Does Arsene finally, finally have his new Bergkamp?

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Sanchez and the 4-4-2

With a whole week off before the next game, I thought a fluff piece may be in order just to get the discussions and debating back in full swing.

Watching Sanchez playing at Sunderland, everything about him just screamed “number 10” more than it has ever done before with Ozil, or even my man Jack.  It got me to thinking though, could we play an old fashioned no.10 – you know, to its fullest potential, in that crazy formation that won us so many accolades and silverware – the 4-4-2?

Do we have the quality to make this system work once again, and really provide for such an excellent player like Sanchez?

I thought I would have a go, do my best at being ruthless concerning quality and athleticism, see what I could come up with and ask you any important questions that arose during the process.

Defence:

Debuchy, BFG, Koscielny and Gibbs: to be honest, apart from a lack of pace by our big man I cannot fault the defensive solidity that this group should bring to the team.  With such a lack of options here though, they are largely uncontested places and with the exception of Monreal all other options are either prospects or loanees.

Monreal, Chambers, Ajayi and Jenko would make up my reserve back line for the future, and I hope Jenko keeps up the good work he’s doing at West Ham atm.

Midfield:

With Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini all being fringe players (at best) in most midfields across top clubs in Europe, Diaby only ever one training session away from being injured and Coquelin AWOL most of the time, I decided to be ruthless and cut the lot; but who’s left as the engine room in midfield?

Wilshere and Ramsey have to be the first choice pairing for our future, with OX and Hayden representing exciting and solid prospects respectively.

For those who don’t know Hayden, he has excelled both in ability and leadership and captained at every level he has played at, both domestically and for his country.

Wingers:

Do we have any old style wingers left now? With OX constantly showing he prefers creeping inside over hugging the line, I can think of only two.  Luckily, one is right footed and the other left, so it makes a good pairing.  Walcott and Campbell, plenty of pace and goals in both which is a benefit.  Future prospects would have to include Gnabry and Bellerin as both are again bursting with pace and goals.

Number 10:

Ozil, once the wonderkid of this position, has now got his work cut out to defend his place here by the excellent (and in my opinion the more exciting prospect) Sanchez.  Both still have much to offer though, so no departures in this area anytime soon I hope, but who does the starting place go to?

Strikers:

I’m looking for pace in this type of formation, like the kind Henry used to have with the strength he also used to show when needed.  With this in mind, I am afraid Giroud and Podolski are out, but Welbeck is in.  Future prospects include Akpom who has all the attributes Henry used to have and now needs experience and Sanogo who is a bit hit and miss at the moment to say the least but could be great.

What do we end up with then?

The Blueprint:

Invincibles

The starting XI:

starting XI new

The second (substitution) XI:

second XI

Questions:

  1. Remember the Invincibles used to play week in week out, almost the same starting line up every game, would these resulting teams have the physical endurance to do that?
  2. Our midfield was once known for its aggression and strength, although many agree that this is not needed so much in the modern game, it is interesting how the modern day users of this system (Man City) have adopted an almost carbon copy of our template from days gone by, with excellent results. Do we have this type of steel in midfield from the options we have?  Do we need it?  Are our options better?
  3. Do you feel any of the players I so callously call “fringe players” could perform better in any of the positions, and if so: who, where and why?
  4. Are there any other players I have missed that you think deserve a place?
  5. With so many favourite names cut from the teams, producing a second XI that looks more like an U21 side than a premiership team, do you think we would have enough quality and depth in the squad to make this work?
  6. Are there any players you would simply like to replace with new arrivals in January? I know BFG’s pace has become a topic for debate but are there others?

 My answers:

  1. With the exception of Koscielny (with his continuing Achilles problem) and BFG who is beginning to age a little I feel the whole starting XI have shown they have the athleticism to play week in week out.
  2. For most games I think an on form Ramsey and Wilshere pairing would excel, watching them run rings around Toure and Fernando in the Charity Shield was a joy to watch. I would be slightly worried that there is no G. Silva type option available at all other than Hayden.  I would love to see Schneiderlin added to the squad to give that option if needed, but would he move for a seat on the bench at Arsenal until needed in a particular game though?  Maybe relying on an untested (at this level) but patient and willing to wait Hayden may be the more realistic choice – though not my preferred one.
  3. I obviously don’t, all seem leggy and are nearer the end of their careers rather than their prime.
  4. Coquelin could do a job in midfield as a more defensive option but it seems (at least atm) the boss has lost all faith in him.
  5. Apart from Ajayi. who I have never really seen play, I would say yes, as a substitute XI I feel it is still brimming with talent and all would be willing to wait for their chance which means no shuffling of the starting XI just to give players game time .
  6. In that starting line-up, I see only three players who are only even slightly suspect; Campbell has yet to show his true potential, but I don’t think he’s been given any sort of chance to do so yet. Then there is Koscielny, with his ongoing injury but a warrior nevertheless, and I feel Chambers is already the perfect candidate for his replacement when needed.  And BFG, having reached his potential a few years ago now, I feel (tough as it is to say) a big name replacement here would be an excellent addition – we are talking Varane level though.

I guess the question I have to ask myself is, would I swap Cazorla, Rosicky, Arteta, Flamini, Diaby and Coquelin for just one class CB and one class DM – probably, at the moment I could see Schneiderlin and Varane offering a lot more to the team’s structure than all those players combined.

My point of view is that we need goals, we are just not scoring enough.  There was a time when we used to score for fun and it was back when we used this system.  It takes special kinds of players to make this system work though but for the first time in ages I really think we have those players in the squad now.

When I look at the Invincibles line up, I see goal scoring options from FIVE positions in the forward line, with G. Silva the only player not guaranteed to add attacking threat.  Likewise, when I look at the new starting XI I have made above, I also see goal scoring options from FIVE positions in the front line, with only Wilshere lacking in that department.

