Time’s up for Ramsey

It is make or break now for AR08 (picture from Arsenal.com).

Now that Arsenal went through a big transformation in attack during January, we have to ask ourselves what will happen to midfield and defence going forward. We will deal with defence in another post, so let’s focus on midfield.

The next 12-14 weeks will tell us a lot, I reckon. And when I say midfield, I actually mean the two normally deeper laying midfielders: the double-DM pivot. We have four to five players for those two positions: Wilshere, Elneny, Xhaka and Ramsey (and possible Maitland-Niles).

Elneny and Xhaka are Gunners for the foreseeable future. The former looks like a midfield super sub/rotational sub for Wenger and the latter has played every PL game (if my memory serves me right). This tells me Wenger believes in him. When I watched the first half against Everton again (and who hasn’t done so?!), I saw how tidy Xhaka was behind our attacking midfielders: always available to receive the ball and always looking for the best possible pass (without taking unnecessary risk, which is key in the deepest midfield position). He also read the game well and made some good interceptions when required. It is when we are forced back in our own half where Xhaka struggles a bit in terms of being that natural DM-shield (together with his fellow DM-pivot midfielder). For this he lacks that natural aggression and mobility and ability to keep hold of the ball under pressure (Elneny is better at this). So it will be key to find the right partner for Xhaka if indeed he is to become a regular in the DM-pivot.

The two players for whom it is crunch-time are Jack and Aaron. Who has not dreamed about both leading our team to titles from the midfield (other than 17HT of course 😀 )? Such promising talents for such a long time, but it still has not happened for them and the question remains… will it ever? Jack (26) and Aaron (27) do now really have to push on and fulfil their potential.

It is fair to say they are trying hard to do this.

Jack has had a good season and is staying fit until now, and what a blessing this is. His biggest contribution has been in providing us with an attacking core and emphasis in the UEFA cup games, and I have no doubt that Wenger is counting on him for this month’s European games against Ostersunds FK (and the same goes for Lacazette). Jack will be out of contract this summer and we have not signed him up as yet. I reckon I speak for most Gooners in that we want Jack to have his best years at the home of football and  the sooner his contract is sorted the better.

Regarding Ramsey, it is a similar story. He has been injured a lot but his injuries are never for too long (unlike Wilshere in previous seasons). The problem with Aaron is that, like a big cargo airplane, he needs a long time on the runway before he lifts off. Once he is up and running, he is a true force in the team. Unfortunately, he then often gets injured and we are back at square one.

If there is one position (other than goalkeeper) where we need consistency, it is in the double DM pivot. Changing personnel in these positions means upsetting the balance of the team time and again. And I reckon that Aaron as well as Jack have to make Wenger believe that they will now be the core, dependable midfielders the team so desperately need. We cannot be too sentimental about this.

We need a stellar final third of a season by Ramsey – and this weekend’s hat-trick was a promising start – to get us into the top four and win one or two pieces of silverware. The same goes for Jack of course, but I reckon Wenger will want to give him at least another season given the circumstances. With Mkhitaryan signed up and money sloshing around in Gazidis’ pockets this summer, Aaron needs to grab his chance now. And there never is a better opportunity to make another strong statement than this Saturday morning when we need to mash the Spuds.

arsene 300

By TotalArsenal.


50 thoughts on “Time’s up for Ramsey

  • Agreed with Sharkey, TA, it is an enjoyable read. And a brilliant one at that.
    And Sharkey, you can’t be Frank himself.. haha.

    Most of our goals are from the midfield areas this season, and the defense. Striker wise we were not getting enough goals from them, and that’s the downside.
    Maybe we can see more from the mew guys?

  • I reckon Arsene will stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation and switch Iwobi with Jack Wilshere, ala at home ManCity 2016.

    Bellerin – Mustafi – Koscielny – Monreal
    Ramsey – Xhaka
    Mkhitaryan – Özil – Wilshere

  • Me and the Shark family are all good Total. It was nice to see BGKSQ pop up on NewsNow.

    For me, I’m at a complete loss as to how Elneny isn’t now a permanent fixture in our team. Away at Chelsea he was truly tremendous defensively, and looked like he was one of the few who actually cared at Swansea. With all our attacking riches, our Achilles heel is always going to be how well we deal with transitions from attack to defense. We need a CDM in the Gilberto mode; one who has little or no interest in getting forward, other than to cause a big surprise, because no opposition team talk ever discussed tracking Gilberto’s forward runs.

  • Good to hear it, Shark-man.

    With you re Elneny. A pretty complete footballer with the right attitude and energy levels. Having recently seen the DMs of Chavs and MU struggle in games, I have come to believe that is the chemistry, tactical instructions and ability of BOTH deeper laying DMs that really makes the difference.

