BFG, Cech and Giroud back to rule the airways and provide backbone?

Short Match Preview today, as 17HT and I are busy. Crystal Palace are coming to the home of football and like our previous opponents Everton, Watford and West Ham, they have FA cup footie on their mind. Palace are almost safe in the PL so a chance to make it to the FA cup final, against fellow Londoners Watford next weekend, will be featuring strongly on their minds.

Nevertheless, we have to be careful as Pardew is a wily fox who is good at team tactics and game strategy, especially, it appears, in away games against the stronger teams (on paper). He will have noticed how badly we dealt with the neanderthal approach to attacking football by the Hammers last week, and with Adebarndoor and Wickham they have two guys who could rule the airways against us once again. So time to restore some balance in defence and in the spine, and add some vital inches to the team, with the reintroduction of Cech, the BFG and Giroud.

I love Ospina but Cech is calmer and organises his CBs better. I like the dynamism of the Koz and Gabriel combo, but they lack organisational control between them and have to work far too hard to control the aerial threat of opponents when constantly put under pressure; so reintroducing the BFG makes sense to me. Welbeck is a mobile CF and his mobility and unpredictability allow others to shine, but at set pieces I prefer Ollie any time. The Frenchman is also a lot more clinical and will be hungry to start.

You could argue, why should we be so defensively minded for this game: we are the Arsenal playing at home; let’s get at them and constantly attack. But playing for the home crowd can be a nervy business, especially if and when the opposition keeps pumping balls into the box and one of those Adebarndoor or Wickham headers goes in. So a sensible approach with the aim to keep a clean sheet and score at least a goal is what we need.

A win today and a loss by the Foxes, and then an Arsenal win against West Brom midweek, would mean a reduction of the gap to ‘just’ six points. A lot to ask for but definitely not inconceivable, so let’s focus on our part and play with focus and deadliness.

My Arsenal team for today:

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Alexis and Iwobi have to work hard to link up with their fellow FBs, by playing close to them in defence and tracking back constantly. But we will also need the full backs to support the mid-wingers, by providing width and penetration from the flanks. So for me, these four positions and players are key today. The rest is there to keep the spine strong and defend calmly and decisively, as well as provide the creativity and forward thrust from the centre.

Really looking forward to seeing the boys in action again, and if we can win today and follow it up with two wins in the next seven days, we might get very close to the leaders. Let’s make sure the fat lady will not be singing for a while longer, at least. 😉

COYRRG!

By TotalArsenal

2015 Arsenal Highlights: FA Cup Super-Champions, Ox’s bullet against Chelsea, Ozil Assists King, Cech’s a Gunner

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2015 was a very good year for Arsenal. The hard stats say it all: we played 38 PL games in the calendar year and won 25 of them: three more than MC, seven more than MU and eight more than Chavs. In total we gained nine more PL points than Citeh, 17 more than MU and 20 more than last season’s champions. Arsenal conceded least goals of all the PL teams: 31, compared to MC 41, MU 34 and Chavs 47.We are the second highest PL scorers in 2015 with 70 goals – MC had nine more goals but we still managed a better goal difference. And we are currently joined TOTL with Leicester.

Here are my ten highlights of the past calendar year.

