Boom Boom Giroud is Back, Alexis Sanchez Baby, Coq-Elneny our New Wall? Sunderland – Arsenal Match Review

Oliver Giroud celebrates after he scores his second goal and Arsenal’s third.

After a two hour drive through foggy hills of the very sparsely populated west-to-east very north of England, we ended up in sunny Sunderland with an hour to spare. After parking the car close to the seaside we made our way to the ground via the beautifully named Roker Avenue. The street had seen better days and the level of  littering was quite a surprise (thought those days had gone), but it is always nice to see local supporters of all shapes and sizes wearing the home and away shirts, slowly making their way to the ground.

Sunderland is a football city, let there be no doubt about it, and the Stadium of Light is a pretty perfect football ground, especially when the sun is out and sparkles everything into bright colours and the playing service looks like snooker-cloth. You would expect there to be a lot of unhappiness given the miserable position in the league table and the dire football on display, but the Black Cats supporters are thick-skinned and used to being in this position. They clearly were looking at this game as a bonus of some sort, already anticipating that bigger – my Sunderland supporting ex-colleague even used the word ‘harder’- games lay ahead for them. With that they mean games that they are supposed to win if they want to survive in the PL this season.

I said to my father in law that the warm weather is a blessing for us as it will make the game significantly less ‘up-northy’ for the players. In fact, the north east had about the warmest weather of the whole of the UK on Saturday afternoon and the Gunners were red hot from the start. After a minute silence, immaculately observed by both sets of supporters which in itself gave me a warm and teary-eyed feeling, the game was kicked off. Sunderland set back and tried to disturb our flow of passing but also tried to hem us in in our half by playing a high line at times.

We became sharper in our passing as the game went on and Alexis was steeling the show with his energy and creativity. He set the scene for us in the first minute by chasing the keeper down and getting the ball wacked into his face from close range. The Chilean is our dynamo, our first soldier in attack, who gets everybody going. It was no surprise that it was him who opened the score, even though it was with a Giroudesque header from a classical, speculative cross from around the corner flag. When the Ox put the cross in we did not expect anything else but a clearance but when you have the energy and anticipation levels, combined with bottomless confidence, of the Chilean, anything can be turned into a goal. How he got in front of the defender I still don’t know, but his header was brilliantly directed into the far corner leaving the keeper with no chance. We all went berserk and 5000 or so supporters sang the never tiring ‘Alexis Sanchez Baby’ song. Sunshine and smiles everywhere.

To be fair to Sunderland they did not sit back totally after that and tried to breach us on our left side. Everybody in the world knows there is no way through on Arsenal’s right side of the defence with Coquelin, Bellerin and Mustafi bossing the area, but on the left side we have shown vulnerability time and again this season. Wenger is giving Gibbs a chance now whilst our fantastic Nacho man is nursing a ‘Wenger-injury’ in his head. Fair play to Kieran who looked really up to the task and for the first time I saw a man on the pitch rather than a promising talent.

Kieran got some support from the regularly alternating ‘mid-wingers’ but it was Eleneneny who became his closest defensive friend, next to the beastly Koz of course. The beauty about Elneny is his awareness of space and filling the gaps intelligently with his runs and presence; and when he has the ball he is calm and passes it on with simplicity and efficiency. During the first half we still had some defensive breaches on our left but we looked less vulnerable than in other games, and during the second half we were very much a solid defensive unit. The combo of Coquelin and Elneny might not be as sexy as it can be to many, but it was perfect for this game. They bossed the midfield and kept the Black Cats in their own half most of the time and they fed the attackers with simple and efficient passes constantly.

Unfortunately, Arsenal did not push on enough for the all important second goal. Ozil could have had another hat trick yesterday and others, such as Iwobi and Ox, missed composure and technical control to kill off Sunderland for good. Nobody cared too much about Ozil’s wastefulness as the supporters’ favourite song on the day was without any doubt ‘Mesut Ozil, Mesut Ozil, I just don’t think you understand….’. We were missing another regular/natural goal scorer with Theo out and Giroud bench-grooming his beard. Luckily the latter was regularly warming up along the sidelines and the away support warmed him up further with the ‘Nananana’ song, which he really appreciated.

