How to win on Saturday: Alexis and Ozil behind Welbeck-Giroud-Perez

Last Tuesday’s unexpected setback against the Hornets hurt us, but not as much as it could have done. Virtually all our competitors for the title also dropped points, so in the end not much damage was done. Of course, it was a golden opportunity to close the gap with the league leaders and put more distance between us and our other title rivals, but the team were poor in the first half and then could not make amends in the second half, despite a valiant effort.

Of course this is just what football is like sometimes; how many times have we experienced such a game – in which we lose to the underdog – in our lives?! It is also what makes football exciting, even though it is nasty to be on the losing side. But we Gooners are just so desperate for success that losing a game is always experienced as a catastrophe, and our response is seldom philosophically: we need victims and we want to see changes. And ideally somebody gets sacked. What about using adversity to galvanize the troops: change nothing other than our focus and passion for the next game? That is what good managers do. Show believe in your team and utilise the available energy to get back to winning ways.

Well, Wenger and Bould will not  be feeling great right now, but the last thing they will do is give up, blame some of their players, or totally change their philosophy. As per 17HT’s fine comment yesterday, the real challenge they are facing is sorting out the double DM pivot. Yet most fellow Gooners, here and on other blogs, are desperate to see Giroud benched and us to go back to speed and mobility in attack. I can see where you are coming from but scoring goals is really not anything for the management to worry about right now. We produce many chances and score plenty of goals, much better than last season.

No, the real issue is making us more compact in defence and far more impenetrable from the midfield area. Le Coq and Rambo have not been a successful combo in the DM pivot in recent games, and it looks like Aaron will be out again for a while. Wenger could opt for the Ox but that would be very unwise in my opinion. Playing against a third string Saints is very different from playing the Chavs at the Bridge. The ideal man, and in my opinion the most modern and allround defense-minded midfielder in our squad, Elneny, will unfortunately not be available. Santi would also be pretty ideal but is not available.

Wenger could either go for Ox, or a more robust but less experienced option in Maitland-Niles, or he could opt for moving Debuchy, Gibbs or Monreal into midfield. This would add defensive steel but would deprive us from extra attacking power from midfield.

It would also indicate to the rest of the team and our opponent that we are scared of them. Fact is, we need to win to get our title challenge back on track and reunite the fanbase.

So let’s go for all out attack, I say. Allow Coquelin to sit deep with the CB’s and play 4-1-2-3, which often looks more like 3-4-3, or even 3-2-5. I would like us to attack the Chavs with conviction and not sit back to play them on the break. Only then I reckon we have a good chance to win this six-pointer.

This is the line-up for it:

Yep, Alexis and Ozil behind Giroud to work with and off him and to force the league leaders deep back into their own half. Welbeck and Perez to add fire power and close ball control from the wings and in the box, and press the Chelsea FBs right back where they belong. With Giroud, Alexis, Perez, Ozil and Alexis we have total variety in attacking ability and power, and with Nacho and Bellerin we can offer additional width. Yes we will be vulnerable to counter attacks, but so be it. We have the speed, athleticism and strength in the team to deal with it. But most importantly, we take the game to them and never let them breath until the job is done. We can play like this and what have we got to lose. Let’s play football the Arsenal way.

That’s what I would like to see. What about you?

TotalArsenal.

 

Arsenal are Riding on their Survival Instinct, but Where is their Killer Instinct?

(WE MAY STILL WIN THE LEAGUE. SEE HOW).

I can just imagine how, going back about two decades ago when the Arsenal Board conveyed a special meeting on ways to position the club to take the greatest advantage of the nascent global outreach of the Premier League, one smart fellow in the BoD must have come up with a strange name, Arsene Wenger. Arsene who? Equipped with facts and figures, and with a gift of the gab, that smart guy, I imagine, must have swayed the listening Board members from downright scepticism to a bullish mood: they couldn’t wait to see and hear from this great economist who was also managing football on the field. He was, the BoD must have enthused, exactly what the time needed. Football and finance were becoming inseparable and this ‘Arsene Who?’, looked every inch their fused incarnate.

Arsene arrived. The blue print was established. In came Overmars, Vieira, Ljungberg, Henry and others, and in a flash Arsenal football team was winning laurels and rubbing shoulders with the mighty Manchester United. Arsenal, within those few years of Wenger’s appearance on the scene, had attained the critical velocity required to join first class the globalization train with all its commercial benefits. But the BoD, now with the compelling voice of Wenger, also looked around and saw the match day ticket-takings of Europe’s super teams, and knew that with time they would be found out and thrown out. A larger capacity stadium had to be quickly put in place. But that would mean losing the muscle power to bring in the Overmarses, the Vieiras, the Henrys; and so did we start investing in youth, bringing in the Van Persies, the Fabrigases, the Denilsons, the Songs.

That also meant recalibrating our targets. To keep riding on the globalization train, we needed to keep our Champions League appearances going. We redefined our boundaries and in the process reshaped our mentality to being content keeping our heads above the waters of the Europa League and the out-of-Europe competitors. The club lost its juggernaut instinct that created the Invincibles and instead was content to just get by. On the field, we ceased to be a raging fire that consumed everything on its path.