I have to contrast that with what I saw at Sunderland on Saturday;

Arteta and Flamini – not goal threat there

Cazorla – has scored 4 goals in the premiership in the last 2 years

OX – Looks threatening but is not producing for one reason or another

All it takes is for your only striker to have a slightly off day (not unusual against a team set to defend), and it’s no wonder the only goals came from Sanchez excellently capitalising on two mistakes from the opposition.

Better teams won’t make those mistakes, so where are the bloody goals going to come from?

Is it any wonder we are not scoring atm, should we really expect any different?

I feel, whether it is because of injuries or a lack of faith in the midfield pairing to produce without the safety net of Flamini behind them, that the boss has played it safe and is largely underutilizing the squad we have at our disposal.  Players are coming back from injury, we are lacking goals: it is time to take the safety net away and let the lads produce!

4-4-2 with Sanchez tip toeing in Bergkamp’s shadow.

Could we make it work, would we even want to: Invincibles or Impossibles?  Tell me what you think.

Written by: Steve

Note from the Blog owner: if you want to follow Bergkampesque and/or receive an email every time a new post is issued, you can sign up: see right side of blog ‘Follow Blog via Email’. Cheers, TA. 🙂

 

 

 

Arguably the Greatest nr.10 Ever: Master of Balance.

Bergkamp-1

Being a person who started watching football because of Dennis Bergkamp, I had been trying to get my hands on a copy of the new book by David Winner on Dennis Bergkamp, “Stillness and Speed”. My fiancé finally got it for me and I couldn’t wait to dig into it.

Stillness and Speed reads very much unlike what a typical football biography reads like; it is constructed of a simple structure that allows for a brilliant insight into the life and mind of the genius that is Bergkamp. Winner himself, in the preface, sights the book Puskas on Puskas as one of the inspirations behind the structure of Stillness and Speed. The book is made of chapters of questions and answers with the Dutch master, detailing his time as a child to the early years in Ajax, the lost years in Italy and finally the Arsenal years. This journey is punctuated by Dennis’ accounts of the tournaments he played with the Dutch national team, and of the in-fighting amongst arguably one of the most talented national teams in the world.

There are no headline grabbing assertions, no declarations that would propel the book to the tabloids must read list, rather Stillness and Speed reads in a vein similar to how Dennis himself would play. There is class and elegance, yet a simplicity of thought and action. Dennis comes across as a connoisseur of the game, a person who ‘serves the game’ as Arsene Wenger points out. A recurring theme in his story is that of balance. For Dennis, the most important thing is the balance, whether that is in how he controls the ball or how he controls his thoughts.

There are wonderful accounts of the goal against Argentina in ’98 and the goal against Newcastle. The ’98 goal remains his One Big Moment, the moment where he says all his life led him to. In a game where he was not at his best, he has three touches and a goal. It is incredible to read his account of the goal and how his fellow players saw the moment. There are also accounts of his FA Cup penalty miss (which, it is interestingly noted, was as close as we got to the double that year, instead Man U won the treble) and his fear of flying.

Another interesting thing that comes out is his love for the sublime with respect to playing with the football. As a kid growing up, Dennis tried to understand the nuances of ball control, and for him it was always about a challenging ball that he would control. He learnt about how the various positions of the foot hitting the ball, and the pace with which the ball would be hit would result in the flight of the ball. He said to his team mates, once he arrived in Arsenal, to never give him a simple ball. He asked them to challenge him, so he can challenge himself. It is also clear that he was a big influence on players like Pires and Henry, and the group of exquisite talent that Arsenal had in the early 2000s that went on to become the Invincibles were hugely inspired by Dennis.

It is also insightful to see how Dennis saw Arsene, considering the recent flak Arsene has taken on his lack of tactical nous. Dennis saw Arsene as a fellow lover of the game, a man with a philosophy who prepares the players to extend themselves and to play with his philosophy. At the same time, the impression I get is that for Dennis, Arsene’s style is a derivative mix of the Total Football style with pace and defensive strength (an English hallmark), rather than a simple attack-at-all-costs philosophy. It is interesting to try to reconcile this vision (which was quite evident in the Arsenal teams of the early 2000s) with the teams that have been going out in the last few seasons. On the same vein, there are passages highlighting the arguments the two of them had on football and on Dennis’ decreasing playing time as he grew older. Despite that, there is great mutual respect between the two of them.

There are colorful descriptions of Dennis as a joker in the team, playing pranks on the likes of Martin Keown; and his wonderfully coincidental meeting with Ian Wright at a petrol station when he had first arrived to sign on for Arsenal. Another very unique passage in the books details Dennis’ time in Italy, with the details coming from his teammates in Inter Milan. It is evident that the Inter team did not want to change their philosophy to Dennis’; and Dennis also did not want to change himself to the Italian way. It was a marriage that was destined to fail.

Dennis comes out as a man who believes in his vision of the game, who loves the nuances of the first and second touches to the ball, who believes in the value of a tough assist rather than an easy goal. He is a believer in coaching the Ajax youngsters in a similar philosophy, raising artists with their unique visions of the game rather than off-the-shelf developed youngsters who will play a position and are trained to do what the position demands. Dennis’ comparison between structure of a position, and structural training (Where the youngster playing on the wing for instance will always run up and down and cross, but never create using the balance of players on the pitch or the spaces on the pitch) vs. a more free expressive training in which the youngster can be a creative artist with a vision. Dennis’ love for spaces and on-pitch geometry comes out brilliantly.

All in all, it is a brilliant read; a must for lovers and students of the game and lovers of Dennis Bergkamp. My only gripe with the book is that whereas his early years and Italian years are described with detail, his time at Arsenal is more anecdotal, and the season by season transition and detail feels missing. Still, a fantastic book on arguably the greatest no 10 ever.

Written by: Umair Naeem

Van Gaal to Arsenal? Would he move us to the next level?

Dutch football media fully expect Louis van Gaal to go to England after the world cup, but they are still divided as to which club he will be managing. VI International, by far the best Dutch ‘voetbal’ magazine, reported that one part of football journalists expect Van Gaal to go to the Mancs, and the other part actually believe he will be managing our very own Arsenal next season.

