Arsène Has A Big Task Of Changing The Team’s Mentality.

I can’t believe I am still talking of mentality in 2017. I can’t believe the team still start a game sluggishly, shoot themselves on the feet and fail to get even a single point from a match they are supposed to win with minimal ease inside the Emirates stadium. I can’t believe that in 2017, Aaron Ramsey would still be just a prospect within Arsenal fold, can’t be trusted to keep composure and concentration for 90 minutes without selling his team out, almost 10 years after the start of his Arsenal adventure.

Maybe it’s time to cut our losses and get him moved on. Maybe he needs a new surrounding. His development seems to have stalled, and he doesn’t have any motivation whatsoever. Looking at him last night lose the ball, from an otherwise low pressure circumstance; when his defenders were all coming out from the 18 area, and trudged back with nonchalance only reminicent of one Andrey Asharvin’s during the last months of his Arsenal career, I was lost for words to describe him; considering the enormous faith Arsenal and Arsène Wenger put in him. It’s just plain pity that he (Aaron Ramsey) thinks he’s doing enough to repay the club with such lackadaisical attitudes. Deflecting an otherwise harmless free-kick into his own net and strolling back after gifting the opponents the ball in a dangerous area directly resulting in a 2-0 deficit inside 15 minutes of the first half, then you go down with injury before 20th minute; leaving your team mates with a mountain to climb.👏👏

Even though the team had no power over the outcome of other title contenders’ results, they had absolute power to determine the outcome of their own match. Their fate was always in their own hands. What did they do? Throw it away to the wind. Chelsea dropped point, Tottenham dropped points to relegation strugglers Sunderland. What an opportunity to close the gap on the top and put a psychological hold on Chelsea ahead of our clash with them at Stamford bridge this weekend. At the end, we did what we know to do best; we bottled it.

“We didn’t start the way we wanted, in the second half it was all us, and we were unlucky to lose the game as well. We did not deserve to lose this game.”
 -Arsène Wenger

Any title chasing side must first be hard to score against, must have the technical skills, must be opportunists, must be psychologically and physically ready every week, must have the dugout tactical prowess to change things in little or no notice; must be able to improvise. Last night caught us wanting on several of these key areas. Arsène Wenger picked a wrong team. Inasmuch as the manager knows best, we football fans sometimes can determine the outcome of a game just by looking at the team sheet. We know them, we know their current form, so we can tell. As soon as I saw that line up yesterday, I was sure that something could go wrong. Whatever happened to the trio we saw at Southampton in midweek?  A team so dynamic that a very good Southampton side did not have any answer to the questions being thrown at them. Welbeck, Walcott, Perez.. You can argue that Welbeck need not to be rushed back, but the truth remains he is still fresh and would benefit from an extended run in the team. With the absence of Xhaka through suspension, why not Chamberlain-after his five star showing against the saints? Why start with Paulista against a saints side which does not boast of any outstanding wing backs, why keep Bellerin on the bench? Why start with Giroud who always have his best days coming in from the bench? Why sub Coquelin just when Arsenal were on the ascendency with Iwobi at the heart of everything good, moving the youngster down into the place vacated by the defensive midfielder? Since I didn’t want to risk Bellerin, why not sub Gabriel Paulista, who never found his touch going forward, bringing in whichever more offensive option you want while leaving Coquelin to man the middle and also snuff out any attempt of theirs down the right wing; thereby overloading Watford defence with goal scoring threats? These are calls which I think should be common knowledge to any good thinking football analyst or enthusiast, but our manager didn’t quite get them spot on; hence Arsenal paid the price. He took the blames head on though. 

Arsène will not always get the calls spot on all the time, but I expect him to instill in these hugely talented group of players a mentality that befits a title challenging team. I do not wish to compare Arsène with anyone, but in his days, Alex Ferguson would be smiling to the title with this set of players at Arsène’s disposal. It’s all a matter of mind set. Wars are first fought and won on the battlefield of the mind. These set of players are proving year after year that they are not up for it. Therefore, if Arsenal will be champions of England come May, nay, if the team has any dream of being in the top four come the end of the season, then Arsène has got a big task of changing his player’s mentality. Next up is a trip across London to Stamford bridge. Lets hope for the best. COYG!!

