Mesut, always thinking about the Madchen, hey?! So we are here today to do your seasonal appraisal: how do you think you performed?
Well Arsene, I think I did well since I recovered from my injury, but I don’t think the fans appreciate me enough.
Why do you think that? You are the master in my midfield, creator of space, you run like a gazelle and are the King of the Key Pass in the PL with 3.1 per game – better than Cesci, Silva and Hazards. You won the World Cup with Die Mannschafters and held up the FA Cup twice in twelve months….. You are the dog’s ball-logues mein Freund!!
Ahh Arsene, the fans don’t seem to see it that way and then there are those commentators like that arschloch Owen and Scheisskopf Murphy who keep saying they ‘want more from me’ and that I am ‘not justifying my transfer fee’.
Well, Mesut, they have to say something don’t they. They suffer from small-winkle-syndrome and have to live with a very ‘hard’ reality.
What reality is this?
Well…They have been lucky enough to play in the PL but they realise they were never as good as you are now – their careers are over and they would suck at managing a team…. What is left for them is talking about current players…. And you, mein Sohn, are rubbing it in in each and every game you dance on the live stage. Unwittingly, you are torturing them and they are not having it….The only way to deal with it is to watch the game in silence: mute the brute! J The problem is, the English want to see your bleeding heart pumping outside the shirt, they want blood, guts and tears, with 12 Ray Parlours on the pitch!
Who is he, Arsene?
You never heard of the Pele of Romford?! Mesut, das ist eine Schande! You will need to watch some old footage then. Think of Flamini x 10! Voll mit sturm und drang! But you are never going to be like him, as you are an introvert, a quiet assassin, a schemer and strategist; and I like it! Let’s have a look at your listed objectives for last season.
HMmmm, it only says: ‘Be more Ozil’. What the heck did I mean with that, Mesutski?
Arsene, I thought you were really clever last year when you said that, and now you cannot remember it anymore!
What did I mean with it then?
Du bist einer alter knacker, Arsene! You said ‘Be more Ozil’:
O for Omnipotent: use my eyes that can see all, work my body into a fortress and move all over the pitch to add attacking value everywhere and at any time;
Z for Zealous: show more enthusiasm on the outside, show that I care… Happiness is a warm Gunner and all that Scheisse! [Arsene blushes when hearing this]
I = I: be more selfish: love to assist and love to be assisted: make the net, just like my eyes, buckle by being selfish!
L = Love Mesut…. Be kind to myself…. What the Scheisse ever that meant!?!
Well remembered Mesut and four big, fat teecks. Nice to see you again, have a great summer!
But Arsene, you did not set me any objectives for next season?! I want to be the European King of Assists, and more!!
Well Mesut, be, once again, more Ozil and you’ll become even better. And I suggest you learn a little Owen/Murphy dance for next season every time you produce a King of the Key Pass beauty! Ask Alexis to raise his leg and you’ll do the Limbo for our diminutive, sour commentators… that would be a laugh, hahaha!
Any specific targets, advice, Arsene…please?!
Okay, okay Mesut, I will give you a quote that you will need to learn by heart and repeat to yourself every time one of the dumkopfs feels they can voice their free-like-an-arschloch opinions about you. It is by Robert M Pirsig, from his wonderful book ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’:
‘The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that goodness can shine through’..
The season is underway for two months now and, to use a cliché, it has been a roller-coaster of a ride. It is always hard to predict how a season will go, but it is made even more difficult when the summer preparation period is cut short as a result of our stars’ world cup endeavours and a number of key signings have to be assimilated into the team. We are in October now, and to be fair, I have not got much more of a clue how it all will end for Arsenal come May.
It all started well with beating MC convincingly – and in style – in the Charity Shield and qualifying once again for the CL group stage (by huffing and puffing though). CL qualification proved to be an energy-sapping, nervy exercise for players and manager, which has had an impact on our results in the PL. We did not lose any of our games during that time, but we dropped valuable points in Leicester and Liverpool. Drawing at Goodison Park is of course nothing to be ashamed about, and so is drawing against MC and Spuds at home. However, losing against the Chavs is always painful; but again, in a competition of 38 games, this is not a disaster as yet.
The one thing that will be constant, however, is the high level of expectations across the Gooner-family. Winning the FA-cup and finishing in the top four once again last season, and not selling our key players (well except Mr Reliable who now heats up the thighs of Les autres former Gunner benchwarmers) and buying a number of good quality players during the summer, have raised our expectations to a very high level.
We all know that having high expectations for almost anything in life is usually a recipe for disappointment, sadness and anger, but most of us just cannot help ourselves. Having high hopes is still very different from high expectations, but so is the impact on our state of happiness during the season.
The problem is of course that Maureen and his expensively assembled troops are flying at the moment, having created a gap of nine points between us and them already. This hurts and makes us feel that we can forget about this year’s PL title after just seven PL games. And yes, if the Chavs keep this up then nobody will catch them, including us. But let’s not give up till the very end: karma might settle the bill sooner or later with the Southern Oilers and their self-adoring manager. We will need a mini-miracle, though.
On top of that, our injury voodoo continues to plague us (what have Arsenal done to deserve this?). The loss of OG was massive. Love him or hate him, he is the first player on the team sheet in attack in Arsene’s current version of Wenger-ball. I reckon we missed him tremendously from a systemic point of view. Welbeck has done a very good job, though. He is a different sort of player than OG; and especially against the top teams we have missed the French Lighthouse and ‘Midfield Enabler’ a lot.
Theo’s seemingly never-ending injury has hurt us a lot as well, and the initially out of form and now injured key midfielders, Ramsey and Arteta, have also left the team weaker. On top of all of that, our experienced signing for RB, Debuchy, is another long-term injured first team player; and Gibbs and Monreal seem to exchange the injury-bug between them constantly…. And now, yes would you fecking believe it, Mesut is also out for up to three months….
So to sum it all up, and I am not doing this to make us feel sorry for ourselves, we will not have available for a few weeks till a few months (and those that will return sooner will still need to settle back in and stay injury free): Ozil, Arteta, Ramsey, Giroud, Debuchy, Theo and a few others like Monreal, Sanogo etc.
Reason to despair or throw in the towel? Of course not!
Let’s look at it like this: those who are left behind will be able to play a lot and nail down a starting position for the time being, maybe even for the rest of the season. The likes of Chambers, Welbeck, Jack, Gibbs and even Santi, will all have a great opportunity to put their stamp on the team (again). Grab it boys, grab it!
On top of that, we can start a new phase all the way into January, with a series of winnable (but never to be underestimated) games in which the team can put their teeth and fight for every three points on the ‘OGAAT’ basis.