The latter believe the  fact that the club have still not announced a new contract for our current manager, and the imminent arrival of three Dutchmen for coaching roles at Arsenal – most notably Andries Jonker, who has worked closely with Van Gaal a few times – could be strong signs that ‘belligerent Louis’ might end up – not at the theatre of nightmares – but at the very Home of Football.

I am a fan of Van Gaal and believe he would suit our club well, as long as he arrives with the blessing of Wenger. Over a year ago, I wrote a post about how Van Gaal would manage Arsenal; and rather than repeat myself, please see link below:

https://bergkampesque.com/2013/03/22/how-would-louis-van-gaal-manage-arsenal/

Now I am not after the sacking of Arsene Wenger; for that, I respect him too much. It is up to Arsene to decide whether he really can take our club to the next level and I trust he will make the right decision this summer.  I have incredible respect for him; especially, for sticking with the club during the financially barren years whilst being at the very peak of his career. He could have gone anywhere to win more (easy) silverware, but he stuck with us; and for this we should remain grateful.

However, I am now doubtful whether Arsene can take us to the next level; and although I don’t want him ever to be sacked, if I am totally honest, I am also not particularly looking forward to another season under his management. In the next few weeks, I will write a separate post about why I fear that Arsene will not take us to the next level (if HH does not beat me to it?!). But this post is about Van Gaal’s potential suitability for Arsenal.

If Van Gaal is indeed coming to England AND Arsene is thinking of moving upwards (or onwards), this would be the moment – the one chance – to approach the Dutchman and steel him away from the Mancs. Arsenal would suit him much better than Man United. We have a team full of young talent and experienced, yet mouldable players, and there is a culture and system of football which is close to Van Gaal’s interpretation of Totaal Voetbal. Arsenal resemble Ajax in more ways than one; whereas Man United have always looked more like PSV Eindhoven in terms of style of football. It would take a long time for Van Gaal to put his stamp on MU and for this he has not got the time or the patience, I reckon. His next job will be his last and he never stays long anywhere, so he is likely to prefer Arsenal to Man United, if he had the choice.

Van Gaal would bring a more disciplined approach to our (total) football and less dependency on the quality and form of individual players. He would use the whole squad and drill everyone into one or more positions: there would be less freedom for individuals to express themselves. The focus would be playing football in a systematic, machine-like way. For every position, there will a number of players who can play in it, but the expectations, or specific tasks, for the ‘roles’ will always be the same. Van Gaal will focus strong on tactics, but like Wenger, he will not adjust these for each and every game: it is all about perfecting the system of football that will eventually conquer all. He is a self-proclaimed relationship manager who will work very hard and close with each and every player to get them to play the way he wants them to. He is very stubborn, just like Wenger[ and he will cause upsets within the team and possible within the club hierarchy as well. But he is also a winner and very keen to manage a club in England….

So if Arsene has decided, or is close to deciding to call it a day, now might be the time to act.

But what do you think, fine fellow Gooners: Would Van Gaal suit our club? Would he be able to move us to the next level, if Arsene calls it a day?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Nine Hundred and Ninety-Nine games for Arsene Wenger: Time to say Thank You!

Arsene Wenger: A Man in Full.
Arsene Wenger: A Man in Full.

To me it is incomprehensible that a modern day manager can last a thousand matches; and it remains to be seen whether anybody will ever do it again at a top club. It is a shame that Arsene’s 1000th game has to be away at Chelsea: the cauldron of disloyalty and classlessness. Of course, it would be very, very sweet if we were to beat them on Saturday, but given Maureen’s record at the Bridge, our current injuries and lack of attacking thrust in recent games, this is unlikely to happen, unfortunately.

But, whatever the result, nothing will take away the significance of managing our beloved club for 1000 games. Wenger has won 572 from his 999 in charge, a win percentage of 57.26. Alex Ferguson, who managed the Mancs for an unbelievable 1500 games, has a win percentage of 59.67. Given that the club has reached a new era now, with a strong financial basis and being fully able to both hold on to our players and buy quality additions, what is the bet that, if Arsene – eight years the junior to SAF – were to manage the club for another 500 games, he will equal or even improve the Scotsman’s win percentage?

Whether Arsene will stay for that long, or even beyond this season, remains to be seen. The secret of a long life is knowing when it is time to go; and I hope he will strongly consider his ongoing health status when deciding on the future. Bob Crow’s, RMT’s General Secretary, sudden death last week has made me realise again what demands are put on people who combine idealism and passion with high work demands and expectations by themselves and others. There are not many people left like Wenger, especially not in football, and, whether you are a Gooner or not, they need to be cherished and protected. Something that does not happen enough.

Even if Arsene was to stop at the end of the season, his legacy would easily be as big as Ferguson’s. He might not have won as much as the Scot, but he has introduced a style and quality of football that brought an enormous beauty to these shores, which is now copied by a number of PL clubs, most notably by Pool and the Northern Oilers. He was able to win heavy silverware with this style of football, which was all epitomised by the 49-games unbeaten run of the Invincibles. In twenty, forty, sixty years from now, true footie lovers – Gooners and non-Gooners alike – will still remember Arsenal under Wenger; you can bet on that.

He also stuck with the club when it would have been a lot easier to go somewhere else, where money is no object and life is a lot easier. He saw us through a very challenging period, which was made a lot, lot harder by the arrival of the Oil-For-Cups era. In stark contrast, Van Gaal left Ajax soon after the new stadium was completed, back in 1997; and although they have done okay domestically – which is not that hard – they appear to have lost the battle for European silverware for good (despite the odd peaks in performance).

Whether Arsene is still the right man to take us one step forward again is open to debate, but whatever lies in the future, we should be very thankful for what he has done for our club in the last 999 games, both on and off the pitch and in terms of laying the foundations for our long term position among the domestic and European elite. Everything is in place to make that step and let’s hope that Arsene makes the right decision, as it is up to him; this he has earned.

