Iwobi’s Best Game, Alexis Brings Theo and Iwobi to Life, Motoring Mustafi: 8 Positives Hull v Arsenal

Now that is the Arsenal most of us love so much: dominant, creative, strong and banging in goals left, right and centre.

After the midweek CL game, legs could have been tired and minds preoccupied, but we started the game with a ferocious tempo and appetite that drove the Tigers back in their proverbial cages and made us dominate the proceedings. When you play from home against a team that has made a good, ‘against expectations’, start to the season and which was rested during the week, you need to start well to set the tone and not get overwhelmed.

And that we did!

Hull City v Arsenal - Premier League

Arsene had opted for the same back five and double DM pivot as on Tuesday and for Alexis as our CF, once again. Ozil played in the hole/free movement role and two quick and energetic wingers, Iwobi and Theo, to complete the attack. A selection pattern is developing and it worked a treat this time. Rumours are that Giroud has a toe problem, either from a PSG player or Wenger’s punishment for reckless behaviour on the pitch… So on the bench we had the Ox and Perez to support the attack if required. It turned out that we did not really need them. 🙂

I guess the omission of Xhaka and, to a lesser extent, Elneny still surprised many of us, as both would have been raring to go, but we can see why Wenger is sticking to his settled DM pivot couple CoqZola: they were solid and dominated the game for the first seventy minutes or so. More about this later.

Maybe more of us are starting to see why Wenger wants to play Alexis as our ‘CF’ this season.

His movement, running off and with the ball, constant energy and involvement in the game is making all the difference. But what I loved most of this game is that Theo and Iwobi really are starting to understand what they need to do, and especially where they need to be, when Alexis goes deep(er) to create space behind him.

Attacking football for many is a matter of getting the ball to a super CF in dangerous positions as much as possible… and he will do the rest. But it is not that simple (any more). Winning football is about dominating proceedings and creating chances – and then taking them – through creating space, excellent passing football, team pressing, and clever running off and with the ball. Anyone can score and goals are ideally spread among a number of players, so we are less predictable and dependable on the one Aguero or Ibrahimovic. If you have watched the first halves of MC – MU and Chavs – Pool, you will know what I mean. And Arsenal’s first half display against the Tigers fits with these performances albeit against lesser opposition.

Of course we dominated the second half too but that was further influenced by the Livermore sending off. The only negatives of Saturday’s game were the missed penalty and the penalty we gave away, totally out of the blue. But also that is football.

Eight positives from Hull v Arsenal:

  1. Iwobi’s best game in the mighty red and white colours: he played so mature and composed you would believe he has been in Arsenal’s first team for years. He assisted two goals and you could argue our first one should have gone to him anyway. He has that rare ability to create time for himself when on the ball, and then he makes virtually always good decision on what to do next with his head held up. His passing and running with the ball is sharp but his sense of creating opportunities and executing them on the spot is even sharper. He also is often in the right place at the right time in and around the box, which again is very special for his age at the highest level of football. And I loved how he worked with Ozil, Sanchez and Theo. My MOTM;
  2. Alexis’ ability to create space and link midfield with attack AND Theo’s and Iwobi’s ability to benefit from this and link up with the fabulous Chilean (as already explained above). Before the game Arsenal had the best conversion rate of the league, and with four goals from nine attempts on target, I reckon this will have been enhanced further;
  3. Mustafi’s drive and reading of the game is awesome, and his partnership with Koz is blossoming quickly. This is allowing his CB partner to take it a bit more easy and preserve energy, which is just what the doctor has order for King Koz as the season is long… I loved Mustafi’s reading of the game and interventions, his drive to link up defence with midfield. In a way, he is our pace setter from the back. Long may it continue.
  4. Coq-Santi DM pivot. Wenger has been indicating that Xhaka is doing very well and now needs to be linked up with a DM partner as their collaboration and mutual understanding are pivotal to the team. Coq and Santi, as a partnership, are ahead right now. He also sees Xhaka as a box to box player, given his enormous energy, rather than a deep laying ‘Pirlo’, so it seems. So Granit needs to find himself a deep laying DM, which could be either Coq, Elneny, or even Santi. Let’s see what will happen midweek against NF re this;
  5. Theo is in his element. Theo will often frustrate us but playing in this ‘Alexis the holding AND mobile CF’ system, he is likely to thrive and deliver the goods more regularly. It creates space for him to which he is not just addicted but also very dependent on. Theo is a chancer and sometimes his attempts come off spectacularly and sometimes disastrously, but as a ‘second CF’ on the wing he will get his goals and assists. He scored a fine goal and was involved in a lot of our attacking play. Theo may have found himself a new lease of Gunner life;
  6. Ozil, Bellerin and Monreal featured less prominently in this game it seemed, but their running (with and without the ball) and passing were still vital for our dominant TEAM play. Mesut’s final ball is still not as sharp as we are used to, but can you imagine how we will play once he finds his form?! Chavs be warned! 🙂
  7. The quality of the bench. We are still missing the likes of Ramsey, Welbeck, BFG and Gabriel, and Ollie was left at home nursing his big one, but to be able to bring on Xhaka, Perez and Elneny to close out a game is a thing of beauty. And Granit’s bullet into the left corner for our last goal topped it all off;
  8. Wenger for evolving our game once more and getting the very best out of his players. Time to get fully behind him once more. The season just kicked off properly.

