T-Minus 13 Days until Kickoff: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

So here we are with the first game of the new season, the opener against Liverpool, 13 days away and the Arsenal squad still isn’t settled. With Giroud not yet back in full training, and with Özil, Alexis, and others recovering from their various international duties, it looks like Arsenal are going to start the season with Theo Walcott as our center forward.

The match against Chivas was a good example of the good, bad, and ugly of this current squad. The good is that Cazorla returned and showed us what we were missing in midfield. Despite the fact that he’s the smallest player on the team, he’s so lighting fast and has such incredible ball control that he’s able to skip past most other midfielders and create space for himself and his teammates. It’s not just his stats (KPs, dribbles, shots, passing) but it’s the fact that he offers a second choice for teams to have to try to cover when Arsenal play with Özil up front. Having that second player on the pitch opens the game up for everyone and makes Arsenal more dangerous. As Wenger put it,

He is our technical security in midfield and we missed him for five or six months last season. At the moment he is not completely there on the fitness front.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has also been fantastic in these first two matches. I’ve long said that Ox is the real deal. He’s got all the qualities you want from a wide player: he’s quick, he’s tricky, and he’s got a powerful shot. He reads the passing lanes wonderfully, he can run onto through balls, or play through balls to teammates. He’s also got a good cross, and if he can get to the end line, his drag backs are dangerous. He’s added left-footed shooting to his game over the last two years and uses his ambipedal talents to great effect, as we saw with his goal against Chivas. The frustrating thing about Ox is that he’s shown us this brilliance in pre-season before and after the promise of pre-season then he’s dropped off physically and/or picked up an injury and never fully recovered form. And again, Wenger gave praise to the youngster;

It’s a very important season for him. He has been out for a long, long time. He has been injured and did not go to the European Championship, like he should have done if he had been fit. That’s why I’m cautious with him. I gave him 45 minutes [against MLS All-Stars], now 70 minutes. I hope I can get him through and fit for the start of the season. [He gives us] power, penetration. He has it all, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It’s difficult what he doesn’t have – that’s why I would like him to get to the level he can go to. Maybe he doesn’t completely believe himself how good he can be and that’s the final step for him.

I also quite like the young center backs that Arsenal are promoting. Chambers can be frustrating with his awful tackling and Holding has managed to give the ball away on simple passes several times, both are things which cannot be tolerated at the Arsenal level. But they, along with Bielik, represent a great chance of having some future homegrown stars in the Arsenal defense. As for the fullbacks, we have two automatic starters in Bellerin and Monreal, with one decent backup in Gibbs. Wenger was effusive in the praise for Holding and I can see why.

Another good is that Arsenal have too many central midfielders! Özil, Cazorla, and Wilshere, along with Iwobi, all want to play in the #10 spot. Cazorla has been moved back in midfield but then he’s competing with Xhaka, Elneny, and Ramsey for the #8. Xhaka does play a bit deeper so, I’m comfortable calling him a #6 — though with his range of passing, he’s much more Pirlo than Makelele. So, by my account Arsenal have the #6 position well stocked with Xhaka and Coquelin. In the #8, you have three players, Elneny, Ramsey, and Cazorla — if he’s fit, I give Cazorla the starting spot. And in the #10 you have Özil starting with Wilshere playing backup.

Ramsey can also be used wide right which is good because Arsenal really need options. Right now, the only viable starter down the right is Ox. Campbell hasn’t really improved in the last two years and we saw all of the same weaknesses in his game that we have seen throughout his career. He’s not really able to break down a defense, not the way Ox can, though he does offer a solid defensive presence. Walcott could play on the right but what you gain in speed you lose in almost all of the other qualities you want from a wide player.

Iwobi on the left didn’t really work. He was simply anonymous throughout the match until he moved inside. So, Arsenal need to find a left-sided backup for Alexis. Many of the other young players that Arsenal have given time to, like Akpom, have been a sort of mixed bag. I can see why people like The Jeff and Akpom has scored twice, but I just don’t see them as ready to play in a Premier League game. Maybe we will see more over the next two weeks as Arsenal play in Norway and Sweden, with the latter a match against Man City, our first real test of the pre-season.

