Who will replace Flamini and who will start on the ‘wings’?

Thoughts on the game tonight

A 'rare' start for Nacho?
A ‘rare’ start for Nacho?

So tonight we really get to see whether this imperious form we’ve been in was down to a lucky fixture list or do we really have the stuff of champions. Arsenal play their toughest game so far this season against last years champions league runners up. There’s a lot to be said about this fixture so I’ll get down to it.

Arsenal go into the game on the back of an incredible unbeaten run, confidence sky high and with the squad looking healthy and raring to go. Flamini has been ruled out of the tie and I think he’s going to be a big miss. However, I think Ramsey should be a no brainer to start alongside Arteta in the centre of the park with Ozil in front of them. On the left flank, I expect Cazorla to get the nod and on the right i’d stick with Jack. I expect Rosicky to get some game time and probably Gnabry and Bendtner too. The latter’s involvement dependent on how the game goes. The only change I’d make would be to give Gibbs a rest and play Monreal tonight.

Dortmund on the other hand have had a shaky start to their Bundesliga campaign but I can assure you that it will count for nothing if we do not play our A game. In fact Jurgen Klopp has gone as far as branding BVB the underdogs of the tie which I don’t believe is true, but then again what do I know? They have their fair share of injuries but still have an incredible team. They miss Ilkay Gundogan but have Marco Reus back. Dortmund have 4 players whom I think must be marshalled. Lewandowski is obviously a no brainer but the more dangerous ones (for me) will be Reus, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan, especially for counter attacks. Ramsey must continue his form and will be called upon to help out Arteta, especially once we lose the ball. Wilshere too must be ready to defend when needed.

I expect this to be an open game so the tactic should be to try to strike early and decisively. By this I mean, if we can take a 2 goal lead into the half we will force BVB to come out and go for it which will swing things in our favour. BVB, despite having two very good defenders in Hummels and Subotic, aren’t known for their collective defensive capability so I’m hoping we can take full advantage of that.

Sagna and Gibbs/Monreal will have to be at their best because choking out Aubameyang and especially Reus will be a necessity if we are to keep BVB at bay. Reus is an incredibly talented, incredibly mobile player so there will have to be clear communication and coordination between our defenders if we are to stop him. The two are Lewandowski’s main supply lines, and so this is a priority.

Finally, if we can impose our game on them and dictate proceedings (and not just for a period of the game but for the full 90 mins) I feel we can get the points. Wenger must know that if the team takes the foot off the pedal for even a few minutes, BVB can and probably will punish us. I will not predict the scores or outcome of the game but all I will say is that I feel good about it. This is a game the neutrals will enjoy as it features two of the best attacking sides in Europe.

Come on You Gooners!!!!

Written by Marcus

OOHzils and AAHrons return to THOF: Wengerball is back!

cid152221_OzilVI07_640_640x345

I have watched some dire Arsenal games in recent years. Norwich and Wigan away, and Blackburn (FA Cup) at home were all pretty poor live-games last season for example, but yesterday I finally saw Arsenal play fantastic football again. The atmosphere in the stadium was good, and in the North Bank it was even better. The banter between North Bank and the East Bank supporters was great – singing to each other for prolonged periods which became louder and louder every time.

On such a mild day as it was, and with the sun coming through just as the game started, the fans singing and with a collective sense of this season possibly being different than previous ones, it felt extra good to be a Gooner yesterday.

As predicted, Arsene started with FlamTeta in the double-DM pivot and no typical wingers. I had Ramsey and Cazorla starting, but it made sense to rest Ramsey and give Jack an opportunity to show everyone once again what a great prospect he is. And boy did he deliver.

Effectively, we played 4-5-1 again. A similar line-up attracted a lot of unfair criticism against WBA, but this time round there appears to be no complaints. And with our wide midfielders contributing with goals, assists and penultimate assists, Wenger will feel justified for sticking with his midfielders for another game.

Norwich were well organised and defended diligently at the start of the game. Arsenal took their time to find the openings as the so familiar ‘Sturm und Drang’ football seems to be a thing of the past. This Arsenal are calculated in their efforts: we try to preserve energy and like to sit back – we even do not mind to relinquish possession of the ball if it will mean the opponent comes forward and out of their defensive positions.

To some extent we play like Red Nose’s MU during periods of the game. We love space and we relish winning back the ball in our own half, as to start our counter-attacks with speed, precision-passing, and cool finishing. Today we scored a couple of goals from getting the ball in our own half and I expect this to become a regular occurrence this season.

This sitting back and absorbing pressure does come at a price, though. At times during games – and yesterday this was the case on each side of the break – we sit too deep and hand over control too much to the opponent. Norwich had their best spell between the 35th minute and when they scored their goal; and we were a tat lucky with scoring our second one before they scored theirs.

Partly, this was due to the early departure of the Flame: the team initially struggled with regaining its shape and dealing effectively with Norwich’s very effective and physical central midfielders. I thought Wenger and Bould would coach our midfielders during the break on how to regain control, but they continued to struggle during the first twenty minutes or so of the second half.

