BFG, Cech and Giroud back to rule the airways and provide backbone?

Short Match Preview today, as 17HT and I are busy. Crystal Palace are coming to the home of football and like our previous opponents Everton, Watford and West Ham, they have FA cup footie on their mind. Palace are almost safe in the PL so a chance to make it to the FA cup final, against fellow Londoners Watford next weekend, will be featuring strongly on their minds.

Nevertheless, we have to be careful as Pardew is a wily fox who is good at team tactics and game strategy, especially, it appears, in away games against the stronger teams (on paper). He will have noticed how badly we dealt with the neanderthal approach to attacking football by the Hammers last week, and with Adebarndoor and Wickham they have two guys who could rule the airways against us once again. So time to restore some balance in defence and in the spine, and add some vital inches to the team, with the reintroduction of Cech, the BFG and Giroud.

I love Ospina but Cech is calmer and organises his CBs better. I like the dynamism of the Koz and Gabriel combo, but they lack organisational control between them and have to work far too hard to control the aerial threat of opponents when constantly put under pressure; so reintroducing the BFG makes sense to me. Welbeck is a mobile CF and his mobility and unpredictability allow others to shine, but at set pieces I prefer Ollie any time. The Frenchman is also a lot more clinical and will be hungry to start.

You could argue, why should we be so defensively minded for this game: we are the Arsenal playing at home; let’s get at them and constantly attack. But playing for the home crowd can be a nervy business, especially if and when the opposition keeps pumping balls into the box and one of those Adebarndoor or Wickham headers goes in. So a sensible approach with the aim to keep a clean sheet and score at least a goal is what we need.

A win today and a loss by the Foxes, and then an Arsenal win against West Brom midweek, would mean a reduction of the gap to ‘just’ six points. A lot to ask for but definitely not inconceivable, so let’s focus on our part and play with focus and deadliness.

My Arsenal team for today:

football formation

Alexis and Iwobi have to work hard to link up with their fellow FBs, by playing close to them in defence and tracking back constantly. But we will also need the full backs to support the mid-wingers, by providing width and penetration from the flanks. So for me, these four positions and players are key today. The rest is there to keep the spine strong and defend calmly and decisively, as well as provide the creativity and forward thrust from the centre.

Really looking forward to seeing the boys in action again, and if we can win today and follow it up with two wins in the next seven days, we might get very close to the leaders. Let’s make sure the fat lady will not be singing for a while longer, at least. 😉

COYRRG!

By TotalArsenal

Koz, Gabriel, BFG: Three Great CBs, but what is the best pairing?

The BFG: Passion and Brains - you got to love him! :)
The BFG: Passion and Brains – you got to love him! 🙂

Arsenal are blessed with three fine CBs and long may it continue. Koz and the BFG are still Arsene’s first choice CB couple but Gabriel Paulista is pushing hard to get in there. I love all three of them and am increasingly unsure what the best CB pairing is for us.

Koz is the most complete CB and his tenacity and excellent reading of the game are second to none in the PL imo. The BFG is a great organiser, reads the game supremely well and always plays with the right attitude. Unfortunately, Per turns like an oil tanker and is not particularly fast; he has managed very well to reach the very top of football despite these disadvantages. Paulista we know less well: he resembles more Koz than the BFG and he adds a healthy aggression much needed in our team. He is also pretty complete as a CB and a beast at tackling all over the pitch.

These Whoscored? stats show us how well all our CBs do (based on this season’s PL games – all stats are average per game):

Name Tack-les Inter-cep-tions Fouls Clear-ances Blocks Aer-ials won  
Per 1.7 2 0.3 6.3 0.5 2.8
Gabriel 2.2 2.2 0.3 4.8 0.2 2.5
Laurent 1.7 4.3 0.7 5.9 0.8 2.8

There is not that much between them. Per is the absolute champion in clearing the ball, but Laurent still does well in this discipline too. Gabriel is our tackling beast and is pretty good in the air but is behind Per and Laurent in terms of blocks and clearances. Koz is the king of interceptions and blocks and is as strong in the air as Per, but he also makes more fouls than the other two: making those blocks and interceptions comes with a (small) price.

In terms of CB pairing, I favour the combination of two types of defenders.

One needs to be a calm but brutal organiser of the game, who can read the game well and is master in the air. Ideally, they are also great at tackling and fast as a tiger, but the ability to organise and lead the defence and to remain calm under pressure is key. Tony Adams and, especially, Sol Campbell were great specimen of this kind of CB. Per is not that far behind but I reckon Koz, and possibly Gabriel, are less suited for this.

The other one needs to be fast, aggressive and excellent at interceptions and blocks, a great reader of the game and the first soldier in the team. Martin Keown and Toure are good examples of this type of CB, and with Koz we probably have the very best of them all right now. I have no doubt that Gabriel can do this too and he could possibly become as good as Laurent.

But, going forward, what is the best pairing?

I guess it depends on what sort of game we are playing and which team. Our current preference to sit a bit deeper and kill teams with a combination of quick turnovers and possession football in the opponent’s half, seems to suit our best (statistical) pairing: Per and Laurent. However, when we play teams that park the bus and we play predominantly ‘possession and strike’ football in their halve, we could do with two very fast and aggressive CBs who are very good at blocks and interceptions and are quick to recover the ball when being threatened by a counter-attack. In these sort of games, the Koz-Paulista CB pairing looks the strongest.

And then there are the games against fellow PL title and CL trophy contenders: how should we pair up against them in central defence? Well, I guess we will get the answer tomorrow when we play Bayern away. I reckon it will be Per and Koz, but Wenger might go for the Koz-Gab – the Vault of KoGa – combination. The BFG played full games on Tuesday and Saturday and I am not sure Wenger will play the 31-year-old for a third time in eight days. We will need Per’s organisation skills, calm and experience, but, on the other hand, the power and energy of the Vault of KoGa might be more effective in stopping the intricate passing game in and around our box by Bayern, and instigate the better turnovers….. All exciting stuff if you ask me and I cannot wait to see the CBs in action again tomorrow.

I am still not sure what our best pairing is but Paulista’s arrival on the scene is giving us options and healthy competition. With three such great CBs we have options to vary our game in accordance with the strengths and style of play of our opponents, which is great news.

By TotalArsenal.

Coquelin’s bite, Giroud’s deadliness, Welbeck improving: Eight Positives from Game.

Coquelin1

Well, that was another game in which we scored easily and just enough goals to claim all three points. This sitting deep and beating opponents on the counter is most definitely our ‘plan B’ this season… it is not for the faint-hearted, though. Just as we did against the Spuds, we were unable/unwilling to push up and release the pressure on our defence, and we almost paid for this again.

For a long time, we looked in control though, and we should take heart from this; and had Alexis converted the fabulous team counter we produced mid-through the second half, it would have been a lot easier for us. Arsene’s subs did not help at all but I was happy he took off both Ozil and Alexis to avoid a late injury to them: we will need them even more on Wednesday.