Here is the full match media conference by Arsène Wenger. Mind you, he’s always got his reasons.

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That Was Some Fire From Arsène!

No, no, no, I just went in and watched the game here after. I thought I could stay in the corridor.

There was nothing malicious I just shouldn’t have said some words and kept my control even if it was a hectic time.”

-Arsène Wenger

What a game of football that was at the Emirates last evening! Shkodran Mustafi with his first Arsenal goal, Alexis with a classic 97th minute panenka penalty to ensure the Gunners took home the maximum points on a day ladden with drama and controversies.

For the first time in recent weeks, the line-up was the same as the last match against Swansea. Bellerin could only return to the bench as Gabriel continued at RB. Arsenal started the match with zip and speed. They should have been ahead before 15 minutes if not for Burnley’s deep sitting formation in two banks of five players and Arsenal’s lack of cutting edge in the final third. It must be noted that most teams who play Arsenal in recent years sit deep more than half the time. Burnley were no different.

We got our breakthrough after the break when Mustafi evaded Burnley’s defence to scored a headed goal from a Mesut Özil’s corner, which is his first for the club. We continued to threaten until Xhaka did the unthinkable, and for the second time this season, put the team under untold labour and tension. He lunged with both feet on Defour.

“Our penalty, I saw it on television. I think it was a penalty and red card. Xhaka’s red card? Honestly I have to look at it again. The noises I get is that it was a red card and he has to control his game and not punish the team with lack of control in his tackling. We don’t encourage our midfielders to go down on tackles, we want them to stand up and not to make these kind of fouls. If it’s a bad tackle, it’s a red card.”

-Arsène Wenger 

It was typical Granit Xhaka and needless too. I must be honest, he was bossing the central area until that incident. However, I must congratulate Aaron Ramsey, Mesut and Sanchez who put in 110% after the team lost a man. Their energy and desire to burst their lungs thrusting forward was one of the high points of that nerve racking game.

Must be noted that this game could have gone without much drama if the match officials or whoever it is that assigns extra time didn’t give 7 additional minutes to a team which played almost half an hour with one man down, in a match without much time wastage. I guess they really wanted Burnley to get something from that game. If the normal 2 or 3 minutes injury time was given yesterday, the match would certainly have ended 1-0 and Arsène would not have protested. He wouldn’t have been asked to go to the stands. Most certainly, he wouldn’t have had a physical altercation with the match official Anthony Taylor. At the end of the day, the added 7 minutes was our saving grace.. Koscielny was again at the centre of controversy (having been the focal point in the reversed fixture when he scored a stoppage time winner, after appearing to handle the ball) when Mee rose more than 5 feet to poke the French defender’s face with his stud inside the penalty area. The argument now is: was the Arsenal player offside before being smashed in the face? Well I will leave the FA and PGMOL to answer that and other horrendous decisions metted out to my team in recent seasons. We could have been the recipients. No one talked about Mustafi being clipped inside Burnley 18 yards box.

Arsène speaking after the game said: 

on Xhaka being sent off by Jon Moss twice this season…

We’ve had two red cards and four penalties [given against us] this season at home now. You cannot say that we make it easy for ourselves, or that we get it easy.

 I didn’t know if I was sent to the stands but I was sent out. I thought I could watch it from the corridor, you know. I went inside and watched it on television. 

on if he regrets it…

I regret it . I should have shut up, gone in and gone home, basically. I apologise for that.


on if he’s spoken to the fourth official
Not yet, because I have a press conference to make. It was nothing bad. I said something that you hear every day in football, but overall nine times out of 10, you’re not sent to the stands for that. But if I am, I am – and I should have shut up completely. I was quite calm the whole game, more than usual, but just [not] in the last two or three minutes.

on if he’s spoken to the fourth official…
Not yet, because I have a press conference to make. It was nothing bad. I said something that you hear every day in football, but overall nine times out of 10, you’re not sent to the stands for that. But if I am, I am – and I should have shut up completely. I was quite calm the whole game, more than usual, but just [not] in the last two or three minutes.

