Not Jack but the Ox should hit the Road

30 hours to go till the deadline of transfer deadline day and it looks like Arsenal have done very good business this summer. We did not spend a silly £90m on Pogba but got Holding, Xhaka, Mustafi and Perez instead which will turn out to be far better business for us on the field, which matters most to us of course. Okay the new German defender still needs to be confirmed but this should be a formality.

If you look at the last twelve months or so, Arsenal have added quality players in all four lines: GK Cech, Defenders Holding and Mustafi, Midfielders Elneny and Xhaka and attacker Perez.  We kept all our quality players until now and let’s hope we will survive the next 30 hours as well, and then we have a very, very strong squad (see also the previous post).

It is now time to allow a few players to go on loan or to be sold, as we need to make space for some very promising youngsters and create plenty of playing time for the new arrivals.

It appears that Arsenal are willing to loan out Jack Wilshere but I hope we will keep him. Jack needs to play of course, but he also needs to look after himself and at Arsenal he can get playing time without too much demand on him (as in having to play every game). I also want him to work hard and compete with the likes of Xhaka, Ozil and Cazorla to get into the team. He has the talent to make it. On the other hand, if he lands at a club with a good manager who will use him wisely he could also prosper.

It looks like Chambers will go out on loan and I reckon that is a wise decision. Any youngster who gets bought by Arsenal should go out and learn to stand on their own feet via a loan spell. I wished we had done the same with the likes of Theo and Ox. Chambers is a good player but he has not made enough impression for Wenger to believe he is ready to be a regular starter at Arsenal. So go out there Calum and work your socks off. And from what I saw of Middlesbrough, they try to play good football which should suit him.

The rumour that Gnabry could be sold to Bayern is not very good news. I don’t know the exact contract situation of Gnabry and the club might not have much choice in the matter, but I hope the German is not leaving because he does not feel he will get a proper opportunity to shine at Arsenal.

And that brings me to the Ox. It feels like he has been forever at Arsenal, yet he is still young and keeps threatening to break through. Alex has his moments and we are all in awe of his speed and close ball control, but when it comes to delivering the goods in terms of goals and assists it is just not happening for him. Once again this season, he has periods in which he plays well and is part of the team, but sooner or later  he will drop off and become invisible. He was easily our weakest player against Watford on Saturday and this has been the case too many times.

I have said for years here on Bergkampesque that the Ox should go on a season long loan and establish himself outside Arsenal, where he simply has been pampered and protected too much. He will then come back with confidence and will have learned to turn his talents into hard, bankable outcomes.

I now feel it may be too late and would not be surprised if he gets sold in the next 30 hours. With Perez, Alexis, Theo and Ramsey – the Welshman is not a natural winger but he offers extra defensive cover and a very decent goal threat when played out wide – we have four quality players to operate on the wings: and if they are all fit and in form, they should normally play. But as it stands, we also have youngsters like Iwobi, Gnabry and Willock knocking very hard on the door. I feel the Ox has had his chance and we need to create space in the team, so it is out on loan or cashing in time. Time to hit the road, not so much for Jack but definitely for the Ox.

By TotalArsenal

Holding & Akpom Give Arsene Headache, Ox Draws Goat’s Blood, Debuchy Fights for Survival: 8 Friendly Observations

Chivas de Guadalajara v Arsenal Pre-season Friendly: 1 – 3

Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Iwobi; Walcott

Subs: Martinez, Debuchy, Bielik, Gibbs, Zelalem, Elneny, Campbell, Willock, Reine-Adelaide, Akpom

Rob Holding celebrates scoring

It is hard to review a match watched between 2 and 4am on a small Ipad screen, but let’s try to analyse the game and see whether we can pull some more conclusions.

Here are my eight observations:

  1. Holding continues to look very promising. Part of me thinks he is too young to play a big part in the coming season, and another part feels he is the Max Verstappen of our team: level headed, confident, fearless and very, very talented. He will be 21 next month so he is not that young anymore, and if he were to play with the likes of Cech, Koz and Nacho, who can guide and coach him, he could do really well from the start of his Arsenal career. Arsene says he wants to add experience in the CB position but young Rob will be adding a lot of food for thought for him at the moment. Holding did not have a perfect game but his composure, passing and drive are very exciting; and he scored a fine goal to get us in front early on  as well. Stuff of dreams right now and let’s hope he will keep it up.
  2. The return of Cazorla, combined with Xhaka and Coquelin behind him, was a joy to watch. He clearly was enjoying himself and produced some fine attacking passes. It was surprising to see Xhaka play quite high up the pitch regularly, and he also produced some excellent through-balls, especially to our full backs. At times I struggled to see whether it was Santi or Xhaka who produced the through-ball or classy forward pass, but it is really good to see that we had more than one creative provider on the pitch with the King of Assists still not in action.
  3. We are blessed with excellent goalkeepers. Cech is such a calming influence and his experience on and off the pitch is vital for us. But Ospina is not far behind and I hope Wenger can keep him motivated to stay at least another year. Ospina, just like Cech, may let in the odd stoppable goal, but his presence and professionalism have a calming impact on his fellow players and that goes a long way. Martinez also looked tidy in the second half.
  4. Ox scored a peach of a goal, the sort of cracker we know he is capable of. We have to see whether he can score regularly against tougher competition but this is a very promising start to the pre-season for AOC. At the moment, he is winning the battle for the other ‘midwing’ position – Alexis will of course take one as soon as he returns – from the likes of Iwobi and Campbell. The latter two looked a bit flat, or maybe I should say ‘ineffectual’, against Chivas. I remain skeptical about the Ox’s chances to claim a first team spot this season, but his attitude, directness and fitness levels have been impressive. Campbell and Iwobi have to raise their game.
  5. Theo positioned himself a lot better, just a shame his finishing was well below par once again. It must have been a dagger in the heart for him when Akpom scored so soon after he came on. Akpom did not necessarily impress that much either last night, but he did the thing that matters most in football and that is of course putting the leather over the line. I see Akpom as a traditional CF who looks more towards getting on the goal sheet than helping out the team constantly ala Giroud. But he has an eye for goal and the coolness to take his opportunities, which we cannot pooh-pooh…. another headache developing for Arsene: include in squad or send out on loan again? Theo, on the other hand, needs a goal, or at least an assist, very, very badly right now.
  6. I liked our aggression in midfield. Especially in the first half, there was a fierce and welcome battle in a congested midfield between the Chivas and Arsenal midfielders. Both Coq and Xhaka were strong and fought aggressively for midfield dominance. Francis and Granit were still a bit rusty and gave away too many free-kicks, but I really liked the physicality of their play. This is just what we will need in the PL to dominate teams in the midfield area. Add Elneny to the mix, who had another fine 45 minutes, and we have a really strong midfield that will provide the axis around which our game can flourish.
  7. Debuchy played with passion and aggression, which  brought us a goal and cost us a penalty. I don’t mind the latter. I want to see Matthieu give his all and fight for his position and that is exactly what he was doing yesterday. Good man. And the assist for Akpom’s goal was very good: well placed and kept on the ground to make it easy for the CF to finish. I want him to stay and fight with Bellerin for the FB position.
  8. Mesut was in da House. I know we are all desperately scanning the sport websites for news about new signings, but let’s also not forget the importance of keeping this continuously improving squad together. Seeing Mesut supporting the boys in the stands put a smile on my face. I want him to be well rested before he starts playing for us again, but I cannot wait to see him back and work alongside the likes of Xhaka, Elneny, Coquelin and Santi, to name but a few.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates scoring Arsenal's second goal with Chuba Akpom, Alex Iwobi and Mohamed Elneny

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil

What are your observations?

By TotalArsenal. — Thanking The Mirror for pictures.

 

 

 

Joel Campbell’s Progress Evidence that Loan Deals Work… The Ox Next!

Joel Campbell comes from a tiny nation, Costa Rica, with just 4.5m inhabitants. He is only 23 yet he already played at Lorient in France (25 League games), Real Betis (28) and Villarreal (14) in Spain, and in the city of the Gods, Athens (32). This fabulous prospect has moved to the other side of the world to proof himself with only his talents to fall back on. I don’t know what you did between 18 and 23, but Joel beats me hands down in terms of going out in the world and make it happen.

Joel+Campbell+Aston+Villa+v+Arsenal+Premier+o5Mt95sW7qTl

The Ox, at 22 years of age, is also a great talent who was bought at a young age and with a lot of money from Southampton. He has stayed with Arsenal ever since and is just five games away from a PL century. He had a privileged and protected football-upbringing at Arsenal, which is in quite a big contrast to our Costa Rican Gunner.

