No Santi Clause Yet & United Hoodoos

So that’s it then. International football is safely ensconced in front of the log fire, hibernating for the winter. Arsenal’s players return to training today with all eyes focussed on Alexis and his hamstrings. A nation of shopkeepers has become a nation of voyeurs.

It says much about the state of the game when the story of the day in some papers is which clubs paid for a private jet for their players and who had to slum it with the mortals on a commercial flight. Arsenal, of course, had an answer to that question with a club spokesman claiming that some players snub private jets because there is more room on a commercial flight. Ahem.

All the while the world’s gaze was on Chile, Santi Cazorla is wondering when his Achilles will heal enough to be able to play again. Speaking on Cadena COPE, a Spanish radio station, the midfield wizard couldn’t give a definitive answer:

I still don’t know the exact time. I am trying to return as soon as possible to be with the team again, but I cannot say if it will be soon or if I still have a few weeks left

Brinkmanship from the club and player, hiding the fact that he is fit from prying Manchester United eyes or genuinely in doubt and unable to put a timescale on it? Probably something Arsène will update on after he’s fielded fifty questions about Alexis at this morning’s press conference.

We know that Cazorla is pivotal to Arsenal’s style of play and against Tottenham in particular, he was sorely missed. It’s probably Arsène’s biggest decision for the team this weekend. Solving the Alexis ‘problem’ is easy. He plays if fit, Giroud plays if not. Midfield? He has options. Elneny, Xhaka or Ramsey; two will stabilise, one will support the attack, with Alexis’ fitness deciding the issue.

Slotting Ramsey on the right only works if Theo is shifted left and Alex Iwobi drops to the bench. We know Arsène will set up to counter-attack so that line-up change is a distinct possibility. United played with a three-man central defence at Swansea and with their injury concerns will probably do the same again this weekend.

Wenger may choose to counter the threat of the wing backs with Ramsey, particularly if as expected, Carl Jenkinson is right back. Capable though he is, there’s no doubt United would view him as the ‘weak link’ in Arsenal’s defence.

Mesut Özil, suitably rested after his omission from the German squad, has a key role to play. A sharp performance from the maestro is needed this weekend if we’re to take three points at Old Trafford for the first time in a decade. According to Özil, we have the quality to win and showed it against Chelsea. A home game is different to this visit to a traditional bogey ground.

We’ve been in this situation before. Arsenal in a good position to take three points, up against a seemingly poor Manchester United side. Despite this, despite different United managers being in charge, we contrive to lose. Or at best, take a point:

  • 2013, Arsenal top of the table, United fifth; lose 1 – 0.
  • 2015, Arsenal third, closing in on second with United fourth; draw 1 – 1.
  • 2016, Arsenal third, knowing a win would leave them just two points behind Leicester whom they had just beaten at the Emirates; lose 3 – 2.

Never mind the Mourinho effect on Arsène’s mind, I think there’s an Old Trafford effect as well. Not just on Arsène either but players as well. We ‘freeze’ to some extent, rarely playing well in this fixture whilst United are up for it – for the most part – from the first whistle until the end of the game.

Some of that comes from the manager’s cautious approach and yes, he can’t go gung-ho into this game because, for the most part, United will pick us off but there’s a danger in going too far the other way. As much as that – and it’s the point Özil made – he needs the players to perform.

The past three seasons, we know we haven’t at Old Trafford and it’s a run which goes on longer than that. Last season’s two goals was only the second time in the last thirty-two years that we’ve scored more than once in a league match there. Thirty-two years! We’ve had some outstanding teams in that time but only scored one goal for the most part, each time we’ve visited Old Trafford.

With that kind of record, you need to be keeping clean sheets to take points. Six since the Premier League came into being; no wonder we don’t get many points, even when they are a pale imitation of the Ferguson era teams.

Much for the boss to ponder ahead of the weekend but fitness comes first.

’til Tomorrow.

34 thoughts on “No Santi Clause Yet & United Hoodoos

  1. You’re a busy man YW……from a man who chases his tail from the beginning of the week until the end Inreally don’t know how you fit it all in.

