There are a few things in football that are certainties. I don’t mean the kind in which a particular team is certain to win the league; this often turns out to be wrong. Neither do I mean the kind in which the club with the largest wage bill like Manchester City fields a team that is certain to beat a lesser light such as Stoke City.
No, the kind of certainties I am talking about are the smaller ones, the kind Arsenal encounter against teams like Leicester: you could have bet your mortgage that they were going to park the proverbial bus and try and hit us on the break and unsurprising to everyone, or at least it should have been, that is exactly what they did and they did it well.
As predictable as it was Wenger fielded a team designed to be able to find a way round such a stubborn defense. The team selection made complete sense to me: with the defensively able Flamini sitting in front of the back four whose principal jobs were to be alert when the breaks inevitably came. The rest needed to possess super close control, precision passing and all be capable of scoring; in other words, there was no need for Wilshere. Or so I thought.
It also made sense to give Sanogo a start; it was only Leicester, the team who had been embarrassingly knocked out of the Capital One cup in the week by a team from a division I had never heard of.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, the answer to that question is our game plan in which we were supposed to stroll home with all three points, that’s what went wrong.
It was a very frustrating afternoon in which a collection of some of the best midfielders in the League managed to play as disjointed as a chicken after Sunday lunch.
If that is the best team we can field for the next four months and let’s be clear here — it is, then we have got a lot more problems than any of us dared imagine.
Things, of course, didn’t start off this gloomy, the team took to the field with their game plan in tact, followed the script by laying siege to the Leicester goal and got the break through. It wasn’t pretty but we were ahead and I thought that this is one more game in which the players could use to iron out the rough edges on their quest for the Holy Grail of Wenger Ball.
But the one step forward made by Sanchez scoring his first league goal was reversed with the two steps back caused by Koscielny’s injury. Should he have stayed on, shouldn’t he have stayed on, I don’t know, the fact that he did stay played a huge part, in my opinion, of Leicester getting an equalizer.
Can someone remind me how it is that we thought, and I am as guilty if not more, of thinking that the arrival of Ozil and his play last season was something akin to the second coming. Genuine question, I am seriously struggling to remember what it was. Perhaps the first assist when he squared the ball to the on rushing Giroud, this could turn into the “Life of Brian” sketch of “What have the Roman’s ever done for us”. It is interesting to note that he was playing on the left wing that day, just saying.
You all saw the game, we huffed and we puffed but it is just as well that it came to an end after 90 minutes rather than the next goal wins or they could still be playing now.
I want to give special mention to Szczesny whose fine save towards the end of the second half kept us in the game. I also thought Sanchez did very well down the left. I am going to keep a little something back before Sanogo gets both barrels as I want to see what happens when he scores; so much changed for Sanchez when he got his goal against Besiktas in the week that I want to see if the similar uplifting feeling has the same effect on the young Frenchman – but I am not holding my breath.
Not the easy win that some of us foolishly expected and still miles away from the idyllic flowing football envisaged by many, the good news is that Stan is in town, and you know what that means?
Written by LB
We were lucky enough to have two posts for today, here are kelsey’s thoughts.
Every man and his dog can see the deficiencies in our squad and it wasn’t pleasant viewing yesterday as it was obvious that the whole balance of the side was wrong and I feel that Wenger is still experimenting with his best formation.
Let’s be absolutely honest Leicester deserved to win the game and bar a couple of fine saves by Szczesny we would have lost.
We only know one way of playing and that is Wengerball and it just doesn’t work anymore.
For all the flack Giroud gets he does a good job against the majority of teams, but when you look at how close we came last season, the opening games are showing me that we have regressed.
We have more money than for many a season and the buying of Sanchez showed that we can buy quality players but one can’t honestly say that Sanogo or Campbell are at this moment of time the type of player to fill the void and score vital goals when we are playing against a resolute defence.
People talk how much we miss the speed of Walcott especially down the flanks but at this moment of time no one knows for sure when he will be ready and fully fit to play and at a guess that could be several weeks or months judging by our track record.
We have had all Summer to address the problem and Debuchy is a more than adequate replacement for Sagna and Chambers impresses a lot but was he meant to be playing so regularly at this early stage of the season.
Just look at all our games so far, have we been convincing ?
Winning ugly doesn’t apply as for all our possession, in the majority of games, we have failed to take our chances time and time again. But more alarmingly, every single team has sliced through our defence on the counter attack and IMO we have been fortunate not to concede more.
When I hear our manager speak it’s all double dutch to me or the same old excuses like fatigue from the World Cup or a player needs time as he is still recovering from an injury, or negotiations are extremely difficult when trying to secure a player, but the latter applies to all clubs.
