4-3-3 …. Who plays in the front three?

August 31, 2018

Having sorted out our right flank issues on Tuesday plus deciding who should partner Lucas Torreira on Wednesday, it’s time to shift our attention to the business end of the team and the front three.

When you’re taking half chances and scoring at crucial moments in a game, victories look easy. If the boys at the sharp end are misfiring, as against the chavs 2 weeks ago, it doesn’t matter how many golden opportunities are created, you’ll always struggle.

Unai Emery is still moulding the Arsenal players into new shapes but he does seem to favour 4-3-3 (or 4-2-1-3). The front three are a little undefined as yet. Let’s take a look at the runners and riders.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang – yet to break his duck early on this season after scoring for fun during Arsenal’s tepid second half of last season. Has a career average of about a goal every other game and was prolific for Dortmund. Our most versatile out and out striker which is probably why he gets pushed out to the left flank to accommodate Alexandre Lacazette.

courtesy GK Edits

Alexandre Lacazette – only slightly lower strike rate across his career than Auba, scoring at just under a goal in every two. Perhaps our most natural finisher. He doesn’t seem to score many tap-ins for Arsenal which either says something about the type of chances created by his teammates or about his natural positioning as a striker. Seems to enjoy bouncing off Auba, though maybe the pair are better suited to playing together in a 4-4-2?

Danny Welbeck – Danny appears to be 3rd in the pecking order of strikers, though his physicality could make him an enticing prospect as a powerful left sided attacker. Gets into great scoring positions but often seems to lack that killer instinct in front of the posts. It would appear that when everyone else is fit, he is destined to be our best hope of a goal from the bench, Lord Bendtner style.

Alex Iwobi – a starter against the chavs and hammers, Alex is the go-to player for left side wing duties when Auba is chosen at centre forward. This is probably due to his natural ability to take players on. Bit of a marmite player with some choosing to dismiss him outright.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – His high work rate and creativity up front seem to have made him one of the first names on Emery’s teamsheet. Expecting him to be constantly helping wingfender Bellerin with defensive duties is too much of an ask. I keep expecting his goals and assists figures to explode once the manager settles on a final plan of attack. Could he play as the tip of a midfield triangle?

Mesut Özil – Mesut doesn’t appear to have found a conclusive position in Unai’s team structure as yet. He seems the man most likely to create a goal-scoring chance with just one pass that we possess. Does he play left side in a front three or the furthest forward of the middle three? Answers on a postcard. I’d imagine he’s hankering for Arsene to appear and to tell him, ‘just play where you like while you dismantle the opposition’.

Aaron Ramsey – the Welsh Messi would also love the free role in any set up. He’s been used as part of a double pivot, as a box-to-boxer, as a number 10 and a right flanker up front. Like Mesut he’s another who doesn’t naturally fit into any particular slot in Unai Emery’s team structure wall chart. Reading LB’s Cardiff match report from November 2013 yesterday reminded us that Aaron has goals in him. Wouldn’t it be great if he could hit double figures again?

Of the other three who had fine pre-seasons, Reiss Nelson would appear to be off to Hoffenheim this week (hopefully just on loan) and Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah haven’t made the bench in our first three games.

Similarly to choosing a midfield partner for Lucas Torriera, there will always be an element of mix and match when selecting a front 3 depending on the opposition and if we’re home or away.

On paper an Auba, Laca and Micki combination looks to have the most goals in it. Alexandre hasn’t been chosen to start a 90 minutes up to now and if he was chosen, would it mean Auba moving out to the left wing? Choosing a front three might be based on other factors in addition to goals such as team balance, the fabled high press and workrate. It’ll be interesting to see if Mesut can find a natural slot in the new manager’s plans, perhaps starting on that left side but then dropping into more of a number 10 role at times.

It was only a few weeks ago in pre-season that we were talking about an embarrassment of riches up front but we know it will take time for the new boss to find the right blend.

