Tag Archives: Ramsey

6 defensive midfield options for Arsenal

In what is perhaps the most predictable piece of news this season, Francis Coquelin has been ruled out with injury until the New Year.

Over the summer, top of everyone’s wish list was a defensive midfielder. Whilst Coquelin has proved in the last 12 months that he perhaps is good enough to be our first choice, the worrying lack of competition / understudy / back up is what worried many.

An injury to Coquelin for any length of time would leave us in a situation relying on Mikel ‘Legs Gone’ Arteta and Mathieu ‘Energy Baron’ Flamini. Worrying.

If course, in the summer, many of the Arsene Wenger loyalists also pointed to Jack Wilshere & Aaron Ramsey as players who could perform there if needed. Whilst that would work as an option in the majority of games, it is an option which negated to remember that both of them are likely to miss big chunks of the season, which they have.

Add in the fact that when Arteta does find his legs, they tend to break down very quickly, it leaves us in a scenario where our options in the middle of the park are very limited.

So what are our options?

Mathieu Flamini

The only fully fit defensive senior midfielder in the squad would currently be in Turkey if it was up to the club.

Despite his goals against Spurs writing himself into Arsenal folklore, he is simply not good enough. Being Mesut Ozil’s best mate is should not be the basis of the club retaining your services.

But he is the most likely option.

What he lacks in ability, he makes up in work rate. Although this has declined over recent years, he can still cover a lot of ground. And with Santi Cazorla likely to play next to him, you need someone who can get about the pitch. Someone with legs. It is why Arteta and Cazorla would not work, but Ramsey and Arteta would, or Coquelin and  Cazorla. You need players to compliment eachother. One to do the running, one to be the ball player (in an ideal world, you would have 2 who could do both, but those players are rare).

Aaron Ramsey

There was talk that Aaron Ramsey had an outside chance of being fit for WBA. He was not. The game against Zagreb might be 24 hours too early for the Welshman, but I would be very disappointed if he was not fully fit for next Sunday’s visit to Norwich.

Whilst he might not be a pure defensive midfielder, he can defend, he can tackle, he can read the game and he can cover ground.

A couple of seasons ago, when I nicknamed him the general, he was showing signed of turning into an all round midfielder in the Michael Ballack mould. Able to defend and attack.

Nothing has changed, he can still do that job. A central midfield of Ramsey and Cazorla should have the balance to be able to beat the likes of Norwich, Sunderland and Aston Villa. Whether it is good enough to beat Manchester City in December is another story.

And of course, this options requires Aaron Ramsey to get fit and stay fit. Easier said than done.

Calum Chambers

A genuine option. He is fully fit and ready to go. In the long term, his versatility might hold his development back, in the same way it has for Phil Jones. However, in the short term his versatility might benefit Arsenal.

Some believe his future could be in the middle of the park. He certainly has the defensive awareness to play there, and is good on the ball. In the same way as Ramsey, a midfield of Chambers and Cazorla should be good enough to beat Norwich, Sunderland and Villa, Chambers and Cazorla should be good enough as well.

Moving beyond those games, perhaps a Chambers / Ramsey combination for Manchester City could give us more defensive stability. But that would cause a potential issue.

Ideally you would like to give Chambers a run in the team before City in the middle of the park. With 5 games between now and then, he would certainly get that chance to be ready. But then Aaron Ramsey also needs games to get fit. So can you really accommodate the pair of them in preparation for Manchester City?

Maybe we will see a return of Ramsey playing on the right wing, with Chambers and Cazorla in the middle, before shifting Ramsey inside for City? Or perhaps give Cazorla the rest he needs and start Ramsey & Chambers together against Norwich to see how they get on?

It is certainly a flexible option.

Krystian Bielik

There was a lot of excitement when we signed Krystian Bielik last January. This might have been because people honestly felt he had the makings of a top player, or just because he was our only signing. Bit like your mate who hasn’t had a shag for a year boasts about banging a minger.

