Coquelin’s Fairy Tale: From Charlton Bench to Arsenal’s DM Beast… to Future Captain?

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Just over a year ago, Francis Coquelin came off the Charlton bench to play against Leeds. Our DM destroyer had just joined The Addicks on a month’s long loan and many of us, me included, thought we would sadly not see him back in an Arsenal shirt.

Many of us had liked him a lot but we were just not sure whether he would be tough enough for the PL. It also looked like Arsene was trying to move away from a typical DM towards a more well-rounded, multi-functional midfielder in the deeper midfield role (Arteta, Ramsey). Francis had previously spent a considerable time in Germany playing for Freiburg but, by all accounts, this was not greatly successful.

He did not get many chances to play for Arsenal before his short loan spell at Charlton, but an injury to Ramsey and other midfielders made Wenger recall him in December 2014, and after a few appearances as a sub, he played the full game against West Ham at home – his first start in almost two years. He took this opportunity with both hands and feet and never looked back. Since this game, he has established himself as a first team starter and led the league in defensive interceptions made, one-on-one duels, and placed second in tackles made. What an astonishing transformation!

It truly is a small miracle how our French midfield beast has taken his opportunity to shine and impress us all so much over the last twelve months. I can watch any match he has played in again and again, and just concentrate on his game; that is how good he is. He is the ultimate protector of our defence and perfect ball feeder for our more attack-minded midfielders. Although I see him mostly as a typical DM, a position he (and I) cherishes a lot, Francis also has good all-round football skills to make him quite the complete package. Slowly, he is developing into the sort of DM Wenger really wants to have at Arsenal: one that can defend but also support the attack (and with Ramsey he is trying the reverse btw).

It also must be said that Francis’ ability to develop a strong partnership with the self-reinvented Santi, is just as key for his miraculous progress. The Wall of CoCa has been pivotal to the recent success of the team, and together they have found a great balance between supporting the defence and linking up with the attack-minded players. Santi is not a natural defender, and this will always be a weakness for him, but he reads the game well and is very good at keeping hold of the ball and releasing pressure, once he is in possession of it – and he can do this in the tightest of spaces. The Spaniard’s ability to play a quick and accurate through-ball, with either leg, is of course also a key attribute he offers to us. But Santi needs Coquelin to cover for him when he vacates his position and pushes forward. Francis’ phenomenal ability to read the game, make crucial interceptions, win one-on-one duels on the ground and in the air and great tackling skill, make the Wall of CoCa so effective: together they are more than the sum of these considerable parts.

We have also started to notice a Vieiraesque ability to lead. Francis is both calm and introvert – his more natural demeanour – and takes the lead and is very vocal at the same time: just like Vieira used to be. He also uses his (by some still undervalued) physicality to the max without getting nasty. He is hard but fair and seems to have a lot of respect from his fellow players as well as his direct opponents. This is an amazing achievement in just twelve months of regular first team football and shows he has great potential to become our captain at some point in the future.

I love it when a genuinely great guy and committed sportsman finally comes good, and this is certainly the case with Francis Coquelin. And, it should also provide all those hard working young players out there who are currently struggling to establish themselves at their clubs with hope that things will turn round for them eventually. Coquelin has produced his own fairy-tale: Francis, I salute you!

By TotalArsenal.

Better than Schneiderlin, Leiva, Fernand(inh)o| equal to Matic: Wenger already has a top DM

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Why we should all love Le Coq! 🙂

For the last few years, I, together with many fellow Gooners, have been banging on for the need to sign a top class DM, but not this time round. Arsene grew his beast all by himself: our very own Francis Coquelin. I knew he is a good player but delving a bit deeper into his key stats – and comparing him to fellow DMs at our main competitors – he impresses me even more. Francis Coquelin really now is our Beast of a DM we have been longing for for so long. Since he, quite miraculously given his loan spell at lowly Charlton till December, established himself in the team, Arsenal have done extremely well in the second part of the season. This was of course not all down to him, as Ospina, Giroud and Ozil, and indeed the rest of the team, also played a major part in our fine turnaround in 2015.

The stats below sum it all up perfectly for the Le Fab Coq.

DM Pass Success % Aerials won per game Tackles per game Inter-ceptions per game Blocks per game Clear-ances per game
Coquelin 85.9% 2.5 3.2 3.7 0.4 3.1
Schneiderlin 89.3% 1.8 3.7 2.6 0.2 1.7
Wanyama 84.1% 2.2 2.9 1.9 0.2 1.6
Leiva 87.2% 1.6 3.9 1.6 0.3 2.3
Matic 86.4% 2.1 3.6 2 0.2 3.3
Carrick 89.6% 0.8 1.4 1.7 0.6 2
Bentaleb 86.8% 1.4 2.3 2.5 0.3 1.9
Fernandinho 88.5% 1.3 2.8 1.8 0.2 1.4
Fernando 91.1% 1.6 1.4 1.6 0.4 1.8
Le Coq’s Position 8th 1st 4th 1st 2nd 2nd

PL performance data only – all data from ‘Whoscored’

So, amongst his peers, other than Francis’ pass success rate, he is doing very well. He is the best in the air, even better than the beasts Wanyama and Matic, and in a league of his own in terms of making interceptions, producing almost twice as many of these compared to Matic. In a head to head Coquelin wins three disciplines and Matic also wins three: a draw; but all other DMs above lose out against him. That is how good our man is, and it fully explains why Wenger is not looking for a replacement this summer.

Arsene wisely signed up Coquelin before the end of the season and nothing is nicer than seeing a youth player making it to the big stage. I must admit I did not think Francis was going to make it, but he did; and I hope Oz Gunner, one of my all-time favourite bloggers on BK, is reading this post, as he was the one who always stood behind the Frenchman and will be very pleased now with Le Coq establishing himself properly within the first team.

There is a decent argument for getting a back-up for Coquelin, though. We don’t have another equally good DM at the moment. Having said that, Wenger has many options and will feel that he can take the risk of Coquelin losing form, or getting injured. Arteta and Flamini are (currently) still around and on the day they can do a decent job. Wenger also has options to develop Debuchy or Chambers into a backup DM, or try one of the youngsters. Would I welcome another dedicated DM? Yes of course – and steeling the very young and promising Bentaleb from the Spuds would be very nice indeed – but it is definitely no longer a priority: with Fab Francis we finally have our Beast of a DM. Yippee! 🙂

By TotalArsenal.

The Future is Bright – The Future is Red and White!

Steve, one of Bergkampesque’s favourite regulars and a recent Ozil-convert lol, posted a number of key questions late last night. I like to invite you all to respond to his questions, and in order to get the discussion going, I have added my responses.

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Question 1:

Do we start the next season having retained both our loanees on the wing (Campbell and Silva) and let them fight it out for the chance to become a first choice sub, or do we grab the money and run choosing instead to replace them for one of the supposed transfer targets (Dybala, Draxler, Reus etc)?

I reckon Arsene will sign one to two super quality players every summer, as he started to do so two summers ago. This is what we always wanted: hold on to our key players and add quality gradually. This will also allow us to have a bit of space for new talent and youngsters into the team.