Norwich lacked the creative and finishing skills to properly hurt us, and with Arsenal brimming with both confidence and super quality talent, it was pretty clear we would come out as winners eventually.

Our first goal, watched from the North Bank so from afar, was pinball football. When an improvised goal through the middle comes off like that, the team deserves all the plaudits it’s getting. We just could not believe what we saw: what a cheeky, brilliant goal. And we all sang: ‘same old Arsenal, taking the piss’. It was wonderful to listen to the collective OOHS and AAHS when the replay was shown on the stadium screens just after the goal was scored. Wengerball is well and truly back!

The delirium from THAT goal did subside though, and even turned into some howls of derision towards the end of the first half, despite OG almost scoring a second after another blitz-attack: the North Bank are a critical lot! But Arsenal sat back too much and allowed Norwich too much space and time on the ball during this period. Szczesny saved us during this phase with a first class stop: not just keeping the ball out of the net, but also pushing it away safely under pressure.

The start of the second half was also for Norwich, but another brilliant break from the back led to the second goal: the one that won us the game as Norwich just did not have more than one goal in them at best. Cazorla found, the brilliant throughout the game, OG in the right-wing position: he looks up and sees Ozil making a run into the box and produces a beautifully weighted cross into the box which finds the head of the German. Ozil cannot believe he scored with his head from a cross from our CF – something Ronaldo would never have done for him – but it is two nil to the Good Guys and we all sing ‘we are walking in an Ozil wonderland’, soon followed by the Beatles inspired Giroud tunes – and rightly so. The Frenchman’s ability to ‘serve’ the team is second to none, and just for that I love the guy.

A collective relieve across the stadium can then be sensed: the party can now truly begin, it seems. But Norwich get a reward for their fine team play and get a goal back. The BFG could have done better clearing the ball but Howson’s first touch is very good, and he hits the ball with venom and precision past Gibbs’ leg, leaving Szczesny, who sees the ball going past the Englishman’s legs late, with absolutely no chance this time.

The introduction of Rosicky for Santi gave the team a much needed renewed purpose and drive, and with Arteta improving significantly the longer the game went on as well, the Ramsey-show could truly begin. Our third goal was another superb one. Ramsey’s touch, control and spatial awareness in the tightest of area were unbelievable; and to see all of this right in front of me was pure ecstasy.  We all went mad in the stands and tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. The boy whose leg was snapped in two, who was booed by his own fans and wished all sorts of diseases on the blogs, had scored a Bergkampesque goal of the highest order. Chapeau, chapeau!

It was not over yet, as the team remained hungry for more goals, and the likes of Ozil, Rosicky, Wilshere and Ramsey kept driving forward and combining at will and with great invention and penetration. Ruddy, the Norwich goal keeper, kept doing really well during this period, but he could do absolutely nothing when Ramsey found Ozil with the daftest of touches, as the king of assists was for the second time in one game royally presented with a fine goal scoring opportunity himself. Rosicky had spread the ball from left to right, finding Ramsey at the left post with precision, and catching out the Norwich defence in the process. Beautiful football by beautiful people.

After that there were individual songs for Rosicky, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud, but the most poignant song was kept till the end: ‘WE are top of the league, WE are top of the league, WE are top of the league, We are top of the league!’

And so we are and long may it continue! 😛

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Who turned Arsenal into EPL title contenders?

Well, it is not just Ozil!

Happiness is a warm Gunner!
Happiness is a warm Gunner!

Over the last month or so, ever since we made Mesut Ozil our record signing for the club, not a day goes by without some sort of news or article regarding how Ozil has transformed the fortunes of a struggling team and how we have been taken from being consistently ‘in crisis’ to ‘oozing class’.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the attention that having a true world best (and he is the BEST play maker in the world, period!) brings to Arsenal, but it made me think that it should not be taken for granted that a solid backbone of a team existed in which Ozil has seamlessly slotted in. Cast your mind back to right before Ozil’s signing, the loss against Aston Villa. Hell had descended and it seemed to be the end. Apparently Arsene had “dithered” and “dilly dallied” and the result was only one free transfer and a seemingly long barren season up ahead.

The point I’d raise here is that we still had a good squad, a squad that had topped the table based on points collected since Jan 2013 till the end of the last season. Arsene had sorted out our best defensive partnership, he had sorted our Rambo’s position and form, Rosicky was back playing at a good level, and Jack was fitter than he had been in the last few seasons (the last one is still relative, since I personally don’t think Jack is as fit as he can be, but at least he has been able to get a solid preseason behind him). Tactically, Arsene had also more or less figured out a good way to utilize our best players and it was working. We were solid and we were winning.

