Tag Archives: midfielder

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.

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.

matteo-guendouzi-fc-arsenal-1568284858-25662

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.

 

 

 

Guendouzi Appreciation Society

Let us take a moment to appreciate Matteo Guendouzi.

The young Frenchman has taken to the Premier League like Tottenham to a semi-final exit and defied his years to put in performances that have filled us all with optimism for his near future.

Joining as a 19 year old, we had been linked with some promising players prior to Guendouzi putting pen to paper, but all had fallen by the wayside. Guendouzi was the kid chosen, and from his displays so far, it appears we have made the right choice.

What makes him so special though? At the time of writing, the kid with the untamed hair has made 28 appearances so far in the campaign, a huge number for a player touted to make his mark first in the Under-23’s.

Guendouzi crazy hair
Guendouzi – The Lion-Haired Talent

Why has Unai Emery invested so much trust in the precocious youth? From what we have seen, one of the main reasons is his fearlessness.

In tight situations, both on the ball and in scoreline, Guendouzi has shown an incredible hunger for possession. He always shows for the ball, and even better than his desire to be on the ball is his instant decision to always be on the front foot.

What makes him different to the midfielders we have is that the sideways pass is his safety net, but his first choice is always to progress up the pitch. He can make that happen with or without the ball – Guendouzi is a decent dribbler and can carry when the need arises, and his eye for a pass highlights a decent eye for someone so young.

His transitional play gives us something we don’t have in our ranks and he has stamina to burn. We must remember his age and lack of experience, however.

At times his decision-making – the last skill normally developed by kids as they grow – has been found wanting, and the negative to go with the positives of youth is that they will make errors on the pitch. That is how anybody learns, and footballers are no different.

We as fans are an impatient bunch, and mistakes on the turf are always met with groans, but when he inevitably makes a boo-boo and puts the team in danger, we must give him the time to learn.

The problem with Guendouzi is that he has made remarkably few since joining the team. He has made a rod for his own back as we expect so much now from him.

Emery obviously realises that Guendouzi is a real talent, and his box-to-box mentality and style is an arrow in our quiver that gives us the ability to adapt tactically. Guendouzi’s midfield versatility is perhaps his biggest strength and it will make him a lynchpin in the side in a year or so.

We have an opponent with a high press? Play Torreira alongside Guendouzi and have the Uruguayan and the Frenchman sitting deeper and tracking. What if we have a team that are sitting deep themselves and willing to hit on the break? A midfield 3 perhaps or Xhaka with Guendouzi, to push forward but have Guendouzi’s pace as a contingency.

Either way, whoever partners Matteo will know they have a player who puts it all in, and leaves nothing behind. They will have a partner willing to muck in when the going gets tough, and the ability to make thing happen or at the very least, get the ball quickly to the dangermen who can create.

Guendouzi is a real find, and his progress rate is quite astonishing. Let us hope he is given the room to grow into the player we all know he can be.

Fan Favourite Freddie

Professional footballers have become even harder to reach.

The pedestal they stand upon has reached a heady height, craning your neck up to see this sporting icon and suffering dizzying vertigo as a result.

Social media, a tool that should shorten the gap between ground level and the clouds upon which they sit, instead drags them further away from your lowly position. A constant stream of images from far flung places gives you the initial experience of being ensconced in their world – but it is a different plane, sitting parallel to yours.

It of course used to be different, but the last two decades has seen an exponential rise in a footballer’s stock. Image is everything, but it isn’t as if we never had players who were iconic.

The hair, the clothes, the whole package screaming of the super-cool. From Charlie George in the 70s, Champagne Charlie in the 80s, Wrighty in the 90s – they were always the most popular amongst fan picks.

My personal favourite?

Freddie Ljungberg.

The super Swede immortalised himself with his red hair, bringing the fans adoration close simply with the right choice of hair colour (Danny Rose tried and failed).

He was a good looking fellow, no dispute, but it was his hair that made him an icon, coupled with one other asset.

His knack of scoring goals – important goals.

Was there another of his era who was better at ghosting into the box? His timing was perfection, his finishing unerring, his hair bright red.

