Three things we learned from Arsenal v PSG that we knew already

By Simon Rose

(Can't be long till Alexis gets that break of his either)

1 We don't play well against decent sides
Smashing Ludogorets 6-0 at home was great and fighting back from 2-0 down away to win 3-2 was a compelling comeback, but as soon as we play a decent side we become introverts. Suddenly we carry all the confidence of a sixth-former at a school disco.

We qualified from the group after four games, which is great - just ask Tottenham - but will now struggle to top the group as we have drawn twice against PSG.

They might not be up there with yer Barcelonas, yer Real Madrids, all of the Atleticos, five of the Bayern Munichs or roughly half of the Juventuses, but PSG have spent years now dominating all-comers in France, week in week out. We squeaked two draws against them.

If our two PSG contests had been World Heavyweight boxing bouts we'd have lost both on points. Once again we looked sluggish against pace. Once again we overcommitted, leaving ourselves open at the back from distance.

Cavani got in behind us time and again. It was pure luck on our part that he is such an experimental finisher or he would have scored a hat-trick and we would have lost. Cavani has often been cited as an Arsenal transfer target. Given his experimental finishing and level of profligacy, you could argue that Cavani would fit in well.

2 We fail to rotate players
I wrote in the opening Gooner of the season, issue 260, how Ramsey is a number ten and how we should switch between him and Ozil during the season. They can both play the role and it would keep them fresh. Instead, we ignore Ramsey in that role and are playing Ozil into the ground.

Wales know to play Ramsey as a number ten behind Gareth Bale, but we have no Bale equivalent. Wales play a 4411 to suit both players, as they are their best two players, hence Wales play to those strengths. Ramsey is not amongst our best two players, hence Arsenal do not build around him.

Many felt that Ramsey was our best player against PSG and he certainly had some good moments, but he was playing in the defensive shield and for me that is too risky. Aaron Ramsey is an experimental creative attacking player, he doesn't have a defensive bone in his body.

His flicks and tricks are ideal in the final third, where we need ingenuity to break through tight defences, but they are dangerous in our middle third, where loose creativity puts immediate pressure on our defence. Too often, Ramsey loses the ball and our defensive third is left under direct assault.

The match looked ideally suited to Granit Xhaka, but he did not start. Xhaka is for me a more realistic replacement for the injured Santi Cazorla than Ramsey. You could also argue that Bournemouth currently have an Arsenal player on loan who can also work the defensive shield yet still be a playmaker.

I think Ramsey will leave Arsenal next summer, maybe for Spain, as we don't and presumably won't play him as a number 10 or off the striker, like Wales do.

3 We don't cross enough to Giroud
Giroud started the match, after fine form that saw him reach 86 goals for Arsenal. He popped away a penalty to reach 87, but any other chances were remote because we barely got the ball to him.

Giroud is tall. Giroud is good in the air. He isn't fast, so he doesn't need the ball played in front of him, to run onto. He needs service, like crosses, or passes to knock down or flick towards teammates. Giroud thrives off service from the right, from Bellerin and Walcott. Bellerin is out injured, Walcott on the bench. You have to question if Giroud should have started, if it wasn't clear where his service would come from.

Goals are often repeated, either in the same match or the next one. Given that Giroud scored a beautiful header at Old Trafford from an Oxlade-Chamberlain cross, why not rest Alexis against PSG and keep the Ox on the right? He would have been confident from beating his full-back on Sunday and could have supplied Giroud with more fast snappy right-wing crosses. They could literally have repeated the Old Trafford goal. Instead, the Ox was a late sub and Giroud lacked ammunition. Personally, I would have rewarded the Ox for his Old Trafford cross by starting him against PSG.

Jenkinson replaced Bellerin again and he is prolific with bombing down the wing and crossing the ball, but he is more enthusiastic than accurate. I like Jenko very much and it's great to have such an Arsenal man in the team, but he plays like a big lanky dog bounding down a sandy beach. One day you'll see Jenko on You've Been Framed, knocking over his owner at Southend.

