Move Alexis to CF? I doubt he would like that.

Common question I get on twitter is “why doesn’t Arsene put (insert player) wide and let Alexis have the CF role?” This is sometimes followed by “then Arsenal don’t have to buy a CF.”

I’m not criticizing this question, at all. It’s a great question and one which I have wondered for at least two seasons. I love seeing a player like Alexis getting in behind defenders, popping up with shots inside the 18 yard box, and causing havoc in the opposition defense.

But what if Alexis is in exactly the role he wants to be in? I think the evidence points to that rather than Wenger forcing him wide.

For Chile he plays in the exact position he plays for Arsenal: collecting the ball deep on the left, taking on defenders, cutting back on his right, playing in crosses from wide, finding teammates with through balls, and of course turning the ball over a lot. For Chile plays that role with a forward in front of him, Vargas and for Arsenal he’s got Welbeck, Walcott, Giroud, and even Özil making cuts in front.

It’s not a coincidence that the Alexis to Özil was the second most assisted (5) combination in the League. Alexis was handed the playmaker duties this season at Arsenal, handed or simply took them, either way he was Arsenal’s most creative player from open play.

I suspect Alexis is just the kind of guy who wants the ball all the time. If he played as a CF he would have to be content with probably half as many touches. Maybe he would score more or maybe he would turn the ball over more and frustrate the Arsenal supporters who harp on that constantly.

But I don’t know if wwe will find out. He’s just had a career season at Arsenal in the wide role with the ball at feet all game. I doubt he’s interested in a change, making runs off the ball, getting just a few touches, and dealing with lumbering center backs kicking him all over the pitch.

Qq

70 comments

  1. I agree. He is better suited in his current role with Danny Welbeck or Giroud leading the line.

  2. Sadly, I reckon that we will see him playing for one of our old rivals next year (the ones when we feigned to compete for the title). I fully expect him to be sold to whomever pays the most. Sadly, this club is no longer interested in competition, but rather an investment vehicle.

  3. We had our best run of results when Wenger considered him to be Arsenal’s Suarez. And as I recall, he seemed to enjoy it. The team was fluid as hell, with Ozil’s Walcott’s runs and movement causing mayhem. Problem is, it doesn’t appear that we’ll go back to 442. But his ability to play CF gives us another tactical option.

  4. Sorry, not trying to hijack the thread but this is big news and I Just spent a lot of time writing this on the other thread. Penny for your thoughts on the feasibility of data to predict managerial performance over the course of a single season….

    The news that Arsene Wenger will sign a new two year deal is the platform I’ve needed to begin to speak about the offseason.

    First off though, I want to address the obvious question: Was it the right move? The devil of football is that it’s impossible to scientifically prove the answer to that question. In order to do that, we would have to appoint Arsene Wenger as manager for the following season x consecutive times based on a priori power calculations, and then compare an alternate approach, also run x consecutive times. Even if we were to do that, the conclusion would only be that within the limitations of the data and accepting the standard type 1 error rate of 5%, we can or cannot say that Wenger or an alternate approach is likely to win more games. Then, armed with that data, you could make your decision but see it completely backfire as variance of random events and the relatively small impact of managers in general results in randomness that makes a single season unpredictable.

    The decision, broadly speaking, has to be the one that’s most likely to maximize the abilities of the players while accounting for a whole host of factors/variables that you know impact that performance. First and foremost, are you trying to compete for a title or are you trying to rebuild? Arsenal’s win percentage last campaign of 60% and 1.97 points per game is far from a disaster. Chelsea ran away with the league with 79% of matches being wins (an all time high for ANY team) and a 2.45 points per game tally, but they are very unlikely to be able to reproduce that. Even less likely to be able to reproduce last season’s form are Spurs, who not only put together a historically high (for them) points total, but also will be impacted by moving to a new stadium and the inevitable loss, whether through injury, transfer or form, of important contributions from this year’s excellent but very thin squad. Conversely, Man United will improve on their ghastly 47% win total and 1.8 points per game as Mourinho’s squads have a history of peaking in his second season at the helm, (but will it be enough for a title charge? Can Ibra’s legs do it one more time?) while Man City and Liverpool in particular could experience wide variance in next season’s results but are more likely to improve rather than regress as their managers’ systems take deeper hold. The end result, as I see it, will be a PL table that is very competitive and without a single favorite. In other words, the way I see it, a good Arsenal team will have about as much of a chance as anyone else before a ball is kicked. After the season starts, chaos sets in and anything can happen.

    Accepting that last train of thought to be true is crucial when considering whether to appoint Arsene Wenger. If the club had a very small chance to lift the title next season, that would provide a platform for a rebuild. Alexis and Ozil could be allowed to leave, our transfer kitty could be spent on up and coming stars, and a young manager could boldly experiment with them next season without the burden of expectation to win a title.

