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

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

cid180531_arsenal_580x310

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

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

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

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

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

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

It would look like this:

————————- Le Coq —– Rambo—————————-

Campbell———————-Mesut—————————-Alexis

——————————-Giroud/Theo——————————

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

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

By TotalArsenal.

TA’s Arsenal Dream Team v Besiktas

With thanks to the best paper in the country, The Guardian, for the picture.
With thanks to the best paper in the country, The Guardian, for the picture.

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:

Arsenal v Besiktas 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.

Final Note:

We hold two competitions on Bergkampesque: Fantasy Football and a Predictions League and all are free to join – the more the merrier! 🙂

For Fantasy Football League see link:

https://bergkampesque.com/bk-boing-ff-league/

For Predictions League see link:

https://bergkampesque.com/new-umf-league-2014-2015/

Arsenal-City Review: Is this the (latest) season changer?

The Flame
The Flame

First up, read nothing but this! Not only am I a great writer but all the others are misleading. This feeling of course is true of any match report and news. Read enough and you can find any interpretation you want. I read many, all of which said that in the first half City owned Arsenal. Oh, and we were lucky.

Second, for those who wondered, no, I never expected my 4-2-4-0, but a man can dream a little, no? 🙂

Hmm, so I got to watch on Arsenal TV, courtesy of Sky Sport who likely scheduled it to show a blood bath, mostly for those who also watch NASCAR for the crashes.

Half 1: I saw City get the one and it was deserved. Good break, good shot and good rebound finish. Equally, well defended over a turnover, forced the worst available shot, which was unfortunately excellent and off the post or Scz and the post. And once you’ve the rebound like that, well it’s anyone’s story.

Each side had moments forward and some pressure. City had more shots, but few of any threat or intent. Arsenal had less BUT they were probing a lot more. Just missing going forward in the last effort. Equally several opportunities to get something in the box. For motion with intent we had less ball but, really it was a game of midfield back and forth. City, more ball and shots, Arsenal more threat/probing.

The common factor, both sides defended really well as a team and both did so relatively deep. Key point CM noted. City and DeMechelis were slightly the better. Arsenal were also the less lucky, the rebound (admittedly after pressure) and a realistic contact and penalty not called early on.

Players of the half? OG was very good but a bit lonely. Team defense and Gibbs especially, also. Pod going forward, not so much going back (thank you Gibbs), and TR was always present, almost opposite of Yaya interestingly.

Who won the half? On points, clearly City, on pressure, perhaps Arsenal. How can I say that with less possession and less shots? Well 3 yellows to City to 1 to Arsenal, and invisible Yaya (Toure), and a large number of corners to Arsenal for a team with lesser possession, shows that we were winning, if only just a very very little, most places BUT the all important scoreboard. Still we were forward enough and with some threat just not quite coming off. As we now know the second half would bear a bit of all that out..

Half 2: I won’t reiterate in detail, really. Very much like the first half but we had more possession so the game ended almost equal. Again, with few exceptions Yaya was invisible. The one time,  early in the half at 50mins saw them with a great chance well covered by Scz whose luck turned on rebounds from the first half.

One minute later, it’s all open, and first TR and then Santi are at goal with venom. And then in this open phase, at 52:44, FLAMINIIIIIII!

All that probing that the pundits were calling useless or signs of failure .. Well, one probes not to always score, but to eventually score. The eventually came despite still very good team defending by City.

This ushered  in some Arsenal dominance and almost immediately Sagna offers an almost second goal cross. We were definitely on top in ways the pundits said City were in the first half. But, for real.

This ushers in my thoughts on pundits and The Jordan Effect. If Michael Jordan did something ridiculous, it was amazing and he got the foul! Anyone else was an idiot. Seems that way with Arsenal, so read nothing but your unbiased correspondent here! 🙂

Then the Pod almost got it for us… Then and then and … We were definitely playing with them.

The rest played out as we know. We won half two decisively but not dominantly, and they did get some opportunities as befits a top team in any game, and thus we were not dominant or lucky enough to pull it out. A “fair” draw in my final thoughts on it.

Overall: lots of good probing, lots of good team defense, and what looked like two top teams having an even or near even go at it. City don’t leave thinking we aren’t top tier and neither should we in my opinion despite our penchant for a wee touch of gloom.

Player of the game: Demichelis, his defense was the extra thing that kept it for City. My opinion but he was disruptive everywhere.

Luckiest keeper: Draw. Both were lucky once.

Impact player: Draw Flamini and Rosicky, with honorable mention to Sagna who very quietly had about 8m crosses in.

Invisible players: TV, Yaya, Nasri. Not bad but not there really. Not OG who was part of the goal with good hold up, but also somewhat lonelier as we sat back a touch. Something we must solve if we play more this way, although the injured would help there with more B2B types off field just now.

Now my thoughts on signs and portents: No, Prince, I am not a believer but for lightening pre-match it was fun. However, I will point out I got the deeper defense, lineup, and half the final score right. Don’t knock the burnt offerings! 🙂

So, will this be the end of season changer?

