Ross Barkley shows us why the Ox should be loaned out

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What is not to like about the Ox: a total professional, wears his heart on his sleeve, gives his all and he fuses speed and silkiness to the highest degree. Alex is a great guy and we all would love him to come good…. But he has not been coming good for quite a while now; and I feel we have to be cruel to be kind: send him out on loan and tell him to convince us how good he really is.

The Ox joined us ages ago and has played 90 PL games, exactly as many as Ross Barkley. I reckon Barkley is a similar player to the Ox: both are attacking midfielders who can play on the wing; they have a good dribble and a fabulous shot-power, are fast and have an eye for a key pass as well; they are also both 22 and belong to England’s most promising prospects for the national team. But one is in the ascendency and the other is sliding down.

Whilst the Ox is struggling to establish himself in the first team (despite all our injuries), Ross Barkley is in the form of his life. Barkley played 1334 minutes in the PL this season already, scoring an impressive six goals and producing an equally impressive five assists; he also produces 1.9 key passes per game and his passing success rate is at 87.2% per game. The Ox has played just 429 minutes in the PL this season, with no goals or assists, 0.5 key passes per game and 84.6% passing success rate.

Is Barkley that much better than the Ox? I don’t think so. But Barkley plays at a club where he is allowed to make a few mistakes, where there is less pressure to win each and every game and where he can grow by playing week in week out. And this is now paying dividend for the Toffees. He has learned to make his head think as fast as his body can run and his legs can move the ball, and he is delivering the goods on a weekly basis.

It is the opposite of Ox’s situation right now, and having watched him this season, I reckon he is under too much self-pressure and club pressure to perform well at Arsenal. Sometimes a step down is needed to make two steps upwards. The Ox should go on loan to the likes of Swansea, Southampton, Watford or Leicester for half a season at least, with an agreement that he will play as much as possible. I reckon it will do him a world of good and we will come to see the true Ox: flying on wings and bullying the opposition with his power and sharpened horns, whilst using his head to make all his effort count. He would then improve his goal and assist per game ratio and deliver a lot more key passes per game; so that when he goes back to Arsenal, he is ready to claim a first team spot.

It is about time we start regarding sending our most promising youngsters on loan not as a punishment but a key part of their development. It did Le Coq and Wilshere a world of good, and the Ox should follow their example if he is to fulfil his enormous potential.

Who agrees and disagrees, and why?

By TotalArsenal

 

Arsene Wenger’s biggest challenge is in midfield

Having had some time to reflect on our painful defeat on Wednesday, I am feeling a bit more positive now. I reckon it was a reality check for almost all of us.

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We are still a team that is looking for its true identity: some days we are brilliant, many days we are adequate and some days we are rubbish. And on Wednesday, as a team, we were bad, especially after we conceded the first goal. As long as Arsene does not get the midfield right, we will continue to have mixed performances.

We started slow but we were in control. There was a certain caution in our game and, given Monaco’s Portuguese style of play, which focuses hard on defending and breaking out quickly as soon as the ball is regained, that made sense – especially when we play a slow CB in the centre of our defence. I would have liked us to play a higher line and put more pressure on Monaco, with fast CBs – which would exclude Per on this occasion – as the best cover for their counter attacks; but leaving the BFG out of this big game was unlikely to happen. I would also have been happy with us playing deep and inviting them to come and attack us, for which Per would have been great of course. In the end we got a bit of both and it did not work out.

However, there is always an element of luck which determines the outcome of games: they scored with a deflection and we had our own man (Theo) blocking a sure goal from Welbeck. The Konogbia shot might have gone in without the deflection, but it was a big slice of luck for Monaco nevertheless. When you play a counterattacking team, nothing is worse than conceding the ‘away goal’ as the first one in a two-legged match. Playing in front of the home crowd means that sooner or later more risks will be taken, and that is exactly what the opponent was waiting for: and they punished us in style, it has to be said.

It was, of course, also a master class of how to play deep and on the counter; and, as we also witnessed when Monaco played against us in the Emirates Cup, their players are fit and strong, play with excellent team discipline and game plan, and are not afraid to make cynical fouls. As others have mentioned, the game had that horrible Mourinho feeling about it: it is the sort of football – not alien to us any more either – that sucks the life out of you, looks for your weaknesses and punishes you remorselessly. And they did.

Our game plan, a mixture of sitting semi-deep and pressing semi-high, did not work out. Wenger was right to have a go at our defending and we were also unlucky that Giroud had a bad-hair-day, as it could have been very different had he found the net early on, but I hope our long-in-the-teeth manager will also see that his game tactics did not work. I guess it is the fear of conceding an away goal against a strong defensive team that kept Arsene from going all out on attack; and I also reckon it is the belief in our own attacking strengths and qualities that kept us from playing the Monaco brand of footie.

