It’s time for Xhaka to get an on-field interview

Arsenal’s official web site released their Big Interview of Granit Xhaka today and Gooners hope it foreshadows his inclusion in the starting lineup against Hull this weekend.

The article released today is the third “Big Interview” Xhaka has done for the club. The first was a video interview on May 25th just days after signing for Arsenal. The second was released on July 25th, while Arsenal were in irons over the summer signings. And now a third interview has been released today, September 15th, after Arsenal have struggled with their midfield play in four of their first five contests.

The interviews are all very similar and portray a player who works hard and is driven to success. What makes him successful is the fact that he is self reflective, seeing his mistakes and correcting them.

He is also a family man who sees Arsenal as a family club. He is married and likes to stay home with his wife so the fact that Arsenal is like a big family was a key factor in his signing.

For some Arsenal fans there will be much mirth at the fact that Xhaka once again used the “house key” analogy to describe his leadership qualities. Apparently, when he was a child his parents trusted him with the house key despite the fact that he has an older brother. This must have been a formative experience for young Granit because he mentions it in almost every interview and I am left wondering if he likes to remind his family about the “house key thing” at every gathering.

Arsenal have struggled in midfield without Xhaka and most fans are perplexed as to why he can’t get a start. Coquelin has been favored instead which should mean that Arsenal are set up to play more defensively but adding to fan confusion is the fact that Arsene Wenger is starting Coquelin in Cazorla’s position between the lines and pushing Cazorla back in the Arsenal midfield. As Anam pointed out in his column for Arseblog, this set up is strange since Xhaka is a more natural fit for the deep lying playmaker position and Cazorla the more natural fit for the squirrely line-breaker.

Ultimately, all of these off field interviews don’t matter. Arsenal fans are eager to see him conduct an on-field interview with a starting place in this weekend’s team as Arsenal face a Hull side who have been playing very well to start the season. Enough with the off-field prep, time to get Xhaka where he belongs; on the pitch.



  1. Could Wenger’s baffling reluctance to use Xhaka be a way of reducing the pressure of expectation on the Swiss deep-lying playmaker, in some sort of counterintuitive way? Or is it a message of loyalty to Coquelin and El-Neny, that the new broom has no divine right to be deployed regardless of his price tag? Perhaps, in a strange and potentially very costly manner, Wenger is trying to make the whole squad realise that all of them matter, will be needed from time to time and will have to earn their place. Walcott’s improved application prior to his injury and Wilshere’s loan (because Wenger categorically could not guarantee him a regular run) could be viewed as early fruits of this “strategy”. Joel Campbell’s Sporting Lisbon loan is however at odds with this since he’s known to be one of the most hard working Gunners. The fact that Oxlade-Chamberlain is also getting regular game time is also capable of sending confusing signals.

  2. We do not know all that goes on at Arsenal, and what effect, if any that had on Wenger’s decisions as to who played and who did not.

    That said, the team roster was totally baffling, and who know the why and wherefore of it.

    Oh, well, onto Hull City and hopefully the first team squad and of course 3 valuable points, please.

    I enjoyed reading the Post, thank you.

  3. Giovanni van Bronckhorst, ex-Arsenal left fullback in the noughties under Wenger, just engineered a battling last-gasp 1-0 Feyenoord win over Mourinho’s slumping United. It’s off topic, but can we add him to the Arsenal shortlist for the post-Wenger era? For the records, Feyenoord currently sit top of the Eredevisie ahead of PSV and Ajax…

  4. The thing is we have four new players at the club we have played 5 games two of them have been away to the french and English champions.
    I am not sure the manager knows he’s best starting 11 and how many of those 4 will improve the first team on top of the squad.
    Now while this is happening I sure the manager is sticking with players he trusts and will integrate the new players in time.
    Mustafi is already in the first team, I was listening to The Game podcast (Times football) where they all agreed with one saying at least top 3 but when pressed he couldn’t come up with a better pairing that Arsenal now have the best pair of center backs in the PL

  5. late to the conversation this week:
    wenger played ospina because he want’s to keep ospina as a backup. ospina is an experienced international and is good enough to be a starter for most teams. if cech gets injured, it’s nice to have a keeper with ospina’s quality. clearly, tim doesn’t fancy the kid but wenger feels differently. as for his performance, sure he made some mistakes but what keeper doesn’t? all keepers have both good and bad games.

    as for players over-committing to the attack and not enough on defending, we don’t know wenger’s strategic approach and, hence, his instruction to the players. for instance, it’s easy to say that iwobi/chamberlain should track aurier but perhaps they’ve received different instructions; maybe to counter when aurier pushes forward. what else makes sense? could they really just be that defensively irresponsible?

    we even saw coquelin in a role ahead of cazorla. this is not unusual; having a deep-lying playmaker behind an uber-kinetic box-to-box midfielder. when you’re keeping decent possession in your opponent’s half, it’s good to have that physical player capable of winning the ball back higher up the pitch. if that’s the case, xhaka is not competing with coquelin, he’s competing with cazorla. xhaka’s minimal game time doesn’t surprise me at all but, wenger’s delayed introduction of giroud to the starting line-up does.

    1. He’s been trying for years to phase Giroud out. He was bought basically when Wenger realized Podolski wasn’t going to work out as a CF, and then maintained the position essentially by default despite brief challenges from Walcott and Welbeck. But basically Wenger’s been trying to make Giroud into Plan B since he was signed, and this new experiment with Alexis and the purchase of Lucas are the next chapters in that struggle.

      1. disagree that wenger brought giroud in when he realized podolski wasn’t going to work out; they came in during the same transfer window about a month apart. i’ve always believed giroud was bought to allow arsenal to stay ahead of van persie’s departure announcement.

        agreed, that giroud was bought hastily and not with the intent to be the long term option at center forward. however, he’s arsenal’s best option so he should play, full stop. adebayor was intended to back up van persie but when rvp got injured, ade proved to be a scary good option and, unfortunately for wenger, arsenal had to pay a “backup” what his numbers suggested he was worth.

        when david villa left barcelona, alexis was bought and tried as a center forward. that experiment failed. alexis wasn’t sold because he’s a poor player, he was sold because he’s not a center forward. only arsene wenger would ignore this fact and try to re-invent the wheel.

