Mkhitaryan Now Knows Where He is Needed in the Team: Arsenal v Chelsea Review

That was some game the Gunners played last night. We have to give it to the Chavs, they were the best team in the first half. They pressed us high and did not allow the likes of Wilshere and Xhaka to receive the ball easily (within space and with time). As a result, there were a number of semi-forced errors which luckily only cost us one goal.

Elneny did his best to find space and time to undo the Chavs’ pressure grip on the defence, and Ozil and Lacazette came deep to help out with this, but we struggled to get into our game and press our opponents back into their own half. Chelsea then suffered the loss to injury of their impressive attacking midfielder, Willian, and they never were the same again after that.

Through a lucky double-pinball head-deflection of Nacho’s wild, ambitious headed attempt on goal, we had levelled the score and saved the atmosphere in the stadium. The crowd found their voice and you could sense that they were one with the hard working 11 Gunners on the pitch; and, in return, this reenergised the players.

There were a number of balls over the top and other clever passes that led to Lacazette and Ozil being flagged off-site; and more than once those decisions went unfairly against us. Still, we were not playing our game and struggled to create scoring opportunities.

Something needed to change and Wenger got it right after half-time. We played more compact in the second half, moving as a tight unit up and down the pitch, and making Elneny, Jack and Xhaka push the opponents back into their own half. Elneny offered also more support for the CBs, and there was little space in and around Koz and Mustafi to be exploited by the now much more isolated Hazard. Conte who had, to little effect, brought on his latest signing for the well-missed Willian, had no ideas, or perhaps suitable options on the bench, to battle back against Wenger’s tactical changes.

Our boys worked hard and played with a post-Sanchez spring in their step whilst the Chavs looked more and more exhausted and clueless. We missed the guile and direct danger of the Chilean at times, but we looked and played like a team of 11+, which I have not seen for quite a while.

Lacazette worked so hard to keep things going in attack, despite a lack of service/opportunities; and Ozil did the same in midfield. We needed another bit of luck for the second, and winning, goal: Lacazette found inadvertently – via the leg of a Chelsea defender – Granit Xhaka, who was just a few yards away from goal; he pounced like a lynx and left the keeper with no chance whatsoever.

Arsenal turned on the style after the second goal, and Iwobi was presented with a great opportunity to score a truly beautiful team goal to put the game to bed. Ozil, with such class and composure, had provided him with the finest of passes and Alex met it well enough, but he gave  the keeper a chance to save it and so he did. It did not matter in the end and we will now play the Northern Oilers in the final of the League Cup at the end of February.

I love Alex Iwobi and have no doubt that he will become a top-quality player. But, from watching the game in the ground last night, Henrikh Mkhitaryan will know where he is needed on the pitch, regardless of whether we will sign Aubameyang or not.

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By TotalArsenal.

67 thoughts on “Mkhitaryan Now Knows Where He is Needed in the Team: Arsenal v Chelsea Review

  • Pony Eye says:
    January 25, 2018 at 18:19
    MOTM? Very little to choose between Ozil, Elneny, Nacho, Mustafi. Some others were not that far behind.

    One thing am beginning to appreciate more and more is that Elneny’s contribution is a lot more subtle but vital to the team’s good play. His ball circulation at the back is of the highest quality. Excellent timing, awareness, technique, and above all a calmness that gets transmitted not only to the players around him but also to the team as a whole and to us the fans.Calmness brings intelligence and confidence. A player that affects his team with confidence on the ball, has already contributed something that is unquantifiable.

    We were playing out the ball from the back like City.. What it does is it sucks the high pressers into our defensive quarter giving us the opportunity to put a pass into a deconjested midfield. That then allows us to dominate the mid field. These positives are so shuttle that they are not easily traceable to Elneny.

    Most people view the deepest midfielder in terms of a destroyer (Makalele), the great tackler who need not be a great passer. That definition is outdated. In these days of high press, passing has become even more important than tackling. Such a good passer becomes right for that deepest role if he is both defensively aware and responsible, as he is able to intelligently block the passing lanes, a very important technique in defending these days of football as almost a no contact sport. Elneny has that too. If Arteta had more pace in his legs he would have been the classical definition of the modern deepest midfielder (notice I don’t call it DM)

    However a player who has the qualities of Eln and Coq rolled into one is obviously to be most desired but they are very hard to find.(COMMENT FROM THE PREVIOUS POST).