12 months on and Bielik, still just 17, has yet to make any sort of break through.

He came out of the Sheffield Wednesday with some credit. A half hour cameo, he did not do much wrong. However at this point Wednesday were out of reach and had taken there foot off the pedal. There was not the pressure and pressing on Bielik that there would have been earlier in the game. So it is perhaps wrong to judge him on the Wednesday performance.

I doubt most of your reading this (or calling for him to start on Twitter) have seen anymore than him than that cameo in the League Cup. Whenever it comes to youth players, always check out Jeorge Bird’s excellent site for an honest opinion from someone who actually watch’s youth team games

Bielik might be an option in the future, but the fact he is not playing central midfield in the youth teams would show he is probably not yet ready to step up.

Glen Kamara

I kid, I kid. He is not an option.

Kieran Gibbs

Currently having to fill in on the left wing, Kieran Gibbs could also be an emergency midfielder if needed.

I remember as a youngster he played a couple of game’s for England Under 21s under Stuart Pearce and looked comfortable.

At the weekend he dropped inside a couple of times from the wing and looked comfortable. Whether the has the speed of thought and ability to play under extreme pressure to do it for the next 3 months would be up for debate.

Also we are short out wide. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is due to come back from injury, likely for Sunderland. But his return should be treated with caution. Like Ramsey, you feel the next injury is just round the corner.

And if he does get fit, surely his give us the opportunity to rest Alexis Sanchez. That would then leave Chamberlain on the right with Gibbs still on the left.


Whilst none of the above situations are ideal, we do have a few viable options. Flamini, Ramsey & Chambers being the most likely. You should be able to play any combination of those 3 with/and/or Cazorla and beat the likes of Norwich, Sunderland & Aston Villa.

You see other teams having to make do with much weaker players. West Ham playing 16 year old Reece Oxford against us as an example.

We seem to have an irrational fear every time a first team player is out injured. Whether it is a goal keeper, a defender of whatever. We maybe do not give the squad players the credit they deserve. WBA for example had their 2nd choice keeper playing yesterday. Their fan’s were not fearful. Yet we would all be worried if David Ospina, an international class keeper, had to come in for Petr Cech. It is irrational.

However, it has exposed the weakness in our squad that we all knew already existed. The “nobody better” brigade (NBB?) seemed to forget that it was not just better than Coquelin we should have been keeping an eye out for, but better than Flamini and Arteta. There were players out their, at a reasonable price, would could have provided that back up  / competition for Coquelin.

The fact we do not have a competent specialist defensive midfielder to cover for Coquelin is an utter disgrace. And could cost us the title.



Galatasaray victory gives Wenger selection headaches

A selection head ache is always something good to have. And last nights victory over Galatasaray would have given Arsene Wenger just that.

For a long time, many a fan have been calling for Lukas Podolski to get a start. Arguably the best finisher at the club, the German did not get 121 caps by being an average footballer.

Last night would have reminded the quality in the German’s left foot. 2 cracking goals. The first a hammer of a shot, the second more cute and placed. He also hit the bar.

There will now be calls for him to start against Newcastle this weekend, and this is where the selection headache begins.

Podolski can not play as a long striker, he has always thrived playing to the left of a big man (Klose for Germany, Giroud for Arsenal), and this is where the problem is created, Alexis Sanchez is currently our current first choice on the left hand side.

This creates the selection headache. Do you put Podolski in, shifting Sanchez into the middle or to the right, where he is less effective, or do you say to Podolski “Well played last night, but you’re back on the bench.”

The problem Lukas Podolski has is his all round game is not as good as others. In and around the box, he is lethal, but he contributes little else. The stats from last night highlight the issues that have surrounded his entire Arsenal career:

Shots: 4 (1st of all Arsenal players)
Pass Accuracy: 90.6% (7th)
Crosses Attempted: 0
Dribbles: 1 (5th)
Through Balls Attempted: 0
Tackles: 1
Interceptions: 0

Brilliant in the box, but for a wide player to not put in a cross and only attempt 1 dribble is not good enough. But then we have his 2 goals. And what 2 great goals they were. And this is where the selection head ache comes in.