Why we were unable to release the pressure by pushing The Eagles back again, or by keeping the ball better, or by more effective counter football, is hard to explain. I guess the boys were in doubt whether to defend the lead or to add to it, and Pardew’s men did a good job at pressurising our central midfielders. Since the former Barcodes manager arrived, Palace have won many games and this showed in the confidence with which the Eagles played.

As a team we need to learn from these games so we can improve our plan-B further. Nothing wrong with that, though, as long as we learn fast…

Eight Positives from the game:

  1. Welbeck was far more effective in this game than in his previous ones, with better reading of the game and positioning. He earned the penalty by putting pressure on the CP defence and he made a strong and direct run into the box, anticipating Alexis’ through-ball; and his subsequent attempt on goal had plenty of venom, which forced the keeper to parry the ball into the danger zone.
  2. Giroud scored his fiftieth Arsenal goal and that in just 116 games, giving him a 0.43 goals per game average in a red and white shirt. We know how important his overall role is in the team, but Ollie is now adding regular goals to his game as well, with 10 goals in less than 900 minutes this season.
  3. Coquelin added the necessary bite to the team and he did a great job in shielding the defence on Saturday. He still needs to control his tackles a bit, but at times he was simply sublime, with great reading of the game and effective interceptions, as well as confidently passing the ball out of our half.
  4. Ozil and Alexis helped out our defence really well. This is not Mesut’s natural game but he was often deep to support his full back and the same goes for Mesut, who is great at coming back to regain the ball and move it forward again. I felt we lacked this support almost as soon as they left the field.
  5. Our win today was helped by a large dollop of luck, but I will not be complaining about it! With Manure dropping all three points at the Jacks, the Spuds drawing and the Saints losing, we have made a big leap forward. With Everton home and QPR away as our next games, we have a decent opportunity to hang on to our third place and produce a little gap with some of our main competitors for the CL places.
  6. Santi has taken over from Arteta the role of secure penalty convertor. Mikel was a safe pair of hands for this and it is great that Santi has fully and successfully embraced this important role within the team.
  7. Squad depth: being able to bring on fit and experienced players like Rosicky, Gibbs and Gabriel, with Jack and Theo on the bench as well, is just great. They did not make a big difference on the day, but having a strong bench at this stage of the season is simply fantastic.
  8. Per and Koz defended very well, especially with regards to the continuous high balls into the box. It was really good to see us so demanding in the air for almost the entire game; eliminating the threat of Palace’s strong wing-play to a large extent (the FBs Monreal and Chambers were truly tested and sometimes found wanting).

Olivier-Giroud-AFP_3208367b

Now bring on the Principality and give them some old fashioned Wengerball! 🙂

 By TotalArsenal.

Paulista: More Koz than Mertesacker?

The new Martin Keown? :P
The new Martin Keown? 😛

Still no official news re the signing of Gabriel Paulista which is a bit worrying given the comment by Arsene on the 25th January, saying the club was close in completing the deal: ‘”It’s on the line and I think we’ll get over the line tonight and tomorrow”.

But let’s assume Paulista will join the club, and ask ourselves what sort of CB he is and whether he is more of a BFG or Koz type of defender.

A good defensive pairing is of course crucial, and so are the triangular relationships: backwards with the keeper and forwards with the DM(s). Furthermore, the partnerships between the CBs and their nearest FB, as well as the whole line of four, are equally important. A good fit of skills and balance are paramount for a well functioning defence.

In an ideal world, we play one CB with strong organisational and leadership skills and one ‘first soldier’ type of CB. Adams, Campbell and Mertesacker are excellent examples of the former and Martin Keown, Toure, Vermaelen, and of course, Koz were/are all brilliant first soldiers. Two BFGs do not work, but neither do two Kozs…

I am a big fan of the BFG. He is a world cup winner and plays for the best team in the world by focussing hard on his strengths rather than letting his few weaknesses grind him down. This takes a lot of strength as it is so easy to succumb to the critical voices out there and inside your head. And in our society: at school, in families and at work, we love to focus on (improving) weaknesses rather than building strongly on core strengths and talents, and this is so often holding people back left, right and centre. In this respect alone, Per is a hero to me.

Mertesacker also loves playing for us and always gives his all. He reads the game very well and organises his defence excellently. We rely on this heavily, as was demonstrated again against Brighton & HA last weekend, when our defence looked brittle without him. Wenger of course knows about Per’s ‘lesser strengths’ for which he needs to compensate within the team. He will always need a fast, energetic, yet composed, strong in the air, and brilliant tackler of a CB next to him (and good protection on the flank and in front of him). Koz is such a player and together they make a bloody brilliant pair. Without Per Koz often looks out of sorts, lacking composure and control to some extent: together they are awesome.

We have missed Koz this season when he was injured, and let’s hope he will play most of the remaining games this season. He is a very fine first soldier as we saw once again against Citeh, when he played an absolute blinder next to the BFG, who also had a very good game. Monreal has been Koz’s main back up this season and he did okay, with clear room for improvement. I reckon Nacho has potential to become a decent back up, as I agree with Wenger that he reads the game well. But surely, this is a work in progress and we need him as our (back up) left back…

We also need a good back up for the BFG and maybe we could/should even improve further on him in the long term. This is easier said than done, as good CBs with leadership and organisational skills are hard to find, especially if we also want them to be fast, great tacklers and a beast in the air. I reckon Debuchy has quite some of the required skills and Chambers has good potential too; but ideally, we strengthen our squad for this key position this year.

So, what sort of player is Paulista and for which position has Wenger bought him?

Well hard to tell at this stage, and I welcome bloggers to give us their views if they have seen him play a lot in either Spain or Brazil. The ‘Whoscored?’ stats give an interesting picture.

Paulista compared to Mertesacker and Koz on key defence stats:

Paulista Mertesacker Koz
Games Played 25 21 14
Total Minutes 2147 1890 1196
Tackles per Game 1 1.1 1.3
Interceptions per Game 3.9 1.9 3.7
Fouls per Game 0.8 0.2 0.6
Offsides per Game 0.6 0.8 0.6
Clearances per Game 4.2 6.8 4.9
Blocks per Game 0.4 0.8 0.6

These stats are interesting and indicate that Paulista might be closer to Koz than the BFG as type of defender. Gabriel has slightly fewer tackles per game but also slightly more interceptions than Koz, and he has fewer clearances and blocks per game, but this is not significant. There are quite a lot of similarities between the two.

Paulista has double the number of interceptions per game compared to the BFG, but commits more fouls per game – an area in which Per excels – and has significantly less clearances per game – Per is a lot taller than Koz and Paulista (185cm). Another important stat is that this 24 year old Brazilian has remained fit this season, already clocking up 25 games and 2147 minutes of first team football.

Of course, stats are just stats and we need to see Gabriel in action, if indeed his signing is completed and he is granted a work permit. Wenger might also have other plans with him: DM or even LB/RB, who knows?

