Iwobi puts Panic into Defenders | Ozil is Back, Beauty is Back | Alexis/Giroud Two Top CFs | Danny is Welbeck

Winning in Swansea was sweet and our Northwest rivals dropping valuable points even sweeter. We all knew that we needed a win against the Swans but not many were confident that the boys would be able to overcome a team that we have struggled against in recent seasons and would be out to play for their new – third this season – manager. The boys are so confident in their ability to turn anything round again that they once again did not bother much in the first half. Of course this is nonsense, but what is a worry is the team’s apparent inability to gel and play at the right tempo and intensity from the start.

As discussed in previous posts, this is largely due to the lack of cohesion and dominance of our midfielders in the DM pivot. Rambo and Xhaka are fine midfielders but they are struggling to play together effectively and as a result the whole team often suffers, as these two players have a pivotal linking, protecting and enabling role in the team. Luckily, Arsene is time and again able to lift their game significantly during the second half of recent games, which has made a huge difference. We have to hope that the boys will soon start to play much better together from the first kick-off.

Eight Positives From Game:

  1. Giroud keeps delivering and Wenger knows he has more than one quality option for the CF role. OG has 13 goals from 18 attempts on target and only needs 71 minutes for each PL goal on average, which is fecking awesome (best in the league by some distance). Losing twice in a row against the Toffees and Citeh seems to have made Arsene realise that he needed to put Ollie back up-front and either rest Alexis or play him on the wing. The Chilean firecracker does not seem too happy about this but I can see why Wenger wanted to freshen things up. It has worked out very well, with three wins and a hard fought draw in Bournemouth, but I have no doubt that Arsene will play Sanchez as CF again sooner or later. Key is not to become too predictable and over-reliant on the one player. Hopefully, Wenger can explain this to AS-Baby. 🙂
  2. Iwobi is dancing his way into this team. He is learning very quickly and the combination of incredible close control of the ball, great vision and fabulous passing ability is making the team play much better. Alex was for many the MOTM and quite rightly so. Often a young player does well initially and then starts to struggle with dealing with the expectations by the fans and manager, after which they usually struggle with form and self-belief for a long time before possibly coming good again (the Ox being a prime example). But Iwobi, just like Bellerin last season, appears to be able to keep growing steadily and is becoming a regular first team player as a result. His final ball, especially on goal, still needs improving but luck was on his side with two strong deflections leading to two Swans’ OGs. He is starting to put panic into defenders which is a sign of a quality attacker.
  3. Cech is a safe pair of hands. Made a very good safe in the first half and just does not do anything that makes his fellow defenders nervous. Petr is no attention seeker; he is the night-watcher.
  4. Ozil is back – Beauty is back. Our German conductor is endlessly mobile and inventive on the pitch and we have missed him. All the rest re him has been said many a time: Mesut is Mozart!
  5. Gabriel is becoming a very good utility defender, being able to replace both Mustafi and Bellerin with relative ease. The combination of Gabriel and Mustafi needs more work, but I am happy to play him with Koz in any defensive combination.
  6. Three clean sheets in the last four PL games, after conceding at least one in the previous eight PL games, is giving us hope that our defensive play is improving. It is by no means perfect, but if we can build further on this we have a good chance to get much closer to the Chavs in the next couple of months.
  7. Alexis, despite his shenanigans when he gets substituted, is playing very well for the team and is joined top scorer in the Premier League with 14 goals already. On top of this he produced seven assists which makes him the best attacker in the league. Wherever he plays he always creates danger for the team and is an outlet for fellow players. Let’s never forget this.
  8. Welback is beck. All digits crossed he will get fitter and fitter and help us win silverware this season. The attacking combinations we can draw from with players like Welbeck, Alexis, Giroud, Perez, Iwobi, Ozil, Theo and Ox are almost endless. The versatile and enthusiastic Welbeck really adds a lot to our attack going forward. He could be the difference come May.

By TotalArsenal.

 

Beastly Giroud Powers Arsenal into Fourth Round | Iwobi MOTM | Player Ratings

To use the football king of cliches, this was a game of two halves. What can we say about the first one? It was dire, the worst half of Arsenal football I have seen in a long while. We were disjointed throughout the team and collectively we had no fighting spirit whatsoever. Wenger left the normal leaders at home for  various reasons but there were plenty of players on the pitch who should have stood up and be counted: the likes of Ramsey, Ox, Giroud and Monreal were all not setting the example and were an insult to the shirt during those nasty first 45 minutes.

