Arsenal-City Review: Is this the (latest) season changer?

The Flame
The Flame

First up, read nothing but this! Not only am I a great writer but all the others are misleading. This feeling of course is true of any match report and news. Read enough and you can find any interpretation you want. I read many, all of which said that in the first half City owned Arsenal. Oh, and we were lucky.

Second, for those who wondered, no, I never expected my 4-2-4-0, but a man can dream a little, no? 🙂

Hmm, so I got to watch on Arsenal TV, courtesy of Sky Sport who likely scheduled it to show a blood bath, mostly for those who also watch NASCAR for the crashes.

Half 1: I saw City get the one and it was deserved. Good break, good shot and good rebound finish. Equally, well defended over a turnover, forced the worst available shot, which was unfortunately excellent and off the post or Scz and the post. And once you’ve the rebound like that, well it’s anyone’s story.

Each side had moments forward and some pressure. City had more shots, but few of any threat or intent. Arsenal had less BUT they were probing a lot more. Just missing going forward in the last effort. Equally several opportunities to get something in the box. For motion with intent we had less ball but, really it was a game of midfield back and forth. City, more ball and shots, Arsenal more threat/probing.

The common factor, both sides defended really well as a team and both did so relatively deep. Key point CM noted. City and DeMechelis were slightly the better. Arsenal were also the less lucky, the rebound (admittedly after pressure) and a realistic contact and penalty not called early on.

Players of the half? OG was very good but a bit lonely. Team defense and Gibbs especially, also. Pod going forward, not so much going back (thank you Gibbs), and TR was always present, almost opposite of Yaya interestingly.

Who won the half? On points, clearly City, on pressure, perhaps Arsenal. How can I say that with less possession and less shots? Well 3 yellows to City to 1 to Arsenal, and invisible Yaya (Toure), and a large number of corners to Arsenal for a team with lesser possession, shows that we were winning, if only just a very very little, most places BUT the all important scoreboard. Still we were forward enough and with some threat just not quite coming off. As we now know the second half would bear a bit of all that out..

Half 2: I won’t reiterate in detail, really. Very much like the first half but we had more possession so the game ended almost equal. Again, with few exceptions Yaya was invisible. The one time,  early in the half at 50mins saw them with a great chance well covered by Scz whose luck turned on rebounds from the first half.

One minute later, it’s all open, and first TR and then Santi are at goal with venom. And then in this open phase, at 52:44, FLAMINIIIIIII!

All that probing that the pundits were calling useless or signs of failure .. Well, one probes not to always score, but to eventually score. The eventually came despite still very good team defending by City.

This ushered  in some Arsenal dominance and almost immediately Sagna offers an almost second goal cross. We were definitely on top in ways the pundits said City were in the first half. But, for real.

This ushers in my thoughts on pundits and The Jordan Effect. If Michael Jordan did something ridiculous, it was amazing and he got the foul! Anyone else was an idiot. Seems that way with Arsenal, so read nothing but your unbiased correspondent here! 🙂

Then the Pod almost got it for us… Then and then and … We were definitely playing with them.

The rest played out as we know. We won half two decisively but not dominantly, and they did get some opportunities as befits a top team in any game, and thus we were not dominant or lucky enough to pull it out. A “fair” draw in my final thoughts on it.

Overall: lots of good probing, lots of good team defense, and what looked like two top teams having an even or near even go at it. City don’t leave thinking we aren’t top tier and neither should we in my opinion despite our penchant for a wee touch of gloom.

Player of the game: Demichelis, his defense was the extra thing that kept it for City. My opinion but he was disruptive everywhere.

Luckiest keeper: Draw. Both were lucky once.

Impact player: Draw Flamini and Rosicky, with honorable mention to Sagna who very quietly had about 8m crosses in.

Invisible players: TV, Yaya, Nasri. Not bad but not there really. Not OG who was part of the goal with good hold up, but also somewhat lonelier as we sat back a touch. Something we must solve if we play more this way, although the injured would help there with more B2B types off field just now.

Now my thoughts on signs and portents: No, Prince, I am not a believer but for lightening pre-match it was fun. However, I will point out I got the deeper defense, lineup, and half the final score right. Don’t knock the burnt offerings! 🙂

So, will this be the end of season changer?

I have to believe that our confidence will be lifted. We played well and evenly for the most  part with what is likely the top team in the league. My thoughts:

A. Confidence should be high just when we need it to get through the injuries and the season well. We may not win the rest of our games but we could. The same for all our competitors so…

B. We can play well with a very depleted team, which again has to help going forward and next year.

C. Our need for steal down the middle is clear, though we did well today. TV to DM might be a better deal than trying to find the perfect beast DM for many £.

But, will it change the season?? Well, like the burnt offerings, it’s hard to tell. But, back to my portents.

I was at church with family having seen the scoreline. Sat there contemplating as one does and of course “football is life” when suddenly the ground is shaking. Yet another bloody earthquake here in Christchurch, though a mere 4.0 it was shallow and thus relatively intense in shaking.

