Tag Archives: form

Arsenal’s Home Comforts

We know a home crowd has a huge effect on players. We know it changes the course of decisions for referees – home teams are nearly twice as likely to get a big decision than the away team.

Is it truly the 12th man though?

It seems that way for Arsenal right now, and last season too for that matter.

The contrast between our home and away form is quite startling. Since December (this is written in the aftermath of our 1-0 loss to Everton at Goodison) we have won a solitary game away from The Emirates in the Premier League. That victory was at bottom of the table Huddersfield, and we have had five away wins since the start of 2018 – Cardiff, Newcastle, Fulham, Bournemouth and Huddersfield.

Add to that our lack of a clean sheet away from home – the ONLY team to not have one this season – and you have a severe case of travel sickness.

It would be a case of relegation if it weren’t for our impressive home form. Only Manchester City have more home points banked than us, and it has seen us stay in contention for the top four.

Is our home crowd that vociferous that we need it to buoy us? Even Lacazette has twice as many home goals than away. Does our team require the home crowd more than we think?

As good as we can be at home sometimes, our crowd at The Emirates is probably not the answer. So why do our teams come out and play like artists at The Emirates, and yet fingerpaint away from home?

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Losses against West Ham, Everton, Southampton and draws against Brighton, Tottenham and Manchester United have all been games where we have failed to show up, or failed to push home the final blow.

The Hammers, Gulls, Saints and Everton results were devoid of anything remotely Arsenal-esque, and all shared the same fact – Our star-striking duo of Aubameyang and Lacazette didn’t start simultaneously alongside Mesut Ozil. Against United and Tottenham, our attacking threat was enough, but we failed to put away our chances, and it cost us.

When all three start, our results have been staggering, without loss this season. Mesut Ozil took his time to adapt to the ways of Unai Emery but has recently been involved in the starting eleven with increasing frequency.

Ultimately, that is down to the Manager and his selection.

It appears as if Emery favours attack as the best approach when at home, with our star three playing more often at The Emirates. When it comes to away from home though, one of our two strikers is usually selected, with Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi and / or Ramsey behind them. Emery is going conservative, trying to keep things a little tighter and emphasize the focus on closing down spaces rather than all-out attack.

The thing is though, when we do go for it at home, no matter the calibre of opponent, we create so much that we invariably have enough chances to win the game. We may concede a few – although in 2019 we have conceded less than all but Manchester City – but we seem capable of outscoring the majority.

Our knockout phase wins in the Europa League highlight the disparity of our home and away form.

Away from home against BATE Borisov, we fell to a 1-0 loss – the first English team to lose in Belarus.

Bring them back to The Emirates, we take them apart easily 3-0.

Same with Rennes – 3-1 loss in France, 3-0 win at The Emirates.

Let’s be straight here – these two clubs shouldn’t be able to hold a candle to us home OR away, yet they defeated us and left us to rely on our home advantage.

It seems then, that our malaise is down to a different approach, a lack of confidence to replicate our sizzling home form, and quite simply not playing well.

For this to carry over from last season shows that we need to change something, although there have been plenty of changes since Emery took over. The very fact we are still in with a shout of the top four shows we have improved from Wenger’s last season.

We have to hope we find the answer soon, otherwise it could cost us dearly.

Any ideas?

 

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.

Spotlight on Ozil Brighter than Most

Published on Arsenal Mania.

Football has changed inexorably in the last decade. It has made the sport far more popular as access to every singular movement of a player is now accessible with a solitary click. Social networks provide ample platform for opinions, ideas and highlights to get an airing – rightly or wrongly. 

Along with the opportunity for every fan to have their say and for everything that occurs on the pitch to be viewed from a plethora of angles, the money involved in the sport has also transformed football as we knew it. 

The Premier League now attracts the finest exponents of football, be that players or managers. They come to these shores lured by the lucre and as a result, the heat of competition rises notch by notch. Every single game now carries more significance than before, as final standings mean more money, and better performances by the players also means more moolah. It’s a cash-fest.

Money unfortunately makes the world go round, and football is no different. Just look at the Chinese Super League in the last year for the purest of proof.Arsenal have not escaped this all-enncompassing money-malaise, and the club is a tightly run business with revenue streams rising to prominence alongside results on the pitch.

With the rude health Arsenal are in, it has allowed the Gunners to flash the cash a little. Granit Xhaka, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have all arrived at the club in recent years, and their transfer fees – whilst not record-breaking in the face of flagrant spending by others – still means that these flagship signings are expected to illuminate the stadium with their excellence. 

A judge of their worth is often made within a few games, such is the fickle nature of some. Pundits often court controversy which only serves to exacerbate readers and listeners and also greases the wheels of their own brand. It is self-serving, but it is where football is right now. 

Mesut Ozil is one who has seen his every languid move scrutinised by all and sundry. The German World Cup winner seemed to deal with the intense attention on his performances for the majority of his Arsenal career, but this season has seen a dip in his displays, and the concentration of eyes on Ozil has now become a maelstrom of ridicule, doubt and fierce judgment.

