Season Assessment: Centre Backs

June 24, 2017

We have a lot of them don’t we? Do we need so many? Are they all good enough to do the job? Do we need to improve on their quality?

The season was definitely split into two as regards the defence, with the move to a Back 3 making giving the CB’s more support. But … one must question why we conceded so many goals whilst operating AW’s favoured Back 4 formation, Tony Adams etc were rightly critical.

Arsenal conceded more goals from set pieces than any of the Top 10 teams. Given the quality of the individuals one can only surmise this was an organisational problem, but why did things improve with the new system? How does that affect defending a corner?

Unknown.jpeg

Mustafi: First season. Started well. Got injured. Came back less assured. Has undoubted quality and seems to be a leader as he is very vocal. To be honest I expected more considering how much we paid for him but then I remember that MC paid €50m for Stones 🙂

Gabriel: Love his attitude. The man is a passionate defender, grimacing his way through the game. His spats with Costa are great fun. Prone to the odd positional error. Improving but I am not sure of his AFC future as the youngsters come through.

Koscielny. Another superb season. Probably the PL’s finest CB. Pacy, determined, intelligent. The first man on the team sheet. And … a worthy Captain.

Holding. An excellent prospect. His Cup Final performance was an indicator of how good this man will be. Versatile enough to play as Bellerin’s replacement. Mr. Wenger showing he still has the ability to find a diamond.

Monreal: Has to be included as he did some sterling work in the centre. Not sure I want him there on a regular basis. Where does he fit in when we play a Back 3 and how does he feel about the signing of Kolasinac?

Mertesacker: What can one say about his single start? Perfection. I love the BFG.

Chambers: His season in a relegated team has allowed him to mature and blossom which can be evidenced by his excellence with the England U-21’s. With Kos and BFG hitting their mid-30’s the future is bright.

We have an excellent balance of youth, age and experience in the heart of defence which is not something which could be said a few years ago. No signings needed.

written by Big Raddy.

Advertisements

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?

Unknown.jpeg

 

 

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


To Ozil or not to Ozil? That is the Question.

March 4, 2017

Hard to predict this one; we could win handsomely or get tanked. Neither team is playing well and yet both are capable of pulling out enough moments of quality to win the game. Should be interesting.

Unknown-1.jpeg

We lost at home on the opening day of the season in a strange game – we dominated for 70 minutes – Liverpool had 5 shots all game yet we conceded 4.

Good news: No Henderson, no Sturridge. Bad news: Mane, Firmino and Coutinho are back and playing well.

Good news: Liverpool are struggling at the centre of defence. Bad news: We do not have a centre forward in form.

Good news: We play better away from home. Bad news: Liverpool are very good at home and just beat Spurs.

Good news:We have few injuries, OG, Ramsey and Koscielny are available. Bad News: Ozil has been off sick and is a doubt.

Once again, Mr Wenger has to find the midfield key. With Ramsey, Xhaka, Ox, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi and Ozil to choose from he has yet to find a combination that delivers security and creativity. I don’t know either!

My Team:

Cech

Bellerin      Mustafi      Koscielny     Monreal

Ramsey     Xhaka     Coquelin    Iwobi

Walcott    Sanchez

Theo gets an hour to prove he is still an important player at Arsenal. Seems unfair to drop Oxlade-Chamberlain as he has been playing well but IMO Ramsey is a more adaptable player.

There have been calls to rest Ozil as his performances in recent weeks have not reached his usual excellent standards, I tend to agree. Even Dennis got rested when he was out of form. We have so many attacking MF options that giving Ozil a reminder that every player has to fight for his place will do no harm. On the other hand it may convince the German Genius that his future lies away from the Emirates!

We have been crap away to the big clubs this season and Liverpool have been very good at home, the portents are not good, but if Arsenal are to stay in the Top 4 they cannot afford to keep losing against direct rivals, as such this is a huge game for us, and let’s be honest, we haven’t played well since before Xmas.

I would take a draw though a repeat of 26/6/1989 would be preferable.

COYRRG


Arsenal Player Ratings and match report

February 22, 2015

It was tense wasn’t it? Even when we scored the second there was a nagging feeling that if Palace scored we would be under pressure and so it proved. How can it be that at two up the team doesn’t relax?

Let’s start with the pitch. It was awful and clearly designed to upset our ball-players and assist the long-ball game. It was uneven and the grass hadn’t been cut since Wright and Bright were banging them in at Selhurst. Perhaps Pardew recognised our difficulties playing on the ploughed field at Stoke and instructed his groundsmen. It is often said that it is the same for both teams but have you ever heard anyone complain about on the magnificent Emirates pitch? Is it unfair to long-ball teams and Man Utd that we have a billiard table to play on?

