Arsenal beat Stoke despite major flaws in midfield

“We didn’t play well in the first half at all. We lacked urgency, pace, drive. In the second half, we rectified that.” – Arsene Wenger on why Arsenal played better in the 2nd half against Stoke.

I hate this answer because it infantilizes the supporters, reducing the complexities of a game like football to a simple game of “heart.” It’s not. If it was just about “geeing” players up for a match then why would we need a manager at all?

I blame the reporters. No one pressed Wenger on this question, they just let him get away with saying that Arsenal needed more heart, probably because it was partly true.

Arsenal did lack work rate off the ball from many of the players but more importantly, also lacked a tactical plan and cohesion. Let me show you what I mean.

Elneny collects the ball and I hope you can already see that the team is set up weird. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are both high up the pitch and Mesut Ozil has dropped into the space where one of those two would normally occupy. Jack should drop into the space where the referee is but really doesn’t move much throughout this passage of play.

Wilshere and Ramsey are both in no-man’s land. Ozil is looking exactly where he’d like a player to be but there will never be a player there. So, he makes a terrible pass to Ramsey instead.

Wilshere still hasn’t budged. Ramsey has the ball tackled away (or makes the pass) to Mustafi. Look at Bellerin’s position as well. In theory he’s “pegging his man back” but in reality he’s a fullback who is simply standing around in the forward’s space and not helping out in midfield at all.

Mustafi passes to Elneny and we restart play. Wilshere, Ramsey, and Bellerin haven’t moved more than a few yards combined in this play.

With no help, Elneny passes to Ozil. This is awful. This is a team not occupying space the way that they should, not helping each other out, and making things easy for the defense.

Bellerin breaks out of the treacle he’s been standing in, Ramsey makes a fake run to occupy the space that Aubameyang vacated. Auba has been moving up front the whole time but because Elneny can’t make those kinds of attacking passes and because Ozil doesn’t have any attacking support, no one can get him the ball. It’s crazy that Auba had to be the one to fill the space that Ramsey should have been in but that’s Arsenal.

Ozil, probably fed up with his teammates lack of movement and tactical ineptitude dribbles across three players. This could have been a disastrous dribble. If he loses the ball there, Stoke have just Elneny to beat before they can slice right through Arsenal’s defense. It’s crazy but he dribbles across that line and then just passes to Wilshere.

The pass is also a bad pass. Jack has the ball tackled away from him and is fortunate that the ball goes to Ramsey. If you’re counting, that’s two passes by Ozil, each to the midfielders who should have been in midfield, both putting them in trouble. I almost wonder if Ozil is sending them a message. What’s crazy is that Stoke are so bad defensively that Arsenal actually get a good shot off on this play. It’s the shot where Ramsey loops the ball onto the top of the goal.

Here’s a screen from the second half. Ramsey has taken up a more CM role and collects in space. This is beter positioning by the Arsenal. Wilshere is still static but he’s in a good space to either attack or defend. Elneny is also in a better place here.

Ramsey passes to Ozil who now has a number of options: Lacazette in the point, Auba on the left and Wilshere running in to space. He also has support behind him with Ramsey. But all the hard work of this good positioning is about to be undone by everyone running into the box.

Ozil runs, passes to Lacazette, who barely manages to hold the ball up.

Now this is a cluster. Ramsey’s still running forward. He sees that Lacazette is in trouble and just bombs into the box anyway. So does Wilshere. Here’s where a player like Cazorla would drop off and occupy space at the top of the box but Arsenal’s CMs all just bomb into the box all the time. It’s reminiscent of a pickup game.

Lacazette goes down in a heap and Ozil is in serious trouble now. Also note that Lacazette Aubameyang is basically out of the picture, playing on the wing, left. What manager would take a guy who has scored 199 career goals and stick him on the wing? Ozil beats the four guys around him and then gets fouled.

The point of all this is that it isn’t just “pace, urgency, and drive”. Even with more of that stuff in the second half, Arsenal continue to take up ridiculous positions on the pitch and fail to really help each other out. Ozil wins a penalty through his own sheer brilliance and Arsenal go on to win the match because Stoke are a broken team.

