Arsenal breeze into last 16, but at what cost?

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via @Josh_Landy & @PlaywithALegend

November 1st landed, and we were 2-0 down against a pub team from Bulgaria within 15minutes of our first game. A team we’d absolutely dismantled at home had somehow opened us like a missile hitting a water balloon. Had the curse hit us already?

No, it hadn’t. Rotation rust had though. The first goal came from a pretty basic freekick that bypassed all our defenders, Ospina stayed rooted to his line, Jenks was barged out the way and Cafu prodded home. Gibbs looked lost as well, which is par the course, we all had that ‘Ahhhh, that’s why he doesn’t play’ moment.

The man widely praised for never complaining about not playing (whilst lapping up £55k a week) was mugged again, this time by Cafu hard for the second, so much so he actually fell on his arse, the cross found Keseru and he finished with ease.

We weren’t done though. Oh no. This was just the beginning. Our crazy DM Xhaka slid home an Ozil cross like a seasoned striker to bring the deficit back to one. You kind of felt we’d dig ourselves out of the hole and the second came just before half time from an Aaron Ramsey cross that was met by a bullet header from scoring sensation Olivier Giroud.

The game was settled late on by a something beyond special… Giroud clattered the ball back with a surging tackle 10 yards inside our own half, Elneny picked it up then clipped a magical counter attacking pass to the surging Mesut Ozil, he touched the ball delicately, clipped it over the keeper, shimmied once and decked one defender, shimmied again, floored Kieran Gibbs, then slotted home.

What. A. Finish.

Here’s a fact for you, Arsenal have qualified for the last 16 of the CL every year since 1876. What a record.

So what to think?

Rotation:

Some might point to rotation being at the heart of the problems we had early on and I’d agree, that might be right. Doesn’t make it the wrong thing to have done. You need to utilize your squad if you want success. Our defence was a shambles in the opening 20, but look, Jenks and Gibbs aren’t top class and they haven’t played that often.

The reaction was top class and we pulled ourselves out of a massive hole.

Proper Rotation:

Wenger still can’t bring himself to leave Sanchez or Ozil on the bench. Those two are integral, don’t get me wrong, but I’d like them to be integral past January. I don’t have the stats to hand, but in at least two of the last 3 seasons, Ozil had fallen off the form wagon heavily in the second half of the season (declining sprints in his first year, declining productivity last year)… that the club don’t appear to recognize that he might not be the fittest amazes me. We shouldn’t be playing him games like yesterday, we should have an internal solution that can do at least 75% of what he can. We’ve now run out of games to rest him in. We have all the points, but the big question is at what cost?

Same with Sanchez, but he has less of a tail-off in the second half of the season. He still pings muscles though. Did we need him yesterday? My thoughts were that he was our lead striker, so if Giroud was starting, why Sanchez out wide?

Guts:

Going 2-0 down away from home is a problem. Bringing it back and winning is a superb solution every time. Sure, they’re a rubbish team, but we don’t half love losing to a rubbish team in the CL. That would have been a disaster for Spurs at the weekend. Now we’re heading into that game on fire, so no excuses! A great response.

Elneney:

A lot of love for my favorite Egyptian. He’s a super player for me and that touch and release for Ozil at the death was absolute perfection. Long-term, it’s hard to see past him and Xhaka pinning the midfield in the big games for us. Solid, great engines and an excellent ability to read and contribute to a game.

Next up… Spurs. Here we go!

206 Responses to “Arsenal breeze into last 16, but at what cost?”

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  1. bacaryisgod

    That’s my fear, Pedro. I don’t think it’s possible to play 8 matches in 30 days without having negative consequences on his body.

  2. Rambo Ramsey

    Vicky, sorry that’s just utter bs, mate.

    Ramsey 5/10 and Elneny 7/10 on average? On what basis? Go to Whoscored or any rating site and you’ll find Ramsey usually always has a better rating than Elneny.

    The hype surrounding Elneny is the same I’ve seen with Wilshere. They play so little that their talents and ability get grossly exaggerated. When they regularly get starts and play more, their faults and weaknesses get more obvious to the viewer and they come under better scrutiny.

    Elneny has only started what 3 PL matches this season? He was bang average in two of those and hooked off by Wenger in both games due to his ineffectiveness.

    As to your early query about why I rate Ramsey over Elneny, I’d rather watch a player who always looks to make things happen than one who plays safe. But I can understand the purists’ love affair with Elneny.

  3. Steveyg87

    Rambo, get your head out the clouds mate, Ramsey is shit. Elneny and Iwobi have already overtaken him. The fact that he was handed the #8 jersey is an insult to Samir Nasri. He was good at the Euros? That tournament was a fuck up from the get go

  4. GoonerDNA

    Rambo Ramsey, the major difference between Elneny and Ramsey is Elneny has a great passing range and doesn’t try stupid flicks and tricks that don’t come off also Elneny understands positional play for a box to box player.

    Ramsey is basically finished in my eyes unless he plays a more free playing role which is basically Ozil’s position ……so scrap that idea.

