STOKE REVIEW: WE HAVE A SQUAD THAT SHOULD PRODUCE MUCH BETTER.
We have about twelve days left in the transfer window. That means we have less than two weeks window left for constructive criticism aimed at helping us strengthen our team. Not that we are awful but we can be better, much better.
To the last man, all are unsatisfied at our defending in the two games played so far, this new season. If we don’t put it right, the season could be very poor. The first response is to blame our back-line until it is remembered that defending is a function for the whole team.
Against Stoke, we dominated possession (which could be partly the opponent tactically allowing us to) pinning them back deep into their own half. Our four midfielders (Oxlade, Ramsey, Xhaka, Bellerin) ever keen to join the attack, repeatedly got themselves well inside opposition half all at the same time. Two scenarios developed: the back-line moved to close the gap between them and the rest of the forward players, leaving themselves susceptible to the ball over the top; in order to avoid balls over the top, the back-line decided to instead sit deeper which then created a huge gap between them and the front players, meaning that whenever the opposition broke they ran directly at our back-line. The latter was more of the situation in the match against Stoke. Whenever they broke that way, Ramsey invariably was way, way upfield, and Xhaka who was usually our deepest midfielder was way, way too slow giving chase and our back-line became like sitting ducks. If we persist in playing this way, then 4-3 is the only kind of score line that can assure us victory. That would mean a terrible season awaiting.
INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES (MORE OF HIGHLIGHTING THE WEAK POINTS)
CECH: Good. Was not to blame for the goal conceded.
MUSTAFI: Pre-season performance. Hope he would have regained his form fully by the next match. I can’t wait for Koshienly and Per to come back to join him.
MONREAL: The most tactically savvy of our back three against Stoke. But his size and pace are not made for that role at the centre of the back-line.
KOLASINAC: One can just feel that he is being underutilized playing as a central defender instead of a left wing back. All his energy, his pace and power, his enthusiasm for offensive play have very little outlet for expression in that central defensive role.
Oxlade: He stood up to be counted. Still, he would never attain his full amazing potential until he understands more that bringing his team mates into his game with simple passes all add up to a dazzling performance. It’s a team game after all.
RAMSEY: With the ball, he was our best player on the field. But leaving Xhaka as the last man in the midfield is suicidal for his team. In my opinion, he would do better than Welbeck in the inside forward position. No further effort should be made to make him territorially more disciplined. He is incorrigible there. Further up at the inside forward positions suits his temperament and skill sets better. Trust Ramsey’s engine and love to be involved to push him from that position into midfield defensive duties, which becomes an added armour to his arsenal. The 3-man defence is not license enough for a central midfielder to be abandoning his post so flagrantly.
XHAKA: Not his best day. On second thought, he was handicapped by the fact that he was manning the defensive phase of midfield almost single handedly. Amongst other things, he had less passing options available to him and he is no Carzola at getting out of tight situations. Xhaka in the lone defensive midfield role is a recipe for dangerous turnovers. Also, he seems to have taken Thiery Henry’s comments too much to heart as he kept attempting so many failed overhead passes to Lacazette instead of his usual cross-field passes. Those direct over the top forward final passes are never forced.
BELLERIN: What was he doing in the left wing back role? Bellerin is not an intuitive player, not in the least inventive. He is a player who is very very reluctant to use his left foot. That role robbed him of his greatest assets which are his speed, his endeavour and the use of his right foot. He was no good throughout the 90 minutes, but I never blamed him. I blamed the man who put him there.
OZIL: The through passes seem to have taken a long walk. That’s stretching it back to last season. Stephen Gerrard said that when we turn over the ball, we are one man down. I agree with him. Ramsey and Iwobi are waiting on the wings. Maybe Ozil would return to life when his soul mate returns. Is this the reason why Wenger is holding so tightly to Sanchez?
WELBECK: In all situations he must caress the ball. He should know that there are moments when the ball wants to be bundled in, treated ugly. A goal scorer or goal creator doesn’t work for the perfect chance. He works to achieve even half a chance. One thing is certain, he is not making it hard for Sanchez to walk back in. And by the way, Ramsey, Iwobi and Nelson are all waiting on the wings.
LACAZETTE: Beautiful goal wrongly ruled off side. A bit too keen to impress by dropping too deep to become more involved. He should not push himself too hard. He should stay around the box, and do what he knows how to do best, so says our Ian Wright. I swear he is better than Lukaku.
GIROUD: I love that flick that was the assist for the disallowed goal. He needs to educate Welbeck and co on the art of chancing it in the box.
WENGER: Please, please Kola at left wing back and never again Bellerin in that role. Also, wouldn’t it be better to deploy in a 4:2:3:1 with a holding midfielder against teams we would dominate as we did against Stoke. The holding man would patrol that gap between the back-line and the forward players. Finally, could you please gladden our hearts with at least one more signing (we know where we need him to make us stronger) while shipping out six more players before the summer window closes. We don’t want to be paying wages to un-registrable players, and more, we don’t want some potentially messy legal tussles.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: Still early days so nothing is broken yet. Not with 77% possession, good chances created and a terrific goal wrongfully disallowed. COYG, we have a good squad that needs just minimal of tinkering. The race is long.
By Pony Eye