Whilst Arsenal have strengthened almost every other area in the team during the last twelve months or so, the full backs were left standing. And quite rightly so, as we have some of the finest full backs in the country and they fit nicely into the style of play of the team.
Full backs at Arsenal are really more wing backs than anything else. They have a massive responsibility within the team both in defence, midfield and attack. On the left we have the energetic and tenacious Nacho Monreal, and on the right we have speed machine and excellent recoverer, Bellerin. As back up we have the loyal and ‘safe pair of hands’ Gibbs and the experienced Debuchy, and Jenkinson is also getting closer to a return to the team.
We all know about the defensive responsibilities of a full back but Arsenal now also rely on them heavily to provide width and penetration from the wings. The traditional winger seems to be a dying breed as more and more teams prefer a hybrid between a midfielder and attacker to play close to the nr10 and CF. Good wing backs are hard to find as the total package requires a lot of skills.
With Bellerin we probably have the most talented wing back in the country and I am pleased the club were able to hold on to him this season. There is no doubt that he can still learn a few things, but he has the rare ability to combine very fast running and close ball control with a cool head both when he attacks and defends. He reads the game very well for such a young player and therefore is often in the right place at the right time.
With Nacho we have a player who gets better the more he plays, a bit like Ramsey in a way. Once he gets properly going Monreal is awesome and a very important player for the team. He has great drive and determination to win and usually finds a very good balance between defending and attacking. It is fair to say that Nacho has also been part of our recent failure to secure our left side of the defence, which was so cruelly exposed against Pool during the season’s opener for example. But I reckon that the team will get this right and Monreal will play a key part in doing so.
The one area that needs a step improvement is the final ball into the box by our full backs. Not that they do badly. Monreal and Bellerin both played 36 PL games (!!!) and the former had a total of three assists and averages 0.8 key passes per PL game, whilst the latter had five assists and 0.7 key passes per game, and he also managed to score once. Debuchy did not play last season so no stats available for him, but Kieran had 15 PL games (only three starts), had no assists and only 0.1 key passes per game, but he did manage to score a goal for us in the PL last season (as well as in the CL).
It is pretty amazing that Bellerin, who will be ‘only’ 21 till March next year, managed to play so many games in such a physically and mentally demanding position last season. And the same goes for Nacho who is slowly entering the autumn years of his football career but still managed to play 36 PL games.
I love these Spanish bullfighters and let’s hope they can play a key role in our season once again. And if they can get the final ball into the box just that little bit sharper, we should see even more key passes, assists and goals from our full backs. If we want to win the title than this is one of the key improvements required, and I reckon they can deliver it.
As Arsenal are not playing till Sunday and the match preview will not go out until at least tomorrow afternoon, let’s blog about something else. It would be good to know what fellow Gooners would like to do with Kieran Gibbs.
Gibbser is 26 and has lost his preferred left back position to the currently immaculate Nacho Monreal. He needs to play regular football now as his best years have only just started, and he is too good to simply be a backup player.
Wenger has been playing him in front of Monreal as a sub on a few occasions: is the left midfield position an option for Kieran? Great defensively, but can he produce the assists and goals…?
Or should he aim for the DM position, currently vacated by Coquelin? He reads the game well, is very good defensively and a decent passer of the ball. He also has the stamina and athleticism needed for the DM role…
Alternatively, he could be developed into a CB, but it would take time and the competition is currently fierce…
He could also wait and compete hard with Monreal to claim his place, but how likely is it he will regain the LB position anytime soon?
Maybe his best option is to ask for a transfer by the end of the season?
The Spuddies came to the home of football to show us how much progress they have made and that they are ready to fight for the title, or at least a top four finish. We all know that they have a good mini-phase every season, only to implode towards the end of it. Having said that, they gave us a good game based around a physically strong central midfield and a few players who can play more than a bit of football. It was not hard to motivate our players for this one, but with the large number of injuries and a challenging schedule over the last few weeks, it was clear that many were running on their last legs.