Going into the summer, the need seemed to be a CF and a DM in priority, followed by perennial need for a GK and CD. The need was also to get rid of the fat of the squad. A number of people pointed out at this point that a couple of good signings would transform our squad from being solid to being contenders. Unfortunately as the summer progressed and the frustrations increased, the narrative changed back to Arsenal having a weak squad, loads of money in the bank and Arsene having no clue. Bring on the Villa loss and we were a club at war with itself.

Mesut Ozil wasn’t what we needed, but he was that someone who Arsene has always talked about, the player who improves a position, and in turn the squad, and no doubt he has. He has the Va Va Voom that we loved to talk about when Thierry used to score goals for us. Add to the Ozil signing the genius signing of Flamini and we have a central midfield core that any team in the world can be fearful about. More than anything, Ozil changed the narrative around the club, gave the fans and players confidence and showed the world that we meant business. But let’s take a look at some of the players he’s joined in… just so we can remind ourselves of our squad!

In defense we have Szczesny, he who was once touted as the most promising GK since the days of Seaman and Lehmann. After going through a bit of a self searching phase, he began to reach his best towards the end of the last season, and has begun this season brilliantly (barring the Villa horror show). Behind him we have Fabianski and Viviano, good solid backups.

Then we have the indomitable pairing of Kos and Per, both phenomenal defenders who compliment each other’s game brilliantly. I would go as far as to say that they’d be up there as the best defensive pairing in the EPL right now, Per with his uncanny reading of the game and ability to organize, and Kos with his pace and tackling. We have TV on the bench, the club captain who is rearing to prove himself again! What has been heartening has been the fact that TV has been quite happy to take his chance when it comes. I had for a while thought that maybe he may want to move on (there was some interest from Barcelona at some point) if he couldn’t have games here, but I’m glad he’s still with the club.

Gibbs, Monreal, Sagna and Jenks; four absolutely terrific players who compete with each other and the result is an improving standard of play. Monreal in particular, I feel is hugely responsible for pushing Gibbs to be better than he had been. Sagna is a rock, I hope he gets a new contract. The only weak link (if I can call it that) is Jenks, who still needs to work on his game in order to be a regular starter, but the boy has great potential.

Centrally we have terrific options, and even before Ozil we had fantastic options. We have versatile midfielders who can play a variety of positions in Arsene’s 4-2-3-1 formation. We have Rambo in the form of his life (the boy really deserves all the praise he’s getting), we have Rosickly, Santi and Ozil, all players who could be playmakers or drift in from wide centrally to make the killer pass or even play off the CF. We have Arteta and Flamini, the passer and the tackler, and we have Jack, who is slowly getting back to his best. If this was not enough, we have Theo and Ox who can give us pace from the wings, and Poldi who will score goals coming in from either flank. Oh yeah, we also have Gnabry!

Up front we have Giroud, who last season I said would be a superstar to anyone who would listen, and he is showing his class. The thing that I love about Giroud is his sheer hunger to succeed and to help and to score goals. He wants to be the greatest at the club and he is working hard to get there. You couldn’t ask for more. His hold up play and his finishing have improved fantastically this season. As back up to Giroud we are perhaps a little short, but we do have Theo and Poldi who could potentially play in that position, as well as Apkom, Sanogo and Bentdner. Ideally if Sanogo had been fit I would have loved to see him start the Capital One Cup matches. Don’t forget it was the same competition in which Giroud found his feet (or head) last season.

But the thing that I love most about the squad (pre and post Ozil) has been the togetherness, the camaraderie and the hunger to succeed. It’s such a pleasure to see Instagram or twitter photos of players celebrating together. Poldi, despite being injured, seems to be the chief cheerleader. The big players such as Per, Flamini and Arteta seem to be stepping up to guide the younger players. Even TV in a recent interview alluded to the fact that a club captain can do much even if he’s not playing.

arsenal-spurs_ap_2658805b

So going forward I would love for this bunch to succeed, because in a long time I finally see the fruits of a long barren hard period coming to the fore. Win or lose, they will try, of that I’m sure, and as a fan I could not ask for anything more.

Let’s hope we have a terrific November and come Christmas we are still in a position to fight for the title.

Would love to know what you guys think!

Written by: Umair Naeem

Reintroduction of Arteta has disrupted the squad

gun__1373969704_arteta_idt

Now let me begin by saying that I like Arteta and he is a good player. The game against West Brom was a difficult one by all measures. I still think it is a game we could have won had we had taken them as seriously as we did Napoli, especially in the first 15 minutes. We were in complete control but looked like we were toying with them, rather than trying to score, unlike against the Italians. Anyway, credit to the team for winning the point in the end.

We have been playing very well, up until we met with the baggies. So what changed? In my opinion, it is the fact that Wenger has forced Arteta back into the team, without really looking at the balance. Against Napoli, we needed a double pivot to neutralize the threat posed by Hamsik, and it worked perfectly. Against WBA however, forcing Arteta alongside Flamini had a number of negative effects. First of all, it meant that Ramsey and Wilshere were pushed out wide. Wilshere had a shitter of a first half and it is only until he was brought back in the middle that we began to feel his presence.

