Danny is Well-back, Ox is no Ozil but Iwobi could be, Fullbacks are failing us: 8 Observations

Liverpool away is never easy, and last night’s encounter with the Reds proved this once more. Arsenal did not start badly, as we so often do against our main competitors, but the boys were 1-0 behind in no time and after that it was an uphill battle all day long. We lacked intelligence and patience in midfield and there was no link up with our isolated attackers. Some will say we played the wrong attackers, but it does not matter who we play upfront if we do not have the ingenuity and skillset of Ozil and/or Santi on the pitch. The first half we did not look any better than Swansea or Bournemouth playing at Anfield, which of course is not good enough for Arsenal. They scored a second, very well-worked goal and the game seemed over.

The second half saw us not only take the initiative again but play with more structure and intelligence too. The main  reason for this is dropping the Ox deep to be the B2B, Xhaka playing deeper than all midfielders and Iwobi – our best youngster by a mile – to play in the hole. What a difference that made. Alexis added energy on the left and produced the assist from which Welbeck scored a Bergkampesque-superb, goal. We had some good chances in the second half for a deserved second goal, but it was not to be. A few months ago we WOULD have scored the equaliser and possibly more, but our belief has suffered some major blows since then. Pool broke up play and then played a quick and well-worked counter-attack to score their third in extra  time. Wenger needs to build further on our second half ‘draw’ performance for our next games.

Eight Observations:

  1. Danny is Well-back. He lasted well into the second half and scored a very fine goal. Fingers crossed he can get fitter and fitter going forward.
  2. Coq and Xhaka combo does not work. One of them is the deeper midfielder and they both need to play with a box to box player  next to them. The Xhaka-Ox combo in the second half was promising.
  3.  Ox is no Ozil but Iwobi could become one. The difference is that, at the highest level, Iwobi keeps his head up and the Ox doesn’t.
  4. We need a new left back. I love Nacho and Gibbs, but we need to improve on both of them this summer. Our left side of the defence is time and again the area that gets penetrated and goals are produced from. Nacho’s awareness of the danger around him seemed non-existent yesterday, with devastating consequences.
  5. Bellerin is going through a rough patch. As always he got himself in dangerous positions from which we could and should have hurt Pool. But his first touch and final ball often let him down badly, and it cost us. He is also not at his best defensively at the moment.
  6. Theo is not a super-sub. His impact on the game when he came on was once again unimpressive, to say the least. Can we really carry a player who can only be launched into space but has very limited capability to make space for himself and others? No.
  7. Set-piece delivery and crosses into the box are a shambles at the moment. When we finally saw a perfect cross into the box, it was small Perez at the end of it rather than Giroud, so it went begging. Need to improve on this pronto.
  8. Despite the negativity in most of the above mentioned observations, I still saw enough in the second half to believe we WILL give Bayern a decent game on Tuesday. The deficit we need to overcome is of course too big, but we can still take the game to them and show what we are made of. With Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck/Giroud and Perez in attack, we can hurt them. Key is to have more power and ingenuity in midfield, so a return of Ozil and hopefully Rambo is required (with Xhaka our deep DM).

By TotalArsenal. 


28 thoughts on “Danny is Well-back, Ox is no Ozil but Iwobi could be, Fullbacks are failing us: 8 Observations

  • Hi TA,

    I reckon your view on Iwobi is a little off. He, like the rest of the team, is in a period where I would rather play Welbeck in the AM position compared to playing Iwobi there.

    The reason is Iwobi’s defensive inability, and in the first half, both goals were conceded due to the lack of cover from the wings. Also, in open play, Iwobi without the ball is not himself. He could not assert himself to close down the opposition midfield and needs to be played less regularly.

    Also, Wenger was wrong to sub off Welbeck as he is the only person on the field that is able to lift the team. Alexis is trying his best to provide balls into the box, and only Welbeck knew where Alexis is going to play the ball.

    We, and the media have mentioned so many times about the tactical incapability that the team is currently going through, yet I do not think Wenger or the team even reads them.

    Even for a long-time supporter like me, who defended Wenger last year, is growing tired of the team’s showing. Shall we do a Leicester?


