Tag Archives: training

Arteta and the New Defence

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so the saying goes.

For a number of seasons, Arsenal have been top-heavy. Ridiculously powerful up top, capable of out-gunning any opponent, but porous at the back, like putting cowboy saloon doors on a bank vault.

Or a bodybuilder skipping leg day so much that his top half looks like it’s mid-way through swallowing his bottom half.

When was the last time we had a solid defence behind us that filled us with confidence? The last time we came close to that was the peak years of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Before and since, we’ve been fed on a diet of mediocre or average, which has been off-kilter to what we’ve had in attack.

Unai Emery recruited the likes of Sokratis to beef up our weak backline, offer some physical security. But if you’re also asking that same defence to play out from the back, Emery was ultimately trying to fit square pegs in round holes.

Then there is the capacity for mistakes in our defenders. Shkodran Mustafi can withstand pressure from teams for 80-85 minutes and be a prime candidate for Man of the Match, but he carries with him a warning sticker, that lets everyone know that there are mistakes within that can capitulate the efforts of the team, and override any decent aspects that Mustafi has contributed previously.

David Luiz is a huge character on and off the pitch, helping youngsters grow and also being a conduit for the positivity and work that Mikel Arteta’s new regime extolls. But every once in a while, Luiz will put his studded foot in his figurative mouth and inexplicably gift the opposition a goal.

It is a characteristic that has beset us for more than a decade, unfortunately.

But Mikel Arteta is instilling something at Arsenal. Something special. Something that is getting all of the players excited and looking to the next game. This tantalising project is luring players in. Both summer recruits thus far – Willian and Gabriel Magalhaes – have both spoken of other offers for their services coming in before joining Arsenal. Why did they shun these other, more lucrative deals?

Mikel Arteta.


Magalhaes even spoke of a phone call from Arteta to convince him of his growth at Arsenal and the end goal of the club and how Magalhaes can be intrinsic to that.

We now have a solid looking nucleus of defenders at Arsenal.

Magalhaes was wanted by top clubs and chose Arsenal.

William Saliba is another top young talent that lit up Ligue Un last season. The Frenchman is younger than Magalhaes, but both could form part of a new-look backline – especially if Arteta continues to get his players adapting to a 3-5-2 / 5-3-2 formation. It involves a bank of three central defenders, with two wing-backs shutting down the flanks and then offering an avenue in attack. Put the experienced Luiz in the centre, with the youthful exuberance and skills of Magalhaes and Saliba, and we are looking at a brand new backline that is capable of following Arteta’s wishes.

We also have depth too. With the cultured Pablo Mari to come back into the fold, and Calum Chambers – who impressed last season before injury cut his campaign short – we now have the resources available to withstand the annual Arsenal injury crises at the back.

With the impressive Kieran Tierney able to play centrally too, Arteta may well have what he needs at the back to push this club forward and toward where he wants – and we want – us to be.


Could a Different Assistant have Helped Wenger?

The announcement of Arsene Wenger departing the club has led to the inevitable thoughts of the many years the Frenchman has been at the helm of the club.
After twenty two years of ups and downs, the search for Wenger’s disappearing mojo has led us all down a variety of paths.
Some scenic – some desolate.
Was it the start of the financial restraints and the need to sell our star players year after year?
Perhaps it was down to the changing face of football tactics and Wenger’s taciturn approach to his methods under fire?
The influx of cash that flooded the game was always a weapon that Wenger liked to furiously brandish, waving it with enthusiasm as United, Chelsea and City began to spend money like Mario Balotelli in a fireworks factory.
Or was it simply Wenger’s recalcitrance?
It’s probably a combination of the above, but his choice of Assistant Manager could be a contributing factor.

Wenger and Rice.

Arsene Wenger inherited the services of Pat rice when he joined back in 1996. The Arsenal stalwart bleeds red and white and through his playing and coaching career, Rice accrued invaluable knowledge of the club.