As for Ramsey, we know he’s played wide before. However it has its downsides. Firstly, on the wing his movement is somewhat limited, and more so when playing in front of Jenkinson. This is because Jenko always bombs forward so Ramsey had to do a lot of covering work which in the end shackled him. Secondly, his influence and energy in the middle of the park which (dare I say) has been one of the main reasons we have dominated games, was sorely missed. You see Arteta is very good at reading the game and calm it down from deep, but lately it seems that’s all he’s good at. Do you know that against WBA he attempted only one forward pass in the opposition’s half, which was intercepted? All he does in pass sideways.

Arteta is no where near as good at dispossessing players as Ramsey and Flamini are. That’s what has made that partnership so good. Flamini will sit in front of the back four and Ramsey will support him when needed but then bomb forward and cause havoc on the other end. Ramsey also presses the ball very high (to great effect) which helps us win possession in very dangerous places. Both Flamini and Ramsey have a tenacity that neutralizes physical opponents. Yesterday you saw how we were bullied in the middle. Let’s not forget Ramsey’s goal threat is neutralized when he’s played out wide. Given his form, had he been played where he’s supposed to, he could and probably would have won us the game.

Second of all, bringing in Arteta gave Flamini the license to roam forward and this gave Sessegnon the space he needed to really terrorize us, which he did. When Ramsey and Flamini play together, they both know that Flamini protects the back and Ramsey moves forward. And because of Ramsey’s incredible engine, it works even when we are under pressure. Arteta just sits deep. This meant that Ozil was largely isolated and was therefore crowded out and neutralized. This made West Brom’s defending very easy. With Wilshere and Ramsey out wide, Mulumbu just needed to take Ozil out and they had a handle on us.

Flamini was the one (of the defensive two) going forward and let’s be honest, he’s no Ramsey. He had a few shots on goal which he hit straight at the keeper. Ramsey would have done much better. Even putting all this logic aside, if there’s a player who this season has earned the right to play where he feels most comfortable, it’s Aaron Ramsey. This game was very similar to the one we played against Marseille, except in that one Ramsey was played through the middle and won us the game.

To conclude, I will reiterate that I have nothing against Arteta. The thing is with the form of our three central midfielders (Flamini, Ramsey and Ozil) it is unfortunate but he is the one to lose his place, at least for now. I feel that we showed great character to salvage a point. That said, this is a game that could have gone either way and that shouldn’t be the case. If West Brom were better goal scorers, we could have lost. There’s a saying that goes ”if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. The team is anything but broke so changing one of its fundamental elements will only disrupt a flow that has been steadily building over the past few weeks.

On the plus side, Spurs were humiliated yesterday. COYG!!!!

 

Written by: Marcus.

WBA preview: FlamTeta double DM, Ramsey & Rosicky on the wings?

Tomorrow’s game against the Baggies is another tough one, but we like them tough, we do.

The Hawthorns where no doubt the away support will do us proud again :)
The Hawthorns where no doubt the away support will do us proud again 🙂

It is a blessing in disguise that West Brom deservedly beat the Mancs last weekend; it will make us focus and not underestimate them one iota. I always feel we are most vulnerable after the team received bags of praise for a fine performance, and we are about to play a so called easy opponent. We know now that West Brom, despite our recent League Cup success against them, are not to be taken lightly.

I like West Brom, and I especially like Steve Clarke who has done a fantastic job since taking over from Hodgson. Beating the multi-million pounds earning stars of MU with the starting eleven of Myhill, Jones, Olsson, McAuley, Ridgewell, Yacob, Mulumbu, Amalfitano, Sessegnon, Sinclair and Anichebe, and that at Old Toilet, is a phenomenal achievement.

Clarke knows his football, knows about systems of football and individual coaching, and how to get the very best out of a set of decent to good footballers. I will always have respect for managers like him; those who can work magic with a limited budget, and I predict the 50 year old Scotsman, and former Chav, Clarke to go places in his carefully build up managerial career.

Tomorrow, we can expect a good game of football as I don’t expect WBA to sit back too much. They will want to play football and their and our 4-2-3-1 systems will fight for dominance in midfield. If we can win that battle, our superior fire power up-front should make the difference. Luckily the team had a relatively long break – from Tuesday till Sunday – and everybody should be fit and up for this one.

Another away win will be a new record: nine straight PL away wins in a row. It would also be a strong statement of intent to go into another inter-lull with two points clear at the top of the PL table. Today, After his team’s win against Everton, Pellegrini said they needed to win in order to try and close the gap of five points with Arsenal: how long has it been since we have been referred to as the one to make up ground on…? Long may it continue! 🙂

Can Arsenal do it? Yes we can, but as always, only with hard work and focus, and taking our chances when they arrive.

