Lacazette the Fox, Nacho Mr Arsenal, Need to Involve Xhaka more: 8 Observations

Arsenal 2 – 0 West Brom

Arsenal v West Brom was a good game to watch. Arsenal were not as slick and dominant as many of us had hoped but the players worked for each other and started to play really well in the second half. I watched the game in a Manchester pub with hardly anybody interested in it, which was great. I had the TV to myself and was able to analyse the game properly without any disruption.

Eight quick observations:

  1. Lacazette is our calculating fox. He works hard for the team without having too much luck in supporting our build-up play as yet. But he knows how to pounce on an opportunity, how to anticipate these and how to stay calm before the kill is made. Two goals for him and us. Brilliant.
  2. The team did not play the ball to Xhaka anywhere near enough in the first half. Whether  they did not dare or Xhaka was not mobile enough I don’t know, but it made us very slow and ponderous. In the second half, Elneny played closer to Xhaka and we pushed a bit higher and kept WB significantly more in their own half. Xhaka got a lot more involved and we now were a lot less exposed at the back and were able to see out the game easily after the second goal went in.
  3. The way we played so much better in the second half is once more a strong indication of how good a ‘half-time manager’ Wenger is. Rather than substituting one or two players after the break, Wenger opts for tactical changes and speaking to his players as a group and on an individual basis.
  4. I know that some  believe that we are better without Ozil but this was the perfect game to see how much we miss him when side-lined. Rambo did his best to make things happen but he has not got the speed of thinking of Mesut and technical ability to deliver those key-hole passes. Against a team like West Brom we can get away with this but the sooner he is back the better imo. Mesut adds the extra dimension in our attacking play and nobody else does this (other than Santi and Jack but they struggle to stay fit).
  5. Nacho is Senor Arsenal. What is not to love about Monreal? He gives his all and is so focussed when he is playing. The highlight was of course he kamikaze clearance of the line early on in the game which saved our blushes.
  6. Alexis worked hard and can be sublime one minute and wasteful the other minute in terms of his involvement in our build-up play. I would love it if he would leave one or two free-kicks to Xhaka going forward. Still, he played almost a whole game and with his heart on his sleeve and had the assist for the all-important first goal.
  7. Gibbs was a joy to watch. What a professional and I hope he does well at WB.
  8. Another clean sheet. Yes we rode our luck a bit at times with one particular decision going our way, but with Koz, Mustafi and Nacho in the centre and Kola and Hector on the wings, we have a lot of speed, healthy aggression and skills in our defence, supported by the uber-calm Petr of course!!

By TotalArsenal

21 thoughts on “Lacazette the Fox, Nacho Mr Arsenal, Need to Involve Xhaka more: 8 Observations

  • All good points T. Especially number 2, a good description of events. There were many positives, but we were very fortunate, especially early. It’s a very different game if they get the first goal. Not that we couldn’t recover, just more difficult.

  • Very nice TA… Well worth the wait…

    I need to get going… (and, while “watching” the CL matches I’ve nearly got another post in the can, as it were…) so just a couple of observations. Mine are about the midfield and the ref’s calls…

    2nd one first. Madley–as refs “should” for the bigger teams in their home stadia–gave just about ALL the calls our way. Mustafi leaving his feet was less of a moment of madness than Nyom’s shove on Ramsey, but, as the continuation showed, the WBA player was in a MUCH better position to score than Rambo was to even make a pass… We caught a ‘uge break there, as they (the New Yorkers…) say over here… Even if we’d gone a goal behind, we wore them down in the 2nd period (after the adjustments you mention) but it’s a little worrisome that we can’t put together goals on all those nice counters we started, IMO…Pulis’ teams always fight to the final whistle is maybe one reason…

    Elneny–who I’m noticing has a little divey-dive in him–got another close whistle to “earn” the FK that lead to the first goal. His movement, dove-tailing with Xhaka’s, as you note, is a work in progress but the progress (to my eyes at least…) is quite evident, and you’re also right, the change after the break seemed very positive. Ramsey, by contrast, will run and run and do all sorts of things to try and keep possession–at the expense of positioning (is he the Welsh Alexis?…) but also makes plenty of (potentially) costly mistakes. The WBA (would-be) penalty started with his givaway, after all (but maybe that’s something only a Piers Morgan might notice)… There’s no quit in Rambo (nor Elneny; Alexis, I’m less sure about…) so we should all appreciate that, however…

    OK, nuf said, and now I really need to run…

  • Hey J… I do want to debate about Jack (best MF in England, wowsa…) but no time right now. Hopefully he’s in the spotlight (getting more minutes) as the season rolls on…

  • cheers BAJ, yes it was a penalty for us TV watchers, but the referee had a hard call to make in real time, I am not sure whether we would have had a totally different game had they scored first but can see where you is coming from.

