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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Forget what the national papers are saying. This is the way to beat Leicester

By 1970's Gooner

Leicester have to be given respect. They have a counterattacking mentality which has been practised, finessed and executed to near perfection.

They always keep Vardy and Okazaki up front. They allow you to have the ball and when you move forward in front of their packed two banks of four they spring into action trying to win the ball. They then release it early to their forwards and at the same time their midfielders rush into the opponent's area waiting to do the damage.

This tactic works because they have two very good ball winners in their midfield in Kante and Drinkwater and two very fast forwards in Vardy and Okazaki who stay up front. It's not a surprise that Leicester do very well against the top teams. And there is a reason for this.

Top teams play attacking football based on ball possession, pushing their opponent in their half. Top teams do also something that more often than not turns badly against them. They push both their full backs high up the pitch. This means that Leicester's counter attackers find the space to run into and the presence of their midfielders coming up to support them provides for a very potent attacking threat.

Arsenal and City were outdone in this way. In the previous game between the two teams Arsenal's Ramsey ventured in Leicester's box to take a shot and from his dispossession they counter attacked by passing to Vardy where Bellerin should have been who run on and scored their first goal.

Similarly City's Zaboleta was caught up field while Kante released Mahrez into the space vacated and he scored the killer second goal of course.

So ideally Ramsey has to sit tight in midfield like he diligently did against City and, alongside Coquelin, provide the cover for Arsenal's overlapping full backs.

But imo the three wingers that Arsenal can play on the right of midfield are out of form. Walcott is way below himself that's for sure. Cambpell has lost form probably tired from playing too many games and the Ox is still trying to find confidence. Even if he did score the goal at Bournemouth his overall display was still below what is required to play against Leicester.

Arsene Wenger will, I know, be tempted to start with the Ox hoping that the goal will have given him a boost to carry him through the game against Leicester. I think he should resist that temptation.

Instead Arsenal can line up on Sunday by playing both Coquelin AND Flamini in central midfield. This way they will sit in a disciplined way in the middle of the pitch and put a stop to the Leicester counter attacks by covering the space vacated by Arsenal's full backs (especially Bellerin).

Ramsey would then revert back to his previous position on the right wing (when Cazorla was playing in midfield). In this way he will be able to come in from the right and help in the play making interchanging positions with Ozil and also drop back to assist Bellerin when we haven't got the ball.

In this formation a balance will be created where Arsenal will still maintain their attacking mentality and ball possession but will be more robust and defensively minded in midfield.

And for a change Arsenal will have adopted their tactics to fit the opponent.

This is the way to beat Leicester.





Monday, February 08, 2016

The best way to hand Leicester or indeed Spurs the League title

By 1970's Gooner

There is something that keeps niggling me all the time. It started way back during this crazy season on the occasions all Arsenal had to do was win the game in front of them to go top of the League. They always failed.

Their performances were nervy, edgy and tentative. The only saving grace was that the direct opponents were faltering too. Leicester and Tottenham were drawing more than they were winning and City were suffering due to key absences of Company and Aguero.

In the meantime Arsenal's jitters continued with poor performances against Spurs at home when we snatched a draw, lost to WBA away with a shambolic display and drew away at Norwich where everyone is winning. Leicester and Spurs on the other hand kept winning.

Then Arsenal pulled a fantastic performance out of the bag against City winning at home 2 1. But when in the next game they needed to win so as to consolidate the advantage they gained and prove to everyone that this year is their year, they see the dizzy heights of the summit and of course get nervy again! They put in probably the worst performance of the season that far and get thumped by Southampton 4 0!!!

So don't tell me Mr Wenger that the players are not scared of the top. They are shit scared. They haven't got the bottle. It is obvious.

And the best way to hand Leicester or indeed the Spuds the League title is to repeat the display at Bournemouth in the next game against Leicester.