But Arsenal have massive structural problems which were papered over by the scoreline. Either Wenger is telling Jack and Ramsey to abandon midfield, or the players are doing it on their own and Wenger isn’t telling them not to. Ramsey and Wilshere – and to an extent Elneny – all seem to lack a basic understanding of spacing and spacial awareness. They take up positions that are antithetical to team play but are very beneficial to their own individual play.

I want to be clear that I don’t hate Wilshere and Ramsey. I think they are terrific players. Ramsey in particular could be an amazing CM. But this kind of play from the team is frustrating and difficult to watch.

There’s a thing that everyone says whenever I criticize a player – “I’d like to see how he does under a different manager” – and I am 100% on board with that philosophical approach. The argument being that if Fabian Delph could have his career resurrected under Pep, then all these Arsenal players could be doing better under  a better manager.

Unfortunately, we won’t see that until Ramsey is almost 29 years old and his career is coming to a close.



  1. Tiny correction Tim: six paragraphs from the end, I assume you mean “Aubameyang is basically out of the picture, playing on the wing…” (Incidentally, this is my concern with Wenger playing Auba and Laca in the same team: rather than going two up top, or maybe dropping Laca wide/deeper, looks like he’s going to stick Auba on the wing, which for my money makes the least sense out of all his options.)

    But fantastic article.

    And there I go, just like that, breaking my promise to take a mind-clearing, soul-restorative break from commenting on this blog (and watching Arsenal PL games) until the summer…

    1. Not to suggest that this blog is soul-destroying, just that watching and thinking about the Arsenal has been this season.

    2. But Lacazette is a better finisher in my opinion and may not have the pace to play on the wings anymore the way Auba does.

      Though i agree to a diamond midfield system to accomodate both in central positions.

    3. Thanks for the correction.

      I understand why Auba is playing wide; Lacazette is a better hold-up player. I also think Wenger wants him to be like Henry, who operated on the left. Though that is kind of weird because henry wasn’t a winger the way that Auba is being deployed. I don’t know. It’s all crazy.

      1. Tim:
        I think Auba doesn’t have the on-the-ball skills of Henry, and that’s my biggest problem with him being on the wing, where you have to be more involved with the buildup (lest you end up frustrating for years, like one T. Walcott). Plus, as you say, Henry got to drift out to the left when he wanted, but he was used as a lone CF for the majority of his career after being converted from a winger to a CF; only at Pep’s Barca did he operate on the wing (and we are no Pep’s Barca). Maybe Laca holds the ball up better, but then again, Auba’s better in the air, and his extra pace means he can stretch the defense in a way Laca can’t and in a way that gets handicapped (though not entirely erased) on the wing.

        I don’t accept that Lacazette’s a better finisher (maybe a more versatile one(?), but they’re both bloody brilliant). He might lack the pace to be amazing on the wing, but he’s hardly sluggish, and his close control and passing are better than Auba’s. I just think he’d be more comfortable out there. You don’t have to be a complete speedster to be successful on the wing–it depends on the rest of the team more than anything–but you do have to be comfortable operating out there.

        But to be clear: I’d probably prefer them both operating centrally, if they’re going to be in the same team. Or I’d play 4-3-3 rather than the 4-2-3-1 Wenger’s stuck on, with BOTH “wide” forwards getting a lot of freedom to move inside and interchange positions, which I think they’re intelligent enough to do. One of Ozil or Mikhi tucks into a midfield three and orchestrates matters (until we can buy a new Santi), and the other takes up residence on the “wing” opposite of Laca. It ain’t perfect, but it’s probably our best option with what we’ve got.

        1. We’re not buying a new Santi. If we buy another attacking or midfield player in the next two windows I will go mental. We need to remake the defense from top to bottom. I’m not big a big lover of either Wilshere or Ramsey but at this point I would resign them whatever the cost; if they leave the club will be distracted and go looking for a midfielder that will suck up almost all of our transfer budget. We need two new CBs, an heir to Monreal, and replacements for Bellerin, Cech and Ospina. That’s 200m right there.

