Mahrez, Giroud, Alexis and Ozil: The Dream Attack to Win the Title

50 goals from our first choice attackers and nr10:

surely enough to win the title?!

I reckon we lost the league last year because it was the Foxes’ year. Leicester Cinderella City became the neutrals’ favourite to win the title: a collective wishful thinking on and off the pitch made it happen, and there was little that could have been done about it, it seems. Yet, we have to look at ourselves and judge where we could have done better to at least come a lot closer than the ten point gap the Foxes managed to establish between us and them.

LC scored only three more goals than us (68) and conceded the same number of goals (36), yet they lost only three games whilst we were on the losing side seven times. They won 11 of their 19 away games whereas we only managed to win eight away from home. Both teams won the same number of home games but Arsenal lost three times whereas the Foxes only lost the one game at home… the one that matters most to us, though 😉 .

Losing four more games than LC is what made the difference of course, and this had all to do with efficiency. The goals for and against are almost the same, but the Foxes’ shift towards a more Italian, defensive style of play in the second part of the season saw them collect points on a massive scale through a mean defence and a spluttering but still not totally dead attack. Most importantly, they had two major goal threats in Vardy (24 PL goals) and Mahrez (17 PL goals), and when one was struggling to find the net the other would not; how different from Arsenal in the second part of the season!

We also needed to be more secure in defence; especially in the second part of the season we gave away too many winning positions, or made it really hard for ourselves by conceding first through careless defending, which cost us dearly. But that is for another post.

When Ollie went through a drought, the likes of Alexis, Ozil and Theo did not fill the gap, and that is what needs to be addressed this season. Ozil is of course our assists king and with six PL goals and 19 assists (121 PL minutes between goals/assists on average), I am just hoping he will score a few more and replicate the assists tally in the coming season.

Alexis had a relatively quiet season with 13 goals and four assists (144 PL minutes between goals/assists on average) but yet he did his part to some extent. Giroud did his bit to a large extent in the role of ‘Holding Striker/ attack enabler and finisher’ with 16 goals and 6 assists (110 PL minutes between goals/assists on average). Unless Wenger decides to play a different system of football, which I very much doubt, Ollie will be leading the line once again with the same job description he was given in the last few seasons (it never stops to amaze me how very few people seem to [want to] grasp this, especially in the media, but there you go).

We all know that it stops there, with neither Theo (5 goals and 2 assists/ 196 minutes between goals/assists on average), or Danny, Ox or Joel delivering the goods from the right (or centre), due to a variety of reasons. Rather than choosing a beast of a traditional CF, I reckon Wenger will be looking to strengthen the right side of our attack as to get more balance in the team and reach a total of say 50 PL goals from our three first choice attackers and nr.10. He may be tempted to hope either Iwobi, Ox or Campbell will break through but this is a big risk to take; and he knows it.

The rumours re Mahrez continue and it is obvious why Wenger would like to add this gem of an Algerian to the first team. He can play on the right and with 17 goals and 11 assist (109 PL minutes between goals/assists on average) he would help us to re-balance the attack and make it a lot more lethal. If Ozil, Giroud and Alexis score the same number of goals next season as they did in the previous one, and Mahrez manages to score 15 for us, we would score 50 PL goals from our first choice attackers and nr.10. Surely that would swing things in our favour massively? You may say Mahrez will not have another season like that, which may be true, but I also reckon that Alexis is capable to come close to 20 PL goals in the coming season, which would balance things out.

Whether it will be Mahrez or another player who can complete the attacking ‘dream team’ remains to be seen, but it just feels like the Algerian is the perfect fit for our team. The likes of Iwobi, Campbell, Ox and possibly Theo will play a role in the wider squad but, ideally, we add a proven PL goals and assists star to the team to avoid periods of goal droughts and improve our chances to win the title dramatically.

By TotalArsenal.

How to beat Barcelona: Elneny, Le Coq and Rambo behind Ozil, Alexis and Theo

We will do a proper match preview tomorrow but let’s do a bit of tactics on our mega encounter with Barcelona on Tuesday night. We are lucky to have a large squad available, although it would have been perfect to have either Jack or Santi available as well. We can field a solid and experienced ‘back five’ and have many attackers available to find the right combination between helping out with defending and making things happen up-front. The latter has been a bit of struggle lately but this will have made our attackers the more desperate to find the net against such a high profile opponent; and I am confident that if we can create decent chances we will score tomorrow.

The midfield will be the key area for us and despite us missing two fabulous footballers in Santi and Jack, I still feel we could get the balance right tomorrow. Ozil is a given and will be key in linking midfield with attack: his running with and off the ball should form a constant positive for us. But who we will play around him, is still up for debate.

As Barcelona are likely to press us into our own half, whether we like it or not, we need to play compact wherever the ball is, whilst not leaving ourselves vulnerable in other areas. This Barcelona side is slightly different from the Guardiola era, playing more like a 4-1-2-3 with a preference to use the width of the field whenever they can. On the flanks they have of course world-class attackers in Messi and Neymar, supported by fast and furious attacking wing-backs. If we can prevent these players from getting behind our defence, we can achieve two things: stop them from being dangerous and force them into mistakes on which we can pounce, because we also have fabulous wing-backs and great attackers on the wings. Nacho-Alexis is a given, but who should be paired by the best 20 year old defender in the world? I reckon we should start with Belerin-Rambo and consider swapping Aaron with Danny Welbeck or Joel Campbell at some point in the game.

Rambo is normally my favourite box to box midfielder but I reckon we need to play him on the right for this one. We need to play with three central midfielders behind Ozil, who can all defend as well as play football to have a chance in keeping them away from our ‘D-area’: the other area we should not allow our opponent to get into.

So who else should play behind the German master of creating chances and assists? Le Coq is almost a given but only Wenger will know whether he is now fully up to speed for this game. So if it is Rambo and Coq who else should play in deep midfield (and deep we will be forced to sit for large parts of the game)? My guess is that Elneny will be preferred to Flamini, as he is a very good passer of the ball and has also, just like Rambo, that burst of speed and close control to stride forward with the ball. And it is this ability to defend and switch over to attack as soon as the ball is won that will make all the difference tomorrow. We all know that Santi and Jack are brilliant at the latter; but Aaron and Elneny are also good at this and better at defending, which I reckon will be the most important requirement skill tomorrow.

