Parlour, Ljungberg, Hleb, Rosicky, Nasri…. Who is next in the sequence? Ramsey?

Embrace the position your are given by Wenger

There is a lot of talk about Wenger playing players not in their perceived positions. I have certainly written on these lines and our good pal John Cross deemed it a lesson ‘Le Boss’ should learn after the win over Palace – Namely Ramsey should not be played on the right.

There has certainly been much debate on the utilisation of Ramsey on the right at the end of last season and again on Saturday but that in itself is a non issue for me. I have absolutely no issue with Wenger playing midfielders or at least the type he likes and buys, ostensibly in the ‘wrong’ position. What I do dislike is when those midfielders don’t them play in the position they are given, particularly when the other team have the ball. I would prefer to see Oxlade-Chamberlain rampaging down the right flank, taking players on, providing width and whipping balls into the penalty area but that is the manager’s call.

I know it may well be just me but whilst I have no issue with fluidity and interchange of positions when we are in attack and in possession, I do not like the same when we lose the ball. When we are on the back foot I prefer every player to know their position and role and be back in it as swiftly as possible. I would go as far as to say I actually love seeing wide players switching to provide new challenges to their full backs. In fact I wish we did it more particularly as Alexis on the left always cuts inside and on the right he might be encouraged to take on the defender on the outside. If this was the case it would be fine as long as each wide player knew which side they were on at the time and on which side they should be dripping to support the their own full back. However when I do have a problem is when the chosen wide player is wandering out of position and then does not do his utmost to get back to their correct defensive position.

The winner at Wembley 2014

Now before you all think this is all about Ramsey it is not. Those reading my blogs in 2013/14 will know that this frustration then was firmly directed at Santi Cazorla. He was playing on the left and whilst many told me he was a winger in Spain, having excelled in his debut season at CAM, he was clearly not comfortable in his position. He was always drifting inside and frequently not getting back into his defensive position when required. I recall being away at Villa Park in the January and when we were comfortably 2-0 to the good Villa pulled one back through Benteke and but for better finishing should have equalised. Both Villa openings came for their right flank where Santi was out of position and could not make up ground or was too weak to defend.

So If Ramsey is to be the first choice for the manager so be it but he needs to embrace that is his position for now and not ‘continually’ wander across the pitch in search of the ball. There will be times for him to do this and numerous times where he can utilises his acute sense of when to burst into the box and get on the end of things. What he does not need to do is to come to the left to receive the ball 5 years away from Santi or Mesut and leave acres of space on the right flank and our attacking too narrow.

The Welshman does not pass as well or have the vision of the German or the Spaniard but he does time his runs into the box and finish better than either of them, both of which he can do from the right. I would love Wenger or someone on the coaching staff to show him some old videos of some of the best players in the Frenchman’s reign all of who wanted to play or arrived as central midfielders and encourage him enjoy and learn from their success. Continue reading

Arsenal’s Considered approach highlights the desperation of rivals


As we approach mid-July, it is fair to say that silly season is now in full swing.

Open a newspaper, turn on a computer, flick through a few posts on social media, tune in to Sky Sports News, whatever your news platform of choice, we have reached that period of the year in which any news which doesn’t include the words ‘speculated’, ‘reported’ or ‘said to be’ is deemed irrelevant.

Apparently we, as football supporters, crave transfer news and wish to be force-fed such information at any given opportunity, wherever we may be and whatever we may be doing.

Admittedly, in the middle of summer, with there no actual competition to keep us amused, tall tales of comings and goings do, in some ways, help to fill the void between one season and the next.

Rumour and gossip must be taken with a pinch of salt, with there little substance to much of the so-called ‘exclusive’ content peddled by many a media outlet.

It is, however, interesting to note which sides are filling the most column inches/Twitter feeds.

Manchester United appear to be in the market for every player on the planet, while Liverpool – a side eager to talk up the value of doing business early – have wasted little time in setting the revolving door in motion at Anfield.

Even Manchester City, a side that appeared to be sailing under the radar at one stage, have suddenly sprung into life.

Raheem Sterling will, hopefully, for the sanity of all of us who care little for goings on in Merseyside and Manchester, complete a move to the Etihad at some stage, and there is every chance that he will be joined there by Fabian Delph, a few months on from a new contract signing at Aston Villa that drew ‘I want to be here’ comments.