    However, if you want to win a title next season, you have to appoint Arsene Wenger now. Not because Arsene Wenger is such a brilliant manager that nobody else has a chance, but because the inevitable chaos and uncertainty that would follow his departure would torpedo our campaign before it ever has a chance to start. If Arsene, the first domino, falls, then others will fall after him. It provides clarity for the fans, for the other coaches and crucially, for the players. It sets up a summer in which everyone can work on pulling in the same direction. Players who don’t want to play for him can leave, and others who do want to play for him can be reassured. Continuity, in terms of tactics, personnel, and staff is the sweet milk that nourishes championship winning teams. The manager is just one (I would argue, relatively small) part of that puzzle; sustained fitness for key players, overall squad strength and intelligent recruitment for areas of weakness are the others.

    I will not overstate his role, though Arsene’s role is greater at Arsenal than arguably any manager’s for any other club because I’ve long argued that the manager’s identity is an over-cooked rationale for success or lack thereof. But his future is a key cog that determines the fate of this club, and in my view the continuity that his continued stewardship provides would trump the potential upside variance of the volatility of introducing a new face. It also behooves us to consider that Pep Guardiola or someone of his ilk is not available. The best candidates for the job that have been touted either have a philosophy that flies in the face of what Arsene has built this squad to do (Sampaoli, Cholo) and would likely therefore require a significant transition period while their methods bed in, or haven’t sufficiently built their resume to be considered likely to have an instant impact (Allegri, Tuchel).

    So, to conclude: Was it the right move to appoint Arsene Wenger? Maybe. I hope. I think so, but could definitely be wrong. There is no science to tell me otherwise.

    1. Dr Gooner–

      I was compelled to make my first post at this site.

      What a fine, considered, and realistic post.
      I can usually progress to a point in a post of that length– and be sidetracked by biases, or self-serving or self-indulgent perspective.

      But I can honestly say I read it through– and read it again.
      And I concur.

      The PL is no longer a Top-4 slate of teams– and then the others.
      It’s a Top-6 contingent anymore– with 6 quality clubs and managers.
      There are going to be two fanbases every season who will be frustrated– no matter what (MU excepted this season with CL via Europa.).

      This season it is Arsenal. Alone.
      And that aspect is the grist some cannot grind finely enough to swallow.

      I, for one, am able to see that allowing AW to continue is the only course that might give AFC an edge at sandwiching itself in the standings somewhere between 1st and 4th next season. Where a new manager would probably be finding his club staving off Soton and Everton for 7th or 8th– when the dust of massive transfers and strategic change clears sometime next November.

      Cheers,
      jw1

    2. As I have said many times before on this site, I want a change in manager. However, at this point in time it seems to me the right move is to keep him. Simply because we have made absolutely zero preparations for LAW (Life After Wenger). We would be spread too thin trying to find the right manager, build his team and at the same time try to figure all the contract situations with all our players. We have left ourselves with little choice but to continue with Wenger. It’s not ideal but it’s probably the safest move for now. The downside risk is too great.

    3. Re: hijacking thread, I mean, it’s the first thing on everyone’s minds these days with respect to Arsenal, so I don’t see any reason to apologize!

      Re: Wenger signing a contract. I’m ambivalent. On the one hand, I feel he should go now, on a high, after a decade of some very, very predictable seasons. On the other hand, he did just switch to a new formation that saw us go on a crazy good run of games culminating in the FA Cup, and you have to think, “well, if we start next season with this formation, what might happen?” And, like claude, I’m kind of excited to see what Wenger can do in the Europa League, a competition whose tier 2 status more realistically resembles our own. (I also share his relief that we won’t see our club endure a morale-sapping drubbing at the hands of Bayern next February.)

      I’m also now very curious what impact his new contract has on the contracts of Alexis and Ozil (and to Ox, to some extent). I think it means Ozil will stay, but I wonder if it will have the opposite effect on Alexis?

      The only certainty here is that this summer should be an interesting one…

      1. And then I read my post, and I think, have I just drunk the kool-aid again? I mean, why should we be happy to be a tier 2 club? Why should a new manager mean that we tank in his first season? There’s no certainty to that, either.

        Anyway, I hope, hope, hope we won’t be sitting here next March / April noting miserably that yet another trademark Wenger mid-season slump means we’re not even remotely challenging for the title. Can he keep his teams focused, responsive, and consistent throughout a season? History tells us, “no.” We’ll see. The thing is I love him enough to want him to succeed, in spite of the fact that my hopes in this regard have been dashed so often before. It’s the sporting equivalent of an abusive relationship!

        1. As I’ve said many times before, one of Arsene’s biggest achievements in the last four to five seasons has been to systematically lower expectations and have the large section of fans buy into them.

          He’s succeeded on that front completely when even his critics are willing to admit that Europa League is where Arsenal belong talent wise.

          People thinking this will be the last two years of Wenger’s reign are ignoring the fact he’s repeatedly stated his intentions to manage indefinitely and since he clearly has the ear of the only person who really matters( Stan), I can see him extend again in 2 years time.

