Big Sam Deflated & Basel Preview: Time To Deliver

“So that’s Allardyce sorted. Who’s next?”
“Well…”
“HOLD THE FRONT PAGES!!!!”
“What the…?!??
“We’ve got them! The agents went on tape and named names!!!”
“Who is it? Any juicy names in their?”
“Well, the first one, the greediest is called Manager 1. After that, there’s Manager 2…”

As soon as the FA announced they were meeting to discuss his future, Sam Allardyce’s fate was sealed. There was no stonewalling, no staunch defence, just a realisation on their part after the Slovakia game that Pete Townshend was right all along: meet the new boss, the same as the old boss.

Allardyce’s football career is in a brief hiatus. It’s a very forgiving industry, consistently rewarding failure; he’ll be back and no doubt there’s a book to be written, of course.

The FA has appointed Gareth Southgate in the interim and it’s not a bad move. There won’t be japes in the same way Joe Mercer brought a smile back to the England camp in the 70s – ask Ray Parlour, who fell foul of Southgate at Middlesbrough. Still, penalty practice ought to be interesting…

The Daily Telegraph may go on to actually name names of those taking bungs but I doubt that their lawyers sphincters will loosen enough for that to happen. Whether clubs will take action is another matter but depends on the circumstances. Underperforming managers may find their tenures ended on the grounds of poor results, with football gossip the real cause.

Have we moved any further forward in this issue? At the moment it doesn’t feel that way; there’s a lot of innuendo in the printed word and it feels like 1995 all over again. As with then a ‘name’ has fallen but as with then, others skirt close to the edge but don’t actually fall. Brian Clough was named by Alan Sugar in court but never outside as he couldn’t prove the allegations and although the FA inquiry felt the evidence was strong at the time, no action was taken as he’d retired from football by that time.

Will this ‘clean up’ the game? I’m not sure; some of the agents are finished, that’s for certain but the bigger fish? It’s going to take a lot more than this to do any good. That shouldn’t stop journalists trying either; they just need better evidence than this.

On to more important matters and Arsenal are back tonight. Basel arrive and three points is an absolute must, not just for qualification purposes but to build on the Chelsea performance. That display from start to finish, has to become the norm if the squad is to achieve anything this season in any competition.

In terms of team news, Arsène didn’t give anything away in particular. We knew Coquelin and Giroud were out anyway, and the only other change I expect is Ospina in for Cech. It’s the opportunity for redemption for the Colombian after the Olympiakos debacle last season and unless there is a repeat of that, I can’t see Wenger changing his policy on team selection for the cups.

It leaves the line-up as:

Like Ospina, Theo Walcott is on a redemptive path. After last season, quite a few – myself included – wouldn’t have shed a tear if he’d left in the summer. Provided the money was re-invested, of course. His form was awful and his career had stagnated. He was out of the England squad which although disappointing from his point of view, meant he dodged the bullet once again after another woeful tournament.

He has impressed at the start of this season. There’s a good case for Player of the Month and the goal against Chelsea was just reward for his efforts. But like Arsenal in the last decade, there’s always a feeling with Walcott that he should deliver more.

It’s something he recognises:

“Where did my change in mindset come from? It probably was from myself.

“I found it difficult last year, coming towards the end of the season I didn’t get opportunities but I was still working hard. It is probably from then, I spoke to many people and it maybe woke up something in my system. I am completely different.

“I just want to be better and better, people have had so much faith in me and you never give up. I tend to think I need to repay people, but I also think I need to do it for myself now. Maybe in the past I was thinking about others and not myself.”

It’s the right thing to say of course, it always is with Theo. At 27, we are still talking about the potential he had rather than what he delivered. Injuries have interfered but the lack of consistency in his performances over the course of a season has been a source of frustration to us. And to him as well, he makes no bones about that.

Surprisingly, it’s taken ten years for the penny to drop and that is a maddening aspect of it. Either he wasn’t listening or the right things weren’t being said to him. That he seems to have taken the initiative to resolve his loss of form is encouraging; will we finally see the best of Theo week in, week out? I hope so but I’m not holding my breath.

If he does learn, then there’s inspiration for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Suffering similar tribulations in his career at the moment, if Theo can turn it around so can Ox. There’s a lot of competition for places in the wide midfield roles – in any midfield role – at Arsenal at present and there’s a sense that a ‘big’ name is going to leave. They don’t come any bigger than Oxlade-Chamberlain at 17 letters.

But that’s for another day. We rode our luck in Paris and got a result. Tonight is about asserting ourselves on this group.

