Tag Archives: Giroud

Chambers2

Would the non-divisive Arsenal player please stand up?

We often hear about how a certain player is divisive. His relative talents left in the trash heap of history and his relative faults brought out and polished for some blogger to earn a few bucks off clicks. But the truth is that I can’t think of a single player at Arsenal who doesn’t divide opinion right now. Even venerated players like Thierry Henry get put under the microscope and examined by Arsenal fans eager to find fault with the gods of the game.

Why? There’s not really one reason. With 60,000 Arsenal bloggers and twice as many people on twitter who want to make you aware of their opinion there is a rush to be the first with some “insight”. This often leads to hyperbolic criticism of players after one or two poor matches, or even a poor first half. But there are also just some people who are always going to be harshly critical (and harshly optimistic!) of everything and call it “being realistic” or folks who just want Arsenal to buy all the players at every other team. Whatever the reason, we all know that they are there and what they have to say but let’s look a little closer at some recent criticisms.

Alexis Sanchez

Removed at half-time against Everton and already some folks are questioning whether he was worth the money Arsenal paid for him. Wenger linked his current fitness levels to his confidence but I’m not entirely convinced it was a fitness issue. Against Everton, Alexis made runs which had the local commentators gushing but Arsenal struggled to get him the ball: he only received 17 total passes in 45 minutes and only one pass in the 18 yard box, on the edge of the box, hardly a dangerous position.

Meanwhile, Giroud’s first touch was a big diagonal placed a yard away from goal and from there almost all of his passes received were in and around the box. He received just 18 passes himself, hardly setting the world on fire.

I suspect that more than lack of fitness was a lack of understanding. Arsenal and Alexis seem just a step off at the moment. When Ramsey expects Alexis to zig, he zags. While Giroud has two seasons at Arsenal and his movements are now predictable to his teammates. I’m not at all worried about Alexis Sanchez and his ability to fit in at Arsenal. He’s a fantastic footballer, with a great first touch, the ability to take on defenders, and who will shine once he learns his teammates.

Giroud

It doesn’t get much more divisive than opinion on the big Frenchman. He’s wasteful. His first shot against Everton should have been a goal. Sometimes seems more comfortable trying a cutsey little flick pass than a basic 5 yard square ball. Unable to face up to an opponent and take him on.

But he’s also big and strong and willing to put in a shift against meaty defenders as Arsenal’s version of Kevin Cyril Davies and yet still score 16-20 goals in a season. Industrious player who can pluck a ball out of the sky with his foot like it’s cotton candy, who wins headers in the middle of the park, and who holds the ball up so well that he has to be credited at least partially for Ramsey’s scoring renaissance.

Ramsey

Before last season was completely written off by many Arsenal fans. The same fans who are writing off Wilshere now. Some of the criticism was warranted, he had an annoying tendency to hold on to the ball too much and that resulted in numerous turnovers.

But his workrate and the fact that he never shied away from the ball saved him. He’s Arsenal’s leading passer, leading tackler, and now he’s a goal scoring midfielder who wins games with his late runs in the box. Cited by Wenger as the main reason why Arsenal didn’t buy Cesc Fabregas.

Wilshere

This 22 year old central midfielder is Arsenal’s new enfant terrible and judging by the heap of articles in the British press this morning, his young career is over. Has an annoying habit of holding on to the ball too much and trying to dribble too much. Often caught in possession and targeted by opposition midfielders for tackles (leads Arsenal in fouls drawn, and those are just the ones the officials call). He was even tackled (harshly, I thought) by Thierry Henry in the friendly against the Red Bulls. Perhaps Henry was trying to say “son, you dribble too much, pass the ball.”

But he’s only 22 years old and he’s had a career plagued with injuries. Hasn’t started more than 20 League games for Arsenal since his breakout season, 2010/2011 — when he was just 19 years old. He has to learn to pass and move rather than trying to dribble the entire opposition team. And defensively he needs to learn better positioning and tackling. The talent is there, though, and like Ramsey before him I expect Wilshere to shine this season.

Podolski, Özil, Sanogo, Arteta… I could keep going

You already know the criticisms of these players. Podolski is lazy, Özil is nicking a living, Sanogo is not Mario Ballotelli, Arteta isn’t beast, etc. But rather than break down every player let’s end with some positives.

Per Mertesacker: who has anything bad to say about Per? A gentle giant, makes Arsenal’s set play defense better simply with his presence. Organizes the defense and a natural leader on the pitch.

Laurent Koscielny: (to the tune of Crazy by Willie Nelson) I’m crazy… I’m crazy for Laurent Koscielny… I’m crazy for Laurent’s kung fu. I knew, Koscielny won’t leave me like van Persie. Or Cashley, who left me for somebody blue. Worry? Why do I let myself worry? Wondering, what we would do without you? I’m crazy… for thinking that red card could hold you. I’m crazy… for crying. I’m crazy for buying. I’m crazy for loving you. (special thanks to Brian from 11 Cannons for collaborating on this).