On top of that, we just have not got the mix in midfield right to know what we can expect and deal with any opponent/tactics effectively. The Monaco midfield out-powered and out-witted ours and it was not the first time that we lost the battle in this crucial area this season. All our midfielders are great but getting the chemistry right in our 4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 formations is proving to be Arsene’s biggest challenge again this season.

Ox scored the goal of the night and it could still be a very important one. But the way we conceded the last one, with our young Englishman at the root of it, was the most painful moment of this season for me. Now we have to score at least three times to go through, which is really one too many. But this result also forces Wenger’s hand in three weeks time; it allows our team to play to our natural instincts and playing culture. It is about all out attack and giving them hell: never time to settle and show them what the Arsenal are all about. It probably will not be enough to go through, but there is something else at stake here: our spirit, our backbone, our reputation, our pride.

COYG

Stand Tall And Make Us Proud Again.

By TotalArsenal.

What to do with the Ox?

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Let me start with saying that I like Alex a lot. He stole thousands of Gooners hearts with THAT spirited, this-is-my-moment, CL performance against AC Milan a few years ago. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has not just a posh name; he is one of the elite talents in this country, and indeed in Europe. The Ox is only 21 years old and yet he has played already 84 times for Arsenal (8 goals, 8 assists).

Here is a nice summary of what he has to offer:

Our nr.15 has played 20 games (12 starts) in all competitions this season, and he clocked up about 1100 minutes of football (for comparison, Alexis played 1475 minutes in all competitons). It is fair to say he has been given a proper chance now to proof himself. Yet, despite some spirited, encouraging performances, he only scored twice; and more worryingly for the roles in which he played, he only has a single assist to his name this season.

The Ox has good spells in every game during which he adds a lot of thrust to our attacks. But he also seems to disappear for long periods in each game. We have to remember that he is still only young and needs a good run of games. However, I feel he has partly failed to take the opportunity to really demand a place in our first team this season. And nobody can say Wenger did not give him a chance.

Now that Giroud is back and Theo is also close to full fitness, the Ox might find himself more and more on the bench. Wenger is likely to play Giroud as his holding CF and then pick two ‘wingers’ from Alexis, Theo, Welbeck, Ox (and possibly Gnabry and Pod).

I can see the Ox missing out on many PL/CL starts during the remainder of the season and wonder what would be best for him:

  1. Keep him in the team and use him as a super-sub regularly?
  2. Start him regularly with Wenger rotating his players more proactively and frequently?
  3. Send him out on loan, say to Everton or West Ham, where he would be guaranteed regular first team starts?
  4. Cash in on him in January/Summer?

Ooh, and what do you reckon the Ox’s best position is?

Over to you, fine fellow Gooners: What would you do with the Ox? 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

A Mere Papering of Cracks? Villa v Arsenal afterthoughts

First One for Danny!
First One for Danny!

On the heels of Arsenal’s first defeat since (Everton away in) April, many an observer–even would be supporters–have trotted out the usual narratives.  Wenger has lost the plot, we’re playing the wrong players in the wrong positions, there’s no tactical flexibility, our record signing Ozil(shaven) can’t be arsed and the sky is–literally–falling.

We’re entitled to these reactions and living in the moment, but scanning my science blogs, I could find no evidence that the sky was–literally–descending upon us.  Could it be that daylight is waning and the weather merely getting a bit worse in on our part of North London?  It may, of course, have something to do with the calendar.  Still with only a single match remaining before the official start of Autumn, the trip to Villa Park loomed larger, perhaps, than it might at another time of year.  That we couldn’t match their current point total in the league–no matter the result–also did not bode well.

Admittedly, the defeat at Dortmund did feel a comprehensive one and many suggested the 2-nil score-line flattered us.  Another narrative is that Arsene’s Arsenal simply cannot play against the bigger teams.  With Villa having beaten Liverpool at Anfield and having the week off (whilst we took our full body blow), nerves amongst Gooners were understandable.  Looking at the table alone (which, I’ve been told, “does not lie”) they had to be considered as one.  With our next two league matches being derbies–Spurs at our place, Chelsea at theirs–the result, at the very least, seemed, er, rather consequential.

Here in the mountains of California, the smoke from our annual wildfires only barely clearing with a little lucky wind, I awoke to a line-up I liked.  Alexis Sanchez, even if he’s already become a huge fan favorite, was rested in favour of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  Santi Cazorla came in for Jack Wilshere (who took a knock late on at Dortmund).  Calum Chambers, recovered from his sore throat (tonsilitis), was the preferred 19 year old at right back (over Hector Bellerin), and both Kieran Gibbs and Mikel Arteta (both just back from injury and/or a respite…) kept their places.

