Orgasmic Giroud, Iwobi makes us forget Ozil, Solid Perez, Two Players MOTM: 8 Positives Arsenal v Palace

Well that was a lot better from the mighty red and white boys. Except for a couple of minutes in the second half, the team was in control of all areas on the pitch. Slim Sam Shady will not have expected much and his new team were poor throughout the game, but we were set up to beat them properly and so we did – even though a couple more goals would have been nice and most definitely deserved. With all our main competitors for the title except Man City winning this weekend, and the despicable Spuds leapfrogging us earlier in the day as an added concern, Arsene knew that we needed to win at all cost. This sort of motivation is ideal for a festive season home game and the boys were clearly hungry for a win.

Olivier Giroud twists to score his superb opening goal for Arsenal against Crystal Palace

Eight Positives from the Game and my MOTM:

  1. Giroud’s back-heel flick was of course the outstanding moment of the game. Alexis should have done a lot better with his cross for Ollie as there was little pressure on him after a finely worked counter-attack by the team, but Giroud improvised with the most sexy back heel ‘dink’ you will ever see and that will have had Bergkamp’s highest approval, no doubt. I used to do these when I was seven all the time but the team manager, an old idiot, told me it was way to fancy and should stop doing them. So to see Giroud reach backwards with his heel to still make something of Alexis’ poor pass and then beat the keeper with an unstoppable, other-worldly loop, was a total, orgasmic joy. He clearly was still a bit rusty and the team seem to find it hard to switch between playing with Alexis or Giroud as our CF, but it was still good to have him back in the starting line-up.
  2. The Elneny-Xhaka DM duo was awesome. They both totally dominated midfield with their energy, intelligence and healthy aggression. Xhaka is a beautiful player to watch and he quietly choreographed proceedings from the back like a true general. Elneny never allowed opponents time on the ball and his reading of the game was very good; and we all know how accurate his passing is. Together they were my MOTM.
  3. The Wing Backs were fabulous. Wenger had clearly instructed Monreal and Bellerin to bomb forward and provide the much needed added width to our game against these sort of teams. CP had no answer to our wing play and as a result we had a lot of fun stretching their defence and getting right behind them. The final ball of both can still improve, but they played an integral role in our pretty aggressive and constant attacking play (22 shots by the whole team but only seven on target).
  4. Iwobi managed to make us forget Ozil for big periods of the game. Don’t get me wrong, though: had Mesut played I reckon we would have scored six today. But Iwobi is still learning and playing as a nr.10 is the equivalent to being top dog in astrophysics. However, you can see how he plays with his head up and wants to play the best ball possible, and he was our most creative player on the pitch with great touch and some very fine passing. What is also good to see is that Alex has a lot of physical strength and the older he will get the more beastly he will become. I loved his goal too: sheer determination to get us over the line (and we desperately needed that second goal today).
  5. Alexis did not have his best days in terms of finishing off the few decent chances that came his way, but his energy and presence were once again very important. He missed his creative twin, Mesut, today but he still played an important teal role for us.
  6. Perez was a breath of fresh air. He missed a little bit of sharpness up-front but his wing play was pretty solid throughout the match. He was always an option for his colleagues and helped out very well at the back. On top of this, he is a safe pair of hands when receiving and moving with the ball, and I would love to see him played more regularly from now on.
  7. Koz-Gab combined healthy aggression with maturity and excellent tactical understanding between them; they never made me feel uncomfortable, which is a lovely state to be in! 🙂
  8. Cech: is there a better goalkeeper in terms of being present when he is called upon? It is all about making the right decisions during the few moments our defence is breached, and Petr did this impeccably. Top man.

By TotalArsenal

Happy New Year BKers!

Let’s hope light will keep overcoming darkness in 2017. Happiness, health and love to you all. 

How to Beat our London Nemesis: Santi, Xhaka and Ozil to feed Alexis and Theo

My Best Team Against The Chavs – our London Nemesis

It is about time we beat the Chavs again, I am sure you agree. But how can we do it?

By outpassing them, just like Pool did last week Friday. But we also need to defend their counter attacks really well and keep all eleven players on the pitch.

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This will not be easy and it is fair to say that this London derby will be our  biggest test yet this season. Having said that, I reckon we have what it takes to finally win a PL game against the Chavs again, and let’s hope the referee will be able to deal adequately with all that will be thrown at him on Saturday evening. This is of course as key a factor as anything else.

