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

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

arsenal_henry_pires_bergkamp_ljungberg_vieira

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.

Welbeck is a Winger

….Well at least for a while to come.

Like many fellow Gooners, I was very excited when we signed Daniel Nii Tackie Mensah Welbeck back in September. We were desperate for new firepower up-front and Danny seemed the right man for us. He was further in his development than Sanogo and would be able to compete for the CF spot with Giroud, and there was also potential for both Giroud and Welbeck to start in a more traditional 4-4-2 formation.

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

Welbeck was pushed out at Manure as LvG was looking for more established firepower… Their current combined strike force share between them about an eye-watering million pounds in wages every week, but they have been very net-shy this season – and long may it continue. 😀

The 1.84m tall attacker was very keen to join us. He wanted to play football regularly, in the central role and with a lot of creative players around him, who are able to launch him into space. The arrival at the home of football gave him a spring in his step, resulting in fine and effective performances for England and Arsenal. He scored five goals in twelve PL and CL appearances for Arsenal and he produced two PL assists as well. However, it has been a while since he hit the net as it looks like he is struggling to get himself into scoring positions at the moment, as well as taking the few good chances that come his way.

This seems to coincide with Ozil’s injury, and it did not help either that Jack has been injured in the last few games. A player like Welbeck is highly dependent on creative midfielders who can anticipate and pick out his runs, and we have lacked that to a large extent. Only Alexis, as a fellow striker/winger, has been picking him out regularly and effectively during the last few games.

I watched Danny on a number of occasions and cannot help but feel that he is not ready to be our CF on a regular basis. In fact, I think he would be a lot more effective as a winger.

I am convinced that the injury to OG has cost us badly this season. Not just for his goal contributions, which, let’s face it, is not his strongest attribute, but especially for the shape his gives to the team and the link-play he provides for the rest of the team. For Wenger’s current preferred – but temporarily abandoned – system of 4-1-4-1, OG is very, very important.

I don’t think this role fits Welbeck, even though he is working very hard to be effective in it. Danny is best when we regain the ball in midfield or defence and spring a counter-attack: when there is space to run into and there are midfielders who can pick him out. Manure have always played this sort of football under RedNose and you can see Welbeck has been properly schooled in it.

Danny is a total athlete, and it is great to watch him run with or without the ball at defenders, when there is space and real momentum.

But we do not play that sort of football very often and we face a lot of park the buses teams. We need either another Giroud-type, OR a predator in the box, and, from what I saw of him against Burnley, he is neither, AS YET.

Of course, he will only become 24 this month and Wenger has had very little time to work with him. I am convinced he will be a success at Arsenal, but not so sure whether that will be as our big CF.

In a dream world, we will have all our attackers fully fit and really give opponent teams the creeps. For me, and I reckon Wenger, this means OG in the centre and Alexis and Theo on the wings, with both Ozil and Jack providing the through-balls and central box penetration. Welbeck could be our super-sup up-front, just as Calum Chambers will be at the back (once everybody is fit there, sigh, sigh!).

As you can tell, I am not so keen on Danny being our CF right now. He still has a lot to learn in terms of anticipating crosses and owning space around defenders in the box. Crossers of the ball don’t find him enough, and he does not anticipate their crosses enough either…. And a deadly CF demands the former and is brilliant at the latter. They also often are, instinctively, in the space were rebounds drop. And when he gets a chance he tends to lack the ‘cold-bloodedness’, often not keeping his shots low, thus giving the keeper a chance.

In my view, Danny is not doing well enough to warrant the CF role going forward at the moment.

But as a winger, with a licence to position himself centrally on a regular basis, I can see him do really well. He has the power, speed, hunger and physical strength and endurance for it, and I can see him give Theo a real run for his money. I can see him give Alexis and Theo a break now and again, or allow the Chilean to play more central, if required.

Of course, as long as Giroud is out it will be Welbeck up-front, but once the French Lighthouse is back, I would love to see Danny play on the wings for a while. I think then we will see the very best of him this season.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Be Kind to Yourself

 

Alexis, Chambers and Pod Show Wenger How Hard They Are.

Arsenal v Burnley: review and analysis.

