Tag Archives: granit

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.

granit-xhaka

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.

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.

Mohamed Elneny – Contract Extension Deserved?

There are many different roles that comprise a squad.

You need a sprinkling of the mercurial. there must be a liberal dollop of fighting spirit and you won’t garner success without a smidgin of ruthlessness.

Mohamed Elneny makes up perhaps the most overlooked of ingredients though.

Professionalism.

The Egyptian recently was awarded a contract extension for his consummate consistency and professional outlook in the face of a less than certain place in the team.

In fact, the first half of the season saw the midfielder consigned to a bit-part role that contained Europa League games and the odd domestic cup appearance.

Yet, we didn’t hear a negative tweet, comment or noise coming from the Elneny camp. No, when he did play, he was his normal solid self and put his personal concerns behind him to make sure he performed in his role, at the very least adequately.

I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Egyptian. I’ve always thought of him as limited, but I’m happy to admit I was wrong. The departure of Francis Coquelin has pushed him further into the reckoning, and when he’s played, crucially, he’s been utilised in the right way.

You see, Elneny is perhaps the best midfielder we have in terms of the dirty work. Tracking runners, putting in the tackles when necessary, Elneny has put in a shift when others around him have let the side down. The midfielder hasn’t put a foot wrong and in terms of value, he has proved his worth.

Put it this way – is he as blessed as Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere? Is his passing as good as Xhaka’s? No to both. But does he show his worth in every game? Does he add to our defensive side? Yes to both.

Some may see his success as a signal of the weakness of our squad. Would ‘Mo’ have seen any action in previous years? Is he a step down in terms of what we should be used to? It’s an undeniable fact that he isn’t a world beater, and we are accustomed to seeing players with better equipped skillsets on display.

That isn’t to say Elneny isn’t good enough – far from it.

But isn’t it refreshing to have a midfielder who is more adept at the defensive side of the game, and be happy about it? Who doesn’t seek the Hollywood pass, who prefers to make the simple pass to keep possession?

More importantly, isn’t it great to have a player who is so evidently happy at being at the club, despite not having a starting place nailed down?

He possesses a decent shot, he has the physical strength to deal with the majority of the burlier players around, and tactically, he seems pretty astute. He is also the squad member happiest to be the band-aid – that player that comes in when the first choice players are injured. His appearances in central defence show both his willingness to put the club before his own merits and also his tactical nous. It isn’t easy to switch to not only a different position but an entirely different third of the pitch.

Elneny has done it and done it well.

Mohamed Elneny can progress to being the shield in behind our somewhat porous midfield. The Egyptian signing an extension – with a figurative and literal smile on his face – is a great addition to our squad.

His presence makes us stronger and better equipped to deal with the rigours of top-flight football.

Granit Xhaka – Surplus to Requirements?

The term ‘luxury player’ is one that was coined only recently, but only swims in the smallest of circles. It isn’t a phrase that is used across footballing circles, it is primarily implemented towards Arsenal.

It is used to describe a member of the squad that serves no purpose regarding the team, and their skills are outside the desired set that is utilised in the eleven. To put it simply, the team can operate without them.

Granit Xhaka is our new luxury player.

The phrase is derogatory, and unfairly brings to mind visions of Mesut Ozil, after the German fought off the tag for the better part of three seasons. Now, we’re all privy to the fact that Ozil is crucial to the hopes of our team on the pitch, and his recent decision to extend his stay at London Colney was met with joy amongst us all.

Granit Xhaka is still in the stage where he must fend off the slings and arrows delivered by experts, pundits and every rent-a-mouth the media can get their hands on.

We all have a tendency to cultivate scapegoats at Arsenal, but Xhaka is copping it fiercely from all corners. This article is being written on the back of two consecutive 3-0 defeats at the hands of champions-elect Manchester City, and Xhaka played in both.

The Swiss star was pitted against Ilkay Gundogan on both occasions. Xhaka’s partner was Aaron Ramsey, which demands a defensively-minded performance. Whatever your opinion on the Welshman, we can all agree that his strongest suit is in attack.

