Inadequate CB-cover? Wenger might disagree!

A different perspective on Arsenal’s apparent lack of CB-cover!

Swansea City v Arsenal - Premier League

Many Gooners, including yours truly, have highlighted the risk – or should that be sheer irresponsibility? – of not recruiting additional CB cover in the last transfer window. We can consider ourselves lucky that our CB-duo of Koz-BFG stood strong more or less during the entire 2013-2014 season, as they gained us many a point with their well-organised and expert defending. But it was also good to know we had nobody else than the Verminator warming the bench in case one of the two would get injured; and of course there was also Sagna who suddenly had turned into a half-decent CB.

The latter two have gone and we signed a young, albeit very promising, CB/RB in the name of Chambers. Any decent organisation nowadays holds a risk-register, and the potential of either BFG or Koz getting long-term injured, or god forbid both of them joining Arsenal’s cosy sickbay, is surely somewhere on there.

So is Arsene/the club acting irresponsibly by letting two giants go and not recruiting appropriate, experienced CB cover?

I say yes and no, at about 30/70. The Dutch have a saying: ‘iets doen met de Franse slag’, which means something like ‘doing something the French way’, as in not very thorough or thought-through. Arsene’s approach to managing risk reminds me sometimes of how French cars used to be: looked great, fun driving experience and full of luxury inside, but not the most reliable, if you get me (and I drove a few of them…. but all company cars hahaha 😉 ).

Arsene inherited a solid defence when he first joined us, and by signing Sol Campbell – one of the very best he ever made imo – he ensured the continuation of it for quite a while. But once Sol left – how bizarre was that, hey? – we have not seen the same solidity to our defence we once were so used to.

I want to say last season’s defence came very close, but then I think back about our mega-defeats again and I am not so sure whether that would be fooling myself. We did not buy a DM either and it all remains to be seen whether Wenger has done the right thing. I hope he has but have my doubts about it nonetheless.

But Arsene has a plan, although I cannot state that I know what it exactly looks like.

He is always evolving our style of play, and I reckon he has decided to go with two ‘footballing midfielders’ in the two deep midfield positions and he will not continue with 4-1-4-1 for long. He has many a midfielder to accommodate and will feel he has great options for filling the ‘2’ in his 4-2-1-3 with real quality, and I fully expect him to play Ramsey and Wilshere there more and more from now on, but either of them can be combined with Arteta (the captain after all!), Flamini, Cazorla or Rosicky, etc.

So, although I would have loved to see us getting a proper, footballing DM, who can defend and boss the area in front of the defence like no other, I do understand Wenger’s apparent hesitation to finally get us one. This season we will see whether our soft-underbelly in the heart of our midfield will come to cost us or not.

But what about our defence? Why did he let TV5 go before a replacement was signed; why did he not buy another one before the TW shut? Is he that stupid or irresponsible?

Of course he is not stupid and neither irresponsible. But maybe the classical approach of having at least two quality players for each of the four defensive positions does not work anymore; and Wenger has come up with what could be a very effective alternative: less defenders  but with more rotation and, in the process, less dissatisfaction within the team.

Last season, the likes of TV5, Monreal and Jenkinson were largely spectators: managing just 24 PL starts between them, an average of just eight. And although Wenger should probably rotate his players more, this is inevitable as long as there are no major injuries. But football careers are short and players (need to be) hungry and ambitious: they want to play rather than just collect a payslip every week… and we don’t want those sorts of mercenaries at the club anyway… we sell them to the Northern Oilers hahaha.

cup (1)

And come to think of it, with Debuchy, Koz, BFG, Gibbs, Monreal and the brilliantly multi-functional and skilled chameleon that is Calum Chambers, Wenger might just have got the balance right between playing enough football by everyone AND having decent cover for all key areas. Say we play 55 games in all competitions this season: that is 220 games in total for all four positions – if we divide those by the six players mentioned above, we come to a fine average of about 37 games per player.

Of course there is more cover in the team as well, as Flamini can help out and the young and promising talents of Bellerin and Hayden can also be used (and there is Coquelin as well). But the older Frenchman will be used mostly in midfield and the talents will still be patient enough to accept their roles within the team.

I still think Wenger will not rotate a lot as he likes to play with a consistent back-four as much as possible: and who would not?! But suspension and injuries occur regularly during a season and this should ensure the aforementioned balance to remain effective. Debuchy, Koz, BFG and Gibbs are likely to play most of the games, but I bet both Monreal will get stints at LB as well as CB, and Chambers will do the same at RB and CB (and maybe even midfield).

We have enough cover for the full back positions, as in the classical approach of two quality players per position. And as both of the cover players can also play in the centre, Arsene might have found the perfect balance now. I hear you say, but what if both Koz and BFG get injured: we will be fecked! Well, in that case we play Chambers and Flamini or Monreal at the back, with Debuchy and Gibbs or Monreal as the FBs. Even if all first-choice players get injured or suspended, the line up of Bellerin, Chambers, Flamini and Monreal as our back four is not the worst one I can think of by any stretch.

