Arsenal 3-Bournemouth 0: Welbeck Brace and Lacazette Blast Cap a Complete Performance Giving Gunners a Much Needed Lift.

Danny Welbeck

A refreshing 3-nil win over an outplayed Bournemouth team represents a first step forward from the depths Arsenal plumbed in August.  Coming off a 4-nil drubbing in Liverpool and a confused but ultimately inactive end to the transfer window, Arsene Wenger’s team desperately needed a good result and performance.  Fortunately, they got one.

With the sale of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Liverpool, Wenger was able to restore key players to their more natural positions.  Notably, Hector Bellerin moved from left wing-back to his more customary spot on the right, with new Gunner, Sead Kolasinac, stepping into the vacated position.  The move paid dividends early as the Bosnian Beast (the Herzegovinian Hulk?) took a well-weighted Aaron Ramsey pass down the left touchline, pushed powerfully into the box and found Danny Welbeck for the goal.  Welbeck whiffed with his head but, as often is the case for the Englishman, another body part was there to bundle the ball into the goal, in this case his shoulder.  One-nil to the Arsenal after only six minutes.

The early lead allowed Arsenal to confidently ease further into the match.  Bournemouth looked a step behind in all aspects of the game and were unable to mount a convincing response to the early goal.  Sharp one-touch interplay in the 15th minute between Alexandre Lacazette, Ramsey and Welbeck was called back by referee Anthony Taylor when he probably should have played an advantage that might have seen Lacazette in on goal.  Mesut Ozil, on the ensuing free kick, however, drew a fine save from keeper Asmir Begovic, clearly Bournemouth’s best player on the day.

Arsenal’s controlled pressing from the front and good spacing and quickness to the ball in midfield led to further incursions into the Bournemouth area and, ultimately, a 2nd goal.  This one started with a long pass from Ozil that Lacazette just touched around Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake to Welbeck who cushioned it back to the turning Lacazette.  One quick touch set up a blasted right foot into the top corner.  The Gunners looked home and free after less than half an hour.

Arsenal’s three man back line of Shkodran Mustafi flanked by Laurent Koscielny on the right and Nacho Monreal on the left, didn’t so much have to work as a unit to absorb Bournemouth pressure–there was really none to speak of– but did solid individual work, stepping in to steal possession time after time while quickly transitioning the ball forward into attack.

Bournemouth’s best chance came just after the half-time break and immediately following an injury scare to Koscielny.  A Kolasinac throw-in inexplicably found the chest of Bournemouth’s Adam Smith who pushed the ball out to Jordon Ibe.  Ibe’s first touch cross found Jermaine Defoe who headed well but only found the base of the post.  An inch to the left and our lead would have been halved.

Instead, Arsenal added a third goal moments later.  Lacazette nipped in from behind Bournemouth’s Dan Gosling as he tried to play the ball out of his own half.  Ramsey took the gift forward, assessing his choices of Ozil on the right, Lacazette central and Welbeck on the left.  He chose the latter with a well-weighted pass and this time Danny finished with precision, sliding the ball across Begovic and just inside the far post.

After the goal, the game became more like a training ground exercise with Bournemouth having real trouble getting any time on the ball.  Arsenal, for all their mid-field dominance, however, didn’t create too many clear-cut chances.  The closest may have been a whiff from Ramsey after a lovely pass in from Ozil and a chipped ball just wide from Welbeck that would have completed his hat-trick.

On 67 minutes, Wenger took off Ramsey for Francis Coquelin, muting the Arsenal dominance slightly.  The best attempt on goal, in fact, probably came from Coquelin himself who might have scored his first Arsenal goal but for a deflection that took his 22 yard shot wide of the post.  On 75 minutes, the Arsenal goal scorers, Welbeck and Lacazette, came off for Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez, whose introduction was greeted by a smattering of boos before other fans sang a song of support.  His quality on the ball appeared intact and included a couple of blistering shots (though blocked or saved) and a neat cut-back to Giroud that required a good save from Begovic.  Ambivalence, however, reigns around his presence after a summer full of obvious desire to leave the club, culminating in a failed move to Manchester City on the final day of the transfer window.