Danny Welbeck, who had spurned scoring opportunities in his first two matches for Arsenal, also remained the point of attack.  Curiously, younger forwards, including Yaya Sanogo, Chuba Akpom and Joel Campbell and the all-purpose defender, Isaac Hayden, called for by many a Gooner in the wake of the Dortmund disaster, didn’t even find a place on the bench.  Perhaps in the Capital One Cup to be played in midweek?… On my television feed, the line-up was even listed as a 4-2-3-1 rather than the much maligned 4-1-4-1 we’re (supposedly) playing even if Ozil persisted on the left of the 3 (Santi in the middle, Ox on the right) and Ramsey was the player (nominally) brought back to help out the Captain.  I’m not a stickler for formations and I tend to buy the idea that the number of players at the back is (more or less) all that matters and all else flows from there.  I’ll leave the discussion of what was actually played to others.  To borrow my favorite English saying (heard mostly in the Tube…) “Sorry…”

The match itself started with Villa on the front foot and Arsenal struggling to string passes together.  Ramsey looked a central figure but first touches appeared overly aggressive if not just plain heavy.  Additionally, the air in Birmingham looked lighter than the players favour and several long balls flew into touch.  As such, as in Germany, possession was lost cheaply and Villa looked to be creating more menace throughout the opening stages.  That several corners were conceded (the source of the last league goal scored against us in the league) did not help settle nerves.  Another set piece provided their most dangerous moment (in the 23rd minute), after an unwise challenge from Calum Chambers, which earned him a yellow for his troubles.  The cross sailed over all defenders and allowed a well taken chance for Kieran Clark with a diving header.  Szczesney moved out of his goal mouth but maintained his feet and used his entire frame to block with his left leg and right hand.  A pivotal moment, especially given the way the opponent kept Liverpool at bay a week ago after an early goal.

The truly pivotal moment happened nine minutes later.  Playing the ball deep out of our own half (Chambers protecting the ball like a more experience player and exchanging passes with Mertesacker began the move) a series of lightning fast one touch passes between Ramsey, Cazorla and finally Welbeck sprung Ozil off the shoulder of the Villa highline and he finished calmly with his better foot.

Now Villa had to attack, and the 2nd goal came almost instantly.  The camera was actually on Wenger as Gibbs took possession and passed smartly to Ozil who one-touched to Ramsey before receiving a lovely return ball out wide.  Scorer and assist maker reversed roles with an inch perfect cross from Ozil and an easy finish (no shin this time) from Welbeck to break his (Arsenal) duck.  Ozil in the center, Ozil on the wing: the record signing who just doesn’t care, suddenly everywhere?

Narratives turned upon their heads as well as points secured.  Villa, shocked by the turn of events were still unable to get back to work.  Kieran Gibbs, who was key in dispossessing Villa to start the lightning move on the 2nd, again played a key role, poaching another pass even deeper in their territory and crossing to rampaging Ramsey at the far post.  Defender Cissoko, caught, needed the most precise of clearances, but found his own goal instead.  3 nil.

That would be all the scoring in the match but Arsenal would secure the points through possession and trying for more.  Our best 2nd half chance was likely a throughball from Oxlade-Chamberlain to Ramsey but the latter’s first touch was a near whiff.  Late on, after gorgeous one touch work on the left from Ozil, Cazorla and subs Jack Wilshere, Lucas Poldolski and Tomas Rosicky–What?  3 attackers subbed in when we have a score-line to protect?!? — I guess Wenger felt the need to get more attackers involved (and we have far more of them healthy as compared to defenders) and, maybe, the score-line was doing the protecting–of the manager–in this case.

So, a result to freshen the spirits after the poor showing in Europe or a mere papering of cracks?

That’s for my old friends, a certain blogger who confuses Cookies and Monsters (and knows his cracks, amongst other things) and the one who demands Victory Con Cordia… It’s a bit of a no-win for the club despite the fact that we’re still looking up at Villa in the table.  They (and early season surprise club, Swansea City) lost today but they are traditionally a mid-table club (at best) and it all could have been a whole lot scarier if their early aggression had led to an opening goal.  Our goal scoring happened so quickly that it’s almost hard to appreciate them and they can’t possibly suggest that our problems have been ironed out.  Bigger tests await which will “prove” if we’ve turned a corner or merely gotten a fortunate few points.

Amongst the players there could be some realignment of opinion about our record signing, given that he both scored and assisted.  Our newest signing might also gain a measure of confidence having done likewise.  Already (previous post comments), we’ve seen some debate about the relative contributions of Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain.  I’d give a shout out to the emerging right hand partnership of Chambers and the BFG and the two Spaniards who performed their duties well and showed a bit of their “technical superiority,” especially as the match moved on.   Kieran Gibbs and Koscielny on the (much) pacier (left) side of our defense (American spelling there…) also had good matches.  Szczesny stood tall in his one moment of true examination.  Best of all, maybe, is that we appeared to finish the match without any fresh candidates for the physio room.

Of course, that’s only amongst the players who actually played.   (Abou Diaby even looked alright after a full 90, even if it was only on the bench…)  A new group will surely come in for the midweek cup match to reveal further truths about the depth of the squad… Do we move on to predictions for that one or continue to breathe sighs (of relief) or dissect this one?