Finally, a quick note that there’s a new post on Dad’s Jukebox.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

154 thoughts on “Big Sam Deflated & Basel Preview: Time To Deliver

  1. Highbury says:

    Wow! Who did what to Walcott? Long may this continue.

  2. Wavey says:

    Awesome so far. Controlled on the ball and determined when we haven’t got it.

    2-2 at Celtic Park

  3. Highbury says:

    Some of the football is unbelievable.

  4. Wavey says:

    Alexis should have buried it. Seemed to try to place it when power would probably have been the right option.

  5. Colts says:

    Should be 4 up, Theo provoking everything.

  6. Wavey says:

    Iwobi should maybe have anticipated that as it was the only clear ball Walcott had on.

  7. mesutsleftfoot says:

    \their keeper is having a blinder

  8. mesutsleftfoot says:

    if this theo turned up every week, i wouldn’t say a peep about him :)!

    Fantastic stuff, such control and lovely football!

  9. HenryB says:

    C,

    You old doubter — I told you Theo has his mojo back. 😀

    The team were brilliant!!

  10. silvergunner says:

    Where TF has this theo been?!

  11. HenryB says:

    I said last Saturday that it was like watching the old Arsenal.

    It’s like watching someone in your own family doing so well. 😀

  12. HenryB says:

    You did that, C, and I did not believe you!!! 😀

  13. HenryB says:

    If the finishing was just a touch better we could easily be 6 : 0 up.
    Altho in fairness their keeper is playing very well too.

  14. C says:

    Mustafi is a brilliant defender, he reads and reacts so quickly.

    The team is clearly building and Sanchez at CF with interchangeable parts on either side, who said it couldn’t work?!?!?!

    Our front 4 is devastating and Santi and Xhaka in midfield give us not only that defensive base(Santi is like those annoying little dogs that bite your ankles) but give us quick transitions and midfield control.

    Theo also played some really good passes as well.

    If not for 2 brilliant saves, this would be 4-0.

  15. C says:

    mesutsleftfoot,

    This Theo might not turn up every week but he if he can stay fit I will go on record and say he will more than he won’t which is great as well.

  16. mesutsleftfoot says:

    Interesting what happens once Basel tire more and Perez and Ox come on…

    Hope Theo DOESNT get called up to England, there’s an injury coming…

  17. C says:

    HenryB,

    This isn’t just old Arsenal but its how our youth play which means the system and style of play is unison throughout the club which is vital for players coming through.

  18. Orson Kaert says:

    Terrific first-half, must keep up the tempo and pressure for the second half. I’d love to see Theo get his hat-trick, but another Arsenal goal from anyone would put the seal on the tie.

  19. dukey says:

    really can’t believe how everyone on this fine blog turned on our Theo in the summer. Bastards the lot of you.

  20. dukey says:

    did I forget my smiley face thing. oh the joy(less) written word.

  21. Wavey says:

    C,

    This is the way Sanchez works as CF. Just trying to play him as a Giroud replacement was crazy and it was no surprise that he struggled when he was isolated. The players around him are working hard to ensure there is plenty of movement off the ball. Its been so about the hard work off the ball as much as it’s been the skill on it. It really does make you wonder why we have only tried with half of the formula in the past. Suddenly someone has turned the board over and pointed out there was more written on the other side.

  22. C says:

    Wavey,

    Yup, not just that but it plays to the strengths of our talented midfielders who even with Giroud tried to play little balls in and behind defenders. Ozil has freedom to roam and with Sanchez he can run and roam because Sanchez isn’t looking to play it back immediately but instead, turn to find space. This is how Arsenal played with mobile strikers prior to the change with Giroud(who is still a great Plan B).

  23. Highbury says:

    Barring an injury, it’s really hard to see a way back into the team for Giroud.

  24. Wavey says:

    C,

    It kind of shows that we were a bit one dimensional though. We played the same way no matter who was up front. Even when Walcott played there we tried to play that way. Crazy when you consider that Walcott and Sanchez wouldn’t be 6 foot if you put one on the others shoulders.

  25. Wavey says:

    What are we doing on the left? We are leaving their man in so much space all the time. Getting a bit complacent and they have their tails up.

    PSG are 3-1 up.

  26. C says:

    Who would hqve thought that Sanchez would miss 3 reqlly good chances ?!?!?

  27. C says:

    Wavey,

    Yup, it does, but it also shows that you don’t need a big target striker to get headed goals in the box. Think about this; Ozil, Sanchez and Theo have all scored headed goals and only Ozil is 6′.