  1. The absolute highlight was of course winning the FA Cup for a record 12th time – no other club has more FA cups than Arsenal now. We blitzed sorry Villa in the final and played some superb football with especially sexy Alexis in top form on the day. Beating MU away on our way to the final was possibly the biggest FA highlight; especially Monreal’s cool finish will not easily be forgotten.
  2. Finishing third to automatically qualify for the CL, followed by qualification for the last sixteen for an amazing 16th time in December were also highlights. I will never tire to appreciate our boys playing at the highest level of club football year in year out. We had a bad start against Zagreb and Olympiakos, but then we started to turn it round with a superb home win against Die Lederhosen, followed by a good home win against Zagreb and a wonderful, mature performance against the Greeks in their cauldron to get through once again.
  3. But just as important for me was our gradual growth during the year, becoming a stronger and more settled team. For a long time we were not able to beat our direct silverware competitors, but in 2015 we beat MU and MC, home and away, and Chavs at Wembley. Add to that our win against Bayern and the belief in the qualities of this team will only grow. We also have a first team that will grow further with many individuals yet to reach their peak years or being smack-bang in the middle of them. This team will only get better in the next 2-3 years.
  4. Ox’s thunderbolt against the Chavs in the Charity Shield match was another fine highlight: Wenger finally beating ME!rinho when the world was watching was just what we needed to kick-start the season.
  5. Cech signing for Arsenal. Ospina had done very well for us in the second half of the previous season and with Szczesny we have a talented young goalie that can mature into a very fine one, but a top team needs a solid, experienced keeper who oozes calm and class. Petr offers all of this and his PL record of clean sheets will further enhance his reputation and experience, both on the pitch and in the dressing room. I saw him live a few times but his first half performance against Liverpool at home will never be forgotten. He made some super-human saves to keep Pool somehow from scoring as the rest of our team had no answer to their superior attacking football in the first half. What a signing!
  6. Ozil king of assists and goal scoring opportunities. Enough has been written about the genius and importance of Mesmerizing Mesut (just check out our recent posts about him by TA and 17HT).
  7. Flying Spanish full backs: Nacho and Bellerin: both have come to the fore so strongly in the last 12 months. They are a menace for every opponent, especially in terms of the support they give to our attack, adding width and speed to our front players and giving us an extra dimension in the process. Hector Vector still needs to improve his defending a bit but that surely will come. They are both great, likeable professionals with an intrinsic motivation to do well for Arsenal. You gotta love them!
  8. The wall of CoCa: who would have thought at the end of last year that Coquelin and Cazorla would make such a fine double DM pivot for us. They found the right balance between defending and supporting the attack with Le Coq a great protector of our defence, and Cazorla a great feeder of our attackers, giving our attack that extra dimension together with Ozil.
  9. Sexy Alexis: he carried the team for a while with his energy and drive and crucial goals, peaking at the FA cup final with a superb display of all he has to offer. I never tire looking at him and the thought of playing him with Giroud and Theo up-front and Mesut and Rambo/Santi feeding them all makes me do one of those Jurgen Klopp mad smiles… Cech, Ozil, Alexis: three signing in three years that have helped tremendously in moving Arsenal to a higher echelon.
  10. Meeting up with the 17HT family in Sheffield in October. It was a dire game but to meet up with the Tiger of Tahoe, his lovely wife and son and talk proper football face to face was definitely one of my Arsenal highlights of the year. An added bonus was meeting the Sheaf family at the hotel I stayed and talking about their son’s development at the club.

These were my highlights but what are yours?

By TotalArsenal.

Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and a Gooner-Glory-Full 2016!

17HT and TA.

Soccer - FA Cup - Arsenal Winners Parade
How nice would it be for Arsene to win the league in 2016?!

The Cech Factor, Mesmerising Mesut, Spanish Bull Backs, Rambo Dynamo: 10 PL positives until now.

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12 games played in the premier league and now joined top with Citeh: who would have thought this after our first six games? We had a measly ten points and trailed the Northern Oilers by five points, and we had big games against Manchester United (H), Leicester (A), Swansea (A), Everton (H), Spuds (H) and Watford (A) ahead of us. Six games, and sixteen points, later and we caught up with the early season high flyers, and are now an amazing 15 points ahead of the self-adoring one and his spoiled Chavs, who were, let’s not forget, the absolute favourites to win the title again this season, in August. We are also the London PL table leaders with five points more than the Spuds and the Hammers. So far so very, very good; and we should be very proud of our boys.

There is of course still a very, very long way to go and the principle of OGAAT – one game at a time – remains an absolute necessity if we are to win anything this year. Looking ahead to our next six PL games, we have a good chance to stay top and even take a bit of distance from Citeh and other competitors. But this can only be achieved by focussing on each and every game like it is a cup final.

Next up is West Brom away, never easy, especially after an international break; then it is Norwich away, Sunderland at home and Villa away: all teams that need points and will fight us with all they have got; then we play Citeh at home, followed by Southampton away, which are both very tricky fixtures. In the middle of these we have to play two CL fixtures, and especially the away game against Olympiakos – in between Sunderland at home and Villa away – could require a hell of a lot from our team (but only if Bayern manage to beat the Greeks before then in the first place).

