Arsenal 2016-17: Get Ready For A Xhak-attack

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Xhaka is really the natural Cazorla replacement (both during Cazorla's injury and long-term). Central midfielders with his range of passing, athleticism, and tackling ability are rare and there's a reason he cost 35m. If Cazorla going down submarines their season it's because Xhaka turns out to be a bust, and it will be Xhaka's failure, rather than Cazorla's injury, that's the real problem. Arsenal can afford to buy 35m players but they can't afford to waste 35m on players who don't contribute.
Any solution to the midfield problem has to involve Xhaka, that is for sure. And if he isn't part of the solution, it certainly means the buy was a bust.

The problem is that he isn't really a like-for-like replacement for Cazorla so there are some significant questions about whether the team has an appropriate CM partner for him. Cazorla roamed around the field helping make things tick with his passing and with his dribbling and excellence in tight spaces. He also often comfortably quarterbacked the attack from 25-30 yards out when we had opponents deeply pinned, moving the ball around and looking to start quick combinations. He is a poor man's Xavi/Iniesta hybrid, and he worked best when paired with an energetic pure destroyer like Coquelin who could mop up behind him. Xhaka is more like a poor man's Xabi Alonso. He is comfortable playing much deeper and spraying passes around and through the lines, but he isn't going to do much dribbling or get us through tight spaces and he isn't the midfielder you want as the main offensive threat in a CM pairing unless your team is going to set up very defensively. Ideally, I'd say you want to pair him with a very active box-to-box player who can provide some real offensive threat making late runs but also has the engine and tactical nous to contribute defensively and not get caught out too often (I don't think Xhaka is mobile enough to be a lone DM with his partner always getting caught up the field). To continue the Xabi Alonso analogy, more Sami Khedira at Real than Javier Mascherano at Liverpool. On paper, Ramsey's skill set should fit the bill. On the field, he really hasn't been very good for about two years now and has shown a penchant for Hollywooding around and being a very undisciplined tactical player when in central midfield.

In sum, there is another very real possibility which is that Cazorla going down submarines the season but its not because Xhaka is a bust so much as the lack of a good partner for him.
 
Jul 15, 2005
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Wow, Arsenal loses a game for the first time since the opener in August, a league cup match to boot, and you guys are freaking out?


Only less than two years without a trophy! What a nightmare. And Mourhino is on track to have a similar record to Moyes at Man U so far. Bully for him.
Mourihno is closer to another trophy than Arsene

when you win 2 semi-major trophies in 10 years, this is the reaction he deserves

this particular lineup losing is more troubling than anything
 

coremiller

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Any solution to the midfield problem has to involve Xhaka, that is for sure. And if he isn't part of the solution, it certainly means the buy was a bust.

The problem is that he isn't really a like-for-like replacement for Cazorla so there are some significant questions about whether the team has an appropriate CM partner for him. Cazorla roamed around the field helping make things tick with his passing and with his dribbling and excellence in tight spaces. He also often comfortably quarterbacked the attack from 25-30 yards out when we had opponents deeply pinned, moving the ball around and looking to start quick combinations. He is a poor man's Xavi/Iniesta hybrid, and he worked best when paired with an energetic pure destroyer like Coquelin who could mop up behind him. Xhaka is more like a poor man's Xabi Alonso. He is comfortable playing much deeper and spraying passes around and through the lines, but he isn't going to do much dribbling or get us through tight spaces and he isn't the midfielder you want as the main offensive threat in a CM pairing unless your team is going to set up very defensively. Ideally, I'd say you want to pair him with a very active box-to-box player who can provide some real offensive threat making late runs but also has the engine and tactical nous to contribute defensively and not get caught out too often (I don't think Xhaka is mobile enough to be a lone DM with his partner always getting caught up the field). To continue the Xabi Alonso analogy, more Sami Khedira at Real than Javier Mascherano at Liverpool. On paper, Ramsey's skill set should fit the bill. On the field, he really hasn't been very good for about two years now and has shown a penchant for Hollywooding around and being a very undisciplined tactical player when in central midfield.