Alternatively, we could keep pressing Wenger to buy us one or two top quality CBs to warm the bench and wait for their chance – as if they are readily available and willing to accept such a role. We only have to look at TV5’s desperation to leave us – one of our most hungry and Arsenal-loyal Gunners, and club captain in the process! – to know this is far less realistic than many of us think.

Will there be no defensive signings in the foreseeable future then? Well, I reckon Nacho is on his last chance (and he has really impressed me this season) and Wenger is watching him closely till January; and in the meantime he is keeping the nr.5 shirt and a suitcase full of cash ready to pounce, if so required.

Wenger might well have out-thought us arm-chair Gooners once more! 😉

Written by: TotalArsenal.

If you would like email updates of when new posts are issued, please see right hand side of blog to sign up (totally free of course).

Unleash the Beast: Perfect DM is Already a Gunner!

It’s time to unleash the beast or will the ‘Captains Curse’ strike again?

Thomas beast

So Vermaelen is reportedly  off to Manchester United. Away he goes to join good mate Robin Van Judas. I say stuff that, he isn’t going anywhere! For too long our captains have left our club when we’ve needed them most.  Cesc left because it was in his DNA; a little boy told Van Judas; Gallas was a big-mouthed mercenary;  Henry wanted trophies, and Viera wanted trophies/money.

Thomas’ favoured position is at centre back; problem is, it’s occupied by Kozzer and the BIG fecking German. Both have formed a formidable duo boasting perhaps the best partnership in the league. Unfortunately for Vermaelen, both are extremely durable and don’t look like being overtaken any time soon. Mertesacker has the composure and experience needed to partner Kozzer; Kozzer the speed and agility to compliment Mertesacker. If Vermaelen is to stay with our prestigious club then he needs to reinvent himself. But most notably, he needs to want to change.

How much does he want to succeed at Arsenal? He’s our captain and is very passionate, so I’d hope his own desires coupled with his will to win means he would do everything required. I’m suggesting a positional change to defensive midfield. It could be a risk, but it could also be a master stoke, so why not give it a chance. He has one year left on his contract…a situation similar to Flamini’s situation in the 07/08 season. Put your hand up and show Arsene what you are capable of.

Why will it work? Here are my reasons:

  • He has the technical ability in his passing and shooting to handle the position. Normally the role doesn’t require such at trait but at Arsenal it does. Is he any different to Song or Flamini in that aspect? Even Arteta has toned down his creativity and range of passing to fit in.
  • Thomas is an excellent tackler. His highlight reel is bursting at the seams with goal saving sliding tackles. A desired trait to break up opposition attacks before they begin. He’s without doubt not one to shy from a big tackle. Beautiful…it would lift the spirits of those around him and get the supporters out of their seats.
  • Versatility. He can play as a centre back and a left back. Our style of play can leave us prone to counter attacking. If Gibbs or Jenks/new RB are caught up the pitch, who better to clean up the mess?! If a defender picks up a red card Vermaelen can slot in to their position without upsetting our style of play.
  • If Kozzer or the BFG go down injured, Vermaelen can slot in an fill the void without bringing on a cold defender that isn’t up to speed with the game.
  • Long range shooting!!! Sometimes we can be a touch too predictable in the final third. With Vermaelen pushing up he can give the opposition another thing to worry about. In his first two seasons at Arsenal he scored some absolute rippers from long range.
  • Unrivalled aerial ability. The last time he lost an aerial duel Terry had hair. Not only is this added value in the midfield but it brings added safety to opposition set pieces, and makes us dangerous during ours.
  • He is a leader of men and the captain of our team! What better position to organise the troops.
  • In his first season (09) he was selected in the PFA Premier League Team of the Season. So we know he is a world class player when injury free. A lack of game time and continual battles with injury has robbed him during his peak years. He can be a force again!
  • It won’t cost us a dime! He becomes our first choice defensive midfielder with Arteta and Flamini as backup. It saves us from spending a large sum of money for a position that tends to be overly inflated market wise. It’s a lot cheaper to bring in a quality centre back.
  • Welsh Jesus and Ozil. Both can focus more on what they do best, attacking. Thomas is a team player and knows his role in the team. If he’s told to hold the fort you better believe he’ll give everything he’s got to do so. The more we see of Ozil in the opposition half the better.

If Thomas works hard on improving his fitness base during the pre-season, has the desire to make this position his and improves his positional sense with the coaches, I see no real disadvantages.

cup (1)

Don’t agree with me?! Well let’s see what Arsenal legend and midfield destroyer Patrick Viera has to say in regards to being a midfield general:

  • Put the team first

“The first step to playing as a defensive midfielder is understanding your role and accepting it. You’re there to work hard and to help everyone else, before yourself. The role of the defensive midfielder has changed. In the past it was just about protecting the back four, but now you are asked to do everything: score goals, make assists and defend. Your team-mates need to be able to count on you. And when you’re having a bad game you need to know they’ve got your back. This kind of trust gives you confidence.”

