Wenger has Turned Alexis into a Lethal Mixture of these two PL Giants

More or less a quarter of the PL games have been played this season, and slowly but steadily we can start making some conclusions on how the mighty red and white are doing.

The big, obvious conclusion we have to make is that we started the PL season slowly, dropping five points in the first two games, but then recovered very strongly to now be joined top with Pool and Citeh after nine games. This is some achievement we can be really proud of. With Citeh winning game after game, it looked like we were in a bad position until a few games ago, but Pep’s team has lost its fizz, and the Gunners, bar a tired game against Middlesbrough, have lately been firing from all cylinders.

I will post a number of early-season-conclusions over the next week or so, starting with Wenger upgrading our approach to creating and scoring goals to a multi-facetted and disciplined attacking machine.

Conclusion nr.1: Wenger has turned Alexis into a lethal mixture of Giroud and Aguero

Last season we struggled to average two goals per PL game – in fact at the end of the season we only managed to score 1.7 goals per game – but this season we are finding the net at about 2.1 goal a game – 2.4 before last weekend’s draw. It is great to get goals from a variety of scorers: from Koz to Xhaka, from Santi (penalties) to Ozil and from Theo to Alexis, etc. There are also a great number of assist producers, and what this all does is that it makes us unpredictable and highly effective. I love this more than anything else.

The big change Wenger made here is replacing Giroud with Alexis. Regular BKers know that I am a big fan of the bombastic Frenchman, but I can also see that Alexis as our main CF is an improvement for Arsenal – especially when teams allow us space rather than park a bus full of stubborn defenders. Actually, I suggested last season on more than one occasion that if Wenger wanted to have ‘an Aguero beast of a CF’ he did not need to look further and just move the Chilean firecracker to the middle.

What I like about Wenger, who is, contrary to what many like to think, always reinventing the ultimate ballgame, is what he did with Alexis this season. He did not turn him into a ‘pure’ Aguero after all; he made Sanchez better than his fellow South-American. Arsene turned Alexis into a total, multi-disciplined and dimensional attacking machine, who also offers the work rate, constant willingness to occupy central defenders, and ability to create space and key passes for others that Giroud has to offer.

Alexis already has four goals and three assists and produces 2.1 key passes per PL game; Aguero, who to be fair played less PL minutes than Alexis, scored five but produced no assists and only manages 0.9 key passes per game. The Argentinian is a top quality predator-finisher who needs to be serviced and brought into striking range constantly, whereas our South-American wildcat takes and gives in equal amounts, thus allowing the likes of Iwobi, Ozil and Theo to not only support the goal production efforts but also be at the end of them.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ozil+goal+against+swansea+youtube&view=detail&mid=05125335C93D64D916D805125335C93D64D916D8&FORM=VIRE

Alexis revels in the dirty work of chasing defenders and never letting them rest – he is such a hyena; Alexis also has an eye for a pass that kills a whole defence in one stroke (Mesut is still licking his lips from the Chilean’s diagonal Bergkampesque ball over the top against Swansea – see above); Alexis has the composure and technical ability to finish from anywhere in and near the opposition’s box, and against any opposition; and Alexis has the engine to keep going, and with his energy and passion he motivates the entire team from game to game. He has simple added another dimension and more intensity to our attacking play, and for that I applaud both him and Wenger.

There are still some doubts whether Alexis is also our best option if and when we play stubborn and ultra-disciplined ‘park the bus’ teams like Middlesbrough last weekend; and once Giroud is fully back to fitness we will have to see who will get the CF slot for these sorts of games. But there is no doubt in my mind that Wenger’s move to play Alexis as an all round, multi-disciplined CF has made the whole team less predictable and more deadly up front. And long may it continue!

By TotalArsenal. 

Theo near perfect, Alexis beats the drum, Ozil goes Bergkampesque on birthday: player ratings/ review

A great win that enabled us to level with MC and surpass the Spuddies in just two games. The Swans gave us a tough second half, much helped by the harsh sending off of Xhaka, but the boys showed great resilience to hold on.

