Arsenal’s Biggest Defensive Worry This Season

Arsenal conceded 48 goals in the PL last season. The Chavs managed to concede only 33 goals and that is just seven more than both Pool and Citeh conceded. The season before we conceded just 39 goals so it is fair to say Arsenal have got a job to do defensively this season. In the last ten games Arsenal conceded 16 goals and we had just one clean sheet, and that is simply not good enough going forward.

Arteta chose for a new defensive set-up and of course all the players are still very young. Ramsdale, Tomiyasu and White were added to the defence and it will take time for them all to gel. We are a team in transition but there is no reason to believe Arsenal cannot make a step improvement.

Young players that are kept together are capable of making big improvements every season. I expect all the players to improve about 20-25% this season, and so this could mean that just by sheer player progress/added experience we will see an ‘automatic’ improvement: so 48 goals minus 20% = 39 ‘goals against’ by the end of the season. And then there is the addition of Zinchenko which may help us to shore up the left side significantly this season. Tavares, a raw talent if there ever was one, clearly was not ready to replace Tierney regularly and he left us exposed. Zinchenko and Tierney are a much safer bet for defensive security going forward. This should lead to a further reduction in goals conceded, say 3-4 goals less.

Our right back situation also suffered from absences by Tomiyasu, although Soares did quite a good job standing in for him imo. With Saliba back in the squad we now have the luxury of playing White at right back sometimes too, and that should give us an even better RB cover situation going forward. A back line of:

  1. RB: Tomi, White, Soares
  2. RCB: White, Saliba, Holding
  3. LCB: Gabriel, Mari, Xhaka
  4. LB: Tierney, Zinchenko

should help us make a step improvement in ‘goals conceded’. I think if Arsenal finish in the mid-30s they will have done a good job this season.

However, there is one niggle of doubt and that is the LCB position. Gabriel could get injured and he is certainly a risk for being send off. The back up, Mari, is okay but nothing more than that. Xhaka could do a job there, and maybe Arteta could do a Van Gaal-like ‘Frank Rijkaard’ on Xhaka and turn him into a very good LCB. Still, an injury to Big Gab leaves us exposed and ideally A&E will get us a nice, quality back-up for him before the TW shuts.

Greedy as I am I would also like another quality CF, but I do feel that the priority may be to get a left-footed quality LCB first….

What do you think: How can Arsenal significantly reduce the Goals Against total this season and do we need to get back up for Big Gab?

By TotalArsenal.

Zinchenko, a £30m Investment That Will Strengthen Two Positions in One Go

When both Granit Xhaka and Tierney are fit we have a very strong left side, but with the former turning 30 in a few months time and the latter so injury prone, we really could do with a quality left-footed player who can play in both positions without any problem. So who could this be?

Yes our imminent new signing, Oleksandr Volodymyrovych Zinchenko, seems to be the right player for Arsenal and he would add a lot of strength and options to the team. He is the typical kind of player who can be in that all important 12-18 player group and put pressure on the first-11 team constantly. Soares, Elneny, Leno/Turner, Holding, ESR are also such players. A team that will play around 50 games a season simply needs such a ‘first-reserves’ team. I doubt that Zinchenko will join us on that basis but with Tierney and Xhaka needing regular rest/replacements due to injury, I would imagine Arteta is able to offer him plenty of first team exposure. Furthermore, Oleksandr – there are all the letters of the alphabet which are also in ‘Arsenal’ in that first name, and who can say that?! – is not one of those demanding types but will work hard to claim his place. And although I am a huge fan of both Kieran and Granit, they can both be displaced if Oleksandr takes on the challenge to become a first-11 player. Anyway, there will plenty of games in the the cup competions too so everyone will get enough games under their belt.

Zinchenko has a great ability to remain calm in tight spaces and find the right solution; he can also dribble through the lines and in the modern game these two qualities are simply crucial. He is left footed and we need more of those in our team, and he is a fighter too with an eye for a final pass, so what is not to like?! At a reportedly £30m investment I reckon he will help significantly in moving us to the next stage.