          There’s nothing I have seen from Arsene that sugests he can take Arsenal to the next level – something he can’t even describe what it might be, probably in the effort to avoid accountability when he fails to achieve it.

          The last time I remember Arsene taking responsibility for something going wrong was on March 22nd 2014, after the 6:0 Chelsea drubbing at the Bridge ,when he took the blame for that fiasco. That’s a very long time considering some of the results Arsenal suffered since.
          I must be the only one on here tired of his excuses and apportioning blame everywhere but at his own door.
          Some of his comments these days are simply embarrassing if I’m honest.

          Having said all that, he is the reason I became an Arsenal supporter in the first place so I’m not in any position to call for his head, but it’s clear to me he’s not the right man to take the club to the next level( whatever that might be).

    4. It’s the thing we’re we’re all thinking Doc, so need to apologise.

      This shouldn’t surprise anyone. We suspected in the dark days of winter that he wasn’t going anywhere, only that the mood was too febrile for him to announce it. The dynamic appears to have shifted somewhat against him at board level, as the club gave the impression that the wheels had come off. We appeared listless, leaderless and dispirited and were losing for fun. But the FA Cup win made things easier for him.

      I’m neither for nor against at this point, having resigned myself to the fact that he’d be staying. What’s the point beeyatching and moaning? It won’t resolve anything.

      Three FA cups in four years is a considerable achievement, so I tip my hat to Wenger there. However my conviction of the past 4 years has hardened — he does not have the managerial nous to take Arsenal to another premier league title, or make us AT LEAST more competitive in the Champions League. Thoughtful and balanced as Doc’s post is, I strongly disagree with the conclusion that “if you want to win a title next season, you have to appoint Arsene Wenger now.” All the evidence of recent years points strongly to the opposite conclusion.

      There is also no evidence that a change of management at Arsenal would cause “chaos.” Of all the argument in support of Wenger (and there are some reasonably good ones) that is one of the least plausible.To say that a new manager wouldn’t necessarily bring instant success and would need time to bed in is one thing. To say that the club would descend into chaos if Arsene isn’t there is another.

      We should put away the banners and get behind the team, because what’s done is done. As far as the title is concerned, we should also temper our expectations. We are, however, a darned good cup side, and Arsene’s record suggests that he’d keep us competitive in cups (except Big Ears), if not in titles. That’s something worth enjoying, even celebrating.

      All that said, dropping out of the Champions League will be harder than some gooners seem to appreciate. If we can’t keep our best players or attract the best available ones, it will not make us better equipped to displace any above us (plus United). In football, it’s hard to bounce straight back up after relegation. So the Champions League may prove. Let’s embrace our Europa fate and try to win the thing, as I believe we can. We could be there for a while under Wenger.

      1. Except that we won’t be if we win it. What I mean to say its that we could be sub-Top Four for a while. Here’s a thought experiment… take Alexis out of the squad. See? Unless it’s silly money, no one comparable would be coming the Arsenal.

      2. Let’s think for a moment about what would happen if we appointed, say, Max Allegri.

        How many questions do you have about him, right away?
        -Will he persist with the back 3? Will he play attacking football? How will he try to win?
        -Which players does he like? Does he even know? Does he know anyone at the club?
        -Will he want to recruit new players? Where will those players play? Who’s job is safe?
        -Does he speak English? Will he have time to get his message through? What will be his message?
        -How will he get on with Bould? Will he bring his own backroom staff with him? If so, who? How will the players get along with them? How will they respond?

        I could go on. That sounds like a lot of uncertainty, if not outright chaos. Certainly the first few months of his reign could be chaotic, as he tries to sort out the above issues and get the players on side, and by then, are we still in the title race? Contrast that with the relative transparency of another season of Wenger. We all know who he is, what he stands for and how he is likely to ask his team to play. Allegri might have a higher ceiling (I’m not sure how you could prove that) but also probably has a lower floor given all the uncertainty around his fledgling reign. That variance is the chaos I’m referring to, more mathematically than literally. At some point, a new manager will have to face all those issues. I’m contending that in order for Arsenal to contend for the title, that cannot be this season. And I concluded that I could be entirely wrong. We both could be. It’s all hypothesizing and no science.

        1. Questions every new manager faces. Like Klopp and Conte. Pocchetino got has messages across just fine, thank you.

          Your chaos argument is wildly overblown. Such is the nature of the top tier of football management today, that that is an unncessarily bleak assessment. It’s not easy, but it’s not rocket science. Pep brought in people (like Mikel Arteta) who knew the English game.

          I feel, like Bunburyist above does, about what the feeling of keeping/letting go of Wenger can sometimes feel akin to (to my own thoughts on the matter, I hasten to add). There are good arguments for keeping Wenger. Fear of the unknown and a consequent descent into chaos I’m not so sure about.

        2. The point about keeping Wenger because he gives Arsenal the best chance of winning the title next year hinges on one very important assumption, that Wenger actually has the ability to guide us to a title. If, as I believe, Wenger is incapable of guiding this group of players to a title (or the odds are so small as to be unworthy of consideration), then Arsenal’s best chance of winning a title NEXT season is to bring a new manager in. I’m not saying a new manager WILL do it, simply saying that my confidence in Arsene’s ability to change his spots is next to zero.