(Source: arsenal.com)

I am not sure if the French tactician will be reprimanded by the FA, but all I know is we got the 3 points which propelled us to within 8 points off the leaders and in second place above Tottenham. I must say that it was quite some fire from the impeccable Arsène. This was a wonderful weekend in which we defied the odds to grab maximum points. I see a new Arsenal!! COYG!!

-Fair Play Gooner

What Now After Cazorla’s Injury Relapse?

Another person who have been on the treatment table and whose comeback was on the lips of all Arsenal faithful was Santiago Cazorla. The Spaniard maestro was injured during our home game against ludogoret with the very last kick of his in that match. Arsenal won 6-0 at Emirates stadium. His return would have been a breath of fresh air into our midfield which has been lacklustre in his absence. So much has been written about his immense input in the team that saying he makes us tick would be an understatement. He’s always at the heart of every thing good about Arsenal style of play in recent seasons, hence news about his being back to fitness would have lifted the spirit of the team and fans alike. However, the BOMBSHELL of a news that hit the goonersphere yesterday was that he is expected to undergo a surgery to repair his Achilles, which should set his recovery date back by at least 3 months.

‘Santi himself wants to get out of that vicious circle of going out and coming in again. He just wants to cure it’ -Arsène Wenger 

Well, what now after this devastating news? How will Arsenal team fare in his much prolonged absence, seeing that no other player currently in the team is capable of lacing his boots? In my opinion, Arsène has 3 options;

  • Buy a replacement in the January transfer window. But seeing that most players available in the January transfer window are hardly of the quality that will improve any top team, it’s understandable why Arsène is no fan of that period. Teams do not sell their top players in January. 
  • Make do with the players at his disposal until summer or Cazorla returns. No other player in the team brings out the best of Arsenal like Santi does. If Arsène will make do with these players, he might want to tweak the system of Arsenal’s play a bit. Otherwise I don’t see anyone at the moment who can offer half of what Cazorla brings to the team.
  • Recall our players on loan. This for me is the most realistic option. Jack Wilshere would have done a good job in Santi’s absence if he was fit and rearing to go. But he’s not and at Bournemouth he’s getting the needed playing time to return to the level we expect of him, hence he’s not the best choice. Another player who I think can fill that void left by Cazorla is his fellow Spanish prodigy Jon Toral who is on loan at Granada in the Spanish La Liga. Not much have been said or heard of him, but this lad-in my opinion-is Cazorla’s natural heir. He knows when to move forward or drop deep, pops up at any part of the pitch to diffuse pressure with ease. His guile and movement off the ball is second to none. He is an excellent passer of the ball, and will always provide the attacking outlet. He also has a good eye for goal. His work rate is also very impressive. These are just some of the important qualities Santi brings to this Arsenal side. Toral was the best player for Birmingham last 2 seasons when he played on loan for them in the championship. He repeated the same feat at Brentford last season where he made a total of 34 appearances. It’s little wonder Arsenal snapped him up from Barcelona academy setup along with Hector Bellerin a few years ago.

These are some of the options available to Arsenal as we wait for our little Spaniard, who is such a joy to watch, to undergo his surgery and rehab.  Here is to Santi’s successful operation and a quick recovery. COYG!

-Fair Play Gooner.

      Arsène Failed To Sign Adequate Cover For Santi’s Position? 

      Cazorla’s MOtM performance at Etihad stadium 2014/2015.

