Can Gran-Douzi Work?


Saturday’s injury to Lucas Torreira should focus the mind on what we do when he’s not available.

He went off at half time after some rough-house treatment from Crystal Palace’s players (and with the useless referee having given him no protection).

It was bad timing for the pint-sized Uruguayan dynamo: since Unai Emery’s departure he has looked really good in the holding midfield role.

Hopefully he’ll be fit for Saturday’s home game against Sheffield United but even if he is we won’t be able to play him in every game without a break for the rest of the season.

Which brings us to the back-up option.

Assuming that we don’t buy or borrow another defensively minded midfielder in the January window (which seems unlikely), Arteta’s favoured alternative to Torreira appears to be a combination of Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi.

This will go down like a rat sandwich with a section of supporters who maintain that the Gran-Douzi axis is a liability.

That harsh observation is based on the occasions when the pair have played together under Unai Emery. In those outings Arsenal were incapable of stemming the attacking play of whichever opponent we were facing, leading to a ridiculous number of attempts on our goal and making poor old Bernt Leno the busiest ‘keeper in the EPL.

But was it the fault of Guendouzi and Xhaka in tandem? Or was it just that the whole team was floundering under Emery’s chaotic management?

Well, now we have something to compare those outings with.

The Gran-Douzi duo has played three halves of football under Mikel Arteta: they started against Leeds United in the FA Cup and played the second half against Palace after Torreira’s injury.

In the first half against Leeds they (and the team as a whole) were woeful. It was beginning to look like we could not control a game with that pair at the base of the midfield. But then came Arteta’s famously shouty half time talk, we emerged for the second half with better tactics (pushing our line 15 yards further up the pitch) and we looked like a team.

For that half, it certainly seemed as if Xhaka and Guendouzi could control a midfield and mostly neutralise the opposition.

Then we come to the second half against Palace. Although we conceded a goal in the half and were unable to score ourselves, we were never overrun. Indeed, after we went down to 10 men Palace barely had a sniff of goal and we might even have nicked all three points with a bit of luck.

As with the second half against Leeds, Gran-Douzi maintained positional discipline and the team as whole successfully kept a high line.

The absence of Torreira meant Xhaka sat deeper than he had when the Uruguayan was on the pitch, while Guendouzi had a bit more freedom to roam forward but still prioritised his defensive duties.

Clearly the Terrier is our first choice in the holding midfield role, but under Arteta’s coaching I think we’re beginning to see that Gran-Douzi can provide acceptable cover when he’s not available.

If you think I’m being overoptimistic, feel free to share your thoughts in comments.



41 Responses to Can Gran-Douzi Work?

  1. LBG says:

    Good post Rocky
    Here’s where loaning out Mavrapanos is not the best idea!! At the moment Guendouzi is still showing some of the lack of positional ill-
    discipline ( learnt from Xhaka IMO) of the Emery period. Ideal opportunity to play Daviid alongside Xhaka ( if we must, sorry), and let him hold.

  2. Rasp says:

    Thanks Rocky, you ask a pivotal question. We often blame defenders for mistakes and strikers for missed chances, but more often than not, games are won by the team that controls the midfield.

    Douzi was one of the players I expected to improve under Arteta in Sterlingesque manner. So far I can’t really say I’ve seen that much, but what I have seen is much better positional discipline and shape to our play.

    Arteta has improved Torreira (mainly by playing him in his natural role) and Xhaka, by giving him precise instructions on how he wants him to play.

    Legoman has the luxury of a full week to work on his midfield and to find a way to play without Auba. I’m confident he will do just that … then it is down to the players to execute the plan – for 90 minutes.

    I believe Gran-Douzi can work. The success of that combo will be more down to the young Frenchman being slightly less cavalier I suspect.

  3. Sue says:

    Hello RA.. Dandelions, daisies… what the hell, I knew what you meant 😉
    🎯 I’ll keep trying to convert you, although you have a huge advantage over me… so I’d have to cheat and move the mat back by about 20 ft!! I’d be confident of a win then 😂

  4. Sue says:

    Does anyone know the extent of Torreira’s injury?

  5. Rasp says:

    Just that it’s a muscular problem Sue … it’s possible he could recover for the weekend, but as Rocky says, we need to find a midfield combo that works when we can’t play Terrier.