  5. Pierre

    RR will say that Ramsey had a 85% pass rate v ludo which is adequate but I would like to see what the percentage was for Ramsey when he played a forward pass in that game …..I would put it as low as maybe 20/30 % success rate…it’s true what steveyg87 said, the only thing going for Ramsey is the manager rates him…… Let’s hope Ramsey proves us wrong and Wenger right but I just think Ramsey would be better suited to a kick a rush style team , like Wales.

  6. Wallace

    Calum Chambers doing well at Middlesbrough. started the season on the bench but has already replaced Daniel Ayala in central defence. Ayala was one of their key players last year.

  7. GoonerDNA

    But disagree with Pedro even tho I rate Elneny, Santi is the key player in the mid we need to buy a player who can basically do what he’s doing so I think the future Arsenal mid will be Xhaka and Santi’s replacement

  8. Al

    The only issue I have with Ramsey is the fact he over complicate and over does it constantly.

    Just needs to get back to basics and show how great a player he is based on the timing of his runs , ability to get goals and his work rate/engine.

  9. Wallace

    as others have said if we changed to a 4-3-3 Ramsey would no doubt look a lot better player, but he’s not good enough to be the reason the manager changes formation.

  10. Wallace

    “The first game at Wembley may have been an accident but to do it again, something must be wrong, and we need to find out what. We are in a bad moment and we need to be critical and honest.

    “The problem was not the attitude – it was that we did not show our quality. We are much better than we played today. Maybe it is taking my players time to manage the Premier League and Champions League – the two toughest competitions in the world. It is good to see how we react.”

    – Pochettino

  11. Batistuta

    Re- Ramsey

    He just needs to go back to the basics, drop the fancy stuff and get down to the simple stuff, a bit like El Neny yea,one might say its just recycling the ball but its effective, Ramsey is talented no doubt which means the late runs into the box and the goals will come but he has to get back to the basics first of all

  12. Northbanker

    Elneny does play a lot of short passes but we always keep possession and he’s far from conservative as that last minute pass to Ozil demonstrates. He’s not frightened of shooting and personally I was really impressed last season how for a newbie he was playing as if he’d been there 10 years.

    His playing style reminds me of a younger (pre Spurs!!) Edgar Davids – he seems to find space and have the time to play where he wants. He has a great engine on him too. Elneny and Xhaka should work as a combo although I agree with GoonerDNA that I’d still be looking longer term for a Cazorla replacement

    BUT is the only reason Santi is playing there (so deep) because he’s getting older? A player of that talent younger would probably want to play in the Ozil role. I’d like to see more of Xhaka first to see what type of player he can become

  13. Wallace

    Pires7

    “My issue with him is he takes 4-5 touches when he should be taking 1-2 and it slows us down unnecessarily.”

    yeah, when we’re playing well there’s a quick rhythm to our play. Elneny & Iwobi are comfortable with this, but Ramsey likes to get on the ball and have a look around before he even thinks about where to pass. reminds me of Valdano’s take on Riquelme –

    ‘A friend of mine calls Riquelme the tollbooth, When the ball reaches him it has to stop. The rhythm and direction of play will depend, to a great degree, on Riquelme’s level of inspiration. And Riquelme is not always inspired.’

  14. Rambo Ramsey

    Pires7, I’ve heard the same criticism aimed at Ozil in the past. That he takes too many touches or holds on to the ball a few seconds longer than necessary. I think the reason they do that is because they weigh their options. Granted, Ramsey is not Ozil’s class in the execution but what’s the alternative? Making short passes to the obvious options, a Densilson/Arteta specialty.

  15. Emiratesstroller

    Arsenal’s best result sofar this season was our 3-0 victory against Chelsea.

    I think that if all players are fit for the game on Sunday against Spurs I would put out the same team, which played against Chelsea.

    Spurs may have a great defensive record, but they are struggling to score goals.
    Arsenal by contrast are flush with goals this season.

  16. Rambo Ramsey

    Arsenal, in supreme goal scoring form but question marks over the defensive side in the recent matches.. take on Spuds,who are in dire goal scoring form but boast a supreme defense.

    Perfect opposites, should make for a pulsating encounter.

  17. Emiratesstroller

    Rambo Ramsey

    If we put out our regular defence the team is okay.

    What is also important is the balance of our team and goalscoring options.

    Psychologically Spurs without Kane will I suspect try to shut up shop, and play
    on the counterattack hoping for a goal from penalty or free kick! That appears
    to be their best option in recent games.

  18. Wallace

    I know Klopp’s Liverpool kicked our asses for 30mins on the opening day, but I see the two games against Spurs as being the toughest outside of the two against Guardiola’s City.

  19. Emiratesstroller

    The fact is that Spurs have struggled in last 6 games scoring just 3 goals including 2 penalties.

    Their only goal from open play against WBA came in 89th minute when scored by Alli.

    No-one should be complacent in these games, but Arsenal should take the initiative on Sunday. If we can score early goal I think that Spurs might crack, because they will need to come out and play.

