Tag Archives: centre

Xhaka – Learning From Errors

It’s tough to admit when you’re wrong.

There aren’t many people out there that enjoy being shown the error of their ways or opinions. It happens to us all as none of us are flawless. You would think that we would get used to it, perhaps even take the high road and use it as a learning exercise.

But no. The majority of us either use it as a stick to beat ourselves with – a constant reminder of our flaws.

Or we brush it off and continue to be opinionated.

Well, most of us got it wrong with Granit Xhaka.

The evidence is right in front of us. We just clung onto a few observations and tried to deflect the actual truth.

Which is, that Xhaka may not be the second coming of Johann Cruyff, but in terms of making the team tick? He’s more than good enough for us.

Let’s consider the facts.

Firstly, Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery, Freddie Ljungberg and Mikel Arteta continued to select the maligned midfielder where possible. Asa a collective in terms of footballing intelligence, they far surpass the combined knowledge that we possess. They continued to select him. It may not have always been in a role that suited his skillset, but Xhaka was predominantly in the team.

Secondly, our win rate when he is in the side far outweighs when he isn’t in the eleven.

This was a stat taken from April last year.

Arsenal’s PL record when Xhaka has completed 90 minutes in midfield this season vs without.

With: 15-4-1. 75% win rate. 2.25 scored per game. 1.0 conceded per game.

Without: 4-2-6. 33% win rate. 1.67 scored per game. 1.67 conceded per game.

This season, he has a 75% win rate when on the pitch again.

He consistently appears in amongst our top runners in terms of distance covered. Xhaka is also one of the best at intercepting plays and starting us on the front foot – especially with his range of long passing.

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This season, after the captain’s armband was taken from him, his normal penchant for rash tackling has seemed to simmer down a little. Which has resulted in less setplays given against us and less opportunity.

The real kicker though for Xhaka and his career at the club – is Arteta has found the ideal role for him.

Before the Spaniard arrived, Xhaka was pigeonholed as a defensive midfielder. True, his base of operations lies in between our third of the pitch and the central third, but Xhaka is far from a one-trick pony. Part of his style is to break up play, but one of the main reasons why he copped so much heat from a large swathe of our fanbase is his inefficient tracking back. Xhaka too often would let runners bypass him and make penetrating dashes into the box.

But when we give Xhaka that responsibility, it takes away from what he specialises in, which is quick turnovers and transitions. This in turn allows our pacy players like Saka and Aubameyang to run into space and know they’ll be picked out.

Arteta has come in and shared the responsibility of the defensive side of midfield across the board. We defend as a team and attack as one unit. That frees up the Swiss midfielder to do what he does best.

And it explains why we now see the Xhaka that was playing for Borussia Moenchengladbach and for his national side.

Xhaka isn’t a box to box, but true midfielders don’t really need a label.

Granit Xhaka now adds real value to the team – and the respect his teammates have for his leadership and him as a teammate makes it appear that a return to the armband after his return to the side is very much on the cards.

We were wrong – Xhaka makes us a better team and it’s time he got the credit for giving it his all.

Guendouzi – Stick or Twist?

Arsenal’s squad in terms of youthful talent pushing through is in rude health.

Some of the starlets in our ranks are among the brightest we have seen at the club for some time. The likes of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith-Rowe represent a hopeful future for Arsenal that we can thrive when these kids really start to bloom.

Matteo Guendouzi could be mentioned among these names. The young Frenchman is very highly rated at the club and beyond, but it seems that he is missing one vital ingredient in order to rise above the average and really strike it at the top.

That is humility.

Guendouzi, as I write, is currently training alone after his spat with Neil Maupay of Brighton. His comments toward the Gulls striker revolved around money and how Brighton’s number nine would never be able to earn what Matteo is currently on at Arsenal.

It indicates two things. One, that Guendouzi is prioritising the wrong thing and two? He really needs to put the effort he uses to annoy opponents into his football.