We were predictable to an extent last season but there were times when there was far more fluency to the team.
Why does Wenger keep playing players like Ozil out of position? He adds absolutely nothing out on the wing.
Podolski, regardless of what we think of him has been out of favour and invariably has been a sub, but now our manager states he is an option at Centre Forward. A week ago it looked likely that he was being sold or at least offered in part exchange.
Many of you will say that we are only three games in but just look at our forthcoming fixtures which on paper will provide a much bigger test.
We are into the last day of the transfer window so let’s see what happens, if anything at all, and even if we buy,we will get “the player needs a bedding in period”.
I really think whoever we play in midfield the balance is wrong and there isn’t enough physical presence and again the system we play leads us to be alarmingly cut open by every team we have played so far this season.
Dreaded injuries reared their ugly head yet again and at this moment of time it is not clear how serious they are to Kos, Ozil and Oxlade- Chamberlain.
Silent Stan was in attendance yesterday though I don’t suddenly see him changing his track and even expressing an opinion.
I have to say after careful consideration and allowing for the fact that one accepts that Wenger has total control on absolutely everything, there are too many issues on the field that he should have addressed earlier.
I would like to be proved wrong but my gut instinct tells me we are in for a a very difficult season.
Well as I suggested earlier in the day this was going to be a squeaky bum time 90 minutes, and so it turned out to be.
There will be countless opinions about the referee but on the whole even with his bizarre booking of Chambers and to an extent Szczesny we got lucky on at least one penalty call when Wilshere was a cigarette paper away from conceding, which he admitted could have been given.
There was no doubting our commitment and energy levels and IMO there were stand out performances especially from Cazorla, Wilshere, Debuchy and of course Sanchez for his work rate and sealing the win.
We so often don’t make it easy for ourselves, but to be fair after only four competitive games we have had to make several changes to the line up through injury and suspension. There were signs of the return of our fluidity especially on the counter attack but there is still improvement needed and hopefully at least one if not two quality signings before the deadline approaches.
One minute in the game stands out for me.
Oxlade – Chamberlain really should have made it 2-0 and within thirty seconds Debuchy received a second yellow, so from basically having the game in the bag we had to endure twelve odd minutes of extreme angst, however overall the team dug in and there was relief all round as the final whistle was blown.
I hope Wenger was bluffing when he said there was no need to buy an additional striker. Sanogo and Campbell are raw recruits who hopefully will come good. Walcott is still at least twelve matches away from being considered and Podolski who was on his way to the airport forty eight hours earlier is now apparently another option upfront.
I don’t generally like to pick out players for a poor performance but if we persist playing Ozil out on the wing we will never get the true benefit of his class. His whole demeanour and body language is quite different to anyone else in the team yet I get the feeling he is uncomfortable in the chosen role that Wenger has allotted him. Any thoughts?
Finally, seventeen years of consecutive Champions League football is to be congratulated and hopefully as players get more playing time their fitness will improve. I wish with additional funds available this Summer we would have been bold and added a couple of quality players earlier and not have a last minute rush as in previous seasons, if we actually further strengthen at all.
Less than a week until the transfer window shuts, and still speculation into who else will join the four new players we have signed. So far we have Sanchez who in the couple of games we have seen him, looks to be a fine live wire. Up next we have Debuchy a right back replacement for our beloved Bacary Sagna. Debuchy has had a quiet start, no fireworks but looks to be a sound buy. Debuchey doesn’t appear to have the attacking flair that Bacary had, but I see that as a plus, as I like a full back to be a defender that defends.
Next up we have our replacement goalkeeper Ospina, replacement for Fabianski who has moved on for regular first team football. I have to say that this was a disappointment to me as although over the year’s Fabianski was nicknamed Flappy for quite a few errors I feel that he has had rather a tough time of it, as Szczesny’s understudy. But he’s gone, and Ospina has taken up residence, still yet to be seen on the firing line due to injury, but rumoured to be good enough to give Szczesny a run for his money.
Next up we have young 19 year old Calum Chambers from Southampton. Not a lot known about young Calum, only that he is down as a right back, Wenger paid 16 million for this lad so he must feel that he had the talent. Surprisingly Arsene has included young Calum in every game since he signed, granted Per Merts had been given an extended holiday after winning the World cup, but what has surprised me more is that Arsene has played young Calum as centre back, and what has surprised me even more, is the fact that he has played exceedingly well. I like what I have seen of this youngster, his decisive intelligent play, seems to be more than I was expecting, his versatility will be very useful in the future.