What say you Fine Fellow (maybe not Freaking Out–if only for a moment…) Gooners?

😀

Written by: 17highburyterrace

TA’s Arsenal Dream Team v Besiktas

With thanks to the best paper in the country, The Guardian, for the picture.
With thanks to the best paper in the country, The Guardian, for the picture.

Football is back, and although it might not be ideal to play Besiktas so soon after our battle against Palace, I cannot help but really look forward to our encounter in Istanbul. And although we won on Saturday, we all want to wash away the taste of a laboured and under-par performance with a committed, passionate, and above all winning, performance tomorrow night.

Rather than go safe and sit back to invite pressure, I hope we start with full throttle and go on the attack from the first whistle. My dream line up for the Besiktas game – rather than the predicted one as I never get these right anymore – is a 4-5-1 formation with real speed and thrust whilst also having some solid support for the back four.

I would like to see Flamini replace Gibbs for this game. We will play with Chambers again, or maybe even Miquel, and so we can do with the extra experience and calm of our French terrier. The rest of our defence picks itself right now, although I would not mind to see Bellerin getting a chance on the right wing tomorrow.

In midfield I would play Diaby if he is fit. He has travelled so he must be fine again. Diaby and Ramsey should be the deeper laying midfielders, but they are also very good in the transition and going forward. In the hole it is Sanchez for me, with OG in front of him. And on the wings, like many others have said in the past 48 hours, I would like thrust, speed and hunger and both Ox and Campbell have plenty of this.

My Dream Team:

Arsenal v Besiktas dream team

I would also be very happy to see Rosicky start instead of Campbell: Sanchez could move to the left and Rosa could play in the hole… but I would really like to see Campbell play again at some point at least tomorrow.

What it is your favourite line up for tomorrow’s game?

Let’s go for the jugular and attack from the start.

We are The Arsenal – COYG!!!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Final Note:

We hold two competitions on Bergkampesque: Fantasy Football and a Predictions League and all are free to join – the more the merrier! 🙂

For Fantasy Football League see link:

https://bergkampesque.com/bk-boing-ff-league/

For Predictions League see link:

https://bergkampesque.com/new-umf-league-2014-2015/

Terrorist Winger, Holding Striker or DM’s Wingman: Will this Gunner Finally Break Through?!

Arsene’s Arsenal War Episode IV – A New Hope!

Since TA’s post about squad rotation and preferred line-ups I’ve been off in dream land at how I want to see Arsenal playing. Basically I would love to see a return to proper counter-attacking football – moving the ball up the pitch in seconds, killing teams off with speed and precision like in the early days of Wenger’s reign.

Before the World Cup, I remember posting a comment on this blog about how brilliant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was looking and how he could be one of the key players to England’s strategy at the World Cup – from Roy Hodgson’s comments in the aftermath of the assault on AOC in the second Stateside friendly it seems I wasn’t the only one to have that idea. I was excited by his pace and control on the ball and was disappointed for him personally that he wouldn’t get to play at a World Cup.

The Ox: ready for a Rambo-style breakthrough season?
The Ox: ready for a Rambo-style breakthrough season?

Having said that, it could end up being my favourite injury ever, and one of the best for his career as he will be fresher than any other WC squad members for the coming season. I believe/hope he can be used in a different way to last season, capitalising on the addition of the world class Alexis and the semi-imminent return to fitness of the former fastest footballer in the world (second now to Arjen Robben), Theo Walcott. If used to an effect pertinent to the situation at hand, I think his versatility can be a major weapon for the team now and in the future.

Let’s look at ways he could be deployed:

1. Terrorist winger. Ox is quick on the ball, can wriggle out of tight situations better than most without relying on his pace, is strong, and isn’t afraid to run at defenders; but at the same time, he generally makes good decisions about what to do with the ball. That decision making will become more refined with experience too. Maybe I’m expecting too much of him but as I’ve commented on a previous post, I envisage something similar to what Thierry Henry used to do to defenders.

2. Holding striker. His strength can help make this happen. Ok, he’s not as tall as Giroud but once he has the ball he can keep hold of it, hold defenders off and wait to link up with advancing team-mates. His awareness and ability to beat defenders will also add to his menace in these situations, as they won’t be able to get too tight on him in case he beats them, which will push the defensive line back and leave more space for our attackers.

3. In time, if Wenger follows up on his comment about Ox being able to eventually play in the middle: designated DM’s wingman. If we have a designated DM in the pivot Ox will have the freedom to roam forward and link up with the four front men. Using attributes already discussed, he can make defences nervous, making judicious runs into the box, passing or carrying the ball out of tight spots, drawing defenders to him and creating space and opportunities for team mates.

In general approach, I favour giving Theo his wish up front and having Ox, Oz and Sanchez behind him. My reasoning is that Theo is becoming acceptably reliable in front of goal (and more clinical than OG) and practice can only make more and more perfect. Whilst Theo would not be able to hold the ball up, the pace we now have in Alexis, Theo and Ox would mean that this would not be such a crucial skill for our front man to have…even if they couldn’t carve out an opportunity immediately, they can keep the ball between themselves for the few seconds until Oz, Rambo, Debuchy and Gibbs get there.

