Midfield Ponderances

Retro football resurfaced at last night’s World Cup Qualifier in Switzerland. That pitch was pure 1970s, recalling the horrors of the Baseball Ground.

Dominating the weekend, or yesterday at least, at Arsenal was Olivier Giroud’s thigh strain and Aaron Ramsey’s absence from the Welsh squad. The former is a concern, simply because it leaves us exposed this weekend with Danny Welbeck’s return timely in those circumstances.

There is precious little information about Ramsey’s absence which leads me to think it’s a rare outbreak of common sense in football. With Gareth Bale’s injury woes, perhaps Chris Coleman is being cautious ahead of a busy part of the season. Who knows?

If it’s a problem, it’s an opportunity for someone else. While Jack Wilshere is the obvious solution, Wenger will look to Elneny or Coquelin at the weekend. The attacking trio will most likely be Sanchez, Lacazette and Özil but despite being over-run by City, nothing else will change.

Should it? This is Tottenham, probably the best and worst match for Wenger in these circumstances. The best because surely the players will be motivated for the north London derby? In years gone by, it was obligatory; understood by the squad that this was the game which mattered.

Now? I’m not sure, but is that a ‘not sure’ because it’s the players themselves or is it just the unshakeable faith being shaken to its core? A mix of both, to be honest.

It used to be that before the game, even if Spurs were ascendant at that point in the season, confidence oozed through my veins. I knew Arsenal would turn up; they didn’t always, that’s for sure, but more often than not they would. I’m not sure now; I don’t know which Arsenal will turn up, if at all.

Fit for Purpose?

When there’s nothing in the league to play for beyond the minor placings, Arsenal’s season hinges on big matches. We might do well in the cups but until that unfurls, we take pleasure from wins in the big matches. Not that it happens very often in recent times…

Back to the midfield. Xhaka played well for Switzerland, thriving without the errors which pock-mark his recent Arsenal performances. Both at Windsor Park and last night, he seemed more comfortable with his instructions. Now, a factor in that is the standard of opposition. No disrespect to Northern Ireland but Arsenal face stronger club sides.

However, the Swiss looked more at ease on the pitch. In the first leg, he was spraying passes around like a YouTube compilation reel of his best Monchengladbach days. It is that which we must tap into, bring to the surface week in, week out. At the moment, we get those games inconsistently.

Is that to do with the midfield partner? Do we need Ramsey to be more disciplined than at present? Is it a case that, in the system Arsène employs, there isn’t room for Ramsey and Özil? If there is a more discplined partner to Xhaka, then certainly it is inconceivable both the Welshman and German fit into a 3 – 4 – 3 effectively.

Or is it just Xhaka doesn’t fit into that system?

The Arsenal squad wasn’t built with 3-4-3 in mind. Only this summer’s acquisitions were purchased with the system in place and I am not convinced Arsène believes in it. His defensiveness when questioned over a back three last season sticks in my mind as someone employing expediency rather than a deep-held belief in the path they are following.

Guess-timates

Is this summer the tipping point for Wenger in that sense? He must buy with the formation in mind, as well as replacing key players. That’s no easy task with our apparent budget. However, if he wants a legacy which isn’t considered destructive, his options are limited.

Sanchez’s departure is a big problem, one which Danny Welbeck can’t solve. He’s the internal solution but not of the Chilean’s calibre. Nor is Zaha; maybe they are and need the opportunity to prove themselves.

That’s the problem with transfers; they look good on paper. Doesn’t work out that way all of the time but that’s part of the decision-making process: assessing probabilities.

Food for thought for the coming months.

’til Tomorrow.

57 thoughts on “Midfield Ponderances

  1. Wenger never buys with the formation in mind though – I have never seen much joined-up thinking.
    Let’s face it, come January’s TW close he’ll probably have replaced Sanchez with another diminutive midfielder.
    On which note, I have lost touch with the Santi story – is there a return date penciled yet?

  2. Good afternoon to you all.

    Jonny, the projected date for the return of Santi to a football pitch is sometime before the next appearance of Halley’s comet. 2061, to save the effort of Googling it. 😈

  3. Glad to hear someone else has already got one eye on 12:30 Saturday afternoon.

    Will probably be travelling when it’s on. Likelihood being that will be a blessing in disguise

  4. Yogi, I don’t think the NLD holds the same mystique for our current crop of mega-rich footballers. Living, as they do, in the leafy suburbs or central London penthouses they don’t have the same connection with the area as previous teams had. Even training takes place away from the Emirates, so they are less aware of the local fans feelings.

