Nacho Nacho man

A four goal glut, the return of one of Arsenal’s best players, and a goal for Arsenal’s much maligned center forward proved to be a welcome relief from a week of madness at Arsenal.

Football has become a distraction from the real game, the transfer game. Football only happens twice a week, transfer stories run 24/7/12/365. And right now Arsenal have no less than two major transfers in the works. I won’t sully your eyeballs with them, you know what they are.

Arsenal haven’t scored four goals in the Premier League since the 5-0 win over Huddersfield. That was back in November.  There have been a couple of three goal games and there was the 6-0 thrashing of BATE in the Europa League but this was one game where it just felt good to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and gently put it to bed. With the other pups.

Arsenal deserved the win. Palace were listless and allowed Arsenal to just run through them. The Gunners created 5 big chances in this match and Arsenal have now won 10 of 11 matches where they have 3 or more big chances. The only loss this season in those matches was against Man U. 30 of Arsenal’s 42 points have been won in those 10 games where the Arsenal offense was clicking.

Not to bring the mood down, rather just for completion, on the other side of the coin, Arsenal have won just two of the games where they created 2 or fewer big chances. They also have 6 draws and 5 losses in those matches. I’d just say that about half the time Arsenal are creating 2 or less big chances (almost all of them are away games – 10 of the 13 were away) and that Arsenal have 19 Big Chances in away games but 9 of them were against just two teams: Everton (6) and Crystal Palace (3 – not this match, the previous one).

So, it’s a great match when Arsenal create 5 big chances. And instrumental to that output was the return of an Arsenal legend, possibly the most technically gifted player on the team, a guy who is a consummate professional, and who has stuck with Arsenal through thick and thin, a guy who always re-signs when the club offer him a deal, who has 196 appearances, and who will play in any position Wenger asks him to play. I’m talking about Nacho Monreal.

I was at Swansea for Monreal’s first Arsenal goal and I’ve had a soft spot for the player ever since. I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that I think he’d make a great DM for Arsenal. His touch is world class, as is his control, and his passing. He’s also a fantastic defender and has the stamina needed to play the position. But that’s a pipe dream, Wenger will never convert him.

Have you seen the famous twitter video of Monreal playing keepy uppy with Cazorla? His touch is amazing. It’s on the level of Cazorla, who is better than Ozil. I guess what I’m saying here is that Monreal’s touch is at least equal to Ozil.

In this match against Crystal Palace he created two big chances for his teammates. Ozil created one (Lacazette’s goal), Xhaka one, and Wilshere one.

Monreal also scored a goal. A wonderfully worked header. His 6th ever Arsenal goal. Third this season.

And up front, Lacazette got off the snide. All strikers go through a drought. Lacazette wasn’t getting any service – he’d only gotten six shots in the previous three matches and you can hardly blame him for not scoring in the awful match against Bournemouth where Arsenal’s midfield couldn’t play their way out of a well made bed. Ozil, a keen student of the game, knows what kind of moves that Lacazette’s going to make. So, when Ozil backheeled for Laca, you knew that he knew that Lacazette would be there.

Perhaps I got the mood of the club wrong in my pre-match write-up. That is the danger of couch punditry. In the match, there was a sense that Arsenal were lifted by the presence of Ozil – as much as Palace didn’t really press, Ozil was brilliant. He made his teammates around him better.

And Wenger is bringing in Mkhitaryan for Alexis which should add further quality to Arsenal’s midfield. I even see Mkhitaryan possibly taking over the Cazorla role in CM – depending on his attitude and workrate, of course.

There’s going to be a period of adjustment for Wenger/Ancelotti signing both Mkhi and Auba this January. You certainly can’t have both Ozil and Mkhitaryan playing free-wheeling AM and he’s not going to play fullback. You also have two outright strikers now in this team with Lacazette and Aubameyang. Looking at some of the Borussia Dortmund lineups when Auba played with Mkhitaryan and Lewandowski, Aubameyang played wide left, Mkhi in the middle, and Lewandowski up front. I’d like to see a front three of Auba, Laca, Ozil with a midfield three of (two real DMs) and Mkhitaryan.

Damnit.. I wandered into transfer territory. I guess while I’m there I should mention that even if Arsenal sign Auba and Mkhitaryan they still need a keeper, a left back, and at least one center back. There are also a ton of questions about the current team: if Arsenal sign Mkhitaryan and Ozil where does Jack Wilshere fit? Is he supposed to play a more defensive midfielder role? What about Ainsley Maitland-Niles? Surely he needs to be given a chance in midfield. And what about Ramsey? Is he going to finally fulfil his potential as a midfielder instead of pretending to be a center forward?

This is what we like to call “a good problem to have”: Lots of players, lots of positions, lots of quality.

