Arsenal v Saints Match Review: Giroud Is Not Afraid!

Arsenal 1 – 0 Southampton

Thanking The Guardian for picture
Thanking The Guardian for picture

Now that was a game of football. It might not win many beauty awards, and the neutrals will only have liked the second part of the second half; but, from a tactical point of view, very good football was on display tonight.

Koeman developed his initial playing career under Guus Hiddink’s wings, and his current Southampton team play football like PSV Eindhoven used to do under Hiddink’s reign back then. It is structured around a strong defensive shape and discipline and based around the simple, Maureenesque ‘philosophy’ of keeping a clean sheet and nicking a goal when the chances arrive. Hiddink won the Europa Cup One (now CL) for PSV with exactly that approach a few decades ago.

With Wanyama, who had an almost faultless performance and showed once again how useful he could be for us, and Schneiderlin, Koeman has the best midfield shield in the PL. The beauty about the Frenchman is that he can also play football, and he was duly missed by the Saints tonight. From an attacking point of view, the Saints did not perform well enough to hurt us, even though their Italian CF had more than a decent chance to score early on. The forced omission of Schneiderlin was a big advantage for us, which might have turned the game in our favour (and Cork’s injury helped a lot as well of course).

Our defence was also well organised: with BFG and Koz having a relatively easy, but very focussed and aggressive, game; and the FBs played very good throughout the match too. It is absolutely amazing how Chambers plays at such a consistently high level, and yet, he is still so young; and Nacho also really showed desire and high energy levels for the full 93 minutes.

Our DM-shield worked ok too. Flamini kept it simple – he completed 64 of his 69 passes – and did not get involved in our attacking play a lot. Ramsey had the free role and showed a lot of drive, but his lack of touch, his continuously misplaced passes and his over-eagerness to make a difference is holding him, and therefore the team, back.

Ramsey needs to link defence and attack up, so he has a pivotal role to play. Luckily, both Carzorla and especially Alexis helped him out a lot with coming deep to collect the ball and make things happen from there. But of course, this leaves gaps up-front. We can say the same about Welbeck, who was full of drive and desire, but ultimately not very effective – although this changed a bit when Giroud came on.

Bloggers on this site will know well how much I believe Giroud makes all the difference for our team. In the first 65 minutes our attacks were often chaotic and harmless, with lots of runners with energy, but very little cohesion and penetration. Giroud is our mobile anchor: the pivot in our attack around which we base our attacking initiatives. As soon as he came on the play centred around him: midfielders can play the ball into him and fellow attackers can take better positions and find themselves in more space. He also had no fear and found the weak spots in the Saints defence instantly. This, in my opinion, was vital for our attacks becoming more centred and deadly. It was evident that Giroud made such a difference once again as soon as he came on.

We finally cracked the nearly formidable defence of the Saints late on in the game. It was not a beautiful goal but well deserved in the end, even though we were helped a bit by the injury to the impressive Alderweireld, which meant Southampton had to continue with ten men as all subs had already been used. It was good for Ramsey to produce to cool-headed assist, and let us hope he will take this with him into the next game. It was good for Alexis to get a reward for running his socks off all night. This was not one of his best games by all means, but his work ethic and desire to win are phenomenal and it was sweet for him that he got us once again all the three points. At Barca he was one of many great players; at Arsenal he simply is the star at the moment; and boy does he like it, with already 14 goals in all competitions to his name.

And these are very sweet three points. They pull us up to just three points below the Saints now and keep us in touch with all fellow top teams, except the horrible Chavs.

Next up are Stoke: another heavy battle waits. Bring it on!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Enough evidence that Wanyama or Schneiderlin are the missing link?

Arsenal v Saints Afterthoughts

I am sure not to be the only one who isn’t too sad Arsenal are already out of the League Cup. Yes a great competition to blood the youngsters – I still have great memories of witnessing Arsenal putting Sheffield United 6-0 to the sword – but also an added pressure on Wenger and the team.

The media regard Arsenal as their favourite potential banana-skin victims, and so our cup games often end up being televised. As a result, Arsene often opts to play a stronger team than needed, even though I am sure he does not rate the competition very much, which could easily lead to fatigue or injuries to key players. For example, in yesterday’s game we risked Alexis and Jack, who both could have done with a break after a hectic, intense start of the season. But Wenger had to match the strength of the Saints’ defence to some extent in order to avoid a potentially humiliating outcome.