The last two seasons Zinchenko averaged 30 club games, with about half of them in the League. This tells us that Guardiola used him mostly as a squad player who he regarded as a safe pair of hands. Oleksandr will want more now and Arteta must have promised him this. Of course, Mikel knows him well and their will be mutual belief that the Basque can get the very best out of the Ukranian now that he is reaching the best five years of his career. At times it may have looked like Arteta is not good at managing egos/people but I guess this can put to bed forever now. There is no doubt a steeliness about Arteta and those who mess with him will end up leaving the club, but those who are willing to work hard and buy into his vision will get all the support by him. That is the only way to establish a culture change and when the likes of Eddie, the Ode, Jesus etc decide to commit to the club we all know that he is capable of building excellent working relationships and offer a bright future for them and the club.

Zinchenko is of course not yet a Gunner so we have to remain patient. The signs are good though and if the club can add another CF before the closing of the TW we can truly say Arteta has a team to push for third place and a maybe a cup too. OOH TO BE!

By TotalArsenal.

Three More Players and Arsenal Are Ready to Go | Who Will Score our 80 Goals?

Kev wrote at the end of the last post:

“Yes Total, maybe Tielemans will drag on up till deadline day and then his value will nosedive with a year left, maybe two more signings, left back cover and another striker/forward/goal scorer?”

Leicester are holding out and will hope for a bidding war for their contract rebel. But Kev is probably right by assuming Arsenal will wait for the right moment to put in their final offer. Leicester’s game will soon be up.

In the meantime we will look elsewhere, including considering holding on to want away Torreira. We can wait and should not pay over the odds. We do need back up and competition for Partey and Xhaka. Elneny, the Egyptian safe hands, is a great squad player to have but we need more depth in that department, that’s for sure.

We certainly need back up for Mr biscuit hips, KT. Tavares is a very raw diamond and he needs polishing up on a loan somewhere. There is a bit of Eboue about him so exposure to a lot of PL games or championship games is key. We need a left footer who can share the load with Tierney. Someone who can hit the ground running. Ideally this is also somebody who can cover for Granit in midfield. Ajax’s Martinez would be ideal but he may be tempted to join Ten Hag at Old Toilet. AZ’s Wijndal, who still is not a certainty for a transfer to Ajax, would also be great. I am sure the club will get what they need this summer.

Arsenal will need one more CF, but we discussed this in our last post. Say we want 80 goals in PL this season.

Saka: 14

ESR: 12

Eddie: 10

GJ: 17

Martinelli: 4

Defence: 4

Odegaard: 4

Vieira: 4

Granit/Partey: 4

Other:??

This would leave us potentially short for about seven goals, and a bad injury to Eddie, GJ etc would put our season in jeopardy. So another attacker is key. It doesn’t have to be the finished product, although we could do with extra experience. I have no doubt that Arteta and Edu, will find the right guy.

What do you think will happen next re player purchases?

By TotalArsenal

A Beast of a CF is Great But Arsenal May Have an Ideal False Nr9 for this Season

The game is evolving fast and even the successful teams keep tweaking and sometimes even shifting their football paradigms. During the first 15 years of this century we saw plenty of strategic change when Arsene was in charge. It sort of worked but the likes of Klopp and Guardiola just made the better choices and Arsenal were gradually left behind.

Under the wings of ferociously driven Arteta Arsenal are moving forwards and upwards again, and I for one like our BoD for choosing strategically/ plan for the long term. And even if Arteta cannot really make it work – and I have every confidence in him that he will succeed – his successor will have a strong platform and player group to work from and with. The future is bright with red and white.

The squad is young and is developing along the Russian Dolls model. Every year this group of players will get stronger and better: more used to each other and better versed in Arteta’s tactical objectives and style of play. The newly added players fit this approach very well and the transfer window is not over yet. Incremental growth is a beautiful thing to watch but it requires patience. Luckily, BKers have this in spades and that makes for good blogging.

Arsenal’s ‘Russian Dolls of Evolution’

I wonder what Arteta will do with the CF situation. Auba has now been replaced by Gab Jesus. The latter can be used as a pure CF but it seems he is best when being played on the ‘flank’. Eddie has been signed long term and that is good for him and the team. So now the question is will there be another CF to join the team or will we play much more with a false nr9 this season?

We know that Pool and Citeh have gone for a forceful, more classic CF with a good engine to boot, but will that make them score even more goals next season? It remains to be seen of course. The risk of such a beast of a CF is that other attackers start focusing on just feeding them; whereas a false nr.9 ensures that all attackers feel responsible for bringing home the bacon. We know that with Saka and Jesus we will normally get plenty of goals. Eddie will be chipping in regularly too. We need goals from midfield with all of Granit, Thomas and Martin simply not scoring enough. Young Vieira will hopefully help with this. Martin the Ode will step it up as well and we are all hopeful that Martinelli and Nelson (if indeed he gets a full season at the Home of Football) will also add a good number of goals.

