Removing the Xhakles

Football is fun when we win. It’s even more fun when we win convincingly. Weekends remain in tact and joy and happiness fills our lives. A lot will be said about the starting XI, a lot will be said about certain players not working with this team anymore, a lot will be said about tracking back & a lot will be said about Wenger’s decision making ability. This when we’ve had our best performance of the season to date. After we’ve won 4-1. Come on people enjoy the win, enjoy the performance, enjoy what actually happened.

It was the first game that we dominated pretty much start to finish, albeit with our customary wobble. The only thing wrong with our performance was that we weren’t able to lull Hull along when the game was dead at 2-0. We were found a little high up the pitch when we could have just slowed the game down. I’d understand that shape if we were 11 v 11 simply because that’s how you squeeze the life out of the game as it’s harder to find space with more players on the pitch simply put. Our performance was well and truly on the front foot from the get go and what I really enjoyed is that it felt like we were keeping Hull at arms length by being so quick with our passing and movement. Iwobi was a large part of why this was the case. Everytime he got onto the ball his attitude and application was direct and enabled our runners to confuse the Hull back line. We really should have been out of sight by half time. An glaring miss from Ozil and a penalty miss form Alexis left us only the one goal ahead rather than three. Granted they were down to 10 men, however being only the one goal up is always quite a precarious lead for The Arsenal. Still, it’s good to see that we are still able to win games convincingly without the likes of Granit Xhaka & Aaron Ramsey involved in addition to missing our main front man Olivier Giroud. The age old thing that is depth seems to be proving fruitful at the moment, and long may it continue.

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With regards to the team selection there are a few things that need to be discussed. The prolonged absence of Granit Xhaka from the starting XI seems to be a strange decision. However, consider this, last season with the midfield base of CoqZorla we would be expectant to beat anyone in the Premier League. Anyone and everyone. With them at the base, Ozil in front, our first choice back five with Iwobi, Sanchez & Walcott filling the other slots. You could only argue that Walcott needed an upgrade over the summer and he could be a potential weakness. However we spin it, the reason we missed out on the title last season was simply down to the base of our midfield missing. Cazorla and Coquelin both missed around 3 months each and Flamini having to play a role in their absence really wasn’t quite good enough to win the league for us. Now Coquelin was a happy accident that Wenger stumbled upon in a time of crisis and it definitely worked for a time and in some instances continues to do so against lesser opposition, without meaning to disrespect Hull. He was one of our better players on the day and is probably the best natural ball winner within our squad. That being said Granit Xhaka is a premium upgrade on what we currently have. The problem with the CoqZorla combination is that it essentially was doing the job of one player in a more efficiently set up team. Kante did it for Leicester, Matic for Chelsea the season before, Fernandinho for Man City the season before that. It’s the way the game has been going for the last few years, where the two traditional central midfielders flanked by two wingers is now outdated. It’s not to say that Kante, Matic or Fernandinho would suit our style, but it’s increasingly clear that we need one player at the base to give our more forward thinking players a greater creative licence and more importantly increased numbers when breaking. Santi Cazorla is a great player to have in the team, however he’s not quite industrious enough to play alongside Xhaka in my opinion. There’s enough bite but not quite enough energy with the Xhaka/Cazorla combination. What I believe Wenger is waiting to do is introduce Xhaka firmly into the fold alongside our most natural box to box man, Aaron Ramsey. Not quite as neat on the ball as Cazorla, however Xhaka can be the fleet of foot guy of the two where Coquelin could not. This will give Ramsey the licence to roam forward but also give us as a side more energy when trying to break up play. Ramsey has an interesting style of play, whereby he makes a lot of ball recoveries, even though it may not seem as such. He had been maligned with the unfavourable stat of being the most dribbled past midfielder in the league last season (by minutes played I believe), which is not really indicative of how influential he is at winning the ball back. He almost ushers the player past him to lull them into a false sense of security before nipping back and winning the ball. The stat would read dribbled past but not quite reflective of his true value. With the combination of Ramsey and Xhaka I believe we will see the best of Mesut Ozil. He’ll in turn gain more freedom and also have an extra runner to aim for. Cazorla is great with creativity but not so much with the incisive running, whereas Ramsey can do a bit of both. Well a lot of the incisive running and a little of the creativity as well. Xhaka as we know came on and made a little statement with that great strike, however anyone who thinks his celebration was a dig at Arsene Wenger is a tool. It’s obviously not. “I scored boss, so shush. Oh and play me next time”. Yeah he’s clearly taking aim at the manager. He’ll be in alongside Rambo next weekend in my opinion, the only problem we’ll have as a team is who in God’s good name is going to take the penalties!? Anywho, time to release the shackles Arsene, let them be free and prosper.

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Our win coupled with both Chelsea and Man United (LOL) dropping points makes it a good weekend overall for us. However having watched City demolish Bournemouth it’s looking pretty ominous. I know we’re only 5 games in but they really are playing some lovely stuff. United on the other hand, 3 losses in 3 games. They’re obviously going to turn it around, as the players they have are far too good to falter for too long, but what’s interesting is that the personnel that they do actually have are the antithesis of the Jose Mourinho brand of football. He’s never worked with as an attacking bunch and the trouble here is that the superstars aren’t so young as to change their style. They are who they are. Pogba is an exception to a degree but with the most expensive footballer tag, the spotlight will be firmly placed in his direction until he begins to dictate games week in week out. Pointing to others and shirking responsibility is far to Flamini for an £89m player. Hilarious nonetheless.

We play forest in the cup where we’ll see a few fresher faces and can go into it with a relaxed attitude and hopefully some fresh legs can see us through to the next round. Thereafter we entertain Chelsea at home. We’re due a win against them and it’ll be a high energy game in terms of how Conte likes to play, so a big weekend in the offing.

Have a great week people.

Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1.



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