NLD Preview: Jack, Mohamed, Aaron, Henrikh and Mesut to Boss the Midfield and Mash the Spuddies

I don’t need to tell you how much this game means to us. The NLD is always a special game and tomorrow is no different.

There is a media love-in with the trophy-hopeless Spuddies and a subtle belittling of the mighty Arsenal at the moment. It is time to put things right and show the swamp-dwellers and their Fleet street admirers once again who are the kings of North-London. It is time to give the Spuddies a Wembley mashing we will be singing about in decades to come. It is time to stand up and play football the Arsenal way!

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How are we going to do this?

By selecting a starting eleven full of talent and passion. Jack has to play. Koz and Mustafi have to play. Ozil, Ramsey and Cech have to play. They will form the spine of the team. Around that we need talent with hunger, passion and focus. I think you all know who should play tomorrow. We may argue over one or two players, and Wenger may see it differently, but I am going for  these 11 Gunners to rock Wembley and leave the pitch covered in the smoothest mashed Spuddies:

submit football lineup

This would be my preferred choice. Jack and Elneny to play intelligently and protect the back four with discipline, good interceptions, strong ball control and slick passing – only to join the attack when appropriate. Both Jack and Mohamed are intelligent players who will make the right judgements. Happy to see Xhaka start instead of Elneny, but the Egyptian has my preference. I would like Rambo, Henrikh and Mesut to play in a line of three behind Aubemeyang and in front of Jack and Mohamed. These five midfielders are able to push the Spuddies back and control the game in their half. I reckon this is our best strategy to win the game tomorrow.

Alternatively, we could play with three (or should that read five) at the back:

submit football lineup

My money is on Wenger going for three at the back and something close to the starting eleven as showing above. This is good too but Granit and Aaron have to play very, very disciplined and so do the full backs.

Let’s see what Wenger goes for tomorrow and how well the boys are drilled for this game. Let’s take it to them and play with pride for the shirt. 1-3 to the Mighty Arse!

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!!!

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 159 Comments

What to do with Alexandre Lacazette?

THE LACA/AUBA TANGLE CAN TURN INTO A TANGO….IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO!

Everybody expects Aubameyang to start in the NLD on Saturday. What’s in doubt is wheter Lacazette will be starting too. Many feel that we don’t employ a formation that can accommodate the two. Others, like Thierry Henry, don’t see any reason why the two cannot play together particularly in Wenger’s fluid system.

Below are nine reasons, tactical and otherwise, why I expect that they can and would be used together in the team going forward, but not necessarily as two strikers.

1). From an investment point of view, it is unlikely that a newly acquired £50M prime asset (Laca) would be sat regularly on the bench or relegated to the ‘B’ team. That would be a gross underutilization of one’s prime asset, made worse by the fact that there are other areas of the team crying out in vain for investment. Remember, the shareholders have their eyes always glued on proceedings. They can overlook the gamble on Sanogo or the benching of Kolasinac. But Lacazette? Aubameyang? Questions would be filed.

2). It is reasonable to assume that the very well-paid guys responsible for these decisions on recruitment, did think it through carefully to arrive at the conclusion that Lacazette and Aubameyang together would make a potent pairing that would enhance the club’s offensive philosophy.

3). In agreement with this line of thinking, I see many aspects of the duo’s game that complement each other. Aubameyang is reputed for not making too many touches in matches. Against Everton he made only 25 touches (Walcott numbers). He averages 20.1 passes per game; Lacazette averages 28.9. Aubameyang is more of a technically gifted Walcott with plenty extra footballing guile. That is why he scores tons of goals. Lacazette numbers show more activity, more touches and passes, more dribbles, more tackles. Laca is more of the general practitioner. Auba more of the specialist, goals and goals galore..

4). Aubameyang has speed to burn. So, he loves staying off the shoulders of defenders and wants the ball put in space for him. Lacazette isn’t that fast, so he comes deeper and doesn’t mind the ball to feet.

5). Lacazette can play with his back to goal. He has body strength and good balance, standing 5ft 9ins. Balls can bounce off him into the path of the 6ft 2ins quick paced Aubameyang. Me thinks, Mislintat and co know what they are doing.

6). Lacazette tries to create space usually taking the defenders with him. Aubameyang would rather wait for space. He knows the right moment comes when it will, surely.

7). There is nothing that Laca loves more than a clean strike at the ball just inside the box. A poke at the ball in the 6yds box is it for Auba.

