Tag Archives: assists

Mkhitaryan Will Come Good

Rotation is part and parcel of the modern game.

With the majority of successful sides playing between 55-70 games in a season on average, a well-stocked squad is fundamental.

A lack of numbers in any position is sure to be exploited by the rigours of a domestic and European campaign – something we Arsenal fans can painfully attest to.

On more than a few occasions we have seen our defence brutally exposed by a succession of injuries – centre-backs, left and right-backs, none were safe, and it took the powers of adaptation and youth for us to be able to field a recognisable backline.

So, an ample squad is necessary.

It does have a negative though.

Players and managers often cite a lack of match rhythm for poor form. It seems that players need a run of successive games in order to attain the zenith of their skills and talents. Like fine-tuning a radio to oust the static, each minute inches the player ever closer to that halcyon slice of time that sees one of our players hit the purple zone and show us all exactly what they are capable of.

This seems to be the issue for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The Armenian has given us more than a few assists and goals since his arrival as part of the swap deal that saw wantaway Chilean Alexis go to United.

The player with the scrabble-winning surname has one goal and three assists at the time of writing (this was written on the cusp of us facing Wolves on 11 Nov), from 11 games. Not exactly terrible, but far from what his early form promised.

When Mkhitaryan arrived, he linked up instantly with former Dortmund brethren Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. His displays against Everton and Watford particularly, were vibrant and intricate, full of texture and the air of a master locksmith. It looked like we had an excellent accomplice to Mesut Ozil.

913748798.jpg.0.jpg

This season though, has seen Mkhi restricted to mostly Europa League and League cup appearances. The first three games saw him in the eleven, but since then he has started only three more – with only two of them coming in a row.

It means that our playmaker has not been able to edge toward his top level, and it has seen a small portion of fans round on him.

Form is temporary, class is permanent, and Mkhitaryan has already shown in flashes what he brings to the team. He has also shown at Dortmund and United what he can do at the top level – if given the chance.

Emery has already shown he has no hesitation to put Mkhi in for the big games – being selected for the Liverpool draw ahead of the in-form Iwobi speaks volumes.

Injuries will bite, and Mkhitaryan will get a run of starts in the near future – that much is certain.

What isn’t certain is will us fans keep in mind that the circumstances haven’t been kind to the attacker, and we are yet to see him fully stretch out and enjoy himself?

We will see the slide-rule passes, clever finishes and intricate boxwork, and it will become vital as the matches come thick and fast. He will play his part, and despite his lack of gametime, Mkhitaryan has not moaned. Instead he has knuckled down and kept training hard.

Mkhitaryan at his best is among the finest playmakers in the Premier League. We have a hell of a player on our books, and we most certainly got the better end of the swap deal with United.

Mkhitaryan will come good – and his clever play fits seamlessly with our style. Mkhi is most definitely a Gunner.

The Ozil Agenda

World Cup coverage of Germany’s downfall and the continuation of the Champions Curse centred mainly on one man.

Was this just? With Loew’s team falling way short of the standard that is expected, was one man really responsible? Or was it the media having an agenda that garners the most engagement?

No domestic football means a real shortage of actual football to generate headlines, and it means that with less news, the quality of stories coming from the mainstream media is watered down a tad.

A great example of this is the lines zoning in on a certain Mesut Ozil. The player that journo’s love to write about. His lackadaisical mannerisms are manna from heaven, and it is easy to wrap stories around this, painting a picture of an entitled enigma, a player who rarely puts in a shift, and his injury woes toward the end of the season were illustrated to look like the German was taking a break rather than attempting to recover from a back injury.

At the time, a large majority of us questioned Ozil’s absence. An abrupt omission from the squad in the last few games of the season did raise some eyebrows, but his back problem was confirmed by both Arsene Wenger and Joachim Loew, and Ozil was forced to take it easy in the run up to the World Cup.

Ozil in action for Germany's ill-fated defence of the World Cup

Ozil’s recent poor form though, is now being used as a stick to beat the playmaker, and recent TV coverage of Germany’s loss to South Korea had German fans actually blaming Ozil for their country’s early exit.

Radio stations, newspapers, websites, all have shone the light of blame on Ozil, his petulant behaviour and failure to exert his influence on proceedings are the sack that has been flung over Ozil and used to chuck him out to sea.

The thing is though, is that Ozil performed his job against South Korea, and he did it very well.