That meant Xhaka was mano-el-mano versus Gundogan. Both players are quite similar – excellent passers of the ball, good vision and plenty of miles in the tank. Yet Gundogan bossed the centre of the park, and Xhaka was left grasping at shadows.

Why?

Gundogan obviously benefited from being in the ascendancy as part of the dominant City team, but should he have given Xhaka the runaround? Not really, but the German midfielder has more of a defensive bent to his game, and as such, knew when he could rove forward.

Xhaka, as cultured as he may be, is anything but what we’re trying to mould him into.

Xhaka is a deep-lying playmaker. Yes, that does sound a tad pretentious, but it’s true. Think of Jack Wilshere in his last England stint. That role is perfect for Xhaka, as long as you don’t require him to track runners.

Keeping an eye on the attack of the opposing team is not Xhaka’s forte – and since he joined, it has been the same story. This weakness in his game has showed no sign of abating, and it gives our midfield an imbalance that astute managers can maximise.

Xhaka is the epitome of a luxury player. He can link play with the swipe of one boot, but a modern midfielder must perform all roles adequately, unless given license to run amok, a la Pogba.

A central midfield partnership needs one to sit back and one to attack. If the team is under the cosh a little, then both can bed into the trenches.

The problem with having the Swiss star in the side, is that whenever defending is needed, then we’re at a disadvantage. It isn’t Xhaka’s fault to a degree. His strengths lie elsewhere. We aren’t privy to what training he has had on the role, and if we’ve attempted to coach the defensive arts into his game. Xhaka hasn’t improved this side of the game since he joined though.

His passing stats are amongst the best in the league, but it has been pointed out time and again by pundits that his consistent failure to see to his defensive duties costs our team time and again. That is partly his blame and also Wenger’s.

This isn’t an attack on Xhaka, nor is it saying our woes are down to him alone. It is merely highlighting what we can all see – Xhaka doesn’t fit our midfield in the way we need him to – as a defensive midfielder.

We haven’t replaced Gilberto since he left. We’ve been chasing the elusive lynchpin in our midfield for quite some time. Xhaka is not the player we need right now.

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. 

The Arsenal Midfield – The Power of ‘And’

Originally posted on Goonersphere

The world is riddled with powerful combinations. Strength comes in numbers and things are normally improved when they are in pairs. In fact, some of the best things come in duo’s.
Fish and chips. Reeves and Mortimer. Pie and gravy. Beer and kebab. Sex and cigarettes. All these examples are stronger through their holy union – but separate them and as singular units, they lose something. Vic Reeves is a hilarious talent, but without his cohort Bob Mortimer, the entertainment drops. Sex is brilliant, but the full stop the cigarette provides afterwards is the cancer-ridden cherry on the sweaty cake. 

You see, some things are meant to be allied with another. A matrimony which only enhances the strengths of the other. This pattern transfers over to Arsenal’s midfield at present. 

The centre of our team has always had a pairing which dismantled the opposition and simultaneously added bite to our defence. Thomas and Davis, Vieira and Petit and later Paddy joined up with Gilberto, and both of these pairs had not only the all-important tools of the trade, but they had the most decisive factor which all midfield duo’s require if they are to conquer all that is put in front of them.

They knew when to attack, and when to hang back. They read the game and decided when to aid the forward line, and when to soak up the pressure. The telepathy was honed between the two, which in turn allowed a certain freedom for other players. They could rest easy as there was no player flagrantly floating instead of sitting in their command post. 

Cut to the present day team, and there is a problem in the centre of the park. No longer do we possess a Vieira, or a Davis. We still have cumulative talent, but the bond is not there, and this factor is starting to tell in our results.

The closest we have to a welded pairing is Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla. Hewn from the heat of duress when the midfield numbers were down to the bare bones, Santi dropped back and Coquelin was drafted back into the fold. The rest is history, but what is the real reason these two work so well?

The stats don’t lie. Since Francis made his dramatic comeback, his ball-winning, tackling and distances run has been better than the majority of defensive midfielders. His desire and passion is a joy to see and while he may be limited, what he does he does well. 