So OGAAT it is and let’s see where we are after our Boxing Day fixture against the Saints. Key is to get our team back to strength as injuries have once again depleted our squad in the last few weeks. There is, however, reason for optimism based on our first twelve games in the PL:

  1. We are so much more solid at the back, especially when we play at least four out of Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koz and Nacho. Only MU conceded less goals (8) and we are equal with Citeh (9 goals conceded each), and we have already achieved six clean PL sheets this season. There is still room for improvement and especially the CB pairing could be subject to improvement in the next few months.
  2. Cech, after a rough start against WH, has improved the squad considerably. Perhaps less exciting to many, but his impact on the team is on a par with the previous arrivals of Santi, Ozil and Sanchez. Petr is the sort of goalkeeper we needed for a long time to make real progress in the league.
  3. Santi – Ozil – Sanchez give us the creative magic virtually all our competitors are missing right now. It is very hard for competitors to eliminate our creative force: if they focus on shadowing Ozil then Santi or Alexis will find the gaps instead; if they press hard on Santi, Alexis and Ozil will help him and together they find the space and the passes to hurt the opposition in a flash. We are now a team that at any moment and from almost any place on the pitch can produce a through-ball that will hurt the opposition instantly.
  4. Coquelin is now even better than last season. Some predicted that he would have a disappointing ‘second season’ as our deepest DM, but Francis has fully established himself in the team. He always gives his all and has found the right balance between aggression and control; and quietly he is developing in one of our key leaders.
  5. Goals are being spread between the team, with OG and Alexis having each scored as many PL goals as Aguero (6) and Theo showing a lot of promise too (2 PL goals currently). I love the variety we have in attack and that Wenger is using our attackers flexibly. Just as with our creative play, we have an extra dimension to our attack. However, getting Theo back as soon as possible is much needed to avoid burnout of Giroud, and especially, Alexis.
  6. Ozil is currently totally in the zone: 10 assists in 11 PL games is quite something and he is making our play now more than ever. He benefits a lot from Santi’s and Alexis’ presence and loves to work with the likes of Giroud, Alexis and Theo to produce his mesmerizing magic.
  7. Our Spanish full backs – or Bull Backs – are our power boosters and add sooo much to the team right now, both defensively and in attack. Nacho and Hector Vector are the complete package and play with great energy and passion. Wenger has turned these two into fabulous players and we are reaping the benefits now!
  8. Ramsey the connector, the gap filler, our dynamo: for me Rambo is the ideal box to box player next to Coquelin, but Wenger is a genius for making him play on the right, in a free role. He is great at almost all aspects of midfield play and so important for allowing others to shine. And he will shine himself now and again as well. The goals are still missing this season, but let this not take away from how pivotal his overall midfield performances are for the team.
  9. Our ability to go for the kill when it is on offer has been great. How many times did we score a second goal very soon after we scored the first goal in a PL game? The team now seem to pounce on weaknesses much better and this reminds me a lot of our Bergkamp/Henry/Pires Arsenal days.
  10. Resilience: we are much better in seeing games out now and not expose ourselves unnecessarily (the CL games, bar the Bayern home game, are the exception though). I loved our second half against MU as much as the first one: never gave them a chance to come back; I also loved the way we clawed back a draw against the Spuds, and even fought for a later winner, yesterday.

With almost a third of this season’s PL campaign behind us, we can be very positive of where we are and what makes this team special. There is no doubt that the many injuries can hurt us but until now the impact has been minimal, and with a couple of weeks’ rest, and hopefully no further injuries, we should be able to push on till after Christmas, when I will do another term review.

By TotalArsenal.

Coquelin for Captaincy, Alexis the mini Bruce Lee, Theo the TIger: 8 Positives from Arsenal v Stoke

Three points, a clean sheet, our main strikers scoring each and our main assisters having an assist each. Great day at the office. That we only scored twice from 29 efforts on goal we will not spend too much time on, shall we?! 🙂

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I only watched the highlights on MOTD so no in-depth analysis of this game from me. Instead, I will share with you some quick observations and positives to offer a basis for discussion.

