Coquelin’s bite, Giroud’s deadliness, Welbeck improving: Eight Positives from Game.

Coquelin1

Well, that was another game in which we scored easily and just enough goals to claim all three points. This sitting deep and beating opponents on the counter is most definitely our ‘plan B’ this season… it is not for the faint-hearted, though. Just as we did against the Spuds, we were unable/unwilling to push up and release the pressure on our defence, and we almost paid for this again.

For a long time, we looked in control though, and we should take heart from this; and had Alexis converted the fabulous team counter we produced mid-through the second half, it would have been a lot easier for us. Arsene’s subs did not help at all but I was happy he took off both Ozil and Alexis to avoid a late injury to them: we will need them even more on Wednesday.

Why we were unable to release the pressure by pushing The Eagles back again, or by keeping the ball better, or by more effective counter football, is hard to explain. I guess the boys were in doubt whether to defend the lead or to add to it, and Pardew’s men did a good job at pressurising our central midfielders. Since the former Barcodes manager arrived, Palace have won many games and this showed in the confidence with which the Eagles played.

As a team we need to learn from these games so we can improve our plan-B further. Nothing wrong with that, though, as long as we learn fast…

Eight Positives from the game:

  1. Welbeck was far more effective in this game than in his previous ones, with better reading of the game and positioning. He earned the penalty by putting pressure on the CP defence and he made a strong and direct run into the box, anticipating Alexis’ through-ball; and his subsequent attempt on goal had plenty of venom, which forced the keeper to parry the ball into the danger zone.
  2. Giroud scored his fiftieth Arsenal goal and that in just 116 games, giving him a 0.43 goals per game average in a red and white shirt. We know how important his overall role is in the team, but Ollie is now adding regular goals to his game as well, with 10 goals in less than 900 minutes this season.
  3. Coquelin added the necessary bite to the team and he did a great job in shielding the defence on Saturday. He still needs to control his tackles a bit, but at times he was simply sublime, with great reading of the game and effective interceptions, as well as confidently passing the ball out of our half.
  4. Ozil and Alexis helped out our defence really well. This is not Mesut’s natural game but he was often deep to support his full back and the same goes for Mesut, who is great at coming back to regain the ball and move it forward again. I felt we lacked this support almost as soon as they left the field.
  5. Our win today was helped by a large dollop of luck, but I will not be complaining about it! With Manure dropping all three points at the Jacks, the Spuds drawing and the Saints losing, we have made a big leap forward. With Everton home and QPR away as our next games, we have a decent opportunity to hang on to our third place and produce a little gap with some of our main competitors for the CL places.
  6. Santi has taken over from Arteta the role of secure penalty convertor. Mikel was a safe pair of hands for this and it is great that Santi has fully and successfully embraced this important role within the team.
  7. Squad depth: being able to bring on fit and experienced players like Rosicky, Gibbs and Gabriel, with Jack and Theo on the bench as well, is just great. They did not make a big difference on the day, but having a strong bench at this stage of the season is simply fantastic.
  8. Per and Koz defended very well, especially with regards to the continuous high balls into the box. It was really good to see us so demanding in the air for almost the entire game; eliminating the threat of Palace’s strong wing-play to a large extent (the FBs Monreal and Chambers were truly tested and sometimes found wanting).

Olivier-Giroud-AFP_3208367b

Now bring on the Principality and give them some old fashioned Wengerball! 🙂

 By TotalArsenal.

Ozil AND Santi, Gabriel debut, Coq sole DM? Preview | Line-up

Arsenal-Aston Villa Match Preview

Paulista could make a surprise start against Villa
Paulista could make a surprise start against Villa

Aston Villa at home.  Gooners would like to think that this is a guaranteed win, a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon and a good chance to start the post January, business end of the season after some good work (a defender, finally…) in the transfer window.  If the win is in sufficient style and by substantial margin it might be enough–even if the big money player (but still a bargain, of course…this is Arsenal, after all…) doesn’t come in at the deadline.

Gooners, however, might also remember that it’s not always so simple.  No matter how much ale has been consumed in the intervening year and a half, August 17, 2013 will always be a day that lives in infamy.  Opening day: an early goal from Olivier Giroud, and all looked fun and games.  But then collapse and a match that finished 1-3.  The margins were tighter than that, of course, and much of the blame might be placed on the (very) bald head of referee Anthony Taylor.  Taylor allowed a very rough match (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered ligament damage on a play that was deemed completely fair) but still called questionable penalties on Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny, the 2nd coming with a yellow card for our defender.  Moments later Taylor gave Kos a 2nd yellow, reducing Arsenal to 10 men.  The team fought hard despite the disadvantage, but, finally, to dash all hopes, a goal on the counter by Antonio Luna sealed our fate.

The parallels are striking.  Somehow Taylor has been assigned the fixture again.  The transfer window is still open.  We are, however, a season and a half on.  Have things changed or will history repeat itself?

I don’t believe it will, but who am I?  This is a new match and Arsenal and Aston Villa come into it very differently than they did in that one.