With the three points secured, these sorts of dramas took precedence until Coquelin went down with a hamstring pull, hitting the ground after a spectacular fish-leap of a fall.  As all three subs had been used, Arsenal had to play the final dozen minutes with only ten men.  Bournemouth were able to force a Petr Cech tip over his bar from a looping header but Arsenal could have added more goals had they been more clinical on the counterattack.  The game ended meekly after three added minutes.

Overall, in my view, this was a very solid outing characterized by excellent team play.  As such, I’m not putting out any player ratings as everybody, I thought, contributed strongly.  The goal scorers probably deserve some extra plaudits but the other lines also played very well.  In my view, the midfield trio of Granit Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil were nigh on imperious with the pace and quality of their passing and quickness to the ball.  Bournemouth, however, were not a strong opponent, and Gooners, as they have been for years, will remain unconvinced until their team gives similar performances–with similar results–against the bigger clubs.  All told, however, it was a much needed good day at the office and a step up–both in the league table and for the collective confidence of the group–but, unfortunately, nothing definitive.  The injury to Coquelin is also a concern.  Thursday, the club begins its Europa League campaign vs Cologne before a real test at Chelsea next Sunday.  If the Gunners can carry the good work from today’s match through the week and onto the match at Stamford Bridge we may truly be onto something.

by 17highburyterrace

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ALO up-front, RamXa in the middle, Mustafi Back: Arsenal v Cherries Line-UP

You are used to long, in-depth and very informative match preview from Seventeenho, but I am afraid you will only get a very short one from me. 17HT is shifting his focus to writing match reviews and so you have to do with me. You see I don’t like to talk about a game in hand too much, but just want to experience it.

So, this is my predicted line-up v Bournemouth:

submit football lineup

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!!!



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Shambolic, I thought, regarding our summer transfer activity. How could we possibly want to rely on the performance of an unhappy Alexis Sanchez? Why would Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain take a pay cut to leave us for Liverpool? Why is there so much ominous silence on Mesut Ozil’s contract situation? Why didn’t we reinforce our central midfield appropriately nor the central defense? How couldn’t we have known beforehand that Thomas Lemar would snub our last minute bid for him? Why is Wenger announcing that we would be losing £70M when Sanchez’ contract runs out at the end of this season as if he was expecting a pat on the back?  All these and more on the back of two consecutive losses after only three games. The joy from the Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette signings has all but been eclipsed by the rest of our summer horror show. That was how I was seeing it all.

The more I looked at the shambles the more I was convinced that Stan Kroenke, the Board of Directors, Arsene Wenger and all others involved in the planning and execution of our transfers were grossly incompetent. Yet I kept having that feeling that they just couldn’t be that incompetent. Surely they can’t possibly be a bunch of fools. That feeling proved to be well founded. The Ozil/Sanchez wage demands put Kronke and Co. in a fix with regards to the Premier League Financial Fair Play rules on wage bill ceilings for clubs.

The rule stipulates that clubs whose wage bills are in excess of £67M per annum (Arsenal’s is over £200M) can increase their wage bill for the following season by a maximum of £7M if funded from the Premier League TV rights money. Any wages in excess of the £7M can, however, come from other sources like increased commercial earnings, increased match-day incomes and player transfers.

It is rumoured that Ozil and Sanchez’ new wage demands alone would amount to an increase of about £15M per season. Add to it the reported high wages of Kolasinac and Lacazette and it becomes apparent that some juggling had to be done not to run afoul of the FFP rules. Players had to be shipped out, not only to reduce the net wage bill but also to leave the net transfer outlay in positive territory offsetting the wage bill in excess of the £7M cap. Wenger and Co. were wriggling in a very tight space in this transfer window. There was no room for more purchases without further sales of players. It is believed that the club wanted to sell many more players (Olivier Giroud, Lucas Perez, Jack Wilshire, Mohamed Elneny, Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers as well as Carl Jenkinson, Joel Campbell and Chuba Akpom) but were unable to for different reasons. There are plans for more sales during the January window to allow for fresh signings.

As such, the club’s current calculation is based on meeting the contract demands of Ozil and Sanchez. Failure to do so would mean that over £100M in assets will go down the drain at the end of this season. That would be a major stumble in the fierce Premier League race for room at the top that we might never recover from–the true shambles. Hopefully the curtain will soon be drawn on these two nerve racking contract sagas–the sooner, the better.