By TotalArsenal.


26 thoughts on “Iwobi’s Best Game, Alexis Brings Theo and Iwobi to Life, Motoring Mustafi: 8 Positives Hull v Arsenal

  • Hi TA. Back again.

    I agree with all of that. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well we seemed to function and how we didn’t seem off the pace physically. The way Alexis, Walcott and Iwobi were moving around up front was brilliant and a joy to see, only matched by how Santi and Coq were taking turns to go beyond the other, and Ozil was either dropping deeper than them, or finding space out wide.

    I still thought that there were one or two defensive issues caused by us all playing higher up to be closer to Alexis (Wenger had criticised us staying too deep from the first half of the PSG game) but all ‘tactics’ are a trade off. Mustafi made one error but was strong throughout and his passing from the back was great to see. Kos and him both looked like they had a better understanding now.

    I’m not quite sure Wenger was being genuine about the box to box comment about Xhaka. The journalist asked him whether that was the case and I think he was just pleased to go along with that and use the opportunity to praise Xhaka for being a complete midfielder. I still think he’ll be more of the deep passer, while Ramsey (since Wenger talked about pairs) will be the runner next to him, but that obviously doesn’t mean he can never get forward.

    Meanwhile, Wenger’s comments on Walcott yesterday about him running behind the defensive line as Alexis drops deeper fits in perfectly with what you say. I’m interested to see how Giroud and Lucas fit into this system too. Lucas could play the Theo role if Alexis is up front. But also, even if Giroud is up front he still acts like a link up man. So could it be that Giroud and Alexis are the CFs while Walcott, Iwobi, Ox and Lucas are the wide forwards in the new scheme? And what of Welbeck when he returns? Still, all very interesting and some options to switch things up there.

    It’ll also be interesting to see what the lineup will be against Forest. I’m tempted to go all change with Ospina, Debuchy, Holding, Gabriel, Gibbs, as the defense. Xhaka,Elneny as the double pivot. With 4 of Lucas, Giroud, Ox, Jeff, Zelalem, Akpom, ahead of them, but usually Wenger still retains one or two from the preferred first team so that probably won’t be the case.

  • TA.. great post.. so another 8 points.. hehehe..

    Me and maybe most of Arsenal fans already forgot that Wenger is the same old guy.. hehehe.. He always keep his winning team as far as they can go.. and only change 1 or 2 players..
    I’m too excited with our squad, that I hope He can pick anyone easily.. hehehe.. but again I was totally wrong.. hehehe..

    I must say that Sanchez did well.. but didn’t you notice that all his goals is basically came from second striker role.. He did look so well because Iwobi and Walcott do their job beyond expectations.. And if they keep doing that kind of football.. Every one of our CF will look great.. hehehe..