And then came the expected unexpected… we gave away a penalty out of nothing and the score was level. We should have had a penalty a minute earlier and it took an uncharacteristic mistake – was it a slip? – by the German man-hugger Mustafi, to somehow let them back into the game, but we did it to ourselves… and that is what really hurts.

Luckily, the ‘here we go again ‘glass half empty supporters’ favourite train of thought was quickly derailed with a blitz-krieg brace by super-sub Ollie. First he resolutely connected with his left thunderbolt foot with a fine wing-cross by Gibbs from around the edge of the box to put us in front, and a couple of minutes later he put the game to bed with the finest, almost delicate, of diagonal headers over the scrambling keeper from a fine corner by Mesut. 1-3 to the mighty Red and White North Londoners, and then Alexis added another with some very cheeky close control and finish right in front of the goalmouth.

The Sunderland support had enough and we wished them a good homecoming with the ‘cheerio’ song. The added ‘your f*cking sh*t’ song lacked collective levels of empathy and wasn’t for me, but there you go. We should have scored more after that but 4-1 was a pretty fine result that sent us top of the league, which we reminded the most loyal Black Cats supporters of with gusto of course.

On the way back, my FIL and I listened to the radio and were amazed and well pleased that both Spuds and Manure did not manage to take three points from their home games. The return of the fog around the hills did not dampen our spirits one iota. It is quite telling that those who some see as our biggest competition for the title, Citeh and Pool, also managed to thump their opponents with four away goals. Still early days of course, but after ten games we are joined top of the league with those two teams and have a very similar goal difference: are the three of us, all committed to good, attacking football, going to fight it out for the title?

This week we have two more big games to play. Away to Ludogorets FC we will need our full focus to get three points and probably qualify for the next CL round – a not to be expected but never impossible loss there, is to be avoided at all cost. And then of course we play the NL derby for a six-point gab opportunity and to go into the November interlul break with the warmest of feelings. Ooh to be…

By TotalArsenal.

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. 

How to Beat our London Nemesis: Santi, Xhaka and Ozil to feed Alexis and Theo

My Best Team Against The Chavs – our London Nemesis

It is about time we beat the Chavs again, I am sure you agree. But how can we do it?

By outpassing them, just like Pool did last week Friday. But we also need to defend their counter attacks really well and keep all eleven players on the pitch.

cropped-coquelin1.jpg

This will not be easy and it is fair to say that this London derby will be our  biggest test yet this season. Having said that, I reckon we have what it takes to finally win a PL game against the Chavs again, and let’s hope the referee will be able to deal adequately with all that will be thrown at him on Saturday evening. This is of course as key a factor as anything else.

They will be okay with sitting back and play us on the counter, and we all know how many times we have lost to them through their counter attacking football, feasting on the space we had left for them. Part of me wants us to sit back and invite their pressure, so we can beat them on the counter, but we are now too good a team to not go and attack them and win the game the Arsenal way. Luckily, with Koz, Bellerin, Mustafi and Nacho we have four fast defenders who can play a high line to great effect.

How should we then line up? Well the back five are obvious picks: Cech, Monreal (although a Gibbs start is not inconceivable) King Koz, Mustafi and Bellerin. Coq is needed for his steel, but he will have to check his temperament a bit, as he is likely to be one of the players to be provoked by the infamous neck scratcher. Rambo is not yet ready and Santi is playing so well at the moment that we cannot leave him out. So Xhaka is likely to miss out once again, but his time will surely come. I am a bit worried about Santi’s lack of box to box mobility though, especially if and when we lose the ball. The Chavs have some fast players and our box to box midfielder will have to track back and support his fellow DM/Defenders regularly. If we are to play Cazorla, we need the full backs to be very disciplined: only one of them can go forward at any given time.

I reckon Santi will play, but I would be tempted to play him in the hole this time, with Mesut moving to the wing (in a free role). Next to Coquelin, I would be tempted to play either Xhaka or Elneny, as they both have the engines and legs to do the full on B2B stuff required against the Chavs; they also give us that extra bit of defensive steel in front of our back four. With the Chavs likely to sit back and forcing us to pass our way all the way to the goal, Xhaka carries a fine threat with his long distance cannonballs. Elneny also has a decent long distance shot, so either of them would do for me.

