It’s a RIGHT old conundrum

April 16, 2015

There was one part of LB’s excellent post match report from the weekend that struck a chord with me when he made the following observation :

Ramsey on the right, really? This smacks of trying to maintain a political harmony rather than being ruthless in the team selection. Yes, he scored the winning goal and that should not be scoffed at but on the wing when we have Welbeck and Walcott on the bench and we were crying out for pace down that flank.

I felt that was a very interesting observation from LB and echoed thoughts that I have had for some time, and have also expressed on A.A before. I have previously taken a view that we potentially get a problem when trying to accommodate Ramsey, Santi and Ozil all in the same set up as one of them has to be a more designated wide player. Despite each of their varying great technical attributes they are all predominantly central midfielders and lack a crucial ingredient for a wide player, that being pace. I noticed that some of the comments on LB’s post indicated that many felt Ramsey on the right was the right call, and potentially also the right formation choice moving forwards.

Now it could of course be that for reasons unknown to us that Arsene identified some tactical area specific to a Burnley away game that was more suited to Ramsey playing this position, a type of horses for courses if you like. If not, however, then I am also slightly confused as to where this leaves both Welbeck and Walcott, if it is that Ramsey is considered a superior option to them in this role. I further seem to recall that on more than one occasion, earlier in the season, an available Ox was also overlooked for the Ramsey, Santi, Ozil trio with one of them taking up the wide right position rather than the more naturally pacy AOC.

Now I am not saying that this formation and combination can never work. There are many games in a season and it will likely be suited to some of them. The problem for me is that many of my recollections of games we were poor in had this trio in the starting line up, combined with Giroud up top, and with limited pace options from the wide areas.

Giroud actually becomes an important part of the consideration on this subject. I have always rated Ollie and have stated so, but have also stated that I felt we needed something even more world class if we were to compete in the final stages of the EPL and ECL. I still harbour some feelings in this direction but I will actually hold my hands up and state that my stance on this may have softened somewhat, such has been his recent performances, and I am potentially willing to change my mind on this with one particular proviso.

There is one point regarding Giroud that I still adhere to which is, that due to his lack of pace, he needs to have that natural pace either side of him that can run beyond him. Preferably these will be players that also have a decent eye for goal. This both enhances Giroud’s hold up and lay off skills and minimises exposing his one key weakness of a lack of pace.

We are all in a bit of Ollie heaven right now but I still cast my mind back to some earlier season performances where he was nullified and ineffective in certain games, and I strongly feel it was when we played slower but technical players behind and to the side of him rather than opting for wide pacy goal-scorers. My feeling is that we can get away with it when the opposition is not of the highest calibre but a better team uses that imbalance to take control of the game and nullify us.

In my view we have already seen this happen, even if not so recently so the question is, will it happen again to our cost, or have we now developed further as a team and it is no longer a relevant tactical consideration? Your great collective thoughts on this would be much appreciated.

Written by GoonerB


Surprise of the season so far

April 8, 2015

We have heard a lot over recent seasons of transitional year not just for us but several clubs around the top 4, Liverpool, ManUre and even Chelsea have gone through changes that the managers and existing players have to cope with, it seems we have been in transition for eternity, but in reality we were in a status quo, Arsene getting the most out of a competent if not great squad. Finally it feels like we are in real transition from PL consistency to challengers, hopefully with a good start to next season we have a real chance of adding the big prize to the trophy cabinet.

The thing that makes me confident in this are the players that have come to the fore and surprised us and upset the apple cart that was my perceived wisdom.

“Theo must have a place”

“Arteta allows us to play our way he is first name on the team sheet”

“Szczesny will be fine”

In Welbeck, Coquelin and Ospina three players (not star names) have come along and made us all reconsider. I’ll even add Bellerin in that group with Nacho. For seasons we have been told it is lack of spending that has held us back, but this season two players created by us, a bargain squad player from an overstocked competitor and two other minor signings have all become first team regulars. They have all taken their opportunities and the real success is that they made us forget the players they have replaced.

Even Santi in his deeper position could be seen as a surprise, who’d have thought he could join in the tackling back?

Last season when Arteta was out injured we missed him and badly, whilst he was out this season and Flamini replaced him we continued to miss him, but now Coquelin has brought a new dimension to the role (namely pace and aggression) it’s hard to see where Arteta fits in.

