Why this January will be the Most Important Month of Aaron Ramsey’s Career

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.

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By TotalArsenal 

Cazorla/Le Coq better than FlamBo? Enter CoqRam as DM-pivot!

The combination of Flamini and Rambo – FlamBo –Ramini – FlamRam – has been criticised by more than just a few over the last few weeks. This has been accompanied by a somewhat romantic longing for the pairing of le Coq and Cazorla – the Wall of Coca. There is a view that we played better and more compact when CoCa was owning the midfield, with stronger defensive coverage of our Back-4, a better passing game in midfield and better linkage with our attack.

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Flam is regarded as not athletic and mobile enough and Rambo not disciplined enough to really make the double DM pivot work. I reckon there is scope for improvement for the FlamRam combo but in general they performed very well. We are lucky to have Flam as back up for Le Coq: he is experienced and passionate and can still be a pretty good DM on the day. However, he can no longer do this on a constant basis and we have asked too much of him recently. I am hoping that Elneny can also play as our DM and then we should have enough coverage for this pivotal role.

Rambo has been playing in the most difficult position in the team for the last few weeks. The B2B midfield position requires a great set of skills and athleticism as well as a gigantic football brain. I think we can all see the potential of Aaron in this role, and he is not far off from claiming it as his, but he is still performing under par at the moment. His runs into the box are great, his industry next to Flam and in front of the back four is exemplary, and his thrust forward is inspiring: he makes things happen. However, his decision making and passing are still a bit off and his eagerness to go forward is not always balanced by his anticipation of the apparent risks of doing so – leaving big gaps behind that got exploited on more than one occasion.

There is a consensus that Le Coq is the clear numero uno DM over Le Flam. So when the younger Frenchman is fit, he should play, and luckily he is back in training and getting close to a return in the first team.

But what if Santi and Rambo are both fully fit: who should play next to Le Monstre de Coq?

Santi is better at protecting and passing the ball and picking a pass from deep; Rambo is better defensively and can take the ball with him from defence into midfield and attack – he also can make those box to box runs a lot better. Both Santi and Rambo need a good left midfielder and left full back to play at their very best. It is fair to say that the Welshman had to play with a far less effective passing player in Theo, rather than Alexis, on the left in recent games. The return of sexy Alexis is good news for all, but especially for Rambo and Ozil, and I reckon we will see a big difference in the performances of both players from now on (compared to most recent games).

I am looking forward to Santi’s return, but, in the meantime, let’s see how the Coq-Ram combination works out once the Frenchman is ready to play. I have a feeling that we will see a step improvement in our midfield AND attacking play, especially now that Alexis is also back in the team.

It would look like this:

————————- Le Coq —– Rambo—————————-

Campbell———————-Mesut—————————-Alexis

——————————-Giroud/Theo——————————

And once Santi is fit, we can use him as a super-sub for a number of midfield positions, or put him in the B2B role and move Rambo into Campbell’s position. All would work for me and makes me feel confident that we can field a winning team in the remaining big matches in PL and CL this season.

On top of this, we can look forward to seeing Elneny in action and make some early judgments what his best position might be. The next FA cup game against Burnley comes at the right time in this respect and let’s hope we will see him and a few other fresh faces on the pitch.

By TotalArsenal.

Better than Schneiderlin, Leiva, Fernand(inh)o| equal to Matic: Wenger already has a top DM

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Why we should all love Le Coq! 🙂

For the last few years, I, together with many fellow Gooners, have been banging on for the need to sign a top class DM, but not this time round. Arsene grew his beast all by himself: our very own Francis Coquelin. I knew he is a good player but delving a bit deeper into his key stats – and comparing him to fellow DMs at our main competitors – he impresses me even more. Francis Coquelin really now is our Beast of a DM we have been longing for for so long. Since he, quite miraculously given his loan spell at lowly Charlton till December, established himself in the team, Arsenal have done extremely well in the second part of the season. This was of course not all down to him, as Ospina, Giroud and Ozil, and indeed the rest of the team, also played a major part in our fine turnaround in 2015.

The stats below sum it all up perfectly for the Le Fab Coq.

DM Pass Success % Aerials won per game Tackles per game Inter-ceptions per game Blocks per game Clear-ances per game
Coquelin 85.9% 2.5 3.2 3.7 0.4 3.1
Schneiderlin 89.3% 1.8 3.7 2.6 0.2 1.7
Wanyama 84.1% 2.2 2.9 1.9 0.2 1.6
Leiva 87.2% 1.6 3.9 1.6 0.3 2.3
Matic 86.4% 2.1 3.6 2 0.2 3.3
Carrick 89.6% 0.8 1.4 1.7 0.6 2
Bentaleb 86.8% 1.4 2.3 2.5 0.3 1.9
Fernandinho 88.5% 1.3 2.8 1.8 0.2 1.4
Fernando 91.1% 1.6 1.4 1.6 0.4 1.8
Le Coq’s Position 8th 1st 4th 1st 2nd 2nd

PL performance data only – all data from ‘Whoscored’

So, amongst his peers, other than Francis’ pass success rate, he is doing very well. He is the best in the air, even better than the beasts Wanyama and Matic, and in a league of his own in terms of making interceptions, producing almost twice as many of these compared to Matic. In a head to head Coquelin wins three disciplines and Matic also wins three: a draw; but all other DMs above lose out against him. That is how good our man is, and it fully explains why Wenger is not looking for a replacement this summer.

Arsene wisely signed up Coquelin before the end of the season and nothing is nicer than seeing a youth player making it to the big stage. I must admit I did not think Francis was going to make it, but he did; and I hope Oz Gunner, one of my all-time favourite bloggers on BK, is reading this post, as he was the one who always stood behind the Frenchman and will be very pleased now with Le Coq establishing himself properly within the first team.

There is a decent argument for getting a back-up for Coquelin, though. We don’t have another equally good DM at the moment. Having said that, Wenger has many options and will feel that he can take the risk of Coquelin losing form, or getting injured. Arteta and Flamini are (currently) still around and on the day they can do a decent job. Wenger also has options to develop Debuchy or Chambers into a backup DM, or try one of the youngsters. Would I welcome another dedicated DM? Yes of course – and steeling the very young and promising Bentaleb from the Spuds would be very nice indeed – but it is definitely no longer a priority: with Fab Francis we finally have our Beast of a DM. Yippee! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.