Arsenal produce no surprises

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Morning boys and girls – James here with a match report for your delectation.

Last night provided a game of very few surprises. Beating QPR shouldn’t come as a surprise. Starting slowly wasn’t a surprise. Rob Green making his customary three good saves a season against us was no surprise. Another goal from Giroud should also not have shocked anyone. Karl Henry being a contemptible shit house – you know the drill. The least surprising element though? Conceding a daft goal in the dying embers of a game to ensure some pant soilery for our fans.

When the teams came out I was concerned by the lightweight nature of the side, along with a lack of rotation. Cazorla needs a rest in my view, as does Alexis (who was fantastic in the second half). I was disappointed to see Gibbs keep his place, however Nacho is nursing a slight injury. Theo Walcott must also be wandering what he has to do to get a game – the writing seems to be firmly on the wall regarding his Arsenal future – more on that later.

The game started in familiar fashion, with QPR spoiling play in the middle, particularly through Sandro, whilst playing the long game up to Zamora. Whilst they were getting little joy from this tactic, we struggled to get a foothold in the game. Our passing was poor and we looked nervous, as we often do in the opening stages of away fixtures – Wenger acknowledged as much in his post game interview. Gabriel, who came in for Koscielny alongside Mertesaker, was winning a lot of balls in the air and generally looked composed; however he needs to learn the defending basics 101 rule – don’t let the ball bounce. He did it against Everton and again last night – fortunately neither occasion has cost us. Sadly he tweaked his hamstring, meaning Koscielny was prematurely called in action. This was a blow, as a night off is probably what Kos needs, given he could barely move after the Everton match, walking off the pitch like he has a dick made of glass.

Whilst QPR monopolised territory, they rarely threatened, save for an Austin snapshot which whistled wide of the upright and a Matty Phillips free kick that evaded all and sundry in the box; with Ospina making a decent save to palm it away. As the half drew on we began to create chances, with Bellerin and Gibbs making real inroads. We were denied a clear penalty when Bellerin delivered a cross and Ozil, with the goal at his mercy, was tugged back cynically by Karl Henry. It was a straight red card and a pen, but I doubt many were surprised Jim Friend bottled it.

As an aside, I read a brilliant article by Matthew Syed in the Times yesterday about Type I and Type II errors and how this affects referees decision making. Essentially, referees are terrified of making a Type I error (calling for a foul, penalty, etc.) when there is any doubt; however Syed makes the point that this is just as damning as making a Type II error (not giving it through fear of making a mistake). Failing to give a penalty is just as damaging as awarding a wrongful penalty; but referees are acutely aware that a Type I error will be scrutinized to a much higher degree than a Type II. Interesting stuff and certainly something I think we saw last night.

Half time clearly refocused us and we came out with renewed vigour, posing a clear threat out wide. It was evident Wenger had spotted a weakness at right full back for QPR (he was a teenage debutant, I believe), and instructed Gibbs to press on at will, which he did with relish, with his overlapping runs creating space for Alexis who had the right back on toast.

Our opening goal was started by a precise Ozil pass from inside our half, culminating with Alexis teeing up Gibbs on the edge of the 6 yard box. Whilst the ball fell fortuitously to Giroud off a QPR defender, the beautiful Adonis had to be sharp and alert to prod the ball passed Green – another goal for the Frenchman, who continues his excellent run of form and fortunately appears to have shaken off memories of the Monaco horror show.

Alexis really should have made it 2-0 when an error from Caulker allowed him through one on one. He never looked confident however; as he dawdled to allow Green to make the save – I feared the miss could prove decisive. I needn’t have worried, as the Chile’s Best Abs of 2009 finalist soon made amends. Picking the ball up inside the QPR box, Alexis jinked his way passed a couple of hapless defenders before slotting the ball in at the near post. Not only was it a great goal, but it was hugely welcome for Alexis to rediscover a scoring touch before Monday’s trip to Old Trafford. He was brilliant in the second half yesterday and the goal was just rewards.

We continued to create chances, with Bellerin impressing (again) down the right, making mincemeat of their left side and delivering some telling balls into the box. It’s so refreshing in the post-Sagna era to have a full back who believes he can beat his man and can actually deliver consistently decent crosses.

Ozil hit the post after a stunning piece of skill where he turned on the ball as it bounced – I’m sure you’ve all seen the GIFS – before hitting a shot off his right. Ozil was excellent all night and was so incisive in everything he did. He’s coming into his own of late and long may it continue. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you don’t understand what Ozil brings to a team you’re either not watching closely enough, or you just don’t understand the game.

As has been our wont in recent weeks however, we conspired to make the final five minutes of the game far nervier than it should have been. I’d been screaming at Wenger to make a change to freshen things up; however the reticence to do so was bizarre. We had a strong bench yet didn’t utilise it until the final 10 minutes or so when Ramsey and WELBZ came on.