I have to believe that our confidence will be lifted. We played well and evenly for the most  part with what is likely the top team in the league. My thoughts:

A. Confidence should be high just when we need it to get through the injuries and the season well. We may not win the rest of our games but we could. The same for all our competitors so…

B. We can play well with a very depleted team, which again has to help going forward and next year.

C. Our need for steal down the middle is clear, though we did well today. TV to DM might be a better deal than trying to find the perfect beast DM for many £.

But, will it change the season?? Well, like the burnt offerings, it’s hard to tell. But, back to my portents.

I was at church with family having seen the scoreline. Sat there contemplating as one does and of course “football is life” when suddenly the ground is shaking. Yet another bloody earthquake here in Christchurch, though a mere 4.0 it was shallow and thus relatively intense in shaking.

So, I was contemplating life and Arsenal and many things. At church… and the earth moved !!

Read into it what you will!! 🙂

Cheers — jgc

Arsenal-City Preview & Ideal Line-up: 4-2-4 with FlamTV in ‘2’!

Laurent Koscielny Arsenal

Of portents, signs and not much tactics…My very short match preview, if you will.

Normally, I’d be all about tactics and how to play the game, maximise our strengths and so on. But, time, tide, injuries and such have taken their toll. So, today, a bit of a metaphysical approach. First, the “context”.

For me, this is now a “nothing to lose” game. The “must win” before the last game or two was if we’d won or drawn Chavs and beaten Swansea. It would have been the 3rd of my 3 top games of March (Spurs, Chavs, City).  So far, we are 1W and 1L (followed by a draw against Swansea).

Now, the must win games are Everton and Wembley (at least nearer term)…

Bigger picture.

I didn’t expect to win the league, so that we are close and will hopefully remain so, is good enough. We are in the picture for one of the better trophies so should be happy about that. For those disbelieving regulars on this site, re-read the tone after 3-1 loss at home to AV in game 1…  My overall take, we are not so bad as the last two, and not quite so good as the first 65% of the season that came after the AV game #1. Without injuries it is far closer to the latter than the former, and so be it…

Now on to the game tomorrow / today itself.. I think we need to focus defensively and play our game. Not too aggressive. The first 20 mins are our downfall or our victory all too often. I think we play for the 0-0 or 1-0 stolen win, given the cast of players available. My lineup, I have two, the “standard” and the “jgc chefs special”. I expect the first, which is:

ars v mc conservative

I see Flamini wanting to make up for last time and we still need some steel.

Now the chef’s special.

This one says that if you stop Yaya you are a long way to stopping City. Of course, easily written in a few key strokes and they’ve plenty of others to step up and attack but basically, it’s time to clog the middle and I think for those who want to see something really different:

ars v mc full on

Yes, gentelfolk, the world famous 4-2-4-0. Nothing says I want to hammer any ***hole who comes down the middle like Flamini-TV5 in the middle. Rosicky will have to drop more to provide some service forward perhaps.. Kallstrom has played outside back and can again methinks, if you are worried about Jenks.. The front 4 can be more fluid and will have to work forward and with some aggro as needed, but Rosicky, Pod and Ox are all comfortable going forward at the front if needed and perhaps that would open up some “threat” we have not been able to with all our injuries. Finally, I have a major prize for anyone who a) believes this will happen; and if b) it does actually happen!!

Now, onto the omens, because tactics aside, with all these injuries, it’s gotta be about the burnt offerings and reading the chicken innards. So, here goes…

The SIGN: I wore my Arsenal jersey today for the first time in awhile, mostly due to different reasons of not being able to on prior game days. I have not worn it since we were last winning lots, as happens.

The PORTENT: Was out riding a kids duathlon course with my 7 and 10 year olds this afternoon. The 10 year old blasted ahead as he does, I was with the 7 year old. Anyway, he’s a bit of a dreamer and, how shall we say, tends to use all the footpath, as he looks about at everything. In doing this and going around/between a couple of people while riding in front of me, he loses it on a small footpath edge and falls .. Of course right in front of me.

I have few options here. There are people and small dogs everywhere (and I know how Gerry is about running over dogs!), but I am headed right towards his neck (likely also bad). So, swerving to a side we put several years of bicycle racing experience to work and bunny hop him. Sadly, not clipped in like the old days so height is limited, but I miss him and do my first ollie over the handlebars in 20 years (it’s not magically gotten any more fun, I have to say!).

The OMENS:

The bad ones: Well, we crashed and there were huge tears (not to mention the 7 year old 🙂 ). Equally, I dislocated a finger and his perfect 7 year old chin is marred by a small cut from his helmet straps.

The good ones: Well, the ladies cricket team was there playing and rushed to our aid, and both he and I like sporty young women. He eventually did ride the 6km home, an attractive 20-something physio cricketer helped me stop from pointing left whenever I meant forward.

The great one: My Arsenal jersey was unmarked or damaged.

So, read what you will into all that… I am calling it either 1-0 Arsenal or 37M – 3 City. It’s all about the first 20 mins for us lately so…

Gentleman (and Ladies)….