    And as I said in the last comment of your last post.. I agreed with Gerry.. I smelled something in command here.. I assumed that related with his new contract.. Just like what happened to Walcott two years ago, when he wanted a CF role badly.. and Wenger give him that untill he signed the paper.. and then we already know what happened.. hehehe..

    I still can’t believe that Wenger bought Perez for nothing.. Or just to pleast fans.. No way will he did that.. He is a very realistic Manager.. if ‘stubborn’ is not the correct word.. hehehe..

  • And you know.. it’s great to know that big MOUth team lost again.. hope will last forever.. hehehe..

  • Yes, I’ll go along with Shards comment above. Nice post match review TA.

    The positives are well deserved. I do think you are putting a little too much credit Alexis’s way though. When he comes deep he is not doing it to create space for others, he is just looking to get involved for himself. The difference now is, the rest of the team are dancing to his tune?

    But that aside, it does make for exciting games. I agree though, it has made it work well for the other attackers, and Ozil will catch up once he can predict their movements better. At the moment it is a bit erratic.

    It is a risky strategy to commit so many bodies forward, and time will tell whether they can apply it against stronger opposition, like Chelsea next weekend? Yes we have a Cup game midweek, but my guess is we will play most of the promising youngsters, and those seniors in need of a game?
    Pretty much along the lines that Shard suggested above. I would go for Mustafa and Holding as the CB’s, but the midfield could have Xhaka and Sheaf at the back. If we are looking to mirror the first team, then Akpom and Pérez, flanked by Jeff and Maitland-Niles and Zelalem supplying the bullets.

    Back to the game yesterday… I think it is coming together nicely, both in defence and attack. However, I am not convinced if you change the personnel it will work as well? Some players will slot in, but more than one tweak and it could instantly become a shambles. Like everyone else, I want to see Xhaka as a major part of the evolving team, but he does change the dynamics just by being the player that the others expect him to be. So I can understand why AW is bringing him along slowly.

    These are my supplementary comments.

  • I agree with Gerry about Alexis. For the first time I felt Alexis was selfish. I know that is what a striker should be but Iwobi’s comments about him begging for the goal to be his sounded weird. I don’t know if that is good for the team chemistry and specially for the confidence of a young guy such as Iwobi.

  • Shard, I reckon Perez is like for like cover for Alexis as our new CF, but either can also play on the left. Giroud is our plan B/ additional firepower this season I reckon. But only time will tell.

    Like the line up for Tuesday, but more about that later.

  • Henry, Sanchez was awesome throughout the game with a great work rate and creating space for others to benefit from. And yes Iwobi and Theo did well too. All three had a very good game. Wenger is very serious about playing Alexis as CF this season and I have little doubt this has nothing to do with contract situation.

  • Gerry, the difference is that others are now understanding the tactics of Wenger a lot better. As I said a few posts ago, Iwobi gets it but Ox doesn’t. Alexis is told to go deep to link midfield and attack up and Iwobi, Theo and Ozil can go into the space he makes available. They did this very well yesterday.

  • Great summary T. Many fine comments as usual also.
    While Watching our same team (basically) perform so much better than the champions league game, i kept having the feeling that it was because we weren’t facing anywhere near the quality of Psg dimaria, rabiot, matuidi, or even Cavani. By the way, i said all along that United would have been better with Matuidi than Pogba on the pitch for them.

    I really hope Arsene doesn’t tinker with Xhaka too much, because when watching him for Switzerland and early matches for us, (not to mention his reputation as best in his position in Bundesliga), i really see him as our Xabi Alonso distributing from deep, but also love the way he defends our own box like an extra cb at times… i don’t know what Arsene has in mind, but the kid is an awesome talent, and we wouldn’t pay that price if we didn’t agree as an organization.

    I think that when Arsene spends over 30 mil for a player, he sees potential world class as in Alexis and Ozil. Mustafi may have been a bit under pressure by circumstances, and i think was a necessity.