      2. That’s wrong. Giroud and Podolski came in almost at the same time, before Giroud had kicked a ball for the club. They were bought ostensibly to complement Van Persie, who had been demanding a show of ambition but left anyway.

        Let’s not kid ourselves about Wenger’s plan for Alexis. He’s playing at CF because Wenger hasn’t bought an out-and-out CF upgrade. He wants to make a strawberry tart, but he’s got only gooseberries. So he’s talking up the virtues of gooseberries.

    2. Problem with playing Coq in the advanced role is that he isn’t a true box-to-box midfielder. He needs to be more creative with his passes to be considered one. Ramsey can be one, but he lacks the discipline. Players like Gundogan and Verratti are much better at balancing defense and attack. I would say Oscar is also a better box to box player under Conte. If I was more cynical, I would say Arsene is still looking for another Vieira – except that Coquelin isn’t one. Personally I think he just needs to take a look at what he has and re-jig the system instead of doing it the other way around. We have a new spine. In Xhaka we have a player who can protect the defense and spray the ball from deep as we saw vs. Watford. Why not build on that? Playing Coquelin in the destroyer role with Cazorla has worked in the past. I can understand that he doesn’t want to risk playing Xhaka in the deep lying midfielder role against PSG but it seems a bigger risk playing Coquelin in a role he has never shone at. He is tinkering with the midfield while it’s clear that the Koscielny Mustafi partnership needs time to develop and the first thing they need is a stable midfield who can protect them. In his desire to play expansive football, Wenger has a habit of sacrificing the basics. To his credit, in the past he has returned to basics when things haven’t worked. I hope he does that again..

      1. i don’t think i agree that a #8 needs to be more creative than coquelin. it would be nice but there are numerous #8 that were pivotal but not creative. mascherano when he was at liverpool played that role ahead of xabi alonso and they looked fantastic. an older but more accurate example was gattuso who played ahead of pirlo for italy. when you’ve got creative players around you, the need to be creative is not as significant.

        as for his decision to play coquelin ahead of xhaka, i don’t know if xhaka can play in the #8 role.

        btw, gundogan is a #6 (dm); at least he was for dortmund.

        1. Mascherano never camped out in the opponent’s half trying to win the ball back in the high up in the pitch. That was not his game. He is a player that likes to tackle early and tackle hard. Maybe that meant he found himself ahead of Alonso at times but that was more due to the flow of the game rather than a specific tactic to stay up high.

          Pirlo and Italy (or Juventus) is not a good example because they play a completely different system with not one but two box to box work horses ahead of Pirlo. They are defensively sound and focus of maintaining shape through out the game. That’s not what Wenger is doing.

          At the end of the day, I don’t have a problem with the system itself. I am just not convinced Coq is the right player to be used in that role.

          1. i think you’re a bit confused. first, simply because coquelin was asked to play higher up the pitch than we’re used to, i wouldn’t call what he did being “camped out” in the offensive half. he did plenty of work in arsenal’s defensive half of the pitch. next, when mascherano was at liverpool, they played the exact same formation that arsenal currently employ with mascherano behind gerrard and ahead of alonso who was liverpool’s dm, just like he played for spain, real madrid, and currently plays for fc bayern.

            when you start talking about pirlo and juventus, i’m convinced you’re confused as i was comparing coquelin’s role on tuesday to gattuso’s role for milan and italy. i wasn’t talking about pirlo or juventus. likewise, i don’t recall a time when gattuso played for juventus. your point with pirlo and juventus are not relevant. however, when gattuso played with pirlo, both for milan and italy, they were a two-man central midfield partnership with gattuso in a more advanced, ball-winning role. there was never another #8 partnering gattuso. both milan and italy played a 4-4-2 and often used gattuso and pirlo as a central partnership.

  6. I’m not surprised that Wenger has been somewhat conservative in integrating new players. Wenger’s teams depend on familiarity so that the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. Midfield is probably the hardest place to integrate new players because you have to develop chemistry with both attack and defense. With a new defender bedding in, Wenger was probably trying to give max support by having his strongest defensive mid in the game.

    I too find it odd that Giroud has been used as a sub instead of as a starter. Maybe Wenger thinks that, as his best goal scorer, Sanchez has the best chance to adapt to playing as a striker and is trying to settle him in the beginning of games. Maybe Wenger wanted a better pressing striker. Hard to tell when he plays things so close to the vest.

  7. Bedding in Xhaka gradually makes sense, but that doesn’t explain to me why we would play Coquelin further forward out of the blue.

    Wenger isn’t averse to the occasional tactical oddity. When Cazorla originally switched to a deeper central midfield role it seemed like a bizarre choice. But it worked. Now it’s hard to see him anywhere else.

    But to my mind the decoy explanation seems strange and I wonder if there isn’t more to it.

    It’s not unknown for a talented player to move backwards later in their career. You want to keep an influential player on the pitch, but realise they can’t clock 38 games worth of running like they used to.

    Maybe behind the scenes Santi’s fitness stats are down. He was noticeably paunchy in pre-season.

    So if Santi moves back you offset that with someone further forward, more mobile and aggressive to do the heavy lifting in midfield. And for whatever reason he’s picking Coquelin for that task, not Elneny or Xhaka.

    I do think the use of stats sometimes influences team choice in ways we’re not privy to.

    1. very relevant point about how weird it was when cazorla was first moved into a deeper central midfield role but it worked. perhaps coquelin, in an equally bizarre advanced role, will also work. we’ll see.

  8. Coqzorla worked well for the last 2 seasons.

    A better analysis will be why it isn’t working as it should be this season. As far as I am concerned, the 2nd half of the Southampton game was where the partnership worked while the rest of the matches were meh.

    Coquelin’s role is to force turnovers high up the pitch, to turn our attack relentless. When the tactic worked, the attacking game is just brilliant to watch.

  9. Our first goal of this season came from Coq forcing a turnover high up the pitch. Whether it’s the right call on balance is debatable, but it appears to me that this tactic isn’t idiotic as is being made out.

    Out of a total of 450 mins (5 matches), Xhaka has played 205 minutes, including 2 starts. Settling into a new team after a Euros tournament, with a two week international break in between. It’s hardly a case of him being overlooked.