Since then, we have seen stories, or ‘leaks’ circulating around Guendouzi’s attitude at former clubs and of an apparent bust-up with Sokratis at our Dubai training camp earlier this year.

Now we may or may not ever know the truth about his run-in with our Greek defender, but his behaviour at his former club Lorient is a very good gauge of who the boy is behind the player as it is verified information.

His former manager at Lorient, Bernard Casoni, spoke to the media this week and had this to say:

Guendouzi’s problem is not physical and is not technical. It’s his attitude, it’s not good for the team or the coach. My relationship with him was not very good.”

“I chose him for a cup match against Nice but he was booked very early. The referee told me at half-time to warn Guendouzi: one more fault and off we go, but in the second half nothing changed. I had no choice but to master it. When I did, he refused to shake my hand.”

Most tellingly, Casoni finished with this, “He took his job seriously, his training was no problem and his character is to always want to win.

“Sometimes when he talks it’s good. But sometimes he speaks badly. He talks too much.

“His talent is not in question, this is not the problem. He can be a top player and I think he can still be successful abroad. It is up to him to change his attitude.”

Guendouzi featured heavily under Unai Emery, playing 33 times in our PL campaign alone. This season though, has been a stop-start campaign for Matteo, and early under Arteta, Guendouzi found squeezing his way into the team a tough ask.

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The balance of Xhaka and Ceballos has no doubt not helped Guendouzi’s quest for minutes, but it seems that Arteta is not keen on the Frenchman staying at the club. Perhaps one bad apple does spoil the bunch? Just imagine being in that situation – training with a bunch of teammates daily, but one of them is difficult? It would sour the ambience at the training ground to a degree.

But it is undeniable that Guendouzi is talented. He would have no shortage of interested parties should he decide that the going is better on other shores.

How do we avoid another Gnabry situation?

Now there are many facets that aren’t similar – Gnabry’s attitude wasn’t abrasive and he couldn’t get enough gametime from the start. But we have let plenty of young players go, only for them to immediately show us what we are missing.

There is a definite chance of this happening with Guendouzi.

The problem is that if he does stay at Arsenal, how does Arteta get him to tow the line like his other players? Currently, putting him out to train alone is not exactly fertilising positivity. So if Matteo flouts the rules again, how should Arteta react?

Alternatively, if he did it again, would that indicate that Guendouzi is simply a renegade who isn’t interested in harmony and mutual respect?

It’s clear that Guendouzi isn’t the finished article – his positioning smacks of inexperience and he far too often fails to track his man, but we have all seen that he could be a huge player for us.

Or for another club. At this moment in time, it looks likely that our crop of promising youth players will shoulder the responsibility of Arsenal’s immediate future without the help of the crazy-haired Guendouzi.

 

 

 

We Need Our Torreira Back

It has gone quiet, but this season especially has shown us that our defensive midfield issues have not quite been put to bed just yet.

With the signings of Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira especially, the clamourings to sign a potent defensive midfielder were hushed, and with both players hitting the ground running, our worries were sated for a time.

Guendouzi has shown a hunger for possession that has led him to hounding the opposition in all areas of the pitch.

Torreira made a huge impact from the very start of his Arsenal career, and montages of his terrier-like tackling prowess and his never-say-die attitude manifesting itself on the pitch filled us all with absolute joy.

We had the answer we had been looking for since the departure of Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva. We had that player who would protect the backline and stand sentry, letting no enemy pass without at least a stiff examination of their credentials.

Or so it seemed.

This season has seen some strange goings on in our tactics and the way we line up.

Firstly, the sparing use of Lucas Torreira, even in the big games, really does leave us scratching our heads. When played, he always gives no less than 100%, but at least 50% of our matches he has spent on the bench.

When he does play, the tigerish displays we have come to adore have been replaced with a lasses-faire attitude to defending. It comes down to his positioning, which has been far more forward than last season, and a large amount of time he has been amongst the most forward on the pitch.