For don't be fooled by the 2 0 away victory at the south coast. The display was again nervy especially at the back with Gabriel adopting what I would call an agricultural display and slack marking especially on the occasion when he naively let Pugh slip past him and run clear on goal.  It is sad that our alternative is to start with the ageing Mertesacker.

Flamini was far from his best. He tends to mark only space and as a result gets by passed as he lacks pace. He surely has to be either replaced by Coquelin or indeed play alongside him.

And the Ox got a great goal but he is far below what we would need to beat Leicester. The out of form Walcott or the tiring Campell are not the answer either!

Wenger has to get his finger out and instill competitiveness and above all confidence. He also has to adapt his team selection and tactics to match Leicester. More on this will follow.
















Thursday, February 04, 2016

The reasons behind Arsenal's slump

By 1970's Gooner

Arsenal have only collected 3 points from the last four games. Draws against Liverpool, Stoke and Soton plus a defeat at home against Chelsea. Its not the form a title winning team is it? There are three main reasons that can explain the recent loss of form. I consider the last one as the most important.

Key players loose form

Where do you start. Mertesacker has been shaky for a long time and this was well exploited by a clever Chelsea tactic of getting Costa to run on his shoulder . In fact the whole team was underperforming up to the sending off.

This loss of form has been evident even in the games we won prior to the Liverpool game. Newcastle were outplaying us at the Emirates but couldn't convert their many chances until Koscienly popped up to rescue us. Bournemouth were only outdone from corners otherwise they were competitive alright.

Flamini, Ramsey and now Walcott have been way below par. The first two in particular have been very poor during this period. Flamini has not been closing down the spaces in midfield and Ramsey has neither been as mobile or accurate with his passing. This significant area of the pitch has been our Achilles heel. Let's hope Coquelin will return as strong as he was before he got injured.

The absence of Sanchez

Sanchez has been sorely missed as much as Coquelin. His runs and dribbles unsettle opponents as they don't know which way he will go. He offers something out of the ordinary but his mobility also offers an outlet for Ozil's innovative passing. And this should not be underestimated.

Lack of confidence in themselves

This lack of confidence has been very evident every time Arsenal have to win a game to keep themselves in contention or even to go top. It has been evident when say City or Leicester have dropped points and Arsenal only have to win to take advantage. They invariably failed every time.

There is an aura of uncertainty in their passing, crossing or in taking chances. It is also evident in their slow starts to games as though they wait to see what the opponent has to offer rather than imposing themselves irrespective of the opponent. This was very evident at Liverpool where they went one down relatively early in the game and also against Chelsea where they were so tentative in the early stages with Chelsea dominating possession and threatening. It was evident against Soton where we wasted a whole half to get into the game! And this was at home!

The players better start shaping up otherwise its goodbye to the title ( to possibly Spurs heaven forbid) and probably goodbye to fourth place.

Now that Coquelin and Sanchez are back we expect better days to come. Let's start at Bournemouth.





Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Debuchy is going nowhere

By 1970's Gooner

Arsene Wenger was until today ready to release Debuchy to go out on loan. This was so that he could get the necessary games and fitness levels required to maximise his chances of being selected for the Euro 2016 tournament. The possible destinations were Aston Villa and recently Sunderland.

Now with the sad news that Jenkinson has suffered a significant, possibly a season ending, injury during West Ham's game against Man City, this loan transfer for Debuchy is bound to be scrapped.

Surely Wenger will not take the chance and release Debuchy now he cannot use Jenkinson as a back up for the impressive Bellerin. The plan was that Debuchy would go to, most probably, Aston Villa and Jenkinson was to be recalled from West Ham.

The alternatives for Wenger will be Chambers, who is too slow, Gabriel who is a centre back and now needed in this position anyway as the BFG is out for 3 games and Flamini who has played in this position some years ago when he could run. Now he is not up to it.

