Full-Strength Back-4 | Theo-Sanogo-Alexis Up-Front? Hammers v Gunners Preview and Line-Up

Super Alexis (and Rosa) save Giroud's blushes... But will there be more damage down the line?
Super Alexis (and Rosa) saved Giroud’s blushes… But will there be more damage down the line?

After yesterday’s bizarre match against The Hoops, in which we almost spectacularly self-imploded, a (on paper) tougher encounter awaits us at the Boleyn Ground. The Hammers are on-Song (and no doubt with Song tomorrow) under the management of Fat Sam, and they will be looking forward to playing us at their own stomping ground.

We are getting good to very good players back every week now, and things are looking up. Unfortunately, Giroud let himself and the team down with a hot-headed action yesterday, which means he will miss out on the next three games. This could turn out to be a very costly mistake by Ollie, and Wenger will have to make the right choice in how to replace him: Welbeck back to the middle or Sanogo to keep our shape and system going?

The Hoops game had been very one-sided until our French senior CF saw red mist. Giroud’s sending off gave QPR an unexpected lease of life; and if Rosicky had not scored his cool goal (after excellent work by Beast of the Match, Alexis) for the all important 2-0 need, it could have finished differently (and it almost did anyway…. Deep sigh).

Enough said about that match: we got the three points and let’s just move on. A win tomorrow would really put the wind in our red and white sails and I have a good feeling about this one. There are four reasons for it:

  1. The team know that the Hammers are in fine form: I prefer our players to be fully focussed rather than underestimate an opponent;
  2. We have a good track record there recently;
  3. Our defence could be at full strength tomorrow for the first time a long while;
  4. We have Alexis, and Theo could start his first game which would be an enormous boost.

For me it is key to stick to our formation and style of play, and I reckon Wenger will start Sanogo. Welbeck really needs a break to rest, refocus and get his form back, as he has been very ineffective for a few games in a row now. Wenger could decide to play Danny in the middle for this one, but my gut feeling tells me he will play Sanogo. The junior French CF is our best copy of Giroud; and, with Alexis and Theo on the wings, he could play a very important part tomorrow.

I saw Sanogo against Dortmund and especially in the first half he played a very effective game. His finishing needs to improve significantly of course, but his link up play is very good for his age, as he reads the game well and acts very quickly and incisively. This is more important than his ability to clinically put the ball in the net in our system. The goals should come from Alexis, Theo, Santi and Rosa, and Sanogo always carries a goal threat himself.

Back-four is sorted; three up-top is sorted (although Wenger could start Welbeck and/or Pod in this one); and I reckon Arsene will play the same three in midfield: Flam, Rosa and Santi.

I reckon with this team we will Gun the Hammers down tomorrow:

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Time to start the engine as JB would say. 🙂

Let The Cannon Roar!

COYG!

Written by: TotalArsenal

Galatasaray v Arsenal: CL Match Preview & Line-Up

….Youth to Shine, or More Rain on Arsenal’s Parade?  Dead Rubber or More Salt (To Rub) in the Wounds?….

Early morning here and I’ve got to make hay before the snow flies, or something…There’s a big storm coming, they say, so my only real request is that my power stays on through the Toonie game, or is restored in time for it…The power company never came and cut down the 100′ (standing dead) pine they said they would… Fun times coming… Here’s the official forecast…http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=38.91504178864869&lon=-119.99451907389545&site=all&smap=1#.VIb8oTHF_Ct

But just as the weather changes from sunshine to rain and back again, so too can the fortunes of the Arsenal… Can it get any darker in the red part of North London…Oh yes it can… 😀 😦

I gotta say, I love the attitude of Gooners who want all kids all the time.  Normally the manager would try and balance that with results and maybe, for this one, he is… He’s front-loading today’s team with older players but bringing a bench full of kids.  I like it.  Stamina comes with physical maturity, so, while many would like a chance to assess these up and comers, asking too many of the 17 year olds to try and play a full 90–in such a(n?) hostile setting seems a recipe for disaster.  Letting a few run at full pace late on seems the right balance (to me)… Set up as we are, we’ve got to hope (in my opinion) that none of the regulars does anything requiring a youngster in for an overly long stint… After all, this game does NOT matter… (Toonies at home, does, in an huge way, I fear…)

Except, of course, that–like every match–it DOES… Any chance to deepen the division between Gooners and/or throw yourself on the dagger that Wenger hath wrought will surely be taken… The manager is clearly sending a message by bringing the team he is bringing and announcing the starters beforehand.  That message reads,.. “Lower your expectations…”  Still, a less than completely embarrassing scoreline is required, we have our pride, don’t we?  If some of the up and comers and outcasts can make a mark, it will be both a positive (another arrow for the quiver?… Another war-head in the arsenal?…) and a negative (“‘E should’a been playin’ all along, ‘e should ‘ave…”)  My money would be on Campbell (with all that experience in the next country to the west) to break his duck…Unfortunately it (my money…) is in the markets which are tanking like our team did in the first half at Stoke… Greek equities smashed through a technical barrier and are down today over 10%, they’re reporting… More fun times coming my direction, with the US markets opening soon…

But that’s just a trading opportunity–if you look at it positively… In football, the window only opens in January… Speaking of Greeks…Big match there for the Kostas who got away, not too mention the bald man with the extensions, nobody swerves like the Gerv… Up the Ursas, I say…Go on you Romans…

Back to our match…

The Line-Up for tonight:

