Arsene running out of ideas as season hits familiar pattern + CL last 16 possibilities

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Kind of feel a little bit like a Democrat squealing about the Electorial College and the popular vote here, but please, can someone not agree that wiping out goal difference in the group stages is one of the most pointless amendments to the Champions League rules in a long time?

If we score more goals over the course of a bunch of very boring games no one cares for, we should be rewarded for making the dullest part of the competition more interesting. Not ruined because of our away goal record. Utterly deflating.

Our 2-2 draw with PSG wasn’t a pretty sight. It was another dismal display against a much more impressive PSG side. Wenger set up with Aaron Ramsey next to Coquelin, which wasn’t as defensive / functional as I thought he’d go, but the midfield certainly didn’t sing and our ability to link defence with midfield and midfield with attack was incoherent at times.

Wenger also dithered with his front three. Instead of resting Sanchez, he played him out wide, flanking Olivier Giroud. I really think Wenger needs to make a decision on the Chilean and stick with it. He shouldn’t be rotating him around the squad, especially when it’s clear he looks kind of flat at the moment. If he’s a striker, let him be a striker and rotate him with Giroud.

The game didn’t really offer much in attack from either side, it’d be hard to say that Cavani wasn’t the more lively of strikers, he missed a bunch of sitters again, once again proving that he’s not the full ticket at the highest level. I think in total last night, from 4 goals, there was one shot on target in open play.

We conceded the first goal when Matuidi was slipped in with a pretty straight forward, if not perfectly weight through ball from midfield, the Frenchman ran in behind Mustafi who failed with his offside call, the ball was cut across the box and Cavani crashed home from 2 yards.

Arsenal pulled the game back as they sparked back into life. Mesut Ozil played an outrageous reverse pass into the feet of Sanchez, the Chilean cut the ball back and allowed his ankle to be grazed by the lightest of touches. A soft penalty call from the ref. Giroud converted the opportunity sending the keeper the wrong way. That beard paying dividends.

The second half we livened up. Our initial 15 minutes were promising. Ramsey had switched up with Coquelin, the Welshman told to receive the ball from deep because, well, Coquelin runs scared. The play started opening up and we looked to have a bit of persistence about our press and a bit of aggression about our attacking play. That paid off with a calamity own goal that went Ramsey strike, through two PSG players and back in off Veratti. That Italian exPrison Break lead looked mighty embarrassed.

We had our own bit of embarrassment waiting. Jenkinson caught in no man’s land at the back post, Moura, 5ft8 headed at our back post without even jumping, Iwobi flat-footed nodded the ball in, Ospina too close to do anything about it.

2-2. But hey, I’m sitting there like an ignorant muppet with my ignorant pals… all reading Republican false news stories about what the f*ck goal difference was in the CL. The game winds out… and we look at the table, and we’re 2nd, facing the same fate we face every season these days… a nightmare match up against Barcelona in the next round!

So, who could we play? (second place team in brackets)

Napoli (Benfica)

Barca (City)

Atletico (Bayern)

Monaco (Leverkusen)

Dortmund (Madrid)

Leicester (Porto)

Juve (Seville)

A pretty beastly set of teams there. I mean, Monaco would be nice, but we’ve been tanked by them before and they’re playing some expansive football this year. Dortmund, Barca, Atletico or Juve would be peak disaster for Wenger because he simply wouldn’t have an answer. Napoli would be a sizeable task but one I think we could deal with.

What a nightmare. We didn’t do enough by CL rule, but by any other measurement in normal football we would have. So frustrating.

Midfield:

Wenger still won’t get over his love for the Coq. There was one point yesterday where Ospina was deep in his penalty box, he had nothing to his left or right and through the middle of the park, neither Ramsey nor Coquelin were present to receive the ball so it resulted in a hoof. A club like Arsenal should have players ready to receive the ball from deep. City have centre backs sprinting the byline to receive the ball to play it out, we have two midfielders doing god knows what. It’s really poor coaching, but let’s be fair here, it’s also because Coquelin isn’t comfortable receiving the ball there.