So, I was contemplating life and Arsenal and many things. At church… and the earth moved !!

Read into it what you will!! 🙂

Cheers — jgc

TV5 back, FlamShere DM pivot, Ox and Rosa on wings? Match Preview.

The BFG is ready!
The BFG is ready!

After a well earned ‘rest’ the boys are back in action against Stoke tomorrow. Never an easy and seldom a pleasant game, but I feel good about this one. Despite some Gooners believing we have a ultra-thin squad, we are once again able to both name a strong squad and bench for tomorrow’s encounter.

We are also able to select a large number of men rather than boys – as we so often couldn’t in the past – and this will make a big difference I reckon. Another PL away win – 9th in this campaign – will make us joined best away performers (together with that other North London team), but with Chavs and Mancs already losing there, we will have to give a full-blooded, yet controlled and clinical performance to take home all three points.

Predicted Line-Up

This team will do it tomorrow, I reckon:

Ars v Orcs

Probably no Gibbs and Monreal, and TV5, although available, is likely to be rusty. So he needs good cover, which Rosicky will provide. On the right are Mr Reliable and the Ox to provide thrust and speed. Ozil back in the hole, OG up-front (no risk for late hotel adventurous in Stoke – Ollie has style 😛 ), and FlamShere in the double DM-pivot, protecting the golden-triangle of Koz-Sz-BFG, whilst providing central thrust and organisation as much as possible.

I expect Ozil and Jack to run the show, with Flamini providing controlled physical and positional support behind them. Ox and Rosicky will offer a lot of energy and speed and OG will be needed both up-front and at the back.

These eight men and three near-men know what is at stake and what they have to do. Time to slay the Orcs.

And on the bench we’ll have the likes of Santi, Pod, Gnabry, Sanogo and Arteta to make a difference if required.

Up The Arse!

TotalArsenal.

Time for TV5 to replace Flamini & Who to be our (b)Ox to (b)Ox player?

Time for our Lion of Flanders to motor us forwards again?
Time for our Lion of Flanders to motor us forwards again?

The transfer window closed without any reinforcement in our defence or attack. I said jokingly yesterday that Wenger was after a player starting with a ‘K’, as we were being linked with Klose, Kalou and Kim Kallstrom( KK). We got KK who is supposed to help out in the box to box position; but then he arrived already injured, apparently. If the squib wasn’t already damp enough last night, it became saturated this morning with the announcement that our only signing arrived with a back problem that will keep him out for at least six games.

I don’t know what to say, guys and girls…. So let’s move on.

With Flamini out and Arteta seemingly struggling with getting back to 100% fitness and form, we have to ask ourselves who can strengthen and reinvigorate the so important double DM pivot of our team. Flamini and Arteta looked slightly sluggish and disorganised against Southampton, and although I reckon the DM pivot will not be tested as much tomorrow as it was on Tuesday, we will need to make some changes to get the team motoring again.

We will do a pre-match tomorrow morning, during which we can discuss the best line-up against Crystal Pulis’ park-the-bus formation in more detail.

In this post, I would like to discuss what we can do to replace Flamini’s defensive and leadership qualities. Furthermore, it would be good to discuss who should play in the box to box position, now that Rambo and Wilshere look to be out for a few games at least.

I reckon we are missing a trick with leaving the enthusiastic and powerful Vermaelen on the bench for so many games. If Arteta is fully fit, he should normally play but if and when we need to have more steel in midfield – somebody who is good in the air and can tackle properly – Vermaelen could be our man. He also offers additional thrust and has a venomous long distance shot. On top of that, he offers presence and energy and he is now wise enough to contain himself when needed (I hope!).

The above is linked with the second question: who to play in our box to box role?

I am hoping Rosicky is recovered enough to play tomorrow, and in the foreseeable future, in this position. The combination of Arteta and Rosicky could work a treat, as both are experienced and multi-disciplined midfielders.

It would be good to have a second option, though, in case of fitness/injuries issues for Arteta and/or Rosicky. Should Santi play in the box to box role, next to Arteta? Wenger tried Ox there against Coventry recently, but that was with Jack providing the defensive cover (which is not his core strength, is it?). It did not really work and I reckon that either Cazorla or Ox can only play in the box to box role if they get proper defensive cover.

I have my doubts whether Arteta will be able to do this, especially in the big games coming up. Therefore, I am hoping Wenger is going to try something different here; and for me Vermaelen could be the answer to our midfield puzzle. With the Lion of Flanders protecting the back four, Rosicky, Ox, or Cazorla could play deeper whilst supporting the four in attack regularly. I could also see this being done by Nacho or Sagna, but TV5 is the best option of them all imo.

I would also like to see Ox play properly in the box to box role, although Rosicky will have to be our first option until Jack or Ramsey return.

What do you think fellow Gooners?

With Theo and Rambo out, and no additional striker bought in January, who are going to score our goals?

