Does Wenger already have a replacement for Olivier Giroud?

How to replace Olivier Giroud?

The French word for Marmite would surely be ‘Giroud’, if they were ever converted into eating the dark, divisive substance. Many love him and many do not, but there is little doubt that the man who scores or assists in the PL every 110 minutes will once again lead the line in the coming season. And this is not because he is the best CF available, but because he is the best CF for Arsene’s system of football. The man who worked with some of the best attackers in world football knows what a typically good CF looks like, and I have no doubt he could get us one in no time – and one you and I would probably hardly or not have heard of. But he, like Deschamps, has opted for Ollie as his ‘Holding CF’, which I have explained on this webblog many a time.

The big question to ask is what will happen if Giroud gets injured? Who should replace him?

For me there are five options – and it would be good to discuss these on this blog today:

  1. Alexis
  2. Sanogo
  3. Akpom
  4. Another internal option
  5. Buy Buy Buy

Alexis

Theo has said he wants to focus on playing on the right wing from now on but it remains to be seen whether Arsene wants him there. But with him saying he is no longer confident he can be a good CF, Wenger needs to look at his next option up front. I reckon Alexis would be a good shout to play as our CF but it would mean a change of system. He would fit the false nr.9 system (1-4-6) or being played as ‘an Aguero at Man City’. Alexis would fit this free CF role really well, and I have no doubt he can reach 20+ PL goals in a season. It is unlikely that Wenger will opt for this unless he has to, though, as it would mean it big change in system.

Sanogo

Yaya is young and raw but he is our best option to play in the Giroud role. His positional awareness is very good and his body strength is already impressive. He can play as our attacking pivot around whom the attack can function at its best. We all know that his finishing needs to improve dramatically, and it would be unwise to bank on Sanogo covering for Ollie if he were to get seriously injured at this stage. But the big advantage is that we can continue to play the same system of football albeit less effective.

Akpom

Chuba, who will be 21 in two months, is talented and the more classical CF option. There is a bit of Ian Wright in Akpom and I like him a lot. We need to see more of him to judge whether he can make the significant jump to the first team, especially if he were to cover for Ollie in case of a long-lasting injury. The jury is still out and it would be a big risk on Arsene’s side to believe he can be our ‘nr.2’. On the other hand, he might grab the opportunity with both hands and be a big success.

Another internal option

Is Takuma Asano the right one for us? You tell me! 🙂 Or should the Ox be played as our CF, a suggestion JNYC made yesterday? Can you think of anybody else who could cover effectively for Giroud in case of injury?

Buy

Or is the one and best option buying a super CF or just good cover for Giroud: do we have to go external? Clearly, a super CF will want to play all the time and will not accept to be second best to Ollie. This would mean a change of system of football in all likelihood, and I reckon this is not on the cards (especially at this late stage of our pre-season). Good cover for Ollie, ideally somebody who can also play on the wing, seems to be the most likely option Wenger will take. But has he left it too late, and how many players are prepared and capable to play the ‘Holding CF’ role? Or will he go for an internal option?

What do you think fine fellow Gooners?

By TotalArsenal. 

 

Mahrez, Giroud, Alexis and Ozil: The Dream Attack to Win the Title

50 goals from our first choice attackers and nr10:

surely enough to win the title?!

I reckon we lost the league last year because it was the Foxes’ year. Leicester Cinderella City became the neutrals’ favourite to win the title: a collective wishful thinking on and off the pitch made it happen, and there was little that could have been done about it, it seems. Yet, we have to look at ourselves and judge where we could have done better to at least come a lot closer than the ten point gap the Foxes managed to establish between us and them.

LC scored only three more goals than us (68) and conceded the same number of goals (36), yet they lost only three games whilst we were on the losing side seven times. They won 11 of their 19 away games whereas we only managed to win eight away from home. Both teams won the same number of home games but Arsenal lost three times whereas the Foxes only lost the one game at home… the one that matters most to us, though 😉 .

Losing four more games than LC is what made the difference of course, and this had all to do with efficiency. The goals for and against are almost the same, but the Foxes’ shift towards a more Italian, defensive style of play in the second part of the season saw them collect points on a massive scale through a mean defence and a spluttering but still not totally dead attack. Most importantly, they had two major goal threats in Vardy (24 PL goals) and Mahrez (17 PL goals), and when one was struggling to find the net the other would not; how different from Arsenal in the second part of the season!

