Whilst Arsenal have strengthened almost every other area in the team during the last twelve months or so, the full backs were left standing. And quite rightly so, as we have some of the finest full backs in the country and they fit nicely into the style of play of the team.
Full backs at Arsenal are really more wing backs than anything else. They have a massive responsibility within the team both in defence, midfield and attack. On the left we have the energetic and tenacious Nacho Monreal, and on the right we have speed machine and excellent recoverer, Bellerin. As back up we have the loyal and ‘safe pair of hands’ Gibbs and the experienced Debuchy, and Jenkinson is also getting closer to a return to the team.
We all know about the defensive responsibilities of a full back but Arsenal now also rely on them heavily to provide width and penetration from the wings. The traditional winger seems to be a dying breed as more and more teams prefer a hybrid between a midfielder and attacker to play close to the nr10 and CF. Good wing backs are hard to find as the total package requires a lot of skills.
With Bellerin we probably have the most talented wing back in the country and I am pleased the club were able to hold on to him this season. There is no doubt that he can still learn a few things, but he has the rare ability to combine very fast running and close ball control with a cool head both when he attacks and defends. He reads the game very well for such a young player and therefore is often in the right place at the right time.
With Nacho we have a player who gets better the more he plays, a bit like Ramsey in a way. Once he gets properly going Monreal is awesome and a very important player for the team. He has great drive and determination to win and usually finds a very good balance between defending and attacking. It is fair to say that Nacho has also been part of our recent failure to secure our left side of the defence, which was so cruelly exposed against Pool during the season’s opener for example. But I reckon that the team will get this right and Monreal will play a key part in doing so.
The one area that needs a step improvement is the final ball into the box by our full backs. Not that they do badly. Monreal and Bellerin both played 36 PL games (!!!) and the former had a total of three assists and averages 0.8 key passes per PL game, whilst the latter had five assists and 0.7 key passes per game, and he also managed to score once. Debuchy did not play last season so no stats available for him, but Kieran had 15 PL games (only three starts), had no assists and only 0.1 key passes per game, but he did manage to score a goal for us in the PL last season (as well as in the CL).
It is pretty amazing that Bellerin, who will be ‘only’ 21 till March next year, managed to play so many games in such a physically and mentally demanding position last season. And the same goes for Nacho who is slowly entering the autumn years of his football career but still managed to play 36 PL games.
I love these Spanish bullfighters and let’s hope they can play a key role in our season once again. And if they can get the final ball into the box just that little bit sharper, we should see even more key passes, assists and goals from our full backs. If we want to win the title than this is one of the key improvements required, and I reckon they can deliver it.
It is still too early to predict the team against Liverpool on Sunday with exactness. We will know more after tomorrow’s press conference – assuming there is one – and Friday is also a typical day for a new signing by Arsenal…. We live in hope. If indeed we do sign a defender or attacker by cop tomorrow, there is only a small chance that they would start in Sunday’s 4pm battle. But I reckon we will be able to field a strong team that can get all three points and give Pool an early nosebleed.
The obvious area of concern is our defence. We have not looked too good in defence during most of the friendly games, and especially the now injured Gabriel did not look fit or focussed during any of his outings. So at the moment, we have our nr1 defender Koz back in training but probably not fit enough to start, our nr2 and nr3 defenders BFG and Gab long-term injured, which leaves us with youngsters Bielik, Holding, and Chambers. The latter should take this opportunity to break through to the first team and Wenger will use the next few games as a big testing moment for the young Englishman – his first team future at Arsenal could depend on it. I reckon Callum will be ok as long as we partner him with a cool and collected, experienced defender. At this moment in time, this has to be either Debuchy or Nacho, and I am going to suggest the latter is the best option. A combo of Chambers and Nacho, with Bellerin and Gibbs besides them and the experienced Cech behind them, should form a very decent defence.
I was at last season’s Arsenal v Pool game and the visitors really impressed me with their pressing football, high tempo passing and great running with and without the ball. Even though they have changed managers, the style of play is not very different. On Sunday they will try to press high up the pitch and not allow us to build from the back. This will actually suit us, as we can play compact and deep and play on the counter regularly. And playing compact will also help the likes of Chambers and Monreal to control the box better.
What will be absolutely crucial is who we will select for the double DM pivot and our mid-wingers. They all need to be able to help out our defence and are key in winning the midfield battle. They also need to add the spark to our two main attackers and get themselves into scoring positions as much as possible. This is where we can make a difference, and our performance against MC last Sunday is cause for some optimism.