The most likely option would be to put Podolski on the left and move Sanchez on the right, but this is not a long term solution.

Once Theo Walcott is back fit, he will return to the right hand side. Walcott, remember, has 5 goals in his last 8 games, and before his year out, had scored 21 goals in the 2012/13 season. Him on the right, Sanchez on the left has been what we have all been waiting for. So with Theo back, where does it leave Podolski? Back on the bench.

You also need to throw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the mix. He was arguably our best player last night, running the game from the centre of midfield. In Walcott’s absence, he has been playing wide right, and doing a decent job.

Were you to move Sanchez to the right to accommodate Podolski on the left, you would then have a selection head ache of what to do with Chamberlain?

Does he get dropped? Or do you move him into the middle? Or perhaps you play Sanchez in the number 10 role, with Chamberlain and Podolski either side of him. Gosh things are starting to get complicated.

And now let’s add Mesut Ozil into the mix. Whilst a 3 of Podolski Chamberlain Sanchez could work in the short term, it certainly doesn’t in the long term. Ozil will return, and be put straight back in to his number 10 position. So where does Oxlade-Chamberlain play then? And lets not forget Theo!!!

5 in to 3 does not go. 2 will have to miss out. That two will most likely be, despite their performances last night, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski.

Unless Wenger decides to play either Walcott or Sanchez upfront?

And to add to further selection problems, you then have Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey. They are quickly becoming our answer to Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard.

Individually brilliant, but they can not play together.

Last night Ramsey played like a free man. Like the man of 2013/14. Able to get forward at will, knowing that the man behind him (Flamini) would not be bombing forward.  Ramsey is at his best in the final third of the field, it is where he comes alive.

Jack Wilshere is also at his best in the final third. Whilst the England experiment of playing at the bottom of the diamond had been successful, it has to be remembered this has been against minnows of world football such as San Marino and Scotland.

I still wonder whether he has the defensive game, discipline and power to perform a defensive role against a top side.

Ramsey and Wilshere seem to restrict each other. They both enjoy the license to get forward. When they play together, it does not work.

Every top midfield duo needs an Alpha and a Beta. For Scholes, read Keane, for Vieira, Petit, for Pirlo, Gatusso, for Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, for Lampard, Makelele.

They need to know that when they drive forward, that their defensive partner is more disciplined and inclined to sit deep, sacrificing his own game at the expense of the other.

Ramsey and Wilshere, like Gerrard and Lampard, are both Alpha’s. They can not play together.

Obviously Wilshere is injured at the moment, and that kind of solves the problem. And is also the most likely solution to this selection head ache.

Both men have missed so much football over the last 5 years, that you could easily accommodate them both knowing that the chances of them being fit at the same time is unlikely. It would also allow rotation, when one or the other gets into the dreaded ‘red zone’.

Of course, a lot of our selection problem’s could be solved by playing 4141:

Walcott Ramsey Ozil Podolski

But we started the season playing 4141, with Sanchez upfront, and it did not work. I am sure this was the plan Wenger had at the beginning of the season (with slightly different personnel – Ozil playing left, Wilshere Ramsey in the middle with Arteta behind). It did not work and resulted with too many players getting in each other’s way.

And the above team does not even include Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain!

The problem again, comes from too many players wanting to play in the middle. Ramsey and Wilshere like pushing up, Sanchez and Chamberlain drop inside too much and Ozil then gets crowded out by his team mates. It is why Walcott is so important, as he will get chalk on his boots.

There are 2 players I have also yet to consider. Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky.

Starting with the later, for me Tomas Rosicky’s Arsenal career is over. This is a guy who I was so excited about when we signed him in 2006. I felt at the time that he was the 2nd best attacking midfielder in the world after Kaka. But injuries have hampered him.