    I do worry about the extremely high line we are playing, with dms and cbs.. coquelin and mustafi, koscielny, who love to start the counter by tackling high up the pitch, thus leaving us and our keepers in scary situations if we miss a tackle or the ball gets loose to an opposing player. I’ve been amazed at how forward Mustafi gets…It’s obviously exciting football, but is it sound as long term tactic? How many times did we get caught out in both matches. It’s living dangerously..

    As i was pointing out the gulf in quality between our last 2 opponents, Chelsea would be an interesting test at this time, in my opinion…. Quality players, hungry after a loss, witha tough manager pushing them… not as good as Psg, but much better than Hull. Let’s see if we look more like Tuesdays team or Sundays team.

  • Sorry Neeraj, I did not see your comment until after I posted mine. I am glad that you concentrated on your studies and made your place at Uni secure. No doubt you will now have a little more time to follow things back here on BK. Welcome back.

    I get your point Jync, about the quality of opponents, indeed, I also said the Chelsea game will be a test. I also think the way we play, as a team, is more important than worrying about the strength of opposition. You only have to look at Watford to see that reputation counts for nought if they don’t turn up to play?

    Whilst I don’t agree with TA on the driving force behind the current style, I do agree that it came together much better on Saturday, and for the reasons he states, i.e. players getting into the space in the centre. We all saw it was not working well with Alexis as CF before. In fact it was Iwobi that took advantage of that space late on in the PSG game, to which I gave him credit.

    However, as I pointed out in my thoughts on the first half against Hull, it is not so much a case of Alexis ‘leaving’ the central area during play, because the only time he is central is at the point of transition from inside our half. Any turnover ball when we press high, Alexis could be anywhere. It is the total opposite to what Giroud offers? This is why I say that tinkering, such as adding Giroud to that fluid front row would not work … as well, that is. Differently, yes.

    The other worry I have is the effect it has on Ozil. In theory he should like the fluid front line as it requires movement from them. But the difference here is, as I said earlier, they are dancing to Alexis’s tune, and does not necessarily play to Ozil’s strength at being able to read the game? At the moment Alexis moves around erractically, not always with the ‘right’ – read that as best option -choice, and is also prone, as has been repeatedly said, to losing possession because of this?

    It is a complex situation, and I am not sure how much control AW has on field, such as the taking the penalty taking clearly showed? The acceptance by the players makes you think they know Alexis is running the show at the moment? Time will tell how long this will be the case?

    Talking of pens, during the Euro’s, I think it was Rashford I saw take a penalty that looks almost impossible to stop. There was little frills involved in his run up, but because he got so much power from a short back left, even though the keeper went the right way, the power behind the ball was such it was through his hands at the end of his dive.
    The key is the power from the short back lift. It gives the kicker the very last millisecond before sending in the direction of his choosing. If the keeper waits, it is to late. If he goes too early, it will go behind him. Anything in between , the power beat him.
    Cazorl’s last penalty also had a short back lift, and power. According to Arseblog, Alexis has not scored a penalty in open play, only in a pen shootout.
    I rest my case.

  • TA, you are the Chairman of the Board and you are doing a great job of setting the tempo.

    Iwobi has become an important player to Wenger. He is so good going forward. Off the ball, on the ball, passing and shooting. His best position atm is wide left which has been Sanchez’s main position for Arsenal. Between the two, who plays ahead of the other.

    I suspect that Wenger has opted for Iwobi. He is a man who amongst other things loves rapidly unfolding potential. But Sanchez is not the man to sit on the bench. He will die. A position has to be found for him hence Sanchez at #9.

    Is Sanchez at #9 our best option when compared to the hold up play/arial dominance of Giroud or the directness and power of Perez? Close call, I’d say.

    Giroud fits into games against PTB teams.
    Perez fits into open ended matches.
    Sanchez fits into both, playing as false #9 in the open ended games.

    Sanchez as a false #9 needs runners from the wide areas ( from Iwobi, Walcott, Perez) and from the CM (from Ramsey and Ramsey).