          1. And since when are (a) an heir to Monreal (having both Nacho and Kola surely makes LB not a top priority this summer, even if they could be improved upon), (b) a replacement for Bellerin (he’s not my favorite, but with that very long contract, he’s staying, whether he wants to or not, unless we want to cash in; we just need a backup for him), and (c) a replacement for Ospina (lol) crucial to our rebuilding for next season?

            Surely the crucial moves should be (in no particular order):
            1. New youngish, top quality keeper
            2. New Santi (could be most important, depending on what happens to Jack and Ramsey this summer, and assuming the original Santi is never coming back, or at least not as his old self)
            3. New experienced, top quality CB
            4. New top quality, proper DM (unless AMN suddenly morphs into this)

            I can’t imagine we’ll get all of those in one window, but if we could get 3 of 4 we’ll have done well. And if that means Chambers and AMN have to remain as our backup RB’s, so be it.

            If we get most of the above, and still have some loose change lying around, and/or the perfect opportunity comes along, we could also use:
            5. A speedy, direct, dribbling wide attacker (a Mo Salah, basically, but I’d settle for a Sadio Mane)

          2. Max Meyer seems to be on the cards. Not a bad shout, he’s obviously still young and nowhere near Cazorla in quality, but he’s certainly someone who’s a good dribbler in the middle.

          3. Bellerin more or less wants to go. Barcelona will come for him with a decent offer. If I were him, I would go. He’s being ruined at our club. At Barca he will become one of the top 3 RBs in the world.

            Mustafi has to go. He wanted out last summer.

            Koscielny is being held together with scotch tape. He’s our new Ledley King. He cannot play week in week out.

            Chambers is not top quality.

            Holding is not top quality.

            Cech is past his best before date. He will be 36 next year.

            Monreal will be 33 next year. That’s past your best before date as a LB. Kolasinac is wing back and nothing more. He’s not a spring chicken either.

            I’m going to assume Jack Wilshere is leaving.

            A new Santi Cazorla (if one could even be found) would be a luxury.

            I don’t know why Wenger would want to stay. This roster is FUBAR. Overhaul would not be an adequate descriptor for the amount of work needed to be done.

  2. It’s bad coaching. Alex Song was ruined from a decent DM/CB to a marauding box-to-box midfielder. Same with Coquelin. I would hate to see what Wenger would do Kante.

    Speaking of midfield… who watched Bayern v Dortmund on the weekend? James is a #10? He was picking up the ball at times in the same line with Hummels and Boateng who were spread wide far apart from each other. The movement and interchange of positions is amazing… we are so far away from competing on that level it depresses me. You’re right comparing what we’re doing to pick-up football.

  3. I agree that the midfield just didnt work until Xhaka and Mkhitaryan came in. Both Wilshere and Ramsey had really bad games against stoke.

    Like ANR though, i see that you just poked at the flaws alone and mentioned nothing about the fluency we saw from 75 mins onwards. You mentioned nothing about Lacazette playing the penalty as a gift from Auba.

    We all already get the point that you don’t view Wenger as Arsenal’s coach going forward, but the point that what kind of coach sticks Laca on the wing was pushing it too far. Laca ran the channels well when he came in and allowed the team create good chances, and i believe Auba was probably the one you meant but then he has played that position under coaches you would wish replace Wenger., and Wenger certainly won’t be the first or the last to play two strikers and stick one out on the wings.

    This is a type of victory teams need sometimes. How often has Arsenal played well in the past and lost.

    1. I’m sorry i didn’t write the article you wanted me to write. I can be frustrating at times because I write what I want and I wanted to highlight that 1) the game isn’t just about pace and desire as Wenger says 2) that the media needs to stand up to these managers because it infantilizes us fans and robs us of seeing games more tactically and 3) because Arsenal are a deeply flawed team, managed by a guy who used to be knows for fluid passing and movement, but which has recently dried up to the point that Arsenal can’t even pass the ball around the worst defensive team in the League (Stoke). It’s deeply worrying because Arsenal head into a Europa League tie against CSKA Moscow and if they apply any pressure at all they could turn us over.