And one last thing about Alexis Sanchez. It’s sad that he put money over trophies. I thought he was a winner. I thought that his histrionics were about wanting to win trophies but going to Man U – and for just a small percentage more money – means that he doesn’t care about trophies. Mourinho’s United is not anywhere near as good as City. City are on the verge of a dynastic football team while United look like they are riding the luck of David de Gea and Mourinho looks like he’s ready to start falling apart, like he does with every job he’s ever had. If they lose de Gea, who should demand a transfer, they are in real trouble. I honestly think Arsenal could finish above them next season and it would be divine justice.

Qq

Sources: Opta via Whoscored.com and SofaScore.com

76 comments

  1. I share the disappointment over Alexis and his craven choice of running to Man U.

    Also wondering about the value of getting a 29-year old Mkhitaryan as part of this. Hope it works out obviously and helps us with our ball retention and tidiness (your By The Numbers – shocking). Interested as always in your thoughts regarding what he can do for us.

    I missed the entire 1st half and watched the entire 2nd half of the Crystal Palace match, so I saw yet another average Arsenal performance in which we tried to pass the ball into the net and lost 1-0!

    1. United’s most consequential transfer of the last six transfer windows was the DeGea’s botched up transfer to Real.
      He’s more important to them than Pogba or Sanchez ever will be.
      I can only think of one aspect of his trade that’s not absolutely perfect – his kicking game, but it’s good enough not to cost United.

      Nacho’s great. Ozil’s touch is better though.

      Sanchez picked more money because his agent also picked more money.
      That doesn’t mean there won’t be trophies for him in the end though.

      I can see Mourinho win the CL just as likely as Pep , who’s still in four competitions and game time minutes and injuries are piling up.

    2. I find it amusing that gooners think Alexis should have chosen anyone but Man U and because he did, it is mercenary. Money is always a factor in free transfers. Alexis went for gold, no question. But Manchester United is also a good choice (for him) from a playing point of view. They’re the most successful club of the premiership era; and in Lingard, Martial, Lukaku, Rashford and Mata, he’s going to be playing with pretty good players as well. It’s not just the money… he’s safeguarding his chances of winning stuff as well.

      Mourinho may or may not be the long-term managerial solution at United (my gut — admittedly not based on any citeable hard facts — tells me shorter rather than longer), so while playing for an ultra-cautious tactician probably won’t be as much fun, it is overstated as a reason for him to bypass the United offer.

      Like Doc, I’ll stop short of wishing Alexis well. But hey, he gave us 3 really good seasons. The first half of this one is best forgotten. I don’t fault Wenger for a decision to keep or offload in the summer, but I do fault him for the awful transfer management that saw us in a last minute buy/sell panic scramble to do two deals, Sanchez out and Lemar in.

    1. Auba looks to me more of a poacher. The 6yds box man. A genius at scoring the easy goals. Lacaz on the other hand is a good goal scorer but without plenty of the poachers instinct. I’d say they compliment each other.
      Outside the 6yds box Lacaz edges Auba while Auba edges Lacaz in the 6yds box. (as I see it).

  2. I’m really surprised no one is talking about wenger’s tactical setup in this game, i find the 4-1-3-2 formation( with ozil slightly behind laca) we deployed to be most fascinating. Is this a nod the future with the potential new signing, also i get the feeling wenger got to see some of the things we’ve all been complaining about from his “naughty chair” in the last three games and actually tried to fix some of those weaknesses ( emphasis on tried)

    1. I thought it looked like a 4-4-1-1 out of possession and a fluid, lopsided 4-2-3-1 while in possession. Definitely looked like something different from the norm and I think it caught Palace out because they were not expecting to be outnumbered in midfield.

      1. I agree with Adrian Clarke on the Breakdown that it was more of a 4-3-3 (he says 4-3-2-1, but it amounts to much the same, provided your ‘2’ are more number 10 rovers or “inside forwards,” than they are out-and-out wingers).

        The midfield trio was Xhaka and Wilshere playing ahead and to either side of Elneny in a Barca-style 1-2 triangle, while Iwobi (starting from the left) and Ozil (from the right) were inside forwards with room to roam supporting Laca up top.

        But obviously there was a ton of fluidity among those five midfielders, with the exception of Elneny sitting in the deep role.

  3. Can you imagine that, about 3 years ago, some gooners were arguing that Gibbs was better than Nacho? True story.

    Nacho is a nailed-on pick in an all Prem XI, rivaled by the quite wonderful Cesar Azpilicueta from Chelsea, who can play we well in either full-back position.

    The one weak area for Nacho and the whole Arsenal defence is shot blocking. It is half-hearted, abysmal, and borderline cowardly. That apart, his game, back and front, is very very good. We pilloried Arsene for giving him a spell in central defence a few years ago, but that seems to have aided his development.