Santi Cazorla could not be any more of a polar opposite. Blessed with two feet who can wreak equal destruction, his low centre of gravity allows him to escape the tightest of spots. He wants to be involved in the play. Dropping deeper allows him to fulfill this desire. He collects the ball from Francis, and his bursts forward are a huge asset.

Take one of these away though, and the other is rudderless. Well, one of them is. Santi is so supremely talented that he can perform with whoever is placed alongside him, as long as they have defensive tendencies. Francis Coquelin however, is not as blessed.

A conversation with a friend recently on Twitter (thank you @thundermundt) highlighted the rest of the teams reluctance to offload the ball to Coquelin. Despite him being free, there were a number of occasions in recent games when he has called for the ball, but the ball has instead headed for a teammate who is much more marked.

This is due to Coquelin’s ability on the ball. Compared to the rest of the Arsenal players, he pales in comparison. So what do you do when your chief ball-winner cannot then do anything with the possession he has won?

You pair him with a dynamic, quick of thought player who can take the ball and make the transition from defence to attack. That is Santi Cazorla. When he is not available though, that is when Coquelin in the team means that, when we attack, we are effectively a man down.

Alternatives must be found. Mohamed Elneny is highly thought of, but on recent displays, he seems to be a player who requires a run of games to hit his level. He has disappointed this season. Then there is Granit Xhaka.

He lacks the burst of speed that Cazorla has, but he has the steel of Coquelin, his passing is at times exquisite, and he knows exactly when to go forward and when to sit back. Xhaka, if he can find his feet soon, looks to be the better alternative to Coquelin. 

When the time comes to replacing Santi Cazorla, Arsenal have a major problem. Then again, so does Coquelin. 

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. 

EFL Cup: Nottm Forest 0 – 4 Arsenal – 5 Things We Learned

Seen as a gamble before kickoff, the heavy mix of youth with a few experienced heads paid dividends as Arsenal dumped Forest out of the EFL Cup and made their way to the Quarter-Finals.

A Lucas Perez double – his first goals for the club – a Granit Xhaka exocet and The Ox from a Lucas assist, gave Arsenal the win, and there were a few of the youngsters who really impressed, as well as some who are trying to force their way from the bench to the first team.

Xhaka and Elneny mixed well, and did their prospects no harm, and Chuba Akpom was involved in most of the moves which broke through the Forest defence. Lucas Perez in only his second start was effective, and despite a few shaky moments, the defence as a whole coped with the variables of unfamiliarity and lack of minutes, to keep out the home side.

The team was liberally sprinkled with youthful talent, and perhaps more so than in recent years, but the experienced pro’s that were in the team gave the side a real edge.

Lucas Perez started only his second game since arriving in August, and the midfield base of Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny – who represent some fans optimum central combo, provided the foundation for prolonged spells of possession. In defence, Gabriel returned from injury to partner the promising Rob Holding, and Kieran Gibbs provided a certain reliability on the left of the backline. 

The Ox was given another chance to impress, on the right of attack, and Chuba Akpom started on the left of attack. Most surprisingly, and pleasantly, was the choice to include the much heralded Jeff Reine-Adelaide in the Number10 position, and this was the best chance fans have had in quite some time to get a close look at the young Frenchman. It was also his biggest opportunity for the first team to date. ‘The Jeff,’ in flashes, showed that the hype could be deserved. Good vision, allied with excellent control, if he can improve his strength and his concentration, he will be part of the long term future of the club.

Oxlade-Chamberlain again flattered to deceive, and patience has to be running a little thin, as it is in the stands. Frustrations toward the England man is mainly due to knowing what he can do, but his lack of consistency, and his lack of growth, means The Ox is more or less the same player we signed. His goal was a great finish, and it provided that little flash and reminder of what he can do, but his whole display could again be better. It seems the best of him always comes to the surface when the pressure is off and the game is in the bag.

