Arsenal best 11 in 2017: Szczesny in goal, Jack in the hole, Stones CB, Akpom CF?

Two great guys, but will they still be at Arsenal in 2017?
Two great guys, but will they still be at Arsenal in 2017?

Eight questions for you to answer.

I have been to three matches this season – Liverpool at home and Newcastle United and Sheffield Wednesday away – and have watched most other games on TV. I reckon we have a good chance to win silverware again this season, and our main focus should be on winning the title.  I also believe that Wenger is not finished developing this team further and will add quality if and when possible.

It is clear, though, that a strong first eleven is coming to the fore: Cech, Bellerin, Nacho, Koz, Coquelin, Santi, Ozil, Alexis, Rambo are all top quality first team players. When all are fit, Arsene can pick from Giroud, Theo, Ox, Wilshere, Ospina, Gibbs, BFG, Gabriel, Debuchy, Rosicky, Flamini, Arteta and Welbeck to complete his team and rotate players when necessary. That is a pretty fine squad to pick from right now, and let us hope the medical team will get on top of the injury issues rather sooner than later so we can make full use of these players during the remainder of the season.

But what will our team look like in two years’ time?

We have the money now to keep our best players and to add top quality international players as well as good, experienced PL players, annually. I reckon we have a fine squad right now that can win us silverware. But, as you will have noticed, I think we have two positions for which we are likely to seek new players: CB and in attack. Furthermore, the likes of Rosicky, Flamini, Arteta and the BFG will probably have left the team by the summer of 2017, and will also need replacing, either from within (youth) or through buying experienced PL/European players.

I have no doubt that Giroud and Theo will still be at Arsenal in two years’ time, but I am less sure that Welbeck will make it. In fact, I would be very (pleasantly) surprised if Danny would really make it at Arsenal, but that is for another time/post.  Both Theo and Giroud are important team players, and Alexis is a versatile attacker who can play anywhere up-front, but Wenger will in likelihood reinforce our attack with another star player during the coming summer.

Furthermore, I am a big fan of the BFG but don’t think he will be a first choice player anymore in 2017. There is a good chance that Wenger will make Koz and Gabriel our preferred CB pairing, but part of me believes Wenger will go for another ‘organiser of defence’ rather than two full on CBs ala Koz and Gabriel.

I have some ideas who Wenger should go for but do not want to influence the discussion too much, so will keep these to myself for now.

So, for just a bit of fun, my eight questions to you are:

  1. What will be our best eleven in 2017 from the currently available players (assuming everybody is fit and nobody is bought between now and then)?
  2. Being able to spend about £45m in 2016, and then again in 2017, who would you try to buy to add to our strongest first eleven and why?
  3. Where would you play a fully fit Jack Wilshere?
  4. Will Wojciech Szczesny be our nr.1 goalkeeper if it is up to you?
  5. Which ex Gunner, if anyone, would you love to be back at Arsenal?
  6. Is Steve Bould the best man to be Arsene’s right hand man; if not, who should replace him?
  7. Do you want Arsene Wenger still to be in charge in 2017?
  8. Do you think Chuba Akpom will make it into our best eleven by 2017?

By TotalArsenal.

Ozil & Theo pure class | Rosicky true Gunner | Szczesny is BACK | BFG missed: Eight positives from game

Thanking Voetbal International for picture. Theo is BACK!
Thanking Voetbal International for picture. Theo is BACK!

We are through to the next round after a typical FA Cup battle against a first meek, and then resurgent, Brighton & HA.

Our football during the first half was very, very good. Wenger had opted to play Giroud central, with a beautiful variety of midfielders and the king of speed behind and around him. The Seagulls’ pitch looked very large on TV and we really knew how to use the space. Of course the very early goal helped to settle our nerves, as we could strut our stuff with flair and confidence. Rosicky was rampant and Ozil majestic, Rambo was motoring and Theo looked indeed like a brand new, shiny signing.

We played like the Arsenal we know and love and I guess the only thing missing was the all important third goal. In a cup game there is always a chance that the opponent gets an unexpected goal and then hell breaks lose…. and so it did.

A wild clearance by Rosicky puts Chambers in trouble and the young Englishman’s response is not strong enough; O’Grady smells his opportunity and skins Flamini far too easily; his shot is instinctive, hard and well placed: Koz, on the unfamiliar Right CB side, cannot block it and Szczesny has absolutely no chance. 1-2 with forty minutes to go: not good.

Luckily, we score the all important third goal within 10 minutes of O’Grady’s and all seems under control again. But another piece of bad collective defending leads to a good through ball which Baldock chipped impressively over Szczesny, who once again had no chance. A game like this helps us all to see how important the BFG is for this team: his organisation and leadership skills and reading of the game were badly missed today.

