What to do with Jenkinson and Sagna?

Sign him up Arsene! :)
Sign him up Arsene! 🙂

Our Right Back (RB) position is covered by two players: Sagna and Jenkinson, and young Hector Bellerin and Nico Yennaris are being prepared to play there as well at some point in their careers.

I rate Sagna really highly for his defensive ability, his drive and attitude, and his desire to support our attack continuously. However, I find him pretty ineffective once he has reaches the defensive line of the opposition. He tends to cut inside and hold on to the ball so he can give it to one of our midfield players; by doing so, he often takes the speed out of our attack as well as reducing our width.

Bacary+Sagna+u72N-G4ilk3m

Jenkinson is a work a progress and one of those players who gets better the more games he plays. He properly impressed me for the first time when we played Bayern away last season (just like Gibbs did in the same game): there is a good RB in Jenkinson but he still has a lot to learn. When he plays next to Mertesacker he usually is significantly better defensively. The BFG is a great mentor for him and the German’s organisational skills are just what Jenkinson needs at this stage of his career.

Carl+Jenkinson+mYxnQTuAtJAm

I find the Finglishman better going forward than Sagna. He is more inclined to make it to the by-line and put in a cross or cut a ball back to somebody positioned just outside or inside the opposition’s box. This way we keep our width as well as our momentum going. It is fair to say, Jenkinson still needs to improve the quality of his final ball, and that will come with time.

However, defensively Sagna truly is our Mr Reliable, and both his experience and incredible passion for the club, go a long way right now. I hope we will sign him up properly and show him the respect he deserves, especially now he has shown to be a pretty brilliant fall back options for Mertesacker as well.

Sagna should become gradually a squad player rather than automatic first choice for each and every game. He could start a certain number of games during next season and beyond, and function as a reliable back up for a number of defensive positions. The question is whether Jenkinson can start pushing Sagna gradually out of the RB position during this season.

I don’t have a definitive answer to this one. As stated above, I believe that our Gunner and Gooner does get gradually better and better the longer he plays. During his first game(s) after a period on the sidelines he can look rusty and unfocussed. As with most young players, he is quite injury prone which does not help him in his quest for claiming the RB position, and it is also not good for the team, as we need as much consistency as possible in our defensive line-up.

With the club appearing to dither over signing Sagna up for years to come, and Jenkinson not ready to fill the RB post as a regular first starter – and possibly not making the grade, as the jury remains out – the question is what to do next in terms of making the team stronger.

I would love us to sign up Sagna for another three years. He deserves it and it would send out a sign to other players that you can complete your football career at Arsenal: loyalty works both ways after all.

I would like us to keep developing Jenkinson further and see whether he can make it. If by the end of the season Sagna has not been signed up and/or Corporal Jenks has not made significant progress, we should expect Arsene to purchase a new, established RB for the 2014-2015 season.

My money is on the latter to happen, but what do you think Fine Fellow Gooners? 😛

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Who turned Arsenal into EPL title contenders?

Well, it is not just Ozil!

Happiness is a warm Gunner!
Happiness is a warm Gunner!

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.

arsenal-spurs_ap_2658805b

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.

Would love to know what you guys think!

Written by: Umair Naeem

WBA preview: FlamTeta double DM, Ramsey & Rosicky on the wings?

Tomorrow’s game against the Baggies is another tough one, but we like them tough, we do.

The Hawthorns where no doubt the away support will do us proud again :)
The Hawthorns where no doubt the away support will do us proud again 🙂

It is a blessing in disguise that West Brom deservedly beat the Mancs last weekend; it will make us focus and not underestimate them one iota. I always feel we are most vulnerable after the team received bags of praise for a fine performance, and we are about to play a so called easy opponent. We know now that West Brom, despite our recent League Cup success against them, are not to be taken lightly.