AB wrote this succinct comment which is directly linked to the above question:

TA you said it’s our midfield that delivers these [goals] – we don’t need more in the way of strikers. And I agree that’s the model that Wenger has built. But without Walcott and Ramsey, the model looks less sound. Oz and Ros are more creators than scorers, although I have never fully understood why given their technical skills. Gnab and Ox both look like they will score goals, but are yet to really break through on this front, and it’s too early to count on them. Which leaves Santi and Pod, both proven goal scorers. However, neither has hit sustained form this year (partially excused given injuries) and Wenger does not seem minded to play both together. They are going to be really important for us in the next 6 weeks – not least because Giroud is as much a space creator as he is a goal scorer.

This all adds up to goals being harder to come by in the next 15 games than they were earlier in the season. The importance of our defence being water-tight is therefore all the greater.

What do others think – where are the goals going to come from if we are to put 2 or 3 past opposing sides?”

What can I add to this?

I reckon, Wenger will need to start playing Pod more now, and with Santi possibly in the box to box role it could work a treat. We could play Pod – Ozil – Ox/Gnabry behind Giroud and Arteta/Vermaelen-Santi/Rosicky in the ‘DM’-pivot. We would have three regular goals scorers in the team with Pod, Giroud and Cazorla, whilst Ozil, Ox, Rosicky and Gnabry also can contribute. I don’t think it will lead to goal fests but it might be enough to win a lot of games, especially if our defence keeps performing so strongly…. for which we need a good replacement for Flamini…

What do you think fellow Gooners?

 

Written by: TotalArsenal

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

ARSENAL v TOTTENHAM

&

A reflection of a demanding 12 days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Gerry.

Predicted Line-Up: Rosicky and Theo on wings, FlamRam, Gibbs back?

Just a quick one as I am busy with Christmas preparations.

images (8)

Tonight’s game against the Chavs will no doubt be a wild affair. Strong winds are forecasted and let there be no doubt that all 22 players and both managers will be hyped up for this one. May the Canon roar and cause total mayhem in the Chavs’ defence: a great night to show the pride in our shirt.

It is the first game of four big ones in succession and a good start would lift both teams tremendously for the remaining games. It is also a London Derby AND the rebirth of the battle between the self-declared Special One and Le Professeur; the scheming strategist and the visionary entertainer; street wisdom and philosophy.

This will be the battle of midfield, no doubt. Last year, the streetwise semi-nasty Ramires taught us a lesson in aggressive midfield play and I hope we are prepared for the physical/aggressive approach the Chavs will instigate in midfield. If they play Ramires, which for me is almost a certainty, we need to let him know who is boss today in the first few minutes. Flamini has to be our man to do that and a hell of a lot will be expected of him today. The key question is who should play next to him: Arteta, Ramsey OR somebody else?

If it is Ramsey he will need to play one of the games of his life to deal with both the defensive side of things and link our back-six (including GK and holding DM) with the front-four. If it is Arteta, he will have to rediscover his old form again and dominate proceedings in front of the back five/six. Maybe Wenger surprises us all by putting Rosicky next to Flamini; we have to wait and see.

The other question is whether Wenger will go 4-5-1 or more 4-2-1-3: five midfielders or three attackers? He could start with Flamini, Ramsey, Rosicky, Cazorla and Ozil, but also opt to attack the Chavs with both Pod and Theo on the wings. I reckon the answer is in the middle with both Rosicky and Theo starting on ‘the wings’ tonight.

At the back things should be straightforward. Sagna, BFG, Szczesny and TV to start with either Monreal or Gibbs on LB. I go for the latter but would not be surprised if Monreal gets another chance.

Let’s get behind the team tonight and will our boys on till the end. Tonight’s game could turn into a special, one-off event to cherish for a long, long time.

Come On You Rip Roaring Gooners – Do Us Proud!

Merry Christmas fine fellow Gooners! 🙂

Written by TotalArsenal.

Predicted Line-Up:

Ars v Chavs

Mesut, Aaron, Jack, Santi, Tomas: ideal cure for PTB.

Arsenal-form

I don’t know about you but when I have to do tedious tasks, like completing spreadsheets, peel potatoes or listen to MotD analysts, my mind often wanders to Arsenal moves and goals as a coping mechanism.

Our second goal against Pool-victors Hull, for example, serves as the perfect tedium killer. Every time I think of that goal a smile forms in my face: the way the Hull players wanted the ball over the line, the perseverance of Nacho and Ozil, the sharp combinations between Ramsey and Ozil whilst moving constantly, and the beautiful, beautiful measured ball into the box by the Welshman to the German, followed by  a fast, precise, deadly finish by Ozil. Stuff of day dreams.

Watch it again, from about 58 seconds onwards:

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

Arsenal currently have five fit, multi-talented midfielders who can combined so well in tide spaces that we seem to have finally cracked the Park The Bus approach of some of the teams coming to the Emirates. Of course it helped that we scored an early goal against Hull, but it was also clear to me that they just could not deal with the movement and passing of our midfielders on Wednesday.