Find your couch (to hide behind)!!

cheers — jgc

Liverpool – Arsenal Afterthoughts: DM-pivot needs sorting out!

 

Arsene has got his work cut out to make the team bounce back once more.
Arsene has got his work cut out to make the team bounce back once more.

More than 24 hours after the debacle at Anfield, it is still not easy to come to terms with the devastating implosion of our team in just 1200 seconds.

Regular BKers know that I believe our first team players are not lazy and calculated but committed and passionate about our club. It is natural to want to point towards a lack of attitude by our players for this embarrassing performance, but I reckon this would be self-deceiving. Yesterday, technically and tactically we were not good enough and Arsene Wenger is the main culprit for this.

It would be a lot easier to blame a lack of passion and commitment as the main cause of our defeat, but on the day we were simply not good enough. It will now be key for Wenger and his players to show us this was just a bad day at the office.

In a nutshell, we lost the game through two horribly defended Pool set-pieces and a subsequent inability to turn the game round without leaving the door wide open for the Scousers’ deadly counter-attacks. And deadly they were.

As 17highburyterrace pointed out yesterday, nothing is more frustrating to watch than Mertesacker having to run back towards his own goal chasing the game. We lacked shape, organisation, composure, professionalism and, most of all, any dominance when it still mattered.

The set-pieces were defended badly by the whole of the team, as we looked all over the place (especially the second one), but our CBs should have taken better control of those situations.

It is also fair to say we were not able to match the energy of the Pool players at the start of the game. We knew we had it coming and we should have been prepared better for this.

As others have pointed out already this weekend, and as I have been saying since the start of the season, our weakest area is in the double-DM pivot. Without a fit Flamini we are a different team, especially against the top teams. And going forward we need to improve on Flamini as well if we really want to come close to beating the top teams on a regular basis (and win silverware).

We lost the battle in midfield as we were unable to match Pool’s energy and speed, and I am holding my breath for what is to come in the next few games, as we seem to have structural problems in this crucial area.

I like Arteta, but he is not the man to protect our back-four and lead our team in these kinds of matches. Keen observers will point out he was not fully fit and he did not get much support defensively from Jack (also not fully fit). I would agree with that, but even if Arteta had been fully fit he still would have struggled to protect and lead effectively on the day.

Arsene had a chance to properly strengthen the DM area during January but he chose not to. By all accounts, KK is another attack-minded midfielder rather than a defence-minded one. If this area turns out to be the area where we lose this season’s chances to win silverware, I will be very disappointed in Wenger. Let’s see what he will do next for the games against Manure, Liverpool and Munich.

But it was not just our DMs and CBs who were not good enough on the day; Cazorla, Ozil and Ox also had little or no impact on the game and Giroud was totally isolated. Our midfield only started to play as a bit of a unit in the second half, when it was far too late.

Without a good functioning DM-pivot the defence will not get the right protection and our attack will be left isolated. I cannot stress enough how vital the deeper laying midfield duo is to the overall effectiveness of the team. They are the brakes and gear box of the team.

I am confident that Mertesacker and Koscielny will sort out the defence again, but I have doubts about our ability to protect them and to dominate midfield play during the next few crucial games again. Wenger and Bould have their work cut out here, and let’s hope they will get it right.

TotalArsenal.

Flamini for Arteta, Gnabry for Rosicky, Walcott on bench? Match Preview.

Arsenal vs Manchester United Pre-Match

Intro:

arsene 300

This week we take a trip to Old Trafford to face our bitter rivals. It’s a little unusual this time around though because instead of sir red nose it’s David Moyes at the helm. Early days have been rough for him (as you’d expect). He has big shoes to fill and he’s slowly dragging United back up the ladder. A loss for United will see them languishing 11 points off the lead. A position they have not been in for a very long time.

A win against United would boost our confidence through the roof and really act as a springboard for the long season ahead. Wins against Pool, BD, and Man U in a week would make a serious statement to the rest of the competition!

Let’s get in to it shall we:

Missing in Action:

Diaby sick bay

Arsenal: Podolski (Hamstring) – back in training and aims to be back in December, Ox (Knee), Diaby (Knee), and Sanogo (back). Wilshere, Flamini, and Walcott face fitness tests.

Man United: Fletcher (chronic bowel condition), Welbeck (Knee). Reports have suggested that Rafael (foot/ankle), Evans (back) and Carrick (calf/shin) could all return this week. Almost a full squad for United…no excuses.

Predicted Line-up:

starting line-up (12) (1)

Flamini to return in place of Arteta and Serge to step in for Rosicky. It’s probably too attacking away from home but I’d like to see us put them on the back foot quickly and score early. The likely scenario is Rosicky to play in Gnabry’s place just like he did midweek. An additional question mark is will Flamini be alright to go? If he is will he partner the ever reliable Zorro? Walcott and Wilshere will make the bench.