Regulars on Bergkampesque probably know where I am going with this. I read recently that grit and resilience are easily as important as talent and work rate when it comes to becoming successful. Of course this is nothing new, but it rung a bell when thinking of the current form and progress of Joel and Alex.

As far as I can judge, both players  share the attributes of talent and desire: they are great guys who love football and want to get to the very top. But it is Joel who is making the rapid progress at the moment and who appears to be able to overcome small setbacks better. He is also a lot more effective this season, as in producing goals and assists, than the Ox.

Some will say the Ox is still young, but 95 PL games is a good tally and it is about time we let him go on loan and give him the opportunity to make real progress. But enough said about AOC; let’s talk about JC.

For me, next to Hector Vector’s development, seeing Joel really take to the stage in the last few months has been one of the nicest Arsenal surprises this season. I love this guy: he works his socks off, is not afraid of physical contact (any more), has a great motor, good first touch, fine spacial awareness, is a team player, can assist and score in equal measures. Joel is the sort of player I enjoy just focusing on in a game; you will notice there are more dimensions to his game once you do so.

There is class about him.

I can watch his goal against Sunderland yesterday, time and again. Firstly, there is the awareness of where the space is and him moving into it; Secondly, there is the fine anticipation of the bounce of the ball and him opting to pass it into the corner of the goal rather than blasting it. That for me was class; and then he decided to celebrate in front of the Sunderland away supporters… 🙂

Of course it is still early days, but I reckon we are now starting to reap Arsenal’s AND Joel’s investment in his career. He has made big sacrifices to be where he is today and things will hopefully continue to improve for him. I reckon we will get a lot of joy out of Joel for years to come…

Joel+Campbell+Arsenal+v+Sunderland+Emirates+tKhMyyuOLbdl

And let me whisper this one more time: the sooner the Ox goes on loan the better for him and Arsenal. Hit the Road Ox and come back when you are a footballer in full.

By TotalArsenal

 

 

Ross Barkley shows us why the Ox should be loaned out

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What is not to like about the Ox: a total professional, wears his heart on his sleeve, gives his all and he fuses speed and silkiness to the highest degree. Alex is a great guy and we all would love him to come good…. But he has not been coming good for quite a while now; and I feel we have to be cruel to be kind: send him out on loan and tell him to convince us how good he really is.

The Ox joined us ages ago and has played 90 PL games, exactly as many as Ross Barkley. I reckon Barkley is a similar player to the Ox: both are attacking midfielders who can play on the wing; they have a good dribble and a fabulous shot-power, are fast and have an eye for a key pass as well; they are also both 22 and belong to England’s most promising prospects for the national team. But one is in the ascendency and the other is sliding down.

Whilst the Ox is struggling to establish himself in the first team (despite all our injuries), Ross Barkley is in the form of his life. Barkley played 1334 minutes in the PL this season already, scoring an impressive six goals and producing an equally impressive five assists; he also produces 1.9 key passes per game and his passing success rate is at 87.2% per game. The Ox has played just 429 minutes in the PL this season, with no goals or assists, 0.5 key passes per game and 84.6% passing success rate.

Is Barkley that much better than the Ox? I don’t think so. But Barkley plays at a club where he is allowed to make a few mistakes, where there is less pressure to win each and every game and where he can grow by playing week in week out. And this is now paying dividend for the Toffees. He has learned to make his head think as fast as his body can run and his legs can move the ball, and he is delivering the goods on a weekly basis.

It is the opposite of Ox’s situation right now, and having watched him this season, I reckon he is under too much self-pressure and club pressure to perform well at Arsenal. Sometimes a step down is needed to make two steps upwards. The Ox should go on loan to the likes of Swansea, Southampton, Watford or Leicester for half a season at least, with an agreement that he will play as much as possible. I reckon it will do him a world of good and we will come to see the true Ox: flying on wings and bullying the opposition with his power and sharpened horns, whilst using his head to make all his effort count. He would then improve his goal and assist per game ratio and deliver a lot more key passes per game; so that when he goes back to Arsenal, he is ready to claim a first team spot.

It is about time we start regarding sending our most promising youngsters on loan not as a punishment but a key part of their development. It did Le Coq and Wilshere a world of good, and the Ox should follow their example if he is to fulfil his enormous potential.

Who agrees and disagrees, and why?