I like West Brom, and I especially like Steve Clarke who has done a fantastic job since taking over from Hodgson. Beating the multi-million pounds earning stars of MU with the starting eleven of Myhill, Jones, Olsson, McAuley, Ridgewell, Yacob, Mulumbu, Amalfitano, Sessegnon, Sinclair and Anichebe, and that at Old Toilet, is a phenomenal achievement.

Clarke knows his football, knows about systems of football and individual coaching, and how to get the very best out of a set of decent to good footballers. I will always have respect for managers like him; those who can work magic with a limited budget, and I predict the 50 year old Scotsman, and former Chav, Clarke to go places in his carefully build up managerial career.

Tomorrow, we can expect a good game of football as I don’t expect WBA to sit back too much. They will want to play football and their and our 4-2-3-1 systems will fight for dominance in midfield. If we can win that battle, our superior fire power up-front should make the difference. Luckily the team had a relatively long break – from Tuesday till Sunday – and everybody should be fit and up for this one.

Another away win will be a new record: nine straight PL away wins in a row. It would also be a strong statement of intent to go into another inter-lull with two points clear at the top of the PL table. Today, After his team’s win against Everton, Pellegrini said they needed to win in order to try and close the gap of five points with Arsenal: how long has it been since we have been referred to as the one to make up ground on…? Long may it continue! 🙂

Can Arsenal do it? Yes we can, but as always, only with hard work and focus, and taking our chances when they arrive.

Predicted line-up:

Arsenal v WBA

I reckon Wenger will not change much to the team that just beat Napoli so emphatically. Sagna has, as 17HT likes to call it, a Wengury and so Jenkinson should get a chance to prove himself; unless Kozzer is moved there and Vermaelen takes up the vacated CB position, which is unlikely.

It could be Jack instead of Rosicky, but I reckon SJW will get a break till the smoke is cleared; and it could be Gnabry instead of Ramsey, although AR16 has simply been too good to be left out. Gnabry is likely to come on later in the game, though.

I am also going for FlamTeta in the double DM tomorrow, but it could well be that either the Flame or Zorro get a break and Ramsey AND Gnabry will start – with the former playing in the double DM again.

Really hope we can win and set a new record tomorrow and the boys will do us proud once more.

Come On Your Rip Roaring Gunners!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Pod delivers, Giroud, Rosicky & Theo show their team-value, Santi and Ramsey class: Fulham Match Report

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We’re only happy when it rains – We’re only happy when it gets complicated! 😉

I was not very confident for our encounter with Jol’s Fulham today. I believed a combination of our fatigue from playing/travelling midweek and Fulham’s good start, as well as an ‘in-your-faces’ approach to the game by them, could prove too much for us. I was hoping for a win but counted on a draw.

My biggest concern were the lack of defensive midfield skills and formational indiscipline, as was so apparent against Villa last weekend. But I did not need to worry, as I had somewhat forgotten that Arsenal play more compact and disciplined in away fixtures compared to our home games, with defence and midfield moving up and down the pitch as a well-drilled double-unit, leaving very little space between the lines. This meant Fulham were given very little chance to penetrate the centre of our midfield and pounce on our potential frailties there.

It also helped that we played with three in midfield, where Fulham tried to play in a more traditional 4-4-1-1 formation; as a result, the Cottagers were often outnumbered, outmanoeuvred and outsmarted by our boys today. It was clear that Arsenal are a team and Fulham are a collection of individual players who still need to get used to each other.

Our team:

Arsenal v Fulham August 13

First Half

Arsenal started with the right tempo and clearly had the bit between the teeth. After ten minutes, Rosicky produced a fine ball over the Fulham defence to Theo; the Englishman did not hesitate for a moment and shot towards goal from within the box, but Stockdale was equally responsive and made a decent save. Arsenal then put a lot of pressure on Fulham with a number of Walcott corner kicks in quick succession, and it was really good to see that we were a real threat from these set-pieces.

It was also good to see that Szczesny was successful in finding OG on a number of occasions, but unfortunately the Frenchman’s headers did not end up near a fellow Arsenal player in most instances.