  • Use your football brain

“As a defensive midfielder you must be tactically aware. You’re at the heart of the team so you have to hold everything together and allow other players to express themselves. To do this you need to talk a lot and use your brain, because quite often you have to be in the right place at the right time. You have to cover the gap between the midfield and the back four, cover the left and right full-backs when they go forward and the central defenders when they push further up the pitch.”

  • Impose yourself early

“Physicality was a very important part of my game. I knew that the first contact in the battle was going to be really important. This is the moment when you impose yourself and win games. Being strong in the first tackle says, ‘I’m here and I’m going to try and make it hard for you’. Intimidation is part of the game, but as a defensive midfielder you also have to be really good technically. You have to have the ability to collect the ball from the back four and pass it on to the front players.”


Personally I think Thomas covers all three areas easily. He will burn opposition midfielders like a f*cking supernova

So…Manchester United…piss off. Vermaelen…stay. Supporters…rally around him, it’s time to unleash the BEAST!


Written by: OzGunner

Message from Bergkampesque

Although we have a lot of regulars on BK, we always welcome new bloggers. Just write a comment (sticking to the normal blog rules) and you will be welcomed.

Also, you can subscribe to our automatic email service: every time a new post comes out you will be sent an email to tell you so. Just see right hand side of blog:Follow Blog via Email’.

Cheers, TA. 🙂

Time to hand the armband to the BFG

The BFG is ready!
The BFG: our future skipper?!

Per Mertesacker to become Arsenal captain next season?

First of all, I would like to say, TotalArsenal our own Bergkampesque skipper has sadly lost a loved one. I want to offer my sympathy and support in this tough time. We are a tight group on this site; Frank (totalArsenal) is always there with some kind words whenever another member reveals some tough moments in there lives. A truly nice bloke, so this is why I have chosen to write my maiden post today to lighten the load on him, and if anyone else has a topic they wish to post, now would probably be a great time to do it.

(Written pre- FA cup final)

Ok, I know this topic has been raised before but I feel it now has gone to a different level. I will explain why I would really like to see the Big F*****g German take the armband in front of Thomas and Arteta (vice-captain) next season.

The moment that has cemented the BFG’s march for captaincy was in the FA cup semi-final v Wigan. When Wigan got a penalty and Gomez scored it, I was very nervous: the thoughts of Birmingham in league cup final came flooding back. The similarities were very close. That day it was a Laurent Koscielny mistake, and this time Per had brought a player down which cost us a penalty .Mertesacker, a Gooner – a man who loves the club – was clearly stressed about this: one mistimed tackle could cost us silver again, another year without :/ . But he fought on kept his composer and gave his all to put it right; and he did so when he popped up in the box as our furthest man forward and calmly guided his diving header into the net like a world-class striker on a training pitch.

For me, that was the moment he totally proved he is the man to skipper Arsenal! You could see the emotion in him as he celebrated, he truly felt the burden of what if that penalty cost us the cup.

Now it’s one thing to try to make up for your mistakes and take it on yourself to put it right, but its a whole lot more special and telling when someone actually does it, as Per did. He will probably captain Germany this summer at the Brazilian world cup. His age and experience are perfect. We have a English- German core in our team now with Podolski, Ozil, Zaleem and Gnabry, and young Eisfeld a promising great young player. I think he will be in our first team next season; by the way, I would give him Kallstroms place next season.

Back to Per; for me the way he responded to his penalty mistake was every bit the leader legend role of a John Terry or Vincent Kompany. He is solid and it does feel to me like the best skippers come from defence: a position where you can read the game and defend your team – he is also vocal.


There is no reason that this should undermine TV5. Easier said than done, I know, and to be fair it will a little, but the manager just needs to say to him that he wants him to be the same way as he is now; he too is a leader and a great player imo. He should continue to be a leader and give his full support, but while he is not in the side Per should captain the team.


Laurent Kosielny has signed a new long term contract so Munich can do one!

This really is great news because it continues to show that the days where we are selling our best players is over!

Best CB-pairing in the league
Best CB-pairing in the league

Kos and Per are our foundation, and while I hope Sagna also signs a new deal, he is ageing and perhaps it’s time to let Jenkinson take over; that said, you do need two very good players in every position, so for me, losing Sagna is still a very big loss. Not to mention that he can cover at CB, to replace Per with a player of equal quality. He does not need to be trained to get up to speed straight away and an external replacement would surely cost at least £15,000,000. That considered, to me it makes sense to just give him a high wage. However, our club is very shrewd with the maths, so surly they must have thought of this??? It seems clear to me, but hay I don’t know all the ins and outs.

Your thoughts, ladies and gents?

Written by: proudgooner

Arsenal-City Preview & Ideal Line-up: 4-2-4 with FlamTV in ‘2’!