  • HT, lovely post. As pretty as Wengerball. 14 names in your line up. I agree with all your placements except Kola in the MD. Reason? My copied comment from the previous post above gives the answer. Kola is not a great passer of the ball. Trust me. I’d put Kola under Nacho man.

  • PE, when did you come to the conclusion that Kola is not a great passer? I reckon he offers us that bit of physicality and speed in midfield we may need IF we are pressing our opponents high up the pitch. He also offers that extra thrust from midfield if we need it. I would like to see how he would cope there.

  • TA–
    I’ve felt that Sead would make a good choice as a prototypical DM.
    More from the standpoint of physicality, than comparative to others regarding passing.

    I’ve seen more than one wingback (in Kola’s brief time with the club)– simply refuse to engage him on the ball. Usually following him shrugging off their contact– which he seems adept at doing– without overdoing. Borne out with just a single YK in 25 apps, all comps. He’s simply a ‘presence’.

    I’m really liking what Elneny is doing at this moment. But times occur when intimidation has value.


  • Well, that’s Mkhitaryan sorted then (in for Iwobi). So, who do we feel will be dropped for Auba (if it goes through)? Again, no place for AM-N in that line up? He can cover both left back and DM (apologies, PE). Who else thinks it may serve Welbeck well to leave the club, if all the in-comings take place, even if he goes on loan because you feel he still has something to give us?

  • Lol @ “Jurassic Wenger”. Coincidentally, I used the term “tactical Dinosaur” today, in the same context – coming down on those who don’t give the gaffer any change.

    Nice result to back his sly dig at Liverpool and Spurs (I see Pochettino took offence). 😀

  • TA, my observation is supported by WhoScored pass success rating where Kola is at 79.6% the worst apart from our final third players of Laca @74.8; Theo @ 73.8, Sanchez @72.4 and Giroud @ 68.9%.

    By comparison Coq @82.3, Bell@ 84.2, Xhaka @ 84.9, AMN @85.5 Nacho @ 91 and Elneny topping the chart @ 93.6%.

    That role of deepest midfielder is in an area we can’t afford turnovers. It made Coq inadequate. So also Xhaka. Xhaka further up the pitch has dramatically transformed his game so much so that all the critisism of him have disappeared. Kola is an excellent wingback in my opinion.

  • Cheers PE, Kola had to work with Alexis which may have affected his stats. To early to say imo.

    Xhaka is a lot more effective if played deep. I expect him to play in the deepest role again once Rambo is ready to return:

    Back four

  • ‘(I see Pochettino took offence).’
    Talk about paper-thin skin.
    Our ‘Special Manager’ downs cold innuendo for breakfast.
    Then again, if his gaggle of wonderboys never wins a thing?
    Is the remark off-base?
    So far, no.


  • As much as I am enjoying Elneny’s quick and accurate distribution when Arsenal play out from the back, his defensive play is very poor. The Egyptian was at fault for Hazard’s goal as he got drawn to the ball and allowed his opponent Pedro to find space in between the lines to setup the Belgium. He also failed to appropriately screen the central defenders which resulted in Koscielny and Mustafi needing to be called in action a lot during the match. For me, Elneny’s defensive deficiencies make him ill suited to that CDM role and a more natural defensive midfielder with quick distribution skills is needed (e.g. Maitland Niles). But look that has only been a need of the team for the last 10 years.

  • “But look that has only been a need of the team for the last 10 years” @ Waldo.

    Isn’t it strange that the while the whole world recognizes the need for a DM all these years, Wenger seems not to. He even has shipped off the only able destroyer he had in the squad, le Coq. He can’t be that blind. Obviously he demands some other skill sets from whoever plays that role (which I now prefer to call deepest midfielder DM instead of defensive midfielder DM. Eris I hear you).

    As l have always said, the well rounded player should be the most desired, but they must be very few on this planet. On the evidence of the last 10 years and more Wenger had developed a preference for that role of the player skilled with the ball over the player skilled without the ball.
    That’s his vision for that role. Whether that vision is right or wrong is another issue. He thought he got his man in Xhaka but Xhaka’s extreme lack of athleticism and poor defensive positioning meant he isn’t exactly the man he is looking for.