We were playing well and dominating early proceedings, but it still needed a bit of fortune to get the ball past the inspired Stockdale. Ramsey tried a shot from well outside the box but OG was in the way, despite him trying to make himself sparse. The Welshman’s drive hit Giroud’s leg, which fortuitously led to the Frenchman assisting himself. He pounced on his gift like a tiger and lifted the ball over the goalie with both style and composure: 1-0 to the good guys!

As can be expected, this early adversity gave Fulham new impetus to have a real go at Arsenal in this game, and we lost a bit of our initial concentration and intensity of play. However, Szczesny was focussed and decisive when he had to be and made two fine, instinctive saves from efforts by Taarabt and Duff in quick succession.

Good link up play by OG then led to a decent shot with the outside of his foot by Santi from outside the box, but it was not hard or precise enough to trouble Stockdale. At this stage, Cazorla was still looking a bit rusty, and he gave away a dangerous free-kick just outside our box. Our wall was poor but somehow we got away with it as Riise’s ball is smothered in the wall, and a relieved Szczesny can make an easy save.

During the second part of the first half, Arsenal start to look a bit tired and Fulham find more and more a way through the centre of our midfield. Luckily, Taarabt is desperate to shoot himself from outside the box on a number of occasions when there were better options for him, and all his efforts are wasted or dealt with by our Pole in goal.

Ramsey picks up an unnecessary yellow card which put him in a precarious position for the rest of the game. Luckily, the team played some fine counter football and especially Theo showed great composure and drive at this stage of the game, although his ball to Gibbs, after a run to the Fulham box all the way from midfield, was the wrong option.

Cazorla also started to find his feet and composure in the latter part of the first half. He was more and more enjoying his free role, and when he found himself not far outside the Fulham box with the ball, he had the vision to place a precise ball into Theo’s path. The Englishman takes an instant shot which is parried by Stockdale, albeit towards the outside of the Fulham box. Podolski is at the right place and the right time – after he started the attack in the first place with his ball to Santi – and shoots the ball high and precise into the Cottagers’ net: 2-0! And the fans sang with all their heart: ‘He scores when he wants’ 🙂

The goal was reminiscent of a Bergkamp goal more than a decade ago:

Second Half

Fulham came out with renewed desire and impetus – Jol is good at pep-talk – hoping to score an early goal in the second half, as to get the crowd behind them and start an onslaught on the tired legs and minds of our Gunners. But it is all quite toothless and Jol’s substitutions also do not have much impact, at least initially.

We start to look quite tired after sixty minutes, but once again our attackers come to the rescue. OG collects a ball brilliantly from defence at the half way line with three fine touches. Once again, Theo is there to collect his pass and drive forward towards the Fulham box. Theo plays the ball to Santi who takes it to the by-line, after which he lays it back to the onrushing Podolski. The German is allowed to take a first touch which enables him to trigger his brilliant left cannon of a foot for a well placed, and yet very hard, shot into the keeper’s left corner: 3-0 to the yellow and blues, and game well and truly over! 😀

The fans go crazy and serenade the likes of OG, Ramsey and Podolski with great passion: you can sense the happiness of the away support all the way into our living rooms. As John Lennon sang: Happiness is a warm Gun(ner). 🙂

Fulham do not give up entirely, and despite some very fine positioning and reading of the game by both BFG and Sagna throughout the game, they get caught out for once by a bit of magic from Berbaflop. The naturally blasé Bulgarian received the ball with his back to the goal near the by-line; he takes a touch, turns and shoots/passes towards goal – all in one, smooth move. BFG is too slow to react and Szczesny is only able to get his hands to it, but he parries it across his goal line, where Bent is very grateful to slot the easiest of chances into the net: 1-3.

Bent, apparently a big Arsenal supporter, has now scored against the mighty Red and White with five different clubs. I wonder how he feels about this unenviable record?! 😕

Fulham tried to push for a second goal after that but Arsenal brought on Jack and Nacho to firm up our midfield and defence. There were even further chances for us to score a fourth goal, but especially Theo lacked the killer-instinct of The Pod to take full advantage of his own hard work as well as the opportunities that came his way.

