Midfield Challenges For The Future, Arsenal Focus On The Now

ybArsenal’s season sits on the brink of collapse. If, as expected, Manchester City win at St James Park this afternoon, they will slump to third and with both their title rivals in sparkling form, there is no coming back for the north Londoners even with a victory in their Monday night clash at Villa Park.

Such is the hysteria surrounding reporting of Arsenal, it will be no surprise if someone has taken that tack in this morning’s papers or web. Chelsea’s win at Hull was no surprise, Newcastle succumbing to the blue side of Manchester won’t be either. The vagaries of the fixture list, we are still more than thirty-six hours from kick-off in the West Midlands. I know, I know, you’re scratching your head, working out how long it took to write today’s post. The only pitiful excuse I can offer is that it has taken more caffeine than usual to get this far. The omens aren’t good.

Such is the power wielded by television companies that it is rare for the contenders to play at the same time on any weekend. Does that pressure intensify knowing that you must win to return to the top of the table, that defeat could allow the beginnings of a gap to open. Or is it worse to cross the line, knowing that victory is a must and then spend the whole of the weekend wondering what impact any failure will have? The pressure of winning is supposed to be such a simple thing.

Arsène noted some time ago that there is some disadvantage in playing last, knowing what you must achieve. Whatever the situation it is pressurised and the players are well enough remunerated to deal with it. There is a big advantage, almost unspoken at times. The advantage in recovery times being extended, having fresher players. In current circumstances, that is the preferable position to be in.

A number of the players returning will have benefited from extra time on the training pitch to work on their match fitness. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may have a long-term future in the central midfield role according to his manager but I should imagine his most immediate concern is returning to first team action. With Theo Walcott’s injury, it seems likely that he will feature heavily on the right flank but having versatility to play anywhere across the midfield has its advantages, particularly in a heavily congested midfield such as the one at Arsenal. Despite the plethora of options, transfer gossip this morning has focussed on the creative types with Maxim Gonalons once more linked and Saul Niguez of Rayo Vallecano – OK, Atletico de Madrid but he’s on loan – a Spanish Under-21 international. That’s as well as Bender, Draxler and Harry Potter, who’s apparently a bit of a wing wizard.

Arsène saw a long-term future at international level for Oxlade-Chamberlain,

Alex has a good opportunity for England now. He will be in Hodgson’s plans anyway because he can play central and wide and on that front England don’t have too many like that. He scored that goal against Brazil and had a big impact in that game, especially in central midfield. His future will be there in central midfield, in a deeper role, because he has a good long ball and penetration from deep.

I trust the comparison to Gerrard made later refers to on the pitch activities with the Liverpool captain hardly a role model off it. The manager raises a good point, one which offers an intriguing prospect at The Emirates in the future with a triumvirate completed by Ramsey and Wilshere. That is before any additions and there are plenty of recommendations for that floating around. It used to be that versatility was a poisoned chalice, a stumbling block for a career. The circle has been completed with such attributes that being sought after, freeing up space in squads for more niche, specialist roles such as centre forwards. Gah, I knew I could get that in somewhere, even in a piece on midfield roles.

Ox certainly has the range of passing and in future may develop into the all-encompassing role. For the moment, the immediate challenge has to be winning his place back in the side. Walcott’s absence will help but he is by no means assured of being Wenger’s preferred wide choice with both Gnabry and Wilshere filling that role well this season. It is the sort of selection headache the manager will relish even if he would prefer to add Theo Walcott into the mix as well. For years there has been a theory abounding that having this much talent would lead to an exodus as players tired of fighting for their places, demanding first XI football to further their personal ambitions at club and international level.

With the level of injuries suffered this season, that fear seems misplaced. Most players who have been fit will play substantial number of matches this season and with the club trying to compete on all fronts, there is an acceptance that this is the nature of the modern game. Contracts have been worth less than the paper they were written on in the past and to prevent that nightmare scenario recurring, competing for trophies is what needs to happen in the future. Winning trophies as well but in theory, the more often you compete, the more often you will win. It would be nice to put that theory to the test again.

’til Tomorrow.

52 thoughts on “Midfield Challenges For The Future, Arsenal Focus On The Now

  1. HI Yogi,

    Yep, I guess we might as well just jack in any hope of winning anything, or as I read somewhere, “we have not got no chance of winning nothing.”

    Cutting through the double or triple negatives I think that the fan concerned was not too confident of our winning a trophy. Don’t know why. 🙂

  2. I think the comment about players leaving due to the competition for places is fair. I think it depends on the level. If you’ve got top top players they are happier to be benched… Negredo probably doesn’t feel slighted that Aguero is ahead of him. Same with JW or AR, they don’t mind that Özil is ahead of them… Whereas when you’re losing out to peers it’s harder to take.