At right back a lot of fans were worried that we were taking a step backwards by allowing Bacary to leave and only bringing in Debuchy, if Debuchy’s early performances didn’t calm those worries, Bellerin’s outstanding performances have consigned memories of Sagna to the dustbin, we are better now in this position.

But neither of these are my biggest surprise that title goes to Welbeck, let’s be honest none of us rated him that highly in a United shirt, but he has come in and staked a claim for a regular place, early on he was asked to play up top with Ollie missing, and I guess most of us saw him as a stop gap in that position and out wide until Ollie and then Theo returned. But he is keeping Theo out of the side, when they are both on the bench it is Theo who remains getting splinters whilst Danny is called upon. I think mainly because he gets himself involved, he presses, he is strong and leaves it all on the park. He has better feet than I gave him credit for and is much stronger than I thought. The only criticism at the moment is he seems too eager to score himself when others are in a better position. He has made me think it’s time for Theo to move on, and the best thing about that if it happened we would be the ones deciding it was time for him to move on, £16m for Welly was a steal, anything over £20m for Theo will be good business.

So who has been your biggest surprise?

Gooner in Exile


Arsenal put Liverpool in their place.

April 5, 2015

Scintillating, absolutely scintillating football: it finally happened, the kind of Wengerball we expected when Sanchez and Welbeck were added to the world class Özil and the gifted Cazorla at the beginning of the season.

It’s been a long time coming; we have had glimpses of it; we have been teased with short periods of it but yesterday Arsenal played what was probably the best football since Henry, Pires and Bergkamp donned the glorious red and white. 3-0 up after forty five minutes and the Emirates was rocking. Yes, there were a few scares early on but lets not forget Liverpool are a good side; they were just made to look ordinary by our very dominate display.

To focus solely on the silky interplay in the final third would obviously be wrong as that would miss the stand out performance of my MOTM: Francis Coquelin; the French enforcer was immense. I know nothing about statistics, give me first hand anecdotal evidence any time but I am sure they would show that his rate of successful interceptions were off the scale.

coq v liverpool

An early chance fell to Ramsey who looked slightly fatigued compared to the rest of his team mates who were running around and closing down with all the athleticism of butchers’ dogs. No matter, chances continued coming and it was the other new found first team regular who cut inside, weaved his way through the Liverpool defense before curling the ball into the corner. I think it hit the hapless Toure on the way. Oh how the mighty have fallen? Playing Kolo in central defence should be reported to the RSPCA nobody should be put through that kind of cruelty; he was so out of his depth it was embarrassing.

bellerin scores

Back to Bellerin, I expect this young man to have a long a fruitful career at Arsenal; he has earned his status as first team starter; but, that said, I want Debuchy in there, standing strong against Manu and Chelsea.

ozil

Hector got the party started but it was Özil and Sanchez who sent everyone on the dance floor into a state of ecstasy. Oooooohh that free kick, oooooohh that thunderous strike, you just know that Chas is going to have these two goals playing on a loop that’s if he hasn’t already done so already. Class, pure class the both of them. There was no way that Giroud was going to miss this bash and true to form he scored a powerful left footed pile driver to make it four.

I know that it is wrong to have let a negative thought stray into my mind but I confess I did, I couldn’t help thinking: if only, if only, if only we hadn’t played so badly in that first game against Monaco; when you consider how well we are playing now I am sure we would have gone so much further in that competition; still, I suppose, we shall just have to settle for beating Blackburn in the FA cup final, onwards and upwards.

Written by LB


Steve’s Monday morning ketchup!

March 23, 2015

Morning all,

I did a work party for my fishing club Sunday morning, so missed our chats on this weekends football, we cut down tree’s and tidied the banks up and I ache like a schoolgirl who played her first Hockey game, shows you i am getting old. Well what about our game with Newcastle then. I would say we started off cautiously but got into our game and I felt we took the first half to them.

Our first goal came a little unexpected I thought, a cross and a bit of a knee jerk by Oli who directed the ball past the Newcastle goalkeeper.  That goal came when we needed it, I felt the lads had been passing the ball around nicely and deserved the goal. Newcastle of course were gutted but also had a couple of chances, but we just kept plugging away until our next next goal came about. Another cross and Oli boy got his nut on it, and steered it into the far corner, I have to say we were looking good.

The Arsenal team had endured a tough week. Their trip to Monaco had started to take its toll. Although a good win out there 2-0 still wasn’t enough to go through and so it had felt like a loss.  Our game with Newcastle probably came at the right time, not too long to wait and an away fixture as well. Newcastle have not been playing that well and had a few missing, and we had managed to get a two goal lead by half time.

