How would Wenger deploy our current squad?

November 27, 2019

Here’s a little puzzle for a wet and windy morning:

If Arsene Wenger were parachuted in to run the Arsenal team right now, which players would be in his starting eleven and how would he set them up?

One of the biggest differences between the way we play under Unai Emery and the way we played under Arsene is that we are now less effective in attack. These days we typically have fewer attempts on goal than our opponents, something which never happened in any of the Arsene years.

One could argue that our defensive frailty would be just as evident if Monsieur Le Sixpack were calling the shots, but surely we’d be more potent going forward?

Emery’s philosophy, as far as it’s possible to discern one, appears to be about keeping control – of the ball and, therefore, the game. It may have worked in the first part of his tenure in N5, but for whatever reason it’s just not functioning now.

So let’s indulge this thought experiment.

Arsene arrives in time to select the team for this weekend’s game against the Norfolk tractor boys. What’s his approach?

Here’s what I think he’d do: first off, he would be thrilled with the quality of the attackers available to him, so the names “Aubameyang” and “Lacazette” would be the first ones on his team sheet, closely followed by “Ozil”.

He would consider whether he could afford to potentially weaken our defensive spine by adding an attacking wide player to the mix, but his internal debate would last only moments before he would conclude: “Merde, you only live once: let’s go for it!”

He would add Pepe to the team sheet – but only after having a word in his shell-like about how he could be the next Thierry Henry if he followed the advice which Arsene would now give him…

Next, he would need to find the right two midfielders to provide some sort of defensive solidity while also being able to play a possession based game and get the ball to Ozil in good positions. Torreira would be the first pick (the young Uruguayan would be slightly confused by his instructions to screen the back four while also bursting into the opposition box given the opportunity).

After toying with the idea of Guendouzi because of his energy and his general Frenchiness, Arsene would ultimately plump for Willock as a partner for Torreira in midfield, figuring that Willock is a better passer and a more considered player.

In defence, there would be no hesitation in picking Bellerin and Tierney as the fullbacks. For centre halves he would choose Luiz and Chambers (both have ball-playing abilities and would be encouraged to bring the ball out from the back. Luiz also brings tons of experience). Leno is in goal.

So here’s my Arsene Wenger starting line-up for this Sunday’s game:

Leno

Bellerin Chambers Luiz Tierney

Torreira Willock

Ozil

Pepe Aubameyang

Lacazette

We beat Norwich with a classic Arsenal scoreline of 5-2, with a hat trick from Pepe and goals from Laca and Auba. Five assists for Ozil.

Am I right?

RockyLives


Arsene Wenger Is Helping Unai Emery Keep His Job

November 5, 2019

Arsene Wenger was probably Arsenal’s greatest ever manager (and certainly the best since Herbert Chapman).

And his influence on the club persists long after the man himself exited the building stage left, fiddling with the zipper on his puffer jacket.

Indeed I have a theory that the ghost of Arsene is currently playing a significant role in keeping Unai Emery secure in his position, even though our head coach has a recent record that’s patchier than Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant.

How so?

It’s all about psychological conditioning. Cast your mind back to the time when Bruce Rioch was let go as Arsenal manager and replaced by a man of whom few if any of us had heard.

It wasn’t “Arsene Who?” for long. In quick succession he became:

“Arsene Wow” (winning the Double in his second season).

Then “Arsene Knows” (as he piled success upon success with a team that was a joy to watch).

After that it was “Trust Arsene” (when the money dried up after the stadium move but he somehow kept us competitive for years while spending net zero on transfers).

Finally it was “Arsene Why?” (as the money taps started flowing again but the long awaited success in the Premier League did not).

His time at our club was like a marriage: a long-term relationship filled with love, togetherness, shared triumphs, crushing disappointments and, finally, a cooling of ardour and a parting of ways.

But the important thing in today’s context is not the emotions, but the sheer length of time the relationship lasted. As Arsene’s tenure rolled deep into its second decade (almost unprecedented in the modern game) we fans took great pride in the stability of our club.