I was surprised how clean a game it was. I expected Pardew to send out his men to kick our chaps but that didn’t happen, what happened was that CP pressed us from the first, not allowing any player time on the ball. The pundits say this is the best way to play Arsenal and perhaps it is but this should result in Arsenal having more space in the final minutes as an exhausted opponent slows down – it didn’t happen yesterday, in fact the opposite happened – we hung on for the win. Why?

Tactics? Substitutions? CP wanting it more? Fear? You tell me

Pardew identified the wings as the place to attack us. Monreal grew into the game, Chambers didn’t. I like Chambers and am fully aware he is a very young man but is he really a Full Back? A modern FB needs speed, lots of it and this is not an asset Chambers has. In time he is sure to be a fine CB but against the very speedy Gayle and Bolasie he struggled.

So far I have looked at the negative but we won the game, picked up the points, and sit in 3rd place. This is a Happy Gooner.

In midfield Santi surprised me at how well he linked with Coquelin; Palace were unable to play through the middle. Ozil floated through the game finding space and played a wonderful pass to Alexis at the beginning of the second half to Alexis – who should have looked for Giroud for the tap-in.

Ultimately, the result is all that matters.

Player Ratings:

Ospina:  Made some decent saves, distribution good but could have cost us the game with a touch of the Flapianski’s in the last minute    7

Chambers:  A difficult afternoon and a yellow card. 5

BFG: CP poured crosses into the box and BFG did well until the final 5 minutes    7

Koscielny: Our best defender …. again   8

Monreal: Thank goodness Zaha has no final ball. Nacho struggled. 6

Coquelin: Good game for him to show his battling qualities. High energy and focus.    7

Cazorla: Worked so hard on a pitch which was designed to stifle his skills. Lovely pass to Welbz to set up OG. Scored the pen.  8

Ozil: Quietly sets up the team but this wasn’t his sort of game or pitch    6

Alexis:  Not his day. Some lovely runs but no end product    6

Welbeck:  I am yet to be convinced of his partnership with OG. Drew the penalty. Assisted for the OG goal   7

Giroud: Scored. Led the line.  Did his job    7

 

written by Big Raddy

 

 

 

 


Do we need a Centre Back or a Defensive Midfielder? Vote.

December 31, 2014

To CB or DM, that is the question?

We are rapidly approaching the January transfer window and let’s be honest we are aquiver with excitement (slight exaggeration!) We have a gaping hole in our squad and AW is sure to fill it, but how?

CB: Do we need another centre back? With Monreal, Debuchy and Chambers all able to understudy BFG and Koscielny, is another CB essential? Will we be able to attract a young player to sit on the bench or will the new chap take over BFG’s starting role? There are fears that Kos will leave in summer, I have not heard anything which convinces me he is Barca-bound but who knows? If he is then a big money signing is a must – Hummels or someone of his standing will be the order of the day. BFG has played almost every game this season and he needs a break – is it any wonder his form has suffered, but perhaps his loss of form is permanent as the Big Man becomes even slower.

But if they both stay and we buy someone who will be benched? My gut reaction is neither as we will try to continue with the personnel already at the club.

DM: Flamini’s contract is for 18 more months, Arteta is starting to creak and is prone to muscle injuries – his absences are costly as Flamster, despite his energy and commitment, is simply not good enough. We need to sign someone who can play DM and at a push CB. But they are much in demand and expensive. Carvalho – the flavour of the month – is valued at over €25m and the only time I have seen him the man was anonymous. However, we are in need of a direct replacement for Arteta or are we? Can Ramsey, Wilshere or Ox or even Chambers play the role?

What do you think?

Written by Big Raddy


Old wine, or new bottle, or old wine in new bottle?

December 31, 2013

End of the year, and part of the ritual is to take stock, and look forward towards the future with glorious plans and renewed expectations. And what a fantastic year this has been for Arsenal fans! At the midway stage in the Premier League last year, Arsenal was lying 7th, well off the pace for Champions League qualification, and even off Spursday football places. Qualifying second in their group, Arsenal faced a tough round of 16 encounter against Bayern Munich, one of the best teams in Europe at that stage. With significant changes to the Board, a new owner in tow, there were uncertain times for the club management. The fans were up in arms, with substantial ammunition provided by a negative press, dubious pundits and even the Arsenal Supporters Trust. Difficult times indeed!