All our football pairs were not working as one, most notably the CB-pairing of Mustafi and Gabriel: it looked like they had never played together before and left our defence all over the place. The CB-FB pairings did not look much better and Ainsley had very little support from our right winger throughout the game. And then the midfield pairing of Rambo and Xhaka was disjointed, failing to dominate proceedings anywhere on the pitch. The Welsh wizzard had left his magic wand at home and the Swiss time master looked lost on the Deepdale pitch. Up-front, Ollie was isolated and our wingers, hard working Perez and day dreamer Ox, were not working close enough to him or provide him with the required service to hurt the Lilywhites. Iwobi looked lost like a jaguar on a float and all together we played absolute pants.

I was looking for leadership on the pitch: the one to three players in the spine who take initiative and set the tempo. Nobody did this but it was luckily  very different in the second half, after Wenger no doubt will have injected peppered carrots in 11 well-deserving Arsenals.

We were only one goal to the bad as a result of some woeful defending, but we all knew we were lucky not to be 2-0 or 3-0 behind. Preston had played with a high tempo and played some good football and they will be feeling quite sick to not have earned a replay at least.

With a higher tempo and a clear instruction for the midfielders to push up and dominate the opponents deep into their own half, the game changed immensely in the second half. We came out like a possessed team – the carrots had an immediate effect – and within a minute we scored the equaliser. Some very composed work by Iwobi around Preston’s ‘D’ led to a shooting opportunity for Ramsey just outside the box. The Welshman did not snatch at it but allowed himself to have a very soft touch in order to then unleash the venom in his right foot with devastating effect. It was a beautiful and powerful shot which left the keeper with no chance – Ramsey’s first goal of the season and boy did he, and we, need it.

After that, we kept up the tempo and played much more like a team. We did not create too many good chances but we also kept our opponents from causing us any danger. And then the Lilywhites started wilting and the Gunners came into the golden last ten minutes of the game phase – as Lewis Hamilton would call it: Hammer Time.

The boys increased the tempo and the attackers were now working with and for Giroud to give us the breakthrough. It was wonderful to see Welbeck joining the attack during this period and I reckon he made a difference straightaway. Rambo pumped one into the box and Ollie managed to direct the ball to Perez. Lucas was crowded out by defenders with his back towards the goal near the byline, but he managed to find his new mate Ollie with the deftest of back-heels. Ollie smelled his chance and a very, very powerful left leg got the ball over defender and goalkeeper by sheer willpower to win the match.

Image result for manowar band images

Giroud knows how much the away supporters love him and he scored that goal right in front of 6000 warm and happy Gunners. The goal meant so much to him and this time he did not celebrate with the copy of his scorpion kick but by thumping his Arsenal-logo-embroidered heart with the force of an insane Manowar warlord. He may not have the slickness and athleticism of our Gunner-Gods of Henry or Bergkamp, but what Ollie has done for us in the last few weeks is simply outstanding. For me he is very close to playing himself into my favourite Gunners team of all time. Beauty of spirit goes a long way.

PLAYER RATINGS

Ospina: 8 – calm, focussed, safe pair of hands.

Ainsley MN: 7 – too many times unsupported, but oozed calm and control for his age

Mustafi: 6 – more willpower than experience on show, not calm enough

Gabriel: 6 – same as Mustafi

Nacho: 6 – same as Mustafi

Rambo: 5 – fist half 2, second half 8 average = 5. Time to become a Manowar warrior…

Xhaka: 5 – looked lost but better second half. Not sure whether Rambo partnership works

Iwobi: 8 – never gave up trying, much better 2nd half due to Wenger’s team adjustments. MOTM

Ox: 4 – no more excuses for Alex

Perez: 7 – struggled at times but better 2nd half and what an assist!

Giroud: 8 – see above.

By TotalArsenal.

Costa Skinny-Latted by Koz and Mustafi, Alexis the CF Beast, Home-Grown Iwobi Arrives: 8 Positives Arsenal v Chelsea

Sometimes you need a bit of time after such an Arsenal performance: to let all the goodness stew and sink in. It is fair to say that the game only really lasted 45 minutes. The Chavs were hoping Arsenal would not push on and spare them in the second half, and we did. I have a strong feeling Wenger told the troops to show mercy for Conte’s men at half time, but this would have been very different if the original gatherer of yesterday’s first Chelsea 11 was still managing that team. For that Arsene  has to wait a couple of months. 🙂

Theo Walcott scores

Arsenal outclassed Chelsea in every department. We had more energy, better healthy aggression, better running, better passing, better tempo, better creativity, better chances and better finishing. The only area I was less happy about, and on another day it could have cost us at least a goal, was the cover for our left back: either Santi or Iwobi left Monreal dangerously exposed on more than one occasion in the first half. I guess that is why Wenger called the first half performance ‘near perfect’…

There are so many positives to take from the game, but the one that matters most is that we played as a team; in fact, we played as an all conquering machine. From defence to midfield to attack, we almost always were in control through our collective, fully integrated approach to playing football.

