Who would you pick in Arsenal’s midfield three? – Poll

February 19, 2019

Time for a poll.

This post has been prompted by various discussions on the site with bloggers stating various individual preferences for our midfield line-up – Guendouzi, Mo Elneny, Xhaka in a double pivot or even Ainsley M-N as a box-to-boxer are among the choices/favourites.

For the purposes of today’s poll let’s assume Unai is playing 4 at the back with his first choice players available. Also assume we have three up front, perhaps in a 2 wide and 1 centre forward formation or alternatively a number 10 behind a striking duo.

Here are the runners and riders for a place in that middle three listed in the order they appear on AFC.com (let’s include Alex Iwobi even though he’s down as a striker).

Mo Elneny

An excellent squad player and perhaps a touch underrated, though rarely gets picked as a first choice starter. Why?

from AFC.com

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Often used as part of the front three on the right side to provide some width. Could he be better employed just in front of two DMs?

Aaron Ramsey

Perhaps his best position (well according to his new Juve boss) is just behind a front two and it’s difficult to deny that proposition. Could he still be used in the middle three? When tried before, his natural tendency to be looking to make bursts forward into the box has sometimes left us exposed in midfield.

Mesut Özil

Another whose best position appears to be just behind the striker(s) in a front three. Then again, he often plays wherever he feels he can do the most damage which might be the cause of his contretemps with Señor Emery.

Lucas Torreira

When he first came to the Club and was being gently eased in as a sub, it seemed he was being used as the central DM sweeping across the width of the back four. Now he seems to be established on the right side. Where’s his best posititon?

Celebrating his goal against the spuds

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Mr Versatile means that we’re not sure which is his favoured spot in the team. Could he play in front of a double DM formation where his youth, energy and calmness might be perfect weapons for the position?

Denis Suarez

It’s a bit early in Denis’s Arsenal career to know where he might end up in the team. Does anyone have more of an idea they could share?

Matteo Guendouzi

Still 19, he can’t have imagined he’d play so many games for The Gunners in his first season. Not a natural DM perhaps, but another with a great engine. Maybe he’s also suffered playing in a team which is low on confidence sometimes and others look to him to provide a creative spark.

Granit Xhaka

A marmite player if ever there was one. Usually picked by whatever manager he plays for, so he must be doing something right.  Should Granit get an automatic starting berth?

Alex Iwobi

Another player maybe best suited to a front three position. Has he got the discipline to stay central? Or would he be wasted further back where his dribbling skills might be less useful?

Others

Perhaps one of the Academy lads might be given the opportunity to step up. Smith Rowe and Nelson are on loan, but Joe Willock, in addition to his 2 goals at Blackpool in the FA Cup 3rd round, has had a fine season up to now for Freddie’s u23s .  Robbie Burton and Charlie Gilmour are also getting decent reviews and are names to look out for in the future perhaps.

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Now for the poll. Choose the three you would prefer in your midfield three.

They could be in a 1-2 formation, a 2-1 (double pivot 🙂 ) or any other variation you can think of.  Specify your preference in the comments below.

chas 

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What are we going to do without Hector?

January 22, 2019

It appears that Hector Bellerin has totally knackered his knee .Minimum 6 months out and most probably 9 months.

In my opinion, an in form Hector is an integral part of our team, he provides something no-one else does … pace on the wing. Not just pace but pace allied to excellent close control and an ability to bring others into the game; for a full back, he is an assist master.

Tackling may not be his strong point but we defend better with him in the team as can be seen by our results when he is missing. Sadly, Catwalk is going to be spending his days traveling between the treatment table, the gym and stupidly expensive designer fashion shops.

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Should Mr. Emery buy/loan a replacement or use other members of the squad at right back? Let’s look at the alternatives.

1. Mr Lichtsteiner. As far as I can tell the Swiss Chap has played some role in 17 games, 9 in the PL. Whilst he as been on the pitch we have managed ONE clean sheet (PL). He has yet to perform to the level I expected from a man with his CV and reputation, I like the fellow, he is a master of the Dark Arts, something we have been lacking for many years, but can he really play week in, week out at his age? Does he have the stamina to get forward and back for 90 mins? I doubt it.