Laurent Koscielny Arsenal

Of portents, signs and not much tactics…My very short match preview, if you will.

Normally, I’d be all about tactics and how to play the game, maximise our strengths and so on. But, time, tide, injuries and such have taken their toll. So, today, a bit of a metaphysical approach. First, the “context”.

For me, this is now a “nothing to lose” game. The “must win” before the last game or two was if we’d won or drawn Chavs and beaten Swansea. It would have been the 3rd of my 3 top games of March (Spurs, Chavs, City).  So far, we are 1W and 1L (followed by a draw against Swansea).

Now, the must win games are Everton and Wembley (at least nearer term)…

Bigger picture.

I didn’t expect to win the league, so that we are close and will hopefully remain so, is good enough. We are in the picture for one of the better trophies so should be happy about that. For those disbelieving regulars on this site, re-read the tone after 3-1 loss at home to AV in game 1…  My overall take, we are not so bad as the last two, and not quite so good as the first 65% of the season that came after the AV game #1. Without injuries it is far closer to the latter than the former, and so be it…

Now on to the game tomorrow / today itself.. I think we need to focus defensively and play our game. Not too aggressive. The first 20 mins are our downfall or our victory all too often. I think we play for the 0-0 or 1-0 stolen win, given the cast of players available. My lineup, I have two, the “standard” and the “jgc chefs special”. I expect the first, which is:

ars v mc conservative

I see Flamini wanting to make up for last time and we still need some steel.

Now the chef’s special.

This one says that if you stop Yaya you are a long way to stopping City. Of course, easily written in a few key strokes and they’ve plenty of others to step up and attack but basically, it’s time to clog the middle and I think for those who want to see something really different:

ars v mc full on

Yes, gentelfolk, the world famous 4-2-4-0. Nothing says I want to hammer any ***hole who comes down the middle like Flamini-TV5 in the middle. Rosicky will have to drop more to provide some service forward perhaps.. Kallstrom has played outside back and can again methinks, if you are worried about Jenks.. The front 4 can be more fluid and will have to work forward and with some aggro as needed, but Rosicky, Pod and Ox are all comfortable going forward at the front if needed and perhaps that would open up some “threat” we have not been able to with all our injuries. Finally, I have a major prize for anyone who a) believes this will happen; and if b) it does actually happen!!

Now, onto the omens, because tactics aside, with all these injuries, it’s gotta be about the burnt offerings and reading the chicken innards. So, here goes…

The SIGN: I wore my Arsenal jersey today for the first time in awhile, mostly due to different reasons of not being able to on prior game days. I have not worn it since we were last winning lots, as happens.

The PORTENT: Was out riding a kids duathlon course with my 7 and 10 year olds this afternoon. The 10 year old blasted ahead as he does, I was with the 7 year old. Anyway, he’s a bit of a dreamer and, how shall we say, tends to use all the footpath, as he looks about at everything. In doing this and going around/between a couple of people while riding in front of me, he loses it on a small footpath edge and falls .. Of course right in front of me.

I have few options here. There are people and small dogs everywhere (and I know how Gerry is about running over dogs!), but I am headed right towards his neck (likely also bad). So, swerving to a side we put several years of bicycle racing experience to work and bunny hop him. Sadly, not clipped in like the old days so height is limited, but I miss him and do my first ollie over the handlebars in 20 years (it’s not magically gotten any more fun, I have to say!).


The bad ones: Well, we crashed and there were huge tears (not to mention the 7 year old 🙂 ). Equally, I dislocated a finger and his perfect 7 year old chin is marred by a small cut from his helmet straps.

The good ones: Well, the ladies cricket team was there playing and rushed to our aid, and both he and I like sporty young women. He eventually did ride the 6km home, an attractive 20-something physio cricketer helped me stop from pointing left whenever I meant forward.

The great one: My Arsenal jersey was unmarked or damaged.

So, read what you will into all that… I am calling it either 1-0 Arsenal or 37M – 3 City. It’s all about the first 20 mins for us lately so…

Gentleman (and Ladies)….

Find your couch (to hide behind)!!

cheers — jgc

Arsenal – Swansea City Preview: Same team bar Koscielny?

Time for our Lion of Flanders to motor us forwards again?
Time for our Lion of Flanders to motor us forwards again?

 Get Back on the Horse!

