Tag Archives: forward

Iwobi Needs To Push On Next Season

Alex Iwobi divides opinion like he divides opponents legs.

Our very own ‘Nutmeg Prince’ has been a first team fixture since 2015, but speak to some and his name will be one of the first names on the departure list this summer.

Our very own Academy product has failed to grow his contributions since Arsene Wenger stated in his last season that the Nigerian’s final product was the one thing that needed to improve. Wenger mentioned that the attacker had everything else in his locker, but the most decisive part was still the one weapon Iwobi really needed to hone.

And the stats don’t lie.

Of course, numbers don’t always give true perspective on a player. They offer a certain viewpoint and shine light on certain facets of a player, but like holding a gemstone to the light, you won’t see every part until you look at it from all angles.

The same applies to Alex Iwobi.

Iwobi Pic

 

The Nigerian scored three times and claimed six assists in 35 appearances in the Premier League this season. The season before saw the same amount of goals and one assist less.

Now this plateauing of numbers could be attributed to a new coach, new system, new tactics, training etc. It will at least have a contributing effect, but another variable is that Iwobi still hasn’t drastically improved his final ball – or final decision.

It is abundantly clear that Iwobi has the touch and the tell-tale attributes that comprise the makeup of a great attacker. At times we have seen him produce slide rule passes and touches that bewitch his opposing number.

We have also seen him make the wrong decision time and time again.

The good thing is, this can be taught. Remember that Iwobi is still nowhere near his peak and so is still developing.

The saving grace for Iwobi too, is that we have no one in the squad that adds what he does.

His particular skillset is based on confrontation with opposing fullbacks and producing opportunities either through a pass or creating them for himself. He goes past players like they are mere apparitions at times, and he does it better than anyone in the team, like it or not.

So he has a place as he can change games. He seems ideally suited to an impact sub role at the moment, but he isn’t far away from unlocking his true potential. The problem is patience.

It seems like Iwobi has been on the scene for some time, but this was only his third full season in the first team. Yes, he should have a better final ball right now, but there aren’t many his age – Hudson-Odoi is an exception – that bring to the table what he does.

Iwobi is on the precipice right now. His natural ambition will be to want more than to be a squad player at Arsenal – but that is where he is right now. He has the key to unlocking so much more in his locker, but he must listen to those that know better. The extensive array of backroom staff, his teammates who have gleaned worldwide experience. If he can learn from others then there is hope of seeing Iwobi push on.

Next season sees a fresh challenge for Iwobi. With Reiss Nelson, Jo Willock and Emile Smith-Rowe coming back into the fold, he has more competition for his spot. It is clear that he will have to not only do more than what he has done this season, but also he has to act as a big brother to those younger than him. That is the essence of a team, and Iwobi has a role to play.

The Nigerian has the world at his feet, but the next step is the most precarious. Fingers crossed we see the new and improved Iwobi next season.

Joel Campbell – Arsenal’s Forgotten Man

Did you know that Joel Campbell is now our fourth most capped player – ever?

He earned his 72nd cap as an Arsenal player in the 2-0 loss to England in a pre-Cup friendly which made him our 4th highest at the club, level with David Seaman.

Looking at it from a distance, this is quite some achievement. Yes, Costa Rica doesn’t have a plethora of competition for places like other nations, but a fine injury record and a maintenance of form has seen Campbell rack up the appearances for his home nation.

What really puts it in perspective though, is when you consider how little he has played for his club – and the lengths he has had to go to in order to get gametime.

Campbell has been with us for seven years. That’s a mighty long time, and yet his Arsenal appearances amount to just 23 – most of those during 2014-2016.

To get that crucial time on the pitch, Campbell has gone on loan spells to Ligue Un with Lorient, La Liga with Real Betis and the Greek SuperLeague with Olympiacos – in all of those seasons he earned more starts than in his combined and lengthy Arsenal career.

What has the Costa Rican done to be shunned like this? Is it a limitation on talent? Certainly not. He may not be a permanent starter, but in his time in an Arsenal jersey he showed exactly what he has to offer. He has incredible strength, he can adapt across the forward line, playing wide and cutting in, or ploughing a lone furrow up top. He has an assured touch and isn’t terrible in front of goal. Campbell is more than good enough to be an option in the squad.

Joel Campbell, the forgotten Gunner

And yet we will never see him wearing an Arsenal shirt again. After seven years as an Arsenal player in nothing but contract, Campbell will never play on our Emirates turf.

This will be his second World Cup at just 25 years old. He has amassed experience across many corners of Europe and still has potential, but Campbell has worn an Arsenal shirt for the last time.

If he did manage to assuage Unai Emery to grant him a squad place – a place on the bench would be tough enough to acquire.

As a wide forward, he faces competition from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

As a centre forward, Aubameyang, Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are his opponents.

With our attack well stocked, it is likely we have seen the last of Joel Campbell, despite it being unconfirmed as I write. He can consider himself unlucky to not have been given a fairer crack of the whip, but the Costa Rican can hold his head up high when he did play for us.