2. Mr. Maitland-Niles. Super prospect. Big bloke, strong, energetic, confident, an eye for a pass. In his few games at full back he has yet to make his mark. Let’s face it, the man is a midfielder and is being shoe-horned into a position which he is not qualified for  – yet. I know Flamini managed it a few seasons ago but he was an experienced player, AMN (Cons) is not. However, this is a huge opportunity for Ainsley (who calls their child Ainsley??), one he may well take with both hands.

3. Play a Back 3. I have only one word to say about this …. Mustafi.

4. Sign a loan player. Is there anyone out there who is good enough to immediately fit into our team. If he is, then why would a club allow him a loan loan move in January? Clyne might have worked.

My guess is that Mr. Emery’s solution will be a mixture of all of the above (perhaps not a signing). For him, and for The Arsenal the injury to Bellerin is very unfortunate.

written by BR.


Alternative Qarabag – exciting prospects give us a glimpse of the future?

December 15, 2018

As things stand we have very few options on the right: Ramsey and Ozil have been deployed out there with very little success; I mean what’s the point in tasking Ozil with tracking back and worse, what a waste? Ramsey is slightly better in the sense that he is more naturally aware of what is expected from someone playing in that position but with all the best will in the world, his main drawback is that he is very slow over the ground and when tracking back with pace is one of the principal yardsticks in which a player is gauged on the flank, the Welshman will always be seen as being lacking. Aubameyang and Lacazette drift out there from time to time but obviously offer no defensive cover or token at best.

Then there is Mkhitaryan, I have read on a few occasions how Henrich seems to be one of Emery’s favourites and is the reason why, on occasions, when it seems to make no sense, he gets the nod ahead of Ozil. I don’t see this at all. In fairness, on the flank, Mkhitaryan does offer something going forward, he does have good close control and does try to track back, certainly does better than any other player that Emery has used in that position, but that is not saying much. And this is where I bring you back to the match you are trying to forget or more than likely had forgotten: Qarabag.

ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

The most interesting point for me was how Emery deployed AM-N; he started as predicted at LB which, as we know, he can play but as we equally all know, there is so much more in his locker but second half Emery put him wide right and he almost created a goal with his first very exciting foray into the 18 yard box.

I think a lot can be read into this. What is becoming apparent is that Emery loves a mobile player with good close control; the ability to push forward but, above all, the player must be able to defend (did I just describe Torreira?)

You see where I am coming from. If you think about it, AM-N has all of those qualities plus one further special gift: he is fast and when he gets going he is very fast. I expect Emery to play him out there far more in the near future.

A couple of other thoughts: I like the way that Saka is being fast-tracked, yes he is the latest hot young prospect that we are all getting excited about but, hey, what is wrong with that? Cynics point to a long line of players that people like me have got excited about but have fallen short of what was hoped for (I thought Jack Wilshere was the next Maradonna but hey ho we can’t get them all right) However, I would argue that to not to get excited about the next hot thing is to miss out on an incredibly important and uplifting part of supporting a football team.

Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Young Bukayo, only seventeen, started the game naturally nervous, he may have trained with Ozil and Lacazette but playing along side them is understandably going to take some time to get used to. It was noticeable that he got better and better as the game went on and having drunk some of Unai Emery’s half time magic drink he, like every other player at the club, came out in the second half a changed man. It also helped when Lacazette went off and then finally Ozil; the young man was then surrounded by players up front that he is used to playing with on a weekly basis and the reason for him being fast tracked became apparent. The man possesses superb close control and can seemingly go past players at will; he was in the right place at the right time to receive AM-N’s deft cross on the break to leave Saka one on one with the keeper but unfortunately he fluffed his lines and missed. As for when he is likely to break into the first team, hmmm, I wonder if he can defend. If so, then fast tracked really will mean fast tracked.

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The last player I want to give a bit of attention to is Zech Medley, still only 18 but as nervous as Saka started, Medley was the absolute opposite; he came on and immediately went to take up his natural central defensive position only to be told by Koscielny to go out to the left, did this make him nervous? Not at all, what we have here is a left footed, tall central defender who can obviously play LB with close control skills that are so good I can’t even think of a comparison. Ohh, and the other reason that he gets a mention above others is that he is one of us, a boyhood Arsenal fan and that will always count for an awful lot in my household. COYRRG.

