Tag Archives: Matteo Guendouzi.

4312 for The Arsenal is not “too defensive”

Arsenal’s best performance this season came against Chelsea. A 2-0 victory in a game that The Gunners dominated.

The formation we played in that match was 4312. It is a formation we have played numerous times since; and one which Unai Emery has come in for some stick for.

Fans wrongly claim that we are playing 3 defensive midfielders. Lucas Torreira Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi. They are not all defensive midfielders.

Gunners Town recently spoke to a Lorient fan about Arsenal target Alexis Claude Maurice. During the discussion they talked about Guendouzi, who signed from Lorient last summer.

They expressed surprise at Arsenal fans labelling Guendouzi as a defensive or holding midfielder, as he has only ever been box-to-box growing up and was utilised in an attacking free role last season in French Ligue 2.

And that is the truth, Guendouzi does not play as a defensive midfielder. He is more box to box. A proper central midfielder. Like what Patrick Vieira was.

It seems in many fans mind, you are either an attacking midfielder (Mesut Ozil) or a defensive midfielder (Claude Makelele). There is nothing in between. But there is, and that is where Guendouzi sits.

Xhaka has also never really been an out and out defensive midfielder. In fact he struggled at Arsenal when he was the primary defensive midfielder.

For Borussia Mönchengladbach and Switzerland, he always played with someone behind him doing the bulk of the defensive work.

A hulk of a man, Xhaka did contribute to his sides defensively, but his man job was transitioning the ball from defence to attack with his excellent passing. He is not as box to box as Guendouzi, more a deep lying play maker. He certainly is not a defensive midfielder.

Lucas Torreira is the closest we have to a defensive midfielder, but even he is not a Makelele or Gilberto Silva.

The Uruguayan gets forward a lot more than someone who is simply a shied in front of a defence. And he is a much better passer and creator then people like Makelele, Gilberto or Fernandinho.

Whilst for Arsenal he is the deepest of the midfield 3, he is more than capable playing further forward. He is a talented guy.

The reality is, Emery is building a high energy midfield trio who can provide solid cover for the defence, but also push forward and press high.

Playing all 3 ensures that they can push forward backing up the front 3 when they press, knowing that one will still sit so that they are not all cut out with one ball through the midfield.

They also allow Hector Bellerin and Saed Kolasinac to bomb forward and provide extra cover for them.

I like the 12 upfront as well.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both love dropping out wide. This then creates space in the middle for an attacking midfielder to bomb into. Aaron Ramsey would have been ideal for this role with his goal scoring record.

Back to the midfield, I can see us continuing to play 3 in the middle next season. It is why Emery is looking at the likes of Adrien Rabiot and Christopher Nkunku. If we play 3, we need 6.

If we secure both Frenchmen, it will enable us to cash in on Mohamed Elneny and, alongside Ainsley Maitland-Niles, we will have the midfielders we need to play the way Emery wants.

As for those who are still moaning about it being too defensive, let me ask you a question:

Is Liverpool’s midfield too defensive?

Liverpool also play a midfield 3. A trio combination of Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho.

Let’s compare their Premier League statistics to the lads at Arsenal:

Xhaka – 1885 minutes played – 3 Goals; 1 Aassist

Guendouzi – 1466 – 0G 0A

Torreira – 1790 – 2G 2A

 

Fabinho – 1096 – 1G 2A

Wijnaldum – 1774 – 1G 0A

Henderson – 1234 – 0G 0A

Keita – 970 – 0G 1A

Totals:

 

Arsenal midfield:

5140 minutes played

5 goals; 3 assists

Liverpool midfield:

5074 minutes played

2 goals; 3 assists

Yet no one is saying Liverpool’s midfield is “too defensive.”

The truth is, playing Xhaka, Torreira and Guendouzi is not too defensive. It is probably the only part of the Arsenal side that is solid and actually working at the moment.

Keenos

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Arsenal punished due to refereeing inconsistency

Referee Paul Tierney was completely correct in booking Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Matteo Guendouzi for diving.

We have to remember that a dive is not just feigning contact. FA rules state:

Diving is defined as an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by falling to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to give the impression that a foul has been committed.