  28. C says:

    Excellent subs as well.

    Bring on Perez for either Sanchez or Ozil.

  29. Wavey says:

    C,

    The difference between precision and throwing it up for the big man to hold up, or head towards goal.

  30. C says:

    I’ll be the first to admit that Arsene has gotten it right outside of the Liverpool match and initially with PSG.

    Gotta give credit where it is due.

  31. mesutsleftfoot says:

    Their keeper has kept this from being a cricket score

  32. Wavey says:

    Does all the hard work and then a shocking ball. Still confidence issues that seem to be letting him down.

  33. C says:

    Wavey,

    Was just thinking that. Chip to Ozil far post.

    Anyways, really good ball by Bellerin though.

  34. Wavey says:

    A fantastic result and their goal keeper was inspired in stopping it being double figures. Maybe a bit complacent in our final ball up front in the second half especially, but overall it was impressive.

  35. C says:

    Absolutely brilliant to watch, should have been more even with their GK (just think he is now the #1 for country with Cech retiring) have a brilliant match. Not just the attack but are willingness to work to get the ball back and shutting them down any chances they thought they had.

    Theo MOTM and I know their attack was snuffed out time and time again, but I thought Mustafi was brilliant as well.

    Now 8 matches unbeaten and scoring goals and creating chances for fun.

  36. Wavey says:

    A pretty good result for Celtic given the opposition. City conceding 3 is interesting. 100% record has gone then.

  37. Colts says:

    That was a bit good wasn’t it, I’ll rely on optimism from now on. We look fairly solid with a plan.

    Theo motm obviously, never seen his influence change a game so much. Had the ox, potentially iwobe, Jeff and Lucas to fight for a place. Landslide.

  38. Orson Kaert says:

    dukey,

    dukey,

    Can’t spend all evening on the blog. 😀

    Mustafi has made a huge difference to the defence, he’s just what we needed and what Koscielny needed too. A partner he can rely on not to get caught out too far up field without
    the pace or athleticism to recover, and a great sense of positioning to go with a good ability to read the game.

  39. Birdkamp says:

    On Walcott, how many footballers – especially English ones – have the capacity for introspection to bring about the kind of turnaround he’s made?

    It’s mighty impressive, and shows a few things. The most obvious is that we can watch the matches and follow the news, but will never glimpse the full story about why players are bought, sold, selected, dropped. Clearly AW and him knew something nobody else did at the start of the season.

  40. C says:

    I see Bill has disappeared now that the interchanging front 3 is working

  41. Damon says:

    Agree with most of the comments on last night. As important as the individuals were last night, for me the biggest difference is the style change. We look potent and direct. Or direct and therefore potent, whatever. It has given us balance, possibly because the opposition has to setup in a more balanced way? No lone man up top to act as a “node” outlet, leaving the other ten players to camp in our box and invite pressure, then tearing up field trying to support and pass through a defence that has had time to get set

    The front three hunting as a pack seems to be keeping them pegged back, allowing the shape behind to remain intact and move as a unit. I personally didn’t think Arsene had it in him for style shift, hence my demand for a new CF. And then when it didn’t immediately come, to drop Sanchez from the centre. Kudos to him, it looks pretty decent so far

    As Wavey says, the final ball needs a bit of work and our old friend complacency didn’t look too far away. I’d rather have three goal cushion before assuming a game is done. Concede at two up and there’s room for an unnecessary wobbly end to a game.

    The midfield axis behind those three seems to be the key to giving them the freedom to do what they’re doing at the moment. Plenty of options atm, I hope we can adequately rotate and keep them all fit. Up top there’s good competition too. Welbeck will fit in easily to this style when fit. If he can find his international scoring figures at club level, we’ve a helluva player there too

    Sanchez will need managing. He can’t play every game for every minute. As much as he might want to. It’ll be interesting to see who gets a run through the middle when he does sit some minutes out

    So, bits to work on and plenty to be proud about. I hope we can use the Cameron’s until the tricky trio of games in November to fine tune and improve, not revert back to old ways and complacency that the three points are in the bag before we’ve kicked off.

    I wonder if the two new boys of Xhaka and Mustafi have anything to do with the new and professional looking demeanour of our team? They all look like they mean it and believe it presently. It’s the interesting thing about mental strength, is when you actually have it, you don’t need to tell anybody that you’ve got bags of it. It just shows through. Anyway, good times for today 🙂

  42. AK says:

    I remember a certain December when Theo scored 5 goals then got injured and we didn’t see him for a long,long time. Cautious optimism gentlemen. Caution is key.

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