In sum, there is another very real possibility which is that Cazorla going down submarines the season but its not because Xhaka is a bust so much as the lack of a good partner for him.
I think with Xhaka in for Cazorla, they will to play a little differently, with their attacks a little more direct and vertical, and with less deliberate buildup play. But they have the players to do that. Sanchez/Walcott/Ozil are all players who can thrive in that style -- sort of like how Real Madrid played when Ozil and Alonso were both there.
 
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I think with Xhaka in for Cazorla, they will to play a little differently, with their attacks a little more direct and vertical, and with less deliberate buildup play. But they have the players to do that. Sanchez/Walcott/Ozil are all players who can thrive in that style -- sort of like how Real Madrid played when Ozil and Alonso were both there.
wasn't that Real team managed by Mourinho?
 

lars10

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Mourihno is closer to another trophy than Arsene

when you win 2 semi-major trophies in 10 years, this is the reaction he deserves

this particular lineup losing is more troubling than anything
Mourinho has a lineup that just bought pogba and ibra.. and also had virtually the same Chelsea lineup.. so why are we impressed with him winning any trophies? He's playing first team players in tournies where youth players usually play.. how is that good coaching?
 
Jul 15, 2005
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Mourinho has a lineup that just bought pogba and ibra.. and also had virtually the same Chelsea lineup.. so why are we impressed with him winning any trophies? He's playing first team players in tournies where youth players usually play.. how is that good coaching?
United played against a squad that isn't too shabby (or wasn't last season). Did Arsene really have to dress first team players Ludogorets at home? could've sat Cazorla that match

again, I'm more concerned that this particular Arsenal squad lost to a much weaker squad
 

coremiller

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wasn't that Real team managed by Mourinho?
It was, but except for the games against Barcelona, they weren't particularly defensive or conservative. In 2010-11 and 2011-12 they scored more league goals than Barcelona did, and in 2011-12 they set the La Liga record for goals scored with 121.
 

blueguitar322

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Three goals (all nice finishes) and a selfless assist when 1v1 on the keeper. Is Alexis the best Arsenal player since Henry? Or were vintage RVP & Cesc better?
 

mikeford

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Three goals (all nice finishes) and a selfless assist when 1v1 on the keeper. Is Alexis the best Arsenal player since Henry? Or were vintage RVP & Cesc better?
I love Alexis but he's not the best player on this Arsenal team so it's kind of a weird question.

I think he is better than peak RVP and comparing Cesc to him is a bit difficult.
 

teddykgb

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I love Alexis but he's not the best player on this Arsenal team so it's kind of a weird question.

I think he is better than peak RVP and comparing Cesc to him is a bit difficult.
This is like a super hot take, right? Alexis is almost certainly the best player on this Arsenal team. Are you referring to Ozil?
 

mikeford

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Of course I'm referring to Ozil. Take Ozil out of the Arsenal side and see how good Alexis looks then.

He's the best player on Arsenal. This isn't a hot take.
 

teddykgb

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Eh, maybe I'm wrong. To me you've got that backwards. I'd expect an Arsenal fan above maybe all to recognize the value of someone who can actually finish chances. To me, Alexis is one of the very few complete players in the world. Pace, touch, vision, finishing....there are so few of those out there and players who actually create and score are so damn valuable. Take him out of the side and you end up looking like my City team whining about how you out chanced the team every week but didn't convert.

Ozil is without a doubt fantastic. I guess I just think there are a lot of creative CAM types in football today. Not looking to go blow for blow, was earnestly surprised that you guys would really put Ozil about Alexis.
 

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Right but that's an oblique way of answering "why is a world-class CAM more valuable than a world-class striker", a point I thought would be obvious. The upside to the team for marginal quality at #10 is much higher than for marginal additional quality at striker. There's a reason many of the greatest players in history have played that position.

How many people are better than Özil at the #10? Messi, De Bruyne, Hazard, Modric, maybe Mahrez? Maybe Iniesta, Willian and James a year or two ago, but not now, right? I'd certainly put Ozil ahead of Koke, Payet, Sigurdsson, Lallana, Dele Alli, and Firmino. All depending on who you consider a #10 vs a winger, and who plays more centrally and focuses more on distribution, of course, but it's a fuzzy boundary.

