Tag Archives: Giroud

Unwelcome surprise home defeat to West Ham.

Two smartly taken opportunistic strikes either side of half time condemned a sluggish Arsenal to an opening premier league campaign fixture defeat on a sticky, hot August day in north London.

Having finished the previous season strongly and started pre season well very few Gooners would have predicted a loss to a mid table finishing team like Wham.

Company in the trophy room for the 2014 FA Cup

Company in the trophy room for the 2014 FA Cup

The mood was therefore suitably upbeat before the game as I took my seat in block 7 (one of the “unofficial” standing areas), however little did I realise that I may have been better off looking at the underside of the red Action banner for the next 90 minutes, rather than what I saw on field.

A different view

A different view

After a bright start, with the Ox impressing with his energetic runs, it really did feel like a goal was imminent. It was also apparent that the Bilic approach to play was to continue from their much curtailled/already finished “European campaign of 2015-15″, namely a fouling/tripping based strategy, as seen by a couple of early yellows.

It’s no wonder their glorious Europa Cup run saw three red cards for Wham in their 5 July games. Looking at the crude and vulgar gesticulations and antics of Bilic on the sidelines today they also have a manager who will be regularly sent to the stands this season.

Team wise the only surprise may have been Debuchy in place of Bellerin at right back and the presence of Alexis on the bench, for emergency use only presumably.

After early chances came and were missed frustration did begin to creep into the part of the North Bank lower I was in and although the usual suspects were being targetted, Özil and Olly, for me the key miss was Santi, who had one of those games where his influence was minor. When Santi’s twinkle toes are not playing a big part in our game, you know we are having a bad day.

And so it turned out, however before then two myths have to busted.

Firstly, excessive complaining about the failings of our team and NOT the sole preserve of the so called excessive entitlement younger generations as an octogenarian fan behind me was on the back of the team within 10 minutes of the start. Everyone was rubbish; they were too slow or too fast, they should have done “X” with the ball and not “Y” – at one point i was sure his false teeth were going to fly out, such was the venom of his barracking.

So when Wham scored after Cech made a ricket (aka total balls up) of collecting a cross the mood plunged and the home competitive debut of our sole summer signing (so far) was consigned to the “Day to forget” pile.

After a few minutes the home support gathered themselves and urged the team on again and the expectancy was that the second half would see an equaliser.

Little did we contemplate a defensive mix up leading to gifting possession to Wham soon after the restart would double the visitors lead.

And so onto the second myth to be busted: how good the Wham support is.

Aside from some applause at kick off the away support was barely heard till the second goal, when at last the latest batch of queue jumpers on Newham Coucil’s Housing list decided to rouse themselves from their afternoon slumbers.

While the home support is generally soporific, most of the away fans I have seen showed significantly better support and volume levels. The Eagles supporters, at the first fixture of last season, were far and away better supporters as they sang all the way through even though Crystal Palace lost the game – a far superior demonstration of away support

What followed was a final balf hour of amateur time wasting and frantic attacks by the Arsenal forwards which broke down, and led to much howling and clasping of heads by the dejected home support.

Olly takes one for the team

Olly takes one for the team

A long delay after a clash of heads involving Olly, plus 5 substitutions only 5 minutes of added time, when at least 7 seemed likely, seemed to sum up the Gunners luck.

Even the late introduction of Alexis couldn’t scare up a goal for the Arsenal, expecting him to be match sharp this early is beyond ridiculous

The final whistle was greeted with a mixture of boos and subdued applause for the team showing that two trophies in two seasons gets you some goodwill with the fans, but how long this lasts will be proved by the reaction to this result from the team.


By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

2015-2016 Arsenal Season Preview

I know I wrote on Thursday about the importance of the team over the individual. But teams are comprised of individuals and so, today, ahead of the season opener against West Ham on Sunday I’d like to do a few predictions for the players this season. A sort of hopes and dreams for each player.