Just because their has been contact, it does not mean that a foul has been committed. All too often, a player go’s to ground with minimal contact, rolls about feigning injury, exaggerating the contact, in the hope of gaining an advantage.

FIFA call this “simulation”. Just because you might have been touched, it does not give you a right to go down. If the contact was not enough to impede you, then it is not a foul. If, at the slightest brush, you then decide to go down instead of remain on your feet, you should be booked for diving.

Unfortunately, when it comes to diving, referee’s in England tend to be very inconsistent.

Against Huddersfield on Saturday, Tierney followed the rules of the game, booking Xhaka, Mustafi and Guendouzi. The problem is all too often referees wave play on.

We often see Dele Alli, Jamie Vardy, and others go down with little to no contact. The referee waves play on a we get on with the game. Against Leicester on Saturday Dele Alli feigned injury to give an impression that a foul had been committed. The referee in that game waved play on.

So Arsenal (rightly) got 3 players booked – one of which will lead to a suspension – whilst other players never get punished as referee’s wave play on.

Against Tottenham, Son Heung-min went down to win a penalty. Rob Holding lunged into a challenge, and made zero contact with the South Korean.

The media response was that due to Holding sliding in, Son had a right to go down. He did not. He cheated. He went down with no contact (or at most minimal) and rolled about feigning injury. He should have been booked. Instead the referee gave a penalty.

Mistakes happen, but what has happened since just highlights the inconsistency of the FA.

November last year, Everton’s Oumar Niasse was banned for 2 games having been deemed to have deliberately attempted to con referee Anthony Taylor to give a penalty.

The FA charged Niasse with “successful deception of a match official” and an Independent Regulatory Commission was unanimous in its decision to ban the Senegalese.

After the game, Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann (who made the challenge) said the referee had been “conned”.

 “I don’t like to see people getting punished but also I don’t like people diving to win penalties. [Niasse] probably knows he has conned them.

“If there was [contact] it was minimal. I haven’t tried to tackle him; he has gone past me and you can see on the replays he has dived. At half-time, [Taylor] probably knew he made the wrong decision.”

Replays showed that there was contact between Dann and Niasse, but it was extremely minimal. The Holding incident with Son was similar. If there was contact it was minimal.

Yet a week on from that game, Son has not been charged by the FA – let alone given a 2-game ban like Niasse. Meanwhile Arsenal have 3 players booked for similar incidents. Mustafi now suspended after reaching 5 yellow cards.

The incidents involving Xhaka and Mustafi had a similar level of “contact” as Son against us last weekend.

If the FA believe Xhaka and Mustafi were dives why have they not charged and suspended Son?

Too often they hide behind what the referee has “seen” and “not seen”. Were Xhaka and Mustafi incorreclty booked? Probably not. Should Son have been suspended for 2 games? Well the precedent is there with Niasse.

Further inconsistency was shown on Wednesday.

Marouane Fellaini pulled Guendouzi back by his hair. A similar incident happened back in 2016 when Robert Huth pulled back Fellaini by his hair. Huth was banned for 3 games.

In the incident with Guendouzi, Fellaini has escaped any retrospective action.

Now some will say you are only moaning because it is Arsenal and you are right, I am moaning because it was Arsenal. But up and down the country every weekend fans of clubs are complaining about referee decisions. We are all affected by it. The quicker VAR comes in the better.

All fans want is consistency.

Keenos

How have Arsenal’s new boys settled in?

With us in the middle of the most boring time in football – a pointless international break filled with glorified friendlies, it is perhaps a chance to reflect on the start of the season, and see how the new boys have bedded in.

Bernd Leno

To many peoples frustration, Petr Cech start began the season as first choice keeper.

Unai Emery’s philosophy is that new players have to force their way in, to prove that they are better than the incumbent first team players. This led to Cech starting the season as number 1.

Leno’s opening came when Cech limped off injured against Watford in the league. Prior to that he had only played in the Europa League and League Cup – where he conceded goals but did not have much to do.