2-3 with 15 minutes to go, and, given this weekend’s freak results, this does not feel good. Luckily, Arsene can bring on fresh blood and both Akpom and Alexis succeed in taking the pressure away from our brittle, makeshift looking defence and midfield. We have a few more good chances for a fourth goal, but the game finishes without any further goals.

Arsenal are through and survive the FACUP-apocalypse. Reason for collective happiness? Ahhh not so in spoilt Goonerland..

Eight Positives:

  1. How good is Rosicky? A fine, measured assist for Ozil and a brilliant goal to take us to the fifth round. It is such a bonus to have him in our side and I hope he will stay a few more years at least. He drove us on and made such good use of the fantastic movement of his fellow attackers. What a player.
  2. Ozil looked very good, especially given his lengthy absence. His goal was very well taken, with a great first touch and using both of his feet very well to get the shot away. Is there a slicker looking, more intelligent midfielder in the country? Pure class.
  3. Theo was hungry and healthily selfish, and his goal was sublime: a superb first touch, followed by a quick turn and razor sharp shot into the corner. WOW! He had great energy and thrust and once fully up to speed, he will be unstoppable, especially if he can find a balance between selfishness and VCC.
  4. All three goals were beauties. We have seen Liverpool, Man City and Man United play 90 minutes against lower league opposition and not score a single goal this weekend. We score three and all of them are very well taken goals; and we could have had more. And today our usual goal scorers, Giroud and Alexis, did not even get on the score sheet. Having our goals spread across the team is just brilliant.
  5. Szczesny had a faultless return to the team and played with great concentration. I was particularly pleased to see he had no rush of blood for Brighton’s second goal: rather than diving desperately in front of Baldock, he just made himself as big as he could to put the striker off. It did not pay off but at least he did not cause a penalty and a red card. I am not the biggest fan of Wojciech but he impressed me today.
  6. Akpom is no Giroud and will never be, as they are two different types of centre forwards. But his cameo impressed me. There was plenty of space for him of course, as Brighton & HA were taking more risks at the latter stage of the game, which suited him well. He ran well at defenders and helped to release the pressure on our defence a lot, and I liked his confidence.
  7. Giroud played really well for the team and gave great shape to our attack, especially in the first half. How important has he become? His goals and assists tally per game is very impressive this season, but he is also happy to play for the team and work hard to create space and opportunities for others. Is there a better holding striker in the PL? Top man and vitally important.
  8. Last but not least, is the strength of our squad right now. When we had to dig deep, we brought on Alexis, Akpom and Coquelin, and there were other options like the BFG and Cazorla on the bench. At the business end of the season, it is great to have such strength in depth and let’s hope that Paulista, if indeed his signing for Arsenal goes ahead, can stand in for BFG, as we are desperate for a proper left sided back-up CB in the short term.

An intriguing game with the desired outcome and plenty of positives to take to our next game: bring on the Villians! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

Szczesny back, Nacho & Chambers CBs, Rosa, Ozil & Ox starts? Brighton Preview & Line-up

Some ground and with the best pies.... :)
Some ground and with the best pies…. 🙂

A very good friend of mine is a devout Brighton Supporter, so I asked him if he wouldn’t mind putting together a short piece on his beloved team ahead of the cup tie. To protect his anonymity, I am going to refer to him as Asad (Arabic for lion).

For many years Asad and I trawled the Middle-East, visiting clients and prospects.  In countries where we could, we would often share a beer in the evening and talk about our teams.   If ever Asad saw a rich Arab he would suggest we asked him if he would like to invest in the ‘Seagulls’.  At the time Brighton were playing in a rented athletics stadium, and I had the pleasure of attending a couple of games and it was pretty grim.

Asad and I often visited Abu Dhabi and he was a little upset to hear that they were investing in Manchester City.   By chance, Brighton were playing City in a Carling cup match and Asad decided to convince Abu Dhabi they had made the wrong decision.  The following may sound a little far fetched but it is true (I have photographic evidence). With the help of some Arab friends posters were designed in Arabic, saying things like “you bought the wrong club”, and Brighton supporters are better looking than City supporters.   These were then paraded around the ground by Asad and the Brighton cheerleaders shortly before the City game kick off.   99 per cent of the stadium would have had no idea what the posters said, but Asad was reaching out to the Abu Dhabi party who were visiting.  It had some effect because lowly Brighton beat City and kicked them out of the Carling cup.