But Arsenal managed to make a fantastic turnaround. Attaining qualification for CL was nothing short of a miracle! Yes, Arsenal lost out in a two leg epic battle against eventual winners Bayern, but before that showed their mettle in an amazing 2-0 away victory. Despite all the negativity, good progress was made in the summer transfer window. The progress continued in the current season, and Arsenal is sitting at the Top of the Premier League at the halfway stage. Qualification to the Champions League was gained from the aptly termed “Group of Death”. Grudging acknowledgement of Arsenal’s strength and mettle is gently arising from beneath the rubble of disdain and the green fumes of envy. Indeed, if the league was played over the calendar year, Arsenal would have been Champions of 2013. Oh, what a year this has been!!!

 

per and kosser

All in all, a good year in prospect. There are plenty of challenges yet to be met. Plenty of time still before we even begin to celebrate the achievements of this team. But, also plenty of positive vibes and expectation in tow. So AA ers, looking towards the future, what did we learn new about Arsenal this year, and what were we reminded of afresh, that we did not know with so much certainty one year back? Let us discuss. Here are a few of my tentative suggestions. It was not all rosy, though. Injuries continued through the year. The squad seems a bit thin. Progression to the round of 16 in the Champions League was gained, but only in second place. Like last year, we have drawn Bayern Munich. Lovely games in prospect, but significant challenges as well. And if the vitriol from the fans is a bit subdued due to the sustained run of fine results and resilience in the field of play, the negativity from the press and pundits continues unabated. Perhaps most importantly, whether by luck or design, Arsenal continues to be at the receiving end of poor refereeing decisions. Alas, some things never seem to change!

First, same time last year we did not know what a fantastic central defensive partnership, together with a very competent goalkeeper, we were developing. Indeed a large part of our success this year owes itself to the fantastic defensive pairing of Per and Kos. What a duo!!! And what a great leader in our beloved BFG! When Verms got injured, who would have thought we would have such a strong defence where even a fit squad captain cannot find a place?

Per and kossser 2

Second, one of the best revelations of the year was the discovery that Ramsey had developed into such a fantastic player. He was the subject of much of the blame and vitriol during our indifferent showing in 2012. Perhaps somewhat undeservedly. But our beloved Rambo rubbed all these adversities off his shirt, returned in style from his long standing injury, and has grown to the stature of one of the best midfielders in the League, perhaps in Europe as well.

Ramsey

He has shown a very mature head as well, leading for his country at a very young age. In tow, Jack Wilshere is developing into a fine player, if somewhat idiosyncratic on occasions. Together with Theo, the Ox, Gibbs and Jenks, they also form a British core to the team which had been somewhat deficient for a while. Who would have thought a year back that Rambo would develop into such a fantastic and dependable player, and Jack’s game will be coming along so nicely as well?

The English players

Third, one of the most encouraging developments of the year, at least for me, was the maturity with which the owner Kroenke, Gazidis and the Board conducted themselves. Perhaps the best development was that the Board did not interfere in footballing matters, leaving team and signing decisions to the people who know best, led by one Arsene Wenger. If you think that this is not a surprise, look around at other clubs. Several clubs have met with significant disasters as a result of owner power, such as the Spuds, Cardiff and even the Chavs, and in some others the environment is not very nice even if the performance has not been equally devastating.

The principles of the club, that a fantastic team can be developed without wasting money on the wasteful purchase of overpriced bench idols, was not compromised by a new owner and a new look Board. Surely, this was not a given at the start of the year, after the club had gone through a rather aggressive ownership contest and change of hands.

Fourth, amid the mantra of financial fairplay and traditional hesitancy to spend big money, and the recovery from an expensive move to the Emirates, who would have thought that Arsenal would spend their money where it mattered most?

Ozil

In the procurement of one Mesut Ozil, who despite his tentative adjustment to English football and the Arsenal way of playing the game, has given the team something really special, Arsenal showed purpose and ambition, and real ability to deliver trophies. This came together with the free transfer of one Mathieu Flamini – ah, what a fantastic transfer move!

flamini

Fifth, against the backdrop of significant unrest and disquiet among good-weather fans, ably supported by the press and pundits, who would have thought that the positive outlook of a sane fan-base would shine through? The struggle against the doubters and doomday-usherers still continues in earnest, in ArsenalArsenal and elsewhere, but The Home of Football still reverberates with the positive chants and outlook towards the new dawn awaiting in the New Year!!!!

