Coquelin is an issue, but Wenger’s tactical ignorance is a bigger one

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Amusing watching the kick back from Alex’s post yesterday critiquing Mr Coquelin. He’s not a favourite with James either, who took a similar bashing last year for highlighting the Frenchman’s lack of smarts.

I can’t work out what the love for him is all about. Actually, I probably can. Without meaning to sounds like a w*nker, football fans in the UK aren’t particularly sophisticated. Look, I count myself in that bracket as well. I was hammered for suggesting Roy Hodgson was next to useless when he took the job (a man who didn’t believe in systems). We’ve been handed David Moyes as Premier League manager of the year. Our biggest newspaper is whacking skippy about Sam Allardyce because he’s excited about being in the job. We don’t really have a set of journalists who live the game in the way their European counterparts do.

So when Arsenal fans spend basically 10 years without a Patrick Vieira type defensive midfielder, it’s understandable that Francis Coquelin is going to strike an excitement chord with fans. He’s mobile, tenacious and he slides around the pitch like a good old-fashioned Roy of the Rovers hero. We love that. But look, that’s not how you’re supposed to play that role. This is a Xabi Alonso quote from Simon Hughes book, Ring of Fire.

“I love to tackle. But if I could avoid it, I think I have done better in my job. If I tackle, sliding across the floor, it means that I – or someone else – have been caught out of position at the start of the move and that drives me crazy because team shape and balance is crucial. At Bayern, this is what we practise all of the time: ‘shape, shape, shape’. If you spend too much time on the ground, it means your positioning is not so good.

“Stevie’s [Gerrard] tackling? OK, of course, I love it. They are spectacular and the crowd gets so excited. But for me, I get excited when he receives the ball and plays the last pass before a goal. That makes me smile the most. This is his greatest strength. Seeing the pass, seeing what other players do not see.”

Coquelin excites the way Stevie G used to, but he can’t pass as well and he doesn’t score the goals. Against Southampton, Coquelin wasn’t in position to receive the ball from defence, so we had a situation where Koscielny was playing the ball through the lines. Throw in the kamikaze sliding around, the ill thought out challenges… and you have yourself a bit of a calamity in a team that needs to transition the ball quickly.

I’m not saying he’s the worst player in the world here, I’m merely saying that I am very glad we have better players in Xhaka and Elneny who can come back for the PSG game and give us a more intelligent midfield performance. But as the excellent Tom Payne points out in this fascinating article, it’s not just a Coquelin issue, it’s an Arsenal issue. We have a manager who really doesn’t have much of  a clue about the issues he’s facing all over the pitch… he’s just hoping if he plays pretty football, and everyone is having a good time, the footballing gods will reward him with a Champions League. As Alex said yesterday, that sort of mentality is why we’re all so happy this looks like it could be his last year.

On the Southampton game, WHAT ABOUT THAT KOS GOAL. Absolutely unreal that our centre back can do things like that. He really is a god among men. We’re so lucky he didn’t push for a move a few years ago, he could have gone anywhere.

I thought Mustafi looked fairly solid. My one concern is his size. He might be a good player, but I worry we’re in a position where we might be a little short on set plays (Kos / Verm bedwetting happened to me twice last week), something that’ll be further exacerbated if Perez plays the central role and we don’t have Giroud mopping up at the front post.

Talking of the Spaniard, he didn’t really do much to wow on his debut. He landed a hard-fought assist, which is always nice, but it wasn’t exactly Mesut porn. The midfield didn’t really tick over, so it’s hard to judge, but I dunno, he really is small… we’re going to have to hope he finds confidence quickly and we’re going to have to hope he has fox in the box like tenacity, because he’s not going to dominate defenders physically and hold the ball up like Giroud. I’m also undecided if he’s going to be that much better than Sanchez? He really looks and odd signing to me… but it’s early days, so we’ll see.

Overall the Southampton game left me feeling pretty uninspired. We’re so far behind City and United tactically that I just can’t see us competing in a million years. Mourinho makes a change at half time, Pep counters in 5minutes later. That sort of quick thinking isn’t in Arsene’s locker. I’m not saying Pep is going to spank us, but I am saying that over the course of the season, that sort of strategic behaviour pays dividends. The league is tougher than ever this year. The top six is United, City, Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. I’d imagine it’ll stay like that most of the season. It’s very exciting, but I can’t help but feel flat after seeing us struggle to break down Southampton, it’s not going to be an easy ride this year..

