Preview | Line-Up: Jack in hole, Nacho CB, Bellerin RB, Rosicky to support Arteta?

Inter-lull over and six games to go to the next break. Big players missing in all areas of the pitch, but still a more than decent squad to choose from. The mission is clear after allowing the gap with the Chavs go to nine points: start a winning streak by focussing on each and every game like a cup final. The most important game is always the next one as we live by the principle of OGAAT, or OVAAT: one victory at a time. And we will not be struggling much to treat the home against Hull as a cup final, given they were our opponents in the last FA Cup final just five months ago.

Cup

I like Steve Bruce. A decent guy: humble and enthusiastic, down to earth and fair – and with the sort of nose that makes you wonder what he sounds like when deep asleep. He is also a survivor and what he has done with Hull is pretty amazing all-round. Diame, Livermore and Huddlestone will form a strong central wall in their anticipated 3-5-2 formation, so I reckon we will need to be strong and disciplined in our midfield. If we crack it we will be fine.

After Arsene’s recent evaluation of Jack’s core strengths, it is clear to me we will find him play in the hole, or their about, today. He said on Arsenal.com: ‘

“Jack is not a ball-winner. I believe he is more a guy you want to get close to the final third, [if you] keep him deep you take a big part of his efficiency away.

“He is a guy who likes to penetrate when there are many people – he can provoke free-kicks, he can create openings. It would be detrimental to his strengths [to play in a position that] is not his strength.”

I hope fellow Gooners will remember these words as it will aid discussions on where Jack will play in Arsene’s team this season. We need some strengths and discipline behind him though, yet with the ability to give extra support in attack as much as possible. Who can do that well? Rosicky. So, I expect him to play next to Arteta, with both Ox and Flamini kept on the bench for a late cameo, or to be fresh for the Anderlecht game.

With injuries to Koz and Debuchy, and Chambers being suspended, the defence picks itself to a large extent. Maybe Flamini will move next to the BFG (on either side), but I have gone for Nacho, with Gibbs and Bellerin as our FBs.

Ox could start instead of Cazorla but I reckon Arsene will go for experience, and having Ox on the bench is a great weapon at hand. Alexis on the left and the Wel up top and that is it my fine fellow Gooners.

Predicted Line-UP:

Ars v Hull Oct 14

I cannot wait for the game to start. The one benefit of the narrow loss against the Chavs is it will have made us grounded and focussed. So Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners – the League starts again, here, today! Super OGAAT! as 17HT called it this week. 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

What to do with BFG and Arteta/Flamini?

How to add speed and dynamism to the CBs-DM triangle?

Watching Holland battle against ‘minnows’ Kazakhstan and Iceland over the last few days, made me think about Arsenal. The similarities were quite strong. Against both teams the Dutch conceded an early goal and after that it was the typical battle against the parked busses. Both Kazakhstan and Iceland cannot be blamed for sitting back and defending a lead with all they have got, but the Dutch team can be blamed for conceding early in both games. They made it so hard for themselves and it is exactly what Arsenal so often do to themselves as well.

Beating the parked busses is becoming harder and harder, it seems. Teams are better drilled than ever and they love fighting for each other till the very end. The Dutch have formidable, classical wingers in Lens and Robben, very good CFs in Van Judas and the Hunter, and a couple of decent playmakers in Sneijder and Afellay. Yet, they struggled long against Kazakhstan and needed a fair portion of luck (soft penalty and strong deflection) to get past them; and against Iceland they got totally frozen out, never managing to score after going 2-0 behind in the first half.

The BFG - great beast
The BFG is ready!

How many times have we seen Arsenal struggle in a similar way over the last few season, despite having fantastic attackers and midfielders on the pitch?

It is so important to find a balance between urgency and concentration when attempting to crack the PTBs, but this is all made that bit harder when a team is trailing. If Holland cannot crack them with the players mentioned above – and I reckon Germany and Spain have struggled in a similar vain over the last week – it might explain to some extent why we are struggling so often as well. Especially, as we also have a tendency to go behind to some dodgy defending (set pieces or counterattack).

Having a solid defence is of course key.

Teams like Arsenal and Holland will always prefer to attack and therefore run the risk of being vulnerable at the back. The Dutch continual weakness in defence has held back a whole generation of talented footballers, and I reckon it is fair to say the same about our beloved Arsenal.

From the goalkeeper to the CBs(pairing) and our left back, we just have not been able to get both quality and stability in these key positions for a long time now. Moreover, Arsene and Steve have not been able to get them to work as a solid unit. Last season saw a big improvement in many ways, with a large number of clean sheets and a strong away record, but it all fell down when we faced the stronger teams, with embarrassing mega losses rattling the most positive minded Gooners in the process. We conceded 41 goals and managed a goal difference of only +27 in the PL, whereas the champions conceded only four less but ended up with an eye-watering goal difference of +65. One could argue that we should have scored a lot more goals rather than worry about our defensive record during the previous season. I would agree with that to some extent, but going forward Arsenal need to focus on both areas in order to make the next step up.

Arteta, always giving his all
Arteta, always giving his all

Many of us have argued that the least we must do is protect the back four better with a quality, athletic, beast of a DM. Every summer we are apparently looking for one but, for whatever reason, we end up with zilch every time.

I am a big fan of the BFG and reckon that his obvious shortcomings – lack of speed and ‘turnability’ when playing higher up the pitch – can be compensated within the team, so that his clear strengths – organisation of defence, headers, positioning, blocks, leadership – can shine through. The question is, however, whether we can play a relatively slow and ageing DM in either Arteta or Flamini in front of him…. and whether we can allow our FBs to bomb forward so much as they often do either.

Can we really afford to have so much slowness in the centre of defence and midfield whilst playing attacking, possession football?