  • Hi all.. Hi TA.. Great post..

    Ramsey will always be my first choice among four others.. He is great in offense and also strong in defense.. He can play anywhere in the middle.. Just name it.. Hehehe..

    And he move like a ghost.. He can be everywhere but also nowhere.. Very difficult to predict.. Hahaha..

  • TA (& Eris)–
    Touche! (from the previous post. Still, that 12 would be dominant 😉 .)
    To play a back-3 (re-watching November’s reverse match) it would be Iwobi who sits.

    Where Everton were overwhelmed by our numbers Saturday? Pool and Spurs stifled one another (with exception of the irrepressible Mo Salah) on Sunday. May come down to whomever flashes brilliantly in moments. Odd, how Arsenal’s scope in attacking brilliance, has broadened (with Alexit).

    On Xhaka’s defending TA? Granit seems to have developed the knack of timeliness in his fouling. Now picking those spots where it benefits those behind him (usually, stopping counters before they get started). There’s a ‘rough subtlety’ that refs are now more willing to allow and accrue (than in his first season here).


  • Some fine words by my fellow BKers:

    “And he move like a ghost.. He can be everywhere but also nowhere.. Very difficult to predict.. Hahaha..”

    And then JW1 with the potential oxymoron of ‘rough subtlety’

  • As expected, the spuddies beat Newport county 2-0 in their FA cup replay. Not sure the opposition would have exerted them much, seeing as they’ve not started with their 1st team (save for Son and perhaps Alderweireld, who’s been out injured).

    Promises to be an enthralling encounter, as always.

  • TA

    Good post, cant really disagree. Thus, if it’s about chemistry and complementary capabilities, then of the 4 or so players there, who are the best 2 or which are the “interesting” combinations.

    I like El Neny + Xhaka myself. We seem strongest then but also least attack minded. That can still be solved leaving AR wide, but he’s never fully prospered there it seems. Perhaps then the 3 defender bit with 3 in front (El Neny, Xhaka and AR)?

    I confess myself without answer but so it goes

    cheers — jgc

  • Prof, we can put Mkhi wide and AR in the AM position, leaving Ozil wide too.
    AR’s best position is in the centre, a fox in the box.

    Agreed with your 3 in front of 3 tactic. However, we will be forced to play 3-5-2, leaving one attacking player out… actually there is an alternative.

    We can counter by the following formation:
    Cech (Ospina)
    Kos Mus Nacho
    Mkhi Rambo Elneny Xhaka Tank

    Meaning when we change formation halfway to 4 at the back our Tank will be deployed at left back, while Mkhi and Rambo will partner Ozil behind Auba, and form a 4-2-3-1 formation.
    Best tactical lineup but the RB will be sacrificed.

  • TA, nice read that at the end gives a headache of who to select as our best MF pair.i just can’t conclude.

    Elneny: security in possession.
    Xhaka: distribution from deep.
    Ramsey: those box runs.
    Jack: dribbling and ball surges.

    All with different qualities but somehow very little to choose between them.

    Wenger obviously does not care for a typical DM. Proof is he sold the only one we had, le Coq. What he apparently needs in the holding midfield (HM) role is an athletic good creative passer able to read the game very well in and out of possession. Wenger has already giving an indication that he is toying with the idea of giving Miki the Cazola role, possibly also thinking of the Arteta role.

    The adjustment I suspect he is tending to is playing 3 at the centre in a basic 4:3:3 formation. Which allows the use of an extra body in the CM to shore up the defensive phase of our game. Still that does not make selection of our front 6 any easier.

    Certainly to be selected in our front 6 are Ozil and Auba. The remaining 4 can be decided with the dice from (Miki, Rambo, Laca, Jack, Xhaka, Iwobi, Elneny, Welbz).

  • Great overnight comments. It really should be Ramsey + another but for this Aaron has to stay fit and be consistently dominant. He has the age for it now. Xhaka and Elneny are a bit younger and Jack has had only his first decent half season behind him. The problem with Ramsey is that he is very driven to go forward and needs to be told to support his fellow midfielder and the defenders time and again. He misses maturity still.

    I agree with the Prof that it feels like Xhaka and Elneny together are probably our best defensive mix, whilst both can add to the attack too. It would not surprise me if Wenger is thinking the same, and that is why Ramsey and Wilshere will have to continue to impress and change his mind.