It has to be said that the Spuds also had a busy schedule, but missing out on the League Cup 12 days ago will have allowed their players to rest that little bit more. Against Sheffield Wednesday, we lost Ox and Theo and we also played Mertesacker, Cech, Campbell, Giroud and Debuchy; and they played two more big, taxing games after that. Today, Alexis, Campbell, Mertesacker and Cazorla all looked like they were playing one game too many.
For the first thirty minutes it was an even battle, but we were easily beaten by a decent ball by Rose to Kane on their left flank, who slotted calmly past our enormous Petr Cech, after Koz was unable to play him offsite or get back in time to put in a block (not helped by the BFG being out of position, though). This setback had a negative impact on the players as we were unable to fight back during the rest of the first half.
In the second half, we tried to take the game to them and we had a few good chances, with especially Giroud being unfortunate/lacking sharpness to capitalise on these. But the Spuds, to their credit, were able to escape our periods of pressure regularly and be dangerous themselves; and it took some fine saves from Cech to keep the score at 1-0. Wenger took off the knackered Campbell and brought on Gibbsy, who moved to the left wing as Alexis moved to the right. Almost immediately, Ozil found him with a perfectly weighted diagonal cross and Gibbs took his first opportunity, reminiscent of a super-fit, inform Alexis.
1-1, and now we smelled victory: oh how we wanted to mash those very well cooked spuddies! We fought hard to get a winner but it was also clear that we were grateful to have gotten the equaliser and that we had given a lot to achieve it. The Spuds did everything to not end up losing the game; and a draw was a fair result in the end.
Eight positives from the game:
Ozil’s tenth assist in 11 PL games and sixth in a row: he never plays a bad game for Arsenal, but he is leading the team for us more this season, and he clearly has become a lot more effective with almost an assist per every game. We are lucky to have him and let’s show him (more) appreciation (and that includes you lazy TV pundits – bandwagon heroes)!
Gibbs’ winner was very well taken after great positioning, and I like the impact he had from the start. On another day in which Alexis is not in form and Giroud is not delivering either, we needed players to step up, and Gibbsy did.
Debuchy looked so much sharper than in his previous games. To play his third game in 12 days, after being out for so long, cannot have been easy, but Matthieu was in the zone and defended very well. I loved his passion and pride today.
Cech was a calming influence once again. He has such an aura and his reading of the game and interceptions are so important for the team. He also does not make mistakes often, or has a rush to the head that puts the team in danger. He is making such a difference for us right now and we are lucky to have him.
Giroud gave his all, and although he missed a few decent opportunities, he was in the right place at the right time regularly and that goes a long way for me. I am a huge Alexis fan but he was not in this game at all – Giroud was, but was not able to score this time round.
The Crowd was great and I am really happy we played at home rather than away, given the injuries and team fatigue. The boys needed the home support badly today, and the fans really helped us to get back into the game. Especially, the atmosphere after we equalised was electric.
Wenger’s substitutions: Flamini for Cazorla helped us with getting the balance right again, as the Spuds had dominated us with three physical, defence minded midfielders in the first half. Normally, Santi and the fabulous Coquelin can deal with this, but without Ramsey on the right to add to the midfield axis, and Alexis and Campbell being more attackers than midfielders, we needed to add a bit more steel next to Coquelin. Furthermore, Gibbs for Campbell was a gamble by Wenger, but it worked out very well: miraculously well!
Seeing Arteta on the pitch again. Wenger kept players like Arteta, Flamini and Rosicky to help us see out games (like these) and to give our first players a rest now and again. This season, we have not had much fun out of either Arteta and Flamini, and none out of Rosicky, but getting these players back to their best will be key for the remainder of the season. Welcome back Mr Lego-Hair! 🙂
The cannon roared and the parked Boro buses were left in smouldering ruins; and the smoke could be seen all the way from Stamford Bridge. Arsenal were ruthless today and only Boro’s excellent goalie Mejias Osorio saved the Smoggies from a giant walloping.