Teams

Arsenal.  This match feels very different.  Instead of only pre-season matches, Arsenal come into this one on a run of four victories in all competitions.   Additionally, important players are coming back from long term injuries and significant transfer business, in the purchase of Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista, has been completed.  There is talk that Alexis Sanchez, by far our most important player this season, is suffering from a tight hamstring and will not be risked.  My guess is that this is Arsene Wenger talk for “Winter Break.”  My other guess is that (irrepressible) Alexis will still get a spot on the bench and a run out if a late goal is needed.  More on the starting team below.

Aston Villa.  Aston Villa are a proud club, by far the biggest of the Birmingham based outfits.  They have suffered from lack of investment from their American owner (does this sound familiar?…) but they are a well run organisation, and their manager Paul Lambert knows how to play the opponent at hand.  Their home form in recent seasons has suffered, perhaps because supporters cannot get truly excited by the fact that Villa are (at best) a solid mid-table club and their best players are constantly linked with moves away from the club.  They can, however, be a very dangerous group in front of their more hard core, traveling fans.  They will play with nothing to lose and will be emboldened by their positive result last time they came to play Arsenal.

Villa have players who can hurt and frustrate.  Up front, Christian Benteke has surmounted injury problems and always represents a threat with his size and power.  Buzzing around him are Andreas Weimann and Fabian Delph.  Charles N’Zogbia is a very talented player and Leandro Bacuna  can curl in as mean a free kick as anybody in the league.   Scott Sinclair, a former Arsenal trainee, has joined Villa on loan from Manchester City; the extra motivation of finally getting a match (and playing against the club which let him go) might be something Lambert chooses to try.

At the back, diminutive American keeper Brad Guzan plays much bigger than his stature.  Former Arsenal defender Phillipe Senderos and Dutchman Ron Vlaar both are injury doubts, but ill-tempered former Spur Alan Hutton and Keiran Clark are big guys who can also help protect the small keeper.  Their size plus good organisation in front of the backline–in the form of  Colombian Carlos Sanchez and Man United loanee, Tom Cleverly–means they can be dangerous in transition and can frustrate through possession.  As we saw last time out, with their final goal, (actually with all of them–the two pens were on Villa breaks) they can punish teams playing on the counter.  We cannot give them an easy early goal and we must be extra vigilant to try and avoid corners and set-pieces where strong delivery and (even stronger) Benteke represent their biggest threat.

Still, Villa are not as full of confidence as they could be.   They will take heart, at least in terms of their relegation battle (they sit just 2 points above the bottom 3 with 15 matches to play), that they beat Championship leaders Bournemouth in the FA Cup last weekend.  Still, it’s been over a month since they’ve won in their own league and they are coming off a stretch of 5 league matches without a goal.  Arsenal-away, given the success they’ve had at our stadium and the fact that our defence is far from settled, could be a place where that streak ends, especially if they can lure us forward and spring on the counterattack.  Nonetheless, it’s also a match where Lambert may be satisfied with a good performance and a tight result.

Game Plan

By contrast, Arsenal want both result and performance.  It’s time to build on the win at Manchester City (which will mean little if full points are not taken here) and work in back-from-injury stalwarts Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott, who both scored in the FA cup win at Brighton.  Aaron Ramsey, it should be noted, is also just two weeks back from a lengthy period out.  With Alexis injured or at least, “not risked,” and Oxlade-Chamberlain nursing a groin problem, room opens up for all three.  Additionally, with Koscielny unable to play a full schedule due to sore Achilles tendons (and Mertesacker rested in our FA Cup victory at Brighton), new signing Gabriel may be handed a debut start.  Nacho Monreal, having played very well at Man City, including winning the penalty for the decisive goal, I think, gets his spot back at LB from Kieran Gibbs.  Likewise on the right, fellow Spaniard, Hector Bellerin, comes back in at the expense of Calum Chambers.  David Ospina, I think, retains his spot in goal on the strength of three consecutive clean sheets.

arsenal v villa Jan 15

So, there’s your line-up and there’s your preview.  Stepping stone or stumbling block?

We know Villa will see only opportunity on their visit and must be taken seriously.  We also know that things feel better for Arsenal.  Still, the game must be played and feelings–as we saw the last time we hosted this team–can change quickly.  Let’s do it.

By 17highburyterrace

Ozil and Cazorla cannot play together…. You is wrong!

4-1-4-1: Wenger’s Total Harmonica Football Formation?

Victory Through Harmony.

Victory Through Harmonic Harmony.

 

It is interesting to listen to the TV and keyboard pundits praising Arsenal and Wenger for the disciplined defensive performance against Citeh. They all seem so genuinely relieved we played with a defensive set-up and smashed the Northern Oilers via breaks and set-pieces. It is not the first time we have played with this approach: for example, the games against the Chavs, at home last season as well as at Stanford Bridge this season, were approached exactly in the same way. It is fair to say, it is not the Arsenal way of playing a game, but Wenger has demonstrated once again that a) he does have a Plan-B, and b) he knows how to make tactical changes to get a result from a game.

In general he prefers to play a system of football that is set up to conquer all and does not need much, if any, tactical tweaking for each and every match. This desire will never change as, in the end, he loves free flowing, attacking, total football too much – and don’t we all? It is also the reason he could manage any club in the world, except the Spuds of course. 🙂

On the other hand, the 4-1-4-1 formation seems to offer formational and tactical flexibility during the same game.