Do I believe they will sign on the dotted lines? Yes I do. Wenger always gives hints, which somehow are always disregarded because he never makes them sound convincing. He told us at the beginning of the transfer window that he would sign a maximum of two or three players. We disregarded it and kept expecting him to sign five or six. He signed two. After the two signings he told us that more signings would be possible only with more sales. There weren’t enough sales and so there was no other signing. He said that Sanchez would only be allowed to go if there was a good replacement. The Lemar bid fell through, and Sanchez was not allowed to go. Now he is saying that he is 100% certain of Sanchez’ commitment. That’s a hint of what is in the offing.

Sanchez and Ozil are going to sign their mega-bucks deal. That would make them nigh untouchable as every club is wary of the FFP rules on wage cap. Mark that by the beginning of next season they will be heading towards their 30th birthdays and to compete in the transfer market with them if they walk away free would be a new crop of Kylian Mbappes, Moussa Dembeles, Naby Keitas, Jean-Michael Seris, Phillipe Coutinhos and Reiss Nelsons as well as the Lacazettes, Lukakus, Moratas, Asensios, et al. with smaller wage demands. Sanchez and Ozil are smart fellows. They know when to quit the casino.

by Pony Eye



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Not as good as Pirez, Henry, Bergkamp, Ljunberg but these four attackers could come close

The sweetest Arsenal memories I have are for a large part related to the four fabulous attackers of Dennis, Thierry, Freddie and Robert. What a combination of speed, power, intelligence, character and technical ability they had between them. I am sure not to be the only one who would love something similar to return at the club, and I think we are getting very close to it.

These are the four players who I believe can become near  those four IF they find the magic between them and fulfil their potential.

Alexis = Pires

I reckon Alexis will keep giving his all but with the arrival of Lacazette the pressure is off to have to score in almost each and every game. It may enable him to relax a bit more and become more efficient. It will also make him less dependent on the class and skills of Ozil: three is a crowd, as they say, which for once is a good thing. Pires was such a good player when it came to taking a critical chance and Alexis has the same ability. I actually reckon that Alexis is the slightly better player, although it is hard to compare them given the different areas they play/played in.

Lacazette = Henry

OF course, filling Thierry’s boots is a big big job and I don’t want to put such pressure on Alex. But in terms of type, there are similarities. Both are fast, athletic players and Alex will find that bit of extra body strength needed in the PL. Alex also has the much-needed but oh so rare box-awareness that Henry used to have, and they also share that deadly pounce when the opportunity arises. It is a long way to go but I have not been more excited about a new CF at Arsenal since the departure of Thierry.

Ozil = Bergkamp

My all time favourite Arsenal player has never been replaced and may never be replaced. The combination of directing our attacking play with deadly finishes and mouth-watering assists is very hard to find. There is not a single player who comes near him in the entire PL, although De Bruine at MC has the potential (and so does Iwobi but he has a much longer way to go). Ozil plays in a different era of PL football: there are less gaps and defences have become a lot stronger and cleverer. But Mesut has that ability to find and create space where others see walls and I predict he will score more goals this season.

Ramsey = Ljunberg

We need a grafter on the right who can also score important, quality goals as well as the simple, ugly ones, and I reckon that was Freddie Ljunberg. Who can replace that sort of player? The one that comes to mind is Aaron. I like him through the middle next to Xhaka but maybe he would be even better permanently on the right. I can see him doing a Freddie.

Now to play these four attack-minded players would mean that we would need to firm up in midfield. Elneny and Xhaka would be my combination, or maybe Xhaka and Le Coq or Kolasinac would be the steel and passing quality combo that will protect and set these attackers free….

What do you think, fellow BKers?

By TotalArsenal

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Iwobi, Akpom, Theo up-front, Jack and Elneny in Midfield: Koln v Arsenal predicted line-up

We will do a preview for the Bournemouth game at the weekend on Friday. But let’s now have a look at how we could line up against Koln. I have said for a while that I am really looking forward to our very own Spursday nights. We have such a broad squad and there are plenty of players who need meaningful games. These players would not get much of a chance if we were playing CL football, but they will in the UEFA league.

It is also a good opportunity to give our older/more experienced players a chance to play themselves into form, which then gives them an opportunity to give Wenger a selection headache. The likes of Mertesacker, Iwobi, Wilshere, Walcott, Elneny and Chambers are all players who could dislodge a first team regular. Who knows, even Debuchy may revive his fast fading player career through one or more appearances during Spursday night.