Rice was a huge reason Wenger’s strange and new methods took so well at the club. It helped that the results soon started to flow, but the playing personnel had a familiar face and one that was convinced by Wengers actions. This would help convert the masses.
Rice was no manager though. He was the perfect Assistant, and it meant that when results started to go south and an objective voice was required, Rice was the perfect ally rather than the difficult words that needed to be said.
Rice left Arsenal in 2012, when our ship began what was a particularly rough patch of water. This stretch of choppy seas we are still navigating, and another former Gunner has taken the coveted seat next to Arsene.
Much has been speculated about the role of assistant to Wenger. Some have said his rule is absolute. His reluctance to scout opposing teams and instill rigorous defensive training is yet another piece in the Wenger falling star jigsaw, and you would think two of our finest defenders would be just the answer to our backline blues?
Maybe it’s true that Bould and Rice have not been allowed to impart their wisdom on proceedings, maybe it’s fallacy. What isn’t myth is that perhaps, these men weren’t the answer? Rice perhaps in his later years was not the right man, and is Bould the right hand man Wenger needs when the ground became rockier and the incline steeper?
Some of the greatest triumphs involved a Manager who realised his limitations and stuck to what he was good at, and relied on his Assistant Manager to plug the gaps. Brian Clough leaned on Peter Taylor and look what they achieved with Forest and Derby. Sir Alex Ferguson used a number of Robin’s to his Batman and his trophy cabinet bulged. Kidd, McClaren, Quieroz, Knox, Smith and Phelan were just some of the names that were allowed to have an impact on the training field.

One of the finest examples of this involved our own Bertie Mee and Don Howe. Mee knew his own boundaries and so did Howe, but together they formed a formidable coaching unit.
It is increasingly difficult for just one man to play every part at a club, and with Wenger going from Arsenal, this is maybe one of the last Managerial postings where the manager has his fingers in a multitude of pies. Now is the time of the coach, and now we have Sven Mislintat and Raul Sanllehi, we have the expertise to supplement a great coach on the training pitch.
Arsene Wenger at times could have really done with a partner to pull him to one side and make him realise where his errors were. Whether he would have listened or not is another matter entirely.
Wenger is still undeniably – along with Chapman – the greatest manager we’ve had. We’re lucky to have been able to witness what we have during his tenure. Even in his later years, we were still treated to some football from the gods.
Wenger’s legacy is where we stand right now, and our brand of football. With or without a change in Assistant Manager, we still have this to remember him by.
With a different Robin though? Batman could have really made Gotham a better place.

Published in the Gooner Fanzine.

The Evolution of The Ox

Published on Goonersphere

The focus placed on development of youth at clubs has changed rapidly in the last decade, and is now almost as important as any other department within a top club.

From the vast scouting network which casts a wide net around the world in a hope of snaring big game, to the myriad of staff employed to cover every aspect of a hopeful candidate’s life, it’s clear that the polishing of these rough diamonds takes precedence over the majority of other requirements.

Arsene Wenger has been at the helm of Arsenal for over two decades now, and has seen the revolving door at London Colney spin round more often than Jamie Carragher facing a fleet-footed Thierry Henry. He has seen the majority of the young charges fail to make an impact upon his first-team plans, but there have been successes. Jack Wilshere is held up as a shining beacon of what can be achieved by a youngster who matches his talent with graft, and if these traits are intertwined with fitness – then age is simply a number.

There are of course, far more than the injury-cursed Wilshere to laud in terms of youth progress and holding their own despite their tender years, but would you include Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in that bracket?

The Ox has on the whole, been consistently inconsistent since his joining from the Southampton youth product conveyor belt. A mere mention of his much-shorter moniker of ‘The Ox’ is enough to materialise grimaces of frustration from Gooners within earshot. 

Now every young player should be allowed a certain amount of errors in their game, as mistakes are how we all learn and gain experience. For The Ox especially, there should be a larger margin for error as his style is purely confrontational, which in turn will see more possession conversions.

In short, he takes people on, makes things happen. That will see a higher rate of possession being switched, as the high risk – high reward style that The Ox favours requires him to pull a few tricks out of the bag to outwit opposition.

