Tag Archives: Cazorla

BOOSTS FOR THE RUN-IN: NEW CONTRACTS AND KEY-PLAYER COMEBACKS

8 Mar

As Arsenal approach the final run-in of games, we take a look at the factors that can fire them towards their main objectives.

When I think back to this precise point last season, there was absolute anarchy in the media. We had just been been dumped out of the FA Cup by Blackburn at The Emirates, totally outclassed by Bayern at The Emirates and lost the biggest North London derby in years. Broken cannons were all over the place. Wenger was being questioned to the near point of disrespect which forced him to have arguably, his fiercest press conference to date in the build-up to the Bayern game, which we won 2-0.

At this stage of the season, the Club came under a hostile level of pressure but the Bayern victory, despite still being knocked out of the Champions League, was followed up by a superb points haul of 26 points from an available 30. This was an incredible turn of events which came about after a masterful re-shuffling of the pack from the manager.

It is with very interesting timing that Arsenal have decided to announce that Per Mertsacker and Tomas Rosicky will be renewing their deals with the Club. With Mertesacker showing his commitment, as one of the core leaders at the Club, it was very important for Arsenal to not only avoid a public, seasonal contract wrangling but to also provide the Club with a boost for the League and Cup run-ins.

Season after season, we are always looking at our senior players, questioning their commitment to our great Club and quite often, we have been incapable of satisfying players’ needs, whether it be financially or on the pitch. There are countless examples of this – Toure, Adebayor, Clichy, Nasri, Fabregas and Song but I would say, since Theo Walcott signed a new deal last January, we have shown our desire to keep our most important players at the Club and I tip my hat to Ivan Gazidis.

Arsenal fans have really come to appreciate what a big player Mertesacker is to the Club in all ways and he has now become a huge favourite with the fans and the players after producing quality defensive performances. A lot of players mention our great team spirit and Mertesacker, as a leader, is very important to this and even as a defender, we shouldn’t sleep on the significance of this deal.

Rosicky is another huge part of our squad spirit. I don’t think he has been particularly consistent but he personifies what our game should be about. He understands the Club and while I think the Club has been extremely loyal towards him, despite his many injuries, I have never got the impression he wanted to be anywhere else in all of his 8 years here. He plays with full commitment but always has the urgency in his game to play the technical football our philosophy is based on. In the words of Wenger, he likes to “accelerate the game”, which is key at the highest level of football and is not an easy quality to find.

The manager has also suggested, that Ramsey and Cazorla are also very close to signing new deals, which will give the Club another huge lift. Not only this but Ramsey, who has been out for over 2 months, should be back in contention for the North London derby next weekend. Ramsey had been a huge player for Arsenal up until his injury and definitely an early shout for Player of the Season. At this stage of the season, when weary-legs start setting in, it is very important to welcome back key players at key times. In terms of player/squad morale, there can’t be many better feelings for the players than to have their futures secured. It truly does create a certainty and assuredness in the workplace.

Last year, we done well to salvage a top-four finish but Wenger has recently been quoted as saying, “We fight the whole season to be in these kind of positions. You want the opportunity to show your strengths – we have that now.” This quote represents the managers’ belief that we are set to make the next step this season, as we are in a better position this year at the same point. We are 12 points better off in the League, 4 points off the top and in the quarter-final of the FA Cup and key contract renewals could see us given a lift, equivalent to last year. 

If Arsenal manage to get 26 points from the last 30 again this year, that will give Arsenal a total of 85 points which would be a great achievement but it remains to be seen if that would even be enough to win the League. Furthermore, it would be brilliant to see us win the FA Cup for the 5th time under Wenger and with all the good news I can see Arsenal finishing strongly again this season.

Liverpool vs Arsenal preview: How should the midfield shape up?

7 Feb

Arsenal are going into this game a bit light in midfield – Aaron Ramsey is still at least a month away from the first-team, Mathieu Flamini is suspended and Jack Wilshere is 50/50. The only certainties to be present in the squad are Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Arteta is a nailed on starter for the defensive-midfield role and the remaining question is: Who should partner him at Anfield? I am fully aware that we have an Oxlade-Chamberlain that is raring to go in a central-midfield role, after bagging a brace against Crystal Palace, but my preference would be for Rosicky to line-up alongside Arteta.

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ROSICKY: A BIG GAME PLAYER

ROSICKY MUST START

My reasoning for this is, the ability of Rosicky in getting the game moving at a high-tempo. Rosicky will serve our short-passing game a lot better than Oxlade-Chamberlain and help us to retain possession. With his experience and knowhow I would see no problems in letting Rosicky pull the strings. The intensity and urgency he will bring into midfield will be key at Anfield. His understanding of when to press will also be essential.Another benefit of playing Rosicky will also be, to allow Oxlade-Chamberlain to play in the three that play off the striker (Cazorla-Ozil-Oxlade-Chamberlain).

IN-GAME FLEXIBILITY

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THE OX: COULD BE ASKED TO DO A TEAM JOB

This will give us a much needed fluidity and flexibility during the game which will allow us to adapt to the situations that will arise. The Ox has a versatility that will make him a big player at Arsenal and in this sort of game I could see him swapping positions with Mesut Ozil to fill in centrally just behind Giroud. With Gerrard being deployed in a deep-lying midfield role, Wenger could instruct The Ox to do a tactical job (ala Weimann) and buzz around Gerrard using his energy and power to disrupt Liverpool’s key passers’ game. The Ox has the technical ability to play there, can get forward in support of our striker and has shown he can score goals. Rosicky can also do this, as he did against Liverpool at The Emirates, but we would lose that much-needed passing ability in midfield.