Wenger will also want to give a few of his youngsters a chance to shine. The likes of Ainsley Maitland-Miles and Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Chuba Akpom, and maybe even Reiss Nelson, should get opportunities in the UEFA league.

I reckon this could well be our line up v Koln:

submit football lineup

I expect us to play these games with a level of seriousness, so we will need to be solid and compact. The BFG can lead the squad, supported by energetic and young CBs on the left and right of him. I have Ainsley and Chambers as the wing backs and Elneny and Wilshere as our central midfield duo, even though I could imagine Wenger playing Coquelin instead of either of them.

Up-front I predict we will go with speed and movement. Iwobi and Theo simply need games and I am looking forward to seeing Akpom play again. Wenger always has the opportunity to throw in the experienced Giroud and give Lacazette an opportunity to gain some more time on the pitch in an Arsenal shirt.

Well that is my predicted/preferred line-up for the game, but how would you like us to line up?

By TotalArsenal


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Forget Mbappe or Lemar, THIS is what Wenger has been Looking for

Gunners with Gumption!

Finally, the Transfer Window is shut and Arsenal came out of it pretty well. We kept our best players, added two quality players to the first team squad and sold off the less effective players, including one of the contract rebels. There were a few more players who really should have moved on, but maybe it will be they who will make the difference come the end of the season.

Most importantly, we kept hold of Mesut and Alexis for at least one more season. Just imagine the headlines if Wenger had to let one, let alone  both, go. With making a net profit through the sales of AOC, Gibbs and Gabriel being higher than the cost of Lacazette and Kolasinac (for free but high salary), Wenger will have this season’s estimated £70-100m and next summer’s equal fund available to replace Mesut and Alexis properly. And my money is still on at least one signing a new contract before Christmas.

You may have wanted Arsene to spend a lot more f*cking money, just because the others have done, but if you think about it a bit more you will realise that Wenger and the BoD will be pleased with the way the TW turned out for the club.

We did not play well against Pool and we discussed it to bits. How do we ‘turn the season round’? Many of you wanted us to let loads of our players go and buy new players. Some of you felt that we needed to buy a quality DM or two to save the season.

Image result for zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance images

I think there is far too much focus on the parts of the whole and not enough on what keeps those parts together. We are fixated with replacing parts, whether it is the players or the leader – the part that has an explicit power over the other parts. There is an instant satisfaction from doing this: it allows blame to be allocated and pain/dysfunction to be removed, and new hope to be invested in the new parts.

I reckon we needed a second, better option on the left wing-back position and we also needed another regular goalscorer. We could have done without these additions, but they are very likely to make us stronger. And Kola and Lacazette have already shown that they are good new signings.

What is really important is of course to make the parts work together. Against Pool, we lacked cohesion, we lacked machine-like togetherness and collective focus. They did not have a better set of players than us but outscored us on those intangible factors. For me, it is all about what Pirsig calls ‘Gumption’ in his fabulous book ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’:

“Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going. If you haven’t got it there’s no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it there’s absolutely no way in this whole world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed. It’s bound to happen. Therefore the thing that must be monitored at all times and preserved before anything else is the gumption.”

Cambridge dictionary gives this definition for gumption:

‘The ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a particular situation, and to do it with energy and determination.’

Rather than focus incessantly on changing players and/or the manager, what we really need to hope for is a return of  gumption. Once we have got it again it will be absolutely priceless for Arsenal. We have still the best record for gumption, held by our very own Invincibles. To go a whole season unbeaten and then win the title was a combination of very good players and a mindset of utter togetherness and being constantly in the zone. Oh those boys had gumption alright!

We have the players and the manager to turn things round again but they need to rediscover their gumption.  How is it done? Well that is of course hard to answer. A lot of talking and then training on the pitch, I reckon. And then it is about going out there and do it together and making changes in attitude and focus where and whenever required. It is also about listening to each other and making sure that each and every players gives their all. It is about leadership on and off the pitch.

In essence, it is about starting a game with the right collective mindset and believe in each other;  it is about playing with the right tempo and hunger, and the right focus. It is about Gunners with Gumption.