Not for us the casual casting off of managers as if they were fashionable training shoes: one minute a must have accessory, the next dangling by their laces over a telephone cable on the Holloway Road. We could laugh at the shenanigans at clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and the N17 miscreants, not to mention Manchester United after Fergie’s retirement.

Those other clubs displayed characteristics we were glad not to share: disloyalty, capriciousness, impatience, ungratefulness, a type of mercenary shallowness. While the likes of Ancelotti, Rogers, Di Mateo, Hughes, Pellegrini, Hodgson, Redknapp, Hiddink and Benitez came and went through the revolving doors, Arsene Wenger remained a permanent fixture. And that’s something we were proud of (rightly so).

Many younger fans grew up knowing only the Arsenal of Arsene and for us older ones, the days of George Graham (and his playing style) seemed an age ago.

In psychology there is a concept of conditioned behaviour. When things have always been a certain way, we have a tendency to believe that that is how they will (and should) always be in the future. We have conditioned ourselves to close our minds to change.

in our case, we have become so used to being a club that sticks with managers through thick and thin that even now we are more reluctant than supporters at other clubs to call time on a head coach who is just not cutting the Colmans. Loyalty to our manager has become a virtue we’ve embraced and now we feel duty bound to embrace it further.

The serious doubts about Emery should really have started during and after the capitulation at the end of last season, but for most of us the instinct was to make excuses: “He hasn’t had a proper transfer window yet… these are not really his players… it’s his first season in a new league… he’s just beginning to get to grips with the language…”

They are all legitimate points, but they were influenced by the fact that we just don’t see ourselves as a club that might sack a manager after only a season. We would rather rationalise away obvious shortcomings than see our club behave in a way we have criticised at other clubs.

If Emery’s first season at Arsenal had been replicated at, let’s say, Chelsea or Manchester United, he would likely have been out on his shell-like in the summer. Just look at what has happened at Bayern Munich this week.

But that’s not the Arsenal way, so here he still is, making the same mistakes, continuing with the same brand of joyless and shapeless football, persevering with players in roles that don’t suit them (Granit Xhaka being Exhibit A).

The tide is beginning to turn against Emery among supporters now, although it’s clear that we are doing it with a heavy heart. We don’t want to be another Chelsea but, reluctantly, many of us are coming to the conclusion that we would rather change the habits of a (recent) lifetime than see things descend into a vicious spiral where results and performances continue to deteriorate, causing us to miss out on the top four and for our world class players to up sticks and leave.

I take no pleasure in saying that it’s probably time for change and time for a new head coach.

As I said in comments the other day, if the club sticks with Emery and he proves me wrong I’ll be all over that humble pie like Phil Dowd in a doughnut factory.

There is a French saying that goes “le plus ca change le plus c’est la meme chose.” It means “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” But like many things French, it’s all cockeyed. The real problem is that “le plus c’est le meme chose, le plus c’est le meme chose,” (“the more things stay the same, the more they stay the same”).

As another Frenchman once said: “At some clubs success is accidental. At Arsenal it is compulsory.”

The speaker was Arsene Wenger of course. And If he’s right, then the time for the club to act is fast approaching.

RockyLives


How Does Unai’s 2019 Arsenal Compare to Arsene’s 2017 Arsenal?

September 12, 2019

Ahead of our 5th game of the season, where are we compared to Arsene’s last season (2017)?

I’m looking at 9 main factors in trying to decide how much of a better path we’re on compared to when Arsene left. Make no mistake, this is probably an examination of Arsenal under Unai Emery as anything else. It’s early in the season and maybe we can revisit this at the next interlull to help time move on. Sorry to RA in particular for not having this ready for this morning’s post (I had a couple too many margaritas last night !!). Sorry too if I’ve missed anyone!! Hopefully not !! So

Goalkeeper and Defence

2017 –  Cech, Ospina, Bellerin, Debuchy, Gibbs, Monreal, Mertesacker, Mustafi , Gabriel, Koscielny

Grade  – 6/10. Merts was a bit of a loss, Nacho will be too.