    I find Tim’s idea of him at CDM intriguing. Imagine being the sitting shield to Ramsey, Jack and Xhaka (two of 3). Tasty.

    1. 3 years ago, Gibbs was indeed better. He was faster and better with 1 on 1s.

      Then Wenger gave Nacho some game time in the middle which in turn made Nacho into an excellent defender.

      1. I think this is one of those collective myths that’s emerged from the Arsenal fan base over time. Whether Gibbs was better or not, the idea that Monreal, at his age, suddenly became a much better defender because of like a month at CB strikes me as implausible to say the least.

    2. I’ve always felt Nacho is our best DM material. A good defender + a good passer + a good reader of the game = a terrific DM.

      The only snag is that our LFB positìon would miss him. Kola and AMN dònt quite fill his boots.

    3. I don’t get the shot blocking comment – between Kos, Mustafi and others I seem to recall we end up doing a fair amount of that kind of last-ditch stuff. Mustafi at Bournemouth for eg

    4. A dainty half-turn with a leg tentatively stuck out is not a block, of either a shot or a cross. And, as fabulous a defender as Koscielny is, he is one of the worst offenders. Defenders for mid table clubs with half the natural ability of Arsenal defenders are better shot blockers and cross stoppers.

      My evidence? What I’ve seen from decades of watching/supporting football and Arsenal. If you can find a tape of the recent Man U game (David de Gea’s standout game), watch the shot blocking of Smalling and Jones — two very ordinary centre backs.

    5. I freakin LOVE Nacho, but I think being converted to a CDM role, when you’ve played virtually your whole career as a LB, is maybe harder than you guys are suggesting, if only because transitioning from playing near the sidelines to playing in the middle, where you have to be equally comfortable with turning in either direction and seeing the whole field, is a huge ask. And it’s not just about being heavily reliant on one’s dominant foot, since e.g. both Nacho and Ozil are reliant on their left, but Nacho is used to the “comfort” of being able to open his body up onto his dominant leg as he receives the ball against the touchline. You don’t get that luxury in the middle of the park, with players closing down on you from every direction.

  4. I think that there are possibilities that Hassenhutl will come to Arsenal to replace Wenger. His 4-2-2-2 tactics compliment our new personnel, with Aubameyang as our Werner. I don’t think we should worry of Mkhitaryan defensive contribution because I think he is good with pressing when he is in Dortmund. The crucial thing is the coaching and the tactics implemented in the formation. So, if we can actually play organized pressing, a front 4 with Aubameyang and Lacazette support by Mkhitaryan and Ozil with Wilshere-Ramsey behind them could even work. The important thing is the coaching and that is why I think either Hassenhutl will come at the end of the season, or a similar new style coach who integrated two strikers as their main formation, like Simeone.

    1. Where does the concern about Mkhi’s defending come from? He’s no slouch without the ball, probably more consistently switched on than Sanchez and part of an aggressive Dortmund front line as recently as 2015.

      1. I don’t know but I raised it as a potential issue, probably because of my assumption that a small, slight dribbly forward would not contribute much in the defensive phase. But many others have pointed out that he was part of the gegenpress.

        1. To me it sounds like it’s coming from the Man United fans based on Mourinho usage of him (or lack thereof). He’s a player who likes to defend from the front and that’s not what Mourinho asked him to do, so I think that’s why he looked lost defensively at times while he was over there.

    2. Hasenhuettl is rumoured to be on Bayern’s list, he’s considered a safer choice than Nagelsmann who might be in for the Dortmund job.

  5. I’d always thought the VP’s Nacho Nacho Man was the obvious chant for our left back: v sad it never came about.
    He was great but Palace were diabolical, especially the corners. And much as I don’t want to rain on our parade, Ozil was brilliant…against Palace. Oh that he would boss games/be given that much space against the top sides.
    I think Mkhitaryan makes more sense as a replacement rather than a partner for MO but we will see. Similar to Sanchez, I think it’s more a case of financial over sporting ambition that will see him eventually go but maybe he’ll revel in the responsibility of being the main man and orchestrator of the team now that Sanchez has gone.
    Sanchez is a top talent but I’m glad to see the back of him. His egotistical tantrums meant it was always more about him than the team, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays with Mourinho at United. Great players often, but not always, have big egos and Sanchez’s antics didn’t encourage self belief in his teammates. Bring on Auba!

    1. I think they will pair well. Though also partial to a through ball and pretty pass, Henrikh is much more direct than Ozil and likes to work inside from the left hand channel on to his right foot. Based on what I’ve seen of him, he seems a much more natural replacement for Sanchez than for Ozil but I think he will be a much better fit in the locker room and with Wenger than Sanchez was. I am very optimistic that we got the better of this deal, particularly considering Sanchez’s expiring contract.