  • 84, are you saying that the goals were (partly) Iwobi’s fault? The wingers interchanged constantly so no way of telling who should have supported Nacho…

    Why was Wenger wrong to sub Welbeck? Surely, it had to do with his fitness levels/ return to fitness plans

  • 1.Welbeck next to Giroud is a good idea only when we control the game and knock on the door for a goal (i.e. games vs Leicester and Norwich at home) as Giroud can knock the ball down with his aerial prowess and Danny can both draw some attention from the opponents’ big men at himself and leave them for dead with his pace.

    2.Coquelin is going through a serious crisis. His knee injury took a lot from his bite and his timing for tackling. Xhaka is the biggest flop in Wenger’s era – I can name at least two midfielders who would be a better and a cheaper choice (Kante and Krychowiak). He does have some qualities in his game but he can’t show them without a different type of midfielder next to him.

    3.Iwobi might become a top player. He is still young and ups and downs in his game will appear within the same 90 minutes.

    4.Agreed. Then again, our left full-back is a victim of Alexis being moved down the middle. We had needed a top winger/a top striker last summer to avoid that problem but…

    5.Bellerin still relies too much on his pace. He should add a few more things to his arsenal and work out on his crossing.

    6.Theo is on a 140k-per-week contract. It’s mental.

    7.In the first half we had Welbeck and Giroud. Then Wenger decided to pull both of them out instead of keeping one of them.

    8.We had a decent second half once our opponents were two goal up which meant they didn’t need a further commitment going forward. Bayern have a four goal advantage and won’t need to bring their A game to London but I have a feeling the carnage is on cards. 😦 Anyway, it should be the last European match for Arsene Wenger on the Arsenal bench.

  • TA, I understand that the constant changing left the fullbacks exposed, but if we had a more defensive and attacking-capable attacking midfielder, we would have played better. And Iwobi is not defensive-minded.

    Our attacking trio of Welbs, Ollie and Ox that started the match a little disengaged with the rest of the team due to the 2 DM and the AM, which is Iwobi. Maybe playing Alexis instead of Iwobi in the hole would have made the movement better, so, with Iwobi, I blame the whole midfield and attack in not making better tackles and position themselves to work better in tight spaces.

  • TA, brave effort.

    0nly 12 games to go for us and nobody has a clue on our best first 11 for the day, Wenger obviously inclusive.

    1) It should be clear to everybody by now that it is only Santi that can make Coq good. Coq is a pure destroyer and nothing else. Against quick passing teams like Bayern and Liv the destroyer gets destroyed. And worse, he is completely unable to cope with the high press when he has or his team have the ball. Santi is out for the season, Coq should also be out for the season as a DM. Against quick passing teams he is not even one side of the ball, he is no side of the ball.

    2). Most are perplexed by Wenger’s starting of Giroud ahead of our other pacy strikers. I have a feeling I got the answer. It’s because of Cech. Arsenal are good with the ball, miserable without it. Cech hoofed kick outs are like gifting the possession to the opponents, the phase of the game we are miserable at. Hence Giroud, the fallacy of it all being that Giroud was the least suitable of the available strikers if as Wenger said he planned his attack “to be direct”. We can’t eat our cake and have it. Either we get a keeper who can play the ball on the ground, or we learn how to play without the ball. Short term fix is Ospina for the high press teams.

    If I get a chance I would say a lot many more things. We need to act quickly. The race is degenerating into a top five contest. Against Bayern we need to be professional, not silly. Our target should be a decent result, enough not to increase the toxicity in the air. There are still plenty to play for.

  • It will be interesting to see what team Bayern send out. the chances of a 4 – 0 victory are pretty remote, but hopefully we might get a little bit of self respect back. whichever side Wenger chooses it will probably not be enough, but if I was choosing the team (unlikely I know) the following players would not be in the side.

    Coquelin. Absolute hero a couple of seasons back, but he looks like an amateur

    Iwobi. Think he has been overplayed for what he is a young talent. he looks like a boy against men at the moment.