This is how we all like Arsenal to play when facing teams that play defensive – impressively only conceding three goals in their last ten games: attack relentlessly and never give them time to settle, with pressing them as high as possible up the pitch. The tempo of the whole team was very high and we passed the ball round fast and with real intent. There was structure and plan to our game today.
The first goal was very well worked and a pure team goal involving the likes of Alexis, Welbeck, Gibbs, Santi and OG. It was a well deserved and necessary goal, as we had had lots of possession and a number of decent untaken chances until then, and we had to make this dominance count.
And before the Smoggies could find back their breath, OG found the net again: a quickly taken corner by Alexis and a clever run by the Frenchman to the near post was enough to unsettle an ill prepared Boro defence…. and Ollie’s finish was Poldolskiesque. Boom Boom: 2-0 and potentially game over. To really have made us feel at ease the boys needed to score a third goal, and there were very good opportunities to do so, but the Boro defence and the impressive Spaniard Osorio defended their reputation of solidness at the back with pride and determination.
Eight positives from the game (in no particular order):
Giroud: he has found the perfect balance between his two roles given to him by Arsene: that of enabler of others and creator of space and that of classical centre forward play, including scoring goals. Enough said.
Gibbs is back: Kieran was a great support for the team’s attacking endeavours today. He provided width and penetration from the left flank for 90+ minutes. His assist for OG’s first goal was very sharp this time round; and delivering dangerous balls into the box is just what he needs to add to his attacking game if he really wants to become a super quality, modern left back. Top stuff.
Santi and Ozil CAN play together, even when played centrally. Santi played very well in his deeper role and Ozil was in his element in the free role behind the attackers. Furthermore, with Alexis mixing it all up by coming centrally and deep to get the ball as well, the Spaniard, Chilean and German provided a multi-dimensional creative attacking force today. Together they made our attacks unpredictable and their relentless energy and attacking thrust was simply too much for Middlesborough. They were a joy to watch.
Gabriel’s first game led to a clean sheet and he had a good all-round performance. He looked at home next to Koz and really seemed to enjoy playing in the shirt in front of the home crowd. We need to see him tested in more difficult games but he impressed with his speed, reading of the game and tenacity. I also loved the unorthodox way in which he collected a yellow card for the team!
We did not miss the BFG today. The tactics to push Boro high up the pitch and not let them get into play suited two fast CBs today, as we played a high line for which we need fast defence players in case the opposition spring a counter-attack on us or play one over the top. We might well see Wenger swapping between different styles of play depending on the opposition going forward, with him choosing two out Koz, BFG and Paulista to suit a particular style/ tactics… TBC.
Chambers had a good game both defensively and from an attacking point of view. His final ball when assisting the attack needs to improve further but for a nineteen year old this is to be expected. I loved his drive and strength in the one to ones especially.
Alexis’ defending is just so good. Nobody makes more tackles than Alexis in the team and he reads danger so well for an attacker. He is a constant menace to the opposition and his drive and energy are so contagious to the rest of the team: he applies the whip and leads literally from the front. He also played very unselfishly for the team and he was rewarded by another assist. He was also very unlucky not to score from Santi’s free-kick with an unbelievable header (given his size between the giants).Top, top player.
The football we played today was us being back to the future. I love that we played deep against Citeh and Spuds, but this is the sort of footie that makes us all purr. Wenger’s tactics were spot on and the team’s attitude was fantastic, and the resulting football was a compliment to the eye. More of this against Palace please! 🙂
The title of the preview ended with – ‘Arsene should refocus’ : to anybody who saw last night’s game, it was more ‘deja vu’?
It was a repeat of the Hull game: not in exact detail, but neither opponent got that crucial two goal lead. More by luck than judgment it has to be said, as both could have got that breathing space that would have secured all three points, had they just had that extra bit of quality and experience up front.