The defence did not look good with both Mustafi and Monreal our weakest points and guilty for many a chance we gave away. The KosMus partnership is not as solid as first thought but of course this can be fixed. Nacho was skinned time and again but was also not much helped by his DM partners. Stevie has some work to do with our back four.

But in attack Arsenal were breathtaking. The Swans defence was taking apart time and again by four dimensional football in which creators and finishers metamorphosed continuously and space to score goals was found with great ease. Three goals to the good guys is what gave us the points yesterday and long may our clockwork red and white scoring machine continue.

Player Ratings:

Cech: 8. Presence in goal. Our President between the sticks turns opponents’ legs to jelly and heads in a spin.

Nacho: 5. A game to forget. Pulled all over the place and left team very vulnerable.

Koz: 9. The King was on fire once again. He spared the blushes of his nearest defensive colleagues time and again.

Mustafi: 6. Needed to defend tighter to Koz especially after Nacho got skinned from our left a few times.

Bellerin: 8. Another solid game and an asset both in defence and attack.

Cazorla: 6. His defensive limitations showed once more but still supports our attack well.

Xhaka: 5. Perhaps tired from the international games but not a good performance. Gave ball away for first goal by Swans and attempt to get a card for the team backfired, however harshly it was. There is so much class in Granit that I can assure you he will bounce back.

Das Ozil, birthday boy: 9. Sublime, Bergkampesque goal. Lovely movement and maximisation of space and time with the ball caressing his feet like a devoted puppy.

Iwobi: 7.5. Team player with bags of class and overview, but Nacho was left a bit too unprotected at times.

Alexis: 9. Team player who beats the drum in attack for us. Lovely assist for Ozil’s sky rocket in the roof of the net. Just for all the dirty work alone you got to love him.

Theo: 9.9. In the right place at the right time time and again. Scored first two, crucial goals and was close to scoring three more. ‘Only’ two went in but to focus on that is not having a clue what attacking football is about. This system suits him so well.

By TotalArsenal.

 

 

Perez CF, Ox and Theo on Wings, Santi/Coq in DM-pivot: Arsenal v Swansea Preview/ Line-up

Swansea, home or away, have not been easy opponents for us in recent years and I don’t expect tomorrow’s game to be a walk in the park either. All games after international games are hard, but luckily we play at home which should give us a better chance to take three points. The Swans will be reenergised by the arrival of another new manager, the American Bob Bradley. The players will want to make an impression on him and I figure they will give us a game. Anything less than 100% commitment may cost us points tomorrow.

Image result for arsenal football ground images

So we have to hit the road running and play energetic and dominant football, take our chances when they come and don’t get lulled in a false sense of security. The team that can do the job will likely be:

submit football lineup

Cech in goal, full backs Nacho and Hector Vector, and King Koz and Mustafi as our CBs…. Cannot see Arsene messing with this back five. Coquelin is fit again and Santi was rested for two weeks, so I reckon that will be our double DM pivot. Always hard to leave out Alexis but with a late game on Thursday, followed by a long flight, I reckon Wenger will start Perez and put Sanchez on the bench. Walcott is as fit as a fiddle after two dreamy international games, Ozil is ready to rock again and Wenger may rest Iwobi and start Ox.

Well that is my predicted line up. COYRRGs!!

By TotalArsenal

 

What to do with Olivier Giroud in the ‘New Arsenal attack’?

Does Giroud still feature in the new, Alexis-as-CF, Arsenal?

Ollie G is an interesting case, because I don’t see him as a starter at all. This isn’t because he’s not good enough, as he certainly is. Instead, it’s because our style of play has changed to be based around an attacking quartet of players who are all mobile and interchangeable. The first choice seems to be Iwobi/Sanchez/Ozil/Walcott, with all of them flying around the opposition half attacking from different angles with rapid interplay. It’s hard to defend against this style of play.

