Freddie’s First Improvements, Ozil Needs Support, Leno Superb: 8 Observations.

Let’s be honest: how many of us had expected a total turnaround now that Emery is gone and Freddie is in charge? I reckon quite a few. Not sure what this would be based on other than a romantic notion that any change will bring instant bliss, even within just a couple of days.

Arsenal Training Session
ST ALBANS, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 30: during a training session at London Colney on November 30, 2019 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Instead it is: the villain is dead, long live the villain?! Well it definitely isn’t that either. Ljunberg is bringing home a point, which given the circumstance is anything but bad and, most probably, more than Emery would have done; but most importantly, the Swede had us play attacking football again and instilled enough character and perseverance in the team to overcome Norwich taking the lead  twice. In the end, the Canaries had won at home against Citeh already and came back from Goodison Park with a precious win last weekend: that is a tough psychological combination to overcome in an away game…

Furthermore, he was brave to play Mustafi in defence and to reinstall Xhaka in midfield. It was also impressive that he opted for youngsters Guendouzi and Willock in midfield, whilst allowing Ozil to play with both Auba and Laca in attack.

Norwich sat deep and played on the counter and we pinged the ball round in their half looking for opportunities to score. The latter was not great and it should not come as a surprise that we are still vulnerable to counter-attacks. Ljunberg and the BFG have their work cut out but we knew that, and it will not be solved instantly. But most importantly, we played attacking football again and that goes a long way.

Freddie had his first session on the wheel and it will have felt both great and scary. He will have learned so much from it and I expect subtle changes and improvements in our up and coming games.

PB has written some excellent player reviews and they will be published soon, so I will make some more generic comments regarding Freddie’s Gunners in action.

Eight Observations/statements:

  1.  Leno was beyond superb. Such great hand-eye coordination.
  2. Freddie went for powerhouses Chambers and Kola on the wings but both struggled to make the required level for a top PL team. First touches need to improve and so do the passing and final balls into the box.
  3. Mustafi is more dynamic than Big Sok but he had an unfortunate game. The BFG may be able to get renewed confidence in Frantic Skod but yesterday’s performance was alarming.
  4. Auba scored twice and that was great and many will argue that Laca did not have a great game. But when it comes to adding to our attacking build-up play I would say Laca is a much better field-footballer than Auba, and this is just as important. If we only play three attackers they all need to be good footballers and not just excellent finishers, and I am not sure we have the balance in attack right.
  5. Now we come to Mesut Ozil, who looked keen to me and was desperate for a few fellow players on the pitch to play Arsenalesque football with (oh how he will wish for the days with Giroud and Sanchez). Laca was isolated and kept the Norwich defence busy, Auba I just discussed, Guendouzi likes to hold on to the ball (often too long), Xhaka sits deep, the full backs are technically quite limited (as discussed) and only Willock (and Laca) link up well with him. So there is another key job for Freddie and Per to get sorted: our passing needs to get slicker and much more deadly and this will take time.
  6. I was surprised not to see Torreira start and I hope this will not become a trend. Torreira and Xhaka in midfield supported by Willock/Guendouzi, either next to them or slightly in front, looks the safest bet for balance and power in midfield…. I applaud that we are going to play attacking football but we need to stop cheap as chips counter-attacks against us when we lose the ball deep in the opponent’s half. In my humble opinion, LT11 is paramount in this.
  7. Other than our bouncebackability to overcome two setbacks and more attack focussed football, there was another positive: the away fans were in great spirit again and supported the team throughout the game.
  8. It is easy to go and pick on individual players now but surely we have to give them time now that we have a new (interim) manager with new ideas and tactical adjustments. Freddie and the players will need all the support we can give them and we have a big role to play in this. So let’s focus on the positives at least for a couple of months.

By TotalArsenal.

24 thoughts on “Freddie’s First Improvements, Ozil Needs Support, Leno Superb: 8 Observations.

  • TA … good stuff. Freddie giving starts to Mustafi, Ozil and Xhaka seems like a political statement that it is all a new beginning. To me it’s a good move irrespective of the fact that Mustafi was alarming yesterday. Xhaka and Ozil were amongst the better ones on our side.

    Freddie and Per have a lot of work to do on the team when without the ball. Apart from Torreira and Martinelli (few minutes on the field) the rest were so unenterprising. Whenever the opposition was in possession our men behind the ball begin to pedal backwards deep into our box, and those not behind the ball track back nonchalantly. Redemption can only come if we can become aggressive in winning the ball back, the further away from our box the better.

    As long as we continue to play Xhaka and Douzi together, Torreira can only be used in the more forward areas as the former two like to sit deep which creates a large gap between our central MF and our attackers. I think the 1st thing Freddie and Per should do is to seperate Xhaka and Douzi.

    Emery had indulged Douzi a bit too much. I hope he’d adjust well to being used less regularly. I could sense that yesterday he almost couldn’t understand that it was him to be substituted.