Ars v Gala Dec 14

The hope has to be that Galatasaray will be merely going through the motions on this one and whatever technical mastery they possess can be stopped by a performance worthy of a true #1 between the sticks… In other words, a repeat of this… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO1XlraNDfQ  At the very least, a good performance from the keeper would eliminate starting vs Newcastle as a talking point…

I know some here have some fun saying it’s all Wojo’s fault, but I will take my hope where I can… If the Taxi Driver (Debuchy) has been touched by Jesus–or even the Welsh Jesus–and actually does a little Lazarus thing…Well, that seems promising, too… Likewise if the man with the beard can run the show and make good things happen in a midfield full of kids and do a bit of the savior (saviour?) business on the pitch… all the better…

The fear, however, is that the Turkish outfit wants to show a bit of pride and take some revenge for a rather thorough drubbing at our place.  The Istanbul clubs always seem a mix of (once proud) older guys and younger ones using the relatively bigger spotlight to try and shine.  They are the biggest clubs in all of Asia and playing at the very “Gateway to Europe,” after all…If they set out a strong team inspired to play at their best…it will be a substantial challenge for our guys…

So, Gooners, enjoy a glimpse of the future, relish the fact that we’re already through and in the draw later this week, OR sharpen your farming tools and ready your lighting devices… 😀

Written by: 17HighburyTerrace

Sexy Alexi, Sanogo the Shaper, and Terry Adonis: Match Day Report

Arsenal 2 – 0 Dortmund – a match day report.

Sexy Alexi a joy to watch! :)
Sexy Alexi a joy to watch! 🙂

Blogging, in some ways, is a weird phenomenon. You can be ‘in contact’ with people for years but never actually meet in person. Yet, virtual friendships develop and we get to know each other quite well, even though we often do not even know the real name of the persons we are blogging with on a daily basis.

To then meet two fine Bergkampesque bloggers in person, before and during the match against Dortmund, is special. It makes supporting Arsenal a whole lot more human, if you know what I mean.

Nik, who looks like a mixture of the BFG and Fernando Torres, is based in Germany, not far from Dortmund and has been a Gooner from a very young age. He has written a few posts for the site and has watched the Arse live both in Germany and London. He is in his early twenties and is into sports science, and boy does he know his football.

Terry Mancini Hair Transplant – ‘Terry’ in short – looks like a short-haired, Greek John Travolta, and he has teeth that blind you and could bite through a mahogany table with ease. He has never written a post, but we all know him for both his many very funny anecdotes and his love for Arsenal and Arsene (not just platonic, I fear!). He also really knows his football.

Nik does not know a fellow Gooner in the small town he lives in, whereas Terry, who lives in North-London and has literally split his house in two to live separate from his estranged wife, is totally surrounded by fellow Gooners: two very contrasting ways of supporting Arsenal, whereas I sit somewhere in the middle. However, what unites us all is of course the love for Arsenal.

I drove from Norwich to London wearing the mighty red and white. It was two hours before darkness would set in, but the sun never came out and the sky was deep grey, which made the shirt stand out more. Driving from Norwich – a very small ‘city’ – to the metropolis of London offers the perfect mental preparation for the game. There is nothing between the two places but woods and agricultural land, and about 200km of it. What else can one think about but our beloved team?

Once I got to Cockfosters, I felt ‘at home’ straightaway. The colours of the mighty Arsenal can be seen everywhere, even as early as 5pm. There are smiles on people’s faces and there is a buzz in the air which only an imminent home game can bring about. If you love football, you know what I mean. I was a bit early for meeting Terry and Nik, so walked around Finsbury tube station for a while. All of a sudden I heard a collective, guttural sound and before I know I am confronted by an enormous and very load yellow and black caterpillar. A few thousands of Dortmund fans were making their way to the ground, whilst onlookers were taking pictures of, or filming, the ‘experience’. It was pretty awesome to watch.

Terry, Nik and I met up at the Arsenal shop under the shirt of AR16 and went straight for something to eat and drink. A Turkish restaurant looked clean and tidy enough to suggest we would not end up with an icky belly. There were plenty of fellow Gooners inside and as soon as we entered all the women looked up. For a split second I thought it was me who created those expectant looks, but then I realised it was Terry’s ‘ray of light’ smile that was the babe-magnet.

Terry got spotted!
Terry got spotted!

We had a great chat about footie, Arsenal, life and women and then we walked to the ground. Terry walked with a wobble and made us believe he had a dodgy knee. However, it was clear that he held us back with his rubber-necking and touching up of every woman that walked past us. It was a pleasure to watch the Adonis at work, finding his many Aphrodites in the crowd; and Nik was eagerly making notes of the master’s endeavours.

Thanks to Terry’s dodgy knee, we entered the ground late: too late for both Terry and me to watch the first goal, but young Nik jumped up the stairs, four flights at a time – the BFG would have been proud of him – to just see Sanogo put it away. Good on him.

As soon as we took our seats we realised we were surrounded by both Gooners and BVBers. We sat not far away from the away supporters, and as expected they made a real racket, with a pre-medieval drum and more guttural sounding Dortmund songs. The sound and movement of the away fans were very impressive and it drowned out most Gooners’ singing around us.

The game was good to watch and we played well in the first half. However, it was clear that Dortmund played with their foot off the gas, as it seemed they were not too bothered about the outcome of this game. They hardly pressed as a team and when in possession there was not enough movement in front of the one with the ball to be able to hurt us. The tempo was often low and Cazorla, our playmaker, regularly found himself in space he would normally not get. 