          1. Thank you, TeeSong, for expressing my views exactly. Wenger has had years to get the formula right!

          2. Yes, I agree with what you and claude have said. Does anybody really imagine we’ll win the title next season? No way. Maybe 3rd or 4th if we play better than we did this year? And guaranteed it will be the same familiar criticisms next year as this year and the year before that and and and.

            Stability isn’t a bad thing. Though it can be described as stagnation if you believe your club has the resources and personnel to achieve more, only that it’s being held back by a manager whose season patterns haven’t changed even while player personnel did.

    5. This is a classic case where the comment is not only irrelevant but lot longer than the original post. Sorry mate.

  5. As unfair as it may sound, i believe moving Giroud out of the club this summer is the right thing to do. if Arsenal gets 10-15m for him, i think it would be a good deal.

    it may be a personal heartbreak for him, given he’s on 98 goals at Arsenal, but i think the cub comes first.

    Giroud needs to leave because he’s the single most important reason, Arsene sticks Sanchez to the left. When Giroud plays, he suddenly becomes the focal point of Arsenal’s attack, and most Sanchez’s endeavours is geared towards supplying him.

    Whether Sanchez is moved to the left or centre, his ole as Arsenal’s version of Cristiano Ronaldo needs to be underlined and emphasised as we plan for the new season.

    Playing with a centre forward like Welbeck whose strength includes speed and energy, just like him is what Sanchez needs.

    The situation we have now is one in which Sanchez can only play centre forward when either or Giroud or Welbeck is unavailable.
    The reason i think Wenger has stuck with Welbeck ahead of Giroud in most games since his return isn’t so much about his goals return but that with him, Sanchez has a running partner, a strength Giroud isn’t equipped for.
    We may need a striker with a better scoring rate than Welbeck, but i’m convinced that if building the team around Ozil and Sanchez is what we want, Sanchez needs Welbeck more than Giroud,and Giroud given how good he still is, nees to go.

  6. Interesting analysis from Shard about the “big news” today. It is the right move because I suspect that the club were/are thoroughly unprepared for his departure if it had come.

    Phillipe Auclair has opined the same: we are a club with absolutely zero recent experience of any kind of managerial change.

    We would have been caught completely flat-footed had he walked at thus juncture.

    WhY would anyone have any confidence that the board has the competence/foresight to do this?

    We need a proper succession plan and 2 years is the right kind of time to get it done properly. I can only hope that the board use the time wisely.

  7. Just read that Mahrez is demanding a transfer this summer. Should we make a move (and sell Walcott to make room)?

    1. Absolutely. Him and Alexis (assuming we can keep him) operating as wide forwards would be an awesome attacking threat.

    2. I wouldn’t sign Mahrez based on the 5-6 times I watched LC this year. He disappointed me – he still looked silky and slick, but definitely soft, very much Arsenal-like actually. But I’d like us to add a little steel to our “granit”.
      Have I misjudged him?

    3. I like him, but if we’re going to persist with the new formation, then I don’t think it’s a priority, since I think he’s more a genuine winger than an inside forward, and anyway those 2 starting spots are taken by Ozil and Sanchez (if we could get him on the cheap, that’d be different, but we wouldn’t). Of course, that’s making the massive assumption that Sanchez and Ozil both stay. Also, there’s always the idea of moving Sanchez back up top if we can’t find a top quality forward that we like, but, as Tim mentions, moving Sanchez to CF doesn’t seem likely at this point.

      I think our big priorities (assuming Kolasinac is in) are at CF, and then, another midfielder to partner Xhaka (I’m very pleased with Ramsey’s upturn in form, but I still don’t trust him to keep it up for a whole season, especially given injuries, and the squad’s big enough to keep him and add an upgrade (or at least someone who’s a perfect fit alongside Granit).

      But I’m in favor of selling Walcott, regardless!

    4. He’s lazy. It worked with Leicester two years ago because they could afford to let him park himself on the right wing. FFS no, exactly opposite of what we need.

  8. I was hoping Arsene would choose to retire after the brilliant performance he coaxed out of his players in the on-off against Chelsea. He could have left on a high and regained some of his lost luster.
    I still think he should not have been given the 2-year extension: how many such performances did we manage as a team over the whole season? Or even over the past decade? His continued stewardship has not produced consistently enthralling play, let alone any credible challenges in either the EPL or the CL.
    So why do we think this time around is different? Have we turned another corner? Will we get the 2-3 players we always seem to need to really mount a credible challenge? Let’s hope we keep Alexis and Ozil. If those 2 leave, it might be a while before we make the top four.

