Arsenal finally deliver something different

Every club, save Swansea, spent more money on transfers than Arsenal. Swansea sold Gylfi Sigurdsson for £44m and even after buying Bony and getting Renato Sanches on loan earned £23m on transfers. Arsenal earned “just” £14m to put them in second place on the Net Spend Table.

Chelsea spent £72m, Man City £133m, Liverpool £38m, Man U £140m, Everton £46m, and even Tottenham – who are in the midst of a stadium project – earned less money off their transfers than Arsenal, £11m. These numbers are from Transfermarkt so yell at them if you disagree with the figures.

Wenger’s main arguments this summer have been that he wanted to keep Alexis for sporting reasons, not for financial reasons, and that Oxlade-Chamberlain is the future of the club. But at the end, Arsenal balked.

They sold Ox to Liverpool and tried to sell Alexis, then pulled out of the deal leaving Alexis and Man City fuming. Not to mention there’s the fact that Lemar rejected Arsenal. It’s a mess, or as Arseblog put it so eloquently Arsenal are “boiling piss all over the place.”

I can’t imagine Alexis wanting to play for this club. He will probably have to but if he was an Incredible Sulk last season, I wonder what he’s going to be like this season? In the best case scenario he comes back and just plays good football. No sulking, no on-field “thinking man” poses. He just walks on and off the pitch like a pro. I guess that’s what I hope for.

Mustafi is another player who is going to have a “right hump” over this spring and summer. We don’t know what happened between him and the manager but he clearly wanted out and Arsene Wenger clearly wanted to be rid of him. But they couldn’t get the deal done and now we have two grumpy players at Arsenal. One on each end of the pitch.

But beyond the personnel issues Arsenal have a composition problem; what is this team’s best starting XI?

Arsenal finally got the finisher we have wanted for so long in Lacazette. But I have serious doubts that he can play up top by himself. That means that he either has to play next to another forward, like Giroud, or that he’s deployed wide where his main strength is not put to use.

So, for me, our best lineup is two up top. And at the back you have a flat four. Kolasinac, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerin. Arsenal have options there as well, Wenger can play a back three with Monreal, Chambers, Mertesacker, and Holding all able to come in to the team. And for the record, I’m only putting Mustafi in there because I think he’s our second best defender, which isn’t much of a high bar. I’d actually rather see Chambers given a run of games and allowed to learn but I don’t know what Wenger’s plans are there.

Midfield is where the problems are. Wenger seems to struggle to buy players that fit into a system or fill a need. Even the fact that Arsenal were going after Lemar is strange to me, Arsenal don’t need more attacking players – they need center mids. It feels to me like Arsene Wenger just buys the best attacking players he can afford and hopes that the rest of the team will figure itself out. He’s certainly not purposefully building a team.

In the perfect world, we go back two years and have a 100% fit Cazorla and a sharp Coquelin. Sadly, I doubt either of those two will regain their former glory. It’s a real shame, Cazorla was my favorite player on this team and one of the few who I think would have been good enough to get into the Invincibles. And I also like Coquelin. I have a soft spot for players who are less talented but who try hard – I mean, look at this blog. It’s the Coquelin of football blogs.

So, since we don’t live in a perfect world, we have to use Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey. I’ve said this hundreds of times now, I don’t think these players suck. On paper they should compliment each other. So, let’s just say that Wenger is able to get Ramsey to trade his ego in for the betterment of the team. And let’s just say that Wenger gives Xhaka a brain transplant. That leaves just two roster positions open, both of them wide in a 442.

Ozil is an awful choice for a wide player. His strength is in filling holes in attack, that means he needs to be allowed to roam. He can play wide, he does for Germany, but he’s rarely going to shine out wide. Plus, he can’t/won’t defend. So, if you play Özil (and despite not looking like he does much, he’s Arsenal’s most technically adept player so you almost have to play him) you have to play him in the free creator role.

You have a similar problem with Alexis. His strength is dribbling in from wide. That leaves his fullback exposed. And obviously you want to play Alexis in any lineup because he’s so talented. So, I think you are forced to play a 433 – with Lacazette sort of alone up top – he’s not a holdup player so if you do this, Arsenal need to be extra dominant in midfield, winning the ball back a lot and keeping the ball against opposition presses. With Alexis, Lacazette, and Ozil up top. They will have to be backed up by Ramsey, Xhaka, and I guess I’d go with Elneny – Cazorla if he’s healthy is my automatic first choice.