I guess the early goal was a tonic for us and sedated further Die Gelb-Schwarzen and then set the scene for the rest of the game. It was good to see Sanogo giving us structure and his hold-up play and passing was good and reminiscent of Giroud. He also had good positional awareness and passed on the ball quickly and often accurately; and more than once he managed to start an attack from receiving the ball with his back towards the goal. He makes it look simple, but yet it is so effective; and the whole team benefited from his game.

We all laughed a bit when Sanogo wasted a good chance to make it 2-0, as his movement and control of the ball looked comical. He still has a lot to learn but he is a very interesting prospect for us: let there be no doubt about it that he is a great talent.

Both Ox and Alexis were active on the wings and the FBs were a great help in making things happen. We won most of these ‘two or three against two or three’ battles on the flanks this time round – a strong contrast with the return game a couple of months ago. Santi, often with time and space, moved the ball round well and was a joy to watch. This would have been a great game for Rosicky, but his time must be up now (unless he is injured). Arteta and Ramsey had been industrious and effective, but were also given an easy time given the lack of pressing and movement by Dortmund.

Dortmund had just a couple of chances and Martinez – totally in bright orange to have a strong presence, which I liked – made an excellent safe at a crucial moment.

During the break, Terry seduced a few more women, leaving Nik and me to analyse the game in peace – good man! 🙂

The second half was more of the same, with Arsenal controlling the game and Dortmund not giving enough to be able to hurt us. The Ox hit the bar with a fine volley just before THE moment of the game. Alexis received the ball, from a very alert Santi, outside Dortmund’s right side of the box: he looked at the goal and placed a brilliant, diagonal, curling shot to the keeper’s left side, leaving him no chance whatsoever: a moment of supreme skill that finished the game off for good.

With a sex god next to me – attracting gorgeous women all around us 😉 – and sexy Alexi on the pitch, what had started as the dullest of days ended up bright and positive. A two nil win – three out of three wins for my Emirates visits this season! – fine company, lessons in the art of seducing the other sex, and a brilliant goal by Alexis….. days don’t become much better than that.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Message to all Regular Bloggers on Bergkampesque

Blogging on here is of course free and there are no nasty, intrusive adverts spoiling your blogging experiences. I earn nothing from running this blog and pay for the admin costs myself, which is fine with me.

I have chosen the Willow Foundation as the site’s chosen ‘Charity of the Year’. Bob Wilson, an Arsenal Great, is the president of the foundation and it offers truly fantastic help to those who have become seriously ill at a young age.

Willow is the only national charity working with seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40 to fulfil uplifting and unforgettable Special Days. These Special Days enable them and their families to reconnect and refocus on each other while enjoying an activity of their choosing. A day for them, a day about them and a day that will create memories they will all treasure forever. – See more at: https://www.willowfoundation.org.uk/about-willow-0#sthash.dZZ2e9Od.dpuf

Please make a donation to the Willow Foundation – whatever you can afford. 🙂

See:

https://www.willowfoundation.org.uk/

Click on ‘Donate’ on the right hand side.

Many thanks and best wishes,

Frank, aka TotalArsenal.

Line-Up against MC: Rosicky to start, FlamShere in midfield, Sanogo or Welbeck?

Is it time for Rosicky to start a match?
Is it time for Rosicky to start a match?

Over the last few days, many a Gooner has given us their predicted/preferred line-up for the game against Man City on Saturday. As I far I can tell, nobody has predicted exactly the same line-up, which tells us both that we have a lot of players ‘to play’ with and are still undecided about our best eleven this season.

This is one of the nice things of blogging: predicting and dreaming about line-ups. I have predicted the line up many times but seldom got all eleven correct. This is partly due to Wenger often doing something unexpected AND my inability to keep the personal preferences fully out of the equation.

It looks like Ramsey’s twisted ankle is not too bad, and he might even play on Saturday. As others have noticed, Aaron is not firing on all cylinders at the moment, despite the goals he has bagged already. But he scored the all important second against the Northern Oilers during the Community Shield game in August, and if he is fit, he should play in my opinion. On the other hand, we have a big game in and against Dortmund midweek, and maybe it is better to rest Aaron for that bruising encounter.

It is also not clear whether Ozil is fully fit again. He missed both the Germany games but I have a gut feeling he will play on Saturday. Mesut is another player who has been struggling for match fitness and form a bit, and after two weeks of rest, this is the one for him to shine in and ‘re-launch’ himself.

Many predict a start for the Basle Brace hero, but I am not so sure. I reckon Wenger will start Sanogo as this game might just come a little bit too early for Welbeck. It takes time to settle into a team and get to know your team mates, and there would be a lot of pressure on Danny. I feel he might start against Dortmund instead, away from the home crowd and with some more days of practising with his fellow attackers under his belt. It would also be typically Wenger to persevere a bit longer with Sanogo and place Welbeck on the bench.

Many have Santi starting in the hole, as they assumed Ozil would either not be fit yet, or be played on the left. I am not a big fan of Cazorla in the hole, as he stays too close to the box and does not track back enough. Our midfield and attack are often too disconnected when he plays there, and he has not got the thrust that, for example, Jack or Rosicky have. These two are also better at bossing the midfield, whereas Santi’s strength is playing just outside and inside the box (an ideal formation for him would be 4-4-1-1 with him behind the striker). Personally, I would play Alexis in the hole in each and every game: he is the perfect mix between an attacking midfielder (Cesc) and a nr.10 (Bergkamp) and I would love him to take that role as our first choice; but that is unlikely to happen on Saturday.

