Perez, Ox, Alexis, Xhaka and top-Gunner Giroud Fight Back and Do us Proud

What a good night to be a Gooner.

Olivier Giroud scores Arsenal's equaliser against Bournemouth

I hear you say we dropped two points tonight in the title race and this may well be true, but to come back from (harshly) being 3-0 behind to take a point from this match is something special. In fact, this is the first time Arsenal have managed to come back from three goals down in the PL.

I will have to watch the game again to analyse it properly, which I may well do later this week. Bournemouth and Arsenal were both well up for this but the Cherries played a more disciplined first half and we paid handsomely for some  very bad defending.  In the second half, Arsenal were fabulous and saved our season.

Arsene opted for playing Coquelin and Xhaka in the DM positions and, as I have noticed and posted before, they are both prone to playing very deep, in front of the defence. As a result, we invite teams to come and enter our half too easily and we struggle to move from a defensive position into attacking mode, as Coq and Xhaka are both not natural B2B midfielders imo. Bournemouth were crowding us out in midfield and then used the space behind our midfield very well, resulting in a number of very dangerous ‘turnover’ attacks. We should have pushed the Cherries into their own half and dominate proceedings – something we did very, very well in the last third of the game – but were unable to do this in the first half. For games like these we need players who are very comfortable on the ball in tight spaces, like Ozil, Santi and also Elneny, and boy did we miss them in the first half tonight.

Bellerin did not have the best of games defensively, but I blame Aaron or Iwobi – not sure who was playing with the Spaniard on the right wing at that moment in time – just as much for the first goal we conceded. It really was the sort of goal we should no longer concede: very poor defending from the team. I thought the penalty was a bit harsh, even though Xhaka was to blame for the foul. By the letter of the law it was a penalty but how many times are these sorts of fouls not given inside the box? 2-0 down and the boys tried to get back into the game but there was little cohesion between the players, and the Cherries kept fighting for each other and giving our players a very hard time physically all over the pitch, which was very impressive.

A good team talk was required by Arsene and the captain, and I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at half time.

We played a lot better in the second half but before we could score the referee made a howler by allowing Bellerin to be blatantly pushed off the ball by Fraser, who, to be fair, then did well to beat Cech for a 3-0 lead. At that moment in time, with just 32 minutes to go, we needed character to get back into the game. It was highly unlikely that we would avoid defeat, but it was crucial for the rest of the season that we would fight back with all we had.

On nights like these we need players who know what it means to wear the red and white shirt and who will move mountains to get us back into the game. This is a matter of character and talent, but without the former the latter does not mean much. I reckon all of the players showed character but it was also clear that some just did not have the qualities to make a difference. This could be down to rustiness but it is during games like these when Wenger can really judge the quality of his players… and some did not make the grade. I am not going to mention names in this post but at one point I will come back to this.

Iwobi did his very best but this was a game too many in the nr10 role for him, which, given his age and lack of experience in the PL, is perfectly acceptable. Bringing on Perez for Alex, something I would have done at half time (if not start him in the first place), gave the team the impetus and shape to start the fight back. It freed up the Ox to add more focus to our attack, which he had failed to do until then. From a more central creative role, the Ox started to get our attackers more in the game, and I have to give him credit for this.

Perez is our new Freddie Ljunberg: his runs into space and ability to hold onto the ball are key and his ability to create  space, passing opportunities and chances for others, as well as getting himself in good positions, are all very Freddie-esque. He scored with a  very sweet left-footed volley from a well-placed Giroud lay-off to make it 3-2 and thus gave us hope that we could still get something from the game. But it was his running and drive that made the real difference in the second half: he lifted the total team performance significantly, making Ox, Giroud, Alexis and especially Xhaka, who had an awesome last third of the game, much more effective players.

Before that Alexis, another player we can always count on not to hide away, had scored from Giroud’s desperate flick-on header.

And then it was Giroud himself, after providing two hard fought for assists, who scored a technically perfect, classical header from a peach of a Xhaka cross to equalise in extra time. I know Ollie will always have his haters, and we can point out his fabulous stats – best goals per minute ratio in the PL this season for example – or his considerable team contributions, till the cows come home, but tonight he showed again how much he is a true Gunner and how valuable he is for us. Pound for pound, Ollie is one of the best Arsenal signings ever.

Had the game lasted five more minutes, I reckon we could have won but also lost it, as Bournemouth were as keen as us to win the match. In fact, Cech saved us very late on from defeat with a characteristic stop.

If the Chavs keep winning games the way they have done in the last few months, we will not win the league – and chapeau to them if this were to be the case. But the fight back by our boys tonight tells me that we have what it takes to make it very, very hard for them if they were to become human again, which, as we all know, will sooner or later happen.

Goodnight to you all from one proud Gooner.

By TotalArsenal.



Holding Surprises, Sanchez the Team Player, Wingers on Fire: 5 Positives

Arsenal 3 -4  Liverpool

A bonker’s game with a bitter aftertaste, but the positives are sweeter than our senses allow us to register. 