But from Saturday onwards it is one game at a time (OGAAT) again: for ninety plus minutes we’ll forget about our past and future and fight for every ball. Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners – Victoria Concordia Crescit!

“Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.”

Albert Camus

 

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 Written by: TotalArsenal.

How DB10 re-inspired me: ‘Stillness and Speed’

‘Stillness and Speed’, by Dennis Bergkamp – A Review.

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

In terms of footballing autobiographies I am not very widely read; I think the extent of my involvement is Perry Groves’s (which was ridiculously funny in places, but amounted to essentially a collection of anecdotes) and Kenny Sansom’s, which I still haven’t finished. However, having spent four days immersed in Dennis Bergkamp’s experiences, I have emerged from my self-imposed exile from humanity with a much more satisfied glow than these other former Gunners provided, or threatened to provide. I feel now much more like I did at the end of Fever Pitch: pleased that God made me Gooner, and privileged to enjoy football in a way that only a Gooner can (and as Nick Hornby pointed out, this sometimes involves intense disappointment, frustration and hatred). If you’re looking for an objective review, you’re probably on the wrong website. I don’t want to ruin this book for anyone either, so my review won’t mention anything in great detail, as I could not do any of what was said justice by rehashing it into my own words.

Overall one of the best things I found was that the narrative isn’t a ghost writer imposing his own linguistic artistry onto Dennis’s thoughts and portraying them as his own, but rather a transcript of interviews with him and others who knew enough about him to add something worthwhile to the book (family, friends, colleagues and bosses from the teams he played for – notably Ian WWW, Thierry Henry and AW).

As I read the first few pages, I began to realise why I didn’t become a professional footballer (as I had wanted to when I was 6), or even very good at football at all: the attention to detail that Dennis put into everything, particularly football, was incomprehensible to me; and the feeling that he understood deeply something I only ever see superficially grew as the book progressed, as he spoke about distances between players, angles, manipulating space on the pitch, working for the team and making the perfect pass.

As an Arsenal fan, knowing where the book was headed even at the beginning, I was delighted to learn that he had put in more time and effort as a kid playing football on the street than I have ever had the concentration to put into football – he would aim for particular bricks in the wall he used to kick a ball against and constantly test out what happened when the ball rebounded in this way or that, or when he changed variable x, y or z.

Another impressive trait I observed was that of him not objecting to other people seeing events differently to him: he called it having their own truth, and he encouraged the authors to get the points of view honestly from others involved, such as at Inter Milan, where he doesn’t seem to have had a very good time. And although he would defend himself against some of what was said it would only be to put across his own view.

Turns out Dennis Bergkamp doesn’t like to do things the way other people do them.

That’s why he signed for Inter instead of Milan, opting against joining the Dutch trio who enjoyed enormous success there, where he would have been able to integrate pretty easily with van Basten and co, but would have become just another player scoring lots of goals: he wanted to make a distinct mark. It is also one of the reasons why, when he left Inter, he signed for us rather than the Spuds where Hoddle, one of his favourite players, had made a mark. Whatever the reason, and really the story of every human life hinges on decisions which may be made on little more than a whim, he signed for Arsenal and he has Arsenal in his blood now.

It was illuminating reading about situations at Highbury when Bruce Rioch was appointed; this was a time when the information superhighway was more of a dirt track, and one I was not connected to: most of my ‘knowledge’ of football came from Amiga games, and I was more concerned with whether Arsenal had beaten Villa or Man United than I was with who our manager was. From the time he was appointed to the time he departed, all I knew about him was that he’d been the Bolton manager when they’d knocked us out of the FA Cup. I didn’t realise he’d had a vision for Arsenal to play attractive football too.

Despite my comments about Perry Groves’s book earlier, autobiographies would be nothing without anecdotes, and once Dennis has signed for Arsenal there are a good few of them, and as a Gooner a lot of them made me giddy with excitement, as I’m sure they will you lot too.

I know I said I didn’t want to spoil it but if you don’t know the one about his first meeting with Ian Wright, you’re in for a treat; in general however it was exhilarating to see what other people at Arsenal had to say about him, particularly Thierry and Wrighty, who played up front alongside him. I get the impression that it was really at Arsenal he was allowed to become the footballer he wanted to be and his commitment to the team (whichever one he was playing for) is something that is reflected in the way he takes pleasure as much in his assists as he does in his goals.

It is lovely to relive his great goals as well though: another reminder as to why I was never going to play football for a living though as he talked me through his decision making processes and the attendant awareness of everything around him on the pitch. The goal against Newcastle still has me in awe, as does the one for Holland at the World Cup.

Discussions of his experiences at Ajax, Inter and Arsenal lend themselves naturally to delicious considerations of his footballing ideology both by himself and others, notably Johan Cruyff, AW and Thierry. Certain transfer decisions are cast into lights we may not have considered before too, which, whilst objectively uninteresting, is still of immense interest to (certain) Gooners. I was just annoyed Vieira to Juve wasn’t one of them.
I’m not a literature buff so I don’t read many books more than once, but this is certainly one I will come back to. Because of Stillness and Speed, my three-year-old can now recognise DB10 and AW, and I feel like a better informed Gooner for reading it.

I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially to Gooners.

Written by: Jozefos2013

For another review, see this Guardian link:

http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/sep/21/dennis-bergkamp-arsenal-love-game

TA

Arsenal’s midfield fluidity starting to resemble Total Football again?

ARSENAL V FULHAM

 

The Review

Thanking Voetbal International for today's picture
Thanking Voetbal International for today’s picture

Is this the small beginnings of not quite ‘Total Football’, but the nearest that Arsene Wenger will get to it?