I reckon the back five will be unchanged and both Flamini and Wilshere will be played in the ‘2’ of the anticipated 4-2-1-3 formation (rather than 4-1-4-1). I am a big believer of playing Jack in the hole, but he is not ready for it as yet (as we need regular goals from this position, and his final pass needs to improve a bit further). I also liked what I saw of him in the deepest midfield role in the ‘diamond’ against the Swiss: there is a potential Pirlo in Wilshere. So, in order to provide a solid, no nonsense double DM pivot, I reckon we will see both Flamini and Jack ready for battle on Saturday.

That leaves us with the wings. If Ozil is fit, he will start on the left with Alexis on the right (and Cazorla in the middle). If not, it might be Rosicky on the left and Sanchez on the right; or Sanchez on the left and Ox on the right. Whatever it is, it will be a strong attacking line-up, although I am still not too impressed with Ox’s form to warrant a starting place (and I know that many will disagree with me on this). 🙂

Predicted Line-Up:

Arsenal v MC September 14

Preferred Line-Up:

Ars v MC preferred September

The idealist in me would like Welbeck to start, just for the fun of seeing a new toy in action. I would like us to play with a solid midfield against the Oilers, keeping it tight with our passing and giving them very little time to settle. Rosicky is both so experienced and so passionate that I would love him to start. He had a decent game as captain for his nation against Holland and will want more now. Ozil on the right or left: it does not matter to me, as he will have a licence to roam and help out Welbeck and Alexis whenever possible. And yes Alexis in the hole for me. 🙂

What do you think fine fellow Gooners – and what are your predicted ad preferred line-ups now we are getting closer to Saturday?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Giroud the ‘Holding Striker’ was, is and will be ‘Plan A’.

 ramsey_3015621b

Everton – Arsenal Afterthoughts

Never was the cliché of ‘a game of two halves’ more appropriate: 45 minutes with Alexis up top and 45 minutes with Ollie up top made a world of difference. In principle, we all like the idea of three ‘free to move’ attackers up top, who terrorize the opponent and bang in goals for fun. But this is not something we just do by lining up very good players: and Mesut, Alexis and Alex are three very fine attackers indeed. It takes time and practice: players have to get used to each other, understand each other weaknesses and strengths and develop an automatic, telepathic understanding with each other.

The first half was very hard on the eye. Our midfield worked well and we had a lot of the attacking play, but as soon as we got near the box it was total mayhem. There was plenty of movement and energy levels were high, but many passes went astray – especially in front and behind the opponent’s ‘D’. We looked clueless and, most importantly, shapeless and like our attackers were put together up-front for the first time.

Of course, it did not help that we conceded a poor goal from a set-piece and that bad refereeing allowed the second one to stand. Just as against CP, when we also did not score in the first part of the first half after a dominant phase of the game, we conceded unnecessary as a result of bad defending of a set piece. There is work to be done there, but as the BFG is back now I am sure we will get on top this gradually.

I was actually quite shocked to see Wenger starting without OG up-top. I reckon he did this to save him for the most important game of the season so far – our second CL game on Wednesday (and not to ‘punish’ him for a bad performance in Istanbul).

I have tried to explain to fellow bloggers on BK why Giroud is so important to Wenger’s Arsenal on a number of occasions over the last few years. Ever since Chamakh was bought, Arsene has been meaning to have a ‘holding striker’, for lack of a better word, who enables midfielders and ‘wing players’ to get involved in our attacking efforts: this is vital to his next ‘Wengerball’ team. OG’s three top performance objectives are: level of effectiveness in holding on to the ball and cooperating with fellow midfielders and attackers, setting up attacks and assists, AND score goals – and in that order of importance. Most fellow Gooners judge OG’s performances in the reverse order… and that is where you are getting it wrong in my humble opinion, and why I understand, to some extent, your frustrations.

When Van Judas was injured for the first half of the season a few seasons ago, Chamakh played the holding striker role and we banged in 2.3 goals per game. In the second part of that season, and the subsequent season too, we managed about 1.9 goals per game, even though the traitorous ‘I will Always Be a Gunner’ grey-haired one was in the form of his life. We became dependent on him and all our attacking play was aimed at him: he delivered but as a team we were not scoring enough. Yet, under Chamakh’s attacking guidance, the team did very well, albeit with super midfielders in the team, like Cesc and Nasri, who knew how to put them away all right. And there is a hint for you all. 😉

Chamakh did not score enough himself and he could not deal with the criticism very well, so on comes Giroud from Montpellier. Giroud was an improvement of Chamakh, as he could play the holding attacker role really well, whilst also scoring more goals in the process.

It was amazing to see how much criticism was labelled at OG, and how little was aimed at the underperforming midfielders yesterday. Ox lacked composure and missed an easier chance than OG, Ozil was rustier than the Titanic, Ramsey’s boat was not floating and Jack is still missing the final sharpness. Yet, very few, to my despair, picked up how much OG changed the game for us once he came on. We had shape and focus again, there was directness to our play and OG was in the middle of much of it. Yes he missed a decent chance after being thirty seconds on the pitch…. unforgiveable! 🙂

Everton were very well set up though, and their double DM pivot made it really hard for us. But it was The Gunners and not the Toffees who travelled and played in Istanbul just four days ago, and who still had the endurance and energy to push on for the full 90+ minutes, and somehow overcome a 2-0 deficit – for the first time in three seasons apparently – and win not just an important point, but a lot of team spirit and belief in the process too. The latter is absolutely vital for a side with trophy winning amibitions!