I like it. 3 points on the board. In the mix. All to play for.

That’s your lot, see you in the morning!

1,402 Responses to “Coquelin is an issue, but Wenger’s tactical ignorance is a bigger one”

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  1. Emiratesstroller


    He seemed to spend more time upfield in first half than in BB or DMF role. That was why PSG were so in control of game in first half.

    The only reason that PSG outplayed us yesterday and indeed why Arsenal have not played well this season is that the team lacks balance particularly in
    midfield and up front.

    Giroud must play up front unless Perez convinces us that he is the better striker and Sanchez needs to play wide. The other position on wing should be between Walcott and Iwobi.

    Midfield should be Ozil, Ramsey [when fit] and Xhaka with Cazorla, Elneny and
    Coquelin as bench options depending on opposition.

  2. Wenker-wanger

    How does that arrogant cnut Wenger keep stealing results?
    It wasn’t even a close game. Psg seemed to be cruise control and with plentiful chances didnt have that killer attitude upfront. It was like they thought oh well there will be more chances to come.
    I suppose we do have game changers to come on late in the game. But this isn’t anything to do with tactics, just a decent squad that if the combination luckily works you get a goal and result.
    Wenger apparently says nothing for 10 minutes at half time. What does he actually do tactically?
    He is kept in a job by the talent and pride of the players getting results not because of him but despite his best efforts to fcuk up !

  3. Shaun Wilson

    Not really – hence the use of the bizzarro analogy – the world of opposites that Superman occasionally visits, where black is white, big is small, Arsenal win the champions league, you get the picture….

  4. Vote leave


    Ramsey over cazorla? Really?
    Sorry Ramsey is fine against poor opposition but if you’re looking for intelligent play, ball retention and positional sense then you can’t have Ramsey bombing forward trying to be frank lampard

  5. Wenker-wanger

    Perhaps “mental strength” overcomes gilt-edged chances.
    Wenger face should be on the monopoly games ” get out of jail free card”

  6. Barney75

    I see Kroenke’s LA Rams made a scintillating start to the nfl season…it really takes something to score 0 points in an nfl game. Getting rid of Wenger is only half the story…do that and we could regularly challenge for the title if right man comes in but to challenge Barca, Real, Bayern etc on a consistent basis we really need to see the back of Kroenke too.

  7. Barney75

    Nice one…funnily enough the biggest losers last year were Spurs. Best chance to win a title in 50 odd years and you fucking blew it. Chances like that don’t come round too often.

  8. peanuts&monkeys

    ” If Mourinho takes his team to Psg n bore the French to death n get a point: Great Tactician”

    @sam, had PSG not broken thru Arsenal’s defence 6 times none of the Arsenal supporters would have pointed to the tactical ingnorance of Wenger, how much ever that cud be true.

  9. Emiratesstroller

    Cazorla is the architect of tippy tappy football and he lacks now the necessary
    physicality. Ramsey needs to play in middle as he did for Wales and is more
    offensive than Elneny.

    Xhaka may be considered boring by P&M but he is disciplined and will provide better cover for defence. Also he offers something that none of the others in midfield are doing and that is pin point accurate passes of more than 5 metres.

    Arsenal’s main problem in recent seasons is that we are extremely slow in build-up. The ball sits in midfield too long and allows opposition too much time to recover defensively.

  10. Red&White4life

    “How can a team earn even ONE point play at CL level without all these? Mystery OR LUCK.”

    Wenger’s still in charge : only mystery, and very bad luck.

  11. Vote leave


    I agree completely with everything you are saying.
    Our build up is too slow
    However at home a lot of teams come to sit in their own half and hit us on the break, knowing our midfield is Indisciplined.
    If Ramsey is sat in the opposition area as usual he leaves open to many gaps. His passing from deep and in transition is not good enough and he can’t carry the ball. He is essentially just a runner from deep for us. If he can add some defensive nous to his game then fine.
    Cazorla however (like wilshire) is perfect alonside xakha In That they can carry the ball and pass through and behind the lines.
    They can play from deep and around the box. And when we need to keep the ball they offer more than Ramsey.
    I think that’s why wenger deploys him wide right sometimes as he is similar to ljunberg with the work rate and the timing if his runs.