One of the bads is Debuchy. I thought he was a decent fullback up until he had his shoulder broken by Arnautovic. Then he lost his starting position to Bellerin and has never seemed to recover. I’m not just judging him based on the fact that he gave away a penalty against Chivas. This is how he has played in nearly every match since returning. And even in his loan spell at Bordeaux, he was poor. I don’t know if it’s mental or what the problem is, but Arsenal need him to recover or for Wenger to splurge on his replacement.

The ugly is Walcott. It’s a tragic tale, really. He was a player that showed so much promise from such a young age. And then he was called up to the World Cup squad. Then he was injured or he had surgery on his shoulders and sat out for a few years. Then he had a good season. There was all that “sign da ting” stuff. Then he got this huge new contract. And now, he looks like a player who has had bricks installed on the ends of his legs. He is still a threat with his speed but unless he’s running onto a ball served up on a plate, he’s a turnover machine. He cannot hold the ball up, his decision making is almost always bad, and when he tries to break a team down with a dribble it’s basically just going to be a turnover. If there was ever a time when we needed Les Crang to write us a Rogues Gallery piece it would be now and the topic would have to be Walcott.

I’m going to get a lot of grief now for “hammering” Walcott. Most of which will follow the logic of “it’s only pre-season.” But I never get grief for saying that a player has looked good during pre-season, so unless you reject all pre-season discussion (and one wonders why you read anything about Arsenal at all before the season starts in that case), then I can’t really accept your “it’s only pre-season” argument. But more to the point, it’s not just pre-season. Walcott and Debuchy have been bad for years. I’m not denying that they both play well in patches but the most important thing about being a player at the Arsenal level is consistency and neither of them have found that.

But, unless Wenger pulls a Lacazette or an iCardi out of his hat, Walcott is probably going to be Arsenal’s starting center forward in 13 days. So, let’s hope he finds one of those rare purple patches. And soon.

Qq

52 Comments on T-Minus 13 Days until Kickoff: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

  1. Ox needs to go on loan to prove himself; enough of another ‘important season’ of his at the expense of Arsenal. Would Bayern, RM, Barca, etc let wannabes try their luck year after years? No.

    Would you not rate Wenger’s pre season performance; he’s probably most important in terms of ability to impact Arsenal’s 16/17 result? Surely Wenger is not good enough judging what he’s done in the transfer market (that we could see).. Can’t simply judge him in May (2017?).

    • Wenger’s managerial philosophy hasn’t changed: Arsenal still look to pass the ball vertically at almost every chance.

      He may have shown some flexibility with the two-man DM scheme against Chivas but I’d be stunned if he actually keeps that going.

      Basically, he’s just trying things out right now. He’s been fine, no real changes. What he will be rated on will be his ability to buy this summer. If he fails to get a striker in, I think the summer will be seen as a loss.

  2. Ox needs to go on loan to prove himself; enough of another ‘important season’ of his at the expense of Arsenal. Would Bayern, RM, Barca, etc let wannabes try their luck year after years? No.

    Would you not rate Wenger’s pre season performance; he’s probably most important in terms of ability to impact Arsenal’s 16/17 result? Surely Wenger is not good enough judging what he’s done in the transfer market (that we could see).. Can’t simply judge him in May (2017?).

  3. Yesterday, during a period of unjustified optimism I started believing that we will sign three more players: Mustafi, Mahrez and Lacazette. And that got me thinking.

    If they come, they are all probably starters most of the time. And there are only seven substitutes that can be on the bench.
    Assuming that Lacazette, Ozil, Sanchez, Mahrez, Ramsey and Xhaka are starters, and Ospina, Gabriel and Gibbs are a must, who do you drop out from the squad entirely? Wilshere? Ox? Elneny? Cazorla? Walcott? Coquelin? Giroud? Chambers? Iwobi?
    I know there is always rotation, but that is quite a competition for only four places, and given how Wenger always emphasizes the unity of the squad, that makes me think that we will not quite see the additions we crave for.