I also rate both Flamini and Arteta enough to feel they have a place in the team/squad, but am concerned whether their and the BFG’s the lack of speed and dynamism can be compensated for in the same starting eleven. I reckon we will not make significant progress until Arsene adds speed and dynamisms – from within or the market –  in either area. In a few years, Chambers can fill the void, either at the back or in the DM position, but it would be foolish to start counting on him now. As we saw this week in his games for England, Calum is a work in progress despite a truly phenomenal start for the mighty Arsenal. Let’s use him but not abuse him.

In Gibbs, Debuchy and Koz we have potentially solid defenders capable of now forming a high-quality defence that can aid the attack as well. The goalkeeper position remains open for debate. Szczesny continues to divide opinion with mixing the sublime with the ridiculous from one game to the next, and we have not seen enough of Ospina to see whether he would bring more stability and quality to the defence. Wojciech’s impressive performance against Germany could be the start of a more solid and focussed period, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for another season at least.

I realise that our attack needs to score a lot more goals as well, and as Liverpool almost showed last season, if we score more than we concede we can go all the way to winning the PL. But to really make progress long term, and to have a better chance against fellow top teams, we need to add speed, athleticism and dynamism in the triangle of CBs and DM. To do so, something has to give.

So my questions to you are:

  1. Do you agree and why (not)?
  2. What should Wenger do to add speed and dynamism to the ‘triangle’?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

 

Welbeck needs Thierry | Bellerin no RB | Arteta Aging: Post-Match Analysis

Dortmund v Arsenal

The Verdict

Arteta, no nicer and more professional guy around, but is it time to bench our captain?
Arteta, no nicer and more professional guy around, but is it time to bench our captain?

Let’s be honest now, I am not sure there is a side in the Premier League that would have withstood the battering we took last night? There are several who would have had more success on the counter attack than we did, including our next opponents Aston Villa. But hats off to Dortmund: Klopp had them up and ready. Every player was on board with what had to be done, and they were fit enough to carry it off.

From an Arsenal perspective, disappointing doesn’t cover it. Part of that problem lies with our high expectation for this season, and some results have given plenty a reason to believe it was in their grasp. The easy win in the Community Shield, taken at face value, it might. The truth was a little different? The resurgence of Wilshere and the 4-1-4-1 formation in the previous game against Man City gave hope of a similar line-up to do the business against a far better opponent.

Again the reality revealed flaws. The few opportunities that people saw of Bellerin pre-season, agreed with Arsene Wenger that he was ready for the step up? This was confirmed on the vote ‘Who will make the most impact this season’ (from the academy), and 62% had made Bellerin the clear winner ahead of Akpom. Regulars of this site will know I have been longing for Bellerin to have some game time, as I am a great fan, but my vote went with the 2% realists who see more coming from Isaac Hayden than young Hector. To me, he is a natural born winger who can tackle. That does not make him a right back, no matter how much Arsene wants it. He will always commit to whatever was asked of him, as he did last night, and if he is asked to go in again, he will not hesitate. But without any premier league minutes under his belt, it was asking a lot … but he will learn from it, not shirk from it.

I am beginning to think that both Per Mertersacker and Ozil are still mentally adjusting to life in the league, and only their experience is getting them through games. Such a contrast to the confident decision making that we saw last season, that is barely recognisable now?

Here again, the expectation level from our new signings, which certainly has had its bright moments; but to gel as a team, the cracks start to appear, and the optimism quickly fades away?

How to take positives out of a game when only one player came out unblemished by error, is difficult. But history tells us that Arsenal do bounce back. The Villa shock result last season is a good example. This was certainly a wake up call in every department. Not an easy fix this time, without assistance from our manager?

Most of our problems stem from poor decision making, under extreme pressure it has to be said, but it is not a good enough excuse. We know who they are, and the stats back this up.

Bellerin we can give some leeway to for the above reasons, and despite being up against it, he made second highest passes behind Wilshere, and 13 of the 19 in the final third.

Szczesny has no such leeway when dillydallying over a clearance that could have cost us another goal, as he is a repeat offender! He did of course pull off some superb stops which saved us from real embarrassment.

Mertersacker, normally the safest of player to play out of defence, but time and again passes were being intercepted. He did make several headed clearances, but also was caught up-field, and no matter how hard he tried, the lack of pace to get back was revealed to all? We were chasing the game in the second half, to be fair, but why were so many bodies committed to attack with seconds to go before half-time? Poor judgement call again, by somebody?

Koscielny really put a defensive shift, and if it wasn’t for the misplaced passes, he could have taken MOTM in a canter. There were just too many of those, but he comes away in credit overall?

Gibbs was probably the pick of players playing to their form. 2 from 2 in tackles, and made a great run into the box to lay on a guilt edge chance for Welbeck, who just hasn’t got that edge of an instinctive striker (at the moment) to take a half yard step back so the ball would fall to his feet. Instead he got tangled up in trying to adjust and missed the opportunity. Gibbs had another opportunity in the box, but that too was not to be. He made 6 interceptions too, so he at least is near the top of his game. However, he was involved in the attack down the left, just before half time that led to the first Dortmund goal. Quick as he is, from that deep he arrived just too late to be in a position to tackle Immobile.

Wilshere was left trailing in that breakaway, and allowed that multi cup winning (NOT! ex manager) Souness in the studio to moan at him for not making the effort. Ignoring the fact that Wilshere is not a Gibbs or a Bellerin, having only a short burst of pace, not a 35 yard lung buster? He did have the highest number of passes, in a game of low figures, at 49, but only 1 successful one in their box? He did win 5 of his 6 tackles which showed his battling qualities against overwhelming odds, but it was a far cry of the promise of the previous game? He started to show his brittle side towards the end, and got a needless yellow card for a stupid foul. On a bad night, he was one among many who failed to live up to expectation.

Arteta? If I am kind, I would say he almost matched expectation, in that he was the wrong choice, (if there was a choice?) in the wrong position, weakly supported by the wrong players .. and that goes partly towards my expectation of him being too slow, and he failed to reach that level. It is almost like he has aged 3 years since the end of last season, and he is now looking like a player well on the way down. But to be fair to him, he should never have been put in the game of high speed tackling? The 20% pass failure rate for that position says it all?