    1. One goal scored due to that tactic and how many conceded? However many they were, they’d have been a lot more if Long and Cavani hadn’t done their best Gervinho impression. So yeah, but no. Not a great tactic, unless you want to call blind luck a tactic as well.

      1. while i respect your stance, it’s not completely fair. what’s more fair is to compare how many chances has arsenal conceded compared to how many chances they have created based on this approach.

        as shard mentions, xhaka has played roughly 45% of the football minutes for arsenal so it’s not as if wenger is ignoring him, it’s more of a cautious integration. putting that pressure on a new kid is not always a good idea. with that, playing against watford is not the same as playing against liverpool, leicester city, psg, and respectfully, southampton. he’ll be fine. be patient, folks. arsenal signed him to like a 5-year deal and the club aren’t exactly in a relegation battle.

    2. I was surprised that Xhaka started neither of the last two games, but generally I agree with you that it’s hardly a case of him being overlooked.

    3. Yep, and that tactic has seen Arsenal concede 10 big chances this season while creating just 6, three of which were penalties.

      That’s an idiotic tactic if I ever saw one.

      As for Xhaka’s minutes it’s interesting that Manchester City have had no problem playing Sterling, de Bruyne, Sagna, Silva, and Nolito when all of them were included in Euros. In fact, three of City’s most used players this season have been de Bruyne (448 minutes), Silva (424 minutes), and Sterling (409 minutes).

      Wenger today said that the reason he’s not playing Xhaka is less physical and more because Coquelin and Cazorla have played together “50 or 60 times.”

      1. Yeah, I did say earlier that Xhaka didn’t start since Mustafi did and that Wenger probably didn’t think the chemistry would be there with bedding in changes in defense and midfield together.

        As for the tactic. Ok, so maybe it’s not working. Is there a potential upside? Can there be a reason to have tried it? Or persist with it? Beyond the idiocy of course.

        1. Sure, maybe there is an upside as Cazorla is able to play another three years and we don’t have to buy anyone to play in his role.
          Or how about the upside of Ramsey seeing Coquelin given the role he wants to play super bad (and which Coquelin is super bad at)?
          I know! Another upside is that Arsenal are out of the title rice in October and we don’t have to worry about renewing Ozil’s contract! Or Alexis’ contract for that matter.
          Or how about the upside of all the players feeling like the team is rudderless with a manager who is literally tinkering with his lineups a month into the season? The upside there is that they can look over at Man City and see what it’s like for a club to buy players, integrate them into the team, play players who went deep into the Euros, and win 7 matches in a row due to superior organization by the manager. Oh, the upside there is that they know EXACTLY which team they demand a trade to this summer.

          Lots of upside, dude!

          As for the Chemistry of Mustafi and Xhaka, that is an odd supposition but I understand why you’re grasping at straws. Wenger is willing to make changes all over the pitch, throwing Alexis into an unfamiliar role, playing Ox and Iwobi in strange places, switching Cazorla and Coquelin in ways that completely undermine both of their strengths, and then swapping in Ospina right when Mustafi has just one match with Cech, but yeah, it makes a lot of sense that he would balk at playing Xhaka and Mustafi.

          Come on dude. This isn’t great management in disguise. This is the continuation of a six month collapse in team organization as Wenger flails around looking for something, anything, that works.

          1. Sure man, let’s imagine the worst case scenario for every single thing and decide that this is what is actually really truly happening. Wenger’s losing his mental faculties. He’s got no notion of how to build a team. His tactics are all idiotic with no rationale. All our best players want to leave, and Pep (and Arteta let’s not forget) will lure them all away as the board and Wenger sit around playing the fiddle, even as they somehow again luck into 4th. Oh no, this year they will drop out from that too. What’s the opposite of clutching at straws?

          2. Nothing wrong with imagining the worst case scenario. I keep food and water at my house for when the big earthquake hits. Do I know it will hit soon? Nope. Do I know it will even hit in my lifetime? Nope. It’s just insurance.

            What is actually truly happening? Arsenal are playing like a steaming pile of Tottenham. That’s what’s actually truly fucking happening. The tactics are all fucking wrong and I don’t care what you’re imagined rationale is.

            But I never said he’s all wrong. I think Wenger gets some tactics right but this latest round of about 9 months, since January, have been pretty damn wrong. He still does teach his players to play vertically and I see that but even you have to admit that the team looks seriously lost right now.

            More than any season in the last 19, there are teams which are seriously capable of challenging for the top four.

            Last season, we only beat Spurs because of the collapse. They have the personnel to overtake Arsenal. Whether Poch can stop shitting on them and give the English players time to recover from their Spring/Summer collapse is the question.
            Chelsea absolutely have a team and manager capable of taking a top four spot.
            Man City will finish top four.
            Man U will finish top four, Mourinho is already throwing the European matches to ensure his team have the best chance at winning the League.
            Liverpool are a much better team than people think and Klopp is an excellent manager.
            Feel free to rule out Everton, Lukaku, and Koeman at your own peril. Koeman has Everton playing the best defense in the League and he’s gotten Lukaku putting away sitters.
            And somehow, I’ve failed to mention last season’s Premier League champs.

            In the end though, I understand why you’re angry. Arsenal are playing like shit and whatever “grand scheme” Arsene Wenger is cooking up isn’t working. I think we agree on that. At least I hope we do.

            The fact that we are playing like shit makes me angry too.

            The difference is that I take my anger out on the guy who is in charge of our shit play while you’re deflecting the blame on me and my criticism of the club and the manager. I’ve seen this reaction now from fans for at least 10 years. But here’s the problem: I’m not the reason why Arsenal are playing like shit.

            And yes, we are going to lose our best players if we don’t put in a title run. We lost Cesc and van Persie because of that. Why would Alexis and Özil, who literally owe Arsenal nothing, be more loyal to this club than Cesc (who was given his career by Arsene) and van Persie (who was coddled by Arsene through a nightmare injury career)?

          3. Wenger does what he does for a reason, not a whim, even if at this point that’s just making educated guesses on what will work and what won’t. And that’s Shard’s point. Ok, so he got it wrong in Paris, but the issue is what did we learn from that and how do we go forward from here? That’s the way he thinks about it and that’s the way we should think as well.

            So how would you set the team up vs Hull and why?

