Friendlies, Alexis, Ox and A Bit More

Well, there we have it. Yesterday’s gremlins were overpowered after promising to pay the ransom and get the site back to its usual high standards of slack-jawedness. More or less the performance levels that Arsenal put in yesterday.

It was a friendly and let’s not forget that. Some did as social media imploded in some quarters over the 3 – 0 defeat. Not enough praise for David Ospina taking out Pedro in my view and too much focus on players who may or may not make the grade. We’ll find that out in competitive matches, not friendlies.

Arsène claimed the players were tired and that’s why we lost. Fair enough, as long as they get rested and ready for Leicester. Next weekend’s Emirates shindig will give us more of an idea about the starting line-up for the opening weekend.

There are things to take away from the tour but as long as players are working toward match fitness, that’s all that matters.

And then the manager gets to tell Alexis that he’s staying. Wenger was incredulous about claims of PSG interest in Sanchez and I think people forget how close he is to their set-up. If PSG wanted Alexis, it would be quietly dealt with via the manager and presented as a fait accompli to the press.

Anyway, whilst the Parisians are wealthy, can they afford another £100m on transfer fees and associated costs having spent £200m in Neymar? Yes…

Personally, I think Alexis wants City, or Pep Guardiola if we’re honest, and will walk next summer. We’re still in a contractual pickle and that situation is unlikely to improve any time soon. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain reportedly interests Chelsea and Liverpool. Although let’s be honest anything with a pulse interests Liverpool at the moment.

Which came first? The Ox or ‘Cott?

According to the media, Ox is more concerned with playing time than cash for his deal. I’m not sure any guarantee can be given. While he played well in Bellerin’s place, his versatility is such that it undermines his claim for a regular starting place. Rather than focus on central midfield, he plays right, left and anywhere but centre.

Arsène isn’t  sure of his best position and 3 – 4 – 3 doesn’t give a fanfare and Monty Python animated pointing finger to a particular role for him. It’s something he has to come to terms with. Neither Conte or Klopp is looking at Ox for a central role and probably only Liverpool will offer him a guarantee of playing time. Football’s a competitive industry and only the elite players are certainties in the starting line-up.

However, Arsène shares some of that burden. Ox never made any secret of his desire for a central role and Wenger need to tell him whether he had a future there or not. Not least for his own mind and knowing whether he will sell or not. The Frenchman is reticent to sign players lest they ‘kill’ a career, seemingly preferring to keep players and killing their career himself.

Is Ox a central midfielder? Alongside a defensively minded player, it could work but in the same way question marks still exist over the Xhaka – Ramsey axis, I’m not convinced that Ox is the solution or worthy of usurping either from the XI.

Will that come with time? Maybe; however, when is he going to get the time to prove it worthwile as a long-term solution?

Taxing Matters

Ox isn’t a player I would sell immediately; there are others such as Gibbs, Jenkinson, etc., but nor is he a player for which you can turn down a £35m offer. He’s not indispensable but certainly less disposable than others. Gibbs, vaguely on that subject, isn’t joining West Brom.

Arsenal rejected a £10m offer from Albion, adding in a ‘Pulis tax’ but killing the deal in the process. Playing hardball on selling squad members doesn’t make the club better negotiators; £10m for either Gibbs or Jenkinson seems a good fee, particularly as we were prepared to let Debuchy walk to Nice.

Plenty of work to do in the next six weeks in both incoming and outgoing departments.

’til Tomorrow.

30 thoughts on “Friendlies, Alexis, Ox and A Bit More

  1. Thanks for the post Yogi.

    It was just a friendly and is basically meaningless. However, the notion that our players were tired seems like a lame excuse since the whole squad had the summer off and we just started training and none of them has played a lot of minutes in any of the preseason game. If they are tired now then how what is going to happen in March and April. For whatever reason the players were not mentally engaged. I have no problem if they take a mental holiday during the preseason. The question is can we avoid our annual mental meltdowns that cause us to be a 1/2 season team every year?

  2. Nice one Yogi.

    One would think that by now Wenger would have worked out the best way to utilise players like Ramsey and the Ox. They have after all been at the club long enough for him to recognise their particular skills and to have coached them sufficiently to play a defined role.

    Ramsey has had plenty of chances to make a breakthrough in central midfield without being entirely convincing .

    The Ox is still used as a utility player asked to fill in either as a wing back, on either flank, or as a midfielder with no clearly defined purpose. I wonder what role both Klopp and Conte see him fulfilling.

  3. To kill a mocking bird Yogi?

    I saw the film many years ago and tried to read the book too, I don’t think I understood either.

    Still the book won the Pulitzer Prize for the author, Harper Lee, so it must have been pretty good.