They will be okay with sitting back and play us on the counter, and we all know how many times we have lost to them through their counter attacking football, feasting on the space we had left for them. Part of me wants us to sit back and invite their pressure, so we can beat them on the counter, but we are now too good a team to not go and attack them and win the game the Arsenal way. Luckily, with Koz, Bellerin, Mustafi and Nacho we have four fast defenders who can play a high line to great effect.

How should we then line up? Well the back five are obvious picks: Cech, Monreal (although a Gibbs start is not inconceivable) King Koz, Mustafi and Bellerin. Coq is needed for his steel, but he will have to check his temperament a bit, as he is likely to be one of the players to be provoked by the infamous neck scratcher. Rambo is not yet ready and Santi is playing so well at the moment that we cannot leave him out. So Xhaka is likely to miss out once again, but his time will surely come. I am a bit worried about Santi’s lack of box to box mobility though, especially if and when we lose the ball. The Chavs have some fast players and our box to box midfielder will have to track back and support his fellow DM/Defenders regularly. If we are to play Cazorla, we need the full backs to be very disciplined: only one of them can go forward at any given time.

I reckon Santi will play, but I would be tempted to play him in the hole this time, with Mesut moving to the wing (in a free role). Next to Coquelin, I would be tempted to play either Xhaka or Elneny, as they both have the engines and legs to do the full on B2B stuff required against the Chavs; they also give us that extra bit of defensive steel in front of our back four. With the Chavs likely to sit back and forcing us to pass our way all the way to the goal, Xhaka carries a fine threat with his long distance cannonballs. Elneny also has a decent long distance shot, so either of them would do for me.

With Ozil on the wing and Santi in the hole, we need two proper goal threats up-front. We can pick from Theo, Perez, Akpom, Alexis and possibly Giroud. I have a suspicion that Ollie’s toes are absolutely fine, and although I don’t expect him to start, I can see him come on as a substitute to score the winner towards the final minutes of the game.

I fully expect Wenger to play Alexis as our CF once again. This is the new plan for the season as far as I can see it, and I love it. That leaves me with one remaining ‘midwing’ position to fill and  I would either pick Theo, Iwobi or Perez. Given Walcott’s recent form and his fearlessness in front of London opposition, I am opting for him to complete my dream 11 to beat the Chavs:

submit football lineup

What do you reckon fellow Gooners: is this the team to take all three points from the Chavskis?

By TotalArsenal.

 

Wenger and Wilshere are Right, and Xhaka Will Make the Difference

Whether we agree with Arsene or not about his performance in the transfer window (which is still open – so I reserve judgment), it is the lads on the pitch that will need to give it everything this season. Like many supporters, I would like one or two more faces but there is no doubt we have a super, top-talented squad.

In my view, the main thing last season acting as the undercurrent of our weak performances was mentality and leadership. I think that by correcting this, other aspects of our game such as conversion rate will improve as well.

I get the impression Xhaka has been brought in as a key part of improving the team’s leadership mentality, which feeds into our team spirit. Granit strikes me as someone who possesses the key ingredient of a leadership mentality: a great focus and seriousness of effort he puts into each and every moment he is on that green turf. This also refers to Wilshere’s reflections that this was a weak point in the team, which needs improving: see his latest Arsenal.com interview of 1 min 30 secs in: http://player.arsenal.com/interviews/video/8099/-we-can-t-wait-for-the-new-season).

I think it’s not too far a leap to ascribe this weakness as part of a cultural disease: the ‘sign him up culture’ that football, and English football in particular, is corrupted by and that breeds a self-entitled, ‘I want it now’ culture among the fans. Signings are great, but as Arsene knows it is not always the answer. The self-entitled man who finds a solution with money and not through hard work and dedication.. in the players’ case playing great footy; and in the fans case, believing in and supporting the team.

I have just watched the pre-match press conference with Arsene, and am sorry to say I feel pretty disillusioned with the media and the culture of brainwashed consumer fans it has surely emboldened, if not produced. In what should have been an opportunity to explore Arsene’s thoughts on the actual football taking place over the weekend and beyond, about 90% of the questions fielded were about transfers and contracts.. Of course the media effectively are the mouthpiece of agents and some very rich men.. How much did Mr Raiola make from the Pogba transfer for example?

