Alexis, Mesut, Jack and Aaron the new Thierry, Dennis, Freddie and Robert?

Alexis CF, Mesut nr.10… with Jack and Aaron ‘Mid-wings’: Discuss! 🙂

arsenal_henry_pires_bergkamp_ljungberg_vieira

Regular readers know that I am a great believer in Giroud and that I do not see a need to buy a CF anytime soon. Giroud allows others to shine and he carries a strong goal threat himself. Ollie is the complete package in the modern game, even though he is not the best classical centre forward Arsenal ever have had by any stretch. For me it is clear that Arsene wants our attack to be unpredictable and multi-dimensional, and Giroud offers a great base to operate from, especially if and when we play park the bus teams. His stats are great, his work rate good, and his total contribution to the team is simply fantastic.

I also like Theo, who offers speed and keeps defences close to their goalkeepers, often allowing our midfielders to boss the midfield. This works especially well against teams that like to attack us/ do not park the bus. With Theo we are at our most dynamic, especially once we have regained the ball and can break forward.

I love it that we have these two options for attacking different opponents, and I reckon Giroud and Theo will get plenty of chances to shine. But there is a third option for us, and that is playing Alexis as our CF. He can do hold/link up play, he is fast, he has energy and a great threat from outside and inside the box. He can dribble and take defenders on, and he also has a decent through-ball in his repertoire. He also is a great finisher and a predator with relentless energy and hunger. The total ‘pure’ CF package, if you ask me…

I would love Arsene to try Alexis as our CF, but I guess he will not do it until he has a good alternative on the left wing. With Ozil in the hole and Alexis up top, we would not be that far from what Bergkamp and Henry had to offer a  decade or so ago.

What we also need is good midfielders on the wings that can work in tandem with their flying full-backs: Bellerin and Nacho. Rambo and Bellerin have formed a very strong partnership in which the FB is the real winger and the midfielder is both an attacker and co-defender, and I reckon we need to buy a good left winger/midfielder to make the Ozil-Sanchez partnership really work.

But then I thought about Jack coming back in the new year. I see Jack in either Cazorla or Ozil’s current role, but both have been playing very well and it would be wrong to force either out. But what about playing Jack on the left wing for a while? Nacho and Jack would be able to work a fine partnership ala Aaron and Bellerin, and Jack can do on the left what Ramsey does on the right. Both would also be allowed to move about and interchange with Ozil, as to keep it all fluid and unpredictable.

This is how it would look like:

Midfield heaven

Of course we would need Coquelin back, which will take a while now, and Jack would need to be fully fit. But once everybody is available, this could be a very strong team in my opinion. Jack and Rambo could develop into our new Ljunberg and Pires… And with Theo, Giroud and Danny we would have options to vary this approach.

What do you think FFGs? 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

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

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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.

Ozil King of Assists, Gibbs Glows, Debuchy is Back: 8 Positives from NLD

Mesmerizing Mesut - King of Assists!
Mesmerizing Mesut – King of Assists! (thanking The Guardian for picture)

The Spuddies came to the home of football to show us how much progress they have made and that they are ready to fight for the title, or at least a top four finish. We all know that they have a good mini-phase every season, only to implode towards the end of it. Having said that, they gave us a good game based around a physically strong central midfield and a few players who can play more than a bit of football. It was not hard to motivate our players for this one, but with the large number of injuries and a challenging schedule over the last few weeks, it was clear that many were running on their last legs.

It has to be said that the Spuds also had a busy schedule, but missing out on the League Cup 12 days ago will have allowed their players to rest that little bit more. Against Sheffield Wednesday, we lost Ox and Theo and we also played Mertesacker, Cech, Campbell, Giroud and Debuchy; and they played two more big, taxing games after that. Today, Alexis, Campbell, Mertesacker and Cazorla all looked like they were playing one game too many.

For the first thirty minutes it was an even battle, but we were easily beaten by a decent ball by Rose to Kane on their left flank, who slotted calmly past our enormous Petr Cech, after Koz was unable to play him offsite or get back in time to put in a block (not helped by the BFG being out of position, though). This setback had a negative impact on the players as we were unable to fight back during the rest of the first half.

In the second half, we tried to take the game to them and we had a few good chances, with especially Giroud being unfortunate/lacking sharpness to capitalise on these. But the Spuds, to their credit, were able to escape our periods of pressure regularly and be dangerous themselves; and it took some fine saves from Cech to keep the score at 1-0. Wenger took off the knackered Campbell and brought on Gibbsy, who moved to the left wing as Alexis moved to the right. Almost immediately, Ozil found him with a perfectly weighted diagonal cross and Gibbs took his first opportunity, reminiscent of a super-fit, inform Alexis.