    1. I wanted him gone 2-3 years ago until I really considered the incompetence and unpreparedness of the board. Arsenal and Wenger need appropriate time to deliver needed change. I am assuming perhaps naively, that this 2 year contract is meant as the transition phase to new era of management at The Arsenal

      1. I think our championship window with these players is still open. Certainly facilitating a transition should be part of the thinking in the background, but Arsene cannot let that type of thinking infiltrate the squad’s mentality. And neither can we, really. Everyone has to be pulling in the same direction to win a title, and that includes the fans. Let’s make a total club commitment to winning and support. That gives these players the best chance to accomplish what we want them to.

      2. I’m just not convinced they will approach this as a “transition” period. For me, the “transition” period should have begun at least 2-3 years ago!
        Our direct rivals are already actively (re-)building for next year…we sure have our work cut out for us!

  9. Why sell Giroud or Walcott? We need that type of player for depth and for tactical flexibility. Keeping them doesn’t mean we can’t buy better players. We have the cash, so let’s use it. Build on what we have instead of removing one brick to add another.

    Regarding Mahrez in particular, he wouldn’t get into the first XI as currently constructed. In our 3-4-2-1, he would play as one of the 2, which is where Sanchez and Ozil sit and they won’t give up those chairs. I think he would make an OK Ozil replacement and would be on the shortlist of players I’d call should Mesut depart. I would not pair him and Mesut though, not in this league.

    1. I buy into the thinking that Giroud still has a career at Arsenal as an impact player, but I don’t think Walcott has a future here and I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t sold this summer. Wilshere also. But, who knows?

      For me, I’d rather have Mahrez as back-up to Sanchez than Walcott. With Iwobi, we’d have plenty of really good depth there.

      1. And, for the record, I don’t think Wenger will buy Mahrez. Just curious what folks think about his availability this summer. He’d come cheaper now than last year, I bet!

      2. For all the stick that we continue to give Theo, he was far more effective than Mahrez last season. Pass. I’d rather keep Theo than buy Mahrez, who has so far been a one-season wonder. Giroud I’m ambivalent about as I really like the guy’s wholeheartedness and sheer graft, but having both him and Welbeck is having two limited players. People are talking about potential transfers as if we are a Champions League club. Clearly some of us haven’t adjusted yet to our new reality.

        We are not the type of club that would pay an Ibra £300k a week — wages that would make absence from the champions league irrelevant. So we will be hard pressed to recruit better than Giroud. Young and promising and a Rob Holding-type gem (at CF), yes. That’d work. When he had CL status Wenger didn’t manage to recruit a high-quality forward in 5 years. What makes us think he’ll improve on Giroud in the Europa?

        1. Man United were in Europa when they signed Pogba and Ibra. Chelsea weren’t even in Europe at all when they signed Kante. I don’t think it’s that significant that we are in Europa this year. We are the 7th richest club in the world, don’t you know!

          1. To repeat… “We are not the type of club that would pay an Ibra £300k a week.” In making the point, I was fully aware of that.

          2. How much did Man U have to pay for big name players, both in terms of transfer fee and wages, after they dropped out of CL and then be honest with yourself about whether you see Arsenal playing the same game?

            I agree with PFo below that Walcott embodies Arsenal’s mediocrity (assuming you agree that we have been mediocre as of late). Though I do see your point about not starting Ozil and Mahrez together, I can see certain situations where we might be okay with a front 3 of Ozil, Mahrez and Sanchez – especially against mediocre teams that defend deep. So yeah, Mahrez over Walcott every day for me.

          3. Doc: United and Chelsea are teams that prospective players know will rectify whatever ails them at whatever cost. In other words, they have a winning reputation. We no longer are in that category.

        2. I don’t think us being out of the CL necessarily harms us too much right now. We’ve been a perennial top 4 club, we missed out this season by 1 point, and we have some clear squad needs that a young(ish) ambitious guy could see as his ticket to establish himself at one of the big clubs and help propel us up the table.

          Style of play, playing time, good wages, living in London, could all go in our favour. Yes we’re not going to pay for Ibra or Pogba. We were never going to do that, CL or no. But except in the odd case (like maybe Lacazette), I don’t see why it should be a problem in signing players of the profile we would otherwise.

      3. Anyone who wouldn’t prefer Mahrez to Walcott truly sees the world differently than I do (note how diplomatic I’m being there?).
        I agree Walcott doesn’t fit, at all, in this formation, and shouldn’t really have a future with us (I don’t hate him, just think he’s symptomatic of the “not quite good enough” culture we’ve had at this club for far too long). But Wenger has had, many, many summers to sell Theo (remember last summer, after the rotten season he’d had?), and has thus far resisted. Theo is the teflon footballer. He’s a survivor. He’ll be at Arsenal at 34, mark my words (hoping this prediction hastens his departure!).

        1. I don’t get it either. I understand that Theo pops up with goals out of nowhere but with him on the team it’s like playing with 10 players sometimes. He hasn’t even made it to the bench once we switched to a back 3. Mahrez would quite clearly be an upgrade. His form suffered last season with the rest of the team but his skills on the ball are undeniable.

