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Glass half full


AND so began my 28th season as an Arsenal fan (29 if you include the last six or so matches of 88-89 – a decent time time to join you might say).

I felt glass-half full after this. Granted, we were pretty woeful at the back. But I’d expect nothing less with the players we had there and the reason for my optimism is that before too long that back three should look a lot more convincing. That isn’t to say we’ll break any defensive records but logic would suggest things will be better than this.

In midfield and attack I thought there was a fair deal to admire. Firstly, we played some really lovely stuff and scored some really good goals. But as much as that, there was also evidence of player improvement. Oxlade may have had greater games but I’ve never seen him look such a plausible starter if that makes any sense. And while Xhaka’s game was by no means perfect, it was so much more disciplined than a year ago. He even managed to make his late foul to stop a potential Leicester break look less bad than it actually was. Which makes a welcome change from last year’s almost unique ability to make his fouls appear worse than they actually were.

I thought Lacazette looked very plausible and I noticed that Ramsey looked very, very focused when he came on. And among the substitutes there were options aplenty. We should, if nothing else, be a decent watch. Hopefully we’ll be a lot more.

26 Responses to “Glass half full”

  1. slc gunner says:

    Great opening day win, even if we had our hearts in our mouths for large parts of the match. A win is a win. The new signings looked good. Some rust for sure, but plenty to build on.
    Many will harp on about poor defending on corners, but I think the midfielders and strikers were the main culprits for the goals. And it wasn’t their defending: it was giving the ball away in our half. Ozil for the 1st, Xhaka for the 2nd, and I can’t remember who for the 3rd. Holding was also at fault on a couple of occasions for dribbling out of the back. His general defending was fine. Ok, 2 goals conceded from corners is bad and no doubt we’ll hear from the anti-zonal marking brigade. But it’s more about doing your job, regardless of the system. Cech wasn’t great for the 1st and it was midfielders and forwards who weren’t great for the 2nd corner. Overall, we just need to be safer with the ball. It will be interesting to see what happens when the likes of BFG, Koscielny and Mustafi are ready. It’s hard to leave out Kolasinac, but do you leave out the Ox or make room for him elsewhere. Good problem to have.

  2. MDP says:

    Yep, very pleased to get the 3pts and plenty of positives in the offensive half of the field. Lacazette looks very tidy, good on the ball and ready to notch a great tally this season. I’m delighted to see Giroud hanging around, I’ve always liked him a lot and we now have proper depth/quality in an area that has looked light for too long.

    I’d put Welbeck and the Ox in the same bracket. Some very impressive, energetic and skilful running, causing much trouble to the opposition but end product isn’t always there. I still consider them as big positives as you need that driving force to unsettle the opposition and to drive Arsenal on as we saw in the cup final. End product can be improved. Hope Ox signs.

    I have mixed feelings on Ozil. As ever you can see real real quality from him but too often I question if someone else could do that roll more effectively, more consistently and for less money.

    Then you have the central midfielders. I have no doubt that Xhaka will have a much improved season and contribute loads. I loved Ramsey’s commitment and desire when he came on well and truly up for it. No doubting his quality either. I’ve always admired Elneny’s engine and work rate but as a slightly more deeper player I don’t think he’s up to it. Once again you feel we need a more defensive, ball winning midfielder operating behind either Xhaka or Ramsey. An upgrade on Elneny and Coquelin. Two players I like for many reasons but accept there are much better players out there. We may have the numbers but a ruthlessness is required in this area if we are to challenge again. Our make shift defence needed that protection last night and this position was as much to blame for our frailties as our defence.

    Onto the makeshift defence. We all know the quality of Monreal and Holding and the impressive start by Kolasniac who is unsurprisingly becoming a fan favourite, he’s a monster. But, that defence always looked frail to me before we kicked a ball. Monreal and Kolasniac look fine to fill in on the left of a back 3 but both together always felt like trouble and so it showed. I question why Callum Chambers didn’t make even the bench but sadly assume he’s on his way out of the club. Mustafi must be borderline fit but why be on the bench if he didn’t get on even for 5mins? I also question why this seems the norm for the start of the season. Can we blame injuries and suspensions in this case? It just felt very Arsenal. Personally I’d be looking to ship out Gabriel and be in the running for Van Dijk.