I reckon we can win that battle in midfield and then there will be space and time to play some aggressive attacking football that will get the home crowd very excited. Regular readers know how much I rate Elneny and I simply don’t think we could do without him. Next to him it should either be Le Coq or Xhaka, and I believe the latter has that extra weapon that could bring us our win: the diagonal long-ball to our midwingers or CF from deep in our own half. Having said that, it may be that Wenger prefers to play Coquelin as he has more PL experience and adds that little bit extra protection to our defence (I would imagine).
In front of these two and behind the CF, I would play the One Aaron Ramsey: he can add that extra defensive support to Xhaka (Coq) and Elneny when required. He also can make those runs into the box and form a great partnership with my preferred CF for Sunday’s encounter: Alexis. Both have the quality and confidence to take our chances and their work rate is second to none. I can also see Wenger playing Theo up-front and Alexis on the wing, but I would rather bring on Theo in the second half to replace either Rambo or Alexis.
On the (mid)wings, I would prefer to start with safe pair of hands Joel and the lively Iwobi. Both will support their FBs well and add real threat up front whilst also having the engines to keep going which will be crucial against Pool, as this will be a high tempo, very intense game for 90 minutes.
I am not sure whether this will be our starting eleven but I reckon it would give us a really good chance to play some fine football and take all three points.
In just a few days the footie feast starts again – I cannot wait – COYRRGs! 🙂
A hard fought win, three invaluable points, no further injuries and Rambo is back. There are still people out there who believe there are easy games left in the Premier League, and how wrong they are. Bournemouth beating the Chavs at the Bridge… City getting hammered by the Orcs… Manure not able to score a single goal against the Hammers at home… and that is just this week’s pick of giant killing and bodily harming.
Arsenal knew they had to fight for the goals and a win today, and our winning spirit combined with team cohesion and camaraderie, go a very long way. On top of this, the players and the manager are one, and you only have to look at MU and the Chavs to realise that this is not always a given.
There are concerns about injuries and players available going into this very busy December month, and rightly so. But the area in which we have all players fit and available, our defence, we are currently underperforming the most…. Football is a strange, unpredictable game at times. Our back-five looked all over the place at times and we got away with some bad defending today, due to Sunderland not being very familiar with finding the net these days and, of course, the Cech factor. I reckon Bellerin is missing the support from Ramsey on his flank a lot; on the other hand, I wonder whether Hector Vector should play a bit more like a conventional FB, as Nacho is currently offering the strongest wing support of the two anyway…. We definitely need to play more compact and organised at the back on Wednesday, if we want to go through to the next round in the CL.
Luckily we had our shooting boots on and managed to score three goals: that is three more than MU, the Chavs and MC today, who all could not find the net despite massive player investments over the last few years. And we got those goals, despite sexy Alexis and Danny Champion of the World being injured, and Theo only playing for twenty minutes or so.
Eight Positives From the Game:
Ozil: what is there to say that has not already been said: Mesut is in top form, on top of the world and carrying the team through a difficult mini-period. His vision and speed of thinking and acting are unsurpassed and his passion for football is never in doubt, even though he does not always show it on the outside. If you are about to have a baby-boy… call him Mesut, is all I am saying. 🙂
Rambo is back: did you see how many times he arrived in time in the box to finish off an attack, or help to make the most of one? That is what Aaron brings and what you would expect of a B2B midfielder. Yes, he still had rusty moments and he needs to find a better balance between defence and attack (together with his DM partner the Flame), but we needed his energy and link up play so badly today (especially with both Santi AND Alexis missing). And a goal and assist make up for a couple of iffy defensive moments, don’t you think?!
Nacho: what a drive and passion this guy has! Especially in the second half he just looked like an orthodox winger at times. Is there a more complete Wing-Back in the country?
Giroud delivers again: unfortunate with the OG at the end of the first half, for which I won’t blame him at all, but he made up for it with a well-timed run and a fab finish that could have easily gone past the wrong side of the post. He also had the ‘pre-assist’ for the all-important first goal, with a classical lay-off to Ozil, who then found Campbell with a superb through-ball.
Theo came on and added real zest to the team: really good to see him back and he got the pre-assist for the third goal, so not a bad cameo.
Cech was awesome and kept us in the game, both with his saves and his persona/aura. What a signing, Arsene, what a fecking brilliant signing! How many points has he saved us already this season…?
Campbell made a very good run and finished calmly for our first goal. We all had high hopes for him initially, but it is now clear that he needs a bit of time and support from us, to play himself into the team. And his all-important first goal of the game will do him good. The one that will be worried most about Campbell’s gradual progress is the Ox, who once again did not convince and did not get on the assist or score sheet today. I have a feeling that the coming four weeks might determine his future at Arsenal… This is your ‘Le Coq’ moment, Alex..