With Aaron, Francis and Elneny in the centre of midfield, we should be able to play very compact and yet be able to spring attacks whenever possible. Getting the ball to Ozil will of course be key, but we need more players that can receive the ball and keep hold of it for a wee while. And that brings us to our two attackers, the ones who play slightly in front of Ozil, if and when we can afford it.

Alexis is another given. The Chilean, of course, knows better than anybody else what Barcelona are like and this game might just come in time for him to show us all again how good he is. Let’s not forget that Sexy Alexis already has three goals and four assists in five CL games this season, and, despite a lack of sharpness in recent games, I would not bet against him to score/assist for us once again in this CL round tomorrow. The beauty of Alexis is that he can defend too and hold on to the ball like a midfielder if need be; and he can also pick a deadly pass. He is also fast and very valuable in counter-attacks, and with playing three holding/passing midfielders, we should at times be able to play him quite close to our main attacker tomorrow. Moving between defence and attack, Alexis will have a key role to play tomorrow: from supporting his full back against Messi and co, to strengthening our wall in midfield, to supporting our CF and Ozil in making things happen up-front.

The main attacker is, at least for me, the hardest choice to make. Theo seems the obvious choice here: his speed and clever runs will make Barcelona’s high line approach vulnerable. The only problem with Theo is that he will not be much use in helping out the rest of the team when we are being hemmed in, which will affect our ability to link up with our CF and get our midfield to move forward. Theo needs to be launched into space, but we will need him to help out in creating time and space to launch him into it in the first place…

With Ollie almost the reverse is the case. He will link up well and allow our midfielders to get involved in the attack but he is too slow to expose the Barca defenders when being launched into the vast space available behind them. Barcelona will fear Theo a lot more than Ollie, unless of course they have to defend set-pieces. In an ideal world we would play them both, but this would weaken our midfield which we just cannot afford.

I hear you shout: play Wellbeck! He is fast like Theo and can do decent link up play ala Ollie. I don’t think that is a bad shout at all, especially in a game like tomorrow’s. The problem is that Ollie is less lethal than Ollie and Theo, with  on average just one goal in every five PL games he played until now. He is also only just back from a long injury and this (extremely intense) game might just come a bit too early for him. Theo was very effective against high pressing teams this season, notably Bayern and Man Citeh, so I reckon he should start ahead of Ollie and Danny.

I reckon with this line up, a solid defensive performance lead by the BFG (who will be excellent as long as we play compact/deep for most of the time), a very disciplined performance by Aaron, Francis and Mohamed, and some re-found deadliness up-front, we could get a good result tomorrow.


Come On You

Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

Five ‘New Signings’: Le Coq and Rosa back, Jack, Santi and Danny to follow

All are fit against Barcelona in Nou Camp…. Who would you play?

Arsene announced today that Coquelin and Rosicky are available again and that Jack, Santi and Danny are a few weeks away – with the latter potentially nearer to a full come back than the others. That is about the best news we could have had: five very good Gunners ready to compete again for first team starts. They do not have to adjust to the playing football the Arsenal way… they are Arsenal through and through and will be fit again in no time. What is Arsene going to do with all those fine midfielders and attackers?!

We all know what Le Coq brings, and Rosicky is the sort of player we all enjoy watching: brilliant technically and tactically and he loves playing football, especially for the mighty red and white. And with the Spuds game not far away, we are lucky to have him back! 😉 Rosa will be able to give Mesut or Alexis a rest now and again and Le Coq will simply slot back into the double DM-pivot (after shaking Flamini’s hand for doing a sterling job over the last two months or so).

The news of Jack and Santi potentially returning towards mid to end of February is old fashioned heavy metal to my ears. Two very good midfielders who can play in various positions and fight for the course against any team. Fingers crossed their recovery goes to plan and we will see them in action soon.

The Welbz is also due back soon and, although I am yet to be convinced he has what it takes to make it as a CF at Arsenal, I am really looking forward to him injection energy and thrust from the wings into the team. His enthusiasm and extra goal threat have been missed over the last year or so.

I reckon these five returning is even better than buying five quality players, and there is little doubt that Wenger will keep his pennies in his pocket this January. Sorry other-people’s-money-shop-a-holics! 😀

Imagine that at the end of February we have indeed all these fine players fit and raring to go: finally Wenger will be able/forced (depending on how you view Arsene’s approach to rotation) to rotate his players in order to keep them motivated and fresh. During a midweek game we could field:




And at the following weekend game we could field:




And these are just two examples…

Now when we are playing Barcelona at the open bath tub in March, and all Gunners are fit, who would you choose to start in midfield and attack…. and why?


By TotalArsenal.

Never commented on Bergkampesque before? Join us with a proper comment and you will be welcomed! 🙂

Who Needs New Midfielders: Wenger’s Strongest Midfield in 2016

I know  you are all scanning the Newsnow Arsenal news aggregator and other media to find out whether we have finally signed Elneny now or any other new players. I must admit to also look regularly even though I don’t expect Arsene to buy anybody this month (other than Elneny).

The key issue for our manager is not lack of quality in the squad but availability of his players. The loss to injury of Le Coq and Santi made us all worried about our strength in depth in midfield, especially with Rosicky, Arteta (till recently) and Jack also out. However, we coped really well and even managed to move ahead of our opponents during the busy festive season. Flamini has been good, Chambers offers a glimpse of hope as a potential DM and Rambo is getting better by every game.

Thanking BBC for picture.

If all players are fit there is so much quality available for our midfield that Wenger could give himself more problems than he would wish for by buying more midfielders. Let’s assume that Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini will all leave this summer as their contracts will end then, and that Elneny will finally be signed and introduced to the squad this month. This still leaves us with: Rambo, Jack, Ozil, Santi, Le Coq, Elneny, Chambers, Campbell and the Ox as well as a few youngsters who are showing promise either on loan or in the Reserve Team.

I reckon we have four midfield spots available, assuming that Wenger will regularly play a midfielder on one of the ‘mid-wings’ rather than two more typical wingers i.e. Theo and Alexis. This gives us more balance and defensive robustness, especially against the tougher opponents. Four spots for nine pretty brilliant, either established or promising, talents, and that is excluding the promising youths who are knocking on the first team door louder and louder.

If all are fit, it will be hard for Wenger to leave one of Rambo, Jack, Ozil, Santi and Le Coq out; yet, he cannot play them all, unless we revert back to 4-5-1-like possession football. It looks like Wenger has changed the style of play to 4-2-1-3 or 4-1-4-1, depending on how you look at it; therefore a return to 4-5-1 is less likely.