    Elneny’s role in the 2nd half against Chl was difficult to interprete. It looked like Wenger switched to the back 3. Again it looked like lik he instructed Elneny to to convert to a middle CD, slotting into the space between the two CD to form a 3man CD when Chl attacked. Something of a 2:3:4:1 when we have the ball and 5:4:1 when the opposition has the ball.

    Whatever it was that Wenger did, he wanted Elneny on the field otherwise the clear thing to expect him to do changing to a back 3 is Kos, Musti, Nacho as the back line and probably bringing in Kola for Iwobi as the LWB. Things would get clearer with time.

  • PE–
    That Elneny was on the field meant Wenger could make the shift in formation on-the-fly w/o a need to sub players, and moving from one to another static formation. To Chelsea’s eyes– when the 2nd-half began– personnel-wise? Looked like the same setup as the 1st-half. Where the formation had been shifted– I think Chavs had prepared to make adjustments based on the formation Arsenal had been in 1st-half.

    Which– gave the club a front-foot start, culminating in Xhaka being right-place/right-time — in the box– where he usually isn’t.

    Chelsea was confounded by Wenger until about the 70 min. mark. And Arsenal managed the game well from there out.


  • Waldo, everyone was at fault for the Chavs’ goal. It is a positional discipline issue. We left too much space between defence and midfield and the Chavs squeezed three players in between. Should the defence have pushed up more or should midfield have been closer?? Anyway, it was sorted after that. You have waited for 10 years but are still to realise that Wenger may have well found ‘a more natural defensive midfielder with quick distribution skills’. Start smelling the coffee buddie. 🙂

  • jw1,
    You are spot on there. Change of formation without change of personnel is moving under cover of darkness. The opposition wouldn’t know what hit them until very late in the day. Still we cannot discount the fact that Elneny’s versatility and usefulness were the tools that permitted Wenger to do that.

    Incidentally Elneny delivered the overhead balls more than any of his colleagues. His game is growing!

  • The holding midfielder (HD) is the generic term for the deepest midfielder. That HD could then be a defensive midfielder DM or a registra (deep lying playmaker). Makelele was the definition of the DM. Pirlo the definition of the registra. Obviously Wenger is seeking more of the Pirlo and less of the Makelele.

    My appreciation of defending was broadened when the facts came up that Paolo Maldini, one of the greatest defenders of all time was achieving averagely only one tackle in two games. His masterful reading of the game and positioning did the job for him.

    The great Xavi Alonso recounted that when he does that tackle that gets the fans on their feet in applause he Xavi is unhappy because it meant to him that his positioning is faulty. These are the world’s of Wenger and the reason why most can’t understand why he has not come up with a Mascherano all these years. Incidentally at Barca, Mascherano was used as a CD, not a DM.

  • Spot on, PE & jw1. If you read what Jack attributed the win to, you’d find he alluded to the change of formation (he didn’t quite explain in it detail, for obvious reasons, I assume) which saw Elneny double as both a CB and deep lying midfielder, thus giving us 2 functions for the role of 1. The fact that it was subtle certainly fooled Conte who must have taken a while to see what was going on, as we were able to contain them while also able to dominate midfield and push them back very often.

    From the highlights I saw, we had a dominant 2nd half. So. Now the media is changing the narrative to a troubled Chelsea side, like we played a weak team and not the PL defending champions.

  • Eris, good about pointing out Elneny’s dual role. He certainly played like a Centre Back, but at times when we pushed forward he was back in his midfield spot.

    It is like we were overloading the midfield area to give Xhaka or Jack the freedom to move forward, so it is quite a good gameplan.

    In the first half Iwobi contained 2 chav players: Willian and Moses. Both are in his pocket and had a torrid time against him. I think he is trying to position himself better to stop crosses and help out in defense, and at times he was overran, but in all he did quite well. So i was not sure why the media mentioned only about Alonso in Bells pocket.

    The whole team worked hard, and while chavs had a game plan, they could not break down a defensive Gunners.

  • (Carryover comment from yesterday’s post:)
    So, again?
    Raise your hand if you flogged Le Prof for sticking Elneny at CB vs Doncaster last Fall. Also, recall the fashion in which we lined up vs City earlier this season with Coquelin slotted in as the center CD in a 5-back setup?