Chances are that Campbell will join Galatasaray, and a lengthy Arsenal career that never truly threatened to take off, for whatever reason that is, draws its curtains.

Sanchez Can Be Our Striker – and our Aguero

People don’t like change.

However much we moan about the same old routine, if something unexpected crops up and forces us to change direction – no matter how slightly – it perturbs us. It puts us on edge. 

Routine may be boring, but it is safe.

Perhaps this was the thinking when the furore erupted over Alexis Sanchez playing as a lone striker.

He can’t play as a striker! 

He’s too small to play as a lone man up top!

He’s not clinical enough!

He’s far more effective on the left and cutting in!

These are just a select few choice cuts that I’ve seen through the many guises of social media. There are others, but what it boils down to is that many believe – or did believe up until recently – that Alexis Sanchez is NOT a striker.

There are certain players though, that have enough attacking talent to be able to lay a claim to any position across the attack. 

Have we not witnessed enough from our Chilean wonder that we should have learned not to doubt him? On so many occasions, the muscle-laden South American has dragged us out of trouble with his goals. Repeatedly, he has been the man to make the difference when we have struggled.

During his tenure at Barcelona, Alexis bagged 39 goals in 88 games, with 27 assists in La Liga alone. 

Having played 100 games exactly for our club, he has grabbed 47 goals thus far. A slight improvement in goal ratio, but being bereft of Lionel Messi will do that to your numbers I guess….

This season, he has been played primarily as a centre forward, and in the seven games he has taken part in, he has 5 goals, and 3 assists (correct at the time of writing).

Of course, this could be a mere purple patch, a rise in numbers on the great dipping rollercoaster of a career. On further inspection, under the fierce light of scrutiny however, the move to the centre may be responsible for his frankly amazing stats this campaign. 

His low centre of gravity, one of the main reasons his bursts into the box go unchecked, has allowed him to hold the ball up well. His strength has been vital in duelling for position with defenders. He has been a nightmare for the opposition. His ample assists highlight that his link up play and awareness are where they need to be to play as a striker.

Whatever tack we choose to take, Alexis has all the tools necessary to adapt. If we play on the break, we are all aware of his blistering pace, the same pace that can see him latch onto through balls when hanging on the last defender. If we play possession football, then he has the touch and toughness to take part in link-up play. 

Sanchez has also scored both types of goal. His run and finish against Chelsea showed his speed, and any lingering doubts anyone had about his finishing were finally dispelled as he showed incredible composure to dink a wonderful finish over Thibault Courtois.

Sergio Aguero, probably the best striker in the Premier League, and one of the best in the world, is of similar height and build. Yet he has scored enough goals to fire his team to two titles. 

Is there any disparity between the two South Americans in regards to talent? No. Both can single-handedly destroy the opposition. There are certain strengths that are stronger for one over the other – Aguero’s finishing is on a par with anyone in the world – but Sanchez isn’t far behind. 

So, why can’t Sanchez play as a striker? With our cosmopolitan brand of football, and the talent in our team, we should have no worries in playing him there. 

In fact, he could feel a tad miffed that he isn’t first choice striker. There will be games where Giroud will be of more use than others, and Lucas Perez seems cerebral enough that he can fit in whatever the style we choose, but Sanchez – if fit – should be our centre forward.

With his previous experience on the flank, he can float and pick up possession wherever, and his footballing brain will allow him to incorporate others into the move. 

There is simply nothing he cannot do. For a diminutive player, even his heading is far and beyond what it should be. His incredible athleticism allows him to get the drop on his markers and leap higher than he really ought to be able to.

Sergio Aguero may be viewed as the leading marksman for City, and in the Premier League, but Alexis Sanchez could just be our own Aguero. 

We all know we would benefit from that. Wenger plays him as a striker, so he has obviously seen all the markers in his play that is required for centre forward utilisation – and Wenger knows more than we do, ultimately. Over thirty years of top-flight coaching will give you that knowledge.

Sergio Aguero – Alexis Sanchez. If both stay fit, then the battle for the Golden Boot – and perhaps the title – will be compulsive viewing. 

Theo Walcott – The Hipsters Choice

At this present moment, if a club approached Arsenal with a bid – no matter the amount – for Theo Walcott, the vast percentage of Gooners would gladly pay his cab fare, chauffeur him to his chosen destination and even caddy his belongings to the training ground.

If it was a popularity contest, never mind being knocked out in the first round – Theo would be barred from entering.

This now makes him the premier footballing hipster choice.

image

Continue reading Theo Walcott – The Hipsters Choice

Meeting Smudge

The annals of Arsenal’s goalscorers requires sunglasses. Absolutely bursting at the seams with eye-scorching gold, the history the Gunners have with lethal finishers is famous. Some of the English game’s finest strikers have plied their trade in the red and white and we have more often than not had an accomplished frontman at the vanguard of our team.