Gibbs does not come into consideration as he is very left footed. Wenger could of course play Gibbs at left back and move Monreal at right back, if the need arises of course, but this would be placing square pegs in round holes. Unacceptable for a team chasing the title.

So Debuchy is going nowhere.




Monday, January 25, 2016

The reasons Wenger didn't play Elneny

By 1970's Gooner

There are three reasons Wenger didn't play Elneny against Chelsea.

The first is that he has just got together with the team only 10 days or so. He has not yet adapted to the way Arsenal play their football, what his position entails within the overall game plan and he has not yet got to know his fellow players.

Secondly Wenger got his man early this season because he knows that if he had waited for the summer then his price would have risen disproportionately. Why? because as everyone knows the much increased PL money for next season is bound to create large inflation in transfer prices adhering to the age old theory of too much money chasing the too few good players around.

And thirdly Elneny is going to be like Gabriel. Wenger will treat him the same. He will hold him back if he has Coquelin fit. Just like Gabriel is considered by Wenger to be an understudy to Mertesacker.

He is wrong of course. The BFG is on his last legs. he has no pace and no distribution capabilities. He has experience and is good in the air but these attributes are not enough in the PL.

As for the game against Chelsea Wenger was wrong to start with the BFG. He has been wrong starting him all season. I have said this in previous posts. His lack of pace cost us the game. The BFG should not have attempted the tackle thus would have kept himself and the team alive.

Ramsey had one of his worse games. He kept passing the ball to the opponents most of the time. Ozil gave up after we let the goal in. He didn't rise to the occasion, didn't lead the team. He became peripheral. The team as a whole became peripheral. They did not have any belief that they could come back which does not augur well for the run in.

Koscienly was as much at fault for the goal as the BFG imo. He is supposed to stay behind the BFG so as to cover for his lack of pace. On this occasion he was square. WHY?

Wenger got the tactics wrong again. We started slowly and gave them space to play about. WRONG. We should have blitzed them like we did Man Utd.

Nobody picked Cesc and Willian up in those first 15 minutes. They were free to run the game. WHAT WAS FLAMINI AND RAMSEY DOING?

The two positives were: When we finally decided to have a go in the second half we were decent which shows to me that we would have won the game if we had 11 players on the pitch.

The return of Sanchez was invigorating. He can advance with the ball leaving opponents behind and out of the game. He lifted the whole team up. He reminded us how we will be demoralising teams in the coming games. He will take the place of Walcott who is much below his best.

And when Coquelin comes back (which will be soon) and Cazorla too we will be real challengers again.
















Thursday, January 14, 2016

Victory at Anfield a doddle if not for these mistakes. Analysis

By 1970's Gooner

I call it as I see it and what I saw was a team capable of winning this game easily but I am afraid Wenger's tactics and crucially his substitutions conspired to allow Liverpool to score three goals against us and snatch 2 crucial points away.

Firstly it was obvious that Klopp would have adopted the same tactics employed recently when they faced the bigger teams. High tempo and hard pressing from the front and especially the opponent's key players in midfield thus cutting the supply to the front men. That is how they knocked four against Man City and three against Chelsea (both away).

Wenger and the Arsenal players seemed unprepared to counter this tactic. Mertesacker was continually harassed and forced to make hasty clearances. More importantly Ozil was closed down immediately by at least two, sometimes three men, as soon as he came anywhere near the ball.

This meant that there was no significant ball possession resulting in reacting to the moves of the Liverpool players rather than dictating the game.

This absence of a player like Ozil capable of putting his foot on the ball and calming things down meant that there was no real outlet when the ball was cleared from the defence.

Ramsey partly but inadequately compensated for this by making those box to box runs which did bring the equaliser. But this forward thinking approach resulted in the game becoming an end to end affair rather than Ramsey playing the role of the stabilising player that could calm things down and help keep possession.

That is why I knew then that even if we did equalise their first goal we could not keep it up.

Secondly once we got ahead in the second half (around the 55 mark) we surrendered even more possession. Wenger then made two mistakes.