Freddie with PL trophy

Goals flowed, and his debut against Man United in 1999 saw a lobbed finish over Peter Schmeichel that lives long in the memory.

I tried to recreate his hairstyle, only succeeding in making my hair pink and waiting days for it to wash out. It was my attempt to pay homage to a player who had become my idol. There was no social media then that allowed a window into their life. I simply had to read up on whatever titbit of info was available.

My hair travesty aside – I am now bald like the man himself and this style is much easier to manage – Ljungberg earned his way into our hearts because he gave his all on the pitch, and his goals were a huge reason why we won the title in 2002. His run of goals in the business end of the season kept us afloat. Bergkamp could find his incessant runs easily, and when in the box, Freddie always found a way.

He is often overlooked in terms of his importance to that great era, but the right side of midfield was always an option for whomever was on the ball, and he dutifully did his defensive duties effectively.

In short, Freddie had no discernible weakness, aside from his infernal wisdom teeth, which put him out of action for many games on separate occasions. Has there been a player who has possessed his particular set of skills since? Perhaps Rambo, but has the Welshman done it with such panache?

Did he do it with red hair?

Freddie will always hold a special spot in my memory, because he was the first player who I wanted to be. He was the first player I put on the pedestal and aimed to be like – and I got a neck ache in the process.

Freddie is now managing our kids, and we get to see him often. His red hair might be gone, and the barrier between player and fan is still high. Even sans-rouge locks, Freddie oozes cool, and I know that should the barrier come down and I get a chance to meet him?

I’d still be a mess meeting my hero.

Ramsey Stay Or Go?

We’ve had a great recruitment drive to welcome in the Unai Emery era, with Bernd Leno, Stephane Lichtsteiner, Matteo Guendouzi, Sokratis and Lucas Torreira whizzing through the checkout to bolster our lines.

They add depth and in some cases a vast improvement over what we had previously, but there is one signing that some see as the lynchpin to a successful side.

Aaron Ramsey is yet to sign an extension on his current deal, which is entering the final year. From December, the midfielder can enter into talks with interested parties – of which there will be a smorgasbord.

Ramsey has come on leaps and bounds, and even in a malfunctioning midfield, has offered attacking excellence and a huge desire in the side – something we have been bereft of recently. The Welshman is truly growing into an excellent box-to-box role, and now entering his peak years, the next few seasons could see Ramsey make a huge impact on the league.

Emery’s fresh tactics and training methods are apt to get a few extra percent from the existing players, pushing them harder than previously. It means we will have a tighter unit, and with more competition for places, our eleven will be hungry to impress on the pitch.

Ramsey and new coach Emery

Ramsey is understandably patient when it comes to signing a new deal. This next one will be his biggest, but it will be downhill after this deal, as he enters his thirties and the nadir of his career. His style of play relies on his engine, and no matter how superhuman you are, players can’t maintain those levels for as long.

So, he wants assurances that if he gives his best years, then he will get something back. That he will be able to leave as big an indelible mark on football as his talent allows. Can Arsenal match his ambition? Or will his peak years go to waste?

Plus, finances come into play too. Ramsey and his negotiating party will know that the demands they put in can be high, as Arsenal will know that if they don’t meet them, another club won’t hesitate.

Ramsey could benefit hugely from the sentinel-like presence of Lucas Torreira behind him. Another feather in the cap of a proposed extended deal would be a possible switch to a 3-man midfield, giving him the long-range passing of Xhaka to feed from.

The midfielder’s late runs in the box are a nightmare to mark for opposing teams, and it is no coincidence that he scores late goals – his stamina levels combined with tired legs of defenders mean Rambo normally hits when it matters – but could he be doing it in another shirt?

2018/19 is his tenth year at Arsenal – and three FA Cups is a good haul for most clubs – but Ramsey wants more – and deservedly so. For us to call ourselves a big club means we must view this trophy haul as underachievement.

Ramsey has a big call to make – the biggest of his career. If he stays with us he could go on to become one of our biggest names amongst a litany of shining stars.

If he decides that he’s better off elsewhere, then he’ll become another name that belongs to the ‘what if’ brigade – when we look at former players and wish that they had stayed, knowing they could have given us much more.

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. 