Of course, the idea was that when the new stadium gets going we would again recalibrate our targets upwards and swing back sustainably to the summit of European football. As simple as that, they must have thought, failing to contend fully with the might of something called the force of inertia which force we are now up against. After over 10 years of being content with just keeping head above waters, the BoD has gotten pinned down by this inertia. Psychologically they are finding it difficult switching gears to a new level. The player recruitment policy is head locked by this force. The amount of money to be budgeted on players, existing or as targets, is entangled with this inertia. So, pervading and surreptitious is this force that our coaching crews must be victims also, explaining why our players on the field feel cosy at 0-0 against the opposition, only to wake up when they find themselves trailing with 25 minutes to go as their survival instincts kick in. Gone a long time ago the killer instinct of the Invincibles that smelt blood just at the sight of the prey. We need to become the beast again. Leading 3-0, with the opponent demoralized, is when to get even more ferocious while stinging like a scorpion should not be reserved for only when we are trailing Bournemouth by three goals That’s the difference that makes the champ. The king of the jungle is blessed with plenty of the killer instinct. When it brings down its prey it goes for its jugular. When it gets wounded, reduced to 10 men, it sees its own red and transforms into a wounded lion, a creature of evil omen. It never whimpers.

I can see a ray of hope in this 2016/17 season. The fierce competition of the top six teams is that ray. Dropping out of the top four this season is a spectre that is unrelentingly dwelling with us, so much so, that our survival instinct is all alive driving us forward so fast that we might even breast the tape ahead of all. Crunch time is near. Wenger has already said that every Premier league match remaining is for his team a cup final. I can bet his eyes are fixed on the rear mirror, not straight ahead, a victim still of that powerful force of inertia. Candidly, I don’t mind our winning the championship by default i.e. through a wrong mentality, because the winning of it would provide the impulse that would bring back the killer instinct of our invincible era. Otherwise, it would have become time enough to start talking of a major strategic overhaul in the system that is carefully contrived to unshackle the club from its psychological barrier. We want to ride first class on this amazing EPL transcontinental train. We have tasted it before and nothing else will now do.

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Double Glory Days

By Pony Eye

Iwobi puts Panic into Defenders | Ozil is Back, Beauty is Back | Alexis/Giroud Two Top CFs | Danny is Welbeck

Winning in Swansea was sweet and our Northwest rivals dropping valuable points even sweeter. We all knew that we needed a win against the Swans but not many were confident that the boys would be able to overcome a team that we have struggled against in recent seasons and would be out to play for their new – third this season – manager. The boys are so confident in their ability to turn anything round again that they once again did not bother much in the first half. Of course this is nonsense, but what is a worry is the team’s apparent inability to gel and play at the right tempo and intensity from the start.

As discussed in previous posts, this is largely due to the lack of cohesion and dominance of our midfielders in the DM pivot. Rambo and Xhaka are fine midfielders but they are struggling to play together effectively and as a result the whole team often suffers, as these two players have a pivotal linking, protecting and enabling role in the team. Luckily, Arsene is time and again able to lift their game significantly during the second half of recent games, which has made a huge difference. We have to hope that the boys will soon start to play much better together from the first kick-off.

Eight Positives From Game:

  1. Giroud keeps delivering and Wenger knows he has more than one quality option for the CF role. OG has 13 goals from 18 attempts on target and only needs 71 minutes for each PL goal on average, which is fecking awesome (best in the league by some distance). Losing twice in a row against the Toffees and Citeh seems to have made Arsene realise that he needed to put Ollie back up-front and either rest Alexis or play him on the wing. The Chilean firecracker does not seem too happy about this but I can see why Wenger wanted to freshen things up. It has worked out very well, with three wins and a hard fought draw in Bournemouth, but I have no doubt that Arsene will play Sanchez as CF again sooner or later. Key is not to become too predictable and over-reliant on the one player. Hopefully, Wenger can explain this to AS-Baby. 🙂
  2. Iwobi is dancing his way into this team. He is learning very quickly and the combination of incredible close control of the ball, great vision and fabulous passing ability is making the team play much better. Alex was for many the MOTM and quite rightly so. Often a young player does well initially and then starts to struggle with dealing with the expectations by the fans and manager, after which they usually struggle with form and self-belief for a long time before possibly coming good again (the Ox being a prime example). But Iwobi, just like Bellerin last season, appears to be able to keep growing steadily and is becoming a regular first team player as a result. His final ball, especially on goal, still needs improving but luck was on his side with two strong deflections leading to two Swans’ OGs. He is starting to put panic into defenders which is a sign of a quality attacker.
  3. Cech is a safe pair of hands. Made a very good safe in the first half and just does not do anything that makes his fellow defenders nervous. Petr is no attention seeker; he is the night-watcher.
  4. Ozil is back – Beauty is back. Our German conductor is endlessly mobile and inventive on the pitch and we have missed him. All the rest re him has been said many a time: Mesut is Mozart!
  5. Gabriel is becoming a very good utility defender, being able to replace both Mustafi and Bellerin with relative ease. The combination of Gabriel and Mustafi needs more work, but I am happy to play him with Koz in any defensive combination.
  6. Three clean sheets in the last four PL games, after conceding at least one in the previous eight PL games, is giving us hope that our defensive play is improving. It is by no means perfect, but if we can build further on this we have a good chance to get much closer to the Chavs in the next couple of months.
  7. Alexis, despite his shenanigans when he gets substituted, is playing very well for the team and is joined top scorer in the Premier League with 14 goals already. On top of this he produced seven assists which makes him the best attacker in the league. Wherever he plays he always creates danger for the team and is an outlet for fellow players. Let’s never forget this.
  8. Welback is beck. All digits crossed he will get fitter and fitter and help us win silverware this season. The attacking combinations we can draw from with players like Welbeck, Alexis, Giroud, Perez, Iwobi, Ozil, Theo and Ox are almost endless. The versatile and enthusiastic Welbeck really adds a lot to our attack going forward. He could be the difference come May.

