Can Özil and Sanchez play effectively together?

September 22, 2014

Özil’s perceived lack of form, motivation and effectiveness in the team has been debated by fans and journos alike over the past months, weeks and days. Some have even questioned Wenger’s alleged favouritism in steadfastly retaining for Mesut a starting position despite his lack of impact on our game.

In this space, we have debated whether Özil is being played in his best position, or whether a central role would be better suited for him and the team. A view has also been expressed that maybe we have too many similar midfielders. With the arrival of Alexis, we have asked ourselves whether we have an embarrassment of talent in the midfield. Should Mesut and Santi therefore play in rotation.

And then the going got tough, with Özil singled out, I think somewhat unfairly, for lack of effort in a lacklustre performance away to Dortmund, Just then, as if to silence all critics and faithless doubters, the tough got going. With Alexis sidelined very late away to Villa, Mesut mesmerised us with a fantastic game. One goal, one assist, dominating the midfield and involved in everything that Arsenal did well on the night.

ozil goal v villa

Speaking on Match of the Day, Martin Keown said: ‘With Alexis Sanchez not playing, the team was dancing for his boots. Sanchez will obviously come back in at some point but Özil was magnificent in the central role today’. This then begs the question: Can Özil and Sanchez play effectively together?

Tactical bolleaux of this nature is not my forte. I know f*** all about tactics. Nevertheless, in a simple-minded way, I think the strengths of the two are very different and they can effectively do this together.


Early in the season, the team was being organised with Giroud as the front man. The option of Alexis as a striker was explored, but without great success. Perhaps, that would have settled matters with Mesut in the centre of the midfield. Then came Giroud’s injury and Welbeck arrived. With this, I think another dedicated front man is no longer essential.

Besides, I think Alexis would be a waste at the top. That way, we will lose his enormous skills in distribution. However, there is another attribute to Sanchez’s game that is different from what anyone else in the team can offer. Alexis is good in challenging for 50-50 balls in the midfield and can break up opposition play. In this role, he takes away 2 or 3 opposition players with him. This then leaves space for other players to operate with.

I think this is ideal for Özil. Mesut is brilliant when he has a bit of space to work with. If Alexis can wrest possession from the opponents, and Özil can then distribute to onrushing players, this will be just ideal.

It remains only for the good guys to forge this combination effectively. Whereas we now have a mildly potent attack, we will then have a powerhouse in attack.

What do you think, chums?


Written by arnie

Name Five Annoying things about Football

September 19, 2014

From an idea of GoonerB’s…

We all know how good we feel when Arsenal win a game or even just score a goal, but these good moments are counter-balanced by many, many annoyances which crop up due to the circus  that surrounds football.

I believe the idea was to name a top 5 most annoying things but I think it might be better to name a random 5 as many of us will find similar grievances at the tops of our lists.

Here goes me for starters…….

  • Alan Shearer – hugely annoying as a footballer and even more annoying as a pundit. He simply describes events on the pitch and believes he is providing analysis. I really don’t believe he has ever made one insightful comment. Gary Neville micturates all over him.
  • Short-termism in our supporters – one week we are right up there as title contenders because we beat the Oily Shakers in the Community Shield, the following week the squad is threadbare and full of sub-standard players not fit to wear a red and white jersey. Have a word with yourselves.
  • Multi-coloured boots  – everyone used to make fun of Lord Bendtner with his pink boots, but now it’s very hard to find a player who doesn’t wear dayglo monstrosities. Boots should be black with a liberal coating of dubbing. J
  • Arsenal Fan TV – nobodies becoming famous by emotionally spouting garbage after Arsenal games is massively grating. Queuing to have your picture taken with Bully, I ask you, how low can someone’s self-esteem be?
  • Players leaving clubs for “footballing reasons” – come off it, just admit you’re being offered more money and being a multi-millionaire already isn’t enough for you.

Once you start doing something like this, you start to wonder why you follow The Arsenal and football in general, at all. :)

However, every day I wake up and thank the lord Dennis I was born in a red and white crib.