My best Arsenal formation, then, is

Kolasinac – Koscielny – Mustafi – Bellerin

Elneny – Xhaka – Ramsey

Alexis – Lacazette – Özil

And my game plan is 1) get the ball to Özil or Alexis. 2) Get the ball from them to Lacazette. 3) Lacazette shoots, every time. Maybe sometimes some other people get to shoot, but it’s only on accident, from distance because they can’t get the ball to Lacazette, or because they collected a rebound off a Lacazette shot.

But there are still a lot of weaknesses in that midfield and a lot of work to be done to get them all playing together. Plus there are the egos and the hurt feelers from Arsenal’s summer transfer madness. On paper, that’s a team that should make a strong challenge for the top four. In reality it’s a team that’s been practicing 343 all summer and one which Wenger keeps reverting to a 442 whenever the 343 gets overrun in midfield because Wenger hasn’t gotten the message through to Xhaka and Ramsey that they have to control the “red zone” in front of their own 18 yard box. In reality it is also a team with a lot of players on their way out, a lot of players who are unhappy with the club, a lot of players who have been played out of position, and a lot of players who are not playing together as a team. So, in reality it’s a right mess.

But hey, I’ve been asking for something different from Arsenal, a change, from the boring old way that we used to play. From the boring old way that we used to do everything – transfers, the way Wenger treated players, all that stuff that makes Arsenal the Arsenal. And I feel like I can guarantee you one thing about Arsenal this season: it’s going to be different from the last 10 or so!



  1. When Juventus lost the Champions League final to Barcelona in 2015 they had a midfield of Marchisio, Vidal, and Pogba with Pirlo creating from deep.

    And here I am saying that Arsenal’s midfield of Xhaka, Ramsey, and Elneny is good.

    That’s how far Arsenal are off the pace of other Champions League teams.

  2. “Wenger seems to struggle to buy players that fit into a system”

    This is funny to me on so many levels. First, let’s just say Wenger seems to struggle to buy players period. Actually, we aren’t good at selling players either. We failed to sell Alexis Sanchez! Let. That. Sink. In.

    Second, What system?? Are you trying to mess with us Tim? Wenger buys who he can at what he thinks is a good price and then tries to somehow fit them in. It’s ridiculous and when you think of the stature of the club, where it plays, how much revenue it generates, it’s global appeal.. all of that makes it even more so.

    I agree with that formation and personnel. I think we somehow need to play 3 midfielders – either in a 3-5-2 or 4-3-3. You’re right in saying Ozil isn’t the best wide choice for a wide player but he did play a similar role for Germany in the world cup. Difference is the German midfielders and full backs were excellent at covering the space that he would leave behind. Not to mention, that they are much better technically and could keep possession unlike our midfield. Thing is, if your midfield is good you can pretty much play almost any formation depending on how you want to position your attackers and conversely if your midfield is poor, you will struggle with almost any formation. We are very much in the latter category.

    BTW you’re definitely not the Coquelin of football blogs. Given your technical superiority, I would say you’re the Dennis Bergkamp of football blogs. There you go, that’s the best compliment I can think of giving you.

    1. We failed to sell Alexis? You must be one of those who simply believe the worst of the club’s decisions, right? We made it clear he was not for sale; and when City stumped up, we decided he won’t leave till we got a replacement. Why can’t you just believe that and move on?

      I am reading this morning Vidal denying all the reports about Sanchez being ready to move to City. Now, whose report do I believe?

      1. Agents and clubs are definitely planting stories here and Alexis himself did like that tweeet asking him to stay at Arsenal. Plus there is the quote of Vidal and quote of Chile coach saying both scenarios are good for Alexis.

        1. Yes I’m happy for Alexis that both scenarios are good for him, but which scenario is good for Arsenal? NEITHER. You know why? Because it’s not like we kept him coz Wenger told him that he is an essential part of the team and will not be sold under any circumstances (something which he said all summer but then changed his mind). We kept him because we left everything too late. It’s only going to add to his negative sentiment towards to the club and now I really wonder how seriously he is going to take this season playing for us. As Tim said, let’s just hope he is a professional and shows up to work.

