A Minute Applause for Barcodes: Preview & Line-up Arsenal v Newcastle

Gibbs and Pod to rediscover their previous excellent partnership?
Gibbs and Pod to rediscover their previous excellent partnership?

….Well that is what they deserve if you ask me!

For many of us the loss to Stoke deeply overshadowed the far more joyous occurrence of the Barcodes smashing the Chavs in a well-deserved victory. In normal circumstances, our team losing is far more painful than one of our main competitors losing, but, at least for me, the reverse is the case this time round.

Papiss-Ciss--after-scorin-012

The Chavs losing to Newcastle was good in many ways:

  1. Of course, it ended any possibility they would go unbeaten a whole season. Only special teams achieve something colossal like this… 😉
  2. It proved once again that if you play Maureen at his own game, his team will struggle. Newcastle sat back and were tightly organised, and the Chavs did not take their half-decent chances. The Barcodes did play them on the counter and they did take their chances, albeit with a bit of fortune, at least on the first one. Except for the last ten minutes, Pardew’s men were in control of the game and a lot of praise should go to their man at the helm.
  3. Even though we failed to close the gap, there remains hope that we can make up ground over the next few months. It is unlikely we will catch them but they have shown they are vulnerable and can be beaten as long as you play them at their own game. Other teams will have taken note of how Newcastle beat the Chavs and I expect the fear factor to have diminished now.
  4. The PL competition is a competition again. The Chavs dropped five points in three games and the rest is catching up. The smirk on Maureen’s face is quickly turning into that typical grumpy contortion of his. Happy Days! 😛

So I reckon we should give the Barcodes a minute applause for their clever and well-deserved win last Saturday. They have done us a massive favour!

Predicted Team v Newcastle United. 

Hayden to step up and Pod to get a start. Welbeck could start instead of Giroud or even Alexis... Ox to replace Rambo.
Hayden to step up and Pod to get a start. Welbeck could start instead of Giroud or even Alexis… Ox to replace Rambo.

For tomorrow’s game, early team news is not good. Three CB covers are out: Koz, Nacho, Chambers. Ramsey is out as well. However, the Pod will get a chance against Newcastle as the boss just confirmed.

We should expect the Barcodes to play similar to the way they beat the Chavs and be aware of their counterattacks. For me, this means Flamini as DM and the defence not sitting too high up the pitch. We also need our FBs to be disciplined: only one at a time going forward and good communication with the midfielders and CBs at all times. We also need Giroud back to ram the CBs and create space by occupying them. Ollie was rested and so were Cazorla, Welbeck and Sexy-Alexis. So we should have fresh, eager fire-power up-front. With Ramsey out, it should be Ox or (ideally) Rosicky as the b2b, and the team picks itself to a large extent. A big role for the Ox tomorrow, I reckon: he might hold the key in midfield…

Key question is who will partner the BFG at the back, and it looks like Gerry will get his wish with Hayden stepping up.

I am looking forward to this one, but then I always do. OGAAT – TIANG-YANG – UTA – COYRRG and all that!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Festive Season: Time to Shine for Hayden, Akpom, O’Connor and M-N!

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Interestingly, now attention is turning back to our Newcastle game: stories of who might miss out have even more relevance to the use of substitutes on Saturday and beyond…

If Koscielny and Monreal both fail fitness tests then Stefan O’Connor could be on the bench to cover Chambers in the middle. The 20 minutes he had on Tuesday night, in his right position, would have been a great time to see how well he could play alongside Mertersacker? Heaven forbid, but he might be in line to replace Per himself, as he must be due an injury as our fate starts to look for a fresh victim. Let’s face it; there are very few untouched souls out there.

Everybody is assuming Gibbs will be fit … what if….
Come to think of it, both Debuchy and Flamini came off, the latter we assume was for carding issues. But if there was a physical problem, perhaps Kamara should have started? At least Em’an’en got a good 45minutes and would be good cover for OX, who apparently is one of the few to be involved in every game so far?

Of course the bigger question will be about Podolski: Super sub or start and replace?
In a 4-3-3 line up it is easier to slot him in on the left side, although less flexible across the front line viz a viz Alexis, Welbeck, and Ox, and it puts more pressure on the Giroud/Welbeck situation. The three in behind is more or less a case of who is alongside Ramsey now 😀
I guess, Cazorla over Ox would be favourite for the creative role, and Flamini for the defensive one?
That would leave Ox resting on the bench, but that might not be a bad thing…

Then we get back to the back 5, where I guess on Woijech and Per are the only certainties?
Debuchy, with no repercussions after a long lay off, Chambers if Kos misses out, and Gibbs.
That would seem the most likely set up.