The Artist and Street Fighter Alexis - It was a honour to witness him play on Saturday!
The Artist and Street Fighter Alexis – It was a honour to witness him play on Saturday!

Before I went to the game this morning, I read Arsene’s views re the quality of European strikers versus South-American ones; the former being a lot softer than the streetwise and street-trained latter, apparently. It is fair to say that this is a left-field, refreshingly new viewpoint by Arsene and I wonder who it was actually aimed at. Was it meant to be a compliment for Alexis and/or a kick up the arse for the likes of Welbeck, Podolski, Sanogo, Ox and Santi? As this game proved to us once again, the ‘softness’ of some of our attackers is a good reason for concern, as is the continued lack of cohesion between the front players.

I don’t like it when a player is over-praised in the media and by the manager, simply for the risk of jinxing it. However, in case of Alexis it only seems to spur him on further; and however much opponent defenders try to stop him, they just cannot do it. He is that good. The problem is, though, that nobody else is very close to Alexis’ level at the moment. And this is proving to be a big issue for which we have been relatively unpunished, until now.

Wenger has gone back to the Bould-Wenger ‘compromise formation’ of 7-4, it seems: seven mainly defensive minded players and four attackers, with the sole aim of keeping a clean sheet and nicking one or two goals per game. It was a bit of a shock to me (but not 17HT, who predicted the right starting eleven) to see us play the weathered veterans of Flamini and Arteta in the double DM pivot…. against the number last of the league table, Burnley, at home…

The first half reminded me a lot of the last home game I watched, the season’s opener against Crystal Palace. We started relatively brightly, creating a number of decent to very good chances in the first half hour. But we did not convert them through a combination of bad luck and lack of killer instinct by our forwards; or should that now be ‘hardness’?

After thirty minutes or so, Burnley started to build up some confidence and we did not look like going to create chances any time soon anymore. This is a common theme at Arsenal this season, as I have mentioned before. During the whole first half the crowd sensed that we were not going to score somehow: it is difficult to explain why this is other than a (collectively?) perceived lack of thrust and effectiveness within the team.

The chances we had were too far away for me to analyse in detail (I was in the upper tier of the North Bank, far away from the goal-mouth action). I was convinced Danny had scored when he went on his impressive run through the box, and thought that Cazorla simply had to take his chance. But it was not to be. Alexis’ shots from inside and outside the box also looked promising, and I guess on a better, more ruthless day, we would have been easily two up after a third of the match.

On the plus side, I thought we played with more discipline and structure in the formation: we used the wings better and did not overpopulate the area of the opponent’s ‘D’ too much. A refreshing change, although we lacked a natural, and above all fast, connector between midfield and attack (especially during the first 70 minutes).

The general issues we have in attack are:

  1. Welbeck is very eager but quite ineffective, struggling to understand/execute his role in Wenger’s team plan at the moment, and also failing with his positioning in the box;
  2. Ox adds thrust and zip to our attack which is a big plus, and his execution of the final ball is starting to improve, and so is his decision making. Still a long way to go to become a first team regular imo. He is also eager to proof himself; and, further on the plus side, he stuck to his role of wing player well.
  3. Cazorla is struggling for form and confidence, but at least he is popping up in the right places to have the chances to score… His biggest problem is he is limited in his ability to attack the opponent: when he receives the ball, he wants to pass it on straightaway, unless he is in or around the box and he will try a shot. There is little ability to take on opponents or penetrate space with close ball control and speed. And his confidence seems low at the moment as well.
  4. Alexis has the drive… he is our engine, our fulcrum, and there is more to it than just ‘hardness’.

Yesterday’s game made me realise why the likes of Chambers and Alexis are doing so well right now and Welbeck, Santi, and to some extent Ox, continue to struggle. Alexis took his chances whereas Santi did not; Chambers delivered the sharper cross and was at the right place at the right time, whereas Ox did not (enough); Podolski positioned himself perfectly and was ferocious – but unlucky – in his finishing, whereas Welbeck looked often lost in the box and unfocussed in his positioning and finishing.

We should analyse this in more depth and the table below should help to focus our discussions.