But from what I can tell, Paulista will be Koz’s first replacement and might be used in other positions as well. I cannot wait to see him in action, and we should be all happy that the club has now strengthened in central defence: Bring on the rest of the season! 🙂

What do you think, fine fellow Gooners?

By TotalArsenal.

What to do with BFG and Arteta/Flamini?

How to add speed and dynamism to the CBs-DM triangle?

Watching Holland battle against ‘minnows’ Kazakhstan and Iceland over the last few days, made me think about Arsenal. The similarities were quite strong. Against both teams the Dutch conceded an early goal and after that it was the typical battle against the parked busses. Both Kazakhstan and Iceland cannot be blamed for sitting back and defending a lead with all they have got, but the Dutch team can be blamed for conceding early in both games. They made it so hard for themselves and it is exactly what Arsenal so often do to themselves as well.

Beating the parked busses is becoming harder and harder, it seems. Teams are better drilled than ever and they love fighting for each other till the very end. The Dutch have formidable, classical wingers in Lens and Robben, very good CFs in Van Judas and the Hunter, and a couple of decent playmakers in Sneijder and Afellay. Yet, they struggled long against Kazakhstan and needed a fair portion of luck (soft penalty and strong deflection) to get past them; and against Iceland they got totally frozen out, never managing to score after going 2-0 behind in the first half.

The BFG - great beast
The BFG is ready!

How many times have we seen Arsenal struggle in a similar way over the last few season, despite having fantastic attackers and midfielders on the pitch?

It is so important to find a balance between urgency and concentration when attempting to crack the PTBs, but this is all made that bit harder when a team is trailing. If Holland cannot crack them with the players mentioned above – and I reckon Germany and Spain have struggled in a similar vain over the last week – it might explain to some extent why we are struggling so often as well. Especially, as we also have a tendency to go behind to some dodgy defending (set pieces or counterattack).

Having a solid defence is of course key.

Teams like Arsenal and Holland will always prefer to attack and therefore run the risk of being vulnerable at the back. The Dutch continual weakness in defence has held back a whole generation of talented footballers, and I reckon it is fair to say the same about our beloved Arsenal.

From the goalkeeper to the CBs(pairing) and our left back, we just have not been able to get both quality and stability in these key positions for a long time now. Moreover, Arsene and Steve have not been able to get them to work as a solid unit. Last season saw a big improvement in many ways, with a large number of clean sheets and a strong away record, but it all fell down when we faced the stronger teams, with embarrassing mega losses rattling the most positive minded Gooners in the process. We conceded 41 goals and managed a goal difference of only +27 in the PL, whereas the champions conceded only four less but ended up with an eye-watering goal difference of +65. One could argue that we should have scored a lot more goals rather than worry about our defensive record during the previous season. I would agree with that to some extent, but going forward Arsenal need to focus on both areas in order to make the next step up.

Arteta, always giving his all
Arteta, always giving his all

Many of us have argued that the least we must do is protect the back four better with a quality, athletic, beast of a DM. Every summer we are apparently looking for one but, for whatever reason, we end up with zilch every time.

I am a big fan of the BFG and reckon that his obvious shortcomings – lack of speed and ‘turnability’ when playing higher up the pitch – can be compensated within the team, so that his clear strengths – organisation of defence, headers, positioning, blocks, leadership – can shine through. The question is, however, whether we can play a relatively slow and ageing DM in either Arteta or Flamini in front of him…. and whether we can allow our FBs to bomb forward so much as they often do either.

Can we really afford to have so much slowness in the centre of defence and midfield whilst playing attacking, possession football?

I also rate both Flamini and Arteta enough to feel they have a place in the team/squad, but am concerned whether their and the BFG’s the lack of speed and dynamism can be compensated for in the same starting eleven. I reckon we will not make significant progress until Arsene adds speed and dynamisms – from within or the market –  in either area. In a few years, Chambers can fill the void, either at the back or in the DM position, but it would be foolish to start counting on him now. As we saw this week in his games for England, Calum is a work in progress despite a truly phenomenal start for the mighty Arsenal. Let’s use him but not abuse him.

In Gibbs, Debuchy and Koz we have potentially solid defenders capable of now forming a high-quality defence that can aid the attack as well. The goalkeeper position remains open for debate. Szczesny continues to divide opinion with mixing the sublime with the ridiculous from one game to the next, and we have not seen enough of Ospina to see whether he would bring more stability and quality to the defence. Wojciech’s impressive performance against Germany could be the start of a more solid and focussed period, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt for another season at least.

I realise that our attack needs to score a lot more goals as well, and as Liverpool almost showed last season, if we score more than we concede we can go all the way to winning the PL. But to really make progress long term, and to have a better chance against fellow top teams, we need to add speed, athleticism and dynamism in the triangle of CBs and DM. To do so, something has to give.

So my questions to you are:

  1. Do you agree and why (not)?
  2. What should Wenger do to add speed and dynamism to the ‘triangle’?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

 

Welbeck needs Thierry | Bellerin no RB | Arteta Aging: Post-Match Analysis

Dortmund v Arsenal

The Verdict

Arteta, no nicer and more professional guy around, but is it time to bench our captain?
Arteta, no nicer and more professional guy around, but is it time to bench our captain?

Let’s be honest now, I am not sure there is a side in the Premier League that would have withstood the battering we took last night? There are several who would have had more success on the counter attack than we did, including our next opponents Aston Villa. But hats off to Dortmund: Klopp had them up and ready. Every player was on board with what had to be done, and they were fit enough to carry it off.

From an Arsenal perspective, disappointing doesn’t cover it. Part of that problem lies with our high expectation for this season, and some results have given plenty a reason to believe it was in their grasp. The easy win in the Community Shield, taken at face value, it might. The truth was a little different? The resurgence of Wilshere and the 4-1-4-1 formation in the previous game against Man City gave hope of a similar line-up to do the business against a far better opponent.

Again the reality revealed flaws. The few opportunities that people saw of Bellerin pre-season, agreed with Arsene Wenger that he was ready for the step up? This was confirmed on the vote ‘Who will make the most impact this season’ (from the academy), and 62% had made Bellerin the clear winner ahead of Akpom. Regulars of this site will know I have been longing for Bellerin to have some game time, as I am a great fan, but my vote went with the 2% realists who see more coming from Isaac Hayden than young Hector. To me, he is a natural born winger who can tackle. That does not make him a right back, no matter how much Arsene wants it. He will always commit to whatever was asked of him, as he did last night, and if he is asked to go in again, he will not hesitate. But without any premier league minutes under his belt, it was asking a lot … but he will learn from it, not shirk from it.

I am beginning to think that both Per Mertersacker and Ozil are still mentally adjusting to life in the league, and only their experience is getting them through games. Such a contrast to the confident decision making that we saw last season, that is barely recognisable now?

