Tag Archives: Olivier Giroud

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.

Keenos

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Arsenal to revert to 4 at the back?

It was early April 2017 when Arsene Wenger made the move from 4 at the back to 3 at the back.

We had just been taken apart away from home to Crystal Palace, and were on a run of just one win in 8 in the Premier League. We had also been knocked out the Champions League 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich. Things we bleak.

Against Middlesbrough, Wenger tried out 3 at the back. We were unconvincing in a 2-1 victory.

The next game cemented the formation change, as Arsenal beat Manchester City in the FA Cup. A victory against Leicester followed before Arsenal went to White Hart Lane and lost to Spurs. That defeat would prove to be Arsenal’s lone loss post-Palace as the side won 8 out of 9 games, including the FA Cup Final against Chelsea.

Fast forward 8 months and it feels like we are at a crossroads once more. Having failed to win 7 out of 16 games, Arsenal are out of the title race by December.

It is not just how many points we are behind Manchester City that it is a concern, but how many games where we have looked shakey at the back, and toothless upfront. Even games which we have won this season, many have been unconvincing victories.

Is it time that Wenger dropped 3 at the back at returned to 4 at the back?

There are many things to consider

Nacho Monreal

One of the losers in the switch will be Nacho Monreal.

The Spanish full back has been one of our players of the season playing on the left hand side of a 3 man defence, but playing in a 2 man partnership is very different to playing in a 3 man partnership, and Monreal will lose out.

Sead Kolasinac has also been a stand out performer, and it would be illogical to drop him for Monreal.

Hector Bellerin

On the other side of the pitch, Monreal’s international team mate would actually benefit from the switch.

Bellerin has been poor this season. He has neither the skill level or crossing ability to be our main outlet out wide.

In the back end of last season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain excelled at right wing back, as he bought an attacking players ability to the wing back position. Bellerin is better in defence, but not as good going forward.

Returning to 4 at the back would see Bellerin play a less important role going forward, and this will be a positive.

Who in the middle of the defence?

Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny looked shakey in a two together last season, and time is winding down for Per Mertesacker. Rob Holding and Calum Chambers look further away from the first team than at any point in their Arsenal careers.

That would lead to Mustafi and Koscileny being the only option. But is it solid enough?

Formation, formation, formation

If we go to 3 at the back, there is a huge debate to be had as to the make-up of the midfield.

Once view is to go 2 up top. Play Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud together. Mesut Ozil in behind, then a solid midfield 3 of Grant Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey (who is now injured) and Jack Wilshere.

Whilst the midfield 3 would certainly provide more cover, the midfield would end up very narrow. And then what is the point of playing Giroud with a narrow midfield – he relies on service from out wide.

The answer would then be that the full backs provide the service, but that in turn exposes the defence which at that point will have two central defenders rather than the current 3. And it brings Bellerin back to being the main creator on the right.

The second option would be to go back to 4231 with Danny Welbeck, Alexis Sanchez and Ozil playing in behind a loan striker. There is some debate as to whether it would be better for Lacazette or Giroud to be that loan striker.

4231 would also see old problems be exposed as Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka are incapable to shielding the back 4.

A final solution could be the old Christmas tree. Play Ramsey, Wilshere and Xhaka in central midfield, with Ozil and Sanchez ahead, then Lacazette up top on his own.

Whilst this would put expectation on the wingers once more, Ozil and Sanchez would be able to drift out wide to assist them – Like they have done this season when we have bought Giroud on to chase games. Also the lack of Giroud would mean that our game is no longer all about getting the ball out wide.

And what if someone leaves?

Ozil or Sanchez leaving (and depending on who would come in) could also alter the decision making process.

Someone like Thomas Lemar is an old school winger, he will get quality balls into the box. He would suit someone like Giroud.

Whilst the likes of Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka are more centrally based players who would suit the narrower formation of playing Lacazette, and the flexibility to drop into wide positions when required.

Time to sacrifice the league?

Maybe the long term solution will be to sacrifice the league this year? We are not going to win it, so perhaps we should use the Premier League to experiment and prepare the team for the Europa League and FA Cup.

We have 7 games until Nottingham Forest away, and then another potential 8 games until we face Ostersunds.