Key in this all was the way we pressed the Chavs and never let them settle. We had already witnessed eight days ago what high and vigorous pressing of Conte’s men can do them, when Pool destroyed them in just 45 minutes at the Bridge. We did exactly the same. They might have a few fast attackers, but as a team they lack energy and tempo, and they do not have the sort of quality players anymore who can dominate proceedings on their terms. Those days are over.

Key was also our dynamic, hungry yet disciplined CB duo, the fire in Coquelin’s belly and the creativity of the likes of Santi, Mesut and the superb Iwobi. Add to that the energy of the full backs, Theo and CF monster Alexis and you have our team summarised in a nutshell.

Eight Positives from  a great win at THOF:

  1. The unpredictability of our attacking football: we were so dynamic yesterday and once again we spread the goals and assists. The Chelsea defence just did not know who to concentrate on to eliminate our danger. The first goal was the result of a clever, never-give-up hunt down by Alexis on the sorry Cahill. After that he had to chip the keeper which Alexis did with great composure. The second one was orgasmic and I am sure not to have been the only one who made the accompanying sighs of pleasure when the goal was being created by the slick and sexy moves of Ozil, Iwobi, Bellerin and Theo. The third was also very sexy and really good to see that Ozil was fed by the unselfish Alexis to score his second PL goal this season.
  2. Arsenal have scored 20 goals in all competitions already this season with nine different goal scorers. I have always said that Wenger would like our goal threat to come from a variety of players rather than being over reliant on the one ‘Van Persie’; and we are spreading the goals alright now, based around our Total Football approach to the game!;
  3. It is great to buy a top quality player and see them succeed but it will never surpass the joy of seeing a youngster make it to the big stage. This season it is Iwobi’s turn and boy has he been brilliant until now. Alex fits in so well at this Arsenal team. He has great close ball control and has that rare little bit of extra time when on the ball, and his confidence is growing every week. He had a lovely, well spotted pre-assist for our all important second goal. Iwobi is a team player despite having two ‘I’s’ in his name, and he is currently our king of assists with three already. Go and watch him live if you can, is all I can say;
  4. The partnership between Mustafi and Koz is starting to look very good. Together they dealt really well with pantomime villain Costa who they totally skinny-latted;
  5. I have covered my views re Alexis as our CF on here many a time, but it is good to see how many are now agreeing that he is really lifting this team to another attacking level now. He now has four league goals and one CL goals but he also makes space and opportunities for others, with Theo already netting three league goals and Ozil having two league goals to his name. The whole team was MOTM, but if I had to choose one player it would be Alexis;
  6. The collective chasing and harassing of the Chavs, never allowing them to settle and then getting the job done in just 45 minutes. Class. And Theo’s hunger and discipline stood out yesterday: this is the way to play yourself back into our hearts my friend.
  7. The home support was awesome: it is a good example that if and when we play well and give our all the supporters will follow. It would be great if it worked the other way around sometimes as well, but yesterday the fans did their bit to overcome the much loathed opponent from West London;
  8. Wenger deserves credit for his first team choices and tactics: they were spot on and credit should be given by the entire Gooner community.

There are plenty more positives to add, so please do so.

By TotalArsenal

Alexis out-stings the Hornets, Xhaka and Ozil pure Class, Holding Firm: 8 Positives

Watford 1 – 3 Arsenal

We desperately needed a win more than anything else today. But we also needed to play some very good football the Arsenal way’ to get the supporters properly excited again… and luckily we got both against the Hornets. On top of that we had verbal confirmation that two new players, Mustafi and Lucas Perez, will be added to the squad, so every reason for us Gooners to be happy. And if not you may want to give the Samaritans a call… 🙂

It was of course a game of two halves, to use the nr.1 cliché in football. Arsenal were full of life and brutally lethal in the first the half and we saw out the second half with a few bumps but nothing too drastic. It would have been great if the boys had continued in the second half with the same intent and tempo of the first half, but it was also important to not get more injuries. Therefore, taking the foot of the gas and making some timely tactical changes and substitutions in the second half, was just what the doctor ordered.

