Alexis, Mesut, Jack and Aaron the new Thierry, Dennis, Freddie and Robert?

Alexis CF, Mesut nr.10… with Jack and Aaron ‘Mid-wings’: Discuss! 🙂

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Regular readers know that I am a great believer in Giroud and that I do not see a need to buy a CF anytime soon. Giroud allows others to shine and he carries a strong goal threat himself. Ollie is the complete package in the modern game, even though he is not the best classical centre forward Arsenal ever have had by any stretch. For me it is clear that Arsene wants our attack to be unpredictable and multi-dimensional, and Giroud offers a great base to operate from, especially if and when we play park the bus teams. His stats are great, his work rate good, and his total contribution to the team is simply fantastic.

I also like Theo, who offers speed and keeps defences close to their goalkeepers, often allowing our midfielders to boss the midfield. This works especially well against teams that like to attack us/ do not park the bus. With Theo we are at our most dynamic, especially once we have regained the ball and can break forward.

I love it that we have these two options for attacking different opponents, and I reckon Giroud and Theo will get plenty of chances to shine. But there is a third option for us, and that is playing Alexis as our CF. He can do hold/link up play, he is fast, he has energy and a great threat from outside and inside the box. He can dribble and take defenders on, and he also has a decent through-ball in his repertoire. He also is a great finisher and a predator with relentless energy and hunger. The total ‘pure’ CF package, if you ask me…

I would love Arsene to try Alexis as our CF, but I guess he will not do it until he has a good alternative on the left wing. With Ozil in the hole and Alexis up top, we would not be that far from what Bergkamp and Henry had to offer a  decade or so ago.

What we also need is good midfielders on the wings that can work in tandem with their flying full-backs: Bellerin and Nacho. Rambo and Bellerin have formed a very strong partnership in which the FB is the real winger and the midfielder is both an attacker and co-defender, and I reckon we need to buy a good left winger/midfielder to make the Ozil-Sanchez partnership really work.

But then I thought about Jack coming back in the new year. I see Jack in either Cazorla or Ozil’s current role, but both have been playing very well and it would be wrong to force either out. But what about playing Jack on the left wing for a while? Nacho and Jack would be able to work a fine partnership ala Aaron and Bellerin, and Jack can do on the left what Ramsey does on the right. Both would also be allowed to move about and interchange with Ozil, as to keep it all fluid and unpredictable.

This is how it would look like:

Midfield heaven

Of course we would need Coquelin back, which will take a while now, and Jack would need to be fully fit. But once everybody is available, this could be a very strong team in my opinion. Jack and Rambo could develop into our new Ljunberg and Pires… And with Theo, Giroud and Danny we would have options to vary this approach.

What do you think FFGs? 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

‘Giroud is rubbish!’ Why Wenger will not buy a ‘proper CF’

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Every time, good old Giroud misses a few chances and we do not win a game, you can count on supporters demanding Arsenal to buy a ‘proper striker’. Many of these supporters do not want to hear about Ollie’s very impressive stats because they want to trust their own eyes, and these simply witness a striker not taking ‘easy’ chances, and then we draw or lose the game and there is only one conclusion to pull: Giroud is not worthy of the Arsenal shirt. Get rid of him you tight-arsed Wenger – spend some fecking money!

Sadly, fans love to focus on Ollie’s limitations rather than his qualities and attributes he brings to the team. They have a certain picture in their mind of what a centre forward at Arsenal should be like. Wenger has worked with and developed some of the finest CFs we have seen in this country: from Wright to Anelka, and from Henry to Van Persie. So, you wonder why he is sticking with Giroud as one of his key CFs in the team?

This season, he is giving Theo a chance up-front, and it even looks like Ollie has become our second choice CF. Theo got injured during the Sheffield Wednesday game, and OG12 has stepped up for us, getting goals against Swansea and Bayern away; but a goalless display against the much despised Spuds was enough to criticise him once more.

So what is wrong with Wenger: why does he keep his trust in Giroud? Why doesn’t he get a ‘typical’ Arsenal striker who can score 25+ PL goals per season? Why does he keep rolling the coins in his richly filled trouser pockets?

I reckon Arsene knows better than any of us what a top quality ‘classical’ CF should be like, and he also knows that Giroud is not one of them. But you might remember Gazidis saying back in 2012 that Arsene allowed Van Persie to go for technical/footballing reasons. Many of us, including me, pooh poohed that comment back then, believing we were simply not able to keep him any longer and did not want to lose out on £24m by forcing him to serve out his contract. With hindsight, I reckon the footballing reason was with reference to our over-reliance on a top quality CF, and the risks that come with this.