The one player I have not mentioned yet is one of our favourites: ESR. This boy had a goal or assist every 192 minutes last season which is similar to Harry Kane and better than Saka, Maddison, Bowen or Mount, to give you an idea. We have a super talent that needs to play games regularly but it is hard to say where Emile fits into the team, especially now that we signed Vieira and Xhaka gets pushed up more regularly. Of course, ESR is still developing but it seems right now to play him in the first team more often. But where?

Well OX10 (I think) mentioned we should consider him as the ideal ‘false nr.9’, and I like that thought a lot. Emile works hard, has a fab engine and such an eye for a key pass, and he will take a goal opportunity in a flash. An attack of Jesus-ESR-Saka, fed by the likes of Partey, Xhaka, Vieira and of course Ode, is soooo unpredictable with tons of movement that would put fear in any defence. I would like to see it tried out.

It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like a ‘classic’ beast of a CF to still join us, but I think a ‘false-9’ could work a treat for us in certain, perhaps even most of our, games. Emile seems to fit the bill…. What do you think?

By TotalArsenal.

With Jesus Arsenal’s New Attack is Awesome – Just One Question Left

Arsenal are going for movement, unpredictability and total bamboozlement as our attacking strategy. Pool and Citeh, so successful over the years with this strategy, have opted for the classical CF (but with lots of movement too) instead, it seems. I don’t think that this will lead to more goals per season for our biggest rivals, but they do now have the sort of CF who can make the individual difference in the big games, especially in the CL.

We are building towards an awesome team that will get better and better as the players gain maturity and learn to play the Arteta Way. This is so exciting and we are lucky to support a team with such a strong vision and strategy.

Last night I watched again our first half v Citeh. Oh my how well we played; it was a wonderful glimpse of what is to come. Arsenal were all over Pep’s Oilers and just lacked the maturity and experience to finish them off. Only Bukayo, our biggest asset, had the confidence to take his chance. With Jesus we have added a player with tremendous PL experience and who will take one or two of those chances in the pivotal games.

The hope is that the likes of Martinelli, Odegaard and new man Vieira will also soon reach that stage of scoring in the big games. I also believe that Eddie can score in any game. He has the inner confidence that makes him deadly against any defence, and I am happy Arteta was able to keep him.

Our attacking options are fab now:

LW: Vieira, ESR, Martinelli (Saka)

CF: Jesus, Eddie, Balogun (ESR?)

RW: Saka, Nelson, Vieira, Pepe(?)

I know that Vieira can also play in midfield and is competition for Ode and/or Xhaka, but to me he looks capable of playing in any attacking position.

My one remaining big question is: do we need an established, older CF to both provide a plan B and mentor our young attackers to reach their full potential, for one or two seasons? Someone like Giroud, Suarez or Griezman to name a few……

What do you say fine fellow Gooners?

By TotalArsenal

Who Will the New Fabio-gas Replace: Granit, Bukayo, Martin, Martinelli, Pepe or Emile?

Our Vieira from Portugal promises to be a gem of a player. A creative, attacking midfielders with goals and assists; a dribbler, who can play Saka-like on the right, cutting in with his left foot to pass or shoot. He is also described as someone who finds space between the lines, breaks the status quo, and perhaps his biggest asset is that he can do this all with his left foot.

We know that when Arsenal spend this sort of money on him (reportedly about £35m) then this 22 year old will get to play regularly. So for who is he at least competition if not their replacement for?

As always, I am interested in your views. 🙂

You will not find a bigger fan of Xhaka easily, but I think it could be Granit who will get the direct competition. Arteta seemed to be moving towards two central attacking mids with just Thomas covering behind them in the last few months. These need to deliver the bread and butter stuff, goals and assists, and this is not Granit’s forte. Left footed Vieira next to either The Ode or ESR, could be the missing link.

Still, I think that Xhaka is really important for Arteta’s on-field game management and for keeping the structure, and Partey is good but not great at this. Granit, however, cannot play as sole DM; he needs to play with somebody next to him. So there’s a dilemma, especially also because Partey is injury prone and takes a long time to get into the groove. Is Elneny the right back up for a sole DM formation? Would Tielemans have played in this role had we gone for him?