    One thing is for sure, SU will come at us just as hard as Leeds did. It will be an energy sapping game. Game management will be crucial I feel.

  6. LBG says:

    Dangote, riches man in Africa, to try to buy out Kroenke. Cant be worse, surely, and he is an Arsenal supporter first and foremost.

  7. Sue says:

    Thanks, Rasp. Just goes to show how important he is in our midfield! Let’s hope he’ll be alright, otherwise I really will fear for Saturday…. 2 of our best players out… urgh….

  8. RA says:

    Hi Ho, Sue,

    I’m surprised that Queen Peaches did not send you, and that camel (AKA GB), to clink for leaving poor old Rocky to do all the Post doings, when you are pretty good at it too!!

    Lackaday, there will be more opportunities, I am sure, for you to help out. 🤪

  9. JM says:

    Luiz+Xhaka > Guendouzi+Xhaka

    Luiz and Xhaka are both capable of deep-lying playmaking from midfield so when opponent marks one, the other can still deliver long diagonal passes to our wingers and forwards to latch on. Furthermore, Luiz is more defensive-oriented and experienced than Guendouzi.

    Guendouzi as an alternative to Xhaka if he is either starting or coming on as a substitute, i.e. Luiz+Guendouzi (DM/CM).

    In the case of the above, I would then pair up Sokratis(RCB) with Holding(LCB) in CB, which would also give more game time for Holding to return to his best form.

  10. RA says:

    It does not need saying, Rocky, but that is another meaty Post 🥺 that I enjoyed reading and then ruminating about as you managed to include my favourite (not) player as a key part of a value analysis.

    Well, I have to say, I would rather our man Arteta stopped trying to convince us that granite feet is a good player – he is not – (just an opinion) but we are stuck with him at the moment.

    This is my other opinion (yes, I have two) based on observation only – as that is less confrontational – but it seemed to me that back in the days of yore – more appropriately, perhaps, known as the Emery Disaster Epoch, we often had both Eeyore and the ever-ready dynamo playing in tandem.

    The problem then was that discipline was a foreign word, literally, to the pair of them, and it was a common sight to see both of them lolloping around in the opposition half regardless of whether or not we were winning or losing or whatever the hell, and leaving no one at home to defend in front of the central defence, resulting in chaos at t’back.

    Was it the fault of the pair of them? Yes, definitely.
    Was it the fault of Embers? Again, yes, definitely for allowing the two hombres to continue the madness.

    Since Etc (Arteta is too long a name to type) took over, he has insisted they both stay on our side of the halfway line, except when it is obvious one or the other is needed to support the attack – but in that case only one of the gunslingers at any given time could sally forth.
    And, generally speaking it has worked out – well, much better then previously, as Eeyore is a slow-poke and cannot keep up with the speed of passing in any case.

    So, as you ask, what about the combo of Dozy-Eeyore?
    This is harder to determine, as Dozy has mainly come on as a substitute (usually after half time) and that is not an ideal way to determine if they can make it work, as Etc cannot shout at the pair of them during the half-time break if they go lolloping like in the bad ol’ days.

    The Terrier has had more game minutes to play with Eeyore, and they are beginning to know what each is likely to do in given circumstances, whereas Dozy has been exposed to our one-footed maestro who appears to suffer from IED (Intermittent explosive disorder) and can rage at all and sundry, including Dozy and the referee, nullifying any thought of working together.

    In summary …….. it seems obvious that Dozy and the Terrier should work together, as both have bundles of energy to expend, are unlikely to antagonise the game officials, can tackle, and get back into defensive mode when the opposition are counter attacking.

    I am not quite sure why Etc cannot see that? 😜

    [I am probably GB in disguise, and if anyone does not like the above – blame him, by all means!!]

  11. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky, not been around the weekend and have now realised I dodged RA’s attempt to coerce me into a match report. Wouldn’t have managed it anyway so I will have to take one on in the future. I think I might be inspired more if my proposer showed me the way in leading by example 🙂

    From the weekend my main positive was how we continued to actually try and win the game even when down to 10 men away from home against tough and physical opposition. Further evidence of the seismic psychological changes Arteta is instilling in this squad, which will pay massive dividends eventually.