First, Lineups:

It’s tough to say with Wenger what the lineups will look like in any given game and things will change from match to match. Not only that but twitter is abuzz with rumors that Arsenal are going to sign “the player that will make them title contenders” (Benzema) whatever that means. So, these are just best guesses which are intended to illustrate Arsenal’s depth along with who I think Wenger will start with more than anything.

Starting XI – A

This is Arsenal’s first choice lineup. The only real controversial choices are Ox starting over Walcott on the right and Cazorla starting over Ramsey in the middle.

Cazorla starts because, let’s face it, why would he be dropped? It doesn’t mean that Ramsey won’t play, Arsenal will probably play 55+ games this season, but for the moment Cazorla has done nothing wrong to merit being dropped.

As for Ox on the right, I don’t have a real reason except that I think Wenger sees Walcott more as a center forward now. He’s played him through the middle in each of the last three games and I don’t think that’s an accident. That doesn’t mean that Walcott won’t start on the right ever but rather that I think Wenger is trying to move Walcott centrally this season.

If Walcott is the backup, then questions arise over Welbeck. I’ll answer them below.

Starting XI – B

This second lineup is more of a second string lineup.

Theo Walcott starts up front in this lineup and I think a lot of fans will be surprised by the number of times Wenger uses Theo as the tip of Arsenal’s lance. As I said above, Wenger has already shown he’s not afraid to put Theo in the lone striker role. It frees him up to rest Giroud from time to time, gives Arsenal a different style to their attack, and allows Arsenal to start with one style and bring Giroud or Welbeck off the bench and batter down stubborn defenses.

The other thing I’m illustrating with this lineup is that when Arteta plays in the defensive midfield role I think Arsenal need to play Ramsey with him. Ramsey gives Arteta an outlet for his passes and acts as cover, tackling high up the pitch.


And finally, note that Alexis and Ozil feature prominently in both lineups. This is because I don’t think Arsenal have proper cover for Alexis on the left. Welbeck can do the job but can I just say it felt weird putting Welbeck on the left and Theo up front? That’s all, sometimes things just feel weird.

So, in my mind Ozil is the left side cover for Alexis and Alexis is the right side cover for Ox. I’m not saying Walcott won’t start on the right, that Welbeck won’t start on the left (or the right) but just that if you move Walcott to the middle, which I suspect the boss will do, it makes it weird to play Welbeck in a side role, because he wants to play centrally and, frankly, has the attributes to do it.

My basic points are these: Walcott will play center forward this season more than you think, Wilshere is going to have a hard time getting into the lineup but should make some appearances when Ozil is rested, Ox will start more games than you think on the right, Cazorla is the player I think starts in CM, and Arteta needs Ramsey to help with the DM duties.


How many games will Giroud play? Scored 19 goals on 36 apps last season (all comps). That’s a very respectable rate of return for a forward. So, with competition from Walcott and Welbeck (and even Alexis) the question is how many games will he play? I expect him to play 35 games and score 18 goals this season. I’d also like to see him bury those big chances he seems to miss. If he could get a run of luck like Harry Kane, he could easily break the 25 goal mark. Arsenal gift him lots of chances to score, he would be a lot less frustrating if he took them!


Set aside his salary for a minute. How many goals would be a good return from Theo Walcott this season? I’m not talking just League games, I’m talking all competitions. Ramsey has targeted 24 goals. That would put Walcoott in the 100 goals range for his career at Arsenal and it’s a nice, if unrealistic, target.

The most Walcott has scored in a single season is 21. That was his best season in an Arsenal shirt. He played 43 times and scored 21 goals off 112 shots. The next season he started off perfectly fine before picking up an injury against Spurs and a year later made his return scoring a few goals at the end of the season.

Those last two seasons of missed time make it tricky to assess where Walcott could or should be in the coming seasons but what I think he’s shown over the last three years is a deadly new efficiency to his game. He has averaged a goal every 2.5 games in those three years and a goal for every 6 shots¹. The goals per shot puts him on par with top strikers but the goals per game puts him slightly below par — a goal every other game is a good return for a striker. This happens because Walcott is more dependent than other strikers on his teammates creating shots for him and so he gets fewer shots than you would normally see from a top striker.

