Tag Archives: playmaker

Arshavin – Wasted Genius Who Made Memories

Players define eras.

Trophies make memories of course, but a player normally surmises that memory.

Sunderland in 79.

Champagne Charlie in 87.

Mickey in 89.

Smith in 94.

Bergkamp in 98, Freddie in 02, Thierry in 04. Santi when we lifted the cup in 2014. Alexis in 2015. Rambo in 2017.

It is a player who acts as anchor in your mind, ensuring that special memory doesn’t get cut adrift in amongst the plethora in your banks.

When you think of The Emirates, of course it doesn’t hold as many fond memories as Highbury, but we have had some goosebump-inducing goals and games in the 14 years we have called it home.

We may often bemoan the lack of atmosphere in the ground, but those who go often will also attest to the fact that we also create a cacophony when we want to. It often just needs a spark, something to get us off our seat – and then the wildfire of noise erupts and engulfs the stands.

Remember our 5-2 wins over the enemy? Two consecutive triumphs that served as timely reminders to our neghbours of their rightful place under the heel of our boot?

Then there was Danny Welbeck’s emotional return from injury – a late, late winner over Champions-elect Leicester City. The England striker’s 93rd minute header earned victory over the previously indomitable Foxes, and the dramatic nature of the goal coupled with the fondness for the now fit-again Welbeck created a noise that has rarely been matched since.

But when it comes to halcyon moments, can anything touch Andrei Arshavin Vs that Barcelona team?

The Russian, free from the laziness that would blight his Gunners career. His confidence to nonchalantly sidefoot home a first time finish that would vanquish a Barca team that would go on to win the competition. A Barca team that would only lose once in the entire competition – this very game?

We think of that game, we think of Andrei, we think of the commentator scream his name as he finishes the Catalan’s with aplomb.

He did a fair amount more in his time in our red and white of course. His goal vs Blackburn was pretty special – and then there was his four goal haul against Liverpool in an unhinged match at Anfield.

Arshavin

Tongue out, just enjoying the moment as he single-handedly tore Liverpool apart. Holding four fingers aloft when he smashed in his fourth goal.

Arshavin joined on the back of a virtuoso Euro’s for his country. We saw him twist defenders apart, lead from the front and give an industrial Russia divine inspiration. It led to us forking our a decent sum and he initially showed what he was capable of.

His was a career of peaks and troughs. He fizzled out nearly as quickly as he soared into our hearts, unable to wrestle his way back into the first team and gaining weight, he left Arsenal and seemingly never recaptured the magic that laced his boots when he was with us and in the first team.

Arshavin definitely didn’t make the most of what he could do. The Russian’s talent had no ceiling, yet we only saw it hit the heights in probably five or six games.

Yet it was so brilliant, so bright, that it seared its impression into our memories.

We remember Arshavin well, even if he didn’t meet the expectations that we had for him.

That shows what a player he was.

We can be thankful he played for us though, as he created some of our best moments in recent years.

The Ozil / Emery Dilemma

How far does a manager go to instill his values and rules upon his squad?

The parameters that the man at the helm puts in place will ultimately define the team, but what happens if one stray sheep doesn’t conform, and strays from the herd?

In an effort to stymie attempts from other players to follow suit,  does the manager lay down the law in the form of punishment, to show that the rules must be followed?

Unai Emery is in between a rock and a hard place. It has become apparent through comments made by the Spaniard that Mesut Ozil has not met the desired standard in the training regimen that has been set.

The result?

The German has been omitted from the entire squad for around two months of the season.

Even if you are not a fan, it is plain to see that our fortunes on the pitch in terms of style, have been severely hampered by the lack of a playmaker.

Chances have dried up, the pace of the ball being pinged around? Pedestrian. Our star strikers have been feeding off of scraps or creating openings themselves through their excellent set of skills.

The moment that Ozil was reinstated to the line-up was our Carabao Cup exit to Liverpool – and we scored five goals.

Yes, Liverpool were a weakened side, but the form we were in during that spell would have meant that if Ozil wasn’t in the eleven, we would surely have struggled to reach that amount of goals.

Our number ten kept the ball moving, stretching play, popping up in pockets of space and sprinkling in moments of genius, like his no-look backheel from the byline to the only player who could have received the ball.

This isn’t meant to indicate that Emery has made the wrong choice though. The words in this article are pointing towards a choice that Emery couldn’t possibly hope to pick the correct one – because there isn’t a right choice.

Ozil and Emery

Include Mesut Ozil in the side – and player power has won.

Leave him out of the side, and at the merest hint of a struggle, critics will point to the megastar left out of the side.

Emery had a power struggle in his time as PSG manager, as Neymar has a little more sway than a player normally would. The Brazilian is seen as indispensable to the eleven – or was – and there was only going to be one winner.