Here again, the expectation level from our new signings, which certainly has had its bright moments; but to gel as a team, the cracks start to appear, and the optimism quickly fades away?

How to take positives out of a game when only one player came out unblemished by error, is difficult. But history tells us that Arsenal do bounce back. The Villa shock result last season is a good example. This was certainly a wake up call in every department. Not an easy fix this time, without assistance from our manager?

Most of our problems stem from poor decision making, under extreme pressure it has to be said, but it is not a good enough excuse. We know who they are, and the stats back this up.

Bellerin we can give some leeway to for the above reasons, and despite being up against it, he made second highest passes behind Wilshere, and 13 of the 19 in the final third.

Szczesny has no such leeway when dillydallying over a clearance that could have cost us another goal, as he is a repeat offender! He did of course pull off some superb stops which saved us from real embarrassment.

Mertersacker, normally the safest of player to play out of defence, but time and again passes were being intercepted. He did make several headed clearances, but also was caught up-field, and no matter how hard he tried, the lack of pace to get back was revealed to all? We were chasing the game in the second half, to be fair, but why were so many bodies committed to attack with seconds to go before half-time? Poor judgement call again, by somebody?

Koscielny really put a defensive shift, and if it wasn’t for the misplaced passes, he could have taken MOTM in a canter. There were just too many of those, but he comes away in credit overall?

Gibbs was probably the pick of players playing to their form. 2 from 2 in tackles, and made a great run into the box to lay on a guilt edge chance for Welbeck, who just hasn’t got that edge of an instinctive striker (at the moment) to take a half yard step back so the ball would fall to his feet. Instead he got tangled up in trying to adjust and missed the opportunity. Gibbs had another opportunity in the box, but that too was not to be. He made 6 interceptions too, so he at least is near the top of his game. However, he was involved in the attack down the left, just before half time that led to the first Dortmund goal. Quick as he is, from that deep he arrived just too late to be in a position to tackle Immobile.

Wilshere was left trailing in that breakaway, and allowed that multi cup winning (NOT! ex manager) Souness in the studio to moan at him for not making the effort. Ignoring the fact that Wilshere is not a Gibbs or a Bellerin, having only a short burst of pace, not a 35 yard lung buster? He did have the highest number of passes, in a game of low figures, at 49, but only 1 successful one in their box? He did win 5 of his 6 tackles which showed his battling qualities against overwhelming odds, but it was a far cry of the promise of the previous game? He started to show his brittle side towards the end, and got a needless yellow card for a stupid foul. On a bad night, he was one among many who failed to live up to expectation.

Arteta? If I am kind, I would say he almost matched expectation, in that he was the wrong choice, (if there was a choice?) in the wrong position, weakly supported by the wrong players .. and that goes partly towards my expectation of him being too slow, and he failed to reach that level. It is almost like he has aged 3 years since the end of last season, and he is now looking like a player well on the way down. But to be fair to him, he should never have been put in the game of high speed tackling? The 20% pass failure rate for that position says it all?

Ramsey, for a player who often hits the 100 mark for pass completion, but a lowly 39 tells you how far below his best he is? Going forward he did set up a chance for Welbeck, but a single positive in a game of this magnitude is what he is struggling with?

Ozil, what can I say? Our main creative midfielder only had 23 passes, and only 3 in the final 3rd???

We are not going to win many games with that kind of service? He tried both wings, ran deep on Bellerin’s side, got booked for a none-tackle, but totally ineffective in anywhere it mattered.

‘Houston, we have a problem’ …

Alexis, industrious? hard working? These are the words we have come accustomed to associate with our super hero. 6 successful dribbles out of 9 sounds great too. Poor first touch does not gel so well? He was dispossessed 5 times, and several passes/touches led to turnovers, and crucially this would be at a time when we were attacking, and thus vulnerable to a counter. Part of this is probably down to the gelling process with team mates, and that has not had time to work through? But maybe there is a little clarity appearing in the rose tint department? He has got to get on the same wavelength or his talents will be wasted too?

Welbeck, sods law he will be second behind Ozil for the biggest criticism, but again, he can be given some leeway. If Arsene had any doubts about signing him, it is probably because he requires a different service to OG, and they may unlearn all they have been doing for the last two seasons? He is not OG, and he probably never will be? However, confidence can do wonders for a striker. He came into the side full of it, but that near miss against Man City probably took the edge off it. Here again, he had a chance to put one in at the far post, but body angle, or not twisting the foot back enough, made this attempt squirm wider than the other. These things will come.

Where is Thierry Henry when you want him, because he is just the player to help him in this department? He will come good, but in games like this, the pressure for every attempt to succeed is immense.

Subs:

Cazorla, should have made a difference if it was Ozil that was failing? I have to say, he was on 5 or 10 minutes before I remembered he was a sub. He was never going to save the day because the game had gone by then.

Ox looked lively from the off, and forced a corner almost immediately. But like Santi, the good ship Arsenal had already taken on board too much water, and its movement was sluggish.

Podolski came on with only ten minutes left, and got one driving run into the box, but the keeper was out quickly and it spilled out for a goal kick.

So that was my view on individual performances. Now for the collective?

Formation: Was this to blame?

While they notionally lined up in a 4-1-4-1, it never remained that way. For pretty much the first 30 minutes we were compressed into a 4-5-1 defensive position, with only Welbeck high. The flurry of early corners, and hasty clearances that led to yet another loss of possession, it was more all hands to the pump, rather than a clearly thought out plan. So that part cannot be put down to the formation?

Going forwards, when we started to get a foothold in the game, for the most part it broke down as we crossed the halfway line. However, following a very good build up, a missed chance which resulted in a throw in to us in the final third, we had 8 or 9 of our players in their half? Only Koscielny and Szczesny at one point in ours. So when we lost possession, and Immobile set off, Kos was about 5 yards ahead of him, Mertersacker had just crossed the halfway line about the same distance back but nearer our right-hand touchline, and Gibbs, who was guarding our left flank just inside their half. He had a good 10 yards to make up. Wilshere also joined the chase, but barely caught up with Mertersacker. The climax came when Immobile reached the box and it looked like Kos had it covered. Gibbs was right on his heels by now, and if the striker had run to the byline he could have got his tackle in. As luck would have it, a bit of a bobble off Immobile’s knee that took it away from Gibbs position, but the striker used that to get ahead of Kos to score.

A real sickener on the stroke of half time, but you have to wonder at the thinking of so many bodies involved in the attack. If Gibbs, who had been involved in the early part of the attack had dropped back inside our half, Kos might have been that bit deeper? Who knows?

The second half started how the first finished. Immobile chipped a great ball on to Aubamayang, who split the two CBs, and Szczesny came out and slipped at the vital moment. PEA also nearly went down himself, but just kept his feet to slip the ball into the net before Kos had a chance to recover.

From then on we did not look that threatening,… only threatened.

Szczesny came out to make a flying header with the full knowledge the collision with PEA was unlikely that he would be the damaged party, but once he had launched himself into the header, there were no brakes in mid air.