I was intrigued by the first half display. They played some really delightful build up play in the first 20 or so minutes, but without finding the net. Fulham, predictably set their stall out to not concede. In that respect they were the more successful. With Brede Hangeland back, and his young partner Burn, who was very impressive, they must have the tallest centre back pairing in the league? With other players around them willing to put in a shift, it was a far cry from the side that lost 6-1 in their previous league game. So scoring was going to be difficult. And apart from some long range efforts from Gnabry, who snatched at one when the whole goal opened up before him; and instead, it went the same as his other efforts, wide or high.

However, that was not what intrigued me. It was the movement from the front five or six that was different. So Gnabry played more central? Yes and no. He moved in from the right when Ozil went wide. When he switched flanks, Cazorla came more central. If Ozil went to the left side, then Gnabry went left of centre. All this was going on throughout the first half. The only constant player who never strayed wider than the width of the box was Jack Wilshere. With Giroud going out wide and leaving Gnabry as the central striker, it was very difficult to see if it was successful, because of the lack of goals. But what it did show was that there was a conscious effort to get an understanding between all of our attacking midfielders. I say this as a back drop with the penultimate post questioning individuals to work with Mesult Ozil. And the answer was that that all bar one player, it had some great moments in this battle for space in a crowded area?

The odd one out was Mesult Ozil.

In a later post yet to be released, I posed the thought that Ozil would be able to work around the others. In this example he failed to do so. But that is for a later discussion.

Right now, I was inspired by the fluidity, and I think in a more open game it would have produced a hatful of goals. It is still a work in progress I feel, and one that Ozil may or may not become a master of? Why it failed here was mainly because Giroud was not given more space by the movement around him, and he too, looked the odd one out? Gnabry’s improved: running into spaces to get the ball led to numerous one-two touches, and switches of play, and both Monreal and Sagna providing width and crosses that should have been better used. As a work in progress, Gnabry is coming along well. As to the cohesion of the rest of the midfield, we will have to see how that unfolds later. But it is intriguing?

From the opening corner inside two minutes, a through ball from Wilshere saw an Ozil shot blocked, when he ought to have done better? A blocked shot from Cazorla from a touch on from Giroud, The wild long range effort from Gnabry, and another one-two with Giroud saw a second Cazorla effort blocked. This was followed by the snatched Gnabry shot, and a blocked effort from Ozil: a rare long shot from Ozil(?) blocked, and a Giroud shot over after a good touch from Gnabry. It shows the variety I spoke of above, and all in the first 20 minutes … it looked only a matter of time?

However, it took a superb save from Chezzer, getting his right hand to a fierce half volley from Sidwell, and turned it away to safety, to keep the score at 0-0.

The rest of the half became more a battle for control, rather than shots raining in from all angles. Gnabry had an attempted curler that went wide, and Cazorla had another shot blocked. But for the most part, Arsenal were comfortable at keeping Fulham out, and Ozil apart, who looked a little off with his thinking, so receiving and giving passes were going astray, and Gnabry’s youthful keenness to score, the rest had a pretty good game. Although, it tailed off a tad in the second quarter, perhaps missing that urgency and energy that Rosicky or Ramsey might bring?

There was a different feel about the second half. I suspect the boss had reminded them not to repeat the Villa performance? Fulham started brightly, but when Arsenal did attack, shots were on target, and brought about a string of good saves. An angled shot from Giroud on the left, Gnabry’s fierce drive to the bottom left-hand corner, a blocked shot from Cazorla all preceded a goal mouth scramble. A cross from Cazorla to the far post, Sagna shot block, Koscielny shot blocked, Gnabry shot from equally close range, blocked. You could be forgiven for thinking it was not going to be our day?

That all changed a minute later. A lovely pass and move with Monreal, Cazorla kept moving with the final assist coming from Wilshere, and a first time shot hit with more accuracy than power saw the ball nestle in the bottom right-hand corner. Cazorla was a happy boy again. Five minutes later he repeated the trick in the same corner, hitting low first time. 2-0.

With 20 minutes to go, Lukas Podolski came on for the fast developing Serge Gnabry. He too had a terrific shot saved by keeper and woodwork, but had little else to add to his claims for a first team start, but not from the lack of trying. Fulham also tried to get a consolation goal with their sub, Darren Bent, who looked clear on goal but a late intervention by Koscielny forced him to shoot wide before he was clattered in the box. Certain penalty had Bent not got his shot away first, but I’ve known refs to give it anyway?

Ox came on with about 5 minutes plus stoppage time, and he became the third sub on who might have made it on to the score sheet late on, with a backward leaning header that had direction but too much height. Just a late corner scare that ended the game, otherwise the clean sheet was never really threatened.

It would have been nice to have written this as something to put the smile on one of our number who is having to face a very tough battle in the coming days. Instead it is written for the records, and despite the background on a personal level, I hope JB will not mind if I stuck to purely my insight of the game. Our thoughts are with you, but we understand that being TOTL is a triviality in your circumstances.

Best wishes, as always, JB.

 

Written by: Gerry.

Montoya, Costa, Gündoğan, Bender: Who’ll move Arsenal forward?

How I’d Help Wenger Win the Title

I was originally writing a comment to TA’s post asking what everyone would do if they had a minute in a lift with Wenger to tell him what they’d have him do to win the title. After writing for about 45 minutes, I realized that this probably couldn’t be explained in a minute. Maybe, if I could have an assistant manger’s position at Arsenal for a few months I could explain this all to Wenger. 😉

So I decided to write a post of my own to explain my rather long (and maybe extremely boring to some) plan to bring the Premier League title (and other trophies) to the Emirates Stadium, where they belong. So I’ll do my best to put my plan into words, and justify why I think it’s a good one.

PremiershipTrophy

First Wenger needs to sign Montoya on a pre-contract and Costa, now or in the summer. Should Costa arrive now, he’d give us a huge boost for the rest of the season and probably push us to a trophy. If we have to wait until the summer, Bendtner will be able to fill the backup role very well. Costa would be the finisher Ozil (and everyone else) would love to link up with. He’d score boat loads of goals as well as have the “SQ Signing Affect” (like Ozil) and bring a renewed confidence to the team.