Conclusions:

  1. The Pod announced himself onto the new season with two goals of the highest quality.
  2. Giroud, Rosicky and Theo worked very hard, and often unselfishly, for the team today, and especially the Englishman showed a different side to his game against Fulham.
  3. Santi grew into the game and together with Ramsey he was real class today: both produced a master class in modern midfield football play and made the likes of Sidwell and the former Spud-Smurf look very ordinary.
  4. When Arsenal play away, we are more compact and disciplined in our defensive duties, and as a result, we appear to be less dependent on having a strong DM in our line-up. However, it remains to be seen whether this is the case against the stronger, and more settled teams.
  5. Sagna impressed once again at CB and it looks like he and the BFG could form a very fine partnership if need be.
  6. The FB’s, Jenks and Gibbs, played with good discipline and were full of energy and enthusiasm throughout the game.
  7. Today’s game was ample evidence that we have a number of attackers who can score and produce assists, which makes it hard for the opposition to eliminate our attacking threats. This could become a real strength again this season.
  8. The team already has good fitness levels, the players find each other relatively easily at this stage of the season, and there is a really good togetherness in the team.
  9. More players are required to add strength in depth.
  10. The team would still benefit from a quality attacker: especially a winger who can also play in the middle, or a nr.10 who can also play on the wing, would be very welcome.

A good game to watch, some pride restored and some real pluses to take from today.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Eight early-season Arsenal conclusions and line-up v Urawa Red Diamonds

Will we see more of Mr Reliable as one of our CBs on Friday?
Will we see more of Mr Reliable as one of our CBs on Friday?

Whilst the transfer shenanigans continue without any let-off, Arsenal’s current team has actually been playing some very watchable footie. It is fair to say that the opposition has not been much to write home about until now, but nevertheless our football has been good.

It is only early days and things could change a lot over the next four weeks, but based on the first three games of the campaign we can pull a few conclusions:

  1. Wall of RamTeta: it looks very much that Arsene will continue with Arteta and Ramsey in the double-DM pivot. Enough has been written about this in recent posts, so no more on this from me now.
  2. Our AM, whether it is Rosicky or Wilshere, have been very quick in turning the game from defence to attack. They very often opt for the ball over the top, or a diagonal ball to find one of the wingers with a precision pass. Our AMs have been very mobile and driven to move the game forward quickly, and long may it continue.
  3. The team has been pressing the opposition really well given the rustiness at this stage of the campaign and the humid weather in Asia. Ramsey has been leading by example with regards to this but the whole team has been chipping in, and collectively they have been very successful in winning back the ball regularly until now.
  4. Theo, but also Gnabry and to a lesser extent Ryo, are being ‘launched’ constantly from midfield. This is all part of our quick defence to attack turnaround approach, and for the first time in a long while Arsenal are now really utilising the speed of Theo and others. It has led to many very good chances for Theo and I expect to see more of it this season, with our Speedy Gonzales hopefully converting more of his opportunities. Theo has got the speed and the good first touch, and now he needs to improve his lethalness. He will improve further this season, I reckon.
  5. The full backs – one at a time – are once again key in setting up attacks from the wing. Unfortunately, Jenkinson and Gibbs have looked rusty until now, but they are both players who appear to need a number of games in a row before they start to shine.
  6. Giroud has looked very positive and focussed until now, and six goals in three games will help him to build further on this. He will, of course, face tougher opposition this season, but his sharpness up-front is a very welcome sight.
  7. Zelalem has been showing us lots of promise until now. He is very confident, calm and classy on the ball and can pick a through-ball with incredible ease. A great prospect.
  8. Ox and Jack have looked really up for it and, IF they can stay fit for long spells this season, they will be……dare I say it……like two new quality signings.

All in all, plenty of positives and let’s hope the team will continue to progress over the next few weeks.