    Clearly a specific-need trend Wenger has taken a liking to.
    Maybe call it: ‘Parking the minivan’?
    (In hindsight– likely should have done this vs ‘Pool too.)


  • I watched the whole game at a friends house and thought that although Chelsea started well and we looked a bit disorganised, for all of Chelsea’s perceived superiority (I don’t agree) that they only had two shots on target.
    We equalised before Willian went off so I’m not not sure that his withdrawal was seminal, I just think that we improved and Chelsea ran out of steam, remember they were coming off of the back of that FACup replay with Norwich, extra time and all.
    Also I think that Wenger has Conte in his pocket tactically, it just happens as with Mourinho and Wenger.
    Elneny dropping deep in the 2nd half just filled in the space Hazard was exploiting and if he doesn’t play then Chelsea are frankly quite ordinary.
    Monreal was superb, my MotM and Ozil and Wilshere a joy to watch.
    That’s my take anyway… 🙂

    Ben Sheaf has joined Stevenage Boro on loan, he’s a really good player.

  • JK, Eris, PE– re: ‘Elneny’s dual role’
    Elneny is not fast. Period. But he is quick, and usually has very good positional awareness.
    What he did in the duality of his roles was quite instinctive. And he got it right the entire 2nd-half.

    I noted early (on the blog) the slow/wet conditions– making for a ‘heavy’ ball. Trying to get out on a counter required hitting a pass heavily or beyond a player starting to break. So– not just in his own performance– but how it allowed others defending in MF the confidence to break for balls being passed out of Chelsea’s third. We got to almost every ball that could have been used to start a counter.

    Those with a keen eye picked up on it. Many saw Elneny as MoTM.
    Personally, I think there were so many even-keeled decisions and performances after the first 15 minutes? That honor, I’d just as soon give to the whole team and Manager.


  • First time that I’ve seen Xhaka play a more advanced attacking role and I think he looked really good, shorn of his defensive responsibilities and free to express himself.

    Why Arsene just doesn’t go out and get a f*ck off defensive midfielder instead of shoehorning guys into a role that doesn’t suit them, is a never ending mystery to me?

  • Hi all..
    Just can’t comment the game I didn’t see.. Hehehe..
    But, I’m happy that we finally find a new tactic to win.. Happy to see Elneny shine.. He deserve it.. Hope he keep growing to be our star..

    If Wenger keep this formation for whole last games.. Then we will find Iwobi and Ramsey warm the bench.. Mhiki, Xhaka, Wilshere and Ozil will comes first..
    But it’s okay with me.. We still have a lot of games to deal with.. Especially in UEL which play more games than UCL.

    Still waiting for good news on our TW..
    Go Gunners.. VCC

  • Kev – “Why Arsene just doesn’t go out and get a f*ck off defensive midfielder instead of shoehorning guys into a role that doesn’t suit them, is a never ending mystery to me?

    Someone (PE, I think) had addressed this above, some place (or in previous thread). Wenger wants more from his deepest lying midfielder. He has never been one to prefer a swashbuckling, “beastly”, midfield hulk, as most fans have been clamouring. The manager has said something to that effect like 2 seasons ago, which got Coquelin trying to add long range passing to his game (playing out of defence too) to his game. Apparently, wasn’t doing it as well as required.

    To each manager his own, I guess.

  • Anyone else read what Alan Shearer had to say about our bid for Aubameyang and how he seems willing to come to us, despite having a choice of “bigger suitors”? I am thinking soured grapes…..

  • Sorry Eris/PE, I was posting on the run, not had time to catch up.

    Well if Wenger thinks that way, then he is wrong imo, there is no reason that you cannot have a beast of a D/M, who can also play.
    Arsene took two guys, who ostensively were defenders, in Petit and Gilberto, so it can be done and we had a lot of success with those type of players whose priority is to protect the back four. And if you have that type of player you can play a back four.
    Three at the back is a result of that ongoing weakness in front of our centre-backs.

  • Kev/PE/Eris, somehow I think that Wenger is playing with our minds; as well as the opponents. Getting Elneny to start the second half at back 3 and ended the game back in DM is like a mindblowing thing.