  • This is a good read that fits very well with the post:

    “Manchester City have mitigated this problem by dominating possession, and by moving their two best ball‑players, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva into deeper central roles. But they have also looked solid with Fernandinho and Ilkay Gündogan both in the pocket, two smart, disciplined, vigilant players. And recent history suggests this is the best way: intelligent team defence rather than driving big-ego midfielders.”


  • TA, thanks for the link. The Guardian read is pointing roughly in the direction that my feeble voice has has been trying to explain. The days of the DM are long gone for at least the possession based teams like Arsenal. In that holding role should be good passers who are brilliant in reading the game. Better if they are atheletic and creative. Who immediately comes mind is a more athletic Mikel Arteta. They have to be creative players conducting the play from deep. Am convinced that Wenger thought he got that in Xhaka but his poor athleticism means he must keep shopping. Non of the ones we have ticks all the boxes .. particularly in the area of game reading.

  • Carzola is an excellent reader of the game and a great creative passer of the ball. His handicap in the HM role is his small frame. I regard Nacho as our current best reader of the game defensively but not offensively. For the HM role he is also limited by his passing range.

  • PE, I think you missed my comment.
    Rambo can be both the DM or the AM, and in my opinion, he could have easily be outdone by Mkhi..

    Mkhi is both good defensively and up front. So, it is not that we have yet to find anyone that ticks all the right boxes. Game reading checked, offence checked, man marking checked.

    And shall we all say, “Just like Santi”.

  • njk, you might be right about Miki. Just that I havnt seen enough of him to be able to draw that bold conclusion. But as I commented earlier Wenger has hinted that he is considering a Santi role for him. I’d be thrilled if he is equal to it.

  • I guess if you are Reiss Nelson and you’ve just seen Theo Walcott sold, you must subconsciously think that ;
    ‘I’m next in line, this is my big break’.
    ‘I’m going to get a run in the first team…’
    ‘Maybe I’ll sign that new contract that I was recently offered’

    Then the club signs Henrick Mkhitaryan and you therefore have another rethink.

    Reiss must obviously be in touch still with Chris Willock (Benfica) and Marcus McGuane (Barcelona), with them telling him how great it is to be playing in Portugal and Spain, so don’t be surprised if Reiss doesn’t have his head turned.

    I think that the reason that McGuane didn’t feature that much this season is that the club knew he was going to leave, so why play and develop a player who is set on buggering off?

    Therefore Joe Willock was preferred to him and given the 1st team exposure instead.

    Nelson might suffer the same fate if he doesn’t sign by next summer.

    Nketiah, Smith-Rowe, Amaechi, Dragomir, Mavididi among others, could be preferred to Reiss next season and I think that that has to be the right way to go.

    If these youngsters don’t commit to the club, then promote others in their place.

  • njk … I admire your guts.
    The 1970 Brazillian World Cup winning team (regarded as the best national team ever) has always fascinated me. They had five #10 in the team. Four of them were used as offensive players and the 5th Gerson was dropped into the CM and became the brain of the team. Wenger has made references to that team and I suspect his enduring inspiration is from there. Me? Am too lily-liveried. I’d join the bandwagon when I see it working successfully.

  • Kev: “Then the club signs Henrick Mkhitaryan and you therefore have another rethink.
    Reiss must obviously be in touch still with Chris Willock (Benfica) and Marcus McGuane (Barcelona), with them telling him how great it is to be playing in Portugal and Spain, so don’t be surprised if Reiss doesn’t have his head turned.”.

    Kev, Chris Willock and McGuane have only signed for the B teams of both Benfica and Barcelona while Reiss is already playing first team football at Arsenal (along with B team showings), amongst some world class talent. What’s there not to be excited about? Admittedly, signing Mkhi has delayed his expected free run in the first team, but that was when Arsenal was willing to “carry” some players. Not any more. He has to fight for a place and if you ask me, he is a sure bet to play for this club someday soon.

    I am rooting for the U-23s to win something this season so it gives them all a future to look forward to, as Jack, Coquelin Szczesny did.

  • As for the Ramsey (midfield combo) discuss, if fit, Wenger will always fit Rambo in his team, even if out of position, so expect him to start at Wembley on Saturday. Usually, the gaffer has made one inclusion to surprise the opposition (and fans) whenever we have met top 6 sides, this season. I expect him to do so against Spurs and I hope it will be in midfield (as against bringing in Ospina for Cech), with say Elneny or AM-N coming in to play alongside Ramsey; I think Jack will be a sub until he ‘signs da thing’. Which means in a 4-3-3, we have a midfield with Xhaka, AM-N and Ramsey, with Ozil and Mkhi flanking Auba. Of course, both Ozil and Mkhi can interchange the role of 2nd striker in a fluid system, as the opportunity comes, while leaving Ramsey to make his runs into the box, at opportune moments. The back 4 picks itself now, I guess (Bellerin, Mustafi, Kos, Monreal).

