Kostatis

March 5, 2019

I have been thinking about age. Not mine –  the team, and in particular, the defence.

It seems that, at last, we have found a central defence which works – Koscatis or Sokrielny. 63 (almost 64)  years between them. In other words a short shelf life, or is it?

If a CB loses his pace and agility is it so important? BFG was magnificent at 32 and crap at 34 when he retired but then he never had pace or agility. But what of Sol or Kolo or Keown?

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We can survive with these two whilst the young Guns of Holding, Mavro and Chambers come up to speeds

I will not write of the younger Mustafi as my fervent wish is that we get shot ASAP.

So the age demographic at CB appears to function but what of the FB’s. It is here that we need major surgery. On the right we have the wonderful, but crocked, Hector, who at 23 y-o. will surely (should he stay) become an Arsenal stalwart.

Lichtsteiner is close to the bus-pass, which leaves … who? AMN is clearly not a full-back. It must be a great disappointment to both Ainsley and Emery that he hasn’t grasped his opportunity, just as Hector did when Debuchy got injured. Will he, Can he? I sincerely hope so. But unless we have a young tiro coming through the youth teams we need to buy.

On the left is an even worse picture with Monreal, 33 and unlikely to maintain his excellent form of the past few years. We don’t know if the Wardrobe (25 y.o) is a full back or a midfielder. Let’s assume Kolasinac can develop the discipline required to augment the defence, though it seems Emery sees him as a vital attacking cog.  So … reinforcements, please.

How could this come to pass? Surely if I can see the imbalance in the age demographic then the experts at AFC can? Which loonie signed Lichsteiner and not a young developing RB?  Are Arsenal going to continue to buy older players for a supposed short term gain? Be honest, as fine a player as PEA is, don’t you think he saw his best days at BD? We needed a rock at the back and signed a Sokratis with at most 3 seasons in him – actually, this one I can accept because we have fine young CB’s coming through.

Reading this through it strikes me that this is an Old Man’s gripe. Poorly thought through and without purpose – but it is raining hard and I have to go to Sweden for a tooth implant – you can allow me to be grumpy!

written by Big Raddy


A Wenger Wingerless Wilderness

February 18, 2018

Martial, Sterling, Hazard, Mane’, all exciting players, all wingers

Pires, Overmars, Arshavin, Reyes, Walcott, Limpar. All exciting players, all wingers.

How many in the current squad? None.

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What changed in Wenger’s playing philosophy that meant he gave up on having a proper winger? Was it the lack of progress of Theo or the arrival of Sanchez?

Or could it have been the enormous success of TH14’s conversion?

Whatever it is the entertainment factor is lessened by a lack of a tricky winger, and this lack has had a knock-on effect upon our defensive quality. The demands placed upon both Bellerin and Monreal are enormous and impossible to achieve. Of course teams are going to get in crosses and have open spaces on our flanks when our FB/WB’s are the thrust of our wingplay.

It has to be admitted I know SFA about tactics but in my opinion it just doesn’t work for us.

Answer: Buy Zaha

 


Season Assessment: Full Backs

June 15, 2017

If you have been reading AA over the past few years you will know that BR knows sweet FA about tactics. This makes it difficult to judge the effectiveness of our full backs whose jobs change depending upon the formation. It was much easier to critique a performance in the days of Bob Mcnab and Pat Rice; things changed with the excellence and athleticism of Ashley Cole.

So, full backs or wing backs? How did they perform last season?

The first thing to say is that we improved once Mr Wenger tried the Back 3, the gaping holes in the defence disappeared but can the FB’s be blamed? You decide?

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Monreal: Dreadful start to the season. Unable to stop attacks down his flank which led to crosses and shots flying towards Petr. By season’s end he was back to being one of the best FB’s in the league but was he now a CB, a FB or a WB? Nacho has made over 150 appearances for Arsenal and as much as I like him I still hope AFC will sign a better defender. That said, one of my highlights of the season was the triple block of Costa’s shot in the FACF by Nacho, Holding and BFG. Real commitment.

Monreal always gives 100%, is passionate, versatile, combative and this season scored a vital goal at Wembley. He signed a long-term contract in 2016, so I guess it will be Gibbs who is leaving.

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Gibbs: I hate to be critical of a proper Arsenal man but Gibbs hasn’t achieved his potential. A sparkling early career leading to England caps had me thinking he was the successor to Ashley. He isn’t. Good player for sure but we need better (and hopefully we have already signed him).

Keiron started only 5 games last term, and 3 of those were at left wing back – a position he did well in and we certainly improved defensively with both Nacho and Keiron working in tandem.

For his sake, he needs regular first team football and I expect Keiron to be sold in the summer.