Anderlecht were robbed. This crime in day time would be smash and grab, at night time, burglary.
We entered their ground and stole all three points.
Why do we not feel like celebrating? We are well on the way to getting out of the Group stage of the Champions League … for the 13th time after all! In the cold light of day, the game still looks as bad as it did in real time? Yes, the points are very, very useful in the greater scheme of things. But nothing can paper over cracks this large?
So for the inquest.
Personally, and for those who watched the same TV channel as myself, I saw what Paul Merson saw when the team and line up was announced. He said the balance was all wrong, as he ticked off the names of players who like to get forwards, possibly leaving Flamini and the back 5 to defend.
Refocus??? This problem was highlighted with the heat map last time, where 7 of our players were shown to have spent the average time crowded into a small central to right area of the box.
So more of the same could be expected?
Good grief, Jack Wilshere actually left Alexis Sanchez on the deck when they tussled for the ball, and there was another player within touching distance too.
Why does this happen? Perhaps because of the 5 players ‘who like to get forward’, and none of them want to stay wide?
A blind man and his dog could see that. So we not only lacked width, we lacked balance too.
Our only wide players were the full backs, which left us exposed at the back …. because of so many ‘like to get forward’. Calum Chambers was left for pace by both Anderlecht’s left sided players, and worryingly, he instinctively goes to grab them back. I am amazed that he did not get a card for it.
Throughout the first half it was unbelievable how this young Belgian side could get into decent positions, only for lack of experience or quality to fail when it mattered.
Meanwhile, we had no such excuse on those grounds, as we barely got an opportunity ourselves. A combination of lack of movement, causing a delay in passing, plain poor passing, and poor execution were our downfall. Santi Cazorla with the latter, when he received a great cut back from Alexis in front of goal, and skied it into row Z. Mind, this is only highlighted by the fact it was probably our clearest opportunity, the rest were squandered long before they got to the box.
If we were going to use our players that ‘like to get forward’, you would think that when we got possession back in our half that the counter attack should have been on? Merson summed it up at half time when he said:
‘It was as though everybody was waiting for somebody else to do something. Nobody wanted the ball’
Two examples: Mertersacker is inside our half. He is looking to make a pass forward. For I don’t know how long, he crept forward, and forward, to well inside their half …and not one of the (expletive deletives) could be arsed to offer themselves!
Second example: Monreal, coming out of defence, midway in our half, plays a perfectly respectable pass, cross field to Flamini … inexplicably, he stepped over it to leave it for Chambers on the wing without looking … and the Anderlecht guy behind him gratefully took and ran straight at our now exposed centre backs.
You could expect to see less in a Sunday League game?
We came out a bit brighter in the second half. Passing and moving it a bit quicker. But it did not last.
We should give an awful lot of credit to this ‘inferior team’ whose club had not won any of their previous eleven CL encounters, and lost the previous five …. but THIS team, of 2014, were a well disciplined, enthusiastic, collective of youthful endeavour with plenty of ability, and soon things were back to the way the first half penned out. So much so, on 50 minutes I worked out that I would have to wait 15 minutes before the first substitution, and started counting down the minutes …
Oh goody, they’ve scored! Subs on … Err No, and no reaction in our players either!
Chamberlain for Flamini.
Excuse me. Did we not do this against Hull, and end up crowding the box even more?
Campbell for Welbeck.
This is different, and unfortunately for Danny Boy, no surprise. I suspect that because of the crowded box he had little room to operate …. and too often, he was second to the ball anyway.
So we press, they counter. They press, and look better than us to be fair. They hit the bar. Martinez made a couple of good saves. We had a shot on target.
Podolski on for Wilshere. To be honest you could have taken any of our midfielders off earlier and it would have been an improvement.
The first thing Podolski did was indicate ‘two up front’, to Alexis I assume, as JC had spent his 10 minutes moving in off the right wing. Effectively for the most part, as his passes were getting through, even if the recipient did not always do the right thing with it: hence my comment in the previous paragraph.