          4. I actually disagree. Wenger is impulsive and has been increasingly impulsive for a few years now. Even Stillman said that in the podcast we recorded yesterday. Wenger seems to hit on random pockets of stuff that works (like Ramsey wide) and then the whole thing collapses when an injury comes or something else hits, like a big loss.

            From my reading of what’s going on, Wenger then blames certain players (typically the defenders, like Szczesny, Vermaelen, Elneny, Mertesacker, etc) and drops them.

          5. Oh don’t be annoying. I’m not angry at you for anything other than suggesting Wenger’s going crazy (and you actually were totally serious about it as you pointed out), as I already told you yesterday. (He joined us 20 years ago today by the way)

            Following Arsenal, poorly as we’re playing right now, doesn’t anger me. It seems to anger you and others on here, enough to get even more angry and indulge in name calling when others don’t share your anger.

            It might help you to think of me as an irrational happy bunny who’s going to get run over as he stares at the pretty lights coming his way, but that’s not how I approach things. I tried to explain the way I see things and why I don’t go off on rants about Arsenal or Wenger below.

            Most of the time, especially when it comes to the bigger, strategic type decisions, I can make sense of them, and I usually agree with most of them. And in the larger sense, the club is still progressing along.

            But in the tactical sense on the football field, I’m at more of a disadvantage in that I don’t know. I can see it’s not working. Last season was the first time I can remember Arsenal playing worse than the sum of its parts. If you are saying this is going to continue, then yes I’d worry, and perhaps I will come to actively wanting Wenger to go. Because I’m not there yet is no cause to go all psychobabble on me about how I’m just using you to vent. One amateur remote psychoanalyst is more than enough, thank you.

            Hmm..Guess that’s the other thing that’s finally got me angry. Where people tend to not understand where I’m coming from (probably mostly my fault) and then filling in the blanks to paint me as some kind of weirdo I’m not (as opposed to the type I am)

            And yes. I know the competition for places is intense in the league. But to me that is more cause for entertainment than worry. Top 4 is primarily a prestige and financial thing. It hasn’t seem to have done any help to our prestige among our fans, and I don’t think our finances need the annual top 4 anymore. Not enough to be debilitating. So I don’t look at it as a need now. That’s even if we do drop out.

          6. I don’t think Wenger is going crazy. I suspect something different and have for some time now.

            But frankly, it’s irrelevant I only threw that out there because I felt I could trust you with some feelings that I have and clearly that’s not the case. You can’t help but hit me with that “crazy” stick every time regardless of the fact that I only mentioned it once. I also only mention it out of empathy for Wenger, again, something you’re not interested in.

            Regardless of the underlying reason why, what is crystal clear is that he’s not performing at the level we should expect from the 7th richest club in world football. End of story.

        2. Impulsivity still doesn’t equate to thoughtlessness. I don’t buy the “Wenger is losing it” narrative, I more subscribe to the “Football is changing and Wenger isn’t changing with it” narrative. The same methods that were wildly successful even 10 years ago are no longer working so well, but he doesn’t learn too many new tricks. Which is very odd for a manager with such a growth based mindset as far as his players are concerned.

      2. comparing xhaka to silva, de brunye, and sterling is not legit. wenger declared xhaka’s game time is reduced because he is still getting used to playing in the bpl. the difference between the players you mentioned and xhaka is that the man city players all have years of experience playing in the bpl.

        i know you’re super eager to see wenger break out his shiny new swiss toy. so are we. however, it’s wenger’s toy and he’s not ready to bring it outside yet. you’re going to have to be patient.

  10. I don’t know that this is an issue just yet. We’ve had 4 prem games and one in the champions league.

    Has Coquelin responded positively in training to the arrival of Xhaka? A question maybe we should be asking.

    Early days. Anyway, I want to see Xhaka playing. He bossed the game against Watford.

  11. Xhaka was a gift meant for Ramsey, Arsene biding time for Aaron to return?
    I still expect it to be our first choice pivot.

  12. Just feels like Arsene has lost the plot completely. Ramsey is injured, so now in his place Coq is tasked with playing the role of headless chicken while Xhaka stays on the bench. Bizarre.

    Arsene garnered a bit of goodwill from jaded fans with the last-ditch signings of Mustafi and Lucas, but that’s practically evaporated already. His selections are baffling, the team remains moribund, and all the signs point to this being a monumentally dull and depressing season.

  13. Wenger’s interview this morning basically addresses this question.

    I guess after the Liverpool shambles he’s now a bit gunshy about chopping and changing established partnerships. I wonder if the PSG shambles convinces him to chop and change a bit more? Hull will be a tough test. They’ve played everyone tough this season and they have the tools to trouble Arsenal: a dead ball specialist, a powerful attacking fullback and physical strikers. You can bet Mike Phelan saw what Aurier did to our left flank and will try to exploit that weakness with El-Mohammady.

    I have to say I really don’t fancy Coquelin in an advanced role whatsoever. I’m also very worried about Wenger’s intimation that he sees Xhaka as a box-to-box midfielder. So who’s going to mind the shop and knit it together at the back if everyone has license to get forward? Sometimes I just don’t get it and have to trust in his experience and firsthand knowledge of the game and his players.

    1. You can simply say “well, let’s hope Wenger figures it out” OR… you can do what you have done and what I have done lately and question what’s going on?

      I think Tim Stillman’s column yesterday also asked questions. Specifically why it seems like Wenger can’t come up with a plan, a cohesive way of playing football, and why he can’t seem to find a settled squad after what looks like two years of twiddling.

      1. Yeah, read Stillman’s column too (I always do!)… it all looks pretty grim right now. But, as long as we are not picking the team all we can do is hope he gets it right. At some point it just becomes unnecessary anxiety about something you can’t control.

        1. At times it feels like he’s still conflicted between wanting to play a direct 4-4-2 but setting up his team in a more conservative 4-2-3-1 because of the hidings we’ve gotten when we’ve tried to be too direct. He is wedded to the idea of player universality and growth potential in an extreme way. He never sees any one player as any one type or role. He always wants them to develop into something more. It’s great when it works but awful when it doesn’t. I do think his overindulgence has hurt the careers of players like Wilshere, Vermaelen and even Ramsey and Song after their breakout years. They all were at some point overly enamored with themselves as attackers and I think they were indulged to do what they wanted on the pitch, consequences be damned, because we didn’t want to limit them. The balance has to be better between allowing individual expression and team cohesion. It’s gone too far toward the former right now and shows no signs of letting up with comments like that. I’m going to reserve further judgement but this team looks like it has a long way to go to looking anywhere close to settled. Like Roy Hodgson this summer, there’s a terrible feeling that Wenger doesn’t know his best XI players or how to make them play, he’s just trying different things and seeing if it’ll work, like a child chemist. In a way that sort of creativity can lead to greater things then what we might think is possible, but the process of experimentation can also completely destroy the season before it really begins.