We also needed to be more secure in defence; especially in the second part of the season we gave away too many winning positions, or made it really hard for ourselves by conceding first through careless defending, which cost us dearly. But that is for another post.

When Ollie went through a drought, the likes of Alexis, Ozil and Theo did not fill the gap, and that is what needs to be addressed this season. Ozil is of course our assists king and with six PL goals and 19 assists (121 PL minutes between goals/assists on average), I am just hoping he will score a few more and replicate the assists tally in the coming season.

Alexis had a relatively quiet season with 13 goals and four assists (144 PL minutes between goals/assists on average) but yet he did his part to some extent. Giroud did his bit to a large extent in the role of ‘Holding Striker/ attack enabler and finisher’ with 16 goals and 6 assists (110 PL minutes between goals/assists on average). Unless Wenger decides to play a different system of football, which I very much doubt, Ollie will be leading the line once again with the same job description he was given in the last few seasons (it never stops to amaze me how very few people seem to [want to] grasp this, especially in the media, but there you go).

We all know that it stops there, with neither Theo (5 goals and 2 assists/ 196 minutes between goals/assists on average), or Danny, Ox or Joel delivering the goods from the right (or centre), due to a variety of reasons. Rather than choosing a beast of a traditional CF, I reckon Wenger will be looking to strengthen the right side of our attack as to get more balance in the team and reach a total of say 50 PL goals from our three first choice attackers and nr.10. He may be tempted to hope either Iwobi, Ox or Campbell will break through but this is a big risk to take; and he knows it.

The rumours re Mahrez continue and it is obvious why Wenger would like to add this gem of an Algerian to the first team. He can play on the right and with 17 goals and 11 assist (109 PL minutes between goals/assists on average) he would help us to re-balance the attack and make it a lot more lethal. If Ozil, Giroud and Alexis score the same number of goals next season as they did in the previous one, and Mahrez manages to score 15 for us, we would score 50 PL goals from our first choice attackers and nr.10. Surely that would swing things in our favour massively? You may say Mahrez will not have another season like that, which may be true, but I also reckon that Alexis is capable to come close to 20 PL goals in the coming season, which would balance things out.

Whether it will be Mahrez or another player who can complete the attacking ‘dream team’ remains to be seen, but it just feels like the Algerian is the perfect fit for our team. The likes of Iwobi, Campbell, Ox and possibly Theo will play a role in the wider squad but, ideally, we add a proven PL goals and assists star to the team to avoid periods of goal droughts and improve our chances to win the title dramatically.

By TotalArsenal.

Walcott – Ox – Welbeck: Wenger’s English WOW-Factor

Arsenal's new signing Danny Welbeck
With thanks to The Guardian for picture.

 

Anyone who has watched England play over the last few years will agree that it is in desperate need of a more potent strike-force. It has been dire up-front for a long time, with Rooney just not able to deal with the pressure being put onto him when it matters most (and the Dutch suffer the same with his grey-haired strike partner). 

A lot has been said about Wenger wanting to build a strong core of British players at Arsenal. I still believe he picks the players on their talents and value to the team rather than the origin of their passports; but of course there is something to say for finding, moulding and readying for the very top of a number of players from these beautiful shores. It could well become Arsene’s biggest legacy in the long term both for country and club…. well, other than the Invincibles of course.

And with Jack, Rambo, Gibbs, Chambers, Ox, Theo and now Welbeck – all young and now playing together in a proper team that plays proper football – something beautifully, predominantly British is about to be created at Arsenal. 

I have a good feeling about signing Welbeck, but must admit I did not see this one coming. At Arsenal, his role as ‘holding striker’ will allow him to miss chances and to be able to get over it; and in return, this will build his confidence and form the basis for realising the potential he has within him. Wenger’s philosophy is based on a multi-dimensional goal-threat, rather than a narrow, super-sharp arrow at the very front. The paradox being that the better the CF is the more the other players – often very astute finishers themselves – decide to channel the attacks through to him rather than take responsibility themselves. And over time, this will make us over-dependent on him and one-dimensional as well. 