    If we adopt a 3-4-2-1, then we may have Bellerin and Kolasinac as wing backs; Xhaka and Ramsey in the middle, with Mkhi and Ozil behind Auba, Up-front. I think the former makes us more defensive and the latter more offensive.

  • Just a minute to write ahead of another busy day… Sorry to be late to the party…esp. as I got a personal mention in the post itself… 😉

    In fact, I think I should have gotten a(nother) mention for saying (more or less) the same thing quite recently about Rambo. (It was “only” in a comment… Look out, at some point, I might start writing posts again 😮 ) IMO, he’s definitely playing for his next contract–which, like Ozil’s–will always be cheapest if we’re the club signing him. No transfer fee = less money… If you actually want the player, of course…

    I also suggested that the recent January transactions may push Ramsey into the (former Giroud) super-sub role. Well, he started vs Everton (ahead of the likes of Elneny, Wilshere and Lacazette), so what do I know?… Less than Wenger (of course…) and the hat trick (possibly) proves the old maestro still knows a thing or two…

    That’s not possible–we ALL know better than Wenger–and beating up on that hapless Everton team was ages ago. Will Ramsey start in the NLD? I would think so. In fact, I think Wenger only goes conservative when it comes to winning 11s. As such, the smart money would be on the same team going again at Wembley, fitness issues (injuries, Weng-juries AND Arsen-illnesses) notwithstanding. I guess AW has already given his Thursday presser and everyone, except maybe Cech, seems OK… Sorry, Iwobi-haters, that also means Alex (Iwobi) is likely over on the left where Alexis used to do his thing rather than the other Alex (Lacazette). If only we still had the Ox (and or Sanchez…) so that all the Alex-options could be in play…

    Who knows (besides the ACTUAL manager…), and that’s a short term issue. The post seems more focused on AR8’s long term prospects. Play well now and ink your contract (with us) this spring, I say. Play a big role in getting us back to CL football (i.e., a couple of winning goals in the Europa League semis and finals, please…) and big $$$ should be on tap. We should also remember that the Bosman-negotiating-with-other-clubs stuff only applies to players in their last semester. As such, I can see Jack–if he gets some assurance he’ll have a chance in Russia–putting the heat on the club for a new contract long before Rambo does. All that stuff about loyalty and loving the club (and the club having had faith in him, etc., etc.) didn’t matter all that much for the likes of Theo, AOC, Giroud (and so many others down the years… Thierry Henry, anyone?…) so it’s down to the characters involved: the club, the player, the agent, the wife, etc., etc., etc. In truth, I wouldn’t be surprised if BOTH go this summer. Our squad is getting thinner and the quotas for home-grown players can be met with some of the younger guys. If the January window proves anything, it’s that change ALWAYS brings HOPE which ALWAYS trumps more of the same (no matter how decent it’s been)… The final part of the Brit-core exit (Brexit?) seems as likely (to me) as any other scenario…

    BAAWTFDIK (but, as always, what the f**K do I know?…)

  • Oops, more simul-posting with ‘Eris… Great minds and all that… 🙂

    You’ve got some interesting ideas about line-ups for big games (which contradict mine, at least a bit) and others about the club and how they do contracts. In truth, I was thinking the same thing about Jack’s contract–sign now or more limited chances to impress Southgate/England before the WC. Would AW really sacrifice results by leaving out everybody’s fave? Well, that’s only an issue if the results actually suffer… Anyhow, it’s all fairly good stuff for discussion as it applies to both our short and long-term issues.

    For the NLD, we really need the full points so I’m thinking the back 4 remains, as does keeping (the either formation sexy-and-flexy) Elneny on the bench. Like I say, who knows… There’s an OBVIOUS answer, but I’d hate to be labeled (as an WKB)…


  • Ooops… I guess it’s AKB not WKB… Apologies to everyone (everybody?…) on the other side of the divide…

  • Hi all..
    I think the key is to put Ozil in the middle of our attacking formation.. The best way to give him space of creativity.. So it isn’t 4-3-3.. But 4-2-1-3.. Or 4-2-3-1.. With Ozil in the middle..

    Mhkitaryan must be one step front and Ramsey one step behind him..
    Whoever fill the LW post either Iwobi or Lacazette as long as he can connect to Ozil’s ball will be fine.. Although I still believe Lacazette is our next Sanchez.. Hehehe..

    And for Ramsey partner in the back.. I prefer Elneny.. He can be our third CB in defense and also and our CM one step behind Ramsey..