That night a plan was hatched to wind Asad up.   With the assistance of our friends in our Middle-Eastern office, the following morning Asad arrived at his desk and received a call from one of our Abu Dhabi office telling him that having 1) seen the posters 2) noticed the result and 3) discovered that the City sponsors would be Etihad ( Abu Dhabi’s new airline), it had been decided that Etihad, which translates to ‘Unite’, wasn’t appropriate for City shirts.   The deal was in danger and maybe Brighton would be considered.  They also told him the Abu Dhabi press had got hold of the story and it was causing quite a stir.

A number of us told Asad that we had also heard about it and poor old Asad was jumping with joy.   He telephoned a number of his Seagull supporting friends to tell them the exciting news, while we sat behind him with tears rolling down our faces.  He then decided he would call the Brighton press office to alert them to the news.  An executive decision was quickly made that we would have to end the fun and tell him it was a wind up…….he wasn’t happy.

I have to be honest, I don’t consider to be much of a tactical genius but in order to stimulate conversation this is the way I expect our team to line up on Sunday.

Predicted Line-Up

Keeper. Szs.   I don’t want to give Brighton any clues, so this will be ‘for your eyes only’, but I understand Szs will be given a ‘Licence to Kill’.    Hopefully, he won’t ‘Die Another Day’, but let’s face it, you ‘Only Live Twice’, and If Brighton try the long ball Szs is well equipped to deal with the ‘Skyfall’.

Full backs. Bellerin and Gibbs.   I’d be tempted to rest the BFG and Kos and pair Nacho and Chambers; this might tempt fate, but a BFG rest is long overdue and I get the impression that Kos needs to look after his injuries.

Double DM Pivot. Le Coq is a must for me with Rambo alongside.   It worked so well against City, its got to worth another shot.  Dependent on the way the Seagulls line up, Rambo would be given permission to roam

In midfield. I would go With Little Mozart, the Ox and Ozil.    Rosicky and Ozil need game time and the OX is still in need of a confidence boost.

Giroud up front.

240115171207 

So, now I hand over to  my good friend Asad for an honest appraisal from a Seagull. With TA’s permission I will invite Asad to join the debate to answer any questions etc.

The Mighty Seagulls versus the Gunners.

Brighton_Pier_Aral

So, a giant killing this week on the cards? Especially after our surprising victory over Ipswich midweek?

Speak to most Brighton fans and you will find they are more realist than optimist.

This is more of a showcase for our new ground, our wonderful hospitality and don’t forget the pies (best in the League). Brighton supporters will be the ones purchasing the half and half scarves as a reminder that matches like this can happen.

Any Arsenal supporter with a ticket will have a wonderful day and can expect progress into the next round. What can Brighton offer ? We are recovering from an inept Manager and now hopefully a better one that will set us on the correct path. Our goal is not to be relegated and return to playing enjoyable football (dare I say the Arsenal way?).

Key players left the club last season and joined the elite in the Premiership (Upson /Bridcut/Ujjoa / Buckley / Barnes). Their replacements have not been good enough for the third push in succession into the playoffs, but our hopes have risen of better times with the return to the side of young Rohan Ince (he is a Vierra type player- you will like him and perhaps ask like us why he wasn’t picked by Hyppia).

Our top scorer is our centre half which says a lot for our forwards. Craig Mackail-Smith has all the endeavour of Sanchez except he cannot score. Miracles do happen, and perhaps Wenger may field a reserve team but please enjoy the day, the match, the pies, the local ale (Harveys). Come into the North stand at the end of the match and have a drink with our supporters (this really does happen most weeks), and go away hoping we can join the Premiership as it is a great place to come back to again.

Ohhh, forgot my match prediction:

Sadly for the Seagulls, Arsenal will knock The Living daylights out of them.   Two nil to the in form Gunners, with a thunderball from Rambo (sorry wrong film).   Szs to perform like an Octopussy.

Written by: Retsub and Asad.

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

Szczesny Creates Perfect Game | Wellbeck x3 | Ozil & Alexis Mesmerize

Thanking The Guardian for picture.
Thanking The Guardian for picture.

Initial afterthoughts from the Arsenal v Galatasaray CL game.

It was all going swimmingly well. Four nil to the good guys and Ozil, Santi, Alexis, and especially Welbeck, were having a field day. And then Szczesny spoiled it all with a rush to the head…. Well, that was my first reaction…

The first goal: great joint attacking by Alexis and Welbeck, with superb running both with and without the ball, and a quick and decisive finish by the young Englishman. The second goal: all about perseverance and strength and keeping a cool head…..bad defending no doubt, but Danny took his chance and had a lot to do to finish it.