By TotalArsenal

 

A Minute Applause for Barcodes: Preview & Line-up Arsenal v Newcastle

Gibbs and Pod to rediscover their previous excellent partnership?
Gibbs and Pod to rediscover their previous excellent partnership?

….Well that is what they deserve if you ask me!

For many of us the loss to Stoke deeply overshadowed the far more joyous occurrence of the Barcodes smashing the Chavs in a well-deserved victory. In normal circumstances, our team losing is far more painful than one of our main competitors losing, but, at least for me, the reverse is the case this time round.

Papiss-Ciss--after-scorin-012

The Chavs losing to Newcastle was good in many ways:

  1. Of course, it ended any possibility they would go unbeaten a whole season. Only special teams achieve something colossal like this… 😉
  2. It proved once again that if you play Maureen at his own game, his team will struggle. Newcastle sat back and were tightly organised, and the Chavs did not take their half-decent chances. The Barcodes did play them on the counter and they did take their chances, albeit with a bit of fortune, at least on the first one. Except for the last ten minutes, Pardew’s men were in control of the game and a lot of praise should go to their man at the helm.
  3. Even though we failed to close the gap, there remains hope that we can make up ground over the next few months. It is unlikely we will catch them but they have shown they are vulnerable and can be beaten as long as you play them at their own game. Other teams will have taken note of how Newcastle beat the Chavs and I expect the fear factor to have diminished now.
  4. The PL competition is a competition again. The Chavs dropped five points in three games and the rest is catching up. The smirk on Maureen’s face is quickly turning into that typical grumpy contortion of his. Happy Days! 😛

So I reckon we should give the Barcodes a minute applause for their clever and well-deserved win last Saturday. They have done us a massive favour!

Predicted Team v Newcastle United. 

Hayden to step up and Pod to get a start. Welbeck could start instead of Giroud or even Alexis... Ox to replace Rambo.
Hayden to step up and Pod to get a start. Welbeck could start instead of Giroud or even Alexis… Ox to replace Rambo.

For tomorrow’s game, early team news is not good. Three CB covers are out: Koz, Nacho, Chambers. Ramsey is out as well. However, the Pod will get a chance against Newcastle as the boss just confirmed.

We should expect the Barcodes to play similar to the way they beat the Chavs and be aware of their counterattacks. For me, this means Flamini as DM and the defence not sitting too high up the pitch. We also need our FBs to be disciplined: only one at a time going forward and good communication with the midfielders and CBs at all times. We also need Giroud back to ram the CBs and create space by occupying them. Ollie was rested and so were Cazorla, Welbeck and Sexy-Alexis. So we should have fresh, eager fire-power up-front. With Ramsey out, it should be Ox or (ideally) Rosicky as the b2b, and the team picks itself to a large extent. A big role for the Ox tomorrow, I reckon: he might hold the key in midfield…

Key question is who will partner the BFG at the back, and it looks like Gerry will get his wish with Hayden stepping up.

I am looking forward to this one, but then I always do. OGAAT – TIANG-YANG – UTA – COYRRG and all that!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

What to do with the Ox?

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Let me start with saying that I like Alex a lot. He stole thousands of Gooners hearts with THAT spirited, this-is-my-moment, CL performance against AC Milan a few years ago. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has not just a posh name; he is one of the elite talents in this country, and indeed in Europe. The Ox is only 21 years old and yet he has played already 84 times for Arsenal (8 goals, 8 assists).

Here is a nice summary of what he has to offer:

Our nr.15 has played 20 games (12 starts) in all competitions this season, and he clocked up about 1100 minutes of football (for comparison, Alexis played 1475 minutes in all competitons). It is fair to say he has been given a proper chance now to proof himself. Yet, despite some spirited, encouraging performances, he only scored twice; and more worryingly for the roles in which he played, he only has a single assist to his name this season.

The Ox has good spells in every game during which he adds a lot of thrust to our attacks. But he also seems to disappear for long periods in each game. We have to remember that he is still only young and needs a good run of games. However, I feel he has partly failed to take the opportunity to really demand a place in our first team this season. And nobody can say Wenger did not give him a chance.

Now that Giroud is back and Theo is also close to full fitness, the Ox might find himself more and more on the bench. Wenger is likely to play Giroud as his holding CF and then pick two ‘wingers’ from Alexis, Theo, Welbeck, Ox (and possibly Gnabry and Pod).