Well that was some game of football and what a shame we did not at least take a point from it. First half was Arsenal’s and the key thing to take is that we dominated Pool for 46 minutes, and mostly in their own half. With a sumptuous free-kick Pool managed to equalise before half time and that made all the difference. At half time, the Arsenal players will have felt very badly done to: how could they be level after such a strong showing? The focus will have been on regaining a lead as soon as possible and for that all players have to push up… and for this we paid… 😦

On the other hand, the Pool players will have been feeling very high on getting away with a bad performance and the joy of such a fine free-kick going in at an away ground. Klopp then said to his attackers that they have to force themselves closer to Arsenal’s ‘D area’ and get in  between the CBs and the wall of CoqElneny. He also will have told them to target Arsenal’s left flank as much as possible…. and as we know, it worked a treat for them. Bang Bang BANG, three goals in quick succession and we all felt sucker punched in our reproductive area. Everything that could go right for Pool went right and sometimes this happens in football (we had it against MU at home last season).

It was a clever tactical adjustment by Klopp and he deserves credit for it. It also exposed a weakness we were aware of: a young CB pairing of Holding and Chambers would not have the experience to deal well with the initial blow, something that would not have happened with Koz and/or the BFG in defence.

However, credit to the team for fighting hard and getting two goals back, and with a bit more luck we would have gotten what we deserved.. a draw. At the start of the season it is quite normal that a game goes out of control, especially with a makeshift central defence. Of course it is very attractive to come up with all sorts of ‘I told you so’s’ and ‘we should have done this or that’ but it is just the opening game of the PL for us and things went off the scale after the break. I have seen enough – especially based on our firs half – to believe we will have a very good chance to win the league this year. I predict two clean sheets in our two coming games in August, and plenty of goals.

Five Positives from the game:

  1. Holding and Bellerin held their side of defence really well and had a good connection. I don’t believe our loss was all down to Chambers and Monreal failing the left side of defence, as all defenders have a duty to defend our  box when the ball gets played in, but it was quite obvious that we were porous from the left, and the Pool attackers, just like the MC attackers did last week, penetrated us there time and again. This needs immediate attention. But Holding was calm and classy throughout the game and as it stands it looks like Chambers is the one who will lose out when Koz returns.
  2. We scored three times, and could have had more. I am pleased to see our goals being scored by different players and that we did not just feed the ball to Sanchez time and again to produce them for us. Alexis worked hard and created space for us, just like Ollie so often does, and we found the net through Theo, Ox and Chambers. Many will miss the importance of Alexis’ selfless team play yesterday, but Wenger won’t.
  3. We are getting goals and assists from our ‘mid-wingers’. This is the one position where I felt we needed to improve the squad, but with goals from Theo and Ox from the wing and a peach of an assist by Iwobi, we had a very nice return for those positions.
  4. The wall of Elneny and Coquelin did very well, especially in the first half- my favourite match reviewer on the ‘ArsenalArsenal’ blog called them ‘the dogs of war’ which is exactly what they were. I feel that they were also at fault for Pool breaching our defence so devastatingly in the second half, so a bit more work needs to be done. But I loved the way they bossed the midfield in the first half and supported the attack in putting pressure on Pool’s defence. Le Coq’s tackle that led to the first goal was a pure delight.
  5. We had a good bench, especially in midfield, and bringing on Santi and Ox made an immediate difference. With Mesut, Ollie and Koz joining the first team soon, we will be very strong in almost all areas… except the obvious one 😉

Not the start we wanted, but still some good positives to take from the game. Let’s hope we will get a good CB to strengthen our defence and/or that Wenger and Bould find a way to steady the ship this week.

All to play for.

By TotalArsenal.


El-Super-Neny MOTM, Giroud-Welbeck the Future, Alexis’ Last Game? Arsenal v Norwich Afterthoughts

Happiness is a warm, yes it ihihihiss, Gunner!


While for some, especially the lazy side of the media, this was about ‘the protest’, for many others we were playing a crucial game for staying in the top four and secure Champions League football once again.

I have nothing against fans protesting and demanding change as long as it is done appropriately. Doing it in our very own stadium and when we need to win is, in my opinion, not appropriate but at least it was done in a tasteful way. I am also aware that there are not many good opportunities to protest, so I understand why it was done yesterday, even though I don’t agree with it. The sense of a lack of progress and seeing patterns being repeated every season has made a lot of fans hungry for change. However, I never doubt Arsene’s and the players’ passion to win and give their all to win silverware, and as long as that is the case I will back them all.

Would I be adverse to a new manager for next season? NO, but I am just as happy to see Arsene try to get us the shiniest silverware once more. After four cups in two years this is a disappointing year, but let’s keep things in perspective…. we are still a very, very good team with tons of potential for improvement from within as well as cash to spend to add super quality. There is no need for despair.


The game was predictable as in Norwich parking the bus and us trying to find a way through with blood, sweat and tears. What is worrying is the number of chances we keep giving away even though we dominated possession and were in control of the game for large parts. Teams seem to counter easily against us and a bit of pressure on our defenders often leads to defensive mistakes and embarrassing moments in front of our goal. 69% possession only led to three shots on target (out of 14 shots) – the same as Norwich (from 12 shots). We won 1-0 but it could easily have been different, and that has been the story of our game since the start of the new year.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are struggling to break down the PTB teams due lack of cohesion within the attacking team. I cannot put my finger on the exact reasons for this. The lazy, one-dimensional supporters just want to point their fingers to Giroud. If only he was replaced by Aguero, we would be winning the league by ease, they keep telling me. For me it is more complicated than that. Ollie is definitely not himself at the moment, but he also is getting quite poor service by his fellow players. Furthermore, fellow attackers are not playing near enough to Ollie to benefit from his hard work to make space for, and connect with, them. He may be Wenger’s number one CF but some fellow attackers may see it differently; at this stage of the season, we should see a lot more joined-up attacking play between Alexis, Giroud, Rambo and Ozil but it looks like they are four talented individuals not conversing in the same footie language.