    A very good question this one as a post Rocky and something we touched upon a short while back as to what happens if Torreira can’t play?

    I have taken the line of giving all players a clean sheet under Arteta because I always felt that many players, and player combinations, weren’t working because of poor coaching and tactical instruction.

    That said, I will need a lot more convincing with certain positions and certain combinations than others, and the Gran-Douzi is one of them. I am not saying Arteta can’t make it work but Torreira has a natural instinct for the role while Douzi and Xhaka don’t, so I am far from happy with these 2 together.

    Luiz would be an answer but has he now become too important in CD with his last couple of showings? A fit and sharp Holding could have made a difference but I am not sure we will see him back to his best for a few weeks. Can we risk taking Luiz out of CD right now?

    The only way it works is if Xhaka plays the more disciplined role but 2 managers before Arteta have failed to get him to do this. The question is whether that is down to sub-standard management and tactical organisation or whether Xhaka just can’t play a holding role? Is Arteta a notch or 2 above our previous 2 managers in his tactical shaping of the team?

    One thing that might make Gran-Douzi work is the change Arteta has made in AMN as an inverted FB. If he can drop in alongside the Gran-Douzi partnership at key times in the game this may then provide that extra solidity we lose with Torreira not there. It is worth revisiting that article from a week or so ago that explained this

  12. LB says:

    Recipe for disaster, neither of them know how to defend; Xhaka never will and for all opportunities that Guendouzi has had things are not looking that great (defensively speaking of course)

  13. Uwot? says:

    No it most certainly can’t.Granit Hacker & Gwen chance.

  14. GoonerB says:

    Something I wanted to say the other day about Xhaka but never got round to, and I think it was the Leeds game I noticed it in but maybe Utd. I noticed that Arteta had already had a positive effect on one aspect of Xhaka’s game that had bothered me.

    I always complained that Xhaka, when on the ball, lacked the ability to carry the ball and drive through midfield. It was almost as if he was scared to run with the ball so permanently looked to pass it every time, the result being too many sideways and backwards passes when forward ones weren’t on.

    Well I have noticed that Xhaka went on a couple of significant ball carrying forward runs at pace (or at least his full pace), and that can only be down to the manager giving him the confidence to do this as it is something I have not seen before.

    That is a real positive for me with Xhaka, but I still remain very doubtful on his (clean) ball winning ability. He and Douzi are a little bit similar in poor positioning, getting caught the wrong side of the ball and are both shirt tuggers and trippers from behind the player too often rather than winning the ball back meaningfully and then putting us on the front foot.

    If Arteta gets those 2 working properly and effectively then I really will be taking him round a bottle of Evian and asking him to turn it into Sancerre.

  15. fred1266 says:

    Mikel Arteta will not change Arsenal’s plans to send Eddie Nketiah on another loan spell even with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang set to begin a three-match suspension.

    Gunners captain Aubameyang was sent off for a studs-up tackle on Max Meyer during Saturday’s 1-1 Premier League draw at Crystal Palace, where he earlier opened the scoring with his 16th goal of the season.

    The Gabon striker will miss Sheffield United’s visit to Emirates Stadium and the trip to Chelsea, along with an FA Cup fourth-round tie at Bournemouth.

    Nketiah is back at Arsenal having only made two Championship starts during half a season with promotion-chasing Leeds United.

    Aston Villa, Norwich City and Bristol City are among those to have been linked to the England Under-21 international and Arteta insists being without Aubameyang for the rest of this month will not influence how Arsenal handle a promising young talent.

    “At the moment we have to think medium-to-long term with Eddie, we have to respect his evolution, his development, and we don’t have to make decisions just based on two or three games,” he said.

    “We are losing probably the most important player, this is never nice, we have other players that can play in that position, we will try to find a way and be as competitive as possible.

    “Hopefully they have to take a step forward now he’s not able to contribute to the team with goals like this, someone else has to do it and I want to see their reaction too.”


    💾 @FootballManager

    ✅ More Direct Passing
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    ⚡️ @Aubameyang7 x #CRYARS

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    Aubameyang apologised for his ugly challenge on Meyer but Arteta wants Arsenal to maintain the aggressive approach without the ball he has sought to introduce since replacing Unai Emery as head coach last month.