Ollie G, on the other hand, is suited toward a style of game where a strong CF acts as an attacking focal point, a fulcrum around which attacks are launched and goals come from headers, knockdowns and late runs from supporting attackers. That’s how we played last year and teams were becoming adept at playing against it.

Looking at our bench for a reserve attacking quartet, we would be better to have a combination like Ox/Perez/Welbeck/Ramsey where again there is a plenty of pace and finishing ability, but, more importantly, they can play the same attacking system and maintain the same understanding with our attacking fullbacks and midfield duo. We have to play with one system and become incredibly efficient at that system, if we are to match Man City and the European giants this year.

Giroud’s role in both of these teams is not as a starter in my view, but perhaps as a very different plan B to have available when for some reason we are unable to break through with plan A. Whether or not it is generally feasible or effective to attempt a shift from a plan A to a plan B mid-game is of course up for debate – I suspect it is not.

I sense that our team has evolved, and that the next step up for us is to make our combinations so rehearsed that they become intuitive, almost instantaneous, and able to withstand the loss of one or two individual players. But I also feel a bit sorry for Oliver Giroud because he is being, and perhaps must be, left behind by all of this.

What do you think fellow Gooners?

By davydavy

Is this Bench the Best in the Premier League? Arsenal’s Dizzying Squad Possibilities!

It is all about backbone, leadership and squad depth…. and plenty of pairs of these of course! 🙂

cropped-images-3.jpg

Like many, I don’t like international breaks but the good thing is it gives Arsene and the team an opportunity to work towards a deadline and then take stock. In the last few weeks post the September interlull, Arsenal have been solid and moved up  the table considerably. There are still important games to come: Basel at home and Burnley away. And after a very encouraging, successful game against the Chavs, we now have to be careful not to underestimate our opponents and work really hard to get vital wins before the next break.

Whether we will depends on the maturity and ability to focus by the players as much as anything else.

The team to beat is, of course, Pep City. Some believe he is only as good as the players he had at his disposal, which of course have been the pick of the world or there about ever since he started to coach, but I am a firm believer that the vision to develop a system/style of football and then be able to get the players to execute it, is what really makes a great manager. In the short term, a manager can take over a great team and have success on the basis of what was established by their predecessor, but in the mid to long term it is the manager’s ability to implement a competitive system of football and gather the required players to execute it which will make the difference. And Guardiola is already having an added positive impact on what is mostly Pellegrini’s squad.

Of course it is early days and MC have not had a hard start to the season in terms of the teams they have faced, other than MU away of course. We will have to see how they will fare against Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester and if they can win all those games than they are further then us right now.

We are five points behind and that really is a few too many to feel comfortable at this stage. We need them to drop points and let’s see whether it will happen against our North London rivals this weekend. I am not underestimating the Spuds this time round, even though they are very capable of farcically imploding towards the last six weeks of the season once again. So I am not wanting a Spuds win against the Northern  Oilers: a draw would be just fine.

But as always, we need to focus on our game and try to get as many wins as possible by the OGAAT principle: one game at a time. To achieve this we need a strong backbone and leadership in the team, and we also need squad depth. 

The question is whether Arsenal have this now. The best way to establish this is to see how we will deal with adversity, but other than the first game of the season against Pool we did not really have to deal with much of it. Although it is fair to say we did well when Arsenal went behind against PSG and somehow managed to get back in the game in the second half, helped by Lady Luck it has to be said.

What really encouraged me was the way that Koz and Mustafi, supported behind them by the cool and experienced Cech and in front of them by the beastly Coq, controlled the game, both technically AND psychologically. And when le Coq went off injured, Xhaka did very well in replacing him both technically and in terms of presence on the pitch. And the latter is as important as anything.

Mesut Ozil

On top of this, we had Ozil and Alexis leading the attack with both intelligence and a guttural hunger. And our wing-backs, Nacho and Bellerin, were also dominating proceedings with their feet and their personas. To complete it all, Santi, Theo and Iwobi had strong presence and hunger without ever looking to hide behind their team mates. That is what I loved more than anything else about our team on Saturday.