Predicted Line-up against Urawa Red Diamonds:

Urawa Red Diamonds

I reckon Fab will start in goal, and Jenkinson and Gibbs will get another chance to become more effective both in defence (especially Jenkinson) and up-front. I expect Sagna and Mertesacker to start, although there is a chance that Sagna will play with Miquel. I am expecting Arteta and Ramsey to get a rest and for Arsene to try another double DM combination tomorrow. Ox needs a start and Aneke should get a proper test as well, so I am going for these two tomorrow.

I expect Jack to play in the hole from the start and Myachi and Theo (or Gnabry) on the wing, and Giroud will probably not start this time round, so I am going for the Pod as our striker. The latter needs a good game and I have a feeling Wenger will give him the striker position tomorrow.

Enjoy the game fellow Gooners!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Jenkinson, Gibbs & Koz excel – Santi is king – Fabianski impresses

Five conclusion from a faith-restoring victory over Bayern.

Violently happy Coz we love you! :)
Violently happy Coz we love you! 🙂

The boys did us proud tonight – I am absolutely delighted with their performance. If this team had been playing together for a while longer and we had just a bit more quality up-front,  we would even have nicked it.

Conclusion 1:

Our first priority is to get the defensive side of our football right; then we always have a chance, because we know how to play footie and score goals. The difference in performances of our defence during our home and away game could not have been much bigger. We hardly gave away any space behind our defence and between defence and midfield  tonight, and were confident in the air and on the ground. Koscielny was superb and his pace and energy gave Mertesacker a chance to organise the defence, and focus on his own positioning. The full-backs were magnificent, especially Jenkinson did us proud. They had drive and passion, speed and strength, and helped out up-front as well. Their performances give us real hope of what could be in the future.  Fabianski did everything right and did not flap once. I also really liked his verbal communication skills and willingness to give his fellow players an ear full when they deserved it.

Achieving a clean sheet against, and at, Bayern is a fantastic achievement by our ‘back-five’.

Conclusion 2:

Arteta and Ramsey did a great job defensively in front of the back-four. Yes, there were a few bad clearances, especially by Arteta at the start of the game, and some of the passes were not sharp enough, but they worked hard and denied Bayern space in the centre of midfield. Unfortunately, it meant that Rosicky remained isolated up-front a lot, but at least Ramsey tried to support him as much as he could; and it is exactly how we managed to create the first goal. Of course this will remain the seemingly eternal dilemma for us: 4-3-3, as in 4-2-1-3 or 4-1-2-3, can either make us too defensive or too attacking, and we need the right balance of players/skill-set to get it exactly right. We switched to 4-1-2-3 in the end, when Cazorla replaced Ramsey by moving towards the middle, and it almost worked out for us.

A big minus point of Arteta was his inability to keep his composure towards the end, leading to him giving away a number of avoidable free-kicks, which allowed Bayern to simply see out the game.

Conclusion 3:

Cazorla’s drive, overview and composure was magnificent tonight. He was at times absolutely faultless and never was in hiding throughout the night. For me, he was the best player on the pitch tonight  – Jenkinson and Koz were not far off either, though – and what a player Arsene has signed with him. On the other hand, Rosicky had a rusty night of football; plenty of hunger and willingness, but not much came off and he often lost out in the one-to-ones with the Bayern midfielders. However, he was often left isolated, and he did not play often in our team this season; which caused a number of his passes going astray.

Conclusion 4:

We lacked that bit of extra quality up-front to properly finish off Die Lederhosen tonight. Theo put a few great crosses into the box – one leading to the first goal – but he faded in the second half; and his  partnership with Giroud is still not working out properly. Giroud scored the goal and worked his socks off, but (still) lacks composure and physical strength; just that little bit extra that would make him a great rather than a good striker.

Conclusion 5:

The entire team was well organised, very focussed and disciplined, and played with great passion. After a number of negative, and often humiliating results recently, the boys did us more than proud. We probably were too defensive for too long of the game to complete the miracle, but it was the best strategy for us on the night.

