Arsenal to bring in 19 goal international

If I said that Arsenal were to make a bid for an international who scored 19 goals last season, we would all probably all be getting excited.

If I said that this player was a wide man who has a proven track record in English football, averaging a goal every 3.5 games, everyone would see him as the solution to our goal shy problems.

If I said that man was Theo Walcott, you would all tell me to F off.

But that is what Walcott is. A 1 in 3.5 man who scored 19 goals last season.

Whilst his time at Arsenal is coming to an end, and he has been poor this season, Arsenal goal shy forward problem could be somewhat solved by playing the Englishman.

Walcott’s problem this season has come from the formation we have played. He does his best work out wide, coming from out to in. He is not a number 10 and is quite frankly useless when playing narrow, in behind the main striker.

Against West Ham, we had a slight formation tweak, going back to 4 a the back. Coming out of the ground, we were all talking about Arsenal’s lack of width. In Walcott we have a player who is happy to get chalk on his boots.

Whereas Danny Welbeck and Alexandre Lacazette failed to get play a single cross in 30 minutes of football, I am sure Walcott would have had more of an effect on the game. Out wide where Welbeck came on is his natural position.

Last season Theo Walcott (19) and Alexis Sanchez (30) scored 49 goals between them. This season it is 9 goals – Sanchez has 5; Walcott 4.

Sanchez has been horribly out of form, he is dropped off a cliff. And Walcott has suffered from a lack of playing time.

Even Walcott on his own, with the decision to drop him, 19 goals is a lot to find from other players. They certainly would not come from the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alex Iwobi.

Add in Sanchez’s drop in form, and it is clear why Arsenal’s goals have dried up.

By this time last year, the speedy pair had hit 24 goals. They have hit 15 less this season.

Alexandre Lacazette has picked up the slack a little bit, with 8 goals this season, but that is only 3 more than Olivier Giroud scored at this stage last season.

Against Manchester United, we had the chances but were unable to score. Against Southampton and West Ham we were toothless.

With Sanchez so out of form, maybe it is time to return to Theo Walcott – in the short term at least – a player who is a proven goal scorer.

As long as the formation suits him.



Lack of width sees Arsenal West Ham stalemate

Well that was rather dull.

When the West Ham fans voted Adrian as man of the Match, I had to chuckle – he only had 3 saves to make. And that summed up the match. A dull 0-0 in the cold where now one came out with any credit.

The response by West Ham fans at the final whistle was odd. They celebrated a 0-0 draw at home against a London rival which left them 2nd bottom in the league like it was actually a good result for them. The reality is the result was poor for both teams.

The change of formation from Arsenal was a good move. In yesterday mornings blog, I spoke about how we needed to change to 4 at the back, with my preference being the Christmas tree formation. My issues were granted as Arsenal lined up 4321. But it did not work.

The first surprise was that Nacho Monreal was at centreback. Whilst he has played very well in a back 3, arguably our player of the season so far, playing in a 2 is very different. And his lack of height is a cause of concern.

It is a surprise that Andy Carroll saw no game time.

Crosses from the West Ham left to the far post would have put Nacho Monreal under immense pressure. The fact that he never came on shows that they were happy with the bore draw. They were not interested in attacking.

With Monreal at centre back and Sead Kolasinac dropped /rested to the bench, in came Ainsley Maitland-Niles – a 20 year old right footed winger who has found himself at left wing back in the cup squad.

Like in 3521, 4321 relies on your full backs to give you the width. I wondered at the time if playing a right footed full back on the wrong side would restrict our ability to get the ball in, and it did.

Maitland-Niles had a good game. One of the only players who could come out of it with his head held high. He defended well against a quick and strong Michail Antonio, and did offer something going forward. The only downside was that a couple if attacks did lose momentum as he tried to get the ball back on his right foot. But this was not his fault.

Width was a massive problem for Arsenal. We had none.

West Ham lined up with 3 at the back, then with wing backs. This often ended up with them having 5 at the back, dropping in narrow to the width of the box. Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang barely crossed their own half way line, sitting close in front of their defence.

This meant that on the edge of the box, Arsenal were boxed in. It was claustrophobic. There was not much space to work on the inside as West Ham had a solid 5 camped on the edge of the box.

This meant that there was plenty of space outside to put balls in, but Arsenal failed to utilise this.

When there was space out wide, Arsenal were too slow to react to it, the first thought was to come inside every time. By the time players had got their heads up and seen the space, West Ham has closed it down.

When the ball did get out wide, it was the full backs who were supposed to be providing the width. Hector Bellerin was reluctant to get forward (hw put in 4 cross compared with Maitlan-Niles 9) and when he did his crossing was poor, whilst Maitland-Niles had the aforementioned problem of being unable to whip in an early ball.

Olivier Giroud is a brilliant player, but he relies on service from out wide. He is not going to be on the edge of the box, and spin off a defender to slot one in. He wants the ball coming from wide where he can then bully defenders to put the ball in the back of the net.

If Arsenal are not getting the ball outwide, Giroud is then starved of that service, and becomes the lamppost that many people cruelly label him. Yesterday was one of those occasions where all that was happening was the ball was going into him, hitting him, and going straight to a West Ham player.

There is not point playing Giroud if you do not have the wide men to support him.

Another problem was Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

In the Christmas tree formation, they were playing narrow – in the same way they have done when we play 3 at the back.

They play on opposite sides to their foot. Ozil on the right, Sanchez on the left.

This means that when they did find themselves in the wide positions, both of their first thoughts was to cut back in onto their stronger foot and drive into the middle.

The congested middle where West Ham had 7 players.

Due to this, where were often times when on the edge of the box, you had West Ham’s defensive 7, plus Giroud, Sanchez, Ozil, Wilshere and Iwobi. There was simply no space to operate.

