West Ham Review: The Ecstasy Of Winning

Arsenal 3 – 0 West Ham United

A game of two halves, figuratively and literally, as Arsenal brushed aside a frankly poor West Ham side, even by their standards. Three second half goals did the trick to give us our first league win since beating Hull City almost two months ago.

While the first half continued at the level of the second against Manchester City, there were signs that confidence is slowly returning in yesterday’s second half. One player encapsulated that more than most: Mesut Özil. The German’s form returned and was capped with a goal and an assist. I thought he got lucky with the goal. Randolph made a complete pig’s ear of what was a routine save but there was nothing fortunate about the assist; it was peak Özil to not just see Walcott but find him at pace, with the perfect pass.

Arsène showed him the love after the match,

“..he had been hit hard by us going out in the Champions League and it took him some time to recover from that mentally.”

I guess the question is, like Arsenal, whether this is a return to form or a brief hiccup in the slough of despair into which we have slumped.

While results may tempt you into thinking that Liverpool are the team we might catch, I’d rather have their run-in where the highest placed team they face is West Brom. Try not to get carried away on the back of a win, kids; football euphoria is the most dangerous drug known to man.

Towers of London

The margin of victory might have been more had Martin Atkinson not denied us three clear penalties, each more clear cut than the previous incident. It wasn’t a good night for officials, with Keith Stroud’s superior intellect on display at Newcastle where he made the mother of all cock-ups. I mean, he was so bad that even the PGMOL apologised for his decision. His punishment? Probably officiating at Crystal Palace on Monday night.

A special mention should go to Emi Martinez, thrust into the Premier League for the first time in a couple of years. We sniggered when Wenger claimed he was the future of the club. But in fairness, the Argentinean was more assured than Ospina or Cech in recent weeks.

OK, it was West Ham and the defence was firmer than usual – remember it’s a low bar – in the face of poor opposition but Martinez kept a clean sheet with a sharp save from Lanzini to boot. Overall, his distribution was good, which is a positive.

As was the overall defensive display. Andy Carroll usually looks a world-beater against us yet last night was controlled and bullied for the most part, by Gabriel and Mustafi. Denying West Ham the opportunity to lump the ball to him was down to hard work from the full backs and midfield.

Granit Xhaka is a different player when he stays on his feet and avoids the referee’s wrath. His first-rate passing last night underlined why he cost £35m, caressing the ball over various distances.

Burning With Optimism’s Flames

Controlling the midfield helped with the overall performance, there’s no doubt about that. Ox came on and his energetic burst gave Olivier Giroud the pick of the night’s goals. Not that you’d have known it from his sullen reaction. Being the Premier League’s most efficient striker – statistically speaking – is not enough to get him ahead of Danny Welbeck in the starting line-up so maybe has a point…

If the barge on Theo Walcott was inexplicably not a penalty, God knows what the referee was smoking at half-time. Nacho Monreal, clearly clattered in the area, received the agony but no ecstasy at the award of a penalty. Atkinson was unmoved.

Has football has introduced a new ‘mercy’ ruling? Were West Ham the first to avoid humiliation under it? It wouldn’t surprise me if that were sneaked out, along with a new sponsorship deal with Dignitas. The PGMOL is tired of mistakes; instead of demotion, officials are offered a focused training session in Switzerland.

It’s easy after one victory to see this as the turning point. Perhaps it is but arriving now is a typically Arsenal thing to do. We still have to visit White Hart Lane while City have the Mancunian derby to navigate. With Palace and Middlesbrough away before the FA Cup semi-final, it won’t be any surprise if the announcement about his Lordship’s contract comes in the next fortnight, portrayed as some kind of ‘boost’ to the club.

Paper and Iron (Notes and Coins)

The Metropolitan Police reportedly estimated that last night’s crowd was circa 48k. That’s a lot more empty seats than we’d expect for a midweek match with our form. Will the board take notice? For large parts of the first half, they could have counted the red seats from their vantage point; there wasn’t much going on, was there?

At the moment, it’s a win and to be honest, I like winning. We just don’t do it often enough.

If you’re in the mood for a party, head over to Dad’s Jukebox where we’re celebrating like it’s 1999. Except it’s only 1998

’til Tomorrow

61 thoughts on “West Ham Review: The Ecstasy Of Winning

  1. Afternoon YW.

    We’ll take that win and especially the second half performance, whether it is a corner turned or a flash in the pan. Either way, it was a good win (albeit against a poor team) and 3 confidence building points.