  6. I honestly don’t see a scenario where the two new players slot into the team with Ozil and Lacazette without a change of formation. Keen Bundesliga observers have pointed out that Aubameyang was so poor on the wing that Klopp wanted shot of him after one season. If this were a normal-ish team, you’d probably play 4–2-2-2 with Auba the advanced forward and Laca more of a deep lying player, Mkhi and Ozil on the wings as Raumdeuters/Playmakers on basic free roles on offense. The problem is to play that way you need a quality midfield pair who are defensively stable and can maintain possession. We’ve proven beyond all doubt we don’t have any pair of midfielders who compliment each other in such a fashion., we basically have to play with a holding player to make our midfield work. Of course, we don’t really have a holding player – Elneny looked good yesterday but Palace were dire and are Palace.

    What I would suspect we will do is play 4-3-3 with Ozil on one wing as a free role playmaker and one of the strikers nominally on the wing cutting inside on their strong foot, ala Alexis. That leaves Mkhitaryan to play alongside either Wilshere or Ramsey and Xhaka in the holding role we all know he cannot perform. Its too many attacking players and poor shape so I suspect it will work much like it worked all season with Alexis – sometimes there are brilliant moments from your world class players, sometimes you generate nothing because your midfield isn’t balanced and you get ripped to shreds because nobody is shielding the backline.

    What’s interesting is what these players could look like in the summer with a new coach who can coach a pressing 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 and some new buys in midfield.

    1. Yep. Nailed it, though I’m a little more optimistic than you (a) that Wenger will see sense and play both Laca and Auba centrally, thus leading to the 4-4-2 (or 4-2-2-2, if you prefer); and (b) that it might work better than our setup in the first half of this season tended to work.

      Basically, I think we’ll still be plenty exposed defensively, particularly on the counter, but if Wenger can pick the right combo in the deep-lying midfield, (I think it should probably include Wilshere; I also think AMN deserves a chance to show what he can do as our DM ball-winner), then we might at least do a better job of transitioning up the field against teams who press us, and our attack could be deadly. We might have the look of Rodgers/Klopp’s Liverpool about us (and the sort of look Arsenal circa 2005-2013 tended to have), i.e. fast and brilliant going forward, married with comedy defending (down to being outnumbered as much as to being poor defenders) at the back.

  7. In the anti-football of Jose Mourinho David De Gea is an absolute difference maker. He is better than the great van de Saar before him and means more to United right now than the Dutchman did for a lot of those Ferguson teams.

  8. Time for a 4 – 2 – 2 – 2.

    Ozil and Mkhitaryan are both intelligent and mobile enough to explore the spaces on either flank when needed. Lacazette has shown quality in his movement out to the right wing, as well as dropping slightly deep to pick up the ball and create for others, so could play as the slightly more withdrawn one of a front two (assuming rumours are true and so on).

    Assuming the players’ in-game management is good, a 4-2-2-2 could also serve as a 4-2-3-1, or a 4-3-3/4-3-1-2 with Mkhitaryan dropping into a deeper central role.

    As always, the problems lie with the 2 that are furthest back – any pair out of Xhaka, Wilshere, Ramsey, Elneny is going to be insufficient cover for the rest, whether it’s a 4-2-2-2, a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3 or the (currently being deprecated) 3-4-3 (which is more like a 3-2-5 at most times.

    I am looking forward to Mkhitaryan’s qualities though – we are likely to see less ball-hogging, quicker/earlier passing, and hopefully smoother movement of the ball across the attack, particularly on the counter.

    1. Yep to all of this, but unlike you and Gaspar, I reckon it’s Ozil, rather than Mkhi, who will be asked to tuck into midfield to form a three at times, at least in the short term (whether in the long term Wenger tries to convert Mkhi to a deep midfielder a la Cazorla it’s probably far too soon to say, even for Arsene).
      Ozil’s done this, surprisingly competently, a number of times when we’ve played 4-3-3 in the last two months. Of course, it hardly addresses the fact that our midfield is terribly unbalanced towards attack…

      1. One last thought on lineups:
        If we do get Auba, and do line up in a kind of 4-2-2-2, with Ozil and Mikki in dual “roaming flank” roles, it will be a bit reminiscent of Arsenal’s 07-08 team (oft-cited by fans as the last time we properly challenged for the title). If memory serves, that team played a proper striker partnership up top of RvP and Adebayor (at least when they were both fit, which wasn’t always the case), a midfield partnership of Cesc and Flamini, and Hleb and Rosicky as the “wide midfielders” who had plenty of freedom to not stay wide, not unlike we’re imagining Ozil and Mkhitaryan playing.

