Sunday, 15 September 2013

A New Era Begins

Well, here we are after a very impressive victory at Sunderland in a match that we controlled for all but fifteen minutes. There were lots of positives to take from yesterday, despite Match of the Day's thoughts on the lack of protection offered to our defence by Mathieu Flamini. It was that possibly the worst piece of analysis I've ever seen. So here's my take on yesterday.

Mesut Ozil

Sometimes in football you have to pay for quality and you get what you pay for and the German fits into both of those categories. His first touch is orgasmic, his vision is Bergkamp-esque, as is his final ball. Yesterday, he demonstrated what we have been missing since the likes of Bergkamp and Fabregas left the club. I said in my last blog that I felt Theo Walcott would benefit most from his arrival and that was demonstrated in the first half with two quality through balls that led to chances for Theo but he didn't have his shooting boots on but those chances will keep coming his way for a long time to come. That said those opportunities were missed after Ozil had his first meaning contribution in the famous yellow and blue - an assist for Giroud. There aren't too many players that get 'the picture' in their head but he certainly does. He stole a march on the full back and he was picked out beautifully by Gibbs but the touch to bring down the pass from over his shoulder was straight from the top drawer and the final ball wasn't too bad either and Giroud's finish was beautifully executed. You know when this side used to just go left to right without a purpose, well that is no more. Ozil was that impressive yesterday, that I actually forgot (momentarily) about Santi Cazorla. Our attack is a force to be reckoned with once again and that was demonstrated in both the first and last goal. We've all seen Henry execute moves likes the first and Ramsey's second goal had shades of Patrick Vieira at Anfield, quality, incisive movement. So much so that the Sunderland defenders appealed for offside, they didn't have a clue what day of the week it was. Mesut, I love you.

Aaron Ramsey

You know, I have a friend who thinks Ramsey is absolutely rubbish, I kid you not. The young Welshman really is cranking it up on the pitch and he deserves every bit of praise that comes his way. Here are his stats for the last three seasons in terms of goals to games

After the victory against Sp*rs Graeme Souness was quiet critical of Ramsey's lack of goal scoring ability and to be fair he had a point. Obviously his opinion was relating to Ramsey's poor miss but he stated he has to score more and he has. He has five goals this season and that has matched his goals tally for the last two seasons combined. His volley was a brilliant display of pure power and technique combined. The keeper moved after the ball had hit the back of the net and much like I have gripes with Rosicky, the same would apply to Ramsey. When players have the ability, they must back it up with end product. There is nothing more frustrating that players not realising their potential and Aaron's had a tough time of it, especially during his 'winger' phase but now he has made his position his own and Jack Wilshere may well find himself being the odd one out in the centre of midfield and left wing may well be his home for the next weeks given Cazorla's ankle injury. If Ramsey can score fifteen goals this season that really would be a great return and when you see him finishing moves likes yesterday and his second against Fenerbahce, then there is no reason why he can't achieve that and raise the bar further.
Olivier Giroud
Watching in-form strikers is one of the finest sights in football, as is watching players blossom before your very eyes. Giroud has had critics, plenty of them in fact. He missed chances last season and he will do again between now and the end of the season but he has now settled at the club and the team is really benefiting from his play. He is the axis for which our attacks operate. He wins headers, he holds up the ball, he has vision and most importantly the team has adapted to his strengths and weaknesses. Giroud really has taken it to the next level and his work rate has also noticeably improved. He has improved in the every department and it's worth considering that at this stage last season he had no goals and was in the midst of confidence crisis due to misses against Sunderland and Chelsea. Giroud needs to be aiming for 25 goals (minimum) and I don't have any doubts that he'll be able to achieve that and with such a target, that tells you how far the team has come in such a short period of time.
Other Analysis
The only blot on the copy book was Koscielny's ridiculous foul on Johnson. I said this against Villa and it applies to yesterday as well - do not dive into challenge in the penalty unless it is absolutely necessary and on both occasions he's cost the side a goal. Adam Johnson (one of the most one footed players in the league) is going away from goal and on his weaker foot, why would you lunge into a challenge? It's too high risk. Gardner converted and we could have shot ourselves in the foot. Thankfully for us and Kos, we didn't
There's been a lot of focus on Altidore/Sagna clash, which is probably best summarised as six and one and half a dozen of the other. The key is the ref blew the whistle quite early and some of our players stopped. Altidore slotted home despite last ditch efforts of our defence and Sunderland felt 'robbed'. The point that is being missed is the players played to the whistle, had the ref played an advantage I'm pretty confident, in fact almost certain that our defenders would have cleared it off the line. Therefore, what's the big deal? It gives Di Canio his excuse though, so it will paper over the gaping cracks in the Sunderland side he has formed. They have two threats upfront in Altidore and Flecther but their supply is horrific. Wingers like Adam Johnson are in it for their own good, he's capable of wiping in crosses but elects to be greedy for his own selfish gain. They are in trouble and I fully expect a different manager to be in the technical area when we play them at The Emirates in February.
I'm going to finish the blog with the way we finished the game 5-4-1 to accommodate Vermaelen when he came on for Ozil. I thought he'd just play at DM alongside Flamini but it was a complete reshuffle. It just seemed a bit unnecessary if I'm honest but it didn't really have an impact on the game.
So Giroud has scored outside of London in the league, Ozil is up and running and Ramsey continues to go from strength to strength. Our upcoming fixture list isn't that tough (on paper), so lets hope this team continues onwards and upwards, oh wait, we can't, because we are top of the league....


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Önwards and Upwards - Özil Takes Us to New Heights

It's been nearly 24 hours since we signed Mesut Özil and I still can't believe the magnitude of the signing.