Calum Chambers: I feel sad for Chambers. Koscielny and Mertesacker are both going to be healthy soon and he’s going to be put back on the bench and left to fight his way back into first team contention either as a center back, a right back, or in his eventual position as defensive midfielder. He’s made a few mistakes but the fact that he’s been universally praised by all across England, with many hoping for an England call-up, is as positive a review as possible for a 19 year old. Really, just perfect. The same way that everyone praised Jack Wilshere when he was 19 and begged him to be selected for the national team. Oh wait…

Have your say below. Are there players beyond reproach for you? Ones you feel you need to defend?

Qq

szczesny-scars

Arsenal serves first feast of the season on a platter at Chez Wembley

Arsenal served up their first full meal of the season. Starting with small plates of delicious looking gems from the Cazorla menu, which was followed by perfectly prepared mains by Sanogo and Ramsey, and after you thought there was no room left the night was topped off with a light and airy Giroud dessert. At the end, Arsenal fans could sit back, loosen their belts and have a smoke with Jack Wilshere as the team lifted their platter high above Chez Wembley.

Arsenal looked the more interesting team from the start, beating the frenetic City press with perfectly executed triangle passes and breathtaking movement. You could see a preview of what was to come shortly as Arsenal’s new signing, Alexis Sanchez collected the ball time and again in midfield and looked to play in Yaya Sanogo. Sanogo was always on the move and a few weeks worth of practice and playing two-a-days has vastly improved his touch. He looked dangerous throughout the match but nearly served up the first meal when he was played in on a great run off Boyata’s shoulder, took a perfect touch to escape his marker and fired a shot just wide of the post.

No surprise then when chef Sanogo helped serve up the amuse-bouche of the day. Sanchez offered him the ball, and a bit of a heavy touch from Sanogo left it to Wilshere, who was fouled but managed to back heel to Cazorla. Cazorla jinked left, then went right, and fired back across goal, between Clichy’s legs, and into the net. A four piece amuse with a hint of fresh nutmeg sprinkled on top.

Between Alexis and Cazorla the two were feeding Sanogo a series of appetizing passes and the big man did well nearly every time the ball was at feet. Only once was he shoved off the ball and that was by the man many Arsenal fans are begging Wenger to buy, Matija Nastasic. Other than that one play, Sanogo was excellent in almost all aspects of his game, holding the ball up, breaking on the counter, making runs behind the defenders, and even once providing the splitting pass to Alexis Sanchez to run onto.

That was a brilliant bit by Sanogo, I must say. He had been caught offside on the previous play and City countered. But Arsenal won the defensive battle and this time Sanogo stopped in midfield rather than making one of the runs as he had been making all game. Alexis passed him the ball and Sanogo waited for the Chilean to make his own run and then played a near perfect 20 yard splitting pass for Arsenal’s newest signing. Unfortunately, the ball was a little long and City’s ‘keeper Willy came out and collected the ball off Alexis’ feet. Unlucky Alexis.

Sanogo had a big hand in the second goal as well — the main course. Sanchez collected the ball off the counter, played in Sanogo who, this time, fended off Nastasic and then rolled a little pass to Ramsey. Rambo still had some work too do, but he peppered his marker and shot across goal for Arsenal’s second. A deliciously served main course which sated the Arsenal’s fans appetites.

But there would be more. Like the French waiter who brings you the dessert menu after you think you couldn’t possibly eat another bite, Olivier Giroud picked up a Ramsey pass, used his strength to hold off his marker, and looped in a wonder goal from 25 yards. Whether it took a deflection o not is up for debate but the ‘keeper had no chance as the shot had wicked top spin.

Throughout the match Debuchy looked great going forward and in defense, Arsenal’s constant runner — moving easily between offense and defense and serving up platters to the attackers or collecting City’s used dishes at the back. Meanwhile, Calum Chambers put in yet another assured performance as our dish dog — doing all the dirty work cleaning up the messes behind the scenes. Time and again Chambers threw himself into blocks and tackles in order to save Arsenal blushes and assure the clean sheet. I can’t wait to see what he can do brought forward into the prep cook role as Arsenal’s defensive midfielder of the future.

To do that, however, I think Arsenal needs to make one or two more buys. There are currently only 6 men covering 4 positions and you would normally want 8. A number of names have been mooted but I suspect the player will need to be left footed and play as cover for Koz/Nacho/Gibbs rather than right footed and cover for Per/Calum/Debuchy. I mentioned Micah Richards’ name on twitter and I’m changing my mind here, I think the player needs to be lefty. A left footed player who can play center back, left back, and defensive midfield? Would that be the perfect way to end this summer of gluttony or would it be the wafer thin mint at the end of the meal?

That I’ll leave to the boss but for now Arsenal fans have two trophies to celebrate, bookending the summer. I’ve seen it asked if the Charity Shield counts as a trophy? If you’re a sportsman you always want to win. To continue the meal analogy, you always want to get that last drop of delicious wine in the bottom of the glass. And so to Arsenal’s players, fans, and manager I’m sure winning today, and winning in convincing fashion, even if it is a friendly, is as welcome as discovering a new dish at your favorite restaurant.

Delicious.