  5. Interesting read as ever Yogi many thanks

    Perhaps one issue may be that the squad needs a ‘water carrier’ to do the grunt work, cover the defence and win the ball and quickly recycle it to our more creative players ?

    None of the guys listed really fit that bill – I like Elneny cast in that role – but it never seems to happen…

    Not sure a side with Ozil, Ramsay, Xaka is ‘balanced’ enough…

    Re Saturday – I used to watch Dr Who from behind the sofa – wonder whether I can still fit in there…

  6. Good stuff Yogi my man.

    I’m actually really excited for the weekend to see who exactly shows up but I have a week to either let my optimism grow or you lot to get to me…

    As far as our midfield, I think the biggest problem is that we aren’t playing 3 in midfield anymore so between Xhaka and Ramsey you have two players who really don’t and more often than not won’t do the defensive work. I think both of those players need somebody next to them like an Elneny. Le Coq was superb next to Santi because he could just go around and do the destroying because Santi was Santi; Ramsey and Xhaka not only need that player to do the defensive work but they also need that player to do all the linking up. Xhaka sort of needs it because he prefers to sit and spray passes and stay infront of the CB’s, Ramsey because he is a midfielder that prefers not to have the ball until he gets into the box.

  7. Its crazy to think and I doubt there is much truth to it; but reports say we are close to signing Fekir from Lyon and he would come in the summer.

  8. Coleman has provided an injury update on Ramsey:

    “No matter how he felt afterwards we decided it would be one game for Aaron Ramsey.

    “So he’s gone back, he’s okay, he came through the game okay.

    “I think coming into the camp because of what’s been happening with him at Arsenal in terms of his fitness we thought one game would be better than two.

    “That was the thinking, he’s gone back to Arsenal.

    “He will be available for them at the weekend.”

  9. Great post Yogi. You make the international break a little easier to tolerate.

    We need 2 things to happen in order for Xhaka to a good DM in the PL. We would need every opponent to agree to not put him under pressure when he has the ball so he has the time and space he needs to pick out his passes. The other requirement is that the opposition would have to agree to take it easy and slow down when they attack so they wouldn’t expose his defensive deficiencies. Until both of those conditions are met Xhaka is probably going to struggle.

    The main purpose of having a DM on the pitch is to help defend. We don’t need every player on the pitch to be technically brilliant and a great passer but I think our DM needs to be a solid defensive player. I understand that we spent a lot of money for xhaka but to me it’s completely crazy thinking to be continue to use a DM that you have to adjust the rest of the squad to compensate for his defensive deficiencies.

  10. You can hide a players defensive deficiencies if they are upfront the way we have done with Ozil. Paddy Vieira said that Bobby Pires was not an asset to the team on the defensive end but they could compensate for that because he was not in a high leverage defensive position and the rest of that team was so good. However the deepest central midfielder is in a critical position on the pitch and its much more difficult to compensate when he is a defensive liability and struggles when the other team is counter attacking. It becomes even worse if he tends to give the ball away in dangerous positions when he is put under pressure

  11. On another entirely different topic I see that AFC have the best Christmas/New Year programme of all the PL clubs, that is matches spread over a longer period with more rest.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/41812290

    Given that ‘we’ (and by that I mean the club and some apologists/conspiracy theorists) usually moan like anything when we are perceived to have been given a rough deal with fixtures I wonder if they will have to change their tune this time?

  12. Bill,

    Completely agree and it only adds to it when both of the midfielders don’t do the defensive work. For all of the work rate that we talk about with Ramsey, how often do we look at the goals that the opposition scores and he is either the furthest man or 2nd furthest man highest up the pitch. I think if you have Xhaka struggling then you can’t have Ramsey. For me, I would rather have Elneny and one of Ramsey or Xhaka and I know he might not be your favorite or most people’s choice, but at least he will do the defensive work and hold his position defensively.

  13. Kos’ Achilles apparently held him out of training for Les Blues. Add that to our midfield problem and it will be interesting.

    Mustafi should possibly be back so that will help.

  14. Bill,

    Great argument as always Bill, just one thing though, I don’t actually recall Wenger saying he had bought Xhaka as a defensive midfielder. I may well be wrong but his primary role for Switzerland is not as a defensive midfielder either.