It all comes down to what we do with the box to box midfielder position – the one next to the ‘classical DM’. With Santi next to Le Coq (or Flamini) we have a lower team centre of gravity, as Santi is less mobile but very able to connect midfield with attack through making space for himself and playing a great attacking ball in a flash. With Rambo next to the Le Coq or Flamini we have a typical, Gerrard-like and Lampard-like, box to box midfielder who motors up and down to find space and fill gaps, and connect with his fellow midfielders and attackers continuously all over the pitch.

Ozil surely is our first choice man in the hole in 2016. The only one who would be capable of dethroning the bionic German is Jack, but for that he will need to stay fit and get in the form of his life, which we all know is a big ask currently. Let’s face it, a fit Ozil is a given.


To get the best out of Ozil we need a perfect balance between mobility and anchor points – even though these anchor points need to be mobile as well, albeit it less vertical and more horizontal.

The two anchor points above the defence are the holding DM – think Le Coq – and the holding CF – think Ollie. We could opt to play with a fluid/mobile CF or no holding DM but two all-round central midfielders, and Wenger has definitely been experimenting with both scenarios over the last couple of years. It would not surprise me if we end up without a holding DM or a holding CF as our plan-A eventually, or maybe even without both, but I don’t think we will see this happen in the first half of 2016 at least. What is interesting is that Elneny is described as a holding midfielder who can play football as well, which could be an indication that we are moving towards two footballing midfielders in the double DM-pivot rather sooner than later.

The big question for now is: does Ozil function better with Santi or Rambo next to the holding DM. Both have their merits and Rambo is the most complete midfielder we have in the squad, other than Jack perhaps. With Santi and Jack out injured, Wenger does not have to worry about this question a lot, but when they are all back it will be a challenge for him. We are, however, lucky to have such a quality dilemma to be resolved, although adding more midfielders could really complicate things. Competition is good but too much of it could become counterproductive.

I hear the likes of FL08 say that rotation is the answer to using the available quality as best as possible… and they have a point. If all are fit, it is still tempting to have an established first eleven in which some play almost constantly and others provide an opportunity for resting them. Most managers will opt for this as the benefits of a cohesive and telepathically connecting first eleven are huge. But, given the large number of injuries in midfield and the quality of players available, we really need to rotate more; and then do it in such a way that we don’t lose much, if any, of the cohesion and telepathy an unambiguous first choice eleven would bring.

For the DM role we have: Le Coq, Elneny, Chambers(?), Bielik etc

For the B2B role we have: Rambo, Santi, Jack and the Ox

For the man in the hole we have: Ozil, Jack, Santi, Ox/Iwobi/Zelalem???

If all are fit for say the Barcelona game (which I know is very unlikely), or our likely PL championship decider against Citeh at the end of the season, I would be tempted to play:

—————Le Coq—Santi—————-



But I would also get excited playing:

————–Le Coq—Rambo—————-



Or what about:




Elneny, (Campbell), Chambers and the Ox, by working their socks off and starting to make a real difference are all capable of playing themselves into our first choice midfield as well, even though I have my doubt about the Ox doing this without going on loan for a while. On top of that, till at least the end of this season we will be able to play Flamini, Rosicky and Arteta too…. if they are fit of course.

Fine fellow Gooners, we are blessed with the available quality and quantity of midfield players and it will be hard for Wenger to choose his first team midfielders when most or all are fully fit to play.

What would be your first choice midfield?

By TotalArsenal.




Alexis, Mesut, Jack and Aaron the new Thierry, Dennis, Freddie and Robert?

Alexis CF, Mesut nr.10… with Jack and Aaron ‘Mid-wings’: Discuss! 🙂


Regular readers know that I am a great believer in Giroud and that I do not see a need to buy a CF anytime soon. Giroud allows others to shine and he carries a strong goal threat himself. Ollie is the complete package in the modern game, even though he is not the best classical centre forward Arsenal ever have had by any stretch. For me it is clear that Arsene wants our attack to be unpredictable and multi-dimensional, and Giroud offers a great base to operate from, especially if and when we play park the bus teams. His stats are great, his work rate good, and his total contribution to the team is simply fantastic.

I also like Theo, who offers speed and keeps defences close to their goalkeepers, often allowing our midfielders to boss the midfield. This works especially well against teams that like to attack us/ do not park the bus. With Theo we are at our most dynamic, especially once we have regained the ball and can break forward.

I love it that we have these two options for attacking different opponents, and I reckon Giroud and Theo will get plenty of chances to shine. But there is a third option for us, and that is playing Alexis as our CF. He can do hold/link up play, he is fast, he has energy and a great threat from outside and inside the box. He can dribble and take defenders on, and he also has a decent through-ball in his repertoire. He also is a great finisher and a predator with relentless energy and hunger. The total ‘pure’ CF package, if you ask me…

I would love Arsene to try Alexis as our CF, but I guess he will not do it until he has a good alternative on the left wing. With Ozil in the hole and Alexis up top, we would not be that far from what Bergkamp and Henry had to offer a  decade or so ago.

What we also need is good midfielders on the wings that can work in tandem with their flying full-backs: Bellerin and Nacho. Rambo and Bellerin have formed a very strong partnership in which the FB is the real winger and the midfielder is both an attacker and co-defender, and I reckon we need to buy a good left winger/midfielder to make the Ozil-Sanchez partnership really work.

But then I thought about Jack coming back in the new year. I see Jack in either Cazorla or Ozil’s current role, but both have been playing very well and it would be wrong to force either out. But what about playing Jack on the left wing for a while? Nacho and Jack would be able to work a fine partnership ala Aaron and Bellerin, and Jack can do on the left what Ramsey does on the right. Both would also be allowed to move about and interchange with Ozil, as to keep it all fluid and unpredictable.

This is how it would look like:

Midfield heaven

Of course we would need Coquelin back, which will take a while now, and Jack would need to be fully fit. But once everybody is available, this could be a very strong team in my opinion. Jack and Rambo could develop into our new Ljunberg and Pires… And with Theo, Giroud and Danny we would have options to vary this approach.

What do you think FFGs? 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

The Singapore Select XI v Arsenal | Preview and Background Info


Bergkampesquers, we are very lucky to have a resident of Singapore commenting regularly on our blog who has now written a fine pre-view for our very first game of the season, including a rare insight into how football lives in Singapore..


An overview into Singapore local football scene:

Singapore has its own professional league: the S-League. Formed in 1996, the league has seven local teams and three foreign teams, with each team playing 27 matches in total.