  2. Morning,

    Thanks yogi,
    Amazing stat that on the goals scored at OT. Can’t wait to watch the team back in action this wknd though as the stats highlight, this is always a fixture where I’m left staring teary eyed into an empty pint.
    Theo on the left? That would surprise me.

  3. I don’t know what to call for this weekends game-I really don’t.
    Whenever we should be the out and out favourites,Manyoo raise their game-every time.Even when they’re not performing particularly well against other teams they do against us.
    And……there’s Maureen……….
    Now ‘hate’ is a strong word YW……particularly levelled at someone I’ve never met………but I’d make an exception in his case-he’s such a smug,arrogant,self righteous,belligerent twat it’s untrue.

  4. A couple of bright spots for the weekend, Ibrahimovic is suspended and the granny shagging, prostitute using, overweight, over-the-hill, aging piss artist Rooney is unlikely to be available too.

    I’m not at all concerned about previous games, wasn’t it Henry Ford who said “history is bunk”?

  5. I’m not a fan of Ramsey and Jenks on the right together, nope, has a recipe for disaster with Ramsey wanting to play centrally and drifting there like he does and then Jenks’ Gibb’s like defending. I’ll pass.

    The other option is playing Mustafi at RB with Gabriel partnering Kos but I’m not sure we should give that ago against Manure.

    Actually, I would start 2 of Xhaka, Elneny, Le Coq; with Bellerin out, playing Ramsey centrally isn’t the best option because of his instincts to attack and not necessarily defend or be disciplined.

    Cech
    Jenks—-Mustafi—–Kos——Nacho
    ———Xhaka——-Le Coq———
    —————-Ozil—————-
    Theo——-Sanchez———Iwobi

    The only thing I might change is the midfield pivots with Elneny starting in place of either Xhaka or Le Coq.

  6. C,

    I did read during the week that Meets is fit again. If so he can play alongside Koscielny with Musafi at right-back.

  7. Orson Kaert,

    That would be the ideal situation not just for Manure but over the next month with Bellerin out. I wonder if Arsene would start him, even though we kind of need him right now. With no Ibra, I might be tempted with Mustafi/Mert/Kos/Nacho back 4.

  8. buckagh,

    Didn’t say that, actually my original thoughts were Gabriel or Holding next to Kos; but if Mert is fit then I would seriously have to think about starting him simply because I can’t see Arsene starting Holding over Gabriel, and if I’m honest, I don’t like Kos and Gabriel together that much, prefer one or the other with one of Mustafi or Mert.

    The other thing is, the pivots in front of them I’d prefer them be two of Xhaka/Elneny/Le Coq.

  9. C,
    Where is Debuchy, is he fit or available? I think this is an opportunity for Jenks to step up as IMO playing centre backs at full back positions invariably doesn’t work out well

  10. buckagh,

    For me, Debuchy is a non-starter, no need to really bring his name up. Generally I agree with you but Mustafi has played both RB and CB for both club and country so I’m not to worried about that. It is an opportunity for Jenks but the question then becomes, do we start him now or wait until after this match and the PSG matches?

  11. Great post Yogi

    I knew our results have always been poor but I did not realize just how ineffective we have been at Old Trafford over the years. When you can’t score you have to get results by keeping clean sheets and hopefully we can do that this weekend. Losing Bellerin hurts but we just have to be aware of the issue and we should be able to compensate for Jenks at RB. I would not move Mustafi to RB because the CB pairing is more important then whomever plays RB, IMO.

    I think the midfield will be Le Coq, Xhaka and Ozil

    It will be interesting to see who Arsene starts upfront. I think our front line of Alexis, Walcott, Iwobe started really well but the league has adjusted and they have lost momentum in the last few games and we have definitely been more of a scoring threat with Giroud at CF and Sanchez on the left. Iwobe started reasonably well be he has not scored this season and he has been struggling to make any positive impact over 4-5 games. That should not be a surprise to anyone who has watched the team for the last 10 years and it seems reasonable to start someone else wide left. I would use Theo wide right irregardless of who plays CF and wide left.