However, these thoughts got me thinking about the bigger picture of games to come? I said earlier in the week I thought we need at least three young players to step up and create a larger number of players to choose from …

The bench will tell us more about how AW plans to take us through the hectic schedule to come. Will it be a narrow group that take the bulk of the load, or will we see the odd body of youth getting an airing? This Newcastle game offers more scope for youth over experience than the Liverpool one, but what will follow then is about six games over the next two weeks. I would suggest then it will be a case of two shadow teams: one game with the bulk of stars, the other with a few, and benches of ‘resting’ players, and an assortment of fringe players hoping to take their chance to prove themselves. Even the FA Cup game will not be a respite, unless AW puts all his eggs on maintaining a league challenge…

So I come back to the bench for Saturday, and benches beyond that, and see who the fringe players are and who might get used at some point:

In goal we can assume that Ospina will push past Martinez to the 2nd/alternative spot.

The CB line up has three contenders; Ajayi, Hayden, and O’Connor, with the alternatives of Chambers and Monreal, when they are not being used in their respective full back roles.

Left back is the weak spot if Monreal and Gibbs are out injured. O’Connor was thought to be the cover for Bellerin on Tuesday, but that never materialised; still, he looks the best option in the absence of B54.

Right back is less of a worry, in so far as we have three. Debuchy, Chambers,and Bellerin in that order.

Defensive midfield is the sensitive area. Arteta and Flamini are the primary choices, but both will find games with short breaks between could be a problem. I have made no secret that Isaac Hayden will likely fill one of these roles, permanently. Hopefully his return to training has gone smoothly and he should be ready for the Liverpool game. It will be a tough introduction, but if he shines, as I suspect he will, then he will see the bulk of the following six games. We do have Chambers, again, as one option, or the untried Kamara on the list to play the main or sole defensive player. The B2B option, again behind the ArtFlam experienced pair, and Ramsey who is likely to command this position if his return to form holds, but Maitland-Niles looks to have done his case no harm at all to be the go-to sub whenever needed.

Attacking midfielders will be strengthened further with the hopeful return of Walcott, back in training this week. Ox, the experienced Rosicky, the ever present Alexis, Podolski, Campbell…. And let us not forget the emerging talent that is Serge Gnabry. He too needs game time, and could prove very useful over the next three weeks, and beyond?
So this is an area we should be okay if rotation is used to best effect …starting with this coming game by giving Ox the day off: he has earned it.

Creative midfield we are struggling. In the absence of Ozil, and longer term Wilshere, Cazorla is carrying the load. Even by using others who open up defensive in different ways, like Alexis, Ox, and Rosicky, there may be occasions where, even if only from the bench, the likes of Matland-Niles, and the talented Zelalem will be needed?

Up front, with the strikers, it tends to be more about balance. The ability to work well with those around them, and Giroud stands out as the one that others can play well with. Welbeck offers a different approach with his work rate. Podolski with his strike rate, Alexis for gladiatorial approach, and Walcott with his pace. in theory we should not need to worry in this area … but it is a team game and they have to work as a unit amongst themselves, and with the midfield, and when needed, helping the defence. They also need to be more clinical when chances come their way. Enter Chuba Akpom. Blessed with pace, grace, and power that show glimpses of Thierry Henry. If he puts it altogether his career will take off big time. For now, though, he needs to take any opportunity he gets this season and use it to improve in the areas where he is weakest, and still learning … Because I confidently predict next season the others will be lucky if they can oust him from a No 1 starting role.

So my young players that will make a difference, if called upon, are:
Isaac Hayden
Chuba Akpom
Ainsley Maitland-Niles aka ‘Em’an’en’
Stefan O’Connor at CB

Wish-list:
Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill – Get fit soon, your team needs you!
Semi Ajayi, your turn will come. Keep working, time is on your side.

Note: Serge Gnabry is experienced, so falls into the same category as Walcott: a very welcome returnee.

The future is ahead of us, but it starts now …
Keep the faith

Written by: Gerry.

Walcott start, Sanchez in hole, Hayden DM? Arsenal v Burnley Preview

The Burnley Preview

Will we see the Pod?
Will we see the Pod?

For once, I think this is all about us, and how well we play, which makes this preview a lot easier to write. Not that we can just dismiss Burnley out of hand. If we play badly we could easily lose. They may be a bit suspect at the back, but they are a ‘team’, and will play like one.

Apart from that, they are capable of scoring, given the opportunity. It is up to us not to give them that opportunity.