Of course we cannot forget Joel Campbell, now although Joel has still not played in our first 2 games, Wenger has stated that he will be staying. Joel has been out on loan since Wenger found him, as problems with visa’s scuppered his early chances, but now that has all been sorted, and of course his inclusion in the World cup has brought this young man to the fore, still slightly a raw talent, but under the watchful eye of our leader, I can only see a promising future.
So far our Manager has secured 4 signings but in all honesty they are not additions, they are replacements, so our squad has not really been made larger, but depending on where you read your news from, Arsene has stated that our recruitment has not necessarily ended. If of course this is true, the mind boggles. Many still believe that we are a holding Midfielder short of a strong team, and many others still see Giroud, Sanogo and an unseen Campbell as still being light up front. I feel that so far from what I have seen of our starting first 2 games, that both positions could definitely be strengthened.
Of course, over the past few seasons, 4 signings would have been every Gooners dream come true, but we are now The New Arsenal Football Club, we are not a penny pinching football club anymore. so who knows what may be in store, 1 week in football seems an eternity at times, but also an opportunity for maybe a couple more bodies.
Arsene has said in the past, that too many signings in any window, can be hard to get balanced, and can even give a destabilising effect. Wenger has passed the amount already, so maybe talk from skinflint days gone by, when sponsors money was not available, but from the opening 3 games we do look a little unstable.
Supporters are insufferable, they ask for a signing, and get 4, they then feel we still need more, I believe if we brought eleven they would still feel we need just one more just in case. Personally I am ecstatic with Arsene’s business this window, sad of course with Sagna’s departure, but he was getting on, and at the end of the day Arsene let him go for free so he should have a very good pension.
I for one, am a very satisfied supporter, of course should Wenger feel he needs one or two more, i certainly wouldn’t shake a finger, forwards and upwards and COYG’s
Written by Steve Palmer
I am sure it can’t be easy trying to motivate and improve an average CF year on year and yet that seems to be exactly what Wenger is doing with Olivier Giroud.
If the plan was to challenge Giroud ‘to up his game’ by playing Sanogo ahead of him against Palace then there is a strong case to say that it worked. There is little doubt that his inclusion changed the momentum in our favour that enabled us to finally secure the three points.
If the same plan was to motivate Giroud by playing Alexis Sanchez ahead of him as the number 9 against Everton then in view of the fact that we were two down at half time and we came back to nick a draw then it has to be said that it worked.
It seemed as soon as Giroud took to the field everyone knew what to do again. Ramsey could run forward confident in the knowledge that Giroud would be able to hold the ball long enough before laying it off to the on coming Welshman, Wilshere could try and re-enact his goal against Norwich last season and both Debuchy and Monreal could send in those all so familiar high crosses for the tall Frenchman to get on the end of.
The argument for Giroud to start as our plan A centre forward is strong and with him up front I see no reason we can’t replicate last season and finish fourth.
Fourth, fourth is that what you want?
Wenger didn’t buy Sanchez because he was happy with the way things were, he obviously bought the Chilean because he thought that he would improve things and I still believe he will.
I have been surprised by some of the contributors on the site who seem to have written him off after only 45 minutes as someone capable of leading the line and call for the signing of a new striker. Do these same people expect that someone like Cavanni would have slotted into a new team and a new system so seamlessly that he would have scored a hat trick against Everton? Maybe they do?
I stand by my player ratings and especially the 9 I awarded Sanchez. By way of explanation, I ask you to do a mental player rating of everyone in the first half excluding the back 5
Flamini: OK but nothing special 5
Ramsey: constantly gave the ball away 4
Wilshere: looked a bit stronger (I’m trying here) but did nothing of merit 4
Ozil: no where near match fit, continually lost the ball and never made a telling pass. 4
Oxlaide-Chamberlain: poor control, poor passing, missed open goal. 4
So with the players around Sanchez playing like a bunch of blokes on Hackney Marshes what real chance did the Chilean have? And yet, his control was excellent his tracking back was superb, he made some important tackles and all in all I thought he looked good. OK there is still a lot for him to get used to but I remind myself that Robin Van Persie was not converted into a CF overnight.
If we want to improve then we have got to change things. Wenger tried a new system and I for one am very glad of it, maybe he could have waited until Leicester but there are no guarantees that it would have been more effective against them than Everton.
Giroud isn’t plan A or plan B neither is Sanchez; they both have different skills that can be deployed against teams that best suit them.
Who should start up front against Besiktas on Wednesday?