Ramsey, for a player who often hits the 100 mark for pass completion, but a lowly 39 tells you how far below his best he is? Going forward he did set up a chance for Welbeck, but a single positive in a game of this magnitude is what he is struggling with?

Ozil, what can I say? Our main creative midfielder only had 23 passes, and only 3 in the final 3rd???

We are not going to win many games with that kind of service? He tried both wings, ran deep on Bellerin’s side, got booked for a none-tackle, but totally ineffective in anywhere it mattered.

‘Houston, we have a problem’ …

Alexis, industrious? hard working? These are the words we have come accustomed to associate with our super hero. 6 successful dribbles out of 9 sounds great too. Poor first touch does not gel so well? He was dispossessed 5 times, and several passes/touches led to turnovers, and crucially this would be at a time when we were attacking, and thus vulnerable to a counter. Part of this is probably down to the gelling process with team mates, and that has not had time to work through? But maybe there is a little clarity appearing in the rose tint department? He has got to get on the same wavelength or his talents will be wasted too?

Welbeck, sods law he will be second behind Ozil for the biggest criticism, but again, he can be given some leeway. If Arsene had any doubts about signing him, it is probably because he requires a different service to OG, and they may unlearn all they have been doing for the last two seasons? He is not OG, and he probably never will be? However, confidence can do wonders for a striker. He came into the side full of it, but that near miss against Man City probably took the edge off it. Here again, he had a chance to put one in at the far post, but body angle, or not twisting the foot back enough, made this attempt squirm wider than the other. These things will come.

Where is Thierry Henry when you want him, because he is just the player to help him in this department? He will come good, but in games like this, the pressure for every attempt to succeed is immense.

Subs:

Cazorla, should have made a difference if it was Ozil that was failing? I have to say, he was on 5 or 10 minutes before I remembered he was a sub. He was never going to save the day because the game had gone by then.

Ox looked lively from the off, and forced a corner almost immediately. But like Santi, the good ship Arsenal had already taken on board too much water, and its movement was sluggish.

Podolski came on with only ten minutes left, and got one driving run into the box, but the keeper was out quickly and it spilled out for a goal kick.

So that was my view on individual performances. Now for the collective?

Formation: Was this to blame?

While they notionally lined up in a 4-1-4-1, it never remained that way. For pretty much the first 30 minutes we were compressed into a 4-5-1 defensive position, with only Welbeck high. The flurry of early corners, and hasty clearances that led to yet another loss of possession, it was more all hands to the pump, rather than a clearly thought out plan. So that part cannot be put down to the formation?

Going forwards, when we started to get a foothold in the game, for the most part it broke down as we crossed the halfway line. However, following a very good build up, a missed chance which resulted in a throw in to us in the final third, we had 8 or 9 of our players in their half? Only Koscielny and Szczesny at one point in ours. So when we lost possession, and Immobile set off, Kos was about 5 yards ahead of him, Mertersacker had just crossed the halfway line about the same distance back but nearer our right-hand touchline, and Gibbs, who was guarding our left flank just inside their half. He had a good 10 yards to make up. Wilshere also joined the chase, but barely caught up with Mertersacker. The climax came when Immobile reached the box and it looked like Kos had it covered. Gibbs was right on his heels by now, and if the striker had run to the byline he could have got his tackle in. As luck would have it, a bit of a bobble off Immobile’s knee that took it away from Gibbs position, but the striker used that to get ahead of Kos to score.

A real sickener on the stroke of half time, but you have to wonder at the thinking of so many bodies involved in the attack. If Gibbs, who had been involved in the early part of the attack had dropped back inside our half, Kos might have been that bit deeper? Who knows?

The second half started how the first finished. Immobile chipped a great ball on to Aubamayang, who split the two CBs, and Szczesny came out and slipped at the vital moment. PEA also nearly went down himself, but just kept his feet to slip the ball into the net before Kos had a chance to recover.

From then on we did not look that threatening,… only threatened.

Szczesny came out to make a flying header with the full knowledge the collision with PEA was unlikely that he would be the damaged party, but once he had launched himself into the header, there were no brakes in mid air.

Kos also nearly did himself a mischief, colliding with a goal post in an attempt to avert yet another goal. Only the usual 65 minute subs did lift our attack somewhat, but we continued to look vulnerable. In fact, Mik the prick, having got himself booked in the opening few minutes for a blatant dive, seemed to be so intent scoring, it screwed him up completely. There was one breakaway where they were three on two… our two CB’s … he chose to shoot, high and handsome. Like I said, what a prick!

There are so few positives coming out of the game, except the one from history. Is this the giant kick up the backside that shakes this mental lethargy out of their system?

We have to hope so, but what is baffling is that so many had a poor game?

Perhaps it is simple case of trying too hard. Certainly with Ramsey we have seen it all before. He was even doing those heel flicks again?? Wilshere cannot lift the team on his own. Alexis too needs to settle more. Mert needs to get his calm, dependable head back on. Ozil needs a quiet corner somewhere and completely regroup. Arteta really needs to face up to life on the bench, especially after January? Will Walcott return bring a shape to our attack, when he returns? Will Chambers hold down the RB slot, and not get moved sideways for a crisis CB role? Will somebody give Hayden a run out before he is called into full time action?

Questions.Questions.Questions.

The only ones who can prove some of the answers will be out on Saturday against Gabby and his gang of thugs….

The reality of our form looks pretty bleak, but we have a few fresh bodies to throw into the mix, so like last season’s blip, our season starts now.

Keep the faith. 

Written by: Gerry.

Time to hand the armband to the BFG

The BFG is ready!
The BFG: our future skipper?!

Per Mertesacker to become Arsenal captain next season?