As Arsenal are not playing till Sunday and the match preview will not go out until at least tomorrow afternoon, let’s blog about something else. It would be good to know what fellow Gooners would like to do with Kieran Gibbs.
Gibbser is 26 and has lost his preferred left back position to the currently immaculate Nacho Monreal. He needs to play regular football now as his best years have only just started, and he is too good to simply be a backup player.
Wenger has been playing him in front of Monreal as a sub on a few occasions: is the left midfield position an option for Kieran? Great defensively, but can he produce the assists and goals…?
Or should he aim for the DM position, currently vacated by Coquelin? He reads the game well, is very good defensively and a decent passer of the ball. He also has the stamina and athleticism needed for the DM role…
Alternatively, he could be developed into a CB, but it would take time and the competition is currently fierce…
He could also wait and compete hard with Monreal to claim his place, but how likely is it he will regain the LB position anytime soon?
Maybe his best option is to ask for a transfer by the end of the season?
Just back from a fine, long weekend in the serene Highlands of Scotland. Snow-peaked, ancient mountains, mirrored in enormous, still-as-a-mouse lakes, topped off by blue skies and decorated by autumn colours: and all that almost all to ourselves! 🙂
Until now, I was only able to watch the highlights but I did listen to intermittent radio commentary on Saturday afternoon. The radio commentator said that we went behind against the run of play, and looking at the highlights, we seemed a tat unlucky to not take anything from the game. Well hey, that is football! And we have been lucky enough until now to avoid this sort of outcome of a game in most cases.
I have said before that away games after an international break are hard to win. The combination of the horrific Paris terrorist attacks only eight days before the kick-off, which will have left especially our French players shaken, and the lack of time for Wenger to bring his team together and prepare them mentally for the Baggies’s challenge, may have been too much. Furthermore, the lack of quality options on the bench also did not help. But ultimately, we lacked composure, and luck was not on our side. Games and results like these we need to take on the chin and not overanalyse, even though it is so attractive to point to finger to one or more individuals and make yourself feel a little bit better.
The only person I am angry with, is, of course, Santi Cazorla; and I reckon Wenger will not quickly forget his lack of responsibility at a crucial moment in the game. I remember having a discussion with Retsub (where are you these days my friend?) re Santi taking a cheeky, chipped penalty against Norwich (if I remember rightly) a few seasons ago. We were winning the game comfortably by something like 3-0 and we were rewarded a spot-kick; Santi stepped up and tricked the keeper with a cheeky chip towards the middle of the goal. The keeper had already committed to a corner and could do nothing about this audacious penalty attempt. Both Retsub and I were a bit unhappy with the lack of respect this penalty attempt showed towards the goalkeeper and how it easily could have gone wrong… but it went in, so we could not complain too much.
When the team has been fighting soooo hard to get back into the game and we finally get a penalty awarded that could get us level, it really has to go in if we are serious about winning the league this time round. We have an experienced squad now with a large number of internationals who have handled far bigger pressures: whoever takes the penalty for Arsenal needs to be pretty sure he will convert it. Santi slipped so it was just a case of bad luck, some will say. But I reckon Cazorla was about to try one of his cheeky, nonchalant penalties again and it was his own stilted movement that made him slip; and this time he made an utter fool of himself. He even touched the ball twice, so the opposition were awarded a free-kick! Next time, Santi, take a normal penalty kick, or even better, ask Sanchez or Giroud to take it. Anybody can miss a penalty, but you have to at least make the goalkeeper work ffs!
The injury to Coquelin is very unfortunate, even though he could have been a little bit more careful perhaps. But in the end, Francis is a DM and it is about winning the physical and mental battles to get the upper hand, so I have no qualms with him getting injured like he did on Saturday… it is an occupational risk he has to be willing to take.
It is funny, we worry about the international players coming back with fatigue and therefore have increased risk of getting injured, but it is the fully rested players – Coquelin and Arteta – who get injured… We will have to see what Wenger will do to fill the void, as Coquelin has been our DM rock over the last few months. Surely, this is an opportunity for the Flame or even Chambers to (re)claim this crucial position….