Not unusual this season, we go into the game with injury doubts over Jack Wilshere and Keiren Gibbs. The latter is clearly the one that will call for a bigger reshuffle, even if he is only on the bench. But with Kos already out, the back 4 probably picks itself.

The most likely scenario is: Bellerin, Chambers, Mertersacker, and Monreal.

In midfield, I think Arteta and Ramsey are the likely back pair, but after the first 10 minutes or so, I expect Ramsey to get forward in the B2B role regularly.

Whilst the attacking trio, without Wilshere, will be: Ox, Cazorla, and Alexis. Or will it?

Leaving Welbeck up front.

The Bench will be interesting if you follow this list of possibilities, because apart from Martinez, the remainder all have a prefix of ‘Could start’:

Flamini, Hayden, Rosicky, Podolski, Walcott, Campbell, and Gnabry.

Now this is where we get to play musical chairs with ‘could start’s’?

Supposing, if you take the base listed above, and AW wants to repeat the DM base of Arteta and Flamini….. Ramsey could then displace Cazorla or the Ox?

Hayden starting throws up all sorts of permutations. At CB he could indirectly displace Bellerin by having Chambers go back to RB? At DM he could partner Arteta, and have Ramsey repeat the above. Indeed, he could displace Arteta and partner Ramsey? That would probably mean he would have to fly solo some of the time, and that would be an interesting experiment?

Rosicky? Whilst possible to put him deep, I would think he would more likely displace the Ox; which makes the OX available for the ‘fresh legs’, and he seems to pick up the pace of the game quicker than Rosicky does these days?

Podolski has a good chance of giving Welbeck a back seat, although that might take a tweak in the formation to a 4-3-3? And as a surprise element it might work, but maybe a step too far? However, still replacing Welbeck in a reprise of the Sunderland game, partnering Alexis up front could be a better option?

Walcott.. is this really on? Well yes, because AW has been saying he is fit enough, just needs to get used to the knocks. Burnley are a solid enough side to give him a stress test; so a real runner, excuse the pun.

The big question who he might replace? Ox is the obvious one, unless he moves over to the other wing, and Alexis takes over the playmaker role from Cazorla?

Campbell? Only if Ox is jettisoned for Walcott, and Alexis moves inside as above, thus making space down the left, but he is equally capable of switching wings with Theo. So although an outside possibility, it still has some merit?

Finally Gnabry. Now, I think he would be a straight swap for Welbeck, but clearly the Ox/Walcott slot would be another possibility? If not this week, then some time soon I can see him lining up alongside either Alexis or Danny?

Now whilst that was a bit of fun, you could repeat the same exercise if Gibbs is declared fit.

Compared to the importance of the CL match coming up, where his pace will be vital, I don’t think his absence here will make much difference.

However, I would say if he plays, the twin pivot is more likely. Monreal will not get forward that much, and may not need to, given the above options on that wing?

Actually, it is a bit like a Chinese meal, you can take one option from one area and another option from another, if they are compatible, and mix and match.

Key questions:

Sanchez in the No 10(advanced), in place of Cazorla?

Walcott to start?

Hayden in the DM slot? Or CB?

Bellerin at RB, with Monreal at LB?

Who would be a manager, eh?

Whatever side is chosen, and we can all have our own ideas, I think we should just be too strong, provided we ‘keep it simple(stupid)’ or a KISS for jgc, pass and move, keep our width, and be more clinical with our shooting …

Is that too much to expect?

For the record, my team would be this:

Arsenal v Burnley

With Campbell and Walcott eager to impress out wide, Alexis pulling the strings up front, and Poldi not coming back to defend. DM pairing putting up an effective barrier, and either of them pushing forward to make the extra man. Speed out of defence: from Bellerin to Walcott or Hayden to Campbell; and Alexis down the middle and Poldi to get a brace, Walcott to set up an Alexis hat-trick, and Campbell to open his account …. SIX NIL I hear you cry…

They could, you know?

Keep the faith.

Written by: Gerry.

Akpom composed & deadly | Zelalem plays like Ozil: U21 Match Report

The Young Guns – Aston Villa v Arsenal

Under 21’s

Chuba+Akpom+ir6OLDOc5zsm

This was a game Arsenal should have been expected to win, as they have been in good form this season, and they were aided by the experienced pair of Diaby and Coquelin. However, they were made to work hard for their victory, which keeps them at the top of the table.