Campbell did not get many opportunities to show us how good he is, but when he was on the pitch he was underwhelming. I have a feeling this will be another Carlos Vela situation and he will get sold eventually. Wellington is harder to predict.

Not sure whether we will buy a (super) quality winger this summer. It depends on where Wenger wants our width and wing play to come from. A super quality left back with a great assists ratio could also be an option… I would love Reus, who can also play centrally I reckon, but the young Dutchman Memphis Depay is the one to go for I reckon.

Question 2:

Do we buy one more CB to partner Gabriel and provide complete top choice cover in every position within the team (Kos and BFG could both be injured at the same time, crazier things have happened just look at this season) or do we leave the position vacant for one of the youngsters to fill after all Chambers didn’t do himself any harm there this season?

I reckon Wenger will have a good look at his internal options in the next few months. With Bellerin developing so strongly and Chambers having had such a strong start as well, he might look at Debuchy as cover for the CB positions. The Frenchman reads the game well and could be a good organiser and leader of our defence. I also feel that Chambers could become a solid CB but this will take time as he is still so young.

Question 3:

Do we make every effort to grab the one that got away this transfer window and sign Schneiderlin to replace our captain as the first choice DM and in doing so probably resign Arteta to a fringe role?

Arsenal have, apparently, been in the market for a DM for a few years now. Yet we never sign one. I don’t know what to think about the Schneiderlin rumours but would love to see him in red and white this summer. You would say he is exactly what Wenger would want in a modern DM and he would combine well with Coquelin as well, if and when we need steel and ingenuity in front of our back four. Arteta will keep playing a role in our team and the captaincy seems to mean little to Wenger. Only time will tell how it will work out exactly, but if Coquelin does indeed sign a new contract we might not see a new DM at the Groove for quite a while.

Question 4:

And who will be left in the fringe player group come the start of next season, will it be the mass culling that a few think it may be or will Wenger continue his unwavering faith in the surplus resources he has, Coquelin has surely shown the benefits of this approach to player management evolving from surplus to requirements into absolutely vital?

The core group, which will be about 18 players, will stay the same other than the addition of a super quality player. Some will be let go off, both old and young, and Wenger might sell one of his creative midfielders to make a bit of room for up and coming talent. But this will not be dramatic at all and just business as usual. The formula of: 1 to 2 SQ players (like Ozil, Alexis) + 1 to 3 young players breaking through + 1 to 2 solid quality additions (like Debuchy, Monreal) and letting three to six players go from the squad, is likely to continue imo.

Question 5:

Do we selfishly hoard the young stars we have at our disposal providing excellent cup match options and injury crisis cover or will most of that team be loaned out for proper game time gaining the experience they need to continue up the Arsenal conveyor belt of talent to the first team?

A mixture of both. Loaning out players is a brilliant way of fast-tracking a player’s development or testing them properly, so we will see more of this. Some players need Arsene’s and the coaching staff’s direct attention and will be ‘nurtured’ at home. Just look at Jenkinson and Bellerin: one is developing fast at West Ham and the other one is doing so at home…. Another example is Sanogo and Akpom: one is getting a chance under a manager who believes in him, Pardew; the other is now given a proper chance at home. It is all about making the right developmental decisions and at the moment we seem to be getting it right.

Strengthening the team bottom upwards and with quality buys, whilst holding on to our top players, is a great strategy of building the best team in the country, and hopefully, Europe.

The Future is Bright, The Future is

Red and White.

COYG!

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Written by: Steve and TotalArsenal.

Arsenal’s Youth Policy: Does it Serve Our Needs as it Should?

Discussion Post–Arsenal’s Youth Policy; Does it Serve Our Needs as it Should?

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Thanks, in advance, for reading…As an “incentive” for getting through all these words, I’ll preview the conclusion… A shift towards a more aggressive (in my opinion) youth recruitment policy might be a chance for the club to move Arsene Wenger OUT of management and into a new role…

Here at Bergkampesque, a more “participatory” blog than most, there’s been a large drop off in, well, participation.  In part, I think, this can be attributed to the frustrations many Gooners are feeling with the very disappointing start to the season after a reasonably promising summer.  Our depleted squad has been tested–repeatedly–and found wanting.  Now we face a week off before our next make or break run of fixtures.  Will we go on a run and get back into sniffing distance of the league leaders (if they stumble), or will the couple of nice results before this little break be just another false dawn for the Arsenal?  The recent convincing wins–both by the same 4-1 score lines–albeit in a meaningless Champions League group match, and against a not very motivated looking Newcastle team, perhaps overly chuffed with beating some other London club the week before…may have dulled the points on the pitchforks, but certainly haven’t mollified the masses…

On this site, although there is a diversity of opinion about the manager, there is also an acceptance that nothing will change quickly, mostly because the board and the principal shareholder seem perfectly pleased by financial results.  Additionally, we have a small cadre of writers (including myself) who do not have a great tolerance for the usual arguments and highly repetitive one-liners trotted out after each disappointing result.  As such, those would-be new members of the BK community who come here to “blow off steam” or otherwise rant about our “woeful” situation are sometimes challenged.  It doesn’t mean we’re a happy lot but just that we attempt to take a wider view.

After all, how many different ways can we point the finger at the manager and suggest that all would be solved with a new man at the helm?   A lot, it appears…

The winner this autumn has been the myriad variations on the criminal activities of the manager at the rear positions.  Despite spending 16 million pounds on Calum Chambers and 12 million on Mathieu Debuchy (not to mention 4 million on David Ospina in goal),  “Should’ve bought defensive cover” is the mantra of the I-know-more-than-the-manager brigade.   It replaces that chestnut of the past few years, “Fire the physio,” even if the new guy in that arena, Chad Forsythe, is walking a tightrope as twangy as Aaron Ramsey’s hamstring or Laurent Koscielny’s achilles tendons.  Good public relations work, in naming dates for a couple (of kissing?…) French fellows (Debuchy and Olivier Giroud) may yet save the German as they both came back early and strong.  If his countryman, Mesut Ozil, comes back on schedule (or ahead) and makes a good contribution in the New Year, those Gooners looking to blame the boss may have to buck up their ideas and find a new way to aim invective at the manager.  Already, however, the twin tines of  “We didn’t (or we won’t) spend enough (in the Summer or January),” seems on the tip of many a Gooner’s (pitch) forked tongues…

What’s interesting, around these parts at least, is that a small group of writers with a heavy interest in the development of young players and especially the development of young English players, has emerged.  Despite the troubles we’re having meeting the club’s expectations this seems a very good time to take an interest in Arsenal, if you enjoy watching these sorts of players and trying to predict who will make it on the big stage.

Arsenal’s overt recruitment of young British talent, even at oftentimes inflated prices, has yet to truly yield tangible results–both in our first team and for the National set-up–but the signs appear promising.  Clearly, finishing 3rd or 4th in the league is tiresome for Arsenal supporters, much as merely qualifying for the International tournaments is not enough for supporters of the Three Lions.  Still, players like Walcott, Gibbs, Welbeck, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chambers are already, or likely will be, core players for both club and country.  Guys out on loan, notably Jenkinson and Aneke, are huge contributors at their current clubs, while very young guys like Chuba Akpom and Dan Crowley are pouring in goals in the U-21 and U-19 matches.  A real favourite amongst many (see the proposed starting line-up mooted for the Newcastle match) is Isaac Hayden, a guy who surely would’ve made his league debut given injuries to our back line, but for one of his own.