Now, we have arguably our most talented player flitting in and out of the side, and posting cryptic images on his Instagram in an apparent act of defiance. It leaves the unity of the squad frayed – and our performances compromised.

Mesut Ozil will obviously impact our team on the pitch. His end product went missing last year but in terms of keeping us on the front foot and always playing the right pass, there is no one better.

Star players shouldn’t have things their own way though. If we put them on a higher pedestal, it means they will define the rules, and the values of the club will be broken as a result.

No one player is greater than the team. We have had far greater players in our midst than Ozil and they have never rocked the boat – even if they did, the rock-solid rules of the club would not show a crack.

The moment this changes, then Arsenal FC as we know it, and have known it since its birth – will be completely undermined.

The solution to the Ozil – Emery predicament?

I’ve no idea – I don’t get paid millions to figure it out!

 

Mkhitaryan Will Come Good

Rotation is part and parcel of the modern game.

With the majority of successful sides playing between 55-70 games in a season on average, a well-stocked squad is fundamental.

A lack of numbers in any position is sure to be exploited by the rigours of a domestic and European campaign – something we Arsenal fans can painfully attest to.

On more than a few occasions we have seen our defence brutally exposed by a succession of injuries – centre-backs, left and right-backs, none were safe, and it took the powers of adaptation and youth for us to be able to field a recognisable backline.

So, an ample squad is necessary.

It does have a negative though.

Players and managers often cite a lack of match rhythm for poor form. It seems that players need a run of successive games in order to attain the zenith of their skills and talents. Like fine-tuning a radio to oust the static, each minute inches the player ever closer to that halcyon slice of time that sees one of our players hit the purple zone and show us all exactly what they are capable of.

This seems to be the issue for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The Armenian has given us more than a few assists and goals since his arrival as part of the swap deal that saw wantaway Chilean Alexis go to United.

The player with the scrabble-winning surname has one goal and three assists at the time of writing (this was written on the cusp of us facing Wolves on 11 Nov), from 11 games. Not exactly terrible, but far from what his early form promised.

When Mkhitaryan arrived, he linked up instantly with former Dortmund brethren Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. His displays against Everton and Watford particularly, were vibrant and intricate, full of texture and the air of a master locksmith. It looked like we had an excellent accomplice to Mesut Ozil.

913748798.jpg.0.jpg

This season though, has seen Mkhi restricted to mostly Europa League and League cup appearances. The first three games saw him in the eleven, but since then he has started only three more – with only two of them coming in a row.

It means that our playmaker has not been able to edge toward his top level, and it has seen a small portion of fans round on him.

Form is temporary, class is permanent, and Mkhitaryan has already shown in flashes what he brings to the team. He has also shown at Dortmund and United what he can do at the top level – if given the chance.

Emery has already shown he has no hesitation to put Mkhi in for the big games – being selected for the Liverpool draw ahead of the in-form Iwobi speaks volumes.

Injuries will bite, and Mkhitaryan will get a run of starts in the near future – that much is certain.

What isn’t certain is will us fans keep in mind that the circumstances haven’t been kind to the attacker, and we are yet to see him fully stretch out and enjoy himself?

We will see the slide-rule passes, clever finishes and intricate boxwork, and it will become vital as the matches come thick and fast. He will play his part, and despite his lack of gametime, Mkhitaryan has not moaned. Instead he has knuckled down and kept training hard.

Mkhitaryan at his best is among the finest playmakers in the Premier League. We have a hell of a player on our books, and we most certainly got the better end of the swap deal with United.

Mkhitaryan will come good – and his clever play fits seamlessly with our style. Mkhi is most definitely a Gunner.

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.

Will Santi Cazorla come back?

Posted on Goonersphere.

On the eve of his team’s game against Chelsea, Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho lauded himself for not repeatedly moaning about Paul Pogba’s absence.

The Portuguese manager told the attending press that it would be easy to continuously mention being unable to call on the French midfielder.


Pogba has missed two months of the season so far. Santi Cazorla has missed a little over a year.


The tiny Spaniard has attracted a fair amount of interest in the last few weeks, even though he hasn’t kicked a ball in anger for quite some time. Cazorla’s blighted ankle has been big news, aided by the image of the suspect joint that leaves viewers in no uncertain terms what the midfielder has had to endure.







Pogba may have the ridiculous transfer fee and his whole career ahead of him, but Cazorla is no less important to Arsenal. This may be a sad indictment of our team, how over-reliant we are on a 33 year old, but it’s still the truth.


