Tactical de-selection of Ozil and Walcott for North London Derby possible.

Last year’s smash and grab

It was enjoyable to watch Ozil on Sunday versus Aston Villa and to a slightly lesser degree Theo Walcott also. The German looked sharper and decisively impacted the game at key moments with his customary aplomb. Walcott also showed better signs but for me was in large part a passenger in a game in which he should have had a field day.

Ozil back to best v Villa but….

However it is indisputable that in their absence Arsenal have changed in telling ways. The pressing game has improved beyond all recognition and we have demonstrated the ability to win the ball back high up the pitch. We have also seen a sustained period in which our wide players whether deployed in a 4231 or a 4141 have been willing to work extremely hard.  For the most part this has been Ox and Alexis, with Welbeck initially and more recently Giroud as the focal point of our attack. Both have supported the full back admirably and their pace and tenacity has been evident and a feature of our play.

Willing to work as a box to box wide man in a 4?

For me Walcott has to demonstrate he can improve that aspect of his all round game if he is to feature regularly in the starting 11, certainly in games where we set up in a more compact fashion. As much as I admire Walcott I personally see no way he can feature at present in a 442 or 4141 as the player wide on the right. For those with long enough memories it was often the case between 07 and 09/10 that Eboue was preferred on the right flank to Theo for the same reasons. The change to 4231 benefited Theo as much as it did Fabregas back then and I would still see him ahead of Ox when we play that formation.  Even then however I was obvious that his lack of desire to work the flank often saw him drift central on Sunday and left Giroud working back for him which grated with me and those around me in Block 31.

Has one man changed us or raised the standards?

It is perhaps Alexis and his performance levels that have either raised the bar or led Wenger to change the style but it is to the benefit of the team as a whole. Others have adapted well and followed the lead and seriously upped their energy levels. One might argue, probably accurately, that Oxlade- Chamberlain is not yet having the telling contribution in the final third that Walcott might have but the counter point is that his work rate and ball winning affords us more opportunities at the correct end of the pitch. His delivery is the final element of an otherwise improved all round game and his dribbling with the ball and ability to tale a defender on have surpassed that of his senior colleague.

The Ox from box to box

So returning the dilemma, or at least pleasant problem that Wenger faces, I don’t see in the new Arsenal that in any matches against top sides how the team can carry 2 what one might term ‘luxury players.’  This being the case one might see the choice as being between Walcott and Ozil and I would agree. However even this is not straight forward as whilst Ozil might be the obvious choice he finds himself endeavouring to slip back in the CAM role that Cazorla has stepped back into and rather made his own at present. On Sunday he occupied the left flank and played rather well but if Alexis is fit he plays without any doubt. If we were playing weaker side or indeed Spurs at home we might say well Ox is not fit so slot Ozil in on the right and let he, Sanchez and Cazorla interchange and what a mouth watering prospect that would be. In truth that is what I suspect most feel Wenger will do and it will be Ozil who gets the nod over Walcott to line up in the NLD. I am not so sure that is what we will see, although I won’t be upset if we did.

I can’t help but keep coming back to what we did and did so very well against Man City. Now proper pundits such as Thierry Henry and Martin Keown lauded it as our best display for years. It was generally felt that Arsenal had grown up, turned a corner and found a way to compete and play in the big away games. All our fans felt it too and Arsenal social media was aglow as we basked in the glory or our new found maturity. Now 3 weeks later it appears that we should entirely forget the plaudits and what worked and revert to type just because Ozil and Walcott are fit? Why when this is about the team, the club and the result and not about individuals? Now I know many will be reading this and thinking or about to tweet or write a comment along the lines of ‘Yes Dave but this is Spurs and they are not a big team or are not City!’ – Well much as we hate them this is a stern test and cast your mind back to the smash and grab last season at the Lane. Did we enjoy the 3 points any the less without the free flowing attacking panache?

For me this is a big test of how far we have come and victory will open a large gap between us and them so I hope Wenger sets up the team and plays the way we did so effectively against City in a similarly crucial away match. For me this means that the starting 11 will feature neither Ozil or Walcott because the 4141 suits neither of them. Both will be on the bench and can be introduced as the game is stretched and Spurs tire but for this observer at least that would be the correct decision.

It was a decision Madrid made with Ozil on many occasions as he started only about 66% of their games in his last season. It did not make him any less key to their performance over the season but tactically he did not start matches v City away in the ECL, Barca on the Super Cup away and most comparably, Althetico Madrid in the away derby for example.

If the team sets up at we did in Manchester we may see a compact 4141 with 2 hard working wide men. If Ox is not fit to take part, after a week’s rest and his starring role in the FA Cup I hope the right midfield berth goes to Tomas Rosicky as we are hearing the Ox is out for at least this weekend. You can’t help feeling that Wenger rested him in the main v Villa with the NLD in mind. In recent years this fixture has been very kind to a rejuvenated Mozart, (the winner last year away below) and Sunday may again be his stage. Alexis I hope will be fresh and able to occupy his usual role on the left. Centrally that leaves is unchanged from City with Ramsey and the majestic Cazorla the central 2 head of the disciplined sitting Coquelin.