Eight observations/positives from a well worked win.

  1. We started strong, bamboozling the Stoke defence with high tempo football, lots of movement, and great variety of attacking play. Sanchez hit the woodwork twice, once with an archetypical gravity-defying header in full flight by the mini-Bruce Lee, and once with a precision drive from the edge of the box to the hero of the day, Butland’s, left goal corner. He deserved his season opener from one of these chances, but it will have to wait a little longer – next Saturday would be ideal! Theo could have had a brace if he had demonstrated a bit more composure, but more on that in a bit.
  2. But we needed an early goal to get a reward for our work and avoid the risk of conceding a goal against the run of play, which is our Achilles heel with the sort of football we play. All that energy and drive needs to be turned into goals as we cannot keep it up for ninety minutes. I reckon we need that goal before 35 minutes are on the clock, and luckily we got it.
  3. A great, aggressive but fair interception by Le Coq – a skill he has developed to the highest level – led to a quick turnover and Theo finally hitting the net. Ozil received the ball from Coq le Robber, and his ball over the top was well-measured and weighted. Theo controlled the ball well and sorted out his feet quickly to dink it over Butland. Great finish this time and the sort of goal we associate more with Walcott than being our tiger in the box; yet, that is what we all want him to be, and he has potential for it. Theo is more instinctive than composed, more a tiger than a wolf: he does not overthink or overdo, he just does. Sometimes it pays off, as it catches everybody unaware, and sometimes a bit of composure would have been the better option. But I reckon that is not how Theo is wired: he is a driller-killer, and he rather pounces a lot to get his pray at some point then wait patiently for the right moment. As a result, we will see him waste a lot of good chances…. But 11 goals in 11 starts, tell their own story..
  4. We had to wait a long time for the second goal. OG had only been on the pitch a few minutes before he hit the net. He looked a giant among the Stoke defenders when he jumped up for Santi’s well-measured free-kick, scoring a pain et beurre goal that he needed a lot. Just before his goal, Ollie missed an even easier opportunity, but let’s say he was still a bit cold (after being deprived from supporters’ luv for so long). Will OG become super-sub, or is Wenger alternating OG and Theo, depending on the opponent?
  5. Gabriel and Koz make a dynamic CB-duo, especially for these sort of games where we have a lot of possession in the opponent’s half and have to be wary of quick counters. Could it be that the BFG will not be a guaranteed choice anymore, or is he just injured at the moment? I hope Gabriel does not get in trouble for the elbow incident, but it was good to see that he was not intimidated by Arnautovic (?) and fought his corner. It would be good to hear how you saw the incident.
  6. Another clean sheet for the defence and for our new goalie, Petr Gunner Cech. After the nightmare opening against West Ham, we have now three out of four clean sheets, with just three goals conceded in in all our games. Petr had very little to do and will face his biggest Arsenal test yet on Saturday, but it is good to see that the defence is settling down and very solid right now. Without this we can forget about the title.
  7. I am loving our Spanish full backs. They provide width and are vital in keeping the tempo of our attacks going. They offer an important alternative to our box-penetrating play, and play the all-important triangles with our midfielders and attackers on the edges of the box so well. Bellerina put in a peach of a ball for Theo that OG would surely have converted. This boy will go far and fast, and not just literally speaking!
  8. One of my favourite bloggers, LB, suggested on another side that Coquelin should be considered for the captaincy. That was quite left-wing for me, but the more I think about it, the more I think it make sense. He sits in the middle of the team as DM, he is fearless yet balanced (against Newcastle he reacted brilliantly to all attempts to unsettle him) and he leads and communicates naturally. He is still young but should age come into this? What do you think fine fellow Gooners?

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v Liverpool review: Great 0-0 but why did Arsene take Giroud off?

Now that was a game of football – one of the best Harry Potter nose-bicycles I have ever watched live. We did not win and we did not deserve to either, despite a very good goal being cancelled unjustly. However, our second half display was more than good enough to win the game after all, and this gives us plenty of hope for the season ahead.