Or maybe, this is an opportunity to move Nacho next to Cazorla in the double DM pivot? We need to play Gibbsy more, and I just feel that Monreal would make the DM role his: he is clever, quick, reads the game well, is hard but fair and his intelligence (and knowledge of the defenders behind him) could make him the best replacement for le Coq…
But luckily, Rambo is back and he could make a big difference for us again. Campbell did not do too badly but the Rambo-Vector-Hector combination on the right should give us a new wing to fly with. Bring on Zagreb and let’s move on from the West Brom game. The show must go on and Rambo is ready to lift the team! 🙂
12 games played in the premier league and now joined top with Citeh: who would have thought this after our first six games? We had a measly ten points and trailed the Northern Oilers by five points, and we had big games against Manchester United (H), Leicester (A), Swansea (A), Everton (H), Spuds (H) and Watford (A) ahead of us. Six games, and sixteen points, later and we caught up with the early season high flyers, and are now an amazing 15 points ahead of the self-adoring one and his spoiled Chavs, who were, let’s not forget, the absolute favourites to win the title again this season, in August. We are also the London PL table leaders with five points more than the Spuds and the Hammers. So far so very, very good; and we should be very proud of our boys.
There is of course still a very, very long way to go and the principle of OGAAT – one game at a time – remains an absolute necessity if we are to win anything this year. Looking ahead to our next six PL games, we have a good chance to stay top and even take a bit of distance from Citeh and other competitors. But this can only be achieved by focussing on each and every game like it is a cup final.
Next up is West Brom away, never easy, especially after an international break; then it is Norwich away, Sunderland at home and Villa away: all teams that need points and will fight us with all they have got; then we play Citeh at home, followed by Southampton away, which are both very tricky fixtures. In the middle of these we have to play two CL fixtures, and especially the away game against Olympiakos – in between Sunderland at home and Villa away – could require a hell of a lot from our team (but only if Bayern manage to beat the Greeks before then in the first place).
So OGAAT it is and let’s see where we are after our Boxing Day fixture against the Saints. Key is to get our team back to strength as injuries have once again depleted our squad in the last few weeks. There is, however, reason for optimism based on our first twelve games in the PL:
We are so much more solid at the back, especially when we play at least four out of Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koz and Nacho. Only MU conceded less goals (8) and we are equal with Citeh (9 goals conceded each), and we have already achieved six clean PL sheets this season. There is still room for improvement and especially the CB pairing could be subject to improvement in the next few months.
Cech, after a rough start against WH, has improved the squad considerably. Perhaps less exciting to many, but his impact on the team is on a par with the previous arrivals of Santi, Ozil and Sanchez. Petr is the sort of goalkeeper we needed for a long time to make real progress in the league.
Santi – Ozil – Sanchez give us the creative magic virtually all our competitors are missing right now. It is very hard for competitors to eliminate our creative force: if they focus on shadowing Ozil then Santi or Alexis will find the gaps instead; if they press hard on Santi, Alexis and Ozil will help him and together they find the space and the passes to hurt the opposition in a flash. We are now a team that at any moment and from almost any place on the pitch can produce a through-ball that will hurt the opposition instantly.
Coquelin is now even better than last season. Some predicted that he would have a disappointing ‘second season’ as our deepest DM, but Francis has fully established himself in the team. He always gives his all and has found the right balance between aggression and control; and quietly he is developing in one of our key leaders.
Goals are being spread between the team, with OG and Alexis having each scored as many PL goals as Aguero (6) and Theo showing a lot of promise too (2 PL goals currently). I love the variety we have in attack and that Wenger is using our attackers flexibly. Just as with our creative play, we have an extra dimension to our attack. However, getting Theo back as soon as possible is much needed to avoid burnout of Giroud, and especially, Alexis.
Ozil is currently totally in the zone: 10 assists in 11 PL games is quite something and he is making our play now more than ever. He benefits a lot from Santi’s and Alexis’ presence and loves to work with the likes of Giroud, Alexis and Theo to produce his mesmerizing magic.
Our Spanish full backs – or Bull Backs – are our power boosters and add sooo much to the team right now, both defensively and in attack. Nacho and Hector Vector are the complete package and play with great energy and passion. Wenger has turned these two into fabulous players and we are reaping the benefits now!
Ramsey the connector, the gap filler, our dynamo: for me Rambo is the ideal box to box player next to Coquelin, but Wenger is a genius for making him play on the right, in a free role. He is great at almost all aspects of midfield play and so important for allowing others to shine. And he will shine himself now and again as well. The goals are still missing this season, but let this not take away from how pivotal his overall midfield performances are for the team.
Our ability to go for the kill when it is on offer has been great. How many times did we score a second goal very soon after we scored the first goal in a PL game? The team now seem to pounce on weaknesses much better and this reminds me a lot of our Bergkamp/Henry/Pires Arsenal days.
Resilience: we are much better in seeing games out now and not expose ourselves unnecessarily (the CL games, bar the Bayern home game, are the exception though). I loved our second half against MU as much as the first one: never gave them a chance to come back; I also loved the way we clawed back a draw against the Spuds, and even fought for a later winner, yesterday.