By TotalArsenal.

 

Beastly Giroud Powers Arsenal into Fourth Round | Iwobi MOTM | Player Ratings

To use the football king of cliches, this was a game of two halves. What can we say about the first one? It was dire, the worst half of Arsenal football I have seen in a long while. We were disjointed throughout the team and collectively we had no fighting spirit whatsoever. Wenger left the normal leaders at home for  various reasons but there were plenty of players on the pitch who should have stood up and be counted: the likes of Ramsey, Ox, Giroud and Monreal were all not setting the example and were an insult to the shirt during those nasty first 45 minutes.

All our football pairs were not working as one, most notably the CB-pairing of Mustafi and Gabriel: it looked like they had never played together before and left our defence all over the place. The CB-FB pairings did not look much better and Ainsley had very little support from our right winger throughout the game. And then the midfield pairing of Rambo and Xhaka was disjointed, failing to dominate proceedings anywhere on the pitch. The Welsh wizzard had left his magic wand at home and the Swiss time master looked lost on the Deepdale pitch. Up-front, Ollie was isolated and our wingers, hard working Perez and day dreamer Ox, were not working close enough to him or provide him with the required service to hurt the Lilywhites. Iwobi looked lost like a jaguar on a float and all together we played absolute pants.

I was looking for leadership on the pitch: the one to three players in the spine who take initiative and set the tempo. Nobody did this but it was luckily  very different in the second half, after Wenger no doubt will have injected peppered carrots in 11 well-deserving Arsenals.

We were only one goal to the bad as a result of some woeful defending, but we all knew we were lucky not to be 2-0 or 3-0 behind. Preston had played with a high tempo and played some good football and they will be feeling quite sick to not have earned a replay at least.

With a higher tempo and a clear instruction for the midfielders to push up and dominate the opponents deep into their own half, the game changed immensely in the second half. We came out like a possessed team – the carrots had an immediate effect – and within a minute we scored the equaliser. Some very composed work by Iwobi around Preston’s ‘D’ led to a shooting opportunity for Ramsey just outside the box. The Welshman did not snatch at it but allowed himself to have a very soft touch in order to then unleash the venom in his right foot with devastating effect. It was a beautiful and powerful shot which left the keeper with no chance – Ramsey’s first goal of the season and boy did he, and we, need it.

After that, we kept up the tempo and played much more like a team. We did not create too many good chances but we also kept our opponents from causing us any danger. And then the Lilywhites started wilting and the Gunners came into the golden last ten minutes of the game phase – as Lewis Hamilton would call it: Hammer Time.

The boys increased the tempo and the attackers were now working with and for Giroud to give us the breakthrough. It was wonderful to see Welbeck joining the attack during this period and I reckon he made a difference straightaway. Rambo pumped one into the box and Ollie managed to direct the ball to Perez. Lucas was crowded out by defenders with his back towards the goal near the byline, but he managed to find his new mate Ollie with the deftest of back-heels. Ollie smelled his chance and a very, very powerful left leg got the ball over defender and goalkeeper by sheer willpower to win the match.

Image result for manowar band images

Giroud knows how much the away supporters love him and he scored that goal right in front of 6000 warm and happy Gunners. The goal meant so much to him and this time he did not celebrate with the copy of his scorpion kick but by thumping his Arsenal-logo-embroidered heart with the force of an insane Manowar warlord. He may not have the slickness and athleticism of our Gunner-Gods of Henry or Bergkamp, but what Ollie has done for us in the last few weeks is simply outstanding. For me he is very close to playing himself into my favourite Gunners team of all time. Beauty of spirit goes a long way.

PLAYER RATINGS

Ospina: 8 – calm, focussed, safe pair of hands.