This puts Walcott in the second tier of strikers. Good, but not great. And if I do a little fancy math around his career scoring, his career shots, his career goals, and the fact that he will probably be slightly more efficient than before I think he will score 17 goals next season. That is, of course, entirely dependent on him staying fit and getting games. Interestingly, that’s exactly 10 goals more than he scored last season. And Wenger mentioned Arsenal needing to add about 10 goals.


The one thing I’d like Alexis to work on is to stop being such a fit stud. I mean this guy came back to training camp after two weeks off, ready to play football? Who does that? Take up smoking and drinking, you’re putting the rest of us men, with our “dad bods”, to shame and we live in an era where it’s pretty much against the rules to shame people. So stop being so fit.

Also, I hope he gets better in possession with the ball just because I hate hearing people whine about it. I doubt he will, but it would be nice.


Can Ozil score some goals, please? Especially in those one-on-one situations? Because again, I don’t blame him — we all have different strengths and one of his is clearly NOT scoring goals — but I get tired of hearing people whine about it.

Also, ask Alexis if you can borrow a cup of fitness. That would be nice.


Cazorla is a special talent and Arsenal fans love him. He can dribble, pass, and he almost never stops running. He also learned how to press last season and that was a major reason why Arsenal were able to keep him in CM next to Coquelin. His only fault is that he doesn’t score from open play. In fact, he took 74 shots from open play last season and scored just 1 goal. If his place in the center of Arsenal’s midfield is under any threat it’s because of that fact. Ramsey can and will score more goals (sometimes at the detriment to the team) and he could take Cazorla’s place if the Spaniard has a poor spell.


This is a big season for a lot of the British players but none so more than Ox. Ox has the talent, he’s shown that he also has the application, but now he just needs the opportunity.

The talent has always been there, but Ox needed to work on his dribbling and finishing. The goal against Chelsea in the Charity Shield proved that he has worked on his shortcomings this season: he switched dribble onto his (weaker) left foot and finished with the same foot.

That ability for a right footed player to cut in to the left while playing on the right side makes him a double threat: he can drift wide to cross for Giroud in the middle, or can create his own chances by cutting in on his left.

Ox has never scored more than 4 goals for Arsenal in a season (all apps). I think he will get more than 10 this year and depending on fitness, could turn in a 15 goal season. That’s entirely speculative. No fancy maths. I just feel it.


Why is it that we can’t criticize Wilshere for holding onto the ball too much? You know why? Because it feels like we are blaming him when Paddy McNair breaks his ankle. But I actually don’t think the problem is Wilshere holds onto the ball too much. The problem is that Wilshere has a bad dribbling technique. He pushes the ball too far out in front of him and then lunges to regain control.

Oh no! The Arsenal police are going to crack down on me for criticizing Wilshere! But his dribbling technique is poor and that’s the problem. He either needs to learn to release the ball earlier and pass to a teammate and then move, or learn better close control.

That’s how he will play more than 20 games a season.


Stay golden Pony Boy.


This, by Tim Stillman.


You know, I don’t actually think much negative or positive about Monreal. He’s just a solid left back who picks his runs, scores the occasional goal, and does a decent job defending. Keep that up!


Well, he cut off that Mohawk. That’s a start. I don’t know how he beats Bellerin for the starting spot. Debuchy is a complete player, there isn’t much wrong with him. Bellerin is just better. Incredible, right?


Ramsey is in competition with Cazorla for the CM role at Arsenal. To take over, he just needs to keep working, stay healthy, and take his chances when they come to him. I think Ramsey might actually take the starting spot from Cazorla this season. It really just depends on how well he works together with Coquelin. But Ramsey will get his chances especially when Arteta starts.


Coquelin’s only problem last season was that he lacked the range of passing that Arsenal fans are used to from our defensive mids. Teams will probably target him this season, press him when he has the ball, cover his teammates, and force him to be more active on the ball. If he didn’t improve his passing and decision making with the ball, this could be a real problem. Other than working on that, he’s a fantastic player and fighter who does all of the subtle things Arsenal fans love from the DM position.