Gilles Grimandi – The Lifeguard

Squad depth has not just been an issue for clubs in the last decade, although there is much more need for it now thanks to some crazy scheduling. The Premier League era has placed demands on teams with European competition and domestic cups meaning that managers have a heavier reliance on those who would primarily be warming the bench.

It is these players that seasons hinge on. They are the last-gasp rolls of the dice that Gaffers are forced to do when backed into a corner. Sometimes it is a late substitution to soak up pressure and defend a precious narrow lead. Other occasions mean a start in a big game, replacing a stalwart in the side and hoping the proverbial bandage holds up.

In the briliant 1997/98 season, the influx of French players had started to meld perfectly with the English core, and the Double was achieved. The names of Vieira, Petit, Overmars, Bergkamp, Adams, Dixon and Seaman were among the brightest lights, but the name of curly-haired Gaul Gilles Grimandi is not one of the first that comes to the forefront of memory.

Primarily a defender, but used in midfield and full-back, Grimandi made 33 appearances in League and Cup, Filling in whenever plays succumbed to injury or – in the case of our more hotheaded players – more often suspension, Grimandi was an oft-utilised asset. 

On first appearance, Gilles was a limited player who struggled to keep up with the pace of the Premiership. That would be fair to a degree, as speed was never one of the Frenchman’s chief attributes. What he lacked in rapidity however, he more than made up in elbow grease and aggression. Sometimes, the lid to his temper would not be screwed down tightly enough – Diego Simeone’s face can attest to this – but there was never a moment on the pitch when Grimandi did not stretch every sinew, give every inch of effort he had.

Us fans love a player who gives his all. You may be in the shade of some of your more illustrious and gifted teammates, but if you show us how much you want to win, we will invariably back you. It helps he also got sent off against our neighbours too….

In his time at Arsenal, he won two Double’s. He may never have held down a regular spot, and he only scored a meagre amount of goals, but without the sweat and thunder that Grimandi brought to the table, two of our most glittering of campaign’s could have been far different.

The player known for his curly locks was a good egg off the field – in direct contrast to his angry persona in an Arsenal shirt – and he helped new signings acclimatise themselves to London and the club. Now a scout with the club, Gilles can look back on his Arsenal career with pride. 

Gilles got us out of some perilous situations. He rescued us on more than one occasion – scoring the winner in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace springs to mind – but it was more his tackling and will to win that made him the lifeguard of our squad. 

He was a player who fully optimised his talents. He was a player who did that and gave unwavering service to our club. For that, he deserves the utmost respect.

The Ox Leaving Arsenal?

Published on The Arsenal Review

It would seem that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is departing The Arsenal.

Latest news – Sky Sports News being the source – is that the England man has turned down a massive rise in the form of £180k per week and sees his future away from The Emirates. The freshest reports are now saying that a bid has been accepted from Chelsea, and Liverpool are also an interested party.


First things first – how in the name of Bergkamp’s holy boots did Oxlade-Chamberlain earn a £180k per week offer? 


The Ox has risen to prominence since last season. Our team’s switch to three at the back has seen an opening at wing-back, and Oxlade-Chamberlain took his opportunity with both hands. 


He seemed a perfect fit, with his stamina being put to great effect covering in defence whilst roving forward and giving our attack another outlet.


The versatile midfielder made more appearances last season than any in his time at the club, and the second most starts. It appeared as though he was finally ready to seize one of the countless chances he had been given – and hold down a starting spot for an extended amount of time.


What none of us banked on though, is that The Ox wasn’t satisfied at wing-back. No, although he prospered, he wanted more.


















Oxlade-Chamberlain feels he warrants a regular spot on the flank, or in central midfield. He also must feel he can obtain this very thing if he departs the club for another – most likely Chelsea or Liverpool.


So, let us all examine his chances of success.


The Ox has nine league goals in all his time at the club. If he aspires to play for Chelsea or Liverpool, those numbers would have to improve drastically if he wishes to make his mark on newer shores.


He primarily plays on the right, so who would his rivals be at each club?


Chelsea Boss Antonio Conte seems to prefer Willian on the right side, occasionally swapping around with Pedro.