In the interview, Wenger said that football is about performance, not finances at the end of the day.

Of course finances have an impact on the performances but it is not the sole factor or deserving of 90% of the questions coming from the journalists today. I can see Xhaka (and other leadership initiatives/coaching) helping us overcome the mentality and leadership issues. But will it be enough come Sunday?

I trust they are doing their best and that they will knuckle down to some serious footy from the off this time. If we also do our best by believing in the team and supporting them all the way, then I think we will be in with a real chance.

COYG!

By FMJ14

Arsene has his new Arteta, but better!

Granit Xhaka – a name of steel to motivate the troops!

Arsene has his man for the summer. Granit Xhaka is the second central midfielder we signed this year and it will be very interesting to see where and how Wenger wants him to play. Xhaka, like our January signing Elneny, is a very fine passer of the ball. Only Bayern’s Alonso has more average passes per game in the Bundesliga, but unlike the Spaniard, and any of the other top-ten passers in Germany, Granit the Gunner (what a name!) is not afraid to play a long ball or a more risky pass….especially from deep. Xhaka has an average of 83 passes per game with a success rate of 85%, but he also executes a whopping seven long balls per game.

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YouTube videos give indeed the impression that he loves to spread the game with pinpoint medium to long distance passes and with a good eye for a quick through ball. He does not linger on the ball either and, just like Elneny, he likes to find an efficient ball forward to create quick turnovers. He is confident on the ball and able to find or create space for himself constantly.

However, Granit also has the second most average fouls per game (2.6) in the Bundesliga and he loves the colour red, with three sendings-off last season in the league. With 2.4 tackles and 2.7 interceptions per game he does well in terms of his defensive duties, but he will have to balance his desire to get stuck in with a bit more discipline going forward. At just 23 years of age this will come, no doubt, and a bit of fire in our team will not go amiss either of course.

The more I look at the footage the more I believe we have signed a better version of Arteta – at least long-term. His ability to pass the ball forward from the back quickly and accurately, short, medium AND long distance will add another dimension to our play. IT will enable us to produce more deadly turnovers, I reckon. Rambo is not accurate and quick enough in this department and Santi misses some of Granit’s physical attributes. The Swiss young maestro seems to be a mixture of Santi and Coquelin or indeed a better version of Arteta. It leaves us with the opportunity to mix and match in the double DM pivot: we can pick two from Coquelin, Elneny, Santi, Rambo, Jack and Xhaka to create the right balance in the team depending on the opponent we are facing on the day.

Granit is already an established international with 41 caps (five goals) and has both top league and CL experience with 140 games under his belt (nine goals). Wenger paid a lot of money for him and there is no doubt that the former Borussia Monchen Gladbach captain will constantly feature in the first team next season, if fit. I have a feeling this will mean that Le Coq will not be an automatic choice next season. Francis, one of my favourite Gunners, is a more traditional DM with a more limited passing ability and Wenger seems to prefer to play more all-round midfielders with a strong emphasis on (forward) passing. This does not mean we will not see much of le Coq, as I expect Wenger to use him in games where we need to be defensively solid, or when we need to see games out.

I also feel that Wenger will play Elneny in the first team a lot and that we will see an Egyptian-Swiss partnership gradually flourishing in the double DM pivot. Granit and Mohammed, with their athleticism, natural physicality and superior passing ability, will allow the four attackers in front of them, as well as the full backs, to attack with intent and without worrying too much about the holes they are leaving behind them. I reckon that either Elneny or Xhaka will regularly join the attack, with the Swiss more likely to stay behind.

The question is what this would mean for the likes of Jack, Aaron and Santi. I reckon we will see Arsene play three attacking midfielders in front of the double DM pivot and with either a holding CF – Ollie – or a fast a furious CF – Alexis/new buy – up-front. It opens up the opportunity to play 4-2-3-1 – or 7-4 that can turn into 4-7 in just a handful of seconds – for which we can pick three from Santi, Jack, Aaron, Mesut, Alexis and Iwobi; and Theo might get another chance in this formation as well, although it looks like his time is up at THOF…

With Danny out for a long time and Theo possibly going, we need more fire power up-front, but with the signing of Xhaka we have just added a gem of a player -and with that another dimension – to our midfield play.

Granit the Gunner Welcome to the Home of Football!

By TotalArsenal.