Costa could play as a lone striker, behind Giroud as a CF, alongside Giroud as a RS/LS, or even be a super sub when he’s too tired to start. Montoya would be a great attack minded RB to take over from Sagna. I’ll explain more about the role Sagna would assume after Montoya arrives in the next step. Also Montoya comes from Barca, so he really knows how to play football. He would give Jenkinson time to grow, as well as competition when Jenks is ready for full time first team action.

Next he needs to resign Sagna and Bendtner to new contracts. Nicky B is a highly underrated option and has years ahead of him to grow still. He’s a great option to start the odd rotational game, be a super sub, and strikes fear into our opponents with his legendary ponytail. 😉

Sagna goes without saying. He’s Mr. Reliable as TA calls him! He can do the job at RB for maybe another season and then move to the middle and give us cover there for a few seasons. He’s also a real leader and seems like a stand-up guy. He has stuck with us through all the hard times (one of the few) and deserves a big paying contract for 3 or 4 more years before hanging up his boots. After that I see him as the kind of player who would get his coaching badges and I’d love a legend like him to join us as a coach.

The next step is to utilize Bendtner and Gnabry more. Giroud is the kind of player who loves to play every game, but we all know he can’t. Very few players can. Nicky B is a similar type of player, better in some ways and worse in others. They are both quality target men who hold up the play well and can finish a chance in the air or a great cross on the ground. However, Giroud is more of a link up man. He likes to spread the ball around. Nicky B seems a little more dynamic and likes to take a man on right on the edge of the box and have a shot. He’s selfish, in the best of ways.

They’re different players whose talents should be recognized and utilized. Maybe we should even try playing them together sometime. Because they’re both target men, this seems like it would be a waste of a field position, but let’s look at the perfect example this season: Soldado, he can score the occasional goal by himself, but quite frequently has looked stranded up front at Tottenham this season, as he’s a target man getting too little aerial service. Then in comes Adebayor, another target man who is slightly more dynamic, who has been on the fringes of the club for a while (similar to our Nicky B?). Suddenly Tottenham have learned to score goals from open play. They even recently beat Manchester United at Old Trafford! Something the mighty Arsenal, a much better team (in my opinion), couldn’t manage.

Perhaps putting Bendtner and Giroud up front together would help us in games where one striker would be too stranded? Sometimes a change of tactics can make all the difference. Then there’s Gnabry. He looks like a quality youngster, and I’d love to have him loaned out in January to a big team, someone who really knows how to play football, like us (Wigan, Southampton, etc). But if he’s not loaned out he needs to be used much more than Wenger does, mostly as a super sub, with the occasional start. He has the X-Factor! It’s his first season! We need to use him before he has second season syndrome next year. He can play winger on both sides of the pitch, CAM, and even striker. He’s unpredictable at his young age, one might say mercurial. He should be used now, or loaned out to get first team minutes regularly.

The next step would be to use this January window to address our biggest needs (aside from those already covered by Costa and Montoya). This would be the DM position, a slightly more attacking CM, a young CB to learn from our aging players, and perhaps a backup goalie of quality (seeing as Viviano has yet to make an impression). So first things first, a beast of a DM to take over where Vieira left off and where Flamini is temporarily filling in. There are two major, realistic options; here they are in order of preference:

  1. Yann M’Vila

Yann is a quality player who we’ve looked at in the past. He’s young and French and a beast (a true Wenger signing). Hopefully we could get him for fairly cheap from Rubin Kazan. He seems to be in the mold of Vieira and Wenger could definitely train him to be that player.

  1. Lars Bender

Rumor has it we already have a deal set up for him in the summer. He would be a great addition to our German core. He could step in and learn a lot from Flamini and be a real terrier in our midfield for years to come. He would cost us a good bit, but is also young and would be worth it in the long run.

The next position to fill would be a slightly more attack minded CM to eventually replace Arteta. Once again there are two major, realistic options.

  1. İlkay Gündoğan

A young German player to add to our growing German core. He looks exactly like a young Arteta to me. He’s already a world class player and under Wenger could be one of the best midfielders in the world. He would cost quite a bit, but could realistically join us and fit right into the squad.

  1. Paul Pogba

An extremely young CM from Juventus. Another young, beastly, French player. He’s admitted he dreamt of playing for Arsenal and would surely jump at the chance to join us. He would be a great addition who could learn a lot from our current squad and is a fantastic player for the future. He would also cost quite a bit (admittedly, probably less than Gundogan), but with his potential almost any price for either player is worth it.

Next a young CB to learn from our aging group of centre backs.

  1. Kurt Zouma

Yet another young, talented French man. He looks like a younger Koscielny to me. I watched him quite a bit in the U-20 World Cup this summer (along with Sanogo, Pogba, and Kondogbia). He could be a wonderful talent from the French league, just like Koscielny was, and would probably come quite cheap.

  1. Fabian Schar

Admittedly, I’ve only seen him a few times (all in Champion’s League matches), but people have linked him to us quite heavily this year. People say he is also the next Koscielny, but from what I’ve seem he’s more like the new Vermaelen. He seems to enjoy picking up the ball and running out of the back, as well as going forward for situations centre backs wouldn’t usually be in (for example, he is the penalty taker for Basel, from what I hear). I believe he could be a great prospect for the future. For me, bringing in Zouma and Schar would be ideal. He should also be quite cheap.

  1. Matthias Ginter

We’ve been linked with him for a while. I must admit I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him play, but from what I hear from other’s and what I’ve seen on YouTube he seems like Vermaelen. He seems to be more attack minded and can play CB and DM. He also would probably be relatively cheap and would be a good young German prospect.

Finally, a bonus of a talented backup keeper. There are actually very few options that would likely come to Arsenal in a World Cup year and risk not starting every game because of Szczesny’s talent.

  1. Julio Cesar

He may not play every game, but it’s better than playing no games for QPR. He needs to earn his place back in the Brazil squad and he’s an aging keeper who could cover for Szczesny for a year or two and will be motivated to play well and challenge him. And the best part, he’s free!