And Welbeck’s role will be about a lot more than his lethality in front of goal. We needed a nr.2 to Giroud who has enough in him to surpass him eventually. I rate Giroud highly, but there is room for improvement and Welbeck will get the time to make the holding CF position his. And in the process he will be helped by Alexis, Giroud, Pod, Theo, Ozil, and many more to share the goal scoring load. 

I am convinced that when everybody is fit we will mostly play with TAO up-front: Theo, Alexis and Ollie, but I am also getting excited about the prospect of playing Walcott, Ox and Welbeck – WOW! – up-front, with Ozil, Jack and/or Ramsey, or even Alexis…. to feet them quality balls to really hurt the opposition.

Would that not be an exciting alternative? Can you think of a trio of attackers with more thrust, speed and menace than the WOW-boys?!

I admit that all three are still a work in progress, although Theo is furthest of them all (and let’s hope the big injury he suffered has not put him back too much). Ox. like Jack, will have to move it up to the next level now, and of course Welbeck is not the finished article either. But they all have youth on their side and are surrounded by experienced players they can learn from constantly. Maybe we will even see Dennis or Thierry join the coaching staff any time soon…..

One day they will be leading the line between them for England, with Jack feeding them from behind and together creating the WOW factor again – putting this proud nation back at the level where it belongs. It is about time, and that is coming from a Dutchman! 😛

Written by: TotalArsenal.

0.57 goals/assists per game: What’s not to like about Cazorla?

Super Santi had a great first season for Arsenal!
Super Santi had a great first season for Arsenal!

Cazorla is good for Arsenal, and Arsenal are good for Cazorla!

He possesses everything you wish for in a footballer: bags of talent, stamina, enthusiasm, assists, goals, team player and football intelligence.

Arsene likes to build his teams around football conductors of the highest order, and he is still looking for the player who can take over from Fabregas. He tried Cazorla and Jack, and both had some good and some less impressive games in the ‘hole’ position.

After a phenomenal first season for the LLanara/Spain born maestro, all eyes will be on him next season: will he become the very fulcrum of the team?

Personally, I am not convinced Cazorla can play the game-controlling and orchestrating ‘Bergkamp/Fabregas role’ to full effect. Rather than driving the game forward from the centre of midfield, Santi appears to prefer playing close to the opposition’s box, where he is most dangerous in terms of producing assists and shooting at goal himself.

And what fine contributions he has made for us last season: 12 goals and 16 assists in 49 games – 0.57 goals/assists per game.

Without any doubt, Santi was our best footballer in 2012-2013, and my favourite performance by the Spaniard was the away game against Bayern: he was simply outstanding during that game!

But Arsenal have also been very good for Santi, and the main reasons for this seem to be Wenger’s great coaching skills and the freedom he is allowed by the Frenchman to ‘express himself’.

The stats tell their own story:

Santi’s career stats prior to joining Arsenal: 47 goals and 40 assists in 304 games – 0.29 goals/assists per game; so, he almost doubled his average goals/assists per game return (0.57) this season. He has also improved on his Malaga stats, where he played just one season: nine goals and five assists in 42 games – 0.33 goals/assists per game.

I reckon Santi performs best in a free role, in which he is allowed to move everywhere and the opposition never really knows where he will be next, or what he is going to do next. The ‘Bergkamp/Fabregas’ fulcrum role needs to give structure and impetus to  the team: it requires a player who directs play and who bosses the centre of midfield to a large extent, and for that a player needs vision, pace, dribbling skills and a great ability to produce through-balls, and of course, create many chances for others and score regularly himself.

We have seen glimpses of this by Cazorla, but I believe the conductor role does not suit him as much as his free role (on/from the left or right wing).

It remains to be seen what Wenger will do with regards to the conductor role: will he hope that Jack will finally have an injury free(ish) season, or will he move Cazorla back in the ‘nr10 position’?

Given the continuous links – however tenuous in some cases – with typical (4-2-1-3) AM/nr.10 players like Jovetic, Rooney and Fabregas – and many, but not me, will argue Fellaini is also this sort of player – we can say that Wenger might not be convinced his current players are (right now) suitable for this pivotal position.