And that, my fine fellow Gooners, is what we need: a succession of winnable games, a passionate and highly skilled team with their backs against the wall, and a PL points gap that needs closing. Tick, Tick, Tick.
It was my plan to write a post about how we have to be able to fit in all three of Jack, Ozil and Alexis; but with the latest Ozil news, this has become more or less superfluous. The team almost picks itself now, which I reckon will be a good thing for the next phase of the season.
I am still disappointed that we lost marginally against the Chavs, even though the players and manager did us proud on the day imo. I wish we had drawn fewer games in the PL until now. I am simply flabbergasted at the number and duration of our first team injuries, and I remain disappointed that we did not buy a proper DM once again this summer.
But, no regrets, not false sentiments, no self-pity: instead, forwards and onwards!
I cannot wait till this inter-lull is over and we start anew. Take the bull by the horns and let the likes of Szczesny, BFG, Koz, Gibbs, Flamini, Chambers, Jack, Ox, Welbeck, Alexis, Santi, Rosicky, and whoever joins the core-team from the overpopulated sick-bay and youth ranks, to go on a run and do the shirt proud.
Forget about titles and silverware.
It is time to put our sleeves up: to plough, to sow and to plant – to find the inner-team animal and fight for every point. That is what football, and being a Gooner, is all about: the here, the now: the (bi-)weekly battles, the fight, the passion, the joy, the support, the beauty, the victories, the disappointments, and the hope rather than the expectations of winning something in the end.
‘Men talk about Bible miracles because there is no miracle in their lives. Cease to gnaw that crust. There is ripe fruit over your head.’Thoreau
Never was the cliché of ‘a game of two halves’ more appropriate: 45 minutes with Alexis up top and 45 minutes with Ollie up top made a world of difference. In principle, we all like the idea of three ‘free to move’ attackers up top, who terrorize the opponent and bang in goals for fun. But this is not something we just do by lining up very good players: and Mesut, Alexis and Alex are three very fine attackers indeed. It takes time and practice: players have to get used to each other, understand each other weaknesses and strengths and develop an automatic, telepathic understanding with each other.
The first half was very hard on the eye. Our midfield worked well and we had a lot of the attacking play, but as soon as we got near the box it was total mayhem. There was plenty of movement and energy levels were high, but many passes went astray – especially in front and behind the opponent’s ‘D’. We looked clueless and, most importantly, shapeless and like our attackers were put together up-front for the first time.
Of course, it did not help that we conceded a poor goal from a set-piece and that bad refereeing allowed the second one to stand. Just as against CP, when we also did not score in the first part of the first half after a dominant phase of the game, we conceded unnecessary as a result of bad defending of a set piece. There is work to be done there, but as the BFG is back now I am sure we will get on top this gradually.
I was actually quite shocked to see Wenger starting without OG up-top. I reckon he did this to save him for the most important game of the season so far – our second CL game on Wednesday (and not to ‘punish’ him for a bad performance in Istanbul).
I have tried to explain to fellow bloggers on BK why Giroud is so important to Wenger’s Arsenal on a number of occasions over the last few years. Ever since Chamakh was bought, Arsene has been meaning to have a ‘holding striker’, for lack of a better word, who enables midfielders and ‘wing players’ to get involved in our attacking efforts: this is vital to his next ‘Wengerball’ team. OG’s three top performance objectives are: level of effectiveness in holding on to the ball and cooperating with fellow midfielders and attackers, setting up attacks and assists, AND score goals – and in that order of importance. Most fellow Gooners judge OG’s performances in the reverse order… and that is where you are getting it wrong in my humble opinion, and why I understand, to some extent, your frustrations.
When Van Judas was injured for the first half of the season a few seasons ago, Chamakh played the holding striker role and we banged in 2.3 goals per game. In the second part of that season, and the subsequent season too, we managed about 1.9 goals per game, even though the traitorous ‘I will Always Be a Gunner’ grey-haired one was in the form of his life. We became dependent on him and all our attacking play was aimed at him: he delivered but as a team we were not scoring enough. Yet, under Chamakh’s attacking guidance, the team did very well, albeit with super midfielders in the team, like Cesc and Nasri, who knew how to put them away all right. And there is a hint for you all. 😉
Chamakh did not score enough himself and he could not deal with the criticism very well, so on comes Giroud from Montpellier. Giroud was an improvement of Chamakh, as he could play the holding attacker role really well, whilst also scoring more goals in the process.
It was amazing to see how much criticism was labelled at OG, and how little was aimed at the underperforming midfielders yesterday. Ox lacked composure and missed an easier chance than OG, Ozil was rustier than the Titanic, Ramsey’s boat was not floating and Jack is still missing the final sharpness. Yet, very few, to my despair, picked up how much OG changed the game for us once he came on. We had shape and focus again, there was directness to our play and OG was in the middle of much of it. Yes he missed a decent chance after being thirty seconds on the pitch…. unforgiveable! 🙂
Everton were very well set up though, and their double DM pivot made it really hard for us. But it was The Gunners and not the Toffees who travelled and played in Istanbul just four days ago, and who still had the endurance and energy to push on for the full 90+ minutes, and somehow overcome a 2-0 deficit – for the first time in three seasons apparently – and win not just an important point, but a lot of team spirit and belief in the process too. The latter is absolutely vital for a side with trophy winning amibitions!
I am convinced that if we had started with OG, and Alexis and Mesut (or Alex instead of Mesut) ‘on the wings’, we would have beaten the Toffees yesterday. With Sanogo still injured though, and OG in need of resting for the Besiktas cruncher, Wenger had not much choice but to try Alexis up-front. It did not work out, and he was right, however unusual, to revert back to plan A straight from the start of the second half.
OG’s reintroduction made all the difference: not because he is the prolific striker so many are longing for – far from it; it is because he gives shape to this team’s attack more than anybody else and he is vital in Wenger’s plans – for 2014-2015 at least.
Wenger knows he has a lot of work to do to get the other four attack minded positions effectively populated and to get the best use of a plethora of high quality midfielders and attackers. We still have two important games to come: Besitkas at home and Leicester away. It will take time to find our form again, but with the team spirit on display in recent games, I am positive we can get the needed results. And if we do beat both, we can look back at a very successful mini-start to the season, however unattractive and messy our football has looked at times.
Bread and butter first, the bacon and marmalade will follow soon. 🙂
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:
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.