I am convinced that if we had started with OG, and Alexis and Mesut (or Alex instead of Mesut) ‘on the wings’, we would have beaten the Toffees yesterday. With Sanogo still injured though, and OG in need of resting for the Besiktas cruncher, Wenger had not much choice but to try Alexis up-front. It did not work out, and he was right, however unusual, to revert back to plan A straight from the start of the second half.

OG’s reintroduction made all the difference: not because he is the prolific striker so many are longing for – far from it; it is because he gives shape to this team’s attack more than anybody else and he is vital in Wenger’s plans – for 2014-2015 at least.

Wenger knows he has a lot of work to do to get the other four attack minded positions effectively populated and to get the best use of a plethora of high quality midfielders and attackers. We still have two important games to come: Besitkas at home and Leicester away. It will take time to find our form again, but with the team spirit on display in recent games, I am positive we can get the needed results. And if we do beat both, we can look back at a very successful mini-start to the season, however unattractive and messy our football has looked at times.

Bread and butter first, the bacon and marmalade will follow soon. 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Sanogo the difference, last game for Pod & other post FA cup thoughts

Post FA CUP Final observations by Gerry.

Good morning all. And what a fine day it is to be free of the … ‘not having won a trophy in X number of years’tag. Such relief. Congrats to all the team, who played as a team when they needed to. Job done … The hard way, of course?

Wenger

I have spent the last hour reading all the comments, and I went with that flow too. I missed the equalizer (dog), but managed to see it out to he end. Annoyingly, the high pressure that brings us all the fine weather also gives me an occasional weak signal, thus rendering my recording a bit of a waste. Luckily, switching channels to watch it ‘live’ resulted in an upturn in our fortune on the pitch as well.

Just a few observations:

Starting with Geoff’s point in previous post (@01.39). Having a player close to Giroud makes him look a far better player with that extra yard or two of extra space. And that is saying something when it is a raw kid like Sanogo who still has so much to improve upon, can do that? Imagine what somebody with experience would do?

Sanogo. So, so very unlucky not to have broken his scoring duck by now. A wrongly disallowed goal in an earlier game. Finger tip touch in this with Giro-esque twist-turn-and shoot that might well have gone in off the post in this, along with other half-chances. If he can get his feet to do what his brain tells them to do, he will be something special. At the moment his first touch is clumsy to say the least. He has that long leg Diaby-like stick ability in tight situations, and can often come away with the ball when he has no right to it. But for all his flaws and limitations, he was the player we needed in this game, for his pace, effort, movement, and that occasional successful stickabilty that led to the winning goal. If they give out points for pre, pre, assists, then his part in that goal will be seen time and time again, with endless replays on the television, as a very special moment. I hope he will come good in years to come, and does not get drowned out by the clamour for that big signing.

Podolski. He suffers when he cannot start his play from the halfway line, imo. Guilty for the first goal for walking away before the danger was cleared. Not even playing the guy he was leaving off-side because Gibbs remained at his post on the goal line. But that is what you get when you play a forwards who is not naturally defensive minded? In the end his forward threat his lost from his starting position. Even young Yaya above, never shirked the defensive duty when needed, and had the pace of youth to get back up in attack.
Thank you Poldi for all your great goals, but I think you have probably played your last game in an Arsenal shirt?

Ozil. Criticism will come his way, but unfairly imo. The one thing Ozil needs is movement round him. Until Sanogo came on there was very little. Thus his passing game was made redundant. You can praise Hull’s tactics for much of this. They had a man on Arteta to keep him back. They were quick to pounce on Giroud when anything came his way, fairly and unfairly, it got the same result. Ramsey was kept back deeper because of the numbers they had in midfield, and Podolski rarely had a chance to run with it either. Luckily, as has been mentioned in comments above, he is a team player, and he will keep going for the team throughout the whole 120 minutes.

Cazorla. Worked his magic on the free kick. perhaps the goalie was at fault for not entirely trusting his ‘wall’ to do its job, as when he saw who had taken the kick, he took a half step to his right. which meant he was caught out by both the pace and accuracy of Santi’s shot. Where 9 times out of 10 going to where the keeper is, they will get saved. This one was one that didn’t. That apart, Santi worked hard against a disciplined defence, and few opportunities. occasionally his free roaming meant he was crowding out the space that Ramsey might run into, but overall a solid game, without too many decisive moments.

Arteta. I thought he had one of his better games, given the limitation of his pace, or the lack of. He was the main outlet ball out of defence, when played short, and was there to for Gibbs, as he was closed down quickly early on. However, he is another who will find game-time in short supply if the TW goes our way? Suggest he spends time getting his coaching badges?

Gibbs – Roundly criticised for missing the sitter, but that does not take away from his overall contribution. Nor should it be forgotten that he got in that position to miss the sitter, which, by rights, should have been a Poldi/Ramsey/Cazorla option? And let’s not forget his clearance off the line that saved us from going 3-0 down. He made numerous, and often unused runs down the left. Had a couple of half chances to feed a pass into the box, but failed for one reason or another. Where he excelled was being the last defender back on our set pieces. And also, when Fab went ‘Flappy’ near the end of the 120 minutes, he made another 30 yard dash to cover the open goal shot that ended up going wide. Should he ever get an injury free season, and all the experience that goes with it, he will be every bit as good, if not better, than Ca$hly got to be, and unlike him, he is a Gunner for life.

Koscielny. Kos had a typical Kos-type game. Sound in defence .. for the most part. Always a threat in our set pieces. Scored with his feet! And then nearly threw all the praise away with a blunder at the death. Still our best 50% pairing though.