With Ozil on the wing and Santi in the hole, we need two proper goal threats up-front. We can pick from Theo, Perez, Akpom, Alexis and possibly Giroud. I have a suspicion that Ollie’s toes are absolutely fine, and although I don’t expect him to start, I can see him come on as a substitute to score the winner towards the final minutes of the game.

I fully expect Wenger to play Alexis as our CF once again. This is the new plan for the season as far as I can see it, and I love it. That leaves me with one remaining ‘midwing’ position to fill and  I would either pick Theo, Iwobi or Perez. Given Walcott’s recent form and his fearlessness in front of London opposition, I am opting for him to complete my dream 11 to beat the Chavs:

submit football lineup

What do you reckon fellow Gooners: is this the team to take all three points from the Chavskis?

By TotalArsenal.

 

Ospina gives Cavani Nightmares, Alexis our new CF, Mustafi Class: PSG – Arsenal Review and Positives

A vital away draw against the group favourites in a hot and sweaty Paris after conceding a goal within the first minute: our boys did us proud.

Yes we were lucky at times but we should not underestimate the sequence of events in this game: there was plenty of adversity to overcome and to do so is the making of champions. How many times did we see the likes of the Chavs and MU grind out a result with big dollops of luck over the last ten years and eventually win the league or CL? It requires backbone and Arsenal have it.

Although I would not have started with Coq and Santi in the double DM pivot necessarily, I can see why Wenger went for the same duo from the Saints game. Francis offers defensive solidity and Santi is good when under pressure at the back. But more about that later. With Theo out injured and Perez needing a bit of time to get used to the way Arsenal play, Wenger had to fall back on Ox and Iwobi to play on the flanks. Regular readers on BK know my views on the Ox as well as Iwobi.  I reckon the former is not going to make it and the latter should be given more chances to shine. And as soon as Perez is fully integrated in the team I reckon the time for the Ox is up, but that is for a future post.

The obvious issue for Arsenal at the moment is the solidity of the back four. In the last two games we have given away a large of number of half and full-fat chances and that is an area of concern. A logical one, though. Mustafi looks already at home and is the sort of modern CB we have all been craving for. But it takes time before he and the other quality defenders and goalkeeper will gel into a solid and controlled defensive unit. And if we then concede a goal in the first minute, against a team that was still looking for its seasonal mojo and then gets the perfect lift/gift for crowd and players, you know it will be a difficult game for our team. I feared the worst initially.

You can blame Wenger for choosing a first eleven you do not agree with, and I have some sympathy with that, but the bigger picture is that we conceded a rotten early goal which gave the Parisian Oilers a great boost of confidence at the Parc des Princes, and we played a CB pairing with just 90 minutes between them. After the goal we were put under a lot of pressure and our DM pivot was pushed right back, divorcing the attackers from the much needed link-up play, who were struggling to get their game going on their own against a number of strong PSG central midfielders and defenders.

It was a typical game in which we needed a mobile, continuously running B2B midfielder and that, my dear friends, Cazorla is not. And that is also why le Coq is often seen up front, lately.

You could see the effect of Wenger’s team talk in the second half. We dared to push up more and our midfield started to link up with our attack better. We started to play better even though it did not lead to many chances for us and PSG were given some very oohlalah opportunities to score the all important second goal. Rather than going for the cheap, guttural ‘Alexis is not a CF’ I would like to focus on the lack of cohesion and understanding by the mid-wingers of how to play with Sanchez and, to some extent, by Ozil. Many reckon that Mesut deserves a better CF than Ollie, but I reckon the Frenchman is the perfect link-up player for all his magic to come to fruition. Mesut and Alexis also have a good understanding, so I don’t think it will take long for both to adjust to the Chilean’s new role.

Whether you like it or not, Alexis is our new main CF for the season. And just like getting used to playing with Mustafi at the back, the team will also have to work hard to get the best out of what Alexis has to bring, which is a hell of a lot. When the midfield did not come to support the attack, Alexis did well to go and do the link up himself. That then means that one of the midwingers needs to utilise the space made available up-front. Ox does not get this and Iwobi is slowly improving re this. On top of this, they need to learn to balance attacking with supporting their full backs… a work in progress (especially given Aurier’s freedom on our left).