Image result for arsenal motorcycle images

We beat the Chavs in the FA Cup final a few months ago because we had all of this in spades. We played with the much recently criticized midfield trio of  Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil. They were awesome as a mini-unit and fitted perfectly into our 3-4-3 system. The much admired Chelsea defenders were humbled for 90+ minutes. We pressed high and seldom or never let Chelsea out of their own half, and this was only possible because we had the collective and constant ability ‘to decide what is the best thing to do in a particular situation, and to do it with energy and determination’ i.e. gumption.

Let’s hope our players and manager can find back quickly their psychic gasoline. I have no doubt that Wenger and his assistants are working day and night to find the magic potion before the Cherries come to town.

Image result for arsenal invincibles images

By TotalArsenal





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The Window Closes. If Arsenal are in Crisis, Only One Man Can Turn it Around.

Sorry, Wenger Haters, he’s not going anywhere.   And, if anyone can turn this Arsenal ship around, it must be the manager.

Two losses out of three, no new signings, and everybody (who can) wanting to jump ship.  Can it go any lower?  Hopefully not.  If this is Rock Bottom we can only go upwards.  Or sideways.  Or we can fish around for even lower ground.  Has the ship already sunk or can it be steadied and the shore be reached?

Due to a self-imposed media blackout I watched the two most recent Arsenal matches without commentary.  Stoke away was the usual situation of a tough home crowd, compounded by (perhaps) an even more demanding traveling support (perhaps) influencing the officiating crew into blowing two critical calls.  It could be argued that Arsenal should be sufficiently technically superior to any Stoke side and overcome such issues.  Games are decided by small margins–and sometimes by a bit of luck–but we came out on the wrong side of the margin and failed to make our own luck.  Conclusion, at least among the haters: Arsenal have sunk to the level of Stoke.

A week on and this Arsenal team–at this moment–showed that it is massively inferior to Liverpool.  4-nil is a lopsided scoreline, but it probably flattered Arsenal on the day.  Playing want-away players (Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain)–who played as badly as I’ve ever seen either of them play–seemed a misguided move by Wenger.  New signings Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac were rested.  Twenty one year-old Rob Holding was preferred over another want-away, Shkodran Mustafi.  No rhyme, no reason.  Some Gooners have gone so far as to say that Wenger was actually tanking the match in order to create a crisis.  Would such a “plan” spur those (supposedly) above him, CEO Ivan Gazidis and principal shareholder, Stan Kroenke (and his board of directors), into loosening the purse-strings as the transfer window came to a close or would it serve to lower supporters’ expectations so that any decent finish in the league (top half? top six? top four?) would seem adequate?

If losing was supposed to put the crowbar in Kroenke’s wallet, it was an abject failure.  Nobody in at the deadline and only cut-rate deals of (beyond the) fringe players.  Those monies plus forty million pounds for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might help offset the lost transfer fee we might have gotten for Alexis.  But now we’ve got a problem.  Will Alexis, a selfish player by nature, give his all for the collective or be a toxic element in the dressing room?  Are we weakened by losing the Ox?  Would Thomas Lemar (in place of Alexis) have strengthened the team?  It appears a last ditch huge money offer was made for Lemar but, having it fail, we kept Alexis instead.  Could Lemar have lived up to the pressure of his price tag?  We’ll never know.

So many others were “linked” to the team.  Riyadh Marez?  Jean-Michael Seri?  Raheem Sterling (as part of an Alexis deal), Adrian Rabiot? Who else?  If I ate a sausage (links, we call them here in the States) every time I saw a name thrown out, my love handles would morph into a spare tire (or is it tyre?)…

Speaking of love handles… Where is the love?  And who handles our business? Are Arsenal’s (current) players not deserving of our love?  What about our “handlers,” our management team, who, we must remember, serves at the pleasure of ownership?  Do they not deserve a little love.  Is blame the only game?

Alexis, of course, like Mesut Ozil (and the departed Ox) are in the final year of their contracts.  Is there a chance they might re-sign, even if it’s only a short term “insurance” contract?  A short term deal for two of our key players would give them a pay-rise and protect their (longer term) earnings against the specter (spectre?) of injury.  Is it too late for them and are they just waiting for a life raft to get them out of North London?

So many questions.  Who knows the answers?