I’m really looking forward to everything clicking into place soon and for the goals to start raining in – as, I’m sure, are we all.

Thoughts? Who  would you have in our front three?

chas

 

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Cardiff Away Remembered

August 30, 2018

Last time we played Cardiff away was at the end of November 2013 and we cruised down the River Taff to take a 7 point lead over Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the Premier League (both were playing a day later). The BBC published the following stat alongside their match report…… “Arsenal have now won 10 of their last 12 Premier League games and continue to hold the division’s best away record.”  Here’s the AA post from the day after – take it away, LB.

How good was that? It is getting more and more difficult to find sufficient superlatives to describe the Arsenal performances these days. As the first half rolled on and the Good Guys were spraying the ball around with consummate ease the term “thoroughly professional performance” came to mind. But we have used this a few times recently and somehow it didn’t seem enough to describe what I was watching, intensifying the search was the first goal and the brilliance of its simplicity: a tidy pass to Özil who sent over an inch perfect cross for Ramsey to head home and put us in the lead. As he walked away avoiding celebration out of respect for his fellow countrymen, I thought to myself I am going to need something far more complimentary to describe this.

Racking my brains, playing cards came to mind and the hierarchy that exists: a pair is beaten by three of a kind which is beaten by a straight which, I believe, is beaten by flush and then it came to me: the next up from a “thoroughly professional performance” has got to be “A performance worthy of winning the league” and that is what is was, a full house of a performance, not to be confused with a “Winning the league at White Hart Lane performance” that is obviously a Royal Flush and although rare, it does seem to happen with more regularity than many might imagine.

Wenger foxed us all again with his team selection, it made sense to all who considered it to play Flamini alongside Arteta but no, Le Boss had plans for the Frenchman and opted to start with Wilshere and within one and a half minutes we all understood why: an arrow of a shot released from the edge of the box had all the makings of goal number five for our non-attacking midfielder lol but alas at the last moment it swerved away and hit the bar.

As it turned out, as far as Arsenal taking the game to Cardiff was concerned, this was only the start, the Good Guys were brimming with confidence, chances weren’t coming as often as London buses do when you don’t need them but they were coming; the next fell to Giroud who, clean through one on one with the goal keeper, decided to “walk” before the umpire had given him out, it might be the honourable thing to do as Özil clearly touched the ball but in this day and age — really?

We had to suffer five uncomfortable minutes when Mertasacker hit the deck with the force of a felled giant redwood having clashed heads with Sagna; I defy anyone not to have worried about the possible downside of this potential calamity but luckily all was well with our Big Friendly Giant.

Still goalless, but in today’s script only one person was going to be first on the score sheet and our humble Welshman rose to the occasion and headed us into the lead that took us into the break.

Cardiff started the second half well and created a couple of chances that were a bit closer than I for one would have liked, notably a header from Campbell that brought a brilliant save from Szczesny. TPIG was looking as commanding as ever, we could have and should have made more of the breaks that were frequently arising but our interplay was not quite as good as it should have been, it seemed like Theo time but Jack was tiring and they were coming onto us with a tad more purpose than was good for the blood pressure so Wenger opted to shore things up and bring on Monreal and then Flamini.

As the Frenchman took off his track suit all eyes were on the sleeves – tradition won out and rightly so; someone had clearly whispered into his ear that he had, perhaps without realising, upset a few fundamentalists and today was not the right time to go desecrating sacred objects – best solution: roll your sleeves up and go and score a thumping second goal — and that is exactly what he did, yet another sublime assist from Özil who rolled the ball into the Frenchman’s path to powerfully hit home and put us all at ease.

Was this going to be Flamini’s day, no it wasn’t, this was Aaron Ramsey’s day; a second goal for him and with it he rightly picks up pretty much everyone’s Man of the Match award.

Somebody remind me, where are we in the League?

Enjoy your Sunday.