Does Ozil warrant this? He is still Arsenal’s record purchase and has been touted as one of the worlds best playmakers. When he has been on song, he has exhibited the deftest of touches and vision only matched by the Hubble Telescope. His high’s are so lofty that any fall will contrast starkly.

Ozil is also suffering from a loss of form. He isn’t merely on a plateau, he is well below what he is expected to do. This is undeniable, but does Ozil cop it a little worse than others?

Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva have at times this season gone missing. Silva especially, for games at a time, can produce no end product in terms of goals and assists. Yet, do they dominate back pages? Do their sub-par performances earn hours of talk on radio and TV?

Eden Hazard is a prime example. Last season he was a passenger for 35 games of Chelsea’s mediocre season – and the backlash from him giving Chelsea precious little bang for their buck pales into comparison when placed alongside the weekly reaction regarding our German enabler.

The one decisive factor regarding Ozil’s dip, is the loss of Santi Cazorla. When the Spaniard was fit and in the team, Ozil was firing away goals and laying chances on a plate with high frequency. Since Cazorla has been injured however, Ozil has had to shift his role to get the amount of ball he needs. Mesut Ozil and his assets of mass destruction can nulify any team – just look at his performances against Bayern last season and Chelsea this season – but he needs Santi there to transition defence to attack.

Ozil is the surgery knife, but Santi is the handle. Without him, Ozil is severely hampered.

Ozil’s class is undeniable, but we should be able to criticise when he is off of his game. There is a line in the sand though, where constructive criticism becomes lambasting to keep in with the rest. It’s peer pressure amongst pundits. 

A retrospective look at what has been written and said by ‘experts’ would help, so they could see that it really has become a witch-hunt. Especially when you consider his positional brethren who escape the flak on a regular basis.

Ozil deserves both sides of what the spotlight brings, but who could blame him if he departs? 

Petr Cech Needs to Check Himself – Before He Wrecks Himself

Four Golden Glove Awards is not easily achieved.

It is the watermark of a fabulous career and of the highest talent. 

Petr Cech has amassed every trophy at club level that a player can grab. He is recognised as one of the finest goalkeepers to have graced the Premiership since it began. He has been a flagbearer of consistency for over a decade.

His move across London to Arsenal saw this continue, but a dip in form this season has fired off alarm bells. Cech has dipped before, but it has never lasted for such a long period of time. This season so far has seen the bar which he raised so high himself, loom high above him. He has not been able to replicate what has been the norm for so long.

The standards that he set at Chelsea – and last season with us – when compared to what he has given us this season, is startlingly different. 

For over a decade, Cech was the foundation on which Chelsea began their assault on the Premier League – and then Europe. When any of his teammates dipped in form, there was always a capable understudy waiting in the wings to usurp them in the lineup.

His longevity at Chelsea as their undisputed Number One spells out his supremacy between the sticks. If he did not maintain his levels of excellence, then he would have been unable to record his amount of appearances – and his haul of clean sheets.

Upon joining last season, he became the first goalkeeper to win the Golden Glove award with two different clubs. This was with a defence in front of him which was lambasted by pundits and experts alike.

This season though, there is a contrast in Cech’s performances. Gone is the commanding presence in the box. No longer is he the ever-present reliability which eases defender’s minds. Also, he has been beaten on more than one occasion at his near post by questionable efforts.

He has faced many penalties this season too – and his lackadaisical effort to stop the spot-kicks have been laughable. It appears to many that he is far too slow to get down to the turf, that his height is finally playing against him rather than for him.

Is it age? Cech is 34, and goalkeepers at this age have more than a few years left at their peak at this age, as opposed to outfielders who by this age are approaching their twilight years.

Plus, Cech has put in sporadic displays this season which have shown us he is still capable of his masterful ways. 

So this points us to a dip in form. When players drop their levels and are struggling for purchase, it is conventionally about ten to twelve games that sees them return to their best.

Cech has been underperforming from the start of the season. His regular comments in the media reverberate with leadership qualities, of words of a winner. His actions on the pitch echo the actions of a man who needs a reminder that he is not undroppable.

His understudy, David Ospina, has been performing minor miracles in his role as Cup Keeper. The South American cannot do any more to put pressure on Arsene Wenger to give him a shot as Number One. With Wojicech Szczesny also lighting up Serie A with Roma – Cech should see this as a warning that his form will not do.

Instead, he continues to underwhelm. For a man with such high expectations after a career of glittering moments, Cech is shaming his own record. 

What really underlines Cech’s fall from grace is how his teammates are doing. These players who are capable of brilliant things, are suffering from a lack of consistency which has hampered our campaign this season. Complacency has set in with a few Gunners, and it has seen them put in some shifts which have given opponents a weakness which they can exploit.