Ainsley MN: 7 – too many times unsupported, but oozed calm and control for his age

Mustafi: 6 – more willpower than experience on show, not calm enough

Gabriel: 6 – same as Mustafi

Nacho: 6 – same as Mustafi

Rambo: 5 – fist half 2, second half 8 average = 5. Time to become a Manowar warrior…

Xhaka: 5 – looked lost but better second half. Not sure whether Rambo partnership works

Iwobi: 8 – never gave up trying, much better 2nd half due to Wenger’s team adjustments. MOTM

Ox: 4 – no more excuses for Alex

Perez: 7 – struggled at times but better 2nd half and what an assist!

Giroud: 8 – see above.

By TotalArsenal.

Why this January will be the Most Important Month of Aaron Ramsey’s Career

It leaves a bitter sweet taste in the mouth. Sweet because we desperately needed the Chavs to get beaten, and comprehensively so if we still want to have a decent go at winning the PL this season; bitter because a Spuds win is never a good thing. I am not overly bothered about our North-London rivals temporarily pushing us out of the top four, and a gap of 8 points with the Chavs rather than 11 is worth the agony. We also know that the Spuddies thrive in the current wet, dark and nasty conditions but as soon as the sun starts warming up these shores again in April and May, they will willow away to finish behind the mighty red and white once more.

Chelsea are playing Leicester away next and will also have to go to Anfield this month, and if we grind out a few wins we will be able to close  the gap considerably with a bit of luck. A few weeks ago, after two disappointing away defeats in the North-West, we did not feel too good, but now that the Chavs’ winning run is over – they were not able to get a 14th win in a row, a record that still belongs to The Arsenal – the boys will have new hope and focus for the title.

Having watched the Spuds v Chavs game (without sound of course), I was impressed with the midfield set up of our neighbours, I hate to say. Dembele and the by many here once coveted Wanyama were a constantly moving wall that dominated the midfield proceedings to a large extent. The way they did it was actually reminiscent of previous Chelsea teams!

Since I saw Dembele boss the midfield for Fulham against us at THOF a few seasons ago, albeit in a more advanced midfield role, I have wanted him to become our deepest laying midfielder. We got (back) Coquelin instead and he has been great ever since he returned from Charlton. It looked to me that Wanyama sits a bit deeper and Dembele pushes forward regularly, but they always worked in tandem and did not allow much space between them, which is key to forming a mobile, impenetrable wall allover the pitch.

I reckon we have better midfielders at Arsenal but we simply may have too many. I am also worried about the lack of consistency in our DM pairing. To some extent, I like the thought of mixing things up for different kind of opponents, but in order to get some team cohesion and consistency in our game play we could really do with establishing a first choice DM pair. I am fully aware that injuries have made things harder for Wenger, though.

With Santi out for at least another month and Elneny away at the ACN, and the season entering its crucial mid-way stage, we could really do with Wenger picking the best possible combination asap. As discussed in previous posts and comments by BKers, the pairing of Coquelin and Xhaka has not really worked well until now. Both have a tendency to control the game from deep, with the Frenchman a more natural destroyer and the Swiss maestro more of a Pirlo. By sitting deep, they tend to leave too much space between defence and attack, depriving the attackers with the necessary support more often than not. As a result, we often let teams boss us in our own half for too long periods, most notably against Man City, but also against the Cherries on Tuesday.

Against Bournemouth we ‘dared’ to push up our DM duo all the way towards the area in front of their ‘D’ in the second half, and that is what turned the game round for us. The Spuds did the same for large parts of the game yesterday with Dembele and Wanyama bullying the Chavs midfielders – no softies either – deep back into their own half. And that made all the difference. And when the home team had to defend, their DM duo made the centre of defence almost impenetrable, forcing the Chavs to try and attack them from the wings, which, to be fair, they managed to do a few times but without success.

I am still rooting for a Xhaka-Rambo combination, with the former sitting deeper and the latter connecting defence-midfield-attack continuously. However, I am not sure whether these two can have the necessary chemistry and telepathic understanding to work as an mobile, solid wall of real force and dominance all over the pitch. I am convinced we have a fine defence and a great attack, but getting the DM duo right will be pivotal to getting the team to reach its full potential and win the title this season.

There is truth in the criticism Rambo receives regularly regarding his defensive discipline and I feel that there will not be many more chances for him to establish himself in the team. The nr10 position seems to have gone to Ozil and Iwobi, and rightly so in my opinion.

So Aaron, this January could well become the most important month in your (Arsenal) career. If Wenger does put you next to Xhaka or Coquelin you need to play with discipline, force and tactical nous: fight your instincts to bomb forward and leave your partner alone and rejoice in being the joined boss of our teams proceedings. Simple can also be very beautiful.

If you fail, Elneny or (eventually) Santi will take your place.  At this stage of your career, failure is not an option. Grab that bull by the horns.

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By TotalArsenal 

Perez, Ox, Alexis, Xhaka and top-Gunner Giroud Fight Back and Do us Proud

What a good night to be a Gooner.