    “Absolutely. I asked them to go 100 mph to chase the ball, to be very aggressive and when we don’t have it to win it again as quickly as possible,” he explained.

    “We need to know that there are certain areas we can do that. It’s game management and we’ll get better at that in the future hopefully.

    “We need to know at this type of ground they are going to put you on the back foot in many situations.”

  16. LBG says:

    Thoughtful as always.
    Two comments ” inverted fullback”, is that the same as a “pendulum fullback”?
    As Chas used to say, more tactical bollox!

    Re Xhaka’s driving forward. Notice you didn’t comment on what he did at the end of those two drives!

  17. Sue says:

    No game until Saturday 😖 What a long week this will be! There are some cup replays tomorrow and Wednesday… hoping Woodgate and his team are victorious tomorrow! 🙏

    Still can’t see any news on Torreira… and I hope it won’t be as cold, dark and windy as this on Saturday…

  18. RA says:


    I just wanted to thank you for your help when Emery was driving me to distract. You bucked me up – shook me out and put me back on my feet, and now I tell everyone what you taught me;

    I got me ten fine toes to wiggle in the sand, lots of idle fingers that snap to my command

    A lovely pair of heels that kick and beat the band
    Contemplating nature can be rather grand

    Add to these a nose that I can thumb, and a mouth by gum have I,
    to tell the whole darn world if you don’t happen to like it deal me out, thank you kindly, pass me by.

    Pass me by — ai, pass me by, if you don’t happen to like it, pass me by.

    It makes me feel plumptious!!!

    Thank you verily, Sue.

  19. RockyLives says:

    Good comments all.

    I’m backing Arteta to instil sufficient positional discipline into the Grand and Oozy pair to make them an acceptable alternative to our miniature meaty Uruguayan (did you know he was born in the town of Fray Bentos?).

  20. Sue says:

    Omg… is that a song??!!! 😂😂😂

  21. RockyLives says:

    “Pass me by” – haven’t heard that for decades Redders 😀

    Did you choose it as a very subtle dig at the Guendouzi and Xhaka’s effectiveness in midfield?

  22. RockyLives says:

    “Thanks Rocky, you ask a pivotal question…”

    I see what you did there.

  23. RA says:

    Fray Bentos — 😁😳🥺

    Who is Fray Bentos?

    Pivot?? Is that what the cuckoo does on a finger??

    You are deeply mysterious, Rocky!! 👀👀

  24. RA says:

    As for the 10 fine toes, Rocky, you’d have to ask Sue — she really picked me up with that.

    Who’d ever guess she was that strong?? 🙄

  25. RA says:

    You know, sometimes life can get to you – your hopes your dreams —– sheesh

    I remember when I was a very little, our house caught on fire. and I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face as he shoo-ed me away, and we raced through the burning building out to the pavement.

    I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames, and when it was all over I said to myself — is that all there is to a fire —
    is that all there is?

    If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
    Let’s break out the booze and have a ball — if that’s all there is.

    And when I was twelve years old, my father took me to a football match, the greatest game on earth.
    There were clowns playing, there were cheats and a guy with a whistle, and others with flags and a ball flew high above our heads.

    And I sat there watching ……. and I thought – is that all there is to this game – is that all there is – and a tear ran down my face.

    If that’s all there is my friends, let’s keep trying, let’s have a beer or two, or three ……

    And when I was in my thirties, I thought, let’s go blogging, and I went blogging to read exciting stuff, with wonderful people, and not so wonderful people and arguments, and great discussions.

    I sat there on my computer making new friends…. losing friends ….. and I thought – is that all there is to blogging my friends – then where’s the beer – and another tear ran down my face.

  26. RockyLives says:

    You’re in mercurial form today Redders

  27. Sue says:

    RA.. well you got me there! I never for one minute thought your @6.05 was a song!!
    😂😂 even though you tweaked it a little and forgot to mention the lady in pink tights (oo-er 😜)
    There was one thing that stood out for me though – “And when I was in my thirties, I thought let’s go blogging”…… which made me think about 2 things…
    1) How you can remember back that far (which I applaud 😜) and……
    2) How long exactly has blogging been around?! 😝
    I look forward to your next installment… hopefully a song I’m familiar with!!