      During the Arsenal vs Bournemouth press conference yesterday, Arsène discussed Cazorla. What he brings to the team, what we have missed since he got sidelined and if we have an adequate cover for him. Arsène was modest in his assessment and praise of the little maestro and assured the men of press that he has enough cover for Cazorla. In fairness, the Arsenal manager had cover for that deep lying role, but none as half effective as the Spaniard. Modesty demands that he is frugal with praises, and that one player is not singled out over the others but reality is that Cazorla has no replacement at the moment in this Arsenal team.

      The Spaniard is a modern day metronome. He makes his side tick. From a deep lying position, providing the platform  for Özil and co to flourish. Those nutmegs,  brisk turn, change of play from right to left of the pitch, making himself available at the end of the pitch, deft  touches with both his feet, ability to pop up at any point of the pitch and dispel pressure with unimaginable ease, moving the ball faster into the final third of the pitch, genuine long range shooting threats; these were qualities we have missed since the ambidextrous Spaniard got sidelined with injury, effectively altering ARSENAL’S once fluid and high pressing style of play that had yielded so much success this season.

      “He’s important to our technical stability in the team, to the quality of our decision-making and to our build-up from deep midfield to the high midfield,” said the boss. “That’s an important stage because it gets the ball out from the defenders” -Arsène Wenger  

      We have played 7 matches in Santi’s absence and drew 4 of them. Chances created during this spell has drastically reduced. At old Trafford we had only one chance on target. Let that sink in.

      There are several players who can be called upon to fill the void left by Cazorla;

      • El neny is a player who is comfortable in possession. He can knock the ball around when there is not much pressure, but do not provide much to the team going forward.The Egyptian international  is not exactly a deep lying playmaker in cazorla’s mould, as can be remonstrated by his side way passes when the team needed inspirations to break down an organised Spurs in the NLD and at old Trafford. He’s always not at the right place at the right time or available and effective in tight areas which had come to be cazorla’s trademark.
      • Granit Xhaka is a defensive minded player who is not even remotely a playmaker. He is still in his budding stage in English football and would not be burdened with the most sensitive spot in the team.
      • Aaron Ramsey is more of a box to box player than a deep lying playmaker. He can get on the end of things when in form and can chip in with the odd goals, but do not offer the same options Cazorla did offer to the team.
      • Jack Wilshere would have been the closest we can get to Santi if he was on for; but he is inconsistent now, hence his loan move to our weekend’s opponent for him to build up his fitness and get regular playing time. 

      Who then is cazorla’s cover? Your guess is as good as mine. This is the one area where the club should invest on come January or during the summer transfer. At 31 he is no more a young player, so a suitable replacement should have been in place and budding by now. We need a player with guile and class that can distract defenders while our more advanced front men make dangerous runs behind opponents in the final third. We need a player who is comfortable using both his two feet with quick thinking. We need a player who can initiate a quick transition of the team from defence to attack. We need a deep lying playmaker in Cazorla’s mould to add dynamism to a side so blessed with pace and creativity. 

      One thing is certain; Arsène and Arsenal failed to provide a like for like cover for the midfield dynamo. For the time being, we shall rely on the players we have, hope that Cazorla return in set date and stay injury free for the rest of the season.

      -Fair Play Gooner

      No victor, No vanquish.

      FT Arsenal 2-2 PSG. It was an exhilarating match foe both teams. Arsenal were brilliant in patches. In the second hal they corrected their shortcomings in the first half, however it was not enough to take the whole points from a very strong PSG side.
      As it stands now, PSG will qualify ahead of Arsenal as the group leaders, even if we have better goal difference; because of the head to head rules. Well let’s hope we don’t get very strong opponent in the last 16.

      I must mention that Gibbs is not producing a performance worthy of an Arsenal player. Ramsey was ok today, but we missed Santi’s crafts. Giroud needs to run more and help defensively. Finally our September run of draws continued in a night where Arsenal showed just a bit more heart than they did at old Trafford last Saturday.

      The battle for SUPREMACY has yielded neither a Victor nor a villain, but the balance has been tilted towards the visitors. To better days. COYG!!