        2. I can’t control it but I can complain that it sucks.

          My only other options are to pretend it doesn’t suck and that there is some hidden great scheme that Arsene Wenger is trying to create (like Shard), or just quit watching Arsenal. I’m getting close to the latter. I’m certainly not alone in feeling like this is the end. Even Cullen Davies, the guy who spent hours and hours making compilations for players like Denilson, is tired of this Arsenal team under Wenger.

          And come on, if you’re tired of it, who is left as a supporter?

          1. Davies has been disenchanted for a while now. I stopped following him a year or so ago despite his great videos… mainly because I find too much negativity to be toxic. I’m all about disparate points of view but too many folks on twitter just want to score points and be agreed with.

            I’m not giving up yet. My eyes are open to how bad we’ve been, but I have faith still that they will improve. All the ingredients are there for a really good season, but we haven’t put it together thus far. If it ends in disappointment, so be it, such is sport. Complaining about it is really not productive and quitting watching is a bit petulant, don’t you think? You do what you want to of course.

            I’m reminded by this comment of your post about how you have a “bipolar” approach to Arsenal. You may just have a fixed mindset about them. Here’s a link to a book I’ve been reading which can explain, if you’re interested.


          2. There’s no hidden great scheme I’m hinting at. I just don’t buy your idea of Wenger losing his mind, and I proceed on the hypothesis that he does have some plan. If you want to argue it’s desperation, I can buy that too. But even in desperation, even if he’s clutching at straws, he has to have a reason to see those straws there in the first place.

            My question about upside was genuine. I do not presume to understand the ins and outs of tactics, much as I enjoy listening and learning about them. If you’re saying it’s an idiotic tactic which isn’t working, I’m asking you to look at it from Wenger’s point of view and try to answer why he might then do this. If the only answer you can come up with is to do with him not having a clue or going senile then sorry, I don’t accept it.

            None of it makes me someone trying to spin Wenger as a genius who is never wrong. I’m sure he’s got any number of things wrong. But over a period of 20 years (exactly) he’s got an awful more right than he has wrong.

          3. PS. I would play Xhaka, and I’m inclined to agree that this tactic isn’t the right call on balance. But just because I disagree with Wenger, it doesn’t make me right. And I can’t know whether a decision is ‘right’ simply by short term results. Not unless I can understand the rationale behind it.

            So, you can still come out on the side saying Wenger’s got this wrong and is continuing to get it wrong. I might even whole heartedly agree with you. What I cannot do is castigate something I don’t understand fully (or reasonably enough), especially when the person doing it comes with the track record and history of Arsene Wenger. Just because I don’t sound off on him doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with his calls. In this case, I don’t. But that’s a tentative rather than a hard position. I’m asking to be convinced either way.

    2. I wouldn’t take the box to box thing very seriously. I mean, I guess you could say I’m ignoring what he said and going by my own agenda, but the way I read it was that Wenger was just happy agreeing with the journalist and basically praising Xhaka by saying that he has all the qualities.

      1. Yes – he also said he sees Walcott as a striker, and then played him on the wing since.

        Wenger hasn’t los his mind, but it may be that the ideas he’s tinkering with aren’t working out. He will revert to form soon.

  14. Also wonder if we can expect Alexis to continue up front. It’s obviously not working, but Arsene spent so much of pre-season bigging up Alexis as the next Suarez that he seems determined to stick with it until he’s proved right.

    1. It will be funny when Alexis scores the 20 goals we’ve wanted from a striker but Arsenal finish in 6th place because the rest of the team was so broken.

  15. Wenger’s ability to get his team to play cohesively with rapid interchanges and fluidity all but disappeared since the pre-season Austria camp was jettisoned under pressure by Gazidis and the commercial chiefs. “Wengerball” is built on intuition. Intuition, in turn, requires a high degree of familiarity and chemistry among the players. That is why Wenger always preaches “cohesion”. Tactically, Wengerball is far simpler than Guardiolaball which emphasizes strict adherence to positions and roles. And yet, Wengerball ironically requires even more time and practice to get it right.I doubt Wenger will ever get Arsenal to play that scintillating way again on a consistent basis. He realizes that too and has, over the past three years, relied more on ad hoc game strategy than ever before. He’ll likely do so for the remainder of his tenure. I just don’t se him making any fundamental changes to our playing style again. I’ve slowly come to that sad realization.

    1. Sorry I don’t buy the excuse that missing a 2 week training camp is the reason why this team has been a dysfunctional, incoherent, disorganized mess for the past several seasons. Other than Cech and Iwobi, who’ve had full season, and of course the new boys this squad has been together for at least two full seasons. Koz, Cazorla, Giroud, Gibbs, Ramsey, Walcott, Ox, Mert, and even Wilshere have all been first team members for four or more seasons together. That should be more than enough time be familiar with each other.

      The whole excuse that missing this Austrian training camp is so detrimental is predicated on the notion that “Wengerball” is some superior but ephemeral tactical setup which also drives me nuts. Pass and move football is not a system of play which only Arsenal attempt. There’s plenty of teams which play excellent pass and move football who don’t seem to need a two week preseason camp to perfect that strategy. No the fact that we’ve been a disorganized mess tactically for several seasons starts right at the top.

      1. “Tactics” are essentially a modern euphemism for strategic preparedness. A team can be prepared simply by having a playing identity. Arsenal used to have that, and it was founded on intuitive interplay and awareness of space rather than endless hours of chalkboard analysis. Is the Barcelona team that dependent on “tactics”? I would say no. They’ve a broad playing philosophy which doesn’t change regardless of the incumbent coach and the success of that system depends on the technical proficiency of the players in each epoch. How much tactical work do you need to do when you have MSN upfront to solve riddles for you? Like it or not, Wenger is notoriously known to be a creature of habit in terms of training methods. I believe he has simply struggled to adapt to the much changed circumstances in the club in terms of time and space for preparing the squad. I don’t clearly see the likelihood of his mastering the new variables.