Kos also nearly did himself a mischief, colliding with a goal post in an attempt to avert yet another goal. Only the usual 65 minute subs did lift our attack somewhat, but we continued to look vulnerable. In fact, Mik the prick, having got himself booked in the opening few minutes for a blatant dive, seemed to be so intent scoring, it screwed him up completely. There was one breakaway where they were three on two… our two CB’s … he chose to shoot, high and handsome. Like I said, what a prick!

There are so few positives coming out of the game, except the one from history. Is this the giant kick up the backside that shakes this mental lethargy out of their system?

We have to hope so, but what is baffling is that so many had a poor game?

Perhaps it is simple case of trying too hard. Certainly with Ramsey we have seen it all before. He was even doing those heel flicks again?? Wilshere cannot lift the team on his own. Alexis too needs to settle more. Mert needs to get his calm, dependable head back on. Ozil needs a quiet corner somewhere and completely regroup. Arteta really needs to face up to life on the bench, especially after January? Will Walcott return bring a shape to our attack, when he returns? Will Chambers hold down the RB slot, and not get moved sideways for a crisis CB role? Will somebody give Hayden a run out before he is called into full time action?

Questions.Questions.Questions.

The only ones who can prove some of the answers will be out on Saturday against Gabby and his gang of thugs….

The reality of our form looks pretty bleak, but we have a few fresh bodies to throw into the mix, so like last season’s blip, our season starts now.

Keep the faith. 

Written by: Gerry.

Time to hand the armband to the BFG

The BFG is ready!
The BFG: our future skipper?!

Per Mertesacker to become Arsenal captain next season?

First of all, I would like to say, TotalArsenal our own Bergkampesque skipper has sadly lost a loved one. I want to offer my sympathy and support in this tough time. We are a tight group on this site; Frank (totalArsenal) is always there with some kind words whenever another member reveals some tough moments in there lives. A truly nice bloke, so this is why I have chosen to write my maiden post today to lighten the load on him, and if anyone else has a topic they wish to post, now would probably be a great time to do it.

(Written pre- FA cup final)

Ok, I know this topic has been raised before but I feel it now has gone to a different level. I will explain why I would really like to see the Big F*****g German take the armband in front of Thomas and Arteta (vice-captain) next season.

The moment that has cemented the BFG’s march for captaincy was in the FA cup semi-final v Wigan. When Wigan got a penalty and Gomez scored it, I was very nervous: the thoughts of Birmingham in league cup final came flooding back. The similarities were very close. That day it was a Laurent Koscielny mistake, and this time Per had brought a player down which cost us a penalty .Mertesacker, a Gooner – a man who loves the club – was clearly stressed about this: one mistimed tackle could cost us silver again, another year without :/ . But he fought on kept his composer and gave his all to put it right; and he did so when he popped up in the box as our furthest man forward and calmly guided his diving header into the net like a world-class striker on a training pitch.

For me, that was the moment he totally proved he is the man to skipper Arsenal! You could see the emotion in him as he celebrated, he truly felt the burden of what if that penalty cost us the cup.

Now it’s one thing to try to make up for your mistakes and take it on yourself to put it right, but its a whole lot more special and telling when someone actually does it, as Per did. He will probably captain Germany this summer at the Brazilian world cup. His age and experience are perfect. We have a English- German core in our team now with Podolski, Ozil, Zaleem and Gnabry, and young Eisfeld a promising great young player. I think he will be in our first team next season; by the way, I would give him Kallstroms place next season.

Back to Per; for me the way he responded to his penalty mistake was every bit the leader legend role of a John Terry or Vincent Kompany. He is solid and it does feel to me like the best skippers come from defence: a position where you can read the game and defend your team – he is also vocal.

Post-Game

There is no reason that this should undermine TV5. Easier said than done, I know, and to be fair it will a little, but the manager just needs to say to him that he wants him to be the same way as he is now; he too is a leader and a great player imo. He should continue to be a leader and give his full support, but while he is not in the side Per should captain the team.

GREAT NEWS

Laurent Kosielny has signed a new long term contract so Munich can do one!

This really is great news because it continues to show that the days where we are selling our best players is over!

Best CB-pairing in the league
Best CB-pairing in the league

Kos and Per are our foundation, and while I hope Sagna also signs a new deal, he is ageing and perhaps it’s time to let Jenkinson take over; that said, you do need two very good players in every position, so for me, losing Sagna is still a very big loss. Not to mention that he can cover at CB, to replace Per with a player of equal quality. He does not need to be trained to get up to speed straight away and an external replacement would surely cost at least £15,000,000. That considered, to me it makes sense to just give him a high wage. However, our club is very shrewd with the maths, so surly they must have thought of this??? It seems clear to me, but hay I don’t know all the ins and outs.

Your thoughts, ladies and gents?

Written by: proudgooner

Sanogo the difference, last game for Pod & other post FA cup thoughts

Post FA CUP Final observations by Gerry.

Good morning all. And what a fine day it is to be free of the … ‘not having won a trophy in X number of years’tag. Such relief. Congrats to all the team, who played as a team when they needed to. Job done … The hard way, of course?

Wenger

I have spent the last hour reading all the comments, and I went with that flow too. I missed the equalizer (dog), but managed to see it out to he end. Annoyingly, the high pressure that brings us all the fine weather also gives me an occasional weak signal, thus rendering my recording a bit of a waste. Luckily, switching channels to watch it ‘live’ resulted in an upturn in our fortune on the pitch as well.

Just a few observations:

Starting with Geoff’s point in previous post (@01.39). Having a player close to Giroud makes him look a far better player with that extra yard or two of extra space. And that is saying something when it is a raw kid like Sanogo who still has so much to improve upon, can do that? Imagine what somebody with experience would do?

Sanogo. So, so very unlucky not to have broken his scoring duck by now. A wrongly disallowed goal in an earlier game. Finger tip touch in this with Giro-esque twist-turn-and shoot that might well have gone in off the post in this, along with other half-chances. If he can get his feet to do what his brain tells them to do, he will be something special. At the moment his first touch is clumsy to say the least. He has that long leg Diaby-like stick ability in tight situations, and can often come away with the ball when he has no right to it. But for all his flaws and limitations, he was the player we needed in this game, for his pace, effort, movement, and that occasional successful stickabilty that led to the winning goal. If they give out points for pre, pre, assists, then his part in that goal will be seen time and time again, with endless replays on the television, as a very special moment. I hope he will come good in years to come, and does not get drowned out by the clamour for that big signing.

Podolski. He suffers when he cannot start his play from the halfway line, imo. Guilty for the first goal for walking away before the danger was cleared. Not even playing the guy he was leaving off-side because Gibbs remained at his post on the goal line. But that is what you get when you play a forwards who is not naturally defensive minded? In the end his forward threat his lost from his starting position. Even young Yaya above, never shirked the defensive duty when needed, and had the pace of youth to get back up in attack.
Thank you Poldi for all your great goals, but I think you have probably played your last game in an Arsenal shirt?