Written by LB


Who partners Torreira? – Poll

August 29, 2018

Having sorted out Arsenal’s right side rearguard and assisting flank provider yesterday, today we turn our attention to the midfield pivot.

Everyone is clamouring for Lucas Torreira to start just in front of the back four. Surely the only reason for this not happening so far is due to fitness and/or acclimatisation. So Torreira is a given.

The question then arises, ‘who partners him?’ or, in fact, ‘can he handle the job on his Jack Jones?’.

Let’s take a look at the candidates………………..

Granit Xhaka – building up some decent experience of Premiership skirmishes, Granit possesses a fine left foot. His passing range is good though eye of the needle passes are rare. He’s more of a spread it wide to the wingfenders kind of midfielder.

Mo Elneny – economical, functional and effective, Mo does his job with a minimum of fuss, shifting the ball to others in better positions to deliver a telling pass. Has a great engine and is very mobile.

Matteo Guendouzi – his storming pre-season earned him a place in the team for our opening fixtures. Has a keen eye for a pass and really does like to play the ball forwards into dangerous positions which makes him stand out. Let’s hope the occasional misplaced pass so far, doesn’t knock his confidence too much and he continues to shine.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles – it has been mooted that A M-N could be an effective element of a double pivot. Fast, confident and excellent in the tackle, he does seem to possess the necessary attributes. Has become a bit of a utility player with Arsenal’s need for an auxiliary left back and others suggest his natural position is further up the line providing ammo for the strikers.

Aaron Ramsey – could Aaron find the discipline required to remain in that central area of the midfield? Or maybe Lucas requires a partner with more of a box-to-box feel.  Perhaps Aaron might partner Torreira against particular types of opposition? Though maybe Rambo’s creativity and eye for goal are wasted playing in a deeper role.

Mesut Ozil – perhaps Unai has asked Mesut if he fancies becoming more of a Pirlo-style midfielder, conducting the whole orchestra from a deeper podium and that has caused some consternation. Apparently Mesut has had the highest number of turnovers so far of anyone playing in Emery’s new Arsenal high press.

What do you think? Perhaps you don’t think Lucas Torriera will be the first name on the team sheet even when he has got used to London and the English Premier League?

Maybe Unai Emery already has a good idea of his ideal team members and all with be revealed in the fullness of time.

chas 


Is Lichtsteiner the solution to the Bellerin conundrum?

August 28, 2018

Following we have two respected AAers coming to very similar conclusions re: Hector and Stephan. Could this work?

First up, your Copenhagen correspondent……..

Torn apart down the right flank by a very average team. Bellerin struggling. Mustafi and GB too far apart and outpaced.

It is becoming a familiar pattern.

To be fair to Bellerin, he was playing against a very good winger in Antonio and Arnautovic’s movement can cause problems for most defences. Also, as we can see from the graphic below (thank you FGG) UE set up the team so that Bellerin spent most of the game in WHU’s half.

I find this graphic very interesting. Look at the midfield and how compact we are.  Douzi and Xhaka occupy the same area giving Hector no assistance.

I know that Emery is averse to playing a back 3 and prefers the 4-3-2-1 but unless the midfield shield Bellerin we will continue to struggle.

My question is this … If Emery wants Bellerin to play as an attacking right sided MF and almost as a right winger, then why not bring Lichtsteiner in to play at RB? Drop a MF – we do not need Mhiki, Iwobi, Ramsey, Douzi and Xhaka all occupying a narrow space and keep Hector forward, allowing him to protect the Swiss chap, I seem to recall AW doing that by bringing Eboue into midfield.

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Or do we just rely on scoring more than the opposition?

N.B. I know very little about tactics, formations and all that stuff, so the above could be total cobblers. Also, I quite enjoy shouting at the television when a simple lofted ball allows an attacker to go one on one with Cech. 😀

written by Big Raddy

================================================================

Followed swiftly by our Devonian dissector…….

I believe it was LB who once posted this:

……………LACA

AUBA…….MESUT……???