Eight positives from a vital win:

  1. Alexis was superb especially in the first half. I love the ‘second’, alternative away shirt the boys wore today and especially Sanchez looked like the mini-hulk in it. Our Chilean firecracker was unstoppable through his movement and aggression all over the pitch. Two assists and a goal are a fantastic return for his efforts but it was also his overall team play that impressed me a lot. Supported by Theo and the less effective Ox on the wings, he offered great movement and availability to which the Watford defenders had very little answer. We will need more end product from the Ox and Theo going forward as Wenger is playing Alexis not like a typical super CF but more of a mixture between Giroud and say Aguero – a combination between hold up play and speedy penetration. The signing of Perez makes a lot of sense therefore, as he will add goals (and assists) on a regular basis, which is needed to make the system a success;
  2. Mesut Ozil scored! He also had the ‘assist’ for the penalty given early in the first half: a superb ball aimed at the space in front of Alexis from which he surely would head the ball home. Alexis was hacked down before he could score and the referee awarded the penalty after some initial confusion on the pitch. Santi took it well and that was a relief to us all. We need more goals from midfield this season and Mesut made a Lampardesque run into the box to head home with venom and precision. Great stuff and let’s hope there will regular goals to come from our midfielders this season.
  3. Xhaka carved the hornets nest open without mercy. I reckon Wenger is building a team that can add a few dimensions to their football. As per my first ‘positive’, we need goals from a number of attackers rather than rely too much on the one super CF. But we also need key passes and assists from a number of players, and playing Xhaka, Cazorla AND Mesut clearly gave us that. Xhaka did this regularly from deep, allowing us to attack with speed and precision and not give the Watford defence a lot of time to regroup. Some of Granit’s through-balls and diagonal thunderbolts were sublime today, getting the balls into the pockets like the best snooker player…
  4. Arsenal played a very attack minded formation today. I cannot remember the last time we played with so many quality, attack-focussed players: Xhaka sat deep but was constantly feeding our attackers; Santi sat also deep(er) but was mainly focussed on attacking Watford, and then there were the foursome of Ozil, Ox, Theo and Alexis attacking relentlessly, whilst being supported from behind by the Spaniard and Swiss geniuses! On top of this the full backs, especially Bellerin, kept bombing forward to support the attack. As a result, we saw an awesome black and yellow attacking machine, especially in the first half. Theo played with aggression and intent and produced a peach of an assist for Alexis’ goal – the all important second goal for us.
  5. Good substitutions. Of course such an attacking formation only works well if the tempo is high and we manage to keep our opponents hemmed in in their own half. In the second half we dropped the tempo and discipline a bit and gradually we allowed them back into the game. We sat too deep and allowed them to have players in and around the box and this led to a number of half-chances for the Hornets. They scored a typical ‘lucky pinball goal’ for which I cannot blame the defence too much. But after that we allowed them more chances and looked a bit vulnerable at times. Luckily, Wenger had good options on the bench and gradually both Jack and Elneny were able to bring a bit more calm and control back in to our play. It was really good to see Jack back on the pitch and let’s hope we will gradually see more and more of him. Elneny was great – what a player!
  6. Cech was solid. He made some good instinctive saves and oozed confidence and calm in our defence. Nothing more to say about him.
  7. Holding and Koz had another good game and could have had a clean sheet if a little bit more lucky. Our young England CB looked in control throughout the game and his height and strength were great assets today. Wenger will have to decide whether to keep playing him for a while and then introduce Mustafi gradually or to establish the French-German CB pair asap. I am really pleased for Holding and I hope he will get twenty of game time this season.
  8. The final ‘positive’ is for Wenger. He has had to work hard to get the signings he wanted and he has succeeded. There was also a lot of pressure on him to win this away game and he delivered in style. I have said before that we should make the first proper analysis of our chances to win the league after ten games, and I now believe we have everything in place, bar a lot of bad luck on the injury front, to fight for three points in every game and push upwards in the table. Let’s see where we are in a few months time.

Happy Interdull! 🙂

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 ÂŁ250m!).

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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.

 

 

Danny is Well-back, Giroud MOTM, Theo Delivers: 8 Positives from Arsenal v Leicester

Eight Positives from a potentially pivotal win.