2019 – Leno, Martinez, Bellerin, AMN, Kolasinac, Holding, Sokratis, Luis, Chambers, Tierney

Grade 7/10. Leno is (will be) an upgrade, Holding is better than anyone else we had and we have a little better overall quality in the middle and Tierney should also be a good upgrade.

Midfield

2017 – Ozil, Elneney, Ramsey, Xhaka, Coquelin,  AMN, Wilshere

Grade – 6/10. Obviously very affected by injury (didn’t even include Santi) but overall, where can you see any ball winning coming from? However also obviously very creative.

2019 – Ozil, Xhaka, Ceballos, Willock, Torreira, Guendouzi

Grade: 7.5/10. Definitely more strength and tenacity defensively but also with plenty of creativity. Even if you’d argue there was more going forward in 2017, it’s hard to create without the ball.

Forwards

2017 – Giroud, Iwobi, Oxlade, Sanchez, Walcott, Welbeck, Lucas.

Grade:  6.5/10. Obviously Sanchez was dangerous and Giroud was a huge weapon in the air but we hardly used it !! Not enough quality wide and very one dimensional as far as goal threat.

2019 – Auba, Laca, Pepe, Nelson, Martinelli

Grade:  8.5/10. There’s a lot of firepower in this group. Probably not quite deep enough but wide players are much better in my opinion.

Management Team

2017 – Wenger, Bould, Gazidis, Law.

Grade – 4/10. This group oversaw a steady decline in player quality and mentality which I think when you compare it to this year, is very stark.

2019 – Emery, Ljungberg, Edu, Sanehlli, Vinai V

Grade: 7.5/10. Mostly based on this summer transfer window but also the team just seems a little more steely and solid. It’s early but I also think we should bear in mind the losses of Bellerin and Holding last season at a time when we were on a very good run.

Ownership

2017 – Kroenke, Usmanov, Fanshare

Grade:  4/10. Did very little to help a sinking ship. Is it the fact that now KSE knows putting its own money in will reap benefits back to them alone? (This is also a great subject for a later post that I’d like to tackle !!)

2019 – Kroenke

Grade: 7/10: Got to give credit where it’s due. At least for right now. Substantial improvement

Mental Strength

2017 – Arsene talked a lot about it but who would you say showed a good mentality from all of the 2017 lists? For me, Nacho, Ramsey, Coquelin, Wilshere and Alexis would be the only ones I would want in my squad today for their mentality.

Grade: 3/10: Stemming from the manager I believe this has been the biggest failure at Arsenal during the later Wenger years. A team crying out for leaders, there were none.

2019 – I’d pick Leno, Holding, Sokratis, Luis, Ceballos, Willock, Guendouzi, Auba, Laca, for sure as players I think have a great mental presence on the field. I’d probably take Torreira and I’d imagine Tierney too but I’m not sure.

Grade: 5.5/10: Substantial improvements here. There are 3 or 4 players that need to be moved  on before I would rate us higher and an addition or two would help.

Defensive Ability 2019

Grade: 5/10. I am starting to understand better the massive correlation between a good defence and a solid defensive midfield. Until we fix that issue, our defenders are almost over achievers.

Attacking Strength 2019

Grade: 9/10. Similarly to our defenders, attackers allowed to play freely without fear of losing possession leading to goals being conceded will be better with good midfielders.

Fear Factor 2019

I think teams facing the current Arsenal team see a different proposition to a couple of years ago. I think we’re going to win a few games through not being intimidated that we wouldn’t have before. I’m not sure we’ll intimidate too many at first but hopefully once our front 3 get firing, that’s possible too.

Summary:  I’m not saying everything is rosy in the garden, far from it. But from a more stable ownership model through better overall management to an overall more balanced and athletic squad, I think we’re on the right track. What do you think?

Mike M

 

 


We loved Arsène Wenger … but isn’t it time to move on ….

July 5, 2019

We’ve had some excellent contributions from bloggers over the past few days.

Our varying views have shown that there’s still a lot of love for Özil although many want him gone, some reckon that Emery isn’t the man for the job where others are ready to give him another year and many, many Arsenal supporters are still hurting from the fact that Arsène Wenger has gone. What ever happens to Özil or Emery, it’s all part of the fabric of our history as were the glorious years of having Arsène Wenger as our manager.

