Did Arsenal ever have such a deep squad as we have currently? Well I don’t know about you but I am looking forward to how our current ‘second choice’ players will do against the Tricky Trees, or is simply ‘The Reds’ more appropriate? You tell me.
We will be meeting two ex-Gunners at the City Ground tomorrow: Henri Lansbury and Lord Bendtner. One just did not make it to the top level but looked promising for a long time, and the other one has tonnes of talent but lacked the focus to make it at THOF. Nottingham Forest is still a famous name in football and we all know why, and there is no doubt that the locals will be looking forward to playing Arsenal at home and give us a hell of a game tomorrow.
17HT, the one who used to do match previews for us for a while, and I watched a similar game live last season; Arsenal were abysmal and Sheffield Wednesday knocked us out of the League Cup. I hope we will play a lot better tomorrow and do the away support proud. To achieve this we need to field not just a strong team but, even more importantly, a committed team. For me, that means we need to select those players who are hungry to play. And there are plenty who are desperate to play some meaty football tomorrow.
NF made it to the next round by beating Doncaster and Millwall away (both 1-2), but they are not doing that well in the Championship with just three wins out of eight, and currently sitting in 13th position of the league table. This weekend’s loss against the Canaries at home is further evidence that they are there for the taking.
So how should we line up? It is hard to predict the line up but if we base it on a combination of players who need a game and anticipated appetite to give their all, I reckon we could see something like this:
Ospina seems to get the cup games, Gibbs, Holding and Debuchy all need a game and will be hungry. Arsene has said that Gabriel could play which I reckon means he will play. Elneny and Xhaka need a game and will be very hungry. Ox could do with another start and, to please some of the regular BKers here, I have put him on the right wing. Perez needs a game and could well start up front, but as I reckon Wenger wants to play Akpom as well, it is more likely that the Spaniard will start on the left – with a licence to move centrally as a second CF regularly.
I also think Ozil will start tomorrow. Mesut has yet to hit form and started to play club footie again only recently, so another game to get him up to speed and get the best out of Akpom, Perez and Ox should do him good.
I believe it was old Red Nose himself, Sir Alex Ferguson, the infamous ruler of MU from sunny Govan, who once said that a successful team has a base of six or seven top quality players, surrounded by a number of good players both within the first team and the wider squad. If we look back at his as well as Arsene’s most successful teams, this statement seems to make sense. For example, The Invincibles were not all equal in my opinion: Lehman, Campbell, Vieira, Gilberto, Bergkamp, Thierry and Pires were the super quality players and the rest was good to very good. It makes perfect sense that not all eleven are super quality as they are hard/expensive to get, and good, hardworking players are needed to provide the right platform for the super players to shine (and yet, especially over time, all players from the Invincibles team have rightly achieved mythical status anyway).
I have been thinking about our current squad in terms of those all-important six or seven top quality players, and I reckon we are close. Certainly, the right buy can make a difference this season, but I am less sure whether it is absolutely crucial. Regular readers know that I like Arsene to find the balance between buying and growing from within; and the squad is pretty strong as it is. And recently, Arsene has been finding the balance very well indeed.
So for me, the top quality players are: Cech, Koz, Ozil, Alexis and Giroud. Some will exclude Ollie from this, but, as I have explained many times, there is no better holding striker around other than possibly Lewandowski. Let me add another one: Santi. He deserves it after proving me wrong last season.
This leaves us one maybe two TQ players short, and we can either buy or further develop what we have. Next season, there is a real opportunity to turn two out of Le Coq, Rambo and Wilshere into these two missing TQ players. They all have the potential but they will have to achieve consistently high level performances to really get there. Le Coq, alongside the amazing Bellerin, was the surprise of the season and has made a huge step forward. But we need to see this again and again next season and this will be a very big one for him. Rambo needs to gain momentum, and once he is in the zone he gets better and better. He is probably closest of all three talents to make it through to the TQ players, but…. He will need to stay fit and focussed throughout a whole season to really get there. Jack is the most talented of them all but also the most vulnerable to injuries, which he will have to overcome to start establishing himself properly. The thought of two, or ideally all three, of them making the big step up next season is simply mouth-watering. Fitting them all in is of course a challenge, but it is possible; and I agree with 17HT that 4-5-1 is the most likely formation for next season.