        If that team was anything to go by (at least for the first two thirds of that season!) it could be fun!

  9. I have to take issue with Arseblog this morning so of course I am coming on here to do it.

    First, he says Sanchez’s transfer is not only about money – of course it isn’t, but as others point out he had a chance to join the best team the prem has seen, and turned it down in order to be the highest paid player in the league, so it has to be a little bit about money.

    Second, he brings up Pires’ comments about letting a world class player go to a rival, and how Arsenal have failed Sanchez by not trying to build up a team around their best players. Blogs says if you don’t agree with him then you are someone who refuses to hear criticism, and/or casts all ex-players who are critical as bitter and irrelevant.

    The thing is, all these ex-players who give their views, bad or good, can only give their perspective as players. So I don’t think Pires is bitter, but I do think he can only see things from a player’s perspective, and often players don’t see the bigger picture, and often they are self-centred. Just because Sanchez might feel the club has not supported him or matched his level of ambition doesn’t mean it is true.

    To me it’s clear that Arsenal have tried to build a team full of talent and experienced internationals, and there can be no argument that players like Ozil, Cazorla, Ramsey, Nacho, Kos, Cech, Laca, Giroud and Wilshere are not good enough. Xhaka and Mustafi too are internationals that came very highly regarded even if they have had their struggles. The problem is not the calibre of player, the problem is the level of performance. And if Sanchez, the supreme individualist, was in some way undermining or unsettling things, then no player is bigger than the club.

    1. Alexis’ wage demands proved too much for Bayern Munich too. PSG were reported to have some interest earlier but not sure how concrete that was. And even ManCity balked at his wages. Of course it’s about money, though I don’t get why people treat it as an either/or situation. He’s not exactly making a bad move by going to ManU. But I’d say the balance is tilted in favour of money over ‘ambition’.

    2. I would argue that Arsenal have failed the fans and not so much Sanchez by failing to build a better team around him and Ozil during the years they were here together.

      Have they ( Arsenal) done that and become more successful in the last three years Sanchez still would’ve gone for a big pay day.

      This is where Wenger’s lack of ruthlessness and his naivety come in , in assessing players’ ambitions and motives.
      His latest comments prove it once again where he says he “doesn’t understand why anyone would ever want to leave Arsenal”, or that he now realizes Arsenal never had a chance to resign Alexis.

      I believe 90% of gooners could’ve told him why Alexis was leaving and what chances Wenger had to resign him.

    3. Arseblog’s money quote >> “Of course there’s a financial element to Sanchez’s decision to go to United. He’s 29, it’s his last big contract, and as a genuine star he’s making the most of his talent from a monetary point of view. Yet dismissing his departure as the actions of a mercenary who’s only in it for the cash is a kind of defence mechanism, and an unwillingness to face up the harsh reality that his decision to leave has come from a sporting standpoint too”.

      ….. is bang on the money. Thank you Arseblog, for exactly echoing my thoughts.

      Let’s stop behaving like Pep Guardiola is some Pied Piper or Jesus, and that Aleis should have taken half the wages for the privilege of playing with him.

      This “best team the premiership has seen” stuff is gushy and premature. Let’s wait till the end of May, shall we?

      1. I think you can say that his decision is based on sporting motives when considering his preference for United over Arsenal.

        To me the proof in the pudding that money played a big part is that he could’ve gone to City but instead chose United. If he wanted to win titles above all, well, he would’ve had one in a few months at City. With United, he’s betting on himself and a 3rd year Mourinho team (historically his worst year) to come through next season.

      2. We may be underestimating the extent to which Sanchez improves United’s attack. I don’t think that anyone is going to catch City in the EPL this season, but after that, it’s all to play for. Plus — and this is a very big plus — City is far from nailed-on for the other big one, the Champions League. Neither is United, btw, even with Sanchez. But the only seemingly certain trophy he’s giving up by bypassing City is this year’s EPL.

        United are a club with pedigree; the most successful of the prem era. Greg claims this City team is the prem’s best ever. Fergie’s treble winners of 1999 might want to contest that. Money, yes. A rational sporting decision? Absolutely.

        1. Actually I think Sanchez is a better fit for Jose’s ‘style’ of football than Guardiola’s. Mourinho’s ultra defensive platform relies on a super talented maverick to do it on his own up top. It worked with Hazard until he ruined his relationship with him. I think it’ll work with Alexis.

          1. It depends. Freewheeling Alexis couldn’t do it on his own at Arsenal, so why would it be any different at United? I think Sanchez works best when he subsumes his ego/passion/superhero impression for the betterment of the team and plays within himself, not trying to win the game with every possession. I don’t know if sticking him up front and letting him go nuts is really going to get the best out of him. At City, he would basically be playing the Raheem Sterling role and getting all those shots and chances. I think that’s a much better fit.