Previous Encounters:

Arsenal v Man U 1-1

A beautiful run by Walcott saw Arsenal go ahead in the 2nd minute. It was undone by a poor back pass by Sagna, followed by an overzealous challenge inside the box as he looked to make amends. The penalty was despatched by the treacherous rat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uami6cBa8ME

Man U v Arsenal 2-1

Vermaelen gifted BSR a goal in the 3rd minute. Somehow Evra scored with a header. Jack was sent off (The only Arsenal player on the day who decided to show up). Santi scored a conciliation goal at the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAVEaGRp1iw

EPL Form Guide:               Arsenal:   : WWWDW         Man U: WWDWL

Two massive wins in a row against Liverpool and German heavyweights Borussia Dortmund see us riding on cloud 9 at the moment. It’s been 252 days since our last loss.

Manchester United currently sit in 8th position…yep 8th! I’ve wanted to see them languish into mid table mediocrity for quite some time. It may not last but for now it’s better than porn. They were held goalless midweek by Real Sociedad, they blasted away Fulham either, and Chicharito saved them at home against Stoke. They’ve started to lift but by no means do they look convincing.

In saying that, Man U (away) still remains our toughest fixture this season…regardless of either teams form.

Arsenal Archive (1)

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s the famous Ruud Van nistelrooy incident in the 2003/04 season. I absolutely loved at how the team bandied together and gave him a mouth full when the final whistle blew. Keown’s jump and hit (probably still enraged after Red Arse picked him up and hugged him), Lauren’s and Parlours Push, and the rest of the team giving him a spray. God I’d love for the boys to do the same to Brave Sir Robin this weekend. Have a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1dfphE6jOs

One to Watch:

This week’s one to watch is Rooney. All Summer long he was linked with a move away from the Fergie-less United. It’s no revelation he stuck around, we’ve seen it take place before when he wanted more money. I’ve always hated him! Ever since he scored that outrageous goal during his Everton days I knew more despair was to come. It did come…in the form of a dive across Sol Campbell’s leg in the match that snapped our unbeaten run (. He’s scored 10 goals against Arsenal which is more than any other team…aren’t we lucky!!! He’s like a balder, whiter version of Drogba (I’m not sure which one dives more though). Hopefully Flamini can leave a few marks on both him and BSR. As Arseblog mentioned the other day, it’s only fair BSR and Rooney share the same fate as General Zod. Being trapped in the Phantom Zone as they waft through space forever is a fitting end after all the anguish/anger they’ve caused us over the years.

phantom zone

Arsenal’s one to watch is none other than “the enforcer” Mathieu Flamini. He’s tough, uncompromising, and fights to the very end! For years we’ve been torn apart by United on the counter. Flamini will have to marshal the zone in front of the back four and protect it with his life. The good thing about Flamini is…he knows no other! You know what you are going to get when he steps out onto the pitch. Let’s hope he’s fit enough to start.

Key-Match up:

BFG + Kozzer vs Rooney + Brave Sir Robin

grassy knoll

Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny check list:

  • ·        Luis Suarez—–
  • ·        Daniel Sturridge—-
  • ·        Robert Lewandowski—-
  • ·        Marco Reus—–
  • Brave Sir Robin
  • Wayne Rooney

They’ve kept four big hitters quiet, now it’s time to close out another two. Rooney started off the year slow (no surprise given the controversy throughout the summer), but he’s stepped up in recent weeks and started to form a good relationship with BSR. Together they’ve scored 11 goals in the league this season (same number scored by Giroud and Ramsey) so our defensive duo must maintain their form if we are to win at Old Trafford. With the help of Sagna, Gibbs, Flamini, and Szcz I think they will. 3 clean sheets in a week…you got it!

Pre-Match Finger:

kid finger

This week’s finger goes to none other than Ashley Young.

Dive Harder, Dive Hard 2 with Ashley Young-796633

The premier league was relieved to see the back of serial diver Christiano Ronaldo. However, in his place grew another diver in the form of former Aston Villa winger Ashley Young (I guess you can say he’s still a Villain (eh! eh! eh! Okay I apologise for that one). At Man United he’s become the new Ole Gunnar Solskjær, but instead of coming off the bench to score he comes on -> is touched by an opposition player (sometimes not even) and delivers a bewildering blur of twists and turns resulting in a split legged face plant -> whistle -> penalty (and sometimes a red card). The catalogue he’s developed over the last few years is truly astonishing. In a game that can be won or lost by the smallest of margins he is rightfully on the receiving end of the media’s blowtorch. Thankfully his dive against Real Sociedad during the week didn’t win them the match. Justice was served when Brave Sir Robin missed the penalty and Man United shared the points. It’s a real shame, as once upon a time he was considered a real talent. Now he’s resigned to forging a career in the England synchronised diving team. My finger is out to you Ashley…time to pull yours out too (just not this week and not for United).

I’m glad the ref in our game against BD didn’t fall for similar tactics employed by Robert Lewandowski. It was sickening how often he dived throughout the match. I’m still laughing about the foul Arteta was called for after he won the ball from Lewandowski. Amazing how Kozza can be absolutely poll-axed in the box and receive nothing, yet these blouses can get rewarded when they go to ground after a pass of wind.