We hold two competitions on Bergkampesque: Fantasy Football and a Predictions League and all are free to join – the more the merrier! 🙂
When I was a kid I once got a football for my birthday. It must have been my ninth or tenth birthday: there was no present for me in the morning but my mum took me on a long bike ride, from one end of my home town to the other end, to buy me a football in a sports shop. At that time, I knew nothing about Arsenal, or even English football. My home town team were Roda JC in the Netherlands, and they play in yellow and black. The ball I chose was white and red: more white than red pentagons, and I loved it for a long time: in fact, I can still smell and picture it today, almost forty years on.
Red and white are great colours, and of course those of our beloved Arsenal. And yesterday, the North of London was red and white all right. From the moment I arrived at Cockfosters’ tube station, I was surrounded by it. The sky was blue, most people were wearing The Shirt, and the sun warmed whilst spreading a golden glow over us. It was a truly beautiful sight. And the closer I got to the Highbury and Islington tube station the more intense it became.
There was a strong sense of anticipation in the air yesterday: a positive buzz of good things lying ahead; and the reason for this is of course the high hopes felt by many Gooners after some astute signings by the club this summer. And the one that epitomises this positivity is of course Alexis, as everywhere I looked on the way to the home of football I could see his first or second name reflected on the backs of many, many fellow Gooners. Sanchez has become the embodiment of our hopes for further progress and the shiniest silverware, and with good reason.
The stadium looked extra glorious yesterday. The early evening, August sunlight lit up the East Bank warmly and there was a sea of red and white everywhere – more than I have ever seen before, somehow.
No diaby, not even on the bench, but both Ramsey and Arteta in the double DM pivot. Jack in the hole, as hoped and predicted, and Santi and Sanchez on the wings, with not OG but Sanogo as our ‘holding striker’: not a formation I would have chosen, but definitely one capable of taking three points from the well supported Crystal Palace team.
The start was good and it looked a matter of time before we would score a goal. Jack was conducting play and there was plenty of movement in the team to find good passes and create opportunities. But we lacked cutting edge as our combinations just did not produce clear cut chances: was it rustiness or nerves, or was the ghost of Pulis still hanging around our ground like a bad smell?
Pulis’ ex-team were definitely playing like one of his infamous Stoke teams: well set-up, physical, cynical serial fouling, time wasting; and they made it really hard for us, especially after we lost some of our initial zip and thrust in the second part of the first half. Gradually we lost control of the midfield: nobody was using Sanogo anymore to hold up play, and the only one moving IN their designated area, other than Yaya, was Sanchez. We still managed to set up some attacks from the right, with both Alexis and Debuchy, although still getting used to each other, combining well to penetrate the CP defence. Unfortunately, when they did so, Sanogo was often isolated as neither Jack, Ramsey nor Santi were supporting him in the box enough.
On the left we were very weak. Santi did not hold his position and Gibbs was, understandably, holding back a lot. This did not help us in stretching the CP defence and midfield, and it became really easy for our opponents to stem our attacking intent. Jack searched and probed for opportunities but there was very little for him to set up (I could see this really well from the Upper Tier in the North Bank). We also played quite deep, and both Ramsey and Arteta did not push up enough to populate the midfield in front of CP’s ‘D’. Add to that the continuous fouling and the referee’s unwillingness to punish this, and you can see why we were not able to dominate the game more in the latter part of the first half: lack of width, lack of pressure on their midfield, lack of movement, too low a tempo and not enough pressing.
The supporters became restless, and then on top of all that, they score – so typically – from a corner. It is fair to say we did not defend the corner well, but it was also a pretty good ball into the box. Without three of our four best set-piece ‘defenders’ from last season – BFG, Giroud and Sagna – we looked vulnerable during CP’s corners…. and we paid for it.
Luckily, the man who only scores important goals for us, it seems, came to the rescue once again – and from a set-piece of our own. Violently happy, Koz we love you! – Bjork’s tune – went through my head, and we could all breath again. 1-1, just before the break, was just what the doctor ordered. And the stadium regained its positive vibes again.
However, things did not improve much initially. Nacho brought more drive and aggression than the substituted and apparently injured, Gibbs. But Santi remained all-over the place, which is fine as long as he adds value to our attacking play, which he did not do enough imo. Jack lost a bit of his composure and precision in passing the longer the game went on, and Sanogo never really got into the game (for which he was little to blame IMO). Luckily, Wenger did not wait long to bring on the much more trusted Giroud for Sanogo, and, a bit later, Ox for Jack. Where Giroud added a lot from the moment he started; Ox’s input was less effective. However, Wenger moved Sanchez to the left which added a bit more thrust to our attacking play, and Arteta and Ramsey pushed the Palace midfield a lot harder in the second half.
I thought all our midfielders and attackers, except for the simply fantastic, albeit not fully perfect, Alexis, had under-par performances in this game, but the introduction of Giroud helped them all to improve their game gradually. It did not seem enough, however, to score the much needed winner. The team kept pushing but CP held strong, albeit with some unsporting behaviour, in terms of time-wasting and continuous fouling, which the frustrating, pie-gobbling referee Moss was far too lenient about. Puncheon’s dismissal was well deserved but seemed too little too late…
But luck was on our side, and it was the sweetest of ways to send Stoke-South-of-the-Thames home empty-handed: by scoring a Pulisesque late winner from a set piece by nobody other than Aaron Ramsey. It was ugly, but it was hard fought for, and we all did not care one iota. A giant, collective sense of relief swept through the stadium and we all sang the Ramsey song with real gusto.
We got away with this one; and with three points in the bag, we can afford the lessons learnt from this performance. If and when another park the bus team comes to the home of football, we need to push up more and conquer the midfield, we need to spread our opponents by using the wings on both sides wisely and run more intelligently, and, most importantly, we need to trust our CF to hold on to the ball and allow the rest of the team to feed of him.
On the way back I listened to Talk ‘Sport’ for a while (was desperately trying to find out the scores of the afternoon games). We know that most of the pundits there are opinionated simpletons, who like to stick to simple mantras in order to rile their mostly gullible audience. Stan Collybore just kept saying Arsenal needed to buy a SQ CF if we wanted to push on. He had actually been at the match and this was the main thing he kept repeating. A striker can only score if he gets the service, whether it is Sanogo, Giroud, Falcao or Cavani. Sanogo worked hard but did not get the ball anywhere often enough to set up attacks, produce assists or hit the net himself. Maybe one day, Collimore will realise that Arsenal have actually moved on and do not play with a classic CF anymore….. or maybe not.
We spread our goals throughout the team and with a goal by Giroud, two by Ramsey, one by Cazorla and one by Koscielny in the last two games, we are doing just fine. And we ain’t seen nothing yet: once this team starts clicking together properly, and we add a SQ DM/B2B (and a CB of course) to the team before the TW shuts, the Canon will roar and roar.