      That said, it’s not like Wenger can suddenly get this team clicking.

      Yes, it was sweet of Auba to offer the goal to Laca.

      Also, did you see that nasty stamp by Xhaka? I’ll be surprised if the FA doesn’t have another look at that and give him a retroactive ban.

  4. AKEEM ADETAYO OYALOWO , do you view Wenger as someone who should lead Arsenal going forward?

  5. Such a great piece, Tim. I saw several awful passes as we attempted to move from midfield to attack, and kept scratching my head, chalking it up to bad decision making. You’ve made it pretty clear it’s terrible midfield play. And Bellerin thinking he’s a forward. Mkhitaryan’s positioning and movement is clearly superior to Jack’s, and it makes a huge difference. But Ramsey, Bellerin and Jack should all know better by now. No wonder Ozil was chewing out Hector! No decent coach allows this to go on. Thanks for great insight, Tim!

  6. So let me see if I have this straight?
    Criticize AW for giving answers to a lazy press– who will ingest and regurgitate for clicks? As opposed to him acting the press-savvy handler– by not charitably giving-over nuanced versions strategies that might have been deployed instead? Thus giving 10,000 blogs second-questioning-fodder– and clicks– for a week or weeks ? Those same blogs that regularly demean him and his team personally?

    Sorry Tim. That Arsene didn’t give the presser you wanted him to.
    I have a clear picture as to why.


    1. I don’t care about clicks. Do you see ads on my site? I make zero dollars from clicks.

      As for criticism, Arsene Wenger threw the players under the bus for that first half performance and took no responsibility for himself. The team’s a mess. It’s not people pointing out what a mess this team is that are making the team a mess. The team is also a mess because I think Wenger’s lost a lot of players. Bellerin and Ozil were publicly sniping at each other. Ramsey and Wilshere looked like they couldn’t be arsed to do basic CM duties.

      I don’t know, man. Did you even have fun watching that yesterday? It was so ugly, all the way through.

      This is an Arsenal team that used to play like Man City do now and I don’t know why Arsene Wenger can’t get his teams to play fluid football anymore.

      Sorry, what I mean to say is “Aubameyang, what a great guy giving that penalty up to Lacazette. You could really see what it meant to him.”

      1. Tim, first my apology.
        Your site was not meant as included in that allusion to ‘10,000 blogs’.
        One of the reason’s I visit here. You are one of only several Arsenal sites/writers I read anymore.

        But here’s my perspective Tim– and it calcified after the Bournemouth and Swansea results– along with (the event I like to call) ‘Alexit’ — at the end of January. Reasoning includes the other savvy moves of Mislintat/Famhy/Gazidis (and likely input from Sanllehi before he officially came aboard (Feb 1))– jettisoning overpaid assets and deadwood from the club. Then the larceny that was stealing both Mkhi and Auba .

        My view in December? Were that these were the types of moves I didn’t expect COULD be possible until even NEXT Summer 2019. Winter TW 2018 accelerated those possibilities.

        Short version: AW is here through end-of-season as Manager. He’s doing the club a massive favor IMO having stayed-on. Weathering the probable sh*tstorm– until the new backoffice team can make their first plunge after season’s end at the World Footie Bazaar in Moscow.

        So honestly? The League Cup final was hope-beyond-hope. Then what? Beat City twice in a week– really? Making Europa League the last shiny bauble left. If it’s Arsenal vs WTHCares on May 16th in Lyon? There’s, well, something to revel on about 2017-18. Still optimistic.

        OTOH? If not? The only goal is to get to May 5th. Last home match of the season vs Burnley. Without effigies being hung and burnt.

        So. Viewed through an alternate lens Tim?
        Wenger is simply running interference for the club– until the club can optimize itself best– to make all the big moves in-synch. That time? I think most can agree– begins mid-May.

        I came to grips with this longer-view about 8 or 9 weeks back.