Like a harmonica it can squeeze in and out: becoming solid and compact – 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 – when we need to be, as well as very attack-minded and multi-dimensional up-front as per our normal, default system of football: 4-1-2-3/4-2-1-3.

In order to do this successfully, we need: tactical discipline, on-field leadership (especially in midfield) and brilliant, multi-skilled midfielders.

We only have to remind ourselves about the first ten minutes of the second half against Citeh to realise that varying the styles of football and formations within the same game is not easy. We lost our compactness and defensive discipline and spaces opened up everywhere during this phase, and we almost paid for it. Luckily, it was us that scored the all important second goal of the match, and after that it was relatively easy for us to revert back to our original, far more defensive formation. Citeh, without Yaya and Nasri, were unable to give Silva much support in creating gaps and thus opportunities; and we also defended the wings fantastically well.

It was great to see the team having such fantastic discipline for the majority of the game. Coquelin got a lot of praise, and rightly so. Playing compact suits him very well, and the same goes for the defence. Defence orientated players hate space around them, and especially behind them. If there is little to no space around our defence then everybody starts looking so much better, and that includes our DM.

The Chavs’ Cahill, Terry and Matic are no better than Mertesacker, Koz and Arteta/Flamini/Coquelin, but, as a starting principle, they always ensure they play compact and avoid risks at the back. That’s what makes them look good and our lot regularly not so good, often being left over-exposed by their (too) attack focussed colleagues.

What is absolutely paramount for a solid defensive team display is the role of the four midfielders/attackers in front of the DM, and especially the two central midfielders. They need to curb their attacking instincts to a large extent and be able to both support the defenders and build attacks from a crowded, highly pressured back.

Both Ramsey, and especially Cazorla, mastered this very well, and Ox and Alexis also offered superb defensive and ‘get out of jail’ support throughout the game (and so did Rosicky once he came on for a tired Ox). And with Ozil and Jack, we have two more central midfielders who can do this very, very well. Arsenal are blessed with such players which is a great reason to play a ‘harmonic’ 4-1-4-1 system of football.

When we play fellow direct competitors for silverware away, and maybe also at home, we should more often position our team deeper and more compact, in order to give ourselves a good chance to get a result and avoid painful mega-losses (as per last season).

But, with the right players, we can gradually become stronger and stronger at playing a harmonic 4-1-4-1 formation. Key is to have all our players fit and play together regularly. Another prerequisite is a solid and mobile DM, who will also be strong when our team is stretched forward. Arteta suited this part reasonably well, but I have always felt a need to improve in this area to move us to the next level (and so have most fellow Gooners).

Coquelin is looking really good and I hope we can sign him up to a new deal, and we need to sign one more quality DM to provide depth and competition. Key is that we add real leadership in this position; and, in recent games, Coquelin – finally escaped from his chrysalis – showed he might be able to offer this going forward as well.

But the most important and exciting part of all of this is who we will play in the two central midfield positions of the second ‘4’ of 4-1-4-1.

We can pick, in no particular order, from Rosicky, Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, Wilshere and one or two youngsters. I can see Ozil and Cazorla play together there, especially in games where we feel we can play more attack-minded and advanced. The likes of Alexis, Theo and Giroud (Ox, Welbeck etc) will be licking their lips at the anticipated service they would get. The idea that Ozil and Cazorla cannot play together is therefore wrong.

I can also see Jack and Aaron play there and rock the place; and we all know how valuable Rosa still is for us. Arsenal are blessed with super quality in these positions and are no doubt the envy of many, if not all, PL clubs with regards to this.

Cazorla, and Ramsey despite his rustiness, showed how well and disciplined they can play in this formation, and it was their ability to squeeze in with the defence and out with the attack that made a huge difference on Sunday (supported by the ‘mid-wings’ of course). Our transition worked really well, given the pressure we were under; and with more practicing, our 4-1-4-1 harmonica could become an all conquering system of football. It will even allow us to play Cazorla and Ozil together – or eventually my favourite combination: Wilshere and Ozil. 😉

Happy, harmonic times could be around the corner. 🙂

 By: TotalArsenal.

Santi dances, Rambo and le Coq rock, Giroud head-bangs: eight positives from game

cid180009_CazorlaVI01_1180_580x310

It was no Wengerball; it was no total football. But it was just the team performance the red and white footie doctor had ordered: solid, determined, energetic, predatory, and victorious. Many of us have argued that in the big games we should play compact in defence, lay deeper and work our socks off, and then beat our title competitors on the break.

And that is exactly what the Gunners did against Citeh today; and had we been a bit more tuned in and clinical up-front, we could have won with more goals. 

Of course, the best thing in the world is to beat these opponents with free-flowing, attacking footie, but this might have to wait for a while. Every new palace needs a solid foundation first.

Today’s performance shows that we can play a more solid, defensive game if we have to: and we got the full rewards for it. Had we lost today the gap between us and the Northern Oilers would have been unbridgeable; but in a week’s time it could be just six or five points (when the battle of the Oilers takes place and we play home against the Villains). The Chavs are too far ahead of us, but we can still gun Citeh down; and, given the difficult start of the season, that would still be a good finish to the PL season in some respect.