As per the start of this blog, if this team had played longer together, and had  a bit more quality up-front as well, Arsenal could have completed the turnaround tonight. Alas, it was not to be.

Finally

I reckon this unexpected, and almost heroic away-win will do us a world of good. Our next game is away against Swansea and there is every reason to play the same back-five and same ‘double DMs’ as tonight again. It would be great if Podolski returns to the team against The Jacks and Cazorla can replace Rosicky in the middle. I would start Giroud centrally again, but maybe give the Ox or Gervinho a start on the wing instead of Theo.

Tonight, Arsenal regained tremendous confidence and our reputation in Europe, and at home, has been restored a bit again. A real shame we did not make it through, but we simply left ourselves with too much to do after our disappointing home game against the Germans.

However, as this is a painful and necessary transitional year for Arsenal, it is victories like these that will help us to gradually get back to the very top again. A couple more players of real quality this summer and we should be able to go all the way.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v Aston Villa: Three Positives and Two Negatives – Oooh Santi Cazorla!

Super Santi delivered the goods today!
Super Santi delivered the goods today!

Three positives:

  1. Nacho’s wing-play and crossing: I thought Monreal had a good game today. Every time he comes and supports the attack on the left wing, Nacho makes himself available and exhibits excellent composure. His final ball is also very good, and it looks like he will be an improvement on Gibbs who still needs to develop further with regards to his delivery into the box. His pullback for Cazorla’s second goal was pure class, but there were more examples of good delivery into the box today: a very promising development.
  2. Jenkinson’s composure and general wing-play: I thought Carl did well today. He put a number of sharp balls into the box, especially in the second half. He also played with good drive and hunger, and had some fantastic battles with Agbonlahor. One or two headers could have been better and his link-up play with Arteta was a bit rusty, but that is to be expected after not playing many games in recent months.
  3. Cazorla’s finishing: Once again Theo, and especially Giroud, did not have their shooting boots on, but Cazorla was in fine form today and scored a brace in the process. The diminutive Spaniard was everywhere and seemed to revel in his free role today. He worked very hard; helping out the team as much as possible up-front, in the middle and at the back. It has been a while since we had a midfielder who makes such great runs into the box and Santi positions himself really well. Many a player would have blasted the ball for his second goal, but his composure and technique made sure that this chance was not wasted. In his free role on the wing we might get a new fox in the box, and today Santi has been worth his weight in gold: without him we would not have won today.

Two negatives:

  1. As a unit, our defense still lacked organisation and structure: Once we scored the first goal, Villa were able to build up decent attacks on a number of occasions; and both our midfield and defense were not cohesive and well-disciplined enough to take back control, especially in the first half. The game flowed up and down, and we were wasteful in not scoring the second goal during that phase. However, Villa also had a couple of decent chances; and had they scored, it would not necessarily have been against the run of play. Diaby had started strong in the first 20-30 minutes, but faded away towards the end of the first half, and Arteta was turned over a few times as well. As our two ‘DM’s’, Arteta and Diaby have some way to go, and on days like these, I am still smarting about our loss of Alex Song last summer. I also felt the triangle of Mertesacker, TV and Szczesny looked unorganized, or should I say allover the place, at times. The Villa goal was a well-worked counter-attack by them, although our fullbacks did not cover themselves in glory: Jenkinson’s header should have been aimed better and Nacho should have closed down Weimann’s shot. However, from that distance he should not be able to score and I thought Wojcieh should have done better. Our defense remains an area in need of improvement.
  2. Lack of clinical finishing by Theo and especially Giroud: Football is a team sport, and let me say first of all that both Theo and Giroud worked hard for the team; especially the Frenchman worked his socks off. However, both players lacked composure and clinical finishing skills in the box today, and especially Giroud lacks quality at the moment. It looks like he is trying too hard again, which seems to influence his decision-making and execution quite a bit. I like Giroud for his work-rate, but hard work will not be enough to make it at Arsenal, and the jury remains out about him. Theo made some good runs on the wing and put a few more than decent balls into the box, but him and Giroud do not have a great understanding between them as yet, which is also costing us at the moment.