That is plenty of time to decide on, train and implement a new formation to concentrate on competitions that we still have of winning.

One thing is for sure, it is not going to be as easy as simply going to 4 at the back. There is plenty to think about.

Keenos

 

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Arsenal’s International Break

The Good

Mohamed Elneny

Egypt 2-1 Congo

Mohamed Elneny played the full 90 minutes of Egypt’s World Cup qualifying win over Congo which saw his country to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1990.

Egypt to win the World Cup: 150/1

Alex Iwobi

Nigeria 1-0 Zambia

Alex Iwobi came off the bench to score Nigeria’s only goal as the Super Eagles became the first African side to secure qualification for the World Cup. A 1-0 victory.

Nigeria to win the World Cup: 150/1

David Ospina

Colombia 1-2 Paraguay

David Ospina featured as Colombia lost 2-1 to Paraguay, with the visitors scoring twice in the final minutes to snatch the three points.

Peru 1-1 Colombia

David Ospina and Colombia will play at their second successive World Cup after securing a 1-1 draw against Peru.

Columbia to win the World Cup: 33/1

Alexandre Lacazette, Olivier Giroud

Bulgaria 0-1 France

Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud both featured in France’s 1-0 win over Bulgaria. Lacazette started in an exciting front three with Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, Giroud was an 85th-minute.

France 2-1 Belarus

Olivier Giroud became France’s joint-seventh top goalscorer as he helped France to secure their place at next summer’s World Cup with a win over Belarus in Saint-Denis. Giroud charged through to double Les Bleus’ advantage just after the half-hour mark. Giroud played the entirety of the game, with Alexandre Lacazette an unused sub.

France to win the World Cup: 5/1

Nacho Monreal

Spain 3-0 Albania

Nacho Monreal was an unused substitute as Spain hit three past Albania in World Cup qualifying.

Israel 0-1 Spain

Monreal helped Spain keep a clean sheet as the former world champions saw off Israel 1-0 in Jerusalem, courtesy of a late goal from Asier Illaramendi.

Spain to win the World Cup: 7/1

The Bad

Sead Kolasinac

Bosnia & Herzegovina 3-4 Belgium

Sead Kolasinac played the duration of Bosnia’s World Cup qualifying defeat to Belgium, where he was booked.

Estonia 1-2 Bosnia-Herzegovina

Sead Kolasinac played the first half in Tallinn as Bosnia-Herzegovina’s World Cup dreams were dashed despite them finishing Group H with a win in Estonia. Greece’s home win over Gibraltar meant it wasn’t enough to reach the play-off round.

Aaron Ramsey

Georgia 0-1 Wales

Aaron Ramsey won his 50th Wales cap and assisted Tom Lawrence’s winner in his country’s 1-0 win at Georgia.

Wales 0-1 Republic of Ireland

Aaron Ramsey was on the losing side as Wales were beaten 1-0 by the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff, ending their World Cup qualification hopes.

The Ugly

Shkodran Mustafi

Germany 5-1 Azerbaijan

Shkodran Mustafi started Germany’s World Cup qualifying win over Azerbaijan but was substituted after just 36 minutes through injury as Germany maintained their 100 per cent record in World Cup qualifying.

Germany to win the World Cup: 5/1

Alexis Sanchez

Chile 2-1 Ecuador

Alexis scored the winning goal in the 86th minute against Ecuador to seal three points for Chile, who are now on the verge of automatic qualification to the World Cup.

Brazil 3-0 Chile

Copa America winners in 2015 and 2016 – but Alexis and Chile won’t be at next summer’s World Cup. The result that saw Chile fail to finish in the top five qualifying spots in South America as a consequence of other results. Alexis played the full 90 minutes.

The Neutral

Granit Xhaka

Switzerland 5-2 Hungary

Granit Xhaka opened the scoring for Switzerland in their World Cup qualifying win over Hungary. The midfielder capitalised on goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi’s slip to slot in from close range are just 18 minutes.

Portugal 2-0 Switzerland

Granit Xhaka’s Switzerland could still make the World Cup in Russia next summer – but his Switzerland team will have to qualify through the European play-off round after losing their decisive qualifier in Portugal.

Switzerland to win the World Cup: 80/1