Welbeck’s arrival brought new energy to the team and his running hurt the tired Norwich defenders and midfielders a lot. But Danny was also keen to work with Ollie in setting things up and he was rewarded for this by a fine lay off from the Frenchman that led to the only goal of the game, worth a priceless three points. I reckon there is very little cohesion between Alexis and Giroud, and this seems a structural problem; and I would not be surprised to see Wenger start Welbeck and Giroud together in the last two games of the season, as this will give us the best attacking balance and potency.

Alexis, who had another game in which the quality of his passing and final ball is not matched with his enormous energy and willingness to come for the ball, did not have much impact on the game. I had lost count of the number of times he misplaced a pass, which clearly is not his strength, even though he never stops trying. Just a handful of PL assists (4) is not good enough for a player in his position and of his stature, and his lack of accurate passing, especially with his final balls, is probably the cause of this.

Wenger also needed to strengthen the midfield as we needed to get a better balance between going for a second goal and defending our slender lead. To take Alexis off and bring on Coquelin made sense, but Alexis clearly thought differently. This is fine, but given the circumstances of this match it was very poor of him to ignore the beleaguered manager and stomp off for an early shower. I would not be surprised if we see Alexis start on the bench during the next few games and possibly not play part at all anymore. It would also not surprise me if we see Arsenal cash in on the 27 year old Chilean this summer, although I sincerely hope that is not the case.

I loved what Danny brought to the game and I am happy he found the net again. Was he MOTM though? Not for me. The best player on the pitch was Elneny – closely followed by Mesut, Cech, Koz and Danny – who did half of Rambo’s box to box job as well as his own deeper DM role. He hoovers up around his fellow players continuously with unrivaled energy and passion; he keeps it simple yet always wants to move the ball forward when he can and with seldom or never making a mistake; he fills important gaps in our defence but also penetrated the opposition’s box regularly, and was very close to scoring yesterday with a fine, composed effort. What a beast of a player and the thought of him working with a fit Jack or Santi, or Le Coq when we have to play more compact, is mouthwatering. It is early days but this seems to be as good a midfield signing as Mesut Ozil was a few seasons ago.

I was also proud of Ozil, Koz and Petr, and indeed the rest of the team, for their drive and fight during the entire game. Mesut never stopped trying, Koz was beastly in defence and brought the ball forward well and Petr’s saved us a few times when required.

Three points and the supporters doing their job by supporting the team and the manager during a meaningful game and a crucial period of the season. Plenty of positives but also lessons to be learned from our recent games, and getting the balance right against Citeh next weekend will be paramount to where we will end up in the PL table. Let’s give the Northern Oilers a proper game!

Arsene having the final dance? 🙂

By TotalArsenal.



A right-winger, DM cover and CF short of Victory: Arsenal v Barcelona Afterthoughts

The morning after the night before, and I cannot help but feel a bit melancholy. The head says the boys gave their all and we were beaten by a stronger team, but the Gooner heart is bleeding nevertheless. For seventy minutes we played well, as in we were disciplined and stuck to the un-Arsenal-like game plan. And then we became ourselves again, wanting to play the sort of football that our opponents do and which is so ingrained in our on-field philosophy. Self-denial can only last so long.

I cannot really blame the crowd and the players to forget themselves – or should that be ‘become themselves again’? – after seventy minutes of holding back our instincts, only then to get cruelly punished for it by the three-headed strikers’ dragon (at a vulgar street value of say £250m!).


We all knew that Barcelona getting the vital ‘away goal’ – an archaic rule that should be scrapped immediately – was a hammer blow we were unlikely to recover from. To get caught on the break like that, after seventy minutes of disciplined defending and careful attacking, is just nasty. It is easy to blame somebody for it, but it looked like the whole defence and midfield cocked up badly. I wish Koz had taken one for the team when he was dealing with Suarez early on of that counter-attack, but it is easy to say this in hindsight. Not long after that, Flamini, not even on the pitch for a minute, conceded a penalty after being short-changed by the until then immaculate, omni-present in the box, BFG, which Messi did not mess with.

0-2 with only little time to get back into the game, and, in fact, it could have got worse for us as our opponents were pushing hard for a third goal. A harsh and hard reality check for the Gunners and Gooners, but, on the plus side, we got a good demonstration of what we are still missing to make it to the very, very top of world football – and with us the other 99.9% of football teams in the world.

It could all have been different if we had taken our big chance when the ball fell to the Ox just three yards from the goal line and enough time to take a touch and focus on a clinical finish. Unfortunately, he did not make a good contact and played the ball meekly into Verstegen’s grateful arms. It seems typical of games like these that the best chances fall to the least strong attackers – remember Flamini’s recent chances against the Chavs?

It should have gone in but it did not, and when we play opponents like last night’s it always feels like a double miss when this happens – remember Ozil’s missed penalty against Bayern at home? I don’t want to blame the Ox too much for this as he is still at an age when these sort of opportunities often get wasted. I don’t think Wenger should have combined Ox and Bellerin, two promising youngsters, on the right wing, though. Against this sort of opponent experience and confidence is key, and one youngster on that wing was risky enough; two was asking for trouble imho.

That right mid-wing position is clearly still an issue at Arsenal. If Wenger feels that neither Campbell, Theo or Danny should start ahead of the Ox in a game like this one, we have some shopping to do in the summer.