  3. I do not seem to see a grand exodus of players at the Oilers or the Chavs because of the plethora of talent all competing for a limited number of first team places. What is noticeable is that they do push some of their top talent out on extended loan.

    Anyway, any player so lacking in confidence that they would prefer to leave rather than fight for their place in the team, should be given a taxi to the airport – good riddance – good bye. 🙂

  4. Having to play catch up has often been a problem for the Gunners over the past few seasons. They have not been able to rise to the occasion, this season however, we have seen a more positive attitude. Despite what or may not be going on in the transfer window, we still have a good competitive team willing to give their all. I don’t see us losing the momentum against Villa and on Monday evening we will be back on top of the league. With regard to shitty, not sure if a win against Newcastle is a forgone conclusion. I reckon Newcastle may just nick a draw;

  5. Henry..did they compare it to having a shit car by any chance

    ive often thunked if you cant compete for your place in the team then you cant fully compete for trophies..
    with injuries and with the amount of games you do need a 25man squad and it helps if 22 of them be top quality..
    weve almost got that at the minute..FB we are solid..CB could be argued we are a player short, CM and wing we seem well stocked although i think most recognise diaby needs replacing..CF is the obvious one but if its one thing we should have learned over the years is that top players dont leave because they are unhappy they aint playing..top players leave because the squads not strong enough and they want to win trophies…if they leave because they are unhappy they aint playing then they aint worth having in the squad becuase they cant compete..they are just players to make up the numbers…deadwood as its become known in the blogsphere..

  6. NB1969

    Can’t see the barcodes stopping City scoring which is the fundamental problem and why I think City will win. They can neutralise Cabaye and Pardew lacks the tactical nous and resources to produce 90 minutes that will outthink Pellegrini.

  7. citys problem is that they didnt have two top players for every postion..
    i remember the season mark hughes took over and they bought about 9 strikers..
    in that situation yes you could argue its difficult to keep them happy…

    unless you bang em all on 200k a week and turn em all into mercs..

    but thats a unique situation..a situation we will never find ourselves in..2 quality players for every postion is enough with a sprinkle of youth to give us a strong 25+man squad and is more than sustainable given the injuries and the amount of games played…

  8. I see a tough game for City today. Their brand of tippy tappy doesn`t always work away from home so I`ll go for a draw.

    The Ox is an interesting talent. His versatility hopefully won`t be a problem for him but he`s got the all round game to play in most positions so it may take a while for him to settle in one.

  9. JonJon, @ 10:47,

    The guy concerned never mentioned having a sh*t by the car, but then again, I only read his comment and did not see any point in discussing the issue with a man who could throw double and triple negatives around with such ease. 🙂

  10. Yogi, @ 10:47

    The wealthy clubs buy up an enormous number of the worlds talented players, partly to stop other clubs from buying them, and because of the quality of the players, not only do they avoid paying their salaries etc, as you say, they also tend to make a good profit on them when they eventually sell them on.

    What evidence do I have for this? Well none really, other than what I occasionally have read in the ‘media’. 🙂

  11. Henry

    I cannot immediately think of one player City or Chelsea making a good profit on beyond Daniel Sturridge. They do bug players but not to stop others doing so – that’s a happy by-product from their perspective – but they are less risk averse than others when it comes to transfers. They do not have to worry so much if a youngster doesn’t work out, de Bruyne for example, or can afford to send someone on loan for a number of season – Courtois – but City are catching up in that sense, taking a bath on Adebayor financially.

    Despite their wealth, they have but an FA Cup and title to show for it. In terms of offering players a sense of silverware, they lag behind Chelsea and United. They will get there eventually but until then salaries are their main weapon.

  12. I am with JJ @ 10.47. Players are content with not playing so much if they are a) rotated often b) playing for a team that wins things c) paid shed loads more than anyone else. Although I would say that we do not need to replace Diaby, it is more a question of just letting him out to pasture. With Flamini and Arteta covering DM we will need a younger one within about 2 years. City rotate their forwards, we rotate our midfielders – what both teams have in common is a surplus of those positions that they rotate. Those positions are also the biggest strengths of both teams.

    I suppose we could do that with stikers too and maybe AW has shown signs that he is willing to try this with Giroud and Bendy. Add Theo to the mix on his return and the strategy might be set. AW has tended to rely on just one, but Suarez’s are bloody expensive and rare and like vP can be an injury disaster with all your eggs in one basket.