Against Watford he looked a little shaky, coming off the bench. However he made some smart stops and distribution was excellent.

Fulham was a vastly improved performance, with some sharp saves. He could have done little with their goal.

It will take a while for him to get used to the physical side of the Premier League – with the bumping and barging at corners. His shot stopping and distribution are certainly up to standard.

With Cech set to miss the next 3 or 4 games, Leno will have plenty of time to establish himself as first choice.

Stephan Lichtsteiner

The experienced Swiss right back has not had much of a chance this season.

Beyond a substitute appearance at left back versus Manchester City, his 3 starts have been limited to the Europa League and League Cup.

His influence on the pitch may well be happening at the training ground, however.

Lichtsteiner has bought some leadership to the playing squad, and you have to feel that he has bought his winners mentality to the training ground.

We have also seen improvements in Hector Bellerin as the season has gone on. The presence of Lichtsteiner must surely be helping to push the Spaniards performances to the next level.

It would not overly surprise me if Lichtsteiner’s one-year deal was extended by a further 12 months.

Sokratis

Greek centre back Sokratis (I can not be bothered to Google his surname) has split opinion.

Some have labelled him clumsy, slow and uncultured, whilst others have praised him for being aggressive, and focusing on defending and clearing the ball.

I fall into the later camp.

We focus too much on ball playing centre backs. “Rolls Royce defenders” like Rio Ferdinand. Players like the now retired Englishman who looked classy but could also defend are few and fair between.

Sokratis is a defender. He defends. That is what he is paid for.

What he creates is a rock at the back that others can play around. A reliable defender that will let Arsenal go out and get a ball playing partner, knowing they have a solid option next to him.

He is more Vidic than Ferdinand, and is exactly what Arsenal have needed for a decade.

Lucas Torreira

Uruguayan central midfielder Lucas Torreira has been a revolution since he broke into the team. He is exactly the player we have been missing for some years.

Like Sokratis, he understands his role within a balanced XI. He is there to defend, to shield the back 4, to provide them cover. His influence on the entire team is obvious to all.

Torreira not only defends, however. He can also play. Comfortable with the ball at his feet, he has given the side another passing option alongside Xhaka.

The sign of a top player is they make those around them look better, Torreira has done this with Xhaka. It is a partnership that we can look forward to developing as the years role on.

It is incredible to think that Torreira is just 22-years old. He will deveop into one of the best central midfields in the world.

Whilst Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool went big on Fred, Jorginho, Fabinho and Kieta, Arsenal secured Torreira for just £22m – we clearly got the best player.

Onwards and upwards for the lad!

Mattéo Guendouzi

The greatest compliment you can give Matteo Guendouzi is that people are now wondering why we did not cash in on Aaron Ramsey in the summer.

Football is easy in hindsight, and no one could have guessed when we signed the 19-year old Sideshow Bob impersonator from the French Division 2 for just £7million that he would be pushing senior team mates down the pecking order.

The fear for the club over the summer with Ramsey is that we only had 2 senior midfielders – Xhaka and Elneny. Torreira was a new signing and Guendouzi was coming in to be on the fringes of the first team squad. He was pencilled in for the Europa League and League Cup.

Due to players returning from the World Cup, Guendouzi got some game time. And he has proved the old age correct. If you are good enough, you are old enough.

People already actually forget that he is just 19. He is younger than Mason Mount, who was called up for the England squad after some impressive displays in the Championship.

He has not been perfect this season. He is a little bit slow on the ball when passing, and doesn’t easily make space for himself to receive the ball off the defenders. But he is 19-years old, and will improve.

Guendouzi has moved ahead of Elneny in the pecking order and is first choice back up for Xhaka and Torreira. His performances are going to save Arsenal a lot of money when it comes to Ramsey leaving.

The Frenchman will have a bad patch. All young players do. But with the squad depth around him, Emery will be able to take him out when he is performing poorly.

This lad has a bright future.


In summary, the first full transfer window for Sven Mislintat has been a success. He has added some experienced leaders to the squad, and signed some very talented young players.

He seems to have bought pro-active planning to Arsenal’s transfers for the first time in years.

Keenos