On the left wing, we had Nacho and Alexis and I expected more from this duo. Nacho did very well defensively and tried to help out Alexis whenever he could. The Chilean firecracker really struggled to get a grip on this game and produce the sort of magic we know he is capable of (but we have seldom seen in 2016). That was one of the biggest disappointments of the night for me.

I thought Giroud did okay and worked hard to make things happen for the team, but it is fair to say that he also did not excel on the night. In our system, Giroud is not meant to be the lethal CF but a good CF and an excellent link-up attacker, who creates and scores in equal measure. In last night’s game we needed something special from our strike-force, and Alexis, Giroud, The Ox and Theo (who replaced the Ox early on in the second half) all played below par to make that happen.

There were plenty of positives though. Rambo played phenomenally well, showing us all what a great b2b he is and what an engine he possesses. The combo of Coq and Rambo were very disciplined and really were effective in stopping Barca play for 70 minutes or so; and how many teams can do that? Ozil was lively and always looking for attacking opportunities but was let down by the ball control and (lack of effective) off the ball running of many of his fellow attackers. Belerin had a fabulous game and so did Cech and Monreal. The BFG-Koz CB combo held out well for a long period of the game but suffered badly once the team discipline went out of the window – for which they are to blame as well.

In summary, we are still a little short of the very, very top level of football. There should be no shame in this: we are building a top, top team and this needs to take time, and our opponent are on a crest of long-term success, doped by continuous quality purchases that we cannot afford and/or attract as much as they do. In order to reach the European/World top level, we need to build further on the good basis of this team and we can do that by spending our money carefully in the summer. First we need to win the league and then establish a platform of squad quality and depth, confidence/belief and experience to beat the likes of Bayernlona, Barca or Madrid.

I don’t think it will be easy to achieve this but it is not impossible either – and we should not underestimate how much the German and Spanish Giants are ahead of the rest of Europe right now. We are lucky that we have the football ground – how fantastic were those aerial helicopter shots of THOF last night? – the financial structure and income, and a very decent, relatively young and still developing squad to make the leap forward.

But it also requires vision, guts and investment by the BOD, and, if last night’s game made anything clear, then it is where Wenger needs to strengthen the squad in the summer: a right winger/midwinger of Alexis’ caliber, possibly another CF (depending on the system Wenger wants to play), better DM cover/challenge for Le Coq and a quality CB to gradually take over from the BFG. On top of that, we need more leadership so we can last ninety rather than seventy minutes. Some will come from within and some will have to be bought.

But we don’t have to play one of the European super top-three teams every day and against Manure I expect us to bounce back to do the shirt proud. 🙂

“This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure” W. Churchill.

Bring on the Mancs!

By TotalArsenal.



Seeing patterns in chaos: Arsene finally has his new Bergkamp

Arsenal 2 – 0 Bournemouth Afterthoughts

Like many of us, I was not able to go to the game or watch it live on TV. I relied on the BBC website and customary precise in-game comments from 17HT to follow the match. Of course I would rather see the boys in action, but it is also quite fun to picture how the game is going merely from text snippets. Later on I saw the extended highlights on Sky and these confirmed to me to a large extent what I had already imagined.

Arsenal, after a tentative start, played with the gas paddle firmly pushed down: full of energy and desire to go TOTL. We created the perfect storm to shatter the Cherries and it could have been a lot worse for our opponents if the likes of Theo, Giroud and Ox had been wearing their shooting boots.

Having lots of energy and desire can get you far, but on its own it’s not enough. It needs to be supported by a solid, controlling spine and defence, and quality attackers who deliver the key outputs: goals and assists. We all know that when Arsenal combine desire and energy with the considerable qualities within our squad, we can more or less beat anybody on the day.

But we also need somebody who sees patterns in chaos, and who operates in the eye of the storm rather than on the periphery of it.  

And for me the key memory of this game will be Mesut Ozil being in his own ‘zen-zone’ while the rest were running wild. Of course this is not the first time that Mesut has been majestic and key to our victory, but I cannot recall many games in which he was so obviously the one superior player.


With thanks to Voetbal International for picture.

Mesut has an ability to rise above the game whilst being fully involved at the same time, and this, combined with his superior technical skills and deep desire to play beautiful yet effective football, truly sets him apart from almost every current Arsenal player. Nine scoring opportunities created in one game (one every ten minutes), leading to only one assist, whilst also scoring a goal himself, tell us a lot.

In fact, he was so good that, unintentionally, he made the rest look inadequate on the day, with especially Theo wasting some of the finest balls served by the master. Giroud also should have done better but he at least returned the service to Mesut, who then showed the Frenchman and the rest of the team how to finish a quality opportunity. I have a picture in my mind of Alexis watching the game and being sick of not being on the pitch to devour Mesut’s attacking balls; and I don’t think he will have been the only attacker in the country, and indeed the rest of the world, who would have loved to have been on the pitch with the German producing one exquisite through-ball after the other.

Mesut Ozil – the perfect blend of ‘stillness and speed’

So for me, this game, in a nutshell, was won because we had superior quality on the pitch compared to Bournemouth and we had the desire and energy to make it count, but without our conductor and master creator of scoring opportunities it could have been different.

A successful Wenger team always needs a Bergkampesque player to embody his vision on the pitch, and Mesut is very close to filling the Dutchman’s enormous boots. So let’s bless ourselves that Mesut is a Gunner and he is well on his way to becoming this decade’s Bergkamp for us… and this is something I don’t say easily! 🙂

To keep him at Arsenal long term, the rest of our attackers better step it up and learn to feast properly of Mesut’s service… we don’t want him to think he is wasted at the Home of Football, do we?!