One key stat is the purest evidence of this, and one that was hidden from the majority, for fear of destroying the shroud of blame that currently hangs over Ozil.

The German number 10 is the creator, he is on the pitch to make chances.

Well, he made more chances in the loss versus South Korea, than any player in the entire World Cup had made so far.

That’s right. The underperforming, misfiring misfit that is Ozil, hung out to dry by all and sundry, made more opportunities for his team than any player at the entire tournament had made in total.

Yet Ozil was the reason Germany limped out.

Every piece of visual coverage that looked at Germany’s losses to both Mexico and South Korea went predominantly with an image of a tired-looking Ozil. His image attached to the misfortunes of his national side.

Forget Mats Hummels, who seemed to forget he was a defender in all 3 games. Forget Manuel Neuer, who has only just returned from serious injury and his insistence on playing in midfield cost Germany their second goal.

Forget about Khedira, Boateng, Timo Werner, Mario Gomez. These players were severely under-par, and yet not one finger points at them and demands they face the baying mobs.

No, because their face doesn’t fit the agenda. Mesut Ozil bashing gets headlines, clicks, calls on the radio show. When Ozil gets lambasted, then engagement levels go up.

It can be the only reason for it, given Ozil performed way above what he was given scant credit for.

Then there was the reports that Ozil suffered racial abuse from his own fans. From World Cup hero and Germany’s Player of the Year on many occasions, to derided zero, now not worth an iota of support.

It’s hard to think of another player right now that suffers in the same way. Is this targeting of Mesut simply down to his lack of emotion? If so, there are other players who come across like an automaton on the pitch and in interviews, yet they don’t suffer in the same way. Is it his effortless style? Because his neck veins don’t rise to the surface while straining every sinew?

The naysayers point out the 2-1 win over Sweden when Ozil was dropped. They say that this shows that Joachim Low was carrying Ozil, and as soon as the number 10 came back into the side, they lost again.

Well, anyone who watched Germany versus South Korea could testify that Ozil wasn’t to blame.

The whole team were utterly abject.

So, as Gooners, retain some common sense. We should be glad Ozil will at least now get some rest before what is sure to be a huge season for Arsenal. We should back our man. He could do with the support. Who knows, it could just pay off.

Who is the best backup in the business?

There are many credentials required in order to be classed as a true contender in football.

The majority of heavyweights who slug it out on the European stage normally have a wealthy benefactor, a half-decent pedigree and a squad peppered with talent.

It is the squad though, that perhaps best underlines the strength of a club. When an outfit hopes to fight on all fronts, they must rely on their lesser lights in order to remain relatively unscathed.

When Manchester United won the treble, they had four strikers who would have graced the majority of Europe’s top teams. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were a lethal combo, and Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer provided a steady stream of goals.

When we won the Double in 2002, we had Thierry Henry – the greatest player in Europe -, the genius of Dennis Bergkamp, the efficiency of Sylvain Wiltord and the unpredictability of Nwankwo Kanu to fall back on.

These teams could boast such a huge array of striking talent to keep teams guessing and on the back foot, and this all happened nearly two decades ago.

They do provide a good yardstick though.

Do clubs now have the same depth that their more illustrious past brethren had?

United have Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford as their two preferred attacking options. Now the sole striker formation is far more conventional than it was back in 1999 and 2002, it places less emphasis on needing four strikers. United still need backup though, and in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they seem well armed on that front.

Our team is far weaker than during our golden generation. Now we have an adept and skilled Alexandre Lacazette, with a soon departing Alexis able to slot in to the forward line when the need arises. Our backup is Olivier Giroud, and the Frenchman has gone from ridicule to lavish praise during his Arsenal career.

I think it’s safe to say that we all appreciate how good Olivier is, and what a sterling job he’s done since finding a starting spot hard to maintain.

Who has the best backup though? Does Ibrahimovic have the edge now as well as having the far bigger trophy cabinet? Or does Olivier win it by a nose thanks to his lesser years?

This season has seen Olivier Giroud become the most prolific substitute for Arsenal, and he has bagged four goals thus far, compared to Zlatan’s none. It is worth mentioning that Giroud has played 276 more minutes than his Swedish opponent.

It is last season though, that is telling.

Zlatan played double the amount of minutes than Giroud did, as he was United’s main man last season before Lukaku came onto the scene. Yet Zlatan only bagged five more goals than Giroud did, scoring 17 to 12. He also only grabbed two more assists than the Frenchman.