If counter-attacking wasn’t working (as it wouldn’t against Mourinho and his anti-football) and Giroud wasn’t on the field, Ox could then adopt role 2 from my list, and even interchange reasonably freely with Theo anyway, since Theo is used to a role on the right. It would all add to a sense of unpredictability to unsettle defenders.

Role 3 may come in time; he wouldn’t be ready for it now I don’t think – and Ramsey is everyone’s first choice for the kind of role I would like to see him playing if Wenger does move him into the middle eventually, but he could certainly learn to be a superb covering option for that position.

Wenger doesn’t pigeon-hole people and he plays to their strengths, so I think Wenger will use Ox’s versatility to the advantage of the team (including keeping Alex happy with the roles he is asked to assume).

The way I see it, the kind of football we now have the squad to play this season is really an evolution of the 4-4-2 we played in the late 90s – and they are among my fondest memories of Arsenal. I’m excited about the squad we currently have and Wenger’s decisiveness so far this summer. It suggests to me that despite all indications to the contrary since 2006, he knows exactly how he wants the team playing and he can now go and get the players he doesn’t already have to make that happen. I don’t really think there is a lot of room for improvement, although I would love to see a SQ DM come in. I think our attacking options are much more multi-dimensional than they have ever been for as long as I’ve been a Gooner.

It is Wenger’s time to go for the jugular. I’m hopeful of a glorious twilight to his Arsenal career.

How do the tactically astute see it? Am I expecting too much of the boy Oxlade-Chamberlain? Do I think too highly of him? Am I expecting too much of Wenger? Am I being wildly tactically naive? If we played the way I’ve outlined above next season (with a theoretically rock-solid back 6), will it be enough to give us a shot at the title?

On a personal note, I’m looking forward to taking my three-year-old to his first Arsenal game at the Emirates Cup on Saturday so if you’re going too, no swearing please… 🙂

Written by: Jozefos2013

Let’s pull those Lederhosen down! Bayern preview + Line-Up.

 

Santi had one of his best games ever in Munich, but will he start today?
Santi had one of his best games ever in Munich, but will he start today?

Duke Senior:
‘Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.’

By Shakespeare.

‘Ieder nadeel heb zijn voordeel’ (Every disadvantage has its advantage)

By Johan Cruijff.

Whilst Bayern have to come to terms with their current unbearable lightness of being, Arsenal have actually been facing some severe adversity.

The big loss against Pool was a huge shock to the system and put our feet firmly back on the ground. Subsequently, Arsenal played more compact and disciplined against the Mancs, but our ‘safety first’ approach led to not enough chances to get all three points from the game. It was progress nevertheless. And then came the Pool FA cup game and further progress was made: a solid and disciplined performance saw us edge through to the last eight and give the Dippers one on the nose. Sweet indeed.

Today, we are hoping for one more step forward from those last three games. Only if we are at our very best tonight (and the referee does not spoil it) can we get a result against Bayern. We need to be disciplined throughout the team and concentrate for 90+ minutes. You only have to look at the Martin Demichelis incident yesterday to realise that the previous sentence, despite stating the bleeding obvious, is never truer than in a CL game.

Guardiola does not want us to have the ball tonight, as he believes we can hurt them if we do. The idea that this true gentleman – the antithesis of Maureen in almost everything – is combining the best of Bayern and Barca into something even better than its parts – Bayerlona – is very scary. I have not watched Bayern a lot this season, but we can expect a physically strong team with an even better ability to pass the ball round and not give it to us.

Key to our survival is therefore to hold onto the ball when we have it and impose our own game on them. This is something we have not been good at recently, especially against the top teams who have pressed us high up the pitch. We also need to protect our ‘D’ with a solid wall and our CB’s and ‘DMs’ have had some very good games to practice on this recently (this was one of our weaknesses in our last home encounter against BM).

There is no Ribery and no Shaqiri, but Schweinsteiger is back after an injury and they are pretty spoiled for choice in midfield. Muller, Robben, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, Martinez etc are all fantastic footballers who will press our midfielders hard.

It is also key to start both compact/disciplined and with a high tempo, not allowing them to settle easily and, at least now and again, force our game on them. This will not be easy, but our recent games against Pool and the Mancs have been very good practice sessions, and as such we actually hold an advantage to Bayern who have not had a challenging game for a while now.

So how will we line up?

This is a question of choosing for compactness (4-5-1) or speed/counter-attacking football (4-3-3). The Back-Five is very likely to be Sz, Sa, Me, Ko, Gi and the double DM is likely to be manned by Flam and Jack; and Ozil and Giroud are also likely to start. This leaves us with the ‘mid-wings’. In one way, I would like us to start with Ox AND Gnabry and really take the game to them. Just go out there and enjoy ourselves… But that would leave the likes of Cazorla, Podolski and Rosicky out and we need their experience and maturity….