We ‘scalped’ the Northern Oilers twice now this season and fought hard for a draw at home as well.

Significantly, winning today’s away game has the potential to move us onto a higher platform: the win builds confidence and belief, and with a number of stars returned and returning – did you see that sexy bench today? – we should be able to repeat this performance against the Spuds (in three weeks), the Chavs and the Mancs. Other than one or two good cup runs and a high finish in the PL, learning how to beat our closest rivals would be a great, much needed outcome of the 2014-15 season.

Positives from Man City v Arsenal:

  1. Le Coq stood tall. I had doubts whether Francis would survive in this game, but he had a quietly brilliant game: he was solid, kept it simple and played with great discipline. He showed a great nose for advancing danger and positioned himself really well. His interventions were strong and decisive, and he moved play on well. OzG could be right after all, and no additional DM will be bought anytime soon… What a development!
  2. Cazorla was totally in his element. The free role in our 4-2-1-3 formation today suits him so well. Santi was instrumental in releasing the pressure on our defence with his ability to hold onto the ball in very tight spaces and find a way to play it to a fellow attacker. Furthermore, it was a big penalty to take, and he converted it calmly and professionally; and his free-kick provided the assist for Giroud’s all important second goal. He helped out everywhere and was great support for his fellow midfielders. An inspired, passionate performance, and I feel I owe him an apology but that is for another post. Santi Santi ahahaha 🙂
  3. Ramsey offered a lot of support to our defence and attack today. He was clearly rusty as his final ball and attempts on goal showed us, but he linked up midfield and attack well and helped out Coquelin constantly. I would not have opted for him today, as I believed both Flamini and Rosicky were more suited for this match, but Aaron put in a good shift. There is new life in the Welsh engine room…
  4. We defended as a team: all eleven of ‘us’. I thought Alexis had an off day from an attacking point of view (compared to his high standards) but he put in a good defensive shift (although not faultless). To a large extent, the same goes for Ox, although he had a couple of good moments in attack, notably the excellent run and cross into the box to Giroud. But he also put in a disciplined defensive shift (although not faultless either). The Gunners wanted it more today.
  5. The Full Backs were very keen and kept the City flank penetrations to a minimum. This was crucial as they love to get behind defences from the sides in order to crack them open. Bellerin was very impressive with his positioning and interventions; and Monreal showed great, healthy aggression and energy on the left flank. Both also offered great support going forward, and it was Nacho’s involvement up-front that earned him and us the beautiful gift of a penalty (deserved, but I was still amazed the ref gave it to us so early in the game). The FBs were on fire.
  6. Koz was a beast throughout the game. He hovered up so many balls and his presence and raw energy was enormous. Playing compact and deep suits both Koz and (obviously) the BFG, especially if they get very fine support in front of them by the midfielders. Our CBs were a great mixture of calm interventions/positioning and organisation on the one hand (BFG), and power and aggression on the other hand (Koz). Absolute bliss.
  7. Ospina did not have a lot to do, but he was calm and somehow always ‘present’. He also felt no need to get unnecessarily involved and handled the high balls into the box well. I love the way the away fans shouted his name every time he was kicking the ball out. Nice touch.
  8. Giroud worked hard for the team but, crucially, he took one of his few chances to decide the game for us. It just looked that Alexis was not going to score today, so we needed somebody else to step up. Santi did so from the penalty spot and Ollie from a free-kick at a crucial point in the game. City had looked strong at the start of the second half and we were buckling quite a bit under the pressure, so we needed that second goal desperately, and Giroud delivered right on time. Priceless.

A big compliment should also go to Arsene. He opted to include three relatively young/inexperienced players in his team – Bellerin, Le Coq and Ox – and started with the rusty Ramsey, and it all worked out brilliantly. I did not think this could work, but he proved me wrong. 🙂

There is so much to take from this game and to discuss. What are your positives and negatives from the game? Have we turned a corner now?

By TotalArsenal.

4-1-4-1 with starts for Ospina, Coq & Ozil, and Alexis up top: Line-Up & Preview

Arsenal at City – We haven’t forgotten history so it won’t repeat!

The saying is that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. That’s good news in my view as we head north to play City and their millions of million pound minions.

So, last year was a disaster and other prior years not so much better with a 1-1 draw and a 2-0 loss *at home* the year before. But, we are a much different team now then those years. Some would argue worse because of the players, some would argue worse because of the injuries, some would argue worse based on objective metrics of Doom (that’s you CM), and so on.

Few would argue better… That’s my job today.

History won’t repeat because we are better than last year. We will be tighter in defence, and we have the (deliberately provocative) “Next Henry” (NH from here on) in attack. More specifically, we also have the opportunity, and the need, to make a statement. A draw would be good, a win better.

History won’t repeat for other reasons also. Make no doubt about it, even if we are the same or similar to last year, City are not. Aguero coming back, Yaya disappeared into the AFCON dimension that makes top African players somewhat unattractive in the TW when you consider losing them every few years at a critical point in a season. So, they are missing some, at least, of their strike talisman, and a big chunk of engine room. Plenty left in the tank but opportunity presents to create a new history.