    Xhaka. I was really hopefully for this guy, but I don’t see him adding much to the team. he looks relatively slow to me. he can swing a decent pass but is not adverse to screwing up either. the Ox took a lot of critiscm in the past for bad decision making (and rightly so)but Zhaka is very similar in this respect. I genuinely fail to see why we paid £35 million or whatever it was.

    Monreal. his head just wasn’t right yesterday and he looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. that said Gibbs hssnt been great this year

  • PE, Giroud scored five in seven games v Pool. That’s why he played. Giroud did not get the service but Wenger was right to play him imo.

  • TA, I see it so oppositely to you. Xhaka is perfect already except its written in his DNA that all his physical responses have to be slow. We have to be back in the market this summer because it is a DNA thing. Ox on the other hand is full of promises as a CMF.

  • TA, you must have missed my point about Giroud. It wasnt his fault that he touched the ball only 4 times in the 1st half. But he should be played in games that we would show plenty of presence in the opponents box because that is where he is effective. Against teams that would dominate the possession, I feel the team would be better served by a front man who would also contribute to the body of the play eg Alexis or Welbeck.

  • First off… Welcome back to Admir, a guy who can speak quite well to an analysis of the game (above) but also resorts to the rather meaningless Wenger-Out-Solves-Everything reaction in the hotter moments (last thread). I missed the former, but not the latter…

    2nd off, The post itself is a good one, TA, and I mostly agree with the 8 observations even if I don’t share the optimism ahead of the Bayern return leg. Unless Ancelotti instructs his team to play the ball backwards we are looking at another lopsided scoreline. The majority of team is bereft of confidence, the support will be all over the manager (and those players) and the easiest thing to do will be for our best guys–Alexis for sure and Ozil if he plays (and, truth be told, I think he will be left out, i.e., protected for this one…) will likely ALSO get on the rest of the team with shows of petulance and other bad body language. If we could replicate the 8-2 scoreline (on aggregate–i.e., another 3-1 defeat…) from that famous drubbing at Old Trafford, I think it would be a pretty good night…

    Back to yesterday’s match…The idea to go more directly is a tacit admission that we do not have a midfield that can cope with a bit of pressing and individual players there (Xhaka, Coq) who cannot receive the ball and then turn effectively and move it on. (Xhaka, I think, will be fine, long term, if paired with a real mid-fielder. I like PE’s assessment of Le Coq as a 5th defender, not so much his complete dismissal of GX…) The #10 and the FBs need to help with our play through the middle and they weren’t up to snuff either, though I thought Iwobi worked hard and did OK. The problem is that Giroud, despite his size, isn’t much of a target man for the route 1 stuff either. Looking back again another few years, Bacary Sagna (8 or 9 inches shorter than Giroud, maybe…) was usually Szczesny’s preferred target.

    Even if you’re gonna try to play over the MF and hope for knock downs from Ollie, there’s still no reason to give the Pool defenders an easy ride by benching Alexis. (I gotta give retsub some love here by saying that Ox alongside Xhaka–in the 2nd half–was a step up over Completely-Lost-Elin, even if I stumped for him in the pre-match talk.) The decision to leave our best player on the bench must have something to do with Wenger trying to assert (a last vestige of…) authority over a player who has (more than…) a foot out the door. I know the manager wants to try and pump up the confidence of his players (Le Coq) by giving them chances but dropping him at half time probably undermines it just as much. Welbeck showed quality on the goal (which Ox did not with his corners and wild crosses from his first half wing play) even if he had trouble contributing to the more general play, so more opportunities should be on tap for him. I agree that Iwobi is a very promising player on the ball (and I never really go in for ideas that these forward guys should get the fingers pointed at them on goals where they aren’t in position to help…) but we have to admit that it’s a big load (for such a young player) if he’s supposed to manufacture more than the occasional goal or truly anchor our attack and/or bail out our deeper midfielders.

    What we have is a complete mess. Would the group do better if AW announces the end of his tenure sooner than later–or if somebody on the board (Gazidis?) actually gave the reigns to Steve Bould? That’s probably one for the psychologists… I don’t see either scenario playing out and the skeptical-to-furious support AW and his team will receive can only make Tuesday’s match more difficult, not to mention Saturday’s vs Lincoln City.