Therefore, I expect Wenger to go half way with one of either Gnabry and Ox and one of Cazorla, Podolski and Rosicky. Rosicky offers both compactness and decent speed, but he seldom scores (or even assists). Pod scores when he wants but does not offer the compactness and required stamina for a game of this stature. Santi likes a free role and is great support for OG and Ozil, but not so much for his full back…. Not an easy choice for Arsene to make.

With Ox in scintillating form, I expect him to play ahead of Gnabry tonight. He could offer the X-factor tonight, but he will need to play with full discipline and composure throughout the game, and let’s hope he learned from his lucky escape on Sunday…

So, here is my predicted (and preferred) line up for tonight’s super clash:

It could be Rosicky for Ox, Santi, or even Jack, but I reckon this will be close to our starting eleven. Will it be enough to beat Bayern? Aber sicher! :)
It could be Rosicky for Ox, Santi, or even Jack, but I reckon this will be close to our starting eleven. Will it be enough to beat Bayern? Aber sicher, jawohl mein Herr! 🙂

I have a good feeling about this game and Flamini is right that we have momentum again. Let’s hope that our recent adversity will have strengthened the team’s resolve and desire to finally claim a big CL scalp once more. Now that would be sweeter than sweet!

COME ON YOU RIP ROARING GUNNERS!

Time to pull down those Lederhosen and show them who is top Arse! 🙂

TotalArsenal.

The one player who will make all the difference this season

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Arsenal continue to be linked with all sorts of so called super-quality players, who can hit the ground running, and hopefully, add a different dimension to our team.

We definitely could do with a spark, a bit of magic in our team, a big BOING as Glic would have it – especially in midfield: an AM who can conduct our play, score goals and produce plenty of assists.

Others feel what we really need is a super quality striker who can bag 20+ PL goals next season, and/or make other attackers a lot more effective.

Many feel we can only make real progress if Arsenal buy an AM and ST of the highest quality, and this might well happen this summer.

Most of us expect any additional spark to have to come from outside the club but, as every season has its own surprises, could it be that Wenger is getting one player from the current squad ready to do add that extra dimension, the new spark, the talent that will move us forwards to the next level?

And what if he is banking, or should I say gambling,  not on one but two players to do just that?

We might get a back-up CB, PL experienced back-up GK, and hopefully a beast of a DM (with additional football skills) to strengthen the ‘back-seven’: GK, back four and double DM-pivot. This will enable us to remain solid defensively throughout the season. But the spark/extra dimension is likely to come from the (predominantly) attacking four: the AM and three front men – assuming Arsene will continue with our 4-2-1-3 formation. Although, I should add the b2b midfielder will also play a crucial role.

In Pod, Giroud and Cazorla we have players who can do their job really well, and as they are all entering their second season in the PL and are in the very best years of a footballer’s career, more can be expected of them. Maybe, it will be one of them who will bring that bit of extra dimension next season. Cazorla has definitely come a long way in providing it for us last season.

There could be an unexpected semi-spark/dimension from one of the youngsters: Yaya Sanogo, Gnabry, Eisfeld, Ryo, etc. You just never know!

But I am going to go for  at least one, if not two, of the super talents of Theo, Ox and Jack. A fully fit Jack will make a tremendous difference this season; Theo is likely to progress further as a winger/striker and might reach that extra-dimension level; but my hard cash is on the Ox.

There is something about the body language of AOC that makes me think he is ready for the big stage. Our number 15 will become twenty years old two days before the start of the new PL season, and I reckon this will be his breakthrough year. There is something about his posture, his facial expressions, and his general demeanour that makes me think he will be the one this season. It is just a gut-feeling, but my gut is feeling good! 🙂

The Ox: ready to add the extra spark next season?
The Ox: ready to add the extra spark next season?

I am still hoping we add some extra-spark from outside this summer, and I am sure we will, but we might (also) get a lot of fun from a guy we have been developing to start firing from all cylinders on the biggest stage:  I reckon the Ox has sharpened his horns now and is ready to take on the world.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Wigan Review & Player Ratings: Ox and Szczesny main sparks in dour contest.

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Arsenal’s consistent inability to follow up a fantastic victory continues to be a concern, but at least we were able to come out of today’s clash with a much-needed three points. 

We always knew that today’s clash with Wigan Athletic would be a difficult contest, and this was the type of persevering victory that Arsenal needed to establish some semblance of consistency.  The wet, heavy pitch could have been a determining factor in our poor play since we rely heavily on passing and ball control.

Wigan started off the game with high pressure defensively, taking away Arsenal’s coveted time and space.  In possession, Wigan were very settled and knocked the ball around well.  They pushed forward successfully down the flanks to no avail, as both Beausejour and Stam wasted many crosses in the final third.  Wigan lived up to McManaman’s criticism of giving away the ball on numerous occasions, and this eventually allowed Arsenal to ease into the game.