      2. Yes, we have all read all the stories. Bottom line is at the end of the day we were willing to sell him and failed while making ourselves look like chumps. The reasons are almost inconsequential.

        1. Case closed? A mere opinion. Until we accept we may not know everything which goes on between the clubs, players, agents and letters of contracts, we may have to keep things quiet and watch the games.
          Clearly, Alexis allowed Arsenal decide what’s best and when he thought we would sell, felt the need to mention it to his friends. When it didn’t happen, he will revert to being a professional. At least, the manager has, short of confirming conversations they’ve had, stated he will come back committed.

          1. He meant “case closed” that Tim’s the Dennis Bergkamp (who was afraid of flying) of blog writers.

          2. Lol. That indeed was the merest of opinions. I see Bunburyist has already commented below so I will just leave with one departing thought. Over the years, I have learned to take our players’ media interviews with… shall we say, a pinch of salt? Players are very well media trained these days. So let’s focus on what’s actually happening on the pitch instead.

          3. “Clearly, Alexis allowed Arsenal decide what’s best……”

            Clearly. I mean it’s not like he’s under a contract or anything.

            I often visit pro Wenger sites for an alternative view of things and it amazes me the lengths some will go to stick up for their man.

            One blogger praised Wenger for making good on his promise of keeping Alexis from joining City based on principle of not strengthening the league rival.
            Which is kinda like praising a husband for staying true to his wife only because the woman he was flirting and hoping to hook up with turn him down.

  3. 1. Either you have a secret conduit into the strategy room at the ems or your left to right order is reversed.

    2. Why not
    Ramsey – ozil -alexis

    Ozil can drop deep to collect to relieve pressure on xhaka. Bellerin and kola need to stay linked so ozil has an out.

    Or maybe we play theo instead of ramsey and only counter attack.

    It’s not totally hopeless. Laca is quite the finisher.

    1. I like Kolasinac as a wingback if we persist with a back 3. I think he uses the ball well in the final 3rd and is also effective when pressing high to win it back. I think that role suits Bellerin better too because he loves getting forward and doesn’t have to compete aerially at the back stick that often.

      The midfield is the real riddle. The answer SHOULD be Ramsey-Xhaka, but Ramsey won’t stay back to do the dirty work and neither of them are particularly quick. When Ramsey is too far from Xhaka, that midfield becomes a sieve. Honestly to me the answer is to drop Ozil, especially in the bigger games, and play Ramsey at the #10 while asking Coquelin to play a disciplined role next to Xhaka. That way Ramsey can make a midfield 3 to prevent us from being outnumbered but will also have the freedom to get forward. For my money, El-Neny is practically useless because he doesn’t defend or attack particularly well. After that we have players we can hardly count on because of injury or inexperience. It’s a real dumpster fire in the middle. Shame too because we actually have some good forwards this year.

      1. I don’t like Ramsey at #10. He’s a taker, not a giver. In his current form he would just end up crowding spaces that Lacazette should occupy. Maybe his key passes could go back up to the 2014/15 high of 2.1 per90, but I really don’t see him as a truly creative midfielder.

        1. This is the most succinct, perfectly articulated reason why Ramsey is not and never will be a great number 10: he’s a taker, not a giver. Exactly.

        2. And Tim said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: Ramsey did not give, but Ramsey has taken away; blessed be the name of Ramsey.”

          Is Wenger punishing us for something sinful we did, or has he made a weird bet with Kroenke about how much ineptitude it takes before we turn to supporting Tottenham Hotspur instead?

          1. LOL Wenger is the Dad who told the fans, “I’ll give you something to cry about.”

            “You want me to turn this club around and back? Because I will.”

    2. Yes. This is closest to what we had in 2014 during that great run.

      Ramsey should be a half-channel midfielder; not central, not flank. Can squeeze into the middle and run into the box when on attack, but when we don’t have the ball he falls back into right midfield and helps Bellerin. Squeezing in during attack gives more space for Bellerin to bomb forward which is a strength of his.

      Granted (no pun intended) Granit Xhaka is no Cazorla and Mustafi is not as controlled as Mertesacker.

      Now, what I described would require someone sitting down with Ramsey and having a talk regarding what is expected of him on the pitch. That’s not going to happen.

      Let’s be fair here; transfer fiascos aside – we have enough talent. It’s not a balanced roster and there seems to be a lot of round pegs and square holes but a good manager would be able to make this work. Our problem is that Wenger is no longer even a good manager.