This site has published many articles on the lad, and we could all talk about how his numbers and end product are far from good enough. It is common knowledge that he needs to step his game up if he is to cement a future at Arsenal and indeed, England. He has rarely had a run in the team some will say, but the reason for this when he has been fit is that when he has been given an opportunity, for all to see he has let it slip through his fingers. Why play a player when he clearly doesn’t have a case for a start above others?

In 171 games for Arsenal (correct at the time of writing) he has scored 20 goals and given 27 assists. What really underlines his requirement for improving his end product is how often he is found in a dangerous area. The Ox really has a talent for finding the best position in attacks, but more often than not he hits the first man with a cross, or it will miss its target. 

This season though, there has been a shift on the pitch. 

He has scored six times and bagged six assists already this campaign. A straight fight between The Ox and Alex Iwobi has seen a rise in productivity and more charged performances from the man named after a bovine species. He has utilised the ball better, there have been rarer moments of induced groaning. 

A promising run in the centre of midfield was his reward, and he took the chance with both hands. The Ox began to deliver the most elusive of traits – consistency.

The flowering of Oxlade-Chamberlain looks to have finally begun. Potential is great, but if it stays as potential and doesn’t begin to sprout life, even the most patient of managers will lose faith. Wenger has stuck by The Ox and his elevated performances are evidence that the faith he placed in the England winger wasn’t so blind after all.

It is still early days, but we are roughly halfway through the season and he has scored and assisted more than any other season he has played in. If he maintains this and continues to his consistency, then The Ox may just earn the established starting role he so craves.

Alex is not the youngster that can deflect criticism with excuses of lack of experience anymore. He has played against the cream of Europe, he plays international football and he has world class talent to learn from every day on the training pitch. Is this all starting to have an effect on The Ox?

Do you take stock from statistics? Oxlade-Chamberlain’s give off the impression that the padawan has finally started to flourish. Is he a fully fledged Jedi yet? oh no, learn more he must. 

Calum Chambers – A Better Option

Originally posted on Goonersphere

When Calum Chambers joined Arsenal in 2014, he was another who had left Southampton with a burgeoning reputation to switch to Colney.

Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain blazed the trail for the then right-back, and the headlines, sponsorship deals – and most of all, the England caps – were proof that leaving the safety of the nest for life in the spotlight at The Emirates was the right choice.

Fast forward two full seasons, and the dream is in danger of being ruined.


Continue reading Calum Chambers – A Better Option

The Next Generation of Arsenal Supporter – The Next Big Thing?

Arsenal’s fan base is burgeoning. Season ticket waiting lists are long. Membership numbers are high. The worldwide representation of Gooners amongst social media has never been in ruder health. Our club – as a business – is thriving.

What exactly is attracting these young fans to our club? If they wanted glory, then surely the club down the Kings Road in blue would fit the bill?

Also, our young talents at the club are struggling to break through. These fresh faced imports from across the globe are brought in and we then wait in vain for them to break through the embryotic sac to the first team in a blaze of glory – to be heralded the ‘ Next Big Thing  ‘. Plain and simply – we have waited a long time for a youth prospect to really fly the flag for our investment in our youth teams.

Continue reading The Next Generation of Arsenal Supporter – The Next Big Thing?

Coming To America – Arsenal in 2016

Arsenal recently announced their plans for the pre-season of 2016-17 which involve two games played across the pond in the United States.


These two matches, one against the MLS All-Stars at the Avaya Stadium in San Jose on the twenty eighth of July at 9pm ( ET ), and the other against Chivas de Guadalajara at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles on July the thirty first, represent a welcome return to the States for Arsenal. The last trip to the US was in 2014 and involved a game versus New York Red Bulls, which was ridiculously well received.

Continue reading Coming To America – Arsenal in 2016

Colney Expansion Original Plans Shocker

Some stories you have to dig for. Furiously scratch at the undergrowth to reveal the glowing truth. A truth that had been concealed by desperate people willing to resort to skullduggery and nefarious means to secrete the facts. You may get dirty in the process but the public deserve to know. The lengths you must resort to may weigh upon your conscience – but the truth will out.  Other stories literally fall into your lap.  Continue reading Colney Expansion Original Plans Shocker