Since 2011, a professional under-23 team named Lions XII joined the Malaysian Super League, after they left the Malaysian cup in 1994.The standard of the teams is similar to the English Championship, each with about 5 foreign players. For Singapore, football is the number 1 sport: it is the most watched and most played sport here.

However, S-League has its own ups and downs. Lately, attendance to a local league games averages about 100 to 200 spectators per game. For Lions XII games, average attendance goes up to 5000.

This makes such a poor case for local football scene; and it is because we prefer to watch Man***, Liv, Arsenal, Chelsea and other EPL teams, as they play better football and it’s more entertaining.

Our matches are always played around 7.30pm, due to the high humidity and temperature (27 degrees C to 32 degrees C, 80% humidity) throughout the whole year. Foreign teams mostly struggle in this heat and humidity, but the EPL players (Gunners, Everton and Stoke) should be able to adapt to this heat as the weather in the UK is not too dissimilar.

For me, watching Arsenal games has been all on TV. Most of us cannot afford the time or money to fly over (but some of us did, like a local supporters’ group went to North London to catch the FA Cup final). So to watch the game live in a stadium will be fascinating. I somehow cannot put it in words how excited I am waiting for them and seeing them all flesh and muscles.


Taking this post as a preview to the game in Singapore on Wednesday evening Singapore time, the below is a recap of the Arsenal squad that travelled to Singapore on Sunday.

Arsenal squad (subject to change):

Chuba Akpom (Tuesday) Mikel Arteta Hector Bellerin (Tuesday) Santi Cazorla Petr Cech Calum Chambers (Tuesday) Francis Coquelin (Tuesday) Dan Crowley (Tuesday) Mathieu Debuchy Mathieu Flamini (Tuesday) Gabriel (Tuesday) Kieran Gibbs Olivier Giroud Alex Iwobi Laurent Koscielny Emiliano Martinez Per Mertesacker (Tuesday) Nacho Monreal (Tuesday) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Tuesday) Mesut Ozil Aaron Ramsey Jeff Reine-Adelaide (Tuesday) Wojciech Szczesny Theo Walcott Chris Willock Jack Wilshere (Tuesday) Gedion Zelalem (Tuesday)

The players indicated with ‘Tuesday’ in brackets are most likely to start the match according to Le Prof.

This is the preferred starting line-up, filled with mostly young players:

Formation: 4-5-1

GK: Martinez DEF: Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal MID: Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Zelalem, Coquelin, Wilshere, Ox-Chambo ST: Chuba Akpom

It might end like this:

GK: Cech DEF: Debuchy, Mertesacker, Kos, Gibbs MID: Theo, Cazorla, Flamini / Arteta, Mesut, Rambo ST: Giroud

This line-up will have a very good mix of first team players, and the players have enough pace to attack a team that parks the bus (think Chelsea, but with shorter players). The Singapore Select XI team will be playing route 1 football (our local teams are good at defending and pumping the ball up to the striker if they see spaces), so I foresee a game that will be one-sided, similar to Japan vs Singapore where the Japan team simply couldn’t find their scoring boots.

I, however, am confident that this will be a winning game for the Gunners, but whether it will be a high scoring match will depend on how many first team players Le Prof throws at the end of the game.

Your turn guys.


Four Points behind Chelsea? Barcodes v Gunners Preview & Line-up

Newcastle – Arsenal  Match Preview

 How does Arsenal respond to coming up short in Monaco?

d14-02-12 Spurs H P1

From the glamour of Monte Carlo and European nights, Arsenal must travel to the furthest reaches of its own league and (somehow) get back to the more mundane task of trying to wrest 3 points from the always stubborn Magpies of Newcastle. 

In the return leg of our Champions League round of 16 tie in Monaco, Arsenal played with spirit and determination and scored two goals, but it was not enough.  We can debate about the away goals rule or whether Arsenal was naive (or just wasteful) in the first leg or whether English football just isn’t at the requisite level to compete with the best of the continent.  In the end, however, the only way to get back into the Champions league is to finish in the top 4 back home in the Premier league.  It may not be as exciting as an elimination match in the world’s biggest club competition, but going to Tyneside and replicating the effort and performance we saw on the Cote d’Azure–and bringing back full points from our trip to Newcastle–is probably, in the end, just as important.

Somehow we have to see what happened in Monaco not as the massive disappointment it is but as another gritty win in a tough away stadium.  Before that match we did likewise at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarterfinals and we’ve had other good road wins, most notably on the other side of Manchester at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City.  In fact, with the exception of the very disappointing loss to a team just up the road (and the new year’s day loss at Southampton) Arsenal have been perfect on their travels in 2015.   Our form even has some wondering if it’s possible to close the 7 point gap (plus a game in hand) on league leaders Chelsea.

Personally, I think that gap is probably too large, but I’m certainly open to seeing Chelsea drop points, come back to the chasing pack and open up the title race.  They dropped a pair of points a week ago vs Southhampton after their own exit from the Champions league, and now have to travel to relegation-threatened Hull City, so why not?

More realistic, and probably more to the point, is our own path towards getting back into the big tournament.  Our good run of league results has us well positioned in 3rd place just a point behind (last year’s league champions) Manchester City, but other teams are queuing up for the run-in.  Manchester United sit only a point behind us, but they have to travel to Anfield and face down the most in-form of all the English clubs, Liverpool, in a real 6 pointer.  Their hosts only trail them by 2 points and could thus leapfrog them into the CL spots.  We can only play our own match, of course.  As such, if we can win at Newcastle, all looks good heading into the two week international break.   If we drop points up there, however, we drop into the fray and the time away goes from a nice respite to (our more usual?) Arsenal angst.  With our next league match at home vs Liverpool, things could get even more uncomfortable.

As such, the importance of putting our disappointments into the rear view and giving our very best in Newcastle is extreme.  Luckily the opponent is struggling with injuries, suspensions and a run of bad results.  Moreover, sitting in 11th place, they can afford further bad results without dropping into a real relegation battle.   Still, it would be wise to beware the wounded animal and Newcastle teams (and their supporters) always offer a prideful effort.  Underestimating them would be a mistake.

