Xhaka the Controller, Rambo the Connector, Ozil the Creator and other post-match Observations

You have to give it to the boys. It is not easy playing catch up when the games are running out. Sunderland had nothing to lose and Moyes showed that he can still instruct a team to give a much better team a hard time. For a long time Arsenal struggled to find the opening despite trying very hard. It looked like it could be one of those days, but then a moment of quality between three great players – Xhaka-Ozil-Alexis – broke the deadlock.

It really is not easy to keep believing we can still finish in the top four and to play with conviction and a high tempo after so many games in quick succession, but all eleven selected players were up for it. And if it was not for the magnificent, young and clearly very talented Pickford, we could have won with a monster score tonight. I am very proud of the boys for their attitude and the tempo they played with. That is all we can ask for.

I thought Xhaka was the anchor in midfield. He positioned himself brilliantly and had a lot of the ball. His natural desire to sit back a bit and control play from there is vital for the new formation and the team. He always knows what to do next and his passes are quick, sharp and attack-minded. Rambo makes the physical connection between midfield and attack with his energetic and aggressive runs and Ozil always makes himself available to help the two out. I thought Mesut played a superb game and was my man of the match.

Alexis had both the goals, and to me it is clear he is our CF going forward. He still loses a lot of balls through his relatively poor passing ability (especially attacking ones), so why not play him as our main man up front? Having said that, Giroud also played a good game in the centre tonight. He got very close to scoring himself, but it was his team play and hard graft to create space and connections for others that pleased me most.

The wingbacks disappointed tonight in terms of creating and taking opportunities. This is the position we need to invest in if we want to get full value out of the ‘three at the back’ system… but that is for next season. Bellerin can still improve but Gibbs is really struggling to add incisiveness to his attacking play. Still, he worked hard and he is Arsenal through and through. At the back we were mostly solid with Holding looking confident and sharp and Mustafi and Nacho adding a lot of bite to our game.

This win will keep the pressure on Liverpool and to some extent Man City in the very last PL game of the season. But more importantly for me, it also keeps our momentum going towards the imminent FA Cup final. I wrote a while ago that I am no longer watching CL games as a result of dubious refereeing and the competition being devoid of any romance. So qualifying for the much more exciting UEFA league is not a bad thing at all, especially if we can finish the season on a high by winning FA Cup for a record thirteenth time.

It is great to be a Gooner and a big thanks to Arsene and the players for finishing the season on a high.

By TotalArsenal


14 thoughts on “Xhaka the Controller, Rambo the Connector, Ozil the Creator and other post-match Observations

  • Nice, positive article at a time when it is hard to feel anything but dejected as our close rivals seem to have picked up form as well. This game could easily have ended in a cricket score, as most expected, but for the brilliance of their keeper, Pickford. It was incredible to see him make save after save, as if auditioning for that place it was being rumoured we had for him.

    I agree with your assessment of the play and the contributions of some of the players; especially the output of the wing backs, which was not so encouraging. Gibbs seemed to prefer passing on responsibility to others, instead of taking the initiative. Unless he was under instruction, I had expected him to take on their full back more often, but he seemed to go for the cautious option of passing backwards or sideways. He could have helped the team to be a bit more dangerous.

    I am happy to see us giving it a go. In the end, if we don’t pull it off, at least, we will have built up a head of steam for the FA cup final. Good job, lads.

  • Well observed TA.

    Pickford is a good keeper and he deserved better than Sunderland, but will be only a backup if he goes to a bigger club.

    So, to get more exposure or?

    We did well to pressure and got the goals we wanted, and Ollie got more and more involved with his positioning.

    Good to see them fighting hard and I hope for a miracle at Boro.


  • Trouble is, JK, Boro are at Anfield. Hard to think Liverpool will lose to Boro in their last game at home.

  • Eris, either they do a David vs Goliath, or they get intimidated by the referee.

    I would rather we not go into Thursday night football. Some of Mourninho words are real. You play much more games, and to cater for those extra games you need the injuries to be in a minimum, or you expand your team just for the Europa league.

    For me, injuries are always a problem for the team. We need to beef ourselves up and get more covers in.

    And we cannot always rely on Alexis and Ozil, though they are a class above the rest, we need the rest to step up and be counted.


  • Well summarize TA. That’s another good performance by the team. 36 attempts at goal, 12 on target tell the whole story. As you pointed out this formation requires excellent wing backs and ours are not quite up there. Bell gets into good positions but his final deliveries need a bit more intelligence and technical quality. And. imo, the cost of using Gab in the CD should be less than the gain of Monreal at left wingback instead of Gibbs.

    Ramsey and Xhaka’s passing skills have helped in no small measure in getting Ozil bach up his height. If Ramsey’s injury will keep him out against Everton I would wish Iwobi to be the replacement. The back 3 is security and his passing and movements will not only keep Ozil up there but also will give us greater verticality. We hang on for a possible final twist.

  • Arrggghh! Watford sack Walter Mazzari! I was thinking he could be relied upon to drive his team on for their last game. Now, all this does is help City play against a dispirited Watford; I fancied them to drop points now, more than Liverpool.

    Well, we may as well adjust for the rigours of some Thursday nights in Europe.