With almost a third of this season’s PL campaign behind us, we can be very positive of where we are and what makes this team special. There is no doubt that the many injuries can hurt us but until now the impact has been minimal, and with a couple of weeks’ rest, and hopefully no further injuries, we should be able to push on till after Christmas, when I will do another term review.
Every time Arsenal disappoints a portion of our Gooners souls are crushed. In drawing AS Monaco in the round of 16 many Gooners believed we finally had a chance to get a bit deeper into the Champions League eliminations. If we could beat them in a bit of style, draw a team in the quarters who maybe didn’t quite have their feet totally under themselves, well, who knows, anything is possible in football.
Wednesday night may have proved that adage, but not as expected. Hopeful Gooners didn’t see it coming, but we witnessed a nervous performance and a capitulation which took us aback. Moderate early dominance led to a realization that our opponent was well organized and difficult to break down. A lucky (and deflected) strike from distance gave them the away goal and the upper hand in the tie. There was no initial panic but we made no headway as we played out the first 45.
After halftime there seemed increased desire but still no equalizer. We pushed and we pushed but maybe we pushed too much. A simple loss of possession high up the pitch led to missed tackles and chasing on the break. 2-nil. More chances, many rushed, all squandered, until, finally, substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got one back. Those who had stayed in the stadium had a little something to get excited about. Except they didn’t. Too eager from the kickoff, the Ox made another dash at goal but left the ball behind. Again the break was on and Monaco finished it, and most likely our Champions League hopes, in ruthless fashion.
Now, with just three days of rest to find perspective and regroup, Arsenal face always tough Everton in front of our none-too-happy home support. It will not be an easy match. In fact, we haven’t beaten this club (in the league) in our last 5 attempts, but a reaction is necessary. Arsenal need a result and a performance, both to maintain their position in the league and to restore a bit of belief amongst the players and the fans.
It could be argued we’re playing Everton at a good time. They actually come into the match on even less rest due to their Europa League exploits. At least they will be riding a wave of confidence, having beaten BSC Young Boys (Switzerland) 3-1 and completing a 7-2 aggregate win over two legs. For winning that they will face two more Thursday matches against Dinamo Kiev, one of which will require travel to war-torn Ukraine. All of that will be only for a chance to get to the quarter-finals of the Europa League. Still, given that they’re in the bottom half of the league table, winning that tournament is their best chance of getting into next year’s Champions League.
It’s a far cry from the scare the Toffees gave us a season ago, when losing to them in a desultory 3-0 at Goodison Park in April shunted them into (and us out of) the top four Champions League places. We were able to win our remaining six matches (including the FA Cup final) while they stumbled, but it still remains an indication of the threat posed by the Blues. Roberto Martinez’ team may need to prioritize their progress in Europe but they will surely do so fighting for every scrap of confidence they can find. Nothing would help more than a composed performance and stealing points against wounded Arsenal.
As such, I expect a composed and committed performance from Everton. Can we match it? In my opinion, composure is what we lacked in the mid-week loss. Some might have seen a lack of spirit or passion in that performance, but I saw players, if anything, trying too hard, rushing their chances and losing their discipline, especially when it came to positioning as the match wore on. Monaco was playing us to absorb our attack and spring on the counter and we obliged by stepping into the trap. A similar dynamic will likely play out in the Everton match. As much as we need to make a statement in front of our home fans, it must be done in methodical fashion. Patience, never the long-suit amongst Gooners, could be a watch-word.
Everton’s most recent league match, at home, against attack-minded Leicester City, showed that they can be broken down. In that one, the visitors, despite going behind against the run of play, scored two goals in the 2nd half and were unlucky to leave Goodison with only a point, a late own-goal rescuing the draw for the home team. They may switch things up against us, but their rearguard, featuring American keeper Tim Howard and all British back four (Phil Jagielka, John Stones or Sylvain Distin , Leyton Baines and Seamus Coleman) can be breached. Martinez typically allows the fullbacks freedom to get forward but then packs the center of the pitch with midfielders known as much for their defending as their attack. Gareth Barry is the most notorious for his cynicism but James McCarthy and Muhamed Besic, while possessing a bit more trickery and pace, are players who play with commitment and defensive focus. Ross Barkley, the talented but hot-tempered English youngster can be dangerous, both in getting forward on the dribble and spotting the through-ball. Up front, the focus is on the big man Romelu Lukaku, but keying on him comes with the peril of ignoring more consistent finishers like Stephen Naismith and Kevin Mirallas. Despite their struggles this season and their likely desire to focus on Europe, we should not believe that Everton will be pushovers.