        1. Look, you’re the one that suggested that missing the two week training camp is a significant factor in our lack of strategic preparedness. I agree that we lack a playing identity but I disagree that it’s due to the loss of the Austrian camp. Do you still believe that the loss of the training camp is a significant factor in our poor cohesion and if so why? What, in your opinion, is the reason that our playing style absolutely requires that level of intense two week preparation that can’t be compensated for over the remaining nine months of the season? Especially when plenty of other managers seem able to do without.

          And if, as you admit, Wenger can’t adapt to preparing the team without a pre-season camp and can’t master the “new variables” of having a pre-season tour, then perhaps we should not renew his contract and find ourselves a manager who can. Which would seem to be the majority of competent, modern day managers.

          1. Only Wenger can answer these questions for certain. What I can say is that, whereas Wenger once played the same way against every opposition (with minimal focus on the attributes of the foe), he now makes a conscious effort to adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. In a strange way, that actually seems to suggest that he’s adapting! Why is he doing this though? Is it a reaction to years of criticism of being tactically passive or naïve in the biggest games? Is it due to the incorporation of a new stats-driven approach on the back of Arsenal’s acquisition of the football stats company, “StatDNA”? Wenger is a stubborn guy. Any change he makes must be borne out of deep (but not infallibly correct)analysis. I fear that the change in tactical approach is more a reflection of his loss of belief in his system. These doubts might have transmitted to the players and contributed to the current crisis of identity in terms of playing style.

  16. Tim, don’t let Shard and Dr. Gooner get to you and wear you down. They get a kick out of playing devil’s advocate ad nauseam by nitpicking everything and invading your blog, the best there is on the Arsenal. Skip their comments!

    1. I disagree. I disagree with them on most things, but this thread community would be a poorer place without their PsOV. Tim can handle himself alright.

      1. Agreed. Honest intellectual dissent makes for a great discussion and this is one of the very few internet football fan communities which has intelligent debate rather than insults and name calling. Even in disagreement the majority of posters to this blog can make valid, constructive arguments and it’s a refreshing change for what normally passes for discussion in the wider inter web. It’s a ringing endorsement of 7am’s thoughtful writing that he’s attracted this community. Long may it continue.

  17. “Lights out tonight
    Trouble in the heartland
    Got a head on collision
    Smashing in my guts man

    I’m caught in a crossfire
    That I just don’t understand

    Now I don’t give a damn
    About the same old played out scenes

    I don’t give a damn about just the in-betweens

    I want the soul and I want control right now.”

    Badlands, music and lyrics Bruce Sprinsgteen

    Tim, like so many of us, is passionate. All passionate people feel deeply. Both the joy and angst.

    But unlike many of us he actually writes about it every week and sometimes multiple times a day. I think I saw 3 posts in one day recently.

    And writing about something that you love which can be frustrating at times, a train wreck at times and beautiful at times well, it is profoundly hard thing to do.

    But Tim and done it well and better than most and has improved over the years and gone to places no other Arsenal blog has one probably ever will go.

    So give the dude his space and let him vent if that’s what is necessary in this moment.

  18. Tim,

    I’ve mentioned a few times before about how great and amazing it is that you write about all kinds of stuff, including revealing so much about your life. It’s partly the reason I come to your blog all the time. Because I do appreciate that. (and maybe part of the reason I feel I’m misunderstood on here is because I don’t reveal myself like you do – whether through shyness, or lack of writing clarity)

    So, yes, you can share your feelings. And I don’t doubt that you like Wenger, even if you think he should go.

    And you know, I wouldn’t even have taken issue with what you said, because sometimes we’re all prone to just laying something out there, if you hadn’t doubled down on it with how serious you were. Like it or not, those words have been used maliciously for years by others, who lack credibility. Why I can’t ignore it when it comes from you, is because to me, you don’t.

    But I won’t bring it up again. It just seemed like a kinda big deal.

    Though I feel the 7th richest club is a bit of a misleading/irrelevant thing to put in there, but yeah, I agree the football isn’t working properly. Right now, I’m just happy to be picking up decent points regardless of how they come. I believe Wenger will get it right. But if last season wasn’t a blip, then it could go the other way. We’ll see.

    (Btw, thanks for all the replies. I mean that)

  19. Shard, I think that what Tim, whose arguments are highly statistically-driven (even when he sounds “emotional”),has been harping on is the continuation of a worrying trend which his well articulated analysis has fingered. To wit, Arsenal have since the turn of the year been “winging” it both in terms of a playing strategy and general performances. As a statistician, you know that results (no matter how good)which are not founded on coherent and proven strategy are unsustainable over the long-term. Shane Long (a 2nd half substitute)had enough chances to win Southampton the game last weekend at the Emirates. He didn’t. Cavani could’ve destroyed us at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday but didn’t. That cannot continue if Wenger fails to turn things around very quickly. A huge part of the process involves making up his mind on how exactly he wants to set up the team tactically and deciding on a clear hierarchy of personnel in different positions and in different tactical formations. Alas, that kind of detailed work is usually done in pre-season rather than mid-season. We can’t keep getting away with the chaos we’ve seen so far this season. As one wise man said,” The sure thing about luck is that it will change.” For emphasis, the maligned Cavani scored FOUR goals against Caen last night. That could well have been Arsenal…

    1. Not disagreeing with that. But why does this factor of ‘luck’ not extend to Arsenal getting the benefit of the doubt when it’s us who suffer?

      I get that Shane Long and Cavani both missed lots of great chances. Just like all our players did last season with career low conversion rates (except Giroud who did about as expected) So shouldn’t Wenger get some credit for getting the players in those positions? If a tactic is skewered for the big chances allowed vs created in the first 5 games of the season, then last season should see us give Wenger a lot of credit. (And yes I agree that he messed up by trusting both Arteta and Walcott in midfield and up front)

      The fact that it didn’t work out in terms of goals scored or the title might well be why he’s trying something else early in the season. Building up an alternative for if and when the primary fails. (I will be accused again of painting Wenger as a genius with a grand unifying theory of all tactical plans, but that’s not what I mean. I don’t mean ‘Wenger knows’. I just mean to say that he must have some motivation and thought behind doing what he’s doing.)