Pre-Match Pat on the back:

pat on the back

This week’s pat on the back is going to Arsenal’s Running Man Tomas Rosicky.

Running man

His importance to the team cannot be mentioned enough. When others are puffed out and out on their feet Rosicky is there! Terry is mesmerised by his hair flapping about as he runs, whereas we are fascinated by his determination and commitment to the cause. I had him as our MoTM against BD for obvious reasons. He chases, he passes, he tackles, he attacks…he really does do it all. He may not be able to play every game but when he does he definitely makes it count. The press is very important in today’s game and I think he’s the best in the team at implementing the strategy. He’s definitely got a lot more juice in his legs, and I hope he’s rewarded with a premiership medal at season’s end for his continual hard work. Well done Rosicky.

Ask the opposition Man U

‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead.  This week the answers were kindly provided by Dale O’Donnell from http://strettynews.com (@StrettyNews). Let’s see what he’s written for us this week:

1. What do you attribute to your slow start to the season?

It’s a transitional period. David Moyes came in and was willing to try different things. He had to do it at some stage and there was always going to be consequences, as you can see from the points we’ve already dropped. There has been signs of negative football and that must be altered. Attacking football is a key aspect to Manchester United.

2. How is Moyes travelling? He has big shoes to fill, will he make the grade?

Massive shoes to fill but he must be his own man and do things the way he feels is right. You don’t change a club like United, it will change you. Expectations are risen dramatically since his reign at Everton. Personally, I’ve got behind him from day one despite not being my initial choice. Moyes is a football man and he deserves time.

3. Your thoughts on Ashley Young being labelled a diver?.

Thoughts? It’s embarrassing. Young arrived and has yet to show any real consistency. Both Fergie and Moyes have said they’ve spoken to him about it but he still does it. And he’s still mediocre.

4. Are you happy with how your transfer window went?

Not particularly, but Moyes did name his targets. It was not his job to negotiate, so anyone hanging the blame over his head has not got a clue what they’re talking about.

5. What position/ player is your weakest link?

That has to be our midfield, but I’m not going to single out any player because it often depends on the combination. Carrick performs well regardless of who he is alongside. However, we still have fans that don’t appreciate the job he does for us.

6. What position is Arsenal’s weak link?

I don’t rate Szczęsny at all. He’s been at Arsenal since 2009, so he’s had the time to do it.

7. Which Arsenal player would you love to have in your team and why?

Ozil, hands down. What he has done for Arsenal so far this season does not surprise me one bit. It’s what happens when you add world class to your squad. Look at us last season with Van Persie. Remember him? Without your former captain, I doubt we would have won the league.

8. What is your match prediction?

We are at home, so I’m going for 1-1.

Prediction:

It’s hard to not get carried away and say we are going to win it easy, especially considering the way we’ve handled our opposition this week. The truth is we’ve played two very tough games in a row. Hopefully our physios have been working overtime and the players doing everything they can to recover 100%. In saying that it’s a massive game, if you can’t lift and find another gear in this game you don’t belong at Arsenal. I’d love to see us win at Old Trafford because it’s been a truly miserable place to play over the years; therefore, I’m torn between a 1-1 draw or a 0-2 victory. Frick it…0-2 to the good guys.

What is your prediction?

What starting line-up would you choose?

De Gea or Szczesny?

What position is their weakest link at the moment?

What tactic would you employ to beat Man U?

What will be the top 4 at season’s end?

coaches bikes

Written by: Oz Gunner

Szczesny – BFG – Flamini – Ozil – Giroud: spine of a champion in waiting?

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I love our spine: it is full of character, experience, ‘position experts’, and it oozes quality throughout. One Pole, two Germans, and two Frenchies; and we have some fine Spanish, German and English talents to add to it and support it.

Arsenal might be building a team around a British core in the mid to long term, but for the foreseeable future the core has not a single Brit in it. Jack and Rambo might well play themselves into the core sooner or later, and especially the Welshman has made a very impressive start to the season, but for now the spine is non-British.

You could argue that the wider spine should be taken into account, as we play with two CBs and two deeper laying midfielders who all play centrally. But for the sake of this discussion I would rather look at our narrow spine of Szczesny, Mertesacker, Flamini, Ozil and Giroud.

There are three questions that come to my mind when looking at our spine:

  1. Can we improve further on it?
  2. How will we cope with injuries?
  3. Is it the spine of an imminent champion?

I welcome your views on this today, and this post is just a means for discussion/sharing of views.

In order to give the debate some added substance, I will quickly give you my views on the above questions.

Can we improve further on the spine?

Yes we can to some extent. We could get a more experienced and established goal keeper as Wojciech is not yet the finished article; and maybe there is a CB out there who has the BFG’s ability to organise the defence and read the game as well as he does, but is faster and more agile than the German giant. But despite his lack of speed and ‘turn-ability’, I love the guy and it would be hard to find somebody who would be a like for like improvement in all the aspects he brings to our team.

Other than that, I reckon Flamini and Ozil are totally cut for our spine, and the same goes for Giroud who plays the ‘modern’ holding striker role sublimely for us this season.

