Ever since Santi Carzola’s injury Arsenal’s performance has dipped considerably. That dip is traceable to a more labored and less efficient progression of the ball from the back to the forward areas. Wenger prefers the 4:2:3:1 formation and so the job of progressing the ball is on the two players in front of the back four. The pairing of Coquelin and Carzola looked ordained in heaven. They complimented each other perfectly, Coquelin the destroyer, Carzola the transitionist. And what a ball transitionist Carzola is. Unsurpassed in spatial awareness, Santi is the best skilled in the team. Completely two footed, and at home in small spaces as well as the large spaces, the crown of his assets is a wonderful eye for the well weighted pass. Added to these he gives to the team something very unique. Coquelin plays better with him, Ozil too, Monreal, Giroud, the team. Had Carzola not been injured we would have been singing a different song today. I must mention, he is such an affable person also.
When injury hit our Santi, there were no loud groans from any quarters. After all, for the double pivot positions we still had Coquelin, Xhaka, Elneny, and Ramsey to choose from and anyway, Santi, we thought, was to be sidelined for a mere couple of weeks only. By the time of his injury Xhaka was still a bit of an unknown quantity though his Bundesliga reputation had convinced us that he was the ultimate destroyer with an incredible range of passes. In other words that he was Coquelin and Santi rolled into the perfect one. That belief helped put us at easy with Santi’s injury. Soon after, Wenger hinted that Xhaka is more of a box to box. Candidly most queried if Wenger was out of his mind. Anyway the juggling began. Coquelin/Xhaka. Xhaka/Elneny. Xhaka/Ramsey, Elneny/Coquelin ………. until the the whole 4 combination 2 were tested out, over and over again, yet the Cocazola formula remaine elusive and we couldn’t rediscover our early season form. Thanks to further injuries it soon became 5 combination 2 when Oxlade was also drafted into the midfield. Some combinations were better than others, but all lagged the Cocazola combo.
Bayern overran our midfield (one of the juggled combos) and trashed us 5-1 at the Allianz Arena. At thr return leg we abandoned the combination 2 opting for a combination 3 of Ox/Xhaka/Rambo in our midfield. For 53 minutes, before we went one man down, our midfield dominated the almighty Bayern Munich’s midfield. We deployed in a 4:1:2:3 formation. The 1 was Xhaka shielding the back 4 and creating from deep. The 2 were Ramsey and the Ox. The set up suited Ramsey to the tee. With his incredible engine he motored relentlessly up and down creating overload when upfield, this time, without us being undermined defensively as Xhaka and the Ox patrolled the spaces. Then there was the Ox, arguably, as at this moment, the biggest thing in our squad if his tender age is factored in. I hope he is given a bumper new deal at once because the world have taken notice. He defended with pace and power. He sprayed passes. He left the “Warrior” Aturo Vidal for dead equaling the Champions Leaguue record of 10 dribbles in a match. He cut through the Bayern midfield, not once, not twice, like a knife through butter, with the ball at his feet. He raged, his eyes spitting fire when the referee blew unfairly for a foul against him. He was our man of the match.
What a midfield trio. Alchemy it can be called: Rambo, Oxlade, Xhaka (ROX) combo is gold. The magic of Cocazola was resurrected in that game. With only about 10 weeks to go this season, Wenger should stick with them as his middle 3, in as many matches as is feasible so they can gel more with themselves and with the team. We already have a settled back five. We should make this combo our settled middle three. All the numbers in the front three are good, Walcott, Ozil, Welbeck, Perez, Giroud, Iwobi, and of course Sanchez. I-T…I-S…G-A-M-E…O-N!!! Manchester City at home just had a goalless draw against Stoke. Expect plenty more twists and turns on this home stretch. A gooner never says die.
By Pony Eye.