Of course, many Arsenal watchers don’t limit their support of the youngsters to Englishmen.  19 year old Spaniard, Hector Bellerin, with 90 minute outings in the hostile environs of Dortmund and Istanbul, and a great display Saturday vs Newcastle, which included a 60 yard run capped by a stunning assist, will surely see more time with the first team despite his age.   17 year old Gideon Zelalem (who has yet to declare at full International level but seems to be leaning towards the crowded group fighting to play for the world champion German team) got another run out in Turkey after last year’s league cup debut.  Other international players are doing very well at the academy, including Semi Ajayi who took up a bench seat on a couple of occasions even if he hasn’t made his full bow yet.

All of this, of course, is merely review for the guys who watch the coverage of the reserve team or follow the excellent blog “Jeorge Bird’s Young Guns.”  And it is to you fellows I’m reaching out.

Arsene Wenger, who sometimes has been ridiculed for his, er, use or support of young players in the songs of opposing crowds, has also been skewered by his own for statements along the lines of, “We don’t buy because it would kill (insert name of player)…” or “We were a bit naive because we lack experience,” etc., etc.

Playing young players, especially too many all at once, can be a double edged sword which cuts deeply.  Additionally, the acquisition of young players (and then sending them out on loan) and the building of academies is a real frontier in the Wild West of football finances.  Benevolent owners can hide losses in such policies and projects under current Financial Fair Play rules while developing their own future stars AND a revenue stream from sales of the ones who don’t quite make the grade.  Moreover loan rules, which (in my opinion) desperately need reform, allow clubs down the financial pecking order to employ and develop players away from the (often harsh) floodlights of their home clubs’ stadiums.  This spares those who spend the relatively lavish sums to buy a seat at places like the Emirates or Stamford Bridge (Princes and Emirs themselves, at least relative to the more working class wages of the football fans of yesteryear) from having to watch young players “learn on the job,” as it were.

Chelsea are stockpiling talent and working the loan system at an unprecedented level.  Their group of players out on loan (26 in total, including some older guys, like 50 million pound purchase, Fernando Torres) could probably compete adequately to win the English Championship or other less powerful leagues.  Manchester City are augmenting their buy-him-to-try-him system (with a shadow squad of Bridges, Barrys, Rodwells, Johnsons and Sinclairs, etc.) to this: http://www.mcfc.co.uk/The-Club/City-Football-Academy/Our-Vision

In the decade since our last league title (won in spectacular, invincible style) and the move to the new stadium, Arsenal have endured a period of relative financial austerity, especially when compared to the lavish spending in South London or up in Manchester.  In this period our focus on youth development has been a bit of a bright spot.   Things looked especially good in the first season after the stadium move with an appearance in the final of the league cup and a narrow 2-1 loss to Chelsea.

Since then, however, things haven’t seemed as rosy and the second time we made that final, and also lost by a similar score line, it was to a club (Birmingham City) which would soon be relegated.  That one may have actually been a sizeable set-back, given that would-be young leader Szczesny, and Koz, were at fault for the loss and left the pitch in tears, respectively, surely not signs of maturity, in deed nor action.

This season has been a further test as injuries to experienced players like Ozil, Giroud, Debuchy, Koscielny and Arteta have given extended chances to many a young Gunner.  Results have been mixed (at best), and Arsenal approach the festive period in 6th position in the league and already eliminated from one of the kids’ best venues–the League Cup.  Even a moderately kind draw in the Champions League group stage didn’t result in substantial opportunities for the younger players.

In my opinion, we’re actually getting the worst of all worlds.  We spend big (relatively) on young talent but still spill points or otherwise sacrifice immediate results in the hopes that the young players we are using can come good.  We’re forced to use players who are too young or are hopelessly below Arsenal standards and we put them in situations which probably carry too much pressure given the demands of the fans who sit in the (famously) “highest priced seats in all of Europe.”  Now, even our travelling support have grown tetchy.  Hostilities on difficult trips no longer end at the final whistle.  Recent video footage, amidst shameful treatment of our manager, contained the hilarious warning to a young player, Joel Campbell, to wise up and leave the club.

That warning (“Get out while you can”) begs the question: what should Arsenal do with its youth players?  

Some here (notably a writer named “Steve”) seem to favour playing many of them, most all the time, no matter the results.  Others, including our own man of the horses and dogs, Gerry, scouts them like a handicapper and sees opportunities as the first team is challenged with injuries.  Still others demand that we recall players from loan spells as individual positions are depleted.  With the recall of Coquelin (and his appearance late on vs Newcastle this past Saturday), it appears management concurs.  As we’re not privy to the individual deals made with other clubs, it’s difficult to know what’s actually possible.

Certainly, between transfer windows, at least, bumping up kids from the under 21-s IS the way to go and sometimes, if they’ve got the inherent quality and they’re given enough support, a player can make the step up.  Given the success–and versatility–Hector Bellerin has shown in his last two outings, I’d expect him to be a regular presence on our bench (and in the FA Cup matches).  Given continued development he seems a very plausible back-up and successor to Debuchy (28 now) at RB.  (Calum Chambers, a young but expensive player, has by and large made the most of his opportunities, too, and may be Debuchy’s long term successor, if not used more in other positions.)

Bellerin and Chambers, however, I think, are exceptions to the rule.  Arsenal, if we aspire to become a world class club will likely need world-class players in every position, or as Jose Mourinho famously stated when he was awash in money during his first stint working under Russian Oligarch owner, Roman Abramovich, “I (we) want two world class players at every position.”  If Arsenal aspire to such heights, we likely need to buy or otherwise develop our players to the point that they are world class on the day they make their Arsenal (first team) debut.  If that means loaning out our most promising youth players, at the highest level possible and to clubs who might buy them, then so be it.  It’s not a sign that we don’t support our guys by suggesting that they must make a career elsewhere.

Personally I love to see guys like Seb Larsson–a guy who never played for the first team at Arsenal–find success at a club like Sunderland.  I much prefer his story to that of guys who played for us, but ultimately didn’t make the grade, and quietly moved on.  Where, for example is Larsson’s fellow Scandinavian, Nicklas Bendtner, this season?  This is only my opinion, of course, and others may have very different views.  This is a discussion post, after all.

Overall, until loan rules are changed, using other clubs (who have more immediate first team needs) seems the best way to develop and vet our best young players.  It’s a balancing act, of course, and an act of speculation on the player in question.

Buy low and sell high is the mantra of Capitalists and our owner (one of the best, in this realm at least…) and managers must try and follow this course.  We need to play this game at the highest possible level and also assume that our money allows us to treat almost all players at almost all clubs as if they’re on loan.  Yes, to get adequate players we may not get our exact favourite.  We may have to play one potentially world class player off against other would-be recruits and, be willing to lose them to offers from the clubs willing to pay (waste) even more money to hoover them into their shadow squads.  Still, I think we can likely improve upon options already at the club or among the small group of players we have on loan.