Our feelings about the club and our views about what should or shouldn’t happen can hamper debate and discussion occasionally, but we welcome all views on here and just ask that people try and keep calm. A wise blog owner told me years ago ‘it’s just a blog’ 🙂

There is always so much speculation during the closed season about who will come and who will go. Without actual football to watch sometimes our trips into navel gazing end in tears where in reality this forum is for Arsenal supporters to chat about the club we love in good times and in difficult times.

Yesterday’s comments threw up these conflicting views ………….

This from VP

Emery I thought got worse as the season progressed and fell in a heap. 1 win from finishing in top 4 & CL, and 1 win from finishing with a european trophy. But I’m up for what he can do in his second season (althought wouldve loved Rafa).

And this from Els

I don’t think Emery got worse as the season went on. I think they were burnt out. Emery’s intense training sessions were too much of a culture shock for a lot of players used to a more creative style of play.

I think a lot of players had nothing left to give.

Another season and pre-season in particular will help with that. Also a lot of young legs. Another reason why Emery is a good fit.

I, like many supporters, felt very frustrated that the team weren’t able to get themselves into the top four. And the thought that that lot from down the road were actually better prepared to get themselves into the top four above us quite frankly leaves a very sour taste in my mouth.

I’m looking forward to the new season with hope and expectation, I shall be saying that a lot in the coming weeks.

peachesgooner

 

 

 


Would you swap a little bit of Arsene for a bit more George?

June 21, 2019

I’m going out on a limb here ….. I know I’m only a girl so what do I know but …… we actually need to stop conceding goals rather than worrying about who is going to score them. Although I have to say that Aubameyang does really excite me, I love watching him play and he has scored some great goals for us but Arsenal conceding 51 goals in a Premiership season is just ridiculous.

Aubameyang won the Golden Boot with 22 goals, which I love, even more so because that Kane bloke from down the road didn’t. But there’s a good chance that someone else …. or a few others could have stepped up to score his goals and maybe even scored more overall. And I would give up so many of our high scoring games to have conceded fewer …….. actually there weren’t that many high scoring games last season but you get my point.

This rant was as a result of the following comment from Mike M discussing the prospect of selling Aubameyang to buy better quality defenders and midfielders …

When we sold Van Persie to Manure he won them the title because that’s all they needed. Even if they bought PEA, they (like us) are a million miles away from winning anything.

I still believe we need a mentality shift, so I think we need a slightly different type of player for the next couple of years than we have always wanted. If we score 20 fewer goals next season but concede 20 fewer also, I think we’ll finish in the top 4 no problem.

“George Graham said, he wanted us to keep it tight and win 1-0 not 4-3. But still as it happened we scored a hell of a lot of goals that season” a quote from Alan Smith about the 1991 title winning side.

Probably not many people remember the Graham years with too much fondness but that was nearer the end when Ian Wright was our only goal scoring threat. But ’89 and ’91 were great teams with lots of flare, an inbuilt strength and mentality that we’re in desperate need of right now. PEA is probably not essential to that. On the flip side, I love his attitude and how he seems to enjoy the game and that’s something we also need. Its’ a tough call.

I’m not writing a book any time soon (although many of my comments are book length !!). I am just a huge Gooner that likes discussing by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen.

Those who have blogged with me for years know that I’m of the opinion that defending is a science that can be taught whereas goal scoring has a bit more luck and artistic flare attached to it. Footballers who think their only job is to score goals might find this upsetting, but if you’re up against a good defense you’ve got less chance of scoring than if you’ve got a rubbish defense to breach.

So, would you settle for a few more 1-0’s to The Arsenal, no possibility of the Golden Boot and no high scoring games next season? How do you think we can achieve this?

peachesgooner 


He’s Got No Hair.

May 31, 2019

I am still bruised and angry.

No point whatsoever looking at a one-off game and reaching conclusions about the future of certain players and whether they were responsible for that shitfest. Ozil was crap but he is one of 10 (Cech is excluded). It wasn’t lack of effort that cost us, it very rarely is, so what is it?