Sanchez was a joy to watch and I feel privileged to have seen his first game at the home of football.
My last word is for Chambers, whose reading of the game and interception skills were very impressive again yesterday. What a signing by Wenger – chapeau! 🙂
Last April, one of the best writers of the last century passed away at the age of 87: Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I first read the Columbian’s master pieces like ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ and the phenomenal ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ in my late teens/ early twenties, and they opened a new world for me. Marquez’s books are very colourful and full of imagination and magic; a stark contrast with most of the Dutch literature I read back then. These were an introduction into magical realism for me: Marquez’s stories appear too fantastic, too dreamlike to be true, but he was just able to give ‘reality’ another dimension – a quality that only brilliant storytellers possess. As he put it himself in response to a question by a good friend of his:
“The way you treat reality in your books … has been called magical realism. I have the feeling your European readers are usually aware of the magic of your stories but fail to see the reality behind it … .” “This is surely because their rationalism prevents them seeing that reality isn’t limited to the price of tomatoes and eggs.”
After Marquez, I read a great number of Latin/South American literature: Isabel Allende, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Joao Guimaraes Rosa, whose ‘Grande Sertão: Veredas (translated as ‘The Devil to Pay in the Backlands’) is one of the best books I have ever read: open this book at any page and read a few sentences and you will find it is pure beauty.
Adding beauty and magic to life is one of humans’ greatest gifts, but it takes a lot of effort and focus to do so, as well as being able to see and appreciate it.
By now the more impatient readers of Bergkampesque will be asking themselves: but what has this got to do with football? And my response to this is: everything and nothing. The quest for beauty – whether in football or life in general – is important to me, as it compensates for all the horror, sadness and injustice we get confronted with in our daily lives. Beauty is the brother of human warmth/love, and without these two what would life mean?
As a Dutchman, and in stark contrast to most of our 20th century literature, I was lucky enough to grow up with magical football. From the dazzling Dutch National team of Cruijff and Michels in 1974 to the Ajax teams in the seventies and mid-nineties, I have truly been spoilt by the beauty of (total) football.
Regulars on BK know that Dennis Bergkamp’s move to Arsenal – who for me, and I know many others, was the on-field personification of beautiful football – led me gradually to our beloved Arsenal. Dennis would not have become such a club legend without the guidance and football philosophy of Arsene Wenger. But this goes also the other way: without Bergkamp, Wenger would not have been able to implement his beautiful Wengerball with such impact and success rate.
Gradually, however, the beautiful vision and skills of the wunderkind from Catalonia, Cesc Fabregas, replaced Dennis’ mastery and conductorship. Around him, Arsene build another fine brand of football, which did not win us prices, but was always a joy to watch. We can only wonder what would have happened if Arsenal had been able to keep hold of its key players and strengthen the squad every year with one or two quality players, during the initial post-Highbury years. But winning is not everything, at least not for me, and I have great memories of how we played the game under conductor El Capitan.
Since the departure of Cesc our football has seldom been of the Bergkamp and Fabregas standard. There have been moments in games, and sometimes even whole games, when we played beautiful football. But it is fair to say, Wenger has been struggling to get us back to the standards we have become accustomed to over recent decades. I have no doubt he can get us there again: his passion and vision are as good as ever; but I am wondering how he can do it.
For me, Arsene needs a conductor in the middle, ideally in the ‘hole’ position. I have seen enough to believe that Ozil is a great player but not a conductor who shapes and commands the midfield. I have great hopes for Jack, the best young footballer I have seen in the game since Cesc, but I reckon he has not got the stamina/fitness yet to be a continuous force in our team. Ramsey is our ideal box-to-boxer but I don’t see him as a conductor in our team.
In order to get back to full-on Wengerball, with now a better chance to win something in the process, we need to add at least a DM who can pass the ball as well. I have written enough about this recently, so will not elaborate much further. Suffice to say, we need a player in front of our back four who can defend, has great stamina and physicality, allows his fellow midfielders to play higher up the pitch and can pass the ball well (enough).
But we also need to fill the hole with somebody who owns the area in front of the opponents’ ‘D’, all the way back to the middle line, and if Cesc is really willing to leave Barcelona……
Finally, after a very long week since Arsenal beat Hull City 3-nil at the KC stadium (in a preview of the FA Cup final) the team will play another match. This time it will be Newcastle United coming to the Emirates for a Monday Night match. I attended this fixture last season and it fell on another weeknight, albeit during the crowded festive period. That one ended with was a crazy 7-3 score-line featuring a Theo Walcott hat-trick. Olivier Giroud almost matched Theo’s display coming off the bench and netting two, with only the post denying a 3rd. Also scoring that night were Lucas Poldolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It was a gaudy score-line and a total we haven’t come to close to equaling since, but it was also a particularly unconvincing night, especially at the defensive end. Three times we took a lead only to have it equaled. Also, the post-match salute to all corners of the stadium by Walcott, who had been allowing his contract to run down, seemed like a farewell. Despite the 7 goals, the team seemed somewhat at sea.
It was a very long time ago and much has changed since. Of course, much also has remained the same.
One of those elements is that both clubs, contrary to usual policy in the Premier league, are still managed by the same men. Arsene Wenger (16 years) and Alan Pardew (3) are the League’s two longest serving managers, but both have weathered intense times at their respective clubs. For Wenger, it was a long campaign to get his team into the Champions league places (including a nervy 1-nil at Newcastle to end the season) followed by a summer of great potential (“money to spend”), great disappointment (we didn’t spend any in picking up two French players, Yaya Sanogo and Mathieu Flamini). Finally, at the deadline, after a devastating opening match loss to Aston Villa and worries about winning a Champions League Qualifier (vs already banned Fenerbache) and squeaking past arch-rival Tottenham in a 1-nil, Wenger (somewhat, at least) mollified critics by obliterating Arsenal’s transfer record and bringing in Mesut Ozil for 50 million Euros. From those early season difficulties we had an upbeat Autumn but a slow unraveling as injuries (and no replacement buys in January) combined with big defeats against title contenders dumped us out of that race and have brought us to another series of nail-biters as the club tries to hold on (again) for Champions league qualification.
In this same period, Pardew, whose team was spirited but ultimately callow in the 7-3 result I witnessed, has ridden maybe even a greater tidal wave of ups and downs. The January directly after the loss at our place featured even more recruitment in the “Neufchateau” vein, bringing in French (and French speaking) talent, including Yoan Goufran, Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Moussa Sissoko. Although these buys somewhat made up for the loss of Demba Ba (who scored two that night but was subsequently bought by Chelsea), it must be remembered that Pardew and Newcastle were coming off a 6th place finish in the league. Despite the wave of purchases, Newcastle played poorly in the 2nd half of the season and only avoided being pulled into the relegation battle because other clubs (Reading, QPR and Wigan) played worse and went down rather easily.