The first was failing to restrict Ramsey from continuing to play box to box. Ramsey kept going forward all the time, even in the last five minutes he was doing this. This meant that when we lost possession we had one less player defending in the midfield areas. And with Ozil running out of gas we were desperately short in that area. This put undue pressure on our defence.

The second had to do with the substitutions.

Wenger brought on Gibbs and The Ox for Cambpell and  Walcott at the 75 mark. However Cambpell should have been kept on, he was very diligent and reliable in his defending.

The Ox was, as it was proven, not. He predictably kept giving the ball away and with Ozil nowhere and Ramsey too often far up the field meant that we were desperately short of numbers defending the resulting attack.

It was Ozil that should also have been substituted at that juncture and not Cambpell! Ozil cannot defend in situations like these, it's obvious.  And Chambers was the man to bring on not the Ox!

These two substitutions (Gibbs and Chambers for Walcott and Ozil) would have made us more solid especially since the opponents were not really attacking with any particular plan or method and their passing  and crosses were imprecise.

And in the closing stages Wenger could have brought Gabriel on and not Arteta as he did on 87. This may have prevented Benteke's header on 90 .....

If we had won the game the confidence levels would have been sky high going into the Stoke game. Still we didn't lose and we nearly snatched it with City also failing to capitalise (although Leicester did).

There is still a long way to go yet but this title race is crying out for a contender to grab the bull by the horns and lead a forceful charge with confidence. The worrying aspect of this is that whenever we are presented with a chance of proving our credentials (to everybody including ourselves) we fail to do so.

Hopefully Sanchez may return against Stoke. He will add more thrust and fervour in our attacks which will be needed.

If he does start (which I doubt) it will be for Walcott.






Sunday, December 27, 2015

The three reasons for that defeat at Southampton

By 1970's Gooner

It was a performance that nobody ever ever expected. Having comprehensively beaten Man City at the Emirates one would have expected that the huge confidence gained from that wonderful display would have carried them through against Southampton.

It didn't. And there are three main reasons for this which combined together may explain what happened.

Firstly the players AND management got too complacent. AGAIN. They thought that they were entitled to turn Soton over just because they beat Man City. WRONG.

This over complacency rears its ugly head after a great performance. Remember what happened after we beat Chelsea in the Charity Shield? We got thumped by West Ham the following Saturday in a kind of similar lack of energy display.

Complacency my friends. Complacency. Wenger gets complacent. Prior to the game he was busy talking about being vindicated having not bought any outfield players in the summer. He was basking in his success. He was in a way resting on his laurels...

Even Steve Bould on the bench at Southampton was clutching that tactics book of his which was all rolled up in his fist. It was kind of telling us 'I won't be needing this'. And when he did need it late on in the game he couldn't find the right page to show the Ox!!!! Shows you how ready he was for a fight.

Secondly the effort they put in for the win over Man City must have taken a lot out of the players. This usually would have been overcome mentally wise as the players AND management would have raised themselves up for the challenge ahead. BUT when tiredness is combined with overconfidence it invariably results in a non performance. And this is what we got. Too limp, tepid, lack of movement and an inability to bounce back once they got behind.

The third reason has to do with the performance of the Soton players. They were tactically spot on. They did three things right.

They stifled the space that Ozil usually occupies, double marked the space for our overlapping full backs and exploited Arsenal's static central defence by routing balls for the pacy and combative Long down the channels to chase.

Rest assured that Howe will be studying the tape of this game all day today and yesterday.

All we have to do is beat them tomorrow and go top of the League.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Flamini probably out of the Dinamo Zagreb game

By 1970's Gooner

What can go wrong will go wrong!

Is it a curse or is it something else? I won't go into that debate for now. But to have two players go off during the game with injuries is too much to accept. The same thing happened at Sheffield Wednesday remember?