We need mature players, ready to take their chances.  No more “learning on the job” or making allowances for players simply because of their youth.  We shouldn’t have one standard for youth players and one for older guys.  If Mertesacker (or Arteta or Flamini) can’t race back or rise up and make a decisive intervention why do we cut him less slack than we do a guy like Bellerin or Chambers?  (It’s called age discrimination, if you’re wondering…) Time to “bed in” and get used to the league and its players, is one thing.  Playing young guys who clearly lack the physique or stamina or technique to play at the appropriate level is just as bad (or even worse, perhaps) than playing guys who are clearly past it.  

Moreover, this type of player acquisition seems an ideal way for a great man, with a great eye for young talent, to travel and find future world class Arsenal players.  Arsene Wenger is surely already trying to do this while he does his off season commentary work for French television.  If he were to continue this work (and perhaps–while he continues as our manager–brings a younger manager our way who might succeed him with the first team…) it might suggest a way he might continue to contribute to the growth of his–and our–club.

As such, youth policy might (indirectly) suggest a direction for management policy or for handling the inevitable retirement of our iconic manager.  Sorry, if that’s not really the Wenger Out conclusion I promised, but there you go… 😆

What say you, fellow Gooners?

Written by; 17highburyterrace

Festive Season: Time to Shine for Hayden, Akpom, O’Connor and M-N!

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Interestingly, now attention is turning back to our Newcastle game: stories of who might miss out have even more relevance to the use of substitutes on Saturday and beyond…

If Koscielny and Monreal both fail fitness tests then Stefan O’Connor could be on the bench to cover Chambers in the middle. The 20 minutes he had on Tuesday night, in his right position, would have been a great time to see how well he could play alongside Mertersacker? Heaven forbid, but he might be in line to replace Per himself, as he must be due an injury as our fate starts to look for a fresh victim. Let’s face it; there are very few untouched souls out there.

Everybody is assuming Gibbs will be fit … what if….
Come to think of it, both Debuchy and Flamini came off, the latter we assume was for carding issues. But if there was a physical problem, perhaps Kamara should have started? At least Em’an’en got a good 45minutes and would be good cover for OX, who apparently is one of the few to be involved in every game so far?

Of course the bigger question will be about Podolski: Super sub or start and replace?
In a 4-3-3 line up it is easier to slot him in on the left side, although less flexible across the front line viz a viz Alexis, Welbeck, and Ox, and it puts more pressure on the Giroud/Welbeck situation. The three in behind is more or less a case of who is alongside Ramsey now 😀
I guess, Cazorla over Ox would be favourite for the creative role, and Flamini for the defensive one?
That would leave Ox resting on the bench, but that might not be a bad thing…

Then we get back to the back 5, where I guess on Woijech and Per are the only certainties?
Debuchy, with no repercussions after a long lay off, Chambers if Kos misses out, and Gibbs.
That would seem the most likely set up.

However, these thoughts got me thinking about the bigger picture of games to come? I said earlier in the week I thought we need at least three young players to step up and create a larger number of players to choose from …

The bench will tell us more about how AW plans to take us through the hectic schedule to come. Will it be a narrow group that take the bulk of the load, or will we see the odd body of youth getting an airing? This Newcastle game offers more scope for youth over experience than the Liverpool one, but what will follow then is about six games over the next two weeks. I would suggest then it will be a case of two shadow teams: one game with the bulk of stars, the other with a few, and benches of ‘resting’ players, and an assortment of fringe players hoping to take their chance to prove themselves. Even the FA Cup game will not be a respite, unless AW puts all his eggs on maintaining a league challenge…

So I come back to the bench for Saturday, and benches beyond that, and see who the fringe players are and who might get used at some point:

In goal we can assume that Ospina will push past Martinez to the 2nd/alternative spot.

The CB line up has three contenders; Ajayi, Hayden, and O’Connor, with the alternatives of Chambers and Monreal, when they are not being used in their respective full back roles.

Left back is the weak spot if Monreal and Gibbs are out injured. O’Connor was thought to be the cover for Bellerin on Tuesday, but that never materialised; still, he looks the best option in the absence of B54.

Right back is less of a worry, in so far as we have three. Debuchy, Chambers,and Bellerin in that order.

Defensive midfield is the sensitive area. Arteta and Flamini are the primary choices, but both will find games with short breaks between could be a problem. I have made no secret that Isaac Hayden will likely fill one of these roles, permanently. Hopefully his return to training has gone smoothly and he should be ready for the Liverpool game. It will be a tough introduction, but if he shines, as I suspect he will, then he will see the bulk of the following six games. We do have Chambers, again, as one option, or the untried Kamara on the list to play the main or sole defensive player. The B2B option, again behind the ArtFlam experienced pair, and Ramsey who is likely to command this position if his return to form holds, but Maitland-Niles looks to have done his case no harm at all to be the go-to sub whenever needed.

Attacking midfielders will be strengthened further with the hopeful return of Walcott, back in training this week. Ox, the experienced Rosicky, the ever present Alexis, Podolski, Campbell…. And let us not forget the emerging talent that is Serge Gnabry. He too needs game time, and could prove very useful over the next three weeks, and beyond?
So this is an area we should be okay if rotation is used to best effect …starting with this coming game by giving Ox the day off: he has earned it.

Creative midfield we are struggling. In the absence of Ozil, and longer term Wilshere, Cazorla is carrying the load. Even by using others who open up defensive in different ways, like Alexis, Ox, and Rosicky, there may be occasions where, even if only from the bench, the likes of Matland-Niles, and the talented Zelalem will be needed?

Up front, with the strikers, it tends to be more about balance. The ability to work well with those around them, and Giroud stands out as the one that others can play well with. Welbeck offers a different approach with his work rate. Podolski with his strike rate, Alexis for gladiatorial approach, and Walcott with his pace. in theory we should not need to worry in this area … but it is a team game and they have to work as a unit amongst themselves, and with the midfield, and when needed, helping the defence. They also need to be more clinical when chances come their way. Enter Chuba Akpom. Blessed with pace, grace, and power that show glimpses of Thierry Henry. If he puts it altogether his career will take off big time. For now, though, he needs to take any opportunity he gets this season and use it to improve in the areas where he is weakest, and still learning … Because I confidently predict next season the others will be lucky if they can oust him from a No 1 starting role.

So my young players that will make a difference, if called upon, are:
Isaac Hayden
Chuba Akpom
Ainsley Maitland-Niles aka ‘Em’an’en’
Stefan O’Connor at CB

Wish-list:
Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill – Get fit soon, your team needs you!
Semi Ajayi, your turn will come. Keep working, time is on your side.

Note: Serge Gnabry is experienced, so falls into the same category as Walcott: a very welcome returnee.

The future is ahead of us, but it starts now …
Keep the faith

Written by: Gerry.