This past summer Newcastle withstood transfer links (including many with Arsenal) over holding mid-fielder Yohan Cabaye and added another Frenchman (and long supposed Arsenal target), Loic Remy, on loan from QPR. The Autumn went well and Pardew had his men playing outstanding football. They sat well in the top half of the table with the highlights being 1-nil victories at Tottenham and Manchester United and a 2-nil home win over Chelsea. In their final match of 2013 they played Arsenal almost even, only to lose to a long free-kick from Theo Walcott which received the slightest of touches from Olivier Giroud.
Again, however, they’ve been in a free-fall since the turn of the year, losing Cabaye to Paris-St Germain in the January window, getting pounded in the Tyne-Wear derby (a 3-nil loss to Sunderland at St. James Park) and now having lost 5 league matches on the trot. This most recent period has been compounded by a touchline ban for Pardew following a head-butting incident against a Hull City player.
That ban finally comes to an end with our match, but Pardew, who exchanged shoves with Wenger in 2006 when he was in charge at West Ham, has promised a calmer demeanor. Meanwhile, our own manager, despite finally getting his men winning again in their last two matches and looking better for retaining Champions league qualification (thanks to Everton losing 2 of their most recent 3 matches) and having a post-season date in the FA Cup final, seems under more pressure than ever. Supporters demand more than merely treading water and the potential of lifting the domestic trophy seems insufficient relative to failing—with some big score-lines against—in both the title challenge and against the defending champions Bayern Munich (again) in the European tournament. Wenger, who has mysteriously been holding off on signing a contract extension, has promised to do so, but this news seems to be greeted with more weary resignation (if not outright anger) than excitement by a majority of Gooners.
But that is ALL background. There IS a match to be played and it’s actually an important one for Arsenal. (In fact, all of these remaining matches are important and the fact that they haven’t been played—and won—may be the essential reason Wenger hasn’t actually signed.) Who will we play and what should we expect from our opponents?
I believe we’ll see a line-up unchanged (or nearly so) from a week ago at Hull. Poldolski continues (how can you drop a guy who is scoring 2 goals per match?) as will the mid-field group, buzzing again with the returns of Ramsey and Ozil. It’s possible some game time will be given to Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Kallstrom, Sanogo and/or Flamini, who all seem healthy or, in the case of the latter, is not suspended. According to Wenger, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere continue out injured but Tomas Vermaelen is available, so it’s possible that he might reprise his role at left back instead of Monreal, which seemed an effective set-up vs West Ham. Here is my best guess at the starters:
Newcastle, by contrast, seems to be limping into this confrontation. Mercurial MF/Forward Hatem Ben Arfa is reported to be either injured or sent back to France. Other injuries appear a near constant throughout the Newcastle line-up, but big man Shola Ameobi has been scoring and Loic Remy may want to try and impress Wenger. Overall, IF Arsenal play their game and limit their mistakes, they should be able to exert enough pressure over the 90 minutes to cause Newcastle to crack. Goalkeeper Tim Krul’s most recent clean sheet was vs Crystal Palace on 22 March; his last in a road match was at Norwich on 28 July. If we can breach his defenses and net one, others might follow and we could be in the clear. In other words, unlike the 7-3 free-for-all I attended on 29 December 2012, I’d expect a match much more like the one we played exactly a year later up in Newcastle where it took that Walcott free kick and Giroud glancing touch, plus a stout, unyielding defensive performance of our own, to see them off. Everton has gifted us a bit of breathing room in the race for 4th but I’d prefer a bit more. The sooner this CL qualification is settled, the better.
Finally, on a personal note… As much as I enjoyed all the goals in this fixture last season, the best part was meeting a fellow blogger—Arthur 3 Shedds (from another site, where I used to participate) and his wife, who acted as our guides and mentors. We met pre-match outside the Finsbury Park station (my boy wearing my Sagna 3 kit to serve as the identifying agent) and they took us up the Seven Sisters Road (into the area of North London where Arthur—not his real name—grew up) for a meal of Turkish food before returning to the stadium and the match. Fun as it was, they had a long train ride back that night (they live in Charlton these days) and invited us to their place later in the week. That was a nice time as well and meeting them was a real highlight of our time in London. My point is that personal meet-ups can be a great by-product of all this writing about our shared interest, our football club. My hope is that I can meet some of you folks for a match or elsewhere. (Lake Tahoe in the mountains of California, where I live, is a pretty primo place to visit….) As much as it’s a pleasure (and, at times, a pain…) to share thoughts about our club, the human element is what makes it all worthwhile.
So, some football!! (a match vs Newcastle). What do you think?
These days nothing makes me spring to Arsene Wenger’s defence quicker than absurd comments which call his managerial ability into question. This week, I felt compelled to defend him on a forum where people who were ostensibly Arsenal fans were criticising Arsene and various players – including name-calling – following our ‘disastrous loss’ to Manchester United (you would think from the vitriol that we had suffered a repeat of the Anfield aberration). I think that you have to accept that some people just aren’t as intelligent or considered in their opinions as others. That’s one reason I am sticking with BK.
But to see the bile spewing forth from the mouth of Jose Mourinho on Friday has really made my blood boil.
Now, I get frustrated with Wenger reasonably regularly. I admit that I was one of those calling for his head on a fairly regular basis recently, probably blinkered by my own frustration and the team’s perceived stagnation over the years since we moved to our shiny new multi-million pound home. I still find it frustrating to see the occasional inexplicable rigidity with which he approaches in-game tactics and the prickliness with which he handles the media.
This is what the Chelsea manager said (according to the BBC):
“If he is right and I am afraid of failure it is because I didn’t fail many times. Eight years without silverware, that’s failure. He’s a specialist in failure. If I do that in Chelsea, eight years, I leave and don’t come back.”
To me that smacks of a billionaire’s spoilt brat suggesting that a self-made millionaire is a failure because they don’t have the same resources at their disposal as the child.
Mourinho, after all, has never really wanted for anything managerially; at least not in the last decade, and he has no qualms about playing dreary football. He was handed a blank cheque book at Chelsea, so of course he wouldn’t have been allowed to not win anything for eight years.
Let’s contrast that with Arsene Wenger who has had stewardship of our great club for long enough that he has fielded a player in the first team who wasn’t even born when he took the reins. He may have benefited from some of Danny Fiszman’s money but it was nowhere near the level of “investment” that Roman Abramovich has made in Chelsea; in fact Abramovich has put four times as much into his hobby than some estimates of Fiszman’s overall net worth (£236m according to Wikipedia).