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We all know how expectations can ruin our enjoyment of the game. The loss against the Hammers has turned us in to grumpy, nervy supporters already with just three games of the season played, as we are treating every game now as a ‘must win’. This is unhealthy and, to be blunt, idiotic. It also does not help the team at all as they are already tense enough to realise their own ambition of going all the way to win the title. Take a chill pill rather than frantically indulging in criticising Wenger or the team; or, by all means, dream yourself champions by adding loads of super expensive players; but whatever you do, stay behind the team and try and enjoy the football on display.

I always feel privileged to watch our team at the home of football: what is better than watching a game live with the real Gunners right in front of you? I sat next to Pete who told me about his mate Simon being unable to come to the game due to him still recovering from a long illness that kept him many months in hospital. It made me realise once again how much we need to appreciate our health and being able to go to the game – one day it might not be possible any more. Get well soon, Simon. The stadium was packed to the rafter and it was a feast of white and red colours everywhere I looked: it promised to become a great game from the start.

When Pete told me the news that both the BFG and Koz would not be playing, I told him he was taking the urine. But soon I realised that we were indeed trying to defend our goal with the untested combo of Gabriel and Chambers…

The first half was for Liverpool. The combination of playing with no concerns – having won the first two games, they were doing well, and nobody expected them to win this difficult away game – and well prepared tactics, gave to Scousers wings. The essence of the first half, as well as the second half (but that is for later) was compactness and numbers where it matters; and this is where the ball happens to be.

Liverpool were a determined six-pack and we were wobbly all over the place in first 45 minutes. We could blame young Chambers for a lot of our trouble but that would be unfair on him to a large extent. Pool boxed us in in our own half and made sure that whoever had the ball had only risky options to release himself from it. We lacked movement (which Pete rightly pointed out several times), especially for springing a counter attack or breaking through the ranks in our own half; and Pool, it has to be said, played with great discipline. And when we had the ball our passing was not sharp enough and our ability to break free from the Pool pressure not strong enough: they constantly outnumbered us in relatively small areas. The result was continuous loss of possession and many good chances against us by the opponent. Coutinho, and the rejuvenated and very impressive Milner, bossed us between our ‘D’ and the half way line. They played some fabulous football at times, occasionally reminiscent of our own team in the early parts of the last decade.

We did manage to create some half-opportunities and were very unlucky with the Rambo goal being disallowed, but Liverpool could have been in-front by two or three in the first half. Luckily, fortune was on our side, as the sound of leather slapping metal poles was heard regularly, and Petr Cech was in world class form. I saw all his saves right below me, and especially the low dive save at close range from Benteke’s effort was out of this world. I knew, I felt, I sensed it in my bones it would go in but somehow the long in the teeth Cech anticipated the next semi-second action earlier than anybody else, including the stunned Belgian, thus keeping out a certain goal. We hung on and the second half could not come soon enough.

Wenger proved once again how much difference he can make during the break…. And without taking players off. The team looked transformed in the second half as we effectively reversed roles from the start. We now kept them in their own half by playing compact and not allowing them out of our collective grip. We matched their numbers, and sometimes outnumbered them, when we attacked Pool and tried to break through their ranks from the left, with Ozil, Alexis, Giroud, Santi, and occasionally Rambo applying constant pressure with intricate passing and penetrative balls. It was great to see this all in front of us, which makes a big difference when watching it on TV, as it looks so much harder to break a defence then most of us imagine.

I was convinced we would score sooner or later, as the Pool defence would surely buckle and our lack of sharpness in front of goal could surely not continue. It reminded me of a typical high-quality chess game, after say 15 moves each: you are attacking a solidly defended corner of the board and are amassing more and more pieces to break through the wall; but the opponent allocates their pieces there as well and the variables of risk and opportunity multiply rapidly… something has to give but who is going to buckle?

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Just as I thought we would definitely score that goal before our time was up, Arsene surprised me with taking off Giroud and putting Theo in. I wanted Theo or Ox to join the ‘chess game’ as we could do with more pressure from the right, or somebody coming into the box to add an attacking variable from there, but not instead of Ollie. Ollie had missed a few good chances, but so did Alexis, and it was clear that they were very close to scoring a few times, and were very keen to make the breakthrough.