  1. Iker Casillas

One of the best keepers around, if not the best, but he can’t seem to break into the Real Madrid squad. From what I hear, he wants to leave and he’s been linked with us and City quite a bit. I’d rather us get him than City, so it’s worth a try. He’ll be motivated to beat Diego Lopez to a Spain spot and prove he is really the better keeper.

  1. Guaita

At one point in the summer we were all told by the media that we had signed Guaita from Valencia, and that it was all but a done deal. In the end, it was either lies or it fell through as we don’t have him. This kid is younger than the other options, but perhaps this is good as it would give Szczesney competition for years to come and seems a fairly good keeper. I haven’t seen him play, and I doubt he’s in the same class as the other keepers listed, but perhaps a good option. He would probably cost considerably more than the other two.

Finally, Wenger needs to get this team playing like we’re fighting relegation every single game, and we need maximum points and pluses in the goal differential column as possible. This team seems to have great spirit and desire and Wenger needs to bring that spirit out every game. The perfect example is the second leg against Bayern last season. The team needs to play like we have nothing to lose, play for a clean sheet every game and focus on keep our possession stat as close to 100% as possible. We will have to take our chances up front and there may be a few 1-nil’s, but that’s how you win titles. The team needs to be fearless, like we’re the best in the world and we just need to play our football and win every point and bit of goal differential.

(Note to the readers, this post was written before Lewandowski was announced as a Bayern player and before it was announced that Theo would be out for 6 months. As a result I have edited the post to change the paragraph about Lewandowski to being about Costa and I am now adding a paragraph about Theo replacements.)

Today (January 6, 2014) it has been announced that Theo Walcott has torn his ACL in the FA Cup game against Tottenham and will be out for 6 months. As a result, we only have Giroud who can play a striker role well in our current system. We also only have three wingers again, at least until the Ox is back. Therefore, we have to buy a winger who, like Walcott, can play winger and striker.

  1. Marco Reus

Marco Reus was originally a striker converted to winger (similar to Theo). He would add to the German core and would give us pace on the wing or in the middle. He can also play CAM and is still young. He could be developed into a player who could play any position Wenger would want. He could become a world class player with us and will link up perfectly in Ozil.

  1. Stephan El Shaarawy

El Shaarawy is a player Wenger has admitted liking in the past. He is even younger than Reus and can play winger or CF. We could switch the system to play a false nine type CF (similar to Barcelona’s system) and play El Shaarawy there. This system would also be on that Podolski would thrive in. El Shaarawy is a skilled player and more of a true winger, but could possibly fill the need if required.

One final bonus that would please every Gooner is the return of a legend. Bringing back Cesc Fabregas would be the icing on the cake. If we were to switch the system to play with a false nine CF type player, Fabregas could slot in there when we needed someone to fill the role. Should we not do that system, Cesc can play the DM role of our pivot, the CM (box to box role) of the pivot, and even the furthest forward CAM position when Ozil needs to rotate out. Imagine the midfield we could have with Ozil, Santi, Wilshere, Ramsey, AND Cesc! We could possibly have a better midfield than Barcelona and Real Madrid! This signing would also give us that “SQ Signing Boost”, as well as give us back an old captain and a son of Arsenal and of Wenger. Whether he’s signed this month, or next summer, this signing would be the best possible thing for Arsenal. It will represent a complete turnaround from previous years of letting our captains go. Bringing back Cesc is ideal and would secure trophies for years to come.

If these steps are followed we will win a title/trophy this season, as well as being set up for success for many seasons to follow. This coach, with this team, and this transfer budget is a recipe for success. We just need consistency.

Thanks for reading! 😀

Written By: Dylan.

Arsenal v Hull Predicted Line Up – Time to Rip Roar on

Safe Handsny ;)
Safe Handsny 😉

Really good game tomorrow and aren’t we lucky Hull have just beaten Pool: the boys will be extra focused now and when Arsenal are focused we are at our best.

This is the time to push on and grab every three points we can get, and Hull at home offers a good opportunity to make it 34 points after 14 games. The rest will have to keep up otherwise the gap will grow quickly. Let’s hope for another fine defensive performance, a midfield that dances its way to the goal and another selfless and oh-so-effective performance by Le Handsome.

Predicted Line-Up:

Ars v Hull

It looks like Sagna will get a rest due to a slight hamstring injury, and I reckon Rambo will be rested for the Everton game. Jack to sit next to the Flame and Rosicky to play RM. Nacho to get another game and the rest picks itself right now (Cazorla needs to keep playing now to find his best form).

Some will say, Theo will/must start and they could be right. I have a feeling he’ll start on the bench and will get 30 minutes, but would love to see him start.

On the other hand, Wenger might surprise us and rest OG and replace him with Theo tomorrow. I really hope he will not do that but wouldn’t be surprised if that is the case.

Anyway, let’s hope for another committed and fine performance and three points to the good guys. Time to push on and upwards and put some real pressure on Maureen and his Southern Oilers (our main competitor for the title).

Up the Arse – OGAAT – Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners! 😛

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Has Arsene seen enough?

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

During the previous inter-lull, I wrote a post stating that the following seven games might determine whether Arsene would stay or not. We had relatively easy matches against Norwich and Palace and a Mickey Mouse game against the Chavs, but also four real tests of the steel, character and quality of Wenger’s current crop of players.

I reckon the boys did well in those four games. The win against Pool was perhaps the most important result this season and it was not just the three points that mattered here. It was also the style of football and dominance of our football that was really important. We bossed the Scousers in every area and played some fine football during that match.

Our two encounters with Dortmund were also great matches, at least from a tactical point of view. I reckon the Gelb-Schwarzen are a bit further ahead of us but we both got three points out of our two battles, which is better than two draws in the end. Wenger thought his team had been a bit naïve in our home game, conceding the cruel hammer blow of a Dortmund late winner just when we were playing our best football. Anybody who plays a bit of chess knows the danger of attacking aggressively and neglecting their defence, and playing a team like Dortmund is basically the same as playing a game of giant chess.