    We need every point at the moment. The run-in after the FA cup semi look horrendous for a team with such fragile confidence. I just hope there isn’t a complete capitulation on 30 April when I suspect it will become clear there will be no St Totts Day this year. We don’t like them, but they are playing well and finding ways of winning – a crying shame.

    On the subject of away fixtures and not that it affects me much as I don’t get to many games living in the far reaches of the known universe….but Middlebrough away on the evening of Easter Monday?!! Step forward the clown at the Premier League for agreeing that one.

  2. Good afternoon Folks,

    It’s hard to comment too much on a game seen only as limited highlights. I thought Sky’s editor, or censor possibly, managed to make the first half look better than most opinions of it that I’ve read.

    The second half looked increasingly quite good as it progressed. The two goals obviated the need for reinforcements from the bench, did Welbeck pick up a knock? I really saw little point in subbing the very good Elneny, the more he and Xhaka can play in partnership the better. By the time Oxlade-Chamberlain came on West Ham had all but capitulated, but he did provide a nice pass for Giroud to score a spectcular goal with what looked like a speculative shot.

    Not much reaction from Giroud, but then it wasn’t a winner just a hopeful reminder,on his part, that he can score a goal now and again.

    I do think that Welbeck is a better option at number nine than the Frenchman, he’s more mobile has better pace and his movement tends to drag defenders out of position thus creating space, particularly for Sanchez.

    I don’t think we can read too much into the win, West Ham were pretty awful, Carroll was totally anonymous, and so they offered little threat.

    The game and result may boost the teams confidence and provide a bit of stimulus that has been missing of late. We can only hope that is the case.

  3. Orson Kaert,

    I know I may have an Elneny bias because I just think he offers much more of what we need in midfield next to Xhaka: somebody who is ALWAYS available to a teammate, quick passer, rarely if ever loses the ball, works his socks off and is good defensively, is the most Santi-esque player we have. The problem for him is that Arsene prefers Ox, Ramsey and Le Coq to him which to my mind makes no sense when you actually look at the players especially playing next to Xhaka. Le Coq is good at buzzing around but attacking wise offers absolutely nothing, Ramsey isn’t disciplined enough defensively, takes too many touches, and is much better playing alongside somebody like Le Coq and then you have Ox who is not just still learning how to play centrally but isn’t consistent, prone to losing possession in bad areas of the pitch and is still working defensively.

    I would love to see Xhaka/Elneny/Ozil get a run together in midfield, I think it would surprise quite a few with how effective it would be.

  4. Afternoon,

    A fair assessment of last night’s game YW.

    It was noticeable that Ozil’s confidence was lifted immediately after his goal went in. He had been putting in a fairly limited performance until then. He hadn’t done anything particularly wrong, he just didn’t seem to have his heart in it. I even think his shot for the goal was just a bit of a speculative effort. He was on target, but maybe was expecting to see the keeper smuggle it out for a corner. Alexis was just enough of a distraction to put Randolph off, which was clear from the way he reacted immediately to the ball going in.

    As I said last night, any conspiracy theorists can forget about Atkinson being out to get us. He’s just a poor referee who won’t make the decisions unless his assistants help him out and they were MIA last night.

  5. C,

    I think wenger would be stupid to start tinkering with the midfield as this stage, to be fair we looked more cohesive in midfield today and Elneny was a large part of that lets hope we continue with the Elneny/Xhaka partnership and hope that’s good enough over the coming weeks.

  6. silvergunner,

    We have seen this play out too many times before for us not to think that Arsene will tinker to get certain players playing. I know Elneny isn’t a player most people rate or whatever, but in our midfield he is exactly what we need and it should be good enough.

  7. C,

    I agree that Elneny should be given a run. I like the way he plays. He strikes me as an honest player who may not be the most technically gifted, but will give his best. He also seems to be able to work with whoever is next to him, whether thats Xhaka or Le Coq. The jury is still out on both, although I prefer Xhaka complete with his spiky edge. We have missed that since Viera left. He just needs to learn the dark arts in a more sutble way.

    BTW one of my lads called Elneny “Sideshow Bob” due to the hair. I’m sure we have a few more Simpsons characters at Arsenal….Mr Burns, Krusty the Clown, Chief…

  8. Good Post, YW, and markedly upbeat considering the slough of despond you mention that the team have almost disappeared into in recent weeks.