        2. These narratives tend to get polarized. I don’t think Sanchez is a mercenary, I don’t think he’s a pure sportsman either. I’m of the opinion that Man Utd is a good fit for him but if, say, PSG had come in with an even bigger offer he would have gone there instead.

          And I use “best prem team ever” as hyperbolic shorthand Claude, you should know all about that.

        1. The treble would unquestionably be a great achievement. For City, Paris, Bayern…. any of the 4 or 5 teams with a shot. Alexis with United probably gives them a better chance than City in the CL.

    4. Greg, I think blogs has a point, as does Pires, but it’s also not so black and white. You have to do what is in the best interest of the club and I think we can all agree it’s in the best interest of all involved if we move on from Sanchez. After that, you soften the blow by trying to get something for him. Getting a player like Mkhitaryan is a handsome offset for a player in the last 6 months of his contract. That certainly has to be taken into the calculus in the decision not to let Sanchez run his contract down.

      I think blogs’ strongest point is that we have failed to build a team that makes its best players want to stick around. That has been a theme for a long time at this club now.

      1. I have to disagree with the last line. The last time we lost a player against our wishes was Van Persie in 2012. That’s a long time ago.

          1. I think what I’m trying to say is you hoped in 2012 that this kind of thing wouldn’t happen again, and technically it hasn’t, but on the face of it, we have just lost our best player to Manchester United again because he’d rather be playing for them than for us. That’s still a tough pill to swallow. Even if I think we’ll be better off with Mkhi in the longer term, that’s only because Sanchez is not fully committed to Arsenal. If he was, it’d be a no-brainer to keep him and he’d have signed a new contract with us.

    5. It’s a simple and obvious thing to say that arsenal should not sell it’s best players to rivals and that, when you have players like Sanchez and Ozil, you should surround them with quality players to get the very best out of them.

      In a perfect world that’s OBVIOUSLY (excuse the caps) the thing to do, but unfortunately we’re not the only team looking for top quality players and we’re not in a position to bully our way to every player we want.

      If you asked Arsene I’m pretty sure he’d say that that’s exactly what he wanted to do and what he tried to do.

      1. All very sober statements, and I agree with what you say. In the harsh glare of the modern fast paced football world though, you’re judged on what you accomplish, not on your intentions.

  10. By the way, who in their right minds would film that keep-uppy session in portrait instead of landscape? Sometimes I don’t understand people.

  11. I can see why a few of you think Miki could take over the Cazorla role. He’s got the ability and close control, and it would take away the problem of how to fit them all in. (Provided Auba joins) But for me the issue will be his desire to play that role. He’s just had a season of being left out and will want to prove that he’s still a stud like he was at Dortmund. He’s also got an agent who obviously does a good job of promoting his clients’ value and will be pushing him to be a stud too. Playing CM for Arsenal will mean sacrificing his personal glory in favour of the team. Not saying he’s not a team player, especially compared to Alexis Sanchez, but is he willing to make that sacrifice? Somehow, I doubt it, but we’ll see. I think it more likely we’ll play a 442 of sorts.

    Also, I think it makes sense for Arsenal to revamp the attack in this window and look at midfied and defense in the summer. (Or during the season, what with the World Cup) Maybe we want a Midfielder, but if we sign one now, do Wilshere and Ramsey re-up? It also gives us time to see if AMN can play well as a DM, and how Ramsey and Jack cope with the demands put on them in any new system. As you say, we’ve won the majority of our points when the attack is firing, so the best chance of making top 4 also comes from having a great attack rather than trying to rebuild a good defense.

    I’ll be happy if these moves come off.

    1. The thing about balance of defence and attack is very important, but the answer is not always obvious… if your defence is vulnerable it might be a problem with your attacking play. Systems thinking and all that.

      That’s my gut feel at the moment, we are set up to be strong defensively only when our use of the ball and our movement is purposeful and quick. As soon as we are predictable or give the ball away too easily (as Tim’s stats show), with fullbacks high and Ramsey running etc. the best DM in the world won’t make a whole lot of difference.

    2. I think it worth pointing out that besides a willingness to play the deep pivot like Cazorla did, you need a certain tactical intelligence that Cazorla also had. As a matter of fact it was (in my opinion) an underrated quality of his. Arteta had it as well, but sadly it is a quality that seems to be lacking in Ramsey, Wilshere and Xhaka. Coincidence that it was our two Spanish-bred pivots? I think not. Anyway, there’s no proof that Mhykitaryan has that same tactical awareness.