In conclusion:

A vital win at this stage of the season and well-deserved, I thought.

Although, it should be said that Villa played also well today, and did not just park the bus against us. They soaked up pressure well and were regularly dangerous; especially on the break.

Santi made a real difference today and I am really happy he stepped up when our three midfielders; Arteta, Diaby, and to a lesser extent, Jack, did not have one of their best performances.

Eight days rest now, and time for the team to reflect on the last week and get ready for the all-important derby with the Spuds. We will need to be more solid in our defensive play, and dominate the midfield area better, as well as being more clinical up-front. Not much to do then! 😉

Written by: Total Arsenal.

Bacary Sagna – the 2013 victim of Fans Fulfilling Prophecy?

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How can we expect loyalty of our key players, if we don’t remain faithful to them?

Sagna will become 30 on Valentines Day, and his current contract will run out by the end of 2014. He suffered two broken legs in a relatively short period of time, and he has had a dip in form recently. The best right back in the Premier League in recent years, Mr. Reliable, is going through a rough patch and we, the supporters, should support him through thick and thin now. But we are not.

Has there been a finer Arsenal player in recent years in our defence than Bacary? Our right back always, and I mean always, gives his all for the shirt and it saddens me to read comments on various blogs of a very negative nature. Bacary has had it apparently, and we should ship him out as soon as possible. Bacary is only interested in a move away and is not given his all for the club anymore. Bacary looks uninterested and is lazy, they say. Really?!

For me, Sagna embodies everything I look for in a player: a consistent performer, who always gives his all, and an absolute beast of a footballer. For years he has been regarded, by pundits and fans alike, as the best right back in the country. Sagna is the sort of player we should aim to keep and build the team on: we need more Sagna’s in the team if we ever are going to win something again.

If it is true that the club is only offering Sagna a one year contract extension, we should all try to understand his anxiety at the moment. Footballers have a short ‘working life’ in their profession and he is now at an age when he needs to secure his future.

The nr.2 for the RB position, Jenkinson, has just been offered a new contract, and Bacary must be thinking his days are over, taking into account the club’s recent history of how those who reached the age of 30 were treated. If on top of that, he has a rare spell of underperformances; it is not hard to imagine that the Frenchman is going through a tough time at the moment.

Now is the time to stand behind him and show our appreciation of what he has done for the club and how much we would like him to stay and help us fight for trophies.

If we are not careful Sagna will become another victim of a negative ‘fans fulfilling prophecy’:

  1. A couple of (perceived) under-par performances by Sagna leads to;
  2. Unhappy crowds and unhappy bloggers, etc;
  3. Once Sagna becomes aware of this (and how couldn’t he) it’s highly likely that his confidence gets affected;
  4. Sagna might easily start making more mistakes, and as a result, will take less risk and might even start hiding during games;
  5. Leading to more unhappy crowds, bloggers etc, even less confidence and worse and worse performances;
  6. Before you know it, we have ‘unsupported’ him into failure.

Sagna made a bad mistake against Southampton which led to us conceding a goal. Until then, The Ox and Bacary had worked their socks off to get our attack going from the right, whilst the rest did not feel like helping out most of the time. Once Bacary made the poor mistake, his confidence was shot and almost everything went wrong after that. Sometimes this happens; he is only human after all.

Against Swansea, on Sunday,  he gave again his all and basically worked the entire right flank on his own, as Theo was keen to piss-mark his newly acclaimed territory, so Giroud would not feel too comfortably in the centre of our attack. Given the lack of support,  Sagna did well against Swansea; there was definitely an improvement in his performance.

Bacary Sagna is a great player, an experienced player, a warrior who fights for our shirt. He is Arsenal through and through, and we need to do everything to keep him at the club and support him through this difficult period.

He deserves it for all that he has done for us. Wishing him to leave and be replaced by the promising, but raw and inexperienced, Jenkinson is totally inappropriate and utterly counterproductive. We need a mixture of young, up and coming players and experienced players who care about this club and offer real quality. Sagna belongs in the latter category, and I hope he will get our full support when we take on the Northern Oilers on Sunday.