Over to you………


Are we kidding ourselves?

September 18, 2014

Finally, the money is there, Puma are on board so we can afford to shop in Harrods rather than at Lidl and Aldi. Last season we won the FA Cup, our first trophy since Noah was a boy, one less albatross round our collective neck.

Before the season started we had signed Alexis, Chambers, Debuchy and Ospina as well as finally welcoming Campbell into the squad, in the final minutes of the transfer window we snatched Welbeck from Manure. Great business we all thought.

Ramsey is back to his best, Wilshire is over his ankle problems, Walcott will be back in a matter of weeks and even Diaby has completed ninety minutes for first time in six years.

Add them to the cocktail and include Ozil as the cherry on top and we have a squad fit to win the Premiership. Well we have, haven’t we?

Well, have we?

The pre-season ended with our second trophy. A 3 – 0 win over the Champions and the Community Shield is nestling in the Emirates trophy cabinet.

Saturday 16th August. First game of the season and Crystal Palace are put to the sword, well actually we have to come from behind and win with an injury time goal from Ramsey, but no matter, we’re up and running.

Tuesday 19th August. Champions League qualifier 0 – 0 away to Besiktas. The general consensus? A good result. We can easily finish the job at The Ems.

Saturday 23rd August. Away to Everton, 2 – 0 down at half-time and outplayed. Goals on 83 and 90 minutes rescue a point. “This result shows our resilience and mental strength” say’s the manager.

Wednesday 27th August. Home to Besitkas for the qualifier second leg, Alexis scored his first goal for Arsenal on the stroke of half-time and from the moment Debuchy was dismissed for a second yellow card we clung on in ever greater desperation until the final whistle. Still, job done, qualification achieved as well as one of the main targets for the season.

Sunday 31st August. Away to newly promoted Leicester City, on twenty minutes Alexis scores a beauty, three minutes later Ulloa shreds our defence and equalises. We huff and puff for the next 67 minutes but that’s it, two points dropped.

Saturday 13th September. Home to the Champions, we start like champions, for twenty minutes we tear City apart…but can’t score. On twenty-eight minutes we fall for a sucker punch and Aguero gives City the lead. Arsenal heads dropped and the Champions started to play, but all was not lost, goals by Wilshire (64) and Alexis (74) put us back in the driving seat and then at a corner we blow it once again and allow one of their centre-backs a free header and flush another two points down the toilet.

Tuesday 16th September. Borussia Dortmund away, first game in the Champions League group stage. The first half was a nightmare of relentless pressure by Dortmund and a total lack of anything approaching a coherent tactical plan to deal with it. Our attempts at passing the ball to each other were lamentable, on the whole, the one chance we created was squandered. Once again a sucker punch saw our mid-field and defence go AWOL with only seconds of the half remaining, allowing the far from immobile Ciro Immobile to run from deep and place the ball beyond the stranded Szczesny.

Just three minutes into the second half Immobile was allowed the freedom to set up Aubameyang to score the second. Dortmund had a string of further chances but a combination of bad poor shooting and Szczesny’s skill kept the score to 2 – 0.

I know the previous paragraphs make pretty dire reading but they only reflect what has been a pretty dire start to the season.

I think we have all seen that there is a lack of cohesion in the side, there seems to be confusion among the players about their individual roles. OK, injuries to Debuchy and Giroud haven’t helped but it seems nobody is able to step up to fill the gaps. It seems obvious to me that Wenger doesn’t know his best formation, nor does he seem to know where he should play individuals.

Looking back over the last eight games, it seems as though it will be difficult to win the Premiership. We should still be able to get through to the Champions League knock-out stage, and you never know how the cup competitions will go.

So, do we have the personnel? Do we have the character? Do we have the will?

Are we kidding ourselves?

Written by Norfolk Gooner



Özil: Too Good for Arsenal

September 14, 2014

One of the phrases I hate seeing more than any other is “X is not good enough for Arsenal”, especially when X is in our current squad of players.