Complacency is a asickness that can only be treated with a harsh reminder of their own mortality. Cech needs a spell on the bench to implant the notion that this is not good enough.

Cech is far from finished – but he is letting the side down and himself – which for a habitual winner, is not acceptable. 

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. 

Watford Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Two games into the season, and the voices of dissent can already be heard. 

Defeat in the first game of the season against Liverpool, followed by a hard fought goalless draw away to champions Leicester have seen Arsenal fail to register a win – and now trail the clubs at the top of the table by five points.

Victory over Watford therefore, is imperative, but the Hornets will be no pushover. 

Walter Mazzarri’s side pushed Antonio Conte’s Chelsea all the way last week, slipping to an agonising late 2-1 loss, and the Italian will ensure that the Gunners will have to up their game if they wish to gain maximum points.

In terms of team news, Arsene Wenger will continue to be without Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey, both injured in the first game of the season, adding to the already crocked Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck and Gabriel.

In terms of team changes, it is unclear whether Mesut Ozil will have acquired enough match fitness to start the game, after making a cameo in the stalemate at the King Power stadium last weekend, but he and Olivier Giroud have every chance of jumping straight into the team.
When asked about the duo, Wenger yesterday said he had a decision to make on whether Ozil starts, but that Giroud was a little behind in terms of fitness.

Joel Campbell is now on loan at Sporting Lisbon, and there are murmurs of Calum Chambers being allowed to acquire minutes elsewhere on loan also, so expect Rob Holding to continue alongside the imperious Laurent Koscielny.

Alexis Sanchez will be in the team in one position or another, be it the sole frontman, or on his more familiar wide role. The Chilean has lacked a cutting edge thus far, but as ever it is not through a lack of effort. Expect a big game from the South American.

Led by Quique Sanches Flores last season, they pushed us hard before succumbing in both games, as well as dumping us out of the FA Cup, with more or less the same squad they possess now.

Odion Ighallo will continue to lead the line, and is off the mark for the season after netting in their defeat at the hands of Gillingham in the EFL Cup. Etienne Capoue is enjoying a purple patch too, with two goals in two PL games, so whoever is on sentry duty in an Arsenal shirt will have to be fully aware of his position.

It is unclear whether new signings Roberto Pereyra and Daryl Janmaat will make their debuts for the Hornets, but whoever makes the team, what is underlined is that three points must be taken from Vicarage Road.

Jack Wilshere was the third substitute alongside Giroud and Ozil last week, and the England man will be keen to get more minutes today, but Mohamed Elneny, Santi Cazorla, Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin will be in pole position to play in his central midfield position. Plenty of options in the centre of the park, but a selection headache is exactly what top clubs need to navigate a gruelling season.

Wenger has some decisions to make before kickoff.

Predicted lineup: 

Cech, Bellerin, Holding, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Sanchez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Giroud.

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 Arsenal.

Everton 0-2 Arsenal – Basics, Pockets, Form and Iwobi – Match Review

The midweek loss to Barca was far more than yet another Last16 exit in the Champions League.

It represented Arsenal finally turning a corner in their arduous search for a semblance of form. Making the ball do the work rather than the man, movement and innovation – the Gunners may have lost the game but they at least put in a performance that showed that they may just have trudged through the mire and were able to clean off their boots.

This 2-0 win, away from home against a dangerous Everton side, means that the next eight games can be looked upon with a little optimism, rather than trepidation.

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Barcelona Vs Arsenal – Mission Improbable – Match Preview

Before today’s match and in the aftermath of the Gunners FA Cup exit at the hands of Watford, under fire Arsenal Boss Arsene Wenger stated that he wanted his team to ‘make the impossible possible’ at the Camp Nou in this Champions League Last 16 2nd Leg.

To summarise, Arsenal lost the first leg at home 2-0, and face the European Cup holders who are in sumptuous form – conceding just two, and scoring nineteen in their last five fixtures – winning them all.

Arsenal go into this game in the worst run of form for years, just three wins in the last eleven fixtures and producing some displays which have been the polar opposite of the swashbuckling football which the Arsenal name is synonymous with.

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Arsenal Vs Watford – FA Cup Quarter-Final Preview

Hang on, didn’t we play Hull in the FA Cup a week ago?

Yes, and thanks to fixture congestion and some scheduling from the FA, Arsenal once more dust themselves off to defend the Cup they have held since 2014. Tomorrow’s opponent? Quique Sanchez Flores’s Hornets side.

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Tottenham Vs Arsenal – Match Preview

Where do I start?

Arsenal have their backs to the wall when they need to be putting their best foot forward, after two weeks of pure pain for Gooners everywhere.

A draw at home to Championship Hull City in the Cup. A valiant but ultimately campaign-ending loss to Barcelona, an embarrassing surrender to a weak Manchester United side and on Wednesday, a soul-crushing defeat at The Emirates to Swansea City.

What next for a crestfallen Arsenal side? Well, potentially the biggest North London Derby in recent memory.

So no worries then…..

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