Both are international performers with England, but would either enhance the options at Arsene Wenger’s disposal and are they the kind of characters that should be courted? No, would appear to be the simple answer on both counts.

Sterling is Theo Walcott six years ago, a player of promise but one who – with the Gunners man approaching his peak years at the age of 26 – doesn’t offer as much either as a winger or an out-an-out forward as his Three Lions colleague in north London.

Delph is coming off the back of one good season, with City quite clearly placing greater emphasis on home-grown quotas than the need to actually address glaring weaknesses in an ageing squad.

Beyond that, Chelsea have been relatively quiet and appear to be more concerned with adding depth to their ranks than bolstering their starting XI – with Radamel Falcao unlikely to be giving Diego Costa sleepless nights and the likes of Asmir Begovic et al targets that are more filler than flamboyant.

Arsenal, as is often the case, are favouring a more considered approach to recruitment.

Petr Cech is a fine acquisition in a key area – a proven winner – but outside of him, why should Arsene Wenger show his hand early and be dragged into the kind of battles United and City find themselves in that lead to inflated fees as sellers sense an air of desperation in buyers?

If the Gunners are to make good on favourable standings in Premier League and UEFA competitions betting markets, then fresh faces will be required, but why splash the cash when there is no need to do so?

Sound the market out, find out who is and isn’t available and then look to make sound judgements – both on a sporting and financial sense – based on the information acquired.

Arsenal are in good shape, there is a feel-good factor from back-to-back FA Cup successes, no Champions League qualifiers to worry about and a key man in the form of Alexis Sanchez set to return to England flying off the back of Copa America glory.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, just tweak it and let others worry about expensive overhauls and dawns of supposed ‘new eras’.

How can Wenger take us into a season so unprepared and under strength? Will he never learn?

Guy is on the bloody beach again

How on earth can our manager take us into a new season in such a state of unpreparedness? His lack of activity in the transfer market has again left us woefully short in key whilst our rivals have strengthened superbly.

We have a new keeper with no Premier League experience signed from a mid table German side that holds the record for Red cards at his club. We don’t seem to have a recognised reserve keeper as he has released our reserve from last season. So if the new Nutter gets sent off, as is his way it seems, we are left with a 22 year old rookie who has not even played for us in the League Cup. I despair of the man!

We have only one recognised right back because our cover right back has been forced into playing centre back in pre-season. Why because one of our first choice pairing has a long term injury and our other reserve centre back, no one trusts, including the manager it seems or he would not be playing our cover right back in his position. Don’t get me started on the left back role because we have signed no cover at all there either and if our number one gets injured we have a 17 year old French kid who has never kicked a ball in English professional football. You have to laugh or else you’ll cry!!

We have only 2 first team wide men and one other who can play there who is really a striker but then he wants away as he is in the last year of his contract and the boss will only offer him a year extension.  We had 5 good central midfield options for 2 positions which may have been okay but the idiot has only gone and sold one of them after the Community Shield to leave us with 4. Fancy selling a top flight Dutch international and leaving us with 4, one of whom is over 30 and only and made 14 league starts last season. At a pinch he can also cover right midfield as he used to play there when he was younger but he is his last season with us and will be released in May. I do trust the other cover midfielder but out of the 4 only one is a true holding midfielder so if he gets injured we have no DM. How can any top team compete with only one recognised DM???

Things are looking okay up front with one guaranteed starter, a superstar, but who to play with him. Looks like he will start the season with the contract rebel striker, which is not ideal. The alternative is to partner him with the Dutch veteran but he is 34 now and can’t play 2 games a week which is an obvious problem. Add to that he may assist well but a 4 goal haul from 29 Premier outings last season is frankly unacceptable. The 4th choice is a fan favourite but in all honesty a luxury on trusted to have 16 outings in the Premier League last season and he only scored 5. There is a fifth option but he is a French kid with only 3 League Cup outings for the club under his belt.

All in all I am not very confident about our chances this season. We simply have not addressed out problem areas. The first team is arguably the best 11 in the league but our cover and squad depth for a club of the size of Arsenal is embarrassing.

Too avoid confusion I will now write this again with the players names in brackets in case you are lost………….. Continue reading

No Schneiderlin, No Vidal, No Carvalho, No worries!