  20. Louis Almeida

    Look like Bellerin, Monreal and Theo will be available for Spurs. We’re not sure on Santi.

    Wenger has said that he is a bit worried with Xhaka’s disciplinary record so maybe we might see Elneny start next to Coquelin? I’d still start Xhaka personally.

  21. Louis Almeida

    * Wenger says Wilshere has an Arsenal future
    * Doesn’t believe FIFA shouldn’t get involved with England wanting to have poppies on the NT shirt next week for the game against Scotland
    * Says that Spurs’ form won’t have a bearing on this weekend’s game
    * Welcomes decision to rest Ozil in the upcoming internationals.

  22. Red&White4life

    That’s a f*cking good new Louis!!

    Do you know if the Chilean coach would agree to do the same with sanchez ??
    (it’s good to dream lol)

  23. Wallace

    Louis

    “Wenger has said that he is a bit worried with Xhaka’s disciplinary record so maybe we might see Elneny start next to Coquelin? I’d still start Xhaka personally.”

    yeah, big test for Xhaka’s temperament if he does start.

  24. Louis Almeida

    Red&White4life, unfortunately not. Chile are in a precarious position in World Cup qualifying. They need the points and Alexis is the main man so no way he gets rested unfortunately 🙁

    Wallace, yes correct. Xhaka is a sensational player on the front foot but I think he’s finding it hard to cope with our risky game off-the-ball. He can’t defend huge amounts of space and isn’t quick so is bypassed easily. It’s something he’s going to have to learn or he’ll have to be better protected.

  25. Steveyg87

    “He can easily be refined and I think he’s intelligent enough to realise he must adapt to the team, like he did a couple of years ago or he’ll be gone in the summer”

    You must be having a laugh.

  26. vicky

    Rambo

    First of all, you deliberately chose 5/10 for Ramsey and 7/10 for Elneny to obfuscate the real point which is even if both played a 6/10 game still Ramsey should get more flak for he’s been here for ages and has more talent. Besides, it’s also about the dynamics of the team. Elneny keeps the game ticking over while Ramsey kills our game by taking numerous touches, doing silly flicks and making Hollywood passes. And as far as your point ‘he at least tries something rather than play safe” is concerned that’s clutching at straws. What’s the use of his ‘trying’ when it doesn’t come off most of the times and disrupts our flow ?
    And 88% pass completion ? That argument has got uncanny similarity with the argument that Ozil couldn’t be criticized last season for he had 19 assists. If Whoscored.com could tell everything about football then all the TV experts would be out of job.

  27. Emiratesstroller

    Reading between the lines I suspect that Bellerin, Monreal and Walcott will be
    fit to start on Sunday.

    I suspect that Cazorla is not considered ‘match fit’ and will probably at best sit on the bench.

    My guess is that Wenger will start with Coquelin and either Ramsey or Elneny
    in Central Midfield if he is concerned about Xhaka’s discipline.

    It is beginning to look like Kane will not start in the game, but will come off the
    bench. Therefore we need to be totally focussed for 90+ minutes. Kane has been our achilles heel in recent games against us particularly from set pieces.

    I wish Arsenal would stop using zonal marking at set pieces and corners. It is
    our weakness and also source of many of the goals that we continue to concede as we did with first goal against Ludogorets.

  28. Louis Almeida

    No way can Ramsey-Coquelin start as a pivot. It’s the worst one available to us. We will struggle to build any sort of attack as neither of them are comfortable in the first phase.

  29. Red&White4life

    “I don’t care what the score is. Just three points to the Arsenal is what matters.”

    Correct.
    But a 5-1 would be so nice…

  30. vicky

    on whether Aaron Ramsey will regularly play on the right…

    “I just consider the next game and try to find the balance with the players to be in a position where they can give their best for the team. Aaron Ramsey has come back from 11 weeks injury you know, he has to come back, you do not come back [and have that] magic. It takes time but he can bring us his strengths in every single position – wide or central. He prefers to play central, to be central, and I can understand that. But when he plays wide he has enough freedom to be central as well.”

    That’s a strong indication he won’t be played through the middle and will be accommodated on right wing when there’s an opportunity available.

  31. Steveyg87

    ” If Whoscored.com could tell everything about football then all the TV experts would be out of job.”

    Ha! nice one

  32. Wallace

    Pires7

    “Saying that I do think he can find a niche in our team as I see him as being mobile enough to be more useful off the ball than on it depending on who’s in the line up.”

    true. but when everyone’s fit he doesn’t start. I think he’ll be off in the summer.

  33. Steveyg87

    “Wenger found Elneny in Jumble sale and Ramsey belongs in one..”

    For once we agree, but lets give the scouts a bit of credit for digging out Elneny

  34. UDA

    Blaming zonal marking is silly. You want our small technicians against spurs marking man to man? I’d favor them on every single duel

  35. Micheal

    Zonal marking is a fundamentally flawed defensive system. Players are marking space – not attackers. Marking space means the attackers run from the edge of the area and get the huge benefit of a running jump to attack the ball. Defenders are flat-footed and leaping from a standing position.

    Simple.