The press–including blogs–in endless search of hits–lead supporters around by the nose.  I’ve seen (and heard) so many stories put forth as truths and then twisted to suit the needs (usually to assign blame) of the writer.  Can Gooners distinguish fact from fiction?

Probably not.  That’s why my plan is to try and watch Arsenal as I hope they can observe (and improve) themselves–in a vacuum.  I no longer listen to commentary when I watch the matches.  And the pundits?  Not for me, thank you very much.  I’m sure I’ll still scan the NewsNow headlines to see how the latest “news” and “statements” are being spun into (almost relentlessly negative) click-bait, and, now and again, I may even take a look at some of the better Arsenal writers out there, ones who have been reasonably balanced in the past.  I have to say, however, that the more I read about Arsenal the less time I have for it.  Not only the missives about our club from the so-called neutrals and our “support,” but also stories from elsewhere in the sport.  I know I watch a whole lot less football as a neutral.  Is it because Arsenal will never buy any of the players I might be scouting?  Maybe.

Or maybe it’s because I cannot fathom the direction that the game and the culture surrounding it has gone.  Can an emirate (Qatar with Paris St. Germain; Abu Dhaby with Manchester City) really buy their way to the top?  Why not?  Qatar bought themselves a world cup.  So did Russia (who might have also bought themselves a US presidential election).

When I first landed upon the Arsenal (in 2006, while living at my screen-name) I fell hard for Arsene Wenger’s vision of a team of (mostly) foreign players changing the game in England–for the better, of course–and being able to compete at the highest level domestically and in Europe.  The notion that operating within the financial means of the club and rewarding promising players with higher salaries seemed the right way forward.  Mostly, I believed that the best technical and team oriented football would win out over selfish play and shows of individual passion.  I also thought that the wise people of Islington (and their brethren world-wide) had a measure of understanding this bigger picture, not to mention the patience (and pride) to support their club through thick and thin.  I guess I was wrong on all counts.  And, of course, I didn’t foresee the great turn inwards towards a celebration of selfishness combined with excessive and irrational blame on outside sources (individuals and whole classes of peoples) for all perceived ills.   For me, when I was in London and falling in love with Arsenal, I didn’t feel so much like a foreigner even though (obviously) I was different (and oh so naive).  With the new nationalism I wonder.  (Did I say racism and/or fascism?  If I did, I hope I’ve overstepped.)  Did I underestimate the tribal (anti-intellectual) element of being a football supporter?  Probably.

Like a fool, I still cling to my ideas–despite the “facts” saying I’m so very, very misguided.  As bad as the situation at Arsenal may seem, I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel. I’m guided by my own truths, including the following.

Fact #1 (for me)–Our team is comprised of good to very good to outstanding players, many of whom I’m excited to watch in action.  Alexis could be the best player in the league but also one who could bring down the team.  I fear he’s a player whose natural abilities–including that incredible burst of pace (most recently shown in his running after giveaways at Anfield)–have kept him from developing a real football intelligence and learning how to make his teammates better.  I would have been happy to move him on, but, now that we haven’t, let’s see what he can do.  Ozil, for me, offers more than any other player on the team by way of creating space for others and moving the ball into those areas.  Of course, he needs his teammates to use those spaces and extend or finish the intelligence he puts on the ball.  Lacazette seems one who might be able to use Ozil’s genius the most.  To my eye, he has plenty of goals in him, as do Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott.  Danny Welbeck will happily run his arse off, exchange spaces with teammates and will probably even scuff a few balls into the net.

So many have singled out our midfield as an area where we were desperate for new signings.  We shall see.  I’m happy enough watching Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey who can create plenty of assists and goals.  Others are routinely slated, maybe because they didn’t cost enough.  Francis Coquelin earned a spot in the squad as an organizer and tackler but is more than competent as a fully rounded midfielder while Mohamed Elneny is improving his jack-of-all-trades game at a rate that truly inspires me.  Alex Iwobi, who will have to fill in if Alexis decides to sulk, is a work in progress but the potential seems all there and he knows more about where to play a final ball than the Ox knows about haircuts.  Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere, if they can surmount their injuries and play anywhere near their best, will be nothing but value added.  Reiss Nelson could be the latest youth sensation in our squad.