Olivier Giroud scores Arsenal's equaliser against Bournemouth

I hear you say we dropped two points tonight in the title race and this may well be true, but to come back from (harshly) being 3-0 behind to take a point from this match is something special. In fact, this is the first time Arsenal have managed to come back from three goals down in the PL.

I will have to watch the game again to analyse it properly, which I may well do later this week. Bournemouth and Arsenal were both well up for this but the Cherries played a more disciplined first half and we paid handsomely for some  very bad defending.  In the second half, Arsenal were fabulous and saved our season.

Arsene opted for playing Coquelin and Xhaka in the DM positions and, as I have noticed and posted before, they are both prone to playing very deep, in front of the defence. As a result, we invite teams to come and enter our half too easily and we struggle to move from a defensive position into attacking mode, as Coq and Xhaka are both not natural B2B midfielders imo. Bournemouth were crowding us out in midfield and then used the space behind our midfield very well, resulting in a number of very dangerous ‘turnover’ attacks. We should have pushed the Cherries into their own half and dominate proceedings – something we did very, very well in the last third of the game – but were unable to do this in the first half. For games like these we need players who are very comfortable on the ball in tight spaces, like Ozil, Santi and also Elneny, and boy did we miss them in the first half tonight.

Bellerin did not have the best of games defensively, but I blame Aaron or Iwobi – not sure who was playing with the Spaniard on the right wing at that moment in time – just as much for the first goal we conceded. It really was the sort of goal we should no longer concede: very poor defending from the team. I thought the penalty was a bit harsh, even though Xhaka was to blame for the foul. By the letter of the law it was a penalty but how many times are these sorts of fouls not given inside the box? 2-0 down and the boys tried to get back into the game but there was little cohesion between the players, and the Cherries kept fighting for each other and giving our players a very hard time physically all over the pitch, which was very impressive.

A good team talk was required by Arsene and the captain, and I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at half time.

We played a lot better in the second half but before we could score the referee made a howler by allowing Bellerin to be blatantly pushed off the ball by Fraser, who, to be fair, then did well to beat Cech for a 3-0 lead. At that moment in time, with just 32 minutes to go, we needed character to get back into the game. It was highly unlikely that we would avoid defeat, but it was crucial for the rest of the season that we would fight back with all we had.

On nights like these we need players who know what it means to wear the red and white shirt and who will move mountains to get us back into the game. This is a matter of character and talent, but without the former the latter does not mean much. I reckon all of the players showed character but it was also clear that some just did not have the qualities to make a difference. This could be down to rustiness but it is during games like these when Wenger can really judge the quality of his players… and some did not make the grade. I am not going to mention names in this post but at one point I will come back to this.

Iwobi did his very best but this was a game too many in the nr10 role for him, which, given his age and lack of experience in the PL, is perfectly acceptable. Bringing on Perez for Alex, something I would have done at half time (if not start him in the first place), gave the team the impetus and shape to start the fight back. It freed up the Ox to add more focus to our attack, which he had failed to do until then. From a more central creative role, the Ox started to get our attackers more in the game, and I have to give him credit for this.

Perez is our new Freddie Ljunberg: his runs into space and ability to hold onto the ball are key and his ability to create  space, passing opportunities and chances for others, as well as getting himself in good positions, are all very Freddie-esque. He scored with a  very sweet left-footed volley from a well-placed Giroud lay-off to make it 3-2 and thus gave us hope that we could still get something from the game. But it was his running and drive that made the real difference in the second half: he lifted the total team performance significantly, making Ox, Giroud, Alexis and especially Xhaka, who had an awesome last third of the game, much more effective players.

Before that Alexis, another player we can always count on not to hide away, had scored from Giroud’s desperate flick-on header.

And then it was Giroud himself, after providing two hard fought for assists, who scored a technically perfect, classical header from a peach of a Xhaka cross to equalise in extra time. I know Ollie will always have his haters, and we can point out his fabulous stats – best goals per minute ratio in the PL this season for example – or his considerable team contributions, till the cows come home, but tonight he showed again how much he is a true Gunner and how valuable he is for us. Pound for pound, Ollie is one of the best Arsenal signings ever.

Had the game lasted five more minutes, I reckon we could have won but also lost it, as Bournemouth were as keen as us to win the match. In fact, Cech saved us very late on from defeat with a characteristic stop.

If the Chavs keep winning games the way they have done in the last few months, we will not win the league – and chapeau to them if this were to be the case. But the fight back by our boys tonight tells me that we have what it takes to make it very, very hard for them if they were to become human again, which, as we all know, will sooner or later happen.

Goodnight to you all from one proud Gooner.

By TotalArsenal.

 

 

Orgasmic Giroud, Iwobi makes us forget Ozil, Solid Perez, Two Players MOTM: 8 Positives Arsenal v Palace

Well that was a lot better from the mighty red and white boys. Except for a couple of minutes in the second half, the team was in control of all areas on the pitch. Slim Sam Shady will not have expected much and his new team were poor throughout the game, but we were set up to beat them properly and so we did – even though a couple more goals would have been nice and most definitely deserved. With all our main competitors for the title except Man City winning this weekend, and the despicable Spuds leapfrogging us earlier in the day as an added concern, Arsene knew that we needed to win at all cost. This sort of motivation is ideal for a festive season home game and the boys were clearly hungry for a win.