  • Seventeenho thanks, The referee did ok except for punishing more the obvious tactics of WB to leave their boot in aim for our players’ ankles. They did not want us to pass the ball round and tried to disturb us by all sorts of means.

    Fully agreed re Elneny. A work in progress but what a lot of hard work. He was everywhere.

    Gotta go now. Keep truckin’

  • I really thought the ref had a very “let ’em play” attitude on this day, and I think I’ve noticed that when that’s the case, we have adjusted on the fly and taken advantage of the same rules to play more rough in return. That was not always the case, and we were always at a disadvantage.
    …… Or i could be wrong, and we are just becoming brutes like the rest of the league. With Mustafi, Xhaka, kolacinac, el neny when playing, and Nacho really knows how to play a tough game too.. But never thugs like tottenham.
    17, maybe Wilshere will play this week to give us more to analyze. Good news is he hasn’t been ruled out as far as I know. That’s a good sign already.

  • Xhaka is woefully slow. He was terrible, no “rubbish” in the first half, just a younger version of Arteta Wenger has again dumped a crab in our team. The difference in our second half performance was that the Egyptian Magician took over the game linking defence midfield and attack he was everywhere, there when an outlet pass was needed to keep the game moving. It was a majestic display by him which shows up the flaws in the Ramsey Xhaka pairing. He should play every week with another partner, hopefully Maitland Niles

  • Akan a little harsh. I agree that Xhaka seems slower in comparison to English opposition and game speed than he seemed in Germany, but that can be compensated with better positioning. But be fair, passing skills like his don’t come around very often. As long as he keeps working hard to avoid getting caught out, I’ll support him.

  • Hey, welcome Akan… Obviously I’m a big fan of the “Egyptian Magician,” but then again I try to see the value in all our players.

    As such, I don’t know about “rubbish” nor “Wenger dumped a crab” (which is a very colorful image but sounds like it might be a typo… you know, replace the b with a p)… In fact, I’d go so far as to HOPE that Xhaka IS the new Arteta (minus the injuries)… I remember back in 2011 when our season started IN CRISIS (lost Cesc, lost Nasri, lost 0-2 at home to Pool, lost 8-2 at Old Trafford, etc., etc.) but new buys like Arteta and Mertesacker (even slower than Xhaka…) slowly brought us back to finish in the CL places…

    I’ve got a feeling that top 4 isn’t good enough for you but I’ve also got a thought that you’ll get to see AMN and Elneny playing together in our next match (Thurs, in Belarus).but maybe with a little Jack taking more of the midfield role.


  • Only caught the first half repeat yesterday so it does not seem so clear on some of the points regarding Xhaka.

    Points 1, and 3 to 8 are agreed, about Alexis, Lacazette and Nacho.

    It is due our play favouring the right side and Elneny and Rambo is always there, so it makes sense that Xhaka had less touches.

    It was fun to watch the first half.. so many chances and both teams were not afraid to attack.

    So, will comment after watching the second half tonight.

  • Guy’s I’m not taking back a single word, he (Xhaka) is “rubbish” He’s like a quaterback play maker, needs lots of time and space to set up a pass, problem is in football (not the American version) he is not going to get any pass protection to give him the time he needs, it doesn’t happen like that in our sport, and if he was able to develop the skills to make the necessary adjustments it would have happened already. Arteta was ok for the first 18 months because Song was there for a large part of that doing the protection work, when he left our opponents realised how embarrassingly easy it was to run through and over Arsenals midfield which was for the most part ‘Ramsey and Arteta’ and we are having exactly the same problem now in this team with Ramsey and Xhaka. It was Elneny’s selfless running in the second half that saved us, it could have been a different story if he had not stepped up

  • Good observations TA.

    #2). Xhaka usually makes the highest touches in our team possibly because of his central positioning. His lower numbers in this match (still high as he was third behind Bellerin and Monreal) is more likely because we passed the ball out a lot more than is usual from the wide areas.

    Xhaka is an interesting case to analyze, but never would I use the word rubbish for him. He actually has an incredibly tidy mind, one of the tidiest, that is only let down by an incredibly slow motor response. His motor response is the slowest that I have so far identified over the last 17 years in our team. It is slower than Giroud’s and Arteta’s. People must distinguish between final top speed and that initial 1 to 3 meter bust (acceleration) from a static position. It is the latter that comes in most of the time in play particularly for tackling. Xhaka is unbelievably slow but he tries to compensate by clever creation of space (time) for himself. His current apparent dip in form might be that the PL has identified that he should be given as little time as possible on the ball. Luckily for us Wilshere who needs almost no time at all is nearly back.

