The Cech Factor, Mesmerising Mesut, Spanish Bull Backs, Rambo Dynamo: 10 PL positives until now.

253FF7F900000578-0-image-a-2_1422894082588

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

By TotalArsenal.

Lack of Attitude? My Arsenal! Southampton afterthoughts

Southampton – Arsenal: after thoughts.

Thanking 'Voetbal International' for picture.
Thanking ‘Voetbal International’ for picture.

In summary:

For a large part of the first half Arsenal were  outplayed. The Saints had great movement and were more energetic, stronger and passed the ball round really well; and we did not have an answer to it – at least not until the end of the first half, when we were gradually getting back into the game. During the second half, we turned it round fantastically well, initially; only to be surprised by our own success and drop our concentration, leading to us conceding so quickly the equaliser, which cost us most probably two points as a result – and the Flame’s red and yellow mist did not help either.

Gaining a point from that game is still not a bad outcome, but we were given a lifeline to get all three and did not take it, which is disappointing. On the balance of the night – and that is all we have to take into account – a draw was a fair result. Now it is all about OGAATing on and the ‘bouncebackability’ of both the players AND the supporters: bring on Crystal Palace!

I saw the game on a tiny screen with interruptions, so cannot do justice to a full match review. From what I could see, it appeared that the FlamTeta wall was too easily breached and did not offer the expected, and much needed, solidity; neither was it able to support our ‘attacking four’ sufficiently. We were hemmed in by the Saints – just like we often hem in our opponents – and they deserve great credit for it: we were out-total-footballed in the first half. Chapeau, Respect and all that!

It would be good to hear your views why this was the case: lack of fitness, lack of communication, or simply superb Saints tactics?

I also thought Southampton threatened our full backs continuously last night and, despite good efforts by Gnabry and Santi to support them, they were made to look exposed a lot.

The first goal was all-round bad defending by the team, and that is all I want to say about it. Our equaliser was an act of power by Sagna and precision finishing by OG. Our second goal was well taken by Santi. Their equaliser was the biggest disappointment of the night. Sagna could have done better, but nobody picking up the run of the very impressive Lallana was the real issue here. If you score two goals away, you should come home with all three points…. no?

Flamini and Arteta should never have allowed this situation to developed, as they should have closed up shop straight after us taking the lead. But euphoria often makes the head go dizzy and that is probably why a team is at its weakest just after taking the lead. So this can happen in a game. What probably cost us dearly, though, was Flamini’s sending off. He should have known better.

Not for a single moment, did I blame the attitude of the players last night; but I was still not surprised to see many fellow Gooners – on BK and other places – doing just that.

To blame the players for a lack of motivation and not turning up for the game is a gross injustice and, quite simply, a lack of understanding of the game and our team in particular.

The first team Arsene put out yesterday are all fighters, hard workers and responsibility takers: each and every one of them.

Supporters continuously act like they are managers on blogs, and I am no exception; although, half of the time we are not aware of this. ‘Blog managers’ can be divided into Theory X and Theory Y managers, as per Douglas McGregor’s famous ‘Theory X and Theory Y’. Theory X blog managers distrust their players and think they are basically lazy and can only be motivated by money. They also love to blame someone – players, manager and Board members – for any failure. As per Wikipedia’s description of the Theory X manager:

The Theory X manager tends to believe that everything must end in blaming someone. He or she thinks all prospective employees are only out for themselves. Usually these managers feel the sole purpose of the employee’s interest in the job is money. They will blame the person first in most situations, without questioning whether it may be the system, policy, or lack of training that deserves the blame.’

‘Theory Y blog managers’ tend to believe that players want to do well and give their all for the club, and are not purely motivated by earning a lot of money and their status. As per Wiki:

A Theory Y manager believes that, given the right conditions, most people will want to do well at work. They believe that the satisfaction of doing a good job is a strong motivation.