          1. To your comment above about Mahrez and Sanchez operating on opposite wings, remember that we don’t play 442 anymore! Mahrez would have to displace Ox or Bellerin in the current setup. Unless we switch him left WB for Monreal or Kolasinac (or Ox). He’s certainly not going to displace anyone in our front two. If you don’t like Theo (fair enough), why would you want to sign Mahrez? Unless you think he’d be successful as a wing back, which, hey, may not be that far-fetched.

        2. The malaise runs so deep for some, it’s frightening. I’ve spoke about this at length before and ruffled too many feathers, so I’m going to keep my mouth shut. But, yikes. We are not an inferior club and should not have an inferiority complex.

          When discussing Mahrez’s suitability for the club, I fail to see how Theo factors in at all. They nominally occupy the same position on the team sheet but they are different players with different qualities. Theo scored 19 goals last season, so I’m not seeing the rush to be shot of him. If you really want to strengthen Arsenal football club, you buy Mahrez and keep Theo, too. That’s not necessarily feasible, primarily because players as talented as Mahrez will usually seek assurances over playing time, but that’s the way we should be thinking. It gives the club greater depth and tactical flexibility, not unlike Chelsea being able to summon Willian or Fabregas off the bench.

  10. Hi Tim,

    I was vacationing in Japan and Korea the last couple of weeks so didn’t get a chance to comment. However, I did try to keep up with my 7amKO readings so thanks for providing some great content during that time.

    One thing I noticed is how much Wenger is revered in other parts of the world. I spoke to a couple of Arsenal fans and it seemed to me that many fans in Asia have been supporting Arsenal because of Wenger and they are not as willing to detach the club from the manager as some folks in this part of the world are. I could be wrong, but that was my first impression anyway. And they take pride in supporting the club. Even our air hostess on my flight from Tokyo to Seoul was wearing an Arsenal jacket. How great is that?

    In terms of Alexis playing a CF – why not? We can play him there if we need to from time to time but he clearly feels more comfortable working the wider channels where there is more space. Our greatest need since RVP left has been a world class CF and that hasn’t changed. I think having Alexis play as a CF is an option but it’s not THE option. We still need to find that CF – preferably a goal scoring version of Welbeck.

    1. NYC, it may have something to do with his time managing in Japan. He’s well known and remembered there in a special way that other top European managers wouldn’t. That respect might explain the reactions you encountered. But in other parts of Asia/-say China, Indonesia/Malaysia, the Indian Subcontinent, views might be more varied, so I’d hesitate to generalize too much from the special conditions of Japan and Korea. But interesting report. It may very well be true that there are some genuine differences in different parts of goonerdom. I understand we have a huge fan base in Nigeria; it would be interesting to hear about perspectives there on the subject.

  11. The key problem as I see it, is Wenger is ‘done’ for a large section of the fan base. Unrest is always just below the surface, a bitter atmosphere just waiting to emerge. Wenger himself has already complained about this, and it isn’t going to change. This puts additional pressure on the players.

    His admission that his contract wrangling seriously affected the players is also a massive issue. The board should of acted a long time ago, but they didn’t which left Wenger holding all the cards. Our season torched because of malaise at the top.

    The club needs fresh ideas, a new approach. I hope Wenger can do that, but I doubt it…

  12. claudeivan,

    I said wide-forwards, not wings – clearly a reference to a front 3. I don’t see Mahrez as a wing back. He isn’t defensive minded enough. He is of the Ozil mold but I think he is more than a back up for Ozil and could work in a front 3 with him and Alexis in certain situations. He has played in the left wing so could operate as a left wide forward with Ozil as the right sided WF, a position he has played for Germany. Maybe not much in the league, but could definitely be interesting in Europe and for some cups games.

    1. Fair points. But we don’t play with a front three. On the right side of the back 3 was Holding. In front of him was Bellerin (Ox before that). Ahead of him was Welbeck, with Sanchez and Ozil interchanging at forward, and Ramsey breaking from midfield. It’s a smorgasbord of movement and fluidity, but we do not line up with a front three.

      In other words, the wing back is the “wide forward.” Where is Mahrez going to play? The only way I see him being necessary is if one or both of Sanchez and Ozil leave.

      We line up like this…

      ——————-Welbeck——
      ——-Ozil/Sanchez
      Oxlade —- Ozil/Sanchez—Xhaka—-Ramsey—-Bellerin
      ——–Monreal—-Mertesacker—–Holding
      ————-Ospina——-

      Even if you say we play a 343 with sanchez, Ozil and Welbeck as the front 3, who does Mahrez displace?

      1. It’s still a front three for the most part:

        http://arseblog.com/2017/05/tactics-column-arsenal-show-more-flexibility-in-battle-of-3-4-3/

        Also, if you read Per’s comments on our new formation, he gives you some color behind how having three at the back gives a better platform for the “front three” to do their damage. Maybe it’s not a true 3-4-3 in a traditional sense but a variation of it – especially when you have Bellerin making runs into the box, you need one of the other attackers like Ozil to drop a little deeper but Mahrez can play in that system. We are talking about using Alexis as a CF in certain situations – I think if we do that, then Mahrez is worth a look.