Welbeck is able to play all three of Arsenal’s attacking positions: left, right, and center. But he hasn’t claimed any of them as his own, yet. This is a building season for Welbz. He’s going to have to play where the team needs him and develop his skills. Welbeck has the body to be a top striker. He also gets himself into intelligent positions and with his foot speed he can beat a lot of defenders. He just needs to improve his finishing. That’s going to take time. He’s 24. He has time.


1. find legs
2. don’t use them too much
3. be a good captain

Koz, Mert, Gabriel, Chambers

Arsenal have a solid defensive partnership in Koz-Mert and a pair of solid backup defenders in Gabriel-Chambers. I hope we don’t have to use the backups too much but they will get playing time simply because Arsenal have so many games to play. Curious to see how Gabriel develops this year. He looks like a tough, no-nonsense center back and seems to have a mixture of qualities from Koz and Merte. Chambers is still developing but he also has all the makings of a good English center back.


Are you serious? He has to be nothing less than perfect. That’s all. He’s probably used to that though since all ‘keepers are required to be perfect.


The other players are all bit part players. Their job is to not make mistakes. Or, not make too many mistakes.


Wow, this was a lot longer than I expected. And probably a lot of crap. And everything is probably misspelled and I’m not going to check.  Anyway, I’m excited for Arsenal’s season, starting tomorrow at like 4:30am. None of my predictions and ideas will come true but it’s all about fun trying to guess what the season holds.

See you then!


¹I count blocked shots.

Lick it up

Lacazette, Higuain, Benzema, Griezmann; Does Arsenal need an upgrade on Giroud?

When Thierry Henry made his controversial statement that Arsenal couldn’t win the League with Giroud he was saying something that a lot of Arsenal fans don’t want to hear. But whether you want to hear it or not, Arsenal will struggle to win the League with Giroud as the focal point of the Arsenal attack.

The problem is that Giroud is a terrible finisher. If we combine his Premier League and Champions League appearances, Giroud was presented with 20 big chances this season and he scored just 7. Arsenal scored 45% of the big chances they created, Giroud scored just 35%.

Worse, Giroud struggles to get big chances on target. Only 65% of his shots from big chance opportunities hit the target. And he’s been like this for years. Giroud has been the worst big chance converter in the Premier League for three years running. In 12/13 he converted just 17%, in 13/14 he converted just 35%. And if you only count the Premier League games, he converted 46% of his big chances this season.

Big chances are so important that they typically mean the difference between winning a game and losing. 40 of Arsenal’s 69 League goals this season (minus 2 own goals) were scored from big chances. Arsenal averaged 80% of their big chances on target and converted on average 45% of their total volume into goals.

I would go so far as to say that Giroud’s terrible finishing cost Arsenal the series against Monaco. He was given 7 clear cut chances in that series and he scored just 1. In the first leg, he had 4 chances and got zero on target. And you can’t say that he was out of form. He went into that first match against Monaco having converted 3/3 big chances in his previous 5 matches. Arsenal were getting Giroud the ball in dangerous positions and Giroud was bottling the service.

So how does Giroud compare to other players in terms of clear-cut-chance-conversion?

I combed through every League match for Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann, and Alexandre Lacazette using the 442 Stats Zone app and compared how many big chances those players had, how many they converted, and how many they missed.The results can be put simply: in terms of converting big chances, any one of them would be better than Giroud.

Giroud-big chances

Giroud has the lowest conversion rate but Higuain has the second lowest conversion rate, basically the same as Arsenal’s season average and Giroud’s average if we remove his two terrible matches against Monaco. Higuain also had more big chances than any of the group but only scored 13 goals from those big chances. Higuain’s conversion rate is lowered because he’s terrible from the penalty spot this season. But even if you remove the 3/7 penalties from his big chances, his big chance conversion rate is still 45%.