Our first team against Chelsea:

submit football lineup

These players now more or less are our first team players, and after the Chelsea demolition there is good reason to believe we have the backbone and leadership to go all the way this season in the PL, and maybe even in the CL. However, we all know that fatigue, injuries and possibly suspensions will affect our team.

Just as well then that Wenger did not sell anybody whilst still adding to the squad, which will allow him to rotate and also deal with unexpected setbacks, like this Saturday when Coquelin had to come off. This is just as important as having a strong core of leaders and winners in the team.

Yesterday we had Gibbs, Perez, Giroud, Ospina, Ox, Holding and Xhaka on the bench: seven players who all deserve to be there if not a place in the starting eleven.

Ramsey, Gabriel, BFG, Elneny, Debuchy and Welbeck were not on the bench, and they are all fighters for the cause with leadership qualities. Once they are fit, our options for the bench are mouth watering; and can you imagine what availability of all would mean for Wenger’s possible strongest first eleven team?

Our bench could be, when all are fit: Perez, Giroud, Welbeck, Ramsey/Xhaka, Gibbs, BFG/Gabriel and Ospina!! Would this not be the best bench in the premier league?!

So there you are, we have a strong core with backbone and leadership skills and a squad depth that makes you dizzy with first team selection possibilities. As dizzy as looking at the ceiling of the wonderful Sagrada Familia…

Bring on our next opponent is all that’s left to say!

By TotalArsenal

 

 

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

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

Theo Walcott scores

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

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

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

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

Eight Positives from  a great win at THOF:

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

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

By TotalArsenal

Wolfgang Amadeus Mesut: Arsenal’s nr1 Conductor Ozil holds the key to Silverware

Mesut Ozil would always be one of the first players on my team sheet if I was the Arsenal manager. I have never seen him play a bad game but in some games he is more effective than others. In order to fully appreciate him, though, you have to see him play live: not in an arm chair but in a football stadium, which I know many Gooners are unable to do.

His creative genius and willingness to work hard, combined with his desire to ALWAYS add attacking value to his team with every ball he touches, make Mesut so special. His running with and without the ball is superb, and his ability to find the killer pass is unsurpassed. He is not a loud extrovert but a humble introvert who lets his feet do the talking – this, among many other qualities, he shares with his nr10 predecessors, Cesc Fabregas and the great Bergkamp. And the English game has been blessed with the services of three of the finest European nr10 geniuses – two of whom are luckily still in action and should meet each other once again tomorrow evening.

It is fair to say he has not yet reached his peak this season. Mesut had ‘just’ 2.3 key passes and 57 passes per PL game, and he scored one goal and is yet to produce an assist, this season; whereas he reached a brilliant 4.2 key passes and 65 passes per PL game, and scored 6 goals and produced a whopping 19 assists, in 2015-16. But it is of course early days, and I rather see him peak towards the end then at the beginning of the season.

Some believe Mesut is still tired from the Euros but I reckon he is simply lacking form and has been given time by Wenger to improve it gradually. Tomorrow, against the Chavs, he needs to be close to his best form if we are to find a way through the parked blue and white buses. Mesut will be 28 next month and is reaching now his best footballing years. If we are to win the league we will need a strong core of six to seven players of top quality and the right attitude. Mesut will be one of them.

With Alexis as CF and excellent runners next to him with the likes of Iwobi, Theo, Ox and (possibly) Perez for Wenger to pick from, Mesut has to find his form to be our nr1 conductor once again. The sooner this happens the quicker Arsenal can reach top level.

No pressure Mesut but tomorrow you have to rediscover your inner Mozart and make the troops play to your tunes. Ich glaube an dich! 🙂

By TotalArsenal

 

Iwobi’s Best Game, Alexis Brings Theo and Iwobi to Life, Motoring Mustafi: 8 Positives Hull v Arsenal

Now that is the Arsenal most of us love so much: dominant, creative, strong and banging in goals left, right and centre.