    Usain Bolt has, relative to other top sprinters, had a poor acceleration but his final top speed was unmatchable. Between Xhaka, Giroud and Arteta ……. Arteta has (had) the best acceleration, followed by Giroud and Xhaka the least. But when it comes to final top speed, Giroud has the highest (I once saw him in a counter attack over almost the whole length of the field catch and zoom past a racing Ozil), followed in top final speed by Xhaka with Arteta the slowest. But in football the more important asset is the short sprint. Give me an Arteta over a Xhaka any day.

  • Hi all.. Hi TA.. A nice 8 points.. hehehe..

    I start with #2 first.. I agree with Akan.. hi Akan.. Xhaka this season wasn’t Xhaka as we knew last season.. He didn’t give an added value to the team.. hehehehe..
    Yes he can kick a long pass ball.. but he was weak in a short pass ball..
    How many wrong pass that he did.. Maybe someone can help with the statistic..
    But, I feel so worry everytime he get the ball.. hehehehe..
    Elneny on the other hand.. can do a lot assist.. He is mobiles and work well with the team..
    So maybe we can do Elneny Ramsey next time..

    #1.. Lacazette.. Agree most of that.. But still a bit less understanding with Kolasinac.. If only he give Kolasinac a little service.. that might be another Kola’s goal..

    #3. No doubt.. Arsene is Arsenal..

    #4. Ozil.. I like him most when he is fit.. but I don’t think Right wing is his best position..
    Maybe if we play a 3-5-2 formation.. with him in the middle of our midfielders.. It will be great.. He is a CAM.. not LW..
    Do 3-4-2-1 give him more flexibility to play middle and width.. I don’t think so..
    He seem a bit confused from Ramsey’s rule.. or maybe the opposite one.. Ramsey did.. hehehehe..

    #5. Monreal.. we must call him Man-real.. A Real man indeed.. hehehehe..
    So happy to see him playing together with Kolasinac.. I was afraid that one of them must bench.. but thing works well for both of them..

    #6. Sanchez.. Almost perfect.. although seem a bit selfish show.. His moving and passing make this team alive..

    #7. Gibbs.. He play both side wingback.. hehehehe.. Great as usual.. Wish him the best.. Hope he play more solid and help us to make other big team suffered.. hehehehe..

    #8. Yes we have a solid three musketeers..
    And about Mustafi.. I think the referee was right.. It’s clean.. He pulled his legs and swing.. that’s why Rodriguez can stand up an kick a beautiful “almost” goal.. hehehe..

  • Guys, I am both feeling both angry and diplomatic about how to put my thoughts into words about Xhaka.

    I am not sure if Akan plays the game.

    Last season, the team played differently compared to this season, and as Elneny likes to take the ball from deep and run at defenses, Xhaka has less to do as he will only sit back and defend the wave of attacks from the opposition.

    Different players in midfield plays differently, and Xhaka does not like crowded areas. Even last season he tried to pass to areas where there is enough space for his passes.
    I like the way Wenger plays Elneny here. He offers more than Rambo and does more box to box runs. However, pairing 2 box to box players together does take the shine off the other.

    So, look at how the team played before whacking the mole.

  • Hi JK..
    I maybe to hard to Xhaka.. as some of our fans did..
    He did give us a variety of playing.. Long pass and cannon ball..
    But unlucky him.. our team are made not for a quick counter attack style.. unless maybe Welbeck and Walcott fit that..
    His quick and wide long pass almost got nothing.. The players keep going deep in the middle and play one two short pass style.. cmiiw..

    I don’t know who must adjusted.. He or the team.. We surely can play a counter attack games.. If we practice it.. and that can be another option to play..
    We have two quick wing back and also fast stickers in Welbeck, Walcott and Giroud..
    But for that we need more solid and old fashion midfielder like Coquelin.. hehehehe..