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Bellerin: Fantastic player when fully fit and in form. Amongst the very best in his position as is indicated by the media hyping a move to Barca. Hector had his worst season in the shirt thanks to a series of injuries. IMO he returned too early to the first team which affected his performances and it was only at season’s end when we saw the real Bellerin – a player with tactical awareness, a superb tackler and the fastest player in the squad.

Some awful haircuts this season as Hector attempted to be become a fashion icon. What is wrong with a short B & S?

I expect him to leave in a couple of season’s but by then he will have won the CL and PL with Arsenal.

Holding/Ox/Gabriel:  In here as an addendum because they all filled Bellerin’s position during the season. Not did the job as well as Hector but nonetheless were not embarrassed . The Ox at RWB worked better than expected.

Will we see the Back 3 experiment continue next season? And if so, where does Hector fit into the formation? Perhaps this is why there is so much media speculation, possibly activated by Bellerin’s agent.

All in all, our FB’s did not give enough defensive support to their CB’s and this resulted in too many goals conceded from wing positions. Could do better.

written by Big Raddy


A Sunny Day.

April 25, 2017

I guess we are still basking in the glory of a Wembley win, but it could have been so different.

Time for a reality check. We often complain about how a referee steals the game from us, that bad decisions have resulted in lost points, but Sunday we were blessed. Had the linesman made a correct call on  a cross going out of play, we would have legitimately been one down, Had the referee seen Ox’s ankle tap to bring down Aguero in the penalty area, it most probably would be two. City were all over us in the first half and anyone saying we were playing RopeaDope needs his/her bumps felt.  Added to their legitimate goal, we could have been 3-0 down.

But we weren’t 😃 😀

I said pre-game that we play better in the sun and so it proved, let us hope for the same the next time we go to Wembley.

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Ramsey has been quoted as saying “we have underperformed and now have 7 Cup Finals” left in the season. Ox says that the players have “let the club and the fans down”. Seems a bit obvious.  I know that football players have a mean IQ of below 50 but surely they know they have to give 100% in every game they play? It is an attitude I cannot understand. If I had an Aladdin’s lamp, my second wish would be to play for Arsenal First team – these lads have won life’s lottery.

Bellerin & the Back 3. He doesn’t fit in. Hector must know this, what will he and AW do? Ox has been excellent in his wingback role,  Holding, Gabriel and Monreal have also flourished (apart from losing Downing at ‘Boro).  Why change a winning formula?

written by Big Raddy


Bellerin. Mid-Term Report

April 20, 2017

Hector Bellerin. Now there is a problem arising for whomever is to be our manager.

Has a last decent season and thinks he is Jack the Peanut. Believes he is already the finished article and all he needs to do is turn up then bide his time until Barca/Real come calling.

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Big Raddy’s Pre- FAC SF Report:

Dating the fit and famous may do wonders for your rep in the dressing room but some fans just think you are a flash ponce. Well … let me tell you laddie … a pony tail does not make a man (I know, I have had one) nor does a few tattoos. Nor does belting upfield looking for the spectacular pass and forgetting that Mustafi is not the fastest on two legs.

No, my young man, defending is the essence of the work of the full back, just ask Dicko, Ralph or Nige, they will tell you. TA would have given you a forearm smash for some of the recent performances. Yes, an attacking fullback is very modern and you have been excellent at getting forward to support Weak Theo but what do we remember you for? We remember the brilliant last ditch tackles when your pace got you into positions no other FB could manage. Practice and repeat.

Being dropped at Boro was the start. You are not an automatic first team choice if you do not put in the yards, and it comes as no surprise that you were booed post-defeat by the away fans at Palace (though at least you went over to them).
Potential is what you have, make it a reality and become the great player you could be; it requires application, concentration and determination. You have all the God-given tools, use them.

5/10

written by Big Raddy

 


The Case for the Defence

March 24, 2017

In the last 6 games our defence has conceded 18 goals (excluding the FAC where we played non-league clubs).

Why?

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Individually our defence looks very good. Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Kos and Monreal are all quality defenders. Ospina, Gabriel, Holding, Gibbs are sine replacements. In front of them Coq, Xhaka and Ramsey are a decent shield (or should be), so how is it possible that in 6 games we have conceded more than a George Graham team would concede in an entire season?

Is it the zonal marking at set plays? Or the tactical commitment to attack? The need to entertain rather than contain? Or is it the defensive coaching? ( in which came you can tell Steve Bould because I am not brave enough).

Whatever the reason Arsenal cannot continue in this manner if progress is to be made.

So what is the solution?

BFG playing against teams that use set plays as the main attacking weapon?  Xhaka, Elneny and Coquelin playing across the middle with instruction to always have two of them shielding the back 4? A new defensive coach? Better defenders?

What do you think?

written by Big Raddy


Chelsea. With Hindsight.

February 10, 2017

Was it really that bad? Enough to launch a Wenger Out campaign? Enough to insist upon radical changes in our squad?