Arsene’s bold shopping list

The future is out there. How we progress is right here …

 

transfer-window

The Shopping List: DM, ST, RB, GK and CB…

I find these transfer windows both absorbing and time wasting. Absorbing for the possibilities. Wasting for the contradictions and lies.

I know my post about up to 8 signings was met with some scepticism, and 17HT, I take your point about players coming through the ranks and progressing into the team. But, there have been 11 players released so far, and whilst I wish them all the best, I have a feeling Zak Ansah could have dropped lucky if he gets his move to Charlton. But just like the TW, we cannot have everybody. Again, as 17HT says, we are not a club that can afford SQ player for the bench, which may have been the case with Fabregas and Ozil? A sore point I know, but it exposes the truth in what HT was saying.

However, just want focus on the strength behind the quality players, and make a case for a number of signings?

To start in the key areas of need: RB, DM, and back up CB, where I feel there is not an immediate candidate who can step up at the present time.

RB,- Bellerin, who I have not seen enough of recently to know how he has progressed, and his loan spell was unsatisfactory, so probably needs another year? Whilst Jenkinson has all the qualities in spirit, he also has some weaknesses that cannot be ignored.

DM: We have Hayden, but is still a novice in such a key area. Arteta, sadly age and pace do not tend to have the same life cycle? Flamini you would not want to count on him to avoid a suspension or two?

The academy CB’s are at least two years off even being considered. Vermaelen is solid when fit, and when with Mertersacker. Add to the loss of Sagna as a 3rd CB, we most certainly need cover. The look on TV5’s face at the Cup Final tells me he does not want a repeat of that, and if he leaves, then I think another youngster will be found? Unless young Miquel does well in pre-season, and does not find the regular games he got on loan more appealing?

So they are the probable three signings, two of whom need to be quality ready to slot in. The CB I have in mind, is quality, but would need time to be up to the pace and threats in the EPL. I have no doubt that is what AW is also looking for. The possibility of a young CB could still be an option too.

Then we come to strikers. Outside of Giroud, we have Sanogo who is still a work in progress. So to consider him as a full time replacement for anything more than a Cup game would be unfair to him. For those who are expecting great things from Joel Campbell, and I am one of them, let’s be realistic. He cannot do 90 minutes in such a demanding league as ours, right now. If you noticed he tired badly in the second half in his WC games, and was subbed against England. His skills are there to be seen, but push him too hard too early, and it could destroy him? However, I do see him alternating with Walcott on the right, which should keep both fresh and fit. Along with Sanogo, we have yet to unleash the beast that is Serge Gnabry. I think between the three of them they can be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses, with or without Giro.

The problem is, they and Walcott are predominantly right side/central players. Whilst it is true the latter, and Oxlade Chamberlain can add pace down the left, both would rather be centre/right? Otherwise, on the left we have Podolski. Those keeping up to speed with my posts recently will note I did not have him amongst the possible departures? The reason is having ‘options’. If he is happy to play less full games then he gives us a real goal threat down the left. But, he has his limitations.

Apart from the over worked Gibbs, we have no real pace down the left side, especially out of defence. We become predictable. High ball for Giro to hold, or ball out to Sagna … who we haven’t got any more! – and if you read this Bacary, I agree with you. You did this club proud for the whole time you were here. EVERY Gunner’s fan should respect you for that!

I think this gives an option to purchase pace on the left. Currently, that is from midfield in the shape of Ramsey, but he is better with late runs more central? Ozil? The problem with him is it limits his creativity to some extent?

My feeling is that when the signing of a second striker is made, it will define who we need on the left. Alexis Sanchez ticks a lot of boxes, but if we get him, it still leaves us without pace on the wide left, Gibbs apart. Sanchez, with Chile, has been central, or right side, but has the skill set to be versatile on the other side of centre. I am not sure we will sign him, as the main reason for Barca selling him, one assumes, is to fund the purchase of Suarez. That may no longer be the case? But Liverpool are in strong position to bargain, if they lower their valuation of Suarez?

That will run and run I fear. Barca have been very difficult for us to do business with in the past, and I can see this being no different?

Which brings me back to our needs: ideally, a left sided striker/wide player that can be the outlet ball down that side, as well a fulfilling the role of much needed support to Giroud. To be of a quality enough to draw defenders to him, is also a major requirement. So the striker becomes the switch that sets in motion other targets, or not, as the case may be. That would be the 4th essential signing.

However, back up to our ‘Chezzer’ is probably still on the cards.

So, 5 signings made up of: Two SQ (DM & ST); One Solid(but with potential) RB; One Experienced (GK); One Gem(who will be SQ in the near future) CB. Replacements for any other departures beyond Bacary Sagna, will be open to who is available? Some may not need replacing if the above signings have already displaced them though?

If we get the right players that gives us options to keep the balance and shape to the side, and more importantly, keep the unity intact, then I think we will have a cracking side to match up to the money clubs. I also believe we will be able to give our promising young players more game time by introducing them into a confident winning team, where they can strut their stuff without the pressures of the past season. Our fixture list gives us an opportunity to rest key players approaching big games, but only if we have the options available?

This is my blueprint for a successful 2014-2015 season?

So what do you think?

1) Will Arsene Wenger be as bold as I think he will, or pretty close to it?

2) Have you gone over to the dark side before the TW opens, and think he will buy a so-so striker like Remy, promise big over DM, but fail to deliver, and miss out on quality RB, and settle on another youth player. Going for the bare minimum and probably miss out on all silverware, and even 4th spot?

3) Or in the SQ camp for one, but no more than two quality signings, plus a couple of solid players as backups? So we challenge on all fronts, but the injuries that have plagued in the past proved to be our undoing at the final hurdle?

Time to be bold. Arise Sir Arsene Wenger ….

Written by: Gerry

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.

Who to replace Giroud? Clues: He is 18, born in Stuttgart, cost £100k

Is the squad too thin

or

Is it really that hard to rotate sensibly?

Picture from Arsenal.com.
Picture from Arsenal.com.

I know I bang on about using the kids more often, but quite frankly, I think that time has past. We have a core of players that are going to have to carry us until January at least. And even with any signings, most will get their introductions in the first couple of rounds of the FA Cup. Even the best players are going to need an adjustment period. So, for at least two months we are likely to be using a pick from 15 or 16 players. That is providing those who do come back from injury don’t suffer any relapses?

The key period is this coming month, while there are still mid-week games to be played. So here is a player-by-player guide of how to navigate our way through this difficult fixture list.

Goalkeeper – Szczesny. No need to rotate except in the Cup matches, or for injury.

CB – Mertersacker. Again, a seasoned professional who will happily keep going through all the serious stuff, barring injury.

CB – Koscielny. Solid player, but if fatigue is creeping in, he needs a break. The next two games could be ideal for such a break?

CB – Vermaelen. Needs playing time, alongside Mertersacker preferably. Play him the next two games and he will be nice and sharp for the four games that follow, in case of injury or suspension.

LB – Gibbs. Just had a bout of ‘flu, no need to rush him back. Let him sit out the next game, and do a half game the next one. Then play according to who lines up ahead on the left – see earlier comments.