Predicted line-up:

Arsenal v WBA

I reckon Wenger will not change much to the team that just beat Napoli so emphatically. Sagna has, as 17HT likes to call it, a Wengury and so Jenkinson should get a chance to prove himself; unless Kozzer is moved there and Vermaelen takes up the vacated CB position, which is unlikely.

It could be Jack instead of Rosicky, but I reckon SJW will get a break till the smoke is cleared; and it could be Gnabry instead of Ramsey, although AR16 has simply been too good to be left out. Gnabry is likely to come on later in the game, though.

I am also going for FlamTeta in the double DM tomorrow, but it could well be that either the Flame or Zorro get a break and Ramsey AND Gnabry will start – with the former playing in the double DM again.

Really hope we can win and set a new record tomorrow and the boys will do us proud once more.

Come On Your Rip Roaring Gunners!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Six Arsenal-transforming changes: Gibbs, Sagna, Rambo, Giroud, Ozil, Flamini

Mesut Ozil

There is a lot of talk about what Ozil means for this team, and some pundits are starting to pinpoint all our early success to the arrival of our new-Bergkamp. Ozil is a great player and the arrival of him was first of all a statement of intent to the fans, the players and the outside world. MO11 fits in very well and is indeed making a great difference right now. And the psychological impact of his arrival is almost equally as big.

But it would be a mistake to just focus on Ozil for the team’s apparent transformation. There is a tendency in people, especially lazy journalists, to simplify things. Ozil was the big buy and is producing most of the assists, so it’s all down to him….

I reckon there is more to this Arsenal squad that has turned us into a far better team. We have spoken at length about the difference Flamini is making in terms of defending in midfield, and how his extrovert personality adds so much good-old-fashioned leadership to the team. We have eulogised about the fantastic form both Giroud and Ramsey are in and how they have compensated so well for both Cazorla’s and Theo absence/lack of form until now.

But there is also Sagna’s transformation into a more than decent replacement for our big fecking German. Knowing that we have a good alternative for our real leader on the pitch is so important for the balance of the team. For years we have struggled to have two sets of decent CBs who compliment each other and who will last for a whole season. Koz and Vermaelen are very similar in style and type: the Keowns of this Arsenal if you want; whereas, BFG and now Sagna are more like our Adamses of this era. Moving Sagna into the CB spot, if and when required, was a mini-masterstroke by Bould & Wenger.

The other important improvement is the coming of age of the fantastic Kieran Gibbs. I saw the first glimpse of this when we played Bayern away last year. There was something in his performance that made me think this boy is about to announce himself at the top stage of football. Of course, it is still early and we should not get carried away, but Gibbs is quickly growing into an important player for this new Arsenal team. His improving defensive discipline combined with his wing-play and ability to defend very effectively against counter-attacks – from when we have taken a corner or a free kick in the other half – are all vital to the success of this team. He is also looking more solid and stable and far less likely to get injured now.

All other players have stepped up and add tons of value to this team, but I reckon that the above mentioned six players’ improvements/additions to the team are making the real difference right now. And long may it continue. 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Who was Wenger’s best signing in 2013? The curious case of Flamini

Kaboom is a new writer and English is not his first language. I have made some changes to make the article flow a bit better, but other than that I left it as it is. BK is an inclusive blog and we like it when bloggers from all over the world share their views and write for us.  I would like to ask you to focus purely on the content of Kaboom’s very fine post and respect that English is not his mother tongue.

Many thanks,

TotalArsenal. 

The return of the UMF - Ultimate Midfield Force
The return of the UMF – Ultimate Midfield Force

Ramsey. Giroud: the players on fire.  Santi. Mikel -lego hair- arteta still to come back. Players that continue their last season’s good form. Per and Kos with new found belief at back. Who can exclude the Öne and Önly, Özil? Arsenal are currently top of the table, most points accumulated and most goals scored team at the moment. And the table never lies!

However, in my humble opinion, the player who brought sparks/life to the spineless team has to be no other but Matthew Flamini.

The self-exiled for 4 years from the greatest club on earth has returned. All is forgiven. The sole survivor of the famous back 5 ( Lehmann, Eboue, Campbell & Toure) that inspired the heroic run that conceded only 1 goal all the way to champions league final ( only lost to 2 dodgy offside goals).

Rumours has it that he was close to be sent on loan to Birmingham but Wenger’s last minutes change of heart meant he stayed at the home of football. Everything else was history. His performance was so good AW had to leave former Brazil captain Gilberto on the bench.

Time and time again we saw endless running, tackling, arriving late at 18 yards box and having a pop at goal. Typical defensive midfielder. Along with Cesc, Hleb and Ro-sick-y, they formed the formidable midfield line-up that almost won the league. Unfortunately the agent got into his head and convinced him that a better future lay away from the great Arsenal. He left us like he left Marseille. That reminds me of what my old man always tells me. Do not pick a girl who left another man for you: one day she will do the same to you. Sadly, it was so true. AW failed to convince him on a new contract for the variance of GBP 5k (sounds familiar huh?), and he left Arsenal for Ac Milan.