Kicked off the horse (and then stomped upon) Arsenal must hoist itself back into the saddle to play Swansea City tonight in a league make-up match.  This is a match that we simply must win and win in a bit of style to right the wrongs from Saturday’s indigestible lunchtime date with Chelsea.  Unfortunately, it’s not the first time this season where we’ve needed a visible response.  After shipping 6 goals against Manchester City in mid-December, we held Chelsea goalless at home in a nil-nil.  That same score-line followed our horrific 5-1 loss at Anfield in a similar home match vs another “big” club: Manchester United.  Swansea, even though they beat us 2-nil in this same fixture last season, have had a difficult season, replacing (up and coming?) manager Michael Laudrup, with Garry Monk, but still languishing only 4 points above the relegation zone.  Arsenal, we thought, was having a much better season but amidst another (all too predictable?) “injury crisis” seems to find itself unraveling at just the wrong time, despite the fact that winning this “game in hand” could see us pull within 4 points of the league leaders–despite the spanking we’ve just received at their hand.  Dropping points against Swansea would move us from another single (and isolated) 90 minutes of humiliation into a full blown end-of-season crisis.  We need to move on from the Chelsea beating by winning the 3 points we gave away so easily on the weekend.

Additionally, the match has implications for more challenging encounters on the horizon.  Manchester City comes to our stadium on Saturday and we must show a certain readiness for that one.  After that, Everton away looms.  They’ve just beaten the team we play tonight (Swansea, in a 3-2 scoreline) and they are the team who will be hoping we drop points to make that match a true “6-pointer.”  We stand 8 points clear but they have a match in hand, so any incentive we give them means our CL spot will be “up for grabs” in Liverpool, to borrow the famous quote of twenty five years ago….

We can only play the matches one at a time, so let’s keep our eyes on the ball and focus on this one.

Swansea come to Ashburton Grove not having won in their last 8 matches, but they may catch a big boost with the return of Miquel Peréz Cuesta, more commonly known as Michu, the man who scored two late goals to beat us in this fixture last season.  If he takes the pitch, many will fear his “sounds of silence” goal celebration and it could be an interesting test for our central defenders, given that Captain Tomas Vermaelen will be at the start of “at least 4 matches” alongside Per Mertesacker due to a Laurent Koscielny calf strain.  Wilfried Bony, always a handful just because of his raw strength and power, may also prove a threat.

On the other hand, new Swansea manager Garry Monk may try and control the match by keeping possession rather than pressing for goals.  In their position, and with so many Arsenal midfielders missing, this could be the best path to nicking a single point or more.  In a relegation battle, each point is precious and given our own troubles, the Swans may be sniffing blood in the water.  If they can keep us from scoring (as they did in last season’s fixture) putting Michu in as a sub might further inhibit our attack, given that I believe we’ll start with our better attackers on the pitch rather than the bench.

With that, I give you our starting 11.  I believe Wenger, a manager who believes or at least wants to believe in his players, will go with the guys who “failed to show up” at Stamford Bridge.  As such, the only change will be Vermaelen for Koscielny.  I realize this is at odds with those who favor dropping as many as possible, but so it goes.  We’ll see.

If there’s some fiddling in between those two extremes it could be a chance for a debut for Kim Källström (in place of Tomáš Rosickỳ).  I know nothing about the Swede, but he provides double the umlauts which we’ve been missing since Mesut Özil twanged his hamstring at Bayern Munich.  On the other hand, Rosickỳ has three special accents/symbols above the letters in his name….  My expectation is that KK could make his Arsenal debut as a sub if we appeared comfortable in the match; otherwise, his signing is another albatross around our manager’s neck and I doubt the legendary manager, under immense pressure once again, would dare to use him.  If we must chase the win, the more expected subs would be Yaya Sanogo and Serge Gnabry.  Not a lot of experience scoring late goals, but you never know, and Gnabry’s nice one against the same team in South Wales earlier in the season might prove a lightning-can-strike-twice sort of opportunity…. Flamini and Monreal or Jenkinson might be the more conservative route to help lock up a win.

Predicted starting 11:

Arse v Swans March 14


Bigger issues.

In this age of an in-your-face, everyone-is-a-pundit news (and scream) cycle, we went—in the space of 15 minutes—from celebrating Arsene Wenger’s 1000th match as Arsenal Manager to lamenting that it probably meant he was due a few more.   Jose Mourinho’s words about Wenger’s “legacy of failure” echoed—without even being uttered—after our 6-nil defeat.  Can the manager turn that humiliation into “just 3 points” or will it be the straw that finally cracks the camel’s back, and now, out of (what remains of the concept of) respect, we are consigned to watch the big humped beast fall into full collapse?  My hunch is that Wenger is a better “manager” than many of us think and that we will respond to the adversity and build the tiniest of platforms heading into another tough battle against a club with which we aspire to actually compete.  Or at least that’s my hope…

What do you think?…

Written by: 17highburyterrace

TV5 back, FlamShere DM pivot, Ox and Rosa on wings? Match Preview.

The BFG is ready!
The BFG is ready!

After a well earned ‘rest’ the boys are back in action against Stoke tomorrow. Never an easy and seldom a pleasant game, but I feel good about this one. Despite some Gooners believing we have a ultra-thin squad, we are once again able to both name a strong squad and bench for tomorrow’s encounter.