Lacazette is the only other player on that list to score from the penalty spot and he was 8/9 last season. If we remove those stats from his big chances numbers he was still 10/16 or a 62% conversion rate with 69% on target.

Benzema had the fewest big chances of the players I looked at but to his credit he still put those chances away. His stats were unusual as well because unlike the other four players his big chances were spread out evenly over the season. Most of the other players had “clumps” of big chances in their seasons, followed by fallow periods. Giroud, for example, had just 2 big chances in his last 9 games and they both came in the match against Man U (he missed one and de Gea saved one).

Griezmann had the most unusual pattern to his big chances. He was just 1/5 in the first 15 games of the season and after that he just blew up, scoring 14 big chances in his last 23 games of the season. Griezmann is also unique among these players in that he scored more goals from the 6 yard box than any other player in the top five leagues. Yes, more than C. Ronaldo and even more than Messi. And he also had more headed goals than Olivier Giroud this season, despite the fact that he’s only 176cm tall.

Griezmann’s unusual stats had me reaching for the YouTube. More than any other player Griezmann reminds me of Robert Pires. He seems to have an uncanny knack for getting into goal scoring positions and putting away scrappy chances. Is this good or bad? Is there a bit of luck to those goal-scoring opportunities and will he be able to repeat those performances?

Griezmann’s amazing season with Atletico Madrid

But what else do these players offer? For example, Giroud is not very good at converting chances but he is excellent at holding the ball up and winning aerial duels. What, if anything, do these other players contribute to their team?

Giroud-other things


As you can see, Giroud played the fewest minutes of the group but won the most aerial duels. And before you claim foul on his exceptionally low dribble numbers, he is a terrible dribbler. I mean “Charles Barkley swinging a golf-club” terrible. In 194 games over the last 5 years, counting his time at Montpellier and in the French National team along with all his games in the Premier League and Champions League, Giroud has only made 90 successful dribbles. Alexis Sanchez made 144 successful dribbles this season for Arsenal.

This leads me to the thrust of the article, which player would be an upgrade on Giroud. Well, they are all better finishers, all of them are better dribblers, and none of them are as good in the air as Giroud.


Higuain is a terrible dribbler and combined with his poor finishing he would have Arsenal fans baying for his blood after just a few games. In fact, of all the players I looked at he would be the least upgrade on Giroud. He’s a turnover machine who demands the ball and gives you sparse end product. I would rule Higuain out.

Benzema is a strange player in that for some reason I’m always expecting more stats from him. But that’s just silly talk, his numbers are all spot on for a good player, he finishes the chances he’s given, and I have no doubt he would fit right into the Arsenal system. He’s also two-footed and could play on the left side of the attack, something Arsenal need in order to give some depth. But, he’s very happy at Real Madrid and his agent recently mocked rumors of a transfer to Manchester United. I can only see this happening if Real Madrid push him out the door.

Griezmann is the outside player. His finishing numbers are scary good, almost too good. He’s also left-footed which is a bonus but a bonus that is mitigated by the fact that he doesn’t create for himself or really for others. The question is whether he can repeat those great finishing numbers from this season and whether he can improve his overall team play. The question is also whether Atletico Madrid will sell him. Their president called him “un-transferable” amid rumors that Chelsea were after him to be a back up to Hazard. But the fact is that Griezmann is only on £50k a week and if Arsenal made the player a substantial personal offer (combined with huge increases in his sponsorship money), the player could bring Atletico to the table.

That leaves Lacazette. He’s the best of the bunch, a great finisher, and a player who can take on a defender one-v-one. He also creates for his teammates and himself. The only problem is that he’s yet another right-footed player and Arsenal are already well stocked with those. Lyon could be convinced to let him go because they have Fekir waiting in the wings to take his place.

Who would you pick? Or would you just be happy with the strikers Arsenal have and hope that Walcott finally has the breakout season he’s been threatening to have for a decade? Personally? Arsenal need a finisher. If I was pushed to pick one of these players I’d probably go with Lacazette.