After the midweek CL game, legs could have been tired and minds preoccupied, but we started the game with a ferocious tempo and appetite that drove the Tigers back in their proverbial cages and made us dominate the proceedings. When you play from home against a team that has made a good, ‘against expectations’, start to the season and which was rested during the week, you need to start well to set the tone and not get overwhelmed.

And that we did!

Hull City v Arsenal - Premier League

Arsene had opted for the same back five and double DM pivot as on Tuesday and for Alexis as our CF, once again. Ozil played in the hole/free movement role and two quick and energetic wingers, Iwobi and Theo, to complete the attack. A selection pattern is developing and it worked a treat this time. Rumours are that Giroud has a toe problem, either from a PSG player or Wenger’s punishment for reckless behaviour on the pitch… So on the bench we had the Ox and Perez to support the attack if required. It turned out that we did not really need them. 🙂

I guess the omission of Xhaka and, to a lesser extent, Elneny still surprised many of us, as both would have been raring to go, but we can see why Wenger is sticking to his settled DM pivot couple CoqZola: they were solid and dominated the game for the first seventy minutes or so. More about this later.

Maybe more of us are starting to see why Wenger wants to play Alexis as our ‘CF’ this season.

His movement, running off and with the ball, constant energy and involvement in the game is making all the difference. But what I loved most of this game is that Theo and Iwobi really are starting to understand what they need to do, and especially where they need to be, when Alexis goes deep(er) to create space behind him.

Attacking football for many is a matter of getting the ball to a super CF in dangerous positions as much as possible… and he will do the rest. But it is not that simple (any more). Winning football is about dominating proceedings and creating chances – and then taking them – through creating space, excellent passing football, team pressing, and clever running off and with the ball. Anyone can score and goals are ideally spread among a number of players, so we are less predictable and dependable on the one Aguero or Ibrahimovic. If you have watched the first halves of MC – MU and Chavs – Pool, you will know what I mean. And Arsenal’s first half display against the Tigers fits with these performances albeit against lesser opposition.

Of course we dominated the second half too but that was further influenced by the Livermore sending off. The only negatives of Saturday’s game were the missed penalty and the penalty we gave away, totally out of the blue. But also that is football.

Eight positives from Hull v Arsenal:

  1. Iwobi’s best game in the mighty red and white colours: he played so mature and composed you would believe he has been in Arsenal’s first team for years. He assisted two goals and you could argue our first one should have gone to him anyway. He has that rare ability to create time for himself when on the ball, and then he makes virtually always good decision on what to do next with his head held up. His passing and running with the ball is sharp but his sense of creating opportunities and executing them on the spot is even sharper. He also is often in the right place at the right time in and around the box, which again is very special for his age at the highest level of football. And I loved how he worked with Ozil, Sanchez and Theo. My MOTM;
  2. Alexis’ ability to create space and link midfield with attack AND Theo’s and Iwobi’s ability to benefit from this and link up with the fabulous Chilean (as already explained above). Before the game Arsenal had the best conversion rate of the league, and with four goals from nine attempts on target, I reckon this will have been enhanced further;
  3. Mustafi’s drive and reading of the game is awesome, and his partnership with Koz is blossoming quickly. This is allowing his CB partner to take it a bit more easy and preserve energy, which is just what the doctor has order for King Koz as the season is long… I loved Mustafi’s reading of the game and interventions, his drive to link up defence with midfield. In a way, he is our pace setter from the back. Long may it continue.
  4. Coq-Santi DM pivot. Wenger has been indicating that Xhaka is doing very well and now needs to be linked up with a DM partner as their collaboration and mutual understanding are pivotal to the team. Coq and Santi, as a partnership, are ahead right now. He also sees Xhaka as a box to box player, given his enormous energy, rather than a deep laying ‘Pirlo’, so it seems. So Granit needs to find himself a deep laying DM, which could be either Coq, Elneny, or even Santi. Let’s see what will happen midweek against NF re this;
  5. Theo is in his element. Theo will often frustrate us but playing in this ‘Alexis the holding AND mobile CF’ system, he is likely to thrive and deliver the goods more regularly. It creates space for him to which he is not just addicted but also very dependent on. Theo is a chancer and sometimes his attempts come off spectacularly and sometimes disastrously, but as a ‘second CF’ on the wing he will get his goals and assists. He scored a fine goal and was involved in a lot of our attacking play. Theo may have found himself a new lease of Gunner life;
  6. Ozil, Bellerin and Monreal featured less prominently in this game it seemed, but their running (with and without the ball) and passing were still vital for our dominant TEAM play. Mesut’s final ball is still not as sharp as we are used to, but can you imagine how we will play once he finds his form?! Chavs be warned! 🙂
  7. The quality of the bench. We are still missing the likes of Ramsey, Welbeck, BFG and Gabriel, and Ollie was left at home nursing his big one, but to be able to bring on Xhaka, Perez and Elneny to close out a game is a thing of beauty. And Granit’s bullet into the left corner for our last goal topped it all off;
  8. Wenger for evolving our game once more and getting the very best out of his players. Time to get fully behind him once more. The season just kicked off properly.