My guess was that the question marks highlighted the lack of a naturally fast right sided attacker.

Ok, the next bit, and this pains me somewhat.

I now have to give credit to a grown up gentleman who I know sits high in East Upper and spends the majority of the ninety minutes putting two Cheesy Wotsits up either nostril, one in each ear, then carefully arranging one Smokey Bacon flavoured Hula Hoop onto the tip of each finger before slowly consuming each salty snack, but here’s the rub, only someone in attendance could have made this comment:

Ants says:
August 26, 2018 at 6:28pm

In the warm up, Bellerin was being passed balls on the right hand side of the box to control and then use to find a runner in the middle. It was exactly as happened for the 1st and 3rd goals.

So there we have it. Goals win games. Bell set up two, while probably being responsible for conceding the one at the wrong end. How about leaving the fashionista up top with the good players and sticking Licht (who can defend) at the back where he belongs?

written by mickydidit89

What we learnt from the weekend

August 27, 2018

At home

Unai Emery’s new Arsenal team is a work in progress being only marginally better than Pellegrini’s hammers.

After much analysis from AA’s reservoir of keen students of the game, it has become clear that the Arsenal right side needs some work. The first and third goals against West Ham came from Bellerin providing width down the flank. Arnautovic’s lucky scuffer from the edge of the box resulted from Anderson being given the freedom of Islington on Arsenal’s right.

Thanks to eagle-eyed observation from fgg, we saw that Xhaka and Douzi both wanted to play left side in the double pivot. (Maybe they assumed Mesut was going to be there). Lucas Torreira provided much better balance and stability when he emerged from the bench. Perhaps Cardiff will see his first full Premier League game?

Our new centre-back combo are like chalk and chalk. Both a little lacking in pace and seeming not to possess any Beckenbauer-like sweeping abilities. But it’s still early days and any long-term relationship needs plenty of effort to drag it through the dodgy times.

Up front, Auba needs a goal and Micki is looking to be settling into a floating attacking role in Emery’s new Arsenal.

Elsewhere

Three teams are still on maximum points. The chavs had a late and spawny victory up in the North East. The scousers made hard work of Brighton – Klopp trying to convince himself that he wasn’t worried because everyone could see Liverpool were the better team. Watford won again, which is odd but Brighton, Burnley, Palace as opponents goes some way to explaining it.

The sugar-coated, Amazon documentary-producing, oil wealth-exploiting boys in sky blue could only draw at Wolves which brought a warm fuzzy feeling to most who might have been watching. Well that’s two points off the guaranteed 114 they were predicted to get at the start of the season. 🙂

Anyone who chose Burnley defenders as good picks in their fantasy team, with Dyche’s team low on goals both scored and conceded last season, will be puzzled by them shipping 7 already and having just one point to show for their efforts. Their European tour might be having negative effects even at this early stage.

Palace losing to Watford yesterday meant that we crept above them into tenth spot and the top half of the table. Not what the media was hoping for at all!

Tonight

Possibly the two most unlikeable teams in the Prem face off at the Old Cowshed this evening. If the spuds win, we can console ourselves with Maureen’s impression of a disconsolate floor mop. If the mancs win, we will see my favourite result from any game involving our execrable neighbours.

But as usual perhaps the best result would be a draw, with a 23 man brawl, points deductions, player suspensions and the odd long-term visit to a sickbay thrown in for good measure. 🙂

chas 


Slightly less pants than West Ham – Player Ratings

August 26, 2018

And we’re off. Arsenal’s season is up and running with a 3-1 win over West Ham. Not one for the purists, names like Bergkamp, Pires and Henry will not be needed to describe this one; live long in the memory it will not, if it makes it past Tuesday it would have done well. But a win, is a win is a win and those important three points will stay with us for the whole season.