Let’s get Higuain (could we get any closer??), sign up a DM beast, and then maybe put the icing on the cake with a top class AM/nr.10 conductor. Somebody who can hit the ground running and make a difference straightaway. And over time, the likes of Jack, Ox or Eisfeld can be readied to take over.

But regardless of where Santi is going to play next season, I for one, cannot wait to see  the Spanish magician in action again!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Tricky Gervais: why we need Gervinho to fire Arsenal up

Gervais Lombe Yao Kouassi, better known as Gervinho is a player who divides opinion amongst the Arsenal faithful. In a way, he has taken over from Theo; who until recently also divided opinion between the fans. I have no doubt that if a poll was held now; the vast majority would want Theo to stay. But the same poll would have had a very different outcome twelve months ago.

Gervinho is a very important player for us.

He possesses a set of skills that are unique at Arsenal – at least at senior level. He can play as a classical winger, an inside-out winger (which makes him suitable to play on either the left or right wing), and also in the central striker position.

This season he started as our central striker against Southampton, Chelsea, Olympiacos and Schalke (away), and his goal scoring record is very impressive: four goals in four games as a CF. Admittedly, his performance in Gelsenkirchen was disappointing, but the bigger picture this season tells us that Gervinho can be very effective if we play him centrally in attack – in a ‘fluent-three’: Pod-Gerv-Ox/Theo.

But I reckon his best position is on the left wing, although he only started there in our first official game of the season against Sunderland. Wenger keeps persevering with Podolski on the left wing and this only seems to work for us if Gibbs is being played in tandem with him. Podolski is the ideal back-up striker for Giroud in my opinion, but he appears to be deemed too good to be left on the bench by Wenger; as a result, he is mostly played next to Giroud on the left.

Gervinho has started in three different positions this season: LW (1), CF (4) and RW (3). Every time he is played on the right it smells of a Wenger compromise in order to be able to play both Podolski and Giroud. Arsene is working hard to get the best out of his new signings Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla, so it is understandable that he has been experimenting with different attacking formations.

As Gervinho has not been as effective on the right wing – his only decent game on the right was against Montpellier away – it looks like Theo, or even The Ox, will be first choice on the right. Giroud is rightly claiming the central spot, and the left wing is Podolski’s currently. As a result, Gervinho might find himself not getting many starts in the near future, and I think that would be a real shame.

Gervinho is one of our best runners with the ball. He is one of the few who has the tricks and speed to take a man on and get into dangerous positions, from which he can pass the ball to a fellow attacker or shoot on goal himself. He also makes himself constantly available for other players and is able to both hold on to the ball and move forward with attacking intent. Podolski does not offer these very important skills and neither does Theo; unless he gets the ball played to him in space.

I really hope, Wenger will start playing him now more regularly on the left wing, with Giroud or Podolski in the middle and Theo on the right. For me, Gervinho has the all important drive, and he makes things happen: he adds another dimension to our 4-3-3 formation, and is fully capable of firing our team up again.

Total Arsenal.

Arsenal strikers v Man United strikers: who’ll score more goals this season?

Image

Much has been made about Arsenal selling their best striker by far – and last year’s PL top scorer – to our bitterest rival in recent years: the non-oil funded Mancs. Even the glass half-full Gooners felt we did not have enough strength in depth up-front, and almost everybody was convinced that MU had a far stronger strike-force than the mighty Arsenal.

As anticipated, the boredom of the interlull has fuelled some gossip going round currently, that Arsene has up to £35m to spend on a new striker, and some fancy names are being bandied about at the moment. I reckon it is highly unlikely Arsene will buy a superstar striker in the next transfer window, if ever. We might see a replacement being bought for Chamakh and/or Theo but don’t expect it to be an experienced, top quality striker.

Of course the season has only just started with just seven games played in the PL until now, but the first signs are showing that Arsenal’s strike-force will match or better that of MU.

Arsenal has been varying their formation this season; either playing with Giroud on top and two wingers on each side, or playing with three fluid strikers who interchange constantly with each other, and anybody can be our ‘mid-striker’ at any given time. Our strikers have done well; in fact they have done better than the MU strike-force until now.