He has won the league three times (still more than Maureen’s current count), overseeing some breathtaking football in the process, continuing to stick to his footballing as well as his economic principles, and ensuring continued qualification for the Champions League on a shoestring, often being compelled to sell our best players, while waiting for improved sponsorship deals to kick in.
Now, who thinks Mourinho, a mercenary, would have the application (let alone the managerial nous) to pull off a feat like that? His return to the English game has seen him become even more charmless than before, in this instance repaying a compliment about the position he has got his team into (with no mention of the silver-spoon used to get it there) with vitriol. You evidently can’t buy class.
In my own failure to see the bigger picture, I often accused Wenger of myopia but now we are seeing the possibilities his prudent financial management over the years can facilitate going forward. My brother (an accountant, not a Gooner) has been telling me for years that Wenger was doing amazing things at Arsenal and I just needed to have faith, wait, and see. I have seen the light my Toffee brother preached to me for years, and even I can see now that, while it may not be this season, great things are in store.
It’s never been a more exciting time to be a Gooner.
‘Stillness and Speed’, by Dennis Bergkamp – A Review.
In terms of footballing autobiographies I am not very widely read; I think the extent of my involvement is Perry Groves’s (which was ridiculously funny in places, but amounted to essentially a collection of anecdotes) and Kenny Sansom’s, which I still haven’t finished. However, having spent four days immersed in Dennis Bergkamp’s experiences, I have emerged from my self-imposed exile from humanity with a much more satisfied glow than these other former Gunners provided, or threatened to provide. I feel now much more like I did at the end of Fever Pitch: pleased that God made me Gooner, and privileged to enjoy football in a way that only a Gooner can (and as Nick Hornby pointed out, this sometimes involves intense disappointment, frustration and hatred). If you’re looking for an objective review, you’re probably on the wrong website. I don’t want to ruin this book for anyone either, so my review won’t mention anything in great detail, as I could not do any of what was said justice by rehashing it into my own words.
Overall one of the best things I found was that the narrative isn’t a ghost writer imposing his own linguistic artistry onto Dennis’s thoughts and portraying them as his own, but rather a transcript of interviews with him and others who knew enough about him to add something worthwhile to the book (family, friends, colleagues and bosses from the teams he played for – notably Ian WWW, Thierry Henry and AW).
As I read the first few pages, I began to realise why I didn’t become a professional footballer (as I had wanted to when I was 6), or even very good at football at all: the attention to detail that Dennis put into everything, particularly football, was incomprehensible to me; and the feeling that he understood deeply something I only ever see superficially grew as the book progressed, as he spoke about distances between players, angles, manipulating space on the pitch, working for the team and making the perfect pass.
As an Arsenal fan, knowing where the book was headed even at the beginning, I was delighted to learn that he had put in more time and effort as a kid playing football on the street than I have ever had the concentration to put into football – he would aim for particular bricks in the wall he used to kick a ball against and constantly test out what happened when the ball rebounded in this way or that, or when he changed variable x, y or z.
Another impressive trait I observed was that of him not objecting to other people seeing events differently to him: he called it having their own truth, and he encouraged the authors to get the points of view honestly from others involved, such as at Inter Milan, where he doesn’t seem to have had a very good time. And although he would defend himself against some of what was said it would only be to put across his own view.
Turns out Dennis Bergkamp doesn’t like to do things the way other people do them.
That’s why he signed for Inter instead of Milan, opting against joining the Dutch trio who enjoyed enormous success there, where he would have been able to integrate pretty easily with van Basten and co, but would have become just another player scoring lots of goals: he wanted to make a distinct mark. It is also one of the reasons why, when he left Inter, he signed for us rather than the Spuds where Hoddle, one of his favourite players, had made a mark. Whatever the reason, and really the story of every human life hinges on decisions which may be made on little more than a whim, he signed for Arsenal and he has Arsenal in his blood now.
It was illuminating reading about situations at Highbury when Bruce Rioch was appointed; this was a time when the information superhighway was more of a dirt track, and one I was not connected to: most of my ‘knowledge’ of football came from Amiga games, and I was more concerned with whether Arsenal had beaten Villa or Man United than I was with who our manager was. From the time he was appointed to the time he departed, all I knew about him was that he’d been the Bolton manager when they’d knocked us out of the FA Cup. I didn’t realise he’d had a vision for Arsenal to play attractive football too.
Despite my comments about Perry Groves’s book earlier, autobiographies would be nothing without anecdotes, and once Dennis has signed for Arsenal there are a good few of them, and as a Gooner a lot of them made me giddy with excitement, as I’m sure they will you lot too.
I know I said I didn’t want to spoil it but if you don’t know the one about his first meeting with Ian Wright, you’re in for a treat; in general however it was exhilarating to see what other people at Arsenal had to say about him, particularly Thierry and Wrighty, who played up front alongside him. I get the impression that it was really at Arsenal he was allowed to become the footballer he wanted to be and his commitment to the team (whichever one he was playing for) is something that is reflected in the way he takes pleasure as much in his assists as he does in his goals.
It is lovely to relive his great goals as well though: another reminder as to why I was never going to play football for a living though as he talked me through his decision making processes and the attendant awareness of everything around him on the pitch. The goal against Newcastle still has me in awe, as does the one for Holland at the World Cup.
Discussions of his experiences at Ajax, Inter and Arsenal lend themselves naturally to delicious considerations of his footballing ideology both by himself and others, notably Johan Cruyff, AW and Thierry. Certain transfer decisions are cast into lights we may not have considered before too, which, whilst objectively uninteresting, is still of immense interest to (certain) Gooners. I was just annoyed Vieira to Juve wasn’t one of them.
I’m not a literature buff so I don’t read many books more than once, but this is certainly one I will come back to. Because of Stillness and Speed, my three-year-old can now recognise DB10 and AW, and I feel like a better informed Gooner for reading it.
I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially to Gooners.
Ozil is learning to play with OG as our ‘holding striker’ and has some way to go;
OG is not the sort of striker who can take full advantage of Ozil’s vision and passing ability.
There is potential for a clash of styles here and, as a result, a risk of frustrating/not getting the best out of Ozil in the process.
And these questions:
Which formation should we play?
Should they play together at all?
Who should play around them to get the best value out of both players – do we need to buy or is there a solution within the current squad?
This was my first response:
TA – Fine post, much needed. Thanks.
I cannot be very original in my response as much has been said already. So take it as read that, time (to get know player’s preferences), first season (different challenges from a more competitive league), and changes in personnel (altering the balance of the side, as well having different contributions to make) are a given ….