In the 2011-12 season, we had become very dependent on Van Persie to win us games. The Dutchman loved to be the centre of attention and he revelled in the responsibility he was given. But Wenger, who at the time had very few alternatives for scoring goals on the pitch and on bench, will have realised that our overdependence on him could have easily ended up in catastrophe. An injury to Van Persie, or a sustained loss of form, could have been disastrous to our (minimum of) top four target. He bought Podolski before Van Persie was sold, and he brought Giroud to replace the Dutchman after the latter had fallen for the beauty of old Red Nose.

Since then we added Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck to our attack, let Podolski go and gave Campbell a chance to proof himself after a number of loan spells. None of these players, nor Theo, are typical CFs in the Henry or Van Persie modes. But what we do so much better now, is spread the goals between a number of players. Giroud (in 620 PL minutes) and Alexis (in 957 PL minutes) have each six PL goals, Theo has two (in 503 PL minutes), Koz has two and then there are a few players with a single goal for the team. Not a bad return for 12 PL games, and we also now know that if one of our key goal scorers has an off day or is injured, you can count on another one filling the void.

This is so much better than being over reliant on one top CF, like Man City were to a large extent last season: once Aguero got injured they quickly became toothless and ended up winning nothing. The same goes for Manchester United, once Van Persie lost his shooting boots two seasons ago, the club struggled to get back to anywhere near the PL top, and Van Gaal still has not got the balance right.

None of our main competitors in the PL have a genuine top, 25+ CF anymore, other than MC, it seems. However, even the Northern Oilers have brought in a number of attackers to spread the goals as well, with Bony, De Bruine and Sterling all joining the club for £100m+ in 2015. Despite this, they only scored two goals in their last three PL games (after netting 24 in just 9 PL games) when they had to manage without the Argentinian firecracker, drawing against MU and Villa and just outscoring Norwich at home with the one goal. Furthermore, MU’s top goal scorer is Mata (!) with four goals currently, and the Chavs do not even feature in the BBC PL top scorers’ list 🙂 . The Spuds have Kane on six goals (in 1040 PL minutes). The question to ask ourselves is, is it really that hard to find a top quality CF or are clubs moving towards spreading the goals over more than one or two players, thus reducing their dependence on the one top quality CF?

Some might say it is simply a matter of having a good replacement on the bench in case your top CF gets injured; but, loose from the fact that top quality CFs are in short supply currently, a quality CF will simply not accept a second fiddle role. Instead, it is far better to spread the goals within the team: we become less reliant on the one individual and our competitors have a far more difficult job in isolating our goal-threat.

Finally, what Giroud, Alexis, Welbeck and Theo all have in common is that they have stamina and work their socks off (yes even Theo is doing this now) – something Podolski could not offer for 90 minutes, and I reckon this was the main reason for letting him go this summer. They are also different attackers with individual strengths that the team is utilising better and better. And together they get the job done, being both unpredictable and highly successful in getting the ball into the net in almost all games we play. I like to believe this is all part of Wenger’s bigger plan.

So, next time we do not win a game, make sure you do not focus on the one individual but realise that it is a collective failure. Times have changed, and the classic 25+ PL goals per season super CF may well be a thing of the past.

By TotalArsenal

Coquelin for Captaincy, Alexis the mini Bruce Lee, Theo the TIger: 8 Positives from Arsenal v Stoke

Three points, a clean sheet, our main strikers scoring each and our main assisters having an assist each. Great day at the office. That we only scored twice from 29 efforts on goal we will not spend too much time on, shall we?! 🙂

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I only watched the highlights on MOTD so no in-depth analysis of this game from me. Instead, I will share with you some quick observations and positives to offer a basis for discussion.

Eight observations/positives from a well worked win.