I can see the Ox missing out on many PL/CL starts during the remainder of the season and wonder what would be best for him:

  1. Keep him in the team and use him as a super-sub regularly?
  2. Start him regularly with Wenger rotating his players more proactively and frequently?
  3. Send him out on loan, say to Everton or West Ham, where he would be guaranteed regular first team starts?
  4. Cash in on him in January/Summer?

Ooh, and what do you reckon the Ox’s best position is?

Over to you, fine fellow Gooners: What would you do with the Ox? 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

TA’s Arsenal Dream Team v Besiktas

With thanks to the best paper in the country, The Guardian, for the picture.
With thanks to the best paper in the country, The Guardian, for the picture.

Football is back, and although it might not be ideal to play Besiktas so soon after our battle against Palace, I cannot help but really look forward to our encounter in Istanbul. And although we won on Saturday, we all want to wash away the taste of a laboured and under-par performance with a committed, passionate, and above all winning, performance tomorrow night.

Rather than go safe and sit back to invite pressure, I hope we start with full throttle and go on the attack from the first whistle. My dream line up for the Besiktas game – rather than the predicted one as I never get these right anymore – is a 4-5-1 formation with real speed and thrust whilst also having some solid support for the back four.

I would like to see Flamini replace Gibbs for this game. We will play with Chambers again, or maybe even Miquel, and so we can do with the extra experience and calm of our French terrier. The rest of our defence picks itself right now, although I would not mind to see Bellerin getting a chance on the right wing tomorrow.

In midfield I would play Diaby if he is fit. He has travelled so he must be fine again. Diaby and Ramsey should be the deeper laying midfielders, but they are also very good in the transition and going forward. In the hole it is Sanchez for me, with OG in front of him. And on the wings, like many others have said in the past 48 hours, I would like thrust, speed and hunger and both Ox and Campbell have plenty of this.

My Dream Team:

Arsenal v Besiktas dream team

I would also be very happy to see Rosicky start instead of Campbell: Sanchez could move to the left and Rosa could play in the hole… but I would really like to see Campbell play again at some point at least tomorrow.

What it is your favourite line up for tomorrow’s game?

Let’s go for the jugular and attack from the start.

We are The Arsenal – COYG!!!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Final Note:

We hold two competitions on Bergkampesque: Fantasy Football and a Predictions League and all are free to join – the more the merrier! 🙂

For Fantasy Football League see link:

https://bergkampesque.com/bk-boing-ff-league/

For Predictions League see link:

https://bergkampesque.com/new-umf-league-2014-2015/

Arsenal might finally have the new Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Ljunberg

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The new season is almost upon us, and with new signings coming in fast now there is plenty of reason to be positive. I reckon Giroud will once again be the first ‘attacker’ on Wenger’s team sheet this season, but I will devote a separate post to this at some point this week.

This post is about the possibility of a serious plan B, if not a future plan A: the reintroduction of 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 without a ‘holding centre forward’. We now have the players who can come close to the most magnificent combo of attackers I have ever seen at Arsenal, if not in any team: the Invincibles of Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Ljunberg. The main reason I feel so positive about the possibility to resemble these ferocious, fabulous four is the arrival of Alexis Sanchez: he holds the key.

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Alexis = Dennis in the making

For me Alexis is a player who comes very close to what the one and only Iceman once had to offer to us. I watched the Holland – Chile game again this week and studied Sanchez closely. As many know, he is a very good finisher and winger, but he can also play centrally, either up-front or, ideally, in the hole – ala Bergkamp. He can play with his back to the goal, can turn quickly and attack space and/or players with menace, has great ball control and composure, and he can also spot and execute a killer pass at the blink of an eye. On top of all that, he has a great shot and can be a fox in the box too. Sanchez in two words is ‘attacking versatility’ – just like DB10 was – and that is just what we need at Arsenal right now.

So for me Sanchez could be our new Bergkamp. This might take time, but he has the right attitude and in Wenger the best tutor to get there.

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Mesut = Robert in the making

Now this will not be universally supported, but I reckon Ozil best position is in the ‘free role’ on the left. Ozil needs freedom and movement and does not naturally hold the area between the opposition’s ‘D’ and the middle line. He still does well at Arsenal in the hole and this is partly because Giroud is so good at holding onto the ball in the middle, allowing Ozil to roam freely; but this is for a different post.