        1. If Alexis would be happy to play there more regularly as he did very successfully earlier this season, then Mahrez or Monaco’s Lemar would be great players to add. But I think Tim is right that Alexis is unhappy not getting on the ball and drifts deeper to do so–AW alluded to this earlier this season and mentioned that he wanted to play deeper to touch the ball more and so he accommodated him. I think the more obvious solution would be to find a mobile striker of a higher caliber. I love how we play with Welbeck up top but he just isn’t a clinical finisher. We need more of a goal scorer.

      2. It’s absolutely a 3-4-3. But the wide forwards in a 3-4-3 don’t (need to) play as wide as they do in, e.g. a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, so they function more as “inside forwards”, i.e. dropping into spaces either side of the center forward but inside the overlapping wingbacks. that sounds to me like it accurately describes the way Ozil and Sanchez have been playing. neither of them are really playing as a forward, but as dual number 10’s, who form a “box” with Ramsey and Xhaka in deeper midfield. Of course, football is fluid, and the skillsets and personalities of the individuals influence things, so Ozil is definitely dropping deeper (though mostly staying right of center) than Sanchez, just as Ramsey is obviously making many more runs forward than Xhaka.

        Mahrez clearly doesn’t have the ability to do the defensive duties of a wingback well enough, so he’d have to replace either Sanchez or Ozil. I prefer both of them to him, but he’d still be handy to have around because a) Sanchez could be pushed into CF if need be, b) we could switch formations back to a 4-2-3-1 at some point, and c) it’s nice to have high quality attackers on the bench, ready to contribute, obviously.

  13. I saw a stat during or after or before (it’s all a muddle) the FA Cup final about Alexis. He had the same number of goals while playing as a striker and as a winger. His shot numbers were higher from the wing, by something like 87-54 (this is only from memory)

    I think he could play as the CF. This new Nigerian Henry (if we get him) might be a good fit because he is quick and direct and could probably switch with Alexis a few times during the game. I think Lacazette would be too, but that one is a tougher transfer. Perez could be as well if he is staying and is given a chance.

    Alexis started coming more towards the ball once we lost midfield control. Till Cazorla was there it all seemed to be flowing smoothly. Add the right midfielder, even though I’ve always been a believer in the Xhaka-Ramsey partnership, and Alexis at CF probably works.

  14. All this talk of Mahrez, Forsberg and Thorgan Hazard, if at all true, has me a little worried. Either we’re planning to go back to a 4231, or at least one of Ozil and Alexis are leaving.

    Unless of course, we’re planning to play Alexis at CF.

  15. Some of the comments above almost seem to suggest that there is a pre-determination about Arsenal when Wenger is in charge, as if there was a glass ceiling that is directly tied to his ongoing stewardship of the club. I don’t believe in predestination. I think the squad is good enough and if key players stay fit, there is no reason why we could not compete. The emphasis now should be on making the first team as competitive as possible and fostering the best team spirit possible.

    No, I don’t think that he has an advantage over his younger counterparts in coaching a coordinated press or designing elaborate schemes in possession. I also don’t think he’s as bad at those things as some people have tried to suggest on the heels of particularly poor performances. As always, the truth lies in between… despite his faults, he remains a competent coach and an icon of sensible leadership and attacking football who top players, especially young ones, want to play for. As with any coach, you have to take the bad with the good.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting better, but a 60% win ratio and 3 out of the last 4 FA cups is already pretty good. Is upsetting the apple cart really justified versus maintaining continuity and making further improvements to the squad? My opinion: Further consistency in the league will be more closely tied to continuity for key players and leveraging big moments in big games rather than who is walking up and down the sidelines.

    1. Squad continuity and injuries are probably the two biggest factors in determining consistency.

  16. Wenger re-signing = 6th place next year, 7th the year after. I wonder if he’ll want another 2 year extension after that to fix the team so more.

    If you rationally look at what is ahead of us and what their plans are for the summer, and then you have Man Utd behind us with 2x the spending power PLUS the offer of Champions League football, then consider that Everton has an active owner now with a very good manager…

    Only Liverpool might slip up and Spurs only if they sell of Kane and Alli (which I doubt they do for another season at least).

    Prepare for more disappointment.

    1. Yeah, I’m sure those teams are already rationally assessing finishing ahead of Wenger’s Arsenal as a done deal.

    2. @JackAction

      Are you offering odds? I’ll take you up on it. Want to bet a jersey? A book?

      1. Never bet someone over the internet.

        What would you hypothetically be taking me up on? You think we’re back in the top 4 next year? Title? Please sir, tell me how the world looks through your rose-coloured glasses.

        We had the strongest squad since 2008 this season. We had depth and quality – I’d argue we have a better squad overall than Chelsea. And we only improved by 4 points over last year which was itself an underachieving year despite finishing second.