Written by LB
This was never going to be an easy game and many Arsenal fans would have been happy to take a draw before the game started. But not me. I wanted a win. Yet, I ended the day happy.
Everton have become a very good side, and their manager seems to have impressed a lot of people with not just his tactics, but also his ‘niceness’. They had an injury to Barkley, but we were without Arteta and Gibbs, while still bedding in our new signings. Crucially, we were also just coming off a midweek game away in Turkey on an energy sapping pitch. Like I said, this wouldn’t be an easy game.
We welcomed back 2 of our World Cup winning Germans, with BFG replacing Koscielny (presumably carrying an injury) and Ozil playing on the left. Alexis Sanchez got his first start in the striker position, with Ox coming in to add some speed and directness. This made Micky very happy. But it also seemed to make Tim Howard happy because just as Arsenal could not find their feet, the Ox could not find the goal with any of his shots. Arsenal went behind to a headed goal from a brilliant pass by Gareth Barry, huffed and puffed some more, but couldn’t cause Everton any problems.
Arsenal then conceded once again on the stroke of half time after Lukaku bundled over Mertesacker, and got a clear path towards goal when Chambers dived in instead of covering. He then passed the ball to an offside Naismith who scored between Szczesny’s legs. Yes, it was a dirty moment in the game and one that both the referee and the linesman should be ashamed for allowing to happen. To be fair, some blame might also rest on our defence because Everton actually had a brilliant chance to score prior to this when Mirallas got in behind our defence.
Still, to be 2-0 down just before half time to an undeserved goal was a bit of a kick in the teeth. Wenger then did the unthinkable and made a half time substitution (please let this not have been due to an injury to Alexis).
With Giroud providing more of a familiar figure and a target man to bounce things off, Arsenal slowly started to get into the game, although it still took them a further 20 minutes to register a shot on goal. In the meanwhile, Everton retreated, secure in their ill gotten gains and unleashed the krack-head Naismith to kick, dive, moan, and try and get Debuchy sent off. That the referee didn’t is probably a huge surprise because he was certainly aiding and abetting this behaviour. Maybe he was just feeling the love from the Toffee crowd but Arsenal ended up getting heavily punished with yellow cards and fouls, while Everton were allowed to constantly get away with worse. It made our tough task even tougher.
While a lesser team would have collapsed, we kept trying. Wenger brought on Campbell and Santi for Wilshere and Ox with around 15 minutes to go. And it was Santi who was to finally provide a sumptuous ball across goal that Ramsey turned in, as he is wont to do nowadays.
There were now 7 minutes left on the clock and only a goal in it. Game on!
In the 90th minute Ramsey overhit a cross from the right, which was kept in by Ignacio Monreal. He in turn crossed to Giroud, who got between Jagielka and Distin to score with his coiffed head. He might have missed a chance early in the second half, (which I felt wasn’t an easy one to take though no doubt people will say a ‘world class’ forward would have scored that) but he made no mistake at the end of the second half. Arsenal tried to continue attacking, but time was running out. Sadly, Giroud’s final act of the half was to get injured trying to block a clearance and the manager says it’s not looking good, and so we get to maintain our record of an injury a match.
However, even that does not dampen the positivity around the spirit we showed in very challenging circumstances. A point gained rather than two dropped, and now Arsenal switch their attention towards reaching the Champions League, where no toffee has gone before.
Match analysis written by Shard
Player ratings from LB
Szczesny: another solid game as far as I could tell, don’t really see how he could have done much to stop either of the goals. 7
Debuchy: made a huge stride forward, I thought, better defensively, better in attack, better all round, if he can improve that much in the space of three games he is going to be all and more that we hoped for. 7
Chambers: this was the stand out player for me over the whole 90 minutes, there was one slip again which naturally gets highlighted but Mertesacker does that every game and certainly did today on more than one occasion the difference being that if the opposition don’t score no one bats an eye lid. 8
Mertersacker: good to have our vice captain back, yes, he looked a bit rusty but what did we expect, it was his first competitive game, got more and more into his stride as the game went on. 6
Monreal: we shouldn’t forget that the Spaniard is a stand in for Gibbs; yes, he got skinned on more than one occasion but as he was the one who sent in the cross for Giroud to head home and save a point all is forgiven with me. 6
Ramsey: had a poor first half, his passes were going all over the place, but just when you are about to get frustrated with him he pops up to score the goal that gave us a life line. 6
Flamini: his role is not a glamorous one, protecting the backline is a thankless task on the best of days, he’s not bad but he’s not good. If we qualify for the CL I hope the potential revenue generated is spent on an upgrade in this position. 6
Wilshere: if he is not an attacking midfielder which he clearly isn’t, then what is he?