Luckily, the midfield pushed up to take the game to PSG in the second half, and we played much better then. And it is fair to say we played better again when Ollie arrived, as the team could fall back to their old system of attacking our opponents. When we scored the goal there were four Arsenal players in the box. Mesut put a good, fast ball into the box and the first touch of Iwobi was pretty perfect; he then unleashed a well executed shot but it was at the right height for the keeper who still saved well. Luckily, the rebound fell to Alexis who finished like a proper CF: a well placed and venomous shot beyond the reach of the goalie.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game against PSG

Both teams had chances to win the game after that and PSG deserved it more than us to be fair, but we showed resilience and fighting spirit to hold out and a very valuable point was brought back to the home of football. And with a draw in the other group game, it has been a pretty perfect start for us in this year’s CL campaign.

Eight positives:

  1. Ospina, our uncontested MOTM, was sublime. He has great presence and energy and Cavani will be having repeated nightmares of him this Autumn. 🙂
  2. Mustafi’s passing and positional play. Only his second game and he looks class – just needs to be integrated into the defensive unit, which takes time.
  3. Alexis’ goal: great finish at a crucial point in the game.
  4. Iwobi’s attacking play: great first touch in congested area for his shot on target that led to Alexis’ goal and could have won it for us later on. He still has a lot to learn but you can see he is destined for greatness if he can continue his progress.
  5. Koz: battered and bruised on Saturday, but no stopping him on Tuesday. What a spirit! Violently happy, Koz we love you (yes from the Bjork song).
  6. Bellerin: nobody attacks us these days from the left a lot. Why is that? Only 20 years old and such an established Gunner already. WOW.
  7. Wenger: for turning the game round with his team talk at half time. Not by taking out players and blaming them, but by talking to all his players and making them play better. A typical ‘McGregor Y-manager’.
  8. Coquelin and Santi: for playing two games in three days and being able to adjust and turn round the game in the second half.

Next up in the CL are two home games and let’s hope we will play with the same fighting spirit and be a bit more ‘gelled’ by then.

By TotalArsenal.

Viking FK v Arsenal Line-Up: Rambo & Xhaka to feed Alexis, Akpom and Theo?

Viking FK v Arsenal Friendly – The Gunners ready to battle it out with the Vikings of Stavenger

I don’t know about you, but I am enjoying our pre-season friendlies until now. Holding is the big surprise of course, but Ox has played well too and Xhaka has been a joy to watch. Furthermore, Elneny has been in very fine form and Le Coq is fighting for his life to make the first eleven once again. Santi looked more silky than rusty against Chivas and Akpom is finding the net with some ease at the moment. It has also been good to see the youngsters knocking hard on the door and not looking out of place in our pre-season team. And our full backs are bombing forward and producing assists, and that is also music to our ears.

I don’t know much about Viking FK and would like to invite our fellow Norwegian Gooners to give us some background info.

Viking FK were founded in 1899 and are one of the best Norwegian clubs historically having won the title eight times, even though they have not won the league for about 25 years. They are in the middle of the Norwegian top league season and will be playing again on Sunday, so it remains to be seen how serious they will take the match on Friday. The good thing is we will face a fully fit team that will not find it hard to get going against us. And that is what we need if we want to test out players and key elements of our game for the coming season.

It is hard to predict who will start. I have a feeling that Wenger will play his first choice players for our last friendly game against the Northern Oilers and, therefore, will start some of the ‘second choice’ players on Friday. He will also like to give Rambo and Alexis an opportunity to get some game time but I doubt they will last more than 45 minutes. I reckon Arsene wants to combine Holding and Bielik at least one more time before our game against Pool in ten days time. Chambers at right back is a guess and another start for Gibbs is on the cards too.

The most exciting bit is who will be playing in midfield. I predict a rest for Le Coq and a start of Elneny, with Xhaka and Rambo playing slightly in front of the Egyptian. I cannot wait to see these three work together.