I will need to watch the whole game again to do a proper tactical analysis. Such was the intensity of the battle with the Foxes, I was unable to analyse the match coolly at the end of it. So more tomorrow or Tuesday.

Wenger jubelt na gouden wissel: 'We zijn helemaal terug'

However, there are many initial positives  I can think of:

  1. Energy and desire: the Gunners were up for this game and matched the Foxes’ intensity in every area of the pitch. Especially our spine is full of hard working, passionate players. You would expect this but it is not always a given (as sorry Man City demonstrated once more today) and it is what earned us at least two points today. Ozil, Rambo, Giroud, Koz, Sanchez and the full backs were our turbo engines today;
  2. Cech kept us from an early setback with a crucial stop from Vardy’s header at the start of the game – helped a bit by Bellerin who put the Foxes’ striker off by jumping into him. He oozed calm and control as always;
  3. Giroud was  magnificent, with the only thing missing a goal or two. He gave the fine Leicester CBs constantly something to think about, linked up very well with his fellow attacking players and created space and chances for others. The Theo lay-off was clever and well-placed and his defensive interventions all over the pitch were exemplary. Is Aguero  a better finisher than Ollie? Yes no doubt about it. But, as today’s key PL games showed once again, when the Argentine does not score Man City often drop points, whereas we will often win games even if Ollie does not hit the net. Giroud’s has so much to offer to the team and for me he was the MOTM.
  4. Super substitutions by Wenger. Theo had not scored for a while so it was not without risk to put him into the team after sixty minutes, but he made a difference straightaway with positive, confident attacking play that was crowned by a very fine, super important goal. But the stuff of dreams was surely bringing on Danny Welbeck with less than ten minutes to go and for him to score the winner in the very last minute of the game. It worked out well for Wenger and I wonder how often we will see all of Alexis, Theo, Giroud and Welbeck together on the pitch. It all proved too much for the sorry Foxes in the end.
  5. Alexis’ work rate. Our Chilean firecracker is still shedding the rust of two inactive winter months, but he worked his socks off and always gave the Foxes’ defence something to think about. On a better day he would have scored a hat-trick but he never allowed his head to drop and that goes a long way for me.
  6. Ozil’s free-kick for the winner. Mesut gave his all again: always looking to add attacking value to the team by effort and invention. When he had to take the last kick off the game, he knew it had to be perfect and it was. He has produced many assists but this one was worth six points.
  7. Le Coq’s empathy for Nacho after Vardy converted the penalty that the Spaniard had given away. It was a harsh penalty to concede as Vardy, who had had a bad first touch, ran into Nacho and his outstretched leg to earn a penalty. More about Atkinson and his bafflingly poor refereeing tomorrow, but the pen was given and converted and Monreal had the weight of the world on his shoulder. It was really nice to see Le Coq console Nacho-man as a stadium can be a very lonely place at such moments. A touch of class.
  8. Our ability to get behind the Foxes defence. We all know that Leicester are solid in the middle and very hard to penetrate. Kante, especially, is a very fine DM and Drinkwater is also pretty impressive. When a team is set up like the Foxes, it is so important to use the flanks and get in behind them, and we did this time and again. Our FBs, Nacho and Bellerin, were a constant threat and Ox and Alexis were able to take on players and create chaos and space in their defence. We played a high tempo as well and this enabled Ozil and Rambo to keep finding players on the flank who then got in behind to create chances for us. We had 24 shots (six on target) which is a good indication of how many chances we created, and I reckon the use of the flanks was key in this, as this heat map of Arsenal (on left, on the right is Leicester’s – source BBC) shows:

Arsenal v Leicester heat maps

I am sure there are many more positives and I invite you to share them with us.

By TotalArsenal.

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?! 🙂

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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.

Arsenal v Liverpool review: Great 0-0 but why did Arsene take Giroud off?

Now that was a game of football – one of the best Harry Potter nose-bicycles I have ever watched live. We did not win and we did not deserve to either, despite a very good goal being cancelled unjustly. However, our second half display was more than good enough to win the game after all, and this gives us plenty of hope for the season ahead.

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We all know how expectations can ruin our enjoyment of the game. The loss against the Hammers has turned us in to grumpy, nervy supporters already with just three games of the season played, as we are treating every game now as a ‘must win’. This is unhealthy and, to be blunt, idiotic. It also does not help the team at all as they are already tense enough to realise their own ambition of going all the way to win the title. Take a chill pill rather than frantically indulging in criticising Wenger or the team; or, by all means, dream yourself champions by adding loads of super expensive players; but whatever you do, stay behind the team and try and enjoy the football on display.