    • You forgot about injuries. This is Arsenal we are talking about. Pretty sure a third of the players will be spending a fair amount of time in the infirmary so I don’t think you need to worry about who to leave out from the match day squad.

    • Excellent point. If Lacazette and Mahrez come in then Walcott must leave, they both occupy the same position as does nominally the Ox. The bench when everyone is healthy is Ospina (GK), Gabriel (CB), Gibbs or Debuchey (FB), Coquelin (Lock-down DM for when we have a lead), Ox (wing), Giroud (CF), Cazorla (MF). Wilshere, Elneny, Iwobi, Chambers, Holding, one of Gibbs or Debuchey, the Jeff etc. all out of the squad.

      That to me speaks of too much middling depth.

      • That last sentence seems wrong on a number of levels.
        First of all, it’s far better to have too much depth than too little. All the biggest clubs in Europe tend to err on the side of “too much,” which might mean some frustrated players at points in the season, but also means intense competition for places, and cover when injuries, fatigue, suspensions, loss of form, etc, hit.

        Second, I don’t think much of our depth can fairly be described as “middling”. After all, one can hardly expect the squad players to be at EXACTLY the same level as the starters (and indeed it’s because our backups ARE so good that we might seem to have a problem of trying to satisfy so many players who are all expecting to start).

        Third, as has already been mentioned, we will never have all of these players healthy at the same time. It wouldn’t even require the typical injury crisis of Arsenal proportions to show up your worry of having too much depth as unfounded: most clubs during the season have at least 2-3 first team squad members out injured. Sometimes this is more like 6 or 7.

        I agree with you that Walcott needs to go. I think maybe Joel as well. Unpopular opinion, I know, but while he is good enough to be in the squad I think that other players–e.g. Iwobi, Ox–have more of a potential upside, so for his own sake, and for the sake of the club recouping some of the transfer funds we’re all hoping they spend, it might be time for Joel to move on. He’s a good player–much more than just a hard worker, as some like to describe him–but his attacking approach is a bit limited–reliant on cutting inside and playing quick one-twos–and perhaps better suited for Spain. It could even make sense to offer him to Valencia as a makeweight in the Mustafi deal. Plus, in all likelihood Debuchy will be sold and/or Holding or Chambers will go out on loan, and it’s hardly a major problem if young players like the Jeff, Iwobi, and Holding, don’t make the match squad every week.

    • Apparently, Valencia want a huge amount of money for Mustafi. Mahrez is unsettled but will likely end up staying because Ranieri wants him to stay, and would not want him to move to a possible title challenger, and Lacazette is not Wenger’s first choice. I doubt we will get 1 or even all 3 of them.

      There is no point in speculating what the squad will be like until the start of the season.

      In addition, Wilshere is injured as per usual, and a few of those players are still recovering from the summer. Then there are the injuries that will undoubtedly whittle the squad down to its bare bones.

      • I’d be OK if we didn’t get any of the three. Buy one player – pay the rumoured 84million for Griezman and be done with it. The only player conceivably available that would definitely improve our squad and not kill morale by knocking players down the pecking order.

        • Griezmann would send Arsenal’s fanbase into a collective megaorgasm. But it won’t happen. Also, Arsenal definitely want to buy a CB as well. If Griezmann comes in, we’ll need to get some middling defender most likely.