QPR’s goal came as a result of dog shit defending from Koscielny and Gibbs who both stood off him, gave him time to turn and then pick his spot – criminal at this level. The greater crime though was by Ospina. He should have saved the shot, given it was on the side of the goal he was covering and the distance from which Austin shot. I’m convinced a bigger and crucially, better, keeper saves that. This bizarre experiment has to end and Szcz should be reinstated. I’m not his biggest fan, but in my view he has been punished for his only two mistakes of the season (vs. Southampton) and having a crafty fag. Ospina in his short spell in the side has made considerably more errors. Clearly the writing is on the wall for the Pole and if he doesn’t regain his place this season, he’s offski. I’m told by those that are far better informed than I am that a world class goalkeeper is top of our list this summer – no complaints from me there.

Fortunately we were able to see out the remaining minutes with relatively few scares, but this really is a habit we need to kick out. For top level professionals to constantly lose concentration and switch off when we think the game is won is poor. For me, this comes from the manager and it needs urgent attention. Whilst we can get away with it against the likes of Palace and QPR, better sides won’t be so forgiving.

Saying that, the game represents a vital three points given pretty much everyone else won last night, including United providing some more shit housery to score in the most hilarious circumstances. Van Gaal may not be a top manager anymore, but he is certainly a lucky one.

Whilst our performances haven’t been top class, we are building consistency at just the right time of the season. My hope is the return of Ramsey will add balance to the midfield and we can really crack on during the business end of the campaign – a win at Old Trafford would certainly accelerate that momentum we’re building.

A word too for Coquelin, who was superb last night. He was constantly putting out fires, winning headers and then using the ball calmly and intelligently. Wenger admitted yesterday that he thought his Arsenal career was going flaccid; making an erect Coq an even more pleasant surprise. Keep it up son.

To end, I’d just like to touch on the Theo-situation. To my mind we will sell him this summer. I like Theo as a player as he provides genuine end product and is capable of scoring in big games, however his stock has fallen off a cliff in the last 12 months. This is in part down to his injury, but more down to the acquisitions of WELBZ and Alexis. They add genuine pace and goal threat, but their contribution to general play and the defensive side of the game puts Theo to shame. The fact he has barely played since he regained fitness is telling and I’d be amazed if we offered him a significant increase on his current deal. If he’s willing to accept a contract extension at the same level, maybe he’ll stay, but given how difficult his people were to deal with 18 months ago, I think that’s unlikely. It would be a shame to see him go, but were we to bring in a replacement of real quality to supplement what we have already (I’m thinking of someone of Alexandre Lacazette’s ilk), then I can see the logic.

Right, that’s your lot for today. Alex will be taking the reins again tomorrow – I’ll see you on Tuesday for a match report after our FA cup tie at Old Trafford.

Until then x

Give me a follow for political ramblings, football insight and general tomfoolery @James_Willson2

More Ozil, More Sanchez, More Fans

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Alright gang, Alex here. So I’m covering for Pedro while he bombs off to Australia for a while. In the middle of February. Alright for some eh?

I read with interest his post about Ozil and Alexis. Two world class players with very different qualities. Alexis is a shit-your-pants, setting-fireworks-off-in-a-pensioner’s face kind of player, while Mesut is as smooth as Nutella, almost stumbling over himself to do something 20 times cooler than James Dean’s cool uncle. So it’s no wonder seeing them play together highlights their perceived weaknesses.

Do the stats tell the whole story? I don’t think so. Yes Mesut covers a lot of yards – part of that is because he is constantly moving to create space. But part of it is because he, along with Giroud, Alexis and Welbeck, leads the pressing game from the front. However, unlike the others, he rarely puts in a challenge or wins the ball back.

Ozil was my favourite non-Arsenal player before he joined Arsenal. I remember him beasting England in the World Cup in 2010 but also watching a highlight reel for Madrid the season before he joined us and being blown away. What’s sad is that he hasn’t quite hit those levels since joining us. Nonetheless, the idea that his contribution is anything less than key is a nonsense. Just look at that pass he picked out for Tomas on Saturday. No one else in the team would have the vision AND technique to pick that option at that time.

Regarding Alexis, well yes he is not reaching the incredibly high standards he set for himself at the start of the season, but I’d say it’s partly down to fatigue and partly down to being played on the left – whereas before he was more central.

What the discussion reflects is a more general trend of judging individual players over too short a period of time. Last season Mertesacker could do no wrong, now he’s too old and slow. Last season Monreal was a liability while Gibbs was a world beater, now it’s the other way round. Giroud’s perceived ability changes from game to game.

Football fans (and I include myself in this) are incredibly fickle when it comes to judging players’ ability. We judge players from game to game, from touch to touch even though we all know it doesn’t work like that. Personally I think we have the most complete squad we’ve had for a very long time (except for Flamini). However it’s a squad that is massively underachieving because our manager doesn’t do tactics (even against Champions League opposition), doesn’t rotate in order to rest key players like Mertesacker and Sanchez, and has no concept of in-game management. For me these are the issues that need to be addressed before we talk of signing or selling any players (especially two as world class as Ozil and Sanchez).