I feel we do not score enough goals, though; we are too over-reliant on Alexis and Giroud to produce the goods. So the easy answer is to buy a 15-20 PL goals a season winger with ability to play through the middle as well. For example, let’s throw all our money at Bale and get the Gunners-loving ex-Spud to wear the mighty red and white. Or maybe Gotze or Isco are the answer…..
But another part of me says let us get those goals from within the team. More goals are required from the midfielders and Arsene will be keen to achieve it. This must be Arsene’s biggest dilemma. The team is very good both in terms of quality and depth, and there is great growth potential from within; but we need more goal threat. Will it come from Rambo, Ozil and Jack, or is Theo, or even the Ox or Danny-boy, ready to blow us all away? Or does Wenger need to buy a carbon copy of Alexis for the other wing to get us our seventh (or, dream, dream, eighth) super quality player, which should really give us a chance to go all the way?
Everyone has their dark secrets, some of which are buried very deep and best left there.
It is only since I discovered Bergkampesque that I have managed to search my inner self and analyse my problem. Sure I tried other blogs, but none of them made me feel at home. Some of the blogs are so clique, you just get ignored. Some are downright hostile. I once suggested Arshavin was a lazy sod and nearly got lynched.
Then Bergkampesque: a friendly, knowledgeable, sometimes odd collection of Gooners who made me feel at home from day one, and even threw in free Dutch lessons. They even let me lead the UMF league for a week after I managed max points; some even said they would follow me, but week two ended in zero.
Anyway, enough of this pre-amble and back to my sad secret: I have supported Arsenal for over 50 years. At school, I was surrounded by hordes of glory hunting Manchester United fans. There were about three of us and thousands of them and we hadn’t won anything in years. Still, in a school set in rural Lancashire, you would expect this mix of fans. But hold on, I went to School in South East London. Technically, Palace, Millwall and Charlton territory. But my Dad was a lifelong Arsenal fan, so it was genetic.
In 1966 Arsenal sacked Billy Wright and we all waited for a big name replacement. No foreign managers then, so Arsenal decided to appoint their physio, Bertie Mee. The physio??!! We hadn’t won anything for years and we appoint the physio? But with Don Howe as his able assistant, things picked up.
A team that hadn’t won anything for years suddenly began to show form. Maybe we could actually win something.
Sorry, rambling again. During the 50 plus years I have attended literally hundreds of games, mainly at Highbury, a good number of away games and a sprinkling of Cup Finals. Prior to the latter years at Highbury, no one on the terraces had season tickets, you just turned up and paid.
Below is my list of some of the important games I have attended:
1968 League Cup Final Wembley.
Leeds United – lost 1 – 0.
Possibly the dirtiest team I have ever seen, Jack Charlton flattened the Arsenal keeper at a corner and Terry Cooper rifled the winner home. My first visit to Wembley.
1969 League Cup Final Wembley
Swindon Town lost 3 – 1 AET
This was it Swindon Town from the old 3rd division against the mighty Gunners. This was going to be a walkover. My Dad had once again got two tickets and once again we set off to cheer on our beloved team. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until we reached the game that we realised we had Swindon tickets. It didn’t really matter though because Arsenal fans didn’t have a lot to cheer about. Three main factors for our downfall that day were:
1) The pitch. Take a look at the the clip below, and remember this is Wembley.
2) Don Rogers, a Swindon legend along with 10 other country bumpkins played their socks off.
3) Ian Ure, who my Dad thought was great, but I always thought was a little clumsy, didn’t have his best game. Although Bobby Gould equalised in the last minute, we went on to lose 3 -1. Wasn’t a lot of fun going back to School after that .
1971 Winning the league at White Hart Lane – Spurs 0 Arsenal 1
Last game of the season: we needed to draw 0 – 0 or win to win the league. A real nail-biter, but the lads did really well. Then in the final minutes a young Ray Kennedy rose and headed Arsenal ahead. Not necessarily a good thing. We were cruising to the 0 – 0 we needed; now we had upset the Spuds even more. Referees didn’t advertise how much added time back then, and those few minutes seemed like hours. But I and thousands of other Gunners were soon celebrating in the streets of Spudland.
I also had a cup final ticket that year. Unfortunately, it was a single Scouse ticket. No way Pedro.