  4. Arsenal did play better and finish much better with one world class attacking player in Van Persie a few seasons back. Now we have three brilliant attacking players so in theory this team should be capable of a top four finish.

    But AW has to mange the damaged Egos make the midfield solid. I too vote for a midfield three with our only ball winner, Coquelin as the first name in it. Playing without him would be a recipe for disaster.

    On a side note very surprised Tim that you consider yourself to be a Coquelin. I would say that you are closer to an Alexis, super talented, hard working and very capable of throwing an effective tantrum when things do not go as they should.

  5. Well… I believe Ramsey should start on the bench because we have seen the team when he starts… and he is a liability. Elneny should be given more chance given his maturity and his ablity to stabilise the midfield… that’s what the team needs right now.
    We got into trouble in the transfer market since David Dein left us and we should look back the past 10 years to see that.
    More over …I feel like Wenger has lost his confidence and I think he will find something to mess even if you give him 11 world class players…
    I watch the team on TV … and I observe the arsenal fans @emirates are so cold all the time except for few incidents and the visiting fans make more noise (at least on tv),,, if that is the case the pitch is called “home” because of the fans… so please put more effort in supporting the team rather than uplauding once in a while like people attending a musical theatre.

    1. I agree with your comment about the fans. It seems like there’s an expectation for us to always be at or close to the top, built on so many years of success. But the reality is that no team wins all the time, even in this age where throwing obscene amounts of money around is the accepted route to winning championships. Liverpool are back from a long spell in the wilderness; back in the 70’s the First Division was theirs to lose, but their fans have ALWAYS made noise. I hardly ever make it to games anymore (the 5000 mile trip home after the game is a bitch), but I find it embarrassing that we “only sing when we’re winning”. I get the disappointment everyone feels when we don’t do well (on and off the field), but when you ask what we as fans can do, I think the best answer is to get behind the team you’ve got. Nothing gets the players’ energy going better than the roar of the crowd, and gloomy silences are toxic.

      Thank you, Tim, for moving on from the breast-beating and looking ahead to what might at least work for us given the situation that we’re in.

      Oh yeah, and as long as Silent Stan is in charge, get used to it.

      1. What you get with my blog is always going to be an emotional snapshot of where I am at any given moment.

        I have moved back from anger to acceptance.

      2. All of Wenger’s title wins came in the Highbury era and during games you could hear people coughing in a stand on the other side of the pitch. Arsenal have never had a crowd that’s vocal and passionate for 90 minutes but it didn’t stop us from winning titles.

        When Coquelin was playing really well he used to try and gee up the crowd a bit. Would love to see more players doing that this year.

        1. Can’t agree with this, Kaius. I used to stand on the North Bank in a wall of noise, and we’re playing the likes of Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday. And I often hear our away supporters outsinging the home crowds. But I do agree we don’t seem to regularly generate the same kind of noisy support as ManUre, ‘Pool or even (dare I say it) the Totts. It’s a shame, and I think our performances suffer for it.

  6. What we need is consistency and solidity, but with and without the ball, from our midfield. We need this because (a) we are in a crisis, especially defensively, and (b) the front three of Ozil-Alexis-Lacazette are so talented and versatile that they *should* be able to generate offense almost by themselves. So we don’t need a brilliant midfield right now; we need a solid midfield.
    With that in mind (and with the fact that there’s now already less of a reason to persist with the back three than there was in May), I like Tim’s 4-3-3 lineup, though, like Jebo above, I’d strongly tempted to play Elneny ahead of Coquelin, at least in the short term (and dropping Ramsey briefly might get it in his head that he needs to be a midfielder not a goalscorer).
    So it’s:
    Bellerin Mustafi Kos Kolasinac
    Elneny Xhaka Coq
    Ozil Laca Alexis

    Not sexy in that midfield, but might just get the job done. If they can get decent service up to the front three, and add some solidity and compactness without the ball, we could be ok for a while (against the weaker teams in the league, anyway).

    1. I wonder how many games we will get out of Mustafi and Alexis this season. I would bet a combined 30.

      1. I think the better question is how many games we will get out of them before the January transfer window closes. If City isn’t winning the league by then, I bet you they will come in with another offer for Alexis in January.