This move unsettled the Anderlecht manager, so he took off his best attacker, and replaced him with a defensive midfielder. Mistake or not, who knows?
We were suddenly more urgent, focused: still a little disjointed, but giving it a go.
Then we had the 89th minute a surprise combination.
Chambers had a clear run down the line. Crossed it in full stride … over the heads of the near post guys … over hit or a repeat of the chip to Gibbs coming in late in the Hull game? Who cares. Gibbs hit it cleanly into the far corner.
Only Ox urged the players to cut the celebrations, as he carried the ball back for the restart.
1 minute 45 seconds later, Gibbs with space on the left, put in a super far post cross for Alexis to chest down, and despite a slip he was first to the ball, turned, fired in a low shot across goal which hit a defender and shot out to the waiting Podolski. If he controlled it, and it looked very much like he did, it was magical because the ball dropped about 6 inches from his left boot … and the next second it was bulging the roof of the net.
Heartbreak for Anderlecht.
We would be wildly celebrating if we had played the 90 minutes like that instead of just 9.
We did not and this is why a victory feels like a loss?
A couple of after thoughts:
Is Wilshere’s suspension ‘a blessing in disguise’, as we have now rescued two games when Wilshere has left the pitch?
Good morning all. And what a fine day it is to be free of the … ‘not having won a trophy in X number of years’tag. Such relief. Congrats to all the team, who played as a team when they needed to. Job done … The hard way, of course?
I have spent the last hour reading all the comments, and I went with that flow too. I missed the equalizer (dog), but managed to see it out to he end. Annoyingly, the high pressure that brings us all the fine weather also gives me an occasional weak signal, thus rendering my recording a bit of a waste. Luckily, switching channels to watch it ‘live’ resulted in an upturn in our fortune on the pitch as well.
Just a few observations:
Starting with Geoff’s point in previous post (@01.39). Having a player close to Giroud makes him look a far better player with that extra yard or two of extra space. And that is saying something when it is a raw kid like Sanogo who still has so much to improve upon, can do that? Imagine what somebody with experience would do?
Sanogo. So, so very unlucky not to have broken his scoring duck by now. A wrongly disallowed goal in an earlier game. Finger tip touch in this with Giro-esque twist-turn-and shoot that might well have gone in off the post in this, along with other half-chances. If he can get his feet to do what his brain tells them to do, he will be something special. At the moment his first touch is clumsy to say the least. He has that long leg Diaby-like stick ability in tight situations, and can often come away with the ball when he has no right to it. But for all his flaws and limitations, he was the player we needed in this game, for his pace, effort, movement, and that occasional successful stickabilty that led to the winning goal. If they give out points for pre, pre, assists, then his part in that goal will be seen time and time again, with endless replays on the television, as a very special moment. I hope he will come good in years to come, and does not get drowned out by the clamour for that big signing.
Podolski. He suffers when he cannot start his play from the halfway line, imo. Guilty for the first goal for walking away before the danger was cleared. Not even playing the guy he was leaving off-side because Gibbs remained at his post on the goal line. But that is what you get when you play a forwards who is not naturally defensive minded? In the end his forward threat his lost from his starting position. Even young Yaya above, never shirked the defensive duty when needed, and had the pace of youth to get back up in attack.
Thank you Poldi for all your great goals, but I think you have probably played your last game in an Arsenal shirt?
Ozil. Criticism will come his way, but unfairly imo. The one thing Ozil needs is movement round him. Until Sanogo came on there was very little. Thus his passing game was made redundant. You can praise Hull’s tactics for much of this. They had a man on Arteta to keep him back. They were quick to pounce on Giroud when anything came his way, fairly and unfairly, it got the same result. Ramsey was kept back deeper because of the numbers they had in midfield, and Podolski rarely had a chance to run with it either. Luckily, as has been mentioned in comments above, he is a team player, and he will keep going for the team throughout the whole 120 minutes.