Olivier Giroud twists to score his superb opening goal for Arsenal against Crystal Palace

Eight Positives from the Game and my MOTM:

  1. Giroud’s back-heel flick was of course the outstanding moment of the game. Alexis should have done a lot better with his cross for Ollie as there was little pressure on him after a finely worked counter-attack by the team, but Giroud improvised with the most sexy back heel ‘dink’ you will ever see and that will have had Bergkamp’s highest approval, no doubt. I used to do these when I was seven all the time but the team manager, an old idiot, told me it was way to fancy and should stop doing them. So to see Giroud reach backwards with his heel to still make something of Alexis’ poor pass and then beat the keeper with an unstoppable, other-worldly loop, was a total, orgasmic joy. He clearly was still a bit rusty and the team seem to find it hard to switch between playing with Alexis or Giroud as our CF, but it was still good to have him back in the starting line-up.
  2. The Elneny-Xhaka DM duo was awesome. They both totally dominated midfield with their energy, intelligence and healthy aggression. Xhaka is a beautiful player to watch and he quietly choreographed proceedings from the back like a true general. Elneny never allowed opponents time on the ball and his reading of the game was very good; and we all know how accurate his passing is. Together they were my MOTM.
  3. The Wing Backs were fabulous. Wenger had clearly instructed Monreal and Bellerin to bomb forward and provide the much needed added width to our game against these sort of teams. CP had no answer to our wing play and as a result we had a lot of fun stretching their defence and getting right behind them. The final ball of both can still improve, but they played an integral role in our pretty aggressive and constant attacking play (22 shots by the whole team but only seven on target).
  4. Iwobi managed to make us forget Ozil for big periods of the game. Don’t get me wrong, though: had Mesut played I reckon we would have scored six today. But Iwobi is still learning and playing as a nr.10 is the equivalent to being top dog in astrophysics. However, you can see how he plays with his head up and wants to play the best ball possible, and he was our most creative player on the pitch with great touch and some very fine passing. What is also good to see is that Alex has a lot of physical strength and the older he will get the more beastly he will become. I loved his goal too: sheer determination to get us over the line (and we desperately needed that second goal today).
  5. Alexis did not have his best days in terms of finishing off the few decent chances that came his way, but his energy and presence were once again very important. He missed his creative twin, Mesut, today but he still played an important teal role for us.
  6. Perez was a breath of fresh air. He missed a little bit of sharpness up-front but his wing play was pretty solid throughout the match. He was always an option for his colleagues and helped out very well at the back. On top of this, he is a safe pair of hands when receiving and moving with the ball, and I would love to see him played more regularly from now on.
  7. Koz-Gab combined healthy aggression with maturity and excellent tactical understanding between them; they never made me feel uncomfortable, which is a lovely state to be in! 🙂
  8. Cech: is there a better goalkeeper in terms of being present when he is called upon? It is all about making the right decisions during the few moments our defence is breached, and Petr did this impeccably. Top man.

By TotalArsenal

Happy New Year BKers!

Let’s hope light will keep overcoming darkness in 2017. Happiness, health and love to you all. 

Last night Alexis and Mesut deserved a Ljungberg and Pirez

Everton 2 – 1 Arsenal

Was it one game too many? To me it looked like it, as our key players, who gave absolutely everything, just lacked a little sharpness when it mattered most. We deserved at least a point, and nine out of ten times Iwobi’s well taken chance at the death would have given it to us, but it was not to be. That my friends, is the cruel side of sports, or maybe life in general. Last night, Lady Luck was chewing Goodison’s sweetest’s.

We saw composed and battling performances from Xhaka and Coq, who made a joke of some commentators’ comments that Arsenal do not like it when the game is taken to them; they have not noticed yet that this is exactly what we want. Koz was immense and Gabriel was very good too; the full backs were also awesome and Cech, who had little to do, stood his ground when he needed to.

There was disappointment though: Theo and Ox offered little support which does not necessarily mean they did not put in a shift; they were just ineffectual, making us battle with less than the sum of our numbers. It was clear that Mesut and Alexis battled with all they had and the frustration in not taken their chances, most notably with the German, was carved on their sweaty faces. We really needed a top performance from one of our ‘midwingers’ last night; someone to take away the pressure of our super duo, but both Englishmen had anonymous games. When Bergkamp and Henry graced the mighty shirt and occasionally failed to win us a game, we had Pires or Ljungberg to pull us over the line. Last night, we needed someone to show we have this spare capacity in the current team. Wenger, rightly so, brought on Iwobi and Giroud, who will have been a little miffed not to have started in the first place, but also they did not manage to save us, even though the Nigerian got mighty close.