8). Leave any tiny opening where Auba is lurking and go pick the ball from the net. Leave any space for Laca, and the net is ripping. They got certain things in common after all; and those happen to be vital things.

9). Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Wilshere and Ramsey are excellent #10s. We expect a minimum of three of them starting in each match. Three creators to one goal machine looks a poor arrangement. Two goal machines will give a far better balance, no bottle neck.

These two talented players seem to complement each other very well. Together they can give Wenger enough goals to outscore the opposition irrespective of how many they put into our net. That’s Wenger and not that fellow who would allow his big, big asset to idle away.

Were we to reach the Europa League final, there would be 22 matches left this season in all competitions. Aubameyang is ineligible to participate in the Europa competition. That means 9 potential matches are exclusive to Lacazette as the 1st choice striker, fitness permitting. With about 14 weeks to the end of this campaign we should expect Lacazette to also play alongside Aubameyang in about 50% of the remaining 13 matches (League Cup final included). If we drop out of the Europa Cup before the final, I’ll expect Lacazette to start even more games with Auba. I might be miles off the mark: with Wenger one can never tell.

Gooners, let’s share your opinions. This seems to be one of those rare situations where we can afford not to give a damn any which way. After all, we the fans, would never see ourselves at the receiving end of some tough questions.

By Pony Eye.

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

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.

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By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 50 Comments

Eight Observations from 45 Minutes of Playing Football the Arsenal Way

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Eight observations from 45 minutes of playing football the Arsenal Way:

  1. Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan have given Arsenal a blood transfusion. It is great that we, the fans, are glad that Arsenal have reunited this quality couple, but the response of the remaining players to these two top-talents is most important, of course. On the evidence of yesterday’s game, both players are welcomed with open arms and have given the squad an enormous lift. There was just such an overdoses of red and white testosterone on the pitch; the whole team was buzzing.
  2. Mkhitaryan lightens the load for Mesut. The team will continue to be based around the creative force of Mesut Ozil. But key is of course that we do not become over-dependent on Mesut, as a lack of form or injury would put the team performances in jeopardy. The good news is that with Jack and Henrikh we have players who can also pick assists; and it was of course Mkhitaryan who stole the limelight yesterday with a hat-trick of assists. With two or three on the pitch of Mesut, Jack and Henrikh, opponents will not know how to stop our production of key chances.
  3. Aaron Ramsey makes a statement. We all know that once Ramsey is up and going he can be a real force. The problem is this takes a while and it’s often interrupted by injury. It seems that Rambo and Henrikh already have developed a brotherly connection on the pitch with the latter finding the Welshman with accurate passes with some ease, leading to two very fine goals. For Ramsey to be a regular starter in the team, he will have to keep performing like he did against the Toffees; and I think it showed that he knows this.
  4. PEA14 should be a very, very fine addition to the team. His speed in terms of sprints and quick bursts in the box are a joy to watch. He makes intelligent runs and there is an element of unpredictability – but with real shark-like focus – about him, which must be a nightmare for defenders. I want to watch him for a few more games before making judgement, but first signs are very promising.
  5. The Double DM-pivot remains a work in progress. Ramsey pushed forward a lot and left Xhaka behind for long spells. Because we were so strong in attack and Everton could just not keep up with our attacking ferocity, we did not get punished for our lack of numbers in deeper midfield during the first half. In the second half, when Everton pushed us into our own half for the first twenty-five minutes or so, we looked a lot more vulnerable and disorganised both in midfield and defence. A sterner midfield-battle will await us at Wembley on Saturday; to beat the Spuddies, Arsenal will have to win the midfield battle and to do so the DM-duo will have to play a lot more conservative than they did against the Toffees. I am hoping to see jack and Elneny rather than Xhaka-Rambo again, but Wenger will probably stick with yesterday’s match duo.
  6. Not every one will like this, Iwobi played one of his best games. He played with Mkhitaryan, Ozil and Aubameyang up-front who are all in their prime. At just 21 years of age, Alex Iwobi took fully part in the dance of the attackers. Yes there were a few iffy moments when he was helping out at the back, but there were also a few very strong interceptions and escapes from very tight spaces. He also produced an assist and one or two great long-balls, which showed both his football intelligence and technical ability. The way he holds on to the ball and dares to go past defenders adds also to our attacking play.
  7. Obviously, although Iwobi performed well, it does not mean he will get to start every game. There is now a lot of competition for the ex-$anchez position and it is highly likely that Wenger will want to start both PEA and Laca in games. There is also a need to keep finding a position for both Aaron and Jack, depending on who will be first choice in the double-DM pivot. I have no doubt that Wenger was planning to give Laca some time in the team but the injuries to Cech and Nacho prevented him from doing so. Keeping both Laca and Auba happy will be key for the success of the team.
  8. End of adventurous full-backs? Pushing the FBs forward has been a mayor feature of Arsenal’s tactics.  It leaves us vulnerable to counter-attacks but it gives us extra-width, which is often key against the PTB teams. Key is that the FBs get to the by-line and then put in quality balls. I reckon we did not get enough from our FBs in attack this season. With Alex, Mesut and Henrikh playing behind Mr Mobility, there is less need for the FBs to join our attacks as much as before. Both Xhaka and Rambo give further support to the attackers in terms of making clever triangles to get into the box and to the by-line. Early days, but I would not be too unhappy if our FBs would become a bit more conservative from now on (having said that, judging on their performances in the second half, they have to improve their defensive discipline quite a bit anyway).

