quality is at Liverpool. We could also mention Koeman who has done wonders with Southampton despite losing best players every year. Koeman’s record against Wenger is devastating for Wenger as it proves that managing richer and bigger club doesn’t mean you will have an upper hand against your less fortunate rivals (Koeman has lost just twice to Wenger in 11 matches). Slaven Bilić is another example.

    Days of Wengerball are over, my dear TA. Even Wenger doesn’t believe in Wengerball anymore so we play with better looking version of Peter Crouch upfront.

  78. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey, I agree, Admir on several counts: esp. re: our style of football, that Spurs aren’t very good, the brutal reffing against us, etc… You talk decent sense once we get 24 hours past the most recent referendum, er, result…

    I disagree about Simeone. For me, experience in England, and ideally in Europe seems important. That Italian who won the league with Chavs and the CL with RM seems quality (Ancelotti). Ranieri is doing pretty well, too… I also like these younger Spanish fellows, including the guy who knocked us out yesterday (Sanchez-Flores) and the one who could really hurt us next weekend (Martinez).

    At this level, however, I don’t think playing negative football is going to attract the best players (who we can actually afford) these days…

    The same goes for heaping (massive) pressure on them. Players want big money but they also want a comfortable, supportive environment, ideally in a cosmopolitan setting (which we can offer). Our situation is toxic in the extreme (the same fans begging Ozil to stay also probably wanted him benched when they saw the awesome “hunger” in Alexis’ game…) Mourinho was a “winner,” but he’s also the guy who loaned out Lukaku when he missed a preseason penalty kick… and chose to buy Diego Costa instead. Thinking too much like a fan on that one, I fear… Plus showing that his values are no values at all…

    On the other hand, Wenger probably blew it keeping guys like Theo and Jack (when City wanted to throw money at us for them) and using the proceeds to buy Higuain and Isco instead… Ah well, nobody’s perfect, except for Mr. Hindsight… 😀 (Maybe if he’d bought Gokhan Inler, who has hardly played for Leicester…or the two Sch guys at United instead of counting on Flamini, Arteta, Rosicky, Jack, Ramsey, Diaby, Tiny Santi, Coq the loan kid, etc., etc,)

    My point is that we can all propose simple solutions, but there aren’t any. Wenger’s 10 year plan to get us towards the elite in Europe hasn’t panned out but, like you say, we’re not that far off. Hell, you even thought that we’d have a shot vs Barca with a bit of luck on the injury front… see the comments here: https://bergkampesque.com/2016/01/28/five-new-signings-le-coq-and-rosa-back-jack-santi-and-danny-to-follow/

    A bit of fortune and a positive environment and a core group of players (plus a manager…) who sense that they could make something great happen. The pain of set-backs are real but you have to keep the bigger vision alive, IMO…

    That’s what’s so ugly about our situation–fighting over these things with one another rather than actually watching and discussing the football and taking pleasure where we can… We’re at a very low point right now, but it could get even lower and uglier, truly a farce (a word AW shouldn’t have used, I think the implication in French is more limited)… Still, just as Chelsea and ManU will be fine (even out of the top 4, as we might end up…) so will we…and while it may feel satisfying to flush the nappy (diaper) down with the poop… I say, resist the urge…

  79. 17highburyterrace says:

    Admir, I gotta run and I didn’t see your back and forth with TA before I posted (sorry)…but…

    I enjoyed the above finger-pointing at Giroud… (Funny stuff comparing him to Crouch…) He’s not an RvP (the guy he was supposed to replace) but few are… Anybody else who doesn’t prefer one of the top 3 biggest clubs in the world or are we just gonna stick with “world class and mobile…” The PEA guy at Dortmund does cool things with his hair. Imagine him up front with Pogba in MF…