I watched the game on a half-decent stream and really enjoyed it. Both teams played some very good football, both tactically and technically.

Almost all of us would love Arsene to buy a really solid, beast of a DM and if you, like me, enjoy the art of midfield defending, you will also have wetted yourself from watching both Wanyama, and especially Schneiderlin, bossing proceedings through large parts of the game.

english-premier-football-park-morgan-schneiderlin-of-southampton-celebrates_3197666

Still, during the first 20-30 minutes the best midfielder on the pitch was our very own Abou Diaby.

He was strong and incisive, sprayed passes around and produced a couple of exquisite through-balls, and during that time he and Wilshere were in charge. Is it fair to say that Arsenal started to wilt from the moment Diaby lost that initial drive and power?

I, for one, strongly felt that as soon as the Saints levelled from the penalty spot, we would end up losing this game. Somehow, our opponent wanted it more on the night, or was it just that their line-up was stronger?

I reckon we gradually lost the battle in midfield as both Wanyama (calm, organised, strong, disciplined) and Schneiderlin (energetic, seeks the one to one battles, good positioning) gradually took control of the midfield.

After their stunning second goal, Southampton showed great team composure by both breaking up our build up play from the back and putting up a formidable defence if and when we managed to get to the area in front of their box. There was almost no way through, and without a strong presence of a (holding) striker in the box – Podolski is not that sort of forward – and Rosicky and Campbell struggling to impose themselves on the game, we were simply not strong enough to hurt the Saints on the night. We had our chances but not many, and if and when they arrived our players felt pressure to not miss them…

For me, that was the game in a nutshell.

I should repeat what I said yesterday, that Alexis was impressive and his goal was simply sublime. Our defence played well: Ospina oozed calm and, in my view, could not have saved the Cline screamer. Bellerin is making progress and gaining confidence, Chambers looked solid and composed, Hayden did well too and Coquelin did surprisingly well as our LB.

Campbell struggled quite a bit in the first half, but had a good spell early on in the second half (I guess Wenger had a word with him). Rosicky was rusty and tried to overcompensate this with his drive, and he will not be impressed with himself after giving away a cheap penalty. Pod is an impact sub and cannot lead the line for us; there is not much more to it imo. A real shame we did not see much of Akpom, but let’s hope he will have some time in the first team soon.

Although the competition does not mean much to me, I still feel a bit down. It’s not because we lost the game, or we are now out of the competition, or even that it felt all the way we were not going to win it on the night. No, I guess it is to do with those performances of Wanyama and Schneiderlin for the Saints, and the fact that they are not ours, and that they made the difference on the night.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Torture Window: Should Arsenal rethink their Transfer Policy?

Arsene under Torture Window pressure?
Arsene under Torture Window pressure?

Arsenal is one of the, if not the most, frustrating clubs to support when it comes to transfers. This is something that is not at all hinged on our financial position all the time, as is becoming clear during this transfer window.

Admittedly I do not know the nitty-gritty of how transfers work in terms of who plays what role or the actual process of a transfer (except the aspects that we are all familiar with), however, I do know a few things. The club has scouts who identify potential targets (a job that is mostly done by Wenger when a top player is in question). I also know that Wenger has complete control over who we sign and how much money is spent, with the exception of a scenario where it is a big money transfer in which case the board must sanction the release of these funds. Finally, I know that Dick Law heads the team that negotiates transfer fees and contracts once a player is identified and Wenger gives the go ahead to chase him.

That said, it is obvious that there is something that throws a spanner in the works in every transfer that has even the slightest complication. I recently read an article that suggested that the main reason why Arsenal transfers are so complicated is because Arsene Wenger is notoriously indecisive. I am inclined to believe them. When Arsenal were chasing Juan Mata, the transfer had reached a point where Arsenal and Valencia had agreed a fee of 17 million pounds, and all that was left was for the club to sit down with Mata and agree contractual logistics. However Wenger changed his mind and dilly-dallied allowing Chelsea to swoop.

I know this for a fact, because months later (after he had signed for Chelsea) Mata was asked about the transfer to Arsenal and he said that he didn’t know what happened because as far as he was concerned, he was hours away from being a Gunner. He explained that once Valencia allowed him to talk to us, he waited by the phone for Arsene’s call to arrange contractual negotiations; a call that never came.

