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.

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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.

Does Arsene finally, finally have his new Bergkamp?

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Sanchez and the 4-4-2

With a whole week off before the next game, I thought a fluff piece may be in order just to get the discussions and debating back in full swing.

Watching Sanchez playing at Sunderland, everything about him just screamed “number 10” more than it has ever done before with Ozil, or even my man Jack.  It got me to thinking though, could we play an old fashioned no.10 – you know, to its fullest potential, in that crazy formation that won us so many accolades and silverware – the 4-4-2?

Do we have the quality to make this system work once again, and really provide for such an excellent player like Sanchez?

I thought I would have a go, do my best at being ruthless concerning quality and athleticism, see what I could come up with and ask you any important questions that arose during the process.

Defence:

Debuchy, BFG, Koscielny and Gibbs: to be honest, apart from a lack of pace by our big man I cannot fault the defensive solidity that this group should bring to the team.  With such a lack of options here though, they are largely uncontested places and with the exception of Monreal all other options are either prospects or loanees.

Monreal, Chambers, Ajayi and Jenko would make up my reserve back line for the future, and I hope Jenko keeps up the good work he’s doing at West Ham atm.

Midfield:

With Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini all being fringe players (at best) in most midfields across top clubs in Europe, Diaby only ever one training session away from being injured and Coquelin AWOL most of the time, I decided to be ruthless and cut the lot; but who’s left as the engine room in midfield?

Wilshere and Ramsey have to be the first choice pairing for our future, with OX and Hayden representing exciting and solid prospects respectively.

For those who don’t know Hayden, he has excelled both in ability and leadership and captained at every level he has played at, both domestically and for his country.

Wingers:

Do we have any old style wingers left now? With OX constantly showing he prefers creeping inside over hugging the line, I can think of only two.  Luckily, one is right footed and the other left, so it makes a good pairing.  Walcott and Campbell, plenty of pace and goals in both which is a benefit.  Future prospects would have to include Gnabry and Bellerin as both are again bursting with pace and goals.

Number 10:

Ozil, once the wonderkid of this position, has now got his work cut out to defend his place here by the excellent (and in my opinion the more exciting prospect) Sanchez.  Both still have much to offer though, so no departures in this area anytime soon I hope, but who does the starting place go to?

Strikers:

I’m looking for pace in this type of formation, like the kind Henry used to have with the strength he also used to show when needed.  With this in mind, I am afraid Giroud and Podolski are out, but Welbeck is in.  Future prospects include Akpom who has all the attributes Henry used to have and now needs experience and Sanogo who is a bit hit and miss at the moment to say the least but could be great.

What do we end up with then?

The Blueprint:

Invincibles

The starting XI:

starting XI new

The second (substitution) XI:

second XI

Questions:

  1. Remember the Invincibles used to play week in week out, almost the same starting line up every game, would these resulting teams have the physical endurance to do that?
  2. Our midfield was once known for its aggression and strength, although many agree that this is not needed so much in the modern game, it is interesting how the modern day users of this system (Man City) have adopted an almost carbon copy of our template from days gone by, with excellent results. Do we have this type of steel in midfield from the options we have?  Do we need it?  Are our options better?
  3. Do you feel any of the players I so callously call “fringe players” could perform better in any of the positions, and if so: who, where and why?
  4. Are there any other players I have missed that you think deserve a place?
  5. With so many favourite names cut from the teams, producing a second XI that looks more like an U21 side than a premiership team, do you think we would have enough quality and depth in the squad to make this work?
  6. Are there any players you would simply like to replace with new arrivals in January? I know BFG’s pace has become a topic for debate but are there others?

 My answers:

  1. With the exception of Koscielny (with his continuing Achilles problem) and BFG who is beginning to age a little I feel the whole starting XI have shown they have the athleticism to play week in week out.
  2. For most games I think an on form Ramsey and Wilshere pairing would excel, watching them run rings around Toure and Fernando in the Charity Shield was a joy to watch. I would be slightly worried that there is no G. Silva type option available at all other than Hayden.  I would love to see Schneiderlin added to the squad to give that option if needed, but would he move for a seat on the bench at Arsenal until needed in a particular game though?  Maybe relying on an untested (at this level) but patient and willing to wait Hayden may be the more realistic choice – though not my preferred one.
  3. I obviously don’t, all seem leggy and are nearer the end of their careers rather than their prime.
  4. Coquelin could do a job in midfield as a more defensive option but it seems (at least atm) the boss has lost all faith in him.
  5. Apart from Ajayi. who I have never really seen play, I would say yes, as a substitute XI I feel it is still brimming with talent and all would be willing to wait for their chance which means no shuffling of the starting XI just to give players game time .
  6. In that starting line-up, I see only three players who are only even slightly suspect; Campbell has yet to show his true potential, but I don’t think he’s been given any sort of chance to do so yet. Then there is Koscielny, with his ongoing injury but a warrior nevertheless, and I feel Chambers is already the perfect candidate for his replacement when needed.  And BFG, having reached his potential a few years ago now, I feel (tough as it is to say) a big name replacement here would be an excellent addition – we are talking Varane level though.

I guess the question I have to ask myself is, would I swap Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta, Flamini, Diaby and Coquelin for just one class CB and one class DM – probably, at the moment I could see Schneiderlin and Varane offering a lot more to the team’s structure than all those players combined.

My point of view is that we need goals, we are just not scoring enough.  There was a time when we used to score for fun and it was back when we used this system.  It takes special kinds of players to make this system work though but for the first time in ages I really think we have those players in the squad now.

When I look at the Invincibles line up, I see goal scoring options from FIVE positions in the forward line, with G. Silva the only player not guaranteed to add attacking threat.  Likewise, when I look at the new starting XI I have made above, I also see goal scoring options from FIVE positions in the front line, with only Wilshere lacking in that department.

I have to contrast that with what I saw at Sunderland on Saturday;

Arteta and Flamini – not goal threat there

Cazorla – has scored 4 goals in the premiership in the last 2 years

OX – Looks threatening but is not producing for one reason or another

All it takes is for your only striker to have a slightly off day (not unusual against a team set to defend), and it’s no wonder the only goals came from Sanchez excellently capitalising on two mistakes from the opposition.

Better teams won’t make those mistakes, so where are the bloody goals going to come from?

Is it any wonder we are not scoring atm, should we really expect any different?

I feel, whether it is because of injuries or a lack of faith in the midfield pairing to produce without the safety net of Flamini behind them, that the boss has played it safe and is largely underutilizing the squad we have at our disposal.  Players are coming back from injury, we are lacking goals: it is time to take the safety net away and let the lads produce!

4-4-2 with Sanchez tip toeing in Bergkamp’s shadow.

Could we make it work, would we even want to: Invincibles or Impossibles?  Tell me what you think.

Written by: Steve

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Why replicating the quality of the ‘Invincibles’ stars is almost impossible.

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Would it be possible to replicate the incredible quality of the Invincibles: Vieira, Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Campbell?

An in-depth reply by Richie to The Gooner’s post ‘Lack of world-class talent keeps Arsenal from reliving glory years’, posted on Friday 9 December 2012.

Managers no longer have the power: since ‘Bosman’, players have the power.

Take Van Judas: he refused to be sold abroad and refused to re-sign. He would only sign personal terms with our biggest rival; the choice was cop for £24 Mil or get nothing within a year.

Cesc’s replacement wasn’t an easy find and Arsene nearly replaced him almost instantly with Juan Mata. But after landing at Heathrow, and on his way to the Emirates to sign the contract already agreed upon; his father and agent get a call from the Chav’s doubling everything, transfer fee’s, and wages etc… the rest is history.

As for not replacing like for like, that’s only possible if you are playing fantasy football.

Even if money was no object, name me 5 players the equal of those you identify as not being replaced.

I cannot think of a colossus like Sol anywhere in Europe; Vidic might come closest but even he isn’t ever going to be Sol. The only player I’ve seen in recent times who has the sheer physical potential to develop into a Sol-ish type is an Italian by way of Nigeria: Angelo Ogbonna. Not surprisingly, MU are amongst others supposedly interested. Cost for the potential Sol-ish type: a cool €25Mil, and that’s a payment in the hope he totally fulfils his potential.