This kind of leaves us hamstrung when it comes to defending, as the aperture where Torreira should be protecting is open, and like the Gates of Thermopylae, our enemy harness it to great effect.

It leaves them streaming forward, and our defence backing off. Acres of space, and it leads to a shot. So many in fact, that we have led the way in Europe with regards to shots faced.

Guendouzi has been his all-action self – his display against Tottenham was frighteningly good – but the boy is still just 20, and needs a pivot partner to truly get the most out of what he brings, which is pretty much everything.

We need Torreira to do what he does best, and that is get the ball back, harass, breath down their necks. Instead, it looks like he has been let off a leash, and that is down to instruction.

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Is Emery content with letting Torreira off the hook in a footballing sense? Are the instructions he is giving the Uruguayan to go forward and assist the attack?

If so, that means Emery is leaving us dangerously lopsided, and open to barrages of attacks.

Torreira, if disciplined, can be the lynchpin of the side, the cornerstone that holds the side together. Take it away and you have what he have seen against Watford, Liverpool and Tottenham in the first half.

A blow-away, powderpuff side that can’t stand straight under scrutiny from a decent attack.

We need Torreira to stand in front of advancing hordes and use his abilities to stem the tide.

We don’t need another Alex Song – we need our Torreira back!

Xhaka Can?

June was an interesting month for player developments in and out of Arsenal.

We had the recruitment team working overdrive, a new contract for youth prodigy Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and then there was the contract extension of Granit Xhaka.

This new derived a mixed reception from Gooners. Xhaka was one of the ‘villains’ of last season’s horror show, often his mistakes put under a large magnifying glass and pored over. His defensive work was viewed as a symptom of our downfall and weakness on the pitch.

An interesting article by Tim Stillman on Arseblog highlighted the Swiss midfielder’s vast improvement in the second half of the season though, and how he could yet still be vital to our hopes of success.

An upturn in form he may have enjoyed, but for the sake of objectivity, a spike in context means that there was massive room for improvement in the first place – as highlighted in this article on 7am Kickoff

For a central midfielder, his defensive skills need work. He was outtackled by the likes of Roberto Firmino last campaign, and while he improved in the second half of the season, to increase his defensive output would not have been difficult. Given that we have now acquired a specialist in this role in Lucas Torreira, where does this leave Xhaka?

Xhaka is very much a ‘square peg, round hole’ type of player. His all-action displays for his country and previous club Moenchengladbach gave high hopes of the combative centre man we have craved since Gilberto departed.

Granit is more than that though. While his tackling and interceptions may need work, his distribution success is amongst the best in the League. His eye for a pass and ability to transition play swiftly with a ping of his boot gives us something extra.

Granit Xhaka needs to improve

Unai Emery is now in charge and Xhaka’s contract extension would not have been offered if the Spanish boss didn’t have plans that included the Switzerland star. Emery is known to favour a pressing game, and if Xhaka is part of the Emery regimen, then it means that Emery knows that Xhaka has what it takes to continue to do what he does in attack, but also rework his defensive aspects.

The heat that Xhaka gets from our fanbase is a little much – but he is a scapegoat because his mistakes have been high-profile and highlighted by the media. Many other players don’t track runners with aplomb and / or lose out when tackling for possession. Yet Xhaka is a dud because of this.

There can be no doubt that the Granit from last season will not have much of a career at Arsenal under Unai Emery, should Xhaka continue with his lapses in concentration. He will need to hone his awareness, and make sure that he gets to where he needs to be. As Emery himself pointed out when commenting on Xhaka’s new deal – he is still young. that means there is room for improvement.

Xhaka has the building blocks to fill in the gaps in his game and be the player we need him to be, but there are justifiable reservations on his starting place amongst us all.

The fact is undeniable. We know he has the talent, but if he were to stay at the level he is now, then the exit door would not be far away. Emery demands more than what the vast majority of our squad put in last campaign.