Cold of the bench but Gibbsy Glows straightaway!
Cold of the bench but Gibbsy Glows straightaway!

1-1, and now we smelled victory: oh how we wanted to mash those very well cooked spuddies! We fought hard to get a winner but it was also clear that we were grateful to have gotten the equaliser and that we had given a lot to achieve it. The Spuds did everything to not end up losing the game; and a draw was a fair result in the end.

Eight positives from the game:

  1. Ozil’s tenth assist in 11 PL games and sixth in a row: he never plays a bad game for Arsenal, but he is leading the team for us more this season, and he clearly has become a lot more effective with almost an assist per every game. We are lucky to have him and let’s show him (more) appreciation (and that includes you lazy TV pundits – bandwagon heroes)!
  2. Gibbs’ winner was very well taken after great positioning, and I like the impact he had from the start. On another day in which Alexis is not in form and Giroud is not delivering either, we needed players to step up, and Gibbsy did.
  3. Debuchy looked so much sharper than in his previous games. To play his third game in 12 days, after being out for so long, cannot have been easy, but Matthieu was in the zone and defended very well. I loved his passion and pride today.
  4. Cech was a calming influence once again. He has such an aura and his reading of the game and interceptions are so important for the team. He also does not make mistakes often, or has a rush to the head that puts the team in danger. He is making such a difference for us right now and we are lucky to have him.
  5. Giroud gave his all, and although he missed a few decent opportunities, he was in the right place at the right time regularly and that goes a long way for me. I am a huge Alexis fan but he was not in this game at all – Giroud was, but was not able to score this time round.
  6. The Crowd was great and I am really happy we played at home rather than away, given the injuries and team fatigue. The boys needed the home support badly today, and the fans really helped us to get back into the game. Especially, the atmosphere after we equalised was electric.
  7. Wenger’s substitutions: Flamini for Cazorla helped us with getting the balance right again, as the Spuds had dominated us with three physical, defence minded midfielders in the first half. Normally, Santi and the fabulous Coquelin can deal with this, but without Ramsey on the right to add to the midfield axis, and Alexis and Campbell being more attackers than midfielders, we needed to add a bit more steel next to Coquelin. Furthermore, Gibbs for Campbell was a gamble by Wenger, but it worked out very well: miraculously well!
  8. Seeing Arteta on the pitch again. Wenger kept players like Arteta, Flamini and Rosicky to help us see out games (like these) and to give our first players a rest now and again. This season, we have not had much fun out of either Arteta and Flamini, and none out of Rosicky, but getting these players back to their best will be key for the remainder of the season. Welcome back Mr Lego-Hair! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

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

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

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

The infallibility of hindsight. From history to current affairs.

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

—————Cech—————

—–Bel——-Per——–Kos—–Mon ———

————–Coq———–Santi——

——-Alexis——–Ramsey——–Ozil —————

——————–Walcott————-

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

————–Ospina————–

Deb——Per——-Chamb——-Gibbs

Camp——–Ramsey ———Oxlade

—————-Giroud——————-

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

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

By Pony Eye

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

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

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

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

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

And our defensive play…. Needs to tighten up rapidly…

Eight observations from the game:

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

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

By: TotalArsenal.

Santi/Ozil dictate, Cech adds PRESENCE, Ollie and Theo create havoc: Eight positives from a â€˜friendly’

Arsenal-v-Everton-Barclays-Asia-Trophy

Arsenal – Everton: 3-1 (Theo, Santi, Ozil – Barkley)

Wow, I did not expect that. I went to the pub to watch the game, and, like in a tacky dream, nobody was there, except the barman, who did not even know the Arse were on. The pub can easily hold 200 guests and especially during rugby matches the place can be heaving. But there I sat with a pint of Kronenbourg 1664, a packet of C&O crisps, and the single best seat in the pub, watching the Arsenal.

What I did expect to see, was a relatively slow, well-polished performance with plenty of possession, and both teams showing lots of mutual respect and having some decent chances, with the game finishing 1-1 or so.

How wrong I was. Arsenal meant business, and just as Villa had been outplayed during our last meaningful game, the Toffees were not given a chance (other than a ‘gift’ by the Ox) during the entire match either. The boys played with hunger and focus, and above all a maturity and togetherness I have never witnessed before during our previous preseasons. It is early days of course, but the first signs are very promising.