    I am guessing that Elneny had dropped very deep in earlier games to cover for spaces in defense, so he was doing just that against the Chavs. Not a change of formation, but the way Elneny did made space for Kos and Mustafi to push forward more and the team pushed forward as a result.

    Brlliant idea Elneny. Please keep playing that way.

  • I am ready to cast a ‘mute’ spell on Piers Morgan.
    If that doesn’t work ‘decaying touch’ might be next.


  • Jw1, i thought of something worse.. just silence him forever..

    Who would have thought to use the US president as the replacement for Wenger.
    Surely makes my blood boil.

    The media is speculating about Benzema, but i would not see to far from just a rumour. We want Auba, but our management is still the “auntie buying fish from the market” type when we are richer than PSG.

    I say just give them what they want and get on with it.

  • Hello Mr TA.

    Glad to see the blog still going strong and with some fantastic comments.

    It’s been a weird season for me. Not because of the football, mind. I see that as a privilege, even if it was sometimes tough to watch. But as usual, we aren’t as bad as we’re made out to be, and there seem to be signs of recovery. Hopefully Miki’s addition can add another ‘technical leader’ to the team apart from Ozil (who is just fantastic) and bring sexy back.

    A cup final, which if we win will complete the list of trophies won in England by Wenger, and further enhance the calls for sainthood (which he’s already earned, as we’d discussed 🙂 )

    But for now, the league. We’ve got a chance to catch up and I feel a lot more optimistic about our chances of getting top 4 because we look like a team again.

    Also excited about changes and improvements made behind the scenes. The money that nobody sees is the only way we win the league. Not with 500k contracts.

  • njk84sg

    Have you heard of Mark Mcormack? He built a diverse sports related empire out of his agency business, and wrote a few books. I recommend reading them to get a sense of how negotiations go. It’s obviously more tuned into American sports but the basics are the same. He makes it clear that they usually aren’t as simplistic as being about ‘more money’.

    He also makes it clear that both the negotiating environment (as in the location), and time, are both very important factors in controlling the negotiations. Just pay them what they want is hardly a negotiating strategy and if you just give in, the goalposts may move again because you are seen as a soft touch. Do you then re-up your bid to pay them what they want this time? And what of all the other negotiations you will do in the future? Your reputation impacts them all.

    As for Arsenal being ‘richer’ than PSG. Haha.

  • JK.. What an idiom.. “auntie buying fish from the market”.. Hehehe.. LOL..
    I doubt somebody knowing that..
    It’s so Asia.. So Indonesia.. Is it still happen to you in Singapore..??

  • I know it JK..
    But do you still buying fish in the market like that in Singapore..?? I thought everything had been priced.. And no way you can do that bargain.. Hehehe..

  • JK, Shard (nice to meet you!)–
    Had a notion just awhile ago while dog-walking.
    This Dortmund parlay has a ‘petty feel’ to it.
    Someone(s) at BVB. And Sven. Revisiting old grudges.
    Keeping 3 execs stuck. In hotel rooms. In Dortmund. For a week.
    Das Schnitzel wird zeitgemäß. Sie werden sicherlich bald nachgeben.

    And I am familiar with the name Mark McCormack, Shard. He passed in 2003. (Yes, I did Google the date). But did know of whom you were referring. He revolutionary in the advance of sports marketing– as well. His firm, the iconic IMG (International Management Group) was a forerunner to contemporary super-agents/agencies. There’s a notion that McCormack was the inspiration for Tom Cruse’s character in the movie ‘Jerry Maquire’.

    Circling back- the issue of the negotiation for Aubameyang though? Also factor this being the first time this team has performed as a unit (Mislintat, Gazidis, Famhy and to some degree Sanllehi) in a room, on the road, face-to-face. Might be a measure of gamesmanship there too. Hate to think it–
    but boundaries are being set, territory marked.


  • Yes Ko Henry, we still buy fish like this, but there are the supermarkets too.

    I feel that we are overboard with the haggling though. We had always been like this, and it is frustrating.

  • Watching Newport on the front foot vs Spurs right now.
    Newport have many large players which seems to be keeping Tottenham from wanting to challenge for balls. Newport already with a shot and another deflection just wide of the post.


  • Dortmund fans during today’s Freiberg match have unfurled a several-sections-wide banner stating:
    “No Player Is Bigger Than Our Club.”