I would prefer Sanchez, or even Jack, in the hole as they both are more natural in owning the area. Ozil is a great player who will ALWAYS add value to a team, with his movement and immaculate positioning and passing, and for me he will be most effective if played on the left with a licence to roam – including into the hole. As such, I can see Ozil developing in our very own new Pires, who was also not a typical left winger. Mesut will always produce assists (and penultimate assists, for a lack of a better word), but in this new system there will be space and time for him to start scoring towards 15 PL goals a season. The beauty of both Mesut and Sanchez is that they can interchange positions, which will make it really hard for opponents to eliminate our ‘creative force’.

Theo soring against Udinese

Santi, Alex and Theo = Freddie in the making

On the right, we need the ‘new Ljunberg’ and this place is up for grabs for the likes of Santi, Ox and of course Theo (and maybe Gnabry eventually). Santi is possibly to slow and lacks defensive discipline at times, and Theo lacks the close ball control skills Freddie possessed, but they both can produce the assists and goals the Swede once produced for us. I reckon Ox come closest to a Freddie-esque player but he would have to work hard to get there; maybe Santi or Theo could play there until he is ready? And there is still scope for Santi himself to work hard and become our very own new Freddie.

The Ox: ready to add the extra spark next season?
The Ox: ready to add the extra spark next season?

Theo, Joel or Alex = Thierry in the making

But who could be the new Henry? At this stage, I can see three options: Theo, Campbell and, my favourite, the Ox. I need to observe more of Campbell’s talents to be sure whether he has all the attributes to develop into a Henry-esque all-round attacker, but what I have seen until now is very encouraging. He has good close ball control and speed, he possesses a great shot and finishes well in the box, but most importantly, like Henry he comes for the ball all the way to the middle, and makes things happen once he has got it. He has presence and attitude and a good engine, despite having to improve his fitness a bit more. He is comfortable with the ball, and also makes good runs with or without it, and he can also pick a good pass. Of course, he still has a lot to learn but he is a very exciting prospect for us, and I hope we hold on to him this season (which is really not a given right now).

I reckon Theo could be lethal in the ‘free central forward’ position, IF played in front of Sanchez, with both Ozil and Santi/Ox on the wings. Key in all of this is Sanchez being our central anchor, who can play with his back to goal and orchestrate our attacks from the area in front of the ‘D’. The one limitation of Theo is attacking players in front of him with the ball (in tighter spaces): Theo needs to be released into space to be at his best and he is not so comfortable with the ball as Henry once was. I find him still more suited to the wing than centrally up-front, but would like to see more of him there with the right players around him.

And that brings me to the Ox. For me he comes closest to what Thierry Henry offered us for so many years. He also needs Sanchez to be in the ‘Bergkamp role’ as to have the freedom to make runs with and without the ball and not have to be the holding man (ala Giroud). Jozefos2013 excellent post yesterday, about the many options for the Ox, has made me realise even more that his best position might well be the Thierry role. Ox is brilliant with the ball when attacking space and/or players: that is his strongest skill. As such, he can play on the wing, just like Henry once used to do. But there is a real thrust in his play: a power and determination to make it to the goal and score, and for this he has the physique, the stamina, the speed and the close ball control/dribbling skills. The Ox also has a good to great shot and a good eye for a through-pass too. I would love him to be played up-front with Sanchez behind him; I reckon he would be revelation there.

I know I am dreaming when I write this, but the prospect of Ramsey and a beast of DM/Diaby (everything that sticks out crossed he stays fit for a long period!) in the double-DM pivot, supporting Ozil, Sanchez and Theo/Santi up-front with Ox/Theo as our furthest forward gradually growing into our new ‘Henry-Bergkamp-Pires-Ljunberg foursome’, has me very excited!

I doubt strongly whether Wenger has these sorts of plans for the team, at least not in the short run. And that is okay, but the prospect of having a really attractive plan-B potentially in place, and that we might have the players now who have the talents and could reach the heights of our former super-attacking Invincibles, is just fecking exciting!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Terrorist Winger, Holding Striker or DM’s Wingman: Will this Gunner Finally Break Through?!

Arsene’s Arsenal War Episode IV – A New Hope!

Since TA’s post about squad rotation and preferred line-ups I’ve been off in dream land at how I want to see Arsenal playing. Basically I would love to see a return to proper counter-attacking football – moving the ball up the pitch in seconds, killing teams off with speed and precision like in the early days of Wenger’s reign.