  1. We started strong, bamboozling the Stoke defence with high tempo football, lots of movement, and great variety of attacking play. Sanchez hit the woodwork twice, once with an archetypical gravity-defying header in full flight by the mini-Bruce Lee, and once with a precision drive from the edge of the box to the hero of the day, Butland’s, left goal corner. He deserved his season opener from one of these chances, but it will have to wait a little longer – next Saturday would be ideal! Theo could have had a brace if he had demonstrated a bit more composure, but more on that in a bit.
  2. But we needed an early goal to get a reward for our work and avoid the risk of conceding a goal against the run of play, which is our Achilles heel with the sort of football we play. All that energy and drive needs to be turned into goals as we cannot keep it up for ninety minutes. I reckon we need that goal before 35 minutes are on the clock, and luckily we got it.
  3. A great, aggressive but fair interception by Le Coq – a skill he has developed to the highest level – led to a quick turnover and Theo finally hitting the net. Ozil received the ball from Coq le Robber, and his ball over the top was well-measured and weighted. Theo controlled the ball well and sorted out his feet quickly to dink it over Butland. Great finish this time and the sort of goal we associate more with Walcott than being our tiger in the box; yet, that is what we all want him to be, and he has potential for it. Theo is more instinctive than composed, more a tiger than a wolf: he does not overthink or overdo, he just does. Sometimes it pays off, as it catches everybody unaware, and sometimes a bit of composure would have been the better option. But I reckon that is not how Theo is wired: he is a driller-killer, and he rather pounces a lot to get his pray at some point then wait patiently for the right moment. As a result, we will see him waste a lot of good chances…. But 11 goals in 11 starts, tell their own story..
  4. We had to wait a long time for the second goal. OG had only been on the pitch a few minutes before he hit the net. He looked a giant among the Stoke defenders when he jumped up for Santi’s well-measured free-kick, scoring a pain et beurre goal that he needed a lot. Just before his goal, Ollie missed an even easier opportunity, but let’s say he was still a bit cold (after being deprived from supporters’ luv for so long). Will OG become super-sub, or is Wenger alternating OG and Theo, depending on the opponent?
  5. Gabriel and Koz make a dynamic CB-duo, especially for these sort of games where we have a lot of possession in the opponent’s half and have to be wary of quick counters. Could it be that the BFG will not be a guaranteed choice anymore, or is he just injured at the moment? I hope Gabriel does not get in trouble for the elbow incident, but it was good to see that he was not intimidated by Arnautovic (?) and fought his corner. It would be good to hear how you saw the incident.
  6. Another clean sheet for the defence and for our new goalie, Petr Gunner Cech. After the nightmare opening against West Ham, we have now three out of four clean sheets, with just three goals conceded in in all our games. Petr had very little to do and will face his biggest Arsenal test yet on Saturday, but it is good to see that the defence is settling down and very solid right now. Without this we can forget about the title.
  7. I am loving our Spanish full backs. They provide width and are vital in keeping the tempo of our attacks going. They offer an important alternative to our box-penetrating play, and play the all-important triangles with our midfielders and attackers on the edges of the box so well. Bellerina put in a peach of a ball for Theo that OG would surely have converted. This boy will go far and fast, and not just literally speaking!
  8. One of my favourite bloggers, LB, suggested on another side that Coquelin should be considered for the captaincy. That was quite left-wing for me, but the more I think about it, the more I think it make sense. He sits in the middle of the team as DM, he is fearless yet balanced (against Newcastle he reacted brilliantly to all attempts to unsettle him) and he leads and communicates naturally. He is still young but should age come into this? What do you think fine fellow Gooners?

By TotalArsenal.

Predicted Line-Up: Rosicky and Theo on wings, FlamRam, Gibbs back?

Just a quick one as I am busy with Christmas preparations.

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Tonight’s game against the Chavs will no doubt be a wild affair. Strong winds are forecasted and let there be no doubt that all 22 players and both managers will be hyped up for this one. May the Canon roar and cause total mayhem in the Chavs’ defence: a great night to show the pride in our shirt.

It is the first game of four big ones in succession and a good start would lift both teams tremendously for the remaining games. It is also a London Derby AND the rebirth of the battle between the self-declared Special One and Le Professeur; the scheming strategist and the visionary entertainer; street wisdom and philosophy.

This will be the battle of midfield, no doubt. Last year, the streetwise semi-nasty Ramires taught us a lesson in aggressive midfield play and I hope we are prepared for the physical/aggressive approach the Chavs will instigate in midfield. If they play Ramires, which for me is almost a certainty, we need to let him know who is boss today in the first few minutes. Flamini has to be our man to do that and a hell of a lot will be expected of him today. The key question is who should play next to him: Arteta, Ramsey OR somebody else?

If it is Ramsey he will need to play one of the games of his life to deal with both the defensive side of things and link our back-six (including GK and holding DM) with the front-four. If it is Arteta, he will have to rediscover his old form again and dominate proceedings in front of the back five/six. Maybe Wenger surprises us all by putting Rosicky next to Flamini; we have to wait and see.

The other question is whether Wenger will go 4-5-1 or more 4-2-1-3: five midfielders or three attackers? He could start with Flamini, Ramsey, Rosicky, Cazorla and Ozil, but also opt to attack the Chavs with both Pod and Theo on the wings. I reckon the answer is in the middle with both Rosicky and Theo starting on ‘the wings’ tonight.