Our attack is another guess. Theo has asked to play on the right as much as possible from now on, which I think is a good decision. Let’s start him there which gives Arsene the opportunity to start Akpom as our CF. On the left we should expect Alexis to start, or to come on later if Wenger really wants to ease him back in – with a start for Iwobi in that case. The combination of Theo – Akpom – Alexis up-front, being fed from behind by the multi-talented midfielders of Rambo, Xhaka and Elneny is a mouthwatering prospect.

Predicted Line-Up

football formation

The game can be watched on Arsenal.com so don’t miss it – kick off 7.30 pm on Friday 5 August.

CoyGs!

By TotalArsenal

Mahrez, Giroud, Alexis and Ozil: The Dream Attack to Win the Title

50 goals from our first choice attackers and nr10:

surely enough to win the title?!

I reckon we lost the league last year because it was the Foxes’ year. Leicester Cinderella City became the neutrals’ favourite to win the title: a collective wishful thinking on and off the pitch made it happen, and there was little that could have been done about it, it seems. Yet, we have to look at ourselves and judge where we could have done better to at least come a lot closer than the ten point gap the Foxes managed to establish between us and them.

LC scored only three more goals than us (68) and conceded the same number of goals (36), yet they lost only three games whilst we were on the losing side seven times. They won 11 of their 19 away games whereas we only managed to win eight away from home. Both teams won the same number of home games but Arsenal lost three times whereas the Foxes only lost the one game at home… the one that matters most to us, though 😉 .

Losing four more games than LC is what made the difference of course, and this had all to do with efficiency. The goals for and against are almost the same, but the Foxes’ shift towards a more Italian, defensive style of play in the second part of the season saw them collect points on a massive scale through a mean defence and a spluttering but still not totally dead attack. Most importantly, they had two major goal threats in Vardy (24 PL goals) and Mahrez (17 PL goals), and when one was struggling to find the net the other would not; how different from Arsenal in the second part of the season!

We also needed to be more secure in defence; especially in the second part of the season we gave away too many winning positions, or made it really hard for ourselves by conceding first through careless defending, which cost us dearly. But that is for another post.

When Ollie went through a drought, the likes of Alexis, Ozil and Theo did not fill the gap, and that is what needs to be addressed this season. Ozil is of course our assists king and with six PL goals and 19 assists (121 PL minutes between goals/assists on average), I am just hoping he will score a few more and replicate the assists tally in the coming season.

Alexis had a relatively quiet season with 13 goals and four assists (144 PL minutes between goals/assists on average) but yet he did his part to some extent. Giroud did his bit to a large extent in the role of ‘Holding Striker/ attack enabler and finisher’ with 16 goals and 6 assists (110 PL minutes between goals/assists on average). Unless Wenger decides to play a different system of football, which I very much doubt, Ollie will be leading the line once again with the same job description he was given in the last few seasons (it never stops to amaze me how very few people seem to [want to] grasp this, especially in the media, but there you go).

We all know that it stops there, with neither Theo (5 goals and 2 assists/ 196 minutes between goals/assists on average), or Danny, Ox or Joel delivering the goods from the right (or centre), due to a variety of reasons. Rather than choosing a beast of a traditional CF, I reckon Wenger will be looking to strengthen the right side of our attack as to get more balance in the team and reach a total of say 50 PL goals from our three first choice attackers and nr.10. He may be tempted to hope either Iwobi, Ox or Campbell will break through but this is a big risk to take; and he knows it.

The rumours re Mahrez continue and it is obvious why Wenger would like to add this gem of an Algerian to the first team. He can play on the right and with 17 goals and 11 assist (109 PL minutes between goals/assists on average) he would help us to re-balance the attack and make it a lot more lethal. If Ozil, Giroud and Alexis score the same number of goals next season as they did in the previous one, and Mahrez manages to score 15 for us, we would score 50 PL goals from our first choice attackers and nr.10. Surely that would swing things in our favour massively? You may say Mahrez will not have another season like that, which may be true, but I also reckon that Alexis is capable to come close to 20 PL goals in the coming season, which would balance things out.

Whether it will be Mahrez or another player who can complete the attacking ‘dream team’ remains to be seen, but it just feels like the Algerian is the perfect fit for our team. The likes of Iwobi, Campbell, Ox and possibly Theo will play a role in the wider squad but, ideally, we add a proven PL goals and assists star to the team to avoid periods of goal droughts and improve our chances to win the title dramatically.