    Those cup matches–as impossible as they might be–give us (another) respite from the battle for top 4 positions where we still have a game in hand. We won’t win it (at Southampton) nor the next one (at WBA), unless (somehow, by magic?…) our play improves…

  • Cheers PE, lets just agree to disagree. Xhaka is class. Just play him deep and he will control the game.

    Enough said re Giroud but appreciate what you are saying.

  • What we have to do and do quickly is get a 1st choice pivot pairing. As I see it, first move is to delete Le Coq’s name, so it becomes a choice from the four of Xhaka, Elneny, Rambo and Oxlade. Maybe at this our state of self doubt we need to tilt the balance of our CMF offensively so we cease to starve our forward players. Left alone I will take Xhaka/Oxlade pairing as 1st choice.

  • It’s actually a very interesting problem ahead of the Bayern game. Sitting back with our (supposed) sitter, Le Coq, didn’t work in the first leg and, given that we need a 4-nil blitz to win the tie we should probably go for an all out attack…Xhaka-Ramsey would be my call given that Elneny was last seen wearing a protective boot (and Santi cannot get his skin to repair itself where he had his surgery). Sorry, but I leave out the Ox because I still remember his horrendous giveaway that gifted Bayern the 5th goal…

    But, then again, What do I know about Wenger’s tactics? I thought (for sure) that we would try to get our best footballers (Ozil and Alexis ahead of Le Coq, who can be good when he’s not shorn of all confidence, and Xhaka…) in the middle of the pitch and try to play on the break. Instead, and perhaps because, AW knows he’s got no midfield, he opted to play the English way and bypass MF completely… Benching Alexis, I still believe, is related to off-pitch issues…

    Or we could play Bayern for damage limitation… Why not play Debuchy (Waldo’s call week over week at RB even if I’m not so sure he’s still with the club…) with maybe Gabriel and Koscielny and Nacho and then a MF line of Bellerin, Xhaka, Coquelin and Gibbs and then Ox and Rambo up front? Would a nil-nil (5-1 on agg.), even with only 10% possession, be the worst result? 😀 😦

  • HT, that’s a revolutionary line up. Goalless it would be and Bayern bruised all over!

  • Just finished watching the replay of the Bayern game again. One thing that Wenger shouldn’t do for Tuesday’s game is putting Sanchez to lead the line. He just hasn’t got the temperament for staying isolated up field with little or no action for him.He displays so much frustration which he invariably heaps on his colleagues. That’s a recipe for dressing room unrest. Possibly that’s one of the silent problems Wenger is battling with. He should revert to the WL position so that against Bayern, who would again dominate possession, he’d get all the action defending in a narrow block. I’d watch very closely to see if he’d be racing up some 30 meters to help the striker do the high press each time we hoof the ball upfield. Am hoping he loves the team and not just himself.

  • There is no doubt that the reason we are not winning the PL this season can be found in Wenger’s inability to field a very strong double DM pivot consistently. Despite all the players we have, we just are not getting it right. But Seventeenho’s suggestion to field Xhaka deep and Rambo as B2B could change this. Having said that, as Aaron has not played for a while, I reckon our best option against Bayern is Xhaka deep and the Ox box to box. Defensively, he is a liability, but we want to attack Bayern more than anything and this game should suit him.

  • PE, well said re Alexis. He has been disappointing over the last few months… And if he wants out, let’s show him the door.

  • That being said regarding Alexis, he is still one of the better performers, to be honest.

    And I felt that the left side is under-protected to the extent that even Gibbs and Nacho can only do as much. Maybe we should play both of them, not one at a time.

    The problem with the team is where to position themselves, and not how to play. We knew all too well that Alexis is a passionate person, and we need the team to position themselves higher up the field a little and not cramped with their backs against the wall. It is not defensive awareness. Rather, it is a way of giving up.

  • njk, we don’t willingly position ourselves deep. Bayern is so excellent in possession that we get compressed against our game plan. As I indicated in an earlier post, our collapse in the 2nd half against Bayern was more physical than mental. It is well documented that the team that have less possessionit covers more grounds particularly if they are defending aggressively ie pressing all over to win the ball. Remember we had only 25% possession.