A great result and big boost to our PL goals tally; if we can do that again against the Spuddies on Saturday, I think we all will get a bit tipsy! 😀

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 70 Comments

Player Ratings: Ram Ram Ramsey MOTM, Auba Fizzes, Henrikh and Ozil WOW!!!

Well that is what you get when you bring in top players. The team-adrenaline levels were sky-high and it was 4-0 in no time. There was so much movement and crisp passing to which the Toffees had no answer.

Swingend Arsenal sloopt Everton bij heerlijk debuut Aubameyang

After that the game was over. Wenger is not the sort of manager to send out his players with the clear instruction to score another four. He does not like to embarrass a fellow manager like that, even though it will have been tempting for him to treat Fat Sam to a massive defeat, given their confrontations during Fat Sam’s Bolton days.

Having said that, Arsenal started the second half poorly and allowed Everton to get their confidence back, and then spoil Cech’s attempt to finally get his 200th clean sheet. Some poor team defending by Arsenal during the latter half.

Player Ratings:

Cech: 7.5 – worked hard to put his bad midweek performance behind him and was desperate to get his much desired 200th clean sheet. His distributions was not great, though (nothing new there);

Nacho: 7 – relatively quiet game after a strong start. Unlucky not to score once again/shame he had to come off during the break;

Koz: 7.5 – scored a great goal. Would like him to lead more on the pitch and use his experience. It is all a bit too kamikaze for me;

Mustafi: 7 – produced a great assist for Koz’s goal and made some fabulous blocks – especially the one that kept Theo out;

Bellerin: 7 – less involved in our attacking play which is not a bad thing;

Xhaka: 7 – kept up the pressure on Everton’s midfield in the first half and fitted in well. Defensively still a work in progress;

Rambo: 9 – a fabulous hat-trick as a reward for timing his runs into the box to perfection. How much have we missed getting such goals from midfield? MOTM!!!;

Iwobi: 7.5 – fitted in really well in attack and could easily deal with the incredible tempo of our passing and running. Still too many iffy balls when trying to help out in defence;

Ozil: 8 – another fab performance from our mega-earner. Fans thanked him wonderfully with singing his song 60000 strong. He loved the movement of his fellow attackers and made it look easy at times;

Mkhitaryan: 8 – fabulous performance with three assists. Great movement off the ball and such footballing intelligence to find Ramsey in space;

Aubemayang: 7.5 – great finish for the goal. Tons of movement and scared the hell out of the Toffees’ defence. Much more to come once other attackers learn how to play with him;

Kolasinac: 6 – added very little especially in defence;

Jack/Ospina: not long enough on the pitch to give a rating.

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments

Laca CF, Supported by Mkhi, Ozil, Rambo |Elneny and Jack in DM-pivot: Preview

Arsenal v Everton

A new beginning at the home of football?

Every game is a big one nowadays and tomorrow’s one against Sam and Feo’s Toffees will be an even bigger one. We had a hectic but very successful final week of the TW, during which, regrettably, we also suffered a painful loss away to Swansea. This loss allowed the gap with Pool (and now also with Chelsea) to slip to eight points again, which has left the Gunners in a precarious positions to say the least.