Giroud was also more efficient in front of goal, with 59 percent shot accuracy compared to Zlatan’s 55 percent, and a superior aerial duel success rate.

So, it seems clear that despite a lack of minutes, Giroud can hold his head high and claim that he is indeed worthy of a start. Will that be elsewhere rather than at The Emirates though?

His situation is different to Zlatan’s. The tall Swede is in his twilight years and even though he hasn’t lost his effectiveness thanks to an excellent level of fitness, he realises his time at a top club may be on the wane. Zlatan could still do a fantastic job at most clubs.

Ibrahimovic has had one of the most glittering careers. League titles in France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. His goalscoring record even at United is in keeping with his record elsewhere – 28 goals in 46 apps. Follow www.betfy.co.uk/ for more.

Giroud has never been as effective in front of goal as Ibrahimovic, but in terms of being an effective team player, then he’s every bit as valuable as the one that refers to himself in the third person.

Time to get rid of Alexis

Alexis Sanchez has been our saviour on many occasions.

That little moment of genius that separates games from the ignominy of the forgotten. The sprinkling of unpredictability that unlocks packed defences and rescues a game from the doldrums.


That has been our Chilean’s speciality since his arrival.


He is no longer our saviour though, he’s just a naughty boy.







This season has been telling in where Alexis’ heart lies, and it is apparent it isn’t at The Emirates.


On some level, we can’t blame him. His signing appeared to be the herald of a continued change of approach, a try at actually acting like the stature of club we purported to be. We had gone big again, one season after breaking our transfer record with the purchase of Mesut Ozil.


It hasn’t transpired. We’re still treading water, still a sizeable gap between us and the glory we should be tussling for each season.


We’ve won silverware, something some of our rivals who are reportedly doing better than us have failed to do for some time. It isn’t enough however.


We’ve dropped out of the Champions League places, we’ve still to rectify the middle of our midfield after so many seasons of inadequecy. Alexis would have joined the club with promises of duking it with the big boys, but it hasn’t materialised.


Still though, there is a big difference in performance from Alexis this season than in his previous campaigns.


Last season we saw a sometimes petulant Alexis. Giving off waves of frustration with every dropped head, every wild arm movement, every scream at his teammates for losing the ball.


He still proved the difference for us on many occasions. He still bagged a hatful of goals and assists though, even if he appeared to be desperately unhappy with things.


At least those small tantrums showed he cared though. The smirking Alexis on the bench we’ve seen on occasion is the direct opposite. 


The Alexis we have this season is a far cry from the one we tried so hard to keep this summer. His poor goal tally, his failure to exert himself on proceedings the way he is capable of, they are all signs that his mind is elsewhere. He is biding his time before going to grass that in his mind – is emerald green.


Six goals in 22 appearances. Only three assists. Those aren’t the figures we have come to expect of Alexis, and the old Alexis would be disgusted with himself with such poor numbers.


We have seen Alexis work his magic this season. His performance against tottenham reminded us that we still have a jewel in our midst. It has also contrasted with his mediocre season thus far.


His performance against Manchester United and then Southampton were awful. He lost the ball on 34 separate occasions against United, and the number was disgustingly similar against the Saints.


Losing possession that many times is unforgivable. He plays in a team that relies on possession, we need it to damage teams. So for him to travel down blind alleyways on the pitch and take on three more players than he needs to is downright irresponsible, and shows he doesn’t care for the team as much as he needs to.


Players of his ilk carry more weight of responsibility as they are looked to by teammates and fans to provide that key that unlocks any defence. When they no longer care for the team though and are just doing things on the pitch to stay in the mind of another manager, then we must look at allowing him to leave.


There are many options for his next club, but we could quite easily find a team that isn’t a domestic rival, and perhaps have a player that could benefit us in a swap? PSG and Julian Draxler srping to mind?


Alexis will leave, without a doubt. We need to get a transfer fee and look elsewhere to fill the void left by Alexis.


Not this season’s version though. This season has allowed us to tailor our play a little more and acclimatise to times without him. 


Last season’s Alexis inigh on impossible to replace, this season there are plenty to choose from. Time to get busy in the market. 

Is Mesut Ozil Underperforming?

Every club possesses a star player. The one his teammates look to when matters on the pitch are on the slide. These men have within their grasp that sprinkling of stardust that illuminates the darkness and opens up previously locked doors.

