This team is a team (and what a team it is)

By Walter Broeckx

One of the things that entered my mind when seeing us win at Turf Moor last Saturday is that this team has something special. Something that if given time might grow in to something really special. If we take the time to have a look back at those last 8 wins in the PL we get to see many faces of Arsenal. And that is what I find so promising.

It started with a 2-1 win at home against Leicester.

Coming back from defeat against Tottenham it was vital to get some confidence back. A 2-0 lead at half time and all looked done but Leicester fought back and we had to be careful. Of course if the ref had given the penalty for handball that he should have given we would have had an easier job. But this was the face of a team that showed that they can grind out a win when needed.

Next was a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace. We again scored two goals in the first half and held them off for 93 minutes. And then they suddenly scored and got even close to an equaliser. This time we missed the chances to put us 0-3 in front ourselves. But again it was a team that showed it could defend a lead at a ground where other top teams have dropped points.

Next came Everton to the Emirates. A rather comfortable 2-0 win. We scored a goal and then showed we can defend that lead till we scored a second goal late on. Didn’t give much away in chances and again a penalty for a handball from Jagielka could have given us a more comfortable lead earlier on. But again we showed that we can attack but also defend in a good way.

Then we went to Queens Park Rangers. Not the best first half from Arsenal. But what a second half. Going in front 0-2 and it should have been more. Another not given penalty and a red card against Henry for a blatant foul on Özil who was going to score from 3 meters out should have made it easier. But again we kept our opponents away from our goal apart from one moment of hesitation between Gibbs and Koscielny that gaven QPR a late goal. But again we showed that we can defend.

Then we went to win in the FA cup at Manchester United. Another great performance when the whole team was performing excellently. For those  that are saying that MU is not that great team anymore I would suggest to take a look at the league table this morning.

Next was a very comfortable 3-0 win against West Ham. It took us too long to score the first goal and we should again have had an early penalty and red card against an opponent to make things easier. But it was a great team performance once again.

At Newcastle we had a good lead once again going in at half time. 0-2 in front at a difficult ground. We then weren’t sharp enough in the first minutes of the second half and conceded a goal. But then we showed that when the going get tough our players are willing to be tough. Hard work and some strong defending resulted in another important win based on character. We just refused to give up our lead.

Then we had Liverpool at our ground. I still don’t know how we missed the early chances (Mignolet saving them in fact) but our first half performance apart from one moment of not being sharp enough was amazing to see how we destroyed Liverpool in eight minutes. From then on it was just cruising to a very deserved win. This was all about our attacking force who destroyed Liverpool and our defence holding them away from our goal.

And finally our game against Burnley. In a way I feared this more than some other matches. A team fighting to stay in the PL. A team that has a kick and rush style and a kick your opponent when needed approach. A ground where Man City lost so not really a nice place to go to.

But once again we showed that we have some metal in this team. When you look at the highlights there is only one time that Burnley really had a great scoring chance in the whole 90 minutes. Yes they had a few crosses that could have been dangerous but that is always going to be the case when you play a kick and rush team.

The team showed that we can fight when we need to fight. The team showed that we can be brilliant in attack when we can be. The team showed that all the players are willing to work hard when the need is there.

And we have in our team a few players that can be amazing. My moment of the match against Burnley was after some 70 minutes. Burnley had used the long ball and that made it sometimes difficult for our players to get going. A high kick from a Burnley defender came to Cazorla. And with a majestical movement it made the high ball drop dead on his foot. As if it was glued to his foot. It came out of the air an Cazorla mastered it with a perfect touch.

And that was the moment we took the match back in complete control. It was as if Santi said; “Okay, you had your fun with the high kicking and running but from now on we play our game: football on the floor and passing the ball from foot to foot.” And that is exactly what we did from then on.

In fact I felt very comfortable with our players from that moment on. We showed that we could play our way around the kicking and rushing from Burnley.

This team can manage different styles that are thrown at them. Of course there might be slip ups in the final run of the season. But this team is showing what it can produce when it has most of their players at their disposal.  When the main players are injury free  we can go on a long run as we have already shown this season.

This team has grown in the last months. One can only dream of what might have been if we would have had Koscielny, Özil, Giroud, Ramsey, Walcott fit for the whole season.

And I know you are not used to it but I want to be critical for Wenger for once: why on earth didn’t you use Coquelin earlier on this season?????? Because it might be his introduction to the team that has brought that much needed steal to this team. And boy am I loving it.

Anniversary of the day:- First Reports

The first report of the aaa

13 April 1895: Harry Storer played on this day for Football League XI and became the first Arsenal player to get representative honours  but was booed at home,  He was suspended following an “altercation” with supporters and then sold to Liverpool.