Goodness only knows what style of play Emery is trying to create; I guess we are going to have to wait a bit longer to see how that one unfolds. As for the system; he employed a 4-2-3-1 which sort of made sense. Our Basque manager is obviously getting closer to what he wants. I was particularly impressed with his substitutions and his taking advantage of the change in the FA rules that must now say that it is permissible to make changes at half time, I am guessing that it is a new directive because I have never seen such a thing in all my time of watching Arsenal, well certainly not for the last 22 years.

Iwobi you are not cutting it – off. Guendouzi: a few too many loose passes – off and Aubameyang: feeling a bit under the weather – off. The substitutions were decisive — you under perform and you are off. I like it.

As for the game, West Ham went ahead after more Keystone defending which allowed Arnautovic to rifle a low shot past Cech’s out flung right hand.

“We’re winning away, we’re winning away how (awful) must you be, if we’re winning away.”

Monreal put them back in their place, with superbly controlled effort that fell kindly to him after some kind of shananigans, I can’t remember exactly; I was just too relieved that it went into the back of the net.

Half time arrived and on came Lacazette who gave us a lot more thrust upfront. We were always in control it’s just that until you get the second goal there is always that nagging doubt that it might not happen and I have to write something on the lines of at least we didn’t lose. But not this time, Lacazette put us ahead after he spun, fired the ball into Aubameyang’s chest and into the goal. The man obviously plays snooker as he knew exactly where PEA was and the exact angle he needed to hit him in order for the ball to go into the pocket.

On came Danny to enthusiastic singing from the crowd; do you realise that Welbeck is the only player with a song. Think about it, what a sad indictment, there is only one player in the squad who is deemed worthy to have his name sung – having his own song. And long may it continue, I have a soft spot for Welbeck, I still think there is time for him to turn into one of the absolute best strikers in the EPL. What a cool finish; gather ball, back to goal, spin and blast past keeper. 3-1, and we all sighed a huge sigh of relief, no one more than Unai Emery.

Cech: great keeping, kept us in the game again, have you noticed how immediately after the break when there is a goalkick, Cech plays the ball out at a 90 degree angle and then, out of panic, because no one is quite sure what they are supposed to do, it is passed back and we all start feeling really nervous, this must be on half time managerial instructions. My point is that I liked it when Cech clearly thought that this is nonsense and reverted to clearing the ball like normal teams. 8

Bellerin: someone suggested that he must be playing as high as he does on instructions, there can’t be any other answer because again we were getting slaughtered down the right flank when we lost possession. Still, good going forward as usual. 5

Mustafi: I don’t know what to say, is it all his fault? Does he really know what is expected of him? Who knows? 4

GB: played one superb long diagonal pass that I was impressed with – slowly finding his feet. 4

Monreal: Excellent goal, still our number one left back choice, I do like Nacho. 7

Guendouzi: probably guilty of trying a bit too hard and not keeping enough of an eye on the basics; should be interesting what UE does with him next. 5

Xhaka: a workman like performance, not a DM and not a goal scorer. Imagine Torriera as the DM and Ramsey next to him, you have a genuine DM and a genuine attacking midfielder who scores goals. 5

Ramsey: well he got to play his supposedly favourite position, mah, it was ok. Now about that leaving Ozil in his ‘sickbed’  malarkey, hmmm. 6

Mkhitaryan: he was better today, tracking back and all, his place is secure because no one else can play on the right. 7

Aubameyang: come on PEA, we need a hero, someone worthy of a new song; it’s been so long since a player had his own shiny new song. 6

Favourite comment:

Aaron says:
August 25, 2018 at 4:43 pm
Did I just see the Arsenal slow up a counter? My goodness……

Written by LB

Meet The New Boss … Same as the Old Boss

August 25, 2018

We are fortunate to have another of West Ham Bob’s posts about this fixture. Thank you Bob.