First of all, I would like to say, TotalArsenal our own Bergkampesque skipper has sadly lost a loved one. I want to offer my sympathy and support in this tough time. We are a tight group on this site; Frank (totalArsenal) is always there with some kind words whenever another member reveals some tough moments in there lives. A truly nice bloke, so this is why I have chosen to write my maiden post today to lighten the load on him, and if anyone else has a topic they wish to post, now would probably be a great time to do it.

(Written pre- FA cup final)

Ok, I know this topic has been raised before but I feel it now has gone to a different level. I will explain why I would really like to see the Big F*****g German take the armband in front of Thomas and Arteta (vice-captain) next season.

The moment that has cemented the BFG’s march for captaincy was in the FA cup semi-final v Wigan. When Wigan got a penalty and Gomez scored it, I was very nervous: the thoughts of Birmingham in league cup final came flooding back. The similarities were very close. That day it was a Laurent Koscielny mistake, and this time Per had brought a player down which cost us a penalty .Mertesacker, a Gooner – a man who loves the club – was clearly stressed about this: one mistimed tackle could cost us silver again, another year without :/ . But he fought on kept his composer and gave his all to put it right; and he did so when he popped up in the box as our furthest man forward and calmly guided his diving header into the net like a world-class striker on a training pitch.

For me, that was the moment he totally proved he is the man to skipper Arsenal! You could see the emotion in him as he celebrated, he truly felt the burden of what if that penalty cost us the cup.

Now it’s one thing to try to make up for your mistakes and take it on yourself to put it right, but its a whole lot more special and telling when someone actually does it, as Per did. He will probably captain Germany this summer at the Brazilian world cup. His age and experience are perfect. We have a English- German core in our team now with Podolski, Ozil, Zaleem and Gnabry, and young Eisfeld a promising great young player. I think he will be in our first team next season; by the way, I would give him Kallstroms place next season.

Back to Per; for me the way he responded to his penalty mistake was every bit the leader legend role of a John Terry or Vincent Kompany. He is solid and it does feel to me like the best skippers come from defence: a position where you can read the game and defend your team – he is also vocal.

Post-Game

There is no reason that this should undermine TV5. Easier said than done, I know, and to be fair it will a little, but the manager just needs to say to him that he wants him to be the same way as he is now; he too is a leader and a great player imo. He should continue to be a leader and give his full support, but while he is not in the side Per should captain the team.

GREAT NEWS

Laurent Kosielny has signed a new long term contract so Munich can do one!

This really is great news because it continues to show that the days where we are selling our best players is over!

Best CB-pairing in the league
Best CB-pairing in the league

Kos and Per are our foundation, and while I hope Sagna also signs a new deal, he is ageing and perhaps it’s time to let Jenkinson take over; that said, you do need two very good players in every position, so for me, losing Sagna is still a very big loss. Not to mention that he can cover at CB, to replace Per with a player of equal quality. He does not need to be trained to get up to speed straight away and an external replacement would surely cost at least £15,000,000. That considered, to me it makes sense to just give him a high wage. However, our club is very shrewd with the maths, so surly they must have thought of this??? It seems clear to me, but hay I don’t know all the ins and outs.

Your thoughts, ladies and gents?

Written by: proudgooner

Sanogo the difference, last game for Pod & other post FA cup thoughts

Post FA CUP Final observations by Gerry.

Good morning all. And what a fine day it is to be free of the … ‘not having won a trophy in X number of years’tag. Such relief. Congrats to all the team, who played as a team when they needed to. Job done … The hard way, of course?

Wenger

I have spent the last hour reading all the comments, and I went with that flow too. I missed the equalizer (dog), but managed to see it out to he end. Annoyingly, the high pressure that brings us all the fine weather also gives me an occasional weak signal, thus rendering my recording a bit of a waste. Luckily, switching channels to watch it ‘live’ resulted in an upturn in our fortune on the pitch as well.

Just a few observations:

Starting with Geoff’s point in previous post (@01.39). Having a player close to Giroud makes him look a far better player with that extra yard or two of extra space. And that is saying something when it is a raw kid like Sanogo who still has so much to improve upon, can do that? Imagine what somebody with experience would do?

Sanogo. So, so very unlucky not to have broken his scoring duck by now. A wrongly disallowed goal in an earlier game. Finger tip touch in this with Giro-esque twist-turn-and shoot that might well have gone in off the post in this, along with other half-chances. If he can get his feet to do what his brain tells them to do, he will be something special. At the moment his first touch is clumsy to say the least. He has that long leg Diaby-like stick ability in tight situations, and can often come away with the ball when he has no right to it. But for all his flaws and limitations, he was the player we needed in this game, for his pace, effort, movement, and that occasional successful stickabilty that led to the winning goal. If they give out points for pre, pre, assists, then his part in that goal will be seen time and time again, with endless replays on the television, as a very special moment. I hope he will come good in years to come, and does not get drowned out by the clamour for that big signing.

Podolski. He suffers when he cannot start his play from the halfway line, imo. Guilty for the first goal for walking away before the danger was cleared. Not even playing the guy he was leaving off-side because Gibbs remained at his post on the goal line. But that is what you get when you play a forwards who is not naturally defensive minded? In the end his forward threat his lost from his starting position. Even young Yaya above, never shirked the defensive duty when needed, and had the pace of youth to get back up in attack.
Thank you Poldi for all your great goals, but I think you have probably played your last game in an Arsenal shirt?

Ozil. Criticism will come his way, but unfairly imo. The one thing Ozil needs is movement round him. Until Sanogo came on there was very little. Thus his passing game was made redundant. You can praise Hull’s tactics for much of this. They had a man on Arteta to keep him back. They were quick to pounce on Giroud when anything came his way, fairly and unfairly, it got the same result. Ramsey was kept back deeper because of the numbers they had in midfield, and Podolski rarely had a chance to run with it either. Luckily, as has been mentioned in comments above, he is a team player, and he will keep going for the team throughout the whole 120 minutes.