The first report of the manipulation of football on TV

13 April 1974: Chelsea 1  Arsenal 3. Arsenal crept up to 12th in the league and the press reported that through skillful editing of such matches the games looked attractive on TV while in fact they were mind-numbingly dull in reality.

19 Replies to “This team is a team (and what a team it is)”

  1. For me I liked our performance against Burnley because it was a dress rehearsal for the Chelsea game. They will defend like Burnley, then try to hit us on the counter hoping that their quality will shine through. I hope we score early, then make them taste some of the stuff they hit us with all the time.

  2. I am glad that you criticised manager when it needed. But shall be now call you AAA brigade, as you love to call others.

  3. Can you imagine whinging the aaa would have done if Coquelin was announced in the 1st 11 before the opening game of the season. They had a field day when we heard that he’d been called back to the squad despite the fact that it was covering for injuries.

  4. With lack of match play over the previous season, and despite the possibly predictable injuries to our multifarious midfield (Arteta, Flamini, Ramsey, Ox, whomever else), Arsène Wenger (who watches over training every day) often puts a player out on loan in order to get them up to speed.

    This appears to have been the case with le Coq. Emergency brought him back to Colney, where the boss saw he’d gained fitness. Coq looked a bit edgy when returned to the first team, but which player doesn’t?

    I’ve written before that I believe Wenger is coy about feeding the media and trolls with his inner vision in terms of what a player can provide to the team at any given time. Hence he insists he never knew Coq could perform as well as he’s presently doing. However, I think Wenger knew, which is why Coq was playing three years ago. Remember, he came up with Jack and others.
    This means Coq has been brought up The Arsenal Way. It means he has the potential. It means he will develop at a certain, unpredictable pace.
    Which just happens to be the case with all of Arsenal’s young players.

    We have seen this at Arsenal even before Mr Wenger arrived.

    I don’t know why I’m even bothering. Oh yes I do: it’s the aaa. Full ‘o bolux!

    You detractors should support Chelski. Look at how crap their play is. And they win. And they’re bankrolled at the expense of my energy bills. And they’re praised. Aha, ha, ha. Right up your street, innit?

    This is Arsenal. Don’t like it? Go away.


  5. I have to admit that I was one of the Coquelin doubters; not on any blogs or other forums, but to myself I didn’t think he had the quality to make it at Arsenal, but he’s developed his game in a way that was most unexpected by concentrating on the what he’s actually very good at: breaking up play, tackling, intercepting stray passes and playing the ball out quickly and accurately. Who’d have believed six months ago that we would now be considering Coq indispensable?

  6. Sam,

    Are you an aaa or why are you so bothered by what they are called?

    It isn’t criticising the players or the manager that makes you an aaa; it is the tone, intensity, frequency and lack of evidence in your criticism that does. Criticising Wenger for not making substitutions quickly enough in one or 2 games does not make you an aaa but calling the manager names, attributing all the ills in the world to him and asking for him to be sacked over your perceived error in judgement is what makes you an aaa.


  7. Just a theory, but I’d bet it’s a little harder for a defensive midfielder to stand out in training than it is in a match, and a little harder again in training for Arsenal.

    No matter how tough training is, it cannot come that close to replicating a match. If you’re doing any skills-based training, the guy with the best technique will stand out. If you set up a match, a guy who does some glorious things and some dodgy things will make a bigger impression than a player looking to keep things simple and concentrate on functionality within a team.

    Things are further tipped towards the more obviously skillfull player because ,for obvious reasons, there’ll be so much less aggression in training. So Coquelin, for instance, will be holding something back in one of his best attributes-tackling- and all the skill wizards will get to play with much more freedom, knowing they are largely safe from dangerous tackles and overly aggressive play.

    The natural way of getting around this is if you have a coach who is very specific about always needing someone (or everyone, for some coaches) who excels at the dirtier work in a team. If you feel like that,as a coach, you look at whatever options you have who fit the bill, and choose one of them.

    None of this is to say Wenger has no firm conception of needing someone to do that sort of work; he does, but it’s probably not at the very top of his list of priorities (a better way to think of it is, given that all the ideas are in flux and competing with each other, it’s not been an absolute for him : i.e ‘each week I must have someone in front of the midfield who is fairly obsessed with protecting the defence and has the best attributes I can find for the job. And if I’m not satisfied I have the personnel for it, I’m bringing in a new player at the first opportunity’) as it is with other coaches.

    So, he’d always want that balance, and he’s always looked to have players who might be able to provide it- Denilson, Song, Diaby, Flamini, a repurposed Arteta, even Frimpong- but if he has four or five excellent proven midfield options- Wilshere, Arteta, Ramsay, Cazorla, Rosicky, Ozil, Ox- he won’t find it easy to leave one of them out to bring in a player who is not as far along in his development, but who seems to have the attributes that would probably complement the team better.