Xhaka has a clean slate. It is clear he is very proud to represent The Arsenal. Now is the time to use that fierce pride and desire and leave it all out on the pitch, and adapt to Emery’s style.

It will be very interesting to see how he performs – the season can’t come soon enough.

Welcome To Arsenal – Lucas Torreira!

It’s official – Lucas Torreira is an Arsenal player.

Arsenal unveiled Torreira yesterday, with photos and videos aplenty coming from the Arsenal media team. His signing heralds a new dawn for our club, it seems to be the moment we have finally purchased a player who can cure the ills of our midfield of late.

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Torreira’s signing has cost the club in the region of 25m Euros, and with stats like his, it’s easy to see why.

Unai Emery was there to welcome the Uruguayan to London Colney, and told the Arsenal media team;
In Lucas Torreira, we have signed a young player who is a very bright talent in the game. A midfielder with great quality, I have enjoyed watching his performances for Sampdoria in the past two seasons, and we all saw him do very well for Uruguay in the World Cup. He is a young player already with good experience, but who wants to keep on growing. We welcome Lucas to Arsenal and look forward to him joining us soon for pre-season.”

Emery touched upon the diminutive midfielder’s amazing displays at Sampdoria, where he made more tackles than anyone in the last two seasons, showing he is consistent as well as combative – two qualities we have lacked at times.

He is no one-trick pony either, as he amassed 87% pass completion and averaged a chance created per game last season, showing he can mix it in the final third too.

Being only 22, he may need a period of acclimatization after he joins up with the squad in August, but when he picks up the pace of the Premier League, he has all the skills necessary to provide our team with the perfect destroyer in the centre of the park.

Torreira showed he has levels too, which may negate the need for a month or two of finding his feet. He appeared in all five of Uruguay’s games in their run to the World Cup Quarter-Final’s, and his displays were full of verve and strength, not once did he look out of place.

Torreira will wear the No11 shirt when he finally dons the jersey, and we may have to wait to see him make his debut, but we can rest assured that he is finally confirmed and he is definitely ours, after weeks of hearsay.

Welcome to Arsenal, Lucas Torreira!

Arsenal Engine Room Needs a Service

This season has seen the continuation of an enigma that our manager seems unable to solve.

Our midfield is an unoptimised machine that jars and shudders at crucial times in games. In figurative winters for our midfield, we turn the ignition but there is no spark – we are immobile.


We can be bypassed with a simple cutting pass and the moving parts that comprise our engine room are out of synch. Muddy waters blur the roles for our midfield pairing, and Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey have so far sought the mysterious substance that gels pairs together with little success.


Since Mikel Arteta departed from The Emirates and Santi Cazorla started to battle his plagued ankle, we have used various combos to little effect. When compared to Chelsea, Man United and even tottenham, our midfield pales in comparison.


Where does the problem lie though?


At the time of writing, Premier League stats showed that Granit Xhaka was the third highest successful pass maker in the entire League. The Swiss star seems to be a real conundrum for not only Wenger – but our entire fanbase. Some have already showed him the exit, others struggle to find his strength, then there are others who lay the blame for his failings at Wenger and his midfield partner.




Xhaka perhaps is being utilised wrongly. The midfielder is being moulded or stuck in a defensive midfield position – but Xhaka is not a DM. Not yet at least. He is described by those in the know as a deep-lying playmaker, much like how Jack Wilshere’s role when he played for England last and was awarded a string of MOTM performances.


His passing as mentioned previously is one of the best in the league, but his defensive leanings – and those of his Welsh partner Ramsey – are seriously lacking. And this is why our midfield is absent at times.


The Premier League stats do not lie, and Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka have put in 34 successful tackles – combined – so far this season after eleven games. That is little more than three tackles per game total from both players.


No matter of high pressing can mask the fact that if we don’t win the ball back, if we don’t disrupt our opponents possession, it doesn’t matter how well we distribute the ball if we don’t have it.