Cazorla. Worked his magic on the free kick. perhaps the goalie was at fault for not entirely trusting his ‘wall’ to do its job, as when he saw who had taken the kick, he took a half step to his right. which meant he was caught out by both the pace and accuracy of Santi’s shot. Where 9 times out of 10 going to where the keeper is, they will get saved. This one was one that didn’t. That apart, Santi worked hard against a disciplined defence, and few opportunities. occasionally his free roaming meant he was crowding out the space that Ramsey might run into, but overall a solid game, without too many decisive moments.

Arteta. I thought he had one of his better games, given the limitation of his pace, or the lack of. He was the main outlet ball out of defence, when played short, and was there to for Gibbs, as he was closed down quickly early on. However, he is another who will find game-time in short supply if the TW goes our way? Suggest he spends time getting his coaching badges?

Gibbs – Roundly criticised for missing the sitter, but that does not take away from his overall contribution. Nor should it be forgotten that he got in that position to miss the sitter, which, by rights, should have been a Poldi/Ramsey/Cazorla option? And let’s not forget his clearance off the line that saved us from going 3-0 down. He made numerous, and often unused runs down the left. Had a couple of half chances to feed a pass into the box, but failed for one reason or another. Where he excelled was being the last defender back on our set pieces. And also, when Fab went ‘Flappy’ near the end of the 120 minutes, he made another 30 yard dash to cover the open goal shot that ended up going wide. Should he ever get an injury free season, and all the experience that goes with it, he will be every bit as good, if not better, than Ca$hly got to be, and unlike him, he is a Gunner for life.

Koscielny. Kos had a typical Kos-type game. Sound in defence .. for the most part. Always a threat in our set pieces. Scored with his feet! And then nearly threw all the praise away with a blunder at the death. Still our best 50% pairing though.

Mertersacker. Poor old Per. An absolute rock for 119 minutes, then slips, and it could have ended in disaster for him. Slow to get up? Well apart from being a big guy at the tail end of a highly disciplined performance, he had a right to expect Sanga or even Kos to be covering as he was up against ‘fresh legs’ Aluko? Fortune favoured him with the latter’s misplaced shot, after Fab made a fruitless attempt to save the day. Let that not take away from an otherwise strong leader’s game.
Fortunately, he will not be departing any time soon!

Sagna. Oh Bacary. Yes you could leave on this high note? But you could also stay? Hard to find a fault in an otherwise tireless game. Few opportunities to get decent crosses in, but put in a real shift, as always. If economics decides it, he will be hard to replace. perhaps never, in like for like.
If common sense prevails. and team unity, loyalty, and a true class player are properly rewarded, Bacs will get what he really wants?

Fabianski. Deserved his place in the side, and fully deserves his medal. At fault for either goal? Not really. The first was a well worked routine that came back into the box at pace. For the second he was somewhat let down by the defending(Poldi), that allowed his initial save to come off the past and bounce to the scorer. In commentary it was suggested that diving into the goal meant he was in no position to save the second attempt? That is a bit harsh, give the angle he was going for the ball. As it was he only narrowly missed injuring himself, so another foot or two to the right and he almost certainly would have clattered the post, and that could have been far more costly? He did make another really good save that got a slight deflection of a heel(Arteta?) down to his right which made the difference between a finger tip touch or a full hand to it, but he still turned it around the post. Like Per, he was lucky late on, but overall another sound game.

Subs Wilshere and Rosicky had the same effect that the Hull subs did, by giving energy and focus to an otherwise tiring attack. And it made the difference for us, but not quite for them. Coming on for the last 20minutes of normal time might have been the obvious time, but we may well have lost our eventual goal scorer? Playing from the start is another question entirely, and one I do not intend answering.

Written by: Gerry.

Superb Ozil, Uber-Cool Arteta and Gunning Giroud take Arsenal to Wembley

A glorious win on a glorious early March – late winter – sunny day.

The superb but always humble Ozil played one of  his best games for Arsenal against Everton.
The superb but always humble Ozil played one of his best games for Arsenal against Everton.

The line-up promised an ideal balance between solidity at the back – with both Flamini and Arteta providing extra cover in the centre – and attacking thrust up-front. The inclusion of Sanogo, Ox and Ozil, supported by the fast and attack-minded full backs Sagna and Gibbs, offered a lot more driving force and speed than our line-up  against the Orcs a week ago, when the combination of Pod, Santi, Giroud and – to a lesser extent – Rosicky made us look one dimensional and slow. What a difference a line-up makes?

We scored a sweet early goal from a quick move that saw Santi delivering a perfectly weighted forward ball into the path of Ozil: the German genius, who had already produced a number of fine passes and near-assist, finished calm and with precision, and it was good to see what the goal meant to him, the rest of the team and the fans. Let there be love!

Everton are strong through the middle and have plenty of thrust and speed themselves, and especially Arteta and Flamini had their hands full. They both worked hard and put their hearts and souls into each and every game, but it was still clear that if we have an area that needs attention for these sort of games – or indeed even harder ones – it is the double DM pivot.

Everton’s equaliser was a good example of this. Ozil plays a straightforward ball along Everton’s box towards Arteta. The Spaniard does not fancy shooting with his left foot and lets the ball run past his body; and with two touches he tries to get himself in a good shooting position. His shot is easily anticipated and subsequently blocked, and from this Everton break forward through a determined run of the promising Barkley (leaving Arteta well behind). Ox and Flamini chase him initially but it is left to the Frenchman to sort Barkley out – Ox, in hindsight, would have been the better option. The Flame is already on a yellow card and cannot afford to make a risky, incisive tackle. Barkley is left free to put a good ball into the box from which Everton score with a little bit of luck in the process, although our defenders did not cover themselves in glory either. 1 – 1 and not totally undeserved.

Game on, and Everton deserve respect for the way they play us and try to dominate the game before and after the break. After the equaliser and until our penalty goal, the game is quite even. What decided the match was that we got away with our big mistake in defence and Everton did not.