    There are so many unknowns from our vantage point- eg. have, as seems a distinct possibility, things simply clicked within Coquelin’s mind in a way that could not have been predicted, nor sped up, but could only happen when they did happen? (he couldn’t force his way into a struggling Freiburg team last year, let’s remember)

    However, it seems to me a story of our strengths typically containing some inherent weakness, which will probably only be revealed in the right/wrong circumstances; of the great role of luck (bad luck that people earmarked to perform that role in the team didn’t quite make it-Denilson, Song- or were struck down by injury- Diaby, Frimpong; good luck that an opportunity opened for Coquelin, and he was ready to seize it) in football and life in general; and finally a pointer towards the role of money in reducing your exposure towards the pernicious effects of luck. Insurance, basically. We no doubt had some, but in elite terms it was a low-budget policy.

    We don’t know if Wenger would, with more leeway in his budget, have said, years ago, ‘well, what if Song doesn’t quite get it, and what if these injury problems for Diaby don’t clear up; I can’t afford the risk of one or both of those things happening, and i can afford to go and spend what it takes- plenty- to get a near guarantee for that position’, but I think he would have.

    All evidence points to him, when in charge of teams at no great financial disadvantage to his rivals, constructing teams with a wonderful balance between attack and defence. When the disadvantages were to the fore, I think the choice was to attempt to do that on the cheap, or tweak things so that there was even more commitment to an attacking style, with the aim of squeezing out more points for your buck.
    It cannot be definitively proved (you don’t get to see a run of alternate realities in which a different approach was taken) that this was a success, but I’d say it very nearly can: teams with an equal or slightly greater budget in that period who went for a more defensive or ‘mixed’ approach, did not outperform us; we outperformed them.

    Anyway, to the future: Coquelin is here- whether or not he’s Wenger’s version of penicillin is one for debate for the likes of us with no access to the inner sanctum-and soon we should get an answer as to how important the Coquelin role has become. If the role is vital, Wenger probably won’t be happy with extreme reliance on the player not getting injured, and, unless he has a strong feeling an internal option like Hayden is near-ready, will look to bring someone else in; which, in turn, will provide another firm suggestion that with more money there would not have been the long wait for Coquelin to come in and work his beautiful, functional magic

  8. Rich, I hink you’re right about DMs in trainng. But also the CBs (well at least one of them) and DM roles both usually benefit enormously from experience as well. They need to have some ability to read the game which a few (Tony Adams, Bobby Moore etc) have from a very early age but most develop much better as they get older. So a player that wasn’t good enough at 22 could well be excellent at 27.

    Diaby was never a DM. He was a B2B who drove the game up the pitch and had a good touch (when game fit) but he’s also decent tackler.

  9. My are you selective Sam. Most of the article is critical of officials, and you hit the smallest piece of criticality in the article.

    All I can assemble, is that in this last pre-season there was little or no difference in how Coquelin approached how he worked at Arsenal in preparation for the 2014/15 season. Coquelin probably felt that he was doing everything that needed to be done, but somehow Wenger thought he was missing out on crossing “t”s or something like that.

    Coquelin wasn’t showing the “thing”, and I would imagine reluctantly Wenger sent Coquelin out on a final loan. Probably if that loan had of gone to conclusion, Coquelin would have been allowed to walk a free transfer to another team. How much Wenger talked to Coquelin, or what he said, I haven’t a clue. But to Coquelin, the loan to Charlton was of a “last straw” character. Something snapped, and Coquelin changed slightly. When Wenger was forced to recall Coquelin due to injuries, he noticed that something had changed, something he could work with. The Coquelin we are seeing now, is more the result of a few months of Wenger working with him, than a few years. I suspect the beginning of next season we may see a noticeable change yet again.

  10. Speaking of officials, most of the news this morning about officials is pointed at the missiles at QPR issue. There was 1 article that mentioned in passing that “offsides” for ManU were not severe enough to consider. And then we have Burnley, whose fans must think the laws of the game are far different than they are. How else can the Burnley fans think the ref was cheating against them? There seemed to be little that Burnley was doing that would result in injury, but there was an abundance of illegal play.

    It seems that Benik Afobe has found his path in life, and I wish him the best. But, I look at how the fans and team at Millwall were when Benik was still on loan there, and how the team and fans at Wolves are now, since we sold Benik to them. What would Burnley be like, if we would have sold Benik to Burnley? Would the game still be as full of pushing, shoving and hip checks?

  11. SBS (an Australian site) has a good blurb out today (or tomorrow?) on the 10 biggest cheats in football.

    They have 3 Calciopoli 2006, but I would like to point out: “4 Hoyzer’s howler”

    > After being registered as a referee in 2001 Hoyzer made a rapid ascent up the German football divisions, culminating in his being listed to officiate 2.Bundesliga matches in 2004. It was at the end of that season that he was found to have influenced a cup match between Bundesliga outfit Hamburg and then-regional team Paderborn. HSV took a 2-0 lead, prompting Hoyzer to send off its star striker and dish out a couple of penalties to the underdog, which won 4-2.