How will Arsene Wenger try and get our boys up for this challenge and who will he pick to do the job? While some Gooners will call for wholesale changes after the Monaco match, I seriously doubt Wenger will answer those calls. Many are pointing fingers at David Ospina and want Wojcheik Szczesny back in goal. Others are still having nightmares from the failures of our two tallest (and slowest?) players, Olivier Giroud and Per Mertesacker, and wish to leave them out. Still others lament over the work ethic (or lack thereof) of Mesut Ozil, or the fact that Santi Cazorla was unable to put a definitive stamp on the CL match. Sorry, I don’t see any of them being dropped.
Instead, I believe our indiscipline was mainly at the full-back positions so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nacho Monreal in for Kieran Gibbs. Hector Bellerin may also make way for Calum Chambers, although he may be seen as the better alternative for containing Baines. With Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini still unavailable and Jack Wilshere undergoing a minor surgery, Francis Coquelin will have to reprise his role in defensive midfield. Oxlade-Chamberlain, who came on in his stead on Wednesday, is unlikely to get his spot. While he got us on the board in midweek, his over-eagerness also was at the heart of Monaco’s late killer. On the other hand, Theo Walcott, who came on for the ineffectual Giroud, I think, may finally get a start. If he does, my bet is that it’s at the expense of Welbeck rather than big Ollie, who helps so much in giving our offense its shape and defending at set pieces.
As matches following tough CL games go, Everton is not a great opponent to face. Additionally, while a home tie would seem to favour us, the hostility of the disappointed support will always be lurking and ready to rear its ugly head should we concede early or even look less than fully in control. We need to start the match well and make early chances count. Full focus will be expected and required.
Can we get the needed reaction and all three points?
Will Wenger go with a largely unchanged group or try out some of his more rested players?
Is this a time to rotate or does he wait for Wednesday at QPR?
Who would you play and why?
This is a big one. We have no choice but to get right back on top of the horse which bucked us off. We simply must. Go on then…
A very good friend of mine is a devout Brighton Supporter, so I asked him if he wouldn’t mind putting together a short piece on his beloved team ahead of the cup tie. To protect his anonymity, I am going to refer to him as Asad (Arabic for lion).
For many years Asad and I trawled the Middle-East, visiting clients and prospects. In countries where we could, we would often share a beer in the evening and talk about our teams. If ever Asad saw a rich Arab he would suggest we asked him if he would like to invest in the ‘Seagulls’. At the time Brighton were playing in a rented athletics stadium, and I had the pleasure of attending a couple of games and it was pretty grim.
Asad and I often visited Abu Dhabi and he was a little upset to hear that they were investing in Manchester City. By chance, Brighton were playing City in a Carling cup match and Asad decided to convince Abu Dhabi they had made the wrong decision. The following may sound a little far fetched but it is true (I have photographic evidence). With the help of some Arab friends posters were designed in Arabic, saying things like “you bought the wrong club”, and Brighton supporters are better looking than City supporters. These were then paraded around the ground by Asad and the Brighton cheerleaders shortly before the City game kick off. 99 per cent of the stadium would have had no idea what the posters said, but Asad was reaching out to the Abu Dhabi party who were visiting. It had some effect because lowly Brighton beat City and kicked them out of the Carling cup.
That night a plan was hatched to wind Asad up. With the assistance of our friends in our Middle-Eastern office, the following morning Asad arrived at his desk and received a call from one of our Abu Dhabi office telling him that having 1) seen the posters 2) noticed the result and 3) discovered that the City sponsors would be Etihad ( Abu Dhabi’s new airline), it had been decided that Etihad, which translates to ‘Unite’, wasn’t appropriate for City shirts. The deal was in danger and maybe Brighton would be considered. They also told him the Abu Dhabi press had got hold of the story and it was causing quite a stir.
A number of us told Asad that we had also heard about it and poor old Asad was jumping with joy. He telephoned a number of his Seagull supporting friends to tell them the exciting news, while we sat behind him with tears rolling down our faces. He then decided he would call the Brighton press office to alert them to the news. An executive decision was quickly made that we would have to end the fun and tell him it was a wind up…….he wasn’t happy.
I have to be honest, I don’t consider to be much of a tactical genius but in order to stimulate conversation this is the way I expect our team to line up on Sunday.
Keeper. Szs. I don’t want to give Brighton any clues, so this will be ‘for your eyes only’, but I understand Szs will be given a ‘Licence to Kill’. Hopefully, he won’t ‘Die Another Day’, but let’s face it, you ‘Only Live Twice’, and If Brighton try the long ball Szs is well equipped to deal with the ‘Skyfall’.
Full backs. Bellerin and Gibbs. I’d be tempted to rest the BFG and Kos and pair Nacho and Chambers; this might tempt fate, but a BFG rest is long overdue and I get the impression that Kos needs to look after his injuries.