The third goal: made by Ozil and coolly finished by Alexis. They gave us so much space and our players were very happy with this gift of gifts. Still Alexis had to do a lot but he showed once again how calm and deadly he is in the box. 3-0, game over… surely.

Second half sees Galatasaray take the initiative and they even manage to put some pressure on us. But pressure up-front means space at the back and once again we benefit well from this, supported by some fine defending and keeping it tight in front of our ‘D’. Ox had made a fine run from his own half all the way into the box, but just let himself down by opting for the wrong pass. But moments later he does find Welbeck with a measured through-ball into the box from just outside of it, and Welbeck produces his first Arsenal hat-trick with a controlled finish. The boy is ecstatic and feels the love from the crowd. A lovely moment for player and fans.

4-0! Are we going to give these Turks an enormous hiding all the way back to formerly named Constantinople?

Aaaah, well… Wojciech has been getting a bit bored in this game and a fine through-ball makes it into the box to Yilmaz. The Pole senses the danger and decides to come out and thwart the attacker (good), but his timing is very bad and he gives away a pen; and even worse, he has to go off with a straight red… And the penalty goes in, and the Turks have a new lease of life it seems…

I am thinking what a diff. This game was in the bag and now we have to dig deep to play with ten men, risking fatigue and injury to key players, thanks to WS’s fine mess.

But the players fight for each other and find a good cohesion whilst defending collectively.

There is a great spirit and determination not to concede again, even though the Turks are pressing hard. Ospina is now fully in his element and makes a number of class saves without losing his concentration once. And I am starting to think, this second half is just what the doctor ordered, just what we need before we go to the Bridge and meet one of our modern day arch enemies. This is the perfect preparation to deal with potential Chavs pressure once we have scored against them and our backs are against the oily wall.

So thank you, Wojciech: for your kind sacrifice to the team; for providing us with the perfect confidence booster and great all-round preparation for this weekend’s crunch game; for allowing Ospina to show us what a good goalie he is; and for making Arsene’s 18th work anniversary an unforgettable one! 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

A Mere Papering of Cracks? Villa v Arsenal afterthoughts

First One for Danny!
First One for Danny!

On the heels of Arsenal’s first defeat since (Everton away in) April, many an observer–even would be supporters–have trotted out the usual narratives.  Wenger has lost the plot, we’re playing the wrong players in the wrong positions, there’s no tactical flexibility, our record signing Ozil(shaven) can’t be arsed and the sky is–literally–falling.

We’re entitled to these reactions and living in the moment, but scanning my science blogs, I could find no evidence that the sky was–literally–descending upon us.  Could it be that daylight is waning and the weather merely getting a bit worse in on our part of North London?  It may, of course, have something to do with the calendar.  Still with only a single match remaining before the official start of Autumn, the trip to Villa Park loomed larger, perhaps, than it might at another time of year.  That we couldn’t match their current point total in the league–no matter the result–also did not bode well.

Admittedly, the defeat at Dortmund did feel a comprehensive one and many suggested the 2-nil score-line flattered us.  Another narrative is that Arsene’s Arsenal simply cannot play against the bigger teams.  With Villa having beaten Liverpool at Anfield and having the week off (whilst we took our full body blow), nerves amongst Gooners were understandable.  Looking at the table alone (which, I’ve been told, “does not lie”) they had to be considered as one.  With our next two league matches being derbies–Spurs at our place, Chelsea at theirs–the result, at the very least, seemed, er, rather consequential.

Here in the mountains of California, the smoke from our annual wildfires only barely clearing with a little lucky wind, I awoke to a line-up I liked.  Alexis Sanchez, even if he’s already become a huge fan favorite, was rested in favour of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  Santi Cazorla came in for Jack Wilshere (who took a knock late on at Dortmund).  Calum Chambers, recovered from his sore throat (tonsilitis), was the preferred 19 year old at right back (over Hector Bellerin), and both Kieran Gibbs and Mikel Arteta (both just back from injury and/or a respite…) kept their places.