  28. RA says:

    Good Morning, Sue,

    re: your 10:35 pm

    I forgot to mention yesterday that it does not hurt to repeat that I have never had an original thought.

    To that end I also forgot to say that the song I tweaked massacred (is that all there is) was sung by the magnificent Peggy Lee (and others)..

    Over the years, when I have been to London, I like to visit street markets and 2nd hand book shops, and I have a varied collection of bric a brac, including old LPs, which I play on an equally old record player.

    But truth be told, when I remember, or when I feel the need, I go to You Tube etc, and look up old songs by old singers (Peggy Lee is well worth listening to – try it) and listen to and marvel at their brilliance.

    I love football, and I blog so I can hear/see what others think of this and that, but eventually, we all move on when we run out of things to discuss, and that is true of many fine bloggers who were on AA in the past, and I am teetering on the brink of joining them.

    Up until now, every time I think I should say ‘sayonara’ I am drawn back by some of the terrific people that still blog on here, and by tweaking songs I love, to replace my lack of original footbally things to say, but one day, like young birds in the Spring, I will spread my wings, and be gone, at last. 😜

    Have a good day! 😁

  29. VP says:

    Sue, excellent excellent –

    1) How you can remember back that far (which I applaud 😜) and……
    2) How long exactly has blogging been around?! 😝

    and RA

    every time I think I should say ‘sayonara’

    may it never come to pass and may the hairs on your toes grow forever long

  30. GoonerB says:

    Afternoon all

    VP, Redders is far too big to be a hairy toed hobbit if that is what you are referring to.

    I had the pleasure of spending some time with an octogenarian lifelong Huddersfield season ticket holder today, who lives down sarf and still makes a 4 1/2 hour round trip to each home game.

    We were chewing the fat about ESR and Huddersfield. They have been struggling a bit this year and needed a creative number 8 or 10 in the side. I really hope ESR can stay injury free and step up and start to realise the great potential he has. If he could become a key player and regular match winner for them ten it would serve all parties concerned well, so my fingers are crossed he makes a success of this loan.

    Interestingly I think they are lacking some firepower and their main current striker has a tendency to drift to the left. It made me think that maybe there is an opportunity for an attacking midfielder that has an eye for goal, but also another striker that can attack the box when their current one goes to the left. I wonder if we shouldn’t be trying to get both ESR and Eddie there.

    I discussed with a friend of mine who is a Leeds fan about Eddies loan spell and he said it wasn’t that he wasn’t a good striker or player, just that with Bamfield as a number 9 they didn’t really compliment each other and that Leeds needed more a goal-scoring number 10 type.

    I hope Eddie gets somewhere that he is needed because that is more important than the current status of the club. It seems Leeds wasn’t quite the right fit for Eddie with what they needed, and I would rather see him playing regularly and really helping a club in Huddersfield’s position than be a bit part player at a lower EPL side.

  31. jjgsol says:

    What about Willock instead of Giendouzi? Although he also runs about a lot, there seems to be much more purpose to it.

  32. RockyLives says:

    I don’t know what to make of Willock. He’s had some very impressive outings and some where he looks like a youth player who’s not ready for the big time yet.

    I’d be tempted to loan him out, if only because Gwen has a lot more first team experience under his belt.

  33. fred1266 says:

    Nah willock should be over guendouzi, think he can do a better job

  34. RA says:

    Morning, Peeps, especially Rocket and Fred,

    A quaint old blog
    Bloggers start to talk turkey
    Oh, no, then silence

  35. RA says:

    Winter’s day blogging
    happy blogging now
    Keyboard waiting expectantly

  36. RA says:

    Everything we say
    with too hot blood, sadly
    pricks like Sue’s sharp darts

  37. RA says:

    Not bothered to read the page
    Must go

  38. Sue says:

    Hello RA.. thank you for your reply yesterday! I tried to have a good day, but, unfortunately, it turned out to be the day from hell!! Mentally and physically draining! Luckily it’s over, it’s hump day and we’re edging closer to the weekend! Yay! Pity Mike Dean is officiating ☹

    I like hearing about your interests etc, so thank you for that! And you have a good day too!

  39. Morning all

    We have a New Post ……………

  40. fred1266 says:

    Morning RA how art thou

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