      1. Yeah I meant to say that too, but I decided that I don’t know enough about Miki’s game to suggest anything about his tactical intelligence either way. But I agree with you that it is a very important quality. Usually it comes with experience too, and Miki has more of that, in different countries, than the 3 Arsenal players you listed. So…I guess there’s a chance he could play that role.

  12. Ok, Tim, so it’s now officially announced on the website.

    I guess that means hell has well and truly frozen over (and you with it)?

    🙂

      1. It’s approaching latter day Rosicky stage where you want to have hope but you know at a minimum he’s never going to be the same again. Why do our most fun players get these injuries??

  13. Doc. Alexis Sanchez no longer wanted to be here. I hear what you are saying, but oddly enough I find myself not just at peace, but happy with what has transpired.

    Look, if the measure of a football club is going to be if a star player leaves for another, then surely no club in the world can always claim to be the place where it’s at.

    And when it comes down to it, money has a lot to do with it. I know there’s rightly been some consternation about our cash reserves, and I also know Wenger’s words are often viewed with scorn, but I believe him when he says we did the maximum we could. It wasn’t enough for Alexis in this market.

    It doesn’t say anything about how we run as a club or how we’ve built the team. Even Pires’ comments are conjecture. Yes, if Arsenal had a title winning/challenging team, it would be tougher for Alexis to leave, especially if he was happy and settled in London. It still wouldn’t be a guarantee. Players leave man, the difference from 2012 is good, established player(s) are joining us too now. Why? Money!

    1. Don’t get me wrong, there has been progress. Arsenal were in pits of despair a mile deep in 2012 and but for van Persie’s goals, who knows where we’d have been? I think since then we have (more or less) caught up to Chelsea but lost further ground to City and have been overtaken by Tottenham (less dramatically than the press would have us believe) as well as (arguably) Liverpool.

      Meanwhile, Manchester United have kept growing and have more financial muscle as well as being a bigger draw. Sure, we can attract top players. They can attract the very best. We sign Lucas Perez, they sign Zlatan. We sign Granit Xhaka, they sign Paul Pogba. We sign Mikhitaryan, they sign Sanchez. All of those signings look fine for Arsenal in isolation but they pale when you compare to what our rivals are doing (and so does our end of season points tally). Even Mkhitaryan was linked with us in 2015 and presumably chose United instead because all those noises got very quiet once they got involved. And then, on top of that, we periodically leak top talent to the 3-4 who clubs that remain firmly above our station in world football. How can we ever bridge that gap if we sieve top talent to them? I think that’s what Pires is lamenting.

      And I understand the other side too. Complaining about it publicly doesn’t help. All those Arsenal “legends” who complain about decisions the club has made doesn’t help. Thierry Henry’s armchair psychology in the skyports studios doesn’t help. I’m merely commenting on the validity of the statement itself.

      1. I have a lot of time for Pires but I have only read his comments. Was he speaking in English? What question was he answering? That can change the import. The way I read it, he was primarily defending Alexis from a charge of being only mercenary, and also saying that Arsenal is otherwise a good club to be at. I don’t think blame was attached to Arsenal for the financial realities. Though a lament it might have been.

        By the way, Arsenal have finished ahead of ManU now for a number of years despite those signings you’re comparing. We’re unlikely to be favourites any given year, regardless of who the manager is. But there’s no reason we can’t compete. I think the trick lies in opening the gap between us and the bottom 14 clubs.

        We need to be the bridge between two football worlds and that isn’t easy. Take risks that smaller clubs do (Like with Mahrez and Kante) but also make the most of the money that we have, to prey on the lesser lights for their brightest talent. Occasionally we might also get some ‘rejects’ like Alexis, Ozil and now Miki. It may not be enough, but it’s going to have to be. Of course, the big thing would be if we can get a productive academy going, leaving us more freedom in the transfer market.

        Anyway, all I did disagree with you on was that not being able to keep our best players has long been a theme at Arsenal. It hasn’t been a theme for a long time, and it isn’t a theme. Yet.

        1. Yeah, signings like Mislintat, Forsythe and the scout from Leicester (forget his name) show that we are trying (belatedly) to build a modern infrastructure around Wenger in order to do just what you describe: Make more of less resources than the elites have made of theirs. It’s a difficult business. But, it’s not as if we’re paupers either. I think it’s safe to say we have not made the most of the club’s financial resources in terms of product on the pitch, even if we are competing against the odds for a title every season.

  14. About Alexis at ManU vs ManCity. I agree, Doc, he would have played the Sterling role for them. And he would do it better. But I just get the sense that he’s too much of an individualist for it to last very long with Pep’s system. He’d be holding onto the ball and trying to do it all on his own. I mean even when he played well with us, he wasn’t facilitating a slick passing game as much as creating space for himself, or coming up with a killer ball.