Mertersacker. Poor old Per. An absolute rock for 119 minutes, then slips, and it could have ended in disaster for him. Slow to get up? Well apart from being a big guy at the tail end of a highly disciplined performance, he had a right to expect Sanga or even Kos to be covering as he was up against ‘fresh legs’ Aluko? Fortune favoured him with the latter’s misplaced shot, after Fab made a fruitless attempt to save the day. Let that not take away from an otherwise strong leader’s game.
Fortunately, he will not be departing any time soon!

Sagna. Oh Bacary. Yes you could leave on this high note? But you could also stay? Hard to find a fault in an otherwise tireless game. Few opportunities to get decent crosses in, but put in a real shift, as always. If economics decides it, he will be hard to replace. perhaps never, in like for like.
If common sense prevails. and team unity, loyalty, and a true class player are properly rewarded, Bacs will get what he really wants?

Fabianski. Deserved his place in the side, and fully deserves his medal. At fault for either goal? Not really. The first was a well worked routine that came back into the box at pace. For the second he was somewhat let down by the defending(Poldi), that allowed his initial save to come off the past and bounce to the scorer. In commentary it was suggested that diving into the goal meant he was in no position to save the second attempt? That is a bit harsh, give the angle he was going for the ball. As it was he only narrowly missed injuring himself, so another foot or two to the right and he almost certainly would have clattered the post, and that could have been far more costly? He did make another really good save that got a slight deflection of a heel(Arteta?) down to his right which made the difference between a finger tip touch or a full hand to it, but he still turned it around the post. Like Per, he was lucky late on, but overall another sound game.

Subs Wilshere and Rosicky had the same effect that the Hull subs did, by giving energy and focus to an otherwise tiring attack. And it made the difference for us, but not quite for them. Coming on for the last 20minutes of normal time might have been the obvious time, but we may well have lost our eventual goal scorer? Playing from the start is another question entirely, and one I do not intend answering.

Written by: Gerry.

BFG shows character, Pod and Santi disappoint, Fab saves us: Arsenal – Wigan Afterthoughts

Our real leader: the BFG.
Our real leader: the BFG.

We knew it would not be easy, and boy did we make it hard for ourselves yesterday. A game of great contrast: Wigan had nothing to fear, with an FA cup in the cupboard and Man City eliminated already this season; but we had almost everything to lose. And it showed.

The recent demoralising – some might say devastating – defeats against title and CL-place contenders Chelsea and Everton, as well as the loss against Stoke and the late equaliser against Swansea, have clearly had an incredible, and under Wenger unprecedented, impact on our players.

I really cannot recall an Arsenal game like this against a ‘minor’ team under Wenger. We were nervous, restless and had very little flow to our football. There appears to be little belief by our players in their qualities and our game plan, as well as any form within the team. But what we cannot say about our players is that they did not give everything yesterday to turn things round and try to win at all costs.

And despite the lack of flow and quality by our boys, they were the better team yesterday and deserved to come out as winners. Wenger had limited options for his starting eleven but I was pleased to see Sanogo start ahead of the knackered and unfocussed Giroud. Sanogo is clearly a work in progress: a raw diamond that needs a lot of sharpening up in the workshop. But what he gives us is energy and unpredictability and I liked what I saw from him yesterday for the entire 120 minutes. He is not ready to be our nr2 striker for the foreseeable future though, before anybody starts jumping on my back! 😉

For me, the real problem was that the two most experienced and successful in front of goal players – Podolski and Carzola – just were not able to influence the game enough: to add that bit of control and quality on which the whole team can build. And for what they earn and the responsibility they have been given by Wenger, this is not good enough. Both players need to play in a free role and depend heavily on the hard work of others in the team, and it was once more obvious that they cannot make our play.

We knew this about Podolski but some believed Cazorla’s best position is in the hole…. I think we know now for sure that he is not suitable for this: too slow, too ponderous and not demanding enough. I like Santi and there is a future for him in the team, but he disappointed me again yesterday. The same goes for Podolski who has ‘moments’ in every game but just does not influence the game anywhere near enough to justify a start. A super-sub for me, but I reckon he will be gone next season.

It was really good to see Ramsey back and he tried hard to motor on our team. Clearly, he is not fit enough to make a significant difference yet, but that will come. Arteta evidently struggled at times but he never gave up and fought through his self-doubts with a steely determination, which I really like about him. And his penalty, the all important first one for the team, was class.

Ox worked his socks off and was desperate to make a difference in this game. It is still clear he is also a work in progress with plenty of weaknesses to improve on, but as an attacking driver for the team he has made massive progress. He was our most dangerous man both in terms of creating and taking chances and let’s hope he will stay fit for the remainder of the season, to add the much needed thrust to our football.

I loved Mertesacker’s goal after an uncharacteristic, nervous mistake (against a player in front of him for once!) that led to Wigan’s goal from the penalty spot. There is something very pure about the BFG: he gives his all and knows about his weaknesses, yet he will give his all to get the very best out of himself – and that goal epitomised him. What you see is what you get and the man fights for our shirt with all he has got. For that we’ve got to love him.

Sagna, Mr Reliable, was once again fantastic: what a club player he is for us. Gibbs did well taking over from Monreal, but the man of the match was undoubtedly Fabianski.

He had little to do during the game, but as we were just not able to control our nerves and apply some much needed composure up-front in 120 minutes of football – except for BFG’s desperate goal and Ox’s fierce goal attempts – it was our other Polish keeper who became the unexpected hero.

