Perfect Weekend For Arsenal? And Liverpool & United Fighting For Top Four

In terms of Premier League weekends, that couldn’t have gone any better could it?

Yesterday, Arsenal faced an Aston Villa side bang in form and during a 10 minute footballing masterclass, found themselves 3 goals to the good and the 3 points in the bag. Mesut Özil, a player who has been heavily criticised, was the catalyst for the win, cooly scoring the first and creating the second for Danny Welbeck. Welbeck also had a fantastic game, creating the first chance for Özil’s opener.

The relationship between Özil and Welbeck is something that should excite Arsenal fans.

Aston Villa were shell-shocked after going 2-0 up and when Kieran Gibbs flew into the box and unleashed a wayward shot, Cissokho diverted the ball into his own net. After the break and with the game effectively over as a contest, Arsenal eased their way to a comfortable win.

Our other main rivals; Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City didn’t have such a good weekend, with all dropping points.

Liverpool still haven’t got used to playing 2 games in the space of a week and it clearly showed as West Ham started brightly and caught Liverpool out cold, going 2-0 in the first 10 minutes. Brendan Rodgers is used to having 7 days to prepare his Liverpool team but the fact is he’s playing with the big boys now so he’s going to have to get used to it! Another problem they have is Luis Suarez is irreplaceable and they are going to struggle without him in the team.

Then we have Manchester United.

They’ve spent the most in Europe this season, started with Radamel Falcao, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Angel Di Maria – and still got done over by Leicester City. With an impressive attacking line such as they, teams have worked out that attack is the best form of the defence and it’s working. Manchester United can’t defend, and it is quite frankly hilarious. They’ve spent all that money and can’t field a competent defence.

Also, I’ve never “rated” Louis Van Gaal. Yes, he’s a well-established European manager, but his methods are dated and there have been a number of players who don’t agree with his management style. He’s had some success (in the past) but not really done anything recently. I think it’s pretty damn impressive that Manchester United have found a manager who was worse than David Moyes.

Before the season started, the predictable “experts” all thought Arsenal would be the ones to drop out of the Top Four this season, but haven’t they learnt anything? We’ve finished in the Top Four for the last 17 seasons, so we won’t be the ones to drop out.

It’ll be between Liverpool and Manchester United fighting for fourth place.

What’s Going On With Cazorla, Podolski & Rosicky?

We’re unbeaten in the Premier League, which is a positive but it doesn’t hide the fact that we’ve hardly won any games and had a heavy defeat to Borussia Dortmund. Our form and performances this season have not been at the level we have been capable of, which is down to a combination of having a talent, multinational team, most of which played in the World Cup this summer.

But another problem is Arsene Wenger’s unbalanced squad. In defence and attack we are limited in our choices, meaning that the first choice positions in those areas are pretty well established now. Gibbs and Debuchy are first choice fullbacks, with Monreal and Chambers available to cover if required (when they’re not injured obviously). Mertesacker and Koscielny are our first choice central defensive partnership, and Calum Chambers can play there if needed as well.

Our main striker position was filled by Olivier Giroud but since he’s injured Danny Welbeck is playing there, and we have Yaya Sanogo as backup.

But our biggest problem at this moment in time is our midfield.

Simply put, we have too many midfielders. You have players like Lukas Podolski and Mesut Özil, who aren’t really strikers and play in deeper roles. Then we have Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, About Diaby (don’t laugh), Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Serge Gnabry who are all supposed to fill 5 positions.

And that is badly affecting our performances and results.

Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky in particular, must be wondering why they can’t get a bloody game. Santi changed the game for us against Everton, and is our best attacking midfielder by some distance, but his position is being taken up by the ineffective Mesut Özil. Tomas Rosicky was one of the first names on the team sheet in the biggest games but he can’t even get a look in. Tomas is one of those players who leads by example, and sets the tempo for the game. He is extremely determined and runs all over the pitch, making tackles for good measure. Why he can’t get a game is beyond me.

Then we have Lukas Podolski. He is undoubtedly a very good player who is a fantastic finisher. I don’t expect him to be the first name on the team sheet but how Arsene can’t find a place for him to utilise his obvious talents is a massive shame. When he plays, he scores goals and has a fantastic left foot. But for some reason, he’s been frozen out as well.

You do wonder if Arsene Wenger can work out a way to get the best out of the squad he has assembled. There are players like Santi, Tomas and Lukas who can give something to the team, but they aren’t getting any time on the pitch. I haven’t even mentioned Joel Campbell, who is another player who doesn’t seem to be able to get a look in.

Arsenal need to sort out their squad and quickly. Certain players like Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil have looked tired recently so why not throw in Rosicky and Cazorla? It makes no sense whatsoever and if we don’t sort it out soon it could badly damage our season.

Arsenal’s Great Facebook Photo Of Alexis Sanchez!

If you’re on Facebook (you might not be) and subscribe to the official Arsenal Football Club page like I do, then you will get the updates from them on your news feed (or whatever they call it now). If you don’t have Facebook however, you might have missed this brilliant photo of Alexis Sanchez they used for the Borussia Dortmund / Arsenal promo yesterday:

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 14.56.32

 [Credit: Arsenal Football Club]

Seriously, they couldn’t get a better photograph of Alexis?

You can click on the image to see Sanchez’s beautiful face in a larger format.

Who I Would Have Picked For Last Nights Game Against Dortmund

Before we kicked off yesterday, I predicted that if Mesut Özil started against Dortmund we would lose convincingly. As it happened, he did start and we lost convincingly. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only reason we were convincingly beaten.