And if the movement and passing is good now, just imagine what it will look like in the future. Ramsey and Wilshere maturing further, Ozil settling properly into the team, Santi in his best form again, Rosicky coming in to replace tired legs at the start or during the games, and Ox returning fit and hungry to the team. Add to that the super talents of Eisfeld and Zelalem, and one or two others, and you know the future is bright.

It does make me think, though, what sort of football Arsene and Steve are aiming to play mid to long term: is this it or will we see another dimension added to our game?

I mention Steve Bould on purpose as I am equally impressed with the current defensive shape and discipline of the team. What initially seemed an awkward relationship between two strong-willed and passionate characters has slowly developed into one of great strength and depth. In recent seasons, there often was an obvious split in the team of the ‘defence seven’ – GK, defenders, and two defensive minded deeper laying midfielders – and the attacking four with the a limited amount of integration between the two ‘blocks’.

It worked for us when we needed to get results, but it was often hard on the eye, and was always going to be an interim measure as long as Wenger is ultimately in charge.

Now, after a summer of stability through keeping all our key players (except Gervinho, who I reckon we should have kept at least another year), and adding the extra dimension of Ozicle and the steel and extrovert leadership of the foxy Flamini to our talents, Wenger and Bould have evolved the team to the next – yet I feel not final – stage.

There is a lot more fluidity to our play and our team no longer look like two autonomous, task-orientated units. Only when we play the bigger teams, we still struggle a bit with playing as an integrated, holistic defending and attacking team. This is something the team will get better at the longer the players are together, and our two games against the Oilers will show us how far they have come.

We can look forward to the likes of Santi, Jack, Mesut, Aaron, Alex and Tomas becoming more and more a free moving, all conquering midfield attacking machine this season, with Flamini or Arteta offering defensive support behind them and Giroud being the pivotal, holding attacker up-front. On top of that, they get constant support from one full back at a time. There is growth in Gibbs and Jenkinson, and Nacho and Sagna are solid, safe pairs of hands for us.

Mid to long term, other than adding some strength in depth in some key areas (CB, DM, RB, CF), I can see us getting a top quality 24/25 year old left midfielder/winger. He would add another dimension, especially if and when combined with Theo on the right. That for me would be the next stage of growing our team into an all conquering machine again. It would give us variety in our approach to opponents and style of play.

cropped-henry-dog-008.jpg

We have not been lucky with our purchases for the LW/LM position in recent years; in fact, it seems to have some sort of curse ever since the one and only Pires left us, with Reyes, Arshavin and Gervinho, and to some extent Podolski, all failing to properly make it there. Let’s hope Arsene’s can find the final piece of the jigsaw in 2014 – either in January or the summer – and this team will become even better.

But what do you think fine fellow Gooners:

  1. Have Arsenal found the cure for PTB teams now?
  2. What style of football would you like Arsenal to play and are we there yet?
  3. Is the LW/LM an area in need of real improvement (rather than adding cover as in the DM, CB, RB and CF positions)?
  4. Who would be your nr.1 choice for the LW/MW?
  5. Who would be your nr.1 priority purchase in January?

Let’s have a heated debate! 😛

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Is there a better midfield in the PL than Arsenal’s?

Arsenal-form

If you think that our goals last season were almost entirely scored by four players – beautifully spread out between them – and three of them have hardly played any football this season, there is every reason to believe we can at least continue – if not improve further – our two goals a game average. Last season we did not score many goals from the mid-mids: Rosicky, Wilshere, Ramsey and Arteta (except for his well taken penalties) seldom or never got the ball over the all important line.

But this season, we finally are getting goals from our central midfielders and this is a great sign of good things to come.  Ramsey has been in red and white hot form, and Jack and Ozil have also scored a few goals already. And yet, the midfield is not fully clicking as we would like them to do; and so there is plenty of scope for further improvement.

With the likes of Rosicky, who unfortunately is less successful in finding the net, Ozil, Ramsey and Wilshere, we have four footballers who can play in various positions and be both finisher and creator whenever they feel like it. The more they will play together the better they will become as an attacking unit, and once they hit top form they will become unplayable.

Add Ox, Pod and Theo to the mix and it becomes even more interesting. The idea that we have three to four footballers who can score goals regularly and pick a defence splitting pass at any moment in the game, is simply fantastic. On Tuesday we saw some fantastic through-balls from Wilshere, Rosicky and Ozil, and it was good to see Jack in fine form again.

Jack in 'the hole' was a big surprise but he looked  rusty once again, unfortunately!
Nice fag Jack?! 🙂

Some are wondering what has changed in Jack and the answer is nothing, other than simply hitting form; or maybe his body is finally starting to feel good again. One thing is certain for me: it has nothing, niente, nada, rien, niks, nichts, to do with a change in attitude by ‘Jack the lad’. Being a huge fan of SJW, I have studied his behaviour and persona a bit, and I am convinced he is the total professional who gives his all in every game!