    Could it just be that you are maligning Xhaka for not being something he was not intended to be.

  15. Andy

    One of the biggest sources of revenue for English football is TV. World wide Name recognition is probably the biggest driver of TV ratings and revenue. Arsenal and Arsène Wenger are 2 really big names in world football so the FA would have every reason to want arsenal to succeed.

  16. Orson Kaert,

    Its interesting that you bring that point up because I think that Arsene bought him to be that deep-lying playmaker / DM but the problem is that the one thing that actually made him an effective player is the aggressiveness that Arsene has banged on about him needing to quell since he arrived.

    Also, the strange thing about all of this is that I think Xhaka is more the current version of Cesc than he is Matic. Along those lines and if Xhaka isn’t that player than pairing him with Ramsey is absolute suicide given Ramsey really doesn’t have a set position because he isn’t that box-to-box nor is he a #10.

  17. Orson

    It does not matter why Arsène bought xhaka or what role he plays for Switzerland. What matters is the fact that he is playing as our deepest central midfielder so I think we have to evaluate his impact on our team in that role. No?

  18. Bill,

    No Bill, he only plays the deepest midfielder position by force of circumstance, the circumstance being his so called midfield partner, one Aaron Ramsey, shows no inclination whatsoever to stay back and remain disciplined.

    Wenger has always shown himself to be quite unconcerned about having a defensive midfielder playing just in front of the back three or four since Gilberto departed.

  19. Orson

    I don’t think you can hide defensive deficiencies of your teams deepest central midfielder. I don’t think xhaka fits well in the box to box role so we are stuck playing him at DM

  20. Bill,

    That is where I think your completely wrong, you can hide them, think about what Conte has done with Cesc since his arrival, he played him next to a mobile defensive midfielder so that Cesc didn’t have to close down space but instead sit and make interceptions when he sees the chance and provide defensive cover that he is capable of. I think Xhaka isn’t as bad a defensive player as he is made out but we all know that in space or pressing he struggles; he is an aggressive player that can do those things but they aren’t his strengths defensively, those are his ability to pressure sit and read and then go and get when he sees the opportunity.

  21. Orson.

    I am not a huge Ramsey fan but I think you are probably overly harsh on hiim but to each his own. If you believe that Ramsey and xhaka can’t play together then it’s my belief that xhaka is the first one of those 2 who should get the hook. Xhaka is slow and does not move forward with the ball at his feet so he does not fit at any position other then deepest central midfielder. it’s my belief that his defensive deficiencies and his tendency to struggle when he is put under pressure means that he will not thrive as a deepest central midfielder in the PL no matter who is his partner

  22. Bill,

    I think you should also look at Ramsey when he is put under pressure and what position does he actually fit into this team? Do you want your box-to-box player to be more focused on getting into the box or would you prefer your box-to-box player to operate and actually do the job that his position entails which is going from box-to-box. The comparisions that I always here for Ramsey is Gerrard and Lampard but if you look at both of those players, they were not only disciplined but they also did the defensive work.

    I’m not saying its all on Ramsey nor am I defending the reason why Xhaka has struggled, but I think the thing with the midfield is that they are partners similar to CB’s and they should work in tandem and the tandem of Xhaka and Ramsey doesn’t work for a club that wants to win the PL because neither are defensive in their style of play but at the same time neither are the sort of player that based on the style we want to play are best suited UNLESS they have that player playing with them i.e. Santi or Elneny who will do all of the recycling, tempo setting, defending, etc.

  23. Arteta was not real fast and he did not move all that well with the ball at his feet and he always was our deepest midfield. However he made it work because he was much smarter with his positional sense and he almost never lost the ball in a dangerous position.

  24. Good Afternoon, matelots,

    C, a lot of things are dependent on an agreed definition for an object, an action or a player’s role in a team. On that basis I think we have found something to disagree about.

    —- “given Ramsey really doesn’t have a set position because he isn’t that box-to-box nor is he a #10.”

    My idea of a ‘box to box’ player is someone with a great engine who covers every blade of grass on the pitch — and I cannot think of anyone who does that more than Rambo, as I have both heard commentators saying that, at games not screened in the UK, and, where I have seen games, I am aways both frustrated by him overhitting balls, or miscuing a snapshot in the opponents’ penalty area (and scoring crackers too) , while at the same time I have been amazed at him tackling forwards on our goal line.