The full line up of: Martinez in goal; Ormond-Ottewill(B54) LB; O’Connor and Hayden the CB’s; Bellerin RB. Midfield: Diaby And Coquelin Holding, and Crowley AM; (1st half) Zelalem CAM, and Akpom up front. Maitland-Niles was sort of somewhere between second striker, winger and AM.

The first piece of action from the Gunners’ came on the counter, with the ball played out to M-Niles who showed good pace, drifted into space from the left and hit a beautiful controlled curler that hit the bar, with the keeper beaten all ends up. Sadly, that was the last time he was seen out there during this half. Arsenal really struggled to control the game through some sloppy passing. Zelalem hardly got a touch of the ball, Coquelin and Diaby were trying difficult passes that Villa were able to cut out.

However, the solid central barrier of O’Connor and Hayden – the latter had the captain’s armband – meant Martinez was never troubled, despite getting a series of corners off other defenders. These were not always cleared effectively, but Martinez claimed everything that came his way.

Going the other way, Crowley showed some good skills, but had a couple of long range shots when a pass might have been better. Akpom’s 1st goal came about not from a tremendous build up play, rather more a case of a defender trying to be too clever and allowing Akpom strength to rob him just outside the Villa box. He showed a neat bit of skill in committing the keeper one way, skipping past him and cutting it back into the bottom left hand corner. A real composed finish which was all  by his making. He had a glorious chance to double the score when showing some real pace to get clear of the defence, one on one with the keeper, but he took it too close to the keeper who just managed to get an outstretched leg to it. And the half ended with just the one goal lead.

Whilst Arsenal had the better chances, Villa could, or should have made more of theirs. On one occasion they had a man over when both Bellerin and B54 were caught up-field, leaving acres of space behind them. Both the full backs made some great overlapping runs down the line which did not bring any joy in front of goal, so one suspects that one of the ‘holding’ midfielders were not holding their positions?

It was to change in the second half.

Bellerin’s runs over the halfway line were noticeably curbed. Zelalem suddenly became Mr Available rather than Mr Invisible in the first half. M-Niles now was instructed to stay on the right, and thus keep Bellerin from advancing too far forwards … But it was Villa that came out with the greater threat.

Gedion+Zelalem+TbglDkT6fKbm

Their first attempt went through Bellerin’s legs and deflected past Martinez’s far post. Another saw our keeper make a last minute stop as a ball sped towards the inside of the upright. Although his parry went straight to a Villa player, he was ruled off-side when the ball came in … and from two yards he skied it anyway, which sort of summed up Villa’s night.

Meanwhile our attacks were looking much more menacing with Zelalem getting involved much more. M-Niles cut in from the left and hit a tame shot on his weaker side. Hayden found himself in the opposition box and cut a precise pass/cross to the far post. Unfortunately, both M-Niles and Akpom were waiting, and the former put it wide. A similar thing late on with Bellerin: having a mazy run off the right wing took him past three defenders, one of our strikers, only to come to a halt when Akpom helped make a double barrier with the defender clearing.

Finally though, Akpom was on to a trade mark Zelalem pass that Ozil would have been proud of, squeezed past two defenders as the keeper came out, and as he was falling he toe-flicked towards the far post with the keeper helpless, and it curled in off the post. Similar to Sanogo’s 4th against Benfica, except this had further to travel.

So top honours went to Akpom, who might have had a second hattrick, but has now scored 6 in 3 games for the Under 21’s!

Of the others, Diaby got through 90 minutes. Held on to the ball well, but will need a few more games like this to get his real sharp passing going.

Bellerin was ever keen to get forwards but played a more disciplined role in the second half. He made some good defensive tackles too, but also lost out a few times when over-doing the trickery.

Hayden had an impressive game, giving out an unruffled calm worthy of Per himself. If I was to be picky, I would say he could direct his clearances at teammates rather than just clear the lines, but that is being really picky!

Coquelin was hard working, but sadly he doesn’t look the part for a step up, and time is running out. He will get more opportunities at this level, but his passing is a bit wayward.

B54- Brandon Ormond-Ottewill to give him his full title made some great runs down the left, and followed it up with some dangerous crosses. He has not had the exposure that Bellerin has had, and has a little more time to develop, but is a lively sort who may just be right to take over from Nacho in a couple of years?

O’Connor is only in his first season and will benefit from having Hayden around. He should take advantage as he will get a new partner pretty soon, I think?

Whilst talking of defenders, Martinez in goal looked like somebody who had stepped down a level. I think he will be anxious to strut his stuff with the first team whenever he can.