However, it was very tough to break down Wigan in the first half as they successfully congested the middle of the pitch.

Throughout most of the contest, Arsenal found it very difficult to replicate the form of our last game, and the players seemed very tense and overly cautious in attack.  As the game continued, Wigan afforded Arsenal more space and the Ox eventually gave us the spark needed to break out offensively.  This eventually led to a few quality scoring chances but teammates were not able to get on the end of his crosses, and Theo missed a fantastic chance to convert one of his low crosses.

Fortunately, Arsenal were able to break through in the second half with a nice pass from Santi to Walcott in the box that subsequently led to a penalty, which Arteta finished clinically from the spot.

Defensively there were mental lapses once again, but we were able to grind out the victory and we were not punished for our mistakes.  Worth noting was that Vermaelen and Mertesacker were poor defensively for a good portion of the game which allowed Kone to get in behind them in the first half, but luckily he wasted the chance wide.

Now onto the player ratings from today’s game:

Szczesny (9.0) – I thought he was our best player today and has really provided the squad with stability.  Szczes kept us in the game with big saves and made some intelligent, aggressive decisions to challenge the Wigan forwards.  Well-deserved clean sheet and performances like these will be needed from him, if we’re to win  games when we are not at our best.

Gibbs (8.0) – Not as influential offensively as last game, but the blame should be placed more on Podolski’s lack of support opposed to a knock on Gibbs.  Defensively, Gibbs was solid and made some key tackles to break up the Wigan offense throughout the game.  Still, I was hoping to see more from him and the blossoming left flank partnership from last game let me down.

Vermaelen (6.5) – I was appalled at his questionable missed challenge on Kone in the first half that led to a good Wigan scoring opportunity.  This was only compounded by further poor concentration in coverage that later led to Kone getting behind himself and Mertesacker for a clear chance on goal.  He eventually settled down and more importantly, the defense did not concede any goals.  However, a much better effort is needed from our captain and those defensive lapses need to be addressed going forward.

Mertesacker (6.5) – I thought the weakness in our defense lay with the two center backs today: together with Vermaelen, Mertesacker’s lack of pace and concentration, almost led to Kone scoring for Wigan.  He played his routine safe game by just clearing the ball, but gave Wigan some unnecessary second chance opportunities from corner kicks when not even under pressure.  Just as I said with Vermaelen; we didn’t concede any goals against Wigan so perhaps I’m being harsh, but some players need to answer for poor performances and Mertesacker is one of them.  He did however break up a crucial play on a 2 v 1 by clearing Stam’s cross pass to Kone in the second half.

Sagna (8.0) – Both fullbacks played solid games defensively and kept Wigan’s offence in check.  Much like last game, I want to see Sagna more involved offensively, but I’m glad he honored his defensive duties first.  Nothing spectacular here, but I’m happy if he can consistently perform like he did today.

Arteta (8.5) – Continues to be our most consistent performer this season and always shows composure and intelligent ball distribution (aside from the Fulham game which was a disaster for him and he wasn’t great vs. the Spuds either).  Won the ball back cleanly on a few occasions and has done everything one could ask for from a holding midfielder.  Had a nice involvement offensively on a run forward in the first half and played a nice final ball, that almost led to an Oxlade-Chamberlain goal.  Arteta scored the lone goal on a well taken, confident penalty kick.

Wilshere (7.0) – This was not one of Jack’s best performances and the team’s overall performance seemed to be directly correlated with his.  He misplaced more passes than usual today, but did not commit any serious mistakes and was unfairly penalized with a yellow card on a perfectly clean tackle.  Still, he was not as influential as usual, and I’d like to see him running up field with the ball more frequently.  Wilshere did play well defensively, breaking up the play with sliding challenges a few times.

Cazorla (7.0) – He definitely came out flat today and Wigan was smart to take away his space and close down on him early after his performance against Reading.  Santi uncharacteristically turned the ball over several times on some poor first touches, over dribbling and careless passing.  His slick pass to Walcott that eventually led to Arsenal’s only goal, was the only outstanding bit of work from him.  He wasn’t horrible but you definitely come to expect more from our main offensive distributor.

Podolski (5.5) – He pulled his typical Houdini act today and was pretty much absent for most of the game.  Of all the players who started against Wigan, I was the most disappointed with Podolski after his inspiring run out against Reading.  He created nothing offensively, was not involved defensively, did not link up with Gibbs and seemed to hardly move on the pitch.  I thought he should have been the first player substituted off, and his poor performance allowed Wigan to congest the middle of the pitch.

Walcott (6.5) – He looked lost as the central striker today and Martinez and Wigan must have carefully analyzed the Reading game film from Monday.  Theo wasn’t able to stretch the defense at all and wasted a good opportunity created by Ox, by shooting it right at Al Habsi in the second half.  He did show some intelligent movement by getting himself into good positions to score, eventually drawing a crucial penalty, but like Podolski, he was pretty non-existent most of the time.  It will be interesting to see if he can rebound vs. Newcastle next weekend.