  • Thanks PE, yes the gap between midfield and attack remains a problem and Ozil cannot bridge it on his own. The full backs need to help and also one of the deeper laying midfielders… The good thing is that FL has another game on Thursday so he does not have too wait long to make further adjustments… a work in progress.

  • The main positive that I feel is that the club have recognized that a change was needed and we are at the beginning of that change.

    I would be a very happy fan if both Freddie and Per earn their spurs and become our next manager/coach duo. They both have an in depth knowledge of their position and the club, it will be magical if they can instill that into the players.

    Lets be honest with ourselves, the Arsenal squad is sub standard and is in desperate need of an urgent overhaul. It’s obvious to any one of us that simply moving the players around into different positions will not solve the problem. Some of the players are simply not of the standard we need to crack back into the top four – and finishing first is way out of sight.

    Our defense is the worst offender and is as porous as any I’ve seen. It seems that for years I’ve been crying out for a steel backbone in our team – and IMHO it still remains our number one need. My earnest belief is that in both Bould and Mertesacker we have two men that truly understand the art of defending and it should be left up to them to pave the new path – sadly they may not have the tools (players) to create the desired change.

    We have to get used to the idea that we are no longer an automatic entry into the top four and therefore the Champions League and it may take a few seasons before we are once again considered as one of England’s best teams.

    We no longer have the rock of Wenger to rely on………………….

  • Hi TA, nice observations as usual.
    On point 2, I think Ozil and Kolasinac have a good understanding (well, Ozil worked well with Tierney too), but Chambers and Auba don’t click well yet. In their defense, Chambers is not a RB and Aubameyang is no RW either, so I wouldn’t force wingplay with that line-up.
    On point 5, I am still missing the old Sanchez very much. He was a truly unique player, capable of passing, dribbling and scoring all on the highest level, and he was – and looked – always 100% committed. Regarding Giroud, I think we replaced the World Cup winner really well, but M’khi was not equal to the departing Sanchez, and Pepe is not yet on Alexis-level. I hope the key word is ‘yet’, as he does have the potential to become a passing-dribbling-scoring genius.
    On point 6, Torreira not starting was the most alarming aspect of the Sunday game in my opinion. At least my primal fear is that Ljungberg is another Emery with less experience and more Arsenal DNA. He could have proven me wrong but sent an ‘Emery-positive midfleid trio’ to the pitch. But I’m also optimistic, as he substituted both Willock and Guendouzi, so maybe we’ll see a different engine room on Thursday night against BHA.

  • Maybe we have all refused to face the truth which is that there is a new Arsenal DNA .. IN WHICH THE PLAYERS NOT ONLY PLAY WITH FEAR (dofff my hat to Xhaka) BUT ALSO DONT OR CANT GIVE THEIR ATHLETIC BEST. THEY ARE SCARED AND LAZY (few exceptions include Torreira and Martinelli). Freddie’s task is to change that DNA. If he doesn’t succeed the only option left is a slow overhaul of the squad.

    Allegri is reported to be skeptical of the Arsenal job because he thinks the squad is not good enough. Am minded to agree with him. And if that’s correct, it’s a huge indictment on our technical hierarchy. They have purchased seven 1st team players since Wenger enough to revamp a team.

  • Thanks TA– solid perspectives sir.

    We all feel we know what we saw yesterday. How it differs from another’s account– is in the details. The team played well for much of the first half– organized, really. We missed our chances early. TBH– Norwich made a clearance off the line (Mustafi’s header), and Krul was Superman once again (often is when he sees red (& white)).

    The superficial take: ‘Same old, same old.’
    But this– was different. We know– at the least– change is coming.
    What was Freddie to do– in two days prep, with the same cast of players?
    His best. I do think he did his best yesterday. FL played some hunches. For his choices? He got bruised-up pretty good almost everywhere I’ve read– and I’ve been hitting every outlet I trust for commentary.

    I’m OK with the outcome yesterday– warts and all.
    If Freddie can quickly come to terms with the errors he made in both selection and substitutions.

    TA? I’ll tread softly today with my criticisms of individual players– as that was a ‘bolded point’ of yours above. But I’m not above assisting the visually deficient among us– in finding their way. 🙈

    Without Bernd Leno in goal yesterday? This outcome would surely have been bereft of any optimism.

    The only thing for Freddie to do on Thursday– is his best. Be better Freddie.


  • Bit off-topic– but wanted to whet appetites with a few headlines from my fave subscription site ‘The Athletic’. Great info. Measured opinions.

    Ornstein on Monday:
    Arsenal ask about Rodgers

    Amy Lawrence
    Arsenal’s problems run deep. Ljungberg will not be able to fix them overnight. Not even Klopp or Guardiola could

    Adam Crafton
    At what point will Arsenal’s hierarchy share the blame for the Emery mess?

    If you’re looking for top-shelf writing– from writers who cover the club for their living? The Athletic is the place– worth the $50/£39 per year.