Before the World Cup, I remember posting a comment on this blog about how brilliant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was looking and how he could be one of the key players to England’s strategy at the World Cup – from Roy Hodgson’s comments in the aftermath of the assault on AOC in the second Stateside friendly it seems I wasn’t the only one to have that idea. I was excited by his pace and control on the ball and was disappointed for him personally that he wouldn’t get to play at a World Cup.

The Ox: ready for a Rambo-style breakthrough season?
The Ox: ready for a Rambo-style breakthrough season?

Having said that, it could end up being my favourite injury ever, and one of the best for his career as he will be fresher than any other WC squad members for the coming season. I believe/hope he can be used in a different way to last season, capitalising on the addition of the world class Alexis and the semi-imminent return to fitness of the former fastest footballer in the world (second now to Arjen Robben), Theo Walcott. If used to an effect pertinent to the situation at hand, I think his versatility can be a major weapon for the team now and in the future.

Let’s look at ways he could be deployed:

1. Terrorist winger. Ox is quick on the ball, can wriggle out of tight situations better than most without relying on his pace, is strong, and isn’t afraid to run at defenders; but at the same time, he generally makes good decisions about what to do with the ball. That decision making will become more refined with experience too. Maybe I’m expecting too much of him but as I’ve commented on a previous post, I envisage something similar to what Thierry Henry used to do to defenders.

2. Holding striker. His strength can help make this happen. Ok, he’s not as tall as Giroud but once he has the ball he can keep hold of it, hold defenders off and wait to link up with advancing team-mates. His awareness and ability to beat defenders will also add to his menace in these situations, as they won’t be able to get too tight on him in case he beats them, which will push the defensive line back and leave more space for our attackers.

3. In time, if Wenger follows up on his comment about Ox being able to eventually play in the middle: designated DM’s wingman. If we have a designated DM in the pivot Ox will have the freedom to roam forward and link up with the four front men. Using attributes already discussed, he can make defences nervous, making judicious runs into the box, passing or carrying the ball out of tight spots, drawing defenders to him and creating space and opportunities for team mates.

In general approach, I favour giving Theo his wish up front and having Ox, Oz and Sanchez behind him. My reasoning is that Theo is becoming acceptably reliable in front of goal (and more clinical than OG) and practice can only make more and more perfect. Whilst Theo would not be able to hold the ball up, the pace we now have in Alexis, Theo and Ox would mean that this would not be such a crucial skill for our front man to have…even if they couldn’t carve out an opportunity immediately, they can keep the ball between themselves for the few seconds until Oz, Rambo, Debuchy and Gibbs get there.

If counter-attacking wasn’t working (as it wouldn’t against Mourinho and his anti-football) and Giroud wasn’t on the field, Ox could then adopt role 2 from my list, and even interchange reasonably freely with Theo anyway, since Theo is used to a role on the right. It would all add to a sense of unpredictability to unsettle defenders.

Role 3 may come in time; he wouldn’t be ready for it now I don’t think – and Ramsey is everyone’s first choice for the kind of role I would like to see him playing if Wenger does move him into the middle eventually, but he could certainly learn to be a superb covering option for that position.

Wenger doesn’t pigeon-hole people and he plays to their strengths, so I think Wenger will use Ox’s versatility to the advantage of the team (including keeping Alex happy with the roles he is asked to assume).

The way I see it, the kind of football we now have the squad to play this season is really an evolution of the 4-4-2 we played in the late 90s – and they are among my fondest memories of Arsenal. I’m excited about the squad we currently have and Wenger’s decisiveness so far this summer. It suggests to me that despite all indications to the contrary since 2006, he knows exactly how he wants the team playing and he can now go and get the players he doesn’t already have to make that happen. I don’t really think there is a lot of room for improvement, although I would love to see a SQ DM come in. I think our attacking options are much more multi-dimensional than they have ever been for as long as I’ve been a Gooner.

It is Wenger’s time to go for the jugular. I’m hopeful of a glorious twilight to his Arsenal career.

How do the tactically astute see it? Am I expecting too much of the boy Oxlade-Chamberlain? Do I think too highly of him? Am I expecting too much of Wenger? Am I being wildly tactically naive? If we played the way I’ve outlined above next season (with a theoretically rock-solid back 6), will it be enough to give us a shot at the title?

On a personal note, I’m looking forward to taking my three-year-old to his first Arsenal game at the Emirates Cup on Saturday so if you’re going too, no swearing please… 🙂

Written by: Jozefos2013

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.