  • Goonereris

    I think City are pretty much out of sight anyway. I’m order to get above them we would have to rely on them losing and us making up a five goal, goal difference.

    An unlikely but much more possible scenario is Liverpool fail to beat Middlesbrough in which case a win for us would do it.

    Looks like we are relying on Callum Chambers and co

  • retsub1, you are correct about the more plausible scenario, but I don’t want to rule out City losing and we putting in enough goals against Everton to upset them. You just feel Liverpool will be up for that game, being their last game in front of their fans.

    Chambers will be looking to do us favours but his teammates looked like they were on holidays already, in their last game at home to Southampton. They looked pathetic.

  • Hey TA…Very nice post and much to agree about… The very best part is that YOU wrote it. I know you’re a busy beaver these days but I’m glad you got to watch the match and describe what you saw in some solid detail… We miss you. BKesque is your baby and always superior when you’re adding your 2p….

    I’m slightly more busy myself at the moment or at least I was occupied after the match yesterday and again this morning–I hope to have time later to respond to the specifics of the post…

    In the meantime, cheers for putting it out there…

  • A little less busy so onto the post at hand…

    I’m just now watching the first half of the match and it’s not all bad despite not being able to make the breakthrough and Cech being forced into a couple of saves and some sweeper-keeper stuff.

    The 3-4-3, albeit against competition that perhaps isn’t that strong–or at least not too worried if the result goes against them–continues to yield dividends. In general, we look like there’s more space for our attacking game and that we can recover better when we lose the ball and force the play out wide. Cech in his best form and the extra central defenders make us look more secure vs crosses or at set pieces and corners (which we seem to concede plenty of)… This article, by my fellow West Coast blogger and the stats man at Arseblog, suggests we’re not really doing all that much better despite the bunch of wins. http://7amkickoff.com/index.php/2017/05/17/one-swallow-does-not-a-summer-make/ You’re right, TA, that the boost in confidence is priceless headed to the cup final and the close season, esp. if Wenger sticks around as all signs (except the Wenger Out ones…) point to…

    You’re also right, IMO, to single out Xhaka and Ozil who really seem to be relishing the extra space in the middle of the pitch. Ramsey I’m less sure about. His game is so unpredictable–which is good on the one hand but his ideas don’t come off very regularly and they sometimes seem unclear to his teammates. He might be hurt now and I’d like to see if Elneny could add some verve in his spot. Coquelin and Iwobi seem to be ahead in the pecking order, however.

    The big difference, to my eye at least, in the last two (much better) performances is that Alexis has gone mobile. Instead of standing on the left side of attack he’s popping up all over the final third–his goal at Stoke and both goals yesterday found him netting from right of the center of the opponents’ goal. Playing him at CF makes sense but so too does adding unpredictability to his movement by filling spaces left open by others no matter where he starts. With the extra defender we’re a bit less exposed when he gives the ball away and at least he’s looking to pass it a bit more. I liked that late play when he tried to put Ozil in instead of shooting from the wider angle.

    I think Bellerin is playing pretty well (Gibbs not so much…), and, hopefully, we’ll have the options of using Ox and Kos (which allows Nacho to play at left wingback)…for these last couple of matches. In general we’ve been fairly fortunate with fitness issues down the stretch here but the guys who have struggled (Ox, Rambo, Kos) seem to have recurring issues that may need to be addressed with additions in the summer.

    It all seems extremely delicate in that regard but at least the group is showing that it can perform and continue to apply pressure to our top 4 rivals–despite the toxic atmosphere around our (legendary) manager and the structures (or lack thereof) at the club. Indeed, there could be hidden benefits of missing out on CL football including less pressure in those extra (Europa League) matches that would allow more rotation and better use of our quality in depth. If the stadium is emptier (or the most negative fans don’t renew their tickets) it might also allow some air out of the (overly pressurized) situation. Short and long term, if our group–including the manager and the support–can pull together it might allow the guys on the pitch to play with a measure of freedom. Who knows, Arsenal might not be all that bad…

    Pardon for the long post…

  • Interesting points you make 17tino, especially regarding the Europa League/Cup/Trophy, or basically the UEFA Cup which sounds better.
    An opportunity for the club to put atmosphere before profit here, at least in the early rounds, League Cup ticket prices, get lots of new fans into the stadium, give them a taste of the big match atmosphere, then you’ve got them for life.
    As you say, perfect opportunity to rotate and give fringe squad players a game like Jeff, AMN, Szczesny, BFG, Nwakali, et al.
    No pressure evenings of football, could be just the antidote to the incessant tension surrounding the EPL occasions, no planes or Wenger Out banners, in fact it could be a bit of a party.

    Get to the final and it’s in Lyon, beautiful city, great food, pretty girls, the perfect combination. 😊

  • No pardon required, Seventeenho. That is a fine additional comment with some sharp observations I fully agree with. And thanks for the nice words.

    Having some good banter with the local Man City supporters. They don’t like it that Watford have sacked their manager and now expect the Hornets to have their stingers out this weekend hahaha. They still are cocky and think they will qualify in the top four, but when I tell them that they are going to lose 1-0 and we will easily bag four against the Toffees they start to worry hahaha.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s