        • Ok, I like Griezman, but the level of fanboy adulation this guy is getting is a bit over the top and more than a little nauseating. The ONLY player conceivably available that would definitely improve our squad? Really?????
          It’s not obvious that he’s even the ideal player for us, given that he’s probably not best suited to play as a lone frontman in our style/system (he could play as a wide attacker, but then so could a number of others, e.g. Mahrez, but as we all know, we need a new CF), but is better as part of a partnership. People will then suggest (as they have been, unimaginatively, since the Euros) that we play two up top with Griezman and Giroud, but any formation/personnel change that REQUIRES us to start Giroud is a bad idea; he’s simply not good enough to be made that central to our plans. Rather, we need a replacement/alternative to Giroud, someone who still allows our best players–e.g. Ozil and Sanchez–to play in their preferred positions, and allows Wenger to play his favored 4-2-3-1, but is better, faster, more skillful, and more clinical than the big Frenchman, who would then offer backup.
          Of course, all of this is completely academic, because GRIEZMAN IS NOT AVAILABLE THIS SUMMER, not for the “rumored” (ha!) 84 million or any other number. He just signed a big new contract at Athletico, seems to love playing under Simeone, and is at a club that are, in most recent history, more successful than Arsenal. Plus, if he were available, don’t you think bigger fish than us, e.g. Real, Barcelona, Bayern–or failing them, teams more willing to spend silly money, e.g. City, United, and Chelsea–would have first dibs?

  4. Walcott has been just terrible in pre-season, and, you’re right, it’s not “just” pre-season we’re talking about here. He’s been in serious decline for some time now.

    I was hoping he’d use the summer to re-focus, and use the England rejection much like he did the last time he was rejected by the national team: to motivate a renewed sense of purpose and hunger. But when I look at him now, I just see a dude going through the motions. I think in his mind, he’s gone, and he knows it. The problem is getting Wenger to know it, because Wenger loves Walcott, it seems.

    Honestly, I’d rather Akpom start against Liverpool. Walcott offers nothing. Worse, he’s a liability. At least with Akpom you’ll get a decent effort, and you’ll also find him in good positions to score (he’s quite good at making opportunities for himself). With Walcott the only thing you’re guaranteed is a turnover.

  5. Pre-season’s been oddly encouraging so far. Real games of 11 vs 11 on the way. And Messi, Suarez & Neymar haven’t signed for Tottenham so all is well with the world.

  6. By “… let’s hope he finds one of those rare purple patches”, I assume you’re referring to Wenger’s shopping prowess?

  7. I find it really difficult to get excited by the prospect of what Theo might become any more. He’s been at Arsenal 10 years, a lot of that time as a regular starter. I think the player he is now is as good as it’s going to get. The turn overs and bad decision making are always going to be part of his game. It’s been that way for years and I think if he was going to improve those elements of his game he would have by now. I think a move to another club could be good for both him and Arsenal.

    As others have pointed out, he could be an effective player on a team set up to play a different brand of football. He’s just never going to be as effective as he can be when he’s playing in a team that’s going to be facing two banks of four 90% of the time.

  8. it’s very nice having cazorla back.
    i made the point last season that wenger is taking the kid gloves off with oxlade-chamberlain. he’ll be fine if he can stay fit.
    chambers has a nasty side to his game that i can’t say i really like. i’ve always said he’s only a central defender and not a rb. we’ll see.
    the jury’s out on holding; simply haven’t seen enough. however, he does look competent.

    the bad, i never understood why arsenal signed debuchy. they had a younger, bigger, stronger, faster, better, and cheaper option in serge aurier who’s also capable of playing as a central defender. not to mention, aurier wanted to come to arsenal. we’ll see how the club deal with debuchy.

    the ugly, i mentioned for over two years now that theo walcott is not a center forward. i got so many thumbs down and criticisms for my comments. i nearly always preface my comments of that nature with a “time will tell” or “we’ll see”. well, i think time has told, boys. it’s been ten years. a blind man can see that this is a failed project. as far as how poorly theo played, that’s more down to wenger. theo knows now that he cant play center forward but wenger keeps throwing him into an impossible situation. now, his confidence is completely shot. he seriously looks like someone who’s never played soccer before. wenger should get that kid back out wide and let him do what he’s good at and the game is more predictable to him. we’ll see what happens.

      • That was last season with Lauren Blanc. This preseason with Emery he’s captained the team and scored 2 goals in that game

        • Aurier is an outstanding footballer period. PSG probably won’t let him leave for good reason. As for off-field behaviour, Aurier’s a saint compared to Bendtner.