  7. “Wenger seems to struggle to buy players that fit into a system”
    No excuses, I remember him telling us the fan how vast his experience in managing a football team which I agree. At his level he should easily find the player his looking for and fit them into his system. If Klop, Jose and the others manager manage to find one or make do with one, no excuses.

    1. That’s the part I don’t understand. I’d love to hear his explanation of how he thinks his midfield fits together and what the game plan was for Liverpool.

      1. I think there were a lot of problems leading up to that match. I’ve heard rumors of fights in the locker room, raised voices, angry words. So, my guess… and take this however you want.. is that Wenger went into that match trying to cater to Ox in order to convince him to stay with the club. So, everything else about the lineup was shuffled for that. But by half-time he knew the jig was up.

        What fucks with me about this was that he took Ramsey off and put Coquelin on. That was hell of a slap to Aaron and I haven’t a clue why he did that rather than just tell Aaron to sit and stop sprinting. Like, was he sending a message to the board? I can’t figure it all out.

        I will also say that I’m convinced that every word Wenger said this summer was not directed at us fan, the journos, or even the players but at whomever he’s at war with on the board (which I suspect is Josh Kroenke). The stuff about keeping Alexis, the stuff about how great Ox is going to be, all of it; that was meant for JK.

        1. But surely if starting the Ox was meant to persuade him to stay, Wenger should have placed him centrally rather than persisting with him on the right, which, as it turns out, is the very reason the Ox wants to leave. It would be like me ordering a cheeseburger and getting served a fish sandwich instead, and when I said I’d like the cheeseburger or else I’m leaving…they served me another fish sandwich. Again, and again.


          1. Ramsey is a Wenger favorite; he’s bailed out the team in two FA Cups, he’s scored some spectacular goals, he appeals to Wenger’s love of swashbuckling total football. Ergo Ramsey’s preferences >> Ox’s desire to play centrally. I think it’s as simple as Wenger’s relationship calculus.

          2. More Meatloaf than cheeseburger…

            “I would do anything tor Ox, but I won’t do that”… namely play him in central midfield ahead of more suitable players. Look, hey, I hope Ox is more successful, at Liverpool, at getting his wish to be the next Steven Gerrard than Theo was at Arsenal in getting his to be the next Thierry, rather than the next Number 14.

            I’m not going to get on the Ramsey bandwagon again, but I’m weeping into my afternoon tea that thoughtful gooners talking about Elneny and Coquelin as the answers. This what we have — I get that. But still. Cripes.

            And I continue to think that Xhaka gets a free pass from gooners. The talk is often about someone else having to accommodate his weaknesses, rather than having him overcome them, or finding someone more suitable. The guy has a hint of the Vermaelens to me, and and when Wenger goes off him it will be spectacular and terminal.

            If somehow I magically acquired (a) the lack of empathy that comes with absolute brutality (b) unlimited funds, not one of our current midfielders would remain on the roster. But yeah, I know. We have what we have.

          3. Claude, I for one am not suggesting Coquelin and Elneny are “the answer” to anything, just that I might start them over Ramsey in a midfield three for the next few games (also think Iwobi deserves some playing time–he looked sharp in preseason).

        2. None of it makes sense. Why take off Ramsey when you are 2 nil down? That is probably when you do want your CM to start making runs into the opposition’s box. Why not start with Ox in the middle if the idea was to tempt him to sign? Why take off Ox when you switch to a back 4 and pass up on the chance to play him in midfield (again, assuming the idea was to tempt him to sign)? It’s almost as if he was trying to show Ox that he was a good at being a right wing back and change this mind about playing in the middle. The more sense I try to make of it, the more questions I have. In the words of the great Mugatu: I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!!

          I also think Wenger might have been directing his incessant “Alexis is not for sale” slogan at someone on the board. There is also the chance that they had planned to sell him all along for the right price and was trying to drive up his price using the media. Either way, they could have/ should have executed their plan much, much better.

          1. “And I continue to think that Xhaka gets a free pass from gooners. The talk is often about someone else having to accommodate his weaknesses, rather than having him overcome them”

            Claude, he doesn’t get a free pass.
            What would you suggest Xhaka does to improve on his shortcomings?
            Become quicker and more physical?
            Neither of these are legitimate options for him anymore and the only thing he can improve on is his decision making when on the ball.