Once Giroud was off, the game changed dramatically. By removing OG from the chess game, we were no longer able to play our triangles and break through their ranks as we missed the linchpin. We effectively let them off the hook.

The game became open again and Pool even got a few decent counter opportunities to steal the game from us, which would have been very bitter. We also managed to create a few opportunities, but they were harder ones and the Pool defence and defensive midfielders were well prepared to deal with this. Theo is not super-sub material and, although he tried hard, he did not add much to our attack during his cameo.

I felt it was a missed opportunity and would have loved to ask Arsene why he did not take Coquelin off for Theo rather than OG as his first sub (Coquelin was replaced by the Ox not much later in the game..), and pile on the pressure even more to finally get our goal.

However, the way Wenger and the team turned the game round in the second half and the number of chances we created as a result of this, are very encouraging signs for this Gooner. The team and manager that beat Man City twice, Man United away and the Chavs at Wembley in the last twelve months, will come good this season; I have no doubt about this. Whether we will win the title remains to be seen but we definitely have all the qualities for it and that is all that matters to me.

Every game is a mini-journey, and why should we bother ourselves with worrying whether we can/will win the title at the end of the season? I confidently predict six points out of our next two games and that will put us right there with Citeh. But next up is Newcastle and I for one cannot wait to enjoy the next mini-journey. We are on the road to nowhere, come on inside! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

Cech behind Gabriel and Koz | Le Coq behind Jack, Mesut and Santi: Lyon Preview – Line-up

Arsenal’s home cup friendly against Lyon promises to be another fine test. I will be checking on the team’s ability to dominate the game around the Southern France’s team ‘D-area’, as we have been so impressive in doing this in the cup final, and recently, against Everton.  The Toffees were simply played off the pitch, but maybe this was down to fitness issues or a lack of hunger. The Gunners were hungry all right, which, as described in the match review, was a very nice surprise for me.

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Against Lyon, managed by former Gunner Garde, we are likely to be tested a bit more. I have not seen Lyon play a lot recently so cannot give you much insight on our opponent.  I expect us to play another 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1 formation, with the aim to play our attack minded midfielders as near to the Lyon box as possible and with high levels of possession of the ball.

We will want to dominate and try out our intricate passes to penetrate the Les Gones’ defence with real menace. The FBs, take your pick from Gibbs, Nacho, Bellerina and Debuchy, will provide the width, and therefore threat, to go behind the defence and add that much needed dimension to our attacking play. It is this interplay between the four central midfielders, the CF and the FBs that will be the basis of our attacking success against those teams that want to sit back, or indeed, are forced to do so. And Wenger is right to want to see more goals from the rest of the team and believe that we are capable of scoring ten more goals in the PL – from 71 to 81 – in the coming season (see Arsenal.com). This is a point I have been making for quite a long time now: forget about Wenger wanting to buy a super striker and replace Giroud; our goals need to come from all over the team, which makes us unpredictable/hard to plan against.

Furthermore, I am interested in how we will line up at the back and in central midfield. It would be good to see a bit more of Gabriel, either with Koz or the BFG. I guess Wenger will play a near full strength team tomorrow, so Cech is a near given and Coquelin will be our holding DM; unless of course, Wenger wants to experiment with two all-round midfielders, who are not as good defensively as Francis but add more from an attacking point of view (see also 17ht fine post on this topic). I need my DM fix and would always play with one in front of the defence, but Jack-Rambo combo would also be nice.

Alas, we can over analyse this; it is just a friendly and Wenger will use it as a way for players to get match fitness, with maybe one or two youngsters being thrown into the mix, either at the start or later on. So here is my predicted starting eleven:  Cech, Debuchy, Gabriel, Koz, Nacho, Le Coq, Santi, Ozil, Jack, Rambo, Giroud.

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We could see Theo instead of Le Coq, with Ramsey moving into the deeper midfield role.

Enjoy the game fine fellow Gooners.

By TotalArsenal.