It didn’t work out for either parties for past 4,5 years. Arsenal continued to struggle to find a proper DM (Dont.Ever.Mention. Song! He is a joke) and Flamini can’t even get any game time for the team. Due to stubbornness/principle of AW against signing ex-players, time and time the quality of Flamini had been overlooked.

Since then, Henry, Campbell and even Lehmann had returned on temp basis, and perhaps it softened AW’s principle of signing ex-players. Flamini rejoined the club after a successful trial. I read a report somewhere that he chose to park his super car at the visitors car park and walked thru the long corridor to the training area. To most people it may sounds like common courtesy but it has to be a huge huge humble pie (in-your-face) for Flamini. Well, it is really a minor gesture which is not worth mentioning but I have heard of far worse parking ethics of footballers. I believe that shows his willingness to earn the trust again to be part of the team and the will to be successful again.

Compared to the rest or marquee players, Flamini never has the chance to out shine anyone. He cant provides 2,3 assists per games, let alone goals. He can’t nutmeg opponents. He cant string 3,4 barca-likes passes with his teammates. However his roles of  tracking players all over field, covering every inches of the pitch, stamping authority, kicking players and doing ugly jobs are second to none.

Jack’s early withdrawal against tot-scum-spur had proven to be a real blessing in disguise. Flamini was everywhere. Tackling, kicking, shouting at defenders, organizing the defence. His performance against Stoke City has to be the best individual defensive work in years! And that’s really what Arsenal were lacking of for the past few seasons  Ramsey and Özil might be taking the limelight now, but Flamini is the real unsung hero for the team at the moment.

I guess the real dilemma for AW is how to blend in Flamini with existing rich selection of midfielders. Can AW afford to drop Ramsey? What to do about Arteta returning? Is he going to bench Jack? How about Ro-sick-y, Chambo and Diaby(if he ever gets fit again)?

It’s going to be a long season but so far I am extremely glad to see the return of Flamini. I do hope that he will play a major role in our quest for the first EPL title since forever. For me, he is already the signing of the season.

Written by: Kaboom

The one ingredient Arsenal have and our competitors are missing

arsenal-spurs_ap_2658805b

After we lost to the vile Villains, who would have thought Arsenal fans would feel so upbeat just one month later? Don’t worry though; I am not getting carried away, YET.

I know for sure that I am not the only Gooner who was getting worn out by consecutive seasons of transition. At one point, it started to feel we would never come out of transition, as Arsenal appeared to be unable to hold on to its best players season after season.

But this season appears to be different: all key players stayed, even Vermaelen and Sagna! And instead of losing quality players, we have been able to add, but without overdoing it. The latter might be key: too many new (quality) players mean time and effort is required to fit them into our first team, and that would have meant another transitional year. We only have to look at the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and ManCity, and indeed ourselves, in recent years to know that buying loads of players in one go does not lead to instant success.

Looking back at our recent hard-fought wins against Spuds, Sunderland and Olympique Marseille, there is something about this Arsenal team that our competitors are missing; and long may it continue!

Arsenal have resilience and cohesion: we battle as a team and look like we are in February rather than in September, if you know what I mean.

The media have not picked up on this yet, but it will come sooner or later. I expected ManCity to be in transition, and to some extent, Manchester United, but definitely not Chelsea. My wife always tells me not to repeat a good experience by going there, or doing something, again (holiday resorts, restaurants, climb the same mountain etc), and it usually turns out she was right.

Could the same go for the Chavs:  is the reunion with the ‘happy one’ destined to fail? I certainly hope so, but let’s not get lulled into a false sense of security, yet. It is too early to say whether Maureen can get his team firing on all cylinders again and a period of adversity might just be the thing he needs to get this team focussed again.

For me, they remain our main competitors for winning the league and the more we can create a gap between us and them now, the better. The Chavs play Fulham at home (derbies are never easy) and then Spuds away, and let’s see how they get through these two games.

In the meantime, we just need to focus on our own games: one game at a time (OGAAT). Although I believe we are ahead of our competition right now in terms of team cohesion and competitiveness on the pitch, I will not get carried away as yet.

There are a few areas that need attention:

  • We concede goals too often, and too many in total;
  • We defend too deep, with our midfield often unable/willing to push the opposition back;
  • The lack of back up for Giroud and our increasing reliance on him.

The first point is just an observation right now; let’s wait and see how our defence/team defending will fare over the next five games. We could really do with a couple of clean sheet to get the ‘back five’ properly settled.

The second point seems more of a theme right now. In recent games Arsenal have been pushed back by the opposition during periods of the game, with our midfielders opting to play close to the defence and not allow any space between the lines. This allowed the opposition to get too close to our box and we have been left exposed at times. We got away with it until now, but I hope that Flamini and Ramsey, Ramsey and Jack, Jack and Flamini, or whichever players are positioned in the double DM pivot, will be able to readdress the balance.