They pull up their cohorts by their very eyes, showing them that anything is possible even in the most difficult of circumstances. Inspiration is the key ingredient that is liberally stored in their pockets, and the manager knows that every minute spent on the pitch is another possibility that something could materialise. 

They offer hope and salvation from the dregs of misery. Every club is lucky enough to have one in their ranks, and some clubs have two or three. 

Manchester City have Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne. Chelsea have Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, Liverpool have Philippe Coutinho and United have Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. At Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil provide the sparks for the team, but what happens when there is no flicker of light? 

Last season for Ozil saw him exhibit exactly what makes him one of the finest playmakers in world football, and coveted by clubs all over the world. Despite the static nature of first choice striker Olivier Giroud, Ozil registered 19 assists for the season. He missed the chance to set a new record at Arsenal for amount of assists in a season, but for the majority of the year, his deft touch was the key for the Gunners attack to unlock even the most stubborn defence.

He finished above his positional rivals in terms of chances created and assists, and thus proved his superiority. You see, stats may lie in the eye of the beholder, but they still underline facts. His greater numbers showed that his productivity was better than those players who were supposed to be on a par with the German. 

When there is no productivity however, it undermines most arguments. Mesut Ozil is a player that even when his velvet touch is quavering and his radar is on the fritz, he still instigates attacks. He is still integral to every move Arsenal conjure. The problem with this is that pre-assists are not counted, and his excellent positioning is not registered. All that matter are numbers.

Ozil has also had to adapt to a style change at the club. Since his blockbuster move to Arsenal in 2014, his bullseye has been Olivier Giroud. Ozil prospers when his boot can hone in on runners into the box, but Giroud’s primary strength is with his back to goal, laying off the ball and then finding a nick of space in the box. Ozil, to find his optimum level, needs a Freddie Ljungberg/Bobbi Pires type. A player who constantly makes intelligent runs.

So to still get 19 assists last season was a real feat. This season should be even better then, considering he has the effervescent Alexis Sanchez and the fit and firing Theo Walcott to aim for?

This hasn’t transpired. He is still making things click to a degree in the final third, but this season has seen him and our other source of inspiration Alexis, drop ever deeper in an effort to ignite our play. How much of this is down to a drop in form for our German though?

Comparing him to the aforementioned playmakers at our rivals, Ozil’s lustre diminishes a little so far this campaign. De Bruyne leads the way for assists at the time of writing (Dec 1st) with seven, closely followed by Coutinho with five. Ozil has a paltry one.

What about chances created? He may not be getting assists, but that may be down to the profligacy of our strikeforce? Well, out of four players (De Bruyne, Hazard and Coutinho), Ozil is third in terms of chances created, with De Bruyne and Coutinho again earning better numbers.

Ozil has been more of a goal threat this season – Arsene Wenger has mentioned his wanting for Mesut to fire in more goals this term – but he again lags behind two of the four, with Hazard and Coutinho bagging more than Mesut.

One stat that is quite telling is the number of key passes –  This shows that Ozil is still the heartbeat of our attack, as his number surpasses all three of his rivals so far. 

It also highlights that he is lacking the keen edge of the assassins knife that is his signature. He is still seeing as much of the ball, but the numbers don’t lie, he is not producing his beautiful passing in the right area. 

It seems unfair that we expect so much from him – and Alexis – when our team are not exactly firing on all cylinders, but these players are a step up from the norm and should rightfully warrant the elevated expectations. 

At the moment he is a Lamborghini, but he is being driven around the one-way system in Norwich. We are not utilising him where he can be most potent – or is it down to Ozil himself that he is dropping deeper rather than at the cutting edge of play?

We need his productivity to increase. He is still finding teammates with the ball, but if they are thirty five yards away from goal, it matters little. Ozil needs to exert his influence in the final third and remind everyone again that his boot is capable of slitting open any opponent. 

At the moment his knife is too far away from the enemy to create any lasting damage. 

The Squandering Of Mesut Ozil

Some question the power of statistics.

In cult 80’s movie ‘Gregory’s Girl,’ the main protagonist in the movie states that, “numbers make the world go round.” The guy has a point. Whilst stats can be skewed to fit around an agenda if the need arises, there are certain facts that cannot be denied.

One of them is this:  Mesut Ozil has created more chances this season than any other player in Premier League history. Yet he still remains three short of the assist record.

Continue reading The Squandering Of Mesut Ozil