By TotalArsenal.

Time for Change: Alexis CF, Rambo Left Wing, Elneny box to box Mid

HOW TO FIX IT……….RAMBO OUT!………RAMBO IN!………AND WE ARE IN BUSINESS!

Once again the dream seem about to be shredded and Arsenal fans are huddled together seeking warmth from their very cold bodies. The sky is overcast, and dark shadows of doubt are beginning to appear. 11 games to go and many have started looking nervously over their shoulders wondering if its another nail biting struggle for a fourth place finish. “Can it be fixed?” they are asking as they search each other’s faces, eyes refusing to meet eyes.

Amazing skys 024

Per is way way safer than Gabby. Raw determination pales before intelligence. I here rest my case on this issue.

Rambo’s will and determination to run into the opposition’s box creating a sudden overload is without equal within our squad. It is a vital attribute treasured in football. Rambo also has a wide range of technical skills as well as a huge engine. Because of these latter qualities we, including apparently Monsieur Wenger, were shepherded into believing that a versatile role ( B2B) hangs perfectly on him. B2B is a role that is delicately poised between defensive and offensive duties. What many of us don’t fully recognize is that defensive ability has everything to do with attitude, almost.

First and foremost a defender must be able to recognize danger to his team, actual or potential. Secondly that recognition must cause energize the defender into a countering initiative. Observe Rambo very well and you will see clearly that energy courses through him when he is pushing forward into enemy territory, but tracking backwards he looks drained of energy. In contrast, think of Bellerin tracking back, or Nacho, or Coquelin, not to talk of the CBs. The difference is stark. In short, Rambo, despite his large repertoire of skills lacks the true defenders awareness and attitude and instead is an amazingly committed attacking beast. Playing him B2B therefore means the balance of the team is skewed very much against defence. We all know that the possible costs of one man less in the defence far out ways the possible gains of one man extra in attack, so that if there has to be any such skewing it ought to be in the other direction.

Is it a glass half full or half empty? Is it Rambo out quickly or Rambo the unfortunate victim of a gross misuse? Just imagine darling Ozil given a huge defensive responsibility or rather don’t try to imagine it. Is Rambo a hero vilified? It’s all balanced on a knife edge. I want thim out and I want him in!?? That’s me of course.

Quite often in solving one problem, another is created. If Rambo is removed who can effectively replaces him in that pivot role, Santi being still unavailable. If he has to be reintroduce somewhere else where is he to be placed and who goes. The latter task appears easier, so I will start there.

I have made reference to Ramsey’s impressive qualities capped by his fairly unique (as far as our team is concerned) ability to cause unexpected overload by his intelligent late runs into the opposition box. He definitely is a good material for a place in our front four. #10 is out because the untouchable Ozil is there. #9 is also out because his skill sets don’t tally with that position. Wide right? Ramsey hasn’t got pace( speed). He also likes drifting inside which leaves the ball on his weaker left foot. The high point of his play is his runs into the box, but having to come from the right side of the field constrains his ability to finish a ball laid to him with his stronger right foot. Wide right therefore does not maximize his huge potentials. The only position remaining (front 4) is wide left but Alexis is there!

Alexis is yet to find his form with nearly thee quarters of the season gone. Or is he actually fully in form but completely neutralized by epl defenders who have wizened up to his game from the wide left position? The defenders know that he would cut in. They also know that they cannot do anything to stop that. So they leave him alone to cut in. Then they pressure him, quite often from all over the places knowing fully well that he is unsighted to give a pass with eyes fully on the ball, fruitlessly intent on forcing out a space to have a crack at goal. This play repeats itself with such monotonous regularity it’s now almost painfull to watch.

Sanchez has a wide range of mesmerizing techniques and it is a pity that he is constrained to operate in a narrow band that has been so well found out. From the center as a front man Sanchez would be able to employ his full range of dazzling techniques. Those tecniques heighten in potency in high pressure areas of in and around the box, and because his style elicits fouls from the opposition, penalty kicks in our favour, amongst other calls, would to be regularly guaranteed.