Written by: Total Arsenal.

Swansea preview: Sagna or Jenkinson, Rosicky or Cazorla, Theo or Giroud (or both)?

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Regular readers of Bergkampesque will have noticed my glass half full attitude towards Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. I  remain confident in Wenger’s ability to turn things round for us this season, and I also believe in the squad of players we have (give or take a couple of necessary new signings). However, it is about time that Arsenal show what they are made of now, after a disappointing performance against Southampton this week; and I expect nothing else but a committed, full-blooded performance for 90+ minutes.

Swansea will be up for this and will be full of confidence after their recent win at Ashburton Grove.  Arsenal will have to come out of the blocks with only one thing in mind: to take this game to Swansea with a high tempo and a strong focus on attack. To be fair, as we saw during our last encounter with the Swans, they are happy to sit back and absorb the pressure we will put on them; only to pounce back on the break as much as possible.

It is therefore important that we play a lot more cohesive tomorrow than we have done recently; with lots of ball retention, constant pressure on the Swansea team, and defending, creating and attacking collectively, rather than the disjointed efforts we saw against Wigan and Southampton recently.

Sagna or Jenkinson?

From the moment Sagna’s inexplicable defensive clearance led to us conceding a goal against Southampton, our right back turned into a shadow of his former self for the rest of the game. Until then, he and Ox had been our main attacking option as virtually all attacks came from the right. But his confidence was totally shot and he made mistake after mistake after his bad error that led to the goal.

So what to do tomorrow; play Sagna again or give Jenkinson a game? I reckon it will be dreadful for Sagna’s confidence if he is not played again tomorrow, and Wenger will probably play him for that reason alone. I hope he comes good again, as Sagna always gives his all. With Jenkinson having signed a new contract and Bacary hoping to get a new contract offer soon, it could be that the Frenchman is justifiably worried about his future, which in return might be affecting his confidence at the moment.

Rosicky or Santi?

We continue to struggle with the shape of our team and with that the purpose/directness of our football. I have written about the need for a more all-round DM, who should free up Jack to support the attack more regularly. At the moment Jack needs to help out too much defensively, and Santi is often isolated as a result. I believe Santi is at his best when he can play close to our CF and we need Wilshere to get closer to him in order to make this happen.

Rosicky always gives the team a good shape and real purpose and I wonder whether it is now time to give him a start instead of Cazorla. Cazorla could start on the wing, maybe instead of Ox or Pod. Alternatively, Jack could get a well-earned rest, and  Rosicky  could play next to Arteta, and with Cazorla in his normal position. But whatever it is, I reckon we need to play Rosicky tomorrow: he can give us the much needed impetus against the Swans.

Theo or Giroud?

Another big selection dilemma for Arsene. My personal view, as per recent posts and comments, is to play them both together in a 4-4-1-1. Giroud can be the pivot for our attacking play, who gets the midfield higher up the pitch with his ball retention skills, and also launches Theo into promising positions. Theo can move around and combine wing-play with centre forward play. However, I would eat my foot if Arsene was to start with both Giroud and Theo up-front and with four in midfield, so a choice has to be made between the Frenchman and the contract hugger.

Given the fact that Swansea play very compact and well-organised at the back, and the need for Theo to have space at his disposal, I reckon will start with Giroud in the middle, and possibly with Theo on the wing for tomorrow’s game.

Predicted Line-Up:

—————Szczesny——————

Sagna – BFG – Vermaelen – Gibbs

———Arteta——-Wilshere———

—————-Rosicky——————-

Theo/Ox——-Giroud———-Santi

 

At times during the match tomorrow, Santi and Rosicky could move to the wings in midfield and Theo and Giroud could play closer together. Let’s see what happens tomorrow. We need a great performance and a convincing win: it is time to kick-start the season properly now!

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners!

Written by: Total Arsenal.