    • I would venture we signed Debuchy over Aurier because of Bellerin. Two young, attacking full backs might have been overkill. I thought Debuchy was a great signing and was doing very well for us. Even after his first injury he came back well. But the timing of the second injury, combined by his desperation to make the French team did his head in. He’s gonzo, and we’re better off for not taking Aurier anyway.

      • This is the obvious reply to the Aurier/Debuchy debate. Wenger knew, before any of us fans did, what a gem he had in Bellerin.

  9. Preseason like spring is a time for hope and dreams and so once again I remain hopeful until 8/15 when I will see what reality has in store for us.

    I am very hopeful about the Ox who was destroying that Chivas (L) side all evening. I think the Ox is better than Kingsley Koman and can be our Moussa Sissoko with an actual end product in his game.

    I didn’t like Debuchy at Newcastle and I only tolerated him because Wenger saw fit to buy him. Now, Debuchy is worse than he ever was at Newcastle and letting himself get owned in that Chivas game was an embarrassment to us all.

    I am not one for throwing Walcott out with the bath water because he needs our support and our faith that he can get it right. I will say that you know your shite is weak when you’re having to post your pre-preseason workout videos to win us over.

    I like Akpom because besides the goals, I didn’t see him fall down once, fall down clutching a body part, fall down and roll around, fall down and roll around and hold up an arm in painful surrender while clutching a body part.

  10. It’s preseason Tim. Ox might wow you now, but comes the crux of the PL, he will crumble, either by injury or expectations. Unless, if we got a new right midfielder. It will really help Ox, i think instead of hampering his development. Judging by his problem, lower pressure on becoming a starter and making an impact will calm him down and slowly building his confidence.

    I agree with what you think with Iwobi too. Now, that the honeymoon phase is over, people will not just seen his good side but also his bad side. Although, i don’t really think we need a new left midfielder. We have Alexis and good thing Ox can also cover there if needed. A new prospect like Willock, also seems interesting enough.

    On Arsenal as a whole, so it’s only pre season but I think it’s not that much encouraging. Especially, with only Xhaka as the new addition. It felt same old Arsenal. I want to feel confident going into new season, but if what we show in the preseason is anything to go by, we will have the same weakness when we’re out of possession. That means we either going to be cruelly done by some counter attacking chances or getting outplayed by a more organized opponents. The worry is, PL now have abundance of that type of opposition. Now that not only have I am bit sceptical with our CL campaign, our PL campaign might also starting to sound too hard thanks to our rival have pretty good manager.The need for new addition that can give us the sparks to bail as out when we have the possession, is so crucial. We can’t just rely on Alexis and Ozil in the final third all the time with an added burden to Ramsey to make something happens too, which makes him disregard his other job, if he is partnering Xhaka.

    • I don’t agree. We need a technically good left sided attacker with directness. Sanchez is all effort and directness, but he is no Pires. And that is something which Arsenal have been missing for quite a many years. I would say getting someone in like Draxler to play on the left and having Alexis feed off Giroud on knock downs can be a way forward.

      But that would mean changing the formation to a 4-4-2 and then the problem arises around accommodating our no 10 Ozil.

      Lots of decisions for Wenger before the new season, mostly around how to get the best out of the current crop of players.

  11. Two points of slight disagreement.
    1. Campbell. I think he’s exactly the sort of squad option a team needs. He can do a bit of everything, and while he may not be the swashbuckler that Ox is, he plays very neatly and can pass and finish. A steady, if unspectacular player, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    2. Iwobi. I thought he did well on the wings last season. Whether he wants to play as no.10 or not doesn’t matter. He does a good job out wide. However, he is still raw and will hit a wall at some point this season.

    Overall, I agree we need another winger and that Theo should go. He does actually have a very good cross on him, but what he brings to the team is nowhere near enough to make up for what he takes away. I’d be glad to see him go, even as I wish him well for the future.

    As for the Liverpool game. I find it very difficult to worry at the start of any season. I just feel happy it’s going to start, and I believe even lesser players can step up for a few games.