The second half started in lively fashion –  I can only assume that the Newcastle Manager had thrown a tantrum at his players in the dressing room, where our Arsene would only have simply said keep it going lads. The Newcastle players came out like a different side. Our players were being closed down as Newcastle stepped up the pace. As we have seen before, we do have a tendency to give the ball away when pressed.

Newcastle’s new momentum paid off when a nice move was rewarded by a  goal early in the second half.  The Arsenal players looked surprised, but I have to say they also looked a little jaded as well. Newcastle kept the pressure on encouraged by the home supporters as they searched for an equaliser, but our team kept it tight and kept them out.

By the end that we looked a little shell shocked, but we weathered the storm and came away with all three points – who can ask for more. I have to say that the hard week did reflect our play in the second half, and I worry that fast shutting down does seem to unhinge us; strange as when we had the majority possession in the past, we still managed to keep control, we now when pressed look all at sea. But a win and a crucial 3 points were achieved and that carries us past the potentially tricky hurdle of Newcastle, safe with another victory and still in the chase for the top two.

The other results  that affected was City against West Brom. City also had a tough week, getting hammered by Barcelona, and also being put out of Champions league. With W. Brom down to 10 men early on, as their task was considerably easier as they managed a 3 nill win, so nothing gained there.

Hull 2 Chelsea 3: Chelsea took a quick 2 goal lead, it may have looked like it was going to be an easy match for them, but Hull reacted strongly and fired two goals to level the score, now it was Chelsea who looked stunned . Maureen looked like a man who had just found out his Mrs had left him, but although Hull pressed them Chelsea got the decider to take the points no change there.

Liverpool 1 Man Utd 2.  This was the game that could make a difference to those chasing us. Mata popped up with a  splendid goal that rocked Liverpool, at Half time changes was made and it looked as if Brenda had told Gerrard to put it up them a bit. this was to be Liverpool’s undoing. Gerrard took it a step too far as he put in a fierce challenge on Herrera and took exception to the manu player’s follow through and lost his composure only to stamp on the player right in front of the referee. Gerard rightly received his marching orders and it was only a matter of time until United scored their second. Liverpool did fight back but that just resulted in what I thought was a tight penalty decision close to the end. Rooney stepped up but the Liverpool keeper saved. The game finished 1:2 and Liverpool drop back in their bid for top 4 whilst united’s push for top 3 / 4 is aided by the 3 points.

Just a little change there.

Chelsea have the edge at this stage, City next with us just a point behind them, and United a point behind us – but still anything is possible. So now for a little rest which i feel has come at a right time for all, rest and recuperate, and come back a lot sharper and start all over again for the final push.

Steve Palmer

Cazorla or Rosicky to start?

March 21, 2015

St. James Park. Not been the same since the days of Keegan and Shearer. Why?

From the outside it is Sports Direct and Mike Ashley. A Londoner buying the North-East’s premier club and running it without recognition of it’s past history. I have no idea whether Mr. Ashley has profited financially form his purchase but he must have regretted the effect his decision has had upon his family and reputation. Can there be a more disliked owner in the PL?

How can the Newcastle fans be happy when every season they sell their best players. In 2014 they sold Debuchy, Remy and Cabaye – the core of their French based burgeoning team? Is it any wonder that Pardew struggled to reach the level of success demanded by the owner and the fans?

Newcastle are struggling for personnel with Cisse and Coloccini banned and Taylor, Tiote, De Jong and Aarons missing through injury. These are difficult times for a rookie manager. I feel sorry for John Craver who is surely  a caretaker until summer. Having won only one of their last six PL games confidence must be low.

That said, they remain a good mid-division side. dangerous on the attack and resolute in defence. Furthermore they will be expecting to succeed at home against an Arsenal who will be feeling the physical effect s of the efforts midweek in Monaco.

We are on a fine run of form, our squad is strong and in the main healthy, Mr Wenger has choices he has not had for many seasons – if ever. Even without 3 important midfielders (plus Diaby) he can choose between Le Coq, Ramsey, Cazorla, Flamini, Rosicky, Ozil and Alexis. Rosicky or Cazorla? Santi has been excellent the past couple of months – his best spell in the shirt but perhaps this is a game for Rosicky to stat. He plays a similar game but is probably a little better defensively. Upon reflection, I would start the Spaniard and exchange them on 70 minutes.