Double DM Pivot. Le Coq is a must for me with Rambo alongside. It worked so well against City, its got to worth another shot. Dependent on the way the Seagulls line up, Rambo would be given permission to roam
In midfield. I would go With Little Mozart, the Ox and Ozil. Rosicky and Ozil need game time and the OX is still in need of a confidence boost.
Giroud up front.
So, now I hand over to my good friend Asad for an honest appraisal from a Seagull. With TA’s permission I will invite Asad to join the debate to answer any questions etc.
The Mighty Seagulls versus the Gunners.
So, a giant killing this week on the cards? Especially after our surprising victory over Ipswich midweek?
Speak to most Brighton fans and you will find they are more realist than optimist.
This is more of a showcase for our new ground, our wonderful hospitality and don’t forget the pies (best in the League). Brighton supporters will be the ones purchasing the half and half scarves as a reminder that matches like this can happen.
Any Arsenal supporter with a ticket will have a wonderful day and can expect progress into the next round. What can Brighton offer ? We are recovering from an inept Manager and now hopefully a better one that will set us on the correct path. Our goal is not to be relegated and return to playing enjoyable football (dare I say the Arsenal way?).
Key players left the club last season and joined the elite in the Premiership (Upson /Bridcut/Ujjoa / Buckley / Barnes). Their replacements have not been good enough for the third push in succession into the playoffs, but our hopes have risen of better times with the return to the side of young Rohan Ince (he is a Vierra type player- you will like him and perhaps ask like us why he wasn’t picked by Hyppia).
Our top scorer is our centre half which says a lot for our forwards. Craig Mackail-Smith has all the endeavour of Sanchez except he cannot score. Miracles do happen, and perhaps Wenger may field a reserve team but please enjoy the day, the match, the pies, the local ale (Harveys). Come into the North stand at the end of the match and have a drink with our supporters (this really does happen most weeks), and go away hoping we can join the Premiership as it is a great place to come back to again.
Ohhh, forgot my match prediction:
Sadly for the Seagulls, Arsenal will knock The Living daylights out of them. Two nil to the in form Gunners, with a thunderball from Rambo (sorry wrong film). Szs to perform like an Octopussy.
It was no Wengerball; it was no total football. But it was just the team performance the red and white footie doctor had ordered: solid, determined, energetic, predatory, and victorious. Many of us have argued that in the big games we should play compact in defence, lay deeper and work our socks off, and then beat our title competitors on the break.
And that is exactly what the Gunners did against Citeh today; and had we been a bit more tuned in and clinical up-front, we could have won with more goals.
Of course, the best thing in the world is to beat these opponents with free-flowing, attacking footie, but this might have to wait for a while. Every new palace needs a solid foundation first.
Today’s performance shows that we can play a more solid, defensive game if we have to: and we got the full rewards for it. Had we lost today the gap between us and the Northern Oilers would have been unbridgeable; but in a week’s time it could be just six or five points (when the battle of the Oilers takes place and we play home against the Villains). The Chavs are too far ahead of us, but we can still gun Citeh down; and, given the difficult start of the season, that would still be a good finish to the PL season in some respect.
We ‘scalped’ the Northern Oilers twice now this season and fought hard for a draw at home as well.
Significantly, winning today’s away game has the potential to move us onto a higher platform: the win builds confidence and belief, and with a number of stars returned and returning – did you see that sexy bench today? – we should be able to repeat this performance against the Spuds (in three weeks), the Chavs and the Mancs. Other than one or two good cup runs and a high finish in the PL, learning how to beat our closest rivals would be a great, much needed outcome of the 2014-15 season.
Positives from Man City v Arsenal:
Le Coq stood tall. I had doubts whether Francis would survive in this game, but he had a quietly brilliant game: he was solid, kept it simple and played with great discipline. He showed a great nose for advancing danger and positioned himself really well. His interventions were strong and decisive, and he moved play on well. OzG could be right after all, and no additional DM will be bought anytime soon… What a development!
Cazorla was totally in his element. The free role in our 4-2-1-3 formation today suits him so well. Santi was instrumental in releasing the pressure on our defence with his ability to hold onto the ball in very tight spaces and find a way to play it to a fellow attacker. Furthermore, it was a big penalty to take, and he converted it calmly and professionally; and his free-kick provided the assist for Giroud’s all important second goal. He helped out everywhere and was great support for his fellow midfielders. An inspired, passionate performance, and I feel I owe him an apology but that is for another post. Santi Santi ahahaha 🙂
Ramsey offered a lot of support to our defence and attack today. He was clearly rusty as his final ball and attempts on goal showed us, but he linked up midfield and attack well and helped out Coquelin constantly. I would not have opted for him today, as I believed both Flamini and Rosicky were more suited for this match, but Aaron put in a good shift. There is new life in the Welsh engine room…
We defended as a team: all eleven of ‘us’. I thought Alexis had an off day from an attacking point of view (compared to his high standards) but he put in a good defensive shift (although not faultless). To a large extent, the same goes for Ox, although he had a couple of good moments in attack, notably the excellent run and cross into the box to Giroud. But he also put in a disciplined defensive shift (although not faultless either). The Gunners wanted it more today.