    Koeman seems an interesting shout… I can’t recall TA’s views on his countryman…

    Overall, of course, you’re in fantasy land… I just wish I could join you… 😀

  80. Admir says:

    @17

    I must say a few things about Ancelotti and Martinez even if I’m in a hurry. 🙂

    Ancelotti is a successful manager, a true gentleman who had managed to make Chavs like the least disgusting during Abramovich-era and plays a positive football. Well, if playing Pippo Inzaghi and Rino Gattuso is a positive football, that is. 😀 However… For me, he is an ideal cup-manager. He has won Champions League three times (joint leader with Paisley) but “just” three league titles. I have watched him since his Juventus days when he had replaced Marcello Lippi (one of the best managers ever) and I can tell you that there is no top-class manager in the world who can choke like Ancelotti. He had managed Juventus for two-and-half years. It was a difficult period for them (Del Piero’s injury; issues with Van der Sar who was at fault for a lot of spilled points in big games; inability to make Thierry Henry’s signing work – thank him for that one! 😀 ) but he still managed to lose a Champions League semifinal to United after being two goals up, a Serie A race to Lazio despite being nine points ahead with a game at home against them (he lost that game and the winning goal was scored by…Simeone) and a Serie A race to Roma due to a 2:2 draw at home after being two goals up (Van der Sar bottled it). Then he was sacked, Lippi returned and won the league. Ancelotti went to Milan and won just one Serie A title despite having four best defenders of the decade on their respective positions (Cafu, Nesta, Stam, Maldini), Pirlo, Rivaldo, Kaka, Crespo, Shevchenko, Inzaghi, Seedorf et al. In one occasion Fabio Capello’s Juventus won the title decider at San Siro. The fact he won Champions League twice in the same period confirms my points about him as a cup-coach. Even in that competition, mind you, he managed to spill a three-goal advantage against Deportivo in 2003-04 (4:1, 0:4) and Liverpool in 2004-05 Final.

    At Chelsea he won the double in his first season breaking goal-scoring records, started brightly in the second but lost the pace and eventually forfeited the title to Manchester United.

    At PSG he actually lost the title race to Giroud-inspired Montpellier before winning the easiest league in Europe.

    He then went to Real where he won Champions League in a rather impressive manner but lost the title race to…Simeone again even if he had had a league title on the silver plate more than once. In his second season he had opened a huge gap to Barcelona but once Suarez served his time, Real were unable to do anything to stop them.

    He did promote Pirlo and made a revolution by pretty much reinventing the role of the deep-lying playmaker. That’s something he should be remembered forever. I don’t think he could give us what we need though. He would ask for a lot more money than The Wig-Man would allow him to spend. And, I don’t think he would have lungs for a crazy Premier League marathon now.

    About Martinez… He is a manager who develops players (Stones, Barkley, Lukaku, Deulofeu and my compatriot Bešić have all flourished under his hand), not teams. Everton are the cleanest team in the league in terms of fouls committed and probably the most naive in terms of defending. We would basically replace Wenger with a younger version of Wenger who works the best in an environment where the imperative of results doesn’t exist. Everton can afford it, Arsenal can’t. Moyes brought sixth-place-is-good-mentality to United, we can’t afford the same mistake as Manure made. Literally can’t afford because we don’t have 200 million pounds to waste.

  81. 17highburyterrace says:

    So then, Ranieri or Sanchez-Flores it is… 😀 Unless we stick with AW (or his Spanish alter-ego, Martinez… 😀 😀 Bould, I guess is your true choice, and I do like his hair…

    OK, really gotta go… Thanks for the Italianalysis… 😀

  82. Admir says:

    Nope. 😛

    If Simeone doesn’t want to join Arsenal, I’d do Germany.

    Joachim Löw – the world champion, a gentleman, systematic in his job, would attract German players to our team, wears sweaters that make him popular outside the pitch so he would have no trouble with zippers. 😀 His German team plays a positive football.

    Jupp Heynckes – he hasn’t managed since Bayern 2012-13 but, boy, that was some management. He received an award from Borussia Mönchengladbach. One of rare managers to win Champions League with two different clubs and in both clubs he was shown the exit door after the success (Real Madrid and Bayern). He is a bit old though but his gap between two titles was 15 years (1998-2013) which suggests he is a time-proof. 🙂

    Lucien Favre – he has been out of job since the early stage of this campaign. He was sacked after losing the opening five matches with Borussia (M). I think he was a victim of The Klopp-syndrome – he had raised his Borussia from the relegation zone to the Champions League within three years in a similar way Klopp had raised his but at some point Favre’s team got fed up with him. Once he was gone, Borussia started playing well again. Some of players I wanted to see at Arsenal (Marco Reus, Max Kruse) emerged under his reign. He also had a more than a decent spell with Hertha Berlin.