We also had a problem from midfield breaking through PSG. They pressed us fairly agressively, well, I mean, they pressed us and we didn’t have an answer. I think in games like that, when you know it’s going to be tough, you need your ball players on hand. Santi would have been great, but he’s out. So go to Xhaka and Ramsey.

Also, for all the mad critiques of Ramsey, he had a pretty powerful game. He took a while to get into it, but when he did, I thought he did way better than the stream of criticism he was getting. He made the 3rd most passes of the night on 59, Ozil made 43 with Coquelin on 38. He had 3 successful take ons, 3 times the nearest rival. He made 12 ball recoveries, the most of the night. He made 5 tackles, attempting 9. He made 2 interceptions, joint top with Sanchez. He also made 3 fouls, because he’s a LAD.

Our most influential player of the evening. Combative, contributed in attack and defence, the only thing he lacked was creativity, which usually falls on Mesut…

Performance:

I think we’ve seen enough stuttering performances this season to start worrying that this is about our level. We haven’t had a good game against a decent team since, what, Chelsea? Wenger doesn’t seem to be able to strike the balance between defensive caution and attacking flair. Again, as has been the case all season, we created very little moving forward, yet were rewarded with two goals of 1 shot on target. Mesut was pretty quiet again, not really dictating play like he was last year.

So what’s the problem here? Does Wenger need to go back to basics and work out how he brought the best out of Ozil in the first half of the season? Does he need to have an honest conversation about what we lose and gain with a Coquelin? Does he need to have a word with Xhaka? What’s going on there? The solution appears to be sitting on the bench? Wenger had an excuse that is pretty convincing.

“Sometimes you go through spells when you win a bit less.”

We’re going to go one of two ways now… the flat performances are going to perk up and we’re going to see a reaction, or we’re going to lose to Bournemouth and see a midseason capitulation.

My worry is Wenger sees what we’re seeing and he doesn’t know what to do. He’ll also be aware we’re 18 games unbeaten, and that we usually react badly to a loss after such a stretch. My second worry is he’s running out of options to change things. Ozil and Sanchez do not look fresh now. My third worry is we have beastly games coming thick and fast in December.

Not a great evening. We’re in December, we’re worse off in the league than we were last year, and we’re in the same position we were in the Champions League.

Progress feels like stasis. Stasis is not going to take us to the promised land. Time for Wenger to get creative and show us he has the right to be running our club for the next 3 years. Because on face value, it looks like he’s proving once again he can’t cut it.

160 Responses to “Arsene running out of ideas as season hits familiar pattern + CL last 16 possibilities”

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  1. Ankit_gooner

    This squad is pretty perfect in terms of player profile.Of course you can upgrade quality,but in terms of player profile,its a complete squad.Only thing lacking is a world class no9.Alexis and theo form a great partnership but sometimes I wish I could have welbeck with theo’s movement and finishing.

  2. vicky

    Ankit

    “Centrebacks would need to drift wide,these are different positions and would take time getting used to”

    Yes, it certainly would, that’s why I suggested we employ it against smaller teams like Swansea,Sunderland etc. to see how it pans out.

    “Now both midfielders need to cover into wide positions often.”

    Would you please elaborate this point ? I don’t really understand why would CMs need to stretch wide with Bellerin and say Theo/Ox playing on either side- one playing deeper (bellerin) and the other playing slightly advanced ( neither as wing back nor as a winger, somewhere in between )

    Although I agree the switch would require more hard work and better understanding but it has a lot of advantages as well. No harm in trying against smaller teams I say.

    “.If opposition has 1 striker,you are basically wasting 1 defender.2 wingbacks”

    That is theoretically one of the biggest drawbacks of 3-5-2 and it’s a valid one. Against teams with one strikers, generally DCM drops deeper to play as the third CB. Besides, I would not want us to go with 2 traditional wing backs. Would like to see one wing back in Bellerin and a traditional winger on the other side to ensure there’s no overload of defenders in the team.