  4. Regarding Ox, I hope we keep him. I don’t think he will ever be a great central midfielder. Howover, he was easily our second best player during the doldrum months in the second half of last season and he has the potential to be a dynamic difference making player at one of the wingback positions. Ozil is slowing down and while he can have an occasional moment of brilliance he spends a lot more time being invisible and his ability to have a consistent positive influence over the course of a long season is clearly waning. If Sanchez leaves we have a real lack of impact players who can make something happen and change the game. We tend to get bogged down in midfield and our transitions from defense to attack slows down and we need someone who can make something happen. Ox can clearly be a game changer and disrupt the opposition defense when he is running forward on the wing with the ball at his feet.

    I am not so sure that Bellerin should be penciled in as the automatic first choice at RWB. He lost his position if the second half of last season for a good reason. Alternatively its possible Arsene will play Kolasinac at the left sided player in a back 3 and use Bellerin as RWB and Ox as LWB.

  5. Orson

    I think RWB is Ox’s best position. However we also have Bellerin so playing Ox in that position is no a slam dunk. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out over the course of the season.

    With regard to Ramsey, I think its clear that the box to box role is his best position. In the past we have always played best with a more dynamic player in the box to box role and with Cazorla out we don’t have anyone other then Ramsey who can be an impact player in that role. I think the desire to have a dynamic player who can make something happen in the box to box role is the reason for wanting to use Ox in that position. Unfortunately I don’t think Ox is suited for a long term role in central midfield because of his tendency to lose the ball.

  6. YW,

    I’ll give it another try, perhaps the intervening fifty odd years will enable me to enjoy it more.

  7. A super balanced Post YW. 🙂

    I loved the book too – read it at college, and it certainly hit hard on an explosive topic and showed the racially charged inequalities which frankly still exist today – and I believe it went down like a lead balloon at the time it was first released.

    Harper Lee published a follow up book just before her death, in which she portrayed Atticus the white defence lawyer, previously portrayed as an all round good guy, as being intrinsically racist himself.

    I haven’t read that yet.

    Orson – in the book Atticus explained that it was OK to kill bluejays, but it was a sin to kill a mocking bird — because, as it was later explained they mocking birds do no harm and never hurt no one.
    This was in reference to the innocent black guy accused, wrongly, of raping a white girl by witnesses giving phoney evidence
    She wasn’t and he didn’t — but he was shot and killed anyhow trying to escape from prison.

    There you go – not a bad catch up for you. 😀

  8. I suspect that the Oxo Kid is more worried about getting minutes on the pitch, having ridden the pine for most of his Arsenal career – when he wasn’t injured.

    The signing of Mahrez or Lemar would probably push him (Ox) back onto the bench, especially as Belli is not going to Barca and leaving the RB role free at the Gunners for him as a wingback in a 3 : 4 :3

    AW seemed in his last interview to revert back to his old standby ‘we are open to more transfers’ — which one has learned over the years means ‘there is no chance of that – ‘unless they are outgoing’.

  9. Forgot to say the Harper Lee follow up book is called ‘Go Set a Watchman’ — many think it was actually a prequel to Mocking Bird – but until I read it I could not say.

  10. Bill,

    I’m not convinced at all that Ramsey can handle the box to box midfield role. His transition play is too slow, his passing is poor and he doesn’t help out at all with any of the defensive duties. Ramsey is more a threat in the number 10 role where he can get involved higher up the pitch and not have to worry too much about covering. That means he is directly vying for the position with Ozil, but I can’t see Ozil being dropped to the bench very often if we do give him his bumper pay rise. Which will mean we end up with Ramsey and Ozil on the pitch at the same time and have a very weak midfield.
    Ramsey’s performance yesterday was typical of his time at Arsenal; he presented the biggest threat on the pitch and got on the end of a couple of chances. The problem for me is that he doesn’t often take those chances and if he’s not scoring or creating he doesn’t add much value. We shouldn’t be talking about Ramsey in the box to box role, we should be talking about buying someone a lot better to do the job.

  11. I agree with Bill, Xhaka is the main issue. We have no cover at all in feont of our defense. I’m hoping the links to William Carvalho are true and if we got him and Lemar then I would be happy.

  12. If Wenger is so determined that Alexis is staying, shouldn’t he be back in training fairly soon to start working with Lacazette? The Emirates Cup would seem like a good tournament to test out the partnership. I don’t see how it can make any sense to leave to the Community Shield, or even the game against Leicester for their first outing.

  13. Wavey

    I understand completely your point of view and perhaps you are right. However, I the biggest problem with our midfield defense is Xhaka. He plays the deepest spot in the midfield but he is a defensive midfielder in title only. He does not really play great defense.

  14. Bill,


    Not sure I agree with you there Bill. I think it’s about time we gave the Ox keys for the engine room. It may not work but he has the dynamics and power to make it work.