Vermaelen somehow lost his footing and ‘air-kicked’ the ball, leading to a quick and decent chance for Barkley who had been fed the ball nicely by the always impressive Lukaku; fortunately ‘the new Rooney’ over-hits the ball and a decent chance is missed. Everton, however, do not get away with their defensive cock-up: Ox puts a lot of pressure on Barry in their penalty box to which the former English international player buckles, resulting in a ‘tired’ foul on the dynamic, full of thrust, AOC.

Arteta had to take the penalty twice – ridiculously, Clattenburg somehow felt like punishing Giroud for entering the box too early – but he put both away with calmness and precision: 2-1 to the Arsenal, and we all feel good again.

Arteta was under enormous pressure, given the recent big penalty miss by Ozil, the nervousness of the crowd, and the necessity to take two penalties in a row; and he did fantastically well. I dread to think what would have happened if he had missed the second one.

After that the game is played. Arsenal get more space, the crowd oozes confidence in the team through their passionate singing, the Everton legs are getting tired and the pure class we have in this team comes out – epitomised by the brilliant team-break goal for our fourth and last goal; especially Ozil’s assist for Giroud was sublime – stuff of football dreams.

Before that, for the all important third – two goal gap – goal, Sagna had applied great composure by holding the ball long enough right inside the box to pick the perfect pass for the fully refreshed and focussed Giroud, who only had to tap in once he received the perfectly weighted ball from his fellow Frenchman.

Arteta stepped up and kept his cool, twice!
Arteta stepped up and kept his cool, twice!

A great win on a glorious day and fantastic performances by Ox, Santi, Giroud and especially Ozil, who produced some exquisite football throughout the game. My man of the match performance goes to Arteta, though. Not just for his committed performance during the entire game (which was not without its shortcomings) but especially for his cool-headed and decisive penalty conversions. That made all the difference.

TotalArsenal.

Liverpool – Arsenal Afterthoughts: DM-pivot needs sorting out!

 

Arsene has got his work cut out to make the team bounce back once more.
Arsene has got his work cut out to make the team bounce back once more.

More than 24 hours after the debacle at Anfield, it is still not easy to come to terms with the devastating implosion of our team in just 1200 seconds.

Regular BKers know that I believe our first team players are not lazy and calculated but committed and passionate about our club. It is natural to want to point towards a lack of attitude by our players for this embarrassing performance, but I reckon this would be self-deceiving. Yesterday, technically and tactically we were not good enough and Arsene Wenger is the main culprit for this.

It would be a lot easier to blame a lack of passion and commitment as the main cause of our defeat, but on the day we were simply not good enough. It will now be key for Wenger and his players to show us this was just a bad day at the office.

In a nutshell, we lost the game through two horribly defended Pool set-pieces and a subsequent inability to turn the game round without leaving the door wide open for the Scousers’ deadly counter-attacks. And deadly they were.

As 17highburyterrace pointed out yesterday, nothing is more frustrating to watch than Mertesacker having to run back towards his own goal chasing the game. We lacked shape, organisation, composure, professionalism and, most of all, any dominance when it still mattered.

The set-pieces were defended badly by the whole of the team, as we looked all over the place (especially the second one), but our CBs should have taken better control of those situations.

It is also fair to say we were not able to match the energy of the Pool players at the start of the game. We knew we had it coming and we should have been prepared better for this.

As others have pointed out already this weekend, and as I have been saying since the start of the season, our weakest area is in the double-DM pivot. Without a fit Flamini we are a different team, especially against the top teams. And going forward we need to improve on Flamini as well if we really want to come close to beating the top teams on a regular basis (and win silverware).

We lost the battle in midfield as we were unable to match Pool’s energy and speed, and I am holding my breath for what is to come in the next few games, as we seem to have structural problems in this crucial area.

I like Arteta, but he is not the man to protect our back-four and lead our team in these kinds of matches. Keen observers will point out he was not fully fit and he did not get much support defensively from Jack (also not fully fit). I would agree with that, but even if Arteta had been fully fit he still would have struggled to protect and lead effectively on the day.

Arsene had a chance to properly strengthen the DM area during January but he chose not to. By all accounts, KK is another attack-minded midfielder rather than a defence-minded one. If this area turns out to be the area where we lose this season’s chances to win silverware, I will be very disappointed in Wenger. Let’s see what he will do next for the games against Manure, Liverpool and Munich.

But it was not just our DMs and CBs who were not good enough on the day; Cazorla, Ozil and Ox also had little or no impact on the game and Giroud was totally isolated. Our midfield only started to play as a bit of a unit in the second half, when it was far too late.

Without a good functioning DM-pivot the defence will not get the right protection and our attack will be left isolated. I cannot stress enough how vital the deeper laying midfield duo is to the overall effectiveness of the team. They are the brakes and gear box of the team.

I am confident that Mertesacker and Koscielny will sort out the defence again, but I have doubts about our ability to protect them and to dominate midfield play during the next few crucial games again. Wenger and Bould have their work cut out here, and let’s hope they will get it right.

TotalArsenal.

Time for TV5 to replace Flamini & Who to be our (b)Ox to (b)Ox player?

Time for our Lion of Flanders to motor us forwards again?
Time for our Lion of Flanders to motor us forwards again?

The transfer window closed without any reinforcement in our defence or attack. I said jokingly yesterday that Wenger was after a player starting with a ‘K’, as we were being linked with Klose, Kalou and Kim Kallstrom( KK). We got KK who is supposed to help out in the box to box position; but then he arrived already injured, apparently. If the squib wasn’t already damp enough last night, it became saturated this morning with the announcement that our only signing arrived with a back problem that will keep him out for at least six games.

I don’t know what to say, guys and girls…. So let’s move on.

With Flamini out and Arteta seemingly struggling with getting back to 100% fitness and form, we have to ask ourselves who can strengthen and reinvigorate the so important double DM pivot of our team. Flamini and Arteta looked slightly sluggish and disorganised against Southampton, and although I reckon the DM pivot will not be tested as much tomorrow as it was on Tuesday, we will need to make some changes to get the team motoring again.