The most important game is the next game they say. But not on this occasion for sure. Because now Wenger's team selection for next Tuesday will probably determine Arsenal's fate for the rest of the Premier League season.

If the best available 11 are selected for Tuesday then Wenger will be taking a hell of a chance. He will be risking further injury and fatigue for his players. His main aim should be to rest key players and keep them fresh for the next League game.

And first on the list of non starters should be Flamini. If he does play and gets injured then Wenger might as well resign for he will have made a major error in risking the only fit and available defensive midfielder left in the club.

In the same vein the 'returning players' such as The Ox and Ramsey should also be left out altogether so as to give them another week of recovery.

Sanchez really needs a rest and since we don't have any other fit forward then Giroud should also be protected but he will probably have to start.

What I am really saying is lets sacrifice the Champions League.


Cech

Debuchy Mertesacker Gabriel Monreal

Cazorla Chambers

Campbell Ozil Gibbs

Giroud



Sunday, November 15, 2015

Injured players unlikely to return for next Saturday

By 1970's Gooner

All the Arsenal news in the media, including the sites specialising on fitness issues and likely return dates, have been giving us optimistic predictions of the likely return of the injured players.

But it seems that the probability of any one starting the match against West Brom has to be low.

Lets look at the most likely to return. The Ox has been posting videos of himself training saying that he is 80% to 90% close to full fitness. Well I am sorry to break the news to you but when a player says that he is close to fitness it really means that he is aiming to be at full fitness. It does not mean that he will get to full fitness.

In fact so desperate will the Ox be to get back, so as to get that run of games in the team now that others may not be around, that he is letting optimism get the better of him.

And even if he does achieve fitness Arsene Wenger will be reluctant to start him anyway in case there is a relapse considering his bad injury record. The best that can happen is that he is likely to start on the bench.

There has been no news at all coming out of Ramsey's 'camp'. Isn't this strange? One week away from the next game and no one is saying that Ramsey will be back. In fact it seems to me that Wenger will be announcing soon that Ramsey will take another week or two before he is ready.

That much has been revealed for Walcott already who is rumoured to be back at the beginning of December.

And as for Bellerin, for whom no news has come out yet, does Wenger risk him for next Saturday?

The point I am making is that Arsenal's injury record has deteriorated so much in recent weeks Wenger will be very reluctant to rush players back and risk jeopardising Arsenal's chances of putting a winning run during the Xmas period and indeed having these crucial players available and fit for the second crucial half of the season.

If he is going to rest players then it might as well be during the next few games as the opposition is 'relatively' not as strong.

Additionally their replacements (Campbell and Debuchy) after some dodgy performances are starting to settle in and Gibbs looked capable on the left wing against Spurs. The returns of Arteta and Flamini have also boosted the options available in midfield.

It seems to me that Wenger will take the conservative view and give these players another week to cement their fitness levels.







Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sanchez locks himself in his room

By 1970's Gooner

There is talk of Sanchez being rested by Arsene Wenger as he might be close to burn out. This is because he hardly had a rest after the Copa America, which Chile won. He was then thrown in at the deep end for the first game of the season against West Ham (coming on as substitute).

Sanchez is again back to his homeland for two crucial World Cup qualifiers beginning against Colombia.

Reports from their training camp in Chile indicate that although Sanchez's high energy approach has not deserted him, perhaps his recent tiredness has pushed him to seek a long enough recovery period between training sessions.

"Alexis I see an incredible moment. I see him so excited. If you move your energy to the game, Chile is very close to winning, "Sampaoli told a news conference.

However when the training was over Alexis retired to his room and locked himself in so as to not allow any distractions! The other players like Vidal and Vargas stayed behind signed autographs and generally lounged around watching the rest of the players, mostly subs, go through their training exercises.

The good thing is that Alexis appears to have realised that he needs to allow his body to recover. In this way he gives himself the best chance to come back without injury and a body rested enough so that performances leading to the Xmas period are not affected.