    As regards Xhaha, he has a great searching cross field pass, a strong shot, on the rare occasions he uses it – but, he is slow, frequently loses the ball when the opposition press him, and he cannot tackle for toffee, and is inclined to be sloppy in short passes often gifting the opposition with the ball, and that sometime leads to goals against us.

    He just is not good enough for a top team — and too many fans seem to view him through rose tinted glasses, and a dollop of wishful thinking.

  25. Bill,

    You have put me in a difficult position, in that, try as I might, I have been unable to fault your logic in anything you have said today, and in fact I would have been happy to attach my name to the comments you have made. 😀

  26. Bill,

    I agree, again.

    Arteta was very skilled and really smart, and one day will make a very good manager.

    Xhaka is neither, except for super cross field passing.

    Game over. 😀

  27. C

    I think you are really stretching reality to compare Xhaka and Fabregas. The only similarity is that Xhaka can make a nicely weighted pass over the top when he is given time and space. That ability looks great on u tube highlights but it does not make someone a “playmaker”. Even worse Xhaka struggles in tight spaces whereas Cesc was good in tight spaces and he was and on occasion still can be a top class all around playmaker.

  28. You make line up and tactical compensations for someone like Cesc or may be even Ozil when they were ay their best. But IMO xhaka does not have enough upside to make all sorts of compromises to help him.

  29. HenryB,

    See this is where we will disagree.

    I think the problem is your definition of a box-to-box player is relative to the formation that you are playing. For instance, in a 433 or some variation of that, yes its great for your box-to-box player to be able to cover every blade of grass and get in both boxes BUT the problem with that in a 343 is that your box-to-box player has to be more disciplined because its only a 2 man midfield as opposed to a 3 man midfield. The other issue is that if he is going to get in the box as frequently as he does then he needs to be more effective, and I know it might not be the best indicator but think about this, Ramsey has the most shots and most shots on target ON THE TEAM yet he only has 1 goal. I don’t mind midfielders getting into the box but be effective, if not then you should be focusing on defending as I would rather those chances fell to our front 3.

    I still think Dixon was spot on in his assessment of Ramsey: not good on the ball or making quick decisions in midfield but really good at making late runs and getting in the box and defensively looks good but can be found out of position quite often. For me, if we are going to persist on with this 343 then he needs to be more disciplined, knowing WHEN to push forward and when to stay and NOT bombing forward at every opportunity when we are in possession.

    This then lends itself to the Xhaka situation which you and I have agreed on many times and we do so again. The problem with that and its the reason why Ramsey and Xhaka should never play together UNLESS we know we are going to dominate or the other team’s midfield is average because the short passes simply aren’t good enough from either player. I think the other thing that Xhaka struggles with is defending in space and seems to really have lost quite a bit of his aggressiveness.

    I know this might sound harsh but I think our midfield pair in general is viewed by fans through rose tinted glasses and a dollop of wishful thinking. I know this might sound crazy but I would actually rather we play Elneny and Le Coq (but ONLY if he plays destroyer and doesn’t EVER EVER go past the halfway line) and tell them their only job is to close down space and recycle the ball to our attackers. I think with Ozil, Lacazette and Sanchez we have enough players who can score goals and create and with Sead and Bellerin we have width extra attackers.

  30. Bill,

    I think you misunderstood my comparison between Xhaka and Cesc (its why I hate making comparisons) . Its not that Xhaka and Cesc are comparative in their qualities outside their long cross field passes and their balls over the top; I was comparing the fact that you wouldn’t quantify Xhaka or Cesc as DM’s yet both play in the deepest midfield role for their respective clubs. I’m comparing players that are playing in similar positions, isn’t that what you said earlier when you were talking to Orsey?

  31. Bill,

    Your right, you don’t make all these changes for Xhaka and honestly, I would make changes to this team for the purpose of getting the best out of our front 3 and if that means dropping Xhaka, Ramsey or both for more defensive players I would make it immediately.

  32. C,

    I was responding to your assessment of Rambo not being a ‘box to box’ player — your rebuttal @ 3:57 centres on whether a box to box player has to be more disciplined — which inherently accepts that the player IS of a box to box type.