Here are my eight positives from the game:

  1. Giroud and Theo were played together and it added another dimension to our play. Together with Wilshere they moved all over the attacking part of the pitch and made it very hard to defend against us. We had a holding pivot in Ollie and a deadly penetrator in Theo; but they were also prepared to switch roles – Giroud even did a bit of impressive wing play, getting past his man and getting the ball into the box on more than one occasion. Our midfielders had options when in possession and initiating attacks, and it must have been a nightmare for the Toffees to defend against a ‘three-dimensional’ Arsenal today.
  2. Santi Cazorla was fantastic. The deeper laying role suits him very well, and with two fine assists – especially the first one was an exquisite, perfectly weighted ball over the top from the centre of midfield for the eagerly anticipating Walcott – and a clever goal, he was without any doubt the man of the match.
  3. Ozil’s face at the end of the match said it all: knackered but very content with his own performance. A fine, coolly taken goal and a dynamic, hungry finish to the game will have done him a world of good. Together with Santi, and Ramsey and Wilshere, he powered the midfield on and dominated the sorry Toffee midfield for ninety minutes. He was inventive with his passing, always looking for the best possible next move; and to me it looked like his fellow players are starting to read his intentions better… even though rusty first touches and finishes kept us from getting more reward from the dominance and creativity in our attacks. It was also good to see our Captain, Arteta, back.
  4. Cech in goal: calmness, character, confidence, and a brilliant reflex-safe from what looked a certain goal (even though it was offside). Bigger test will come, but having Petr in goal is the equivalent to playing with an extra man at the back.
  5. The FBs, Bellerina and Gibbs, provided the team with great width and penetration, allowing the multi-disciplined midfielders to combine with them and get them, or themselves, behind the Everton defenders, as well as stretch and penetrate them with fine, deadly triangles that led to very good opportunities throughout the game. Our FBs will play a great role this season and we are blessed with four very fine players in these positions.
  6. Chambers had a good, calm game next to our first warrior Koscielny. Again, bigger tests will come but it was nice to see him play well again. Ramsey played with discipline and high levels of energy to protect the defence and link up with our attack: a very impressive performance.
  7. Ox, despite a (still characteristic) costly loss of possession that led to the only Toffee goal – a fine, diagonal, long-distance shot by Barkley – added renewed thrust to our team when he came on. He had the guts and confidence to take players on at high speed and create good opportunities inside the opponents’ box. The final ball still needs improving, but the hunger and focus were there for all of us to see: good signs.
  8. The team cohesion, hunger and professionalism were a joy to watch. Even more than the individual performances highlighted above, this is what we should get really excited about. There was a collective ‘presence’ in the team: a strong focus with high levels of concentration and determination. The Gunners played as a team that wants to become champions this year, seemingly realising that every game needs to be treated with that goal in mind. We now also have healthy competition for places in all areas on the pitch, but yet there appears to be ever-so-vital togetherness, perhaps based on the realisation that we need a fit, wide squad in order to compete for the PL, CL, and indeed the FA Cup again, this season.

gun__1437236159_Cech_BAT_711

Still early days, but this was a very impressive ‘friendly’ performance by the Gunners. Bring on the Chavs in two weeks! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

Arsene holds appraisal with his King of the Key Pass: Mesut Ozil

Mesut+Ozil+9aWgnj3Jsy_m

Gutentag Mesut, wie geht’s mein Sohn?

Tutti Paletti, Arsene, einfach Spitze! Und Sie?

Well, Mesut, I feel wunderbar!

Wonderbra?! J

Mesut, always thinking about the Madchen, hey?! So we are here today to do your seasonal appraisal: how do you think you performed?

Well Arsene, I think I did well since I recovered from my injury, but I don’t think the fans appreciate me enough.

Why do you think that? You are the master in my midfield, creator of space, you run like a gazelle and are the King of the Key Pass in the PL with 3.1 per game – better than Cesci, Silva and Hazards. You won the World Cup with Die Mannschafters and held up the FA Cup twice in twelve months….. You are the dog’s ball-logues mein Freund!!

Ahh Arsene, the fans don’t seem to see it that way and then there are those commentators like that arschloch Owen and Scheisskopf Murphy who keep saying they ‘want more from me’ and that I am ‘not justifying my transfer fee’.

Well, Mesut, they have to say something don’t they. They suffer from small-winkle-syndrome and have to live with a very ‘hard’ reality.