By TotalArsenal.

 

To Hull and Back with 3 Points? Starts for Perez, Giroud AND Alexis, and Xhaka/ Elneny could do it

Preview & Predicted Line-Up

I have more or less given up on predicting the starting eleven. The squad is big and Arsene needs to keep a lot of players happy; but he also needs to field a team that has a very good chance to get a result and for that he needs to choose his players carefully.

Against PSG Arsene surprised us with selecting Coquelin and Santi for their second starts in four days, leaving Xhaka and Elneny on the bench. He also opted to start with Giroud and Perez on the bench, giving rough diamonds Ox and Iwobi a chance to shine at the highest platform of club football. Arsene knows a lot more about his players than us, and I have peace with his choices, even though I would have preferred a different line up on Tuesday.

Against Hull I expect a tight game with a lot of possession for the boys in red and white and the Tigers attacking us mainly on the counter. So a good game to bring in Ollie as he can help us crack open the Hullish parked busses.

On the wings I would like us to play Perez and Alexis, and give Theo a chance to come on if the game was to open up properly, and if he is indeed fit enough to play. Ozil needs another game to play himself into form and the prospect of playing with Giroud, Perez and Alexis should surely excite him.

The double pivot is a harder choice to make. If Hull will indeed park the bus for most of the game, then Santi is a good one to have in terms of supporting Ozil in finding gaps. But Santi already played two games this week and we don’t want to see him get injured. Maybe it is time for Xhaka and Elneny to start this game. Both can push up and support the creative side of things, and both are good to keep the Tigers hemmed into their own half.

The back four pick themselves again, although I would not be surprised to see either Debuchy or Gibbs, or even both, get a start.

My ideal starting eleven for tomorrow game is:

ars-v-hull-september

Enjoy the game fellow Gunners. COYRRG!

By TotalArsenal.

 

Cech/Koz/Coq/Santi ALL MOTM; Mustafi at Home; Perez Promising: Review and 8 Positives

Three very welcome points is very important, of course. And there is no doubt that we needed a dollop of red and white luck to get them against a resilient and good footballing Southampton.

Arsene made three changes from our win against the Hornets and it is fair to say we did not start brightly. The team lacked energy and drive, despite playing three fast players up front with the Ox, Perez and TheO, and playing two play makers in Santi and Mesut. The latter two started very quietly and the former three hardly had any of the ball in the first part of the first half. The Saints looked calm and in control, playing some easy on the eye football with plenty of penetration and danger up-front – just like they did against the Mancs a few weeks ago. Especially Tadic, Redmond and Rodriguez, supported deeper by the excellent ex-Chav Romeu, were very comfortable on the ball and we did not make it hard enough for them.

They scored from a well taken free-kick that needed a big dollop of luck though, as Cech scored his second career own goal with his back pushing the ball over the line. You would have expected Arsenal to up the tempo after the goal but we still lacked collective drive, with Santi being pushed back too much and the four of Ozil, Ox, Theo and Perez not involved in the game enough.