    I think Akpom might have a chance to start too. He’s got better all round cf play than Theo, and perhaps we’ll have a better idea of where we stand by the time the last pre season game comes around.

    Oh, and what of Gnabry? I think that guy really has some of the same attributes you (and Wenger) like about the Ox. He was all set to be a member of the first team by now, but injury and then that horrible loan (which apparently he insisted on) lost him some time. Now it’s the Olympics. He’ll probably go on loan again, but maybe he could play a role this season.

  12. Several people need to just shut the f**k up and they include Bruno Genesio from Lyon, Dupraz from Toulouse and the Belfast Telegraph.
    We don’t need Lacazette’s manager flapping his gums about what could happen to Lacazette if the right offer came in before 8/31. Not helping. Dupraz if you could only get €8 mil (just a single digit price) for Ben Yedder then you can be damn sure Arsenal had no interest in Kevin Gamiero lite what so ever.
    We will not be giving the Belfast Telegraph the biggest sports story in Northern Ireland in this century by signing Jonny Evans.

    • Although there is no connection to Arsenal, would Sunderland’s new manger STFU about how unfair his treatment was at Man U because he was so far over his head that Man U’s Wikipedia page has him edited out.

  13. I think the Ox has been great this preseason and he’s better than Kingsley Koman and can be our Moussa Sissoko with actual end product. The Ox has also stepped up his defensive game as well so far.
    I never cared for Debuchy at Newcastle and only tolerated him because Wenger bought him. Now he is worse than in his Newcastle days and letting himself get owned by the Chivas (L) MF was an embarrassment to us all.
    I am a firm believer in Campbell and think he is a keeper.
    We don’t throw Walcott out with the bath water because when it clicks in his head, he will be a monster again. I will say though that it is never a good sign when a player post pre-preseason workout videos to win over the supporters with his dedication.

    • So far, I’ve like Akpom’s game and I appreciate that he has not fallen down, not fallen down and clutched a body part while grimacing in agony, not fallen down and clutched a body part while grimacing in agony and waving an arm about to call for an emergency amputation of said body part.

    • Saying Ox is better than Coman and implying Ox strength is end product, is unnecessary borderline wrong. Just want to say that, no need for explanation right? Sorry ctpa.

    • When was that time when Walcott was a “monster” again? As I recall, even when he was regularly scoring goals (which occurred in like 2 purple patches a few years ago), he was giving the ball away cheaply, running into defenders, couldn’t pick a pass to save his life, was too lightweight/clueless to play regularly at CF, etc, etc. Of course he’s got incredible pace, and when he times his runs just right, and everything goes perfectly for him, he can (CAN!) be deadly. But he’s always been this bad of an all-around footballer, who just doesn’t cut it at a club aspiring to be one of the best in the world.

  14. By the way Tim,
    nice throwback with the title of the post. I loved the Good, Bad and Ugly match recaps back in the day.

  15. The good is we have cash in the bank, re-negotiated commercial deals, and EPL television money. The bad is we have the team of Kroenke as owner, Gazidis as CEO, and Wenger as manager to spend it as they see fit and they seem to prioritize cash in hand over “risky” transfer buying. Ugly will be the mood in the Arsenal fandom if we haven’t bought a ready for prime time attacker and a defender at the minimum at the close of the transfer window.

  16. I’ve been reading since 2011 and this is my first comment Tim. That Rogues Gallery piece would be quite appropriate. Walcott has disappointed me as I truly believed he could be the striker Wenger saw in him. I agree that its time he played for another club.

    I share the fears of most gunners, namely that Wenger won’t buy the requisite amount of players the club need to win the league. I love Wenger as a manager and a human being, but I fear he may leave before he wins another league title.

    What I wanted to ask the “seasoned” gunners on this blog is what Arsenal was like before Wenger. Also, what do they think Arsenal will be like if he were to leave at the end of his contract.