I feel his time at Arsenal is slowly coming to an end. He no longer has the legs to play on the wing, so the only place he could fit in is behind the striker. But here he is behind Ozil, Cazorla, Sanchez, Chamberlain, Wilsheres & Ramsey. There is just no longer space for him.

As for Cazorla, he is another who time is running out for. You take out the FA Cup Final goal, he has been pretty poor for the last two seasons.

Ozil is head and shoulders ahead of him (literally) and if he is out, there is so much competition.

Personally, after last nights performance, I would like to see Oxlade-Chamberlain get a run out in centre midfield (I felt against Stoke he should have started there, with Welbeck and Sanchez out wide). He is more dynamic than Cazorla and deserves the chance. In the short term, this would obviously then allow us to play Sanchez and Podolski out wide (headache clearing!). With everyone fit, Cazorla is our 3rd choice  number 10. And again, that does not take into account Wilshere or Ramsey playing there.

Alongside Rosicky, it would not surprise me if Cazorla was shown the door this summer.

One person who did not give Wenger a selection headache yesterday was Joel Campbell.

Yes, you should not judge on one game, but the lad had never impressed me, bar a single goal against Manchester United and one good performance in the World Cup. He runs with his head down too much and just does not influence the game enough.

Compare him last night to Oxlade-Chamberlain. One looked class. The other looked like a kid getting his chance. Were Campbell 18/19, I would think stick with him. But he is not. He is 22, a year older than Oxlade Chamberlain. And the gulf in class between them is huge.

On the right, Campbell has to compete with Walcott, Chamberlain and Sanchez.

Then add in Serge Gnabry, who is 3 years Campbell’s junior. In his 9 appearances last season for Arsenal (when still just 18), he showed more than Campbell has in his career. Campbell, remember, is now 22.

Campbell is behind Walcott, Chamberlain, Sanchez and Gnabry for the right sided berth. And last night he did not show any inclination that he would be challenging them any time soon.

So there are a lot of headache’s for Wenger coming up. Currently, a few of these are solved due to injury. Walcott, Wilshere and Ozil being out gives the chance to Chamberlain, Ramsey and Podolski. But when they are fit, who plays?

My perfect team be?

Debuchy Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
Arteta Ramsey
Walcott Ozil Sanchez

What would yours – and try not to give yourself a headache thinking about it.


19 Reasons why we will beat Besiktas + My Starting 11

This is an updated version of the blog for the 1st leg… https://shewore.com/2014/08/19/10-reasons-why-we-will-beat-besiktas-starting-11/


1)  Our Record in qualifiers is Played 13, Won 12, Drawn 1, Lost 0, Goals For 29, Goals Conceded 3.

2) We beat another Turkish side (Fenerbahce) at this stage last season.

3) Gibbs is out for 2 weeks (2 months in Arsenal time), Koscielny is fit as is Mertesacker, which means the defence picks itself with Chambers likely to be on the bench.

4)  2 of the Arteta/Ramsey/Wilshire midfield trio are out. Arteta is Injured and Ramsey is  Suspended.

5) Sanogo and Diaby are sadly listed as available , luckily all our German World Cup Winners are too.

6) Flamini will be Mr Versatile tonight covering every position on pitch (if needed) including between the sticks.

7)  Their main threat will come from Chelsea reject Demba Ba.

8) Their Champs League record reads.. P 66, W 22, D 12, L 32, GF 64  GS 103. The Arsenal’s.. P 174, W 88, D 39, L 47, GF 279, GS 174.

9) The Arsenal Vs Turkish sides, P 8, W 4, D 4, L 0 GF 12, GS 2

10) Wenger Knows, get a good win tonight and it could be all steam ahead for not only the Champs League for real but also for signing the 3 or 4  players we will need to really challenge this season on all fronts now that Giroud could be out for a long spell.

My Starting 11 – Chesney – Deb, Kos, BFG, Monreal – Flamini, Jack, Ozil – Joel, Ox, Alexis