Cazorla. Worked his magic on the free kick. perhaps the goalie was at fault for not entirely trusting his ‘wall’ to do its job, as when he saw who had taken the kick, he took a half step to his right. which meant he was caught out by both the pace and accuracy of Santi’s shot. Where 9 times out of 10 going to where the keeper is, they will get saved. This one was one that didn’t. That apart, Santi worked hard against a disciplined defence, and few opportunities. occasionally his free roaming meant he was crowding out the space that Ramsey might run into, but overall a solid game, without too many decisive moments.
Arteta. I thought he had one of his better games, given the limitation of his pace, or the lack of. He was the main outlet ball out of defence, when played short, and was there to for Gibbs, as he was closed down quickly early on. However, he is another who will find game-time in short supply if the TW goes our way? Suggest he spends time getting his coaching badges?
Gibbs – Roundly criticised for missing the sitter, but that does not take away from his overall contribution. Nor should it be forgotten that he got in that position to miss the sitter, which, by rights, should have been a Poldi/Ramsey/Cazorla option? And let’s not forget his clearance off the line that saved us from going 3-0 down. He made numerous, and often unused runs down the left. Had a couple of half chances to feed a pass into the box, but failed for one reason or another. Where he excelled was being the last defender back on our set pieces. And also, when Fab went ‘Flappy’ near the end of the 120 minutes, he made another 30 yard dash to cover the open goal shot that ended up going wide. Should he ever get an injury free season, and all the experience that goes with it, he will be every bit as good, if not better, than Ca$hly got to be, and unlike him, he is a Gunner for life.
Koscielny. Kos had a typical Kos-type game. Sound in defence .. for the most part. Always a threat in our set pieces. Scored with his feet! And then nearly threw all the praise away with a blunder at the death. Still our best 50% pairing though.
Mertersacker. Poor old Per. An absolute rock for 119 minutes, then slips, and it could have ended in disaster for him. Slow to get up? Well apart from being a big guy at the tail end of a highly disciplined performance, he had a right to expect Sanga or even Kos to be covering as he was up against ‘fresh legs’ Aluko? Fortune favoured him with the latter’s misplaced shot, after Fab made a fruitless attempt to save the day. Let that not take away from an otherwise strong leader’s game.
Fortunately, he will not be departing any time soon!
Sagna. Oh Bacary. Yes you could leave on this high note? But you could also stay? Hard to find a fault in an otherwise tireless game. Few opportunities to get decent crosses in, but put in a real shift, as always. If economics decides it, he will be hard to replace. perhaps never, in like for like.
If common sense prevails. and team unity, loyalty, and a true class player are properly rewarded, Bacs will get what he really wants?
Fabianski. Deserved his place in the side, and fully deserves his medal. At fault for either goal? Not really. The first was a well worked routine that came back into the box at pace. For the second he was somewhat let down by the defending(Poldi), that allowed his initial save to come off the past and bounce to the scorer. In commentary it was suggested that diving into the goal meant he was in no position to save the second attempt? That is a bit harsh, give the angle he was going for the ball. As it was he only narrowly missed injuring himself, so another foot or two to the right and he almost certainly would have clattered the post, and that could have been far more costly? He did make another really good save that got a slight deflection of a heel(Arteta?) down to his right which made the difference between a finger tip touch or a full hand to it, but he still turned it around the post. Like Per, he was lucky late on, but overall another sound game.
Subs Wilshere and Rosicky had the same effect that the Hull subs did, by giving energy and focus to an otherwise tiring attack. And it made the difference for us, but not quite for them. Coming on for the last 20minutes of normal time might have been the obvious time, but we may well have lost our eventual goal scorer? Playing from the start is another question entirely, and one I do not intend answering.
First up, read nothing but this! Not only am I a great writer but all the others are misleading. This feeling of course is true of any match report and news. Read enough and you can find any interpretation you want. I read many, all of which said that in the first half City owned Arsenal. Oh, and we were lucky.