Let me start with a statement which IMO is clearly true. Had we played our best 11 at SB we would have taken the points. We couldn’t and didn’t but that is not all …

We lost thanks to a dreadful refereeing decision.

Chelsea’s first goal came from a violent foul which affected  not just the scoreline but the whole of AW’s plans. Bellerin was essential to our game at SB, Theo is pants without him, and we have no-one else with real pace to combat the Chavs attack.

A proper ref would have sent The Deviant Chav off and cancelled the goal. I was apoplectic that a cowardly elbow to the face should be rewarded with a gaol. It was not just crap refereeing, it was rewarding violent and dangerous play.

If it happened in the street it would have been ABH.

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So, at one stroke the Chavs have removed a vital member of our team, scored a goal and are cock-a-hoop. We on the other hand have Gabriel at LB against a world class frontline.

Furthermore, the loss of Xhaka and Ramsey forced AW to rely upon hardworking but ultimately ineffective midfield, which could have a long-term impact upon the career of both Ox and Coq.

There is no getting away from the negatives, we lost an important game in a manner which hurt (forgetting the idiotic refereeing decision), and it raises questions…

  1. Ozil. Can a player be considered world class if he disappears in Big Games?
  2. If Sanchez leaves, would we be a better team?
  3. Walcott. What was his role?. The lack of intelligence of our front 3 was worrying.
  4. Cech. Is it time to promote Ospina?
  5. Monreal is a lovely chap but we have needed better for two seasons (if we can find someone)
  6. Coquelin. It isn’t his fault that Santi, Elneney, Xhaka and Ramsey are out, all of whom would start ahead of Ox, but it was time for Coq to show he is the go-to DM in the Arsenal team. IMO he showed he is a squad player.
  7. Ox. Where to start? Watford and SB, an ideal setup for him. Watford to get into the role of CM and Chavs to mix it with the best. He has all the attributes and did OK but we need more. I worry for his future. He needs a big game on the weekend (if picked)

Let’s be honest, the League was lost with the Watford game. Chas called it – he said it was a MWG, and it was. AW recognised it – in his press conference, Arsene’s face was a grey as his hair and tracksuit, he looked like John Major post election defeat. He was spent.

We are not as good as we should be but we are certainly good enough to challenge for second. A win tomorrow will start the repair process.

written by Big Raddy


Remember your Shinpads

November 21, 2015

Much to look forward to today – a possible Merinho breakdown, Klopp’s second defeat in a row, the Classico, MU downed by the rampant Hornets. What I am not looking forward to is the physicality of a game at the Hawthorns.

I have nothing against WBA, I admired them during the Big Ron era for their support of black footballers, also that they would routinely gift us 3 points at home and away, but things are different today; today they are managed by Tony Pulis.

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Imagine how you would feel if it was announced that Mr Wenger was to be replaced by Pulis? First out of the door would be Ozil – Pulis would never have an artist in his team. Theo Walcott? No chance – the man is a wimp. Cazorla? A holding midfielder who can’t kick indiscriminately  and physically oppress the opposition. Going through our team how many would get picked by Pulis? I would hazard a guess at Alexis, Coquelin, BFG and Gabriel.

Having said that, it is one of the pleasures of football that there are many ways to win 3 points and perhaps it would be boring if only fluent, attacking, exciting, skilful, intelligent football was the only style on offer. (a little BR joke for those who are too literal)

In 12 PL games WBA have scored 10 times, have collected 26 yellow and one red card (we have the lowest in the PL with 12/2). They have 4 points from 6 home games and are without question the dullest team to watch in Europe, if not the world, universe, galaxy, etc.

I wonder what Pulis makes of Mr. Wenger. What must he think when reading of AW wanting to bring out the beauty in his footballers? Of his eloquence following a match and his humour at press conferences?

This is not to say that Pulis is thick – he clearly isn’t but I hate his football philosophy. I hated his violent Stoke team. I hated his defence of Shawcross. I hate his idea that if you cannot win by playing with the ball then play the man. It is offensive.

We celebrate the return of Bellerin. I understand Debuchy’s frustration regarding his relegation to the bench which may affect his Euro place but Bellerin is fantastic – perhaps the best AFC debut season since that bloke who is on the bench at Stamford Bridge.

Unfortunately Ramsey is not available until mid-week and IMO he is the lynchpin of the side. We have struggled in his absence especially in the Spurs game.

Santi is fit again and played well for Spain, scoring a fantastic goal which may initiate his Arsenal goal scoring. It is a mystery that such a talented player cannot hit the target.

Alexis played two full competitive games for Chile and will surely be rested for much of the game. Who takes his place? I guess Campbell will continue out right and Arteta or Flamini alongside Coquelin allowing Cazorla to play further forward.

The bookies have us as 8/15 favourites. I am less confident.

