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October 2016
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How the transformation of Arsenal applies to both the first XI and the back up team

By Tony Attwood

This is the team that Arsenal put out last weekend against Hull City.


Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal,

Cazorla, Coquelin,

Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi,


On the beach: Ospina, Holding, Gibbs, Elneny, Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lucas.

And the team against Forest


Maitland-Niles, Holding, Gabriel, Gibbs,

Elneny, Xhaka,

Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide, Akpom,


On the beach: Macey, Bielik, Sheaf, Dasilva, Zelalem, Willock, Mavididi

And here are the missing men who didn’t play in either game:

Giroud, Ramsey, Mertersacker, Welbeck, Jenkinson

Now I am not going to suggest that the B team – the team used against Forest – could be selected for league matches and walk their way through each game, because I don’t believe it, and if that could happen there is no way that we could hold on to such players.   If they were absolutely ready to play and win PL games they would be expecting quite a few PL games in order to show how good they are.

Yes there are a few players who do sit around forever and hardly get into the first team – they are mostly goalkeepers and Arsenal has had a few of them – but for the most part players want games.

No, my point is that even if we got the sort of injury list that according to people who are high on opinion and low on any ability to check any facts (I think of people such as S. Robson for example, and his followers in the aaa commandos) we do indeed have two teams.

There are of course some players that are currently looking indispensable at the moment.   Santi Cazorla with a couple of goals and a couple of assists in the league, along with a 75% rate of shots being on target is someone who looks set to play every game unless a severe change of tactics is needed for a particular match.

Laurent Koscielny has a 93% pass accuracy across more than 140 passes in the league games while Nacho Monreal has 88% pass accuracy and 191 completed passes which gives a certain confidence in the defence.

In fact those two players are doing a lot to give us the second highest pass success rate in the league at the moment – 85.2%

Yet curiously we are very mid-table with shots per game (figures here from

R Team Shots pg Possession% PassSuccess%
1 Tottenham 19 55.8 81.7
2 Chelsea 18.2 56.9 86.7
3 Manchester City 17.6 61.0 85.0
4 Liverpool 17 56.1 83.0
5 Southampton 16.6 54.3 82.7
6 Manchester United 16.2 51.5 84.2
7 Everton 15.4 55.0 83.3
8 West Ham 14.8 49.9 81.8
9 Crystal Palace 14.8 51.8 78.3
10 Arsenal 14.6 55.6 85.2
11 Leicester 13 47.6 73.7
12 Swansea 12.8 49.8 78.8
13 West Bromwich Albion 11.4 39.7 67.0
14 Stoke 11 46.8 75.2
15 Hull 10.2 47.5 81.4
16 Watford 9.6 42.1 72.3
17 Sunderland 9.4 38.4 68.7
18 Middlesbrough 9.2 51.9 81.1
19 Bournemouth 9 48.0 80.7
20 Burnley 7.8 40.5 72.6

But if we compare that figure (which will undoubtedly lead to lots of shouts of SHOOT!!! and moans about Arsenal only wanting to score the perfect goal, in terms of goals scored in the league – the figures don’t include the Forest game) we have the second highest number of goals – which could be an early sign of the success of a highly accurate pass rate.

This is the top of the league in descending order of goals.

Lge pos Team Pl W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 5 5 0 0 15 4 11 15
4 Arsenal 5 3 1 1 12 7 5 10
6 Liverpool 5 3 1 1 11 8 3 10
5 Chelsea 5 3 1 1 10 6 4 10
9 Watford 5 2 1 2 10 9 1 7
2 Everton 5 4 1 0 10 3 7 13
3 Tottenham Hotspur 5 3 2 0 8 2 6 11
7 Manchester United 5 3 0 2 8 6 2 9
18 West Ham United 5 1 0 4 7 13 -6 3

Arsenal specialise this season in one particular approach – scoring from within the penalty area.   If we made a league table of goals scored from outside the penalty area we would see Arsenal in 13th place (Southampton top, Tottenham second), but with goals within the six yard box (the tap ins) we are 12th in the league.   But penalty area goals is our forte – which in a sense you would expect it to be with players like Ozil who can make the perfect pass from outside the area to the player running in.

And yet none of our players is ranked in the top 15 players of the PL at the moment by WhoScored.   The top ten is De Bruyne, Davies (Hull), Sterling, Lukaku88, Capoue, Mane, Payet, Gueye, Townsend and Otamendi.

Should we be worried that the likes of Alexis and Ozil are not in this list?  I think not – because in essence a team should always be able to beat a few highly talented individuals.  We all wait to see how the Tinies deal with life without their star striker.  Or indeed how high flying Everton cope with now having six players out (they are top of the injury table at the moment).