    We have also found another area of disagreement. I know most fans are fixated on a numerical explanation of positional tactics, but frankly that is simply a rough guide to explain why some players have their roles changed during a game, which in itself is an expression of the obvious.

    Look, a 3 : 4 : 3 set up is never that, because the ‘3’ is really a ‘5’ at the back, and in modern football, the ‘3’ upfront is never more than a ‘2’, and is usually, in practise, a ‘1’, but even that does not recognise that positional changes happen almost minute by minute, so what starts out as (say) a 5 : 3 : 2 quickly changes to a 3 : 2 : 5 when the team is attacking – and then rapidly changes again into a 4 : 4 : 2 or a 5 : 4 : 1 when they are forced to defend – and so on.
    So that cannot be used to define the role or capabilities of a box to box player.

    I do not usually bother with tactical mush, but as you raised it I thought I could explain why the ‘definition’ of a box to box player, refers to both his physical and mental capabilities to perform the role — not on whether a player is changed by the tactical requirement of the game — that is another question.

    So Rambo is capable of being a ‘box to box’ player — Cesc and Arteta could not be – and neither in the current team could Xhaka be physically capable of performing such a role — which has nothing to do with tactics or who plays with whom.

    And that is true of all players capable, of playing that role, if it is required.

    I think we can take it you will not agree with any of that – so let’s take that as read – and I will leave it at that. 😀

  33. C,

    On a related but separate topic, it is all very well saying that you would drop Xhaka and/or Rambo for two defensive players if that improved the results of the front 3 — and so would we all, obviously – except my continually expressed view is that we do not possess such defensive midfield players, at least of the desired quality.

    I rate Elneny, I think Le Coq sometimes plays sensibly, but often does not, and El Nen is not anyone’s idea of a defensive midfielder.

    If you accept that, then we are back in harmony again, we just do not have one, let alone two defensive midfielders and while we are about it – we do not have a top tier goalkeeper, nor do we have two let alone three top ranked CBs and when Özil and Sanchez leave we will be a lot worse upfront than we are currently, with presumably Theo and President Giro getting off the bench to confirm they are just not up to it.

    The short and medium term prognosis is not looking good. 🙁

  34. HenryB,

    Its not so much me disagreeing but I was actually making the statement based on the preference/assumption that Ramsey is apart of our central midfield 2 and if we are putting labels on players that if Xhaka is defined as a DM then that would make Ramsey the box-to-box player.

    Numbers aside as I was more making the point that centrally we discuss player roles and no matter whether it is a midfield 2 or 3, I think the 2 at the base (or 1 as the DM and one as the CM/box-to-box) the roles of said players either need to be defined OR the players need to work in tandem and understand the balance of the team.

    I know you don’t and actually most people don’t like to get into the tactical aspects (well at least those that mostly follow the PL) but I think at the very least roles need to be defined especially in a system with 3 at the back because yes the WB’s will help change the formation but I think the spine of the formation is very clear: 3CB’s, 2midfielders and 3 attackers and in that event we need those 2 midfielders to stay solid.

    Anyways, back to the box-to-box /CM thing, I think we agree that it should be somebody who is capable and able to be good enough defensively and be that link player, the problem I have with Ramsey is that his game really isn’t suited for a midfield 2 and its why he doesn’t play there for Wales, Joe Allen actually does.

    I think that’s enough of that as you will also read and leave it at that 😉

    Additionally, why the hell can’t Bill just read and leave it at that 😉

  35. Arsene has vented on beIN Sports:

    “Of course, he used the naivety of the referee in a very positive way.

    “That’s why I said the referees don’t work, they don’t do their homework. Referees are professional in England, one of only a few countries where it’s a profession.

    “Look at their schedule and look at how many will go to the World Cup, then you have the answer [to why they cannot do their “homework”].

    “I didn’t say it [that Sterling dived] in a negative way, I said he used the fact that his foot was in front our defender to dive and he dived.

    “In a few years he’ll say that too. In the heat of the moment of course he’ll deny it, but he used it well, using his position to get in front [of his marker].
    Wenger added: “A penalty is a deliberate foul in the box. It’s not a provoked foul in the box, so that’s where the difference is.

    “In a big game like that you need to look at what the defender is doing, not the striker.

    “If it was my striker, he would have gone down certainly as well. It was not to blame Raheem Sterling – he used his advantage to fool the referee, that’s what he did. But for me it was a dive.”