With Jack hitting form now and Theo returning to the first team, there is further opportunity for Ozil to get settled into the team and learn to master the art of being the advanced central midfielder in our 4-2-1-3 formation. This still seems to be a bit of a new challenge for him, especially when we play the stronger teams and we tend to sit back more. But I am sure Wenger will work with him on this, and his fellow midfielders will help out as well.

As you know, I am a big fan of treating every game as a cup match – OGAAT OGAAT! – and we should not look further than the next game against Cardiff. But I am also looking forward tremendously to us playing the Southern and Northern Oilers next month and to see how our midfield holds up against theirs.

If, with a bit of luck, we can keep our team fit for a while, and can play with our strongest midfield and defence and OG is available in those games, I reckon we can beat them both.

If we win those midfield battles, or are at least equal to  the Oilers’ midfields, I reckon we will win the league: December will tell us a lot, imo.

Will that finally shut up ‘those in the know’ – the Hansens, the Shearers and other perfect cures for insomnia – about Arsenal’s chances to win the title? Aah who cares, you should only rate an opinion of someone you rate as a person, and the rest is water of a duck’s arse stuff.

Let’s OGAATly play Cardiff on Saturday and work our socks off for another three points; that will bring us to 31 points and will put pressure on our desperate chasers to stay in touch with us (all playing on Sunday).

pat on the back

Let’s do it for Pat and show him our love and let’s help him beat that bastard called Cancer – Victoria Concordia Crescet! Pat we are thinking of you!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere: who will be the next Fabregas?

Arsenal-v-Barcelona-002 

On a night when eleven South-Americans made Chile Con Carne of a disjointed and uninspired England team, Jack stood out as the only one with ‘football intelligence’. It keeps amazing me how not a single national manager has been able to get a particular style into the England team since many a year, and Hodgson is also failing in this respect.

Chile are a decent team but not more than that; yet, they made England look poor on the night. They put pressure on England all over the pitch and never allowed them to have a sustained period of pressure on their goal. And when the Chileans had the ball, they passed it round so much better and with so much more purpose and penetration. It was a lesson in modern football for the English boys and a clear indication they have a long way to go.

Despite some committed performances by Rooney and Lallana, only Jack was able to break the stranglehold of the Chileans and then move the ball forward intelligently – leading to the (few) best attacks on the night. Yet, it is clear that Wilshere is nowhere near 100% fit and in form, and we really need to hope hard that this will change rather sooner than later, both for Arsenal and England.

This brings me to the discussion of who should play in the hole for Arsenal, both short and long term. There are various candidates but nobody has totally convinced me they have all that it takes to perform all the required tasks for this position to a high level.

I reckon in a 4-2-1-3 formation the one in the ‘1’ – the one in the hole – is the most important player of them all. He should:

  1. Instigate our attacks
  2. Help out defensively in midfield
  3. Give shape and structure to the team
  4. Produce a large number of assists and ‘penultimate assists’
  5. Score goals regularly

For me, the player who embodies these five qualities in a 4-2-1-3 formation better than anybody else is Cesc Fabregas. Our former maestro has it all but is currently wasting it away at his other boyhood club.

Super Santi ready to move into another gear?!

I reckon Cazorla is good at 1, 4 and 5, but his defensive abilities are not great and neither is he able to give shape to our team very well as he lacks the presence and physical strength to boss the middle of the pitch. He likes to wander off and move where there is space, rather than hold the fort in the middle.

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Ramsey is growing into a great player now and offers a lot towards the above five points. He has started to score goals and produce assists, and his defensive abilities are impressive as well. He also has potential to give shape and structure to the team and instigate our attacks, but this is not showing a lot yet. I reckon he is best positioned in the box-to-box role right now, but could be considered for the AM role in the future.

Little Mozart needs an orchestra and a podium to perform on more regularly then currently is the case!

Rosicky adds drive and purpose and is great at instigating attacks. He does not score anywhere near often enough and neither does he produce a great number of assists, but his defensive abilities are great and, most importantly, he also gives a lot of shape and structure to our team when played through the middle. When Rosicky plays we often play our best ‘Wengerball’ football.

But for me, there are two candidates for the ‘man in the hole’ role: Ozil and Wilshere.

Arsenal-v-Barcelona-011

Jack is a natural midfield general and remains the best candidate in the mid to long term imo. He loves to stay in the middle and boss the area, he can defend and pick those defence-splitting passes, and he is starting to score goals now.

However, something is not right with him at the moment and it is more than a lack of form – and nothing to do with confidence as some believe, as I reckon Jack is a very confident person. No, something is not right with his body and fitness levels: it is to do with his running and feeling in his foot, and it all seems to stem from the operations he has had on his foot in the last 12 months or so.

I really hope he will come good and that we, the supporters, honour our role and support the guy through thick and thin (taking into account that he is still very young and what we were like around his age….).

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That leaves me with Ozil, who does very well with regards to most of the above mentioned required qualities. He instigates attacks really well, produces a lot of assists and scores goals regularly, and his defensive qualities are okay but not great.