AA ers, what do you think? My final thoughts are:

COYG! Onwards and Upwards!! A fantastic year 2014 awaits!!!!

Written by arnie

Arsenal Record 2013 Calendar Year

P W D L F A GD Pts
38 25 7 6 70 34 36 82

Where would 82 points put us in seasons past?

SEASON Winners P W D L F A GD Pts AFC on 82 points
2008-09 Utd 38 28 6 4 68 24 44 90 4th
2009-10 Chavs 38 27 5 6 103 32 71 86 3rd
2010-11 Utd 38 23 11 4 78 37 41 80 1st
2011-12 Oilers 38 28 5 5 94 29 65 89 3rd
2012-13 Utd 38 28 5 5 86 43 43 89 2nd

Chart by MickyDidIt

2013 Calendar Year League Table

P W D L F A GD Points vs Top 7 Total Home Total Away
Arsenal 38 25 7 6 70 33 37 82 10 19 19
Shitty 38 25 5 8 86 39 47 80 10 19 19
Chavs 38 23 8 7 71 40 31 77 10 20 18
ManUre 38 23 8 7 70 37 33 77 11 19 19
Spuds 38 21 10 7 55 46 9 73 10 19 19
Dippers 38 21 9 8 87 39 48 72 9 18 20
Everton 38 18 13 7 54 35 19 67 11 20 18
Toon 38 16 6 16 51 62 -11 54 13 19 19
Southampton 38 12 15 11 49 43 6 51 13 19 19
Villa 38 11 10 17 50 58 -8 43 11 20 18
Swansea 38 10 12 16 44 54 -10 42 12 18 20
Norwich 38 9 11 18 37 62 -25 38 12 20 18
Fulham 38 11 5 22 39 67 -28 38 12 19 19
West Ham 38 9 11 18 41 57 -16 38 12 19 19
Stokies 38 8 11 19 34 60 -26 35 11 19 19
WBA 38 7 13 18 45 61 -16 34 12 18 20
Sunderland 38 7 10 21 36 62 -26 31 12 19 19

Stat Overkill by GiE


Will Arsenal ever become a lean, mean, defending machine again?

July 17, 2012

Over the last few weeks, we have had in-depth discussions about whether we need to strengthen our midfield this summer, as well as how we should fit in our freshly signed strikers, Giroud and Podolski. Clearly, these are areas we can all get very excited about, but the area we have not been talking about for a while is our 49 PL-goals leaking defence.

Incredibly, seven teams conceded fewer goals in the PL than Arsenal last season: Man City, United, Spuds, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Sunderland, and that is simply not good enough if we want to make the next step up towards winning silverware again. Even if we take into account our bad start – conceding 12 goals in two away games against now relegated Blackburn and last season trophy-less Man United – we still managed to ship 37 goals in 36 games.

Next season, Chelsea will undoubtedly fall back on a Mourinho-style Catanaccio football under Di Matteo and I won’t be surprised if they manage to concede less than 20 goals over the entire season. Man City conceded only 29 goals last season, and their neighbours were not far behind with conceding only 33.

In order to compete for the title, I reckon Arsenal should aim to concede 30 goals or (ideally) less next season. Easier said than done, but how are we going to achieve it?

And will Steve Bould help us to finally get the balance right between beautiful football and defensive tight-fistedness?

Many have said we have failed to defend as a team at times, and that our midfield did not give our defence the necessary protection, especially towards the end of the season. We have also discussed in previous posts how the lack of available FB’s for a long period of time, has hurt us a lot (especially in the first few months of 2012).

Arsenal have also suffered significantly from having a lot of enforced changes to its back four during the season, and the long term injury to Per Mertesacker, just as he started to settle in properly, also meant a serious setback at a crucial time of the season. It effectively meant elimination from two cup competitions – the CL and FA cup – in a less than a week.

Arsenal really struggled to continue its rhythm every time we suffered a major injury to the likes of Arteta, Mertesacker, and Sagna. As long as Arsenal was able to keep the same eleven players fit, we were able to reach a level of consistency on a par with our major competitors, resulting in a run of good results. However, as soon as we suffered one or more injuries we started to lose or draw games we really should have won. It just seemed we were not able to adjust quickly enough to these setbacks, and serious doubts were raised about our strength in depth.