I cannot wait to see Perez get more starts on the wing and see Welbeck finally entering the battle for us, maybe they will be our new Freddie and Robert. Theo, Iwobi and Ox need that competition asap.

By TotalArsenal.

Boom Boom Giroud is Back, Alexis Sanchez Baby, Coq-Elneny our New Wall? Sunderland – Arsenal Match Review

Oliver Giroud celebrates after he scores his second goal and Arsenal’s third.

After a two hour drive through foggy hills of the very sparsely populated west-to-east very north of England, we ended up in sunny Sunderland with an hour to spare. After parking the car close to the seaside we made our way to the ground via the beautifully named Roker Avenue. The street had seen better days and the level of  littering was quite a surprise (thought those days had gone), but it is always nice to see local supporters of all shapes and sizes wearing the home and away shirts, slowly making their way to the ground.

Sunderland is a football city, let there be no doubt about it, and the Stadium of Light is a pretty perfect football ground, especially when the sun is out and sparkles everything into bright colours and the playing service looks like snooker-cloth. You would expect there to be a lot of unhappiness given the miserable position in the league table and the dire football on display, but the Black Cats supporters are thick-skinned and used to being in this position. They clearly were looking at this game as a bonus of some sort, already anticipating that bigger – my Sunderland supporting ex-colleague even used the word ‘harder’- games lay ahead for them. With that they mean games that they are supposed to win if they want to survive in the PL this season.

I said to my father in law that the warm weather is a blessing for us as it will make the game significantly less ‘up-northy’ for the players. In fact, the north east had about the warmest weather of the whole of the UK on Saturday afternoon and the Gunners were red hot from the start. After a minute silence, immaculately observed by both sets of supporters which in itself gave me a warm and teary-eyed feeling, the game was kicked off. Sunderland set back and tried to disturb our flow of passing but also tried to hem us in in our half by playing a high line at times.

We became sharper in our passing as the game went on and Alexis was steeling the show with his energy and creativity. He set the scene for us in the first minute by chasing the keeper down and getting the ball wacked into his face from close range. The Chilean is our dynamo, our first soldier in attack, who gets everybody going. It was no surprise that it was him who opened the score, even though it was with a Giroudesque header from a classical, speculative cross from around the corner flag. When the Ox put the cross in we did not expect anything else but a clearance but when you have the energy and anticipation levels, combined with bottomless confidence, of the Chilean, anything can be turned into a goal. How he got in front of the defender I still don’t know, but his header was brilliantly directed into the far corner leaving the keeper with no chance. We all went berserk and 5000 or so supporters sang the never tiring ‘Alexis Sanchez Baby’ song. Sunshine and smiles everywhere.

To be fair to Sunderland they did not sit back totally after that and tried to breach us on our left side. Everybody in the world knows there is no way through on Arsenal’s right side of the defence with Coquelin, Bellerin and Mustafi bossing the area, but on the left side we have shown vulnerability time and again this season. Wenger is giving Gibbs a chance now whilst our fantastic Nacho man is nursing a ‘Wenger-injury’ in his head. Fair play to Kieran who looked really up to the task and for the first time I saw a man on the pitch rather than a promising talent.

Kieran got some support from the regularly alternating ‘mid-wingers’ but it was Eleneneny who became his closest defensive friend, next to the beastly Koz of course. The beauty about Elneny is his awareness of space and filling the gaps intelligently with his runs and presence; and when he has the ball he is calm and passes it on with simplicity and efficiency. During the first half we still had some defensive breaches on our left but we looked less vulnerable than in other games, and during the second half we were very much a solid defensive unit. The combo of Coquelin and Elneny might not be as sexy as it can be to many, but it was perfect for this game. They bossed the midfield and kept the Black Cats in their own half most of the time and they fed the attackers with simple and efficient passes constantly.

Unfortunately, Arsenal did not push on enough for the all important second goal. Ozil could have had another hat trick yesterday and others, such as Iwobi and Ox, missed composure and technical control to kill off Sunderland for good. Nobody cared too much about Ozil’s wastefulness as the supporters’ favourite song on the day was without any doubt ‘Mesut Ozil, Mesut Ozil, I just don’t think you understand….’. We were missing another regular/natural goal scorer with Theo out and Giroud bench-grooming his beard. Luckily the latter was regularly warming up along the sidelines and the away support warmed him up further with the ‘Nananana’ song, which he really appreciated.

And then came the expected unexpected… we gave away a penalty out of nothing and the score was level. We should have had a penalty a minute earlier and it took an uncharacteristic mistake – was it a slip? – by the German man-hugger Mustafi, to somehow let them back into the game, but we did it to ourselves… and that is what really hurts.

Luckily, the ‘here we go again ‘glass half empty supporters’ favourite train of thought was quickly derailed with a blitz-krieg brace by super-sub Ollie. First he resolutely connected with his left thunderbolt foot with a fine wing-cross by Gibbs from around the edge of the box to put us in front, and a couple of minutes later he put the game to bed with the finest, almost delicate, of diagonal headers over the scrambling keeper from a fine corner by Mesut. 1-3 to the mighty Red and White North Londoners, and then Alexis added another with some very cheeky close control and finish right in front of the goalmouth.