I am continually involved in conversations on social media and face to face, with friends and fellow Arsenal supporters about the need or otherwise for central midfield additions. It seems to be the majority view that Arsenal MUST have an alternative holding midfielder/DM to share the load with Coquelin. Schneiderlin, Vidal and now Carvalho are of course the names continuously linked with us.

It is no secret to anyone who knows me or reads my blog that I am a huge Schneiderlin fan and I advocated that we purchase him over 2 years ago. If I am honest the reception to the article at the time was not far removed from the tabloid reaction to David Dein announcing Wenger as our new manager. In fact 4 of those who commented wanted Capoue in March 2013 who I believe has just gone to Watford after 2 anonymous yeas in Seven Sisters! Now everyone recognises his ability and his country last year caught on too. Given how much I admire him and how much I have felt he was the missing link for some time, I find myself quite relaxed if Wenger, as it appears, deems us to have enough without him. That is not the same as being chuffed if Morgan S moved to Old Trafford but I can’t worry about that too much.

Not quite as quick these days

Morgan was in 2013 when I first wrote about him exactly what we needed and for most of last season he was still exactly what was missing. I am a huge admirer of Arteta but his lack of pace was undoubtedly costing us in big games and Flamini was certainly not a long term fix. Bielik may well be but until we see him that is purely speculation, based largely on what I have heard from those at the club. So why do I find myself so unconcerned if Wenger does not bring in Schneiderlin or even Vidal?

The Emergence of Le Coq changes everything

Well of course the short answer is the emergence of Francis Coquelin. He may not deliver as much as his compatriot going forwards but as an out and out defensive shield he has outperformed all his peers, including the Schneiderlin, in the Premier League since his stunning re-emergence in December/January. Not many fellow Gunners will argue that Le Coq merits his name on the team sheet and his new long term deal at the club. In fact I would be surprised if he was not now among the first names mentally in most fans preferred 11s.

So where is the disagreement that I have with most fans it seems? Most supporters apparently feel that having one out and out DM is not enough that Wenger should spend £25 Million and £100k per week plus over 5 years for cover. That is if we agree that Coquelin is the man in possession. Now Arsenal do have that kind of money but  whether collectively we like it or not, they are not that kind of club and Wenger is most certainly not that kind of manager.

The desire to have and extra body if for some is born out of an understandable anxiety about our injury track record, although there are strong signs that we are progressing on that front. For others there is no loyalty to the existing squad or recognition of the very real team spirit and togetherness, or that is how it often comes across. However the simple fact is assuming we continue, in the main, with the 4231 formation most used by Wenger we have 2 positions up for grabs each week.

Even if we assume that Flamini is made available for sale and leaves, that Arteta, as many suggest has a permanent calf issue and that Bielik is too young, we still have 4 proven Premier League performers for 2 berths in Cazorla, Coquelin, Ramsay and Wilshere. Now I don’t for one minute agree that Arteta, Flamini and Beliek will not feature in 2015/16 but even if that were the case we may well still have Rosicky and Oxlade-Chamberlain who can cover (Remember Milan at home?) Continue reading

The Invincibles Formation with the 2015/16 Squad!

‘Spicing up the tank without breaking the bank’ Part 5

How to replicate this in 2015/16
How to replicate this in 2015/16

Okay so here we are at the end of my mini-series looking at ways to vary our systems and approach with the same players. I thought I better get the last one written as we are actually in danger of making our first signing and that might render this last instalment redundant. Of course they probably are all redundant but I have had fun using my imagination, whilst wishing none too secretly that Arsene might to the same!

I have covered 4 different possibilities without looking at the currently favoured 4231/4141. Two with back fours and 2 with back threes and the last variation tips us in favour of a four man defence. I always knew I would save this article until last as it is a simple concept and I assumed it would be a populist way to conclude what has proved a popular diversion from transfers and speculation – or so the reading figures suggest.

For my last potential team formation I thought I would return to a certain 2003/4 season where our beloved team did quite well. Indeed I believe this was Wenger’s set up for the most part in the early noughties. So let’s call it the ‘Invincibles’ Line Up for the want of a better tag line. Most think automatically 442 but I always consider it a tad more subtle when I look back and I think of it as 41311.

So in this finale all I intend to do is try to match the closest player in the present squad to the players most feel are the first choice 11 from 2003/4. These players only started a handful of games together as it happens and only 2 in the Premier League but few would argue with this being the team, if all fit: Continue reading