  83. TotalArsenal says:

    Admir, Wenger knows much better than you and me what a world class striker is like and where to get one if he wanted to. The problem is not Giroud, although he could do better, but the players around him. Alexis and Theo, Ozil, Rambo and Ox have failed miserably in adding goals in the last few months. Wenger has opted for a holding striker system and wants the goals to be spread across the team, and that is why he opted for Giroud. I expect him to lead the line again next season but better fire power to be added from the wing positions. He might also work towards a plan B, which I guess is playing Welbeck up top.

  84. TotalArsenal says:

    To get more out of Giroud, Alexis and Ozil, I would try swapping Alexis and Ozil, with the Chilean playing as a Bergkampesque nr10, and Ozil in the free role to go where he can add value, but that is something for a future post.

  85. Pony Eye says:

    Giroud stays on his heels. Starts from zero like a coal fueled locomotive. Can’t work the right channels because he ain’t got a right foot. Superb in the air but Arsenal keep their ball on the ground. Poor at link up play but great box flicks. In summation the stats don’t label him a world class striker which is what we need and can afford.

  86. 17highburyterrace says:

    PE, same question, who is this world class striker you speak of and why will he come to us rather than one of the top three clubs in the world (Barca,Bayern, RM–maybe PSG should be in there as well) or one of the English clubs which is already rebuilding (and not in perpetual crisis as we are this week…) and will pay him at least as much (if not close to double…) what he would make at Arsenal? That would include both Manc clubs, Chelsea, and maybe even Liverpool… New money at Everton means they should be able to keep their best players and perhaps splash for a couple… There’s also big money to make in China… The Istanbul clubs and even clubs in the US seem able to pay big, too…

    Wenger is a very big draw for players at Arsenal, I think, in that he shows them such loyalty… Deciding to keep Theo both times he held us to ransom, er, renegotiated his contract, I think, was a good gamble even if he’s been injured a lot and could also never be considered a “world class striker.” Losing him to Man City (or even Liverpool) would have been a step backwards for the club, at least in terms of public relations… IMO we played some of our best football this season with him on the pitch, I think…

    Sometimes gambles don’t pay off (keeping Theo or, more recently, hoping for better fitness and production up and down the team…) but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good gambles…

    I have empathy for those who want change for change sake, whether it’s frustrating players or the manager and it’s possible that fans would give the right new character(s) a bit of a leash. I would expect, however, even bigger struggles than we have currently and that famous bedding in sort of thing. If expectations remain high it seems wise to expect high levels of disappointment…. We may not win the league (of any of the cups) but at least 3 of those other free spending clubs won’t either…and they will all be further ahead in the tear-down, rebuild cycle…

    To me, staying the course–through better or worse–works in other parts of my life so maybe that’s why I like Wenger and what he’s trying to accomplish… Loyalty, IMO, runs both directions and gives as good as it gets. But then again, I’ve got more hair than Billy Joel so maybe that’s my secret… 😀 If things get too miserable there’s always switching teams (Billy Joel is on his 4th go-round or marriage, I just checked his bio…) even if I know I’m not supposed to suggest such things…

  87. TotalArsenal says:

    Giroud has 12 PL goals and Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Theo and Ox have 22 PL goals together, an average of 4.4 and that in 30 PL games. Will Wenger think I need to change Giroud and all will be fine or does the problem lay somewhere else? I have no doubt that Wenger can find a more clinical finisher than Ollie in no time, as he has always had an eye for those sorts of CFs, BUT he has changed the system and approach and Ollie is vital in our system, as he will prove again in the next two games. If we end up with nothing this season it is not because of Ollie not being a ‘world class striker’ but the other attackers playing well below par. But of course it is soooo much easier to say Ollie is no Aguero and that is why we are winning nothing this season. We all would like it if football was that simple. Night night. 🙂

  88. TotalArsenal says:

    And of course our defence is simply leaking too many goals at the moment.