Oxlade-Chamberlain (9.0) – Except for Szczesny, he was the most outstanding player on the pitch today.  Ox displayed great pace, confidence in taking on defenders and provided some nice offensive scoring chances with in-swinging crosses into the opponent’s 18-yard box.  He finally seems to be finding his form from last season and I absolutely loved this lad’s lively performance on the right flank.  However, Ox was guilty of over-dribbling and taking too much on his own, which led to a few unnecessary turnovers in the final third.  The best is yet to come from him and I think he’ll make the right wing position his own this season.

Ramsey, Coquelin, Koscielny (Incomplete) – None really had an opportunity to make an impact on the game, though Koscielny had a good clearance with his head late in the game, and Coquelin made a couple of nice sliding challenges to win the ball back.  However, Coquelin looked unsure when in possession of the ball and this almost led to a few turnovers in our own half.  Ramsey looked poor once again in his cameo appearance and why Wenger insists on playing him baffles me.  He constantly gives away the ball, is poor defensively, lacks pace and looks out of his element on the right wing.  Perhaps his poor performances are associated with inconsistent playing time, but it appears a loan move to another club may be the best for his development.

It is worrisome that we needed a penalty kick to find the score sheet and this poor performance is something to keep in mind for the coming games.  AW’s decision to substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 75th minute was shocking and as a result, we quickly lost any momentum we had gained from Arteta’s goal. 

I expect the week off to be beneficial for our squad to get some much-needed rest and to re-group before facing Newcastle on the 29th.  All in all, not one of our best performances but top teams still need to pick up three points from these kinds of games, and we did.  Pulling out this type of victory is exactly what Arsenal needed and gives our players the confidence to know that we can still win games when not at our best.

Written by: The Gooner.

Little Mozart is back, Meade in Britain, but too many underperformed tonight.

Eleven conclusions from the game:

  1. Rosicky’s first half performance was a joy to behold. As was so often the case last season, when TR7 plays our whole team has shape and focus, and plays with real determination. The difference between the first and second half could not have been bigger. It was as if our team had no spine anymore without Rosicky. The only good thing to take from this is that if – and that is a big IF – he can stay fit, our first team is bound to become stronger in the next few weeks.
  2. Vermaelen is good at leading by example but he is best when he is being led by a level-headed co-defender with great organisational skills. Tonight he missed Mertesacker’s defensive leadership. Squillaci; what can I say? Ineffective and rusty, and he should really be moved on. But that will not happen until his contract runs out.
  3. Jernade Meade had a very good debut and well done to the young lad. He was fast and spiky, had generally a good awareness of the game being played around him, and I loved his drive and enthusiasm.
  4. Coquelin had a decent game and was one of the better players. I thought his attacking contributions were a lot better than the execution of his defensive duties. I really don’t see him as an option for DM at the moment, but his through balls and balls over the top in the first half were very good.
  5. The Ox is playing without his horns at the moment. I don’t know what his best position is, but he looked lost and lacking confidence and purpose. What has happened the The Ox who can take on players for fun, makes mazy runs and penetrates the box so easily?
  6. Chamakh worked hard and positioned himself well, especially in the first half. But he was rustier than the Titanic and his touch let him down so many times, I lost count of it. I reckon he will play one more game against Bradford and that will be it.
  7. Arshavin; was he in Athens? To me it looked like he was longing to be left alone on the Tundra of his beloved Mother Russia. Another one who is very likely to simply sit out his contract – as it is almost impossible to move him on.
  8. This was also a big test for Aaron Ramsey, in my view. AR16 is not making the required progress in his career, and tonight he had another game that was full of hard work and determination, but so very little end-product. A real shame, but I reckon Aaron will not become a regular in our first squad any time soon – and he will have to work very hard to stay in the wider squad this season.
  9. Szczesny did not have a bad game, but his distribution put us under unnecessary pressure more than once during the game. Both his decision making and execution with regards to his distribution need to improve significantly, if he wants to make it at Arsenal as our nr1 GK.
  10. Jenkinson had a poor second half: his concentration and positioning were well below par and he did not stay tight enough to his man on more than one occasion. Another one who was missing the organisational leadership skills of Mertesacker tonight.
  11. Gervinho did not have a good second half either; and his decision making, touch and shooting ability let him down far too many times tonight (except for the well spotted, and coolly executed, assist for TR7’s goal). Is it a lack of form, or have I been wrong all along regarding his abilities / value to the team?

We can take from the game the big positives of Rosicky being back with a bang and Meade having a fine debut at LB, but other than that we are left with far too many negatives.

The result, and the fact that we finished second in the group hardly matter, but what does matter is that so many players did not use this opportunity to show us why they should be playing in Arsenal’s first team.

Total Arsenal.