What reality is this?

Well…They have been lucky enough to play in the PL but they realise they were never as good as you are now – their careers are over and they would suck at managing a team…. What is left for them is talking about current players…. And you, mein Sohn, are rubbing it in in each and every game you dance on the live stage. Unwittingly, you are torturing them and they are not having it….The only way to deal with it is to watch the game in silence: mute the brute! J The problem is, the English want to see your bleeding heart pumping outside the shirt, they want blood, guts and tears, with 12 Ray Parlours on the pitch!

Who is he, Arsene?

You never heard of the Pele of Romford?! Mesut, das ist eine Schande! You will need to watch some old footage then. Think of Flamini x 10! Voll mit sturm und drang! But you are never going to be like him, as you are an introvert, a quiet assassin, a schemer and strategist; and I like it! Let’s have a look at your listed objectives for last season.

HMmmm, it only says: ‘Be more Ozil’. What the heck did I mean with that, Mesutski?

Arsene, I thought you were really clever last year when you said that, and now you cannot remember it anymore!

What did I mean with it then?

Du bist einer alter knacker, Arsene! You said ‘Be more Ozil’:

  1. O for Omnipotent: use my eyes that can see all, work my body into a fortress and move all over the pitch to add attacking value everywhere and at any time;
  2. Z for Zealous: show more enthusiasm on the outside, show that I care… Happiness is a warm Gunner and all that Scheisse! [Arsene blushes when hearing this]
  3. I = I: be more selfish: love to assist and love to be assisted: make the net, just like my eyes, buckle by being selfish!
  4. L = Love Mesut…. Be kind to myself…. What the Scheisse ever that meant!?!

Well remembered Mesut and four big, fat teecks. Nice to see you again, have a great summer!

But Arsene, you did not set me any objectives for next season?! I want to be the European King of Assists, and more!!

Well Mesut, be, once again, more Ozil and you’ll become even better. And I suggest you learn a little Owen/Murphy dance for next season every time you produce a King of the Key Pass beauty! Ask Alexis to raise his leg and you’ll do the Limbo for our diminutive, sour commentators… that would be a laugh, hahaha!

Any specific targets, advice, Arsene…please?!

Okay, okay Mesut, I will give you a quote that you will need to learn by heart and repeat to yourself every time one of the dumkopfs feels they can voice their free-like-an-arschloch opinions about you. It is by Robert M Pirsig, from his wonderful book ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’:

‘The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that goodness can shine through’..

Pffff, Arsene, I get it… be more Ozil.

Yep, Mesut, that is all there is to it.

By Total Arsenal.

Coquelin & Rambo DMs, Alexis & Ozil on Wings: MU v Arsenal Preview and Line-Up

Manchester United-Arsenal — FA Cup Quarterfinal —

Match Preview

Tine to Defend the Cup and Make a Statement

Arsenal's English midfielder Jack Wilshe

On the back of our most dominating performance of the season, a sumptuous 2-nil victory over Championship leaders and Man City beaters, Middlesbrough, Arsenal drew Manchester United, away, in the quarter-final round of the FA Cup.  It didn’t seem like a just reward at the time and, as the match approaches, its significance only increases.

Whichever team prevails in this one will be favoured to win the next two at Wembley and raise the cup.  Additionally, as the clubs are separated by only a point in the Premier League standings, the result tomorrow will surely set a tone for the ongoing battle there as well.  United Manager Louis van Gaal says he would trade cup progression for a top 4 finish in the league, but there’s no reason, given their lighter, Europe-free schedule, that United will not give everything they’ve got.

Arsene Wenger has similarly noted the tightness of the race for Champions League qualification, but he too will understand the wider implications of getting a result at Old Trafford–including a draw which would force a replay back in North London.  While both managers have gone to pains to play down the importance of this one, the FA Cup surely represents the most realistic chance at silverware for both clubs this season.

Our record in traveling to Old Trafford does not make for pretty viewing.  In our last 10 matches we’ve drawn only once, losing all the rest, and we actually haven’t won there since the Autumn of 2006.  During this run we’ve played there twice in the FA Cup.  In 2008, we were leading the league, but played a much changed team and were well beaten, 4-nil.  More recently in 2011, in this same quarterfinal round, we lost 2-nil.  To be clear, even if we’ve taken the more recent trophies in this competition, winning a year ago and in 2005, on penalties over the Red Devils at Wembley, (Man U most recently raised the cup the year before in 2004) United have dominated us in this period, finishing above us in the league every single year except the most recent one.