Danny Welbeck, who had spurned scoring opportunities in his first two matches for Arsenal, also remained the point of attack.  Curiously, younger forwards, including Yaya Sanogo, Chuba Akpom and Joel Campbell and the all-purpose defender, Isaac Hayden, called for by many a Gooner in the wake of the Dortmund disaster, didn’t even find a place on the bench.  Perhaps in the Capital One Cup to be played in midweek?… On my television feed, the line-up was even listed as a 4-2-3-1 rather than the much maligned 4-1-4-1 we’re (supposedly) playing even if Ozil persisted on the left of the 3 (Santi in the middle, Ox on the right) and Ramsey was the player (nominally) brought back to help out the Captain.  I’m not a stickler for formations and I tend to buy the idea that the number of players at the back is (more or less) all that matters and all else flows from there.  I’ll leave the discussion of what was actually played to others.  To borrow my favorite English saying (heard mostly in the Tube…) “Sorry…”

The match itself started with Villa on the front foot and Arsenal struggling to string passes together.  Ramsey looked a central figure but first touches appeared overly aggressive if not just plain heavy.  Additionally, the air in Birmingham looked lighter than the players favour and several long balls flew into touch.  As such, as in Germany, possession was lost cheaply and Villa looked to be creating more menace throughout the opening stages.  That several corners were conceded (the source of the last league goal scored against us in the league) did not help settle nerves.  Another set piece provided their most dangerous moment (in the 23rd minute), after an unwise challenge from Calum Chambers, which earned him a yellow for his troubles.  The cross sailed over all defenders and allowed a well taken chance for Kieran Clark with a diving header.  Szczesney moved out of his goal mouth but maintained his feet and used his entire frame to block with his left leg and right hand.  A pivotal moment, especially given the way the opponent kept Liverpool at bay a week ago after an early goal.

The truly pivotal moment happened nine minutes later.  Playing the ball deep out of our own half (Chambers protecting the ball like a more experience player and exchanging passes with Mertesacker began the move) a series of lightning fast one touch passes between Ramsey, Cazorla and finally Welbeck sprung Ozil off the shoulder of the Villa highline and he finished calmly with his better foot.

Now Villa had to attack, and the 2nd goal came almost instantly.  The camera was actually on Wenger as Gibbs took possession and passed smartly to Ozil who one-touched to Ramsey before receiving a lovely return ball out wide.  Scorer and assist maker reversed roles with an inch perfect cross from Ozil and an easy finish (no shin this time) from Welbeck to break his (Arsenal) duck.  Ozil in the center, Ozil on the wing: the record signing who just doesn’t care, suddenly everywhere?

Narratives turned upon their heads as well as points secured.  Villa, shocked by the turn of events were still unable to get back to work.  Kieran Gibbs, who was key in dispossessing Villa to start the lightning move on the 2nd, again played a key role, poaching another pass even deeper in their territory and crossing to rampaging Ramsey at the far post.  Defender Cissoko, caught, needed the most precise of clearances, but found his own goal instead.  3 nil.

That would be all the scoring in the match but Arsenal would secure the points through possession and trying for more.  Our best 2nd half chance was likely a throughball from Oxlade-Chamberlain to Ramsey but the latter’s first touch was a near whiff.  Late on, after gorgeous one touch work on the left from Ozil, Cazorla and subs Jack Wilshere, Lucas Poldolski and Tomas Rosicky–What?  3 attackers subbed in when we have a score-line to protect?!? — I guess Wenger felt the need to get more attackers involved (and we have far more of them healthy as compared to defenders) and, maybe, the score-line was doing the protecting–of the manager–in this case.

So, a result to freshen the spirits after the poor showing in Europe or a mere papering of cracks?

That’s for my old friends, a certain blogger who confuses Cookies and Monsters (and knows his cracks, amongst other things) and the one who demands Victory Con Cordia… It’s a bit of a no-win for the club despite the fact that we’re still looking up at Villa in the table.  They (and early season surprise club, Swansea City) lost today but they are traditionally a mid-table club (at best) and it all could have been a whole lot scarier if their early aggression had led to an opening goal.  Our goal scoring happened so quickly that it’s almost hard to appreciate them and they can’t possibly suggest that our problems have been ironed out.  Bigger tests await which will “prove” if we’ve turned a corner or merely gotten a fortunate few points.

Amongst the players there could be some realignment of opinion about our record signing, given that he both scored and assisted.  Our newest signing might also gain a measure of confidence having done likewise.  Already (previous post comments), we’ve seen some debate about the relative contributions of Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain.  I’d give a shout out to the emerging right hand partnership of Chambers and the BFG and the two Spaniards who performed their duties well and showed a bit of their “technical superiority,” especially as the match moved on.   Kieran Gibbs and Koscielny on the (much) pacier (left) side of our defense (American spelling there…) also had good matches.  Szczesny stood tall in his one moment of true examination.  Best of all, maybe, is that we appeared to finish the match without any fresh candidates for the physio room.

Of course, that’s only amongst the players who actually played.   (Abou Diaby even looked alright after a full 90, even if it was only on the bench…)  A new group will surely come in for the midweek cup match to reveal further truths about the depth of the squad… Do we move on to predictions for that one or continue to breathe sighs (of relief) or dissect this one?