    Ofc it’s not gonna work at day one. But give him the role and and minutes to get used to it and we have a potential WC central midfielder. Obviously Wenger doesn’t see him there but he’s only been given the opportunity a couple times and after losing the ball been dropped.

    Give him a long run and maybe we have our new central midfielder😊.

  15. Wavey,

    Wengers not too bothered to get Sanchez and Lacazette playing together as Lacazette is Sanchez replacement. It’s he and Giroud that he wants getting used to each other.

  16. Bill,

    I think we’re all more or less saying the same thing, ultimately the players on the pitch reflect the managers approach and philosophy. Which is that a defensive midfielder isn’t an necessity, it’s a unpalatable option that he deploys (in the form of Le Coq) when he absolutely has to. He’d much rather have Xhaka playing nice passes and Ramsey attacking offensive runs and leave the defending to the back three (or four – even then it’s really two the way we use FB’s) . It doesn’t work in the PL but Wenger’s not for changing his view on how he game ‘should’ be played. For a guy so long in the game he’s terribly naive.

  17. Pistol Fish,

    Mustafi is not back yet…. Same goes for Sanchez, Holding, Chambers…. They were all involved in summer competitions for their countries. Let’s not preempt Wenger’s decision on Laca-Sanchez. I still believe Giroud is leaving.

  18. I’m not worried about Sanchez and Lacazette’s partnership as Sanchez has played with a similar style player in Vargas for YEARS. The thing is, Lacazette offers so much and because he was a winger and Sanchez and Ozil play best with this sort of CF, they will gel and chances and goals will be scored.

    Xhaka, he more of a sweeper than the more traditional or modern DM. He sits infront of the CB’s and is best when he can read what is going on infront of him and make interceptions, tackles and/or presses the ACM in his area and can play from deep. The thing that he isn’t good at, yet, is playing in space ahead of him like most think of the modern DM’s like Kante, Seri, or Veratti. Xhaka is more in the style of Busquets for Barca, Martinez for Bayern, Motta for PSG or Matic for Chelsea. All those players are paired with a CM/box-to-box type that does the busy/pressing work such as Raktik or Gomes for Barca, Vidal, Tolisso or Thiago for Bayern, Veratti, Matiudi and/or Raboit for PSG for Kante or Chelsea. Ramsey isn’t now nor will he EVER be that sort of player and its why I bang on about Elneny in that position because he might not be world class but he does that role brilliantly and consistently but its why I would gladly have Goretzka, Aiser, Rafinha or Sergi Samper. Santi fills that role but is more a little nibbling dog that the big physical type most want. Hell, Kante isn’t the big physical player but he does the job brilliantly and that is what we need. If Arsene doesn’t buy than putting Elneney there is the best option because he not only presses and close down space but is superb in picking out the right pass and has a really high futbuling IQ to know where to go with his next pass before he receives the ball. Ox doesn’t have the ability to consistently make the right pass or have the close control you need in midfield, Ramsey needs to many touches more often than not and Le Coq is limited offensively (which is strange because he came to us as a ball playing DM but has forgotten how to pass).

  19. If PSG sign Neymar, then Sanchez honestly is out of options until next summer when he can leave for free and even then there are younger players coming through like Dybala, Dembele of Celtic, Dembele of Dortmund, Aubameyang, Pulsic, Moura, Madrid players, Barca players like Paco who are all younger that top managers will feel like they can get for less than Sanchez but will get more from over the course of their contract.

  20. Ok, I’m a bit slow (in many respects). But what’s TKAMB to do with this? Isn’t it AOAM ? TTFN.

  21. Koscielny has committed his future to Arsenal, he has stated that he has no wish to leave. “I am just here to enjoy my job and give everything for the team”.

    Obviously Marseille’s reported interest in signing him has not progressed, so it’s important for him to restate his commitment to Arsenal. Or am I just being a tad cynical?

  22. dfb

    I’m too polite to point out that it’s not TKAMB but Anatomy of a Murder.

    So the cryptic clue comes from crows. Many crow about victory in meaningless matches while defeat brings a similar reaction. Crowing…crows…a murder of crows.

    You see there is madness behind the lunacy of the daily photo!

  23. YW,

    Yogi – thank god you pointed out that Jimmy Stewart was NOT in To Kill a Mockingbird. Jimmy Stewart turned down the main role because he thought the story was too lefty!

  24. No way is Ox a central midfield player. I can’t think of anyone less suitable.

    He goes in hard, but is not a good tackler.
    He can’t head the ball.
    Poor positional sense. He is rarely in the right place at the right time.
    He switches off, when we lose possession.

    His main strength is going past people. He is quick and strong. He has a good shot.
    That’s basically it. He shouldn’t be overplaying his hand. No team in the top half of the Premiership would buy him to play central midfield.

  25. HenryB,

    Sorry henry but the reference , to kill a mocking bird was a sin was regarding, boo radley, think thats the spelling, who saved scout

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