Even as they transition out of the Sir Alex Ferguson era and attempt to rebuild under Van Gaal, we have yet to actually assert our superiority in head to head battle.  Last year, during the disastrous season with David Moyes at the helm, ManU beat us 1-nil in the league match-up at Old Trafford, while the reverse fixture was a desultory nil-nil at our home ground.  This season, in our one meeting, at the Emirates, although dominating play early on, United scored with their first shot on goal.  Suicidal pressing forward in desperate search for an equalizer resulted in a 2nd breakaway goal which sealed our fate.

But that’s all history, of course, and tomorrow’s match represents a chance to wipe the slate clean and prove ourselves the superior team.  With the exception of our 2-1 loss in the North London Derby, 2015 has shown that Arsenal can travel to hostile environs and still get results, the blueprint being the trip to East Manchester and the 2-nil victory at Man City.  We only had a third of the possession in that one, but still managed to control the match and prevail.   Yeoman efforts from more attacking players like Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla helped protect less experienced defenders; Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin, to create a dominating defensive display.  David Ospina, newly established in goal for league matches, hardly had a save to make.

This being a cup match, however, there will be changes in personnel.  Wojciech Szczesny, demoted from the league matches, if passed fit after a midweek illness, will get his chance between the sticks.  Gabriel Paulista most likely would have started in one of the center back positions, as he did vs Boro in the previous round, but a mid-week hamstring pull rules him out, meaning our Big F**king German, Per Mertesacker, and Laurent Koscielny will surely get the call.  Spaniard Nacho Monreal seems recovered from a mild back strain so he likely pairs with his young countryman, Bellerin, at the other fullback position.  Coquelin, broken nose protected by an ominous looking white mask, surely will go at defensive mid.

The more difficult calls are up front.  It seems impossible to sit Olivier Giroud, who has scored the opener in our two most recent matches and brings so much shape to our attack while also presenting a real target when we have to kick out of our own half.  Likewise, Alexis Sanchez, who finally broke a 6 match goal drought in midweek at Queens Park Rangers, brings too much energy for a bench seat.  Santi Cazorla, sitting deeper in that match, also seems the key figure linking our rearguard to our attack.  Mesut Ozil, at the heart of the action in recent matches, also appears undroppable.  This leaves a single starting position open and my call goes to Aaron Ramsey.  Back from a recurring hamstring problem, his ball carrying and greater physicality looked the part in settling the result in midweek after QPR pulled a goal back.

This starting line-up does seem harsh on others who have been playing well, including Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck, who is returning to Old Trafford for the first time since his deadline day transfer away last summer.  Theo Walcott has also been a contributor, especially at the sharp end of our attack, and it’s always possible that Wenger might mix things up and start him.  Still, this is the 11 I think will start.

ars v manure March 15

(Subs: Martinez, Chambers, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Walcott, Welbeck)

Man United will also go with a very strong line-up and will likely stay with their most valuable player this season, goalkeeper David De Gea.  Despite the tactical innovations for which Van Gaal is famous, most notably playing 3 at the back this past summer in getting a weaker than usual Dutch National team to the semi-finals of the World Cup, experiments with similar tactics have not yielded good results at United.  If ever there was a match to go back to that plan, however, it might be this one, given that center back Johnny Evans begins the first of 6 matches out, suspended for a spitting incident.  Luke Shaw, the young left back bought from Southampton over the summer, is also nursing a hamstring strain, so it may actually be difficult for Van Gaal to field four defenders.  Traditional wingers like Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia have, at times, at least, been used as wing-backs, and I suspect they might be deployed in similar fashion for this one.  If they are, a deeper lying set of mid-fielders, two of Michael Carrick, Daley Blind and Ander Herrera will likely back up a front three of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Wayne Rooney.

Unfortunately, for all who like more than a bit of pantomime (or real) villainy, Robin van Judas, er, Persie is injured for this one.   Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini are also attacking players Van Gaal might choose in his first 11 or bring off the bench if United needs goals.

Despite the high stakes in a cup match of this sort, I expect a cagey battle with both teams looking to assert control in midfield and not unhappy to let the other group have possession.  United should be the team more determined to attack in front of their home crowd.  While neither team would relish a replay, I think Wenger will be at greater pains to suggest to his squad that such a result is not a bad one and that fore-aft balance is critical given all the skill players United can throw at us.  In other words, I doubt this one will be hell for leather from the outset.  An early goal, especially if Arsenal can get it, might open things up considerably.

