Pepe to wing it for Arsenal

July 30, 2019

We have been renowned as a predominantly attacking club ever since the start of the Wenger era, but over the last few years we have arguably seriously overlooked one area of our attacking department within the squad.

Earlier Wenger teams seemed to be bolstered by high quality, attacking, goal-scoring, pacey wide players, but for the last number of years this position has seemingly been overlooked at Arsenal to the point it almost appeared as if it was deemed non important to us in the modern era. However, a good look around at the other top sides seemed to highlight that all other clubs deemed these positions to be of high importance, and most often set up with these players in a 4-3-3 system, or a close variation on this.

Fingers are currently crossed throughout goonerdom that Pepe will be the new man to wing it for Arsenal.

The modern wide player seems to be something between a winger and a wing forward that operate either side of a lead striker most often, with the majority of the top clubs, in a rotating front 3 sharing goal-scoring responsibility. These wing forward players also give the attacking width that can stretch the opposition without relying solely on the full-backs for width, so arguably also provide extra problems for the opposition in wide areas, with the wing forward and the overlapping full-back combining during the game.

Another factor in having specialised attacking wide players is that the full-backs don’t need to be permanently camped high up the pitch, and can therefore choose the right moments to get forward and join the attack, thus ensuring they are still, for the most part, covering their defensive responsibilities as part of the back 4.

I feel we have suffered a fair bit at times in not having these players in recent years, preventing us from being able to deploy a more balanced, but still attack orientated, formation. It is why I am excited this forthcoming season by the prospect of young players like Saka and Nelson coming into the first team environment and giving us something I feel we have missed for many years. If we were also to add one more top established attacking wide player, like Zaha or Pepe, to this then my legs will start to literally quiver in anticipated excitement.

One big question though is how should these wing forward players be deployed? Which particular player should line up on which side? Here are a few comments from yours truly, Fred, and LBG to get the thought process going.

Fred says:

Yea Nelson hasn’t impressed at all with Eddie I actually think je should be playing on the left on the 433 to start the season, I know it isn’t his natural position but he is a rich vain of form

GoonerB says (in response):

Fred, I had always assumed that Nelsons natural position was on the left side of the striker. I have still to watch the last 3 games which I have got recorded. Does this mean that Nelson has been operating from the right side? I seem to recall that most of the decent footage you see of him when he has done something in games, either in our academy matches or last seasons loan, seem to show him operating from the left. Either way Fred, I would agree with you that Reiss Nelson is a left inside forward predominantly, and should be utilised this way.

LBG says (in response):

Nelson is a left sided wide attacker, but as is customary left sided players nowadays are often used on the right and cut in to hit shots with their left foot. I personally want wide players to go round the fullback and cross from the byline, like olden times.

GoonerB says:

Wilf would really take up the position of Nelson while Pepe would take up the position of Saka but as I say pepe looks like he could move in centrally behind a single number 9 as well which may give us the better balance and also squad options.

Fred says (in response):

Think u got that wrong Saka plays on left and Nelson on right

So with the inside forwards, or wide attacking players, (or whichever other description you prefer), it would seem the jury is out as how to best deploy them. Academy players that are still developing should arguably spend time playing in 2-3 positions to develop their all round understanding, but I would suggest that once a player starts to become more of a first team regular that they should have a preferred specialist position (or side) where most of their play takes place.

Both Nelson and Saka, at their still tender ages, seem to have played both sides at different times, if you watch any footage of them. Maybe to date Saka has had more time on the left and Nelson on the right, but as a left footer and right footer, respectively, I would suggest it is now time to deploy Saka from the right and Nelson from the left if they are to become top class prolific goal scoring pacey winger / wing forward type players.

Why do I say this? Well if you were to make a list of all recent (maybe last 10 years) top level attacking wide players, at the top clubs, it is nearly always right footed players on the left and left footed players on the right. However I would love to hear your thoughts on this AA’ers.

GoonerB

 

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It’s the young guns NOT playing against Borehamwood that you should be excited about.

July 6, 2019

At last … I know it’s only been a few weeks since our disappointing end to last season. I, like, many felt like I needed a break from football … but you can’t help salivating at the thought of seeing those red and white shirts strutting their stuff again at Borehamwood today.

The first team will only return to training next Friday and so we will field a side composed mainly of under 23s with Steve Bould back in charge. The exact team has not been announced at the point of publishing, but there will be plent of young talent on show at Meadow Park.