A number of Arsenal players compared against each other using key attributes of a top footballer:

Player Energy/Attitude levels Ability to focus and concentrate their efforts Technical Ability Confidence Hardness
Cazorla Medium to High Medium Medium to high Medium Medium to high
Ox Medium to High, with a few bursts per game Medium Medium to high Medium Medium
Welbeck Very high Medium to low Medium to high Medium Medium
Chambers High High Medium to high Medium to high High
Podolski Medium Very high Very high High Medium to high
Alexis Very High High to very high Very high Very high Very high

Taking the above comparisons into account, it should not come as a surprise that it was Alexis who finally broke down the Burnley’s stout defence with a surreally high leap and focussed header, in between two giants of defenders. It also does not surprise me that the assist came from Chambers: he had been fighting consistently to get to the by-line and put in crosses, and his ability to focus led to the accurate and calm cross into the box. And the same goes for his finish for the second one. For once Welbeck was at the right place but his effort, although ferocious, missed accuracy. As the goal-mouth was crowded, we should not be too hard on him on this occasion though. However, Chambers was at the right place to pick up the rebound and he MADE sure it would go in: a sign of ‘hardness’?

The third goal was another example of all of Alexis’ attributes coming together: he works so hard and positions himself so well, his focus and technical ability enable him to score a difficult but perfectly executed goal, supported by high levels of confidence and a sheer will to score. How many times have we seen Cazorla in a similar position but just not delivering?

And Podolski showed us all that, although born and bred in Europe, he has the hardness of a South-American striker all the way. We all know he lacks the stamina (energy) to play a full role in a Wenger Arsenal team, but boy does he know how to be at the right place and at the right time, time and again – even though he was unlucky not to score. It was a ten minute master class for Welbeck and co of how it is done inside the box, and I am glad I was there to witness it in full glory (there might not be many more opportunities to witness this beast in action).

Finally, but most importantly, I should point out that bringing in a more attack minded midfielder by Aaron Ramsey made all the difference. At once, we had more zip and purpose and the tempo went up considerably; something that had been missing during most of the game. 

The return of Theo, after being out for so so long and welcomed by the crowd by a fantastic roar, was, of course, the icing on the cake. Let’s hope he will add the much needed directness, fighting spirit and finishing from the right hand side during the remainder of the season.

3-0 to the good guys and joint third. Onwards and upwards per the principle of OGAAT.

COYG! 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Szczesny Creates Perfect Game | Wellbeck x3 | Ozil & Alexis Mesmerize

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

Initial afterthoughts from the Arsenal v Galatasaray CL game.

It was all going swimmingly well. Four nil to the good guys and Ozil, Santi, Alexis, and especially Welbeck, were having a field day. And then Szczesny spoiled it all with a rush to the head…. Well, that was my first reaction…

The first goal: great joint attacking by Alexis and Welbeck, with superb running both with and without the ball, and a quick and decisive finish by the young Englishman. The second goal: all about perseverance and strength and keeping a cool head…..bad defending no doubt, but Danny took his chance and had a lot to do to finish it.

The third goal: made by Ozil and coolly finished by Alexis. They gave us so much space and our players were very happy with this gift of gifts. Still Alexis had to do a lot but he showed once again how calm and deadly he is in the box. 3-0, game over… surely.

Second half sees Galatasaray take the initiative and they even manage to put some pressure on us. But pressure up-front means space at the back and once again we benefit well from this, supported by some fine defending and keeping it tight in front of our ‘D’. Ox had made a fine run from his own half all the way into the box, but just let himself down by opting for the wrong pass. But moments later he does find Welbeck with a measured through-ball into the box from just outside of it, and Welbeck produces his first Arsenal hat-trick with a controlled finish. The boy is ecstatic and feels the love from the crowd. A lovely moment for player and fans.

4-0! Are we going to give these Turks an enormous hiding all the way back to formerly named Constantinople?

Aaaah, well… Wojciech has been getting a bit bored in this game and a fine through-ball makes it into the box to Yilmaz. The Pole senses the danger and decides to come out and thwart the attacker (good), but his timing is very bad and he gives away a pen; and even worse, he has to go off with a straight red… And the penalty goes in, and the Turks have a new lease of life it seems…

I am thinking what a diff. This game was in the bag and now we have to dig deep to play with ten men, risking fatigue and injury to key players, thanks to WS’s fine mess.

But the players fight for each other and find a good cohesion whilst defending collectively.