Charlie Buchan, Cliff Bastin, Ted Drake, Ronnie Rooke, Derek Tapscott, David Herd, Doug Lishman, John Radford, Frank Stapleton, Ray Kennedy, Frank Stapleton, Ian Wright, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp. This is just a sample of the delights we have been able to savour and who have given so much in terms of goals.

image

Continue reading Meeting Smudge

Do We Need Another Forward?

Originally posted on Goonersphere.

The Premier League hiatus which comes every year can be painful. Much like a seasonal affliction, every May to August brings with it a malaise and an itch that cannot be sated.

World Cups, Euro Cups and Copa America’s act as an off the counter balm, soothing to a degree but leaving the desire to tear your skin off in frustration. What makes things far worse is the transfer window.

Every excruciating day is peppered with spurious transfer links with players that will never ply their trade in England, never mind in our fine stadium. For years it has been the same, Edinson Cavani has signed for us at least five times, Salomon Kalou is apparently an expert in hiding as we haven’t seen him in years despite signing for us repeatedly over the years and Karim Benzema – despite adoring the club he plays for – is reputedly inching ever closer to a move to the Emirates.

What common thread unites these links? Yes, they are comprised entirely of faecal matter, but there is another element of symmetry between these stories that wouldn’t look out of place in the National Enquirer. 

They are all strikers.

It would seem the general consensus is that Arsenal are in dire need of another frontman. Much like Manchester United, we require the signing of a striker to boost our hopes. Louis Van Gaal has ditched Van Persie – the kid inside him is upset I would wager – and Falcao is off the books also. This would leave Rooney and Chicharito, who is also seemingly on the way out of Old Trafford. It is glaringly obvious that United need to bolster their forward line if they are to compete.

Are we in the same boat? Do we so desperately need a striker to finally make up a squad that can seriously challenge for the title? Let us look at our options.

We have Olivier Giroud. Largely maligned from all media quarters but beloved by most Gooners, he has scored 58 goals in three Premier League seasons. Nigh on twenty every League campaign, despite missing three months last season. His front post presence and runs are undeniably excellent and his link up play with Aaron Ramsey is one of the strongest arrows in our quiver. The majority of play goes through him and his strength in the air gives us options.

image

Then we have Danny Welbeck. Whilst lacking the goals that his French compatriot has earned, he more than makes up for that with his earnest running, tracking back, his fantastic pace and his ability to fit into any tactical approach. He is a brilliant asset to have. This isn’t to say he cannot score. With a run in the team in the coveted Number 9 role, he could get a lot more than the 8 goals he plundered last season. His goalscoring form for his country suggests that with a run in the team and a bit of confidence, he could add goals to what is already a glowing resume.

image

Then we have Theo Walcott. A conundrum.

In the last season when the cold teeth of injury didn’t snap mercilessly at his bones, he scored twenty one goals from a wide position. Since then, Arsene Wenger has often mentioned Walcott’s persistent mindset that he would like to play as a central striker. Our Manager’s latest comments regarding Theo shed more light on this –

“It was another goal for Theo and I’m not surprised by that because I played him through the middle.

“I’ve always said that he’s a goalscorer because he has the movement, he has the timing of the run, the speed for the finishing and he has an eye for taking his chances at the right moments.

“When he gets into these positions he finishes well. I believe that Theo will score goals.”

Theo seemingly has the backing of Wenger and will get the chance to further cement his striking credentials during the season. It is quite easy to get carried away by our pre-season form but a few things can be taken from our build up to the seasons opener, one of them being Walcott’s ability to play through the middle.

His runs into the box are succulent treats for the likes of Ozil. His movement enables the utilisation of Ozil’s vision, which is second to none. It isn’t only Ozil who can thread a pass though, Cazorla, Wilshere and Giroud have all shown they can find their teammates as they dart between the proverbial reeds on the riverbank. His goals in the tailend of last season and in pre-season only serve to further evidence what is becoming abundantly clear – the boy can finish.

image

He does still squander when in promising positions but he is a far cry from the lad who didn’t have a ‘football brain’  He has the pace and finishing ability to break through even the most stubborn and packed backlines and still hasn’t reached his peak.

The only stumbling block is his fitness.

It has been years since he has managed a full season. The fact I have referenced his last full season which was in 2012 speaks volumes. The one bright spot which may buck this worrying trend is Shad Forsythe. Since his integration within our burgeoning group of backroom staff, our injuries have lessened and layoffs have shrunk considerably. He may be key in nursing Theo through an entire campaign.

So, we have Giroud, Welbeck and Walcott. Add into the mix an effervescent Sanchez, a firing Ramsey, a Wilshere who has finally realised he can score and you have a team more than able to shoot down even the meanest of opponents.

Goalscoring hasn’t been our problem recently. Quite why most journalists feel we need another high profile frontman when we have a rich vein of goals already is worth questioning. Perhaps more clicks are garnered from strikers needlessly linked rather than midfielders?

Either way, if Wenger decides to stick with what he has, there will be pockets of fans who will decide that this is the death knell for our title tilt before the season has kicked into gear. The reality though, is that our squad and their cohesion is in the rudest of health.

Walcott, Giroud, Welbeck and Sanchez. We’ll be starved of goals………

image