Santi/Ozil dictate, Cech adds PRESENCE, Ollie and Theo create havoc: Eight positives from a â€˜friendly’

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Arsenal – Everton: 3-1 (Theo, Santi, Ozil – Barkley)

Wow, I did not expect that. I went to the pub to watch the game, and, like in a tacky dream, nobody was there, except the barman, who did not even know the Arse were on. The pub can easily hold 200 guests and especially during rugby matches the place can be heaving. But there I sat with a pint of Kronenbourg 1664, a packet of C&O crisps, and the single best seat in the pub, watching the Arsenal.

What I did expect to see, was a relatively slow, well-polished performance with plenty of possession, and both teams showing lots of mutual respect and having some decent chances, with the game finishing 1-1 or so.

How wrong I was. Arsenal meant business, and just as Villa had been outplayed during our last meaningful game, the Toffees were not given a chance (other than a ‘gift’ by the Ox) during the entire match either. The boys played with hunger and focus, and above all a maturity and togetherness I have never witnessed before during our previous preseasons. It is early days of course, but the first signs are very promising.

Here are my eight positives from the game:

  1. Giroud and Theo were played together and it added another dimension to our play. Together with Wilshere they moved all over the attacking part of the pitch and made it very hard to defend against us. We had a holding pivot in Ollie and a deadly penetrator in Theo; but they were also prepared to switch roles – Giroud even did a bit of impressive wing play, getting past his man and getting the ball into the box on more than one occasion. Our midfielders had options when in possession and initiating attacks, and it must have been a nightmare for the Toffees to defend against a ‘three-dimensional’ Arsenal today.
  2. Santi Cazorla was fantastic. The deeper laying role suits him very well, and with two fine assists – especially the first one was an exquisite, perfectly weighted ball over the top from the centre of midfield for the eagerly anticipating Walcott – and a clever goal, he was without any doubt the man of the match.
  3. Ozil’s face at the end of the match said it all: knackered but very content with his own performance. A fine, coolly taken goal and a dynamic, hungry finish to the game will have done him a world of good. Together with Santi, and Ramsey and Wilshere, he powered the midfield on and dominated the sorry Toffee midfield for ninety minutes. He was inventive with his passing, always looking for the best possible next move; and to me it looked like his fellow players are starting to read his intentions better… even though rusty first touches and finishes kept us from getting more reward from the dominance and creativity in our attacks. It was also good to see our Captain, Arteta, back.
  4. Cech in goal: calmness, character, confidence, and a brilliant reflex-safe from what looked a certain goal (even though it was offside). Bigger test will come, but having Petr in goal is the equivalent to playing with an extra man at the back.
  5. The FBs, Bellerina and Gibbs, provided the team with great width and penetration, allowing the multi-disciplined midfielders to combine with them and get them, or themselves, behind the Everton defenders, as well as stretch and penetrate them with fine, deadly triangles that led to very good opportunities throughout the game. Our FBs will play a great role this season and we are blessed with four very fine players in these positions.
  6. Chambers had a good, calm game next to our first warrior Koscielny. Again, bigger tests will come but it was nice to see him play well again. Ramsey played with discipline and high levels of energy to protect the defence and link up with our attack: a very impressive performance.
  7. Ox, despite a (still characteristic) costly loss of possession that led to the only Toffee goal – a fine, diagonal, long-distance shot by Barkley – added renewed thrust to our team when he came on. He had the guts and confidence to take players on at high speed and create good opportunities inside the opponents’ box. The final ball still needs improving, but the hunger and focus were there for all of us to see: good signs.
  8. The team cohesion, hunger and professionalism were a joy to watch. Even more than the individual performances highlighted above, this is what we should get really excited about. There was a collective ‘presence’ in the team: a strong focus with high levels of concentration and determination. The Gunners played as a team that wants to become champions this year, seemingly realising that every game needs to be treated with that goal in mind. We now also have healthy competition for places in all areas on the pitch, but yet there appears to be ever-so-vital togetherness, perhaps based on the realisation that we need a fit, wide squad in order to compete for the PL, CL, and indeed the FA Cup again, this season.

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Still early days, but this was a very impressive ‘friendly’ performance by the Gunners. Bring on the Chavs in two weeks! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.