We are also able to select a large number of men rather than boys – as we so often couldn’t in the past – and this will make a big difference I reckon. Another PL away win – 9th in this campaign – will make us joined best away performers (together with that other North London team), but with Chavs and Mancs already losing there, we will have to give a full-blooded, yet controlled and clinical performance to take home all three points.

Predicted Line-Up

This team will do it tomorrow, I reckon:

Ars v Orcs

Probably no Gibbs and Monreal, and TV5, although available, is likely to be rusty. So he needs good cover, which Rosicky will provide. On the right are Mr Reliable and the Ox to provide thrust and speed. Ozil back in the hole, OG up-front (no risk for late hotel adventurous in Stoke – Ollie has style 😛 ), and FlamShere in the double DM-pivot, protecting the golden-triangle of Koz-Sz-BFG, whilst providing central thrust and organisation as much as possible.

I expect Ozil and Jack to run the show, with Flamini providing controlled physical and positional support behind them. Ox and Rosicky will offer a lot of energy and speed and OG will be needed both up-front and at the back.

These eight men and three near-men know what is at stake and what they have to do. Time to slay the Orcs.

And on the bench we’ll have the likes of Santi, Pod, Gnabry, Sanogo and Arteta to make a difference if required.

Up The Arse!


Time for TV5 to replace Flamini & Who to be our (b)Ox to (b)Ox player?

Time for our Lion of Flanders to motor us forwards again?
Time for our Lion of Flanders to motor us forwards again?

The transfer window closed without any reinforcement in our defence or attack. I said jokingly yesterday that Wenger was after a player starting with a ‘K’, as we were being linked with Klose, Kalou and Kim Kallstrom( KK). We got KK who is supposed to help out in the box to box position; but then he arrived already injured, apparently. If the squib wasn’t already damp enough last night, it became saturated this morning with the announcement that our only signing arrived with a back problem that will keep him out for at least six games.

I don’t know what to say, guys and girls…. So let’s move on.

With Flamini out and Arteta seemingly struggling with getting back to 100% fitness and form, we have to ask ourselves who can strengthen and reinvigorate the so important double DM pivot of our team. Flamini and Arteta looked slightly sluggish and disorganised against Southampton, and although I reckon the DM pivot will not be tested as much tomorrow as it was on Tuesday, we will need to make some changes to get the team motoring again.

We will do a pre-match tomorrow morning, during which we can discuss the best line-up against Crystal Pulis’ park-the-bus formation in more detail.

In this post, I would like to discuss what we can do to replace Flamini’s defensive and leadership qualities. Furthermore, it would be good to discuss who should play in the box to box position, now that Rambo and Wilshere look to be out for a few games at least.

I reckon we are missing a trick with leaving the enthusiastic and powerful Vermaelen on the bench for so many games. If Arteta is fully fit, he should normally play but if and when we need to have more steel in midfield – somebody who is good in the air and can tackle properly – Vermaelen could be our man. He also offers additional thrust and has a venomous long distance shot. On top of that, he offers presence and energy and he is now wise enough to contain himself when needed (I hope!).

The above is linked with the second question: who to play in our box to box role?

I am hoping Rosicky is recovered enough to play tomorrow, and in the foreseeable future, in this position. The combination of Arteta and Rosicky could work a treat, as both are experienced and multi-disciplined midfielders.

It would be good to have a second option, though, in case of fitness/injuries issues for Arteta and/or Rosicky. Should Santi play in the box to box role, next to Arteta? Wenger tried Ox there against Coventry recently, but that was with Jack providing the defensive cover (which is not his core strength, is it?). It did not really work and I reckon that either Cazorla or Ox can only play in the box to box role if they get proper defensive cover.

I have my doubts whether Arteta will be able to do this, especially in the big games coming up. Therefore, I am hoping Wenger is going to try something different here; and for me Vermaelen could be the answer to our midfield puzzle. With the Lion of Flanders protecting the back four, Rosicky, Ox, or Cazorla could play deeper whilst supporting the four in attack regularly. I could also see this being done by Nacho or Sagna, but TV5 is the best option of them all imo.

I would also like to see Ox play properly in the box to box role, although Rosicky will have to be our first option until Jack or Ramsey return.

What do you think fellow Gooners?

With Theo and Rambo out, and no additional striker bought in January, who are going to score our goals?

AB wrote this succinct comment which is directly linked to the above question:

TA you said it’s our midfield that delivers these [goals] – we don’t need more in the way of strikers. And I agree that’s the model that Wenger has built. But without Walcott and Ramsey, the model looks less sound. Oz and Ros are more creators than scorers, although I have never fully understood why given their technical skills. Gnab and Ox both look like they will score goals, but are yet to really break through on this front, and it’s too early to count on them. Which leaves Santi and Pod, both proven goal scorers. However, neither has hit sustained form this year (partially excused given injuries) and Wenger does not seem minded to play both together. They are going to be really important for us in the next 6 weeks – not least because Giroud is as much a space creator as he is a goal scorer.