  3. Ankit_gooner

    Would you please elaborate this point ? I don’t really understand why would CMs need to stretch wide with Bellerin and say Theo/Ox playing on either side- one playing deeper (bellerin) and the other playing slightly advanced ( neither as wing back nor as a winger, somewhere in between )

    Then either the fullbacks have to go inside or CMs are to cover wide positions.I think we have seen enough of tricky ball players drifting into the gap between cb-fb area,that whole vertical lane and cause a lot of damage. I hate 1v1s defensively,there must always be support.Often against a tricky direct winger,monreal struggles.But it is the central midfielders who need to drift wide to provide a numerical superiority there.These problem would increase in a 352.

  4. vicky

    “I think we have seen enough of tricky ball players drifting into the gap between cb-fb area,that whole vertical lane and cause a lot of damage”

    Then what explains Chelsea not conceding a single goal since their formation change ?

  5. Emiratesstroller

    CA

    Team selections should be made not just on how Wenger wants to play but factoring in also how the opposition are playing as well.

    The problem with our midfield apart from Ozil is that there is not a lot of variety in our squad. That is actually one of the main reasons that a decision was made by Wilshire and his management to leave the club.

    They recognised that Wilshire was no longer a shoe in starter at the club and
    there were too many other players of similar performance levels competing for just two places in the team.

    Arsenal bought this summer Xhaka who was highly rated in Germany and around Europe and cost us £35 million. Yet he is not guaranteed a starting place in the team.

    He is basically competing with Ramsey, Cazorla, Elneny and Coquelin for one
    of two places available in our lineup.

  6. ughelligunner

    vicky, chelsea formation change didnt stop man utd from having more shots on target at them, chelsea won with every 4 shots on target. Swansea, southampton, hull, everton, to name a few. Apart from southampton which they edge out by a goal, these teams are not really supersonic.
    But all the same, we can say they have a whole week to refine their positional play. We would have just a day or two to switch from champions league to Epl format

  7. Cesc Appeal

    ES

    I just don’t think we can dominate a central midfield anymore, Ozil is not a presence type player, he is not physical, he doesn’t have a high work rate when it comes to getting back, a friend of mine described him as the ‘definition of a luxury player,’ he didn’t mean it wholly as a negative, Ozil is great at what he does, but he seems to be a player you have in your team when everything else in front of him and behind him is all worked out.

    I just don’t think Wenger has a plan for this team, its just a collection of players to play, there does not seem a train of thought or a team identity, we still lack skill and steel in the centre of midfield, we still lack a cutting edge up top I feel.

  8. ughelligunner

    As for ozil, he is what he is. Yeah, he seems to play the game as his body carries him, not him carrying his body. That is what we have to deal with.

    Wenger not having an idea of what the team is, hmmmm..well without an idea we are always here, that means with a little idea we will be were we all want us to be. I guess we are all saying the same thing but in different supportive way, concerning the team we all cherish.

  9. Bamford10

    Ankit

    “If [we] have a midfield with Xhaka-Ramsey-Ozil, and ahead of them Iwobi-Alexis-Theo. It’s quite balanced.”

    “This squad is pretty perfect in terms of player profile … [It’s] a complete squad. Only thing lacking is a world class no. 9.”

    You seem pretty optimistic about the squad and its possibilities, which on one level I can understand. In theory, a central midfield of Xhaka-Ramsey-Ozil sounds quite solid. But this seems only to be true when one imagines each of these three at his best and when one imagines the three working together as a unit. But have we seen this in practice? I’d say no.

    As for a “complete squad,” I’d say our central midfield remains dubious. Again, when you imagine these players at their best, our midfield seems class. But in reality or in practice, when have we seen this?

    Could Ramsey be a great CM? Sure, if he tidied up his game, became more consistent. Could Xhaka be a great CDM? Maybe, though I wonder about his ability to cover ground and his decision-making. Could Ozil be a great complement to them? Maybe, but only if he actually played in midfield in combination with them, only if he showed up in big games, etc.

    My main questions are: what was the key to our quality of player early in the season? Was this more a matter of weak opponents than our own quality? Why has our level fallen so? etc.