Second, for those who wondered, no, I never expected my 4-2-4-0, but a man can dream a little, no? 🙂
Hmm, so I got to watch on Arsenal TV, courtesy of Sky Sport who likely scheduled it to show a blood bath, mostly for those who also watch NASCAR for the crashes.
Half 1: I saw City get the one and it was deserved. Good break, good shot and good rebound finish. Equally, well defended over a turnover, forced the worst available shot, which was unfortunately excellent and off the post or Scz and the post. And once you’ve the rebound like that, well it’s anyone’s story.
Each side had moments forward and some pressure. City had more shots, but few of any threat or intent. Arsenal had less BUT they were probing a lot more. Just missing going forward in the last effort. Equally several opportunities to get something in the box. For motion with intent we had less ball but, really it was a game of midfield back and forth. City, more ball and shots, Arsenal more threat/probing.
The common factor, both sides defended really well as a team and both did so relatively deep. Key point CM noted. City and DeMechelis were slightly the better. Arsenal were also the less lucky, the rebound (admittedly after pressure) and a realistic contact and penalty not called early on.
Players of the half? OG was very good but a bit lonely. Team defense and Gibbs especially, also. Pod going forward, not so much going back (thank you Gibbs), and TR was always present, almost opposite of Yaya interestingly.
Who won the half? On points, clearly City, on pressure, perhaps Arsenal. How can I say that with less possession and less shots? Well 3 yellows to City to 1 to Arsenal, and invisible Yaya (Toure), and a large number of corners to Arsenal for a team with lesser possession, shows that we were winning, if only just a very very little, most places BUT the all important scoreboard. Still we were forward enough and with some threat just not quite coming off. As we now know the second half would bear a bit of all that out..
Half 2: I won’t reiterate in detail, really. Very much like the first half but we had more possession so the game ended almost equal. Again, with few exceptions Yaya was invisible. The one time, early in the half at 50mins saw them with a great chance well covered by Scz whose luck turned on rebounds from the first half.
One minute later, it’s all open, and first TR and then Santi are at goal with venom. And then in this open phase, at 52:44, FLAMINIIIIIII!
All that probing that the pundits were calling useless or signs of failure .. Well, one probes not to always score, but to eventually score. The eventually came despite still very good team defending by City.
This ushered in some Arsenal dominance and almost immediately Sagna offers an almost second goal cross. We were definitely on top in ways the pundits said City were in the first half. But, for real.
This ushers in my thoughts on pundits and The Jordan Effect. If Michael Jordan did something ridiculous, it was amazing and he got the foul! Anyone else was an idiot. Seems that way with Arsenal, so read nothing but your unbiased correspondent here! 🙂
Then the Pod almost got it for us… Then and then and … We were definitely playing with them.
The rest played out as we know. We won half two decisively but not dominantly, and they did get some opportunities as befits a top team in any game, and thus we were not dominant or lucky enough to pull it out. A “fair” draw in my final thoughts on it.
Overall: lots of good probing, lots of good team defense, and what looked like two top teams having an even or near even go at it. City don’t leave thinking we aren’t top tier and neither should we in my opinion despite our penchant for a wee touch of gloom.
Player of the game: Demichelis, his defense was the extra thing that kept it for City. My opinion but he was disruptive everywhere.
Luckiest keeper: Draw. Both were lucky once.
Impact player: Draw Flamini and Rosicky, with honorable mention to Sagna who very quietly had about 8m crosses in.
Invisible players: TV, Yaya, Nasri. Not bad but not there really. Not OG who was part of the goal with good hold up, but also somewhat lonelier as we sat back a touch. Something we must solve if we play more this way, although the injured would help there with more B2B types off field just now.
Now my thoughts on signs and portents: No, Prince, I am not a believer but for lightening pre-match it was fun. However, I will point out I got the deeper defense, lineup, and half the final score right. Don’t knock the burnt offerings! 🙂
So, will this be the end of season changer?