What about the left wing position? ESR and Martinelli look like the strongest candidates, but both don’t seem to really flourish there. Could Vieira have been bought for that position instead?

Furthermore, the Ode needs to add more goals and assists to his game which I expect to happen gradually, but competition is required to get more from the nr10 role asap. Is Vieira that player?

Saka needs cover too which Pepe, a very different type compared to the young Englishman, just cannot offer in Arteta’s system. Was Fabio bought mainly to do that? An injury to Saka last season would have really set us back, so……

Whilst I am writing this I have also been thinking about our very own Emile and how he will fit into Arteta-ball? Is there a position he can claim for himself going forward?!

Anyway, enough from me; what are your thoughts?

By TotalArsenal

Only 19 Gunners Ever Achieved This

Dear BKers

I was recently approached by Nick Brown to help him promote his new book ‘The One Hundred Club’. You may recall that the esteemed GN5 did a series on the 19 Arsenal players who reached the 100-goal mark and more wearing the mighty red and white colours of our beloved club, a few years ago. This was a tremendous success. Nick Brown has now written a very fine book on these 19 heroes, providing us with numerous new insights and below you can read more about it.

TotalArsenal.

Those of us who have played football – it doesn’t matter to what level – knows that there is no better feeling than sticking one in the old onion bag, especially if it is a real cracker of a goal. Can you imagine, then, what it must be like to glide across that pristine Emirates Stadium carpet of a pitch, drop a shoulder to send a defender the wrong way and hit the ball so sweetly that the moment it leaves your foot you know it’s in? And then to see the goalkeeper fly through the air fruitlessly and watch the net bulge as the ball nestles into the top corner before dropping to the ground, bouncing triumphantly behind the hapless prostrate custodian? And hearing 60,000 people anticipating what is about to happen as soon as you let fly, the murmur building into a joyous crescendo, the noise erupting like the sound of a tube train thundering into the station at Finsbury Park?

Just once! Just once would be enough, wouldn’t it…?

Now imagine what it must be like to have scored over 100 goals in the famous red and white. Only 19 people in history have achieved that, from Jimmy Brain, founder member of the 100 Club in 1928, down to Olivier Giroud, the most recent inductee in 2017. Some of the names of that elite crew are amongst the most famous in the annals of not only Arsenal history, but the history of English football – people like Thierry Henry, Ian Wright, Cliff Bastin and Dennis Bergkamp.

There is a reason that it is the goal scorers who command the biggest transfer fees. Willie Groves, the first player to move clubs for £100 when he switched from West Bromwich Albion to Aston Villa, was a forward; the first £500 player, the first £1,000 player, the first £1,000,000 player, the first £10,000,000 player (I don’t need to go on, do I…?) were all forwards. Goals win games.

As a youngster, my favourite player was Alan Smith. One of George Graham’s early signings during his reign, Smith was a centre-forward in the traditional sense, a typical number nine. Tall and difficult to knock off the ball, he was a master of shielding it from his marker, holding it up and bringing others in to play. Good in the air, he was also more than capable of slamming one home from long range, the most obvious example being the winning goal in the 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup against Italian team Parma. He lost his marker and found some space from a Lee Dixon throw-in, knocked it back to Dixon and seized upon the loose ball after a defender had only half-cleared Dixon’s attempted through ball to Paul Merson. Smith took it down on his chest and struck home the only goal of the game from the edge of the penalty box. Unerringly accurate, the ball flew past Parma keeper Luca Bucci to bring the cup to Highbury.

Another such strike came against Norwich in the title winning season of 1988-89. A long goal kick from John Lukic bounced towards Smith. He held off the attentions of his marker, kept his eye on the ball as it came down once more and in one movement turned and slammed it home from 20 yards.

No doubt, every Arsenal fan – every football fan – will have memories of special moments from their own special players. The thing is, most of these moments won’t even be remembered by anyone else. Hands up who can recall Thierry Henry’s stunning effort against Watford where he collected it almost on the half-way line and jinked through the opposing defence before steering it home? Or Ian Wright making the Aston Villa defence look silly before sliding the ball into the far corner? Or Frank Stapleton leaping like a salmon before bulleting a header into the Leicester City net? But that’s just the point, isn’t it? Memories fade, even the best ones.  

‘The 100 Club’ is a chronicle of every goal scored by those illustrious few Arsenal centurions. Currently available direct from the publishers Morgan Lawrence, Waterstones bookshop (online if not actually in store) and on E-Bay, it is a must for every Arsenal fan, historian and statistician. My eternal thanks also go to the aforementioned Mr Smith for writing the foreword.