Crowley has a touch of goal thirst on him from what I saw. Somebody will be having a word in his ear to tell him he is a creative midfielder, and that creativity should be directed at others first, and should only shoot when there are no better options available. That was not the case tonight, but he is one of the younger ones stepping up. Skillwise he looks the part.

Zelalem was a tale of two halves. When he can nail his second half display into a 90 minute performance, he will be a force to be reckoned with, and this second 45 will do his confidence the world of good.

I felt I was robbed of seeing the true Maitland-Niles tonight. He may not have the high profile of some of his team mates, but I see a very good player developing in him. He may not make it through to Arsenal’s first team anytime soon, or maybe not at all? But he will do any side proud for effort and no mean skill on the ball.

Chuba Akpom? What don’t you know already? He is tall, strong, quick, with a deft touch around goal … and he has got his head down to get a first team start. The COC beckons, and with a slight vacancy for pace down the left side, he could make more than one appearance … this season.

Overall, it was Akpom who made the difference in the scoreline, but all can be happy with some parts of their game. As to claims for a spot in the Southampton COC tie, Hayden is the standout for me. Others will have to see who is rested.

Written by: Gerry.

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Do Arsenal have any DMs left: The Options. Chelsea – Man City: best result?

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With Flamini probably out for a few weeks and Arteta at least suspended for one game, the question we are all asking is: who should we play in our double-DM pivot against the Chavs?

Although the League Cup does not really matter too much, I still would like us to put out a team with the full intention of winning it. We don’t know whether Maureen will take this game serious – as in fielding his strongest team – but we can be assured he does not want to be beaten by us either; and with a strong squad he should not find it too difficult to field a team that has a good chance of doing so.

Wenger will want to rest a few players, though, and I expect the likes of Mertesacker, Sagna, Gibbs, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud to get a well-earned rest on Tuesday.

The starting eleven for the encounter with the Chavs is likely to be: Fabianski, Jenkinson, TV, Kozzer, Nacho, Rosicky, Gnabry, Cazorla and Bendtner – as all these players really need a(nother) game; but what is not so clear, is who is going to play in the double-DM pivot come Tuesday.

I have a feeling Jack will start in this game, and he might even play in the deepest of the two DM-pivot roles: the Flamini or Arteta position, if you want. Jack can actually defend very well and his positioning and anticipation skills are good too (especially, if taking into account his young age). But he is still a bit frail and will need to put his body on the line if we are to beat the Chavs, and it remains to be seen if he can do that for 90 minutes.

So, it would be good to add some proper steel next to Jack in the DM-pivot and the question is who that should be. I would say, Frimpong is a strong option, but then I don’t know how fit he his and whether Wenger still has plans for him. It looks like he is not going to make it at Arsenal, but I could be wrong. Frimmers would definitely add steel but the combination of a lack of games and proneness to get himself booked is not great right now.

Then there is the very promising, Chelmsford born, Isaac Hayden. I have not seen enough of him to decide whether he would make a good DM partner for Jack on Tuesday, but I welcome your views.

We also have the Leytonstone born, multi-skilled, Nico Yennaris, who really could do with a game and who really impressed me during a Norwich-Arsenal Reserves games I watched a year ago.

We could also chose for more experience in the middle and put Ramsey or Rosicky next to Jack, and if Jack is not fit enough to start, I would also not be surprised if Ramsey and Rosicky will start both in the DM-pivot against the Chavs. But Ramsey could do with a break and Rosicky is needed in the hole…. Not easy at all.

Finally, Arsene could do something left-field and put Nacho, Sagna or TV in midfield for this one….. Nacho would mean Gibbs needs to play another game, but that should be fine as he missed out on playing in the England games. TV would mean playing BFG as a CB, which is not ideal as he did play in Germany’s International games…. And Sagna could do with a break for the same reasons….

Really hard to say what Wenger will go for but still good to see we still have a few options for the DM-pivot on Tuesday.

Southern Oilers v Northern Oilers: ideal result?

Today’s game between the Oil-drugged clubs should be watched by Gooners with interest. Whoever wins this one will come out of it with a strong belief they are the bee’s knees this season, and whoever loses will suffer a setback. A draw would not be too bad for either and would probably help us in terms of having a mini-gap with both teams before we go into a couple of more challenging games.

In one way,  I want a draw but I would love to see the Chavs properly beaten today. I still feel they are our main competitors for the title this season, and we could really do with a morale deflating result today. Citeh are likely to continue dropping ‘easy’ points in away game this season, and I feel we have a good chance of beaten them in our direct encounters with them.

But what do you think: who should play in the double DM-pivot and what is the best outcome in today’s battle of the Oilers?

Written by: TotalArsenal.