    I also feel we need to start drawing teams out of their area to create more space.
    The arsenal teams of old used to keep the ball in our half and when Anelka, wright or Henry would make their runs they would have a good 20-30 yards of space to run into, making that killer pass easier.
    Having giroud in the side kills this idea. That’s why he keeps trying to force Walcott or Sanchez up front. Maybe we need to revert more to a 442 and offload ozil. He just hasn’t worked. Unless a game is tailor made for him or the team is tailored to suit his specific skill set, which to me is solely walking around and playing the odd through ball, then he just may as we’ll be in the stands for 85 mins

  12. Bamford10


    I agree with pretty much all of your take-aways from last night. Until Perez proves otherwise, Giroud needs to start, but one thing that absolutely cannot happen again is Alexis as the CF. He is terrible there. Awful. Woeful.

  13. Bamford10

    One question for all to consider is this: has Ospina earned the #1 role?

    While this question wouldn’t have been taken seriously six months ago, I think it is a real one today. And by the way, I’d like to note that while I was not as out in front of this issue as RedTruth, I did suggest this summer that Ospina’s good Copa form and Cech’s poor Europe form suggested Ospina might actually be the better keeper. Check the records. 😉

  14. jasongms


    mostly agreed re the line up’s ..

    ________Giroud ( unless something better turns up)

    Alexis ___Ozil___walcott

    __________Ramsey__ ( needed for his atheleticism to get between the lines)


    Iwobi___Cazola___ Ox

  15. Bamford10


    Your response was a non-reposnse and made no sense. As I said, a “fair result” suggests two evenly matched teams, two teams who created an equal number of chances.

    That is not what we watched last night; PSG were the better side. Clearly. Stop trying to misrepresent reality.

    Two, while I haven’t watched Xhaka in training, I did see him against Watford — he was excellent — and I do know that he was signed him for 35m to play in the XI, especially in important matches like last night’s. Are you suggesting that he is underperforming in training? That we spent 35m on a player who is already not living up to expectations 8 weeks in to his time at Arsenal?

    Please explain and elaborate.

  16. Bamford10

    We clearly need to run one of the following XIs going forward:




    But last night’s starting XI can never be repeated.

  17. Louis Almeida

    Another poor team selection from Wenger. Why can’t he just play the new signings and let them gel? For me:

    Bellerin Mustafi Koscielny Monreal
    Elneny Xhaka
    Iwobi Ozil Alexis

    Maybe at home we play more with Giroud as teams will come with a low block.

  18. jasongms

    Bamford can’t see how Ozil is going to play out on the right, any time when he was asked to play there he’s been absolutely shocking. And don’t like the idea of moving Iwobi around either. He needs to have a definitive position so that he can learn his trade and mature.
    It’s the only reason I’ve settled on Walcott and Ox fighting it out for the right wing unless we put Perez out there

    Alexis Ozil Perez

  19. Louis Almeida

    The first half was rubbish. Alexis and Ozil were getting in each other’s way. And Wenger was using Coquelin as a decoy to build up play through Cazorla. I don’t agree with it as we kept getting hurt on the counter. I’d prefer a more orthodox build up through a proper DM who can progress play.

  20. Cesc Appeal


    Agree with your first line up, that is what I would go with, we have to get a first eleven together and then just let them gel and find each other, otherwise we’re going to be stop start all season long.

    I do not agree with anyone who says the last two games were battling performance where Arsenal got something from nothing like champions do, the same way I didn’t last year in games like Bournemouth, Newcastle etc at home, we just played poorly.

    Last night, that was not a battling, stoic type performance, that was a great GK performance and an awful ST performance, because seriously, we could have been three or four down by halftime. There was no tactical set up to absorb pressure or anything of the sort, our defence was worryingly torn apart at will by a PSG side who have not been that great in recent weeks…the DM was right though, Emery’s style was always going to rip into Arsenal as PSG did Lyon.

    So as you say, sure up the middle with Xhaka and Elneny, Ozil and Caz can compete for CAM, Iwobi and Sanchez on the flanks and then Giroud and Perez to battle it out at ST.

    Right now we seem fragile at the back, we’ve got no middle presence and are blunt in attack. Each is connected I think in a poor set up.

  21. Mr J

    Joke of the evening from Rio – ‘The champions League music hadn’t even stop playing, and it was 1-0’ haha

    Honestly… when I think that a wenger team could possibly get any more horrendous, he simply outdoes himself.

    Why does he persist with playing Sanchez up front, when he has TWO ‘strikers’ sitting on the bench?? Like come-on, Giroud simply has to start that game!!