The game needed something special and it came from one of the two Arsenal birthday boys: King Koz.

Our CB scored a brilliant overhead kick that will have ha the approval of Zlatan, no doubt. We did not do enough until then to deserve the equaliser but Laurent has a knack of scoring very important goals, as he did four times last season.

That goal gave us back our mojo, at least in terms of playing football in the Saints’ half rather than ours. All of a sudden the Saints were happy to park the buss and we could push forward both Mustafi and the energetic Coquelin to help the attackers. Yet we missed sharpness, movement and creativity, and this especially from Ozil and our mid-wingers. We also missed the goal threat of Giroud and/or Alexis up-front which made the team look like it was missing its normal focussed and aggressive identity.

For some reason, the combination of players in our starting eleven did not work well yesterday. Was it perhaps too much to ask of Perez to start with the Ox next to him rather than Alexis or Giroud? Theo and Ox are the sort of players who have good moments in a game but do not add enough to the team to be picked together in the starting eleven imo. One of them is more than enough, and then I still think Iwobi, or indeed my personal favourite Joel Campbell (now out on loan unfortunately), would serve the team better on many occasions.

The second half started not much better. Tempo too low, movement too predictable, Ozil not involved enough, and Perez struggling to translate his presence in the box into clear cut chances and a goal. Luckily, Santi was getting into the grove now, working hard to get the team going by finding gaps and getting as close as possible to the Saints’ D’.

It was clear though that we needed to bring on Giroud and Alexis to lift the game and get that extra bit of quality into the box, even though we started to play a lot better from around the 55th minute. Perez worked hard and you can see how he could fit into the team, it will take a bit of time though.

As soon as we brought on the Frenchman and Chilean we looked sharper, but we also gave a way a couple of quite big chances that could have cost us dearly. And that tells you all about the risks and opportunities associated with substitutions, and why Wenger often waits longer with them than most of us want him.

Luckily, we got the penalty and Santi was cool enough to convert it.

Eight positives:

  1. Mustafi settled in quickly and looked solid and composed. Really good to see him drive forward regularly as well. Need to see him more games but that was pretty impressive in front of the home crowd;
  2. Birthday boy Koz had an outstanding performance and scored a superb goal – so happy he is still a Gooner and let’s hope he will be signed up to end his career at THOF;
  3. Le Coq had his pecker up and was awesome throughout the game, both in defence and supporting the attack. Xhaka will have been rested for Tuesday’s game no doubt – and I expect us to play Perez, Theo and Alexis up front for that one so Xhaka can help us beat the Parisian Oilers on the break – but yesterday we needed the steel and defensive discipline of Francis Coquelin. And boy did he deliver;
  4. Santi moving forward in the second half made a big difference in terms of our attacking intent. Ozil was not at his very best today and he needed Santi to add creativity. On top of all his fine passes and crosses, he produced a calm and venomous penalty that left the time wasting Foster picking the ball out of the net. 🙂
  5. The spine of Cech, Koz(Mustafi), Coq, Santi, and eventually Giroud, held strong and delivered a performance worthy of the Arsenal. Cech, Koz, Coq and Santi were altogether my men of the match. And Ozil and Alexis added the necessary quality to get us over the line, even though the former did not have his best day ever;
  6. The full backs were driven once again and added a lot of width to the team, but both still need to improve their final ball into the box. Good to see them both taking chances themselves as well, and especially Bellerin was pretty close to scoring a Theo-esque diagonal daisy-cutter;
  7. Cech’s presence saved us at least two points today, making Shane Long rush and waste his two good opportunities in the second half;
  8. Perez’s movement and hunger and sheer guts to take on the CF role at the home of football was awesome. I liked his energy and willingness to run and run and get into any available spaces. I rate this Saints’ team highly and reckon they will finish in the top 7-10 this season once they get going. Especially defensively, they are very good and made it hard for our attackers. So not an easy start for Lucas, but more is surely to come.

Up next are the Parisian Oilers. Let’s load the Canon. 😉

By TotalArsenal.