So, in a rare show of agreeing with Steve and disagreeing with TA, I think that, to quote some ancient heavy metal, “If we’re gonna die!” we should “Die with our boots on!” That means we should focus more on attack than normal in the line-up, even if we come out playing a touch more back and on the counter.

For that, the lineup for me is only lightly changed:

Ospina

Bellerin – BFG/Koz – Gibb

Coquelin

Ox/TR – Santi – Ozil – TR/Theo

Alexis

Arse v MC Jan 15

The key is my middle diamond of Coq at the back, driven by Santi and Ozil everywhere, with Ozil a more false 9 and Alexis up front. I am opting for speed and aggression both ways on the wings with Gibbs, if fit, and Bellerin, fronted by Theo, if fit, or TR and the Ox. Both TR and the Ox in particular can drive a game and also come back heavily on defence. I don’t think this is a game for Monreal on the wing with an attack minded person in front, as he doesn’t have the speed to recover like Gibbs.

It’s a 4-1-4-1, but could almost, using Ozil how I want, be a 4-1-3-1-1 where the 4-1-3 looks a lot like last week.

The big question mark is around Coquelin! Here, I disagree with TA. Coq has shown his mettle the last few games in positioning maturity. I think Flamini has the experience but not the speed for this game. However, he’s my very early sub if this looks bad. This is Coquelin’s big day: does he stay, or do we invest in 2 DMs this summer? Today is it, make or break. He’s earned the right to make the decision for Arsene. My call, my opinion, my heresy, call it what you will…

And if he gets that third yellow, the next games he is suspended for we might not need as much DM spirit as the teams we will be playing are not City, and we will be coming off the high of changing history in this one!

Finally, speaking of TWs, there is an alternative line-up based on the ever ongoing discussion on the site around needing lots of new people, and getting rid of those we don’t like. So, the following is based on reading NewsNow and is therefore, based on real journalism and reporting, and thus, obviously true.

Here we go, based on the linkages, we could play this out there, because AW will close all these deals and swoop before all our enemies and rivals. By Sunday… 🙂

It’s a bit more defensively focused than above also, so it is guaranteed to earn us a draw:

Cech

BFG – keeping some continuity

Perrin

Hummels

Carvalho

Gundogan

Schneiderlin

Bielik – young but has earned his start based on all the newsprint hyperbole!

Reus – down the center where he really belongs

Cavani

Yes, I know that is 10 players, not 11, but with this line-up we can’t lose. They all play down the centre, or should, and that is where we are weak. Thus, I didn’t go for Winston Reid as he plays wider and won’t be of any help.

We will destroy City with our highly flexible 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1 formation!!!! Look out, it’s available for a mere 193M pounds if I did my sums off various articles right!!

I am sure there is not so subtle editorial point in there somewhere on my part. 😛

More to the original point, it seems long ago that we were invincible, and TAs recent call for regular bloggers to profile themselves asked your favourite moments, which in turn reminded me of the tension as that year drew to a close. I think many of us have almost forgotten that feeling and year… Good news again then, as we might be doomed to repeat it someday soon!! 🙂

Perhaps starting at City!

Some questions for the game:

  • On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the most stupid, how stupid am I for either of my line-ups?
  • Can aggressive wings with speed and Ozil’s passing get us through City? Will we need more defence than I have up there?
  • Flamini or Coquelin? Has Le Coq earned his “shot”?
  • I am 6’3” and our team is short, should AW hire me for this game?

By JGC

DM hunt is over: And he’s not here to take part…but to take over!

He is the definition of tenacious.

coquelin

It’s fair to say Coquelin’s career has never really taken off at Arsenal (as shown by his appearance stats below):

Games total:

2014/15 – Arsenal 5 (4 sub)

2013/14 – Freiburg 16 (8 sub)

2012/13 – Arsenal 11 (11 sub)

2011/12 – Arsenal 13 (4 sub)

2010/11 – Lorient 13 (11 sub)

2009/10 – Arsenal 2 (1 sub)

2008/09 – Arsenal (1 sub)

Could Arteta’s injury woes open the doors for Coquelin to get more game time?

He has a robust style that endears him to the supporters, and he loves the nitty-gritty. But why has he never succeeded in the mighty red and white? I could understand if you said he doesn’t fit our style of play or he has a poor range of passing. But in my opinion he ticks both boxes. Coquelin has had some ripping performances in the past too…the Man U game that didn’t exist (perhaps the only positive to come out of that game) and a game against the spuds come both to mind. Arsene likes a bargain so what better deal than a player already on our books?!

Coquelin’s biggest hurdle appears to be our manager’s perception of him…and it appears once his mind is made up there is no going back. Arsene has praised Coquelin recently but they’re the type of quotes that lead you to believe he’ll be on his way out at the end of the season. We’ve heard it from Arsene before “He’ll have a career and hopefully he’ll make it here…which in Arsene talk equates “I don’t want to hold him back so I have allowed him to leave”.