I have to believe that our confidence will be lifted. We played well and evenly for the most part with what is likely the top team in the league. My thoughts:
A. Confidence should be high just when we need it to get through the injuries and the season well. We may not win the rest of our games but we could. The same for all our competitors so…
B. We can play well with a very depleted team, which again has to help going forward and next year.
C. Our need for steal down the middle is clear, though we did well today. TV to DM might be a better deal than trying to find the perfect beast DM for many £.
But, will it change the season?? Well, like the burnt offerings, it’s hard to tell. But, back to my portents.
I was at church with family having seen the scoreline. Sat there contemplating as one does and of course “football is life” when suddenly the ground is shaking. Yet another bloody earthquake here in Christchurch, though a mere 4.0 it was shallow and thus relatively intense in shaking.
So, I was contemplating life and Arsenal and many things. At church… and the earth moved !!
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.
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.
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. 🙂
Note for TA: this blog was written prior to yesterday’s game against Fulham.
How to get the best out of Podolski: Combine him with Gibbs and Ramsey!
Back in 2012 when Arsenal announced the signing of Lukas Podolski well before the opening of the transfer window, I was more than excited. The prospect of him playing alongside Theo and RVP convinced me that we were well on the way to concluding our trophy drought. However, the cruel nature of fate made sure that that summer window didn’t go as I hoped. I won’t go into details lest I awaken sleeping demons.
Anyway, my point is, even though we ended up losing RVP, in the back of my mind I knew that even though Poldi wasn’t as good, he could go a long way in replacing his goals. His first season was satisfactory at best. He started well but as the season wore on he seemed to lose his ability to influence the proceedings of a game. He was then dropped from the starting eleven and spent the rest of the season as a substitute. His goals didn’t dry up as his finishing ability is currently second to none in our team. Towards the end, injuries and suspensions to fellow attackers meant that he was our starting striker for the last three games; and to be honest he didn’t do badly.
The new season has begun and it is obvious that Wenger has picked up where he left off last season. Poldi has been involved in both games but only as a very late substitute. For a man who has over a century of international caps before the age of 30, and for one of the world’s best national sides, it is quite bizarre how his club career is panning out. In a time when Arsenal’s squad is thread bare owing to departures and injuries, Poldi’s omission is more than just a little baffling. But I do understand Wenger’s dilemma.
Poldi’s case is a strange one. On one hand, Podolski is one of the best finishers around. Even when he is having a poor game, for him it usually still is ‘one chance one goal’. He is also quite the crosser, especially from that left flank. On the other hand he has little to no influence on a game and therein lies his problem. Podolski’s movement is poor wherever he is played. He doesn’t know how to make runs, has no discernible dribbling ability and his pace is average at best. Podolski seems to spend 90% of his time on or around the halfway line, whether he is played on the left flank or as our target man. Every single time he is played up front the situation arises where a full back will make a run down the flank, but when he gets to the opposition box Podolski is nowhere to be seen and has no intention of getting into the box.
He has no grasp of how a striker should move whatsoever. This makes the team play around him. On the flank, Gibbs does a better job as a winger than the German. This, to me, is the reason why Poldi is second choice. It seems that his best position is as a second striker in a 4-4-2 formation, where he would play between the hole player and the main striker, because there his movement is limited but opportunities to shoot are plenty. Sadly, that is not how we play.
However, I have another suggestion. Wenger can start him on the left but he drifts inwards. Yesterday’s game against Fenerbahce showed that this can work so long as it is Gibbs who plays behind him. Gibbs was outstanding on that left flank, sending in crosses and even getting a goal. Ramsey was also outstanding, covering him perfectly when he went forward. This means that in this set up, Gibbs can do all the wing-work while Poldi drifts in, without having the pressure of being the main CF on him.
Whatever Wenger does about him, he should do it soon, because Podolski’s stature is such that he is not a bench warmer. If this continues, it is very conceivable that he will look for game time elsewhere.