The one area where I still have doubts is in his ability to give shape and structure to our attack: to really boss the midfield.

Fabregas was brilliant at this, and I would like to see more dominance and presence of our record signing going forward. Some believe that Ozil goes missing at times, but this is only true in a ‘shape-giving’ sense, as he will always give his all during the match. Mesut is just a clever player who constantly is anticipating what will happen next and how to maximise on this (similar to Fabregas), and he will keep doing this as long as he is on the pitch.

It might well turn out that Ozil is best positioned ‘on the wing’ – in a free role; a bit like Santi in a way. But I would like Ozil to link up better with his fellow midfielders and to start owning the centre of the midfield more; to drive the team forward and to give more shape to our football and attacking play.

And I hope Wenger will get him there gradually, just like he did with our former El Capitan.

7cb7581c-9624-4a25-b3dc-671eb4992883_OzilWenger_tussenbeeld

Or maybe, Wenger still has a space for our prodigal son? 😉

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YzUVDUWB_A

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Flamini for Arteta, Gnabry for Rosicky, Walcott on bench? Match Preview.

Arsenal vs Manchester United Pre-Match

Intro:

arsene 300

This week we take a trip to Old Trafford to face our bitter rivals. It’s a little unusual this time around though because instead of sir red nose it’s David Moyes at the helm. Early days have been rough for him (as you’d expect). He has big shoes to fill and he’s slowly dragging United back up the ladder. A loss for United will see them languishing 11 points off the lead. A position they have not been in for a very long time.

A win against United would boost our confidence through the roof and really act as a springboard for the long season ahead. Wins against Pool, BD, and Man U in a week would make a serious statement to the rest of the competition!

Let’s get in to it shall we:

Missing in Action:

Diaby sick bay

Arsenal: Podolski (Hamstring) – back in training and aims to be back in December, Ox (Knee), Diaby (Knee), and Sanogo (back). Wilshere, Flamini, and Walcott face fitness tests.

Man United: Fletcher (chronic bowel condition), Welbeck (Knee). Reports have suggested that Rafael (foot/ankle), Evans (back) and Carrick (calf/shin) could all return this week. Almost a full squad for United…no excuses.

Predicted Line-up:

starting line-up (12) (1)

Flamini to return in place of Arteta and Serge to step in for Rosicky. It’s probably too attacking away from home but I’d like to see us put them on the back foot quickly and score early. The likely scenario is Rosicky to play in Gnabry’s place just like he did midweek. An additional question mark is will Flamini be alright to go? If he is will he partner the ever reliable Zorro? Walcott and Wilshere will make the bench.

Previous Encounters:

Arsenal v Man U 1-1

A beautiful run by Walcott saw Arsenal go ahead in the 2nd minute. It was undone by a poor back pass by Sagna, followed by an overzealous challenge inside the box as he looked to make amends. The penalty was despatched by the treacherous rat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uami6cBa8ME

Man U v Arsenal 2-1

Vermaelen gifted BSR a goal in the 3rd minute. Somehow Evra scored with a header. Jack was sent off (The only Arsenal player on the day who decided to show up). Santi scored a conciliation goal at the end.

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

EPL Form Guide:               Arsenal:   : WWWDW         Man U: WWDWL

Two massive wins in a row against Liverpool and German heavyweights Borussia Dortmund see us riding on cloud 9 at the moment. It’s been 252 days since our last loss.

Manchester United currently sit in 8th position…yep 8th! I’ve wanted to see them languish into mid table mediocrity for quite some time. It may not last but for now it’s better than porn. They were held goalless midweek by Real Sociedad, they blasted away Fulham either, and Chicharito saved them at home against Stoke. They’ve started to lift but by no means do they look convincing.

In saying that, Man U (away) still remains our toughest fixture this season…regardless of either teams form.

Arsenal Archive (1)

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s the famous Ruud Van nistelrooy incident in the 2003/04 season. I absolutely loved at how the team bandied together and gave him a mouth full when the final whistle blew. Keown’s jump and hit (probably still enraged after Red Arse picked him up and hugged him), Lauren’s and Parlours Push, and the rest of the team giving him a spray. God I’d love for the boys to do the same to Brave Sir Robin this weekend. Have a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1dfphE6jOs

One to Watch:

This week’s one to watch is Rooney. All Summer long he was linked with a move away from the Fergie-less United. It’s no revelation he stuck around, we’ve seen it take place before when he wanted more money. I’ve always hated him! Ever since he scored that outrageous goal during his Everton days I knew more despair was to come. It did come…in the form of a dive across Sol Campbell’s leg in the match that snapped our unbeaten run (. He’s scored 10 goals against Arsenal which is more than any other team…aren’t we lucky!!! He’s like a balder, whiter version of Drogba (I’m not sure which one dives more though). Hopefully Flamini can leave a few marks on both him and BSR. As Arseblog mentioned the other day, it’s only fair BSR and Rooney share the same fate as General Zod. Being trapped in the Phantom Zone as they waft through space forever is a fitting end after all the anguish/anger they’ve caused us over the years.

phantom zone

Arsenal’s one to watch is none other than “the enforcer” Mathieu Flamini. He’s tough, uncompromising, and fights to the very end! For years we’ve been torn apart by United on the counter. Flamini will have to marshal the zone in front of the back four and protect it with his life. The good thing about Flamini is…he knows no other! You know what you are going to get when he steps out onto the pitch. Let’s hope he’s fit enough to start.