There is a great spirit and determination not to concede again, even though the Turks are pressing hard. Ospina is now fully in his element and makes a number of class saves without losing his concentration once. And I am starting to think, this second half is just what the doctor ordered, just what we need before we go to the Bridge and meet one of our modern day arch enemies. This is the perfect preparation to deal with potential Chavs pressure once we have scored against them and our backs are against the oily wall.

So thank you, Wojciech: for your kind sacrifice to the team; for providing us with the perfect confidence booster and great all-round preparation for this weekend’s crunch game; for allowing Ospina to show us what a good goalie he is; and for making Arsene’s 18th work anniversary an unforgettable one! 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Theo in – Jack or Aaron out? Yeah right!

How will Wenger fit Theo in?

The time for experimenting with our attacking line-up might soon come to an end. As soon as Theo returns, I reckon Arsene will start lining us up with DAT attack: Danny, Alexis and Theo. If you are not excited about seeing these three heading our attack, it is time to pay your GP a visit, or simply book a one-way ticket to doctor GLIC in award winning Cornwall.

The return of Theo the final piece in the jigsaw?
The return of Theo the final piece in the jigsaw?

Danny – Alexis – Theo: DAT Attack to Conquer the PL

We all know what a fit Theo brings to the team, and we have missed him a lot since he was carried off the pitch sticking two fingers up to the Spuds supporters. Theo adds thrust and fast counter football and of course goals and assists.

But he is not the only one: both Welbeck and Sanchez are also fast and direct, and the three together will be a threat to any team in the PL and Europe.

Of course, an abundance of pace works best with plenty of space, and when we play the park the bus teams all that pace might become less influential. There is no doubt in my mind that Alexis can work in both attacking scenarios (pace and space or intricate and tight) and that Arsene will further develop Danny to become a fully rounded attacker – and the first signs are very encouraging. Theo, we know, is less effective when we face park the bus teams, but with the likes of Mesut, Jack or Santi spreading the balls, he could still be effective even in those situations.

But, just to illustrate the depth we have now in attack, if Theo does not hack it in such a game, we can bring on Santi, Ox, or eventually, Campbell who can all operate well in tight spaces. We are simply blessed with attackers.

If we start with ‘DAT attack’ will Arsene change the formation?

It would make sense to revert back to 4-2-1-3 and play either Ozil or Jack in the hole, and for now, play a combo of Flamini, Ramsey, Arteta and Diaby (or Jack) in the double DM-pivot.

However, it looks like Wenger will stick with his 4-1-4-1 formation, which means that either Theo or Alexis gets the free role, either supporting the striker or the ‘nr.10’ a lot. With Danny or, eventually, OG playing CF, we would have just three spaces left. And as per my post a few days ago, I would not be surprised if Aaron – or as 17HT suggested, Jack – is moved into the deeper DM role, leaving the two central midfield roles for either Ozil, Rambo and Jack.

So a midfield and attack of:

 

————–Rambo/Jack—————

Theo—Jack/Rambo—Ozil— Alexis

——————Danny——————

Many will argue that Flamini or Arteta will play in the deeper midfield role, and that either Jack or Rambo will be benched. But I just cannot see that happen. Once Theo is back, and all midfielders and attackers are fit, Wenger will have to make a choice, and I reckon the above will become Arsene ‘best six’.

But what do you think, FFGs: what will our team look like once Theo returns?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

A Mere Papering of Cracks? Villa v Arsenal afterthoughts

First One for Danny!
First One for Danny!

On the heels of Arsenal’s first defeat since (Everton away in) April, many an observer–even would be supporters–have trotted out the usual narratives.  Wenger has lost the plot, we’re playing the wrong players in the wrong positions, there’s no tactical flexibility, our record signing Ozil(shaven) can’t be arsed and the sky is–literally–falling.

We’re entitled to these reactions and living in the moment, but scanning my science blogs, I could find no evidence that the sky was–literally–descending upon us.  Could it be that daylight is waning and the weather merely getting a bit worse in on our part of North London?  It may, of course, have something to do with the calendar.  Still with only a single match remaining before the official start of Autumn, the trip to Villa Park loomed larger, perhaps, than it might at another time of year.  That we couldn’t match their current point total in the league–no matter the result–also did not bode well.