Next, Patrick, who I suppose has a facsimile in a player I saw play in an Arsenal shirt way back: Yaya Toure (incidentally he wasn’t as good as Diaby back then). Can anyone actually imagine Yaya besting Patrick in a midfield dual? Vieira was a one-off; you don’t buy PV’s off the peg, and I can’t think of money no object replacement; can you? If I had to buy a midfielder as an all-round PV replacement, I suppose the obvious choice would be “the Bastian” Schweinsteiger.

Next up Bobby, who you identify with no little conviction as the player you liked best in an Arsenal shirt. I suppose if you were looking for a (money no object) replacement winger you’d have to pick the second best player in the world Ronaldo: a snip at €80Mil. Who’s the winger after Ronnie? Nani? (Ha! Ha! Ha!) Bale? (Hee! Hee! Hee!) Ashley Young? (Not even funny).

O.K how about another Frenchman? Ribery: nowhere near Bobby’s class. The only winger in the world I think could hold a candle to Bobby Pires, should’ve come to Arsenal to continue his development; and then under Arsene’s guidance he would’ve really fulfilled his potential. However like so many others he chose the money – shame Eden Hazard.

The only player I’d currently mention in the same breath as “God” – probably my all time favourite Arsenal player – is another Dutchman who at his best could do a fair imitation of the genius at work. Although, even he wouldn’t really come up to scratch which might leave me no choice, other than to pick: “The No.10”, Messi – a wonderful footballer no doubt; but a totally different type of No.10. So, he is not exactly an obvious replacement either.

How about the best of British then? Yes I know it’s laughable, I mean no one would choose Rooney over DB10 would they? So, another orangie then: Wesley Sneijder.

That just leaves the small matter of Thierry’s replacement. There was a time when only Torres looked even capable of lacing Henry’s boots, but since his £50m move everything’s gone South which kind of rules him out. The same might be said of Villa at Barca, although that’s through injury. We’ve just sold Henry’s successor at Arsenal, so let’s disregard Van Judas, which means a new face is required. There’s no one with Henry’s speed, and intelligence; so, I’ll plumb for more of an Ian Wright type all round striker: Radamel Falcao.

So let’s recap.

We could relive our previous glory if we replaced like for like:

Sol          =             Angelo Ogbonna                €25+Mil

Patrick    =             Bastian Schweinsteiger        €35+Mil

Bobby P =              Eden Hazard                      €50+Mil

God        =              Wesley Sneijder                €45+Mil

Thierry   =              Radamel Falcao                  €50+Mil

I think, it will come as a massive shock to all if they realised that it would “only” cost about €200m  minimum to relive our previous glory. I say minimum, because the above prices are conservative ‘guestimates’ and could cost considerably more (and salaries are not included).

So to conclude it all: replicating the incredible quality of the Invincibles: Vieira, Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Campbell, is currently almost impossible for Arsenal.

Written by: Richie.

Lack of world-class talent keeps Arsenal from reliving glory years

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The lack of world-class talent, and its role in preventing us from realizing past glory.

 This article will address what I feel has been the main issue that has prevented the mighty Arsenal from being genuine title contenders the past 7 years.

When Wenger first joined Arsenal in 1996, he brought with him a great deal of change.  His transfer signings went beyond anything one could predict and he unearthed talents such as Vieira, Henry, Campbell, Pires, Toure, van Judas etc.  He was able to take advantage of the fact that he was able to shape the team and make it his own.  Bringing in so many new faces at the same relative time period meant there was less of an entitlement of senior players at the club feeling that they deserved a starting place.  Also, we must be cognizant of the fact that Wenger developed those players into world-class talents and he’s never been one to overspend to acquire those types of players.

Fast forward to the current crop of Arsenal players and players with much less experience are demanding they be starting every week and being played in certain roles.  This is one of the few downsides of Wenger’s daring approach to give young players an opportunity.  However, I accept that the game has evolved and that Wenger is currently dealing with a “me-first” generation where players’ demands continue to escalate in unreasonable manners.  Although this is a huge issue, my article will look to compare and contrast our current roster with the world-class talent during the Invincibles season.