            When Wenger’s line up features Xhaka, Ramsey and Ozil( basically three playmakers), the team lacks balance on both sides of the ball and not just when defending. Yes , I know it’s counter intuitive , but having Ramsey and Ozil roaming randomly around the pitch looking for creative opportunity isolates Xhaka and makes it harder for him to do his job.

        3. Just what we need, a football version of James Dolan. I wonder who our Isiah Thomas is going to be.

        4. “What fucks with me about this was that he took Ramsey off and put Coquelin on. That was hell of a slap to Aaron and I haven’t a clue why he did that rather than just tell Aaron to sit and stop sprinting. Like, was he sending a message to the board? I can’t figure it all out.”

          Wenger does send these type of messages doesn’t he. Either to the board or to the fans about the board but this wasn’t that, I don’t think.
          Blaming last season’s failure on his contract situation might be one of those massages, which seemingly puts the blame on Wenger’s shoulders but in fact he’s probably trying to say “if the board weren’t so stubborn and gave me what I wanted when I wanted it, the season would’ve turned out differently.”

          Or when he said the squad was too bloated and unmanageable , which would indicate he had mismanaged the squad. But what he says is “the board went out and bought a bunch of players I never wanted and who don’t fit my system, and now I have to get rid of them somehow to clean this mess up.”

          Taking Ramsey off might’ve been a simple case of Ramsey taking his free to roam around license to an even higher than Wenger allows it level.

      2. Dr. Gooner, I am convinced something had gone wrong with the team spirit hours or days before that Liverpool game (I am guessing information filtering about possible exits of Ox, Mustafi and maybe, Alexis, if right bids come in). If we are being honest, we all know our team can do better than that against Liverpool.

        Things will change now the Ox has left; he practically failed to show up for that game and could well have been putting on the Red of Liverpool, already. Let’s see how things pan out over the next 5 games.

        1. And I’m guessing the frictions in the locker room are contributing to our failures in the transfer market. It seems clear Lemar simply didn’t want to play for us.

        2. “Dr. Gooner, I am convinced something had gone wrong with the team spirit hours or days before that Liverpool game …”

          The players saw the team sheet and said wtf? 🙂

  8. I just don’t believe Wenger and Arsenal. They said they are going to spend. 52 million is not spending. The current squad is not good enough. 26 players left. Only 2 came in,and then Wenger bench them. There where players available for him to sign. But he is a idiot. And think Arsenal club belongs to him. This club will not make top 4. Hope they get relegated

  9. I very much agree with one dude that wenger shd deploy Coq as a player to break attacks reason being he is more of a tackler, then Xhaxa to do his long n gd passes but he must avoid his blunders in de deep lying role. I see Rambo doing well in right side of the midfield coz he likes to collect de call n drive from de right infield, Sanches left of midfield ozil as n_o 10 lacazette up front in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 system my centre bak pairing wud b kos n per coz per is good in de air for ariel calls then fulkbacks bellerin n monreal. Monreal is comfortable on ball than kola

  10. Have you guys seen the El Dia Despues footage of the Modric/Ramos incident at last season’s Depor-Madrid game? Basically Ramos goes nuts when Modric stops play for an injured opponent (Depor had the opportunity to do the same for an earlier injury to Carvajal but didn’t). Ramos gets carded in that incident, and gets a 2nd yellow soon after. I think this incident underlines something I’ve always felt about Alexis and his body language. Namely that none of it matters.

    Real Madrid have a combustible leader, a star player who’s as demonstrative and petulant as you can get, and a fire and ice manager who every single player in world football respects. None of it stops them from succeeding. British football obsesses over these types of incidents partly due to the culture clash between Northern European and more Latin ways of expression and partly because that way they don’t have to analyse the actual game.

    We have to stop fixating over these minor issues. Lee Dixon will tell you the Invincibles were not best friends off the field (that team had lots of little cliques). But they always played for each each other. For all Alexis’ supposedly damaging displays of emotion he was regularly our most effective and dangerous player last season. Despite all the players who were thinking of leaving the team still found the unity of purpose to put together those performances in the semi and FA Cup Final. Formations and tactics are important but this season is a test of whether Wenger, his captain and Arsenal’s dressing room leaders can get the team back to that unity of purpose.

    1. Agreed and we had a similar discussion on this on the last blog. At the end of the day, you want a few fiery characters on the team. Not a team full of them, because there has to be a balance but those few fiery characters are usually the ones who make good leaders.