Ozil. Criticism will come his way, but unfairly imo. The one thing Ozil needs is movement round him. Until Sanogo came on there was very little. Thus his passing game was made redundant. You can praise Hull’s tactics for much of this. They had a man on Arteta to keep him back. They were quick to pounce on Giroud when anything came his way, fairly and unfairly, it got the same result. Ramsey was kept back deeper because of the numbers they had in midfield, and Podolski rarely had a chance to run with it either. Luckily, as has been mentioned in comments above, he is a team player, and he will keep going for the team throughout the whole 120 minutes.

Cazorla. Worked his magic on the free kick. perhaps the goalie was at fault for not entirely trusting his ‘wall’ to do its job, as when he saw who had taken the kick, he took a half step to his right. which meant he was caught out by both the pace and accuracy of Santi’s shot. Where 9 times out of 10 going to where the keeper is, they will get saved. This one was one that didn’t. That apart, Santi worked hard against a disciplined defence, and few opportunities. occasionally his free roaming meant he was crowding out the space that Ramsey might run into, but overall a solid game, without too many decisive moments.

Arteta. I thought he had one of his better games, given the limitation of his pace, or the lack of. He was the main outlet ball out of defence, when played short, and was there to for Gibbs, as he was closed down quickly early on. However, he is another who will find game-time in short supply if the TW goes our way? Suggest he spends time getting his coaching badges?

Gibbs – Roundly criticised for missing the sitter, but that does not take away from his overall contribution. Nor should it be forgotten that he got in that position to miss the sitter, which, by rights, should have been a Poldi/Ramsey/Cazorla option? And let’s not forget his clearance off the line that saved us from going 3-0 down. He made numerous, and often unused runs down the left. Had a couple of half chances to feed a pass into the box, but failed for one reason or another. Where he excelled was being the last defender back on our set pieces. And also, when Fab went ‘Flappy’ near the end of the 120 minutes, he made another 30 yard dash to cover the open goal shot that ended up going wide. Should he ever get an injury free season, and all the experience that goes with it, he will be every bit as good, if not better, than Ca$hly got to be, and unlike him, he is a Gunner for life.

Koscielny. Kos had a typical Kos-type game. Sound in defence .. for the most part. Always a threat in our set pieces. Scored with his feet! And then nearly threw all the praise away with a blunder at the death. Still our best 50% pairing though.

Mertersacker. Poor old Per. An absolute rock for 119 minutes, then slips, and it could have ended in disaster for him. Slow to get up? Well apart from being a big guy at the tail end of a highly disciplined performance, he had a right to expect Sanga or even Kos to be covering as he was up against ‘fresh legs’ Aluko? Fortune favoured him with the latter’s misplaced shot, after Fab made a fruitless attempt to save the day. Let that not take away from an otherwise strong leader’s game.
Fortunately, he will not be departing any time soon!

Sagna. Oh Bacary. Yes you could leave on this high note? But you could also stay? Hard to find a fault in an otherwise tireless game. Few opportunities to get decent crosses in, but put in a real shift, as always. If economics decides it, he will be hard to replace. perhaps never, in like for like.
If common sense prevails. and team unity, loyalty, and a true class player are properly rewarded, Bacs will get what he really wants?

Fabianski. Deserved his place in the side, and fully deserves his medal. At fault for either goal? Not really. The first was a well worked routine that came back into the box at pace. For the second he was somewhat let down by the defending(Poldi), that allowed his initial save to come off the past and bounce to the scorer. In commentary it was suggested that diving into the goal meant he was in no position to save the second attempt? That is a bit harsh, give the angle he was going for the ball. As it was he only narrowly missed injuring himself, so another foot or two to the right and he almost certainly would have clattered the post, and that could have been far more costly? He did make another really good save that got a slight deflection of a heel(Arteta?) down to his right which made the difference between a finger tip touch or a full hand to it, but he still turned it around the post. Like Per, he was lucky late on, but overall another sound game.

Subs Wilshere and Rosicky had the same effect that the Hull subs did, by giving energy and focus to an otherwise tiring attack. And it made the difference for us, but not quite for them. Coming on for the last 20minutes of normal time might have been the obvious time, but we may well have lost our eventual goal scorer? Playing from the start is another question entirely, and one I do not intend answering.

Written by: Gerry.

BFG shows character, Pod and Santi disappoint, Fab saves us: Arsenal – Wigan Afterthoughts

Our real leader: the BFG.
Our real leader: the BFG.

We knew it would not be easy, and boy did we make it hard for ourselves yesterday. A game of great contrast: Wigan had nothing to fear, with an FA cup in the cupboard and Man City eliminated already this season; but we had almost everything to lose. And it showed.

The recent demoralising – some might say devastating – defeats against title and CL-place contenders Chelsea and Everton, as well as the loss against Stoke and the late equaliser against Swansea, have clearly had an incredible, and under Wenger unprecedented, impact on our players.

I really cannot recall an Arsenal game like this against a ‘minor’ team under Wenger. We were nervous, restless and had very little flow to our football. There appears to be little belief by our players in their qualities and our game plan, as well as any form within the team. But what we cannot say about our players is that they did not give everything yesterday to turn things round and try to win at all costs.

And despite the lack of flow and quality by our boys, they were the better team yesterday and deserved to come out as winners. Wenger had limited options for his starting eleven but I was pleased to see Sanogo start ahead of the knackered and unfocussed Giroud. Sanogo is clearly a work in progress: a raw diamond that needs a lot of sharpening up in the workshop. But what he gives us is energy and unpredictability and I liked what I saw from him yesterday for the entire 120 minutes. He is not ready to be our nr2 striker for the foreseeable future though, before anybody starts jumping on my back! 😉

For me, the real problem was that the two most experienced and successful in front of goal players – Podolski and Carzola – just were not able to influence the game enough: to add that bit of control and quality on which the whole team can build. And for what they earn and the responsibility they have been given by Wenger, this is not good enough. Both players need to play in a free role and depend heavily on the hard work of others in the team, and it was once more obvious that they cannot make our play.

We knew this about Podolski but some believed Cazorla’s best position is in the hole…. I think we know now for sure that he is not suitable for this: too slow, too ponderous and not demanding enough. I like Santi and there is a future for him in the team, but he disappointed me again yesterday. The same goes for Podolski who has ‘moments’ in every game but just does not influence the game anywhere near enough to justify a start. A super-sub for me, but I reckon he will be gone next season.

It was really good to see Ramsey back and he tried hard to motor on our team. Clearly, he is not fit enough to make a significant difference yet, but that will come. Arteta evidently struggled at times but he never gave up and fought through his self-doubts with a steely determination, which I really like about him. And his penalty, the all important first one for the team, was class.