    I think we have a decent squad and I’m excited about a number of things mentioned above. We will be better than last season but, so will our rivals. It’s been another summer where we haven’t really grabbed it by the balls and made a statement yet. I don’t expect to either.

  3. 80's Gooner says:

    I much prefer Friday night to Monday night football. Arsenal have a good track record playing on Friday nights, starting with that legendary evening at Anfield & Henry sticking 4 past Leeds during the invincibles run in

    Arsenal have had a Gilberto sized hole in the centre of the midfield for the last nine years which dose not look like it is going to get filled anytime soon but I would like to see Kolasnic play there now that the Ox has proved that he is an adequate left wingback. Cech looks past it, Ozil drifted in & out of the game, Holding made a few errors, however, these would have been fewer if the BFG had played along side him (surely he & Mustafi have to start next week against Stoke)

    I was impressed with Lacazette’s work rate last night (something that Stewart Robson had questioned) I would be suprised if he dosen’t get at least 20 goals this season.

    Will we have a better season this year? Yes
    Will we win the league? probably not

    I predict some more rediculous results this season 3-3, 4-4′s defeat snapped from the jaws of victory & vice versa & expect to hear plenty about spirit & mental strength

  4. Elvis says:

    Just relieved to get the win. With a very makeshift back three due to suspension, injury and late returns from internationals, and without our best player, three points are all that matters. Especially with dirty 9 man Chelsea hilariously losing at home to Burnley and Liverpool handing two points in injury time to Watford.

  5. PD says:

    A lot of positives but the usual fears…..
    The defence was a shambles but you have to be fair to them given those who were missing. It will improve. Kolasinac looks a real player it has to be said ! He has to play. Then I think it’s whether you pick the Ox or Bellerin on the right.

    The negatives ?
    Firstly, same conversation as ever on the midfield. Elneny is decent but no more than that. Who do you partner with Xhaka as first choice who is good enough to make a title winning partnership ? Answer : no-one in our current squad.
    Secondly, Ozil. Yet again, at 2-3 down & desperately needing a goal he gets two good chances & both attempts are absolutely piss poor. Time & time again, he bottles it. I remember when Real sold him, their president talked about his lack of mental strength. We should have listened. The fact that no-one is in for him now despite him having one year left tells us of where he stands in world football. What also annoys me is with Giroud / Lacazette / Welbeck / Alexis, I see real opportunities for us to go 4-4-2 in some games…. the only reason we can’t try it is bloody Ozil !
    If we give him 250k a week, I will despair. He’s just not worth it.

    Where we will finish ? Top 4 as much as we can hope for realistically let’s be honest.

    As for Chelsea…..much as it pains me how our club is in thrall to Arsene, it is surely a better situation than being a club where the manager is deemed an irrelevance. They seem to just not care if Conte walks away which is extraordinary given he won the league in his first season playing really good football with a really average side. No way he’ll see out the season. A club with zero class whatsoever.

  6. Elvis says:

    PD – I see our current best 11 as Cech – Kolasinac, Koscielny, Mustafi, Holding, Ox – Xhaka, Ramsey – Ozil behind Sanchez and Lacazette.

  7. slc gunner says:

    I agree with 1 exception: BFG for Holding for now. He’s still learning and I think BFG can still do a job in a back 3, although I would not play him as 1 of 2 in a back 4.

  8. Elvis says:

    slc – I hesitated between Mertesacker and Holding. BFG against Vardy’s pace on Friday would have been even more nerve wracking than it actually was! But he was man if the match in the Cup final and can clearly still do a job.

    That leaves us with some pretty solid options in the squad: Bellerin, Monreal, Chambers, Gabriel, Coquelin, Wilshere if he can get fit and if he stays, Elneny, Welbeck, Walcott, Giroud. Not to mention the youngsters coming through. And Joel Campbell of course. I don’t rate Ospina highly.