    2. Agreed. Wenger’s biggest task right now is to get the players back to playing together as a team. Otherwise it will be Feb/March 2017 all over again.

  11. We need more PASHUN!!!

    Anyway, I don’t think it’s the expression of emotion, per se, is it? Isn’t it more about the kind of emotion being expressed? One, being fiery, showing anger at a teammate and expressing that by yelling at them, etc., seems to indicate your competitiveness and demand for the highest standards of excellence (you can do better than that you idiot!). Another, like doing your best impression of Rodin’s Thinker, sulking, throwing up your hands, isolating yourself, etc., seems to indicate you don’t want to be there and/or you have no belief in your teammates. Both expressions may stem from a common cause (wanting the very best, being competitive), but they each give different messages to your teammates. I’d suggest the latter is demoralizing, but the former may even be inspiring.

    I’m not saying one is better than the other universally, but I am saying that in a competitive team sport, one is probably more effective than the other.

    Anyway, crackpot pseudo-psychology aside, I’ll just say that I found Ramos’ actions kind of funny and also kind of awesome, but I whenever I see Sanchez by himself on the field, privately pondering why his teammates suck or why he exists, I just think that must have a demoralizing effect on those around him.

    Personally, I wish we had some more players who were more demonstrable with that fire, that anger, that hatred to lose.

  12. I’d understand this idea that it demoralizes team-mates if Alexis didn’t do it with with Chile as well. But he does! All his gestures were there while they were winning back-to-back Copa America’s. I think it’s as simple as his Chile teammates knowing him better, and being able to communicate with him better. They probably see Alexis doing a face and think “Alexis is beating up on himself for not scoring again” instead of “that guy thinks I suck”.

    With Cristiano Ronaldo he has his death-stares, shrugs and other things (usually directed at Bale or Benzema when passes don’t fall precisely at his feet). Messi was described as a bully by players who left Barca like Deulofeu and Tello. You need a lot of self-belief to play with these guys and maybe that’s what we’re missing at Arsenal.

    Also yes, Ramos is amazing. Wouldn’t mind one of our guys doing what he did because for some reason we love stopping play when an opponent goes down “injured” and it drives me nuts.

  13. Back to football now at last. I’d like to see Iwobi get an extended run in the team. He has the talent to be exceptional and if there is any doubt as to whether Alexis is giving it 100%, lets just throw in someone who might fight to stay in the team.
    Am I alone in thinking all this uncertainty and midfield vacuum might mean a way back for Jack?

    1. Agree about both those players, though not thinking they’re going to come into the side and make us world beaters.

  14. “I have a soft spot for players who are less talented but who try hard – I mean, look at this blog. It’s the Coquelin of football blogs.”

    While I’ve always shared this particular trait with you and as much as I’ve celebrated Coquelin’s return to Arsenal as a sign that perseverance will find a way, I’d need to tell you that I find the blog as the Wenger of football blogs. Driven by a desire to do better, slave to a philosophy and vision, brave to a fault but hands tied behind back.. There’s even the shared philanthropic spirit, the respect for individual and the cerebral approach to matters..

    This parallel might not please you or others here, but I wanted you to know that I really admire what this blog stands for.

  15. I try not to pay much attention to transfer headlines and gossip because at the end of the day those deals are impenetrable. You can’t guess what is going on so no point going there. The public stances of players and clubs may be 180 degrees off private conversations or what they really think. Reading arseblog losing it in the independent is uncomfortable for me. I think he might regret moves like that.

    You can’t hide the quality of the football however and the football on display at anfield was a catastrophe. That’s what concerns me.

    1. It’s all correlated.

      Wenger’s management, from transfers to tactics, has been poor for years.

      Arseblog laid down some truths about the shitshambles that Arsenal is.

  16. With the current roster of players, a more narrow system will benefit Arsenal. One which protects the defensive half as well as ensures there is enough fire power going forward.

    I personally would go with a diamond formation 4-3-1-2.

    It basically has no role for the classic winger & requires your forwards to press the opposition back line.

    The system also allows for Lacazette to pair with either Giroud or, Sanchez. At the same time allows Ozil to create for the forward two.

    In the end, irrespective of what system they play, Arsenal must showcase defensive nous in midfield. Without that, everyone knows we are our worst enemy.

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