There is a theory (Gerry?) that Arsenal sit back deep on purpose – similar to what Chelsea and Manchester United like/liked to do: absorb pressure, and as soon as the ball is won back, counter attack with speed and direct, incisive passing – and this could well be true. But I reckon, we need to work hard on keeping the opposition ten to fifteen yards further away from the box, as it is likely to cost us against the better teams. It will be interesting to see whether we will be able to push the opposition a bit more away from our box if and when Areta returns to the first team.

We have spoken about our over-dependence on Giroud in previous posts. This is not only about his goal and assist contributions which simply have been fantastic until now; it is also about his ability to be our central hub – our ‘holding’ striker – in attack. Let’s hope he’ll last the whole season somehow and that we get reinforcement in January’s transfer window.

But there are quite a few positives for us Gooners at the moment: Giroud’s and Ramsey’s fine all-round form and ability to find the net; the ease with which both Flamini and Ozil have slotted into the team whilst giving us additional robustness, spirit and creativity; the imminent return of the Verminator and Zorro; and the general focus and battle-readiness of the team.

All of the above will be needed but most importantly we need to take it OGAAT! Arsenal are a team in the groove and the next cup-final is on Sunday.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

OGAAT 🙂

If you would like to be made aware of new posts coming out, you can sign up for email alerts. See right side of blog and enter your details in ‘Follow blog via email’.

Özil fits Arsenal like a glove, Ramsey roars on, Flamini leads: Match Report

Match Review: This is what champions are made of.

StartingvsSunder

After two weeks of international football, the Premier League returned today. Fans of many Premier League teams were desperately awaiting the debuts of many of their new signings; especially Arsenal fans, awaiting the debut of deadline day signing Mesut Özil.

And those Arsenal fans would not be disappointed.

Today’s match against Sunderland had ups and downs. In the first half, Arsenal were on fire, but after the break Arsenal’s tempo slowed for a while before we regained our form again at the end.

Arsenal started the day full of confidence and with the away-crowd behind them. Everyone involved was very excited to see the debut of Özil. He would come good in the 11th minute: our nr.11 controlled a long ball in the air wonderfully, touched it out in front of him, and played a fantastic ball to Giroud in front of goal. He happily fired the ball into the near post and gave Arsenal the lead: it is now four goals in four Premier League games for Giroud, and an assist for Özil on his debut.

After this goal, the whole game changed. The home crowd was essentially silenced and Arsenal began playing some of the most beautiful football they’ve played in a while. Wilshere did a wonderful job of taking on Santi’s position and drifting inside to help out the midfield. His understanding with Ramsey seemed improved, and both Aaron’s and Jack’s excellent understanding with Özil (and vice versa) was mystifying, especially because they have only trained together a very short time and they don’t even speak the same language.

Özil provided multiple chances to Theo with perfectly weighted through balls, but unfortunately Theo still is not in scoring form, however I give credit to Westwood for some fantastic saves.

We went into half time only 1-0 up, but with about 70% possession. Arsenal had dominated the first half, but perhaps this was their undoing at the start of the second half. Three minutes into the second half an overzealous Koscielny made a stupid challenge on Adam Johnson in the box. There was really no need for the tackle as he had no clear shot on goal and was on his weaker foot; however, he slid into him and the ref awarded Sunderland a penalty. Gardner rocketed the penalty into the lower left corner and Szczesney couldn’t do anything about it.

After this penalty the game changed once more. The home crowd roared and Sunderland suddenly stepped up and began dominating the game. Sunderland had numerous chances and really stepped up to the plate. However, this is where Arsenal showed that they are ready to win titles and just how important the signing of Flamini is.

I think that this game is very comparable to the Villa game: an early Giroud goal followed by a fairly soft penalty and then the crowd turns against the mighty Arsenal. In both games the ref was awful (although, the ref at Villa was worse, but let’s not discuss that). Point being, Arsenal were up against it in both games. In the Villa game Arsenal crumbled a little bit after the penalty and ended up losing, however this time Arsenal banded together. They fought through the bad part of the game and kept themselves in it.

Flamini was very critical in this; running about, clapping his hands, generally screaming and putting in tough tackles. The team banded together and fought against a Sunderland side that really wanted to win.

Arsenal finally found a breakthrough in the 67th minute. Jenkinson picked up the ball on the right flank and saw Aaron raising his hands; he swung in a low cross to the edge of the box, and Rambo venomously volleyed the ball across goal and in. The team’s reaction was fantastic and as I said before, spirit will do a lot for us this season. And getting down to business and pushing through that difficult time was all down to the team’s desire and hunger to win.

However, Sunderland did not just lie down and die. In the 70th minute Altidore broke down our right flank and all Sagna could do was grab his jersey and pull him back. This was perhaps the most controversial decision of the game and the main reason I’m not too angry with the ref, despite most decisions going Sunderland’s way. As Altidore reached the top of the box the ref blew the whistle. Sagna stopped, but Altidore played on and just managed to sneak the ball in the net after Szczesny slowed it down. The play was called back and Sunderland were given a free kick instead of the goal. Obviously, I’m happy with this and I believe it was the right decision, but I’m curious about what others think.