The Sunderland support had enough and we wished them a good homecoming with the ‘cheerio’ song. The added ‘your f*cking sh*t’ song lacked collective levels of empathy and wasn’t for me, but there you go. We should have scored more after that but 4-1 was a pretty fine result that sent us top of the league, which we reminded the most loyal Black Cats supporters of with gusto of course.

On the way back, my FIL and I listened to the radio and were amazed and well pleased that both Spuds and Manure did not manage to take three points from their home games. The return of the fog around the hills did not dampen our spirits one iota. It is quite telling that those who some see as our biggest competition for the title, Citeh and Pool, also managed to thump their opponents with four away goals. Still early days of course, but after ten games we are joined top of the league with those two teams and have a very similar goal difference: are the three of us, all committed to good, attacking football, going to fight it out for the title?

This week we have two more big games to play. Away to Ludogorets FC we will need our full focus to get three points and probably qualify for the next CL round – a not to be expected but never impossible loss there, is to be avoided at all cost. And then of course we play the NL derby for a six-point gab opportunity and to go into the November interlul break with the warmest of feelings. Ooh to be…

By TotalArsenal.

Wenger has Turned Alexis into a Lethal Mixture of these two PL Giants

More or less a quarter of the PL games have been played this season, and slowly but steadily we can start making some conclusions on how the mighty red and white are doing.

The big, obvious conclusion we have to make is that we started the PL season slowly, dropping five points in the first two games, but then recovered very strongly to now be joined top with Pool and Citeh after nine games. This is some achievement we can be really proud of. With Citeh winning game after game, it looked like we were in a bad position until a few games ago, but Pep’s team has lost its fizz, and the Gunners, bar a tired game against Middlesbrough, have lately been firing from all cylinders.

I will post a number of early-season-conclusions over the next week or so, starting with Wenger upgrading our approach to creating and scoring goals to a multi-facetted and disciplined attacking machine.

Conclusion nr.1: Wenger has turned Alexis into a lethal mixture of Giroud and Aguero

Last season we struggled to average two goals per PL game – in fact at the end of the season we only managed to score 1.7 goals per game – but this season we are finding the net at about 2.1 goal a game – 2.4 before last weekend’s draw. It is great to get goals from a variety of scorers: from Koz to Xhaka, from Santi (penalties) to Ozil and from Theo to Alexis, etc. There are also a great number of assist producers, and what this all does is that it makes us unpredictable and highly effective. I love this more than anything else.

The big change Wenger made here is replacing Giroud with Alexis. Regular BKers know that I am a big fan of the bombastic Frenchman, but I can also see that Alexis as our main CF is an improvement for Arsenal – especially when teams allow us space rather than park a bus full of stubborn defenders. Actually, I suggested last season on more than one occasion that if Wenger wanted to have ‘an Aguero beast of a CF’ he did not need to look further and just move the Chilean firecracker to the middle.

What I like about Wenger, who is, contrary to what many like to think, always reinventing the ultimate ballgame, is what he did with Alexis this season. He did not turn him into a ‘pure’ Aguero after all; he made Sanchez better than his fellow South-American. Arsene turned Alexis into a total, multi-disciplined and dimensional attacking machine, who also offers the work rate, constant willingness to occupy central defenders, and ability to create space and key passes for others that Giroud has to offer.

Alexis already has four goals and three assists and produces 2.1 key passes per PL game; Aguero, who to be fair played less PL minutes than Alexis, scored five but produced no assists and only manages 0.9 key passes per game. The Argentinian is a top quality predator-finisher who needs to be serviced and brought into striking range constantly, whereas our South-American wildcat takes and gives in equal amounts, thus allowing the likes of Iwobi, Ozil and Theo to not only support the goal production efforts but also be at the end of them.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ozil+goal+against+swansea+youtube&view=detail&mid=05125335C93D64D916D805125335C93D64D916D8&FORM=VIRE

Alexis revels in the dirty work of chasing defenders and never letting them rest – he is such a hyena; Alexis also has an eye for a pass that kills a whole defence in one stroke (Mesut is still licking his lips from the Chilean’s diagonal Bergkampesque ball over the top against Swansea – see above); Alexis has the composure and technical ability to finish from anywhere in and near the opposition’s box, and against any opposition; and Alexis has the engine to keep going, and with his energy and passion he motivates the entire team from game to game. He has simple added another dimension and more intensity to our attacking play, and for that I applaud both him and Wenger.

There are still some doubts whether Alexis is also our best option if and when we play stubborn and ultra-disciplined ‘park the bus’ teams like Middlesbrough last weekend; and once Giroud is fully back to fitness we will have to see who will get the CF slot for these sorts of games. But there is no doubt in my mind that Wenger’s move to play Alexis as an all round, multi-disciplined CF has made the whole team less predictable and more deadly up front. And long may it continue!

By TotalArsenal.