In recent years the list of players tarred with this particular brush is long.

Koscielny – shopping in Lidl while everyone else is in Harrods
Walcott – Should have bought Bale
Ramsey – rubbish and no future sell him to the Championship, hope he dies
Etc etc etc etc

Annoying in some cases disgusting and all proven wrong as these are players that have gone on to shut up most of their critics.

And now we have Mesut Özil, cast your mind back 12 months, Madrid fans welcomed Bale by chanting the name of Özil, we were ecstatic at his arrival, even got an instant song “you sold Bale we signed Mesut Özil” and then he forged a place in my heart with that exquisite left foot strike against Napoli, displays linking with Theo and Rambo, until it all went a bit quiet, he earned the wrath of the BFG on two occasions on the pitch in front of fans for taking silly risks in high profile games and gifting the opposition a goal at the wrong time, and missed that penalty against Munich.

Perhaps the key to Mesut’s dip in form lays at the feet of Walcott and Ramsey or more correctly the cruciate of Theo and the thigh of Aaron. With those two out of the squad he was left with very little to work with. Yet he still managed to chalk up a reasonable amount of assists and goals for a first PL season.

How does he compare to some of the PL other star names? Well i know how everyone loves a table (or ten):

Charts 1 copy

The raw numbers look poor, four players better on goals scored, three were better on assists, but the key to these may be in the number of appearances, the final column is perhaps the most interesting, chances created, under performing Mesut was only bettered by two players, one being Santi, who in that season got to play with Theo for a whole lot longer than Mesut. And if we look at the numbers in the next table the point becomes clearer.

Charts 1

As highlighted by the yellow cells some players did better on a per game ratio for goals than Mesut, games per assist only one beats Mesut, and what about that middle column, only one player bettered Mesut for chances created per game. See where I am heading here, or at least where my headline was going and the only player with more passes per game (so assume involved as much or more than Mesut) well he is an Arsenal player.

Could this just be a freak of first season form and actually because we are judging Mesut against players in their current teams and their current performance levels maybe this is why he is not being appreciated by Gooners.

So I looked at all the players mentioned above, and chucked in a few more for the laughs and a few more who are on the wish we would have signed/kept list. This next chart is only looking at Goals, Assists on a per game basis, and chances created per game.

Chart 2

Can you see what is occurring again here?

Only three players equalled his number of passes in any of their seasons in the PL, and two play for Arsenal, only three have bettered his pass completion, only two have bettered his games per assist, and perhaps most importantly only two have bettered his chances created per game.

You will notice I have not commented too much on Games per goal where he appears to be beaten by quite a few other players, well perhaps this is where the problem is laid bare most dramatically, rather than look at goals per game, how about we look at goals per shot?

Charts 3

Five players have a better shot to goal ratio, but all 5 have had many more shots that Mesut, could this be because they are playing with better players or is it because Mesut is not busting a gut to get not the end of things?

Özil is without doubt a subtle player and perhaps because so much of what he does is uncomplicated he is not appreciated or is it purely down to his work rate going backward? Whatever the resason it certainly can’t be his attacking contribution on the pitch, as shown above he is more than involved enough, so the only reasoned answer is finally we have a player who is not only good enough he could well be too good, maybe we aimed too high at Fortnum and Masons when we should have just upgraded from Lidl to Waitrose.

Written by Gooner in Exile

Wilshere MOTM, Pellegrini moaning and another draw

September 14, 2014

A 2-2 draw with City, Pellegrini making excuses for his team, Arsenal conceding stupid goals but scoring some great ones. Football came back after a fortnight and it was as enjoyable a game as could be hoped for, even though the result wasn’t.

It was a tough match at the Emirates yesterday :)

But Arsenal showed that they are tough too, albeit prone to moments of weakness. We began with a flourish. None of the hanging back and letting the game come to you nonsense. We went out to grab the game by the…. neck.. and City had no response beyond kicking out and disrupting the rhythm of play.