After this, Sunderland seemed to have the life sucked out of them. Arsenal found their groove once more and in the 76th minute Ramsey scored his second of the night. He darted in behind their defense and finished the ball right under Westwood.

Substitutions were made with Vermaelen making his return from injury and Nacho coming on for Walcott. Unfortunately, at the end Giroud seemed to twist his knee and Akpom had to come on for him. I don’t have any news on that, but I hope he’s not injured.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/table

The game ended 3-1 to the mighty Arsenal and things are looking up: top of the league at least for tonight! Özil already seems to have gelled with the team, Giroud is on fire, it seems to be Rambo’s year, and the team looks to be a team of winners at last.

For now, I’ll leave you all with a few more questions than usual:

  1. Is this Arsenal team ready to win trophies?
  2. Is this Rambo’s year?
  3. What did you think of Özil’s debut?
  4. Can OG win the golden boot?
  5. How important is Flamini to this team?
  6. Should advantage have been played when Altidore scored?

Thanks for reading! 😀

Written by: Dylan.

If you would like to be made aware of new posts coming out, you can sign up for email alerts. See right side of blog and enter your details in ‘Follow blog via email’.

Determination, hunger, team spirit, new signings: Arsenal can win the league!

Do Arsenal have a shot at the title?

I’ve actually intentionally waited for the euphoria and excitement (in me) that came with the deadline day signing of Mesut Ozil to die down, before I wrote this post. Simply, because I want this post to be as objective and as factual as can be.

So the question in everyone’s mind is: will we be able to push for a trophy this season with the signings we’ve made?

Is this the year to win some silverware again?
Is this the year to win some silverware again?

That is an opportune question: one that I will address by analyzing our signings and the competition. I will start by obviously putting aside Yaya Sanogo, because he obviously wasn’t brought in for the first team, which leaves us with Viviano, Flamini and the big one, Mesut Ozil.

It goes without saying that Ozil is the signing everyone wanted, and quite frankly, we landed gold. In the past 2 seasons, I have felt that even with Cazorla in the side we haven’t been creating enough clear cut chances. Our game has been characterized by a slow build up consisting of a lot of tentative passing, which more often than not leads no where, except when Wilshere is in form. With Ozil, however, that is all going to change and I expect Giroud and Theo to be the main beneficiaries of this.

Then there’s our second master signing in the Flame. Admittedly, I wasn’t too excited when we brought him in, but within a minute of his introduction against Spurs he won me over. It is worth noting that his performance came off the back of a long time without game time, so he can only get better. In my opinion, he solves our DM issues and then some more, considering he can play as a full back too. Then there’s Viviano, Italy’s number two goal keeper. He is actually a good GK who will not just serve as Szczesny’s deputy but will fight him for the number 1 spot, which I think is what the pole needs in order to fully unlock his potential.

We are not without our weaknesses because I feel we are still in dire need of a striker, a fourth CB and a winger, with the latter being the least important to really solidify our team.

In terms of our competition, there have been quite a few developments.

First of all, I expect Liverpool to compete for 4th place but not much more. They’ve made good signings and a good start, but their signings are youngsters who will need a lot of time to adapt.

Then there’s city who’ve made some class signings but have an uncharacteristically poor defence. I watched them get repeatedly carved open by Hull last week, to my utter disbelief. Don’t get me wrong they are still title contenders, but their defence might be their downfall.

Then there is Mourinho and Chelsea: the title favourites in my view. They have a mean defence but if Eto’o doesn’t perform, and Torres doesn’t step up, they might struggle because the title isn’t won on perpetual 0-0 results. That said, you can’t underestimate Mourinho: anyone can win the league without a functioning strike force, he can.

Then we have Spurs, the biggest spenders. They have assembled a very good squad but it remains to be seen how long it will take them to gel. That is always the danger you face when buying more than 4 players at a go. What I can tell you for sure is they are definitely stronger than they were last season, and I expect them to mount more of a challenge this time round, eventually becoming title challengers.

Finally, there is Man Utd. They lost their godfather in Sir Alex and are currently a team in transition. Moyes may not have found his rhythm yet, but let’s not forget that this is the exact team that won the league by a landslide. It’s difficult to tell where they stand, at least for now.

With all that in mind, I believe that Arsenal are genuine title challengers. It may be by just a whisker considering injuries – especially up front could ruin us – but as it stands, if we can keep Giroud and Theo fit until January and take advantage of our first ten fixtures, we can find ourselves in a very favourable position come February.

Based on the determination, hunger and team spirit we currently possess, anyone who doesn’t rate us with the best is asking for trouble. If you don’t believe me, ask the Spuds.

Written by: Marcus.