There are two sorts of goalkeepers: the uber-confident, extrovert ones and the calm, calculated, introvert ones. Szczesny (and the Wigan goalie) belongs to the former and Fabianski (and Seaman) to the latter. I loved the way he stayed calm and on one spot for each penalty: focussing on the opponent and figuring them out, rather than behaving like an ape and trying to put the opponent off, like his opposite number did. Fab also has a very fine diving technique and he guessed right almost every time.

He made the real difference yesterday and is the reason we are in the FA Cup final. I hope we are still able to sign him up, and if not, that he will find a fine club where he can be the nr.1 goalkeeper for the rest of his career. This he deserves.

So, Hull in the final and still a great chance to win the FA cup. But the Hammers are up next and they will smell blood and tired bodies. More character will be required from our players and we, the fans, need to stay fully behind them.

TotalArsenal.

 

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners! Predicted Line Up

Let’s make it Three out of Three NLD victories this season!

What it means in a nutshell:

A glorious Sunday morning carries the promise of a fine day of football. It is the NLD: a game outside of time and space – ninety plus minutes of pure here and now football. Yes, the despicable Chavs have just lost three very valuable points and had two players sent off (especially Ramires missing next week’s game is a real bonus); yes, Mansour City lost their best player for the next few games; and yes, Pool are likely to get beaten by the Mancs this afternoon. All interesting (potential) developments, but for us only one thing matters: do everything possible to win the game against the Spuddies today.

Let's make it three out of three today - Let's do it for Theo.
Let’s make it three out of three today – Let’s do it for Theo.

Much noise has been made about our injuries, but I reckon there is no such excuse for today’s game. Our back five will consist of: Szczesny, Mr Reliable, BFG, Kozzer and Nacho – maybe even Gibbs is fit again. At this stage of the season we are really lucky to have all our defenders available, and especially against the Spuds, who only scored on average a little bit more than one goal per home game this season (16 goals in 14 home games), this will be vital. The mean threat will be Adebarndoor but the BFG and Kozzer will be ready for him, whilst the former – our real captain – also likes to score against our North-London enemies and celebrate it in their faces.

Of course, it would be great to have the likes of Ozil, Rambo, Jack and Theo available for today’s derby game, but with Arteta, Santi, Ox and Rosicky available we have still good alternatives. It also looks like Kim Kallstrom might be available, and who knows, he might become an instant hero today… On top of that, Pod, Giroud and possibly Sanogogogo are available, and I really don’t see any reason to be worried about our ability to field a strong line-up today.

The Spuddies were outplayed by a very fit and impressive looking Benfica less than 72 hours ago. They played compact against them and never gave the ‘skinny chicken on a ball’ shirt wearers much time on the ball. That is exactly how we should play them: press them hard in midfield, keep it tight and give them no time to settle. I feel we need to take the initiative in this game rather than sit back and absorb their pressure initially, as this might give them time to settle into the game and play away some of their post-Benfica nerves and worries.

On the other hand, it might be better to sit back a bit and kill them off with counter attacking football/ quick switchovers, as Benfica – typical Portuguese football – were also able to do. I am not sure whether we have the right players available for this, though, and prefer us to take a 4-5-1 approach today.

So for me, the preferred line up is:

Arse v Spuds March 14

The five of Flamini (deepest), Ox, Arteta, Santi and Rosicky in midfield should allow us to dominate this crucial area and create plenty of opportunities. I am going with Sanogo upfront, as I felt Giroud looked knackered against Bayern throughout most of the game and things are clearly not right with him at the moment. He might be a bit of liability today, and I feel he might start on the bench.

The only doubt I have with this line-up is the lack of regular goal scorers. Ox has started to score and we know that Santi can be lethal, but Arteta, Rosicky and Sanogo cannot claim to have been prolific for the club. So maybe Pod will start instead of Sanogo or Rosicky, or he will be used as a super-sub – his best role in my opinion – later in the game.

I am really looking forward to this one: a great opportunity to make it three out of three against the Spuds this season and to create a nice, large gap between us and them, bringing the next St Totteringham’s celebration really close. 😉

So let’s focus on just this game, give our all and show them who the Kings of North London are.

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners – Up The Arse! 🙂

TotalArsenal.

Speed & Thrust: SanoGOGOGO, Ox & Gnabry starts? Preview.

Arsenal vs Everton Preview: Road to the FA Cup Final

Intro:

The home of football features the game of the weekend.
The home of football features the game of the weekend.

Arsenal now faces the biggest game of their season: an FA Cup quarter final draw against Everton. Success means a trip to Wembley and our best chance at a trophy this season. ManchesterCity is the only team that should be capable of beating us of those left in this competition. Meaning one of our potential final or semi-final fixtures should be fairly easy. Getting past Everton will have a reward at the end. COYG.

This fixture last time:

Last time we played Everton was a 1-1 draw at the Emirates with Deulofeu scoring a late equalizer. It was a close game and we can expect another close one today.

Here is my expected line up for tomorrow:

PredictedvsEverton

I predict us to start a line-up with lots of pace, which is why I’d exclude Arteta from the line-up and include Chamberlain. It’s a risk, but Wenger is a risk taker. I also think Gnabry and Sanogo will start to compliment Ozil. Everton’s back line is fairly slow and with our pace, plus the advantage Ozil gives us, we shouldn’t have a problem getting in behind them. We just need to take advantage of our chances and be switched on from the minute we step on the pitch.

Key Battles:

Sanogo vs Everton Defense: Based on my predictions, I see Sanogo starting tomorrow. And therefore, he will have to have a good game. His pace will compliment Ozil, but he will have to make use of this advantage and punish Everton’s slower back line players.