Youth will also need to serve at the back.  Callum Chambers and Holding will have to learn on the job but have shown enough to suggest they can do it.  At the other end of the age spectrum, we’ll need the experience of cool heads Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny who will likely share the Captain’s armband.  Mustafi, who, in the end we kept, seems a top-notch bridge between the younger and older center backs.  Nacho Monreal, I believe, brings cultured quality no matter where he plays while Sead Kolasinac and Hector Bellerin represent, respectively, power and pace, and, I think, will flourish as our wide up and down men.  Petr Cech was man of the match at Liverpool and rightfully slated his teammates in the aftermath, showing a taste of the leadership needed in the squad.  David Ospina will anchor our (hopefully) long and winding road in the Europa League.

Who have I missed?

Fact #2 (for me)–If anybody can turn this situation around it’s Arsene Wenger.  With many jumping ship–so many supporters and certainly some players–we need a man at the helm who has dedicated his life to our club.  If anybody can steer us to dry land, it will be AW.

He’s done it before.  Speaking frankly, I thought his position became untenable a couple of times last spring–after the first Bayern leg, and again after defeats at West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace.  With the “support” in full revolt, he instead took us within a point of Champions League football and to a(nother) FA Cup triumph, winning matches over two teams who (financially at least) lord over us: Manchester City in the semi-final and Chelsea in the final.  From the depths–and with fans wishing him gone (only a small group wished him actually dead), he got the squad re-grouped to finish as successfully as they could.

Fact #3 (for me)–As noted, in terms of financial strength, we are no better than 4th in the league AND we have an owner who seems to prefer not to speculate excessively in that arena.  If your anger persists over the transfer window and other players look better than ours, you probably enjoy Youtube highlights and fantasy football over the real game, one where routine failure is punctuated by rare successes.  If only results matter, it must be realized that Arsenal have actually overachieved in almost all recent seasons, and perhaps even more in these “drought” years since Roman Abramovic bought Chelsea and Prince Mansour did likewise at Manchester City.  More speculative American owners at Manchester United and Liverpool–along with both teams playing in the CL this season–also puts us at a disadvantage.

Fact #4 (for me)–Unfortunately, that single point which placed us 5th, is a big one, especially for recruiting via the transfer market or holding onto our best players.  Getting back into the CL places is a big ask, but would mean a lot for a final season under Wenger.

Fact #5 (for me)–Even discussing a final season for Wenger also hurts the team.  His willingness to act as lightning rod for criticism and only take on a two year contract extension is another reason our recruiting has been weakened.  Arsenal are no longer the “biggest club in France.”  The best French (and francophone) players now dream of playing for the Qataris (PSG), while Monaco AC is the place to be if you’re a younger player seeking a few years of development.  Given the levels of abuse aimed at Wenger, players cannot possibly expect to enjoy the former positives associated with signing on for him. The excessive pressure for instant results means there’s no longer room for players to develop under Wenger’s tutelage.

Fact #6 (for me)–A new manager–even if he was as perfect as those would-be managers (on the internet) who spout their logical fallacies with such extreme confidence–would have one giant advantage over Wenger: the goodwill of the fans, which might justify results that I’m pretty sure would be worse than Wenger’s.  Of course, my hypothesis–just like those of the manager’s critics–is not testable.  In other words, it’s easy to talk about what a new guy would do (whom he might have bought, for example) and how they would vault us forward from the safety of Fantasyland.  In the real world, a new manager might be our ticket to the top.  Or maybe not.  I guess we’ll see when that time comes.

Fact #7 (for me)–Wenger’s dedication to Arsenal, to being willing to go down with the ship just when so many seem willing to jump, seems a rare and special quality these days.  So many Gooners believe Wenger has ruined his legacy, but this quality plus a career of consistent over-achievement, I think, will only become clearer over time.  If he can do it again–at this hyper-extreme nadir of Gooner misery–it might just be his greatest accomplishment to date.  If he can get his team to shut out the toxic atmosphere surrounding the club and simply play their best football, I believe we’ll get to our proper level and there will be some satisfying Arsenal football on offer.  Will we win the quadruple?  Probably not.  If that’s all that matters, then no football team will satisfy you.

OK, enough said and apologies for the rambling nature of the post.  Those are (some of) my facts.  Yours most likely differ.  Don’t be shy, lay ’em out there.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

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