We will do a pre-match tomorrow morning, during which we can discuss the best line-up against Crystal Pulis’ park-the-bus formation in more detail.

In this post, I would like to discuss what we can do to replace Flamini’s defensive and leadership qualities. Furthermore, it would be good to discuss who should play in the box to box position, now that Rambo and Wilshere look to be out for a few games at least.

I reckon we are missing a trick with leaving the enthusiastic and powerful Vermaelen on the bench for so many games. If Arteta is fully fit, he should normally play but if and when we need to have more steel in midfield – somebody who is good in the air and can tackle properly – Vermaelen could be our man. He also offers additional thrust and has a venomous long distance shot. On top of that, he offers presence and energy and he is now wise enough to contain himself when needed (I hope!).

The above is linked with the second question: who to play in our box to box role?

I am hoping Rosicky is recovered enough to play tomorrow, and in the foreseeable future, in this position. The combination of Arteta and Rosicky could work a treat, as both are experienced and multi-disciplined midfielders.

It would be good to have a second option, though, in case of fitness/injuries issues for Arteta and/or Rosicky. Should Santi play in the box to box role, next to Arteta? Wenger tried Ox there against Coventry recently, but that was with Jack providing the defensive cover (which is not his core strength, is it?). It did not really work and I reckon that either Cazorla or Ox can only play in the box to box role if they get proper defensive cover.

I have my doubts whether Arteta will be able to do this, especially in the big games coming up. Therefore, I am hoping Wenger is going to try something different here; and for me Vermaelen could be the answer to our midfield puzzle. With the Lion of Flanders protecting the back four, Rosicky, Ox, or Cazorla could play deeper whilst supporting the four in attack regularly. I could also see this being done by Nacho or Sagna, but TV5 is the best option of them all imo.

I would also like to see Ox play properly in the box to box role, although Rosicky will have to be our first option until Jack or Ramsey return.

What do you think fellow Gooners?

With Theo and Rambo out, and no additional striker bought in January, who are going to score our goals?

AB wrote this succinct comment which is directly linked to the above question:

TA you said it’s our midfield that delivers these [goals] – we don’t need more in the way of strikers. And I agree that’s the model that Wenger has built. But without Walcott and Ramsey, the model looks less sound. Oz and Ros are more creators than scorers, although I have never fully understood why given their technical skills. Gnab and Ox both look like they will score goals, but are yet to really break through on this front, and it’s too early to count on them. Which leaves Santi and Pod, both proven goal scorers. However, neither has hit sustained form this year (partially excused given injuries) and Wenger does not seem minded to play both together. They are going to be really important for us in the next 6 weeks – not least because Giroud is as much a space creator as he is a goal scorer.

This all adds up to goals being harder to come by in the next 15 games than they were earlier in the season. The importance of our defence being water-tight is therefore all the greater.

What do others think – where are the goals going to come from if we are to put 2 or 3 past opposing sides?”

What can I add to this?

I reckon, Wenger will need to start playing Pod more now, and with Santi possibly in the box to box role it could work a treat. We could play Pod – Ozil – Ox/Gnabry behind Giroud and Arteta/Vermaelen-Santi/Rosicky in the ‘DM’-pivot. We would have three regular goals scorers in the team with Pod, Giroud and Cazorla, whilst Ozil, Ox, Rosicky and Gnabry also can contribute. I don’t think it will lead to goal fests but it might be enough to win a lot of games, especially if our defence keeps performing so strongly…. for which we need a good replacement for Flamini…

What do you think fellow Gooners?

 

Written by: TotalArsenal

Arteta and Santi are Back, Ramsey roars on: Match Review

Match Review: Questions have been answered

StartingvsLiverpool

Liverpool came to the Emirates on Saturday looking to capitalize on Arsenal’s midweek slip up against Chelsea. Arsenal would have to respond to that midweek loss well because the winner of this game would go top of the league.

Wenger played a strong lineup, but had to field a relatively weak bench due to injuries to Jack and Serge, among others out for the longer term.

Arsenal started the game strong and looked in the mood to really make this a horrible day for Liverpool. The ref was pretty fair from the beginning and did not fall for the SAS diving, so credit to him.

Every week Liverpool’s formation makes less sense and weakens them down the flanks even further. This week Liverpool played a very central heavy formation perhaps hoping to break up our midfield passing, but all they succeeded in doing was giving us too much space on the wings.

This would first become evident in the 19th minute. Arteta played Sagna through down the right hand side. He outran the out of position Cissokho and swung a cross into the middle. It was behind Giroud, but Santi had made a run behind him and headed the ball after a bounce. The ball hit the post, but Santi followed up and sliced it calmly into the net. Our little number 19 scored his first goal of the season against Liverpool just as he did last season.

Arsenal remained dominant for the rest of the first half. Arteta was fantastic at breaking up play in the absence of Flamini. Giroud got a few chances throughout the game, but he just could not put the game to bed.

After half time Liverpool were forced to change formation to have any hope of winning.

Their chance to do so would just about die in the 60th minute. Ozil gave Ramsey a nice little chip to the top of the box. Aaron calmly trapped the ball and let it bounce a few times. And as any player full of confidence would do, just let rip on the half volley. The ball dipped and swerved and made its way in just under the crossbar. The goal itself was incredible, but sadly will probably be overshadowed by Begovic’s goal.

The confidence this team has, is embodied in Ramsey. We are prepared to take chances offensively now because we now have no fear of our defense not being good enough when we lose possession. This has led to some incredible passing and play this season and it’ll only get better as the season goes on.

After this goal no one really looked like scoring. We put on Monreal to shore up our defense on the left, but soon after Gibbs went off with a slight knock and Vermaelen came on at left back. Jenkinson came on at the end to maintain our clean sheet and it worked. Liverpool came close a few times at the end, but we were ready and organized at the back and kept our 2-0 lead.