How will we cope with injuries?

That is the big question, isn’t it?

For Szczesny we have two options and I rather would have an experienced PL goal keeper as our nr.2, although we still have to see Viviano in action and he might well be the bee’s knees.

For Mertesacker we have Sagna, who has been very good in the CB role when played there recently. But Sagna is also our nr.1 RB and is played constantly by Arsene and in the French national team. However, if the BFG is injured I reckon Sagna is a more than decent replacement.

For Flamini we have Arteta. It is not a like for like replacement as Flamini is better at the physical part of midfield defending, but Arteta is experienced and can play well in the deepest midfield position. In an ideal world, though, we would strengthen in this area as soon as possible. Our main transfer priority this winter?

For Ozil we have Jack, Rosicky, Santi and Rambo. Enough said.

For Giroud we have Bendtner and Sanogo and maybe Akpom. The Dane did not take his opportunity on Tuesday and it looks like closed curtains for him now. Sanogo could become a revelation but we just have not seen him play yet, and Akpom is one for the future.

Of course, we also have Theo and Pod who could play centrally but neither of them are capable of playing the specialist holding striker role anywhere near as well as the Big Ferocious Frenchman. I reckon a long term injury to him is our biggest potential weakness in the spine; if there’s one thing we have learned from our defeat against the Chavs, it’s this…

Is it the spine of an imminent champion?

Thanking The Guardian for this great picture!
Thanking The Guardian for this great picture!

It all depends on fitness and being able to play together as much as possible, especially during the big games. It is also important that Szczesny turns into a more consistent ‘safe pair of hands’ this season. So with a bit of luck, we could well have the spine of a champion in waiting this season.

But what do you think, fine fellow Gooners? And who would be your one purchase to further strengthen the spine?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Arteta leads, Szczesny stands up, and Ozil, Rambo and OG pure class

But above all, another great TEAM performance!

The captain answered his critics once more...
The captain answered his critics once more…

Well, Well, ToTL with 22 points and a fine goal difference of 11 after just nine games! The boys did us proud today. Chris Foy tried his best to ruin it for us, but even he could not stop us.

I thought before the game this would either be very easy or we would have to dig deep; and as we all know, it became the latter. Just as against Norwich, Flamini had to leave the game very early, but this time it seemed a groin injury rather than a reoccurrence of his concussion. And just as last week, we lacked a bit of shape and rhythm once he had gone, although Arteta impressed with not just his positioning but also his willingness to put his body on the line.

The pitch was very slow and the Eagles defended resolutely, but we also played at too low a tempo and often not close enough to each other. And when we did play a bit closer together, our triangles did often not work out, due to inaccurate passing and under-par first touches. However, the boys managed to get into the box a few times and got close to scoring with chances for the (still very rusty) Cazorla, Rambo and Giroud.

To be fair on Palace, they played well in the first half and created a few good chances themselves, as once again we allowed them to play football in the space in front of our ‘D’ and were opened up a bit too easily. Part of their strategy was to get easy free-kicks in put-the-ball-into-the-box areas, and Foy easily obliged to support this ploy. But we also were a bit naïve in giving away such free kicks too willingly, making it easy for the 13th man to have his influence on this game. Luckily, we defended most of these free-kicks (and corners) resolutely, which was a welcome sight.

0-0 was a fair score to go into the break with, and it was clear we had to up the tempo of our passing and make better runs into the danger area, if we were to get the three points from this game.

We did not have to wait long for a break. Gnabry, who plays with such an incredible maturity and composure for his age (born in 1995, the same year Dennis arrived at Highbury!), found himself in the box with the ball – after good, patient and incisive triangle-combination football by Arsenal – and he cut the ball back superbly, denying the onrushing Guedioura any opportunity to control his adrenaline surge before it was too late. As a result, the Algerian fouled the young German in the box and this time Foy could not get away with denying us a penalty (we could have had one in the first half).

Up steps our captain, and you kind of feel if he misses this one we will not win today. But his penalties are as sharp and immaculate as his haircut and bionic stare, and he makes it 1-0 to the good guys with an unstoppable effort.

The game can now truly begin, as Palace will need to come out of their defensive setting to get anything out of it. We press and play with a lot more swagger and it seems only a matter of time before we will score the all important second goal. But Foy was still part of the ploy and he grabbed his opportunity with both hands when Arteta and our former Moroccan Gunner collided about a Boeing 747 away from our goal. The gel-man tried to compensate a characteristically bad first touch (his feet have never been his strength) from what was a very promising through-ball with barging into Arteta: they both went to the floor and Foy sends our captain to the showers. It is easy to be resolute if you know what you are doing…. 😕

Arsenal now had to defend and Arsene made excellent substitutions with bringing on our best all-round midfielder Wilshere and safe pair of hands Nacho for the tired Cazorla and, the tactically sacrificed, Gnabry.