  • Lol Lol Lol. Guys I think I see the “joke” now. Someone had an Optical illusion, thought they saw Giroud beat Ozil in a foot race, I get it Lol Lol. Anyone remember the European championship game between France and Germany not so long ago (2016) when Giroud was clear out on his own in the German half heading for goal, the Germans held a conference on the halfway line and voted to send their slowest defender after him who caught Giroud and took the ball away before he got to the 18 yard box. I remember it well because Henry and Souness couldn’t stop pissing themselves with laughter in the studio. “So when you thought” you saw Giroud run past Ozil, either Ozil was standing still when it happened or you were inebriated or you were smoking some seriously strong mind altering substance at the time. But back to Xhaka, remember Berbatov? now he was painfully slow but was able to control a ball instantly and deliver a pass or score in a flash because his mind was quick despite his legs not being able to carry him with any measurable speed. Xhaka is one dimensional, he needs acres of time and space to deliver the one weapon in his arsenal (pardon the pun) Unfortunately for him and the team, our opponents are not going to afford him such luxury. The midfield anchor position is far too important for is obvious limitations. He is slow in both mind and body reactions and its even worse when he is paired with Ramsey who really dreams of being the Welsh Messi and wants to play upfront leaving Xhaka to cope on his own. Maitland Niles with Elneny or Maitland Niles with Raine Adelaide or Maitland Niles with Jack Wilshire. Any of one of that combination will do an excellent job but not Xhaka or Coquelin who offers nothing going forward.

  • Akan ….. you have not considered the fact that there could be a world of difference between Giroud running with the ball and him simply doing a foot race. Not being too skilled running with the ball would involves a series of deaccelerating and accelerating meaning he’d never attain his top speed.

  • Ah slowness, slowness… I knew if I would mention it some bloggers would bite and so they did. 🙂

    In the first half, Xhaka was isolated and it would have been too risky to play him in. The problem was the most heralded Melneny did not play close enough to Xhaka in the middle, forcing the ball wide and back again, wide and back again. Wenger sorted this out in the second half. Xhaka has a great picture of the game ahead of him and if players are willing to run, he will find them. Where they willing to run? That is not Alexis’ style and neither is it Rambo’s. Lacazette will do it but the defenders are expecting this and covered him off well. Xhaka is not slow, neither is he fast by foot, but he is fast by mind and a great midfielder. And if you don’t see that then it is your loss….

  • Akan — well done analogy about some NFL qb’s who need more time, … but the qbs who always excel are not the quickest motion, but the faster decision makers.. It’s a process that NFL scouts value the highest… it’s called read and recognition… next most important is decision making, then after those come accuracy, then quickness of ball release and arm strength.

    Not all are parallels, but many are… and since Xhaka would score unusually high on many of those, I consider him a rare talent that we need to find the way to get the most out of. That is Wengers job now. I was very enthusiastic about his signing, so I am biased, i admit. he can do things better than 99% of midfielders out there, except for Jack. He just needs to adjust some things, and be coached well to excel in the premier league.

  • It is obvious that Akan is a fan who would prefer (and looked forward to a) “beastly DM”, as most fans have clamoured for, being for us, the “missing ingredient for a good title challenge”. But, it’s been clear for a few years now that Wenger has a very good idea what kind of players he wants to play in front of the defence: a ball carrier from defence (not so much ball winner), who makes self available for the defence and links up play with the forwards in a transition that may befuddle opponents; he also prefers a player who isn’t afraid to get physical in that role. For my money, Xhaka fits his bill and all Wenger needs to do now is to show him trust, ignoring recent outcries influenced by the emergence of Jack from the treatment table, so as not to lose the man completely. He’s made a few misplaced passes, accentuated by his position on the field, but if we are fair, it is no more than any other player has done. I think he is now a marked man and easy target; pretty much like Ozil is now when we lose a game.

    I see in Xhaka a young man who is willing to improve as evidenced by his low cards count this term. Clearly, he’s been told to stay on his feet and simply “escort” or Marshall the player away from danger or till the ball is there to be won. He has adapted well there. He’s had 2 assists now and I don’t think that’s to be scoffed at given his role. His strengths are playing long passes (Pirlo-like), shooting from distance, one-two passing (lay-offs), ball interception by good positioning and he can get physical if required. He needs to improve on his passing precision over short distances (easy to correct) and aerial duels (doesn’t win enough, methinks). He is not quick, I admit and have even noted, but it won’t help if we should refer to him as “rubbish” because he certainly isn’t that.

    I’ll say this though; he does look like he has stuff on his mind these days and may need an arm around his shoulder to know if it is some personal issues (is he feeling the heat from Jack’s improving fitness?). My thoughts.

  • Interesting discussion–inspired by the polemics (Xhaka = rubbish) from the new guy–and some keen observations about a player that, I believe, is pretty damn solid and will only be improving…

    Keep the discussion going, if you like, but I’ve also put out a…


    …on a different topic… Something to keep us going for a bit as we wait for the game in Belarus (which is actually a couple of hours earlier than usual)…

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