It is all about balance between defence and attack and Arsene keeps struggling to get it right. Yes some of the individual performances were below par and there is nothing Wenger can do about these, but in terms of formation and game plan something is missing. Many want a beast of a DM to protect the back four, but Wenger doesn’t see it that way. All-rounders in midfield is his solution, but he keeps changing players as to get the balance right. Key is that the two deepest midfielders form a horizontal mobile wall to both protect the defence and push up to keep the opponent hemmed into their own half when we are attacking.

Unfortunately, we have seen the more attack-minded central midfielder join the attack almost constantly, thus leaving his mate often isolated when there is a turnover. We look so  vulnerable in midfield so often in games, and this has to change asap. I feel we are totally dependent on Jack to make our midfield work. He is  the natural leader who has the discipline to stay central, sit deep when needed and choose the right moment to join the attack. He also has that rare ability to go past a player or two and thus create crucial movement and unpredictability up-front. His added ability to pick a brilliant deep pass is also very important. Elneny or Xhaka are the obvious options to sit deep with him. The former is the more disciplined and has my preference right now.

Up-front it looks like Aubameyang may not start as he will have a late fitness test, which to me sounds like he will be on the bench (Welbeck is still injured). Wenger may want to keep him fresh for the pivotal Spuddies game, as to scare the cr*p out of them. 🙂 So I am going for Lacazette up-front with Ozil behind him in the hole. I then would love to see Mkhitaryan and Rambo ‘on the wings’, interchanging with Ozil as much as possible. Both Henrikh and Aaron should also give the midfield extra protection when required and they will work well on the flanks with their full backs.

So this is my preferred line-up for the Toffees match:

submit football lineup

Whether Wenger will do the same remains to be seen. He will have to get it right as we cannot afford more points being dropped.

I reckon it is time to do the 7/4 split for the rest of the season once again: seven players focus mainly on defending and keeping it tight – basically focus hard on a clean sheet; and four players who are mainly focussed on creating and taking chances. Of course it is not as black and white as this, but I guess you know what I mean.

Anyway, cannot wait to see the boys play tomorrow.

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 121 Comments

An Ode to Oliver Giroud: Talented, Passionate and Hard-Working Giant from the Alps.

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“Every human being must be viewed according to what it is good for. For not one of us, no, not one, is perfect. And were we to love none who had imperfection, this world would be a desert for our love. ” Thomas Jefferson.

One day when Oliver was still un petit garcon, he looked to the heavens and asked: “God will I become a world class footballer?” He was on his own in one of those fine summer meadows on the fringes of Chambery, where he was born. He had a real shock when the Divinity responded instantly and said: “Ollie, you will one day play at the home of football and play football as it should be played: full on attacking football that makes 60000 fans go ooh and aah and ohlala”. “So I will be a star then, dear God, and be loved by all the fans?” “Eventually my son, eventually you will.”

It is fair to say that Giroud has had his critics, and he still has them. A beast in the air, and a left foot that has both power and feeling was not enough to win over all the fans. He also offered passion and energy and was a true team player; happy to play with his back to the goal and bring others in to the game and create space for them, Ollie made things happen for the team and himself. But like almost every footballer, Giroud had one or two imperfections.

He was no Van Persie who had most of what Giroud had but was also fast and could take on defenders with the ball at his feet. And it was that lack of speed that stood out negatively and made some fans believe his was not good enough for the shirt. Well, he survived 5.5 season and he scored many good and important goals for us: 105 goals in 253 games is a fine return on its own. But Giroud’s role was much more than scoring goals. He was asked to play with his back towards goal and function as an attacking hub, bringing in others, creating space for fellow attackers and midfielders and give everyone a pivot in attack to aim at. With Giroud on the pitch there was a plan and structure to our attack and we know we had a fighter up there who defended the shirt with all he got, whether we played at home or away.

And all that effort was not only rewarded by a good goal-return per game; it also led to some of the most memorable goals of the last decade (some scored for France):

I know he is not as good as Thierry, Van Basten, RvP, Drogba etc etc, but I salute a man who gives everything and squeezes every bit of talent he has into his performances on the pitch. And that’s what Oliver Giroud did in each and every game. For me, he should never have left and retire at the club… but it was not to be.

All the best, Ollie G, and thanks for the great goals, assists and pre-assists and never-say-die-attitude! You were a true Gunner!

By TotalArsenal.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 32 Comments