Maybe this is what Pellegrini is trying to hide with his statements against the referee, who although did well to at least call the fouls (rare in the English game, especially when it comes to Arsenal) did not produce yellow cards as quickly as he should have. Check out Welbeck being taken out by Kompany before Debuchy had his shot, and I think Silva bundled Ramsey over during another move. Both were blatant, (ref played advantage) and Kompany had many more such fouls and I don’t think he got a yellow card all night.

I thought we did well to respond to that physicality with some of our own. We aren’t, and probably won’t be, very good at the dark arts, but we can handle ourselves on the field given a fair referee, which we did yesterday including with the supposed fouls that Pellegrini complained about.

We all saw the goals, have our own thoughts on our defending and fullbacks pushing up. I said in a comment that I think Ramsey and Flamini share the blame for the first goal we conceded. I also think we wouldn’t have conceded a second if Debuchy had not gotten injured, though of course we’ll never know.

As an aside, Debuchy has apparently not had a fracture, but has to undergo a medical exam tomorrow. He would have been suspended for Dortmund anyway. Let’s see how long we have to do without him.

Another injury doubt before yesterday’s game was Ramsey. He played, and ran his heart out as usual, but he was far less effective and involved in the game than his midfield partner Jack Wilshere, who ended the game with a goal and an assist. He also seems to be developing a good partnership with Alexis, who was brilliant as well yesterday.

Jack Wilshere has his detractors, and I suppose that is to be expected, partly as a consequence of his early hype. (I said partly LB. Don’t chew me out) His early promise is almost like a burden on him rather than cause to hope for better in the future for many. I don’t see it that way. He’s had his injury worries and missed a lot of football. Just over a season ago, Ramsey was in a worse place but has come back to become almost the heartbeat of this team (yesterday was the first time in a long time we played well when Ramsey didn’t) My hope is that Wilshere can do something similar. I am not alone in holding this hope of course, and a Ramseyesque emergence is not something that just happens, but yesterday adds to that hope.

I think the formation change  we’ve seen (blamed for Ozil’s woes) not only provides us some more stability in midfield, but also helps Wilshere. Last season it was tough to see where he’d fit in, but he now has the opportunity to make this midfield spot his own. He’ll still need to work on building an understanding with Ramsey. Still needs to be better at knowing when to release the ball. But his increased confidence and strength are now almost as visible as Nasri’s surprise and frustration as he bounced off him onto the ground where he’d have hit his chin if he had one.

I’ve never been one of the Jack the Lad guys. His being English means nothing to me. His being a Gooner though, does. I have been sceptical of that too in the past, but I think the way the team his shaping up, his recent comments, and hopefully, his continued improvement, makes him an important part of our success for years to come.


Is it time for round pegs in round holes?

September 11, 2014

I started to write this post after Alexis started up top against Everton, before we decided to bring Welbeck into the fold, and before we knew the extent of Giroud’s injury.

This is probably Arsene’s biggest weakness as a coach, I am not sure if it is due to pressure from above, the players or maybe even the fans but I feel that he is guilty on occasion of playing players because of their status rather than because they are best suited to the position, I’m not sure this was the case at Everton definitely more to do with a well holidayed Olivier Giroud, but far too often we see square pegs in round holes to get the best 11 names available on to the pitch rather than the best team on the pitch.

Before the Everton game I was convinced that Alexis wasn’t the answer to the centre forward conundrum but also that playing him there for any length of time would result in the team suffering overall.

Let me clarify I think Alexis can play up top he proved as much in his performance against Besiktas, but in our current style of play and because of his other attributes I do not see that position as being the best utilisation of his skillset. He is fast, he is hungry to win back possession and can score goals from wide, these three ingredients make him ideal to play on the wing. When he loses possession the defenders are not given time to clear their lines, he often wins the ball back and his presence on the pitch stops opposing fullbacks pushing on as much as they normally would. (Have you ever seen Kolarov so deep before?)