Key-Match up:

BFG + Kozzer vs Rooney + Brave Sir Robin

grassy knoll

Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny check list:

  • ·        Luis Suarez—–
  • ·        Daniel Sturridge—-
  • ·        Robert Lewandowski—-
  • ·        Marco Reus—–
  • Brave Sir Robin
  • Wayne Rooney

They’ve kept four big hitters quiet, now it’s time to close out another two. Rooney started off the year slow (no surprise given the controversy throughout the summer), but he’s stepped up in recent weeks and started to form a good relationship with BSR. Together they’ve scored 11 goals in the league this season (same number scored by Giroud and Ramsey) so our defensive duo must maintain their form if we are to win at Old Trafford. With the help of Sagna, Gibbs, Flamini, and Szcz I think they will. 3 clean sheets in a week…you got it!

Pre-Match Finger:

kid finger

This week’s finger goes to none other than Ashley Young.

Dive Harder, Dive Hard 2 with Ashley Young-796633

The premier league was relieved to see the back of serial diver Christiano Ronaldo. However, in his place grew another diver in the form of former Aston Villa winger Ashley Young (I guess you can say he’s still a Villain (eh! eh! eh! Okay I apologise for that one). At Man United he’s become the new Ole Gunnar Solskjær, but instead of coming off the bench to score he comes on -> is touched by an opposition player (sometimes not even) and delivers a bewildering blur of twists and turns resulting in a split legged face plant -> whistle -> penalty (and sometimes a red card). The catalogue he’s developed over the last few years is truly astonishing. In a game that can be won or lost by the smallest of margins he is rightfully on the receiving end of the media’s blowtorch. Thankfully his dive against Real Sociedad during the week didn’t win them the match. Justice was served when Brave Sir Robin missed the penalty and Man United shared the points. It’s a real shame, as once upon a time he was considered a real talent. Now he’s resigned to forging a career in the England synchronised diving team. My finger is out to you Ashley…time to pull yours out too (just not this week and not for United).

I’m glad the ref in our game against BD didn’t fall for similar tactics employed by Robert Lewandowski. It was sickening how often he dived throughout the match. I’m still laughing about the foul Arteta was called for after he won the ball from Lewandowski. Amazing how Kozza can be absolutely poll-axed in the box and receive nothing, yet these blouses can get rewarded when they go to ground after a pass of wind.

Pre-Match Pat on the back:

pat on the back

This week’s pat on the back is going to Arsenal’s Running Man Tomas Rosicky.

Running man

His importance to the team cannot be mentioned enough. When others are puffed out and out on their feet Rosicky is there! Terry is mesmerised by his hair flapping about as he runs, whereas we are fascinated by his determination and commitment to the cause. I had him as our MoTM against BD for obvious reasons. He chases, he passes, he tackles, he attacks…he really does do it all. He may not be able to play every game but when he does he definitely makes it count. The press is very important in today’s game and I think he’s the best in the team at implementing the strategy. He’s definitely got a lot more juice in his legs, and I hope he’s rewarded with a premiership medal at season’s end for his continual hard work. Well done Rosicky.

Ask the opposition Man U

‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week. It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead.  This week the answers were kindly provided by Dale O’Donnell from http://strettynews.com (@StrettyNews). Let’s see what he’s written for us this week:

1. What do you attribute to your slow start to the season?

It’s a transitional period. David Moyes came in and was willing to try different things. He had to do it at some stage and there was always going to be consequences, as you can see from the points we’ve already dropped. There has been signs of negative football and that must be altered. Attacking football is a key aspect to Manchester United.

2. How is Moyes travelling? He has big shoes to fill, will he make the grade?

Massive shoes to fill but he must be his own man and do things the way he feels is right. You don’t change a club like United, it will change you. Expectations are risen dramatically since his reign at Everton. Personally, I’ve got behind him from day one despite not being my initial choice. Moyes is a football man and he deserves time.

3. Your thoughts on Ashley Young being labelled a diver?.

Thoughts? It’s embarrassing. Young arrived and has yet to show any real consistency. Both Fergie and Moyes have said they’ve spoken to him about it but he still does it. And he’s still mediocre.

4. Are you happy with how your transfer window went?

Not particularly, but Moyes did name his targets. It was not his job to negotiate, so anyone hanging the blame over his head has not got a clue what they’re talking about.