    Pick up the phone Ivan. The iron is hot.


  • Henry–
    This should warm your cockles– the precious Alli on at 65′.
    (Son also brought on at half.)


  • Newport’s keeper with a big leg– keeping Spurs pinned deep after exchanges.
    The pitch is slick and pitted. Alli running like he’s on ice.

    Into the 80th minute.


  • Draw will be nice.. to keeping Spurs busier so we can steal the fourth position from them.. Hehehe..

  • Unless Klopp comes up with a big half time talk, I don’t see how Liverpool come back from this one. The thing is WBA are playing well, even though they have had to make two early subs due to injuries to Gibbs and Robson-Kanu. They are not resting on their oars, 3-1 up, as most would have expected.

  • That’s two losses in row for Jurgen Klopp’s men. This one must hurt being at home and in perhaps, the only chance at a trophy this season.

  • T ! ,
    Thanks for remembering. I began noting Liverpool after their bad start this season, when they quietly began righting the ship defensively. Long before van dijk. As a matter of fact, I think working in a new central defender might even harm them more than help for a few games….. but that doesn’t matter so much, because this title is man city’s this year anyway. I’m saying that Liverpool will be challenging and causing a lot of problems next year… If they get a keeper. They should be able to noticeably improve at that position.
    I believe that their owners will do what’s necessary to support Klopp. Right now I feel that Gazidis and Wenger do not have that support from kroenke or whomever controls the purse strings. It’s why we may have another transfer embarrassment for the 2nd window in a row. But I’m still hopeful… i havent checked the news for a few hours.

  • Liv defense is absolutely bad. Sell the keepers and get a couple of keepers like Ben Forster will help them get better defensively. On a second note, why not we get Ben Forster in instead?

  • I read something that makes me wanna shout out. Piers Morgan an Arsenal fan. I rather he not be one.

    And did i say that Trump has no chance to be our manager?

  • I’ve had serious misgivings about the transfer policy of Arsenal for a long long time.
    You could say that as a club, in so far as the transfer market, that we talk the talk but rarely walk the walk.

    Back in 2014 Barcelona paid £65m for Luis Suárez, a player who could have moved to Arsenal if our transfer ‘hit squad’ had shown more ambition.
    Liverpool would have sold, they showed as much when they sold Torres to Chelsea, you just have to make it tempting enough.

    I know that Arsenal are not Man City, but why do we as a club, make such a crisis out of a drama when they need to do the right kind of business?
    And signing Aubameyang is the right kind of business post-Alexis.

    In 2017 Chelsea paid £60m for Alvaro Morata.
    And in the same year Man Utd paid £75m (rising to £90m) for Romelu Lukaku.
    So the bar has been set and anyway, Aubameyang is better than those two.
    £60m for a top striker is par for the course for an English club and English clubs usually have to pay a premium because we are awash with money and everyone knows it.

    Why don’t we just get the bloody deal done?

  • Lukaku and Morata are both around 5 years younger than Aubameyang. More years of expected production, and more resale value = more cost.

  • Alexis to ManUtd, where’s the resale value there?

    Whether your paying a signing on fee, a sweetener for the agent or a transfer fee, it all come down to the same.

  • Then there’s the tangible value of getting it done so the players can physically become familiar– or re-familiarize with one another. It may be no small thing either. Last season the margin for ‘our’ CL place was another 2 pts.

    We ‘had’ a six-day break to train with a full squad. *Poof*, gone.


  • Look if you just want to be right about your belief that Arsenal are wrong to actually negotiate for a player they want, then I guess that’s that. I thought we were having a discussion, but apparently because Alexis Sanchez is on massive wages at ManU, Arsenal are wrong to try and get the valuation for a 28 year old who wants to leave and is being booed by his own fans down to a more reasonable level. Why worry about money? I mean it’s not like a CEO has to care about such things, or negotiations actually involve negotiating.

  • Johnnie, thanks for the response. Pool are like Arsenal in the Fabregas years. At times they are unplayable and terrific only to lose soon after that to a weak team. It may be that Klopp is building something and they will get stronger over time, but the jury remains out.

    I reckon his football is too attacking for the PL and he will not get the balance right anytime soon, if ever. To be fair, the same goes for Wenger.

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