Goals by Arsenal strike-force (all competitions):

Gervinho: 5

Podolski: 4

Theo: 4

Giroud: 2

Total = 15.

Goals by MU strike-force (all competitions):

Brave Sir Robin: 7

Hernandez: 1

Rooney: 0

Welbeck: 0

Total = 8.

So, until now our strike-force has scored nearly double as much as the highly rated, praised-into-heaven strike-force of the Mancs. Once again, it is early days and things can change in either direction, but we are still able to make a few observations:

  1. MU have taken over our previous disease of overreliance on the reliant, but always prone to long-term injury, Dutchman. A few midfielders have scored two goals for MU, and their defenders have been chipping in with the odd goal, but the ‘awesome’ strike-force of MU – not including the traitor – have managed a meagre one goal between the three of them until now. It is fair to say, Rooney has been injured for most of the start of the season, but his PL-experienced replacements have not been able to adequately fill the gap he left behind, and leaned heavily on the shoulders of the Dutch turncoat.
  2. Arsenal, on the other hand, have been able to share the goals between the strikers much better until now, whilst our midfielders and a couple of defenders have also been able to put their names of the score sheets with a goal (Santi two).
  3. Despite MU having an established strike-force with each player having either a lot, or plenty, of PL experience, they are showing a lack of form and sharpness, and the longer it will take for this to disappear the more vulnerable they will become to suspension or injury of brave sir Robin.
  4. Arsenal, however, have had very little adjustment problems by their strikers. Gervinho is now in his second season and has hit the ground running. Impressively, so has Podolski who has shown absolutely no PL-acclimatisation issues until now. And what about Theo: he must have the ‘least minutes between goals’ record in England, if not Europe, at the moment. Being only used as a late sub, he has hardly played but hit the net four times already this season.
  5. The only striker that has not hit top-form yet, in terms of scoring goals, is Giroud. OG has been super keen to make a mark straightaway and his over-eagerness has possibly been more of a hinder than a help. However, his recent goals against WH and Spain will have done him a world of good and will hopefully give him the confidence and inner calmness to further improve his goal scoring.

I have no doubt that the MU strike-force will start performing a lot better sooner or later, but they have some catching up to do, and I am quietly confident that our strike-force will have outperformed theirs by the end of the season.

Now, wouldn’t that just be great and another proof of Arsene’s great ability to evolve his teams phenomenally well, given the means at his disposal?!

Total Arsenal.

To all readers:

Although some bloggers might appear very familiar and informal with each others, please never hesitate to comment if you feel like it. Bergkampesque welcomes any contributions as long as they are made in a sensible and respectful way.

Have a go and make a comment, and you will find you’ll get a warm welcome, and it makes blogging a lot more fun! 🙂

Are Arsenal getting lop-sided again: this time to the left?

It has been fantastic to see Gibbs and Podolski bossing the left wing in our recent game against Pool. Both our goals, from Cazorla and Podolski, came from the left and Gibbs did also almost score from coming in from our left wing. It looked to me that Cazorla was keen to feed the left side more than the right side in that game, and it makes me wonder whether this might become a trend.

Of course, we should be very pleased that both Gibbs and Podolski had such a positive start on the left and I reckon they will get better and better this season. But, last season it was the other way around, as it was our right wing that did most of the damage. Theo and Sagna had established the perfect partnership between them, with a great mix of defensive solidity (mainly Sagna) and attacking prowess (mainly Theo). They somehow found the right balance and Theo was able to produce many assist and plenty of goals as a result of this blossoming combination.

But what will happen this season? Both Gervinho and the Ox have had relatively quiet games and at times they looked a bit isolated. Of course, it will take time to find the right balance and Cazorla and Diaby will have a key role to play in ensuring we don’t become lop-sided again. If both wings are fully used, Arsenal will be able to put the opposition under a lot more pressure this season, and are also far more likely to score a lot of goals.

I, for one, cannot wait to see both wings fully occupied by our first choice players: Gibbs and Podolski on the left, and Sagna and Theo on the right. This, of course, does not mean I don’t rate Jenkinson, Gervinho or the Ox, but with Sagna and Theo we have a tried and tested partnership with plenty of experience and ability the others are still lacking a bit.

Total Arsenal.