  9. PD says:

    I’m not sure we’ll stick with the 3 at the back. If we don’t I think we need to get Alexis in the 10 role & drop Ozil. If you’re a defender what’s scarier ? The no10 who can pass better than anyone or the one who can pass through you, run at you or simply bury it from 25 Yards if nothing else on. Our whole set up is based around what suits Ozil currently…. & he’s simply not justifying it.

  10. slc gunner says:

    I can certainly see us moving away from the back 3 – I don’t think it’s the manager’s favourite system, but he also doesn’t like major changes on a regular basis. I think we need the back 3/5 when you have Xhaka and Ramsey as the pair in front. Ozil is in my 11 for the current system, but I think Iwobi and Welbeck are well capable of challenging. I do think Ozil ran his socks off on Friday, even if he did bottle a couple of chances.
    Yes, Sanchez is scarier on all counts!

  11. Elvis says:

    One of the pundits, was it Mark Lawrenson?, said after the game that he didn’t think Arsenal would win the title because they don’t have a leader – meaning a vocal, inspirational extrovert on the pitch like Tony Adams or Roy Keane or John Terry. Is he right? And if that is a requirement, who is the best man we have for that role?

    It’s amazing how many introverts who are quiet on the pitch or who speak little English are in this squad: Walcott, Sanchez, Ozil, Koscielny, Ox, Cech, Bellerin… Lacazette looks similar.

    Coquelin isn’t really in the starting 11. Kolasinac is too new and doesn’t speak enough English. Monreal? Ramsey? Mustafi? Xhaka?

  12. MDP says:

    I think the back 3 is all we can go for at the moment and I’m a fan of it for that reason. In my opinion, it’s not just about accommodating Ozil, it’s equally about the lack of a top class defensive, ball winning midfielder to protect the back four. It’s also about the shortcomings of our defenders where Mert, Mustafi, Holding and Bellerin all look more comfortable with more support around them. You can get away with playing Xhaka and Ramsey together in this system with a bit more support behind.

    If we really want to challenge I think a top class defensive midfielder is a must and even a centre half. Then we could look at changing formations. Firm things up at the back and I don’t doubt we have what it takes going forward.

    I’ll be glad when this transfer window shuts and we know where we stand. I see potential pot holes in many directions. We’ve got dead wood clogging up the wage bill and Alexis, Ozil and the Ox all able to walk on a free next summer. That’s a lot of money to ditch when a potentially large rebuild is on the horizon with Mert, Kos, Monreal and Cech all pushing into their 30′s. How many players will we need next summer? Shouldn’t we be future proofing a bit? That’s why I liked the sound of Lemar coming in to fill some of the void that Sanchez could leave in 12 months. We haven’t done enough yet this summer. I fear, we are not far from an unsettled dressing room, more media speculation and disruption and the fans losing their shit!

  13. PD says:

    MDP, agreed the 3 at the back isn’t specifically for Ozil & is more to account for the midfield issues….my point was more when we switch to a back 4 (& people shouldn’t overlook that at least 3/4 games now in this run of victories we have reverted to a back 4 in order to win the game) Ozil limits what we can/can’t do. …….

    Totally agreed on the wage bill. We are paying the price this summer for Arsene’s mistakes of the last few seasons. Some poor signings & some players who have been allowed to drift on without improvement means a LOT of dead wood around the place that we are really struggling to shift…..

  14. MDP says:

    Interesting point PD and agreed that Ozil limits what we do going forward. He’s contributed to the long running unbalanced look to the side along with the glut of box to box midfielders we have opposed to defensive ones. He fits into the new system or a 4-2-3-1 but an over indulgence for not enough reward if we’re being brutally honest, in such an important area of the pitch.

    I still see the new system as more about defence than attack. By my reckoning, since we first deployed it against Middlesbrough we’ve played 11 competitive games (incl Charity Shield) and reverted to a back four in the last 20 mins in 3 of those games (Leicester 1-0, Sunderland 2-0 and Leicester 4-3). It makes sense that in those games when we were chasing the win that throwing caution to the wind and removing a defender in favour of an attacker made sense and worked on all 3 occasions. I don’t see this as a failure of the new system because a defensive strategy seems to work best most of the time, not all of the time. I visibly feel the frailties look less apparent in this system and until we firm up defense in the middle and at the back it’s the best option with the players we have right now.