They are some of the headlines I'd attach to this singing and I'll be honest, I've felt somewhat arrogant about our new and improved involvement in the transfer market. We may not hold the record fee paid but we've catapulted ourselves onto the top table. I doubted Gazidis and his statement but he's pretty much, barraged into the room, chucked David Moyes & Manchester Unites out of their chair and said "do one". A club that wanted Cesc Fabregas, would surely be interested in the 24 year old German wouldn't they? We have our place and this isn't just a signal of intent, it's a whole new beginning. Yes, we didn't get all of the players we needed but say we did sign Cabaye, Ba and A.N. Other, come the next transfer window we'd be scrapping the barrel looking for your average joes once more. No the bar has been raised, this deal means we don't have to sell the club, it sells itself. Questions about will we qualify for the Champions League? Foregone conclusion surely? This is a player that creates for fun and chips in with goals too. You've all seen the colossal figures in relation to his assist record, they are extra chances that he brings to us and they are all ours. Which, in turn should equal more points.

There are many factors of this deal that excite me but I think the biggest one is how our club is perceived. I viewed our game on Sunday as our biggest game of the season at home, purely because it's possibly our best chance to win a big game. When the likes of United, Chelsea and City come to town, of late, I've expected us to lose because we get found out. Now I'm not saying we'll suddenly start beating them all but if you look at the Demba Ba no deal, you can't tell me that Chelsea didn't pull the plug because they saw what we were doing? They claimed to not want to sell to a rival and we aren't just talking in terms of a geographical location, they are talking more about league position. Having the likes of Cazorla & Özil weaving their magic will strike fear into the opposition. Imagine us at home to United, Fellaini and Cleverley in the centre of midfield. Oh my. It's an area we have failed in recently but I can't help but feel things have changed in that regard. I expect to win now and yes it's off the back of one signing but one signing was all it took when a certain iconic Dutchman turned up at Arsenal in 1995.

A lot of comparisons have been drawn between the Özil and Bergkamp deals and I see where people are coming from, but I can't help but feel this deal is bigger (and I'm not just talking about the fee). Özil is on top of his game, something Bergkamp had to rebuild, his move was somewhat of a second chance after receiving death threats for poor performances. Has anyone contemplated that Özil might be a failure, of course we haven't because he's one of THE BEST in the game. He's been something of a pipe dream in windows gone by, even when Madrid snapped him up three years ago, it was rumoured we'd had him scouted the usual 105 times but we kept our nerve this time and got it done. 

This deal though has Madridistas fuelled with rage. Whilst Gareth Bale was introduced to his new home, Sid Lowe reported their fans were singing "Don't sell Özil", this is Real Madrid people, the biggest club in the world and we've taken advantage of Daniel Levy's brilliant negotiating. Arguably, if he'd sold for 50m, they probably wouldn't need to sell but they didn't and Real had to expect a star was going to leave. So from me Daniel, thanks.

One of the undervalued aspects of deals is the impact it has on the fan base. Sales of Özil 11 shirts have gone through the roof. As @swegoon pointed out last night (mainly in jest) maybe Adidas could rethink a deal for shirt sales, as Özil is one of their elite clients and the new face of Adidas. It's probably too late to renegotiate but you get the point. Sponsors will flood in wanting their brand associated with our club. The gloom has lifted somewhat on Twitter, joyous people tweeting through the night. I didn't want last night to end, so much so I listened to the @arse2mouse podcast at 00:30 and ploughed through another bottle of wine. Great work by The @arse2mouse crew, as they guide you through the day as if happens, you can listen
here. Sadly the night did draw to a close and I woke up with one very sore head today, well worth it though.

So where does this leave Arsenal? Well, when we go embroiled in the Suarez debacle, I went on record to say the deal was as important as the player. That sign of intent to actual progress to the next level would provide a massive shot in the arm. That transfer obviously fizzled out but the principal remained and the club delivered, namely in the form of Arsène Wenger. A manager I have slagged off and rightly so I feel. If you underachieve you leave yourself open to criticism but when you over perform you deserve the credit and that's what I see a lot of fans doing. Well, except those that want to ram it down your throats. There's a tweet floating around about if you didn't celebrate Sanogo signing then you don't deserve to celebrate Özil. I mean seriously, WTF. This deal has not only given us a world class player but if would appear Arsène has more lives than a cat but I'd widely expect him to get a two year extension and I'm happy for him to remain if this policy proves to be in it's infancy. You see the expectation has risen amongst every gooner and a striker will surely arrive in January, ready for the business end of the season. No more Gervinho deals and more of the higher calibre signings.  New players coming to English football should worry supporters of other clubs. Pretty much like Hazard signing for CFC. I'm not expecting us to pay £40+ for one player in every window but we must not return to our default position. 

This season was our opportunity to catch the teams above us last season and it looked like that passed us by but maybe we resuscitated ourselves just in time. Our time is now and we have to take this opportunity. I expect things, I now feel like a trophy is realistic and not just a big fantasy of mine. Last night felt like the gloom had lifted (summed up brilliantly in
this article by @thugclive, he's a CFC fan who decided to check out The Ems yesterday) and there's a freshness about the place. Even arsenal fans are changing their twitter handles and the umlauts are flowing. It really so refreshing to see.

Then you have his impact with his team-mates. Our forward line must be licking their lips, none more so than Theo Walcott, who I think will benefit massively from Mesut's vision. After all it's not just about what the German does, it will also improve others as well .

In summary, we have a worldie in the form of Real Madrid's previous #10. This is a deal to embrace, drink it in and see where we go. I haven't felt this positive about our club for a long while and I want this feeling to remain for a good while to come. We've 'got by' for far too long and I hope this is us breaking free of the shackles and flexing our financial muscle (ooh-er) and when you see clubs like United struggling to recruit, you can help but laugh and think, that used to be us.