    Mind you, I have not felt the need to disappear into a deep bog [thank you Mr Bunyan – always a joy to read – not] as I do not feel weighed down with football misdemeanours myself – irritation at the continuing nonsense of the ‘will he won’t he’ debacle brought upon himself by Arsene — then yes, of course.

    Wonderful what a win and a clean sheet can do. 🙂

  9. C, @ 1:28,

    Totally agree.

    Elneny has the skill set and the motor to tie down a midfield place in the team, but whether or not AW agrees is another issue altogether.

  10. Great post Yogi

    I loved the picture. That is one of my favorite Looney tunes episodes.

    I have been expecting us to start the inevitable run of good form at some point and getting a point against Man City was important and yesterday against West Ham was the perfect game to start a run of wins. If you look back at the last 12 years the same thing always happens. We find our form near the end of the season whenever 4th place is at risk. It’s like clockwork. A rising tide raises all ships and It does not matter which players Arsene runs out on the pitch. It’s the strangest damn thing but the pattern is inescapable. Maintaining the status quo is obviously the #1 priority

  11. HenryB,

    That is the problem, Arsene doesn’t seem to really want to give him a run in midfield which is odd given how poor our midfield has been.

  12. The way our seasons play out is totally predictable We have 1/2 season of bad and 1/2 season of good. The only difference is which part of the season we have the good and the bad. This year we started with the inevitable dropped points in the first couple of games because Arsene never has the squad prepared for the start of the season. We had a good run in Sept oct and a long unbeaten run and like clockwork we all get excited about the new pacey high pressing form. However the fall was inevitable and those same players using those same tactics we were excited about went from 1 point ahead of Chelsea to 12 points behind and officially dropped out of the title race by mid December after losing to Everton and Man City. This was followed by a dead cat bounce around Christmas where we won a few game and then the run of horrible form before yesterday. Now you can predict that we will finish the season strong and probably nick 4th place in the last couple of games. I guess its wonderful for those who love consistency but to me its become consistent underperformance and mediocrity for a club with our history and resources.

  13. We only win when their shit, win when theirrrrrrr shiiiiiit, we only win when theirrr shit.

  14. thought Martinez was extremely assured whenever he was called to action. YW made a point about his distribution and every single time I thought thats a damn sight better than both chech and ospina in recent times.

  15. If we are heading into one of our end of the season purple patches it does not matter which of the “squad players” Arsene decides to run out. Elneny, Ox, Iwobe, Welbeck, Ramsey, Giroud, Nacho, Gibbs, Gabriel, Le Coq, etc etc etc. They all look great when we are playing well. 2 years ago Le Coq happened to come into the side when we were emerging from the World Cup hangover and he looked like the best DM in the league. Same thing with Iwobe this season. He is nice player but back in Sept/Oct we thought he was a potential world class talent.

  16. I would argue two years ago Coquelin was one of the best DMC in the league but he has never really hit those heights again and only seems to really perform when playing alongside Santi which at this level is criminally useless. Iwobi is a good player but like most young players his performances have fluctuated.

  17. Silver:

    A good player should be a good player irregardless of who they are playing with. Certainly there are some combinations that work better then others but the idea that Le Coq implodes when he is not paired with Santi or that Xhaka might be useless when he plays with anyone not named Elneny is hard for me to accept. It’s a recipe for inconsistency if we have a DM whose form is so fragile that he can only play well when paired with another specific player because what if that player he needs is injured or loses form? Elneny is a nice player and an excellent squad member but probably not the sort of player who would be a regular on a title winning big team. If Xhaka is useless without Elneny or Le Coq is incapable of playing well without Cazorla then we are probably headed for more of the same inconsistency that has characterized the last 10 years.

    I think we tend to search for explanations that fit with what we want to believe. We were all excited about Le Coq and he became the “flavor of the season” and no doubt he was playing well when he first returned but I think we over rated him because he was carried by the incredible form that the whole team found in Jan -March 2015. The reality is that he is probably not good enough to be a regular starter. Same with Iwobe in Sept/Oct. He is a nice player and we all want to like him and he certainly has some talent and perhaps a bright future somewhere in the mid field. However, he never would have been a regular starter for any other big team in the world but it did not matter at the time because the team was going thru part of its good 1/2 season.