Admittedly, the defeat at Dortmund did feel a comprehensive one and many suggested the 2-nil score-line flattered us.  Another narrative is that Arsene’s Arsenal simply cannot play against the bigger teams.  With Villa having beaten Liverpool at Anfield and having the week off (whilst we took our full body blow), nerves amongst Gooners were understandable.  Looking at the table alone (which, I’ve been told, “does not lie”) they had to be considered as one.  With our next two league matches being derbies–Spurs at our place, Chelsea at theirs–the result, at the very least, seemed, er, rather consequential.

Here in the mountains of California, the smoke from our annual wildfires only barely clearing with a little lucky wind, I awoke to a line-up I liked.  Alexis Sanchez, even if he’s already become a huge fan favorite, was rested in favour of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  Santi Cazorla came in for Jack Wilshere (who took a knock late on at Dortmund).  Calum Chambers, recovered from his sore throat (tonsilitis), was the preferred 19 year old at right back (over Hector Bellerin), and both Kieran Gibbs and Mikel Arteta (both just back from injury and/or a respite…) kept their places.

Danny Welbeck, who had spurned scoring opportunities in his first two matches for Arsenal, also remained the point of attack.  Curiously, younger forwards, including Yaya Sanogo, Chuba Akpom and Joel Campbell and the all-purpose defender, Isaac Hayden, called for by many a Gooner in the wake of the Dortmund disaster, didn’t even find a place on the bench.  Perhaps in the Capital One Cup to be played in midweek?… On my television feed, the line-up was even listed as a 4-2-3-1 rather than the much maligned 4-1-4-1 we’re (supposedly) playing even if Ozil persisted on the left of the 3 (Santi in the middle, Ox on the right) and Ramsey was the player (nominally) brought back to help out the Captain.  I’m not a stickler for formations and I tend to buy the idea that the number of players at the back is (more or less) all that matters and all else flows from there.  I’ll leave the discussion of what was actually played to others.  To borrow my favorite English saying (heard mostly in the Tube…) “Sorry…”

The match itself started with Villa on the front foot and Arsenal struggling to string passes together.  Ramsey looked a central figure but first touches appeared overly aggressive if not just plain heavy.  Additionally, the air in Birmingham looked lighter than the players favour and several long balls flew into touch.  As such, as in Germany, possession was lost cheaply and Villa looked to be creating more menace throughout the opening stages.  That several corners were conceded (the source of the last league goal scored against us in the league) did not help settle nerves.  Another set piece provided their most dangerous moment (in the 23rd minute), after an unwise challenge from Calum Chambers, which earned him a yellow for his troubles.  The cross sailed over all defenders and allowed a well taken chance for Kieran Clark with a diving header.  Szczesney moved out of his goal mouth but maintained his feet and used his entire frame to block with his left leg and right hand.  A pivotal moment, especially given the way the opponent kept Liverpool at bay a week ago after an early goal.

The truly pivotal moment happened nine minutes later.  Playing the ball deep out of our own half (Chambers protecting the ball like a more experience player and exchanging passes with Mertesacker began the move) a series of lightning fast one touch passes between Ramsey, Cazorla and finally Welbeck sprung Ozil off the shoulder of the Villa highline and he finished calmly with his better foot.

Now Villa had to attack, and the 2nd goal came almost instantly.  The camera was actually on Wenger as Gibbs took possession and passed smartly to Ozil who one-touched to Ramsey before receiving a lovely return ball out wide.  Scorer and assist maker reversed roles with an inch perfect cross from Ozil and an easy finish (no shin this time) from Welbeck to break his (Arsenal) duck.  Ozil in the center, Ozil on the wing: the record signing who just doesn’t care, suddenly everywhere?

Narratives turned upon their heads as well as points secured.  Villa, shocked by the turn of events were still unable to get back to work.  Kieran Gibbs, who was key in dispossessing Villa to start the lightning move on the 2nd, again played a key role, poaching another pass even deeper in their territory and crossing to rampaging Ramsey at the far post.  Defender Cissoko, caught, needed the most precise of clearances, but found his own goal instead.  3 nil.