This all adds up to goals being harder to come by in the next 15 games than they were earlier in the season. The importance of our defence being water-tight is therefore all the greater.

What do others think – where are the goals going to come from if we are to put 2 or 3 past opposing sides?”

What can I add to this?

I reckon, Wenger will need to start playing Pod more now, and with Santi possibly in the box to box role it could work a treat. We could play Pod – Ozil – Ox/Gnabry behind Giroud and Arteta/Vermaelen-Santi/Rosicky in the ‘DM’-pivot. We would have three regular goals scorers in the team with Pod, Giroud and Cazorla, whilst Ozil, Ox, Rosicky and Gnabry also can contribute. I don’t think it will lead to goal fests but it might be enough to win a lot of games, especially if our defence keeps performing so strongly…. for which we need a good replacement for Flamini…

What do you think fellow Gooners?


Written by: TotalArsenal

Is it time to hand Per Mertesacker the armband?

images (3)


Leadership, whether in sport or business, is a fascinating topic. Some believe teams do not need to have one leader; that all can lead together. I guess the latter is true as long as things go well. The football equivalent to the Harlem Globetrotters, from the city with the beautiful horizon, did not seem to need a leader, as trophy after trophy was won with breathtakingly beautiful post-total football. But then Guardiola left and slowly it became clear who their real leader had been; and when Barcelona was being humiliated by Die Lederhosen, home and away, there was nobody who stood up and ordered the troops to fight back.


I am not going to be entirely popular on my own site by stating that Wenger has been quite poor in choosing his leaders for the team, especially in recent times. I reckon this is because he does not really rate the captaincy of his team, as he expects the whole team to lead itself, rather than just one individual doing it.


I also believe there should be more than one leader, so that when things are not going well on the pitch various people stand up and fight for the cause. The best test of our leadership ability is when we play our most loathed opponent in recent history, the Mancs. Last year, the first year of the traitor at Manure, was so poor in terms of leadership, epitomised by Vermaelen’s early, painful capitulation by meekly handing that boy-man the ball on a silver plate.


Two weeks ago, our leadership on the pitch was a bit better, but it still was not brilliant. We played with too much respect for our opponent and did not really play with the belief we would be able to turn things round. Flamini and Arteta did their best to get the troops going but it was not enough. 


Watching Mertesacker operating as the captain for Germany made me think again what a fine captain he would be for Arsenal. I have written a few posts over the years stating that Wenger should never have made Vermaelen our captain but have handed the armband to our BFG instead. Vermaelen has become a worse player as a result of the captaincy, as for me he is a specialist rather than a natural leader, who needs to focus hard on his own role rather than also having to think about team management as well. Why he is still the captain is beyond me and can only be explained by Wenger’s apparent belief that it does not really matter who captains our team.


Yet, Mertesacker’s strengths are organisation and leadership and I reckon we would still get a lot more out of him by HONOURING him with the armband. The longer he has been with us the more I believe he is our new Tony Adams, and there have not been many good leaders as Adams has been for us in recent history.

The BFG is not just a brilliant reader of the game and excellent organiser of his defence – just like Adams was; he also has that bit of mongrel in him, that real desire to win and put his heart and soul into every performance. He loves Arsenal and the rest look up to him.

I love all these qualities in Mertesacker and for me it is time to hand him the armband; to make him our captain, our leader. It will give him wings and the team the leadership it craves for. 

But what do you think, fine fellow Gooners? 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Was that Bendtner and Vermaelen’s last chance?

Where is our Lion of Flanders gone?
Where did our Lion of Flanders go?

Both Vermaelen and Bendtner are at an age now when there is no more time for trial and error. Last night’s game against the Chavs was a brilliant opportunity to show to all of us how they deserve to play in the first team far more regularly than they have been doing, but both failed to take it.

Bendtner appears to play with an air of indifference, or is it just a lack of focus? Giroud is technically not a much better player than the Dane but he just brings focus and work rate; and with those two anybody can get far in life, especially if a bit of talent in something is added. For me, that was Bendtner’s last chance and it is now time to let him go. Sanogo and Akpom should get some more opportunities in the first team from now on.

With Vermaelen there is never a problem with work rate… or maybe there is. Is he working too hard; does he want it too badly? Thomas always plays with full passion and energy and I love him for that. But as we witnessed on many occasion last season, he lacks composure and focus, especially in the bigger games.

As a captain, he should ooze calm and confidence, but often the opposite is the case. I have always felt that Wenger made a big mistake in awarding the Belgian Pit-bull Terrier the captaincy: he is not a captain but a warrior – a first soldier. An Arsenal captain needs to have composure and overview, organisational and communication skills and ability to read/predict the game, and fight till the very last second of the game. TV5 offers us the latter in bucket loads, but the other areas are sadly missing to a large extent.