Many have said they would rest Alexis today but my thoughts are why? Our next game is not until April 4 as we enter an International break. Alexis is certainly not as potent as he was early in the season but he remains enormously entertaining to watch and an important cog in the team. As this is an way fixture I expect Mr Wenger to play another midfielder – probably Ramsey.

My team:

Ospina

Bellerin    BFG     Koscielny      Monreal

Ramsey   Coquelin   Cazorla

Ozil

Giroud    Welbeck

There is a temptation to play Walcott and Chambers. Walcott’s pace is a potent weapon when playing away as Newcastle will look to attack and be more open to the counter-attack. Chambers was isolated against West Ham primarily because Walcott does not give him enough protection, he deserves another chance. Discuss.

As always, for tactics, stats etc look elsewhere.

In a tight competition for top 4 every point is vital and under normal circumstances I would be satisfied with a point, but second is possible and we need 3 points from this game.

I am 54% confident.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Away at QPR ….. a good 3 points

March 5, 2015
Our game against QPR away, turned out an ok 2.1 to the good guys. Many of us saw this as an easy 3 points but we also realised that quite often what looks easy is far from it. The game started where both teams were feeling one another out, we usually have a half hour like that before one or other gets in their stride. QPR i feel did get the initial boost of confidence and we were under a bit of pressure as the half ended.
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We came out second half with a little more motivation. Whether the manager had said his two pennyworth  or not, all I know is that we started to string a few passes together and looked like we were starting to work together. We had a few chances but shots at goal seemed like pass backs and did little to worry QPR goalkeeper Green. Ozil I felt had an influence he was moving quite well and also a few nice passes as well, Le Coq with his white Phantom of the opera mask on was as enthralling as ever and with the mask, didnt let that interfere with his task at hand. Present stats say he has made more tackles than any other DM and he certainly wasn’t going to let up.
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Both sides had their chances, but the first goal came by a combination of passes and real doggedness from the Arsenal attack, a nice pass inside by Gibbs rebounds to Giroud who quickly found the back of the net …..  1.0 to the Arsenal. It has to be said that the referee looked a homer from the start but as the game wore on he just seemed card happy. QPR were anything but gentle and many times an Arsenal player was bowled over. This arsenal side seem to have come through the bullying stage this season players like Cazorla now seems to stand toe to toe with many of the tough guys, his trickery has them at two and eights and the way we pass so quickly seems to alleviate a lot of the physicalities.
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Sanchex again was like a Duracel battery. Where he gets his stamina is anyones guess, but he was all over the place – defence wing attack and bitting at legs, he is certainly an all rounder. Bellerin was up and down. Many complain that he ventures up to much but he also runs back another who is only getting better with time. The ageless Rosicky also had a good spell he also puts a lot in and certainly helped the cause. Ospina still holds the starting shirt, he did nothing to suggest that will change.
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Another attack and a nifty inside pass from Gibbs again to the ever willing Sanchez and a bit of wizardry saw the ball as quick as a flash whip past the flailing Green 2.1 to the good guys.
01 03
QPR had been shaken, but the complacency of our side started to give Rangers a boost. A was ball passed into our box to Austin who had his back against our goal. It looked for a minute to be safe, only for Gibbs and Koscielney to take steps backwards to give their striker time to turn and hit a venomous shot passed the helpless Ospina.
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I have seen our defence do this many times and many’s the time we have been punished, that definitely needs sorting. But when the final whistle came the best team won. Ramsey came on as a sub looked a little lost but should soon be back to his best. A good 3 points not many points dropped by any of the teams above us so more importantly none dropped by us either.
Written by Steve Palmer
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We are spoilt today … here are RockyLives’ thoughts on the game
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On a rare visit to these shores I managed to blag a ticket to join our wonderful away support at Loftus Road.

It was also the first time I’ve been to that stadium, which is bizarre as I’m a born-and-bred Londoner and have been to all the other London grounds. Even Dulwich Hamlet.

The experience of attending games at the Emirates and at older grounds like QPR is now so stark that it’s almost like going to a different sport altogether. However, there is a charm to the old places that is distinctly lacking from the new super-stadia.

Anyway, on to the game.

It was a match that pleasingly fulfilled a host of footballing clichés: a game of two halves; we were forced to dig deep; Ollie scored a poacher’s goal and so on.