I always feel privileged to watch our team at the home of football: what is better than watching a game live with the real Gunners right in front of you? I sat next to Pete who told me about his mate Simon being unable to come to the game due to him still recovering from a long illness that kept him many months in hospital. It made me realise once again how much we need to appreciate our health and being able to go to the game – one day it might not be possible any more. Get well soon, Simon. The stadium was packed to the rafter and it was a feast of white and red colours everywhere I looked: it promised to become a great game from the start.

When Pete told me the news that both the BFG and Koz would not be playing, I told him he was taking the urine. But soon I realised that we were indeed trying to defend our goal with the untested combo of Gabriel and Chambers


The first half was for Liverpool. The combination of playing with no concerns – having won the first two games, they were doing well, and nobody expected them to win this difficult away game – and well prepared tactics, gave to Scousers wings. The essence of the first half, as well as the second half (but that is for later) was compactness and numbers where it matters; and this is where the ball happens to be.

Liverpool were a determined six-pack and we were wobbly all over the place in first 45 minutes. We could blame young Chambers for a lot of our trouble but that would be unfair on him to a large extent. Pool boxed us in in our own half and made sure that whoever had the ball had only risky options to release himself from it. We lacked movement (which Pete rightly pointed out several times), especially for springing a counter attack or breaking through the ranks in our own half; and Pool, it has to be said, played with great discipline. And when we had the ball our passing was not sharp enough and our ability to break free from the Pool pressure not strong enough: they constantly outnumbered us in relatively small areas. The result was continuous loss of possession and many good chances against us by the opponent. Coutinho, and the rejuvenated and very impressive Milner, bossed us between our ‘D’ and the half way line. They played some fabulous football at times, occasionally reminiscent of our own team in the early parts of the last decade.

We did manage to create some half-opportunities and were very unlucky with the Rambo goal being disallowed, but Liverpool could have been in-front by two or three in the first half. Luckily, fortune was on our side, as the sound of leather slapping metal poles was heard regularly, and Petr Cech was in world class form. I saw all his saves right below me, and especially the low dive save at close range from Benteke’s effort was out of this world. I knew, I felt, I sensed it in my bones it would go in but somehow the long in the teeth Cech anticipated the next semi-second action earlier than anybody else, including the stunned Belgian, thus keeping out a certain goal. We hung on and the second half could not come soon enough.

Wenger proved once again how much difference he can make during the break
. And without taking players off. The team looked transformed in the second half as we effectively reversed roles from the start. We now kept them in their own half by playing compact and not allowing them out of our collective grip. We matched their numbers, and sometimes outnumbered them, when we attacked Pool and tried to break through their ranks from the left, with Ozil, Alexis, Giroud, Santi, and occasionally Rambo applying constant pressure with intricate passing and penetrative balls. It was great to see this all in front of us, which makes a big difference when watching it on TV, as it looks so much harder to break a defence then most of us imagine.

I was convinced we would score sooner or later, as the Pool defence would surely buckle and our lack of sharpness in front of goal could surely not continue. It reminded me of a typical high-quality chess game, after say 15 moves each: you are attacking a solidly defended corner of the board and are amassing more and more pieces to break through the wall; but the opponent allocates their pieces there as well and the variables of risk and opportunity multiply rapidly
 something has to give but who is going to buckle?

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Just as I thought we would definitely score that goal before our time was up, Arsene surprised me with taking off Giroud and putting Theo in. I wanted Theo or Ox to join the ‘chess game’ as we could do with more pressure from the right, or somebody coming into the box to add an attacking variable from there, but not instead of Ollie. Ollie had missed a few good chances, but so did Alexis, and it was clear that they were very close to scoring a few times, and were very keen to make the breakthrough.

Once Giroud was off, the game changed dramatically. By removing OG from the chess game, we were no longer able to play our triangles and break through their ranks as we missed the linchpin. We effectively let them off the hook.

The game became open again and Pool even got a few decent counter opportunities to steal the game from us, which would have been very bitter. We also managed to create a few opportunities, but they were harder ones and the Pool defence and defensive midfielders were well prepared to deal with this. Theo is not super-sub material and, although he tried hard, he did not add much to our attack during his cameo.

I felt it was a missed opportunity and would have loved to ask Arsene why he did not take Coquelin off for Theo rather than OG as his first sub (Coquelin was replaced by the Ox not much later in the game..), and pile on the pressure even more to finally get our goal.