Hosting Arsenal with all the circumstances they currently face, in fact, should allow Newcastle to play in an unfettered, attacking, nothing to lose manner.  Papiss Demba Cisse and Fabricio Coloccini, the (spitting) head and tail (and hairstyle) of their outfield spine will be missing through suspension.  Additionally, defenders Paul Dummett, Massaido Haidara and Steven Taylor are out injured, along with midfielders Rolando Aarons, Mehdi Abeid, Siem de Jong and Cheick Tiote.   Interim manager John Carver is suggesting, in fact, that he may not even be able to fill out his bench, claiming that he has only 13 outfield players (and two keepers) fit enough to wear the barcode kit.

Even if true, I’d still expect Newcastle to offer a game plan based on resistance but with a stronger urge to attack and a hope to simply outscore us.  In other words, we cannot take them too lightly or hope to ease into the match.  Players like Moussa Sissoko and Ayoze Perez are fine attacking players who can score goals if given the chance.  Remy Caballa is a very tricky ball handler and Yoan Goufran, while not as flashy, is a player who always puts in a shift, as does Jack Colback.  Gabriel Obertan and Emmanuel Riviere, on their day, can also be a handful for any defender; Sammy Ameobi may not be as stout as his older brother Shola (recently transferred to Crystal Palace) but is tall enough to present a target for crosses.   Their back line will be makeshift, but at least they have Argentine international Jonas Gutierrez back from his battle with testicular cancer.   The balance of the team is heavy in attack, so, just as we might ask Jonas himself, will one ball be enough?

Cancer jokes are probably a step too far, but Arsenal must fight a disease of their own–complacency.  Can the group cope with their European disappointment, get back to business and beat Newcastle?  Focus and determination would seem the best prescriptive antidotes, but will we bring them?  Who will Arsene Wenger use to fight off any sense of self-pity amongst the collective and move us forward?

My guess is that we will see a largely unchanged squad from Tuesday night.  Luckily, nobody took more than psychological knocks in that match but certainly many looked tired and Wenger will have to have a keen eye for those who seem more hungover than others.  Tomas Rosicky who missed both the Monaco and West Ham matches due to illness, is back, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays at least some role on the day.

Here’s my best guess for a starting 11.

ars v new March 15

Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel, Gibbs, Cazorla, Flamini, Rosicky, Walcott

That’s only one change from Tuesday (Aaron Ramsey for Santi Cazorla) but then again I’m not privy to watching the lads in training and trying to note who might really not be up for another big effort.  Many pundits are noting that Alexis has not played as well in the new year and has only scored a single goal in his last 11 appearances.  Even off the boil he presents such a threat that I cannot see sitting him ahead of the international break.   (If he were to get a bench seat, would his spot be taken by Walcott or Rosicky?)  It’s also possible that Giroud rests.  Wenger brought him off the bench the last time we traveled in England, in the FA Cup match at Manchester United.  I don’t see that particular change but, by the same token, it seems harsh to suggest a bench place for Santi Cazorla given his great play in a slightly deeper role.  Ramsey’s recent goals, however, would seem to merit a place in the team. along, perhaps, with the greater physicality and excellent workrate he offers.  Maybe Welbeck (or Alexis and/or Giroud) sits so both Santi and AR can play, which perhaps is a more defensive scheme and a wise thought in light of so many attackers in the Newcastle squad.  As always, what (the f**k) do I know?

Not too much probably.  What do YOU know?  What do others think about this match and the larger issues about this Arsenal team–our exit from the Champions league and our chances back in England?  At this point we only have 9 league matches remaining–and the adventure(s) at Wembley in the FA Cup.  How far can we go (up or down)?  Does it matter?  Comments on the blog have really dropped off, perhaps due to our fearless leader (Total Arsenal) being pre-occupied with real world responsibilities (aka a job…) and not posting.  Are we bored with our club, with football, or (maybe) with life?  What’s up people?

Personally, I’m glad we’ve got a match (and I rather dread the International break), but that’s just me… Hopefully our Gunners (and you Gooners) feel likewise…

By 17highburyterrace

No Danny OR Theo but AR, AS, MO, SC and OG to live the dream? CL Match preview

AS Monaco – Arsenal  Match Preview

2nd Leg–Champions League Round of 16


To Dream the Impossible Dream or Tilting at Windmills?   Sancho Panza says, “Let’s Just Play Our Game, OK, Don Quixote…”

Belief (confidence) is a lovely thing, but sometimes it needs to be pushed aside and a game of football must simply be played.  As much as Arsenal are attempting to pump themselves up for an unprecedented come from behind 2nd leg against AS Monaco–where we will need no less than 3 goals in their stadium–it may be better to just play football and see what happens.

If only we had done that in the first leg...

So many Gooners, I believe, went into our round of 16 match-up with Monaco believing that the draw would give us a respite from those early eliminations we’ve experienced in recent years.  More than anything, I think, fans (and players perhaps) just wanted a reprieve from what I call Arsenal’s Champions League Conundrum–the fact that qualifying for a tournament we are (probably) not good enough to win is our primary objective each and every season.  Perhaps, having drawn one of the easier group winners, we might beat them and then ease ourselves into the eliminations.  A couple of more good draws, a bit of confidence and, who knows, anything can happen in tournament football.  It was a hopeful thought, at least.

Hope is not a plan, they say, and what did happen in the first leg happened at our expense.  Perhaps overly determined to give the home fans the experience they were seeking, Arsenal pushed too many men forward, found their own attacking spaces clogged, yet still made chances.  Those, however, were rushed and missed, mostly by our very in-form, center forward, Olivier Giroud.

Monaco slowly worked themselves into the game and found possession and space in our midfield.  A speculative effort from 35 yards by Geoffrey Kondogbia found our Captain, Per Mertesacker, unable to completely block nor completely remove himself from deflecting and the net bulged past our wrong footed keeper David Ospina.  The stadium was rocked–but not in a good way.  We played out the half but still could find no real pattern to our attack.  Monaco happily allowed us possession but still there was no space in the final third.  We can sort it at the break, thought the manager and players, perhaps.

Committed ideas about how to do so, however, may have been drowned out by the disappointment of the home crowd and their deep-seated desire for a better result.

In the 2nd half the pattern continued and, again, with too many men pushed forward, we were punished, this time by the vampire of White Hart Lane, Dimitar Berbatov. In retrospect, we were perhaps architects of our own downfall.  After all, a scoreline of nil-1 would have made tomorrow’s match far more manageable.