By Nick Brown

Website : https://booksnickbrown.wixsite.com/nick-brown

Instagram : @nick.brown.books

Is Sambi The Answer for the Midfield Jigsaw?

What to do in midfield: push, buy or marry?

I like our midfield options when all are fit, yet could we, should we, strengthen in this area? I am interested in your views.

I guess it depends to some extent whether Arteta wants to play the midfield triangle pointing forwards or backwards, one solid DM type or one all orchestrating nr10 type?

I like us to be able to play both Martin and Emile in the team. These boys are growing and growing and we should get more from them again next season.

Partey when fit and in his groove is top class. The problem is he is injury prone. XhakA, our only 250 games man, is solid and luckily seldom gets injured. I prefer him playing deep rather than pushed up, but Arteta has been doing the latter recently.

Wherever the Swiss clockwork plays, a fully fit combo of Xhaka and Partey is a very good central duo. Back up is a bit of an issue, though. Elneny is a solid option but injury to Granit had/has us weakened, at least organisationally. The lining seems to go out of the team then.

So what happened to Sambi Lokonga? What is Mikel’s plan with this promising Belgian? He featured very little this calendar year. Is that why Arteta appears to be looking for (a) Tielemans? And where would this enigmatic Belgian play? Next to Partey or Xhaka, or in front of them instead?

And is Tielemans really an improvement to what we have and will not be in the way of Emile and Martin’s development?

My view is that if Sambi needs more development then we need to buy a player who can replace both Granit and Thomas without too much loss in quality. But don’t spend too much money here and use it instead for a second quality CF, LF type of player.

Finally, is any of our returning midfield loan players worthy of a squad place next season? Any youngsters?

By TotalArsenal

Gabriel and a Beast of a CF are on Edu’s Shopping List

Arseblog made an interesting point about the new arrivals to the Premier League and how the domestic game is evolving.

Basically the best two teams in the Premier League, those with the best managers, are going with a more classical centre forward for the forthcoming season. Man City tried to do this a year ago by signing Harry Kane but now they have arguably the most exciting centre forward in world football in Haaland, making them a much more difficult and different animal next season.

Liverpool sensing the change are also attempting to go down the very same avenue with Darwin Nunez, another powerful aerial threat but like Haaland very quick on the ground as well, unlike say the immovable object that is Romelu Lukaku at Chelsea.

That probably explains Arsenal’s interest in a more traditional type centre forward, a player who brings a different dynamic to your attack; and it also explains I think why we tried to get Martinez and then Vlahovic a year ago and then again in January.

Arsenal have Nikolaj Moller and Biereth in the Academy, two tall strikers with some potential but neither have developed to a level that Arteta needs and wants (yet) so that means bringing someone in to do the job.

It also points towards Jesus (if he arrives please God) playing often a role in the wide inside forward areas like we see from Salah at Liverpool or how Wiltord operated for us back in the day?

So yes, two strikers seem to be on the agenda for sure…

By Allezkev

Battle 17/17: Overcoming the Toffees And Hoping for the Canaries

Arsenal’s last game of the season is against Everton and we need a win to have any chance of getting into the top four. We also need a little miracle at Carrow Road. Norwich have been urine poor this season but they can still spring a surprise.

It’s going to be 20 degrees in Norwich this afternoon with plenty of sunshine. The Spuds thrive like thieves when it is dark and dank, but struggle in sunny conditions. Furthermore, the Norwich team will want to thank the home crowd and do their part in the PL. They are a proud bunch and will surely want to give the self-celebrating, ultra-slappable Conte and his silly Spuds one on the nose. Our North London neighbours are of course the favourites but it’s certainly not a done deal.

Everton have survived by the skin of their teeth and are likely to either relax or give us a proper game. It all depends on their mindset….. And ours of course. We need to believe it is still possible and play hard for the win.

Who is going to play? Not entirely sure who is fit to play. I think Tomiyasu is a doubt but others are fit enough to start?!

Against Newcastle we didn’t click up front and Arteta will need to get the balance right. Not easy with key players almost out of contract or out of form/not fully fit.

Here’s my preferred lineup:

Ramsdale

Tomi-Ben-Gab-Tava

Elneny-Xhaka

Saka-Ode-ESR

Martinelli

Com On You Rip Roaring Gunners.

By TotalArsenal