        Rooting for Arsenal as always. Supporting the Manager as always. Putting my faith in the new decision-makers. Staying sane through it all too.

        With regards,

      2. I had fun watching that. We were crap, couldn’t string passes together and were slow and sluggish. And I enjoyed it. I enjoy watching my team. Sometimes even watching them struggle. Sophistication and understanding is a good thing. But sometimes it helps to just let go and keep it as simple as watching YOUR team and enjoying that (and it helps if they win)

        Like don’t you get that with music sometimes? Where once you start to understand the song structurally and the chords and notes that it loses some of the magic? Or with languages. Foreign languages can sound so cool until you realise that the idea expressed is still mundane if not crap. Understanding has practical benefits, but in terms of bringing enjoyment to a leisure activity, it’s often overrated.

        That said, I would like journos to ask better football questions. But I think that just stems from wanting better journalists and journalism in general.

      3. Also, Ozil and Bellerin having a go at each other is a sign of players not believing in Wenger? What?

  7. ive said for years that wenger doesn’t provide any type of direction to the players. they’re forced to go out and figure it out by themselves. it’s why arsenal’s play is so unpredictable when there is no established senior guy to set the tempo (cazorla/arteta). fabian delph is not the only one. has anyone recognized how well chamberlain is playing for liverpool? it’s plain to see why he left; he wanted a coach that would help him make better use of his technical skills. he’ll continue to improve.

    btw, i’ve watched aubameyang for about five years at dortmund. his hold up play is very good; i wouldn’t say lacazette is categorically better. it’s just that aubameyang has gifts that make him more dynamic; he has the speed to go behind defenses that lacazette doesn’t so laca plays to his strengths.

    why wenger sticks aubameyang on the wing? because we know that he can provide a product from the wide areas. we don’t know that about lacazette. another argument could be that wenger did the same stupid stuff when he stuck players like eduardo and arshavin on the wing; the dude is pretty old to be learning new stuff (did i just age discriminate?).

  8. Arsenal have a great collection of talent that will go nowhere because of lack of direction, discipline and basic fundamentals which for reasons we will never know, seem completely beyond the manager to to impart to his charges.

    I have seen 3 or 4 BvB and Atleti Europa matches now and uh, no I can’t see us getting past either in two legs. Maybe, MAYBE in a final if we kept our nerve and they didn’t but we are hopelessly out coached if not out classed.

      1. No, they went through last minute against Atalanta Bergamo. but they’re certainly beatable right now.

  9. Jack is too static except he has the ball. He seems to lack a tactical responsiveness to the game when not with the ball. Paired with Ramsey who gets too drawn to the ball or to the box, gives a midfield without any tactical discipline. Ozil tries to compensate by dropping into unattended spaces, but then Ozil is not made for harrying opponents in possession.

    Maybe best to play only one of Jack and Ramsey in a team. I would add that when Laca and Auba are played together, Ramsey’s box runs becomes less necessary.

    Btw, I’ve lost hope on Welbeck ever coming good.

  10. I feel d game was lethargic cos of thursday knowin it was forr notin. On anoda day stoke wud be blown away with dat team.dat said it isn’t our frst team.include xaka Miki even wit auba on d left we wud b beta.laca fr mi scores from evrywer but auba is a box guy.laca is a beta ball home ds season we have flayed wit more dynamism dan away.stoke game is ourrr worst home game ds season.

  11. For mi we need a wide creative player. 2experienced defenders a stronger more defence oriented n great wit d ball elneny like n a rite back.we had debuchy but booed him off.he wud have made a sound back Up. I agree wenger needs to go wit d tactics of now wit positional play n all dat.but hs failings fr mi is he’s goone too soft on dese pressure on dem whatsoever.

  12. Anoda tin is d silent influence of ozil. He’s becomin viera like fr arsenal.if it were alexis dia wud b ooos n aaahs. A lemar or anoda creator to aid him n Miki will help.

    1. What agenda is that?

      To have an Arsenal team that plays good football that’s enjoyable to watch?