It is expected that Amaechi, Balogun and John-Jules will feature whilst Zech Medley is also likely to play along with promising young goalkeeper Arthur Okonkwo. There will also be several promoted from under 18 level, the likes of Mazeed Ogungbo, Sam Greenwood and Matthew Smith.

However, more significantly, these players are not in the squad …

Eddie Nketiah

Emile Smith Rowe

Bukayo Saka

Joe Willock

 

… they will be joining the  first-team for training. This is great news and one that is likely to be music to the ears of AA bloggers following the comments this week calling for their inclusion.

Zech Medley (he’s a centre back if you didn’t know) may be one who some wish had also made the step up … does this mean we will be getting a new, more experienced CB?

Just for the record, in the same fixture last season we fielded a side peppered with first team stars and won 8 nil with a hattrick from Auba, and a goal apiece for Laca, Mkhi, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Jeff Reine-Adelaide.

Rasp


Unai Emery … listen to Freddie … you already have the young talent

July 4, 2019

There’s been a lot of talk about using Academy players to plump up the squad as we seem to have run out of money … thanks Stan for not putting your hand in your pocket to help your team!

I find it worrying that often when we talk about buying players we agonise over not disrupting the squad and yet there are legions of fans wanting to sell more than half of our current first team.

Back in 2008 we had a fabulous set of players in the Academy/Under 21’s and Arsene Wenger knew that he was going to need to use some of these players in the First Team. Anyone remember a stunning victory in the Carling Cup against Sheffield Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium. The game ended 6-0. A hattrick for Carlos Vela, a brace for Nicklas Bendtner and a goal for Jack Wilshere, making him the second youngest Arsenal scorer. It was a night of fabulous football, I was there as our boys tore into the Blades and I can tell you I was excited at the prospect of Bendtner and Vela playing together in the First Team.

I’m not sure they ever played together in the First Team, I remember that van Persie got injured and Bendtner became his replacement. But the special way that they had played together that night was never seen again.

Last season we witnessed another night similar to that one in 2008 when several young guns lines up against Vorskla away in the Europa league in November.

 

We won the game 3-0 with goals from Emile Smith-Rowe, Ramsey and Joe Willock. Eddie Nketiah also started the game. In the second half more youngsters were given a chance of game time with Medley, Saka and Charlie Gilmour replacing Holding, Ramsey and Guendouzi. It was a fabulous display, the young guns knew how to play together and it showed on the pitch. We saw some of them individually later on in the season but not in numbers. They’re used to playing together, they know how to read each other, I feel we need to use them as a group.

What I’m trying to say is that they have to be given a chance to play regularly if we are going to reap the rewards of the fact that they’ve been playing together since they were tiny tots.

Arsene Wenger wasn’t brave enough to do this consistently but maybe Freddie Ljungberg will be and Unai Emery will listen to him. I hope so.

peachesgooner


A Youth Revolution?

May 19, 2019

So disappointed with the belief seemingly held by Dick, some here on our blog, and so called “knowledgeable commentators” on other sites, that pressure to produce results in the Premier League prevents the Manager from blooding youth regularly.

Instead Suarez, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Micky, Elneny, Jenkinson, Chambers to name a few of the non controversial  ones, labour to make a mark, to make a difference, and rarely achieve. Saka and Amaechi may yet have seats on Arsenal’s extended bench for the Europa Final – but is it enough?

Mavididi playing for Juve

Stephy Mavididi signed for Juve u23s in 2018 and is now on the verge of the first team. Ismael Bennacer’s performances at Empoli have caught the eye of Napoli. Chuba Akpom has won the title in the Greek league. Donyell Malen is a regular in a PSV Eindhoven side that pushed Ajax close for the Dutch title.

Arsenal have one of the most talented set of youngsters in their Academy and U18s that we have ever had. They are the legacy of Liam Brady and now the future under Freddie. But only if they are given a proper window of opportunity. Scouts from all over Europe are ready to snap them up, are visiting each and every game they are involved in. They understand the Arsenal system, the Arsenal family, and they want to succeed big time.

Well, I’m sorry, the Club is doing them a disservice.

Nelson, Smith-Rowe, Nketiah, Willock, Amaechi, John Jules, Pleguezuelo, Medley, Thompson, Saka, Mavrapanos are all worthy of significant game time. This is a serious watershed moment.

We are close to losing potentially top class talent, but at the very least, better quality than many who have gone through the motions this season. Give ’em a (proper) go, Dick, and save the money on bigger gambles you are considering.

LBG


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