With Giroud now out until the new year there is a vacancy up top, I hope this is filled by Welbeck rather than anyone else, mainly because he is a centre forward and unlike Sanchez does not offer much more to the team than an end point for fast attacking moves. And if Welbeck isn’t fit? Then I’d rather play Sanogo or Podolski.

In my view our best attacking front three all fit would be Theo, Giroud, Alexis. The centre backs never push on, but the pace of Theo and Sanchez wide would be a constant question in the full backs mind and prevent them helping their wingers regularly. However Welbeck has a chance to stake a claim for the shirt with Olivier out but he needs to show the ability to assist link up play and to be better than Oli use his pace to get on the end of the return pass.

Theo is probably not the best at winning the ball back but if it becomes a new ethos in the team I can see Campbell giving him a run for his money before long if he does not add this to his game.

Santi and Ozil are not wingers, again they should be utilised where their attributes are used to greatest effect, unfortunately for them that means they compete for the same spot in the side, and if Welbeck is out I don’t want to see Theo or Alexis moved central to use one of Santi or Ozil out wide, if Theo or Alexis get injured I want to see real like for like replacements so Campbell or Ox.

Then we have the box to box midfielder that’s Aaron or Jack, and holding midfield well that’s Arteta or Flamini.

At the back we have three centre backs, although another body in there would have completed a capable defence, should an injury befall Debuchy I think i’d rather Bellerin be used than Chambers keeping him fresh for when he is needed in the more key central position.

So please Arsene let’s stick to players in their positions rather than finding a spot for them in the team.

This is how I see first and second choices from the current squad.







That leaves Martinez, Hayden, Coquelin, Rosicky, Podolski, Sanogo to make up the squad numbers when absolutely necessary.

It is not an easy task keeping players happy, but squads need rotation in the modern game, so Santi will not be sitting on the bench for weeks on end, to play him ahead of a more natural and pacy winger is appeasement of the player rather than for the benefit of the team and the system. And I’m sure at this point many will be saying “but x is too good to be a squad player”, well Petr Cech is too good to be a no 2 keeper, Sagna too good to be a no 2 right back, or BSR too good to be no 2 striker, they all probably are, but what City have shown in the last few seasons is that ready replacements playing in their natural position in the attacking half of the pitch is much more important than like for like defensive cover.

What say you?

Gooner in Exile

Arsenal’s Weak Spots

September 10, 2014

Last night Aaron hobbled off with an ankle injury, and although we won’t know until later the severity, it made me wonder about our vulnerability to injury.

At the beginning of last season, I would have said the areas of most concern would have been injuries to Theo, Ollie or one of our defensive pairing of Mert and Kos.

During the season, we witnessed the meteoric rise of Aaron, and by the end of the season it could be argued he was our most valuable player. By valuable, I mean an injury to this player having the biggest negative impact to our overall play.

I think we have covered the CB pairing with the arrival of the phenomenally talented Mr Chambers.

Ollie is now covered by Welbeck as well as Sanchez, and to an extent both can play both Left and Right providing cover for both Theo and whoever is the best Left Sided option.

It is actually very difficult to isolate the weakest spot, as we simply don’t yet know how the new side will settle down, and who will ultimately play where and in what formation.

Ozil is as yet far from the pivotal player we anticipate he will become, and I’d say it is possible he becomes the most irreplaceable only if he becomes the fulcrum in the middle. If he continues to be deployed more from the flanks, then I don’t see him as being especially irreplaceable.

Again, it is very hard to assess the key players up top. Either Sanchez or indeed Welbeck could emerge as Key Men. Of course, Ollie could return rejuvenated and become a Must Player.

Overall, and it’s difficult at this early stage of the new look side, but Aaron does appear to me to occupy the “most essential player” slot right now, although overall when fit, Theo still shades it for me.

The other day, a chum asked me who I saw as our most valuable player this season. I answered Theo, but went further to add that my biggest single wish for the season was that either Mesut or The Ox would emerge to challenge Theo for that particular honour.

Written by MickyDidIt89




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