1980 FA Cup Final
V West Ham Wembley – lost 1- 0
Surely, my first Wembley Victory against 2nd Division West Ham. A truly forgettable game. In fact, I can only remember two events. Trevor Brooking scored the winning goal with a header. Although many of us felt that it rebounded off his head. Then, in the final moments, a young Hammer broke through on goal. This was history in the making: if he scored he would be the youngest goal scorer in Cup Final history. Then, a moment that has been called ‘a game changing moment in British football’. The Arsenal centre back Willie Young not known for his delicate touch, scythed Paul Allen down and was only booked for his trouble. After collecting his winners medal, Allen burst into tears: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKemltpQMgA
The list goes on. I was at Wembley when Gazza scored that free kick. I was also there when we lost the League cup final (I always forget what it’s called these days) to Chelsea.
By now you may have noticed a trend.
Other than the Spurs game, every trophy winning game I have ever attended has ended in defeat. Hang on a moment though, I was shut out at Spurs and listened to the game on a tranny radio.
So my problem, in over 50 years of supporting Arsenal I have never physically seen them win anything. Not a sausage!
If by any chance we reach the champions league final though…. anyone got a spare ticket? 🙂
I am sure not to be the only one who isn’t too sad Arsenal are already out of the League Cup. Yes a great competition to blood the youngsters – I still have great memories of witnessing Arsenal putting Sheffield United 6-0 to the sword – but also an added pressure on Wenger and the team.
The media regard Arsenal as their favourite potential banana-skin victims, and so our cup games often end up being televised. As a result, Arsene often opts to play a stronger team than needed, even though I am sure he does not rate the competition very much, which could easily lead to fatigue or injuries to key players. For example, in yesterday’s game we risked Alexis and Jack, who both could have done with a break after a hectic, intense start of the season. But Wenger had to match the strength of the Saints’ defence to some extent in order to avoid a potentially humiliating outcome.
I watched the game on a half-decent stream and really enjoyed it. Both teams played some very good football, both tactically and technically.
Almost all of us would love Arsene to buy a really solid, beast of a DM and if you, like me, enjoy the art of midfield defending, you will also have wetted yourself from watching both Wanyama, and especially Schneiderlin, bossing proceedings through large parts of the game.
Still, during the first 20-30 minutes the best midfielder on the pitch was our very own Abou Diaby.
He was strong and incisive, sprayed passes around and produced a couple of exquisite through-balls, and during that time he and Wilshere were in charge. Is it fair to say that Arsenal started to wilt from the moment Diaby lost that initial drive and power?
I, for one, strongly felt that as soon as the Saints levelled from the penalty spot, we would end up losing this game. Somehow, our opponent wanted it more on the night, or was it just that their line-up was stronger?
I reckon we gradually lost the battle in midfield as both Wanyama (calm, organised, strong, disciplined) and Schneiderlin (energetic, seeks the one to one battles, good positioning) gradually took control of the midfield.
After their stunning second goal, Southampton showed great team composure by both breaking up our build up play from the back and putting up a formidable defence if and when we managed to get to the area in front of their box. There was almost no way through, and without a strong presence of a (holding) striker in the box – Podolski is not that sort of forward – and Rosicky and Campbell struggling to impose themselves on the game, we were simply not strong enough to hurt the Saints on the night. We had our chances but not many, and if and when they arrived our players felt pressure to not miss them…
For me, that was the game in a nutshell.
I should repeat what I said yesterday, that Alexis was impressive and his goal was simply sublime. Our defence played well: Ospina oozed calm and, in my view, could not have saved the Cline screamer. Bellerin is making progress and gaining confidence, Chambers looked solid and composed, Hayden did well too and Coquelin did surprisingly well as our LB.
Campbell struggled quite a bit in the first half, but had a good spell early on in the second half (I guess Wenger had a word with him). Rosicky was rusty and tried to overcompensate this with his drive, and he will not be impressed with himself after giving away a cheap penalty. Pod is an impact sub and cannot lead the line for us; there is not much more to it imo. A real shame we did not see much of Akpom, but let’s hope he will have some time in the first team soon.
Although the competition does not mean much to me, I still feel a bit down. It’s not because we lost the game, or we are now out of the competition, or even that it felt all the way we were not going to win it on the night. No, I guess it is to do with those performances of Wanyama and Schneiderlin for the Saints, and the fact that they are not ours, and that they made the difference on the night.