  • GN5, you are probably right. I still feel that our defence could do much better if they would get better protection and the whole team defending would become stronger. I have a strong feeling that Klopp or Guardiola and one or two others would turn these 11 into a strong team: Leno, Bel, Hold, Luiz, Tierney, Xhaka, Torreira, Willock, Ozil, Auba, Laca (Pepe, Guend, Sok, Martinelli, Kola, Martinez, Saka on bench). Freddie has a chance to show us what he is capable of doing… and if it is too big for him an experienced manager has a good squad to work on imo).

  • Pb, good comments. I believe we should not have let Giroud go (with hindsight). We have become so dependent on Auba for his goals but have not replaced Ollie’s ability to play really well with his back to the goal and allow others to flourish (the ungrateful Sanchez, and Ozil). We also have not replaced Giroud’s aerial threat which is a big miss in the box and for the goalkeeper. So although I agree often with you, I don’t agree on this one.

  • Sorry PE I dont agree. When did the players show fear or laziness yesterday?

    Allegri apparently had a really bad interview 1.5 years ago and spoke v poor English. He may also be the kind of manager who hides behind top quality players, like he had a Juve. It is clear to me that he is after the Bayern or PSG role…

  • JW, I would have written more or less the same whether we had lost, won or drawn the game. But yes Leno was exceptional and made the difference late on.

    Have you shares in the Athletic, JW?! 😀

  • Pb, I fully stand behind your understanding that our right-sided players (Calum & Auba) are not really up to par as a unit.

    I’m more curious as to why no one in the Arsenal team has recognized this fact as well. No matter how good (or bad) Kolasinac has been recently, you can’t say that Chambers is more productive as an attacking unit than him. Yet, during this match (and many more before this), our point of attack seems to be more concentrated more on our right wing for some odd reason.

    My personal thoughts: focus the attack on our left hand side and instruct Chambers to sit back when in possession. Chambers has been excellent defensively this season, though he has been exposed time and time again when out of position. I really dont remember him being beaten 1v1 in this game. He has come a long way from the time he got rinsed against Jefferson Montero.

  • Only in terms of ‘sharing’ an excellent source for information TA.
    The depth of first-hand accounts on (not just) Arsenal’s workings behind-the-scenes allow me insights that would generally req

  • (Some strange stuff going on! Hmm. Well seems to have calmed down.)

    … require getting it second-hand filtered by one or more sources.
    I’d prefer my content unadulterated if possible.
    Arsenal straight-up, neither shaken nor stirred. 🍸


  • Good point, Lucas.
    Chambers is a fine defender and his passing skills are not bad either, but more experienced in forward passing than providing crosses (mind the perfect assist to Martinelli against Nottingham Forest). For me Chambers is a right sided central defender – until we test him as a defensive midfielder – so I would also go with Bellerin as RB. If Calum has to play CB (due to injury, fatigue or suspension) he should indeed sit back. I won’t mind having an asymmetrical attack.

  • TA, i like your assessment of laca
    elsewhere, unfortunately, some ignoramuses seem to have decided it was his turn to get picked on
    just as many of you, i suppose, i’ve been wandering around the net since yesterday afternoon, looking for any arsenal news that i might find an interest in
    away from BK, nothing of the sort, really, but what i did get was a heap of abuse piled upon alex on twitter
    it appears he has become the latest of our lads whose liver has to be thrown to the dogs
    will it ever stop?? i do wonder about that; and since many of these so-called fans seemingly are season ticket holders; will he get booed thursday??
    i don’t even feel like bringing on the stats … part of our “fanbase” has definitely gone mad

  • GN5–
    If I may? I’d like to show you my method of looking for stories of interest on the web for ‘Arsenal’ (that’s if you don’t already use it!).

    NewsNow, an aggregator– is a good way to find ALL stories every day.
    The best feature about this– is the ability to click on the story’s source (‘Arseblog’, etc.) and NewsNow allows you to ‘hide’ (manage) the provider of the story. That allows me to filter the chaff– as it were.

    Twitter– for me? Is a perfect ‘rage medium’. Short, crass and instant.
    Only have an account myself to access things I see embedded elsewhere.


  • thanks, jw1
    i’ll follow your advice; this twitter trip of mine was too toxic
    fa cup draw: leeds at the emirates; that’s a tough one, i’ve watched them as often as i could (ihere championship games are broadcast by “bein”) because i hoped i’d see eddie shine
    our lad was not used as often as i would’ve liked him to be, but from what i did see of them, they look to me as a well-organised side, very effective defensively, with hard-working players making very few mistakes (admiring arsenal fan speaking)
    they’ll sure be a tough nut to crack (provided we have to face their best lineup)

  • Thanks for the thought JWL, I do have News Now saved in my favourites, but I don’t refer to it as much as perhaps I should.

    I don’t go anywhere near Twitter – never have, no interest alt all.

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