Finally, a special mention should go to Chambers who performed well in an unfamiliar role. Is he a decent option for our DM position? Too early to say but he did not disappoint and played a key role in controlling the midfield for us.

By TotalArsenal.

8 Positives from Arsenal v Man City: Our Victory Is No Fluke

Eight positives from Arsenal v Man City – and why it is no fluke that we beat them!


Laurent Koscielny celebrates his goal against Crystal Palace but he is an injury doubt for Tuesday's
Koz was my man of the match – for players ratings see previous post!

In a way, this game can be summarised in a few lines: there were thirty minutes of probing by each team and showing too much respect to each other; then Man City had a very decent chance to take the lead but they didn’t; this miss woke Arsenal up and within no time we were one up; as so often, Arsenal kept pushing for a second and before half time we got it; in the second half, Man City pressed forward more, making it easy for us to play on the counter; we had very good chances to score a third and put the game to bed… but we didn’t; City scored a late goal and it all got a bit hairy..but we held on.

However, there was of course more to this game and why we won it, and I will summarise these in eight positives:

  1. Ramsey beat Yaya Toure, with a bit of help by Wenger. They are similar players and Yaya is one of those players who could fit in any team, whereas Aaron is on his way to become a great player. But on the night he was more disciplined defensively, whereas Yaya lacked this throughout the game, and this made all the difference. Ozil had tonnes of space and was able to control the ball in front of the opponent’s ‘D area’, mainly because Yaya did not give enough protection to their defence and leaving his partner to cover too much ground. Mesut always finds space but he did not have to look hard for it yesterday. Ramsey, on the other hand, held back and formed a strong defensive midfield line with Flamini, therefore not allowing the creative midfielders of City to get near our ‘D’. He did this most effectively in the first half, and in the second half he was able to get more forward as well, which left us more exposed but also gave us great opportunities to score a decisive third goal.
  2. Theo and Ollie each took their first proper chance, whereas De Bruyne missed his. In top games, scoring the first goal is very important and for that we need confident, quality players who rise to the occasion. Theo took his chance brilliantly and it was a big sucker punch to City: after that we never looked back, except for the last ten minutes or so.
  3. Ozil is in the form of his life, whereas Da Silva only just returned from injury. Furthermore, as per ‘Positive’ one, Ozil was given freedom to roam whereas Da Silva was tightly marked by Flamini. Ozil’s second assist was a great example of how quickly he sees a scoring opportunity and is able to execute it. Giroud deserves credit as well for his anticipation of Mesut’s ball: it was all done in a flash and the game was more or less decided after that.
  4. Giroud is a more complete striker than Aguero. The Argentinian is the more lethal finisher, but Giroud offers more in terms of hold up play, defensive duties, aerial threat and getting other players involved in the attack. I have written many posts about Giroud’s importance for this Arsene/Arsenal team and last night you could see once more why our manager values him so much.
  5. Cech is better than Hart. Petr puts doubt in attackers’ minds; Joe gets bullets fired at him. Enough said.
  6. Koz and BFG is a settled pair of CBs whereas Otamendi and Mangala are not (yet) gelling, and enough has been said about the importance of Kompany in City’s team. The BFG might have a few weaknesses but his strengths are very important to Arsenal; and Bellerin, Koz and Monreal compensate these very well. Together they are a unit with the Koz-BFG core offering a great combination of defensive disciplines and skills. Of course it also helps Per when we play deep and compact, as we did yesterday for a large part of the game.
  7. Monreal and Bellerin outperformed Sagna and Kolarov all night. In our system, the full backs, or wing backs, are very, very important. They provide the extra width and penetration from the sides but also need to be fast and robust enough to recover quickly when out of position. Most importantly, they need to read the game well and make sound decisions on whether to support the attack or not, time and again. Our Spanish full backs where once again awesome.
  8. Togetherness, hunger to win, collective joy… call it what you want, but we wanted it more yesterday. Just watch the way we kicked off the first half and then how City kicked off the second. Our players had a spring in their step from the moment the ball was allowed to roll. They sensed the occasion, the opportunity to make a statement, and this was not just represented in one or two players, but the entire team. I thought City did well in the last twenty minutes and there is definitely enough team spirit to rival us on this front, but we still ‘out-togethered’ them yesterday, which is arguably the biggest ‘positive’ of them all.

So plenty of positives in our team, and many of these are of a structural nature. And let’s build on these when we play the Saints on Boxing Day. UTA, COYRRG, OGAAT and all that..!

Merry Christmas fine fellow Bergkampesquers! 🙂

images (2)

By TotalArsenal.  

Arsenal have a B2B mid again, Majestic Mesut, Nacho the Winger: 8 Positives

Arsenal v Sunderland-Premier League

A hard fought win, three invaluable points, no further injuries and Rambo is back. There are still people out there who believe there are easy games left in the Premier League, and how wrong they are. Bournemouth beating the Chavs at the Bridge… City getting hammered by the Orcs… Manure not able to score a single goal against the Hammers at home… and that is just this week’s pick of giant killing and bodily harming.

Arsenal knew they had to fight for the goals and a win today, and our winning spirit combined with team cohesion and camaraderie, go a very long way. On top of this, the players and the manager are one, and you only have to look at MU and the Chavs to realise that this is not always a given.