    If you want a good perspective of the team we have now, it is the team that started the campaign last season plus Iwobi, Elneny, Xhaka, Mustafi, and Perez. This is not necessarily a strengthening of the XI as it is a stregthening of the bench. And that can be decisive.

  • Cheers Johnnie and fine balancing comment.

    We are not there yet, obviously, as it will take time to get the new signings settled and the system working, but that was a very good performance on Saturday. I don’t think I will write a better post this season about the essence of this team and our our new attacking system.

    Every game has its own dynamics and had we not conceded in the first minute, we might have been a lot stronger again the Parisian Oilers.

  • Cheers PE, have not seen enough of Perez to judge him properly, but I feel he was bought to be Alexis’ back up as a like for like player. Perez can indeed also play on the left but Iwobi is playing very well in this new system. You must be proud of your fellow Nigerian?

  • TA

    I have not watched Perez play, but his strength seems to lie in running off the shoulder of defenders rather than coming deep. I’m not sure but I think even Wenger mentioned that bit about him. I’m sure he COULD play a false nine, but I doubt that is the plan for him.

  • Shard, we might not see Perez play a full game yet to say anything concrete, but it is quite clear that he is able to lead the frontline.

    He had good touches and looked like a shorter Ollie, as he kept the ball well against hard tackling defenders. And he does not like to track deep, but he likes to run back and retrieve the ball when it is lost.

    I somewhat agree with TA that Perez is similar to Alexis, and when Alexis is fully rested he can do the same.

    This season we are still unable to see the pace that Alexis have showed last season, but him being a energizer bunny that needs no recharging, resting him is somewhat impossible.

    However, with so many players, we can at least make Wenger force him to sit on the bench for a couple of games.

  • I just read this on a Sky Sports:

    Arsenal squad: Cech, Ospina, Macey, Debuchy, Bellerin, Holding, Koscielny, Mustafi, Gibbs, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Xhaka, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Reine-Adelaide, Sanchez, Walcott, Iwobi, Lucas, Sanogo, Akpom, Giroud.

    Food for thought on the the match tomorrow night? No Zelalem, but a Yes to Sanogo?

    Interesting. I cannot imagine Sanogo starting, but he may get a few minutes at the end, if circumstances allow. Only Jeff R-A and Akpom make it from the younger brigade. So a much stronger squad than previous years?

    The article did suggest that Giroud might miss out with his ‘toe wenjury” so no surprise to see him statrt, eh?. I cannot imagine Alexis forcing his way into starting, but I guess he will be on the bench if things go pear shaped?
    It is interesting that there is an Under 23 game tonight(v-Leicester), as well as one on Friday, so whoever does not get a game, assuming that this is the official squad(?), then they can turn out for a strong squad on Friday (v- Chelsea Under 23’s, and covered by BT Sport, I believe). So if Giroud has any hope of playing on Saturday, he will play some part tommorow. That in turn might impact on whether Akpom has any chance tomorrow, as I cannot see him ousting both Perez and Giroud?.
    I do see Jeff taking the Alexis spot though, and a good performance could see him on the bench on Saturday? Interesting to see how Gibbs will pair with him, and a chance for Ox on the right? I am assuming that the over-worked brigade will be rested, naturally. Although I think it makes sense to try out the Mustafi – Holding pairing at some point, as you will note, Gabriel is absent from this squad list. There is an outside chance that Macey might get the nod in goal, as Ospina will have another opportunity against PSG next week?

    Sorry TA, just thinking out loud as I work through the changes. They do have to work as a team, as well as have the quality to win, so by keeping a solid looking core, I think the wider players; Gibbs Debuchy, Ox,, and to a lesser extent Jeff R-A, are experienced enough to do fine. The big question will be how to manage the creativity department with only Cazorla and Ozil as the main choices?
    Ox could be an interesting option, and it could open the door for Iwobi to link up with Elneny down the right once more?

    Nuff said. Have fun sorting the options TA.

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