There was plenty more to pick out from within the ninety minutes, but here are 5 key points from the game:


Lord Bendtner has still got it, good and bad – 

Within twenty minutes, we saw the best and worst of our former striker. He put a chance on a plate for Patjim Kasami who screwed wide, held the ball up well and had a great effort just off target, but also put in a tackle on Granit Xhaka that was verging on X-rated. The Dane was bombed out of Wolfsburg in the summer, and was branded a ‘menace’ by the Board at the German club, but he certainly still has something to offer, but he needs to rein in his flamboyant ego if he is to resurrect his career.


Granit Xhaka has dynamite in his boots

The Swiss star has the backing of nigh on every single Gooner in regards to being in the first XI, and we are all more than aware of how effective his passing is, and how destructive he can be in the face of opposition attacks. What is maybe less known is his ability to shoot from distance. Last weekend he scored our 4th goal in our win over Hull City with a howitzer from 30yards, and he opened the scoring in this tie with a shot from similar distance. It took a slight deflection, but it seemed to be going in anyway, even when the keeper made contact with it! The clean connection he seems to obtain means that his boots could yet be a viable option of attack. If Wenger allows long range shots that is!


Chuba Akpom may just have an Arsenal future

Named on the left of attack, it was going to be interesting to see how the young England lad fared out wide and cutting in, but we needn’t have feared. He had an early chance which the Forest keeper did well to stop, and his link-up play, which comes to the fore far more out wide, was impressive. It was he who also latched onto a through ball which allowed Lucas Perez to score his first Arsenal goal, via a penalty. He isn’t a one-trick pony, he can do more than score goals, but it is how many times he hits the net that he will be judged upon. It is nigh-on impossible to decide if he will be given a shot in the seasons to come, but on this display, he’s giving it everything he has got. 


Gibbs was the right choice for Captain

The boy – although he’s far from a boy now – has been at the club since 2007 and is the second longest serving player behind Theo Walcott. It isn’t simply his tenure that means the armband was warranted though. He has been in and out of the side for two years now, and it is ongoing. Have you ever heard him moan via the media though? He has been the utmost professional, and he isn’t just picking up his paycheque either. Whenever called upon, he has done a solid job, and if given a run in the side, he would not let anyone down. He isn’t the vociferous type, but the youngsters on the field can look to Gibbs for the example to follow, and aside from the early mistake which allowed Bendtner to set up Kasami, Gibbs did the shirt, and the captaincy, proud.

We may have another viable penalty taker – and Lucas is it

Alexis may be able to give defenders twisted blood, and he may be able to play as a striker ( time will tell ) but he cannot be considered for penalty taking duty. Santi Cazorla is the nominated spot-kick man, but Lucas Perez scored his first goal for the club in this game, through an accomplished penalty that indicated he is a reliable option if the need arises. On the whole, Lucas played well, but the service again wasn’t exactly plentiful. His movement was ok though, which Ozil will enjoy, and getting off the mark will relieve a lot of pressure.His second goal also exhibited his strength, as he shrugged off Michael Mancienne and had the composure to round the keeper before tapping home. He then registered an assist, a slide rule pass for Oxlade-Chamberlain to finish, and it was a great display from the hitman from Deportivo.  Let’s see how he goes from here. The next penalty earned should be a straight fight between the two Spaniards. 

Ramsey Needs to Beat Ramsey To Hold Down Spot

Aaron Ramsey shares a common trait with a slew of Arsenal players. He has shown us exactly what he is capable of – a level of midfield dominance in keeping with the finest in the game.

Another shared thread with some of his fellow Gunners is that he also struggles with the high bar he has set himself.

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Elneny – Basel Not Faulty?

An original Goonersphere blog

Mohamed Elneny joined in the midst of last season, with a distinct lack of fanfare.

Fast forward to the end of the season, and he had converted the doubts about his ability with some assured displays and can take pride for his firm hand on the tiller during a rather shaky period for the team.

Yet he now faces an uncertain future, thanks to the glitzy purchase of midfield dynamo Granit Xhaka.

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Continue reading Elneny – Basel Not Faulty?