There are concerns about injuries and players available going into this very busy December month, and rightly so. But the area in which we have all players fit and available, our defence, we are currently underperforming the most…. Football is a strange, unpredictable game at times. Our back-five looked all over the place at times and we got away with some bad defending today, due to Sunderland not being very familiar with finding the net these days and, of course, the Cech factor. I reckon Bellerin is missing the support from Ramsey on his flank a lot; on the other hand, I wonder whether Hector Vector should play a bit more like a conventional FB, as Nacho is currently offering the strongest wing support of the two anyway…. We definitely need to play more compact and organised at the back on Wednesday, if we want to go through to the next round in the CL.

Luckily we had our shooting boots on and managed to score three goals: that is three more than MU, the Chavs and MC today, who all could not find the net despite massive player investments over the last few years. And we got those goals, despite sexy Alexis and Danny Champion of the World being injured, and Theo only playing for twenty minutes or so.

Eight Positives From the Game:

  1. Ozil: what is there to say that has not already been said: Mesut is in top form, on top of the world and carrying the team through a difficult mini-period. His vision and speed of thinking and acting are unsurpassed and his passion for football is never in doubt, even though he does not always show it on the outside. If you are about to have a baby-boy… call him Mesut, is all I am saying. 🙂
  2. Rambo is back: did you see how many times he arrived in time in the box to finish off an attack, or help to make the most of one? That is what Aaron brings and what you would expect of a B2B midfielder. Yes, he still had rusty moments and he needs to find a better balance between defence and attack (together with his DM partner the Flame), but we needed his energy and link up play so badly today (especially with both Santi AND Alexis missing). And a goal and assist make up for a couple of iffy defensive moments, don’t you think?!
  3. Nacho: what a drive and passion this guy has! Especially in the second half he just looked like an orthodox winger at times. Is there a more complete Wing-Back in the country?
  4. Giroud delivers again: unfortunate with the OG at the end of the first half, for which I won’t blame him at all, but he made up for it with a well-timed run and a fab finish that could have easily gone past the wrong side of the post. He also had the ‘pre-assist’ for the all-important first goal, with a classical lay-off to Ozil, who then found Campbell with a superb through-ball.
  5. Theo came on and added real zest to the team: really good to see him back and he got the pre-assist for the third goal, so not a bad cameo.
  6. Cech was awesome and kept us in the game, both with his saves and his persona/aura. What a signing, Arsene, what a fecking brilliant signing! How many points has he saved us already this season…?
  7. Campbell made a very good run and finished calmly for our first goal. We all had high hopes for him initially, but it is now clear that he needs a bit of time and support from us, to play himself into the team. And his all-important first goal of the game will do him good. The one that will be worried most about Campbell’s gradual progress is the Ox, who once again did not convince and did not get on the assist or score sheet today. I have a feeling that the coming four weeks might determine his future at Arsenal… This is your ‘Le Coq’ moment, Alex..
  8. No further injuries, as it stands, so happy days.

By TotalArsenal.

Angry with Santi, Monreal for Coq, Rambo is back! Afterthoughts.

West Brom v Arsenal afterthoughts

Good afternoon Fine Fellow Gooners

Just back from a fine, long weekend in the serene Highlands of Scotland. Snow-peaked, ancient mountains, mirrored in enormous, still-as-a-mouse lakes, topped off by blue skies and decorated by autumn colours: and all that almost all to ourselves! 🙂

 Until now, I was only able to watch the highlights but I did listen to intermittent radio commentary on Saturday afternoon. The radio commentator said that we went behind against the run of play, and looking at the highlights, we seemed a tat unlucky to not take anything from the game. Well hey, that is football! And we have been lucky enough until now to avoid this sort of outcome of a game in most cases.

I have said before that away games after an international break are hard to win. The combination of the horrific Paris terrorist attacks only eight days before the kick-off, which will have left especially our French players shaken, and the lack of time for Wenger to bring his team together and prepare them mentally for the Baggies’s challenge, may have been too much. Furthermore, the lack of quality options on the bench also did not help. But ultimately, we lacked composure, and luck was not on our side. Games and results like these we need to take on the chin and not overanalyse, even though it is so attractive to point to finger to one or more individuals and make yourself feel a little bit better.

The only person I am angry with, is, of course, Santi Cazorla; and I reckon Wenger will not quickly forget his lack of responsibility at a crucial moment in the game. I remember having a discussion with Retsub (where are you these days my friend?) re Santi taking a cheeky, chipped penalty against Norwich (if I remember rightly) a few seasons ago. We were winning the game comfortably by something like 3-0 and we were rewarded a spot-kick; Santi stepped up and tricked the keeper with a cheeky chip towards the middle of the goal. The keeper had already committed to a corner and could do nothing about this audacious penalty attempt. Both Retsub and I were a bit unhappy with the lack of respect this penalty attempt showed towards the goalkeeper and how it easily could have gone wrong… but it went in, so we could not complain too much.

When the team has been fighting soooo hard to get back into the game and we finally get a penalty awarded that could get us level, it really has to go in if we are serious about winning the league this time round. We have an experienced squad now with a large number of internationals who have handled far bigger pressures: whoever takes the penalty for Arsenal needs to be pretty sure he will convert it. Santi slipped so it was just a case of bad luck, some will say. But I reckon Cazorla was about to try one of his cheeky, nonchalant penalties again and it was his own stilted movement that made him slip; and this time he made an utter fool of himself. He even touched the ball twice, so the opposition were awarded a free-kick! Next time, Santi, take a normal penalty kick, or even better, ask Sanchez or Giroud to take it. Anybody can miss a penalty, but you have to at least make the goalkeeper work ffs!