    “I don’t mind,” he said. “I am 35 years in this job [as a football manager]. It [a sanction] will not change my mind or the way I think.

    “In that game, we conceded a penalty which was not a penalty and an offside goal. They [the authorities] should look at themselves better rather than blame other people for the comments they make.

    “They have to absorb their wrong decision and stand up for it.”

    Read more at https://www.fourfourtwo.com/news/wenger-applauds-sterling-exploiting-referees-naivety-dive#1vFE46G9B5Ew6eCu.99

  36. Finally,

    There is an old adage that can sometimes apply to fans like us;

    —- “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but we spend so long looking at the closed door we do not see the new one opening.”

    For me the door that gave me most happiness was when we had the Invincibles, and I have spent so long looking at that closed door, I do not think a new one will ever open again.
    Anyone seen one? or was the adage just baloney? 😀

  37. Well after reading and taking on board everyone’s tactical know how and how certain systems play and work with individual players I think for the NLD we should play 8 1 1 and hopefully catch them on the counter. 🤔

  38. HenryB,

    I do think that we are back in harmony for the most part. Elneny would at least give us the consistent performances and stay disciplined in midfield while helping out when teams press us. We are definitely in harmony when it comes to Le Coq.

    The point is, I would rather we went with two players in midfield that were more defensive and let the front 3 attack as opposed to going with Ramsey and Xhaka. At this point we mine as well throw Jack out there and see what he can do but at present our midfield options lack the quality that is necessary (even though I still think Elneny can do a job and might not be spectacular but he would be consistent and get the ball to our attacking 3 as quickly as possible).

    Yea our short and medium and really long term prospects aren’t looking really good outside of really Lacazette, Sead and IF Bellerin can find his way back to consistency. CB’s that aren’t of the quality, aren’t fit or aren’t in Mustafi’s case wanted for whatever reason and your right about upfront and please don’t get me started on the GK or his supposed back-up Ospina. On top of all of that Arsene’s contract is up which will only lead to more madness and questions.

  39. I agree with Wenger, C, or maybe he agreed with me? 🙂

    Previously I said that Sterling deliberately slowed down sharply in the box knowing that Belli would have to run into the back of him, and down he went.

    Belli did not do that on purpose, and Sterling was not guaranteed to score if he had stayed on his feet. So as Belli is not a mind reader, and could not know Sterling was going to do that, and does not have the ability to stop still in a nano-second, Sterling knew the odds were high that he would ‘win’ a penalty. And he was right.

    Wenger gave Serling credit for doing it — I think he and all the others who do those things to ‘win’ penalties are cheats — remember Suarez when he was at ‘Piddle, and now Hazard at Chelsea, they are also good at provoking those decisions.

  40. HenryB,

    I’m going to assume you meant Nacho not Bellerin….

    With that though I do think that you are right but the problem is we are seeing more and more penalties given like that. For instance, Ramsey won that penalty against West Brom I think it was this season and while there was some contact from the West Brom player, Ramsey went flying like he was pushed.

    I think ultimately we are seeing more and more soft penalties given and refs and players in general are forgetting that futbol is a contact sport and contact will be made and everytime it happens it doesn’t equate to a foul.

  41. HenryB,

    Back in harmony 🙂

    Its strange and unlike Yogi, I am actually confident of an Arsenal win against Spuds on this Monday, maybe its naive optimism that I have at times but I just feel good about our chances.

  42. Henry

    I always thought Arteta was under rated defensively and he was very smart and he was the DM In 13/14 which was arguably our of our better defensive teams of the Emirates era

  43. I think Arteta and Elneny are similar style of players and Elneny might work as our DM. Elneny is more athletic but I think Arteta was a better overall player.

    C

    You really liked Denison, Song and you love Elneny but all of those players had a somewhat similar style to Arteta and they all played a similar role as Arteta but arteta was easily the best of that group but you did not like him.

  44. Bill,

    I think Elneny is quite similar to Arteta as you state and I think the biggest difference is that Elneny as you state is more athletic and Arteta was a better player because we saw more of him. Really has Elneny actually done anything to not deserve more match time other than not be Xhaka, Ramsey or Le Coq? I still would be interested to see how Jack and Elneny would get on and while they might be physically lightweight, I think they would battle and fight much more than we have seen thus far this season.