To put this alarming stat into perspective – Roberto Firmino has made the same amount of tackles that Granit Xhaka has made. Mario Lemina has made more than both Xhaka and Ramsey.


A central midfielder is probably the most demanding of roles on the pitch. You need to be a master of both defence and attack, dictate play, keep a constant eye on your opponent and ensure you are in the right place at all times. Our midfield right now is not performing one side of their role – if they were in a real-world job, they would be in a meeting with their manager having a discussion about their failure to meet KPI’s.


The frustrating thing is that they are both capable of running the show – as displayed by our comprehensive victory over that lot down the road. They were everywhere and gave everything. 


Santi Cazorla is sorely missed not just for his infectious smile and insane two-footed skills. Despite his diminutive size, he gives his all in defence and can win the ball back. He tracks runners. We need an all-action midfielder.


If we are to continue with Granit Xhaka and Ramsey in midfield, then they both need to communicate and pivot. If one attacks, then the other sits back. It is such a basic requirement but it does appear that both players bunked this lesson. We all know that Ramsey has a penchant for attacking – he is rather good at those late runs that either distract defences or result in a goal. If the Welshman goes forward though, it is vital that Xhaka stays back and stands sentry.


The window is now open and we’ve tried valiantly to make this partnership work. 


If this basic part of midfield is not achieved, our gaping aperture in the centre of the park will continue to hinder any progress that we should be making. Our engine needs a service or a replacement. 

Elneny – A Good Fit For Defence?

Arsene Wenger has had his fair share of success and failure. This is inevitable after such a long career and more opportunities for error and calling things correctly. 

Broad shoulders are needed when making decisions on a big stage. There are plenty who are lying in wait for crumbs of a mistake, and when it does happen, Wenger is rightfully grilled on the reasons why he opted for that call, rather than other avenues.

We can all pore over many litres of spilt milk, but there are many other decisions made by Wenger that have been perfectly timed. Those thoughts that manifested themself into a seamless correlation on the pitch. Some of these have been the adaptation of the players he has signed.

Those men that have been signed to do a certain job and through intense scrutiny on the training field, have been earmarked for an entirely different role. Those that spring to mind are Lauren Etame Bisan Meyer, Emmanuel Petit, Kolo Toure and of course, Thierry Henry. These players had forged a strong reputation – with the exception of Toure – in their respective countries and they signed for Arsenal thanks to their strong displays in different positions. 

Yet Wenger saw something in them that made him mark them for an entirely new venture.

This pre-season just passed saw another player dip their toes into a new place in the team, and Mohamed Elneny did a fair job considering the change in disciplines. How is this different to when Nacho Monreal plays in the heart of defence though?

It is down to Elneny’s place in the squad. Since joining from Basel in 2016 the Egyptian has not let anyone down and can hold his head high. His days at central midfield though, have been limited thanks to the rivals he has for those two spots in the middle of the park.

Elneny is not a spectacular player. He is not the type that pings passes from deep, and he isn’t one to carry the ball around two or three players. He keeps it simple, is effective with possession and has a great shot when the fancy takes him. He is a typical squad player, but could versatility help him land more starts?

Being able to play in defence means he is twice as likely to get a game, given the propensity for injuries in the modern game. Has he the game for this different set of requirements though?

He does indeed. Think back to Kolo Toure, is Elneny any less talented with the ball than the Ivorian? He may lack the recovery pace that Kolo had in his pomp, but Elneny’s experience in central midfield means that he has the tactical acumen required to place himself in a superior position – thus negating the need for that burst of speed. 

It works for Per Mertesacker.

When asked recently about Elneny’s chances of playing in defence, Wenger said to Metro –

 ” Elneny is a player who has a fantastic attitude and mentality, and his main target is to help the team. When he plays there, of course he does extremely well. Of course he needs to learn the defensive side, but I always felt that a good central midfielder can be a good centre back. With the fact of course that when you’re playing in the back four you have to be decisive in the challenges, you have a bit more flexibility in the middle of a back three. He can do that.”