My point overall is that what we are seeing here is the development of a balanced team with a wide range of back up players – including players who as yet are not ready to play regularly in the first team, but are clearly getting there.

To expand on this a little,  I want to go back to the league cup, and last season’s grave disappointment against Sheffield Wednesday.   This is the team we put out on that day


Debuchy Mertesacker Chambers Gibbs

Flamini Kamara

The Ox Iwobi Campbell


True the team was scuppered by injuries within the game, but on paper it looked a stronger team than we put out against Forest.   Yet the results were utterly different.

If I was forced to explain why (which having got this far in this piece I guess I ought to try and do) I would say that it was fairly obviously the defence.

In the Forest game it was

Maitland-Niles, Holding, Gabriel, Gibbs,

Elneny, Xhaka,

In the Wednesday game it was

Debuchy Mertesacker Chambers Gibbs

Flamini Kamara

There is a significant difference there.   Maitland-Niles is by no means the finished article, but I think he is a remarkable prospect.  In Holding we have discovered what is probably the buy of the decade for £2m – I still don’t know how Arsenal did that. Gabriel has been criticised but I think he has just been taking time to learn the language and adapt to the pace.   Elneny was another remarkable buy at a low price – a player who was off everyone’s radar unless Arsenal got him, and Xhaka, at the other end of the price scale, really does look the business – at least from 35 yards out.

From last year, Debuchy and Chambers have slipped out of the reckoning, and Mert needs experienced players around him to work with him at this stage in his career.   Flamini was coming to the end of his career and could do a decent job (as against the Tinies in the league cup) but was just that – doing a job, and Kamara (now with Colchester, having been placed last season with Southend) wasn’t ready to make the transformation.

Overall our defence has seen a remarkable transformation in one season.  I think it bodes well.

And to finish, here’s an interesting anniversary of the day

23 September 2008: Arsenal put out a youth team and beat Sheffield U 6-0 in League Cup.  Fabianski, Hoyte, Djourou, Song, Gibbs, Randall, Ramsey, Merida, Wilshere, Bendtner, Vela.  Among the substitutes was Francis Coquelin.

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16 comments to How the transformation of Arsenal applies to both the first XI and the back up team

  • bushido

    no doubt this year team transformation was really amazing and i think Arsenal has one of the strongest squad depth in the premier league but mainstream media and many sport blog don’t agree with that. talk ‘shit’ sport just rank Arsenal 5th in term of squad depth behind the big spender mainly cos Arsenal don’t spend that much money. well it doesn’t bother me much as an ex player keep talking shit about Arsenal. just stumble an article about Ian Wright saying that Arsene Wenger doesn’t really want G.Xhaka and just sign him to make fans happy. what the fuck is that, how can some people make such accusation. i know he was questioning the involvement of Granit with the team and his lack of start, but u have to respect the decision made by the manager. but to make some wild accusation cos he as an ex player doesn’t agree with the team selection is just childish and stupid.

  • para

    Great assessment. The squad now has more players who can make a difference, and some injured(fatefully rested?) for the later haul.

    As long as they do not lose focus. All it takes is that one moment of not concentrating and it’s gone.

    Home fans must feel it now, and put aside all animosity and fire the team on from start to finish. Some say it’s the cause of our poor form at home sometimes.

    Looking to beat Chel$, but they are not to be underestimated either, what ever their last results are, and we must be together and focussed, a wall of sound both audibly and mentaly for us who are not there.

    Arrr se nal, Arrr se nal, Arrr se nal, Arrr se nal…

  • Va Cong

    bushido Ian Wright has gone bankrupt so needs to his job as poodit no loyalties mate he is just scum poo off your shoe!

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Is Le Prof trying to build up Maitland Niles at RB as a proactive measure not be caught napping should Barcelona finally succeeded in snatching away Bellerin from us? Niles was very impressive in the Forest game.

    That our backup starts and bench were highly impressive in the Forest game. One can hardly fault them in their individuals and collective play. But I believe there should still be rooms for improvement individually and collectively as a team that can make them reach the last 8 in the ELC competition after as expected they’ve disposed of Reading at the Ems next month.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Things are certainly improving, especially in terms of squad depth, hopefully we will see more evidence of that against Chelsea.
    Whatever happens, I hope Chelseas current manager has a bit more class about him than to be concerned about breaking faces

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Le Prof decides his starts and bench today for the Chelsea game at the Ems tomorrow. But here are my own starts and bench for the match.

    My starts:
    Bellerin Mustafi Koscielny Monreal.
    Coquelin Cazorla.
    Walcott Ozil Iwobi.

    My bench:
    Ospina, Maitland Niles, Gabriel, Gibbs, Xhaka, Elneny & Perez.