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It all changed one Saturday afternoon in March. Burnley were the visitors to the London Stadium and there was a palpable sense of anger and frustration just waiting to boil over. Sure enough, all it took was a goal from Chris Wood to put the men from Lancashire 2 up and the game was up in so many ways. A well known supporter, affectionately known as Bubbles, strode onto the pitch and planted a corner flag into the centre circle, recalling a famous protest from the bad old days of the bond scheme. And the rest as they say is history.

The Dildo brothers, as they were affectionately labelled by the president of Sporting Lisbon, realised that two years of zero investment had to come to an end if they were to have any chance of holding together what was left of the club’s historical and loyal support.

Unbeknown to the fans, they had already agreed a deal with ‘that charming gentleman’, Manuel Pellegrini behind David Moyes back. If Moyes could keep the team up, Pellegrini would be in his place by the start of the 2018/19 season and he would be given wonga like no West Ham manager has had before.

And that is how we now find ourselves facing our first relegation six pointer of the season. It’s a little like Norway facing Norway in Eurovision. Nil Points for the Hammers and the Gunners.

Now I’m not going to be so bold as to suggest what’s gone wrong with the Arsenal. I’m sure Big Raddy and co are filling pages of this esteemed fan site discussing the teams failings (albeit against two top 4 teams). No, what I do intend to talk about, is why we have been so bloody awful.

You see, Moyes and the previously departed Bilic failed to solve our most pressing problem and sure enough. Pell has fallen into the same trap. Our midfield and defence is absolute gash. Our fullbacks are either lightning quick but unable to defend (Fredericks and Masuaku) or slow and laborious (Cresswell and Zaballeta). Our centre backs lack positional sense and are guaranteed to make 2 or 3 mistakes a game. We’ve spent £30 million in this area and have ended up with a South American who can’t defend (Balbuena) and a young prospect who is not deemed ready for the Premiership (Diop for £22 million).

One of the problems for our defence is a total lack of midfield protection. In our last match, our central midfield comprised Mark Noble and Jack Wiltshire. Now it’s all well and good investing huge sums on wide players, but when you’re getting overrun for 90 minutes, they tend to do good Stevie Wonder impressions – they never see the poxy ball.

Of course, after only 2 games it’s a little early and harsh to knock Jack and I’m sure he’ll be wanting to show Dick Emery what he’s missing, but I’m prepared to lay an extraordinarily large bet that he won’t be playing in a two with Nobes come November. The balance is just all wrong and Pell had better wake up and smell the coffee quickly.

Felipe Anderson and Yarmolenko cost £50 million between them. Once again early days but they both look like ‘luxury players’, and not necessarily built for the rigours of the Premiership.

Up front, Pellegrini has either played Arnautovic as a 1 or Arnautovic and Hernandez (where Arnautovic also seems to play as a 1!!). There’s a reason why Little Pea has never held down a regular place in the Premiership.

So how are we likely to line up at The Emirates?  In goal will be ex-gooner, Lucas Fabianski.  I expect Cresswell and Zabaleta to fill the full back positions and Ogbonna to get a new centre back partner in either Declan Rice or Issa Diop.

With Arnie up front, I think we will pack 5 into our midfield with Jack playing as a number 10.  Expect Carlos Sanchez and Pedro Obiang to sit, leaving 2 of Lucas Perez, Yarmalenko and Felipe Anderson to provide the pace and aimless balls up to Arnie who within 10 minutes will have a right proper face on.  That’s right gooners – your first three points are a coming.

written by WH Bob

A new feature will be the history of fixtures against our opposition compiled by our resident stat expert GN5.

Arsenal v West Ham United

Our first game against West Ham was an FA Cup game played at Woolwich Arsenal on January 13, 1906 it ended in a 1-1 draw, five days later we lost the replay 2-1.

We first met West Ham United in League Division 1 on August 27, 1923 in an away game that we lost 0-1.

So our history goes back 112 years overall and 95 years in League play.

Record in Division 1.

Record in the Premier League.

Our last 18 games. 

Based on our past record our home game against West Ham is very winnable and may be just the tonic the team needs.

GunnerN5