I agree with our manager most of the time but I disagree with him greatly on this one. What does Flamini and Arteta offer the team that Coquelin doesn’t? Experience you say. Yes that may be so. Coquelin has played in a number of different teams and has been in the Arsenal system for some time now (not to mention he still hasn’t hit his prime), so I think he’s got enough experience. What else? Arteta may have better passing skills but does he use them at Arsenal? Even then, Coquelin is no slouch. Flamini may be tough and fight tooth and nail but one could argue the young Frenchman is displaying more of a desire to succeed. Can Arteta play in the full back position if needed (red card or terrible run with injuries)? Flamini can and so can Coquelin. Flamini played as a full back during our terrific Champions League run in 2006. Unfortunately for Flamini he was never born with blistering pace but it appears to be dropping off rapidly.

It just doesn’t make sense that Arsene would splash the cash when he has the right person for the job standing in front of him. When we’ve needed a DM in the past this is who Arsene has turned to:

  • Gilberto rested -> Flamini (already an Arsenal player) is given a chance
  • Flamini leaves for Milan -> Denilson (already an Arsenal player) is chosen
  • ..my mum taught me that if I had nothing good to say that I should keep it to myself -> Song (already an Arsenal player) given the go ahead.
  • Song departs for Barcelona -> Arteta (already an Arsenal player) is selected to play their despite playing as an attacking midfielder for large parts of his career.

Notice a trend there?

So Arsene, forget splashing 25 million on a DM. Spend it on a CB and/or another attacking player. We’ve got the defensive midfielder we need already, plus a couple of younger ones developing in the reserves. I know he’s not the highly fashionable “gorilla DM” that everyone cries out for, but he’s one of our own and he deserves the chance. Don’t agree? Well watch this and then make up your mind.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9BUENWNwZw

It was written in the stars…

By Oz Gunner

The Coquelin Miracle, Streetwise Alexis, Koz is back: Eight positives from game.

cid179551_SanchezVI06_1180_580x310

How easy was that? Easiest win of the season as the Orcs were scared into submission with all that bright light and unattainable football quality at the home of football.

They tried to rough us up for a while but Koz and Alexis put them to the sword with great ease, and that was it: job done. The only thing I regret is that we let the Debuchy injury go unpunished: sometimes I wish we were more streetwise and show the rest of the PL that we will not be messed with.

Eight Positives from the game:

  1. Alexis keeps delivering and was totally unimpressed with anything the Orcs threw at him. He is very streetwise and fantastic at avoiding contact with opponents when it is best to do so, yet he is not scared of any one and made of granite. His assist was simple and effective: just a case of quick thinking and good delivery; his first goal was very clever: he gave the keeper the eye, indicating he would once again opt for the far  corner (just before that Begovic had made a fine safe from a similar attempt) and then steering it precisely into the near corner; and then there was the free-kick: a touch of luck but great capitalisation on the Orcs’ nerves. What a Player!
  2. The triangle of the disciplined Coquelin, the wise Rosicky and the creative Santi. It worked very well again (as Gerry and others have already pointed out). Key is Rosicky’s understanding of the role, which is all about finding the balance of defensive support for Coquelin and adding attacking impetus by giving Santi support. Rosa did this very well. Coquelin was composed and strong and excelled in keeping it simple: what is happening all of a sudden….. a mini miracle in my opinion! Santi played with zest and passed the ball round incisively: our Spanish maestro seems to accept/understand that he is better suited in creating chances/key passes for others this season, rather than desperately being at the end of them all the time. With the likes of Alexis, Giroud and now Theo up-front we have very good goal scorers and what they need is silver service, and Santi’s is delivering it very nicely indeed right now.
  3. Koz looked sharp and played well for the whole game. We all know how important he is for this team, not just in his own role but also in terms of getting the best out of the BFG and the LB position. It looks like we are going to miss Debuchy for a while but if we can get Koz involved, fully fit, for the rest of the season then that is a huge plus.
  4. Ospina dealt well with the little threat he had to deal with, but, more importantly, he seemed to fit well with the back-four. They all seemed relaxed and trusting of Ospina and that is a good sign for a goalie that has played so few games for Arsenal. I had a feeling The Colombian would start (as per preview), but it appears that Wenger did not tell Wojciech his decision to not play him till just before the start of the game. I am sure this will be continued and let’s hope Szczesny senior will keep his gob shut.
  5. Bellerin did really well at RB and is progressing on a par with his blistering speed. Ox showed lots of energy and thrust, and is getting closer to meaningful contributions (goals and assists). Nacho played with real bite and lots of healthy aggression. Giroud battled well and played in the service of the team, and he also did well to stand above the Orcs’ attempts to provoke him.
  6. Ozil and Theo are back. Bliss.
  7. We are above the Spuds and gained three points on the Mancs.
  8. Clean Sheet.

So, a good, easy win with plenty of positives to take from. And the perfect preparation for the battle with the Northern Oilers? 

What did you make of the game?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Ospina to start, Flam-Coq DM pivot, Giroud returns? Preview & Line-Up

Great to have Mesut back again.
Great to have Mesut back again.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer us playing on Saturdays rather than Sundays (let alone Monday night games). However, if and when our direct opponents drop valuable points, as the Spuds and Northern Oilers have just done, it is actually quite nice to still have to play.