LB – Monreal. Excellent game last time. Keep him in to prove he can do it against a side that provides a sterner test, which I am sure he will. I would also be tempted to play him in the away leg at Napoli, keeping Gibbs fresh for the league games that follow.

RB – Sagna. Difficult one. Needs to play unless he has a fitness issue. Perhaps taking an early breather in games we have under control?

RB – Jenkinson. Just at the moment he is a bit of a gamble to play from the start, as he has a tendency to get forwards, and get caught out, partly because opposition in the league have realised he is easy to gang up on and get a turnover. Self perpetuating, not playing, not getting into games in good form. Needs a solid back up ahead of him in any game he starts, but maybe use him ahead of Sagna for the last 25 minutes?

MF – Arteta. No problem. Can play when needed.

MF – Flamini. No problem if he keeps out of the card game?

MF – Ramsey. Should need a break, but physically shows no sign of slowing down … until he gets a thigh or groin problem. Best solution is to do some first hour, last 20 minutes, rotation. The next six games look too important to miss out unless he has a physical problem. However, the odd game, perhaps against Hull, could refresh him against mental fatigue?

MF – Wilshere. Looked in the last game to have relaxed a little, and let his talent do the talking. Ideal timing to come into form before these crucial matches. Also, ideal player to alternate with the above for mini breaks of not playing the full 90 minutes every time? Not forgetting the ankle tapping that will go on, without, it seems, much support from referees?

That is the defensive side stretched to the limit, but with luck they may just see it through?

Bench support could come from Yennaris and Hayden, but neither are getting any first team game time. One or the other should be on the bench, just in case?

MF – Rosicky. Needs to pick his games where he is absolutely needed, or to be the ‘go to’ sub in every game when tired legs and minds are flagging?

MF – Cazorla. Could play most games, but I would prefer he sits some out to be the Ozil back up, and not start when the above does, unless there is an injury crisis.

MF – Walcott. Could be about to be the most important player in this whole midfield set up … if he stays fit. Certainly start him against Cardiff, possibly bench against Hull as they are likely to be a PTB side that will not give him space to work in until late on? Therefore keep for the big league games, and bench at Napoli. They need the win, so space in the second half could open up nicely for him?

MF – Podolski. Will be useful if he is ready before the New Year.

ST/MF – Gnabry. I think we have seen enough of him to know he will be a player in this period. Much will depend on how the midfield is shaping up. He will not play at the same time as Walcott, unless he does have to step up for Giroud. Personally, I do not see that as a major problem, and can easily be tried out at the back end of the next two games if we have the scores under our control. However, he will more likely alternate with Walcott, unless we have the double pivot running, and the AMF’s are playing wide. He does need some playing time, so from the bench with this next match against Cardiff, and the full hour or so against Hull. Then take it from there, as required, but play him regularly.

ST – Giroud. Big problem if he gets a long term injury. He seems to be able to take the physical game okay, but there were signs of mental fatigue during the last intensive spell? We have a few players who could step in, but all have a ‘but’ about their suitability. So he plays until he drops. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that?

The alternatives are:

Bendtner – the most ‘like for like’ player but unlikely to get a good fan reaction.

Akpom – Inexperienced, but has been in good form at the lower level.

Sanogo – Struggling physically at the moment, but has the potential to be good next season.

That leaves: Walcott, Podolski, and Gnabry. The latter gets my vote, preferably with the other two in the line up.

Does that analysis worry you more?

Have your say on other possibilities…

 

Written by: Gerry

At least three home grown players should start each EPL game? Think again!

REFORM PROPOSALS

34495_2

I see that popular theme of the moment was raised again – the number of players in the England squad who started in the premier league games was 9? Perhaps they should be forced to put Gibbs in the squad to get the quota up?

I am not sure if the new commission have thought it through, with this idea that at least 3 homegrown players should start every EPL game. Do they not realise that the big money clubs will simply buy up all the best young talent, so instead of the talent being spread around, it will be concentrated in fewer clubs, and although 3 may play, you can guarantee that at least 3 or 4 others will be sitting on the sidelines?

Where will that leave the game in 5 years time?

Not only that, can you imagine the divisions and rifts it will cause if a club has its best homegrown players injured and has to use a 3rd tier player to fill in, at the expense of one of their really talented imports? In reality what is more likely to happen is the bigger clubs will simply lose a substitute or two and haul off anybody who is not there on merit?

That is the real point. We want homegrown players to be in our top sides on merit

So, perhaps the size of these academies should be looked at?. Then look at the period after the young players who sign their first schoolboy, then by the time they are 16, govern more closely where they move on to at 18 or 19. If these academies were given a rating for their development skills, and getting players into their first team for a minimum number of matches, then they were have their quota raised for their junior entrants, and more important, clubs that fail to upgrade their juniors into their first team, have their their opportunities to cream off the best also cut.

So, you begin by setting up a limit of how many players academies can have in the first place. Arsenal for instance, have around 80+ under 18’s.. This may well be a reflection of what the club can afford, but does it give all those the same opportunity than if they were in smaller units spread around? Then you have the ratio of those juniors which have been selected from their immediate area from the age of 9 through to age 16 and their first contracts, against those that are imported aged 16-18+?

This to me is the first stage of the imbalance that worries football chiefs. Do the locals really get squeezed out, or are the foreign player simply better coached at an early stage, and thus show more potential by the time they reach the time to sign professional forms? If it is the former then they can negate that by quotas. If, as seems evident in most cases, it is the latter, then we lose talent that could strengthen the premier league status to other country’s leagues, and without addressing the fundamental problem of coaching skills?

My proposal would be to do a full background check on clubs throughout the league, not just the premier division. See how is it, that a smaller income club like Southampton can be so successful, it appears, in all respects, than say some clubs who have bigger resources, who do relatively little in terms of progressing youngsters? May be like Arsenal, they can distort the final figure of successfully trained juniors into first team players by the huge numbers they process? It is not that simple of course. A club like Arsenal will attract a large number of aspiring youngsters that simply do not have the required talent, and may not be good enough to break into even a lower league side?

But how, if at all, are these clubs assessed?

I quoted the figure from Coventry’s academy recently, that 11 of the 18 players in the squad that beat Wimbledon AFC in the FA Cup game were homegrown, most had been there since the age of 9. If it were not for their 10 point penalty, they would be 4th in Division 1. They must be doing something right, and others less so?

Moving on to more general assessment. It should be able to get a figure from all the clubs of what %age of the clubs income is spent on development of young players, and from that how many players each club will then coach from all divisions. You then can have a better idea who is doing it right with regards to getting players to first contract level?

With all that in place you can also have from the basic quota of the numbers of players that are in the system from the %age of income, and can adjust that according to success rates. Up and Down!

Remember this is throughout the league, and at the bottom end clubs do not have the finances to run large academies, or even the successful ones being able to expand if they are given an increased quota if they are not one of the mega rich clubs.