At the back things should be straightforward. Sagna, BFG, Szczesny and TV to start with either Monreal or Gibbs on LB. I go for the latter but would not be surprised if Monreal gets another chance.

Let’s get behind the team tonight and will our boys on till the end. Tonight’s game could turn into a special, one-off event to cherish for a long, long time.

Come On You Rip Roaring Gooners – Do Us Proud!

Merry Christmas fine fellow Gooners! 🙂

Written by TotalArsenal.

Predicted Line-Up:

Ars v Chavs

What happens when everyone is fit?

Once again we are coming off a victorious weekend where we brushed aside a strong side while some of our rivals dropped points. Ok, brushed is too harsh a word because as predicted Soton proved to be difficult to break down and it took 2 mistakes from them to gift us the points. I am not complaining, though. Anyway, enough has been said about the game.

Tomorrow we play a Marseille side who even at their very best would struggle against us let alone the injury ravaged side they have currently. They have Gignac, Payet, Ayew, Valbuena and N’koulou all out injured. It was as if we went into a game without Koscielny, Giroud, Ramsey, Mertesacker and Ozil. Needless to say, I expect us to bag all three points. We can’t underestimate them or get complacent, though.

Its good news for us as Lukas Podolski is back in full training and is expected to play in a few weeks, which brings me to the subject matter of this article. Our team is currently bursting at the seams with talent and it’s only going to get better once Poldi and the Ox return. Once everyone is fit and firing, Arsene will have one of the biggest selection headaches in recent history.

If you look at teams such as city and Chelsea, they have massive squads but you find that there is a bit of a gap in class between the starters and subs. I mean at Chelsea save for the Juan Mata fiasco, the first-11 virtually picks itself. Even at city it’s the same thing. Dzeko is good but nowhere as good as Aguero. But here it’s going to be very different. For example once everyone is fit and in form, do you drop Wilshere for Walcott? Does Podolski replace Santi? How will the team line up?

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You have a pretty established back 4 but that is where certainty comes to an end. Do you play a double pivot of Flamteta? If so what happens to Ramsey, Walcott and Wilshere? If not, which of the 2 will you drop considering their form? Considering that an in form Podolski is a massive goal threat, do you drop Cazorla or Ozil? If not how will you squeeze them in and what happens to Walcott and Wilshere?

We all know that when Wilshere hits top form, he renders himself undroppable so what happens then? Ramsey has cemented his spot in the middle and Theo is the best winger we have so what then? Cazorla was our best player by a mile last season and Ozil is…well Ozil, so how do you work this team ensuring you keep everyone in top form and happy? Note that to sustain a players form, you have to play them.

Santi Cazorla celebrates after scoring against Reading

Also what does this abundance in class mean for the form of the team? I mean rotation MUST be employed but too much rotation will disrupt our momentum, so how does the boss strike the balance between giving everyone game time but at the same time ensuring the whole mechanism of the team keeps running? And I still feel that Giroud needs a world class striker helping him, and so does Wenger, despite his recent comments, so we have a real conundrum on our hands.

There is also the small fact that we are a team based on development so players like the Ox and Gnabry must also find game time one way or another making this a very very interesting situation on our hands. Ultimately I think it bodes well for the team but we risk losing some players, especially this being a world cup year if a balance can’t be struck. There’s already been murmurs about Monreal and Vermaelen leaving and it would be a massive shame if either of them left.

To conclude, I have to say that no one knew how to rotate a team like Sir Alex did. At the end of a season, every player felt they had contributed to the success of the team. Here though, I feel like Monreal deserves a bit more game time. When it comes to rotation Wenger has his well documented shortcomings. However I trust him to find a solution based on his experience at the top level. I am becoming more and more certain that we will end our barren run this season.

COYG!!!!!!!!

Written by: Marcus

Wilfried Zaha: Arsenal’s Missing Link is Holloway’s ‘Precious’

Wilfred-Zaha

After extensively watching Wilfried Zaha ply his trade for CrystalPalace this year, I must say that I’m a big fan.

Zaha has great balance, pace, ball control and the goal scoring instincts needed from a forward.  He has a very unique running style that involves a wide stance, which is very deceptive and provides a great center of balance when running with the ball.  There are so many tricks at his disposal that he seems to create new feints, step-overs and turns with each passing game.  More importantly, from an Arsenal standpoint, he offers a more direct footballing style.   Despite over dribbling at times, Zaha relentlessly takes on opposing defenders with the desire to always cut inside, opposed to staying out wide, a la Gervinho.