  13. Arsene must’ve forgot to draw a wolf on the chalkboard before the game, something he rectified at half time.

  14. Some, maybe even most, players want clear instructions. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. It’s even true of most people in any walk of life. I think Wenger can and does provide direction. Especially in times of clear crisis.

    He however, wants the players to be better than they think they can be. If that sounds like mumbo jumbo to you remember that Wenger credits his time in Japan with shaping his philosophy. He views football as art, and he wants the players to unlock their true creative potential. This needs instruction as a base, but not as the defining (and ultimately, limiting) factor

    This isn’t about being left behind by ‘modernity’. Give him the access to the sort of players we had back then and he’ll likely get you the same sort of football. Sure, the players’ interaction with the outside world has changed and maybe that affects how Wenger deals with them. In that perhaps the modern world has left him behind (that as well as the time he has spent at the club could indicate both the ageism that he referred to, as well as the genuine need for a change) . But I have a hard time believing that someone as obsessed by football and as forward looking at him is suddenly flummoxed and overwhelmed by tactics. The club is still moving forward and despite the attempts to portray it as some sort of coup, Wenger remains at the forefront of that change. He’s long held that as part of his responsibility too.

  15. “Unfortunately, we won’t see that until Ramsey is almost 29 years old and his career is coming to a close.”

    This is the saddest thing about the last 6-7 years. The lost time. For players and fans, life is too short. But a manager’s career is long and Arsenal have prioritised the latter over the former.

    What’s most striking thing about the empty seats at the Emirates – it’s not really an organised protest or boycott. It’s just fans deciding they’ve spent enough time watching Wenger try to rediscover lost glory and they’d rather do something else instead.

    1. 10 seasons with Arsenal to date. Aaron’s career has been dotted with lengthy spells of injury. Injuries which have been dutifully accepted by club and manager. There’s never fully been the hoped-for Shawcross-redemption. Glimpses yes, 2013-14 then well into 2014-15.

      A decent season in ’15-16– but just 37 apps all comps since the start of 2016-17. I’m not sure a different club or different manager changes those facts.

      Don’t recall any gossip of bigger European clubs sniffing around over the years either. Or even PL ones. Correct me if i’m off base.


      1. Not sure what point you’re making. What does Ramsey being linked with European clubs has to do with anything I said?

        Sentiments aside, the midfield three that started against Stoke should all leave this summer. If Wenger wanted a team to play with the “urgency, pace, and drive” he said we were lacking? Then he should have put together a physically imposing athletic midfield unit.

        Everyone knows Wenger is the smartest man in the room at the post-match pressers but the problem with his stock responses is he might be saying just enough to fend off reporters but it really doesn’t inspire confidence. I’d love to hear him own it, say he set us up wrong and corrected it at the half. Instead, as Tim rightly noted, he threw the players under the bus.

  16. AW probably drew a goose on the whiteboard because they mate for life and he really wants to stay another season.
    For sure it wasn’t tactical instructions…

  17. I would be interested to see how Ramsey does injury-wise under a different manager.
    Remember the main knock on Ox not being worth the money Liverpool paid for him?
    Injury prone and a bit $hit , most said.

    Well the $hit part was a bit subjective but so far no signs of injuries under Klopp, and he’s on track to match and exceed his most minutes in a single Arsenal season.
    Something I predicted would happen btw.

  18. Jack Action

    If you discount Kos, assume that Bellerin and Mustafi are gone, don’t rate Chambers and Holding and don’t consider the reserves/youth at all, then sure, we are FUBAR.

    The rebuild is definitely required (and the attacking half was done in January) but I think you’re overplaying it.

    Where does this Bellerin wants to go story come from? He signed a 6 year contract last season. He seems like he likes it in London and at Arsenal. Of course if Barca seriously came in for him he would have to consider it. But that’s different from he wants to go. Arsenal will be demanding a lot of money for him.
    Also Mustafi. There seems to be some fire to that smoke. However he also scorned the press for the rumours and said he is here in an Arsenal shirt. He’s one of the regulars in the side. Why would he absolutely want to go? One CB is all we’re going to get and that is enough.