So the boss plans on utilising this new found adaptability from Elneny. Let us not forget that a firm bid was lodged from Leicester City for the Egyptian, which the player himself refused. He seems intent on making a success of himself on Arsenal’s stage, and if it be at the back or in the engine room, Elneny is the type that will give his all to the cause.

Chambers and Holding are the Future

From the hottest temperatures are the most valuable of treasures born. The most precious metals are twisted and formed in unbelievably scorching heat, and under duress are beautiful objects crafted and hewn.

The same rule applies for footballers. 

Hector Bellerin – who some rate as the best right-back in the Premiership – had his debut in 2014 against a rampant Borussia Dortmund side and was taught the most severe lesson in a 2-0 defeat. The young Spaniard learned a years worth of lessons in ninety minutes. 

It was not just a baptism of fire, it was akin to tying him to a pyre.

Calum Chambers and Rob Holding went through a similar unveiling ceremony in the first game of last season, when Liverpool smelled a hint of blood and eviscerated the duo in a brutal – if slightly lucky – 4-3 win at The Emirates.

Arsenal were in control when the second half began, but Liverpool’s Mane, Coutinho and their cohorts took advantage of the green nature of the Gunners defensive centre, and cashed in opportunistically.

It was the harshest of lessons, but one that needed to be taught. Chambers was fresh from leading the England youngsters to victory as Captain in the Toulon tournament in the summer and his stock was high, as well as his confidence. An unceremonious bringing back down to earth meant that whatever illusions Chambers may or may not have had about having ‘made it’ were dissipated quickly.

The same goes for Rob Holding. He was making his competitive debut for Arsenal and he must have been counting his lucky stars. Snatched from the bowels of Bolton and now playing a Premier League fixture against Liverpool, Holding could well have thought this was where he deserved to be. 

The bottom line that was emphatically delivered to both is that the work had not yet finished for the starlets. The lesson they must learn is that the work NEVER finishes. All top class defenders will extoll this loudly when asked.

This is why defenders reach their peak later than their outfield compatriots. Different strikers bring different challenges and defenders must constantly shift and adapt to meet the task head on. 

In pre-season before the Liverpool game, Holding and Chambers saw plenty of minutes and with the pressure off to a degree, they shone. With Krystian Bielik as another youngster given the opportunity to play, the three young defenders gave great accounts of themselves. the level of competition and the lack of competitive heat was not present though. 

This is why Chambers going on loan was the best idea for his progress. With Koscielny, Mustafi, Gabriel and Mertesacker as rivals for the two central spots, Chambers’s development would have been hampered by a lack of gametime. With this season-long loan at Middlesbrough, we saw what he was capable of on a weekly basis. It was the perfect way to gauge whether he truly is up to the mark of playing for Arsenal.

The answer is yes, very much so. Chambers has been a pivotal member of the Boro back four which has put up a brave resistance. With their attacking threat being far less than the majority of teams in the Premiership, it has meant more time defending for the Teessiders. A real scrutiny has been on Chambers and he has passed with flying colours. 

Rob Holding was retained within the Gunners squad, and his sporadic appearances have been an indicator as to what type of player the former Trotter will be. He plays it safe, is not prone to panicking and makes correct decisions. There is much room for improvement, but at such a tender age, the signs on his progression are that the only way is up. Just look at his display in the FA Cup Final and his shackling of Chelsea’s malevolent force of Diego Costa – the boy done good.

Both players allow Arsenal to plana a little ahead. They represent the future of Arsenal’s defence, and if they can keep hold of Hector Bellerin, then many years of solidity stand in the Gunners future. What other clubs can boast of such things?

Replacing Santi Cazorla….

​It is human nature to take things for granted. 

You can go years without falling foul of illness, but as soon as the sniffles, man-flu and curious fluids escaping through various orifices come calling, then we lay in bed or the couch and remember how lucky we were when we weren’t ill.