    Le Prof will not change a winning starts & bench, would he for this Chelsea big game? Debuchy has appeared to be out of sight and Jenkinson has not yet recovered from his injury. Hench, I’ve decided to have the impressive Maitland Niles @ Forest as my RB backup on my bench.

    Arsenal will beat Antonio Conte’s Chelsea Diego Costa led attack team by 5 goals to nil at the Ems tomorrow Saturday. It will not count after all which and which caliber of Bliues Conte will start for this match and those he’ll put on his bench. Arsenal will unfailingly beat them by 5 goals to nil.

  • Leon

    Va Cong

    Context is everything

    In fairness Wright was repeating what a friend had said, and went on to say he was surprised at the lack of starts Xhaka had made and that he was a future Arsenal captain.

    Seems quite positive to me.

  • Josif

    I think we have a very decent squad now. Two players for every position means our team should be capable of keeping the high level throughout both a single game and the whole season.

    Arsenal haven’t collected 80 points or more since 2007-08 which is a direct consequence of the form decline that would eventually occure in either half of the season. 79 points has been our biggest tally ever since. Most of the times it was a direct consequence of a short cover for the first team after the key players had been ruled out for quite a while (2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 are fresh of examples of one excellent and one rather poor half of the season).

    Right now, we have enough squad depth to avoid that.

    Oh, I don’t think CC21 should be written off. Not just because there is an example of Coquelin but also because Chambers looks like a future star if a patient manager with less pressure in terms of results than the one on Mr Wenger’s back takes Chambers under his leap.

  • Andy Mack

    I think you’re being overly harsh on last years ‘2nd team’.
    We did have some nightmare injuries to Theo, Ox, Rosicky, Arteta, Jack and Danny (jack and danny… 😀 )but despite that with them we had a good set of individual players.
    The problem was that it was an unbalanced team (the real 2nd team rather than the TinPot Cup squad you mention). Arteta, Flamini and Rosicky could all play PL football this year with mid-table teams but to have all 3 of them in the same team for the same game is clearly not a balanced option. Some of our best young options last season went ‘on loan’ because they needed to but Hayden, Akpom and AMN could all have stayed and balanced the 2nd 11 so much better… But at the cost of their development.
    This season we have a much better balance of talent and age.
    They may still need a ‘few games’ to get match fit but any 2/3 of them could come into the 1st 11 and show well over a few games.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    I have to admit that at times I find it difficult to be too critical of our team because I like our players. For all the criticism that Mr. Wenger receives he does decide when players are not good enough for our squad and lets them go elsewhere. I guess the difference is that he tries to do it while still respecting the player’s dignity and keeping the decisions behind closed doors unlike someone who occupies SAF’s vacant throne.

  • MickHazel

    Wright knows Arsene Wenger and thus must be aware that he would never be influenced by anyone, least of all a collection of noisy supporters. So why did he feel it necessary to repeat in print what a friend of his (who’s credentials we have no idea of) had said. On that basis he is nothing but a shit stirrer.

  • bushido

    MickHazel – i agree’ it’s ok to criticize cos we know A.Wenger really don’t give a shit what pundit/failed manager said about him or the team, but to accusing the manager of not really wanted a player at the club and just buying him to satisfied some minority noise or so call fans, that’s just fucked up shit from bankrupt wright. did he know what the main reason G.Xhaka choose to come to Arsenal? yeah right’ not cos of the noise of the pundit was making but conversation with the man he had deepest respect for. and for Leon as for the friend remark, i had 1 question for u’ how many of that Wright friend really is manager of a football club? it’s easy for them just to runnin their mouth without any consequences apart from making themself look like adult who had mentality of a children’ who cannot see logic in their thinking based on all the shit that come out from their mouth.

  • bushido

    at September 23, 2016 at 1:06 pm – so to u it’s all positive when people make a statement (accusing) about other people without single proof to back it up just cos they don’t agreed with the team selection, i don’t know what kind of person would admit all that it’s a positive thing. but on a flip side, u just proof my point about some (adult) people way of thinking and how they see thing in this world (when negativity is hail as a positive).

  • Brickfields Gunners

    On exes –
    ‘ Never get jealous when you see your ex with someone else , because our parents taught us to give our used toys to the less fortunate !’

  • Brickfields Gunners

    On hot air –
    ‘ According to a new British study ,passing gas may help you to live longer and , in a surprise twist,smelling gas might prevent dementia.

    Researchers found that when you pass wind , you’re helping yourself out by lowering your risk of cancer , heart attacks and strokes.

    And the main ingredient in it is hydrogen sulfate . Researchers believe inhaling it actually causes your brain to grow stronger and protects your brain from dementia .’

    ** I personally think that they should sign up gas bag Ian Wright and his supporters and other like minded sniffers to this study .But they will also have to determine if they get any smarter !**

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