Sanchez can also operate effectively from the wide right position where he has to employ a different set of skills, that the opposition is yet not familiar with. You have noticed that his sideway-swing footed shots are much weaker than when he puts his laces on the ball with forward-swings. It Is of interest to know that different groups of muscles controls those two different tecniques of hitting the ball, and that one group of muscles might have gotten better developed in him than the other. Cutting in from the right Alexis hits the ball invariably with the sideway-swing footed shot. Striking at goal coming from the right creates better chances for putting his laces on the ball with a forward-swing footed shot. His high shots rate at goal would, most likely, yield more from the right. His crosses that we have seen from that side are also quite difficult to deal with for the opposition.

You must have already guessed that I want Alexis moved either wide right or center as a striker, and the vacancy at wide left filled by Rambo. Rambo loves the central attacking area of the pitch. So when he cuts in from the left he is moving towards his comfort zone with the ball on his right foot. Furthermore the space created behind him allows our left full back to overlap, and I believe Rambo will interact better than Alexis with that overlapping. Finally and maybe most crucially Rambo’s unexpected runs into the opposition box from the left allows any well placed ball to be finished with his better right foot. Some of his loveliest goals have come that way.

Walcott has been given a long long rope which he has only used to hurt his standing. His overall work rate is so low that only efficient utilization of his opportunities would have compensated adequately. Sadly that is no longer forthcoming and in this last stretch of the race it makes no sense risking using him.

Welbeck has been impressive since his return. People describe him as a hybrid of Giroud/Walcott. I see him more as a midfielder/striker hybrid. With his high pressing energy, he fills in well in any of the front thee positions.

Giroud is amazing in the air both offensively and defensively. His holdup play is sufficiently impressive. Still, somehow, you go home with the nagging feeling that a team aspiring for the very top needs a little bit more.

Back to the nearly forgotten task of filling the vacancy of who plays with Coquelin in the double pivot role vacated by Rambo. Santi is the obvious choice followed by Jack, but both are unavailable. Other contestants in my opinion are Flamini (not a great passer), Arteta (must have lost too much form), Elneny and Chambers. I am yet to put a label on Elneny but one thing I already know is that he is not a DM. He is a tidy pass and move player but I worry if he has got much else beyond that. Chambers deserves more credit for his ball playing ability, but his poor head must be spinning by now having to play in so many different roles. If I have to place my money somewhere, it will be on Elneny with Coquelin mopping up behind him. Thus;

——————Cech—————-
Bel———–Per——Kos———Nacho
————–Coq——–Eln————-
Alexi/Wlbk——–Ozil————–Ramb/Welbk
—————OG/Alexi/Wlbk————

I am seeing shafts of sunlight breaking through the dark clouds. Gunners let us get from you how you feel our day can be cheered.

welsh jesus

By: Pony Eye

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

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

arsenal_henry_pires_bergkamp_ljungberg_vieira

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how it would look like:

Midfield heaven

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

What do you think FFGs? 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

‘Giroud is rubbish!’ Why Wenger will not buy a ‘proper CF’

ArsenalTeam

Every time, good old Giroud misses a few chances and we do not win a game, you can count on supporters demanding Arsenal to buy a ‘proper striker’. Many of these supporters do not want to hear about Ollie’s very impressive stats because they want to trust their own eyes, and these simply witness a striker not taking ‘easy’ chances, and then we draw or lose the game and there is only one conclusion to pull: Giroud is not worthy of the Arsenal shirt. Get rid of him you tight-arsed Wenger – spend some fecking money!

Sadly, fans love to focus on Ollie’s limitations rather than his qualities and attributes he brings to the team. They have a certain picture in their mind of what a centre forward at Arsenal should be like. Wenger has worked with and developed some of the finest CFs we have seen in this country: from Wright to Anelka, and from Henry to Van Persie. So, you wonder why he is sticking with Giroud as one of his key CFs in the team?

This season, he is giving Theo a chance up-front, and it even looks like Ollie has become our second choice CF. Theo got injured during the Sheffield Wednesday game, and OG12 has stepped up for us, getting goals against Swansea and Bayern away; but a goalless display against the much despised Spuds was enough to criticise him once more.

So what is wrong with Wenger: why does he keep his trust in Giroud? Why doesn’t he get a ‘typical’ Arsenal striker who can score 25+ PL goals per season? Why does he keep rolling the coins in his richly filled trouser pockets?