During last season, we only had one period of defensive consistency worthy of reaching a target of 30 goals or less conceded in one PL season. Between 21-03-12 and 21-04-12 Arsenal played seven matches in which we kept five clean sheets and only conceded 3 goals, or 0.4 goals per game:

21-3: Eve – Arsenal: 0-1 Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/LK/KG

24-3: Arsenal – Villa: 3-0 Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/JD/KG-AS

31-3: QPR – Arsenal: 2-1 No Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/LK/KG

8-4: Arsenal – Man C: 1-0 Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/LK/KG

11-4: Wolves – Ars: 0-3 Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/JD/AS

16-4: Arsenal – Wig: 1-2 No Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/JD/AS

21-4: Arsenal – Chel: 0-0 Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/LK/KG

Luckily this period came towards the all important end o the PL season, and although we only managed to score 10 goals in those seven games – 1.43 goals per game, which is well below our season average of 1.95 goals per game – we still managed to get 13 points out of 21.

It is fair to say that our defence saved us at this crucial stage.

However, the next three games – against Stoke, Norwich and West Brom – we almost threw it all away again with shocking defensive performances, conceding 2 goals per game on average, which is five times the conceded goals-per-game tally of the previous seven games:

28-4: Stoke – Arsenal: 1-1 No Clean Sheet, Back four: BS/TV/LK/KG

5-5: Arsenal – Norw: 3-3 No Clean Sheet, Back four: BS-FC/TV/LK/KG (Coquelin replaces Sagna early in the game – the latter is out for the season)

13-5: West B – Ars: 2-3 No Clean Sheet, Back four: CJ/TV/LK/AS

We all know that the season-ending injury to Arteta, early on in the game against Wigan, had a detrimental impact on our defensive shape. However, we still managed to do reasonably well in terms of conceding goals in the games against Wigan, Chelsea and Stoke: conceding three goals in three games – one per game – is not totally unacceptable. The subsequent loss of Sagna in the penultimate game, against Norwich, did appear to be too much for us though, as our defence was all over the place in the last two games. I am sure that fatigue had started to play a part and we also lacked the experience to see games out calmly and professionally when it really mattered, and especially the latter is a concern for us.

We got there in the end by the skin of our teeth.

It is hard to pull definitive conclusions from our defensive performances in the last 10 games, but it looks like Arsenal’s back four of Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny and Gibbs were getting their act together towards the end of the season, and we can all draw courage from this.

The back-up defenders Djourou (CB) and Santos (LB) – the latter might argue he actually is our first choice LB – also seemed to have performed well.

Jenkinson was injured for large parts of the season, so it is hard to say whether he is an adequate replacement for Sagna. This could be an area of concern, as I believe Coquelin’s strengths lay in midfield (central or right side), and Djourou struggled in the LB position at times. This puts us at risk, with Sagna still recovering from injury at the moment.

It is absolutely crucial to keep our first choice defenders together for at least a few seasons, and let them fully gel further as a unit. Other than Sagna, none of the back four have been playing a significant number of games for Arsenal. A good back four needs consistency and experience, in order to form a wall that frightens any opposition, and on which a winning team can be build with confidence and longevity.

And of course there is the case of Mertesacker’s return from long term injury. How will he fit into our defence: should he be first choice CB or back-up? Until recently I have been saying he should be our first choice CB, as he has great organisational skills and reads the game very well, which easily compensates for his occasional lack of mobility. But, having looked at the last ten games in a bit more detail, I am now not so sure anymore, as slowly but steadily Koz and Vermaelen have formed a strong, albeit occasionally erratic, partnership.

And what will happen with the promising talents of Miquel and Bartley: are they ready for more first team action?

It also became very clear that Arteta’s defensive support was duly missed as we did not have a suitable, ready-to-rock, like-for-like replacement for him in the system that we played (with Song being asked to help out as much as possible in the creative/attacking areas of midfield play).

Furthermore, I am happy to keep backing Szczesny as our nr1 goal keeper, but will his inexperience cost us next season, and do we have a good back-up in case of injury or suspension? This remains to be an area of doubt/risk.

Let’s hope Steve Bould will be able to help Arsene to add a bit more steal, confidence and consistency to the our defence/ TEAM defensive play/ formation next season, so that we can reduce our goals conceded to below 30, and increase the number of clean sheets significantly. Let’s hope we finally get the balance right between the Bould and the Beautiful next season!

The big, all-encapsulating question remains, though: do we have enough quality – players, tactics, coaching, etc – in our team now to establish the required defensive performances that will lead us to silverware next season?

I think we do, but I cannot say I am 100% certain about it.

Thanks for reading.

Please note: I am by no means an expert in defensive tactics etc, and would like to invite you to share your views and expertise with us today. In the end, that’s what good blogging is all about.

TotAl