There is a simple answer …. look at our goals against record. I cannot recall a season when the defence was so porous. Goals conceded in the PL were 51!! Well over a goal a game. 13 conceded in the EL and we really only played 3 decent teams.

Is the personnel? I can’t say it is. Monreal may be a little slower but he remains a quality player. Kos and Sokratis are both experienced International defenders. Mustafi had a poor season but came good in the last couple of months. We have good young back-up in Mavro and Holding. AMN and Bellerin are both fine players with AMN doing well in a position which doesn’t suit his skills. Our GK’s made few mistakes.

Is this a new situation? Not really, we have been getting progressively more porous. 51 in the PL last season, 44 the year before and 36 the season before that.

Mr. Wenger was never a defensive minded coach and left a problem for Emery.  The problem seems to be that we do not have a viable defensive coach which considering who is our assistant manager is bizarre.

Steve Bould has been marvelous as a player and loyal as a member of the management team. One would expect him to be the man with the ability to create the defensive cohesion which is so clearly lacking. Why can’t he?  Is he not allowed to work on tactics? I cannot believe it. As a member of Arsenal best ever defence he has the knowledge and the experience, surely the defensive unity is his remit.

If we are to progress next season, the defence and especially the ability for the midfield to shield the CB’s has to improve. We may sign a defender or two but most of the players will still be at Arsenal in August …

Steve Bould may not.

written by BR

 


Arsenal’s Century Club – Olivier Giroud

May 14, 2019

Nineteen players have achieved the feat of scoring 100 goals for the Club over the past 96 years. The players are sorted by the number of games taken to reach the 100 goal mark. Olivier Giroud sits at number 12.

Oliver Jonathan Giroud was born in Chambery, France on September 30th 1986.

He began his career at Grenoble in Ligue 2 before joining Tours in 2008. He was the leagues highest scorer with 21 goals in his second season at Tours. On July 1st 2010 he joined top-flight side Montpellier and scored 21 goals in the 2011–12 season, helping Montpellier to their first ever Ligue 1 title.

Giroud made his full international debut for France in 2011. He has earned  87 caps, and was part of the teams which reached the quarter-finals at UEFA Euro 2012 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the final of UEFA Euro 2016 in which he received the Bronze Boot as joint second-highest goal scorer, and won the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

On 26 June 2012, Arsenal signed Giroud on a long-term contract for a fee of around £9.6 million and was given the number 12 shirt. He made his debut on 18 August as a substitute in a goalless home draw against Sunderland in the Premier League and scored his first Arsenal goal on 26 September, in a 6–1 win against Coventry City in the League Cup. He scored his first goal in Europe in the UEFA Champions League in a 2–2 draw at Schalke.

On 22 August, 2014 he broke his left tibia and was ruled out for four months but returned to action quicker than expected, replacing Aaron Ramsey for the last 13 minutes of a 1–2 home defeat against Manchester United on 22 November and scoring Arsenal’s consolation goal in added time.

On 30 May, 2015 he scored Arsenal’s fourth goal after appearing as a substitute in the team’s 4–0 FA Cup Final victory over Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium.

On 1 January 2017, he scored his iconic and unforgettable back heeled “scorpion kick” volley in a 2–0 win against Crystal Palace, a goal described by Arsène Wenger as the greatest he had seen at the Emirates Stadium. The goal later earned him the FIFA Puskás Award for the goal of the year.

During the 2017 FA Cup Final against Chelsea at Wembley, Giroud came on in the 78th minute with the score 1–1, and a minute later he delivered an assist for Aaron Ramsey to score the winning goal which saw Arsenal lift the Cup for a record-breaking thirteenth time.

On 28 September 2017 during Arsenal’s Europa League group game away to BATE Borisov, Giroud scored his 100th goal for the club in a 4–2 victory.

Theo celebrates Giroud’s 100th goal against Bate

On December 10th 2017 in a 1-1 draw with Southampton Alexis Sanchez sent a cross into the box and Olivier scored his 105th and final goal for Arsenal with one of his trademark.

 

GunnerN5