However, the way Wenger and the team turned the game round in the second half and the number of chances we created as a result of this, are very encouraging signs for this Gooner. The team and manager that beat Man City twice, Man United away and the Chavs at Wembley in the last twelve months, will come good this season; I have no doubt about this. Whether we will win the title remains to be seen but we definitely have all the qualities for it and that is all that matters to me.

Every game is a mini-journey, and why should we bother ourselves with worrying whether we can/will win the title at the end of the season? I confidently predict six points out of our next two games and that will put us right there with Citeh. But next up is Newcastle and I for one cannot wait to enjoy the next mini-journey. We are on the road to nowhere, come on inside! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

Ozil dictates like a captain, Monreal MOTM, Giroud is back, Alexis the daredevil: 8 Afterthoughts!

Three big, fat, juicy away-points fought for with blood, sweat and tears; and they were well deserved in the end. The boys did us proud today and showed us all their bounce-back-ability. Clearly, we are missing sharpness upfront, and once this comes our way we will put these sorts of games to bed after 20 minutes. At times, our combination football was breath-taking, literally and figuratively. I love our ability to create chances, both when the opponent park their bus and when we turn them over in our own half. There is a good balance to the team in this respect, but we just need to add that little bit of composure to our final ball and chance-conversion. It will come but in the meantime we need to grind results out, and that we did all right!

Some will point out that we were lucky, and yes we were. Le Coq could have received a double-yellow red card and Wickham was unlucky not to score at the start of the second half – did the presence of Cech win us a few points today?

With Cazorla playing next to Francis, and the FB bombing forwards so aggressively, there is a lot of pressure on the Frenchman to keep things tight; and his game is all about having presence, for which he needs to be physical in a composed way. Like many other players, Le Coq is still searching for the right balance and he will have learned a great deal from this game. We will need him to be at his best against Pool in eight days, and luckily the referee, Lee Mason, realised that the fouls he made were, in total, not worthy of a sending off (and I agree with Wenger that his only yellow card was a bit harsh in the first place).

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Giroud and Sanchez (with a deflected goal from a daredevil header) made the difference in attack, and let this be the first game of many in which our deadly duo collectively find the net and win the game for us.

And our defensive play
. Needs to tighten up rapidly


Eight observations from the game:

  1. Monreal has been the player of the season so far for me. He has hit the ground running and offers a brilliant balance between defensive and attacking duties, which is so vitally important in the system that we play. He is always available as an outlet and does not waste any time in going forward and offer added thrust and healthy defensive aggression to the team. His final ball is pretty good too, although there is still room for improvement. But his drive and composure on the left flank add a lot to our team right now.
  2. Ozil had a great game. He offered the much needed composure but his fellow attackers were not always on the same page. I reckon Mesut is becoming a little bit more extrovert and, as such, appears to be more ‘in the game’.. there were it really matters. If he continues like this he might get the armband soon. I would be all for it.
  3. Sanchez – the Chilean mini-hulk – is back! He is still missing sharpness and on another day he would have scored a brace or a hat-trick for us. But his drive and thrust were welcome additions to our attack and the rest will follow. Let him get cool against the Pool. 🙂
  4. The triangle of Cech-Koz-BFG and square of Koz-BFG-Coq-Carzola are not working yet. The way these work separately, and in conjunction, is of vital importance to the solidity of our defensive performances. We conceded three goals out of as many attempts on goal, if I am correct, and they are all related to not playing as a tight, ‘in-tune’ unit, which is a worry at the moment. Ward’s daisy cutter was very well executed and I reckon Cech was not at fault this time, but we gave this opportunity away too easily. There was no support from the second deeper midfielder and Koz was left exposed; and something similar happened for the second Hammers goal. I hope we can find our defensive solidity before we meet the Scousers on the 24th!
  5. The crowd – home and away – were great. What an atmosphere, with great responses to all the key events of the game by both sets of fans. An advert for the game.
  6. Arteta brought the much needed composure at the end of the game. He read the play very well and made some important interceptions, helping us see out the game.
  7. Ollie is on the score-sheet with a well-taken goal. It was a great ball from Ozil from the left wing – good proof that our system does not necessarily need a proper winger anymore – but OG had a lot to do with the ball slightly behind him. Dare I say it: Bergkamp would have been proud of such a finish! Ollie worked hard and his presence and link up play in the middle was key to us creating so many opportunities.
  8. The Ox added fresh legs and was a constant menace to the CP defence, and with a bit more luck could have been on the score sheet.