Can anyone honestly say The Ox would squeeze either of these established players out of the Blues side?


What of Liverpool? Jurgen Klopp has been settling with players out of position in his side, so surely a player of the ilk of Oxlade-Chamberlain would be a godsend for the German?


Well, as previously mentioned, The Ox isn’t exactly enamoured with playing at wing-back, so James Milner and Albert Moreno can rest easy for the time being. The right wing position has now been filled by new signing Mohamed Salah too. 


Oxlade-Chamberlain should perhaps check if the grass is actually greener before he packs his bags.


From being guaranteed a pivotal role through the season, The Ox could actually be getting LESS games. Added to this, he certainly cannot nail down a spot on the wing at either of the clubs that are interested in him. The only way to do so is to provide an end product to his play, or at least a concerted rise from what he produces currently.


His numbers have never done his talent justice. When he bursts into action, Oxlade-Chamberlain has at times disemboweled entire defences. He has given opponents twisted blood and left them clutching at ghosts as he jinked past them with apparent ease.


Then, with the entire pitch open and the choices in front of him, he fluffs his lines.


It is a script well-thumbed by the Arsenal faithful. The other version of this is the same introduction, but with Oxlade-Chamberlain opting to beat another man instead of creating a chance.


At the crux of the plateau in his growth chart – is his decision-making.


This is where his talent hits a wall. You can stand toe-to–toe with the best there has ever been, but 

if you do nothing with it then it is futile. The Ox has never quite ridden himself of this problem – and this is the root cause of his battle to start every game.


Injuries have played a part, but not to the same effect of Walcott, Ramsey and Wilshere’s careers. 


The Ox has had a myriad of opportunities to establish himself, and has simply failed.


What makes him think that life at Chelsea or Liverpool will be any different?


Arsene Wenger doesn’t want to see one of his young men leave the club. So much time and effort has gone into the player, and the Frenchman must feel The Ox has more to give – hence the ludicrous contract offer.


The bottom line of this whole story is that Wenger has many failings, and chief among them is the faith shown in his players. Even when he is repeatedly burned by his players on the pitch, he continues to show them confidence.


The Ox has been given the same treatment. For a player to still not have a spot in the team rubberstamped even with Wenger’s plentiful ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ cards?


That is down to the player himself.


I think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is in for a shock if he does leave Arsenal.  

It’s Time To Hit The Road Jack

Club loyalty in football is a commodity rarer than a politician’s promise coming good. 

When a player genuinely loves the club he plays for, it shines through in the interviews he gives, the gestures you see on the pitch. It is unmistakable. It isn’t the flagrant badge kissing you see from all and sundry, even though they joined in January and are french-kissing the crest in February. 

These players that have the club in their hearts are held dear by fans. Their shortcomings are put to the side in most cases and we hope and pray that they end up becoming the legend they’ve dreamed of becoming.

Jack Wilshere falls into this bracket. The bow-legged midfielder burst into our vision in 2008. Yup, it was that long ago. The talent, the touch, the vision. Wilshere at his tender age was showing age was no barrier for supreme skill, and the bar was set so high that 99% of players would struggle to see it, never mind reach it.

It is a recurring tradition that England must sieze upon a promising youngster and heap unnecessary pressure onto their shoulders, and so it proved with Wilshere. This time though, it was warranted. It appeared that there was nothing he couldn’t do.

This burning flame of talent attracted injuries like curry to an alcoholic. Since his debut in 2008, Jack has played a full season just twice. Injuries have not only played havoc, they have left his hopes of reaching his peak perilously dangling.

Something had to give, and the unthinkable happened this season when Jack realised his injuries had left his playing chances hindered at Arsenal. He knew it was time to prove he could last an entire campaign, so a spell playing for another club was the answer he reached.

His loan deal with Bournemouth was meant to herald in the second coming of Jack Wilshere. He would be placed on a pedestal amongst his new lesser-talented teammates, as they looked to him for divine inspiration on the pitch. He would shock and amaze once more, like a stumpy David Copperfield.

Instead, he has been overshadowed by those that technically should not be able to hold a flame to him. Jack has been left out of the side sporadically – and some may claim that it was the kid gloves he was being handled with that saw him out of the team on occasion – but mostly it was tactical. Cherries boss Eddie Howe has seen fit to demote Jack from the Boy who would be King, to understudy to Harry Arter. 