    The problem today is the problem of the day before yesterday in that we need a top class striker to make this team capable of beating the Chelskis and ManUres, but maybe a rotated strategy, where they compete for the privilege will drag the good to the great.

  13. YW,

    You`re right of course. If we spend Arsene has to be pretty sure the signing will work , whereas City , Chelsea & Utd can all take the hit if their`s don`t come off.

    That`s why , when you spend big , someone like Ozil is worth paying the extra for. There`s no gamble there , unlike three players at say £15M each. If we can continue to bring in a player of that calibre each season to supplement what we already have , our squad will come very close to matching the mega-spenders.

  14. PW

    The difference between them and the rest is shown by Chelsea’s pursuit of Matic, a player they gave away, for £20m+. Arsenal, even with new found wealth, cannot sensibly do that.

  15. City really on the back foot at the moment….. surprising to see them struggle during this phase of the game

  16. “Questionable”

    You are truly a master of understatement MarylandGooner.

    Yet another Keystone cops moment for our beleaguered officials. Ffs.

  17. The thing is that since that cock up of a decision the ref has been allowing Newcastle questionable leeway in their tackling, presumably so as to placate Pardew.

    That has resulted in that awful tackle on Nasri that has crocked him.

  18. Yup, he essentially lost control after that woeful decision, In trying to even things up 2nd half he just made matters worse.

    Still, all that aside, he had a good game overall. Oh yes.

    Creepy Uncle Pardew will no doubt loudly bemoan the officials in his post match. We wuz robbed! (only this time he’d be correct), get fined by the FA for questioning the Keystone cops integrity, thereby bringing the game into disrepute (you gotta laugh) or whatever it is, and on we go again…

    What a shitty weekend of football it’s been.

  19. Spot on there, Harry.

    An absolute farce. If the FA want refs to be untouchable then train them to do their job properly.

  20. And lo! Pardew covering himself in, er, glory once again.

    All depressingly predictable isn’t it Bob.

    We need to win tomorrow, to restore my ever dwindling faith that against insurmountable odds, the light side of the force will conquer. Arse.

  21. its a silly rule to begin with..
    supposed to be designed so we see more goals…
    defeated the object …

    city are getting the luck of the call..our game with them should have finished 11-11…liverpool were unlucky and now newcastle?

    surely its got to start going against them soon…

  22. Everyone says both Chelsea and City are in the zone now and that Arsenal have to be so concisten to keep up with them. But frankly the same goes for those two teams. Both City and Chelsea have to win ALL Their matche to keep up with Arsenal.

    Arsenal is not the only team that has to be concistent to win. Any team that wins the PL has to be concistent. SImple as.

  23. JJ, thing is Newcastle were on top for the last 20 minutes of the first half and deserved that goal, ultimately they still may have lost of course, but they had given themselves a fighting chance. Hard enough playing the Blue Harem globetrotters at the moment as it is, without decisions of that magnitude going against you.

    The headlines will all be about potty mouth Pardew now.

    Ah, well.

  24. well yeah..newcastle didnt deserve to lose but on another day id have said it couldnt have happened to a nicer football club.. 🙂 only reason why it grates today is cos obviously city have overtaken us and alot of that has been to do with the refs and not the quality..

    games livened up…
    proper shite defending…im glad we dont conceed goals like this anymore…

  25. Actually if Arsenal, Chelsea and City win, draw and loose the exact same amount of matches from now and until summer, and nobody els are better than any of those tree, we will win the league….

  26. Well it will be annoying if this is the game that wins City the league, and everyone know its due to a dodgy referee decision tbh…. Ofc if we get a couple of dodgy referee decisions going our way and it helps us with matches then we are even with City..

    Infact we are due some of those. I expect them to come in the next matches.. so that PL makes the playground even for the three that are chasing the gold. Both City and Chelsea seems to have had good refs lately.

  27. And honestly i don’t care if the refs are corrupt or just incompetent, along as it benefits US as much as our closest competitors…

  28. I`ve not seen the Pardew interview but I can imagine what he had to say. I remember his classless goal celebration at West Ham in front of Arsene a few years ago & he`s been high on my b&stard list ever since.

    However , today he has a point, which unfortunately his team doesn`t have.

    The ref probably took a gander at his cock up at half time & quite clearly became a homer from then on which just made his performance all the worse.

  29. so we can say for sure now that about 75% of the refs employed by the FA are either compete incompetent or corrupt.. I honestly do not know whats worst.

  30. oh well since both city, liverpool and chelsea got a helping hand this round i fully expect us to get that too. Anything els would be simply unfair. We cannot be the only team that gets a decent and fair ref this round? can we?