  89. TotalArsenal says:

    Oh and Cazorla got no PL goals this season and Joel got three, so 25 from 7 players and I will let Admir, who is brilliant with numbers, do the new average! 😉

  90. njk84sg says:

    TA,

    Regarding your post on March 14, 2016 at 21:08, somehow Alexis and Ozil are doing that already, and are all over the pitch to link up with everyone.

    The only problem we have is a finisher. He needs not be fast, tall, strong, but he needs to be at the right place at the right time.

    The only person that can fit the bill is Flamini, as he sees spaces and scores. So, should he be the fox in the box?

    Cheers for a good game tonight,
    JK

  91. Pony Eye says:

    Down to earth always, you HT. Don’t you ever loose your balance? “…who is this world class striker….@ HT”. Good question. Barca has 3 world class strikers, so they can’t be competing with us for more. Real has 2, Bayern 2, PSG 2, Man C Aguero, Chl Costa. The missing names are Arsenal and Man U.

    Am not a scout, so I can’t rattle out the names of other ” world class strikers” but at least I know that there is one in North London. He belongs to the Spuds. And it beats me why we won’t just go and muscle him out of their hands. The Spuds have only started contemplating a new stadium, 15 good years behind us, minnows. If allergic to anything Spudish, there are better deals further afield in the populous land of the minnows.

    Arsenal is one of the top chance creators (world class), in the epl and in Europe, yet our top scorer in his injury free season, is 7th in the epl, 31st in Europe. Just not good enough for a team with huge dreams.

    TA, you are a lover boy. I wouldn’t mind a pair of those your rose tinted glasses, mine alters with the intensity of the sun light. Right now it is all grey. Is it really the support cast that lets Giroud down. I see it oppositely. Giroud lets the support cast down. And that is why I prefer Welbz. His style stretches the defense and allows our support cast to be more effective. Stretching the defense helps Ozil’s vision, Alexis agility, Rambo’s hunger and even our own dear Theo who loves getting away from the maddening crowd into the seclusion of space, tet a tet with the keeper.

  92. Pony Eye says:

    njk, l like your bold vision. Flams aggression, applied in the box would yield so much goals. But remember people are under the hypnosis of tags. Galileo dared to say the world was round. Heresy. He was made to recount. You, njk, would be made to recount!

  93. njk84sg says:

    Its ok PE, Let’s see if Le Prof (or whatever is left of) dares to deploy Flams as forward.
    And like Galileo, I am open to comments from all walks of the Earth 🙂

  94. TotalArsenal says:

    PE, you said Giroud did not have the stats and then I provided you the key stats to inform you. Nothing to do with rose tinted glasses but facts rather than gut feeling. Giroud scored about 0.6 PL goal on average this season which is anything but bad, yet the others are lacking far behind. Would Ollie scoring 1.0 goals per game really make us champions? Ah if it only was that simple. Wipe those glasses with a lily white handkerchief; you might start seeing some roses again. 🙂

    Not able to blog for a while this week, but CoyGs.

  95. TotalArsenal says:

    Nice on 84. ⚽️⚽️

  96. Admir says:

    TA,

    if you have an excellent forward and want to get his maximum, you will adjust the game to his needs, not to a mediocre striker who hasn’t scored 20 goals in the league season since his arrival four years ago. Alexis is a victim of Wenger’s obsession to prove Giroud is a top-class striker. If we had signed Suarez, he would have been going through the same problems like when he had played a second fiddle to Andy Carroll.

    Blaming Ozil for lack of goals is totally misplaced. We would have scored even less than those miserable 46 goals in 29 games if Mesut hadn’t been our leader by example.