But beating a Pulis team makes for a happy Big Raddy household and I am sure the Arsenal squad and backroom staff are all in favour of that.

Let it be so.

COYRRG

 


Sunny Afternoon?

April 4, 2015

Saturday afternoon. Sunny day. Liverpool at home. An important game = Excited.

It seems an age since we played a meaningful game at home to a real rival and for the first time in a decade, Liverpool can be said to be quality opponents. Last season, L’pool surprised many with a startling run of form centred around the genius of the Biter, this season shows that Rodgers team management can propel them to the Top 4 but not the title.

And why not the title? Because they are bottlers and have been since we did them in May 1989.

Yes, they have won a few Cups thanks to the type of good luck which can only come from having sold one’s soul to the devil. Their Treble showed similar good fortune to those chaps who have won the Lotto twice (though I would swap the ’91 title for a European Cup!).

Unlike Mr Wenger, Rodgers has no scruples about forcing his players to remove themselves from the international scene. Amazingly the severely injured Sturridge and Sterling  are fit to play today. If I were Hodgson I would not pick these blokes for the next few games.

Stevie Me and Scramble are banned but other than them L’pool have their first choice 11. I am saddened that Gerrard will not play, he has completely lost his mojo and is a shadow of the player he could be in his pomp. His playing would have made our winning almost a certainty, instead the points are in the balance.

We are without Ox, Debuchy and probably Welbeck from our best 11. I think Ramsey has recovered from his hamstring knack.

The rest you know ….. we have won 14 out of 16, 9 of the last 10. Of our last 11 home games against top 5 opposition we have lost 7, drawn 3 and won just one (how crap is that 😢) We are scoring regularly. Le Giroud is on fire scoring both for club and country.

My Team:

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Bellerin    BFG      Koscielny       Monreal

Ramsey   Coquelin

Cazorla   Ozil      Sanchez

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As always midfield will be vitally important, I was going to write match winning but given our propensity to miss chance after chance I would say that clinical finishing is more important. Coquelin vs Lucas will be an interesting battle. As will be Bellerin and Monreal’s ability to control the mercurial Sterling. If the boy is available for €50m I would buy him – after all, it isn’t my money!

We are 6 points ahead of the Scouse. A win today would be a huge plus towards our quest for second place. For Liverpool a loss would herald a season of Spursday nights.

I am 53% confident.

COYRRG

written by Big Raddy


Bellerin hurts Mertesacker.

March 26, 2015

How? Why? When?

Well, it went like this …..

During the summer Arsene recognised the need for a Vermaelen replacement and bought Chambers.  Our future centre half should have had a few games in the middle and a couple at right back as he was inculcated into the Arsenal Way. But things didn’t go to plan.

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€15m, 0 appearances. Nice work AW.

Arsene also bought a fine right- back and Sagna replacement in Debuchy. An experienced, aggressive full back in the Lauren mould, but sadly, the man who is an important cog in the team got long-term knacked, came back and got knacked again. This gave the opportunity for Gooners to see why Chambers is so highly rated as he made his Arsenal debut at right-back and he seized his chance. The man/boy  was terrific but his lack of pace was a cause for concern. In comes the young man we poached from Barcelona to make his first team debut at Dortmund away in the CL. Hector Bellerin struggled but who wouldn’t, however he showed potential and has grown with each game. He looks the real deal and a future Arsenal stalwart.

We have 4 quality right backs – Debuchy, Chambers, Bellerin and Jenkinson. Sadly for Gunner Jenkinson, Bellerin’s improvement has cost him his place in the squad – I cannot see him returning. Chambers has shown he is better placed in the centre of defence where his lack of recovery pace is not so costly. I think Debuchy remains our first choice RB with Hector as his back-up.

And why does this affect Mertesacker? Because the signing of Gabriel heralds the end of BFG’s career at Arsenal. If Chambers is our RB back-up there is space in the squad for 3 top quality CB’s but is there room for 4? Bellerin’s rise pushes Chambers into the middle and means that we have a glut of CB’s

We are very well served in defence as Mr Wenger has bought players who can play in more than one position. Chambers, Gabriel and Monreal can all play CB and FB.

Debuchy is 30 this summer – his time is limited. BFG is 9 months older but clearly in decline (as much as I love the big galloop). Montreal turned 29 in Feb. Koscielny is exactly the same age as Debuchy yet remains our best defender, TA and Keown played well into their 30’s, barring injury and his fragile achilles, Koscielny can do the same.

I see our back 4 in 2016 as Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny and Gibbs (or a new, shiny LB). Chambers and Monreal as the multi-purpose CB/FB back-up’s until 2017. As such BFG becomes expendable and we can sell him for good money back to the Bundesliga in summer.

That said, Mertesacker appears to be very popular with the team and a man who has The Arsenal Spirit. Perhaps we should keep him as we have kept Arteta.

written by Big Raddy