Ox worked his socks off and was desperate to make a difference in this game. It is still clear he is also a work in progress with plenty of weaknesses to improve on, but as an attacking driver for the team he has made massive progress. He was our most dangerous man both in terms of creating and taking chances and let’s hope he will stay fit for the remainder of the season, to add the much needed thrust to our football.

I loved Mertesacker’s goal after an uncharacteristic, nervous mistake (against a player in front of him for once!) that led to Wigan’s goal from the penalty spot. There is something very pure about the BFG: he gives his all and knows about his weaknesses, yet he will give his all to get the very best out of himself – and that goal epitomised him. What you see is what you get and the man fights for our shirt with all he has got. For that we’ve got to love him.

Sagna, Mr Reliable, was once again fantastic: what a club player he is for us. Gibbs did well taking over from Monreal, but the man of the match was undoubtedly Fabianski.

He had little to do during the game, but as we were just not able to control our nerves and apply some much needed composure up-front in 120 minutes of football – except for BFG’s desperate goal and Ox’s fierce goal attempts – it was our other Polish keeper who became the unexpected hero.

There are two sorts of goalkeepers: the uber-confident, extrovert ones and the calm, calculated, introvert ones. Szczesny (and the Wigan goalie) belongs to the former and Fabianski (and Seaman) to the latter. I loved the way he stayed calm and on one spot for each penalty: focussing on the opponent and figuring them out, rather than behaving like an ape and trying to put the opponent off, like his opposite number did. Fab also has a very fine diving technique and he guessed right almost every time.

He made the real difference yesterday and is the reason we are in the FA Cup final. I hope we are still able to sign him up, and if not, that he will find a fine club where he can be the nr.1 goalkeeper for the rest of his career. This he deserves.

So, Hull in the final and still a great chance to win the FA cup. But the Hammers are up next and they will smell blood and tired bodies. More character will be required from our players and we, the fans, need to stay fully behind them.

TotalArsenal.

 

Arsenal vs Fulham Pre-Match. 110 years and we dream of Draxler

618w_james_bond_in_pictures_2 

Additional Intro by 17 Highbury Terrace 

Our Maestro of Match Previews, Oz Gunner, has brought the goods once again but things in our little world of Bergkampesque are different this week and 17 Highbury Terrace also had started a match preview.  I’d like to include it here as it mirrors some of my own thoughts. 

Arsenal – Fulham Preview –Dedicated to James Bond

Bergkampesque is a blog about Arsenal Football Club, emphasizing the more positive aspects of the club and the team as exemplified in the beautiful and professional play of Dennis Bergkamp.  We have a match tomorrow, against Fulham Football Club, but one of our own, in fact our top comment contributor, James Bond, is going through an extremely difficult moment in his personal life (see comments, previous post), and I want to dedicate this preview to him.  James is an extremely optimistic AND passionate supporter of Arsenal and a great contributor to this site.  Despite much cajoling, he’s yet to write a blog post of his own, but he’s put out many interesting and bold ideas.  Sometimes we’ve gotten small glimpses into his personal life, but nothing on the scale of what he wrote yesterday.  Though blog comments tend to be about Arsenal, over time a community of intriguing individuals builds and many of us feel as if we know one another.  I’ve had fun, interesting, and heated debates with James (I often call him 007 or our Superspy…), always with an underlying tone of intelligence and respect.   We don’t “know” each other, but we do… All I can say, Bond, at this time, is that we’re all pulling for you and hoping for the very best outcome for you and wishing that, sooner than later, you can be back here on the site, discussing goalkeepers and center forwards, matches, transfers, finances, etc., in your inimitable way.

Maybe Arsenal can brighten your day tomorrow with a convincing win over Fulham.  I know you’ve been eager for a strong performance and a lopsided score-line, and I’ll wish that for you—along with my much bigger and more important wishes for you.  Being me, of course, I’ll take the three points, however they come.  Every match presents challenges, and this one feels no different.  Your challenges are on another scale entirely.  Best of luck, stay strong, keep the faith, etc., etc., my friend…

17highburyterrace

Preview Intro

promo

A battle of teams on the opposite ends of the table, but Fulham will be looking to break a 110 year drought of losses against Arsenal at home. A win is a must for both teams but for different reasons. Arsenal needs 3 points to fend off the oilers, Fulham to fend off relegation.

A quick fire double saw Arsenal keep a resurgent Villa at bay taking it to 4 league wins on the trot.

Fulham were torn to threads (Shreds, Shreds of threads…) 4-1 last week by Sunderland making it 20 goals conceded in their last 6 games.

Let’s get in to it shall we: Draxler!

Missing in Action:

Diaby sick bay

Arsenal: Rosicky (Nose) – Broke it thanks to a gabby. A mask is an option but I don’t think he’ll be risked so soon unless absolutely necessary. Monreal (foot – this one worries me because info is water tight and Arsene appeared worried), Diaby (Knee/missing), and Sanogo (back – STILL!). Walcott (ACL – knee), Ramsey (Hip/thigh), Arteta (calf/shin), Vermaelen (knee), Bendy (Ankle/foot)…god we could almost field a whole team of crocked players.

Fulham: Etheridge (Hip/thigh), Briggs (Groin/pelvis), Amorebieta (Knee) – fitness test.

Draxler!

Predicted Line-up:

starting line-up (6)

The back four picks itself thanks to injuries. I expect Jack the lad to continue next to the junkyard dog Flamini. Ozil behind Giroud, Santi on the left, and Gnabry down the right. The only question mark is whether or not Arsene plays Podolski down the left. Gnabry down the right is a must because Fulham have really struggled on their left this season. Give the boy some legroom and he’ll make you pay! Draxler!

Previous Encounters:

Fulham v Arsenal 1 – 3

A bit of luck allowed Giroud to open the scoring and Podolski followed it with a brace. It was a confident and assured performance from the team, and it never looked in doubt. Bent managed to score a debut consolation goal in the 77’…he’s always had a bloody talent for scoring against us.

Fulham v Arsenal 0 – 1

Ex-gunner Sidwell was given his marching orders on 12′ for a dangerous tackle on Arteta. Despite this Fulham closed the game down in their predictable boring fashion. The BFG scored the breakthrough from a Theo free kick. A hard fought victory and it was 8 wins in 10 games for the mighty Arsenal! Draxler!

Arsenal v Fulham 3-3

This is the one which irks.  Early goals from Poldolski and Giroud made this seem an easy 3 pointer but Fulham, with 2 goals and an assist from Berbatov looked like they might actually take all the points.  A late header, from Giroud levelled it and then, at the very death, referee Phil Dowd awarded us a penalty when a desperate (and cheeky) Andrei Arshavin chipped a ball onto the arm of a Fulham defender Sasha Reither.  With such a strange turn of events and maybe not trusting normal forces (i.e. gravity, etc.) Mikel Arteta struck a weak penalty, easily beaten away by Fulham goalkeeper, Mark Schwarzer, costing us two very valuable points.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAVEaGRp1iw

 

EPL Form Guide:               Arsenal:   : WWWWD         Fulham: LWLWL

Arsenal are unbeaten at the Emirates this season (not counting that diabolical opening fixture) and sitting pretty on top of the table. However, City and Chelsea are breathing right down our necks and it’s about as enjoyable as TMHT setting his sights on you… One slip up and it could be all over, red rover! We haven’t been at our best but like Man U of seasons past we are getting the job done anyway we can. We’ve heard it all before, sometimes you have to win ugly. I would like to see us belt a team soon though because this squeaky bum stuff is knocking years off my life.