Worryingly, there were a few reasons why we were completely outplayed last night. Including:

Danny Welbeck’s Finishing:

Manchester United fans will no doubt be having a little chuckle to themselves today. In a game where it was obvious that Borussia Dortmund were going to attack us with relentless pace and running, it was a game where we needed to take our chances when they came, and we did have a massive chance to open the scoring in the first half.

A clever reverse pass from Aaron Ramsey completely cut open the Dortmund back line and Danny Welbeck was clean through with only the keeper to beat. It was a big chance which he really should have scored with but he managed to drag his shot wide of the far post.

And even in the second half, when Arsenal were 2-0 down he had a chance to get Arsenal back into the game, after using his pace and power to evade a couple of defenders and have a shot on goal, which unfortunately flew over the bar.

And even before the first chance, he had a tap in from 3 yards out when a cross came in and wasn’t dealt with properly by the Dortmund keeper. A bit more composure there could have got us the lead.

His finishing, of lack thereof, is the main criticism Manchester United fans (and their manager it seems) had of him and it would be easy to blame Welbeck for contributing to our defeat. But he is new to the club, still needs to settle into our style of play and it would be over the top to start criticising him now. We’ll get a better picture of his performances in the coming months, and it would be pointless to criticise a player who’s only been at the club for about a week.

Our Line Up & Formation:

Clearly Arsene now prefers the “more fluid” 4-3-3 formation (well, more of a 4-1-4-1 line up) with a sole target man with a creative and flowing midfield. The only positions that are set are the defensive midfield role (Arteta) and the centre forward (Welbeck) while the rest of the midfielder are free to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, the personnel we have just don’t cater for that formation.

It’s almost too predictable to play against, and leaves us open to counter attacks over and over again. Instead of having Mikel Arteta left as the only defensive midfielder, we need to chance our formation so that he’s not left overrun time and time again.

We needed to play a more compact game with players who were willing to run for the team.

Mesut Özil should never have started, and Aaron Ramsey should have been rested as well. Ramsey seems tired (and would be a good option from the bench) and Özil’s form at the moment is poor. He’s just not doing it and it probably has something to do with the fact he played a full season in a new league, had to settle into a new country and played all summer with Germany at the World Cup. Give the guy a break and let him recharge his batteries.

And I don’t know why Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla are so out of favour. Santi has been one of our most consistent performers and Tomas is a player we usually rely on for the big games – he sets the tone and his desire and determination rubs off on the other players. Last night we were extremely lackadaisical.

So here is how I would have lined up last night:

I would have had Arteta and Rosicky (or even Oxlade-Chamberlain) as the defensive midfielders, Wilshere as the Number 10 and Santi alongside him. Welbeck and Sanchez offer the pace and we have several midfielders in that lineup who are willing to work for the team and track back.

Arsenal almost have a embarrassment of riches when it comes to midfield selections, and Arsene Wenger needs to make sure he gets it right – otherwise we might see our season going downhill very quickly.

Arsenal Can Get A Result In Dortmund… If They Drop Özil

Arsenal kick off their Champions League campaign in Dortmund tonight, against a side that have lost their biggest players over the last few seasons but who are still a top top side. With Jurgen Klopp at the helm, they will always be a threat to any team and they will give us a lot of problems tonight.

Last season we travelled to Germany and with a goal from Aaron Ramsey, essentially nicked a result in Dortmund. That result and performance was based on defensive stability, something which we will struggle with tonight.

Mathieu Debuchy suffered a bad injury at the weekend, with reports saying he’ll be out for the next 2 or 3 months. Nacho Monreal is out with a back problem (but should be back for the weekend) and Calum Chambers, Debuchy’s natural replacement at right back, is 50/50 as he’s suffering from tonsillitis.

Fortunately, Gibbs is back but if Chambers can’t make it then it looks more and more likely that youngster Hector Bellerin will be thrown into the deep end. The kid looked lively in The Emirates Cup, but a Champions League game is a bit of an ask. He was on loan at Watford last season (where he made a handful of appearances) and is quicker than Theo Walcott. Apart from that, I don’t know much about him.

But whoever starts, and whether it is the young Spaniard, then we will just have to support him and hope he puts in a decent performance.

If Hector Bellerin does start (meaning that Chambers is not fit enough to play, and therefore the bench) then we will have a crisis if any one of our back line picks up an injury during the game.

And that brings me to my next point, Arsenal can’t afford to carry anyone tonight and that means Santi Cazorla needs to start instead of Mesut Özil.

In last seasons away game against Borussia Dortmund, it was almost a “backs against the wall” performance where we withstood a lot of Dortmund pressure and nicked a goal on the break. The tactic worked perfectly (and showed that Arsene can play a conservative game, although he didn’t do it enough last season) but was dependent on every single player running themselves into the ground.

Alexis Sanchez is a player you know will give absolutely everything, offensively and defensively, and the same goes for Danny Welbeck, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. You can also say the same about Santi Cazorla, but you can’t say the same about Mesut Özil.

Clearly, he’s struggling for form at this moment in time but tonight is not for Arsenal to carry a player who doesn’t offer anything defensively. Dortmund are a quick, dynamic team and they will attack us (with pace) at every opportunity. That means that every Arsenal player needs to be switched on and needs to track back when needed. How did Coleman score against Arsenal a few weeks ago? When Özil failed to track his man and gave the Everton full back a free header.

Simply put, things like that just cannot happen against a top side like Dortmund, otherwise they’ll score 4 or 5 against us.

So Arsene Wenger needs to be brave, and drop Mesut Özil tonight and think about the team as a whole.