    For the record, I actually really liked Arteta and actually thought and hoped we signed Gonalons who was a bigger better version of Arteta; my problem with Arteta was that Arsene used him as a reason not to bring in a younger DM until it was too late and Arteta, age and injuries forced his hand.

  45. C,

    I wrote the comment re Sterling with Nacho in mind and wrote it that way — but for reasons that I cannot explain — before submitting it, I went back and deleted Nacho’s name and inserted Belli’s.

    At the time I wrote on here how angry it was with the dodgy penalty and the ‘offside by a yard goal’ too — so maybe today I am still mad about it – and that is why??? 😀

  46. Bill,

    I was very down on Arteta being bought late in his career and made into a DM — and in fairness Arteta said himself that he had no knowledge why AW wanted to play there — but both he and Wenger made me eat my words – he was great!! 😀

    Anyway guys — as usual food is calling me at this hour, so I will chat with you again tomorrow.

    Good stuff discussed this p.m.!

  47. HenryB,

    I will give you a pass for that one as we have been bored with International futbol and the last taste we got of Arsenal futbol was a match against Citeh that even still makes no sense to this day.

    I mean you may still be angry about that, I have gone from annoyed to frustrated to right pissed off that we have a manager that didn’t start his record signing against Liverpool and just when you think he will learn his lesson he goes and drops him against a Citeh side that almost the moment he came on he scored and I would bet quite a bit of money that if Lacazette starts instead of Iwobi we are tied with Citeh going into the half. I will say this, if Ozil/Sanchez/Lacazette aren’t the starting front 3 against Spuds (there is part of me that wonders if Arsene would actually start Welbeck, Iwobi or even Giroud over Lacazette) you might see me vent even before the match starts and I will have a proper hour to vent before the match and you know how quickly I can type 😉

  48. C

    I am on record as saying many times that I would not be against giving Elneny a run as the deepest midfielder instead of xhaka but I don’t want him playing with xhaka. Just like arteta I think Mo would work as the deepest midfielder but not in the “box to box” position. IMO the best situation of all would be to have someone who could replicate the defensive destroyer role Le Coq played in 2015 and neither Arteta or Elneny can do that. Even if his technical skill is not great I think the defensive destroyer is more valuable as the DM then the elegant ball passer/ball possession player that was Arteta or Elneny

    You were really down on Arteta in his last couple seasons and clearly he was struggling to stay fit but for some reason you were never a big Arteta fan and I never did understand. He was the elegant technical type player you usually favor. Credit to because you never abandon a player you really like.

  49. Bill,

    I think the thing with Arteta and Elneny as the DM (and full credit to you for saying it) is that they can play that DM not as the destroyer, slide tackling machine like we see some but more of the cerebral interceptor and ball nicker that does the DM position in a completely different but still effective way. The problem with saying destroyer is that you can’t really put that label on players like Kante, Schnederlin when he was at his best, Gueye, Ndidi, hell even Fernandinho is that they really aren’t destroyers but they are superb at reading the game, nicking the ball, intercepting or picking pockets which I think Elneny and Arteta can and did do quite effectively.

    I was really down on Arteta ONLY because while he was here it meant that Arsene wouldn’t buy a replacement like Gustavo or Gonalons or Javi Martinez but Arteta was never able to stay fit. Its actually one of the reasons why I was frustrated with the Diaby (though I really thought that there was no way somebody could have such terrible luck) and now Jack and Ramsey situations. They are players that up to this point consistently get nicked and are out for weeks and months consistently during the season but Arsene still holds faith for when they are fit.

  50. For me, i can compare Xhaka’s style of play to that of Kroos. It means, we need a proper DM (not Coquelin!) to partner him while he plays as a deep-lying play-maker. That position can work with Ramsey as a 10/8 who plays behind the striker and gets into the penalty box, as at when required. No Ozil then!

  51. Italy aren’t going to the World Cup and while you have to feel good for Sweden personally I have always been a massive supporter of Buffon and Chelini, who are arguably the best players of their generation at their respective positions, this is the end of their International career and its a sad way to go out.

  52. It is unfortunate that Italy has not made the WC — usually good footie, plenty of dramatics (German steps on toe – go down holding face; German pinches ass — smile at him coyly — then go down holding face, et seq) and, of course, I love their national anthem — it perfectly reflects the Italian personality – and that will be missed!

    Quick, YW — start a new Post before JonnyG asks what the water closet has to do with Italy??

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