Over the years, working in various businesses and following Arsenal passionately simultaneously, I have learned that employees AND footballers can be roughly divided into two groups: those with a passionate commitment and those with a calculated commitment. The first group is more driven by intrinsic motivation to do a good job first and for all (and are sucked dry by most companies as they are usually the main drivers for their success), and the latter one is mainly motivated by money and status – sometimes described as mercenaries (they are usually tolerated by companies/clubs because of either their excellent derrière moistening abilities and/or they possess a technical/rare skill set).

In my opinion, Arsenal now have a team – carefully picked by Arsene over the last few years – with only passionately committed players in the core team. Of the eleven starters last night, Szczesny, Sagna, Koz, BFG, Flamini, Nacho, Arteta, Cazorla, Giroud, Ozil…. are all players with a passionate commitment, rather than a calculative one. Whether Gnabry has this as well is too early to say, but first signs are promising.

There are no mercenaries left in our core team: they all work hard and give their all; and they did so again last night. Rather than blame the attitude of a few players, or even the whole team, for us dropping valuable points, I strongly recommend we focus on the technical, tactical and quality aspects of last night’s performance and avoid knee-jerking. That is what Bergkampesque is all about.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Bergkampesque is an inclusive blog and we welcome constructive comments from Gooners and other supporters: the more the merrier. We always welcome new bloggers to comment and share in the debate as long as they stick to the blog guidelines (see at top of page). 

You can also sign up to an automatic email service informing you when a new post has been issued. See ‘Follow Blog via Email’ on right hand side.

TotalArsenal.

What is the score The2-0 Wal2-0tt? Reflections on 12 tough days

ARSENAL v TOTTENHAM

&

A reflection of a demanding 12 days

CS53913988Football-Arsena-2988867

Due to a mis-communication, the review is somewhat later than might have been the norm for such an important game like an NDL. But maybe we needed some time to celebrate the victory, without analysing the various aspects that went to produce such a stunning victory.

Perhaps Jack Wilshere summed it up best when he said … ‘Arsenal have clicked’?

So let me just roll the clock back to where our Christmas schedule began: December 23rd, a home-tie against Chelsea. We had not won a match since December 4th. We drew 1-1 in a very open game against Everton, Then lost away at Napoli in the Champions League, but it was enough to get us through to the group stages. Then came the dour home game with Chelsea that finished 0-0. Not surprising, given how few shots on target by either team. But that point is the difference between us and the rest of the chasing pack right now. It might have been a disappointment at the time, as a win would have pushed us 7 points clear, but less so now?

Three days later we travelled the short distance to West Ham. This was the game where we lost Aaron Ramsey, and welcomed the return of Podoski from the bench. Two goals from Theo Walcott and a sealer from Lukas Podolski, meant we ran out comfortable winners in the end. For Theo it was an impressive return to his best, after being shut out against Chelsea. It also got us back to winning ways.

Three days later we make the long trek to Newcastle, who were in impressive form themselves. Another game remembered for injuries and sickness before the game, and big ones in it: the changes that were made because Vermaelen and Monreal did not travel through sickness. Ozil was left behind because of a shoulder injury. Then, both Gibbs and Giroud came off with injuries that would mean they would miss the next two games at least.

Despite starting the stronger of the two sides, it took until 65th minute for Olivier Giroud to have a glancing header and thus break the deadlock. It left it for Newcastle to dominate the final 20 minutes, but our defenders stayed calm and we secured a 0-1 victory. Those three points took us back to the top of the table going into the New Year, but it was MOTM performance by Tomas Rosicky that gave the team the drive and determination that helped maintain this winning sequence.

Yet another 2-day break before we took on Cardiff at home. Nacho Monreal recovered enough to replace Gibbs, while Jack Wilshere replaced Rosicky, who had a slight injury from the previous match. But it was over to Lukas Podolski, making his first start as the central striker, replacing the stricken Giroud, with Waclott continuing on the right and Santi Cazorla on the left. This game needs little in the way of refreshing the memory, it being the most recent. There was the disappointing return of Podolski as the main striker; and Cardiff seemingly able to keep us out. So it was no surprise to see him being replaced Nicholas Bendtner in the 65th minute, along with Tomas Rosicky, after Flamini was withdrawn.