    • I’m working my way through Tony Adams’ Addicted. A huge portion of the book takes place during the Graham era and I can say a few things about that team and that Arsenal. First it was a different era. Tony Adams went to jail for DUI. He would routinely get drunk on almost every day off and went on huge benders. That behavior was not only tolerated but kind of supported. Needless to say, that culture is gone and if a drunk does get through the cracks (Bendtner) he is shuffled out of the club quickly.

      Also, Arsenal’s style has changed radically from those Graham days. I’ll probably get abuse for saying this but Arsenal were more like Leicester than the Arsenal we think of today: defense first, counter attacking, etc. Graham just drilled that team in defending. They also had a high press, according to Tony, so most of their work was done without the ball.

      And one other thing that struck me is the fact that Adams’ start to his career at Arsenal was full of mistakes. I dare say he wouldn’t have gotten a chance to play for Arsenal if he was a 19 year old on this team and made the errors he made back when he was first starting.

      It was almost like going back in time 60 years but in reality it was just 20 years ago that the league changed. And most of that change was done by Wenger.

      • It most certainly was a different era. I suspect it wasn’t as structured as today and players resembled people rather than implausible brand images. Tony Adams is a remarkable club legend and (I’ve read) genuinely nice person. It takes a lot to overcome what he did and go on to succeed. I would have loved to have known a few of that squad (David Rocastle and Alan Smith come to mind).

        Interestingly the style you mention makes me wonder if “The Arsenal Way” has anything to do with the actual style of play. I think it would denote the manner in which the players and the club conduct themselves. For example doing business with integrity and honour. I don’t know any of this for sure.

        You mention how Tony struggled and that makes me think of Chambers and Jenkinson. Is Arsenal the right club for young defenders to develop? It would seem not, with the current way the team plays (sometimes leaving defenders too exposed for too long).How long did it take Koscielny to find his feet? How many highly rated defenders have not made it. Johan Djourou, Ignasi Miguel also were rated highly.

        Anyway, I’ll hope for the best. I am becoming weary though. Thanks Tim

      • Another significant difference between now and George Graham’s era is that the league was composed of 99% British players then, compared with roughly 1/3 now. The standard of play has improved dramatically as more players have come from abroad – 2/3 of the players in the old First Division would be playing in the Championship or below today.

  17. Ox is a head-down player (like Theo Walcott) who flourihes in pre-season. Heck, even Sanogo scored four in pre-season. His twin challenges are consistency are staying free of injury. I hope that Arsene is right in his assessment (he usually is), but I can’t get excited about Ox after watching him all these years. I do want him to prove me wrong, though, so good luck to one of the truly nice guys in the squad.

    Holding is going to be immense. Yes, he’s made mistakes, but this is a huge step up for him. I love his ball-playing skills.

    We seemed to lose our way in transfer planning after the Vardy rejection. We just do not seem decisive in our buying, like an old lady fussily examining tomatoes, and walking away without making a purchase.

    • Head down has been exactly the problem with Ox. That and wanting to do too much rather than playing the game as it comes. But, this pre season, I’ve been watching and it appears to me that he’s being more judicious with how and when he goes on his runs, and he’s keeping his head up more often. Still early, but encouraging.

      • I hope that I’m wrong, but I’m just not seeing it with the Ox. His first touch and vision are below average for an attacking player, he still has no idea when to release the ball or carry it forward, and seems to get lost when he doesn’t have the ball – I don’t know how you trust him as anything more than an impact sub when the game is starting to get stretched. At best, he might become Andros Townsend. I’m a bit concerned that AW’s desire to show that he can build around British players has resulted in a weak spot for players like the Ox.

  18. Draxler wants out of Wolfsburg, he basically sent a come and get me message to Wenger. Wonder if he is still interested, how doable the deal is and if it change Arsenes plans (assuming they exist)

  19. So apparently Draxler wants to leave Wolfsburg. Arsenal and Juventus linked (not sure how reliably)

    Do we want Mahrez over Draxler? Will we be happy if we get Draxler to play as a striker?