Of course, beating the Orcs is a strong motivation of its own. And we owe them one all-right! I really hope Terry’s 5-0 prediction is correct for once: how fecking fantastic would it be to send them home up the M1 and M6 with a fat thumping from the Gunners imprinted in their limited brains? A hat-trick by Ramsey would especially be very sweet.

We are getting players slowly back and Wenger might spring one or two surprises on the starting line-up for us. Will he start all of Flamini, Ramsey, Theo and Ozil, or will he stick to the same eleven he played against Hull? Will he reintroduce Giroud or stick with the slick Alexis in the middle? Will he leave Szczesny on the bench and give Ospina a second game?

This is my predicted line-up:

Ars v Stoke jan 15

I expect us to start solid and Arsene to try out Coquelin once again. The Flam-Coq DM pivot looked good against West Ham and why not give it another go? I have a feeling Ospina will start: he deserves more games and Wenger can test him properly in this one. I also feel Szczesny could do with a break to get his mind focussed again. You never know with Arsene though… he might play Wojciech as to not affect his confidence too much. Giroud up-front again is a given, I reckon.

Let’s hope we will see Theo, Ramsey and maybe even Ozil tomorrow as well at some point.

What is your predicted line-up?

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners – Let the Cannon Roar, Roar, Roar, Roar, Roar! 

Written by: TotalArsenal. 🙂

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Did Arsene finally sign the next Henry?

And other observations and afterthoughts from an important FA Cup win.

Alexis Sánchez Arsenal Toby Alderweireld Southampton

I don’t know about you, but I thought yesterday’s game against Hull was a bizarre one. The Tigers were toothless and sedated, clearly just making up the numbers and focussing merely on their defence. Arsenal played some fabulous football but lacked killer instinct, seemingly unable to finish off our opponents.

Never change a winning team, they say; unless, of course, you don’t believe you can win and feel there are bigger fish to fry. They had made ten changes to the team that beat Everton on New Year’s Day and, although some rotation is necessary around this time of year, this was a clear indication of how Bruce viewed his chances/the importance of making it to the next round.

Yet, Arsenal had looked shattered in their last game against the Saints, and continuous injuries to a large number of key players meant that Hull could and should have had a go. But, I guess if you are only two points above the relegation zone, and think of Wigan, who won the FA Cup just 1.5 years ago but are now second from bottom in the Championship, one can understand Hull’s reluctance to go all out for a win at the Home of Football. Survival in the PL is surely, but to some extent sadly, their one and only objective this season.

We played some good football with the rejuvenated Rosicky making the difference in the beginning. Rosa on the ball in full, elegant flight makes me think of those streamlined skiers doing the down hill slalom. His nickname should be graceful dynamo (JM take note! 🙂 ), and his energy and quality end products were key in the first half. Cazorla was also involved and effective, and behind them ‘last-chance-saloon’ Le Coq offered almost solid protection to our make-shift back-four (Bel-BFG-Cha-Mon). Hull did not pressure him much it has to be said, but he still had a very good performance (except for one or two reckless looking moments, maybe).

Wenger had positioned the hardly tested Campbell and long-term injured Theo on the wings and workaholic Alexis in the centre. There was great fluency up-front and the Hull defence were pulled all over the place. Our Chilean full blooded Cabernet Sauvignon proved to be a very good stand-in for Ollie, as he was able to find a good balance between playing the holding striker role as well as being deadly in the box himself.

However, we were wasteful up-front, and we did not capitalise on all our running and passing the ball round so well early on. Luckily, the BFG, despite having played in all recent games, was strong and fresh enough to out-jump the switched off Hull defence and score a Giroudesque opening goal after twenty minutes.

After that, there were more chances but the rusty Walcott and disappointing (and rusty) Campbell were wasteful when the game should have been put to bed. Our inability to put weakened opposition decisively to the sword – think of our shenanigans against 100% ‘away-games losers’ QPR on Boxing Day – remains a worry.

And I reckon this is what Alexis foresaw from the start and why he was desperate to start the game, even though he had been offered to have a rest. Everyone knows that winning the FA Cup remains our best chance for silverware this season and the red hot chilli pepper does not want to miss out on it. However much Cazorla has improved and Rosicky and Ox offer drive and enthusiasm, without Ollie, Rambo and Pod, and Theo and Joel not having their shooting boots on as yet, we are simply not deadly enough in front of goal.

Sanchez scored a fabulous, dare I say, Henryesque goal to give us all a calm end to the game. And just for this, we should love him.

In summary:

  1. Ospina and the defence did okay but, to be fair, were rarely tested.
  2. Le Coq needs a bit of coaching by the Flam, but might just keep himself in the squad with his recent performances. He adds bite and energy/stamina and finds through-balls easier already than Arteta or Flamini. However, we still need to add an experienced ready-to-roll DM, before anybody starts thinking differently… 🙂
  3. Alexis in the middle could be a long term alternative, especially if we get a Draxler or Reus to play on the left wing (this TW or in the summer). I am starting to believe Admir’s claim that Alexis will turn into the next Henry.
  4. Theo made some good runs, especially in the second half. His first touch and finishing were poor but this surely will improve again. The really good news is that he survived in the game and showed us again what he will bring to the team.
  5. Cazorla and Rosicky played very well together and should be played more often.
  6. Campbell tried very hard and made some good runs – with and without the ball – but his finishing and some of his passing were well below par. I hope he will get more chances to show us what he is capable off.