Almost immediately the balance of the team looked better, as Arsenal lay siege to the Cardiff goal. The dramatic concluding minutes will long remain in our memories? A nice interplay with Cazorla and Monreal and his cross to the far post, Sagna sees his header saved by the ‘keeper, but only to witness Bendtner arrive and rifle in a bullet across the goal and into the far corner.

1-0, but the drama did not end there. Nicky B landed on his right foot and it got caught under the diving keeper. Yet another injury, out for 4 weeks minimum with a sprained ankle. But he had barely made his assisted walk around the pitch to the much relieved fans applause, when a quick breakaway saw Walcott dink a second goal. His first home goal of the season. 2-0, and still TOTL!

That was the backdrop to this FA Cup and NLD match.

I felt it was worth taking that in, to place this fixture in context if you like. It was not just any Cup game. It was not just any NLD. It came on the back of some extreme physical effort from the entire squad that took part, and could be forgiven if the whole thing suffered because of it.

However, nothing could be further from the truth – apart from the opening few minutes when Spurs moved the ball about nicely, and a misplaced clearance by Koscielny went straight to Ericksen. He got first run on Sagna and only had Fabiansky to beat, but delayed too long and Fab blocked it away for a corner. Thereafter it was Arsenal who made the quick passes, got the better chances, and really dominated the game with ease.

We were superior in virtually every department. Spurs had moments of individual skill, but Arsenal had the collective skills, and it was that which proved decisive. Perhaps also, it was the speed at which we could move the ball forwards. No surprise then, that it was another master class from Mr Endeavor himself, Tomas Rosicky, who provided much of that, and for once he got his reward with a goal he created by that very tireless running that I speak of now. That was an individual moment which he thoroughly deserved.

However, in the collective spirit he was ably assisted in the running of Walcott, the interplay with Cazorla and Wilshere, but special mention has to go to Serge Gnabry. 18 years old, playing in his first NDL, indeed, having his first start since September, and he positively shined. His interplay with Walcott was great. The perfect pass for Cazorla’s goal was sublime. He made a couple of others of equal merit, and had a snap shot from the edge of the box that skimmed over the bar. If it was somebody’s first visit, they would not have known he was: a, not a regular team member; or b, just 18 years old, such was the mature performance he put in.

The second goal came about after Danny Rose thought he’d be clever and twist away from the rapidly closing Rosicky. So, in failing, and being the last defender, he doubled his ignominy when Rosi darted away for a one-on-one with the keeper, and delightfully chipped him with a sand wedge instep.

It was not a game without flashpoints. Wilshere squaring up to Bentaleb, the Spurs youngster, but the ref dealt with that quietly. Chiriches clipped Wilshere late, but advantage was played and he escaped a booking. Indeed, he escaped a ‘second’ one where he caught Walcott on the foot when he had no chance of getting the ball. A couple of penalty shouts, both denied.

Other things like injuries did not leave us alone though. First Vermaelen was replaced at half time with a cut just below the knee. Then, after we had changed Arteta and Wilshere for Flamini and Ozil – nice to have replacements like that? -Walcott picked up a knock, accidental this time, and had to be stretchered off.

This led to one of the photo moments of the game, as he was carried past the Spurs fans who, it is reported, sang some distasteful songs at him while he was being treated, to which, two fingers and a zero reminded them of the score. One for the album without doubt, but the unfortunate stretcher bearers received more missiles than some of their counterpart did at times in WW1.

Very sensitive, and no sense of humour these Spurs fans?

So the final 10 minutes or so we were down to 10 men. But even then the Spurs could not muster a worthwhile shot on goal.

It was expected to be a tough encounter, but with the ease that Spurs were brushed aside, I think we can safely say … …. ARSENAL HAVE CLICKED!

Discuss: Key battles?; Does 4-3-3 always beat 4-4-2?; Overall tactics?; Greater loss – Giroud or Walcott?; MOTM… majority say Rosicky, and I agree.

But remember what the squad has achieved over this short period is nothing short of a miracle, built on sheer hard graft and a collective desire to win, and keep winning. 

Written by: Gerry.