What say you Fine Fellow (maybe not Freaking Out–if only for a moment…) Gooners?

😀

Written by: 17highburyterrace

Neuer and Szczesny the difference: Arsenal v Bayern afterthoughts

We knew we only had a small chance to go through against Bayern, so we cannot be too upset for losing 2-0 on the night. We also knew that we needed to be disciplined and concentrate for 95 minutes, if we wanted something out of this game. We also knew we needed to have a go at Bayern and take our game to them – not be overwhelmed but have some believe in our own strengths.

Well, the latter we did and had, and therefore I am feeling reasonably good about our performance last night. We gave them a fright and created a number of scoring opportunities, and we should have taken one of them. We did not and in top football you get punished for this sooner or later.

Sanogo made things happen and brings new energy/impetus to the team. Giroud might have finished better but there is no guarantee for this, and I doubt he would have been able to bring the surprise/X-factor of Sanogo’s team sheet inclusion and performance. I love this guy already and you can see there is real potential in him.

The first half was very good, even though we struggled a bit getting over the deception of not taking our opportunities early on: especially Ozil’s missed penalty hit us hard. But I liked our discipline and organisation and our bite when we went forward. Both Ox and Sanogo were impressive and Jack was linking up play brilliantly.

But then, as Neuer was protecting his team with his tremendous focus and skills, one moment of youthful inexperience by our stopper turns the game on its head, and our faith is decided. A brilliant ball over the top, a clever run by Robben, a pumped up Pole rushing out to scare him off…. and then running into him. A penalty and a red card. Game over.

The pen gets missed but the real punishment is us having to play 50 minutes with ten men against Bayerlona. We fought like lions but the areas in front of the D and left back were surrendered too frequently. A brilliant banana-curved shot in the top corner by the Ramsey-like Kroos proved too much for us. All was not lost as a small loss could be overcome in Germany.

They had more chances but somehow we survived and the team deserves praise for this. But we wanted a goal ourselves and when we won a rare free-kick in Bayern’s half, Jack spotted the run of Koz and decided to play it quickly. Koz did not reach it and Bayern scored from the ensuing ‘counter-attack’: 2-0.

There were a lot more positives from this game than negatives, and I feel the team knows that if they had scored early and/or the keeper had kept cool the result might well have been different. We are not mature enough for this though, and we can only hope that lessons will be learned by our players.

And when we go to Munich, we will have nothing to lose and play with our hearts on our sleeves. Score early and it might become a fantastic night for us. Remember Inter at the San Siro? 🙂

As the Dutch say, the bal is rond – the ball is round: everything is possible!

TotalArsenal. 

Ozil’s Silver Service Goes to Waste: Arsenal – MU Afterthoughts

Happiness and expectations are closely linked. Cockie Monster, BK’s nutcase blogger formerly known as GLIC, desperately sticks to low expectations in order to secure a permanent level of low, stable happiness. At the other end of the scale is the uber-optimist James Bond, who almost continuously adorns the site with his high hopes and expectations. Both approaches to Arsenal’s future performances and achievements have their merit, and we are lucky to have them blogging on BK. Variety is the spice of life after all. 😀

With thanks to Voetbal International for picture.
With thanks to Voetbal International for picture.

My expectation for last night’s match was a draw. It was clear that both teams wanted a win but, above all, were keen to avoid defeat. In my view, a point for us was a far better outcome than a point for the Mancs. They now have an almost impossible climb to make in order to reach the top four, especially with Pool winning three vital points against Fulham – the team who took two points away from the Mancs themselves, just a few days ago.

The general view is that the current Manure team is a weak one and that we should have beaten them yesterday. The (pathetic) booing by the Arsenal fans at the end of the game is evidence of this; it’s an indication of how low our toughest rivals in recent history have fallen under Moyes.

Arsene knows that his team has a lot of resilience and is the best of all the ‘big teams’ in winning points against the ‘weaker’ ones. As long as we stay close to both Oiler teams we have a chance to win the league.

It is clear  that we do not have a team currently with the belief and/or qualities to beat the bigger teams in the league. Five points from eighteen against Pool, Chavs, Mancs, and Mansour City until now is not great. Or maybe, it is not to do with belief or quality but Wenger’s inability to get the best out of his players…?

However, it looks like we could win the league this year IF we keep beating the ‘non-big’ teams, as both Mansour City and Southern Oilers are prone to dropping points regularly in those games.