  18. We can’t hope to play consistently enough to challenge for a title thru a full 38 game league season if we build the team around players whose form is so fragile that they fall apart if they don’t have exactly the right set players around them.

  19. Bill,

    Well Bill I can only go by the “eye test” to me coquelin was making far more interceptions and tackles per game that season which allowed us to transition quickly through santi as a deep playmaker this year imo he hasn’t been anywhere as effective at doing either which for me is his job in midfield.

    I will try and back it up with stats

  20. If the last 10 years is a guide, I think the reality is that Xhaka would probably have played well and we would have looked good no matter who Arsene had paired with him. It could have been Le Coq, Ramsey, Ox and the result probably would have been similar. It’s that time of year and what’s going on between our ears is what really matters.

  21. C,

    It’s long been one of the things that puzzle me about Wenger’s thinking. He buys a player who might not be quite top class but fits an apparent hole in our squad. Initially he gets a few games as sub and maybe a start in one of the cups, but then disappears from view. Meanwhile Wenger constantly thinkers with his team, playing people out of position or shoehorning a favourite into the starting eleven usually to the detriment of the side.

    It always seems to be a case of buying a player and then trying to reinvent him and his game.

    This doesn’t even touch on the entirely ludicrous situation surrounding Perez.

  22. Silver

    Why has Le Coq stopped making tackles and intercepting passes now? What is different? No one was concerned about Le Coq when the team was playing well in Sept/Oct. I don’t pretend to understand the culture that has developed but there is no doubt that all of the players seem to hit patches of good form at the same time and they all seem to implode at the same time. Giroud and his alternating goal scoring runs followed by dry patches are the most obvious example.

  23. Bill,

    Here we go taken from whoscored.com

    14/15 – 3.2 tackles per game (10th on the leader board), 3.7 interceptions per game (top of the leader board)
    16/17 – 2.9 tackles per game (currently 10th on the leader board), 2.4 interceptions per game (currently 20th on the leader board)

    He just isn’t playing as well as he did that season, overall defensively I thought he was the best in the league in midfield that season and I was convinced we found someone to really protect the back four, but he regressed last season and even more so this season. To me he looks more at home next to Santi he just does not play well with either Xhaka or Elneny again that’s just my opinion.

  24. Ozil is another example of a player whose eye catching skill looks great when the team is flowing and winning but who disappears when things are not going well for the team.

  25. Stu,

    The thing is, he just sort of compliments all of our midfielders but also has a bit of all their qualities. He brings a couple of key qualities that you want in a CM: always available, rarely loses possession, work rate, good defensively, tenacity.

  26. Orson Kaert,

    Completely agree with you. The strange thing in Elneny’s case is that upon his arrival he put in a couple months of superb performances winning Player of the Month in back to back months including a quality performance at the Camp Nou and thr NLD, then seemed to dissappear.

    The constant tinkering with favored players when its clear its not working makes no sense to me at all. Elneny and Perez have to be 2 of the most baffling situations espiaclly when you consider that time and again thr players supposably infront of them have gotten us in this mess.

  27. Silver @ 6:17.

    You can understand the form of a goal scorer going up and down but those stats for tackles and interceptions are more related to work rate and energy. Why would someone regress so profoundly from being the best DM in the league to now? He was a player who never really excelled at any level outside of our academy before Jan 2015 and I guess he got caught up in the wave that took the whole team to its best run of form in this decade in Jan-march 2015. Once the adrenaline rush wears off the actual talent level was never really good enough. I can’t think of any other good explanation.

  28. C

    I have used more keystrokes to criticize Arsene in the comments section in this decade then anyone on the blog. However you have to be fair. He has certainly dropped all of the players you have accused him of playing favorites with down the pecking order this season. Look at the number of minutes for Giroud, Ox, Ramsey have played and he even sent Wilshere on loan. This is very much like the criticism about Arsene never rotating. It does not fit with what is actually happening. We form an opinion and then make the evidence fit that opinion rather then the other way around. Arsene has done exactly what we asked and dropped those players down the pecking order and I would argue that so far we have had the one of the worst seasons in a while.

  29. Bill

    I suspect that the purple patches and inconsistency is in a large part related to the lack of training and tactics.

    Coquelin looks good next to Cazorla because Cazorla has the experience and nous to guide him during the game.