What in fresh hell has happened? Jack should be lauded by everyone by now? 

He has flattered to deceive at Bournemouth. He has showed flashes of his potential, but his numbers do not lie. He has barely contributed to their totals, and even if he simply lacked the finishing touches, his dearth of MOTM awards is evidence of a player not making his presence felt.

Then, his bad luck rears its ugly head again, and the news of his hairline fracture is the ending of his season.

Is it the end of his Arsenal career too?

Jack has one year left on his current deal. He has not reached the heights we know he is capable of, and he seems utterly incapable of stringing more than four games together in a row before his pins buckle. Arsene Wenger has iterated his worries for Jack’s career, and the sole hope he has is that his fracture is due to heal in time so he can take part in pre-season.

He must ensure that the special measures both Arsenal and Bournemouth have gone to in order to increase his fitness are enough. What more can be done to keep Jack fit enough?

If Arsene retains his midfield playing staff, Jack has a real fight on his hands to prove his worth. 

Not that any of them are as talented as he is. But it seems that this time, talent doesn’t matter if he can’t show it. Jack is on his last chance, and if he can’t stay fit – and above all else show he is not just potential unmanifested – then the Gunners legend he and we want him to be will just be a pipedream. 

The Ox at Wing-Back

Published on Goonersphere. ​

New ideas bring new viewpoints. Standing in a different position gives a completely different look on proceedings, and this may just have happened in recent weeks for Arsenal – and certainly for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.


The stagnation of Arsenal looked to have taken root. Four consecutive away losses, of which we conceded three goals each time. A royal hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich. Falling away in the Premier League. The rot appeared to have gone all the way through the squad and there was no fight evident, there was no resistance. Only a meek surrender akin to an injured gazelle, too exhausted to keep running from the chasing predators. We were easy prey, rivals and smaller clubs taking advantage of an apparently stricken beast.

Arsene Wenger looked to be devoid of ideas, arms wide and raised in a desperate signal to the gods. His tried and trusted tactics were no longer up to scratch, they were in fact dragging the team down. The players also looked unable to find the extra gears they required to simply avoid defeat.

Wenger picked up the dice and threw. He opted to change formation and go with three central defenders at the back for the first time since 1997. On that occasion, we had Steve Bould, Tony Adams and Martin Keown in the team. Three of the hardest, most disciplined and organised defenders the Premier League has ever seen. This time though, we had Laurent Koscielny marshalling the errant Gabriel and the inexperienced Rob Holding.

The formation may have been branded as wholly new by all and sundry, but the only difference was it gave our fullbacks a bit more license to roam forward.

It also gave Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a bit more responsibility – and he has taken it and run with it.















In the games it has been employed, we have looked more alive than in recent months and The Ox has been instrumental.

We were all aware of his attacking threat and his intent with the ball. We were also aware of his tendency to lose the ball as he takes on players. This season has seen a wiser Ox though, and his utilisation at central midfield earlier in the season saw him in a far more efficient light than in previous seasons.

It is his work in a wing-back role in this 3-5-2 that has been revolutionary though. Who knew that The Ox could double-task? He has been asked to patrol the right side of the pitch – both in defence and attack, and he has done so with zeal and merit.

He has changed games in attack as he searches for the early ball or to torment his opposing fullback. The Ox has enhanced his dribbling and he has lessened the wastefulness that has blighted his time an a Gunners shirt. He has improved his final ball and has made sure he has lifted his head up rather than ploughing on into blind corners. He has made the difference.

It is in defence though that he has proved his worth. He has been quite excellent in covering the defensive part of the field, he has helped out Gabriel in that part of the pitch in a massive way.

The Brazilian has come on leaps and bounds with the security offered by Chamberlain. The Ox’s reservoirs of stamina means he has been up and down his flank like a clock pendulum on meth amphetamine.

If this formation sticks and we adopt it, then The Ox will be as vital a player as any other on the field. His adaptability has seen him rise to the fore and this in turn may just get him the improved contract he desires – and now warrants.