This is where I feel the massive income from TV sources should be used. So a successful but not a club but not with a large fan base or income, could be allocated X millions to fund another 10 places for quality players to get the best coaching right through until they are able to sign professional contracts age 18. The lower league clubs could get similar assistance so every local club has the facilities in place to coach youngsters no matter where they live. But they will be assessed on the quality of their coaching. Indeed, if this money is spent wisely, using techniques that are implemented at the best clubs, by paying these ‘best clubs’ to train and educate new coaches. Particularly the lower league clubs who run really good academies, would have openings for these newly trained coaches who have working experience as well as their merit badges? Many of these people will be ex-footballers, who going through a properly funded system where they learn from the best, will then be our future skilled managers? 

That brings us to ‘Best Practice’ 

What determines best practice? Each club, and it’s manager, will have a favoured style of play which they want to instil into players that go on to have a future at their club. But before that, the basics that are worked, over and above precocious early talent. Techniques of ball control, passing and team work, are the fundamentals that good coaches should be able to get right, long before formations and style of play come into it?

The clubs that take in huge numbers of youngsters, and turn the average 8 or 9 year old into a good footballers, and the very talented into top class ones, are the models the commission should be looking at. Rather than the clubs who simply scout their adjacent clubs and cream off the best ones. This will simply distort their performance of improving techniques, by just adding a bit to the most talented? This does not mean all big clubs are not models for best practice. However, if thoroughly skilled coaches were spread over more clubs, even if not directly funded by the clubs themselves, it could open up diversity where the kids could see where they are best suited, before they get into club allegiance? There could be teams of coaches who visit clubs on a regular basis to do coaching sessions, which the clubs can back up themselves. I thinking here at very grass root level of non-league clubs, who with the best will in the world cannot employ highly qualified coaches. But the aim is to have as many clubs assist their local children in giving them the best football education, without having to travel miles and miles, before they know if they want to pursue it further?

Monitoring young players.

It is important to know if what is being done, is working the way it is intended. By the time players reach 14 or 15 their natural talent beyond technique should have revealed itself. They are now on schoolboy forms which makes the follow up easier. However, players that leave the system should also have an input in case it is something that can be corrected, and they can continue their interest in playing. There may be a shortage of local clubs, referees, or even pitches to play on, which another area where centralised funding could help?

The breakthrough years between 16-21 are where the pressures and disappointments start to surface. But if these players are monitored and assessed, and the players have had an input, the quality players with an abundance of natural talent, and years of the best coaching practice behind them, should be able to find clubs to employ them professionally.

Only then, when all this is in place, can you say to clubs who they should or shouldn’t play. In the meantime, perhaps those clubs that horde quality youngsters could be given a push with a ‘use them or lose them’ ultimatum? So 16 year old not getting a minimum number of games appropriate to their talent or age should be made available to other clubs who can claim a shortage of top young talent, if they meet the criteria of being models of best practice.

Opportunity, not money, should be the guiding principle?

 

Written by: Gerry.

Arsenal’s future: Ottewill, Hayden, Bellerin, Yennaris, Eisfeld, Zelalem, Akpom, Gnabry, Campbell, Sanogo, Lipman, etc?

Gedion Zelalem: Cesc potential?
Gedion Zelalem: Cesc potential?

To buy, or not to buy. That is the question?

The big questions over transfers are:

A; What position? i.e. to replace who? in the short/medium/long term, and with that comes B.

B; Do we really need somebody if we have someone in the academy ranks that could do that role in a year or two years time?

We, as intelligent supporters tend to stick with the A, often without the secondary thoughts of how well they might fit in with the team? And then, later to whom it might affect?

I will run through a few names from the academy, who in the near future could develop into our main squad/first 11:

GK – No real problems here, imo. Martinez is out on loan and will be an able deputy long term. Plus Iliev, and the new guy from Bristol, Macey who from reports is big and commanding despite his age, just 19. So unless we are replacing our current Number 1? I doubt we will be buying anyone?

CB – Only one name in the frame here. Isaac Hayden. He must be a very good listener as AW is clearly rating him highly, but not necessarily in this position? But he is versatile. That could leave an opening for Ignasi Miquel, currently out on loan. If that is successful, he could be a useful back up? While Boateng and Fagan’s turn is probably a little way off, should they be of such quality?

So I think new blood here is pretty certain.

LB – Again, one name that has blossomed recently, Brandon Ormonde Ottewill, aka BOO54.

Seriously good prospect in the period beyond Monreal’s tenure.

Position covered in the short and medium term. BOO54 could be such a talent to take us beyond that?

RB – No question, Bellerin is the one. …. (if he stays in this position? – personal note!). Recently injured in the Dortmund junior game, after playing well. He looks like overtaking Jenks especially when/if Jenks goes out on the loan which would give regular games to get more varied experience? That may be harsh on Jenkinson, but the alternative would likely mean a transfer in? We just need Sagna to sign up for another 3 years – I year playing at top level. I year as mentor/rotation. 1 year back up. Not to mention usefulness at CB throughout?

Essential note to management – Do it!

Midfield: sub division; Defensive; Isaac Hayden looks to be the one at the present time to take over or cover for Flamini? He needs to be guided, but as I said earlier, he must be a good student. He is also the marker for the younger ones hoping to make it one day. Not unlike many a young player, prone to try too hard to impress, but he has all the attributes to become a great DM.

Not forgetting Nico Yennaris. Alas his progress has been stalled by injuries at crucial times. If he can secure a decent loan deal where he can play week in week out, and stay out of the treatment room, then you could be looking at Arteta’s natural successor, although he can play RB too. Very few deserve it more, but sadly, it may not happen? Such is the pressure for the here and now? It is likely a new face will be brought in that will change the whole dynamic in this area. We shall see?

Other areas of midfield are so competitively covered it is hard to see who can break through, or where? However, such is the talent brewing, that current players, and those on the fringes may need to improve just to keep their places in a year or two?

The candidates are plentiful, but perhaps not all will make it at Arsenal?

Attacking/creative midfielders: Eisfeld looked nailed on to force his way into the first team squad, yet has hardly made the bench this season? Niggling injuries, some criticism of his ‘team play’, and others breaking through, all seem to have contributed to him slipping out of contention. He probably needs a loan spell to develop his undoubted talent further? His position, or where he performs best, is probably the one that Podolski plays most often: near the main striker, where he can ghost into the box and shoot with either foot. That is strength, and his weakness for a future here?

If ever we do sign a second striker, his potential is at most risk? In the deeper role, Ozil seems to have the only other option, and that position looks secure for some time to come?

Second striker?

Zelalem surprised many on tour pre-season, and showed he lost none of his flair in the recent Dortmund game. Again injury halted his progress so he missed the COC matches, but he looks destined to play, despite his young age, in that all round creative role that Ozil or Cazorla play? In the short term, he will find opportunities, longer term he could be the real reason why Cesc does not return …. as a player at least?

Position covered!

Jon Toral is another who made a comeback from injury in that Dortmund game. Made one goal, scored another, missed two easy chances. Rosicky mark 2 by any other name? I would go so far as to say, he is the only player at the club that is closest to the TR7 in style. When he breaks through into the squad, and with enough mentoring from the same TR7, he will be an absolute star. Not only that, he can play anywhere behind the strikers.

Positions covered – In spite of my tendency to covet another young player in the short term, it will have little effect on young Toral’s advancement into our list of great players.