Even 2-nil would have been a better scoreline than what we face.  Still, it is not the job of the home support to realize that their role would end only at half-time of the 180 minute tie.  They wanted Arsenal to get some goals back and our tactics and substitutions suggested manager Arsene Wenger wanted the same.  It took even more spurned chances and all the way into injury time before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, in for holding midfielder, Francis Coquelin, got Arsenal on the board.  Nice.  1-2, and a hint of momentum to end the first leg.  Close up shop and get some goals at their place.  Instead, with hardly any time left, we wanted to reward the faithful who had stayed.  It was, maybe, a psychological trap and we fell right in.   In a blurred moment, our lads only saw positive outcomes and negatives were ignored.  Credit, however, must be given to the veteran Joao Moutinho and the young Monaco substitutes, Bernardo and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, who executed the counter-attack to perfection.  A stronger hand from Ospina might’ve spared blushes.  Instead we face a 3 goal mountain to climb.

But face it (and climb it) we must.  Play our game, keep moving in attack and use the technical abilties of our best players to try and get some goals.  In my opinion, there can be only one game plan and that is it.  We can give a goal and extend the match by half an hour, so, strangely enough, this one is not, necessarily, a defend-first sort of affair.  It’s a daunting task, no doubt, but clearly not beyond the realm of the possible.

It should be recalled, however, that Monaco are the stingiest of teams.  Since the beginning of December, in Ligue 1, they have conceded no more than 1 goal in any match, having done so only twice, keeping clean sheets in all the rest.  Before that, they qualified as winners of their CL group conceding only once.  Perhaps our best bet is that they’re so unfamiliar with allowing goals, that their confidence might be dented if they had to pick a ball out of their net.  Do it twice and it’s a double dent.

Now, I fear, the dream is on… Back to hard, cold reality.

For a change, reality at Arsenal isn’t all that bad.  It’s even possible we’ve turned a corner by coming back from that disappointing night with victories in the Premier League over Everton, QPR and West Ham, and with our FA Cup victory over Manchester United in their stadium.  In that stretch, using a group of 21 different players, the most important element has been a collective focus to get the job done.  It hasn’t always been perfect nor pretty, but it has worked.  Bring a similar focus, play our best group and don’t give up.  What more can we try?

For this one I would go with the following players: 

ars v monaco march 15

Subs: Szczesny, Chambers, Gibbs, Flamini, Welbeck, Walcott, Akpom

To me, those are our best players, although I can imagine that many would-be-managers will have strong contrary ideas.  Theo Walcott’s pace might be the answer for some.  (Personally, he seems the ideal sub, late on, if we can narrow the deficit.)  Others might call for the tireless pressing of Danny Welbeck which worked a treat at Old Trafford and yielded the winning goal against his former club.  The drive and experience of Tomas Rosicky would be another, but I wonder if he’s fully fit, given that he failed to make the bench vs West Ham just a couple of days ago.  Others might stump for Kieran Gibbs at left back given his superior pace.  (The lovely opening goal at ManU from Nacho Monreal, however, tips the balance towards the Spaniard, I think.)  A wilder call would be to restore Wojchiek Szczesny to keeper given that our need for goals will surely find us exposed once or twice and he’s modelled his “sweeper-keeper” game on Mertesacker’s international team mate, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer.

No matter who plays, Arsenal will need to keep the pitch spaced and somehow find a way to open up the well disciplined opponent.  Some longer attempts early on might be needed to suggest that Monaco cannot simply funnel our play towards a clogged middle.  Our preferred style of 1-2s near the top of the box , or less charitably, our penchant for wanting to “walk-it-in,” has to be alternated with pot shots from distance or selective use of a bit of wide play aimed at the towering hair of Olivier Giroud.  Monaco were very successful in the first leg playing a flat back four which worked to eliminate our wider options and encourage our over-eager attackers (including our fullbacks) towards the penalty box where central midfielders and defenders were waiting, leaving us overly exposed on the counter.  Given no real call to score they could even throw more bodies into the defensive mix.  There will be an urgency to get an early goal but we cannot get frustrated if the chances are difficult to come by.   If there’s any call for belief, it would be in believing that they will come.  When they do, taking those chances and getting on the scoreboard seems the more important bit.

I’m curious what others feel on this account.  As much as I’d like to believe that belief itself is what might allow us this opportunity to make a bit of history and go deeper in the tournament, I’m also content to put all that aside and just try and play our football–the thing we will actually need to do as we continue in whatever competitions we’re in.  Arsenal have strong players, and, if they play at their best, they can’t help but create a level of belief that even very fine teams can be broken down.  Fans want success so much that failure, oftentimes at least, is associated with not wanting it sufficiently.  The massive task we face, I think, is at least partially a result of too much desire in the first leg.  Now, needing 3 goals against a team which rarely gives one, simply “wanting it” will not do the trick.  Nope, in this case (and all others, in fact) we actually have to do it…

Go on then…

By 17highburyterrace


Welbeck and Theo on ‘wings’, Ozil in hole, Giroud central: Preview and Line-up

Arsenal – West Ham United — Match Preview


Back to Business

How does Arsenal follow up on the tasty 2-1 victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup Quarter-finals at Old Trafford?   Will there be a let down after that emotional win–our first in almost a decade up there–or will it serve to galvanize our focus and get players and team fully motivated for what can be accomplished in the competitions ahead? 

It’s only March, so the battle for places in the league is still on and anything can happen as maybe that team leading in the standings can attest.  For once the sky is NOT falling in North London.  On the South side, however, between racist chants and conspiracies that ALL are out to get them, the horizon has dropped a notch.  For Chelsea, playing with an extra man and an away goal for an hour was simply not enough. Even when they got their (soft) penalty in extra time, they couldn’t close the deal.   The “best” team in England already out of the Champions League has led to many with long faces.  Not mine…

Before Gooners get too happy, however, we should note that crashes of this variety happen in our sport all the time.  We should also register that they had to feel confident going into the return match with Paris St. Germain after grinding out a 1-nil victory in East London against our next opponent, West Ham United.   Were they perhaps overconfident?  Who knows?  All I know is that Arsenal must avoid a similar complacency.  Instead, we must use the confidence gained from winning at Old Trafford but take what was witnessed at Stamford Bridge in midweek to redouble our focus for this next one and use it to our advantage.  Yes, Chelsea still have a 9 point lead (and a game in hand) and Manchester City still a 4 point gap over us for the top two places in the league, but now, more than ever, is a time to keep the pressure on.