Take away the one blemish game and we’ve conceded a mere 13 goals this season. A good defence has been a long time coming!

Fulham on the other hand have let in 46 goals this season. 11 more than any other team. This is a far cry from the Fulham we’ve come to know of seasons past. Previously I’d dread this fixture because I knew a goal against Fulham was like getting blood from a stone. The loss of Mark Schwarzer, a long term injury to Hangeland, an unsettled defence, and ex-Arsenal defender Senderos have made them easy to break down. Just ask Hull, they knocked 6 past them in Fulham’s last away fixture;  Relegation zone Sunderland also put 4 past them at Craven Cottage a week ago.  Since then, however, they dispatched Norwich in the FA Cup 3- nil. Two spots above the relegation zone means every point is vital for Fulham. Draxler!

Arsenal Archive

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s a 2 goal victory against Fulham during the 2004/05 season. Henry was on another level that day. What a team we had! Have a look: (Draxler!)

One to Watch:

This week’s one to watch is ex-spud and ex-red devil Dimitar Berbatov.

Berbatov-Arsenal-Shirt

From the opening of the January transfer window he’s been linked with Arsenal (heaven forbid he actually came). I think he’ll be out to impress the home crowd and Arsene in this fixture. With Berba it all comes down to enthusiasm. Last season he was motivated, this season his clear cut chance conversion has dropped from 59% to 33%. He’s capable of great things but I expect Kozzer to entrench him firmly in his pocket.

Arsenal’s one to watch is none other than Santi Cazorla. Despite Podolski scoring 2 goals last time the two teams met I would have given the MoTM to Santi. The pitch was wet, the midfield compact and he had Parker snapping at his heels constantly, but he was on another level and oozed class. He hasn’t had the best of seasons (partly because we hold him up on a mantle after his exceptional first season) but when it all clicks for him magic happens. I’m sure Arsene would have told him how important he is going to be with Theo going down, and I have no doubt Santi will begin a meteoric rise once again.

Pre-Match Finger:

pre-match finger - injury curse

This week’s finger goes to our injury curse…again.

Come on, it’s getting a bit ridiculous now. We would like to win the title this season, rather than thinking back to what may have been. Surely the balance of luck should be tipped in our favour for the next 100 years.

Pre-Match Pat on the back:

This week’s pat on the back is going to the Big Feckin’ German.

bfg-by-zama

great work by @The_Zama

What a massive difference he makes to this team! I really can’t say enough good things about the BFG. When he first came to the club I was over the moon. After a few performances… Not so much. The game against Chelsea a couple of seasons ago sticks in my mind. He appeared lightweight and despite his large stature he seemed to decrease in size when he went up for a header. Something changed. Now he tackles, he barks, he scores goals, and best of all…he organises the troops. Over the years I’ve thought a few players deserved to be taken out back and slapped around bit so they might pull their finger out and start to perform. After Mertz’s first season he definitely did extract a digit. Whether that can be attributed to getting his body right, settling into the EPL, getting to know the players, or Bould taking him under his wing, I’m not sure, but whatever happened, he has transformed into our most important player. I do enjoy seeing/hearing him let his teammates recognise when they’ve made an error out on the pitch (first the Ozil incident and then the Santi situation against Villa). It’s hard not to love the man. Draxler!

Ask the opposition fulham

‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead.  This week the answers were kindly provided by Cookie-6262 and dempsey’s revenge…there were others but let’s just say tensions are high for Fulham supporters these days. Let’s see what they’ve written for us this week:

1. What are your thoughts on the Morrison ‘taping up’ row?

Cookie – The tapping up row is a load of rubbish, Rene was asked about transfers and he replied “we have bid for Ravel Morrisson but it has been rejected.” He was then asked, “Do you think he wants to come” and he replied, “Yes, I think he does want to come.”  Hardly the crime of the century; he was just saying what he honestly thought.

DR – It’s nothing. They’re not playing him, so why would they care?

2. How is Senderos travelling?

Cookie – hopefully Senderos is travelling via Beijing and won’t arrive at the Emirates until next Thursday…. Most fans have him as our fifth best Centre back and our weak link yet he still sometimes gets games. Our chance of getting something from this game is 10% at best; with Senderos it’s about 2%.

DR – He’s an idiot, so he frequently loses his luggage. Hope to God he’s not playing.

3. What do you want during this transfer window?

Cookie – A left back is a must–someone who can go straight into the team.  To keep Berba but if he goes we will need a striker and possibly a centre back although young Dan Burn has come in for the two cup games and looked very good.

DR – All new players except for Riether and Parker.

4. What position/ player is your weakest link?

Cookie – Weak link is centre back, just look at the goals against column.  But Hangeland is back after 3 months out so hopefully he will make a difference.  Left back is an issue as well. Iif Walcott were fit he could have done double figures.

DR – All positions except where Riether and Parker play.

5. What position is Arsenal’s weak link?

Cookie – Do Arsenal have a weak link???  Possibly up front if Giroud is off form.  You are light up top, but does it matter when you have a midfield including Ozil and Carzola plus Podolski?

DR – Manager thinks he’s God.

6. Which Arsenal player would you love to have in your team and why?

Cookie – Ozil is world class and a joy to watch

DR – Nearly all of them. I’ll make this observation; Arsenal players nearly always thrive after leaving the team (but not Senderos), which shows that a) Wenger has a good eye for talent and b) the coaching there is top class.

7. What is your match prediction?

Cookie – Not expecting anything from the game but just hoping for a half decent performance and not getting a thrashing.  A good display in a narrow defeat wouldn’t be a disaster for us though you never know, a Mertesacker red card in the 2nd minute and Berba slots away the pen.  (You can but dream…)

DR – We will get our heads handed to us and probably slip into the zone as a result.

Prediction:

It will be an improved performance by Fulham thanks to the return of the big Norwegian Hangeland. However, it won’t be enough and I think he’ll be lost at sea out there as the team crumbles around him. Watch for them to park all the buses in Fulham in front of their goal. It won’t be enough though because Gnabry is going to kick a hole through them en route to a  4-0 victory!

What is your prediction?

What starting line-up would you choose?

What position is our weakest link at the moment?

What tactic would you employ to beat Fulham?

What two players would you buy during this transfer window and why?

By Oz Gunner

Draxler! (hey if I say it enough he just might come!)