    Likewise, if the team is playing well, everyone rises as a result, when they’re playing badly, there’s no structure to fall back on, hence it all falls apart.

  30. C

    I am not suggesting that this season would have been better if we had used Giroud, Ramsey, Ox and Wilshere in the regular rotation the way we have in the past but its pretty clear that dropping them down the pecking order has not changed anything about the inconsistent way that the season has played out. It’s been business as usual.

  31. Bil

    But the point is that if there was decent coaching and a tactical plan then many of the “useless” players wouldn’t be useless at all.

    The point is that without guidance from the manager, players who do need it can only then get it from their fellow players.

    So, when you have a player who is able to provide direction and guidance to those around them, you will get better results and better partnerships as a direct consequence of that.

    How many players have arrived, done well, and then regressed?

    Several seasons ago I made a suggestion that their qualities were being “coached” (for want of a better phrase), out of them.

    Most of these players came from teams where actual coaching took place, whereas at Arsenal, it’s a bit of a free for all.

    That’s not just idle conjecture, it has been evident from a number of interviews, one in articulate being the Squilacci interview.

    I know it’s fashionable to say he was “shit”, but he certainly wasn’t shit before he arrived at Arsenal, and surprise surprise, he hasn’t been shit since he left Arsenal either.

    So why was he only “shit” at Arsenal?

    I’ll,give you the answer, shit a management and shit coaching leads to shit performances.

    Our squad is dramatically better than the “performances” Wenger gets out of them.

  32. The Referee was a disgrace to Referees all over the world and specially to England as a Football Nation.
    You cannot be this incompetent unless you intentionally were not going to give a penalty even if an Arsenal Player got killed in the Box.

    It’s either that, or the bookies pay off on a penalty for Arsenal was so high.

    He should really be investigated for this performance and given a year ban from the Premier League.
    ****

    Somehow we went from a horrible team to a team finding each other with back-heels? I look at that with very cynical and skeptical eyes. From playing like Trolls to playing like Harlem Globe Trotters, just doesn’t happen in the space of 3 days.
    ****

    Anyways, a win is a freaking win…..Let’s hope we can keep that up.

  33. Apologies, some really odd typos there, my eyesight whilst lying in bed typing on my iPad is not exactly wonderful at times

  34. C,

    C- absolutely.

    You and I have been on the same page with Elneny for quite a while.

    First to Xhaka. I sensed a change against City where he repeatedly fired adventurous passes out of midfield. It was not in the mode of Wengerball but precisely what we need to be developing – through balls which attackers need to start expecting and therefore make the runs to get onto.

    He continued the theme (as YW noted) against West Ham, lovely pass after lovely pass which kept raising the play and attacking intent.

    Then with have Elneny who has always shown he is a live wire. He seldom if ever gets caught lingering, he controls and then distributes keeping everything moving at pace. If this is looking like a productive midfield pairing, then just bloody implement it.

    Ramsey adds nothing, the Ox’s input is sporadic and Coquelin encouraged to roam forward has been a disaster. Elneny has been consistent and composed in virtually every game he has featured in – I don’t want to see even a hint of Wengers personal bias at play from here on out.

    If we have a midfield pairing that not only seems to work, but, can quickly set up attacking opportunities, I agree with freddo from yesterday. Welbeck is the perfect option as he is continually mobile, pulls and stretched defenses which creates chances for other players.

    Even though we need to discuss individual roles, at the core we need a group of players that function as a team. I have said repeatedly, if the quality of players in ‘suporting’ roles is raised then the team improves quicker than adding a single star payer on the field (without adequate support).

    As for a new dawn, well, we’ll see,

    It’s a string of contradictions at the moment and as Andy said, wins are tainted from one perspective. I am trying to be philosophical about it all. We all know Wenger is likely to stay which is demoralizing and incredibly frustrating.

    But, I’d rather win than not, rather be in the CL than EL and, if nothing else is on the table keep Man U behind us.

  35. As we approach the end of the current season, I would give much to hear the official verdict on Lucas Perez.
    He has made a contribution in all the games in which he has worn the shirt, YET he doesn’t appear to have impressed the Manager sufficiently to be given a decent run on match days.
    This about a player only signed last Summer. 😉

  36. C,

    and Orson…you know my theory about Elneny.