      Also, again, not meant belligerently, but when Wenger had a clear plan and a settled team he was roundly criticised for having no tactical variations and for a lack of rotation. I guess it just depends on how the team plays AND the results, which is fine. And I agree that the style of play isn’t good right now and the results will catch up with that if it continues.

    2. On one hand Wenger doesn’t do tactics. on the other hand he actually does do tactics but we don’t like it, eh. on another hand we want him to make up his mind about how he wants the team to play and then we go on a whinge that he is rigid and as such his methods are dated
      cos he prepares his team focussing on its strength rather than the opposition. can we make up our minds already.

      were the chances we conceded due to Coq’s new position? two of the big chances PSG created were balls over the top. how does coq stop those. he can’t be everywhere.

      there is a narrative that Wenger has lost it. so we produce evidence to back it up and leave out what doesn’t fit. The team is finding its feet. The points we have dropped cannot be attributed to any single reason.

      we should be a bit patient with the team. Oh, and its Arsene’s last season. lots of fans will get their wish for a shiny new manager next summer.

  20. alexis could score 30+ goals at center forward (he certainly has the talent). however, alexis is not a center forward and hence he won’t facilitate ARSENAL scoring a lot of goals. would you rather alexis play forward and score 30 of arsenal’s 70 goals or would you rather giroud play forward and score 20 of arsenal’s 100 goals?

    arsenal’s struggles are not new. it’s the same old. it’s not about coquelin. it’s about alexis, and consequently, chamberlain. it’s about arsenal’s lack of a goal threat. despite alexis undeniable talent, arsenal have poor center forward play and, as a result, struggle to threaten the opposition goal. alexis may score more goals if he plays center forward, but arsenal will score more goals if giroud plays center forward (and alexis plays on the left instead of chamberlain). think, do arsenal really play better when xhaka comes on or when giroud comes on? that’s the bottom line. like i said, same old.

    as for xhaka starting, wenger feels he needs time to assimilate; to keep people from calling him a flop if he doesn’t hit the ground running. wenger’s been doing this management shit in england for a long time. he watches xhaka at training every day. let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll know when xhaka’s ready to face the likes of psg or leicester city. also, let’s not compare xhaka to silva, sterling, or de brunye. they have a boatload of bpl experience where xhaka’s brand new to the league. you’ve got to respect that.

  21. alexis could score 30+ goals at center forward (he certainly has the talent). however, alexis is not a center forward and hence he won’t facilitate ARSENAL scoring a lot of goals. would you rather alexis play forward and score 30 of arsenal’s 70 goals or would you rather giroud play forward and score 20 of arsenal’s 100 goals?

    arsenal’s struggles are not new. it’s the same old. it’s not about coquelin. it’s about alexis, and consequently, chamberlain. it’s about arsenal’s lack of a goal threat. despite alexis undeniable talent, arsenal have poor center forward play and, as a result, struggle to threaten the opposition goal. alexis may score more goals if he plays center forward, but arsenal will score more goals if giroud plays center forward (and alexis plays on the left instead of chamberlain). think, do arsenal really play better when xhaka comes on or when giroud comes on? that’s the bottom line. like i said, same old.

    as for xhaka starting, wenger feels he needs time to assimilate; to keep people from calling him a flop if he doesn’t hit the ground running. wenger’s been doing this management shit in england for a long time. he watches xhaka at training every day. let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll know when xhaka’s ready to face the likes of psg or leicester city. also, let’s not compare xhaka to silva, sterling, or de brunye. they have a boatload of bpl experience where xhaka’s brand new to the league. you’ve got to respect that.

  22. alexis could score 30+ goals at center forward (he certainly has the talent). however, alexis is not a center forward and hence he won’t facilitate ARSENAL scoring a lot of goals. would you rather alexis play forward and score 30 of arsenal’s 70 goals or would you rather giroud play forward and score 20 of arsenal’s 100 goals?

    arsenal’s struggles are not new. it’s the same old. it’s not about coquelin. it’s about alexis, and consequently, chamberlain. it’s about arsenal’s lack of a goal threat. despite alexis undeniable talent, arsenal have poor center forward play and, as a result, struggle to threaten the opposition goal. alexis may score more goals if he plays center forward, but arsenal will score more goals if giroud plays center forward (and alexis plays on the left instead of chamberlain). think, do arsenal really play better when xhaka comes on or when giroud comes on? that’s the bottom line. like i said, same old.

    as for xhaka starting, wenger feels he needs time to assimilate; to keep people from calling him a flop if he doesn’t hit the ground running. wenger’s been doing this management stuff in england for a long time. he watches xhaka at training every day. let’s give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll know when xhaka’s ready to face the likes of psg or leicester city. also, let’s not compare xhaka to silva, sterling, or de brunye. they have a boatload of bpl experience where xhaka’s brand new to the league. you’ve got to respect that.

    1. essentially, it’s still about center forward play and how that affects the team. is aurier so quick to bomb forward if he has to contend with alexis sanchez? can marquinhos contend with giroud by himself? also, no one’s talked about the fact that ozil hasn’t played well. while we all know what he’s capable of, he shouldn’t get a pass. it’s naive to presume that arsenal’s problems will be resolved with simply dropping coquelin for xhaka.

    2. Solid points about Xhaka. Having only seen the arsenalist highlights, I’m hesitating to declare this game a tactical triumph but from the chances we had (not just the goals) it sure looks like that front four was finding space. The sending off helped in the second half obviously but still it was encouraging to see the gaps we found and the way we move through them. Wonder if this changes anyone’s thinking on Alexis as the CF?

      Also completely agreed on Ozil. He looks very rusty and without him playing well we are more likely than not to struggle. Had some poor touches vs Saints and missed a big chance today too. That said, he’ll come good which is an exciting prospect for to to look forward to.

  23. For me the greater problem is ox/iwobi/theo. can’t really expect the midfield to do much if you only have Sanchez to pass to

  24. Just a quick comment on the just concluded Hull, the commentary on which I will look forward to:

    Welcome back Theo Walcott!
    Hope you stick around for the next 30-odd games.