That would be all the scoring in the match but Arsenal would secure the points through possession and trying for more.  Our best 2nd half chance was likely a throughball from Oxlade-Chamberlain to Ramsey but the latter’s first touch was a near whiff.  Late on, after gorgeous one touch work on the left from Ozil, Cazorla and subs Jack Wilshere, Lucas Poldolski and Tomas Rosicky–What?  3 attackers subbed in when we have a score-line to protect?!? — I guess Wenger felt the need to get more attackers involved (and we have far more of them healthy as compared to defenders) and, maybe, the score-line was doing the protecting–of the manager–in this case.

So, a result to freshen the spirits after the poor showing in Europe or a mere papering of cracks?

That’s for my old friends, a certain blogger who confuses Cookies and Monsters (and knows his cracks, amongst other things) and the one who demands Victory Con Cordia… It’s a bit of a no-win for the club despite the fact that we’re still looking up at Villa in the table.  They (and early season surprise club, Swansea City) lost today but they are traditionally a mid-table club (at best) and it all could have been a whole lot scarier if their early aggression had led to an opening goal.  Our goal scoring happened so quickly that it’s almost hard to appreciate them and they can’t possibly suggest that our problems have been ironed out.  Bigger tests await which will “prove” if we’ve turned a corner or merely gotten a fortunate few points.

Amongst the players there could be some realignment of opinion about our record signing, given that he both scored and assisted.  Our newest signing might also gain a measure of confidence having done likewise.  Already (previous post comments), we’ve seen some debate about the relative contributions of Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain.  I’d give a shout out to the emerging right hand partnership of Chambers and the BFG and the two Spaniards who performed their duties well and showed a bit of their “technical superiority,” especially as the match moved on.   Kieran Gibbs and Koscielny on the (much) pacier (left) side of our defense (American spelling there…) also had good matches.  Szczesny stood tall in his one moment of true examination.  Best of all, maybe, is that we appeared to finish the match without any fresh candidates for the physio room.

Of course, that’s only amongst the players who actually played.   (Abou Diaby even looked alright after a full 90, even if it was only on the bench…)  A new group will surely come in for the midweek cup match to reveal further truths about the depth of the squad… Do we move on to predictions for that one or continue to breathe sighs (of relief) or dissect this one?

What say you Fine Fellow (maybe not Freaking Out–if only for a moment…) Gooners?

😀

Written by: 17highburyterrace

Preview & Line-up: Diaby, Arteta or Chambers for Flamini | Bellerin & Welbeck starts?

signaliduna_front1

Dortmund are without Reus, Gundogan, Hummels, Kirch, Sahin and Blaszczykowski, so we could be thinking we are in with a decent chance to put the Germans to the sword tonight. But Klopp does not rely too much on the quality of his players as he drills all of his squad players into one or more positions, all based around a well-defined system and style of play. That is what I like about madman Klopp, and why he remains a strong candidate to replace AW one day in the future.

Regardless of who will play for Dortmund, they will give us a game all right. The passionate Schwarzgelben supporters – the Signal Iduna Park holds over 81000 spectators – will fire their team on; and despite the injuries they will be up for this, building further on the confidence gained during their recent successes in the CL (reaching the final only two seasons ago).

We will need to be at our very best to get a result tonight, and with injuries ourselves, especially in defence, we are vulnerable. Monreal did not travel, Debuchy is a long term injury worry (today we shall find out more, apparently), Gibbs has only just returned (always a risk of getting injured again straight away) and our multi-functional replacement defender Chambers is only fifty-fifty, as he is suffering from tonsillitis.

Young Hector Bellerin smells an opportunity here, and it would be great for him if he gets a start. We all know he has phenomenal speed and close ball control and is great going forward: the question is whether he can defend well enough at this level. The BFG will mentor him and together they can profit and compensate from each others strengths and weaknesses…. but it is a big game to try this out. If Chambers is fit, I reckon he will get the green light for the RW position, but with the potential of fatigue or injury (knock on wood) of our defenders during the game, there is a big chance we will see Bellerin taking part at some point in tonight’s encounter.

The rest of the defence picks itself, and it is no time to experiment with a new goalie, I reckon. So back-five of: Szczesny – Chambers – BFG – Koz – Gibbs.