The injury to Coquelin is very unfortunate, even though he could have been a little bit more careful perhaps. But in the end, Francis is a DM and it is about winning the physical and mental battles to get the upper hand, so I have no qualms with him getting injured like he did on Saturday… it is an occupational risk he has to be willing to take.

It is funny, we worry about the international players coming back with fatigue and therefore have increased risk of getting injured, but it is the fully rested players – Coquelin and Arteta – who get injured… We will have to see what Wenger will do to fill the void, as Coquelin has been our DM rock over the last few months. Surely, this is an opportunity for the Flame or even Chambers to (re)claim this crucial position….

Or maybe, this is an opportunity to move Nacho next to Cazorla in the double DM pivot? We need to play Gibbsy more, and I just feel that Monreal would make the DM role his: he is clever, quick, reads the game well, is hard but fair and his intelligence (and knowledge of the defenders behind him) could make him the best replacement for le Coq…

But luckily, Rambo is back and he could make a big difference for us again. Campbell did not do too badly but the Rambo-Vector-Hector combination on the right should give us a new wing to fly with. Bring on Zagreb and let’s move on from the West Brom game. The show must go on and Rambo is ready to lift the team! 🙂

Come on You Rip-Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

Paulista HERO! | Move Ozil to left, Sanchez to right | Ramsey new # 10!

ugly football Chavs valuesPost game musings whilst my anger fades away….

I am an angry man. I am angry at Ref Mike Dean for allowing himself to be completely intimidated by the bully Diego Costa. And I am angry at Gabriel for being such a fall guy. Our team, absolutely lacking in street wisdom, make me angry. However, I can’t get myself to be angry with Diego Costa, I only despise him. In fairness to Gabriel, he stepped into the fray to separate Costa and Koscielny, but tipped over under that vicious scratch on his neck by Costa. Terribly handicapped in language, Gabriel couldn’t make his case. Shockingly, no Arsenal player rushed in to help him out. Not even Koscielny who should have tried to redirect Mike Dean’s attention to his own impeccable case. Neither did Santi, who was too busy being the nice guy next door. It irritates watching him in the tunnel before a match smiling and reacting obligingly to the opposing players. No, this should never be seen from the captain when hostility is about to begin. Two successive defeats, from two successive silly red cards, have left us reeling in confidence with precious grounds to make up. Our players must man up correctly, and think business and think smartly. I feel so much better after this little rant. So, back to football. With only 10 men, away to Chelsea, and at 0-0 I would have thought defence first. Chambers for injured Coquelin together with Debuchy in and Ozil out. Debuchy goes to right full back, with Bellerin playing in front of him. With our team forced to play deep, the pace of Bellerin is a much more valuable asset in any counter attack (or foot race) than Giroud’s, and maybe even Oxlade’s. Added to that is Bellerin’s greater defensive ability over both players. Ozil is sacrificed, not only because of his weak defensive output, but also because creative opportunities are minimal, playing deep and a man down. Our definite game plan should have been to try and keep the score at 0-0, and gamble on winning a foot race; courtesy of Walcott/Bellerin that might earn us a spectacular victory.

The infallibility of hindsight. From history to current affairs.

As I see it, what should be our biggest concern is Sanchez’s current form. I am afraid Premier League might have found him out, maybe not quite. Sanchez has such an impressive array of skills that it is difficult to accept that he is already pigeonholed. When Sanchez gets the ball wide left, everybody knows exactly what he is going to do. I mean everybody: friends, foes, neutrals, all alike. He will cut inside successfully. He will push the ball 5/6 meters and from outside the box usually, he takes his pot-shots. 8 chances out of 10 the shot is blocked. If the shot misses the bodies, then chances are it will go wide. It beats me why such a talented player does not put a variation to that pattern. Back-heel or turn and put the ball back into the space he vacated as he pulled men along with him, so his full-back can latch onto the ball in space. Or pass the ball to the right side of the field, which is usually vacated, his moves having drawn opposing players centrally. Or twist and twist and turn, to create openings for his mates to run in for a pass, or, at worst, pass the ball backwards for a fresh move to start. In this way he keeps everybody guessing, and keeps his move unpredictable, which his repertoire of skills can easily accommodate. Sanchez is naturally too demanding of himself, and this current drop in form would only heighten his determination to succeed trapped into doing the same thing. I feel the best way to rehabilitate him is by switching him to the wide- right position. This position will entice a different playing pattern from him, which he is also very equipped for (played in that position for Barcelona ahead of Pedro). Another area which I feel should be given some thought, is the #10 position. Everybody has accepted that it is a given that Ozil is our #10. This is because we can’t think beyond the link between #10 and creativity. But there is definitely more to #10 than only creativity. I was quite impressed with our ability to win the ball high up the field in our match against Newcastle. I believe it had a lot to do with Ramsey’s work rate at #10. That is an important factor which, when added to the fact that Ramsey is better able to make his crucial late runs into the box from the centre, should get us thinking. On top of this is the fact that our most creative player Ozil, is able to create from anywhere, not the least from the left-wide position. These tweaks are without prejudice to the habit of the players at interchanging positions. Who of Carzola and Ramsey should partner Coquelin in the double pivot position? This is coming back to the great debate. All I can say is that Ramsey lacks awareness to properly manage defensive space. He wants to be where the ball is: Songesque, and that creates gaps that can hurt us, which even his huge engine cannot nullify. Carzola is second only to Arteta in reading the game, both offensively and defensively. He is “ambidextrous ” in reading the field situation. His size notwithstanding, the argument is settled for me. To put it graphically, assuming all is well, I am saying the line-up against Leicester should be:


—–Bel——-Per——–Kos—–Mon ———


——-Alexis——–Ramsey——–Ozil —————


Before Leicester, we have a the Capital One Cup tie against Spurs, where we should expect extensive changes. However, with our injuries, options are getting limited.