  15. MDP says:

    I should also say that playing Monreal and Kolasniac as well as a below par performance from Holding against Leicester made us look exposed yet again. I felt this was more about personnel than formation. Mert and Mustafi should be back for the next game.

  16. Elvis says:

    MDP – on formation, very well put, that is exactly how I see it. I feel we are basically more stable and better balanced with 3 at the back. The FA cup final was its finest hour. I wonder where we would have finished if we had played with a back three between January and March. Probably in the top four. Ultimately though everyone playing really well on the day is more important than formation.

    Wenger is always going to play Ozil when he’s fit; he clearly rates him as a player and, to be fair, you don’t get to be an automatic starter in a World Cup winning side by being a bit rubbish.

  17. MDP says:

    Arsene certainly seems intent on persevering with certain players, a trait that seems to be part of his now management style. He certainly puts a lot of faith into the players he has and almost sees it as personal challenge to make it work where most other top managers are prepared to hold their hands up and cut their losses. Some say he’s stubborn and bloody minded, it’s hard to argue with that.

    Anyone who watches Ozil for any of period of time will know he has qualities that have warranted plaudits in the game. But, he is an indulgence much like Pires was at times. Difference is, Pires delivered week in and week out. Ozil’s more similar to Arshavin and will most likely go the same way.

  18. PD says:

    Elvis, to be fair I don’t think anyone has ever said Ozil is a bit rubbish. The problem is there are two players in our squad who the club are considering giving 250k+ pw to – that puts them in a different league to the rest of the squad; elite players who are out on their own compared to their colleagues. Alexis justifies that distinction; Ozil doesn’t even come close.

  19. Elvis says:

    PD – fair point, I agree Ozil doesn’t merit Sanchez wages. On that score Sanchez is probably in a class of his own in this squad. Let’s see what Lacazette develops into though. He’s made a good start and was prolific in Ligue Un.

  20. slc gunner says:

    Gabriel is gone. I think it’s a good decision. I would much prefer to keep Chambers. Gabriel is ok as a one-on-one defender, but he lacks positional awareness and tends to be a bit rash in his tackling. There were issues with the language barrier as well. He just never established himself. Chambers is young and still learning, but my opinion is that he is has more smarts about him. He is also a better footballer (funny saying that given Gabriel is Brazilian).
    Only 5 or 6 more outs to go.

  21. MDP says:

    I think it’s probably a good decision assuming we don’t sell Chambers as well and go in to the season a bit light on centre backs. Can’t say I expected it but I’d like to see Chambers get a chance. I’ve always liked the idea of Holding and Chambers forming a strong English partnership at the back in years to come. Not sure if that is just wishful thinking? Another part of me is hoping it might spell a dip into the transfer market to acquire a world class centre half whoever that might be. This in light of the fact that Mert is on the verge of retirement and Kos clearly has issues with his achilles. Again probably wishful thinking.

  22. PD says:

    Yeah, fingers crossed for Lacazette Elvis. big ask in his first season but we need him to get at least 25 goals for us to have a good season.

    Yeah, good decision on Gabriel. Could never fault his desire but just not quite good enough. Maybe now the Exit door is open, we might get a few more through it !! Gibbs, Jenks etc, don’t be shy lads…

    Great interview with the BFG in The Guardian yesterday (available on their website) for anyone who hasn’t seen it. He really comes across as a good bloke, not your average modern pro.

  23. PD says:

    Same old Arsenal…

  24. slc gunner says:

    If Xhaka simply holds his position rather than having a rush of blood after giving the ball away, then there is no goal. We’ve played a lot worse at Stoke, but you get punished for stupid mistakes. If only Welbeck was a better finisher, he would be a great player. Keeps letting him down.

  25. PD says:

    To be fair slc, it’s pointless blaming individuals, the team is the problem…..unless of course it’s Arsene…..

  26. MDP says:

    Depressing. What a shambles!

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