    Wenger would not play him for weeks, offered a string of nonsense excuses. My guess was from the off, Elneny hit Colney with a lot of energy and enthusiasm…and unfortunatey (for him)looked like he could displace a favored son or two.

    Pretty much like Lucas Perez.

  37. I think El Neny’s problem is Pace and Tackling, which makes Coqulin preferred in some games.

    But El Neny keeps the game flowing, the attack flowing with very easy but effective and quick passing of the ball. He’s work rate is also amazing.

    I personally prefer him to Le Coq, but when you meet a team with pacy and skillful midfield, you’ll need someone with pace and the ability to tackle hard.

    El Neny was definitely a bargain with the money we paid in him.

  38. Bill,

    Ramsey has been injured for much of the season, even so he has been levered into the team at every possible occasion, whether he has been half fit, out of form or just his useless bloody self.

    I haven’t looked at statistics, they are an abomination in my opinion, but I suspect our results have been worse with him in the team than without him.

    Meanwhile a fit and enthusiastic Elneny has been left on the bench.

  39. G4E,

    But that money is being wasted, while Coquelin picks up cautions for the tackles that you enthuse about. Where is the sense in that?

  40. Any way enough of that, an early appointment tomorrow with my GP, I need my beauty sleep.

    Good night to you all.

  41. nicky,

    I think he’s a tremendous player and another whose career Arsene will blight.
    You know Arsene Nicky…..?…..our wonderful manager

  42. MikeSA,

    Agree with everything.

    Coquelin’s game has fallen apart but he has been encouraged to constantly push upfield instead of sitting deep and breaking up play. His stats (FFS) were no mirage, he was/can be blindingly good. I said a while ago I get so utterly frustrated with players form tailing off I wish to see them move on. I really like Coquelin and so want to see him in a structed midfield set up with a good manager – I want to see him elsewhere because he is now regressing so much.

    By the by, this is one of the ludicrous aspects of Wenger encouraging the attack and defense will take care of itself. One of the most cringeworthy sights of recent years was Mertesaker dribbling the ball into the oppositons half when he fancied a little forward play.

    Well, all should have noted when Mustafi arrived, he was positionally disciplined and imperious…then slowly but surely mistakes and ill-discipline crept in. The other thing that crept in…Mustafo likes a good roam up the pitch in ‘attacker’s mode also.

    Jumpers for goal posts, boys in the park.

  43. Orson Kaert,

    We were ranting and raving about Coqulin just a few month back 🙂 Just because him and the whole team dropped in form, doesn’t mean he’s a bad player.

    I love El Neny and I think he’s more of an Arsenal type of player than Le Coq, they both have strengths and weaknesses that are obvious.

    I wish we can combine the two players into one and call him “El Coq”?

  44. G4E,

    Agreed. If and only if Coquelin goes back to a deep lying midfielder who’s primary role is breaking up play. Otherwise Elneny.

    People still seem a little guarded over Elneny (little knocks on technical ability whatever) I do not see it. One indication of how good he is? Time – he always appears to have time on the ball and is seldom flustered or stripped…players seldom get near enough.

    That is a quick thinking player. He seems to distill the moment, make the right play over and over. As it is no nonsense it looks simple..but thats what the better players do.

    A coupe of months ago C and I were going back and forth on Elneny and posed Elneny has a skill set that could rotate into the number ten position – I’d love to see him tried in the role.

    As for his engine…he came here with a reputation for running until the final whistle. In certain games here he was still pressing and trying to strip the opposition in defense with minutes to go.

    Which also begs the question of why sub him off? He has more staying power than anyone on the pitch.

    Legacy bias?

  45. DFS-,

    Tend to completely agree with all of that. Xhaka is more of the deep play maker, playing those long diaganols and balls through the lines for our front 4 to run onto yet Elneny is the player that keeps things ticking when those balls aren’t on. The real shame is that this midfield 3 compliments each other yet rarely geta played together.

    Moving forward its that front 3.

  46. C,

    Listen, I have been critical of Xhaka and felt he deserved it (I wish the idea of spikey individual was dropped by one and all- he will not be allowed to get away it) but man, he impressed the last few games.

    In the City game it felt like he made up his own mind to play to his strengths and was stroking passes out beautifully. He doubled down on that against West Ham and it was a joy to watch. In fact I would say I haven’t seen anyone else spray passes around like that (with that density) in the PL this season.

    Sublime.