WEAKENED LIVERPOOL

That unpredictability in our formation could cause Liverpool endless problems as they suffer from a weakened defence (Johnson, Agger, Sakho and Enrique all injured) and a weakened midfield (Lucas injured). With Gerrard not being a natural holding-midfielder and Liverpool likely to have a two-man midfield, Liverpool could struggle tactically in keeping Ozil, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rosicky quiet as they come in off the flanks.

Is Julian Draxler the answer to our left-side “problem”?

27 Jan
OVERMARS CHANGED THE LANDSCAPE FOR WINGERS

OVERMARS CHANGED THE LANDSCAPE FOR WINGERS

Throughout Wenger’s reign as Arsenal manager we have always been used to an attacking-midfielder/inverted winger playing as our left-winger. The likes of Overmars, Pires, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin, have all filled in at this position, in order to help us keep the ball a lot better – overload in midfield and use our (usually very attacking) left-backs as wingers in attack.

HYBRID LEFT-WINGERS/ATTACKING-MIDFIELDERS

However, these players also needed to be capable of scoring goals or being very creative and racking up the assists – a lot of responsibility is given to these players in Arsenal’s team. They must have the ability to produce moments of magic and literally be our attacking-midfielder and left-winger all-in-one.

More recently, we have had a mixture of Lukas Podolski, Gervinho and Santi Cazorla filling in the role on the left-hand side. At times Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere have also attempted to. This has confirmed to me that we do have a genuine need to get in a player that will command that berth.

ANGLES

Wenger doesn’t have the belief in Podolski to effectively play in this role for Arsenal as he is not in the traditional mould for an Arsenal “left-winger”. Being on the left-hand side, Podolski struggles to make the passes our type of play commands as he is such a left-sided player. Wilshere playing on the left brings the same issue, despite him being more of an attacking-midfielder, it is difficult for him to come inside and make the angled-passes that we need when dominating possession.

ROSICKY: MASTER OF DRIFTING INSIDE

ROSICKY: MASTER OF DRIFTING INSIDE

At times, Rosicky can play the role but won’t be going down the outside of the full-backs, holding the width and stretching the game as he is very right-sided. Rosicky is excellent coming inside and making different angles with his passes as he also is the expert in using the outside of his boot.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is a young and gifted football-player with such versatility in his game. He is a brilliant winger with trickery and speed. He also has lovely technical ability which is apparent in his crossing and even more so in his passing but for this reason Wenger sees him as a long-term central-midfielder. I like him as a winger, he is great in the one-on-one situation but I think he is a better right-winger more than a left-winger/attacking-midfielder. Gervinho was a great runner, had decent off-the-ball movement but wasn’t clinical technically which meant our overall game-play suffered.

SANTI CAZORLA

Currently Arsenal’s resident “left-winger” is Santi Cazorla. The maestro that had a blinding first season at Arsenal scoring 12 League goals while playing in the attacking-midfield role, has had his position taken from him by Mesut Ozil and as a result of his flexibility and versatility he has been moved to play on the left. This season has been a stop-start season for Cazorla as he has had to adjust to a new role in the team and has scored only 3 League goals.

CAZORLA: THE CURRENT LEFT-WINGER FOR ARSENAL

CAZORLA: THE CURRENT LEFT-WINGER FOR ARSENAL

We all know Cazorla possesses outstanding quality but could we do better in this particular position? In my opinion, yes. Cazorla has physical limits in terms of being able to “do the full-back”. Cazorla is short, stocky and is not blessed with acceleration to beat full-backs. While he is majestic in his use of the ball he should be never be expected to “skin the full-back” or get to the byline ala Robert Pires despite possibly being the most two-footed player in the League. He is currently a great No.10 “doing a job” for the team and while it works because of our style of short-passing style of football, I am convinced we need a new player there that will be a hybrid winger/attacking-midfielder.

DRAXLER THE ANSWER

For Arsenal to pursue the signing of Julian Draxler would be ideal in terms of the physical and technical blend of the player. He has great dribbling ability and his close control is equally effective on both feet, making him capable of going down the outside of defenders, stretching the game and holding the width. Couple this with his speed and power while dribbling, makes him a tough player to second-guess in the one-on-one situation.

DRAXLER & MERTESACKER IN TRAINING FOR GERMANY

DRAXLER & MERTESACKER IN TRAINING FOR GERMANY

The player is also very creative, especially as a No.10 and to a degree, this is the bad news. The player has had an outburst as recent as last month, where he stated, “I have now resigned myself to the fact that I am not welcome in the number 10 position here at Schalke. I am still convinced to be as dangerous just outside the centre. Even though I perhaps am the only one who thinks this.”

This highlights Draxler’s desire to play as a No.10 but there is practically no room for Draxler to become our fixed No.10. At the age of 20 and with a reported release-clause of £35m, there is the possibility that Arsenal could splash the cash in order to capture one of the best, young players in world football, who would undoubtedly claim our “left-winger” slot as his own for at least the next 8 years.