We really must, because if we look below us in the table, our hold on 3rd place (the final Champions league spot not requiring an August playoff) is by only the narrowest of margins–a single point.  The club we just beat sits 4th (and out of all other competitions), local rivals Tottenham sit just one behind them and will have a similarly cleared schedule, while Liverpool, the current form club in the league, is only one more back.  Cock up against the Hammers and all the fun this week has provided goes right out the window.

Another reason a lapse cannot be afforded is because of the enormity of the task facing us in the midweek ahead.  Somehow Arsenal have to reverse a 3-1 deficit when they travel to Monaco next Tuesday.  We can only play the matches one at a time, of course, but a composed performance vs the Hammers–yet one which hones our multiple weapons in attack–would be just what the doctor (not to mention the priests, shamans, poets and philosophers) might order to create a sense of belief that something good might be possible down on the Cote d’Azur.

West Ham cannot, however, be taken too lightly.  They are having a fine season under manager Sam Allardyce and have proven themselves a very dangerous team to look past.   In particular they are no pushovers against the (so-called) top clubs.  They took full points from Manchester City in the Autumn and in more recent weeks have shared points in matches with Southampton, Manchester United and Tottenham.  As mentioned above, they pushed Chelsea for ninety plus minutes, only losing by the single goal.  Although they may feel very comfortable in 10th position–with no danger of dropping off the first page of the table this weekend being 4 points clear of Newcastle–Big Sam has made his reputation scrapping for every available point.

He’s certainly not everybody’s cup of tea and not a few East End bubble blowers are tiring of Allardyce’s pragmatism, even if it has been a particularly effective technique for exposing the soft underbelly in Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal teams over the years.  We saw plenty of floated balls to big targets when we played them at Upton Park in Late December and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Route One football on Saturday.   The Hammers, however, will be without big men Andy Carroll and Carlton Cole for this one, so Allardyce may be forced into a slightly less aerially oriented game even if his approach will likely still rely upon power and speed and using the full width of our pitch.  Even that approach will be hampered by not being able to use our own loanee, Carl Jenkinson, at right back.  As much as Wenger believes the loan rules are just another way the richer clubs are favoured, Jenks has been having a strong enough season with the Hammers that the manager will happily accept the advantage.

Wenger has no such power over another ex-Gunner, Alex Song, on loan from Barcelona.  The acquisition of Song was considered one of the best moves of the Summer and many Gooners, given our weakness at the rear of midfield–and the fact that we were looking up at West Ham in the table–during much of the Autumn, thought Wenger might have done well to have taken the Cameroonian back himself.  Song’s form in the new year has been hampered by a knee problem and he didn’t feature in the derby vs Chelsea, but Allardyce was coy on whether he’d be available to play against his old club.  Still, just as Wenger made a late decision to use Danny Welbeck against his former club in the match at Man United, Allardyce may try to use similar motivation with Song against us.  If he does, will we see the smiling Song who often was a little too friendly with opponents for the tastes of many supporters, or will he play with a chip on his shoulder, knowing a big performance against his former club will be noticed by the many who were dismayed by his quick exit from the club two summers ago?

Like our last league opponent, Queens Park Rangers, West Ham, already eliminated from the FA Cup and having a full 10 days between matches, have just returned from a training camp in Dubai. New tactics and partnerships may be the order of the day, some of which will be forced due to injury.  My hunch is that, like QPR, they will have drilled more on defending and will not be easy to break down, even if, in addition to Jenkinson at RB, they will also be missing center back Winston Reid who will not quite be recovered in time for this one.  Spanish Keeper Adrian, although perhaps not playing to the level of his countryman David De Gea (who kept the scoreline close up at Man U) is a fine shot stopper and a big reason for the Hammers success this year.  Arsenal will have to make quality chances and better shots to beat him.

In attack, with Carroll out as a focal point, Diafra Sakho and Stuart Downing are the biggest concerns.  Enner Valencia is a player who is unafraid to run with the ball and brings enough pace and trickery to hurt us.  Aaron Cresswell, a free running left back, in addition to Downing, can supply the crosses.  Cheik Kouyate, Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble add graft to the craft.  Even if they’re without their biggest guys, these players bring a good mix of skill, determination and physicality and should not be discounted.  We should be especially aware at set pieces.

That’s what got us in the reverse fixture, after all.  In that one, Arsenal, as we’ve done several times this season, scored two first half goals in quick succession (Santi Cazorla, from the spot after winning a penalty, and Danny Welbeck bundling in a rocketed low cross from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) but then conceded from a corner (eventually scored by Kouyate after an initial header from James Tompkins) to set up a nervous finish.

There will be changes from that one and from the emotional Cup victory at ManU.  Wojciech Szczesny, even though his height might be a real weapon if West Ham revert to the lofted balls, will likely return to the bench in favor of David Ospina.  Wenger, I think, might compensate by using fullbacks–Calum Chambers and Nacho Monreal–who have done time at center back, rather than pacier options, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Gibbs.  Francis Coquelin, our revelation at defensive mid, surely anchors the rearguard, and will play ahead of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, our only fit CBs.

The more difficult choices revolve around what Wenger will do up front and in attacking midfield.  This might be a spot for Theo Walcott to finally get a start as his explosive pace might help keep the Hammers honest and worried about committing too many men forward.  Does Olivier Giroud come back at Center Forward or does Danny Welbeck get a reward for the great solo effort for the game winner he pounced upon at Old Trafford?  Additionally, does Wenger believe he can rest any (or all) of the outstanding threesome at the heart of our team: Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil?  Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky have been playing well themselves and it would not be a drop in quality if either of them started.  Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will certainly miss this one, even if a scan on the injured hamstring which forced him off early in the ManU match suggests he’ll be back soon.  Even Mathieu Flamini could feature as he’s been passed fit.  Jack Wilshere probably won’t be ready after minor surgery.  Here then is my best guess for the starting 11, but I feel far from confident putting it out there.

ars v west ham March 15

(Subs: Szczesny, Gibbs, Bellerin, Flamini, Rosicky, Ramsey, Alexis) 

Other would-be-managers might see (very) different line-ups.  What would be yours?  Is this a chance to rotate and rest ahead of the immense challenge we face at Monaco?  Should we consider that one a dead rubber and just stay focused on our (delicately poised) position in the league?  Will West Ham return from their long layoff and their exercises down in Dubai with determination and drive or does their comfortable spot in the table mean that they’ll not be too worried about trying to take points in another tough London derby?   In other words, what say you, the babbling (and barking) boys of the Bergkampesque blogosphere?…

The pressure relief from the win at Manchester United has been nice, but it’s time to get back to it…Gunners and Gooners alike.   Go on, then…

By 17highburyterrace

Welcome to the new bus! Will ‘Disruption’ ruin Arsenal?