    • Draxler make sense. I can see Lyon twitching
      and getting annoyed because they know we have that option.
      More importanly I hope getting him is easier because everyone else
      has blown their wad. City have got Sane, Utd are spunking 100 mil
      on an ex girlfriend and Leicester are trying to keep Mahrez.
      Even chelsea look done and dusted with Batshuyai and Juventus
      have set fire to the POGBA money on a 29 year old (seriously wtf!!??).
      Unless he thinks his future is in Tottenham or Juventus there is only
      us. Unless Barca and Real come calling but they are choking with talent.

    • If the reports are to believed Draxler not only burned his bridges at Wolfsburg but flooded the riverbeds so you can’t even see the burning wreckage of the bridges by calling them a “springboard.” I mean think of the fan reaction if Cesc had called Arsenal a springboard to a bigger club? So Draxler certainly seems to be pushing for a move. He seems to have lost his way recently and has had some injury problems but he’s still very young at 22, hugely talented, and Wenger has openly admired him. For the coming season though we need 15 goals to compete for a title and is he really going to be THAT player? He seems to have more potential than actual end product as one would expect of a player at his point on the development curve. At this point, he seems to add more competition for the right wing spot without actually being the real deal. Maybe he’s better than Ox, Iwobi, Ramsey, Campbell, the Jeff, etc but is he 15 goals better? A couple of seasons from now maybe. Still, we’d at least be able to move Walcott on if he came so there’s that. As an addition to bona fide center forward I’d be ok with him as a cheaper alternative to Mahrez but I’d still rather push the boat out for Rihad.

    • draxler could follow a similar track from striker/winger to center forward that van persie did. while he may not have the technical skill level that van persie possessed (rvp was a baaaad aaaaass at feyenoord), he’s not far behind, he’s got everything else, and he’s still fairly young. most importantly, he doesn’t have to replace giroud right now but he could give arsenal depth while developing/adapting to a new team/league/position with minimal pressure to perform. i’m certainly more interested in seeing draxler arrive than i would be to see lacazette. let’s see if this happens.

      • Draxler bears a resemblance to van Persie in a number of ways, including hopefully winger turned centre forward. And he’s young and mouldable.

        I wouldn’t mind either of them. Mahrez can have an instant Pires effect, but I worry about how left-footed he is (very).

        You get the feeling that the sky’s the limit for Drazler in terms of how good he can become.

  20. When Liverpool and Arsenal meet on 13th August, we would have been on the back of 5 matches which includes an all star game. Liverpool on the other hand would have had played 9 games and their players sure to be sharper than the gunners.

    Worrying times these but, if I were Wenger I would probably look at contingencies for the first 2 matches against Liverpool and Leicester. We cannot get to a bad start with defeats, it will affect the morale of the squad. By contingencies I mean planning with players who are at a better physical level than the ones with better technical abilities.

    Likes of Elneny who will not be fancy with his footwork but, seems to be in much better shape than the likes of Iwobi and others. Getting that starting XI right on the 13th will be crucial.

    • This isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but if you’re a betting man, bet on us losing to Liverpool. We’re going into that game with a rag-tag collection of players, no discernible striker, an inexperienced center-back pairing, and a central midfield devoid of creativity (since Ozil and Ramsey are unavailable, and there are serious doubts about the fitness of Wilshere and Cazorla). We’ll need to set up as defensively as possible if we are to rescue even a point. Sorry. Just my opinion. Happy to proven wrong, etc.

      • The sainted Santi is plainly fat. Despite not being in Spain’s Euro squad, he has, like Nasri at City, simply let himself go a bit in the off-season. That is a bit disappointing.

        Theo on the other hand is in terrific shape physically, but plainly not mentally or technically. He could start by default.

        My money would be on a draw, and two points from the first two games.

      • I could definitely see us losing to Liverpool. We’re probably going to be short some of our best players and Liverpool are a decent team. What I don’t think it will be is the end of the world if we do lose.

        I know you’ve been fairly underwhelmed by our transfer business so far. Do you think we’ll get top 4 this year?

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