Gnabry vs Composure: We have seen a lot of Gnabry this season and he looks great. His main issue however, is that he seems to take shots from range a lot and doesn’t seem to be able to calm himself before attempting at goal. If he can stay calm and take some composed shots at goal, he could become a real goal threat for us.

Mertesacker vs Everton Wingers: Everton have incredibly pacey wingers in Mirallas and McGeady. Mertesacker will have to watch for diagonal runs made by these wingers in behind him and make sure he’s not chasing back, as his lack of pace might be exposed. However, if Mertesacker can be watchful and position himself and his fullbacks wisely, Everton will have very little goal threat from close range and will be reduced to shots from range.

Casualties of War:

WengerWincing (2)

Arsenal: Arsenal continues to be injury stricken. Ramsey and Kallstrom are both still out. Wilshere has also been hit by an Agger shaped injury bug and Koscielny has had a scare, but we pray he will be ok.

Everton: Jagielka is the only recent injury for Everton. He is however, their captain and a major part of their defense. This is a huge loss for Everton and will give us a major advantage.

Predictions:

I predict a good old 1-nil to the Arsenal. A hard fought victory with a surprising goal scorer. Perhaps Gnabry or Sanogo; perhaps Ryo off the bench. Either way, I predict lots of drama and a good game between two top quality teams with two top quality managers. This could be a game we look back on and say: this is where the trophy was won.

Questions:

1. What are your predictions?

2. What is your line-up?

3. Will this game potentially win us the FA Cup?

COYG! Let’s get to Wembley!

Thanks for reading! 😀

Written by: Dylan.

Time to bench Ozil and see more of Sanogo? CL reflections

Santi to replace Ozil for a while?
Santi to replace Ozil for a while?

Arsenal – Bayern Afterthoughts and reflections by Marcus.

It’s been a mighty long time since I wrote a post here and I do agree it is unacceptable so I am going to break my silence. There are very many talking points that emanate from Wednesday night’s game, so I will tackle them one by one.

I must start by expressing my growing pride at being a Gooner. Wednesday night was a show of strength, togetherness, grit and unrelenting determination, even in defeat. Special praise must go the team as a whole. In the first 30-35 minutes before the red card, Bayern were shown that they were playing the Arsenal and not their usual German opponents whom they brush aside. This team has personalities such as Mertesacker, Koscielny, Flamini, Sagna and even the Ox, who are willing to lead the team in the face of adversity. Those 5 players must have passed out once they got home given the effort they put in. Add Szczesny and Ramsey to that list and we have title winning characters in our ranks. We pressed them and ran them ragged in the moments leading to the red card (which is my next talking point), something Bayern are not accustomed to. I strongly believe that had Szczeny just been booked, we’d have won that game.

Then there is the sending off. I feel it was extremely harsh. First of all, when the ball left kroos’ foot, it was a 50-50 ball between Robben and Szczesny. It was only Robben’s pace and awareness that gave him the advantage in that circumstance. Then there is the fact that if you watch the footage again, you see that the moment Szczesny realized Robben would get there first, he tried to back out of the challenged and that is why the contact made was minimal. If he had any malicious intent, he would have completely flattened Robben given the circumstance. This is by no means a criticism of the referee because the rules are clear. However, unless it is a two footed lunge with the studs showing, the fundamental rule when issuing a red card is intent, especially in one on one situations involving a keeper; and there was none. That is why Szczesny wasn’t sent off against Villa in the opening game and against spurs in the 2011-12 season. That is a rule that must be amended.

My third point to note has to be Yaya Sanogo. I must say that nobody expected him to start ahead of Giroud AND Poldi. I have watched him play in the last two games and he reminds me a bit of Adebayor. The way he moves and plays. I like what I see from him so far. The funny thing about his inclusion is, before the game my brother asked me to name the team I would pick and it was identical to the one that started; except, when he asked who I’d start upfront, I told him: ”anyone but Giroud”. I’d like to see how clinical he is, so I hope he gets more chances to play.

Then there’s is (obviously) Mesut Ozil. At the risk of sounding bitter he was utter rubbish last night. I mean penalties are generally 50-50 but for someone who has a world class reputation and has played for two of the best teams in the world – three if you count Germany – his penalty technique is wanting. But even aside from that, you miss a penalty in a game of that magnitude and go on to put in such a disinterested performance to the point where two of your team mates (Wilshere and Flamini) have to rebuke you? In a game of such importance? Unacceptable.

Maybe he needs to be dropped against Sunderland to show him that you have to earn the right to put on the red and white whether you cost 2 billion quid or came as a free transfer.

Then there’s something I have felt Wenger fails at since I started supporting Arsenal back in 2001 as an 11 year old, tactical substitutions. When Szczesny was sent off, he took of Cazorla: our most in form player at the moment, leaving Ozil on the pitch. Many say that Santi isn’t the best defensively, but you know what? Ozil is far worse. I have never once seen Ozil dispossess an opponent. Not once since he joined us. At least Santi puts in the effort when needed. Then he went on and took off the Ox still leaving Ozil on. Wenger has done this countless times most infamously in 2006 when he took off Pires which swung the tide against us.

To conclude, I have to say based on what I saw yesterday, this isn’t over yet. Not by a mile. I mean sure, beating Bayern by 2 goals is going to be a tough height to scale but did we not do it last year? I believe in this team so much that I don’t have that feeling of defeat most people have, because I know we can pull it off. It is going to take every piece of strength, determination and belief we have but we can do it. For now let’s look to bouncing back and securing 3 points against Sunderland.

COYG!!!!

Marcus