It leaves a bitter sweet taste in the mouth. Sweet because we desperately needed the Chavs to get beaten, and comprehensively so if we still want to have a decent go at winning the PL this season; bitter because a Spuds win is never a good thing. I am not overly bothered about our North-London rivals temporarily pushing us out of the top four, and a gap of 8 points with the Chavs rather than 11 is worth the agony. We also know that the Spuddies thrive in the current wet, dark and nasty conditions but as soon as the sun starts warming up these shores again in April and May, they will willow away to finish behind the mighty red and white once more.
Chelsea are playing Leicester away next and will also have to go to Anfield this month, and if we grind out a few wins we will be able to close the gap considerably with a bit of luck. A few weeks ago, after two disappointing away defeats in the North-West, we did not feel too good, but now that the Chavs’ winning run is over – they were not able to get a 14th win in a row, a record that still belongs to The Arsenal – the boys will have new hope and focus for the title.
Having watched the Spuds v Chavs game (without sound of course), I was impressed with the midfield set up of our neighbours, I hate to say. Dembele and the by many here once coveted Wanyama were a constantly moving wall that dominated the midfield proceedings to a large extent. The way they did it was actually reminiscent of previous Chelsea teams!
Since I saw Dembele boss the midfield for Fulham against us at THOF a few seasons ago, albeit in a more advanced midfield role, I have wanted him to become our deepest laying midfielder. We got (back) Coquelin instead and he has been great ever since he returned from Charlton. It looked to me that Wanyama sits a bit deeper and Dembele pushes forward regularly, but they always worked in tandem and did not allow much space between them, which is key to forming a mobile, impenetrable wall allover the pitch.
I reckon we have better midfielders at Arsenal but we simply may have too many. I am also worried about the lack of consistency in our DM pairing. To some extent, I like the thought of mixing things up for different kind of opponents, but in order to get some team cohesion and consistency in our game play we could really do with establishing a first choice DM pair. I am fully aware that injuries have made things harder for Wenger, though.
With Santi out for at least another month and Elneny away at the ACN, and the season entering its crucial mid-way stage, we could really do with Wenger picking the best possible combination asap. As discussed in previous posts and comments by BKers, the pairing of Coquelin and Xhaka has not really worked well until now. Both have a tendency to control the game from deep, with the Frenchman a more natural destroyer and the Swiss maestro more of a Pirlo. By sitting deep, they tend to leave too much space between defence and attack, depriving the attackers with the necessary support more often than not. As a result, we often let teams boss us in our own half for too long periods, most notably against Man City, but also against the Cherries on Tuesday.
Against Bournemouth we ‘dared’ to push up our DM duo all the way towards the area in front of their ‘D’ in the second half, and that is what turned the game round for us. The Spuds did the same for large parts of the game yesterday with Dembele and Wanyama bullying the Chavs midfielders – no softies either – deep back into their own half. And that made all the difference. And when the home team had to defend, their DM duo made the centre of defence almost impenetrable, forcing the Chavs to try and attack them from the wings, which, to be fair, they managed to do a few times but without success.
I am still rooting for a Xhaka-Rambo combination, with the former sitting deeper and the latter connecting defence-midfield-attack continuously. However, I am not sure whether these two can have the necessary chemistry and telepathic understanding to work as an mobile, solid wall of real force and dominance all over the pitch. I am convinced we have a fine defence and a great attack, but getting the DM duo right will be pivotal to getting the team to reach its full potential and win the title this season.
There is truth in the criticism Rambo receives regularly regarding his defensive discipline and I feel that there will not be many more chances for him to establish himself in the team. The nr10 position seems to have gone to Ozil and Iwobi, and rightly so in my opinion.
So Aaron, this January could well become the most important month in your (Arsenal) career. If Wenger does put you next to Xhaka or Coquelin you need to play with discipline, force and tactical nous: fight your instincts to bomb forward and leave your partner alone and rejoice in being the joined boss of our teams proceedings. Simple can also be very beautiful.
If you fail, Elneny or (eventually) Santi will take your place. At this stage of your career, failure is not an option. Grab that bull by the horns.