At the final whistle Arsenal went five points clear at the top of the league and showed the rest of the league that we mean business. Many had questioned if we could play our game and win against big teams and questioned if we can do it every week, and this win showed that we can. This month will be big and if we get wins against Liverpool, Dortmund, United, etc, we will really show everyone that we are starting a new era where Arsenal will return to dominance. I maintain that City is our biggest competition in the league, after seeing them run rampant in a 7-0 win against Norwich earlier in the day. Our games against them will probably be the biggest of the season.

Overall, the team was fantastic today with standout performances from Szczesny, Arteta, Cazorla, and Koscielny. Giroud probably could’ve had a few goals, but overall the score line is a pretty good representation of the game.

For now I’ll leave you with some questions:

  1. What did you think of the game?
  2. What kind of message did this game send to the rest of the league?
  3. Who do you think our toughest competition is for the league title?
  4. Who was your man of the match?

 

Thanks for reading! 😀

Written by: Dylan.

Arteta leads, Szczesny stands up, and Ozil, Rambo and OG pure class

But above all, another great TEAM performance!

The captain answered his critics once more...
The captain answered his critics once more…

Well, Well, ToTL with 22 points and a fine goal difference of 11 after just nine games! The boys did us proud today. Chris Foy tried his best to ruin it for us, but even he could not stop us.

I thought before the game this would either be very easy or we would have to dig deep; and as we all know, it became the latter. Just as against Norwich, Flamini had to leave the game very early, but this time it seemed a groin injury rather than a reoccurrence of his concussion. And just as last week, we lacked a bit of shape and rhythm once he had gone, although Arteta impressed with not just his positioning but also his willingness to put his body on the line.

The pitch was very slow and the Eagles defended resolutely, but we also played at too low a tempo and often not close enough to each other. And when we did play a bit closer together, our triangles did often not work out, due to inaccurate passing and under-par first touches. However, the boys managed to get into the box a few times and got close to scoring with chances for the (still very rusty) Cazorla, Rambo and Giroud.

To be fair on Palace, they played well in the first half and created a few good chances themselves, as once again we allowed them to play football in the space in front of our ‘D’ and were opened up a bit too easily. Part of their strategy was to get easy free-kicks in put-the-ball-into-the-box areas, and Foy easily obliged to support this ploy. But we also were a bit naïve in giving away such free kicks too willingly, making it easy for the 13th man to have his influence on this game. Luckily, we defended most of these free-kicks (and corners) resolutely, which was a welcome sight.

0-0 was a fair score to go into the break with, and it was clear we had to up the tempo of our passing and make better runs into the danger area, if we were to get the three points from this game.

We did not have to wait long for a break. Gnabry, who plays with such an incredible maturity and composure for his age (born in 1995, the same year Dennis arrived at Highbury!), found himself in the box with the ball – after good, patient and incisive triangle-combination football by Arsenal – and he cut the ball back superbly, denying the onrushing Guedioura any opportunity to control his adrenaline surge before it was too late. As a result, the Algerian fouled the young German in the box and this time Foy could not get away with denying us a penalty (we could have had one in the first half).

Up steps our captain, and you kind of feel if he misses this one we will not win today. But his penalties are as sharp and immaculate as his haircut and bionic stare, and he makes it 1-0 to the good guys with an unstoppable effort.

The game can now truly begin, as Palace will need to come out of their defensive setting to get anything out of it. We press and play with a lot more swagger and it seems only a matter of time before we will score the all important second goal. But Foy was still part of the ploy and he grabbed his opportunity with both hands when Arteta and our former Moroccan Gunner collided about a Boeing 747 away from our goal. The gel-man tried to compensate a characteristically bad first touch (his feet have never been his strength) from what was a very promising through-ball with barging into Arteta: they both went to the floor and Foy sends our captain to the showers. It is easy to be resolute if you know what you are doing…. 😕

Arsenal now had to defend and Arsene made excellent substitutions with bringing on our best all-round midfielder Wilshere and safe pair of hands Nacho for the tired Cazorla and, the tactically sacrificed, Gnabry.

We have discussed the need to keep a clean sheet more regularly if we want to beat the Chavs (and others) to the title this season, and today we really needed it to clinch all three points. Up steps our Pole in goal; first denying a beautifully executed shot by Joel Ward with a full stretch, ever so slight fingertips-touch onto the crossbar; followed by a strong, one handed match winning save from Jedinak venomous volley from just outside the box. Szczesny remains a work in progress but today’s performance, for which he was given the MoTM award, will help him tremendously – and he needed it.

The team looked tired but ALL worked hard to fight for the three points. I loved the way Ozil picked up balls in and around our own box and kept it to win time and space, and what a fine, strong balance he has. Jack was able to keep the ball under pressure and move forward with it, not allowing the Eagles to sustain their attacks. Nacho did great work on the left wing, both defensively and in attack, and almost scored a Theo-esque goal late on.

I looked at Giroud and Rambo and they seemed exhausted; the game against Dortmund and the 10-men second half efforts against Palace clearly taking their toll. But they never gave up and dug very deep into their reserves, and this is what we should remember when either of them has a less effective game: these boys really care about Arsenal – the absolute opposite of mercenaries!

And it came as no surprise that the final word of this exhilarating game was for our finest work horses. Giroud collects the ball in midfield with his back to the opponent’s goal – who is currently better in the PL at doing this?…. – and passes to Rambo, who is still able to accelerate past a few Palace players into the box, and somehow finds the composure to produce a measured ball onto the head of the onrushing Frenchman, who places the ball just above Speroni’s left shoulder, leaving him no chance to save it: 2-0 to the mighty Gunners and game over.

A hard fought win, three points, ToTL, and more evidence that this team has real backbone: Ooh to! Ooh to be! Ooh to be A Gooner! – Ooh to! Ooh to be! Ooh to be A Goooner!

http://www.fcsongs.com/Arsenal_FC_-_Ooh_To_Be_A_Gooner.html

Bring on the Oilers! 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.