Written by LB


Blackpool. Possible Line-Up. Miss Ross-Eggert

October 31, 2018

Carabao. Do you remember how we did last season? I have to admit I struggle.

We reached the Final and had a day out at Wembley which went very well until the 18th minute after which it all went TU.

Was it worth it? Do the clubs value the competition? On balance one has to say Yes, but I would temper that by pointing out AW’s policy of playing kids in the early rounds and first teamers as we progress, which IMO mocks the idea that it is an opportunity for the squad players (more of that later in the day, perhaps)

In yesterday’s post, GN5 gave us the background to our opponents, I cannot write about Blackpool without mentioning Stanley Matthews, the Wizard of the Wing. In my very early days, those days when one’s love for the beautiful game becomes an obsession, Stanley Matthews was as holy as Miss Ross -Eggert (my headmistress in junior school), and Dan Dare from the Eagle comic. In my first ever game at Highbury I saw Matthews playing for Stoke at the age of almost 50!! I could and perhaps one day will write a post upon the effect Matthews had upon a nation recovering from WW2,

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But of today’s Blackpool team I know nothing. I could Google but then so could you 😀

Given the forthcoming test against Liverpool and our growing injury list, I expect Mr Emery to start whomever is available sans Ozil and Xhaka. Even the over-worked Holding might have to start.

My Team:

Helmet

Jenks    Mustafi       Greek     AMN (Cons)

Ramsey   Elneney   Smith Rowe   Willock

Welbeck     Nketiah

A return for Corporal Jenkinson must be possible and I wiah him the very best. As to the other positions  – a mixture of experience and youth as always propped up by a solid deface. Maybe Medley at CB will get a kick later in the game.

We do not play League 1 sides very often and I look forward to seeing the standard of play. Blackpool will relish playing on the Hallowed Turf. Should be a good attacking game because, should B’pool try to PTB, they will lose in an ignominious manner, far better to go down in flames.

This is the Hors d’oeuvre before the main course at the weekend, hopefully a tasty morsel.

Arsenal should continue their unbeaten run.

COYRRG

 


Sporting Lisbon. Ramsey to Shine?

October 25, 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Quaresma, William Carvalho, Luis Figo, Peter Schmeichel, Phil Babb (!),  All played for Sporting and, had they still been in the green and white shirt, this evening would be very difficult but they don’t. In fact, Sporting Lisbon had a player revolt in summer which resulted in players cancelling their contracts and leaving the club.

7 players left including 4 Portuguese internationals, and all left on a free transfer. And we think players in the PL have too much power! Without too much research this happened because Sporting got a new Chairman who created a poisonous atmosphere within the club, they then went on a losing run resulting in some fans attacking the players on the training pitch, giving the players the right to cancel their contracts.

Needless to say, this has weakened the team and this season they sit in 5th place in the Primera Liga.

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As to their players I know Zip, but I am sure they will be hard working, good on the ball etc etc etc

We come into this game in tremendous form and, despite a mounting injury list, Emery is certain to play around with his squad and we may well see Smith Rowe or even Elneny in midfield.

My Team:

Lemon

Catwalk    Mustafi   Holding    Lich

Ramsey   Curly   Elneny

Mhiki

PEA   Welbz

Both AMN (Cons) and, believe it or not, Carl Jenkinson are travelling with the squad and must therefore be available. I really like Jenks – not as a player for Arsenal but as a proper Gooner. I wish him well and perhaps he will get a start in the Carabao. Maitland-Niles (Cons) has a big future at Arsenal and may well get some pitch time this evening.

Ramsey was poor in his 10 minutes at the weekend, he needs to up his game and I expect him to do so. A wonderful goal apart, he has struggled, but he remains a very influential player. Tonight he will want to show Emery he is deserving of a first team shirt.

Watching Emery’s press conference yesterday I was delighted that when questioned in Portuguese, Unai understood the question and then answered in English. This shows his commitment and also his intelligence.