The deeper lying Kristoffer Olsson has also claims on the box to box role, but has several young players ahead of him already in the squad, and he too, may need to go out on loan to get game time. Then we might see how he fits in at a later stage? Quality player none the less, and should any of the senior player fall by the wayside he could be ready to take on that role seamlessly.

That is all the midfield positions covered. Re-read this list in two years time, and tell me I am wrong?

Striker/Front line? The most talked about roles in terms of transfer in news presently.

Mostly because it is thought the young players are not enough like Giroud to lead the line, or not experienced enough to either support him in the second striker role, if we should ever demand that starting position. Alas, all of this is true, with the exception of Gnabry, who is gaining experience, and adding width to our play. The others have yet to experience this.

images24

I will put Gnabry in this category, because, although untried, he could be a contender for Giroud’s understudy? If anything, he has more claims than Walcott for example, given he can shoot with either foot, he can dribble, has pace, above all has the physical build to bully his way past defenders. But like all of these young players, close support around them in the early stages will be necessary, whilst they fully learn their skill to do it alone? None are at the stage that can take on the Giroud role in the way he does, but Gnabry is just one who could do a job there if called upon?

Akpom heads the queue of those outside of the current squad, and although is different in style to Giroud, I believe he is not far behind Gnabry in skills and build, to command a leading role? It is whether the team can adjust to his style of play? He is a ball player, rather than a hold up guy. You play the final pass to him in and around the box and he will work a shot away almost every time. Expecting him to hold off two or three defenders near the halfway line, take a ball down with a deft headed touch, and you will be disappointed. Play a ball to his feet and watch him twist away for a couple of one-two’s and he’s your man. He is your RVP replacement far more than Giro is, but he needs playing time to get to that level? In the meantime, he would be your Podolsksi deputy ..if only Podolski held a regular spot in the team? Or playing with Podolski would be equally interesting for him and Gnabry?

Sanogo has all the attributes to be a top class striker, except the physical body to match. I believe physically he is a late maturing type, and his injuries have held him back considerably. He is going to be a slow, long term project that I hope the club persevere with. If he follows the Gibbs line and develop his core strength through exercise, whilst gradually getting the confidence to withstand what is the norm in the EPL we could have a real star on our hands. Ignore stories of him going back to France, or out on loan. What he needs is right here, and Gibbs has shown it can pay off in a big way, that what you do off field will bring all you deserve it you want it badly enough. I hope he sticks with it and achieves his goal for himself and the club. It may take another year before he blossoms, so providing that space has not been filled by some big name transfer, we should see the benefits for years to come?

A similar type of player to the above is currently on loan, but may well return next season? He is the slightly in and out Joel Campbell? He would bring a Thierry Henry type flair to the team. Skills to burn without a doubt. Hopefully he is learning all the time how to put it all together. The big problem with these players is they need playing time. I think he might like the regular game at a lesser club rather than irregular games here? No disrespect to him, but for visa issues he has not been able to ‘associate’ himself with the club. That needs to change if we are going to profit from his undoubted talent?

He has got the Walcott position very much in his sights. A striker who can play out wide, and cut in and score goals from the most unlike of angles. Not bad at developing his assists to his repertoire either?

Should Walcott fancy a move to where he got married, then we need look no further than this lad to fill his shoes, as long as he continues on this upward curve?

Austin Lipman has been prolific in his scoring recently, and is the other name that has the potential to develop further, and could be considered down the line, but he has to displace a lot of others to get there?

Sadly, any signing will knock the prospects of all back a little, and in football, timing is everything. Most of these strikers are a year or so behind the club’s need, and need that time to break into the squad to develop? But if nothing happens in the forthcoming windows, next season could change our view of who we need?

I am caught in the middle of my own argument here, as, like many others, I see a young striker of huge potential and think, Yes, he’d be great in an Arsenal shirt … and then I look up this list and think, yes so would these in a year or two? I am hoping that Arsene Wenger will make the right decisions and we get to keep the best from those I have outlined above, and at the same time can secure players that will get over the line in the short term. But quality is essential.

I will not name players, but from the above I think we do need a DM for when the going gets tough, and our current small squad is stretched beyond its limits.

A CB, beyond what we have in the squad at the moment.

Sagna’s signature at RB, a priority.

The luxury of a Rosicky back up, as well as his signature on an extended contract, also a priority.

Main striker, who can also play alongside Giroud, and be a model for those I named above?

The one signing I will name, Dennis Bergkamp as coach to these fine prospects would be the icing on the cake?

 Written by: Gerry

Time for Ryo, Eisfeld, Hayden and Olsson to shine: WBA preview

We discussed the options for tomorrow’s line up more than enough in yesterday’s post, and to be frank, I have not got much of a clue who Arsene will play against WBA. Arsene is Arsene and he will do what he thinks is right. I have a horrible feeling he’ll play a lot of regulars and it might backfire on us; the nightmare of Bradford still lingers on in my mind.

I don’t care much whether we go through or not, but I just want us to play good football and give some youngsters a proper chance to shine.

Some interesting points came out of yesterday’s post responses:

  1. Quite a few fellow bloggers don’t believe that Koz and Vermaelen should play together; that either should be combined with Mertesacker, or even Sagna, rather than play as our duo CB’s. Although, I agree that Mertesacker is our first choice CB – a point I have been making for the best part of two years – I still believe that Koz and Vermaelen can play really well together, and I feel strongly that they should start in tomorrow game against WBA;
  2. The cyber-room was also split about who should ideally play as our double-DM pivot, and I agree with the observation by some fellow bloggers that it’s wonderful to have options for these crucial positions now. I, for one, would love to see Arteta and Flamini start a few games together, especially in away games or games against fellow top-teams. This is not to say that I do not rate Ramsey: the absolute opposite is true. Ramsey is doing great and adds a dimension nobody else is capable of offering at the moment. Against WBA I am hoping wise-head Arteta will start with a youngster next to him – either Hayden or Olsson should get a chance as a starter tomorrow;
  3. The other points of discussion were about who should play up front – Akpom or Bendtner – who should play in the hole – Eisfeld, Arteta- and who should play on the wing. The latter seems to become our problem-area this season, with Cazorla, Podolski, Ox, and now also Theo, out injured for significant periods already. We will now need Gnabry to stay fit when we play Swansea and Napoli, and I would not be surprised if he will not be risked tomorrow. This should mean that Ryo will get a start and I hope he will do well. I am also hoping to see Eisfeld, in the hole or on the wing.

Other than seeing us play some good football with passion and focus, and a few youngsters doing well, I am keen to see whether our ‘second string’ – if indeed Wenger gives most of our first team players a rest, which is definitely not a given – can play in the same shape and style as we are now getting used to with the current ‘first teamers’.

I am particularly interested in whether Akpom or Bendtner can play the ‘Giroud-Holding-Striker’ role effectively, and whether Eisfeld will be able to shine in the hole, if indeed he gets a chance there tomorrow.

Hoped for, but not predicted, line-up:

WBA team

All in all, plenty to look forward to. 🙂

Written by: TotalArsenal.