I will stick to what I said a few games ago, that the Southern Oilers beating the Northern Oilers would probably mean the former will go on and win the PL. However, the not totally unexpected Chavs’ draw against West Brom has given us renewed hope. Wenger is banking on his team’s consistency (currently his beloved word, it seems); and I also reckon that if we can continue to be consistent during the last third of the season, we could well win the title after all. Two draws – against MC at home and Chavs away – whilst winning almost all of the other games, might be enough to hand us the title come the end of the season.

I was very pleased to see the team play a lot more compact and organised against the Mancs than against Pool. We defended the set-pieces significantly better, despite the strong aerial fire-power of Moyes’ men. Arteta also had a much better game, despite his early give away to Van Judas; and Wilshere stuck a lot better to his defensive duties. Yes, he was ‘turned over’ a lot, and he did not add as much to our attack as we would have liked, but he played with positional discipline and passion, and still made a difference on the night.

I have never felt Mikel and Jack get the best out of each other when they play together though, and we should be buoyed by the imminent return of the Flame. The Frenchman allows Wilshere to be more effective in the box to box role, which in turn will mean more support for Ozil. These three midfield roles are intricately linked and getting the balance right is absolutely pivotal to the success of the whole team.

Last night we played with too many CAMs in my opinion: Ozil, Rosicky, Jack, Santi, and later on Ox was added as well. All of these players have a natural tendency to move towards the middle of the pitch, and play the ball through the funnel: the ‘D area’ of the opponent’s box. Manure were expecting this and made themselves hard to penetrate there throughout the game, marshalled by the seemingly rejuvenated, and brilliant on the night, Vidic. We lacked width and speed/penetration, but also support in the box for OG, as the likes of Ozil, Rosicky and Jack, and to some extent even Santi, are more natural creators than ‘fox-in-the-box’ finishers.

It did indeed feel that we were desperately missing Theo’s and/or Aaron’s speed/engine and ability to turn up at the right place and time in the box. they both also have the experience and maturity now to score goals in the big games.

I thought Ozil had a great game. He was constantly ready to dish out the finest delicacies but there are not many in the team/ the current formation who are able to anticipate and appreciate what he has to offer; something Wenger needs to address rather sooner than later. Not seeing this by some of the fans says more about them than Ozil.

I would also like to point out that, despite our current perception of Manure, they are not a weak team, but simply struggling with coming to terms with the new leadership/playing style of Moyes. I thought that the likes of Vidic, Evra, Rooney and VJ had very good games, and if I am fair I believe they had the best chances to win the match. Luckily they did not take them, as Szczesny had a superb game. They were clearly tense themselves and also desperate to avoid defeat.

I thought we got better towards the end of the game as we started to get closer and closer to their box and create some good opportunities. The fact that Manure still had the best chance to win the match during the same period shows us how delicately balanced it all was – and is; and how much work Arsene and Steve still have to do to get us winning the big games any time soon.

Bring on Pool – CoYG!

TotalArsenal.

Plucky, Plucky Arsenal – Szczesny, Koz and Mertesacker win us three points

Per+Mertesacker+7S8fegILUv8m

I missed the first 25 minutes or so of today’s top;three game the Saints. So apparently, I missed our best period of football; but I don’t mind as I liked what I saw in the 65 remaining minutes of the game.

A clean sheet, a mature performance, scoring the second goal to kill off any remaining threat, and looking in control for most of the game was music to my eyes. How long have we been waiting for this sort of maturity: not playing well in terms of attacking football but just being able to see a game out professionally? That is what champions-to-be need.

I thought as a team we worked well, even though one or two individual performances were not at their usual level. But the real strength of a team is measured by its ability to compensate for any individual blips in form, and today we saw good evidence of just that.

You have to give some credit to Southampton, though. It takes some guts to come to the Emirates and just play their football, and at times they dominated us with very good combination and pressing football. In the end, two avoidable mistakes cost them badly and luckily they had these against us…. The Chavs will face a determined, highly motivated team – of that I have no doubt.

Being totally honest about our performance, I felt our midfield missed some necessary cohesion and fluency in their passing. We have some distance to go in terms of getting the likes of Cazorla, Ozil, Arteta, Ramsey and Wilshere to fully gel with each other. But the good thing is we have a solid defence, and against a team like Southampton we naturally sit back a bit more and keep things solid. At home this is not a bad thing as it makes us less vulnerable to counterattacks. In away games we do this regularly and it’s one of the reasons we have done so well on our travels.

Our back-five performance was very impressive and something special is growing between these players. All have made progress this season, even the wily Sagna. And all five players have both strengths and one or two weaknesses, but somehow they have found a way of maximizing their combined strengths and minimizing the weaknesses.