Santi Cazorla’s transformation from playmaker to midfield all-rounder was aided by his versatility. The man with a right foot as good as his left showed he can run a midfield as well as cut open defences with his wits. It is his intelligence that is so important to our team though. The reason he works so well in the engine room is because he knows exactly when to make his move. He rarely leaves us wide open as he can read the game so well.


Since his departure, we have looked so brittle at times. Trying to forge the chemistry between two players takes time, so we won’t see the best of Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey for a while. The ebb and flow of a pivot is still jarring at points in a game and it is costing us.


Santi Cazorla is a complete player, and we can only lament the fact he is on the cusp of the end of his career. A fit and firing Santi, five years younger, would dominate games and win awards.


It took a couple of seasons to see this version of our Spaniard. His first season saw him in his preferred spot of creator, but the arrival of Mesut Ozil meant a switch to a wide berth and he was starved of the thing that makes him come alive – the ball.


It was only when he took a central midfield spot that we saw he can not only supply a striker, he can also win the ball.

Santi is a complete player. His injury has meant Mesut Ozil has to drop deeper to claim possession in an attempt to galvanise our attack. He is missing the bridge that Santi provided.


The gruesome image of Cazorla’s tattooed arm skin grafted onto his ankle highlights how far he is away from returning – if he does so at all. We talk all the time about irreplaceable players, and Santi Cazorla fits into that category.


If the Spaniard was in our team now, then we would have a team that was fully firing in all sectors, instead of a midfield that is hindered by a lack of chemistry.








Yet, Arsene Wenger rarely mentions his injury other than when directly questioned. Perhaps it is because he has had ample time to find a replacement, or maybe it is because he prefers to concentrate on the players in the team. Either way, Santi is attempting to make a comeback with the full support of the club.


There aren’t many players that can hold a candle to Cazorla’s talent. If we are lucky enough to see him in our midfield again, we should thank our lucky stars and enjoy our inevitable upsurge in results and form.


Santi makes us tick like no one else. 

Ozil criticism unfair – and here is the proof

Mesut Ozil marginalises every group of football fan. There hasn’t been a wider spectrum of thought on a player since Nicklas Bendtner’s own views and everyone else’s.

Ozil continues to generate headlines and it would seem that a mere mention of his name garners response levels sufficient to sate even the most demanding of editor. A large portion of what is written and said is of course clickbait – but there is no smoke without fire – right?


Mesut’s languid body language is like catnip to those who lambast the playmaker continuously. Head dipped, refusal to fluster and his lesser-heard raised voice contrasts to the blood and thunder that is demanded from many.


It makes you a winner. Veins popping, whites of the eyes dappled with burst blood vessels, clenched fists aplenty. These are classic signs of a winner, and Mesut Ozil is a stranger to these.


Ozil IS a winner though. He knows better than anyone it is what you do on the pitch that makes the difference, and he concerts all of his effort into enabling his team.


The consensus will probably continue to haunt Ozil simply because he is rarely seen roaring at teammates and plunging into rash tackles.


There is an agenda against our number 11, and one fact highlights this better than any words I can type.








After ten games in the Premier League, Manchester City sat top of the league and with breathing space between them and the chasing pack. They had +29 goal difference, and they made their best start to a Premier League season in their history. Nine wins and one solitary draw.


A lot of the plaudits were doled out to Kevin De Bruyne. The ginger genius had laid on chances with high frequency and teammates, his manager and pundits were gushing at the mention of the Belgian’s name.


Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil had been battered from pillar to post by most.  A portion of Gooners, journalists and experts wanted more from him.


Arsenal were in 5th spot, and had six wins, one draw and three defeats from their ten games, with a +6 goal difference. A large disparity between City’s record and Arsenal’s. City had DeBruyne firing on all cylinders and had been backed to become one of the world’s best players on the back of his performances – and Ozil had been heckled.


Yet, both had created exactly the same amount of chances – both were top of the rankings in terms of chances set up.









Ozil and DeBruyne had crafted 30 clearcut chances for their teammates in ten games. Three each game.


So how can Ozil be panned as a waste of a player in a team, and DeBruyne hailed as a marvel – perhaps the best in the League?


They are both players in the team to do a job. The same job. From the numbers, it appears as if both are doing it better than anyone else in the Premiership. Yet Ozil continues to be ridiculed for failing his team, and DeBruyne is the exact opposite.


These numbers show that Ozil is every bit as good as most of us Gooners know he is. We have dispelled the myth that he is lazy before – he covers more ground than most – and now we can put to bed the notion that he makes no chances.


What will we have to put right next? Mesut Ozil is a fantastic player. He starts moves from deep and keeps his presence in the intricate passing throughout. He is always on the ball.



Hopefully this article will get an airing and some of the more obtuse Ozil-bashers can admit that they were wrong.

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?