    A RB who can also fill in at LB would be the other purchase. (Unless one of the youth is ready)

    As for the midfield. I think the major one there is Ramsey. If he extends, we’ll have Elneny, Xhaka, Ramsey and AMN. With Miki and Iwobi also able to play there (and at a push, Ozil) I agree that Wilshere seems on his way out. I doubt we’ll sign a ‘proper DM’ but a guy who can dribble out of space and create some room would be needed. Max Meyer is reported and maybe Mislintat can swing it, but who knows?

    And the GK. A definite need because Szczesny’s crimes could not be forgiven. I think we’ll sign a GK as No.1 and sell Ospina after the World Cup, with Cech in his last season and Martinez as understudy.


    Sell/lose: Ospina, Per, Wilshere
    Add: GK, CB, CM, and a backup FB.

    There might be a major sale (like Ramsey if he doesn’t sign, or Bellerin/Mustafi) and there might be an opportunistic buy. But I don’t think this team is going to be overhauled in quite the way you think. Unless we go all in on our youth prospects like you wanted. I don’t think that happens.

    The issue will be finances, not squad turnover.

    1. Both Bellerin and Mustafi were reported on during the summer. I believe it may even have been reported by David Ornstein but I may be mistaken. Reportedly Bellerin told management he wanted to go but was told under no circumstances. Mustafi was wanted by Inter but Arsenal wanted a sale and Inter wanted a loan with option to buy. I will stick to my assertion that both of them probably want out. Especially if Wenger stays because while I believe both would be very good players with some coaching (Bellerin could be one of the world’s best), they’re not getting it.

      Don’t get me wrong – if we had say Pocchetino coaching Chambers and Holding they’d be starter quality. But we don’t and they’re not.

      I think Ramsey will be sold if he doesn’t sign in the next two months. We cannot repeat what happened with Alexis. Ramsey will fetch 50-60m from a top 4 team because of the homegrown quota premium. We should take it. We’re about to lose Wilshere on a free.

      Out: Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Wilshere, Ramsey, Welbeck, Perez, Campbell (finally)
      In: GK (Butland maybe, Stoke fire-sale), RB and CB… what I’d like to see
      In: Two Wingers (Malcom and Mahrez), a Midfielder (Meyer)… what we’ll probably get if Wenger’s still in charge

  19. As a first time visitor to 7 am Kick Off, I was genuinely impressed by your dissection of the midfield malaise that is plaguing Arsenal.

    Surely the basic errors being repeatedly made by our players should be addressed on the training ground. Isn’t that one of the functions of the coaching staff?

    Failing that shouldn’t the manager be standing on the touchline bellowing instructions at his players?

    Thank you Timothy for a good read.

    1. There are a lot of things going on here.

      First, Wenger does do all the training sessions. It’s his one true love in football. I’m sure Wenger trains and keeps current on training methods. And I’m also sure that whatever methods he’s using aren’t producing the results that they used to. He’s no longer able (if he ever truly was able) to turn mediocre passing players into great passing players. In fact, many players seem to be coming undone the longer they stay at Arsenal. Bellerin is the main example.

      Second, I think they players are “protecting” themselves. By this I mean; I believe it was Philippe Auclaire who said that there was some statistical evidence that Arsenal players aren’t doing certain actions so that they don’t get a ding after by the boss. So, if you don’t attempt a tackle, you can’t get a failed tackle. Arsenal also track runs forward and runs back and Auclaire said that some Arsenal players were tracking back but not getting involved in defense (not tackling, etc) so that their post-match stats would show “X” runs back in defense and they couldn’t get yelled at for lack of work rate. Auclaire also accused the players of “hiding” which I have written about here. This article basically show you what Auclaire was talking about: Jack and Ramsey aren’t making runs or getting involved in build-up the way that they should, forcing Ozil to drop and do their work for them and leaving Elneny high and dry. This got better in the second half but not entirely. Players looked like they are still playing for themselves rather than for the team.

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