    Kolasinac will play as Monreal isn’t fit yet.. And Bellerin.. I think no one can take his position now.. Hehehe..

  • Chan …you seem to be the only one that remembers the name Lacazette. Just know that you have company in me. New romance can be so blinding. Laca replaces Sanchez ….. yes! One goal scorer in Auba is insufficient for all these midfielders most of whom are not renowned for their goal scoring feats. We can always go “Ozil-Auba-Laca” as our front three. Laca is Wenger’s joker Eris referred to though he chose Eln or ANM.

  • Hmmm, PE. It is amazing how no one reckons (reckoned even) with Lacazette, all of a sudden. As the surprise package… I dunno. That won’t give us much strength in the middle, but who knows what the manager will come up with?

  • 17ht: “Would AW really sacrifice results by leaving out everybody’s fave? Well, that’s only an issue if the results actually suffer…”

    Precisely, 17. If the results keep going for us without Jack; it’s not as if we’ve won every game in which he’s played anyway. Ramsey’s strength is his engine and knack for popping up in the right place in front of goal. Keep that up and that’s a signal for Jack to behave.

  • Eris, I haven’t said that he should leave or that he will leave, but he might consider it.

    I might be wrong but I believe that Chris Willock joined Benfica and has already played for the 1st team, whilst Barcelona B is just another name for Barcelona reserves as I don’t think they run a reserve League in Spain.

    The thing is, Reiss Nelson has been offered a new contract but so far hasn’t signed it, just as McGuane some 12 to 18 months ago.
    I want Nelson to stay, of course I do, but I’m just putting it out there.
    Arsenal have been very adept at taking youngsters from other european clubs and now it seems, with the talent we are developing, that european clubs are returning the favour.
    If Nelson doesn’t sign a new deal by this coming summer Eris, then to me the writing is very much on the wall. That’s all, it’s just a fact of football life.

  • What exactly is the wish of the fans, TA?…

    For many (it seems to me…), losing the Golden Boy–and being able to blame Wenger for it–would be pretty (pretty, pretty, pretty…) good. (That’s a Larry David–“Curb Your Enthusiasm”–reference, btw…) Then again, sentiment seemed to switch away from the evasive one (i.e., Alexis… prison term, but no prison? Somebody please explain that one…) quite quickly as his move to Manchester (any club up there, in fact) materialized…

    Our whole perspective on signing our own guys has definitely made for a sea change in our thinking now that the big “sagas” (Alexis, Ozil) have played out…

    The discussion of youth players ^^^ is also very interesting, esp. in light of another Guardian article that came out this week. https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/feb/07/arsene-wenger-young-signings-transfers-arsenal If Wenger controls “everything” at the club, the analysis above would seem to contradict the article. Slamming our manager gets the hits, I guess, even for the media that does “real journalism” (or purports to do so)… It IS a very narrow path to first team success and, it’s rough for defenders (and defensive mids & keepers) with each goal clip analyzed so deeply for blame… I will say, beyond a few reflexive “bench-em as punishment” comments, the BKers do better than most in this realm… AND, the Guardian has another article about young (English) players getting (worthwhile) experience in continental leagues. It’s all quite a mish-mash, to be honest…

    Interesting stuff, I think, (so keep it coming, fellas…) even if we’re mostly just biding our time until the derby…

  • In the final analysis market forces will determine the fate of all these players. Choice takes a back bench. Theo one year ago never saw Eveton coming. Neither Giroud, Miki or the others.

  • PE, I am recovering from sedation I had earlier at the dentist today. So, unless super-busy 17HT can do it, it will have to wait till tomorrow morning. Hope that is ok?

  • If I were a lazy pundit– I could make a meal of this one:

    “The best way to defend is for us to have the ball and to take the game to them, and after – when we don’t have the ball – to defend as a team,” said Wenger. “He (Kane) has high numbers. What you want is to keep him quiet and our STRIKERS, who are top-class in Europe as well, to express their talent.”

    He said strikers. Plural. That has to mean a 4-2-2-2 on Saturday!
    Yeah. That is a lazy pundit read of it…


  • Kev, I get your point now and share your concern about Reiss’ failure to sign up; maybe about the money on offer rather than playing time. However, I can tell you for certain that Willock plays is registered with the Benfica B, which operates pretty much the same way as the Barcelona B, which plays in the Segunda Liga, in the case of McGuane. Reserve teams in Spain play in the same league system as the senior team, rather than in a reserve team league. They must play at least one level below their main side, and are ineligible for promotion to La Liga, irrespective of their placement in the Segunda league.

    Jw1, you just might be right there, you know. Wenger could have both strikers on, and that may be the surprise for this fixture!

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