Anything good in our life, we conveniently forget how lucky we are to possess it, and instead we look to something else we don’t have but want. You have a great car that takes you to work and in a reliable fashion, but you can’t help but daydream about that sports car, or simply a newer version. 

New is exciting, new is sexy. The sheen, the smell, the admiring glances. We all like new. It is what we have though, that falls into the shadows, cold and unloved. 

Football is no different, and we see this with increasing frequency as each season passes. 

The infernal transfer window highlights the nations obsession with new – it is a portal into our desire for success, at any means. We may have a perfectly functioning player in our ranks, but we cannot help but lust over a possible new signing to replace them.

We always want better, and sometimes we forget how good our current players are. 

What always happens though, is that we don’t realise what we have in our grasp, not until we cannot call upon their services. Then we have a moment of clarity.

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Last season saw this adage become tangible, when Santi Cazorla was injured for a sizeable chunk of the season. This saw our side lose valuable momentum in the title chase, and upon his return, it was too late to claw back the gap which we had given up.

Our fans are more than aware of the technical genius that our Spaniard possesses, but it wasn’t until his months on the sidelines that we could see all facets of what he brought to our team. 

Without him, we lack drive. We sometimes look ponderous, missing the zip and speed in advance that he provides. 

We have also seen an evolution of sorts from Cazorla. His positional shift from Number10, to out wide, and now an integral central midfielder, he has shown that despite his lack of height, he has more than enough tenacity to mix it in the engine room.

Now, we may have a slight problem. If Santi departs in the summer, who has the skills in their locker to replicate his vital input? 

With Jack Wilshere on loan and Tomas Rosicky having left the club, it looks like we are bereft of the only players who can transition defence into attack with such efficiency – just like Santi Cazorla.

So, what will happen when we can no longer call upon our Spanish dynamo?

We need a midfielder who has positional discipline, and knows when to push forward and when to sit tight. The most fundamental asset they must have though, is that ability to convert pressure into propulsion. That burst of energy which comes from a slight turn, and the goosebumps which comes from carrying the ball away from a potentially troublesome situation. 

Aaron Ramsey could play that position, and he has previously performed well in central midfield – and he has openly stated he prefers to play in that spot. However, his best moments, and his strength, come from attacking situations. He has an attacking brain, and he has a talent for goals with a burst into the box. Worry not though, as we have a player who can do this job.

Granit Xhaka has been labelled as a hatchet man of sorts – the player Arsenal have needed that can ensure no more bullying of the Gunners happens. This is unfair on the Swiss midfielder, as he brings far more than a well timed tackle to the equation. 

His distribution is excellent, and his awareness of all around him seems to be where it needs to be. Does he have that transitional burst in his locker though? His strength to hold off opponents is most definitely where it needs to be, and in his showings thus far for Arsenal, when we break with him in the side, Xhaka has been the architect of many launches from our own half. He doesn’t seem to have the Cazorla burst which we so rely on, but instead, Xhaka makes the ball do the work with a talent for linking the final third when in defensive mode.

The only question regarding Xhaka is temperament. His shady red card record spells out a tendency to lose his head when the heat is cranked up, and it is something that must improve.

There is time to iron out creases, as Santi is still with us. What is of equal importance though, is that we enjoy what Cazorla brings to the table while he is still here. When he returns from injury and slots back into the eleven, the Spanish magician will again do what he does best.

The thing is, we now realise what we have got, as when he was gone, we sorely missed him. It means we can marvel at all the little things we potentially missed in previous matches.

Santi Cazorla is far more important than he gets credit for, and the search is on to ensure he isn’t missed as badly next time. 

Koscielny and his Ever-Growing Pocket.

Four years prior to joining Arsenal in 2010, Laurent Koscielny was at Guingamp, and struggling to enforce himself on his coach’s plans.

The speed of his rise from the doldrums of French football is staggering – and testament to how good Laurent Koscielny is, and how large his pocket has become.

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Continue reading Koscielny and his Ever-Growing Pocket.