        If we finish higher than 5th next year I will admit my stupidity.

        I’m no pundit, I only play one on the internet. I would have bought Balotelli a few years ago, shows you what I know.

        1. “We had the strongest squad since 2008 this season.”

          May be true but we had no functional midfield for a vast swathe of the season which happened to coincide with our poor form. I’m not one for talking our players down but consider the central midfield revolving door:

          Santi Cazorla: 7 starts
          Mohamed ElNeny: 8 starts
          Aaron Ramsey: 14 starts
          Francis Coquelin: 22 starts
          Granit Xhaka: 28 starts

          Xhaka was the most consistently selected, yet he had no consistent partner. This was exacerbated by the fact that Wenger didn’t figure out how to best use him until halfway through the season. So the only two times our midfield looked good was in the very beginning with the trusty Coq-Zorla axis and at the very end when Xhaka-Ramsey started to click. Coincidence that our form during those two 8 game stretches was W14, D2, L2? That’s 75% wins and 2.25 points per game, aka title winning form.

          You can point the finger at Wenger the GM because we had the same problem last year and paid for it then too. He did buy Xhaka, though, and it did help. Now Xhaka needs a partner.

  17. Interesting sidebar, Thomas Tuchel leaving Dortmund. Ironic timing, as he had been named as one of the possibilities for taking over from Wenger. Another one that got away, possibly. Fell out with Dortmund, and would probably have taken the Arsenal job, Europa and all.

    Not oft mentioned in the debate over Arsene’s tenure is that at this stage, is that it was too late to go looking for a new manager. There’s no evidence of succession planning. Did they talk to someone earlier in the year, and was that what fuelled Arsene’s dark mood recently (we will find out in the biography when he does leave, he has hinted, about some goings-on at the club).

    The board, if it’s thinking progressively, must act as if this is Wenger’s last contract, and look to phase in new management — particularly if, as the evidence of recent years suggest, Arsene doesn’t have the managerial nous anymore to improve our competitive positioning to make us ready for the long haul, the consistency, of a viable league campaign.

    Who knows? Maybe another son will come out of the east, as Arsene did more than 20 years ago.

  18. If Arsene talks about two world class players to make us competitive, then I doubt it’s goalkeeper or defence – it’s gotta be centre-mid and a striker.

    All this talk of can we keep ozil and sanchez is surely going to go on for months.

    But if you were Wenger, surely the best strategy is buy a world class player first
    Then try to get those two to renew.
    It’s the lack of belief we’ll win the league that is the reason they will leave.

    I know, I know, I make it sound so easy to buy a world class player.
    But to do so might mean we have three next season.

  19. The reported deal for Aubameyang to PSG highlights how much needs to change and how slipping to Europa league affects our chances to do so. 61m£ fee and contract of 168k£/wk plus 5m£ signing bonus. Those numbers are not out of Arsenal’s capability financially. Why weren’t we going for him? Now, without CL or it’s revenues I can’t see the club paying this (if it ever would!) or the player being interested in us. He would be great for us–clinical, mobile and a huge star with a track record in a top league and CL who is moving for a big but not outrageous fee on high but again not insane wages. Instead we are talking about Onyekuru! (Ornstein says this isn’t happening, btw). How better to convince Ozil and Alexis to stay than to get a big transfer done in June for a top striker? That’s the kind of move we need quickly to retain these two (along with the massive wages we are offering) and to improve our team. I’m not optimistic we can or will, but I hope we are more aggressive. We will have to be, even with less exalted options.

    1. 1. He laughed out loud at the idea of coming to Arsenal.
      2. He is not moving from a well organized, well loved, well supported, Champions League caliber club like BvB to a club which rewards a manager who finished 5th with a $24m deal.
      3. I’m resigned to Welbeck being the main striker next year. A front three of Welbs, Ox, and Bellerin. I also think Ramsey is off this summer. But I expect Arsenal to start Wilshere in the Özil role. Xhaka behind him, perhaps a new guy next to Xhaka, and this new left back dude. Then Holding, Mustafi, and Koscielny (when fit). 7th or 8th place here we come!

      1. Yeah, it is embarrassing, Tim. Which is the point. How, why are we where we are? It isn’t money–those numbers are not impossible for us. What has become impossible is convincing players with options that Arsenal are a club and a team intent on winning. We have become a laughingstock in football over the last 6-7 years. Since the Birmingham league cup disaster, the departures of Fabregas and then RvP, the 6-0/5-0 away defeats in the league, the CL round of 16 exits even to Monaco and Milan through terrible first legs capped by the humiliation to Bayern. If we lose Ozil and Alexis, the damage will be severe. But somehow the club has to try to reverse this and thinking we cannot go in for players like Aubameyang will hamstring us from the start. At least make PSG pay an outrageous wage by offering him 220 and make him or a Griezmann think about Arsenal as being serious about challenging. Griezmann recently said it about Arsenal: Playing good football and scoring goals now is not enough, I want to win titles.

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