In this formation Coquelin can be deployed to nullify Eriksen who so often is afforded too much space by other teams and Cazorla so adept at receiving the ball facing his own goal can gain be the spring board for us to hit Spurs on the break at pace. The set up will allow them superior possession as we have other sides of that but if they cannot break us down we will have the weapons to punish them in a fresh Rosicky and Sanchez and a bang in form Olivier Groud. I am predicting a 1-0 or even 2-0 the Arsenal but check all the odds including Rosicky first scorer at  http://www.promo-code.co.uk/betfred-promo-code/  and here is my team to start.

With a bench of Walcott, Ozil, Chuba, Gibbo, Gabriel, Chambers, Shez


Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66

To read about a true club legend, Geordie Armstrong click here or soon to be available from Arsenal Direct.



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  1. I don’t know, I think Walcott showed a new willingness to drop down deeper to help with defending than he’s shown in the past. He helped to launch two counter attacks while still using his pace to rejoin them from behind, the first on an interception and the second on an outlet from Ospina. He’s always been tremendously fast, of course, but he’s wasted that by hanging out at midfield hoping for that killer through-ball to run onto. The deeper he gets, the more space he creates for himself to run into, and the higher up the defense is tempted to play. I hope we see Walcott on Saturday, all the better to avenge his injury the last time he played Spurs.

    1. Jon from my seat 4 rows from pitch it is like watch a boy in a PE lesson at school pretending to work hard by running around a lot but not actually contributing. He did not fool the teacher.

      1. spot on dave66.. Walcott does not do it like alexis, ox; and only ospina and d stolen goal saved his ratings on sunday. He shadow-marks instead of committing himself 2 support his defender. We were not decieved like u said.. Between ozil and papa mozart, 8m/yr decision. #downing_spurs_time

  2. Spot on. Exactly as i thought. We can play Walcott and Ozil at home against anyside but away in a big game we’d need more players with a defensive acumen. Rozza should start if Ox isnt fit. Thats just perfect. Walcott isnt a winger and thus cant play on the wings in the current 4-1-4-1 though he could play as a striker in the old fashioned 4-4-2 ala Wrighty. very good read as usual.

  3. Someone read my mind! This is exactly how I felt even after such a glorious match against Aston Villa. Ozil was absolute class, but he still doesn’t have that defensive edge we’ve come to rely on from our wide players, and seeing as Cazorla seems to be going nowhere, He has to play wide whenever he plays. Walcott, I think still needs game time under his belt, but I’m not willing to experiment against Spurs away, particularly with the form Eriksen and Kane are in. So I say bench them. Here’s to hoping Alexis and Ox are fit for Spurs. And here’s to hoping we completely annihilate them.

  4. Agree with your team Dave but I guess Wenger will start Ozil on the left again, with Alexis on the right, instead of Rosicky.

  5. Nicely argued. What if neither Ox nor Alexis is fit? Then do you go with Özil-Santi-Ramsey-Rosicky across the midfield?

    I do think if Coquelin & co. can do half the job on Eriksen they did on Silva we are looking at another clean sheet.

  6. Let me be the first to disagree and state this: if you love football then you entertain the idea that your attacking players should get you a goal or two in this or the next game. In my Arsenal Walcott plays ahead of both the Ox and Roza (two players I adore so so)for the simple reason implied above. And am sick and tired of this tired argument: ‘For me Walcott has to demonstrate he… blah blah” heard loads of those before. Walcott has nothing demonstrate to no one! He is what he is. The one who has something to demonstrate is the Ox my, havent I waited for his goals!!!!?
    We may agree that the Ox is more robust technically, takes care of his defensive duties better, goes past defenders blah blah… but to what effect? How many games has he played this season and the last? How many goals does he have to his name? How many assists? What does Walcott bring to the pitch? For me: terror in the opposition defense! He might be ‘a passenger’ for over an hour in a single game but he give you magic in 10 minutes! Am reminded of a certain NLD match not so long ago and countless other occasions! Walcott represents exactly what almost everyone else desires around Europe… magical pace! Something we missed sorely last season and now that he avails it please don’t be shy use it. So if Walcott and Sanchez are fit they play! The other positions – I will let Wenger worry about those! But isn’t this a good time to be a gooner…. loving the prospect no matter who gets the nod.

    1. Yes it is a good time to be a Gunner but trust me AW is thinking what I am thinking and Theo does have to prove a point. Trust me on that

  7. Quite agree with your write up. Points raised about the Ozil and Theo being defensive liabilities in big games is quite true. Like you pointed out, i’d start Rosicky and Sanchez, drop Theo and Ozil. Bring them on pending how the game goes in the 70th minute.

  8. A delightful read, Dave.

    I feel, Giroud (up top), Sanchez (left), Ozil (central, off Giroud), Santi (left) with Rosicky and Coquelin ahead of the defense (comprising of Bellerin-Mert-Kos-Nacho) and Ospina guarding the goal, makes for a delightful lineup!

    Ozil > Santi (cos to get the best out of our record signing, we must back his abilities as a central playmaker for a sustained period of time and trust Santi to drift back down the flank, moreover those three (inc Sanchez) can interchange roles at will)

    Rosicky > Ramsey (cos Aaron still hasn’t found the form of yore, and Tomas yearns for this game, plus his energy is infectious and grit really important in a derby game)

    Hoping for a resounding win!


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