    > Hoyzer initially denied any wrong-doing, before ‘fessing up and being found to have links with Croatian mafia types. The DFB banned betting on matches for the 2005-2006 season and ruled that referees would be appointed just four days before a match.

    To me, it sounds like Hoyzer had been watching too many EPL games, officiated by the spawn of the PGMO.

    There are other referee cheats in their 10.

  12. There is a twit from Cazorla on the lead Arsenal page, which I can’t read (because I don’t know Spanish). But there was also a news article about it today. A defender in Spain had his ankle and fibula done in a tackle. In one sense, it is worse than what happened to Ramsey, as it sound like the bone came through the skin to make it a compound fracture. Cazorla is one of many people sending best regards. The coach was dismayed when he seen how much blood was involved.

  13. Gord

    Saw it yesterday (thankfully not the blood). One of the strangest bad injuries I’ve ever seen. The defender is running to try get to a tackle, takes a long final stride to get himself there, and his back foot twists about 180 degrees or more on the turf.

    Awful, but psychologically it might be a little better if you effectively did it to yourself, as he did, than if some swine injured you with a horrendous challenge.

  14. Andy Mack,

    Absolutely on the age thing. It makes intuitive and other sense that an attacking player is safer to have in your team than a defensive one in their early years. Attacking players can afford to do more things wrong than right in a game and still be counted as having played well, defensive ones can do it all right, make one mistake, and cost you the game.

    It’s why Chelsea had to send Matic packing to let someone else take the risks, why Makelele enjoyed his best days once past 25, and so on. You just need minutes on the pitch to encounter enough situations to become adept at sensing danger and doing a good job of stopping it. That and understanding fully how much of a team game football is and resisting the temptation to try impress in the more direct and obvious ways. Only the boldest managers are willing to throw in even the best young players.

    Agree on Diaby,too. Wasn’t thinking of him as a specialist, more as someone who’d contribute more than most other non specialists to the defensive side, or who was simply so good and had so much to his game that it might not even be an issue.

    Diaby, Arteta and Cazorla looked pretty magnificent together in those three games a few years ago (1 conceded in trips to Stoke, Liverpool and City!)

  15. Thanks Rich. I just hope he comes out okay. When the bone comes through the skin, you can get infection problems.

  16. The U21 are playing Reading (HT), and has it on Arsenal Player. But, I run Linux (not supported) and I don’t allow flash. So, here is commentary for the first half.

    6 – Crowley controls ball on edge of box, volley’s over.

    8 – Reading score a headed goal from corner.

    10 – Reading shoot for far post, deflected wide.

    12 – Iwobi breaks and crosses for Wilshere, Reading clear.

    17 – Reading drive in a too high cross.

    17 – Bielik picks out Gnabry, who shoots wide.

    24 – Iwobi and Maitland-Niles work the ball in the box, but can’t get a shot out.

    27 – Gnabry wins a free kick at edge of box, Wilshere shoots over bar.

    28 – Bielik booked.

    35 – Maitland-Niles feeds Diaby, whose shot is blocked. Gnabry puts shot rebound over bar.

    44 – Gnabry shoots, saved.

    45 – Wilshere dribbles into box, shoots, tipped over.

  17. 2nd half

    47 – Crowley dances into box, passes to Gnabry, shot blocked.

    51 – Iwobi shot is saved.

    54 – Dobson replaces Bielik.

    56 – Mavididi replaces Diaby.

    58 – Wilshere drives into box, Reading clear.

    62 – Gnabry wins free kick at edge of area.

    63 – Crowley takes kick, Mavididi heads over.

    65 – Wilshere breaks into box, saved

    68 – Reading substitution.

    69 – Iwobi breaks in, to Crowlet, to Wilshere, saved.

    70 – Wilshere sets up Crowley, who shoots wide.

    79 – Gnabry tries to work a shot, but nothing comes.

    82 – Wilshere takes a half-volley of loose ball, too high.

    88 – Last sub, Kamara replaces Wilshere.

    90 – Macey saves, rebound shot over.

    90 – Iwobi breaks into box, and shoots off target.

    90 – Late sub for Reading.

    Game over. Arsenal lose 0-1.

  18. Can only agree. Saw the team developing slowly over the past year like many others and felt a surge of confidence in Arsenal.

    Anyway, these “blips” have gotten less because we now have a palette of choices both in players and play systems. I particularly like the 4-2-3-1/4-3-2-1 or the 4-1-4-1 where the first 1 is Coq. The team is now so adept at changing in game without AW having to tell them to. This is also how the “invincibles” played.

    Great things around the corner fans.

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