Good morning chums. I have a busy day ahead as we gear up for the start of fall quarter so here are a few thoughts before heading off to work.
Arsenal face West Bromwich Albion and that means Arsene faces the old enemy Tony Pulis. Did you know that Tony Pulis (allegedly¹) once headbutted James Beattie in the shower. The scuffle took place after Stoke lost to Arsenal 2-0. Pulis canceled Christmas and Beattie got upset, Pulis lost his towel, then his rag and both men then had a naked tumble in the shower. I imagine it like one of those Greek sculptures, except with Tony Pulis and James Beattie.
Anyway, that’s what you get when you play a Tony Pulis team: naked shower tumbles. Oh, and long balls, and corners, and big switches for headers. Super basic football but it works, he keeps teams from getting relegated. Interesting facts: Arsenal led the League in headed goals last season with 17 and West Brom were 2nd with 16. This season Arsenal have 3 goals from headers and Albion 2! Still, as a percentage of their total goals WBA scored 37% headers and Arsenal just 22%. But corners and set plays are still important for Arsenal, especially when Giroud and Özil play.
Still this shouldn’t be a tough match for Arsenal: Arsenal knows exactly what West Brom are going to do, so the answer is to start all the best players in their best positions (Özil, Alexis, Lacazette, Kolasinac, Koscielny, Ramsey, Xhaka, Bellerin) and play Rob Holding for his aerial ability (he’s excellent in the air) and the Arsenal should have more than enough to defeat perfidious Albion. Wenger will, naturally, play Giroud as RWB, Kolasinac as CB, Holding in LWB, Bellerin as striker, and keep Alexis, Lacazette, and Özil on the bench. Or something.
As for the starters, Wenger has publicly criticized Ramsey for something which I have been harping on for over a year:
“Aaron had a disciplined performance, and that was absolutely vital for us. If he starts from a strong defensive position he can be dangerous against anybody. He has a huge influence going forward, we know that, and we know he can contribute to that. The strength in his game was of course his usual top-quality physicality, but he’s more focused on technical quality in his first touch and that makes him more dangerous.²”
Yes, if Arsenal play with two actual midfielders, playing like actual midfielders, it makes the team more solid both in attack and defense. Weird how that works for every team in England. I don’t think the three at the back changes anything. I don’t think three in the middle changes anything. I think that being positionally conservative in midfield changes things.
The new thing that fandits (combination of fan and pundit) want is three in midfield. The idea is a solid one: you get two players holding and one roving free. They can even play off each other, one makes a run, the other two stay back. The only problem with this theory is… Arsenal have too many players who don’t contribute to midfield defense. Let’s say you switch to a 352. That means you’re going to drop Ozil (or Alexis, I guess) into the midfield. Well, they already don’t contribute to the midfield defense and if you’re expecting either of them to be dropping back into a double-pivot then you’re not really utilizing them to their maximum efficiency! Do you want Ozil making tackles or key passes? He can’t do both. I actually don’t think he can tackle at all. So, that means Ramsey has to be more conservative. He can make some runs but not all the time and he certainly shouldn’t be camping in the 18 yard box, taking space away from Lacazette (and bringing an extra defender as well).
Fun fact: Ramsey is a 9% career finisher, scoring 38 goals on 430 shots and Lacazette is a 22% finisher scoring 116 on 539 shots (source: whoscored.com, doesn’t include EFL cup, does include international duty, doesn’t include friendlies). If I was Wenger I would draw a huge slimer ghost on the chalkboard with like 40 hot dogs sticking out of his mouth and tell my team FEED LACAZETTE. If they get Lacazette 5 shots I bet Arsenal win this game.
Koscielny also said some stuff about the back five. I ignore all this talk. Like I said above, and which I have proven with at least three articles now, the formation isn’t the problem. Stop talking about formation bruh.
Let’s see… what else… uhhh, Wenger “poured cold water on cryotherapy”.
“No one knows because you have a lot of science. If you read the science, some have proved it works and some have proved it doesn’t work. The ones that prove it works are usually sponsored by the guys who say that it does. Is (cryotherapy) smoke and mirrors? Yes. Because at the end of the day, since I’ve been in the job, we have improved a lot the medical treatment. A lot. But, still, if you have a muscle problem, it takes 21 days. It took 21 days 30 years ago.
CRYOTHERAPHYLAUGHEMOJI. Ya, so if it’s bunk… why did Arsenal just put in a cryotherapy chamber and have all the Arsenal players photographed in their skivvies shivering?
And finally, Arsene Wenger has called for some kind of regulations on transfers and salaries. This was revealed on nearly the exact same day as Liverpool leaked.. I mean “emails were leaked”.. emails between Barcelona and Liverpool. The Liverpool emails showed that Barcelona offered Coutinho £20m a year in salary and offered his agent £10m if he could keep the transfer fee below £100m. The leaked emails were clearly not leaked by Liverpool even though they make Liverpool look fantastic because Liverpool said “no price will get Coutinho” and Liverpool desperately need to look good after buying Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for nearly £40m which was a huge gaffe in the transfer market.
As for Wenger’s call to cap, the only way I see this happening is if the EU steps in with regulations. Financial Fair Play never really had any teeth to it and it looks like PSG have just blown it a raspberry with the purchase of Neymar. The problem is that PSG and Man City are owned by countries. And not only countries but super-wealthy billionaires who need to diversify their portfolios. These billionaires dump their money into assets (players) and don’t really care if the return on their investments grows or if they get good value, they just need to get the money out of their country as a safeguard against instability in the region. If you did some kind of luxury tax, they would just pay it. If you try to cap their transfer spend at say, 40% of revenue, they would just sell players to their own domestic league for huge profits, or dump more money into the club through advertising their country’s airlines. And I don’t know if you can cap salaries. Because the workers have a right to earn as much as they can.
Arsenal need to pivot away from complaining about the lack of regulations and look at what’s selling like hotcakes: 18 year olds. The Arsenal Academy’s record has been woeful. Only two top quality players have made it out of the Arsenal Academy: Ashley Cole and Jack Wilshere. You could argue that Bellerin and Szczesny are top quality as well and I won’t fight you. But you have to have more than 4 players in 20 years.
The other option is to pivot away from pretending that we are a title contender. Wenger’s Arsenal have been title contenders exactly twice in the last 12 years: 2007/08 and 2015/16. I’m ok with that and a few other trophies thrown in for fun. But I’d rather see Arsenal as a developmental team. We are never going to get relegated and we are unlikely to be able to spend enough to beat Man City: they spend more on their fullbacks than Arsenal spend on forwards. So, Arsenal need to move away from buying established players and toward being a developmental team. You want to attract Ousmane Dembele for £10m and then sell him on for £80m. Instead of complaining about the market, take advantage of the market.
Anyway, that should tide you over for a few days. I’ll be back here on Wednesday. If you need a fix, you can find me on Arseblog News doing the numbers later today/tomorrow.
¹According to the Telegraph, which takes as its source Peter Crouch on twitter. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/stoke-city/11839712/Ryan-Shawcross-reveals-all-on-naked-Tony-Pulis-headbutting-James-Beattie.html
²Via Arseblog News