  31. So the Stoke v Liverpool game is now going completely crazy. 3 – 5 at the moment with 2 minutes plus stoppage.

  32. Stoke just hit the post as well. They’re all pointing out that Liverpool are back and looking to be at their best, but they have let 3 in against Stoke.

  33. @Waverly I know 🙁

    we will probably be the only big club on the receiving end of ref incompetency. Though if we just for once would be allowed to score a goal from a soft penalty id be very happy indeed….

  34. Hoping we give Villa an absolute trouncing to make up for them daring to beat us at home on the first day of the season.

  35. I think the old adage that defense wins titles will prove true this season and to me that means it is between Arsenal and Chelsea. Hopefully Arsenal can continue to be the best defense in the league.

  36. hmm so both Evra and Sanga are considering leaving the UK for next season. Guess there is a generation change going on in France then… Would be nice if we could snatch “the next Sanga” from France 🙂

  37. i know i know we should treat him better and all that but honestly, the Gala bid if true is insane. Nobody in the top competitive leagues would ever offer that unless they are shitting money. so i guess City or Chelsea probably would.

    but 4.5M a year for a 35 year old? (which is what he will be when the new contract ends)…. Thats a lot!

    He would be stupid not to take it and move to Gala, just as Arsenal imo would be stupid to offer it….

  38. thats why i think sagna will end up back in france with psg or monaco..
    galatasarys a good offer but hes still a top rb he could command the same now theres sugar daddys in france..its not like theres gonna be a transfer fee so they can throw extra money at him..

    the next sagna out of france could well be seb corchia..

  39. Every week we see mistakes made. Last week Swansea scored an equalizing goal late in the first half against city that was off sides. It did not end up costing city any points but it certainly could have. We quickly forget those and remember the ones like today that they benefit from. I have been a ref apologist for years now but it’s clear that off sides calls are a 50/50 toss up. Some are real head scratchers but we see mistakes made so often that it’s obviously much more difficult then it looks to get it right.

  40. All true, Bill.

    However, sport is meant to be about the best fighting to get to the line first. For that to be so, we need good and consistent officiating.

    How are yours in American Football? In Ruby, they are pretty good, not perfect. Ditto cricket, although the governing body does it’s best to cock things up.

    In football they are at best OK, at their worst, atrocious. Without consistency and quality, sport becomes a lottery.

  41. In spite of the wrongful call, it’s difficult to feel sorry for Newcastle. Their incessant fouling, especially by Tiote, destroys a football match. As Harry said much earlier in this thread, the ref compensated for the wrongful offsides call by tolerating a ton of fouling by the barcodes. While I enjoyed seeing City put under stress, the real outcome is the destruction of football, a tactic often employed by Mourinho and Pardew, but not by Wenger or Pelligrini.

  42. Cbob

    “In football they are at best OK, at their worst, atrocious. Without consistency and quality, sport becomes a lottery.”

    American football has about 8 officials to cover all parts of the field and all different angles and they still make lots of mistakes but get bailed out by the liberal use of instant replays. Baseball uses 4 umpires and each one only has to cover 1 base and the replays show there are usually a couple of missed calls/game.

    Football refs have by far the toughest job of officials in any major sport. There is only 1 to cover the entire field and every play looks completely different depending on the angle that you see it from. How many times every game do you have a play that you don’t really see what happened in real time and then it looks completely obvious and different when you see it from a different angle on one of the replays. The ref has to make an instant decision and he only has one angle. Thats why some of the calls seem so poor. The linesmen can not get the offsides calls correct when that is their only job so they can’t really be expected to try to watch the game and help the ref. If they lose concentration on what they are supposed to be doing then they would make even more mistakes. The other huge problem is that football asks officials to make a judgement about intent such as with handballs. Ball to hand or hand to ball. A niggling accidental foul that would probably be called anywhere on the pitch is often not called in the penalty box because it would completely change the game. How can anyone be asked to make those sort of decisions instantly and get it right? Basically I think being football ref is impossible to do well consistently.

    I don’t see any reason to believe that the refs would have gotten worse over the years. I suspect missed offsides and other calls have been happening for as long as there has been football. The sport is no more of a lottery now then it was 20 years ago. The difference is that now we know about all of the mistakes because of 5 angle ultraslow motion replays.

    I think they need at least 1-2 more officials on the field and every goal should be reviewed. There needs to be some sort of system that allows for challenges and using replays to over turn or validate calls. I realize that is much more difficult in football because it has fewer natural stoppages in play but something has to change.

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