I reckon TV5 is a good CB to have as a stand in for Koz but he cannot replace the BFG adequately. I am not sure whether being the current ‘third CB in the squad’ is good for him either. Thomas needs to play regularly, and it looks like this will be his last season at Arsenal; he might even be leaving in January. Last night was a great opportunity to convince us otherwise, and although he did not have a really bad game, he just did not do enough to push Koz out of the first choice CB-pairing any time soon. Time to move on, Thomas?

I agree with most fellow Gooners that Jenkinson also did not make the grade yesterday. But he is still young, and we know he only starts to become good once he has played a few games in a row. And to some extent, the same goes for Ryo. Let’s give them some more time before we write them off: they might well still come good.

The two plusses from last night were Ramsey and Santi. The Spaniard seems to be getting fitter and sharper, although he is not completely there yet; and the Welshman showed his strength and confidence during a number of one to one battles with the Chavs’ midfielders, which really pleased me.

There is no need to read too much into last night’s result, though. If we make five changes in the ‘back seven’ (including ‘DMs’ and GK) then we are simply asking for trouble against a team like the Chavs, especially when leaders like BFG, Sagna, Arteta and Flamini are all missing – the latter two through not being available. That also makes me think Wenger did not mind losing the game yesterday, as he would have opted for at least the BFG or Sagna if he had cared for getting a result.

I am glad to have the game out of the way now and we no longer have to play in the League Cup this season. But now it is time to pick up our form and winning streak again by beating the Dippers on Saturday. CoYG! 🙂


Written by: TotalArsenal.

Do Arsenal have any DMs left: The Options. Chelsea – Man City: best result?


With Flamini probably out for a few weeks and Arteta at least suspended for one game, the question we are all asking is: who should we play in our double-DM pivot against the Chavs?

Although the League Cup does not really matter too much, I still would like us to put out a team with the full intention of winning it. We don’t know whether Maureen will take this game serious – as in fielding his strongest team – but we can be assured he does not want to be beaten by us either; and with a strong squad he should not find it too difficult to field a team that has a good chance of doing so.

Wenger will want to rest a few players, though, and I expect the likes of Mertesacker, Sagna, Gibbs, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud to get a well-earned rest on Tuesday.

The starting eleven for the encounter with the Chavs is likely to be: Fabianski, Jenkinson, TV, Kozzer, Nacho, Rosicky, Gnabry, Cazorla and Bendtner – as all these players really need a(nother) game; but what is not so clear, is who is going to play in the double-DM pivot come Tuesday.

I have a feeling Jack will start in this game, and he might even play in the deepest of the two DM-pivot roles: the Flamini or Arteta position, if you want. Jack can actually defend very well and his positioning and anticipation skills are good too (especially, if taking into account his young age). But he is still a bit frail and will need to put his body on the line if we are to beat the Chavs, and it remains to be seen if he can do that for 90 minutes.

So, it would be good to add some proper steel next to Jack in the DM-pivot and the question is who that should be. I would say, Frimpong is a strong option, but then I don’t know how fit he his and whether Wenger still has plans for him. It looks like he is not going to make it at Arsenal, but I could be wrong. Frimmers would definitely add steel but the combination of a lack of games and proneness to get himself booked is not great right now.

Then there is the very promising, Chelmsford born, Isaac Hayden. I have not seen enough of him to decide whether he would make a good DM partner for Jack on Tuesday, but I welcome your views.

We also have the Leytonstone born, multi-skilled, Nico Yennaris, who really could do with a game and who really impressed me during a Norwich-Arsenal Reserves games I watched a year ago.

We could also chose for more experience in the middle and put Ramsey or Rosicky next to Jack, and if Jack is not fit enough to start, I would also not be surprised if Ramsey and Rosicky will start both in the DM-pivot against the Chavs. But Ramsey could do with a break and Rosicky is needed in the hole…. Not easy at all.

Finally, Arsene could do something left-field and put Nacho, Sagna or TV in midfield for this one….. Nacho would mean Gibbs needs to play another game, but that should be fine as he missed out on playing in the England games. TV would mean playing BFG as a CB, which is not ideal as he did play in Germany’s International games…. And Sagna could do with a break for the same reasons….

Really hard to say what Wenger will go for but still good to see we still have a few options for the DM-pivot on Tuesday.

Southern Oilers v Northern Oilers: ideal result?

Today’s game between the Oil-drugged clubs should be watched by Gooners with interest. Whoever wins this one will come out of it with a strong belief they are the bee’s knees this season, and whoever loses will suffer a setback. A draw would not be too bad for either and would probably help us in terms of having a mini-gap with both teams before we go into a couple of more challenging games.

In one way,  I want a draw but I would love to see the Chavs properly beaten today. I still feel they are our main competitors for the title this season, and we could really do with a morale deflating result today. Citeh are likely to continue dropping ‘easy’ points in away game this season, and I feel we have a good chance of beaten them in our direct encounters with them.

But what do you think: who should play in the double DM-pivot and what is the best outcome in today’s battle of the Oilers?

Written by: TotalArsenal.