In midfield, we probably see Arteta being played behind the ‘four horsemen’: Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere, Alexis. I reckon, Arsene will be keen to let these four ferocious midfielders play together again, after they were able to dominate play so well for long spells against the Northern Oilers on Saturday. There is a chance Wenger will spring a surprise with giving Diaby a start in this one, and if he is fit enough to do so, who would complain about that? The 4-1-4-1 would suit him very well (as Scottishgunner pointed out as well in the last post).

I am also quiet sure Welbeck will get another start. He had a promising game on Saturday, and away from the home crowd and the sky-high immediate expectations, he can ease a bit and add real value to the team – which isn’t just about goals and assists…

So, my predicted line up for tonight is:

Ars v Dort Sept 2014

My preferred line up is not very different. I want to see more of 4-1-4-1 now I have seen its potential against MC, but would love us to play either Diaby (if fit) or Chambers in the DM role, with Bellerin at RB.

Really looking forward to tonight’s game: two proper clubs, with fabulous managers, playing proper football at the highest level. This is why we love football. Let the battle commence!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

 

Van Gaal is doing Welbeck a disservice

Van Gaal today (from BBC website): “He [Welbeck] played three seasons for the first team, but he doesn’t have the record of Robin van Persie or Wayne Rooney. And that is the standard,” and “That is why we let him go, because of Falcao, but also to allow the youngsters to fit in. That is the policy. That is why I am here.”

Well, what is the gracious Dutchman comparing Welbeck against? Rooney is now 28 and Van Persie is 31. So surely, he should compare DW23’s current goal scoring record against the records of the mega-earners when they were 23.

 

Welbeck Van Persie Rooney
Club PL games and goals scored when 23 (goals per game) 92-20 (0.22) 111-25 (0.23) 224-80 (0.36)
International goals scored after 28 games  (goals per game) 28-10 (0.36) 28-9 (0.32) 28-11 (0.39)

 

So, compared to Rooney, Welbeck is well behind in terms of PL goals per game by the age of 23 (0.36 v 0.22), but not so far off in terms of goals per games in international matches (0.39 v 0.36); and I predict Welbeck to catch up with Rooney soon if he keeps getting starts for England. We all know that Rooney had an incredible successful start of his club career and that Welbeck has not been given the same first team exposure at a similar age. Nevertheless, it is fair to say Rooney performed better by the age of 23 than Welbeck does currently/ at the same age.

However, compared to Van Persie, Welbeck has nothing to be ashamed about. His PL tally is slightly worse, and his international record after 28 games is slightly better. They are even at the age of 23 and we know how the traitor developed subsequently: and this should offer encouragement for Welbeck.

All Welbeck needs is the confidence of the manager, patience and a good run of games – hence his sheer enthusiasm for coming to the home of football. Van Gaal needs instant success and is under a lot of pressure. Falcao is a proven goal scorer and I understand why he got him. But don’t put the boot into Welbeck with unfair statistics. It was a classless thing to do, and oh boy will Danny be motivated to proof him wrong, time and time again!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

A Brace in Basel for Welbeck is just perfect timing

A Danny Double in a hard-fought victory over the politest football nation in Europe. Nice. Very nice. This will do his confidence a world of good and is just what we needed before he joins his team mates at the home of football tomorrow. Talent and confidence are the two biggest commodities in football – or indeed in any sport – and DW23 will arive at the Grove with a smile from earlobe to earlobe.

I must admit I have been looking thoroughly at Welbeck for the first time ever today, and I did so with the main aim of judging how well he will fit into the OG role. His hold up play is good but could do with further improvement. His aerial dominance, especially from long balls from the back, is also not at Giroud’s level, but can undoubtedly be bettered.

But his movement was great and his energy levels are very impressive too. Did you see the interview with Shrek and Welbeck at the end of the game? Rooney had been substituted five minutes earlier but was still out of breath and looked shattered; Danny, on the other hand, was fresh as a daisy and radiated with confidence and happiness. What an athlete.

What was very clear tonight is how much DW works for the team; not just sitting back centrally for the ball, but being a nuisance all over the pitch when not in possession of the ball. And when the ball is regained by the team he makes smart and energetic runs into the available space. He is also good at carrying the ball forward, taking on a man, and attacking space with real intent.