Also doing the rounds is a video someone took of themselves singing the Giroud song four minutes into the Everton game only to be met by confused looks from our fans. It was met with opprobrium on Twitter – what a disgraceful set of fans we are. Well look, there certainly can be issues at time with the atmosphere at the Emirates, but don’t judge until you know how you’d react to a guy loudly singing that song into your earhole while he films you. The reality is no one wants to sing the song of a player who played so woefully in the game before. If he’d picked another song – Red Army, Ars-e-nal or whatdoyathinkoftottenham? – he almost certainly would have got a chant going. How do you resolve the issue of a lack of singing? Singing sections probably, safe standing, some twat with a drum, or the team performing well. Last season the atmosphere at the Ems was fantastic because we were playing so well. On Saturday the atmosphere kicked up a notch after Gabriel made that outrageous tackle. Fans feed off what they see on the pitch and vice versa for the players. The atmosphere was very flat at the start of the game on Saturday because we had had an awful result on Wednesday and played like frightened church mice against Everton for the first 30 minutes.

Anyway I’ve rambled on enough. We’ve got a game this evening against QPR apparently. Harry Redknapp isnt there anymore so I’ve got nothing to say about them. James is going to be writing you a lovely match report.

Oh yeah, as if you haven’t heard enough about Mesut Ozil today, Pete has written this for ESPN (he’s going pro). It completely contradicts everything I have just said but is a lovely read nonetheless.

You can follow me on twitter @aldo_doel

See you on the other side x

Ozil and Sanchez. Challenges with both.

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Good morning sports fans.

It’s Tuesday morning. Last day at work for a bit. So I’ll mostly be contributing nothing today. This is my second article of the day. That’s passion for Arsenal.

Anyway, some great debate caused yesterday by all of the Ozil and Sanchez talk.

Few things I want to address. Firstly, the stats issue. Football fans are geeks. We’re given the basic tools to drill into the detail about player performance. So we draw insights from numbers and  generally, most football fans look at numbers in isolation. They also don’t interrogate the data and where it comes from.

I know that football teams data analysts at game code as they go. That’s why managers right notes on the side. If Rodgers sees a wide attack on the left on 27minutes, he’ll pen WA27. Then before half time, he’ll give his notes over and pull up the key moments. So football clubs leave details up to human eye. I don’t know how the freesites work. But you’d imagine it’s not far off that.

Here are a few things that popped up yesterday that I’d question.

> Ozil ran the most distance in the Everton game. Ok, it’s an impressive stat. Where did it come from? What was the speed? How much energy was exerted?

> Ozil contributed the most sprints out of any player that played in midweek. Again, questions would be, what constitutes a sprint (guy behind a desk scoring the game, or a computer programme), which way were the sprints, what distance were the sprints over.

> Ozil makes more defensive interceptions / tackles than Giroud. Ok, where is the stat that points to Giroud terrorising the back four of a team. Where are the defensive sprints included? Is there a stat for the amount of times Giroud closes down space and forces an error without touching the ball? Because on the face of it, it looks like Ozil defends better than Giroud when your eyes will tell you different.

I know that football clubs will have far richer data, way better technology and in the main… far superior analysts than those on the web. So they’ll be getting the data. But my big thing with amateur analysis of data is you can cut it anyway you want to tell a story. When the numbers are quite primitive, it’s really hard to draw conclusions. I guess that’s why teams hire GPS companies and on site statisticians to look at what they do. You can actually get under the skin of the data…

Also, another point I wanted to cover off is that the English can’t deal with a footballer like Ozil. Like, somehow, no one appreciates him because he doesn’t play like David Batty. I think this is totally wrong. People take issue with Ozil because the only shift he puts in is going forward. I think if you compare how he plays versus someone like Cesc (another technically gifted dreamboat) then you can see where I’m going. I know they’re not the same player. I wish they were. Because then we’d be in a better situation.

Alexis Sanchez is about as Roy of the Rovers as you get… but he’s starting to grate on people who see that he’s not much of a team player. He looks out for himself. He loses possession in important areas. He runs through players when he could play a simple pass. He’s a bit selfish. He needs to be controlled… but what I love is his intensity. That’s a Premier League trait. Santi has that as well. Ozil doesn’t, but perhaps he needs to find a bit if we’re serious about winning trophies.

Also, isn’t it about time we cut the bullshit about the Premier League not be technically supreme? Pound for pound, it’s the strongest league in the world by a margin. Don’t kid yourself it’s just a league of thugs. It’s littered with top players, smart coaches and smart systems.

Right, that’s me done. Alex will takeover tomorrow with James dropping a Thursday match report.



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