More or less the same thing happened with Yann M’vila where everything was agreed only for Arsene to change his mind citing disciplinary concerns. Given that Wenger is notoriously private about transfers, those are the only two examples I can give but I am sure they aren’t the only ones. This gives an indication that Wenger tends to over think every single detail to a point that it begins to work against us. Maybe it would be more beneficial if, at the beginning of a window, Arsene would give his wish-list and lets the club pursue them.

Another fault that we have during transfers is that apparently we can’t multitask. Let me explain. Right now we are chasing a striker, a DM, a keeper and a defender. We even have names of players that we would like to see fill those positions. However for the past 2 months we have been firmly fixated on bringing in a striker (Higuain and (or) Suarez to be precise) and for the time being, have put these other positions on the back burner.

Real Madrid have put us in this position by employing dirty tactics as they keep raising Higuain’s price but still, while we wait for that to pan out, we could have signed Wanyama and Cesar already. Wanyama told me personally that he waited for us to make a move until it reached a point where he wasn’t sure whether we were interested anymore, so he moved to Southampton instead.

Cesar is trying his best to hold off any transfer while he waits for us to make our minds up but that will only last for so long.

Think of it this way: yes, Real have really stalled our plans to bring in a striker but that shouldn’t affect other transfers. Southampton completed the Wanyama transfer in half a week. Given the current circumstances, it would take even less time to sign Cesar. It was reported that Fellaini is willing to join us and is waiting for us to open negotiations. Ideally, by now we should have most if not all other target transfers tied in a bow and then focus our efforts on the complicated ones, which is bringing in the strikers, not the other way round.

The more we wait the more of our targets get snapped up and derail our plans further leading to the famous last minute deals which more often than not backfire.

Maybe a change of tact is what we need, so as to eliminate these sleepless nights we Gooners spend monitoring transfer stories to see if Wenger will come good on his promises. Oh what it is to be a gooner!!!

Written by: Marcus

Why not Wanyama?

wanyama

The curious case of Arsenal’s transfer business.

With endless links to so many players, one would have expected Arsenal to have made significant moves by now. However, whether it is our manager, board or opposing clubs, transfer activity has been prolonged, excruciating and despondent.

Arsenal fans around the world have called for Arsene to upgrade the defensive midfield position. It’s a position of clear weakness in which we have forced players like Arteta and Ramsey to shift in to. Both have performed well in the role, but each lack the ability to truly make the position their own; it appears that both are needed on the pitch to compensate for the lack of a true DM, and thus hinder the necessary support further up the field in order to unleash the creativity and true attacking, Arsenal football.

Victor Wanyama has been a long-time reported Arsenal transfer target, with Arsene himself speaking to Celtic months ago about a possible purchase of the player. Arsenal legend, Perry Groves, and current Gooner, Aaron Ramsey, have both supported the interest in the player, urging Arsene to bring him to the Emirates.

Arsenal recently announced a sponsorship agreement with Imperial Bank, which will see co-branded debit cards made available in Kenya and Uganda. Not only does the possible transfer of Wanyama to Arsenal make sense from a business perspective, but also from a fan base sense, as many Kenyans are big supporters of the player and such a move would undoubtedly attract more interest in the club as well. All three of club, player and fans could benefit from such a deal, especially if Wanyama can bring stability to our revolving door of DMs and add to the spine of our team, for years to come.

Southampton recently had a £12 million bid accepted by Celtic, but Wanyama blocked the transfer in hopes of moving to a club that will be competing for trophies and play in the Champions League. One has to wonder why at £12 million, Arsene has not made a move for the powerfully built Kenyan. The price is pretty close to market value and, at 22 years of age, Wanyama’s best days are still ahead of him.

So why has Arsene not bid for Wanyama? Is he not good enough for Arsenal? Or is Arsene waiting for a bigger fish, like Fellaini, or one of the Benders to fill the void? Or is our interest in purchasing a DM simply a smokescreen?

Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to these questions, as only Arsene and the Arsenal management team know. However, I would like to hear your input on why you believe Arsene has not bid for Wanyama and whether you think we may register a bid later on in the transfer window.

Written by: Highbury Harmony