But then as I continued my reply, I quickly realised this post raised some really deep, fundamental questions that needed to be answered, but too much for a simple reply, even the length some of my replies run to? So this post was born. Hopefully answering some of those questions, and raising others. I began with this:
I query the question Ozil and OG playing together less well, than say, Santi and Ozil, but that too may work out in time. The trouble is, in this season and the position we are in – i.e. being TOTL and being hard pressed by two of the moneybags clubs: One who spent heavily at the start of the season with their changed manager already at the helm, as with Man City; and the other, whose new manager inherited an expensive set of players, but is now retuning, by buying and selling in this January transfer window, Chelsea. – Whereas we haven’t really got the time to work through mini clashes of style, at the expense of possibly losing valuable points?
So to answer these questions I ran through the following arguments.
What will liven up our attack will be the introduction of Ox, Gnabry and Draxler (JD) (WHEN) he arrives. I don’t believe there is much of a problem with OG, that other threats on goal, particularly in and around the box, will not cure. Mostly when we play, OG is isolated. In the Villa game a few times we saw a typical example when the high ball is played forwards they had two or three players close in quickly for an easy turnover ball, because he had no immediate support. JD will be the player that AW has in mind to be the CAM who will be near enough to help out, as he has the speed and dribbling ability to get past defenders so that, if my theory holds good, they will not be able to put more than one on Giroud. That will change the whole dynamics up front?
Gnabry is the player we have, who, as the audio commentary team reminded everybody, played second striker (to Akpom) last season, which is probably more his natural position. Even AW since has said ‘the middle is where he (Gnabry)will end up’. Also, it might become a double threat with JD on the left and SG on the right in the future?
We have now played Fulham since TA’s original post, and I believe it showed how the side might develop as the players get more time together? It still had the same problem that TA alluded to in his post, that Ozil struggles to make key passes when those around him are not moving into viable spaces, and particularly where such passes would lead to goal opportunities. It is not Giroud’s strong point to drop a shoulder, twist turn and dribble on his way to score. We know that. Another reason is partly due to the amount of bodies wanting to be in the central area, from our own players pulling in defenders? Even when the opportunities did come, the lack of clinical finishing meant the chances went begging.
However, in the first half there was a lot of movement from our midfield, as well as with Giroud. A lack of composure from young Gnabry, and a not so sharp Giroud meant the score stayed at 0-0. The real point to me was, probably for the first time, the whole of the midfield was involved? The heat map of Gnabry showed bright spots on the left and left centre, but the heaviest involvement was centre right and right wing. But he also had his moments deeper helping the defence. Ozil’s heat maps usually show a similar pattern, but with less emphasis on the central area. Whereas, Wilshere would have shown a distinct bias in a broad central strip.
In this game Cazorla was the main beneficiary, whereas in the Villa game Ozil had more say in pulling the strings.
So who will be the Chief Puppeteer?
Wilshere had a third game where he showed his best form, and he is also key to how this master plan unfolds. The reason why his game flourished in the Fulham game I think is twofold. One I think is his ‘maturity’ in getting a ‘true’ feel for being a creative midfielder, rather than trying to carry the team single handedly. Others are there now, so he can concentrate on what he can do best? What I basically mean by that, he was playing a supportive role, rather than trying to be the conductor? Secondly, operating straight down the middle, to play and receive balls, he did not displace Cazorla from doing his creative work in the same area, and so they complimented each others play. Which works well as long as others moved around intelligently, which they did. Ultimately, it was Santi’s interaction, with Wilshere in particular, across the box that enabled him to get the two snap shots away that produced the winning goals. Perhaps that is the one thing Ozil does not do often enough, as he enjoys providing for others. That is a subtle difference between them?
But there hangs the dilemma. With the rise of Cazorla’s performance, Ozil became more of a peripheral figure as the game wore on. Not that he was not contributing, but there were only flashes of his genius to make key passes?
It will take time I think, for him not just to link with specific players, but get more familiar with the space, and for the others to get to know that same space where the ball is played? I would guess that is why Ramsey can do well playing with Ozil. When he is high on his confidence and simply playing intuitively, he too can see the same space. This is what we need more of, as well as see the whole midfield working as a complete unit?
Gnabry, in just two games, has improved no end with his off the ball movement. So, with his dribbling skills and shooting with both feet will be a joy to behold by the time he is 20. But in the meantime he is still another option to be developed into a goal scoring threat. As it stands at the moment, he may not be enough of one to drag defenders away from Giroud, but that will change?
The Ox too, could play this role, but he too will have to get up to speed. The key to all these players, OG included, is how well they will link with Ozil? Podolski has not got the goals he has by being a duffer either. I agree with those suggesting it has been a fitness issue that may have kept him out recently. The calf wrapping shown in the training photos before the Fulham game lends support to this? Also AW has an aversion to doing early substitutions, so rather than start a game, I think he will do more ‘last half hours’ for the time being?
That then is the case for the attacking threat. We have the players, and are likely to add to it before the transfer window ends. Who ‘they’ are, if more than one, or even less than one, we will know on February 1st.
Ozil, ideally needs quick thinking players who have the necessary pace around him, and then his true value to the team will surely blossom. So, the combinations that work well with Ozil are; the ‘mutual admiration society’ candidates Rosicky at the head; Ramsey, playing on ‘instinct’ higher up the pitch; Wilshere in his ‘mature’ mode, but still a work in progress; Cazorla on the evidence of the last game also still needs work on how to involve Ozil more when playing together? Ox, as another creative, attacking midfielder, will like Gnabry become the alternative scoring threats, and will only get better the more they play?
However, the fundamental question asked was, should we change our current style and bring in a striker who fits the requirements of Ozil, but changes in quite a big way, the whole set up of the way we are playing at the moment?
The case for Giroud, who is our main striker, and as such would be expected to be our main goal scorer. The fact that he is not a quick, nimble footed striker, he does not fit the natural mould of what sort of player Ozil would like to play key passes to? But does that make him redundant? Do we really need to find a replacement, as TA’s post asks?
I do not think AW is looking to replace him, going by the intention of getting Suarez, or indeed, the ‘new RVP’ in JD? I support that view. I will now try and answer the ‘BIG’ question – Does Giroud hold Ozil back?
The lack of natural fit is a hard one to argue with, regards the Ozil/Giroud combination. But I will deflect that by looking to see if that is who Ozil should be interacting with regards to getting goals?
I have a slightly radical idea that Giroud is not actual a proper No 9. Instead he is more an atypical false No 9, and would do a lot better if he were to drop back 10 or 15 yards? Basically, to where such false central player would play? Now instantly you will think ‘he ain’t going to score many goals from there’?