5. What position/ player is your weakest link?

That has to be our midfield, but I’m not going to single out any player because it often depends on the combination. Carrick performs well regardless of who he is alongside. However, we still have fans that don’t appreciate the job he does for us.

6. What position is Arsenal’s weak link?

I don’t rate Szczęsny at all. He’s been at Arsenal since 2009, so he’s had the time to do it.

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

Ozil, hands down. What he has done for Arsenal so far this season does not surprise me one bit. It’s what happens when you add world class to your squad. Look at us last season with Van Persie. Remember him? Without your former captain, I doubt we would have won the league.

8. What is your match prediction?

We are at home, so I’m going for 1-1.

Prediction:

It’s hard to not get carried away and say we are going to win it easy, especially considering the way we’ve handled our opposition this week. The truth is we’ve played two very tough games in a row. Hopefully our physios have been working overtime and the players doing everything they can to recover 100%. In saying that it’s a massive game, if you can’t lift and find another gear in this game you don’t belong at Arsenal. I’d love to see us win at Old Trafford because it’s been a truly miserable place to play over the years; therefore, I’m torn between a 1-1 draw or a 0-2 victory. Frick it…0-2 to the good guys.

What is your prediction?

What starting line-up would you choose?

De Gea or Szczesny?

What position is their weakest link at the moment?

What tactic would you employ to beat Man U?

What will be the top 4 at season’s end?

coaches bikes

Written by: Oz Gunner

Mozart shows his metal – BFG-Koz solid – Rambo’s knock-out – great team performance

Another Rambo Knock-Out by our Welsh Wolf :)
Another Rambo Knock-Out by our Welsh Wolf 🙂

Dortmund – Arsenal analysis and afterthoughts

After lacking a bit of luck a fortnight ago at the Home of Football, last night we definitely had it back on our side. As expected, both teams played chessball in the first half in which all players moved along like chess pieces to deny the other pieces space, and at the same time desperately trying to gain some themselves.

We defended really well as a team, give or take a moment or two. If you watched the simple demolition by Dortmund of Stuttgart on Friday, you will agree with me that our team did really well to deny die Gelb-Schwarzen space and time on the ball in the area where it could hurt us. To see our team play with such discipline and maturity, AND with such sacrifice to ‘our style’, was very satisfying. They still managed to create a few very good chances, but mainly from set-pieces, and it is fair to say we rode our luck at times.

I felt our weakest area was our left side of defence. BD are very dangerous from their right side of attack and they put a lot of pressure on Gibbs, Koz and our ‘DM’s from that area. Cazorla did his best to help out, but defending is not his strongest point and a fit Jack Wilshere would have been the better option last night.

The first part of the second half was more of the same. As in the first half, our attackers did not seem able to hold on to the ball for long in the areas where they could hurt Dortmund. We were not able to play close enough together to play our triangles and move forward with possession and sharp passing, and this tells us all about how good Dortmund are: they forced this on to us with their chasing and excellent positioning, which not many teams are able to do.

cid154462_bvbars_640x345

However, gradually the game opened up and the chess-positioning lessened, and we started to play some better midfield/attacking football. Arsenal’s first, and directly deadly, chance of the game came out of nothing. Ozil floated in a ball towards Giroud; the Frenchman won the aerial battle and laid the ball off to Rambo – who scores when he wants – and he wanted it badly: 1-0 to the good guys and game on!

And boy did it take the bounce out of Germans – Scheiße! hahaha 🙂

http://d3j5vwomefv46c.cloudfront.net/photos/large/775095792.gif

But Dortmund were not allowed back into the game by the collective ‘concordia’ of Arsenal. They did manage to produce a few half-decent chances but so did we, and it could as easily have been 2-0 as 1-1 at that stage of the game. Ramsey had a good opportunity to score a brace, after a perfect cross from our multi-functional CF; and the BFG launched himself in the air towards the ball like a B52 Bomber from an Ozil cross from the sidelines, but just could not reach far enough for what would have been a certain goal.

The team battled on and everyone gave what they had left in them to secure the win. Every single player deserves praise, but I would like to bring to light our CB-pairing and Rosicky’s performances.

No team will ever win something meaningful without a solid CB partnership, and the Koz-BFG partnership is developing into something special with now three clean sheets in a row. They are not fully there yet, and there will be a new test for them at Old Toilet, but boy are we lucky to have them playing together right now.

And then there was Rosicky, of whom I said he seldom performs well two games in a row. Yesterday, he proved me wrong with a MoTM performance against his former club after having played against the Chavs and Pool in an eight day period. TR7 was absolutely brilliant in all areas of the pitch and his defensive play and ‘professional meanness’ were outstanding. He put his body on the line for Arsenal and gave his all, and it is this hunger, passion for the club, talent and experience that make him such a valuable player for Arsenal. I hope he’ll stay fit and at Arsenal for a long time, and develop into our very own Ryan Giggs.

All in all a fantastic, and much needed, win in Europe and TOTT. These boys are making us SO PROUD. Same eleven against the Mancs…

Written by: TotalArsenal.