Qq

Balotelli Italy World Cup

Giroud sparks French revolution, Balotelli gets the blame

There were World Cup surprises galore yesterday as France blew out Switzerland and Italy lost 1-0 to World Cup minnows Costa Rica, who now, improbably, top their group. With Spain bowing out, England limping out, and the Latin American teams putting in a great showing this is shaping up to be one of the most interesting World Cups in recent memory. Well, that is if countries like Costa Rica can continue their form.

In the France game Giroud continued his tremendous run of form and put in a man of the match performance. Sure, Benzema wins all the plaudits but it was Giroud working hard on and off the ball which got France the breakthrough and I count the opening goals as much more valuable than the 4th and 5th.

Giroud scored France’s opener off a bullet header in a well crowded box. Swiss defender Senderos was left gawking at the ball and is all the reason you need to know why he no longer plays for Arsenal. In fact, the Djourou/Senderos partnership was a disaster at Arsenal and neither player looks to have improved much since their time away from the Gunners.

Neither of the Swiss defenders can read the game and both seem to play like their heart isn’t in it. Worse, they have the footspeed of a Turkish camel and both were constantly opened up by the French forwards. When you see Djourou losing a footrace to Giroud, which happened for Olly’s assist, you know that’s a defender who is slower than molasses in January.

Do we need another metaphor for how slow they are? No? How about an illustration. Giroud’s assist was an impressive sequence of play which started with Giroud clearing the ball in defence and then racing up the field to receive the long pass as Johan Djourou sprinted to get back into position. Giroud looked up and saw Valbuena steaming forward and picked out a perfect pass. Then he invited Valbuena on to his back Masterblaster style.

Bartertown

With the result settled Karim Benzema decided to show up just as he had done in the previous match after Palacios was sent off. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh but it is odd that Benzema has won man of the match twice now but only turns on the afterburners once the result is essentially settled or down to 10 men. Not saying that he is “crap” but rather that has always been the case for Benzema, he doesn’t take over games when they need a winner but rather puts a gloss on a game once already won. Perhaps this run of form will go a long way toward settling that and turn him into the world class player he seems ready to become.

If you have £60m in your pocket, do you offer the starring role to Benzema this season? I would. But only if we can play against a 10 man Honduras and every opponent has Djourou and Senderos as the center back pair (SARCASM!).

 

In the Italy match there was a player who already is world class but who, more than ever, needs a fully functioning team running around him to be successful. In a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, Andrea Pirlo put in a tired performance, man marked by the Costa Rica midfield for 90 minutes, and held to a mere 104 touches compared to his masterful 117 touches against England (SARCASM!).

People are so weird about Pirlo but he is the best midfielder in the game right now. His head is always on a swivel looking upfield for teammates. And he plays with such a beautiful economy of the game. He’s passing at nearly a 95% rate. In case you’re wondering, Pirlo has 221 touches in two games, he’s attempted 195 passes, he’s been dispossessed one time and turned the ball over one time, and he’s only misplaced 11 passes. What’s that, 6% of his touches have gone bad over 180 minutes? WASTER!!!

Watching Pirlo play is like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.

And by “touches gone bad” I mean that his teammates have not played up to his level. Let’s face it, the entire Italian side looked very poor yesterday. They combined for a tournament high 11 offsides in the game but it wasn’t because Costa Rica were good at springing the trap. It was because Italy were just terribly off timing. For example, even the Italian subs were offside. They kept just trying to rush their runs. In the end, Pirlo only created one shot for his teammates but he should have created at least 6. His incisive passes which cut apart the Costa Rican defense kept being hauled back for offside.

Balotelli got all the blame for that but only had three of the offsides and was the recipient of Pirlo’s master pass. Balo took the ball down with a heavy touch but got back in time to lob the keeper. His lob was well off target and it was the best chance of the game.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Balotelli had a good game, he was poor. I would merely say in his defense that the entire Italian team looked sluggish and off their game. If there ever was a game for Balotelli to carry his teammates it was that one. Sadly he was happy more as a passenger.

Lest I’m accused of bias against the Costa Ricans, I loved that they played such a solid game and implemented their tactics to a tee. I also loved that Joel Campbell showed a maturity that eludes Balotelli at times. Pushed over by Chiellini in the box he should have won a penalty for his team. After, he complained a bit but then got on with his game. And considering how little he saw of the ball he made quite an annoyance of himself which didn’t show up in the box score.

I like Campbell, I’m sold on him I think, though with reservations. I love the fire in his belly, his speed, and his vision. If you compare Balotelli to Campbell picking him over Balotelli is the safer bet. At £27m transfer fee and with a mooted salary of £185k a week, Balotelli would cost £65m over 4 seasons. Not bad if he turns out to be a great player. With Campbell there’s no transfer fee and I’m sure he’d jump at a 4 year deal at £75k a week. Even with rises every year you’re looking at £25m over 4 years.

The question would be what’s the payout? Which of those two players will turn out to be the next 30 goal a season striker? There is almost no down-side to Campbell but the upside is still unknown, he’s so raw. On the other side of the bet, the upside to Balotelli is pretty clear. But so is the down side — maybe his newly announced nuptials will tame him a bit?

Why pick just one? Buy them both!

More dispatches from my couch tomorrow after the USA match.

Qq