The Full Backs were very keen and kept the City flank penetrations to a minimum. This was crucial as they love to get behind defences from the sides in order to crack them open. Bellerin was very impressive with his positioning and interventions; and Monreal showed great, healthy aggression and energy on the left flank. Both also offered great support going forward, and it was Nacho’s involvement up-front that earned him and us the beautiful gift of a penalty (deserved, but I was still amazed the ref gave it to us so early in the game). The FBs were on fire.
Koz was a beast throughout the game. He hovered up so many balls and his presence and raw energy was enormous. Playing compact and deep suits both Koz and (obviously) the BFG, especially if they get very fine support in front of them by the midfielders. Our CBs were a great mixture of calm interventions/positioning and organisation on the one hand (BFG), and power and aggression on the other hand (Koz). Absolute bliss.
Ospina did not have a lot to do, but he was calm and somehow always ‘present’. He also felt no need to get unnecessarily involved and handled the high balls into the box well. I love the way the away fans shouted his name every time he was kicking the ball out. Nice touch.
Giroud worked hard for the team but, crucially, he took one of his few chances to decide the game for us. It just looked that Alexis was not going to score today, so we needed somebody else to step up. Santi did so from the penalty spot and Ollie from a free-kick at a crucial point in the game. City had looked strong at the start of the second half and we were buckling quite a bit under the pressure, so we needed that second goal desperately, and Giroud delivered right on time. Priceless.
A big compliment should also go to Arsene. He opted to include three relatively young/inexperienced players in his team – Bellerin, Le Coq and Ox – and started with the rusty Ramsey, and it all worked out brilliantly. I did not think this could work, but he proved me wrong. 🙂
There is so much to take from this game and to discuss. What are your positives and negatives from the game? Have we turned a corner now?
Inter-lull over and six games to go to the next break. Big players missing in all areas of the pitch, but still a more than decent squad to choose from. The mission is clear after allowing the gap with the Chavs go to nine points: start a winning streak by focussing on each and every game like a cup final. The most important game is always the next one as we live by the principle of OGAAT, or OVAAT: one victory at a time. And we will not be struggling much to treat the home against Hull as a cup final, given they were our opponents in the last FA Cup final just five months ago.
I like Steve Bruce. A decent guy: humble and enthusiastic, down to earth and fair – and with the sort of nose that makes you wonder what he sounds like when deep asleep. He is also a survivor and what he has done with Hull is pretty amazing all-round. Diame, Livermore and Huddlestone will form a strong central wall in their anticipated 3-5-2 formation, so I reckon we will need to be strong and disciplined in our midfield. If we crack it we will be fine.
After Arsene’s recent evaluation of Jack’s core strengths, it is clear to me we will find him play in the hole, or their about, today. He said on Arsenal.com: ‘
“Jack is not a ball-winner. I believe he is more a guy you want to get close to the final third, [if you] keep him deep you take a big part of his efficiency away.
“He is a guy who likes to penetrate when there are many people – he can provoke free-kicks, he can create openings. It would be detrimental to his strengths [to play in a position that] is not his strength.”
I hope fellow Gooners will remember these words as it will aid discussions on where Jack will play in Arsene’s team this season. We need some strengths and discipline behind him though, yet with the ability to give extra support in attack as much as possible. Who can do that well? Rosicky. So, I expect him to play next to Arteta, with both Ox and Flamini kept on the bench for a late cameo, or to be fresh for the Anderlecht game.
With injuries to Koz and Debuchy, and Chambers being suspended, the defence picks itself to a large extent. Maybe Flamini will move next to the BFG (on either side), but I have gone for Nacho, with Gibbs and Bellerin as our FBs.
Ox could start instead of Cazorla but I reckon Arsene will go for experience, and having Ox on the bench is a great weapon at hand. Alexis on the left and the Wel up top and that is it my fine fellow Gooners.
I cannot wait for the game to start. The one benefit of the narrow loss against the Chavs is it will have made us grounded and focussed. So Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners – the League starts again, here, today! Super OGAAT! as 17HT called it this week. 🙂