    Freewheeling Alexis didn’t work at Arsenal in the last year because he was tired, and lately, not committed to the cause. Even if only subconsciously. It worked really well before that in the sense that he was effective and scored lots of goals through individual skill, which is all that Jose wants from him. They also have a much better defensive platform to work from.

    1. I guess we’ll see how he fits in. There is no obvious like for like player for him at United though I imagine he will be using the same spaces as Zlatan, Mata, and Pogba to some extent. If he’s to be a success, then meshing with the latter will be of particular importance since PP is rightfully the heartbeat and future of that squad. I don’t think ultimately Alexis will enjoy playing for Mourinho because he’s a firebrand, he likes to take it to the opposition and Jose is more of a wet blanket type. Prediction is that the hierarchy will fire Jose next year to find someone who can get the best out of Alexis.

  15. So Liverpool’s loss to Swansea means we’re 5 points behind them. Top 4 is still possible, especially if we can sign Auba too and integrate Miki and him quickly into a system that works. Easier said than done but I’m a lot more hopeful now of catching up than before.

    I also really want us to win the League Cup. We’ve never won it under Wenger, and it would be fun to win this one, as well as be a confidence booster seeing as we’re likely to have to do it against Chelsea and then City.

    1. By the way, can Mkhitaryan play in the League Cup semi final 2nd leg, or only players who were registered for the first leg are eligible? Does anyone know?

  16. a few years back, i declared, as a dortmund fan, it would be a mistake for mhki to leave dortmund to go to either manchester united or arsenal. well, it didn’t work out at manchester united so the hope is that it will work at arsenal? we’ll see. mhki’s a striker, not a center mid. he should slot in as a direct replacement for alexis. trust me, he’ll get his shots away and create tons.

    for the record, i’ve never been a fan of lacazette at arsenal. he should have stayed in france where he can pad his stats against the likes of dijon and le harve. i preferred morata as lacazette will never score 30 goals in england. is he a better center forward than alexis or theo? absolutely. is he a better center forward than giroud or welbeck? heck no! if he’s not better than them, he certainly can’t compete with aubameyang.

    if the auba rumors are true, it’s an exciting time for arsenal fans. as i’ve just implied, he’s miles better as a center forward than lacazette. auba’s arrival would, almost immediately, make lacazette redundant. he’s the closest thing to henry since henry. unlike lacazette, auba actually has the speed to get behind defenses; merely being faster than giroud doesn’t actually make you fast like so many believed lacazette to be. also, unlike lacazette, auba can keep the ball. aubameyang is a center forward, full stop. playing him on the wing would be like henry playing on the wing at juventus. as a center forward, he would truly stretch defenses and create tons of space for ozil to operate if wenger plays ozil in the 10 spot. we’ll see.

    lastly, i love giroud at arsenal. i also love the look of giroud at bvb. he’d be a huge hit at the signal iduna park and would be foolish not to make that move. if he makes the move to dortmund, it will be him leading the line for france this summer, not lacazette.

    1. I don’t think Wenger really wanted Lacazette, but he was the best option available on the market. I know he hasn’t set the world on fire but I think he’s better than you’ve given him credit. He certainly can do the job and makes us a better team, at the very worst a viable alternative at the most important position in the game. Auba is better though and we should get him if we can, particularly with Mikhi on board until 2022.

    2. Welbeck a better CF than Laca? Seriously? I’ll have what you’re smoking (even though I’m in the Caribbean, where the good stuff is).

      There’s a myth in some quarters that only big guys can be classic CFs. A notion hopefully put to rest by watching Laca actually play for 10 minutes.

      1. i’m not of the belief that you have to be a big guy to be a good center forward. small players from kun aguero to jermaine defoe have put that notion to bed and rightfully so. the problem i have with lacazette is that he can’t keep the ball.

        when you have a center forward who can’t keep the ball high up the pitch, it makes it tough for your team to penetrate. your attack becomes predictable. you’ll either have to dribble to penetrate, which is easy to defend, or attempt a through ball to penetrate, which is also easy to defend. these attempts at penetration are made even easier when it becomes clear that your center forward can’t keep the ball. with little penetration, it becomes tough to create chances, meaning it’s tough to score goals. a third penetrating option is for players to run ahead of lacazette in the wide areas. this can lead to crosses which lacazette won’t win if their in the air.

        arsenal’s best hope at scoring goals is through set pieces or individual brilliance. well, arsenal just sold the most brilliant individual player they’ve ever had in the 20+ years that i’ve followed them. so, set pieces it is. come on, aubameyang.

      2. understand, i do not believe lacazette is a bad player. it’s just i don’t believe he can lead a bpl team to the championship as a center forward. it would have been my preference to play him as a second striker behind giroud like griezmann plays for france. however, it’s not my team and i don’t understand half the things wenger does.

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