In the first half we started slowly and then put the handbrake on. The Rs were up for a battle and made the game very physical. We were unable to take control of the ball in midfield which meant we were soaking up a lot of pressure and our defenders looked nervous – hacking the ball away rather than playing it out.

During this period our defenders did well. Paulista won most of his challenges and headers before being forced off with a hamstring injury. The BFG was dominant in the air and marshaled the back line well and both Gibbs and Bellerin were dogged in their work.

As for Francis Coquelin – he turned up dressed for a Venetian masked ball and proceeded to patrol the area in front of our defence like a Renaissance duelist (younger readers, think Assassins Creed), never shirking a challenge. His composure on the ball is also something to behold.

It was something of a relief to get to half time 0-0. QPR had few clear cut chances but it felt like the sort of game where we would inevitably concede a goal if we couldn’t get off the back foot.

Fortunately we came out much more positively in the second half – attacking towards the noisy away support behind the goal. Beer had been consumed so the exact events are a bit of a blur, but Ozil and Rosicky really got in the game and began dictating play; Sanchez worked as tirelessly as ever and Giroud showed for everything.

With good wide support from Gibbs and Bellerin we began to properly threaten and the Rangers players started to tire.

The breakthrough game after some good work down our left from Gibbs, who got a low cross into the near post for Ollie to poke home. It wasn’t a spectacular goal, but you have to give credit to our French Stallion for being alert to the situation and getting there first.

Cue much relief among the Arsenal fans (we were already aware that scores elsewhere were not going our way).

And shortly after we felt even safer when Alexis picked up a ball from Gibbs and twisted and turned his way into the box before deceiving Green in the QPR goal with a low reverse shot just inside the near post. A lovely piece of skill and imagination.

Two-nil and we relaxed a little. In the ensuing 10 minutes or so we had two or three good opportunities – the best falling to Alexis who found himself in a one-on-one with Green. Alexis tried to slip it to Ozil on the right but Green read it and cleared up.

And then we came over all Arsenally. With the game looking safe we switched off and in a split second Rangers were back in the game at 1:2 from a well hit Charlie Adam shot after Gibbs and Koscielny backed away from him.

It made for a nervy last 10 minutes but we held on and we were able to bring home a very important three points.

Some thoughts on individual players: Ozil is an absolute joy to watch – he seems to think at a faster pace than the players around him; Santi – while not quite up to Man City away form – was always available to relieve pressure with his close control; Ospina is starting to look like our real Number One; Giroud’s strike rate is starting to nudge him towards “top, top striker” level – do we really need to look elsewhere in the summer?

RockyLives


A Comfortable 3 points?

December 27, 2014

Well, well, well, that was a walk in the park that almost resulted in a mugging.

Good start, even got a penalty awarded after seven minutes when Alexis is brought down by Traore, what a mug he’s learnt nothing since he left Arsenal. I thought there was an unwritten rule that the player fouled doesn’t take the penalty, but Alexis refused to give the nominated player, Cazorla, the ball and took it himself. Note to coaching staff: Alexis needs some pointers on how to take a penalty. Easy save for Rob Green.

The game meandered along much the same as before, Arsenal playing with a ball and QPR watching. Then a nice move between Welbeck and Cazorla saw the ball played out wide to Gibbs who crossed beautifully for Alexis to nod the ball in completely unopposed after thirty-seven minutes.

Half-time and half the job done.

Second half was much the same, although QPR did get hold of the ball a bit more but seemed at a loss as to what to do with it so gave it quickly back to Arsenal.

Fifty two minutes, enter stage left The Village Idiot! For no perceivable reason Giroud decides to take umbrage for a slight push in the back by Onuoha, so he head butted the QPR defender who, naturally, went down like a sack of s**t. Martin Atkinson, who was no more than three yards away from the incident, had no option but to dismiss the Arsenal striker. Nice one Ollie! A three match ban at the busiest time of the season.

Then on sixty-five minutes Alexis mesmerised the QPR defence, weaved his way into the box and laid one on a plate for Rosicky to put away with aplomb.

Only now do QPR finally wake up and start to play football, The pressure builds and QPR win a penalty on seventy-nine minutes, which Austin puts away, 2 – 1. Increasing pressure convinces Wenger to make changes, so off goes Rosicky to be replaced by Chambers, Arsenal are now being pinned in their own half, Welbeck replaced by Coquelin, With no Arsenal player up-field QPR are free to besiege the penalty area with impunity but the headless chicken defence holds out to take all three points.

written by Norfolk Gooner


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