Playing Sanchez and Ozil on their opposite sides was clearly not working.

Arsene Wenger relies on his players own intelligence and game management to make slight tactical changes during a game. This group of players do not seem to be able to do that. He should have noticed that Ozil and Sanchez were adding to the congestion in the middle and swapped them over.

They should have at least tried it. 10 minutes of Ozil on the left, Sanchez on the right, help out the full backs and get some good crosses into the box for Giroud. But the side did not change it, they did not change anything. And it contributed to a poor performance.

When Wenger did try and change things, his substitutions also did not work.

Danny Welbeck came on for the ineffective Alex Iwobi (where Iwobi fits in to Arsenal’s future has to be questioned). He did hug the right hand side a bit more, but as a striker, his first thought is still to get the ball and drive inside towards goal, not put a cross in.

In Welbeck’s 20 minute cameo, he did not attempt a single cross.

Taking off Sanchez was also a bold move, but a correct one. Sanchez had once again had a poor game.

Alexandre Lacazette came on. The £50m man. He then gets shoved out on the left wing.

What is the point of having a clinical striker with a record like Lacazette and then playing him left wing? I do not think he had a single touch in West Ham’s box.

In fact, looking at the statistics, Lacazette had ZERO SHOTS and put in ZERO CROSSES. Hre contributed nothing.

This was not his fault, however, as he was put on but outwide. A better substitution would have perhaps been Kolasinac who might have at least put in a couple of dangerous crosses. And then take Ozil off for Lacazette and go 442, with the two French strikers being able to feed off each other.

West Ham showed that teams know how to play against us. The fact that we are unable to mix it up. There were several times last night where we did get the ball 2 on 2 or 3 on 3, and as soon as we got into the final 3rd, those players cut inside and lost any space they had. Within seconds West Ham were all back behind the ball and we passed it around with out a clue of what to do with it.

Too many players stood around, flat footed.

The only positives last night was Jack Wilshere had a decent game, and that we had 3 local lads on the pitch.

On to the next one.


Saturation of Statues Spoil the Significance

Arsenal have recently been running a poll about what 1970’s legend’s name should be engraved on a bench that will go outside the stadium.

This led to a reopening of a debate as to who should be next when it comes to statues outside the ground.

As you are probably aware, currently there are 4 statues around the ground. Herbert Chapman, Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. Following the bench naming, there has been a lot of talk about who should be next. GC had his opinion:

This led to an afternoon long debate in a WhatsApp group as to who should be next. GC was adamant that it should be Rocky and Wrighty. A few disagreed, a few put forward other suggestions.

Now with being too disrespectful, I questions why Rocky should have a statue. Why not Paul Merson or Ray Parlour? Two players who were at Arsenal longer, won and contributed more.

Why not Robert Pires? He might not have been home grown but he actually ended up playing more games than Rocky.

GC was adamant, Rocky should be next. And this where the issue now arises.

Everyone has their own legends. Icons. Greats.

Now if you look into it, the majority of these will be from their adolescence. When they were a late teen or early 20s. When they were growing up and have an idol, a role model, was a thing. When they were going week in, week out, before they had other priorities like families.

Ask someone what music they love, I bet they usually say it was the music of their youth. That current bands were not the same. They were inferior. Nothing will beat The Who, Weller, Oasis or Arctic Monkeys, depending on what era you are from.

Football is the same.

And this is where the problem is when it comes to statues.

GC will ask for Rocky, as he is the icon of that generation. Someone older will be asking for Liam Brady, Charlie George or Frank McLintock. An even older generation (possibly no longer with us) would ask for Clif Bastin or Alex James. Someone my generation already has their hero, Tony Adams.

Ask a 14 year old in 8 years time who they want and they might say Alexis Sanchez.

We all have different ideas on who should be the next statue.

What is the criteria? Is it objective? Is it subjective? Is a player who played for us 7 years deserving of a statue? How about David O’Leary? Our record appearance holder?

If someone breaks Thierry Henry’s goal scoring record, do they automatically get one? It really is a minefield.

Herbert Chapman is perhaps the most important man in Arsenal’s history. He deserves his. Adams as our greatest ever player and most successful captain, he is Mr Arsenal and fully deserving. Likewise Henry, our top scorer, and perhaps the best player most of us have ever seen.

We then get to Dennis Bergkamp. What is the reasoning behind him having a statue? Yes, he was a great player, a modern day great, but was he any more deserving then Bastin, James, Brady or Rocky? I honestly do not know.

Outside of statues, Geordie Armstrong has a pitch at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground named in his memory. Should he be in the hat for a statue? What about Kenny Sansom?

Then we come to Rocky himself.

The Hale end Academy in Walthamstow has already named after Rocastle. The David Rocastle indoor centre  was opened up in August 2006. So Rocky already has an honour within Arsenal, and taking into account he was an academy graduate, it is a very touching one.

Now this is not to say Rocky, Armstrong, Brady, Bastin or anyone else is not deserving on an honour, or are more deserving than others in the list. It is simply a show of how problematic it can be if you open up a discussion on who should be next to get a statue.

And if you leave it in the hands of fans to decide, it will be even worse. We all remember the Gunners Greatest Players list. It was horrendous. Marc Overmars above Rocky, Sylvian Wiltord above Geordie Armstrong, Anelka above Ted Drake (another who is in the statue hat) and Kanu above Alan Smith.

We can not be trusted to make a decision.

I am of the simple opinion that no one should be next. That the more statues you have, the less value each one has. That if you accept what everyone wants, you will end up with 100 statues all around the ground.

There is one statue that does need to go up, however. Or when I say a statue, I mean a bust. George Graham deserves his place next to Herbert Chapman and Arsene Wenger.