We have so many better options. 5
Oxlaide-Chamberlain: well we got our wish, he played but was not that effective I have to say, lots of running, all the chances falling to him in the first half, not quite what we hoped for: 5
Sanchez: first time playing up front, I thought he was brilliant; he was my MOTM for the first half. The problem of course was that the new system was so different nobody quite knew what to do. It wasn’t that he was doing things wrong it was the players around him. 9
Ozil: we heard all the jokes about him still being on the beach; still, changing flip flops to boots at half time helped, obviously not match fit but got better as the game went on. 6
Giroud: there is not a plan A and a plan B, different players are better suited to play against different opposition. If Wenger attempted to motivate Giroud by playing Sanogo ahead of him then it worked to an extent but nowhere near as much as it fired him up when he saw Sanchez get the nod ahead of him. This man had a point to prove when he took to the field for the second half. Competition for places, you gotta love it. 8
Cazorla: he aint a left winger. If he is played in Arshavin’s grave yard then we should expect below par performances. We shouldn’t forget that the reason we fell in love with him was because he used to play in the hole just behind the CF. We got a glimpse of it when he came on; he is still a quality player. 7
Joel Campbell: a few good touches, not enough time to influence the game.
For a fanatical gooner this has been a difficult week. The results were acceptable but there has been disappointment in the manner of our play. And yet ….. today our Germans return.
Mr Wenger has stated that not all will play and I think he means Podolski. We miss a spark, we are too predictable, too slow on the counter as the final ball is ill-conceived. We need a will o’ the wisp and thankfully we have one.
By now you will have realised that I am putting my faith in our World Cup winner and most expensive signing. He must be rested, having spent the last few weeks bobbing about on a luxury yacht (or whatever young mega-rich chaps do). Am I being foolhardy to trust in Ozil? Can he step up to become the player around whom our forward line play? Is he as good as his reputation? This season will tell. Ozil must be hugely confident at present and desperate to get out on the pitch to enthral us and against Everton he will hopefully find the space to enjoy himself.
Everton gave us a lesson at Goodison last season and they were very good at The Emirates. They have maintained their squad and bought Lukaku (who could have foreseen Everton spending ￡28m on a player?). The long-term injury to Ross Barkley must have been a blow to Martinez – though Naismith is a decent replacement he is hardly of the same quality.
We know what to expect from a Martinez team, a commitment to hard work in midfield and to attack. He has the players and in Lukaku a player to ruin Monreal’s day as he did when Martinez played him on the left last season. However, I believe that a defence of Distin and Jagielka is vulnerable to pace and ingenuity.
It is a shame Arteta will not play today, he retains much respect at Goodison where he spent so much of his career. We are ham-strung by ham-strings. Gibbs, Myachi and Sanogo are all out but otherwise we have a strong squad.
The most exciting thing about today will be to finally see how Sanchez can play with Ozil, and how Ramsey fits into this triumvirate of genius. Once Theo returns and possibly takes the central role he craves, we will be Kushti. Mark my word …. Kushti.
There is always the possibility that Mr Wenger will rest Sanchez who has played our last 3 games and could use a rest. I hope not but should he do so it opens the way for Rosicky.
It is a shame for young Chambers that he will be riding the pine for the foreseeable future (or until one of our CB’s gets crocked). I flag this up to herald the return of one of my very favourite players the BFG. I was delighted when Mertesacker signed a 2 year extension to his contract because this bloke is the fulcrum of the team. He may not be the best CB in the world but he is one of the best in the Premiership and his partnership with Koscielny is outstanding. Welcome back Big Man.
Hopefully Mr Wenger will be on better form than in Turkey where, in my opinion, he did not pick the best team nor react fast enough to enforce a win. We have such a strong bench that he can afford to tinker. Joel Campbell could well start on the left, it must be time to test him but I expect Joel to get his first appearance at the Emirates.
We have not beaten Everton for 4 games which is the longest run against any PL team (according to The Independent!) and to be honest I can see the run continuing. Everton played well but were held to draw at Leicester and will be looking to start their home campaign with a win over a direct rival. Martinez says the Top 4 is his target and one Everton could have achieved after the 3-0 win at Goodison had the Arsenal not won their last 5 games whilst the Toffees fell apart to finish 7 points behind.
An interesting game against one of my favourite opponents, I would take a point but prefer three :-D
As no-one (meaning Big Raddy) has come up with an interesting theme for the season (physicists was mooted but I know sweet FA about the sciences) I leave you with a picture of The Man…..
Written by Big Raddy