This is something I have been thinking on and observing since the Crystal Palace game. A busy lifestyle has prevented it from being brought out until now.

Have we ever replaced him?
Have we ever replaced him?

Let me start by stating some truths, or “truths” that are well believed:

  • Arsenal either go out pressing high and attacking to play beautiful total football, and are beaten on the counter by top teams like the special one’s boys in blue. Can’t win the big game that way.


  • Arsenal have fixed this with a deeper lying formation that does the same, and also shelters the big German dude from pace and youth, but are still beaten when teams then press us in return.

These all lead to arguments about who is best or better, who fits the EPL, and, in the end, questions about whether Arsene has lost it, and not kept with the times.

I will argue here that something more fundamental has happened. In particular, that both the above approaches, total football and sitting deep to counter, are played by Arsenal. And played well. We have beaten top teams with it, and lesser teams, as well.

However, … And there is always a however, the game has changed… I think…

In past, weaker to mid table teams would sit deep and hope for the Fat Sam Miracle (FSM), known to American football fans as the “Doug Flutie, bye bye Florida State (or was it Notre Dame? 🙂 ) hail mary” to pull out one or even three points. Also commonly known as parking the bus and daring you to get through. So, what has changed?

Teams have realised this “prevent defense” (another American football term), is, to use what Americans often call it in context, the “prevent yourself from winning” defence. More simply, they have realised that it invites top teams to totally dominate them, and that with the ever increasing talent gap they will eventually get through. They will, not, they might or they should, they will.

The talent gap is ever greater than before with so many top Euro teams, not just in the EPL, looking for talent and depth.  Thus, what to do? Time to innovate of course!

Simple answer? You can’t be dominated if the other team doesn’t have shape or form, and is lightly battered like good fish and chips, which is to say as much as the missus (in the refs uniform here) will let you get away with! This is easily done by hiring pro wrestlers to come in and chase the other guys around. However, it tends to pee off the fans and the ref.

So, how to get this done by stealth? How to ruin your opponents game so much they cannot score, while offering you the ongoing FSM opportunity?

Simple, don’t park the bus, don’t press, which is what people (or many such) *think* they are seeing now, when Arsenal struggle. Instead, play what I call a disruptive game. I differentiate pressing and disruption, as one which is playing forceful defensive football and keeping shape, while the other is defined to ensure the other team has no flow and no shape. Thus, narrowing that talent gap.

In particular, pressing is a game played to win, disruption is a game played not to lose. More specifically:

  1. Pressing = turnover and fast transition to press/contain the ball as far up the field as possible. Generally, 1 on 1 or 2 on 1, looking to force the turnover on either a long ball prayer having cut off all reasonable passes or marked them closed, or on a poor dribble into a player all other options being closed off. A third equally positive outcome is forcing the pass to keeper who then belts it up field. All turn the ball back towards us by forcing high risk, low opportunity balls from the other side that we can easily take. And take in a form ready to go forward in transition.

It’s about controlling shape and getting the ball back to go on offense with good shape.

  1. Disruptive = looks a hell of a lot like a pressing game but involves more often 2-1 and 3-1 defending. A rush at the ball holder and not necessarily caring about others. The goal is not to contain and restrict field space, but to disrupt passing lanes, foul often to disrupt runs and passes, and a greater focus on taking the ball by running many players at the ball handler.

When this is done the ball may turn over but you are not in a position with players in shape and well spread to take best, or sometimes any, advantage. It forces players to far more quickly find something, far more quickly approach their own ball carrier (shrinking the pitch to smaller areas). Thus, against Palace who played this way a lot, we often won the ball but had nothing to really do with it. Hence, they had lots of ball, but little or few opportunities really, as when they won it, they too, were in no shape to attack.

They make our defending easier, but make our attack much harder. They didn’t threaten until we shut off a bit at 93 mins, after almost getting a third goal at 92 mins. We weren’t dominated, we were disrupted, by a team playing for 1 or hoped for 3 points.

So, you say, they sound the same. But, the difference is that a Pressing team is trying to control space and win the ball back anywhere. It’s a plan that focuses on organizing defence as a form of attack and positioning with structure.

A Disruptive team cares less about shape on defence and how it leads to attack with good team shape when the ball is turned over. Their goal is to take away the other team’s ability to move the ball regardless of what it does to their own ability to move the ball. It’s a negative form of football.

It’s also highly successful at times. It is a great equalizer across teams of different abilities – thus reducing that talent gap. It also creates a scenario when you are at home and know the field and have the crowd, where it is likely the better choice of odds than parking the bus.

Keep the other team off balance and out of shape / ball and hope that, despite having no real shape to go forward yourself, you can get a quick breakaway or mistake to capitalize on. Then hunker down, disrupt more, and hope to hold on.

Hence, I think when we play these types of teams among others, or top teams away, we seek to have a deep lying defence. That allows shape to be maintained and lets them, or forces them, to come to you. You then have shape to counter from, which we have the squad for. But, it still won’t solve the problem of being disrupted on attack. The only way to avoid it is to move quickly with lots of field space when they are not near to run after you … Sounds like “on the counter” to me.

But listen again, and hear what isn’t said. That if we can only score on the counter, or mostly so, the opposition have taken us out of our game, forced us away from dominating with talent that we have.

The solution is risk. Again, playing to the opposition. Another possibility. A great rock of a ball holder. Coquelin has done the defensive thing, but not that. That was Vieira. It is Toure and Kompany when they are in form. It might be Schneiderlin. It isn’t Santi, Ozil or Alexis who are tricky enough, but too light and dynamic and want to go forward.

The real key?

In my opinion, a rock and a fast passing game. One that isn’t afraid to go backward if it is isn’t there. If we can’t counter, we need to control through speed.

Thus, and perhaps this is now past length, we have the squad for it. It is perhaps something that has evolved and perhaps we are finally smart enough to do it instead of going after them like we have so often done away against such teams (for which we have been punished).

Sadly to say, it also means that Mourinho may know something and be quite clever having seen this first or nearly so? Look at his squad, sit deep, counter, pass quickly, Terry and others are the rock…

Questions for the critics?

  • Is disruptive, and yes, ugly, football the future?
  • What’s your solution?
  • Who do we need to implement it?
  • Or, am I being too subtle and over analytical, just bring on the fresh faces?

— Cheers – jgc