Camp——–Ramsey ———Oxlade


I am not yet sure who should play in the double-DM pivot…

This is spectacular! Between this short time of starting to write this piece and now, I have made a 180 degrees turn. Gabriel Paulista is my new hero. Somebody needed to stand up to that brute called Diego Costa, and our man did it. It was the referee that goofed. Stories emanating from Brazil say that G. Paulista is the new national hero, because as you all know, Diego Costa is the most hated man in that country! By the way don’t begin to draw similarities between Costa and Suarez. Suarez remains a likable chap, loved by all his team mates. Diego Costa is loved by only one man, his manager. Come on You Gunners!!!

By Pony Eye

Coquelin for Captaincy, Alexis the mini Bruce Lee, Theo the TIger: 8 Positives from Arsenal v Stoke

Three points, a clean sheet, our main strikers scoring each and our main assisters having an assist each. Great day at the office. That we only scored twice from 29 efforts on goal we will not spend too much time on, shall we?! 🙂


I only watched the highlights on MOTD so no in-depth analysis of this game from me. Instead, I will share with you some quick observations and positives to offer a basis for discussion.

Eight observations/positives from a well worked win.

  1. We started strong, bamboozling the Stoke defence with high tempo football, lots of movement, and great variety of attacking play. Sanchez hit the woodwork twice, once with an archetypical gravity-defying header in full flight by the mini-Bruce Lee, and once with a precision drive from the edge of the box to the hero of the day, Butland’s, left goal corner. He deserved his season opener from one of these chances, but it will have to wait a little longer – next Saturday would be ideal! Theo could have had a brace if he had demonstrated a bit more composure, but more on that in a bit.
  2. But we needed an early goal to get a reward for our work and avoid the risk of conceding a goal against the run of play, which is our Achilles heel with the sort of football we play. All that energy and drive needs to be turned into goals as we cannot keep it up for ninety minutes. I reckon we need that goal before 35 minutes are on the clock, and luckily we got it.
  3. A great, aggressive but fair interception by Le Coq – a skill he has developed to the highest level – led to a quick turnover and Theo finally hitting the net. Ozil received the ball from Coq le Robber, and his ball over the top was well-measured and weighted. Theo controlled the ball well and sorted out his feet quickly to dink it over Butland. Great finish this time and the sort of goal we associate more with Walcott than being our tiger in the box; yet, that is what we all want him to be, and he has potential for it. Theo is more instinctive than composed, more a tiger than a wolf: he does not overthink or overdo, he just does. Sometimes it pays off, as it catches everybody unaware, and sometimes a bit of composure would have been the better option. But I reckon that is not how Theo is wired: he is a driller-killer, and he rather pounces a lot to get his pray at some point then wait patiently for the right moment. As a result, we will see him waste a lot of good chances…. But 11 goals in 11 starts, tell their own story..
  4. We had to wait a long time for the second goal. OG had only been on the pitch a few minutes before he hit the net. He looked a giant among the Stoke defenders when he jumped up for Santi’s well-measured free-kick, scoring a pain et beurre goal that he needed a lot. Just before his goal, Ollie missed an even easier opportunity, but let’s say he was still a bit cold (after being deprived from supporters’ luv for so long). Will OG become super-sub, or is Wenger alternating OG and Theo, depending on the opponent?
  5. Gabriel and Koz make a dynamic CB-duo, especially for these sort of games where we have a lot of possession in the opponent’s half and have to be wary of quick counters. Could it be that the BFG will not be a guaranteed choice anymore, or is he just injured at the moment? I hope Gabriel does not get in trouble for the elbow incident, but it was good to see that he was not intimidated by Arnautovic (?) and fought his corner. It would be good to hear how you saw the incident.
  6. Another clean sheet for the defence and for our new goalie, Petr Gunner Cech. After the nightmare opening against West Ham, we have now three out of four clean sheets, with just three goals conceded in in all our games. Petr had very little to do and will face his biggest Arsenal test yet on Saturday, but it is good to see that the defence is settling down and very solid right now. Without this we can forget about the title.
  7. I am loving our Spanish full backs. They provide width and are vital in keeping the tempo of our attacks going. They offer an important alternative to our box-penetrating play, and play the all-important triangles with our midfielders and attackers on the edges of the box so well. Bellerina put in a peach of a ball for Theo that OG would surely have converted. This boy will go far and fast, and not just literally speaking!
  8. One of my favourite bloggers, LB, suggested on another side that Coquelin should be considered for the captaincy. That was quite left-wing for me, but the more I think about it, the more I think it make sense. He sits in the middle of the team as DM, he is fearless yet balanced (against Newcastle he reacted brilliantly to all attempts to unsettle him) and he leads and communicates naturally. He is still young but should age come into this? What do you think fine fellow Gooners?

By TotalArsenal.