We have discussed the need to keep a clean sheet more regularly if we want to beat the Chavs (and others) to the title this season, and today we really needed it to clinch all three points. Up steps our Pole in goal; first denying a beautifully executed shot by Joel Ward with a full stretch, ever so slight fingertips-touch onto the crossbar; followed by a strong, one handed match winning save from Jedinak venomous volley from just outside the box. Szczesny remains a work in progress but today’s performance, for which he was given the MoTM award, will help him tremendously – and he needed it.

The team looked tired but ALL worked hard to fight for the three points. I loved the way Ozil picked up balls in and around our own box and kept it to win time and space, and what a fine, strong balance he has. Jack was able to keep the ball under pressure and move forward with it, not allowing the Eagles to sustain their attacks. Nacho did great work on the left wing, both defensively and in attack, and almost scored a Theo-esque goal late on.

I looked at Giroud and Rambo and they seemed exhausted; the game against Dortmund and the 10-men second half efforts against Palace clearly taking their toll. But they never gave up and dug very deep into their reserves, and this is what we should remember when either of them has a less effective game: these boys really care about Arsenal – the absolute opposite of mercenaries!

And it came as no surprise that the final word of this exhilarating game was for our finest work horses. Giroud collects the ball in midfield with his back to the opponent’s goal – who is currently better in the PL at doing this?…. – and passes to Rambo, who is still able to accelerate past a few Palace players into the box, and somehow finds the composure to produce a measured ball onto the head of the onrushing Frenchman, who places the ball just above Speroni’s left shoulder, leaving him no chance to save it: 2-0 to the mighty Gunners and game over.

A hard fought win, three points, ToTL, and more evidence that this team has real backbone: Ooh to! Ooh to be! Ooh to be A Gooner! – Ooh to! Ooh to be! Ooh to be A Goooner!

http://www.fcsongs.com/Arsenal_FC_-_Ooh_To_Be_A_Gooner.html

Bring on the Oilers! 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

The Flame is back – Rambo or Arteta – Gnabry to start?

Very short Crystal Palace v Arsenal pre-match today, as I am knackered.

The Flame is back!
The Flame is back!

The Eagles could either put up a proper fight tomorrow and like savages throw everything at us, or they might crumble from the first minute of the game. Hard to tell, but whatever they do Arsenal’s quality should shine through and three points should be taken home tomorrow.

We need to rock on and play with discipline and focus and once the game is won, I hope the boys have mercy with their wounded opponents.

I reckon Arsene will start with a strong as possible side, as he will really want to win this and not leave anything to chance tomorrow. Many of the first teamers can have a rest during mid-week, so every reason to start with our strongest eleven at Selhurst Park. For me, that would include Jack Wilshere, but it looks he might be rested tomorrow to allow his ankle to recover further. If there is no Jack, then I reckon Gnabry will get another game on the right.

And who will play in the double-DM pivot? Flamini is back and should play, and I reckon Arsene will play Ramsey next to the Frenchman in order to give him a boost to his confidence after a rare mistake by the Welshman in last week’s CL encounter with Dortmund. For me, Aaron is a natural B2B and Flamini will allow him to express himself again. It could also be that Arsene will play FlamTeta in the pivot, as that would give him the more solid defensive structure he seems to prefer in away games. We will have to wait and see.

Defence should remain the same, but maybe Fabianski gets a rare start tomorrow….?

Predicted Line-Up:

Arsenal v  Crystal Palace

I just hope we will play with a high tempo from the start and try to win this game as quickly as possible, and not give the opposition a change to get into it. A nice and quiet Selhurst Park is what we want.  I am also hoping for a rare clean sheet as we need our defence to start building some momentum now with some big games coming up soon.

OGAAT – UTA – CoYG!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

How can Arsenal improve further? Transition, Transition, Transition!

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It’s all about the transition!

There has been recent commentary on a range of tactics and what makes us succeed or appear to be less successful. In particular, the area around defense and how we defend has arisen with strong sentiments around Arsenal “allowing” other teams to score or laying too far back.. In my opinion, no one is allowed to score, but the game is, in fact, a game, which implies both teams have a say in the outcome. Which is to say this isn’t La Liga with (nowadays) 3 teams beating up the rest who are of a clearly lesser level in many cases.

So, what is it about? What differentiates our successful periods from periods less dominant? Some say it is Flamini, no Flame, no game, might be the succinct response. Others imply we relax after scoring early and let others back in the game. Still more point at supposed weaker links, Arteta or Scz, or immobile Germans for defensive issues.

To me, in my analytical way, experience says two things:

1. There are two phases to the game – when you have the ball and when you don’t.

2. There are three often interchanging roles of each team in a game – on top, even handed, and behind the 8-ball, which is to say pressurizing and under pressure, with the middle being the arm wrestle tussle for control.

Equally, a physicist will tell you that if you expend excessive energy with the ball and pressurizing, you will, in a zero sum game, have to rest at some other time (and be pressurized). In contrast, a serious football fan will tell you to never give up the initiative. I will tell you that football is all about being able to count to 3 or 4, a game of numbers.

More succinctly, most goals come from gaining numerical advantage. Even JWs wonder goal #1 vs Norwich had local 2-1 advantage for every touch to break through 4 people (2-1 at a time).