First, I would like to take you back to a game he played vs. Manchester United last year in the Capital One Cup.  It was evident in this game that Zaha would have the talent to succeed at the highest level; however, I questioned his defensive work rate and his decision to not use his teammates more often, leading to a few errant passes and touches that left him with nowhere to go.

His trickery did lead to many Utd fouls though.  Still, I saw an extraordinary talent that only needed to refine his game before teams at the next level would start taking notice of him.  Fast forward a year later and he has assumed a lot more defensive responsibility than prior seasons and has become even more creative when taking defenders on.  He’s noticeably stronger and is using his strength effectively to shield the ball from opposing players.  He has shown true dedication to evolve his game and has become a well-rounded footballer.

The typical question that clouds such a big talent is whether he has the prima donna attitude that comes along with the talent. Zaha blends his confidence, boldly stating only Messi and Ronaldo are better than him, with humility; he credits his success to the faith put into him at Crystal Palace and those in the squad around him, in particular Yannick Bolasie, his winger across the pitch.

If Zaha were to make the jump to the Premier League, there are a few concerns that I would raise.  As previously mentioned, Zaha over dribbles and could still use his teammates more.  Often, his fullback makes darting runs down the flank, only to pass it to Zaha who does too many step overs/dribbles to no avail.  Fortunately, Zaha has the ability to make you forget a mistake very quickly by taking on three defenders and creating a scoring chance that only exceptional talents could produce.  Arsenal football is all about passing and moving into space (or it is intended to be that way) and Zaha would need to adjust his game to truly make an impact and break into the starting eleven.

Another concern is delivery.  Arsenal is in desperate need of a winger who can create space for those in the center of the pitch, provide crosses in the air and passes on the ground from out wide to our forwards.  Zaha’s excellent at creating space for others and has produced some dangerous in-swinging balls, but I have not seen consistent top-notch delivery from him yet.  However, this could be related to the lack of top-end talent surrounding him rather than a criticism of his ability.  Next, I question how Zaha’s game will translate to the top flight.  He’s used to dribbling around Championship defenders but EPL defenders are more adept at taking away space and knocking you off the ball.

At this point, I’m not convinced of two things regarding these rumours:

1)      Arsene Wenger would break his previous record transfer fee to acquire an unproven entity.  Zaha represents the typical Wenger signing; a young talent with loads of potential.  However, Wenger currently has Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gnabry trying to break into the first team and both are being played at the same wing positions with arguably just as much potential.  Arsenal’s rumoured offer to CP is in the range of £7-9 million with add-ons, which is nowhere near CP’s valuation of £20 million.  Typically, the asking price of young, English talent is inflated, so this should come as no surprise.

2)      Crystal Palace will actually let Zaha leave.  Holloway and CP really have no reason to sell their best player in January.  A bid for Zaha in June would likely garner just as much in a transfer fee, if not more.  Attaining promotion is more important for the club than whatever sum they’ll eventually get from selling Zaha.

With that said, there are some positives working in Arsenal’s favour.  Zaha is an admirer of Arsenal football and the Gunners have always been his boyhood club.  There’s also the matter of him being an England international now, where Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs, Jenkinson and Walcott can convince him that Arsenal is where his future lies.  I believe the only remote possibility Arsenal has of landing Zaha in January, is if the player himself requests a move to the club.

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It’s impossible to predict how quickly a player from a lower division will adapt to the rigours of the Premier League, but I feel that Zaha is a special talent similar to that of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain.  After 19 games in the Championship this season, Zaha has roughly managed to score a goal every 5 games, assist every 6 games, generate 2 shots with one on goal per game and is fouled almost 3 times each game. Not exactly the most overwhelming stats, but one must bear in mind that he already has 102 appearances in the Championship to his name at the tender age of 20.

The ability he’s shown in beating defenders is reminiscent of the greats (think of the flair of both Ronaldos).

In fact, I believe Zaha to be a hybrid between all three of Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho.  He has the goal scoring instincts of Theo, the combination of pace, flair and ability to take on defenders in tight spaces like Gervinho and AOC (if not more), the directness of AOC and the willingness to play out wide like Gervinho.  Zaha could be that special ‘top, top’ player that would be worthy of Wenger’s pursuit.  All that remains is being tested at the highest level and seeing if he can realize his vast potential.  The latest news round-ups have Arsenal as the favourites to land him in January, but it will take an exceptional offer to pry Zaha away from Palace.

What do you Gooners think about Zaha as a player?  Is he the solution for our lack of delivery and directness from out wide?  Would that amount of money be better spent elsewhere?

 

Written by: The Gooner