I identified five key players that I believe to be world-class talents and were integral to the glory years where Arsenal was always a contender and occasionally won the Premier League.  These 5 key players played in essential positions that helped us dictate and dominate games.   They should come as no surprise to any of you and are the following:

Sol Campbell – He was a rock for us in the heart of our defense at CB and was a no-nonsense player who provided invaluable leadership to our team.  He is still regarded as one of the best CB to ever play for Arsenal and I believe he is well deserving of that recognition with two Premier league titles and three FA Cups to his name.  Centre backs are one of the more overlooked positions on a roster, despite the fact that defense wins championships and CBs provide a necessary stability to any side.  While Vermaelen, Mertesacker and Koscielny are all good defenders in their own right, we have failed to adequately replace Campbell since his departure.

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Patrick Vieira – An individual who really made the box-to-box midfielder role his own, and was renowned for his galloping runs forward and domination of the midfield.  He was an astute reader of the game, an excellent passer, a fearless tackler and an emotional leader.  He could singlehandedly change a result and elevated the games of those around him.  Opposing players feared the presence of Vieira and much like Campbell, Arsenal has failed to even come close to replacing him.  When healthy, Diaby has had flashes of brilliance that mirrored Vieira’s passing and momentum charging forward, but his game has never been about being a vocal leader or a no-nonsense player.

Robert Pires – My favourite player to ever don an Arsenal jersey, Pires was a classy winger who accomplished everything from an offensive standpoint.  He scored as if he were a striker, delivered many crafty passes and had an unparalleled combination of speed, movement, ball control, and on-pitch intelligence from out wide.  Because he was such an immense threat on the wing, Pires opened up space in the middle of the park for Vieira, Henry and Bergkamp.  Arsenal has lacked the creativity, directness and delivery from a wide position since Pires’ (and unfortunately to a lesser extent Na$ri’s) departure.

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Dennis Bergkamp – A player capable of producing some truly spectacular moments and he had a strong desire to win through any means necessary.  He was the epitome of a complete footballer who understood the game at another level.  Defined by a sleek, fluid technique, Bergkamp also had the mental toughness that current Gunners are lacking.  Wenger’s attempts to develop complete footballers have been in vain; current youth are not willing to develop their talents in various positions and want to make an immediate impact in their preferred spots.  In an era where capitalism dominates, loyalty is extremely tough to come by.  Bergkamp was and still is the epitome of a true Gunner through and through that wore his heart on his sleeve.

Thierry Henry – What more can be said about this football icon who is considered as one of the best strikers of all time?  He was so fast and agile that he made everyone else look slow yet had the ball control and flair to take on defenders in tight spaces.  He was dangerous from set pieces, could play a dangerous ball in the final third to a teammate, score from 35 yards out, create goals out of absolutely nothing and had unmatched movement.  Despite not being the exact same type of striker, van Judas was a world-class replacement and Wenger failed to replace him after letting him go this summer.  I rate Giroud relatively high, but I do not believe he will ever reach a world-class level like his predecessors.

Two areas that could be strengthened with class talents in January are the holding/box-to-box midfield position and right wing.  If we can somehow acquire both, the onus once again falls on Wenger to groom them into world-class talents.  Victor Wanyama of Celtic, Etienne Capoue of Toulouse or Kevin Strootman of PSV Eindhoven would fulfill the first need, while Jesus Navas of Sevilla, Isco of Malaga or Cristian Tello or Isaac Cuenca of Barcelona fit the latter need.  All the suggested transfer targets are relatively young and can be groomed by Wenger, with the exception of Navas who is already a world-class talent.  In my opinion, a world-class striker is not necessary if the delivery is top notch.  It will be sufficient if Giroud can prove his ability to score goals whenever given the opportunity to.  A support striker with a different playing style that complements Giroud would go a long way in providing us with a fresh approach, while also contributing if Giroud goes on a run of poor form.

I strongly believe it is this lack of world-class talent at those five key positions that is holding us back from the results we desire.

I accept that with Arsenal’s wage and transfer policies it may be impossible to ever build a squad as divine as the Invincibles, but our current roster is still a far cry from that of the glory years.  One world-class talent in Cazorla and a burgeoning world-class talent in Wilshere are not enough for Arsenal to be consistent contenders.  Finally, I would like to point out that I’m not saying we have zero talent in our squad; simply that we lack two to three top-end talents that would allow us to compete with teams like Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

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Do you Gooners agree about the lack of world-class talent currently in our side?  Do you think a world-class striker or CB are more imperative than my suggestions?  Let me know what you think, all comments appreciated!

 

Written by: The Gooner