I reckon Arsene knows better than any of us what a top quality ‘classical’ CF should be like, and he also knows that Giroud is not one of them. But you might remember Gazidis saying back in 2012 that Arsene allowed Van Persie to go for technical/footballing reasons. Many of us, including me, pooh poohed that comment back then, believing we were simply not able to keep him any longer and did not want to lose out on £24m by forcing him to serve out his contract. With hindsight, I reckon the footballing reason was with reference to our over-reliance on a top quality CF, and the risks that come with this.

In the 2011-12 season, we had become very dependent on Van Persie to win us games. The Dutchman loved to be the centre of attention and he revelled in the responsibility he was given. But Wenger, who at the time had very few alternatives for scoring goals on the pitch and on bench, will have realised that our overdependence on him could have easily ended up in catastrophe. An injury to Van Persie, or a sustained loss of form, could have been disastrous to our (minimum of) top four target. He bought Podolski before Van Persie was sold, and he brought Giroud to replace the Dutchman after the latter had fallen for the beauty of old Red Nose.

Since then we added Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck to our attack, let Podolski go and gave Campbell a chance to proof himself after a number of loan spells. None of these players, nor Theo, are typical CFs in the Henry or Van Persie modes. But what we do so much better now, is spread the goals between a number of players. Giroud (in 620 PL minutes) and Alexis (in 957 PL minutes) have each six PL goals, Theo has two (in 503 PL minutes), Koz has two and then there are a few players with a single goal for the team. Not a bad return for 12 PL games, and we also now know that if one of our key goal scorers has an off day or is injured, you can count on another one filling the void.

This is so much better than being over reliant on one top CF, like Man City were to a large extent last season: once Aguero got injured they quickly became toothless and ended up winning nothing. The same goes for Manchester United, once Van Persie lost his shooting boots two seasons ago, the club struggled to get back to anywhere near the PL top, and Van Gaal still has not got the balance right.

None of our main competitors in the PL have a genuine top, 25+ CF anymore, other than MC, it seems. However, even the Northern Oilers have brought in a number of attackers to spread the goals as well, with Bony, De Bruine and Sterling all joining the club for £100m+ in 2015. Despite this, they only scored two goals in their last three PL games (after netting 24 in just 9 PL games) when they had to manage without the Argentinian firecracker, drawing against MU and Villa and just outscoring Norwich at home with the one goal. Furthermore, MU’s top goal scorer is Mata (!) with four goals currently, and the Chavs do not even feature in the BBC PL top scorers’ list 🙂 . The Spuds have Kane on six goals (in 1040 PL minutes). The question to ask ourselves is, is it really that hard to find a top quality CF or are clubs moving towards spreading the goals over more than one or two players, thus reducing their dependence on the one top quality CF?

Some might say it is simply a matter of having a good replacement on the bench in case your top CF gets injured; but, loose from the fact that top quality CFs are in short supply currently, a quality CF will simply not accept a second fiddle role. Instead, it is far better to spread the goals within the team: we become less reliant on the one individual and our competitors have a far more difficult job in isolating our goal-threat.

Finally, what Giroud, Alexis, Welbeck and Theo all have in common is that they have stamina and work their socks off (yes even Theo is doing this now) – something Podolski could not offer for 90 minutes, and I reckon this was the main reason for letting him go this summer. They are also different attackers with individual strengths that the team is utilising better and better. And together they get the job done, being both unpredictable and highly successful in getting the ball into the net in almost all games we play. I like to believe this is all part of Wenger’s bigger plan.

So, next time we do not win a game, make sure you do not focus on the one individual but realise that it is a collective failure. Times have changed, and the classic 25+ PL goals per season super CF may well be a thing of the past.

By TotalArsenal

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

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

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

The infallibility of hindsight. From history to current affairs.

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

—————Cech—————

—–Bel——-Per——–Kos—–Mon ———

————–Coq———–Santi——

——-Alexis——–Ramsey——–Ozil —————

——————–Walcott————-

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

————–Ospina————–

Deb——Per——-Chamb——-Gibbs

Camp——–Ramsey ———Oxlade

—————-Giroud——————-

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

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

By Pony Eye