  47. Orson

    Ramsey has only started 7 league games all season and been a late game sub in another 7. He has only played 652 minutes. We went from 1 point ahead of Chelsea on Oct 31 to 12 points behind and effectively out of the title race from Nov 1 – mid December and Ramsey was hardly playing. Laying any of the blame for our poor season on him is a very misguided since you can’t hurt the team if you are not playing.

    Giroud has only 7 games this season and only played 795 league minutes and yet he has 9 league goals which is a goal every 88 minutes. Yogi pointed out in the main post that he has been the most efficient striker in terms of goals per minute in the league this year and yet he can’t get a start. I don’t know if he ever saw the pitch during those 6-7 weeks in Nov/Dec when we dropped out of the title race. Again blaming for our season going belly up is severely misguided.

    Ox has played more minutes then Ramsey and Giroud but Arsene dropped him in favor of Iwobe last summer.

    The point of this is that the players that Arsene was accused of playing favorites with have all been dropped down the depth chart and played a lot less this year. In Giroud’s case its a bit of a head scratcher since he has been very effective when he has played and there is certainly been no evidence that replacing him with players who run faster has done anything to improve our results. Dropping Giroud Ox and Ramsey has done nothing to change the way our season has played out. Perhaps Elneny and Perez could have gotten more minutes but the idea that they could have somehow made a difference seems like a real stretch of the imagination to me.

  48. Every team big team in world football has a player or 2 that a segment of the fan base thinks should be playing more. Last year it was Joel Campbell and based on this years performances in Portugal its clear that we heavily over rated him. Players who are lower on the squad pecking order on big teams don’t get to play high leverage minutes unless there is an injury crisis. Conte almost never goes below player #14. That is the nature of playing for a big team.

  49. Mike SA

    You and I have been complaining about a lack of coaching and a team wide lack of defensive nous since 2008. Certainly that would affect Le Coq, however, Le Coq has been drifting around for a long time and his run of form in Jan- March 2015 when he broke thru was clearly light years ahead of anything else he has ever done before or since then. The Le Coq we are seeing now is the same one who muddled around from loan spell to loan spell and never did very well and that is probably a better indication of his real talent level. I suspect that performance during the year he broke thru was adrenaline fueled and amplified by how well the rest of the team was playing and not something Le Coq can replicate over a long period of time.

  50. DFS-,

    Completely agree about Xhaka, something clicked within him against Citeh and he got back to being Xhaka, not just the passes but sitting deep and staying on his feet. His passes really seemed to open things up not only for Sanchez and Theo but Ozil as well.

    He really does have the ability to sit deep and be that DM but its when he is asked to be something he is not that gets him in trouble. For instance, when he pushes forward and is asked to press, and I know people say, “well if he is so good he should be able to” but its not his game just like its not Ozil’s game to drop deep and dictate. Players have skillsets and have strengths and weaknesses and Xhaka’s strength is clearly being that deep playmaker.

  51. Bill,

    I though Coquelin was playing well at the start of the season when the side was doing a lot of pressing. Coquelin was getting into really advanced positions to close down defenders with the ball. That’s his forte and his technical skills aren’t so important because he doesn’t have to help ship the ball upfield.
    Then Arsenal became more passive and coquelin found himself just covering the back four and having to help move the ball upfield (which is far from his strength). This was the period during which Sanchez spent most of the games waving his arms trying to get players to push forward. I’d love to know why Sanchez felt the need to keep doing that. It was so regular.

  52. DFS – I sense that Arsene really doesn’t like conflict much, so he likes to indoctrinate new players in the “arsenal way”: passive, respectful, obedient to the mega-star manager. I suspect that Elneny, Xhaka, Lucas got a bit too pushy about when they were going to play, so Arsene had to show them who was in charge and get them to pull their heads in.

  53. Arsene’s press conference coming up soon, let’s see if this stupid charade continues….

  54. And right on cue:

    Wait, wasn’t Alexis Sanchez set to leave the Gunners this summer? Isn’t he supposed to be frustrated?

    Boss Arsene Wenger says: “I believe that he basically wants to stay at the club and it is about doing a deal with his agent.”

    Well, that’s that then.

    What about your own future Arsene?

    The Frenchman says any announcement will come from the club and not him.

    It seems that Arsene cannot understand that top players (see RvP, Cesc et al) might actually want to win the top prizes and it’s not always about money.

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