BFG slowness and lack of ‘turnability’ is compensated for by Sagna and Koz’s speed and last-ditch tackling ability. Koz’s occasional hot-headedness needs the BFG’s organisational and calming skills, etc etc.

But special praise should go to the triangle of Szczesny, Koz and Mertesacker, who were as good as impenetrable today. Arteta did not have one of his best games against the Saints, but neither was he awful.  Nevertheless, Koz and Mertesacker coped very well with any threat through the middle, which is considerable as there is a lot of strength in Southampton’s midfield.

Per+Mertesacker+RUeEq3DH_s7m

The team playing deep really seems to suit Koz and Mertesacker, and if they are in control it really helps Szczesny to stay calm and composed as well. I reckon, other than the hard work of the entire team, that’s what won us the game today. They also worked well together when defending corners and free-kicks which was good to see.

If we are going to win the league we will need a solid defence – a solid back five really – and the boys did us proud today. And I reckon there is still more to come.

It is great to see the team bounce back from the Manure defeat straightaway, and that despite not having had much time together during the latest interlull.

Three more points and a more solid position at the top, and plenty of evidence that this team has backbone and belief. Bring on the Frenchies – OGAAT! 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Szczesny – BFG – Flamini – Ozil – Giroud: spine of a champion in waiting?

cropped-henry-dog-008.jpg

I love our spine: it is full of character, experience, ‘position experts’, and it oozes quality throughout. One Pole, two Germans, and two Frenchies; and we have some fine Spanish, German and English talents to add to it and support it.

Arsenal might be building a team around a British core in the mid to long term, but for the foreseeable future the core has not a single Brit in it. Jack and Rambo might well play themselves into the core sooner or later, and especially the Welshman has made a very impressive start to the season, but for now the spine is non-British.

You could argue that the wider spine should be taken into account, as we play with two CBs and two deeper laying midfielders who all play centrally. But for the sake of this discussion I would rather look at our narrow spine of Szczesny, Mertesacker, Flamini, Ozil and Giroud.

There are three questions that come to my mind when looking at our spine:

  1. Can we improve further on it?
  2. How will we cope with injuries?
  3. Is it the spine of an imminent champion?

I welcome your views on this today, and this post is just a means for discussion/sharing of views.

In order to give the debate some added substance, I will quickly give you my views on the above questions.

Can we improve further on the spine?

Yes we can to some extent. We could get a more experienced and established goal keeper as Wojciech is not yet the finished article; and maybe there is a CB out there who has the BFG’s ability to organise the defence and read the game as well as he does, but is faster and more agile than the German giant. But despite his lack of speed and ‘turn-ability’, I love the guy and it would be hard to find somebody who would be a like for like improvement in all the aspects he brings to our team.

Other than that, I reckon Flamini and Ozil are totally cut for our spine, and the same goes for Giroud who plays the ‘modern’ holding striker role sublimely for us this season.

How will we cope with injuries?

That is the big question, isn’t it?

For Szczesny we have two options and I rather would have an experienced PL goal keeper as our nr.2, although we still have to see Viviano in action and he might well be the bee’s knees.

For Mertesacker we have Sagna, who has been very good in the CB role when played there recently. But Sagna is also our nr.1 RB and is played constantly by Arsene and in the French national team. However, if the BFG is injured I reckon Sagna is a more than decent replacement.

For Flamini we have Arteta. It is not a like for like replacement as Flamini is better at the physical part of midfield defending, but Arteta is experienced and can play well in the deepest midfield position. In an ideal world, though, we would strengthen in this area as soon as possible. Our main transfer priority this winter?

For Ozil we have Jack, Rosicky, Santi and Rambo. Enough said.

For Giroud we have Bendtner and Sanogo and maybe Akpom. The Dane did not take his opportunity on Tuesday and it looks like closed curtains for him now. Sanogo could become a revelation but we just have not seen him play yet, and Akpom is one for the future.

Of course, we also have Theo and Pod who could play centrally but neither of them are capable of playing the specialist holding striker role anywhere near as well as the Big Ferocious Frenchman. I reckon a long term injury to him is our biggest potential weakness in the spine; if there’s one thing we have learned from our defeat against the Chavs, it’s this…

Is it the spine of an imminent champion?

Thanking The Guardian for this great picture!
Thanking The Guardian for this great picture!

It all depends on fitness and being able to play together as much as possible, especially during the big games. It is also important that Szczesny turns into a more consistent ‘safe pair of hands’ this season. So with a bit of luck, we could well have the spine of a champion in waiting this season.

But what do you think, fine fellow Gooners? And who would be your one purchase to further strengthen the spine?

Written by: TotalArsenal.