True, but what he does well is hold up play, and give knock downs and flicks to others if the options are available. By being that bit closer to our midfielders he should not only have more options, but also be less heavily marked. He is, by and large, our main outlet ball from our goalkeeper, be that free kicks or long punts up field. But he does not have to be the furthest player forwards to be effective?
So I believe the right striker, should we get one, or JD, or both, or the Ox, the Gnabry, would be the ones to drive forward in the middle. But should another winger materialise, then a knock down ball to Ozil could have a field day spreading passes out wide? Balls cut back should still find Giroud in space, and with the right one-twos and movement in the box Giroud could be deadly with his best weapons, his feet, whether assisting or scoring?
Where are the Jack’s, Santi’s, and Ozil’s when we switch to attack. Perfecting what they did in the Fulham game. Pass and Move. Pull defences out of shape. Make the openings for a number of bodies to score. Since Giroud has been with us we have scored more goals overall that in the RVP year of being the ‘one man band’. Let us not lose sight of that fact. Giroud does not score many goals with his head, so have him pulling defenders away from the keeper so others can? On set pieces we have Mert, Kos, Sagna, and even Ramsey can all put the ball in the net from headers, as well as knock it back for people like Cazorla, Wilshere, Gnabry, Ox, and yes, Giroud to score from slightly deeper positions with their feet.
The key is finding space. That is what Ozil is about. If we get JD, fine. We will have a player who can make use of his skills. If we get a striker who is also quick, and maybe able to head the ball, that too would be a bonus. But above all, we want players that compliment our squad, because the players we are developing, in time, are likely to be better than those available now, JD excepted, as he too will develop along with them. But all will appreciate having the unselfish Giroud and Ozil doing what they do best.
We should too?
So, my answer to the statement in the previous title;
‘Are Arsenal Getting The Best Out Of Ozil – Is Giroud holding him back?’
The answer is No, but Giroud is not the problem.
The answers to other points raised:
Q.- Ozil is learning to play with OG as our ‘holding striker’ and has some way to go?
Answer; Should read learning to play ‘around’ OG, and that has some way to go?
Q.- OG is not the sort of striker who can take full advantage of Ozil’s vision and passing ability?
Answer; True, in the direct sense. But vision and passing ability is Ozil’s department, and he should be using it in more appropriate areas, eg out wide, or in the box, to players that can benefit?
Q.- There is potential for a clash of styles here and, as a result, a risk of frustrating/not getting the best out of Ozil in the process?
All players get frustrated when their efforts are not rewarded with an end result. However, by focussing on Giroud as his only outlet for a successful conclusion is where this observation is misplaced, and Ozil’s if he feels that?
And these questions:
Q.- Which formation should we play?
A.- That depends on two things; Who is available; Where they can best be used. But a variation within 1-4-6? That allows for a variety of patterns to be formed according to who is bringing their strengths to the game. Our usual 1-4-2-3-1 may be adjusted to allow and extra body up front?
Q.-Should they play together at all?
A.- If the ‘they’ refers Ozil Giroud together, I believe the strength’s of both can be used very effectively.
Q.- Who should play around them to get the best value out of both players – do we need to buy or is there a solution within the current squad?
A.- This is the bigger question. From the above I have argued for both points. We do need a player who is a threat in the box. Ideally that player will be quick, nimble and score goals(JD), but in time, both Ox and Gnabry could become that type of player.
Time, in this season we do not have, so buy is the likely option. A different type of striker is also a possibility, but that depends what else he can add to the squad. I should also add, that should Bendtner recapture his best form, he too could benefit from any addition, and has the addition of being a good header of goals?
But that is only half the problem. At best, with Giroud and Ozil playing it leaves just 3 players to fill the remaining places. One B2B, two creative/attacking MFs, so getting the right balance will be the most important. Should a solid DM be on the shopping list, then possibly 3 rather than 2, out of the 7 or 8 possibilities to choose from? AW is going to be very creative to keep all parties happy, and more importantly, fresh and ready to start when needed? But any kind of pecking order will lead to frustration if over used?
Combine that with who works best with who, and you have a balancing nightmare if all stay fit?
If AW was prepared to play Ozil twice in every three games, not that strictly regimented, but say, over a period of ten games, he starts in six of them? Then, I would say alternate Ozil with Cazorla, based on recent evidence. Similarly, Ramsey and Wilshere. Rosicky, as I have said already, will work around whoever else starts. The younger pair, Ox and Gnabry, and to some extent Podolkski, would have to take their chances as they arise. Mostly from the subs bench I would guess, except when the need for width arises. But may be this is where new signings may also compete?
None of this is set in stone, but it is going to take a great deal more flexibility within the squad for all to maintain the unity that the smaller squad offers?
However, for this to fully work with this many MF’s committed to attack, you need a holding DM behind them to slow down attacks to allow the proper defensive lines to take shape? This is covered as long as we have both Arteta and Flamini fit. If Frimpong goes out on loan, we have the returning Frances Coquelin to assist. He is quick, but also likes to get forward. The replacement we need is someone who ‘commands’ that space behind. A ‘Presence!’ no less. More importantly, if we are continuing to use our FB’s as wingers/wing backs, a single DM allows us a more dynamic midfield, but probably neither Arteta or Flamini are capable of doing on the their own? However, if wide attacking players are used, then the need for advance FB’s diminishes? That could at least defer the need for the SQ DM until a suitable one is available in the next window?
In conclusion; Ozil will find his space no matter who else is playing, but how effective he is depends on how well they all work as a team. If you play Cazorla in the free central role, the ‘Arshavin’ best position, working across the line of opposition defenders, it will bring the best out in his game. Ozil can pull the strings with the wider players and create spaces for the central bodies to work better. You then have Rosicky and Ramsey for energy and drive, Wilshere for the central support. Gnabry and Ox for width, and Podolski as an alternative frontline striker, unless we get other options in this window?
Such are the complexities within our midfield, that the best combinations will gradually be found. But I also think having the one of the most creative midfielders around, we should not get to be too reliant on just his input in every game? We have talent to spread the load, we should use them?
We are, as it stands at the moment, reliant on Giroud to be our ‘holding striker’, and he is very capable of scoring many more goals this season. But if we can share that burden with whoever is available to play for us after January 31st, then he too will find life a lot easier?
Nobody said managing a football club was easy. Thank heavens we have got somebody who has practical experience running our club, rather than my theoretical aspirations to what might work?
Comments will be appreciated if they go beyond one liners. But on the fundamental question of changing our approach to accommodate one player’s needs, is very much open for discussion?