    Why did Xhaka not start? why pay 30m for a player, if he can displace Coqueline

    It’s like the decisions wenger regularly makes nowadays, don’t even make the slightest bit of sense or resemble any sort of logic anymore, and honestly… the words fail me

    Wenger: “I HAVE THE FEELING WE CONTAINED PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN QUITE WELL…” was this an attempt at some kind of obnoxious humour or something? Just bizarre!! It’s almost as if he was watching a completely different match!! They ripped us open from the off. They had chance after chance after chance. How could he justifiably say something like that?!?! And what does, ‘I have the feeling’ mean?? Is he for real.

    A point is a great result for this side… because, and let’s not kid ourselves here, we were beyond turgid. We did not battle or work ourselves into anything. We deserved nothing from that game. Probably the luckiest draw I’ve seen in a long long time.

    And THE most annoying thing for me is that wenger just keeps on getting away with it!!

  22. gambon

    The lethargy that Arsene Wenger manages to inspire these days is incredible.

    For the last 3 years we have looked like a team that have absolutely zero interest in achieving anything.

    I don’t think there can be any doubt that Wenger lost the dressing room a few years back.

  23. gambon

    Look at the difference between Pep and Wenger, and tell me how on earth we will ever be able to compete?

    Pep comes in, gets rid of Hart not because he doesn’t like him, but because he has a very definitive system and Hart doesn’t fit into that. Yaya is dropped because he’s too lazy, again, nothing personal but the team comes first. He demands a significant amount from his players and brings huge success.

    Put Wenger into City this summer, and Hart would still be in goal, Yaya would still be stinking the place up while ambling around the pitch at walking pace. The players would have been told there is no need to improve and theyre all great.

    Wenger is just an old man in a fast paced, young mans world. He has absolutely no idea how to improve the team, and although we’re only 5 games into the season, lets be honest, we all know we are exactly the same team we have been for the last 3 seasons.

    Wenger has spent £100m and 3 months and changed absolutely nothing this summer.

    The philosophy from top to bottom is still that of a hippy commune that occasionally play a bit of football, not that of a serious & ambitious club that wants to achieve.

  24. Red&White4life

    “Does anyone know whether Wenger was asked why he didn’t start Xhaka? This would’ve been my first question.”
    Why are you looking at him ??

  25. LegendMax

    poor line-up Jason.

    Ramsey can’t play that role….esp when ours is a possession-based, passing game. He would struggle.

    why would you put Walcott ahead of iwobi??
    after numerous poor displays, you still have him as a starter?

    has iwobi ever had a really poor match for arsenal….you would struggle to find one. he’s always consistently good. in the big games or small ones.
    that’s a very good sign for a young player.

    no way Walcott starts over him.

  26. gambon

    Legend Max

    Has Iwobi ever had a good game for Arsenal?

    People are going way over the top about him.

    Hes a wide player that doesn’t score, doesn’t assist, doesn’t dribble.

    If he was 24, or if he had been signed rather than coming from the academy, people would want him sold.

    Just another example of the low standards Wenger has introduced at Arsenal, and the fans lap it up.

  27. Leedsgunner

    As my record on le Grove will show I’m firmly in the Wenger Out camp… but I think some of us are so anti Wenger we don’t give the team credit for when they deserve it.

    Was yesterday pretty to watch? No.
    Was yesterday a masterclass of footballing artistry? No.
    Will yesterday’s match be remembered? No.

    Was yesterday a result as far as Arsenal is concerned? A resounding yes. Especially in Paris.

    Sure, if Cavani and others had their footballing boots on, we should have been trounced. But they didn’t take their chances — we did.

    If another side like Man City or Man United grounded like the draw like we did, many of us would give them the benefit of the doubt… saying things like “That’s what champions do.”

    Why are we so reticent at being gracious to our players?

    In wanting Arsene Out, we must not forget to credit the team when they deserve it. Yesterday was one of those times for me.

  28. Mr J

    “The lethargy that Arsene Wenger manages to inspire these days is incredible.”

    It like Wenger doesn’t display basic common sense anymore.

    I just can’t stand the very sight of him anymore.

    People having a go at Ozil for his lax attitude… imagine play under such a man and trying to motivate yourself. What for??

    Imagine getting ripped apart for 45mins and come half time, the manager doesn’t even say anything for the first 10mins?!?!

    Seriously?? whats the rationale behind that?