Finally, however, it is a game and both sides play a role and try their best. Especially in the EPL, where the guaranteed wins have come fewer and harder every year of recent. Only Sunderland seem a sure bet right now and even that will possibly change before they are relegated (as seems likely at the moment).

So, what makes Arsenal right? And what is different when we are “wrong” or “off”? How do we maximise our numbers and minimise the opponents?

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To me it’s all about the transition. Every team plays with and without the ball. The critical moments are what occur right after the ball changes hands and how one “finds numbers”.

For the moment let’s presume that we lose the ball and the other team (Whomever FC) do not immediately hoik it up field or turn it back (i.e. they aren’t Stoke and act rationally). What happens next or should happen next.

When we are going well: We race back and get in front of the ball which is critical to making sure the opposition do not get numbers. Hence, we all love fast counters because they give you numbers and we all groan when the ball goes sideways on a rapid Arsenal counter.

The entire goal is to get in front, with reasonable shape (2-3 layers) and, this is the key, aggressively front the ball. That aggressive first “fronting up”  should push the ball sideways and slow the opposition transition.

The next key step is shape and aggressively moving forward, as a unit, so that the next pass goes back and then the next…

When we are successful, we bully teams back into their own end, even without the ball! When we are not they are allowed to play or move to easily.

Flamini gives us a lot of this “first fronting up” which allows players to get back, as well as the vocal organisation. If there was an argument “against” Arteta it is that he is perhaps too passive this way in comparison and a little too passive on the counter (when we are on offence). Not always but enough. Hence, Flamini’s importance, but, an importance that can be replicated.

The benchmark is Napoli, this year at least, and watch the game again at Arsenal.com and you will see that we never let them get a free forward pass with the ball, or barely so. Aggressively fronting through most of the game we bullied them time and again into passing all the way back to Reina. Not beautiful Wenger-ball perhaps but beautiful to watch and a sign of utter domination. Combined with incisive attack finding numbers and advantage versus an increasingly frustrated and confused opposition, and the outcome was certain.

When we are not going well: Well just the opposite, too passive and too slow to front the ball. The opposition gets better numbers or is allowed the opportunity to find them. Our slack period as we caught our breath was about this. We didn’t adapt tactics and effort to be more solid, and to me, it starts with someone getting in the face of the ball carrier. Without Flamini it was likely needing to be Cazorla (fatigued) and JW along with Arteta and Ramsey. If one is missing and the opposition comes through that area…

IMO, here is where JW is weak. He is aggressive as hell at coming back but doesn’t get in front preferring to come from behind or the side. As a result, he either gets the ball (good) or fails and doesn’t force the attack to slow, instead inadvertently actually pushing it forward (bad). It’s also where Rosicky is better or more experienced. Its not all JWs fault by any means but you defend as a team and if one or more elements aren’t in synch..

On attack you ask? Well the same holds in reverse really. When we go well we are incisive and forward. This is where Ozil has really helped us be more direct, and where, again if you want to see Arteta as a negative, he is perhaps a touch more cautious. Equally, JW at his best drives the game forward and finds numbers, TR the same, which is why they are always “visible” when going well on attack.

Equally, in this context, one could readily argue that JWs goal vs Norwich was Norwich allowing Arsenal to aggressively strike forward to find numbers 2-1 each time to remove a player in what was at the outside 3 vs 5. IMO, that’s unfair to Norwich and Arsenal as that was perfect aggressive play and not much stops that!

So, in summary, no one can dominate all of a game and all of the ball. There will always be times when we don’t have it and where after huge efforts on our part the other team is dominant. It’s how we respond and the basics we follow that, to me, determine the outcome.

In fact, I like it this way. It’s a game and if the other side has no chance what’s the fun? Better then to root for the underdog which is about all the fun there is to be had (again my opinion) in any Barca game that isn’t vs RM or Atletico. No games at all are like that in the EPL these days based on recent results that have helped put our team at the top of the table.

Finally, it is all about the players. If I examine our team now, I would say that Flamini is the glue that stops opposition transition the best and that makes a huge difference to half our game. Ozil, as is well discussed, adds the incisiveness we lacked last year as well as another SQ threat with Santi, and the super emergence of AR and OG this year. Questions, they come around Arteta adapting just a little in my opinion and JW, as he comes into form, finding the defensive half of his game gaining maturity. These will both come with time.

So, what do you think? Football is a very simple game with a at least a billion interpretations on how to play it best. Hopefully, this note at least fills the period between what I hope is a great, pressuring, perfectly transitioning domination of Dortmund and the weekend vs CrystalPalace!

To me it’s all about the balance defined by how we transition and thus whether we can dominate the ability and opportunities to find numbers and advantage or if we have to rely, as we did all too often in past on some magic from one or another player.

This year, I think we have the team to not to have to rely on magic too often … which is the first time since perhaps 2004ish and thus very good!! As long as we stay solid in the transition!

And a last question, if with way of looking at it in mind you could get any player in January who is it and why will they help us in transition?

Written by: JGC