It was an important win as the FA cup really matters to us. We made it hard for ourselves by not scoring the second goal much earlier in the game, but the job was eventually done by one of the best Wenger signings ever. However much we doubt his ability to push us on to the next level once again, let’s never forget that he can still attract the very best to come to the Home of Football.

 Written by: TotalArsenal.

Debuchy CB, Theo Starts, Coquelin for Ox? Liverpool Preview & Line-Up

Let’s get cool in the pool: Preview & Line-Up

Time for Le Coq to shine?
Time for Le Coq to shine?

After two great results and fine attacking football, in Istanbul and THOF, confidence levels are high and so are our expectations. Pool are a shadow of their former self and have become a team without bite: last season they scored for fun and now they hardly get more than one goal per game. We could be on the up now and Liverpool are struggling. Losing out to Basel for the CL will have hurt them badly and  their league position is even worse than ours (given expectation levels at the start of the season for both clubs).

Yet, I am nervous about this one. I guess the ‘good’ thing is we got an awful hiding from them last year, which will help Wenger to point out the importance of defending well in this game. We remain vulnerable at the back though, especially with Koz still unavailable. In a way, Liverpool have nothing to lose and will still have the sweetest of memories of last year’s encounter. This combination, further fuelled by a loyal and vociferous home crowd and a good away win mid-week, could be a dangerous one for us. Let’s pray they don’t score early and the team suffer from a horrible deja-vu experience.

images

I have seen Arsenal a few times at Anfield. It is a great, traditional stadium with a fantastic atmosphere, and there is a lot of respect for Arsenal, both for our football and the way the club is managed. It was at Anfield where I first saw Cesc Fabregas in action. He played next to Vieira and opposite of another great midfielder, Gerrard. I will never forget that game for Vieira’s and Gerrard’s goals, and especially for Fabregas’ incredible ability to read the game and anticipate where the ball would be in the next few seconds. I knew straightaway he would become a great footballer.

I also will never forget how Thierry Henry got a standing ovation from the Pool and away supporters at the end of the FA cup game that we won there (1-3). He had scored the last goal in real style, out-pacing and out-smarting Jamie Carragher from the centre of midfield with a fabulous run and a very composed finish. It was so great to witness this with my own eyes.

Liverpool is a fine football city and nowhere in the country, other than the good parts of North-London, is there more respect for good football – and therefore Arsenal – than in Merseyside.

But tomorrow we will play there a very important game and for ninety plus minutes there is no time for sentimentality. A win would put a lot of distance between them and us and would be a perfect start to the congested Christmas schedule.  We have a bit of momentum now and it is important to keep it going.

In order to do so, we need to stay cool in the pool. I reckon Wenger will opt for 4-2-1-3 or even ‘6-4’, with a split in responsibilities between the ‘6’, mainly responsible for defending, and the ‘4’, mainly responsible for attacking. Only the FBs will have a bit more freedom to support the attack – one at a time – but the rest of the ‘6’ will be tasked to keep it tight – at least for the start of the game. Wenger really does not want to give Pool any encouragement that we will leave a lot of space for them to attack us. We want to control that game, and with our superior strike-force we can and should be patient, as our chances will come.

My predicted line-up is:

Ars v Liverpool Dec 14

I reckon Le Coq will play instead of Ox, unless the latter is fully fit. Even then Wenger might opt to play the Frenchman next to his fellow countryman, Flamini, against Pool. Arteta is still not available and Ramsey is out too, and Coquelin comes closest to Arteta’s style of play (and has more experience that the popular options on this blog of Chambers or Hayden).

At the back, I reckon Wenger will stick with Debuchy as CB partner to the BFG, with Chambers (available again) replacing Bellerin as RB. With Chambers, BFG, Szczesny and Gibbs we have four out of five players playing in their best positions, and only MD is out of position. Debuchy is versatile and experienced and I reckon he is the better option at CB than Chambers (or Hayden). It is not ideal but it will have to do…

Up-front is where it really gets exciting. Theo could be back, but I don’t think he will start. It would be great to see him on the bench though. Cazorla picks himself for the hole position and I reckon it will be Welbeck and Alexis on the wings, with OG in the middle.

Wenger will pick his strongest team after they all had eight days of rest and this surely is the biggest test of the festive season (with the Hammers away game coming close though). He is also likely to opt for the above mentioned initial division of a defending and an attacking team, in order to keep it tight and calm, whilst waiting for our opportunity to pounce. Not everyone will like a more defensive approach but I reckon anything else is likely to cost us badly.

I expect it to be tight with one to three goals, unless one of the teams scores early….. and let’s hope it will be us if this were to be the case.

Come On You Rip-Roaring Gunners – Let The Canon Roar!

Written by: TotalArsenal.