Switzerland v England

Although he was a bit lucky with the contact on his shin for the first goal, I was very impressed with his run. He saw what his former team mate was going to do and chose instinctively to run towards the right side of the goal, whilst Sterling made a clever run towards the left side. Rooney did well moving with the ball forward and releasing it just in time for Sterling, who made a great run and put in a peach of a cross towards the fast running new Gunner. How often have we seen two or more players matching each others speed in the last year at Arsenal? With Sanchez, Theo and Welbeck (and Ox and Rambo and the ‘wingbacks’) we now should see a lot more of this. Especially during counter-attacks. Nice.

Welbeck’s second goal was even more enjoyable. Firstly, he was fit and able to make another clever and energetic run after being at it for 90 minutes already. Secondly, his first touch was good, he kept his balance and took time to make a decision; and his subsequent execution was perfect. Finished like a top striker.

So there is plenty of reason to be positive about our new signing and his performance tonight. His pace and ball control skills have been a joy to watch, and although there is plenty to learn for him he showed tonight that he can hit the ground running at Arsenal.

There will not always be so much space available for him to shine of course, and we will have to see how he does against the park the bus teams in the CF/Holding Striker position. But this game, with a brace in Basel, is just what the footie doctor ordered.

Cannot wait to see him at the Grove. Our army of midfielders will be licking their lips!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

 

Walcott – Ox – Welbeck: Wenger’s English WOW-Factor

Arsenal's new signing Danny Welbeck
With thanks to The Guardian for picture.

 

Anyone who has watched England play over the last few years will agree that it is in desperate need of a more potent strike-force. It has been dire up-front for a long time, with Rooney just not able to deal with the pressure being put onto him when it matters most (and the Dutch suffer the same with his grey-haired strike partner). 

A lot has been said about Wenger wanting to build a strong core of British players at Arsenal. I still believe he picks the players on their talents and value to the team rather than the origin of their passports; but of course there is something to say for finding, moulding and readying for the very top of a number of players from these beautiful shores. It could well become Arsene’s biggest legacy in the long term both for country and club…. well, other than the Invincibles of course.

And with Jack, Rambo, Gibbs, Chambers, Ox, Theo and now Welbeck – all young and now playing together in a proper team that plays proper football – something beautifully, predominantly British is about to be created at Arsenal. 

I have a good feeling about signing Welbeck, but must admit I did not see this one coming. At Arsenal, his role as ‘holding striker’ will allow him to miss chances and to be able to get over it; and in return, this will build his confidence and form the basis for realising the potential he has within him. Wenger’s philosophy is based on a multi-dimensional goal-threat, rather than a narrow, super-sharp arrow at the very front. The paradox being that the better the CF is the more the other players – often very astute finishers themselves – decide to channel the attacks through to him rather than take responsibility themselves. And over time, this will make us over-dependent on him and one-dimensional as well. 

And Welbeck’s role will be about a lot more than his lethality in front of goal. We needed a nr.2 to Giroud who has enough in him to surpass him eventually. I rate Giroud highly, but there is room for improvement and Welbeck will get the time to make the holding CF position his. And in the process he will be helped by Alexis, Giroud, Pod, Theo, Ozil, and many more to share the goal scoring load. 

I am convinced that when everybody is fit we will mostly play with TAO up-front: Theo, Alexis and Ollie, but I am also getting excited about the prospect of playing Walcott, Ox and Welbeck – WOW! – up-front, with Ozil, Jack and/or Ramsey, or even Alexis…. to feet them quality balls to really hurt the opposition.

Would that not be an exciting alternative? Can you think of a trio of attackers with more thrust, speed and menace than the WOW-boys?!

I admit that all three are still a work in progress, although Theo is furthest of them all (and let’s hope the big injury he suffered has not put him back too much). Ox. like Jack, will have to move it up to the next level now, and of course Welbeck is not the finished article either. But they all have youth on their side and are surrounded by experienced players they can learn from constantly. Maybe we will even see Dennis or Thierry join the coaching staff any time soon…..

One day they will be leading the line between them for England, with Jack feeding them from behind and together creating the WOW factor again – putting this proud nation back at the level where it belongs. It is about time, and that is coming from a Dutchman! 😛

Written by: TotalArsenal.