    World-class forwards:

    Kane – young, English, expensive, would command a massive fee and even then he wouldn’t join;

    Aubameyang – too expensive because our manager had completely lost his touch when it comes to Ligue 1 signings so players like Kante, PEA, Payet and others go elsewhere while we get Gervinho, Park, Sanogo;

    Zlatan – 35, expensive wage, our locker-room is too big for both his and Arsene’s ego; would love to sign him though as he has forgotten more about football than Theo and Giroud will ever know combined;

    Griezmann – quick, has technique, mobile, scores goals;

    Cavani – won’t be sold now that Zlatan Eiffel has announced his departure;

    Higuain – he chokes in important games but at least scores a lot and knows Ozil very well;

    Lukaku – quick, strong, mobile, effective, young. Won’t be sold though.
    Just a few names.

  97. TotalArsenal says:

    Admir,

    You are still not getting it. Wenger is not proving that Ollie is a world class striker. He knows his fellow Frenchman isn’t one, but he is a brilliant holding striker who will score about 20 PL games a season if fit throughout all games, and will also allow others to do so too. That is the philosophy based on not becoming too dependent on the one lethal CF again (as we were under RvP who scored buckets loads but we just scraped to fourth…). All those names are indeed interesting CFs but Wenger has moved on whether you like it or not. Kane is promising but not WC btw.

  98. TotalArsenal says:

    Ozil, whilst playing in the hole, should also hit double figures in a season….

  99. Pony Eye says:

    I wanted to clarify the issue of the rate of goals scored by the top striker of a team over every 90mins played and goals by the team per game less the top scorer’s. I used the top 9 leading epl strikers of 9 teams. Therefore the name of Mahrez who is behind Vardy for Leicester in goals scored does not appear even though he is 5th in the top scorers chat.

    ———————–Gls by Str/90 mins———-Gls by Team less Top Str/Game Aguero (Man C)————-0.849——————————-0.944 (5th)
    Lukaku (Evert)—————0.668——————————-1.153 (1st)
    Vardy ( Leic)——————0.649——————————-1.122 (2nd)
    Kane (Spurs)—————–0.645——————————-1.118 (3rd)
    Giroud (Ars)——————0.551——————————-1.025 (4th)
    Defoe ( Sund)—————-0.541——————————-0.703 (7th)
    Ighalo ( Watf)—————–0.504——————————-0.496 (9th)
    Costa (Chl)——————–0.490——————————-0.993 (6th)
    Armautovic (Stk)————-0.407——————————-0.666 (8th)

    While Giroud is 5th on his chart, the Arsenal team less Giroud’s goals are 4th placed. Looks like both arms need to improve their respective goal contributions. Evert/Lukako stats are ideal. 1st and 2nd respectively but they need to work on the amount of goals they ship in. Aguero is on top of his chart, a true class striker.

  100. Alex says:

    TA, I beg to disagree about Özil and his goals. I wonder where the other playmakers of the PL are…..

  101. 17highburyterrace says:

    Hey fellas… Better late than never (I just couldn’t quite get it done last night…) but there’s a…

    New Post

  102. Gerry says:

    I have enjoyed the above back and forth immensely. Certainly one of the best with regards to being intelligent and civil. Well done! 😀

    No surprise I could disagree with each on one point or another, but that the part that makes life interesting?

    Admir, I think you flavoured this discussion somewhat with ‘our needs’, which confused me a little as it seems like this season could saved, with additions, although you really mean what could improve the team next season? You just don’t want AW to be the one buying the players you mention .. Yes?
    Personally I would like Wenger to be given the sort of budget you seem to think will be afforded to the new manager …. For once!
    Referencing the three potential ‘in house’ replacements I put up as possibles, but not until the 2017/18 season …. for the very reason you state. TH is probably the most popular choice (with Kroenke’s son on the BoD at least?), and the one most in need of an ‘education’ in management. However, DB must be well past his ‘secondary education’ by now? And PV will have completed two years in the MLS by the season I suggested, and has spent a long time in the very successful Man City academy before that. How that would translate at Arsenal is anyone’s guess … But in order to be a legendary manager, I will quote Willie Mullins reflecting on how he began as a a trainer (of horses) ….. ‘We all have to start somewhere’

    Cheltenham beckons …..
    Cheers,
    Gerry

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