Ospina is a given, Bellerin is a given because Chambers is going to be needed as cover for the CB’s, with Monreal out for 4 games, so he needs his CB hat on here. Gibbs, not certain, but unless Flamini drops back there, there isn’t another LB in the squad.
Hayden, in his best position, and AW tells us he is ready for this level (I concur). Flamini a given, as Arteta played in Saturday’s game, and Coquelin with Hayden would be too much of a gamble, and the Frenchman is a useful sub. Cazorla plays central, because he will not start next Saturday?
Rosicky deserves a start in his favoured right side, Campbell on the left, but expect a lot of movement between these three. Akpom up front because ….err, there isn’t anybody else? Nah, not even Poldi as CF.
How will this pan out in the game, using the much vaunted 4-1-4-1 formation?
My guess is the DM role will alternate between Hayden and Flamini, but I expect Hayden to be the more advanced of the two, leaving Flamini to clear up should he need to. Hayden is an excellent ball player, and has the physical strength to brush past the formidable DM pairing that Southampton have, should they both play? He would be an ideal player to have deep if a long range shot is on, such is the Podolski like bullets he can provide.
However, his primary role going forward will be to provide Cazorla with passes, and be available for the return.
It will be Cazorla’s job to feed the wide players, Gibbs and Campbell one the one side, and Bellerin and Rosicky on the other. I think these wide partnerships look to be very complimentary, and should prove an exciting blend of pace and shooting power, and equally good at picking out Akpom.
Akpom’s movement in and around the box will be key. It is his big chance to show just how much he has developed since those pre-season games of last season (2013). Not only is he big and strong, and has quick feet, he also has alarming pace for a striker. He will frighten any defence into mistakes, so penalties long before shootout time are very much on the cards. Because of his pace, somebody will have to try and stop him if we get a quick release from a turnover. That could bode well for Campbell to become the second striker, and we have seen just how effective he can be when given the space?
That is the positive side going forwards. Things will not be quite so rosy on the defensive front?
Without Per Mertersacker to organise the defence, a rookie CB alongside a very competent, but still a rookie partner, I think it will fall to Ospina and Hayden to set the cover at set pieces, and Flamini and Hayden to sort it out in open play. On the positive side, Ajayi is solid enough to hold his own against a physical assault; and Chambers is quick in the ‘Koscielny’ role, and two very pacey wingbacks to make last ditch tackles, should our lines be breeched. Providing they keep calm and don’t get too fired up, the Flamini-Hayden brick wall in front of the CB’s should keep most threats at bay, but I think Ospina will have his World Cup credentials well and truly tested?
What we will not know is just how many Academy graduates will appear in the Southampton ranks, as they too will want to test the depth of their squad to some extent? They also have some key injuries: Yoshida, Ward-Prowse, Rodriguez, Alderwerield, and Under-21 player, Gallagher. Listening to Koeman talking ahead of this game, he seems to be taking it a little more seriously, which is understandable if they haven’t got other midweek games to worry about.
We may see the return of Boruc in goal, or Davies, but it is the defence where they are likely to be strong. They have lively full backs in Clyne and Bertrand, and the very solid Fonte, who will probably partner Gardos in the middle. Again, in midfield they are strong, despite departures. Wanyama looks certain to start, but Schneiderlin could be given a break, as they have Mane, one of many good signings they made, who is back from AFCON knockout games and could be a real threat, along with the lively Cork and Tadic, and that without troubling regular, Steven Davies. Up front they can choose between Long, Mayuka, and Pelle. I suspect they may go for a 4-4-2 setup, as this is a knockout game
It will not be an easy game to win; that is for sure. But it will be fast and furious.
Unless Arsene changes the squad he has announced, then the team is unlikely to be much different from what I have set out. Argue about it by all means, I am only going with what has been announced.
Above all, enjoy the game; the players, as you can bet your life, will be doing their very best to carry it off.
Both Vermaelen and Bendtner are at an age now when there is no more time for trial and error. Last night’s game against the Chavs was a brilliant opportunity to show to all of us how they deserve to play in the first team far more regularly than they have been doing, but both failed to take it.