But my voice is just a single one.  How do other Gooners feel about this cup tie?  Who do you think will play and how will the match play out?  What would you do if you were in charge?  Is this match as critical as I’m portraying it or just another in a long line of tough ones?  Should we go all out for the cup or keep our focus on the league and the very difficult return leg of the Champions League eliminations at Monaco in less than 10 days time?  These questions (and others you might frame) need answers… Go on then…

By 17highburyterrace

Gabriel & Coq Beastly, Giroud & Ospina Decisive, Ozil Delivers: 8 Positives from Game.

A messy Coq au Vin, yet the sheet remained spotless!

Well that was a hard-fought and very necessary win. Both teams sat deep and played it safe in the first half, and not so much happened in front of goal. The tempo was low and neither team had the ball long in the areas that matter: it was at times more of a chess game than a football game. But Giroud had his shooting shin-pad on when the ball reached him from a Mesut corner; and that was all it took to go in the lead.

To be fair to Everton, they kept going and gave us a hard time to get out of our defence. Le Coq, and to a lesser extent Cazorla, battled like tigers to regain control of the midfield. Sanchez and Ozil helped out were they could but struggled to get their attacking game going. Ox was more active in our attacking play but his final ball was mostly not good enough, with the exception of the late ball into the box for Ozil that could easily have been an assist for him.

Koz had an off day, not looking his usual self. But both Gabriel and Ospina came more than once to the rescue with finely timed and hard-but-fair interceptions and saves. Together they kept the sheet away from any Toffee smudges, amply helped by their direct colleagues and fine team defending.

The 1-0 lead was defended to the end and then came the Toffees hammer blow. A brilliant, archetypal Ozil pullback from the sideline to just in front of the opposition’s ‘D’ was slammed home by super-sub Rosicky. This time it was Arsenal who had the lucky deflection: the once again impressive Jagielka did not deserve to be the involuntary deflector, but it was the goal we had all been hoping for. It sealed the three points for Arsenal and allowed us to nest warmly in the top-four. Northern Oilers look behind you, the Cannon is on fire!

Eight Positives from the game:

  1. Gabriel put a smile on our faces. Yes he had a bit of rough start and had to be helped by Ospina to save his blushes, but once he got in his stride he was eating toffees for fun. Lukaku is advised to drink a strong whiskey before he goes to bed tonight…
  2. Coquelin matched Gabriel in beastliness. Some believe he is not physically strong enough but on today’s performance I reckon we have the new Silva in our midst. If and when we play deep and organised, Le Coq is a joy to watch. I also was very pleased with Santi’s disciplined performance: he sat deeper and put in a great shift from a defensive point of view.
  3. Giroud worked his socks off for the team and was rewarded for his efforts by an important goal. There are still a few Gooners out there who do not rate him, but there is no player out there who more fulfils the entire content of his job description than OG. Ollie drew blood twice and le Coq will be feeling it tonight, but this was just the sort of response we all expected from him.
  4. Bellerin had a strong game, both in defence and attack. He had struggled on Wednesday but to see a nineteen year old lad come back so strongly today, fully committed and yet playing intelligently throughout the game, is very impressive.
  5. Ozil’s added two more assists today and that is what he was bought for. He might not be as physically committed as some other Gunners, but he puts in a shift nevertheless; and then he is also that one player who can produce that little bit of magic such as his fabulous diagonal pull-back into the danger area that found Rosicky for our second goal.
  6. Ospina was in very fine form and showed why he is preferred to the lonesome Pole. His decision making and concentration levels were perfectly balanced towards the games defensive requirements. He read the game so well and his Lukaku safe midway through the second half was fabulous… and probably won us the game.
  7. Wenger’s substitutions were very effective today. He was right to keep Le Coq on as he was the embodiment of our resistance in the team today. Taking him out could have changed the balance in the game dramatically. But in the end he had to go and Chambers was the right choice. I also thought that Rosa for Ox was spot on. The latter had run out of steam a bit and Rosa replenished the blood supply. The Czech helped to release the pressure from the Toffees and his drive gave a new boost to the team.
  8. Alexis did not have a great game from an attacking point of view but boy did he work his socks off for our team! He is so effective in all aspects of the game and his work rate is really rubbing off on his fellow players. What a signing!

A few days rest before we face another London derby, but I reckon the boys want to play that game tomorrow; that’s how good they are feeling after a very professional yet passionate win.

Third now and just four points behind the Northern Oilers: The boys stood tall and made us proud today.

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.