So fine fellow Gooners, plenty of positives from a game in which we started off with some scintillating football and finished with grit and determination. That is the old and more contemporary Arsenal in one for you! Bring on Pool. 🙂

By: TotalArsenal.

Arsenal – West Ham afterthoughts: Lack of composure cost the Gunners

Well there you go: high expectations and playing a relatively beatable opponent is often a recipe for disaster for Arsenal, as it was today. However, the notion that we were complacent, as some seem to suggest, is of course rubbish.. it was the total opposite: we were firing on all cylinders like Gunners possessed and did not know how to control the tempo of the game. We have seen us play such season-openers before: the adrenaline is pumping, everybody is super keen and the opponent must be destroyed as soon as possible. A few seasons ago, the Ox broke his leg in a similar break-neck-speed first game of the season, and we lost that one as well
 Villa anyone?

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We did create plenty of chances but very few were great ones. We just lacked that bit of composure for the penultimate as well as the final ball. And when the Hammers scored against the run of play, at a sensitive period of the game, we even became more desperate to force the ball into the goal. It has to be said that the Hammers played well as a unit and had huge bags of energy; and with a fine goalie between the poles in Adriano, and a good central pairing in defence, they were able to frustrate us time and again. For this they deserve credit.

I hated the crazy tempo with which we played today: it just felt like it was not going to work out for us all day long; and that is exactly how it turned out to be. It’s great when it pays off and leads to an early goal, but we never controlled the game; and although we created chances with this approach, our desperate tempo kept us from finishing them off. A lot of passes went astray and many a first touch was too heavy. It should also be said that we lacked a bit of luck in this game as the ball just did not want to fall right in the box today.

I reckon we need to take this one on the chin and the boys will need to find a way to start playing with more intelligence and composure. Some will say that a better striker would have made a difference today, and maybe they are right. For me, it was the lack of leadership in the middle of the pitch that made the difference. Ozil had a very good game in my opinion, even though he also got caught up in the wild tempo of it at times. Cazorla and Ramsey were very keen to force through our attacking game but I reckon at least one of them should have played a bit wiser – aiming to dictate the tempo and make sure WH would remain hemmed in around their ‘D’ area. I will have to watch the game again to see how much the Hammers’ midfield deserves credit for our lack of controlling the tempo. They definitely made it harder for us than we expected.

We missed Bellerin today, even though his replacement, Debuchy, did not play badly. Our Spanish RFB just has that bit more energy and thrust in his game right now. Having said that, Ox played well on the right wing and provided more than enough thrust there (if only we could keep him up there and away from our defence.. 😩 ) . On the other wing, Nacho was very keen and one of the most composed players on the pitch. So we had plenty of width and created many an opening from the sides, but a combination of below par finishing and positioning, and very good defending by WH, did not give us what we wanted and deserved.

Our opponent managed to do the absolute opposite with their first two opportunities: they took them both and our goalkeeper will feel a bit disappointed with letting them in. He saw the danger for the first one and decided to come out to either get the ball or put his opponent off: it backfired, but hey, at least he did not foul Kouyate and get sent off 🙂 . The second one should not have gone in, but Petr’s vision was blocked somewhat and he gambled towards the wrong corner with his bodyweight, leaving him unable to shift it in time towards the other one.

We put on Theo and then our mini-hulk, Sanchez, but they also lacked the composure and cold-bloodedness to get us back into the game. It seemed to be one of those days.

There was nothing wrong with our attitude and Arsene put out a fine team; there is absolutely no reason to ask for big changes or to start criticising the team, individual players or the manager. As a team Arsenal pitched this game wrongly and were never able to fully control it. When you go a goal behind against the run of play, the first priority is to fight for the equaliser in a composed way, rather than to up the tempo even further and end up with eleven headless chickens on the pitch. This is the lesson we need to heed from today’s encounter: more control of the tempo and space in our opponent’s half, and much more efficient use of our resources. For this we need to look at our central midfield leadership ability, but with the likes of Ozil, Ramsey, Cazorla, Coquelin and Arteta at our disposal, we should be able to fix it.

The team is back on earth after beating the Chavs a week ago: we might have to thank the Hammers at the end of the season for giving us back our grounded-ness at the very start of it – the dreaded unbearable lightness of being has evaporated away: blood, sweat and tears are required to get us to the very top. The season begins next week: bring it on.

By: TotalArsenal.