You could argue of course that perhaps Alexis should have played up front, not Giroud, but that takes you back to the question of rotation. Should Alexis have been starting yet another game? Wenger said recently that Alexis will get a mid-season break. I suspect that is very likely. If we keep over-playing him he'll soon be injured and then he can have a break.


24th November 2016 09:00:00


Comments and Reaction

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paul35mm  18:28pm 24th Nov 2016

To paraphrase Game of Throne's sexiest wildling, Ygritte, "You know nothing." 1. Everyone plays worse against good teams. Last season Arsenal had the best record in the Premier League against the other top six sides. They didn't win the league. Beating the best eight teams in the world is hard. PSG is not seen as being on the same level as Barcelona and Real Madrid and maybe they aren't, but the Parisians are a tough side chock full of world-class players. Arsenal didn't lose either of their last two games against PSG, they drew. Football is not boxing and there are no style points. Managers manage the game in front of them, not some fantasy version dreamed up by each pundit and supporter who imagine how the game should be played or will be played. Time and time again Arsenal get taken to task for not being pragmatic against good teams. Against PSG Arsenal set up a very balanced side. Ramsey and Coquelin for defensive balance in the middle, with Gibbs providing more attacking threat from the left. The game was fairly even. Arsenal dominated for large parts, but struggled to break down PSGs resolute back six. PSG held the ball for long periods, content to probe and wait. Both teams went for the win, which made for an exciting match. The draw was unsatisfying, especially for Arsenal, but PSG will be only slightly happier. They top the group on away goals, but now they have to play a strong side against Ludogrets instead of being able to coast. Arsenal too have to play a strong team in their last fixture, needing to win and see udogrets get a result in Paris, and extremely unlikely outcome. Aaron Ramsey might be a #10 but he isn't Arsenal's best #10. He's not even Arsenal's second best #10. Ozil and Cazorla are both better playmakers than Ramsey. It could be argued that Wilshire is also better suited to be Arsenal's #10 than Ramsey. A lot is made of Wales' success at the Euros and Ramsey's performances during that run, but Wales had a relatively easy path. They had one quality win agaisnt Belgium, a result that got Belgium's manager fired (which speaks volumes of how the Belgians think of Wales as a football power). Wales also lost against England (which hardly distinguished itself) and eventual champions Portugal. Beating Slovakia, Russia, Northern Ireland, and Belgium is hardly brilliant, so while Ramsey played well for Wales, he did so against, for the most part, sub-par opposition. If a selection question is asked, Iwobi's inclusion over Oxlade-Chamberlain is one that seems obvious. Iwobi was ouotplayed all game by his PSG counterpart and he turned the ball over constantly. The own goal is a tough thing to hang on him and he was trying to make a play, so you can't fault him for trying. Still, he did take the ball from his keeper and score. Oddly, Iwobi is getting a pass when he did so little. Arsenal are not a crossing team. They could be, with Grioud a viable target man, but in general Arsenal try to break teams down with their possession and passing. Long ball and whipping balls in is a typically English answer to every loss by a finesse team. They need to be more direct! is the cry from the cheap seats, but that isn't Arsneal's game and is akin to using a Ferrari to deliver meals on wheels. The only lesson to be learned from the draw is that beating good teams is hard and it takes both excellent play and a little luck. - Post No. 100610

OBG  18:42pm 24th Nov 2016

Three things we ALL already know - Well those of us who aren't AKB/Sheeple. 1. Wenger is Clueless 2. Wenger is an Arrogant Despot Stealing A Living 3. We will NEVER again Win The Prem Nor will we ever Win the CL Trophy whilst the Clueless, Arrogant Despot that is Arsene Wenger is in charge at Our Club. The sooner he ****sOff the sooner we can become a proper Football Club and Team again. - Post No. 100611

mbg  19:28pm 24th Nov 2016

Well why the f**k are you on here telling us them then, idiot. - Post No. 100617

Issue #269 - Out Now!

Gooner Editorial

16th February 2018

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