Bendtner appears to play with an air of indifference, or is it just a lack of focus? Giroud is technically not a much better player than the Dane but he just brings focus and work rate; and with those two anybody can get far in life, especially if a bit of talent in something is added. For me, that was Bendtner’s last chance and it is now time to let him go. Sanogo and Akpom should get some more opportunities in the first team from now on.
With Vermaelen there is never a problem with work rate… or maybe there is. Is he working too hard; does he want it too badly? Thomas always plays with full passion and energy and I love him for that. But as we witnessed on many occasion last season, he lacks composure and focus, especially in the bigger games.
As a captain, he should ooze calm and confidence, but often the opposite is the case. I have always felt that Wenger made a big mistake in awarding the Belgian Pit-bull Terrier the captaincy: he is not a captain but a warrior – a first soldier. An Arsenal captain needs to have composure and overview, organisational and communication skills and ability to read/predict the game, and fight till the very last second of the game. TV5 offers us the latter in bucket loads, but the other areas are sadly missing to a large extent.
I reckon TV5 is a good CB to have as a stand in for Koz but he cannot replace the BFG adequately. I am not sure whether being the current ‘third CB in the squad’ is good for him either. Thomas needs to play regularly, and it looks like this will be his last season at Arsenal; he might even be leaving in January. Last night was a great opportunity to convince us otherwise, and although he did not have a really bad game, he just did not do enough to push Koz out of the first choice CB-pairing any time soon. Time to move on, Thomas?
I agree with most fellow Gooners that Jenkinson also did not make the grade yesterday. But he is still young, and we know he only starts to become good once he has played a few games in a row. And to some extent, the same goes for Ryo. Let’s give them some more time before we write them off: they might well still come good.
The two plusses from last night were Ramsey and Santi. The Spaniard seems to be getting fitter and sharper, although he is not completely there yet; and the Welshman showed his strength and confidence during a number of one to one battles with the Chavs’ midfielders, which really pleased me.
There is no need to read too much into last night’s result, though. If we make five changes in the ‘back seven’ (including ‘DMs’ and GK) then we are simply asking for trouble against a team like the Chavs, especially when leaders like BFG, Sagna, Arteta and Flamini are all missing – the latter two through not being available. That also makes me think Wenger did not mind losing the game yesterday, as he would have opted for at least the BFG or Sagna if he had cared for getting a result.
I am glad to have the game out of the way now and we no longer have to play in the League Cup this season. But now it is time to pick up our form and winning streak again by beating the Dippers on Saturday. CoYG! 🙂
The Chavs are coming to a proper stadium and let’s treat them to a proper game of football. I am sick to the teeth hearing how we had it easy until now and we will be tested properly during the next ten games. Bring it on, I say, and let’s give you all a proper smell of the Arsenal!
If everybody would be fit for this game, we could make ten changes from last starting eleven and still field an awesome team: Fab, Jenks, TV, BFG, Nacho, Arteta, Jack, Pod, Theo and Bendtner; and you can fit in Ox, Diaby if you like as well.
Not everybody is fit though, so Arsene will have to decide who to rest and who to give a chance. He does not like losing and especially not to the self-celebrating one, and let there be no doubt he will field a team that can win tomorrow’s game. It would also be only fair to field a decent to fairly strong team as tens of thousands of Gooners will make their way to THoF wanting to see our boys fight for a win. Maureen will not want to lose either, and we simply cannot let him have his way at our own ground. I don’t care about the League Cup one iota but I do care about beating the Oilers, and it is time we did so in style again.
So who is going to play? Not easy to guess, but I am going to break the thought processes for tomorrow’s line-up down as follows:
1. All players who did not have a break during the Inter-lull are likely to be rested;
2. With the exception of either BFG or Sagna, in order to shore up our defence tomorrow;
3. As many as possible established ‘nr.2’s’ in their positions will start;
4. Nr.1 players who are returning from a period on the sidelines will probably start (including Santi);
5. At most, three ‘youngsters’ will start in this game.
On the basis of the above and my expectation that Arsene will want to win this one, I reckon we will see the following starting eleven:
I believe the above team will do us proud tomorrow and come out victoriously.
But who would you play against the Chavs and do you agree we should field close to our strongest team, minus those who played during the internationals and therefore need a rest (with exception of BFG)?
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?