  12. Popped in and noticed that Jonny is not around again, so thought the following might help – one of my most favs;

    Hold on tight to your dream
    Hold on tight to your dream
    When you see your ship go sailing
    When you feel your heart is breaking
    Hold on tight to your dream.

    It’s a long time to be gone
    Time just rolls on and on
    When you need a shoulder to cry on
    When you get so sick of trying
    Just hold tight to your dream

    When you get so down that you can’t get up
    And you want so much but you’re all out of luck
    When you’re so downhearted and misunderstood
    Just over and over and over you could

    Accroches-toi a ton reve
    Accroches-toi a ton reve
    Quand tu vois ton bateau partir
    Quand tu sents — ton coeur se briser
    Accroches-toi a ton reve

    Hold on tight to your dream
    Hold on tight to your dream
    When you see the shadows falling
    When you hear that cold wind calling
    Hold on tight to your dream.

    Come on back, Jonny. 😀

  13. Yogi

    Interesting thoughts regarding the importance of Cazorla to our attack. Santi is any excellent player but we have spent huge amounts of money on our midfield and Ramsey is considered by some to be a world class midfielder. It would be different if we lost our leading scorer because we have so little scoring depth but it seems strange that we would struggle to compensate for the loss of one midfielder when we have so many options and we have the player that many would consider the worlds best #10 and perhaps the best creative midfielder in the world. You would think that he should be able to adjust and help compensate for the loss of Santi. Having a team that has such an intricate and fragile tactical set up that the things we try to do is disrupted by an injury or the loss of form form from our box to box midfielder does not seem like the recipe for consistency.

  14. We have so much depth and quality in our midfield that we don’t have enough minutes for players as highly rated as Wilshere and Ramsey and we had to move Iwobe to forward in order to use him. In theory, we should be able to compensate for the loss of any of our midfielders without much trouble.

  15. Bill,

    Even for the U21’s Iwobi played both wide and centrally.

    Do we really have so much depth? Jack left because he felt threatened by the signings of Xhaka and Elneny (he said so himself) so its not as if he was sent away. The thing is, Its the style of play from Santi, that pass and move but also his ability to play quickly in transition. I think both Xhaka and Elneny have it in them but Le Coq doesn’t necessarily. The other thing is, who is Ozil’s backup, Adelaide or Iwobi. So yes we have depth but its also the reason why certain players have higher quality and influence than others.

    Xhaka has settled, its clear and I think he will show everybody just how special of a talent he is especially with his range of passing.

  16. If we did not have a lot of depth then we would not have sent wilshere on loan. A lot of people thought Ramsey was one of the best players in Euro 2016 and we can’t find any minutes in the midfield for him.

    It would be different if we lost our leading scorer because we have so little depth of firepower upfront but we have plenty of options in midfield and we are loaded to the gills with creative players including arguably the worst highest rated creative midfielder. We should have the tactical nous to be able to make some adjustments to compensate for the loss of Cazorla. If our system is so fragile that we can’t adjust then we are in trouble. Achilles tendinitis can be slow to heal. You live in Washington so you have probably heard a lot in the local press about Josh Doctson the redskins rookie receiver and his Achilles problem.

  17. Bill,

    I did, but the difference between Santi and Doctson is that Santi was part of the core of our team not just with his deep play making, but his understanding with Ozil as well as his defensive duties that he does. Doctson is a rookie that they didn’t need.

  18. Two Owls,

    You are right it is a lovely poem, and one of my favourite songs by Electric Light Orchestra, and after watching them on You Tube I was distinctly moved by the words. 😀

    There was a little altercation involving a long-term ACLF blogger, Jonny, who has not been on here since, so I thought it would be nice to see him back on the blog.

  19. C,
    Thanks YW
    I’m not making a case for Debuchy given his attitude when he couldn’t get back in the team after his injuries and Bellerin is automatic first choice unquestionably, but we did pay 10 million for him and he was a more than decent left full, I think we should utilise the squad if possible, anyway its academic as YW points out. I would trust Jenks in any match as long as wide midfielders help out

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