Tricky away fixture (we have never won in Portugal), if we draw this and win the home tie we will top the group. but we have a very food squad in good form and there is no reason why we cannot win tonight in Lisbon then celebrate with a bowl of Sopa de Cacao.

COYRRG


Was Arsène Right?

October 20, 2018

Before I begin, can I ask that if anyone reads this who really knows about player development to kindly leave a comment, because this post is a question as much as an observation, and I suspect that like myself, most regulars on this site would be guessing.

We all heard terms such as Project Youth during the Wenger years, and we also noted that very few players emerged through the Arsenal ranks to have top flight careers, whether at Arsenal or anywhere else.

We now appear to be on the threshold of seeing a very good looking bunch possibly breaking through, with the likes of M-N, Iwobi, Nelson, Eddie and Smith Rowe.

One of my criticisms of the way the project unfolded under Arsène was that most of these players appeared during their sporadic appearances in a variety of positions, while I always believed they should be developed in specific positions.

I’m beginning to think I was wrong. Here’s why.

It strikes me that our homegrown players are relatively late developers, but perhaps there is good reason for this. I’ll expand this thought with a few questions/observations:

  • playing them in a variety of positions could simply be to give them game time when opportunities open up through injuries
  • or, could this have been a deliberate strategy to make them more complete players?
  • examples: we’ve seen Iwobi left, central and right midfield, likewise, M-N left and right back as well as defensive and attacking midfield
  • I get the impression Unai has a more structured approach to positional duties, but will he, and the players, have benefited from Arsene’s more fluid approach?

mickydidit89


Ainsley Maitland-Niles – where will he fit into Emery’s team?

October 18, 2018

Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Con) is back in full training and in contention for the Leicester game on Monday. Perhaps Monday will come too early for the lad but away to Sporting a few days later could see him return. The question I was asking myself is, ‘what will Unai see as his strengths and eventual starting position?’. Let’s take a look.

Bottom right

Ainsley recently turned 21 and has been with the Club since he was 6 years old, another Mr Arsenal! He made Champions League and Prem debuts in late 2014. The following season he spent on loan at Ipswich, making 32 appearances and scoring 2 goals. Mick McCarthy was initially full of praise but used him less as the loan period drew to a close. (Update: It’s rumoured McCarthy received an X-rated voicemail from Ainsley’s Mum about some kit launch or something which left the poor lad out in the cold, selection-wise – she’s a right box of tricks…..)

Returning to Arsenal, in September 2016 he featured at right back at the City Ground in the EFL cup and we cruised to a 4-0 victory (a game I was lucky enough to be at). His next start the following January was in an FA Cup 4th round match at Southampton where he played in central midfield (we won 5-0 and, again, I was there for another belting away trip 🙂 ).

Here he is, assisting the assister at St Mary’s ………..

The days when the thing Ainsley was most famous for was an incident involving his Mum allegedly lamping Dick Law at the Arsenal training ground are long gone.  Arsene’s final season saw him establish himself as a versatile member of the first team squad, clocking up 15 Prem and 9 Europa League appearances, amongst others.

Wiki describes Maitland-Niles as a midfielder, winger and right full back but he’s also been used at left back when the need has arisen.  At just under 5’10” and a shade over 11 stone, he is still developing the strength required to play in the rough and tumble of the English top flight. Having started Arsenal’s first match of this season against Abu Dhabi FC in the left back position, he broke his left fibula when that fat, ex-spud Kyle Walker sat on him.

Photo by James Baylis – AMA/Getty Images

So, what position does he play? His blistering pace contributed to him being used as a winger in his early career and has also proved useful in his coverage of the flanks when playing at full back. He is good in the tackle, reads the game well and his great engine would appear to make him perfect wingfender material. However, Ainsley’s stated preferred position is midfield and you can easily see how his manoeuvrability and comfortable ease in possession could make him perfect in the centre.

More importantly, what position does Unai Emery think he’s best suited to?

One thing’s for sure, he’ll be clear about what is expected of him when he does get a game. It should be really exciting finding out how Unai gets the best out of him.

chas