    Against a team that is superior in possession play, the route to go is 6 seconds high pressing, which if unsuccessful should be followed by passive defending. Unfortunately we don’t seem to know the first thing about passive defending which is basically to put men behind the ball, focusing on keeping our shape and controlling spaces. We literally invite the opposition to come and get past us. That is how buses are packed. It is nail biting for fans of the defending team, but it can be so effective as the team is also poised for the brake.

    On the other hand if the team opts for aggressive defending the effort should be to keep the team’s offensive shape intact as much as possible by not putting men behind the ball. Against an excellent passing side, the defending team have to have strong, athletic players particularly in the defense and central midfield. In that regard our midfield three from Ozil, Xhaka, Ramsey, Elneny, Oxlade, Iwobi, Coq cannot be up to scratch. Only Le Coq has the athletic qualities but he is so poor with the ball. The Ox can defend with pace and power but as yet he hardly knows the ropes of the trade.

    This is our fix. We don’t have the right personnel for aggressive defending. We are not schooled in passive defending. That’s why we try to dominate possession. That’s why it is said by all pundits that we are poor without the ball.

  • That brings us to another question PE, which is that when we have possession, we tend to give them away, letting the opposition players counterattack us.

    Talking about that, our previous match against Citeh or Barca, we did well containing the attacks and countered well. Not sure what happened, when our slick players turned into robots with stuck knees and elbows.

    We had the right players for aggressive defending in Vieira’s time. Sol and Kolo was good, and his size made him a wall against opponents. Vieira and Gilberto had good size, height and did not have a fear to execute tackles.

    In today’s game, it focused on more technicality and less size. However, if you see teams like Chelski and Citeh, it might not be 100% right.

    Xhaka has the height and the athleticism in him. If Xhaka and Elneny position themselves better in the positions that they should be, then we should be good. The question is: Between a 4 man defense, we have 3 holes centrally, and 2 holes on the ends. If the AM does not wish to come back to defend the central hole, we are exposed.

    For me, the best solution to this is not to put Ozil or Iwobi there; actually Ozil is a good player and defensively good if he is on the same wavelength with his teammates, and when he is 100% fit. For me, the best person is Ox in the AM position, which he needs to be the ultimate B2B player. On the right will be Elneny, and on the left will be Xhaka.

    The front 3 can be a mixture of Ollie, Alexis, Perez, Rambo, Theo, and Welbeck.

    So, to summarise, this is the best defensive-offensive lineup:

    Bellerin Mustafi / Captain King Kos Nacho / Gibbs
    Elneny Xhaka
    Theo Ox / Ozil Alexis / Welbeck
    Ollie / Perez

    If we look at the games against lower oppositions, we play Ox there. Look at his contribution. I know that Ox knows what he is doing but sometimes he gets a stuck stud on his boot or something happens and he loses the ball, and if he has Elneny or Xhaka behind him they can easily get the ball out to safety. If one of them gets into a different position, we are looking at a big piece of empty space.


  • Um.. I think I better draw something to make you guys visualise the position and holes better.


  • njk, big frame helps with physicality but athleticism can belong to any. Probably the most athletic player in the league is the diminutive Ngolo Kante. Body strength, balance, agility, acceleration, speed and an impossible engine, he has them all. Xhaka has a good frame but he lacks agility and acceleration. So by my yard stick he is not athletic. In fact I regard this as his only down side. Defining players by these physical attributes helps in understanding their game. Of course there are the other areas of technical skill, vision, intelligence and attitude.

    Walcott for example has acceleration and speed, but lacks agility, body strenth, and balance.

    Giroud accelerates like a steam engine, too too slow but it might shock to hear that he has good final speed. He needs about 60 meters to get to his top speed and there isnt that much space for one on a football pitch. So he is best defined as slow. He has terrific body strength and balance but lacks agility.

    Sanchez tops the scale in agility. He has excellent acceleration, good speed and average in body strength and balance.

    I have trained myself to analysize players along these lines but I wouldnt be shocked if visions dont tally.

  • Hey TA… I lack both the time and inclination to write a match preview for tomorrow night’s game. I hope that’s not too much of a problem…

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