    [By the way, if Ozil doesn’t find Iwobi with that pass – Arsenal don’t score – not and excuse, just the truth]

  29. Cesc Appeal


    I think the problem with the whole Iwobi thing is that our RM options are so incredibly poor, really you can play Ramsey, Walcott, Oxlade or Iwobi there.

    For me it has to be Iwobi, Ramsey is a CM, Walcott and Oxlade offer next to nothing on field, shockingly Iwobi out of that bunch of names is probably the best option.

    I think we’re going to struggle again this year with RM and ST, has been obvious for a few seasons now that needed remedying, no wide playmaker and no goal scoring ST, unless Perez ends up a bolt from the blue.

  30. Cesc Appeal

    ‘If another side like Man City or Man United grounded like the draw like we did, many of us would give them the benefit of the doubt… saying things like “That’s what champions do.”’

    No, totally disagree with this, if a side grounds out a result, being constantly attacked but offering a stoic defensive performance, very organised and control, the opposition cannot really break through and you hit them on the counter showing a real strategy, then yeah, that is grinding out a result.

    If we at and watched City, United or Chelsea play that game yesterday at ninety minutes we’d all say ‘those lucky, lucky bastards.’

    There’s a difference. PSG tore as apart at times, we couldn’t control the middle and offered little to anything in terms of attack until later on, but for some heroics by Ospina and some comedy by Cavani that game would have been humiliating, not just a loss, a humiliation.

    That was not a ‘well ground out result’ at all…not in the slightest.

    Playing away from home and winning one nil when you’ve been defensively tight and disciplined, or it was a boring midfield based game is grinding, at home against a side parking the bus and you cannot really get going by manage to bang one in is grinding.

    Relying on your keeper to make a series of world class saves, relying on a ST missing four glorious, harder to miss chances, having no midfield control and being overrun at the will of opposition, not registering a shot on target until into the second half…that is not grinding, that is riding your luck so hard you’re walking funny today.

  31. LegendMax

    good line-ups bamford….prefer the first one tho.

    on leaving xhaka out, it’s not difficult to understand wenger’s reasoning.
    For him it was a straight choice btw xhaka and cazorla. ideally, against weaker opposition, he would play both together but he couldn’t here cos their combo wouldn’t be strong enough defensively.

    He chose cazorla cos he plays tippy tappy better. in which case he needed coquelin to add mobility, pressing and defensive cover.

    you could see that coquelin played higher up the field, pressing and hassling when we weren’t in possession cos that was the tactic yday… play a high line and press psg high up the field.
    cazorla sat back cos he was the distributor, collecting the ball from the defence and building the play from the middle.

    If he had played higher, he wouldn’t have had the legs to do what coquelin was doing and track back as well(coquelin did that very well yday, pressing high up the pitch and tracking back to support cazorla in the middle).
    and likewise if coquelin had played deeper with cazorla slightly more advance, he wouldnt have been able to distribute and build up play from deep like cazorla was doing. I’m sure this is how they’ll play whenever their combo is used in the middle.

    bottom line is it was a choice btw cazorla n xhaka cos he couldn’t play them both and he went for the one who favoured his tippy-tappy style better.

    I would have gone with xhaka and elneny tho

  32. loyika

    But CA

    Teams do that alot against us in the Prem and we murder our team when that happens (games against Swansea, Sunderland, Westbrom and Saints at home come to mind)

    So we can’t have it both ways. We went to Paris, got outplayed in the first half, played better in the second half and got a draw. (could have even snatched it in the end)

    Nothing more to see or say really. Many people expected us to be trounced (and if Cavani had been any good we probably would have) and seem so disappointed that we got a draw!? Each one to his own I guess.

    We haven’t really played well this season, but we haven’t played as badly as many on here claim.

    Another thing that gets to me is this, “We want our great Arsenal back!?” I mean ffs, we make it seem as if we were some great giants of European football way back when!?

    Yes we have won the Fairs Cup and Cup Winners Cup (and that wasn’t actually a beautiful footballing experience if I do remember as we had to show bottle against a brilliant Parma side) however we should stop deluding ourselves that we have the same clout as a Madrid, Bayern, Barca or even Liverpool when it comes to the European stage, because frankly we don’t. We only strive to join the elite. Can we join or belong there under AW? Doubt it very much, but that doesn’t mean that when he is gone we will suddenly become a European Football Powerhouse.