  25. Overall, a good game where we showed more fluency in possession and attack. The contrast between Iwobi and Ox couldn’t be more stark. No head down dribbling into blind alleys. Intelligent use of the ball, keeping it simple when he needed but still able to see and pull of the penetrative pass. Linked play well and kept the ball. Good movement off the ball to get into shooting positions. Wasn’t great defensively but then again, neither is Ox. There is no way that Ox should start ahead of Iwobi.

  26. arsenal came out with a lot more energy today. our front players hurried the hull back line when they had the ball and the midfield kept shape with both cazorla and coquelin picking their fwd runs when we had the ball. the movement from ozil, sanchez and iwobi up front helped open up spaces. pressing as a team is what it’s all about and we did that much better today. those 3 showed good close control in tight spaces with iwobi in particular impressing me. he is still raw and as a result, sometimes indecisive, but was heavily involved throughout. he dropped deep throughout the game to add a man in midfield and that helped us dominate possession even before the sending off. theo was theo.. had a lot of bad touches but worked for the team and deserved his goal. in the end, we all got to see why xhaka isn’t being used that much yet. his decision to let go of the man he was marking in midfield led to the penalty. he needs to read those situations earlier. we also got to see what he can bring to the game. his screamer in the end showed us he can bang them in too. i mentioned yesterday that arsene has showed in the past that he can go back to the basics. we did the basics better today and looked more like the team that played in the 2015 fa cup final. ironically, it was hull city in that game too.

    it seems the conversion of sanchez as a CF seems to happening whether we like it or not. he did well today, though the game at times felt like a practice game once they went down to 10 men if i’m being honest. however we have struggled in the past with a man advantage so we have to give credit to the players.

  27. Well that was a bit fun.

    The negatives were that we cooled off in the second half after our goal and let them come back into it. Cech was slow to the ball and conceded a penalty (That’s an I told you so 🙂 )

    But a few things. We played the same midfield for the third game in a row, and it was noticeable how everyone was pushing higher up to be closer to Alexis. Coquelin still played on the front foot but was rotating with Santi. Both had similar number of touches, and Coquelin had great stats. Won us the penalty with a shot from inside the box too.

    I know I know. It’s just Hull. But we looked a lot better going forward and with our spacing.

    Defensively there’s still a little bit of vulnerability but nothing too problematic today. Mustafi made an error but otherwise looked much more comfortable, and apart from some good tackles also displayed his ability to pass the ball through the lines.

    Iwobi is going from strength to strength. One defensive error where he covered the same player as Nacho instead of tracking his runner all the way, which led to a cross, but otherwise did nothing wrong. Had two assists (unlucky to have his goal given to Alexis but so it goes) and did a lot of good things.

    The way we were switching positions between players, with Alexis going right, Iwobi and Walcott coming inside, or Ozil going deeper than Santi and Coq, or drifting wide. It was fun to see. Hopefully we’re going to get better at that (and involve Lucas, Elneny, and Xhaka in that soon too) without hurting our defensive ability.

    Xhaka with a long range goal at the end. Brilliant. Wonder what the celebration was about? Who was he telling to shut up?

    Don’t want to jinx it but how nice is it to see referees actually give us calls we deserve. Would never have got that penalty till two years ago. Hope this continues.

  28. I’m delighted with a much more fluent performance today. The key was an energetic and mentally switched on start against a well rested Hull side playing with confidence following their unexpectedly good beginning to the season. That set the tone for what was largely a professional performance. Iwobi is starting to “spark up” our game in a manner reminiscent of the departed Rosicky. His specialty is the vertical through pass. I’ve high hopes for him so long as he works on his defensive awareness which hopefully will come with more game-time and experience. I wonder what line-up Wenger will put out for the Chelsea game. If he plays Iwobi in front of Monreal, Willian’s going to have a field day. I suppose he could still play Iwobi and compensate by having an extra more defensively minded midfielder to compensate. I doubt we can field both Walcott and Iwobi at the same time in that game. That’s precisely the kind of game that a fit Aaron Ramsey invariably gets to play.

  29. I don’t mind Alexis as a center forward as long as the team are set up to take advantage of his skills and adjust for his tendencies. He really plays more like a withdrawn striker than someone who’s going to lead the line, preferring to come towards the ball in the buildup and receive it between the lines. From there he can thread a through ball as well as spread the play wide or take on defenders himself. He likes to operate in the same areas as Ozil and it was interesting that Ozil often moved beyond him. That type of movement will be key to making Sanchez a success at that position. Whether it’s Ozil or the wide players, we need players who will threaten to move behind defenders and vertically stretch opposition defenses.

    I’m not saying that Alexis is as good as Messi but when Messi played as a false 9 at Pep’s Barca, it was up to the wide forwards like Villa, Henry, Pedro, et al to provide that vertical stretch when Messi dropped deep to collect the ball. Of all the forwards we have, Theo has been the only one who consistently makes that forward run. In this game, Iwobi showed his versatility by coming inside to become an auxiliary playmaker as well as making good runs and taking up good positions in the box to shoot. By reputation, Lucas can and does play more on the shoulder of the last defender so I’m anxious to see what he brings to the table.

  30. Personally I thought we were excellent today, and I even thought we did well in Paris after a bad first half.

    We have had a shaky start to the season, and have looked poor at times. New personnel are bedding in, existing players are in new roles, and it’s disappointing that Wenger says we were not physically ready.

    But we’re improving. And some of the accusations flying around have been both hyperbolic and off-target. For example I have no problem with phasing Perez and Xhaka in to a new league. Ospina in the CL was expected, as per last year, and he’s a good keeper, so fine. I’m more than happy with Alexis at CF (if you want someone better and more mobile than Giroud then you can’t complain when we play Alexis frickin Sanchez there. And Wenger is playing him there now because he’s got Iwobi, and because he went out and bought the penetrative passers in order to make it work. In other words, there is a plan guys, and it is being executed).

  31. Tim, if you need further cheering up, how about Watford 3-1 Man United.

    Man United losing can brighten up any day.

  32. Mourinho, the master tactician according to the arrogant and bumbling fools of pundits in England has just seen his team thrashed by Watford! What fun! Man U will win the league, Arsenal are crap. I keep hearing. Well, this was so orgasmic.

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