I reckon our two matches with Dortmund were timed perfectly and have been great learning experiences for our first team. We will reap the benefits for a long time to come. Arsene was complementary about the maturity of his team in our away game, and I reckon he will have seen enough to make him think this team can get somewhere this season.

Unfortunately, we lost against the Mancs as a win at Old Toilet would have been the icing on a very impressive week. It was not to be, and Arsene claimed his team had been a bit nervous against Manure. We did appear to miss a bit of courage and we were perhaps a bit too conservative in our line-up and approach to the game – maybe Arsene himself had been a petit peut nerveux…

Yet, for the first time in a long period we were able to control large parts of the game at OT in the second half, and with a bit more luck and strength on the bench, we could have taken home a deserved point, or even more.

I am not yet 100% convinced this team can win the PL this year, but I am feeling more confident every week. Even the ‘small loss’ against the Mancs actually left me feeling mildly positive. I guess I will start feeling 100% certain we will win the league when we no longer see a significant drop in the team’s performance after a player in the spine suddenly gets injured; when the likes of Mertesacker, Flamini and Giroud can be replaced with like for like quality and no adverse impact on our football and results.

coaches bikes

Whether Wenger believes enough in this team to sign a new contract is anybody’s guess, but being ToTL and top of the CL ‘group of death’ must go a long way to convince him that he finally is putting something very special together again. And with Ozil, Jack, Santi, Theo, Rambo, Ox and Rosicky he now has the sort of players who can make Arsenal play the finest form of Wengerball once more.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Ten games in: ToTL, and the best is yet to come!

Will Arsenal improve further once Pod and Theo return?
Will Arsenal improve further once Pod and Theo return?

First of all (of course) I’d like to begin by congratulating the team on an awesome performance against the other in form premier league team in the league. I’ll single out Arteta, Cazorla, Sagna and Ramsey for special praise for Saturday’s performance. They went about their duties in spectacular fashion. It’s good to see that Sagna is getting back to his best AND has learnt to put in a decent cross. Ozil had a quiet game yesterday but still managed an assist thanks to Rambo’s screamer. That’s the mark of a world class player.

Anyway, my focus isn’t just on yesterday’s game. We have reached the ten game mark of the season and there is plenty to be discussed so I’ll get on with it. Firstly, the premier league table speaks volumes on the leaps and bounds that Arsenal has overcome this season. We look a class above everyone else, especially in the league. Top of the table with a 5 point cushion is very significant in a league where competition is cut throat. Of course we have tougher fixtures coming up against Chelsea and ManCity but so far so good. Also, this season has marked the return of our swagger. We play such beautiful football that I could be stuck in the middle of the ocean and still find a way to watch our games.

We still haven’t hit top gear yet as we still don’t show consistently the dominance we should, considering the talent we have in our ranks. This is a good thing because we will still get better. I also think we don’t score nearly as many goals as we can but like I’ve just said, all in good time. There have been a lot of improvements in our team but the one that has impressed me most (and I attribute it to our form) is our spirit. These days Arsenal is a big team, pure and simple. Our ability to win on off days, hold on to a lead, secure points against the run of play and quickly recover from losses has reassured me that, barring a spectacular injury crisis, we are very much title contenders. The win at palace and the recovery at Liverpool are prime examples.

Again I’d like to remind you all, fans and rivals alike,that we are playing this way yet we still haven’t had a full strength side all season. We still have Theo, Podolski and the Ox who are yet to return to the side. I expect the former two to greatly improve our goal output once they return to full body and match fitness. I also expect to see much more from some of our players such as Theo and the Ox.

Another great positive we have on our side this season is the fact that we no longer are dependent on one player. In previous seasons we’ve had players like Van Persie, Cesc and Thierry Henry, whose performances kept us above the surface. Now we have Giroud, Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey, Walcott, Wilshere, Podolski, who have all shown that they have the ability to win us games. It’s almost like with every game, a new hero steps forward.

Aside from all this though there are concerns that have risen in these first ten games that I feel must be addressed. My biggest concern as per now is the fear of some players suffering burn out. The players in particular are Giroud, Ramsey, Koscielny and less so, Ozil. As Bendtner showed against Chelsea, Giroud has no able deputy, especially with Walcott and Poldi still out. He has played virtually every game for us and an injury to him now would be monumental. Ramsey and Koscielny too have been piled with games because of their influence. Once this tricky run of fixtures is over, Wenger really should give them breathers.

My final concern lies within our football. We have been playing well but I feel the team doesn’t do enough when not in possession. Our pressing has improved, I must say, but still isn’t up to par. When we lose the ball in midfield we let the opposition run at us too easily, especially in Flamini’s absentia. There are players I have to commend for their tireless work rate off the ball and these are Giroud, Ramsey, Rosicky and Flamini. When we lose the ball, they are always the first to dive into challenges in a bid to win the ball back and I really rate them for that.

However, pressing can’t be the job of a few individuals but a team effort. There are players who are a bit lazy when we lose possession. Ozil and Cazorla mainly. Wilshere too is developing this but I suspect it has to do with his injury. These two players will rarely chase down the ball even if it is they who lost it in the first place. I sometimes find myself screaming at the TV when they casually escort our opposition players into our danger area.

This has proven very costly because whenever we’ve met teams that are ready to hustle, we struggle. Against Dortmund, we could only conjure some few minutes of possession in the second half, and for a team whose credentials are being questioned at every turn, this is just not good enough. It is something Arsene has pointed out twice so far so I’m hoping he is working tirelessly to improve.

In conclusion, I have to say that we have every reason to be positive. If we can navigate these two months without too many nasty surprises and in January bring in a Lewandowski or two, then the title will be ours to lose. For now, all we can do is take it a game at a time, keep the focus and showcase our premium brand of football that makes every match day worth the wait.

Come On You Gunners!!!!

 

Written by: Marcus