Actually, Sigurdsson is a great illustration of the point. He's about the only player creating anything at Swansea, and he pretty much single-handedly crushed Crystal Palace in the second half of the game a week ago. He's playing with "Llorente and absolute shit" up front, but he makes them a credible PL side. Nowhere is there more of a stark difference between a team's attacking midfield and the rest of their player quality. Meanwhile, Zlatan is starved for someone to have real passing chemistry with, and so has resorted to trying to make crazy shit happen on a regular basis (which, being Zlatan, he has done with surprising regularity).
 

lars10

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Of course I'm referring to Ozil. Take Ozil out of the Arsenal side and see how good Alexis looks then.

He's the best player on Arsenal. This isn't a hot take.
At least this year Alexis leads the team in basically every category. He hustles all game..gets back on D, is constantly testing the back line of the other team, and is a general pest. One could argue Ozil was better last year, but this year Alexis is definitely the best player on Arsenal so far.
 

teddykgb

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Right but that's an oblique way of answering "why is a world-class CAM more valuable than a world-class striker", a point I thought would be obvious. The upside to the team for marginal quality at #10 is much higher than for marginal additional quality at striker. There's a reason many of the greatest players in history have played that position.

How many people are better than Özil at the #10? Messi, De Bruyne, Hazard, Modric, maybe Mahrez? Maybe Iniesta, Willian and James a year or two ago, but not now, right? I'd certainly put Ozil ahead of Koke, Payet, Sigurdsson, Lallana, Dele Alli, and Firmino. All depending on who you consider a #10 vs a winger, and who plays more centrally and focuses more on distribution, of course, but it's a fuzzy boundary.

Actually, Sigurdsson is a great illustration of the point. He's about the only player creating anything at Swansea, and he pretty much single-handedly crushed Crystal Palace in the second half of the game a week ago. He's playing with "Llorente and absolute shit" up front, but he makes them a credible PL side. Nowhere is there more of a stark difference between a team's attacking midfield and the rest of their player quality. Meanwhile, Zlatan is starved for someone to have real passing chemistry with, and so has resorted to trying to make crazy shit happen on a regular basis (which, being Zlatan, he has done with surprising regularity).
It was a pretty oblique way of asking the question. Of course you value Messi more than Suarez because one of them is Messi and the other isn't. There's really no point to be made in asking the question.

I think "better than Ozil at #10" is the wrong way to examine it and you'll get endlessly stuck trying to rank players. For me, the question is how many players are in Ozil's class at the #10 and I think that while he's probably near the top of the world class CAM pyramid that you can make a case for quite a few players who are in that general mix. Your list is super PL oriented (and you missed Silva, maybe Coutinho but he's maybe more like Alexis than Ozil), if you expand to include more leagues you start to see a certain type of depth at the position globally (Draxler, Isco, Kagawa, Kovacic, James, maybe still Gotze). It's still a scarce position, without a doubt, but in general there are a fair number of players these days with an eye for the pass and an attacking mindset. Ozil is, again, one of the best at this, but the drop off to me isn't as severe as it is for a player like Alexis.

There just aren't many great players in world football who can play almost any attacking position and impact the match. Two footed, plays across the front line, scores and assists. Certainly even fewer of those have the work rate of Alexis. The stats are there for Ozil so I will concede that it wasn't a "hot take", there's a good case to be made for him, but I honestly believe that players like Alexis are far harder to find. I understand the idea that a great creator can make goals happen but Sigurdsson still needs someone to finish. As Arsenal fans are all too familiar with, sometimes Giroud hits it wide. When Alexis is on point, the ball ends up in the net and he needs his teammates to do less. He's almost single handedly turned that Chile team into an international powerhouse.

edit: I also think you really misunderstood my point. Alexis is hardly just a goal scorer. Comparing him to Zlatan is very strange. If anything, Messi and Alexis are closer than Ozil and Messi in terms of style of play. It's harder to choose between the pure goal scorers and the pure goal creators but that's hardly the discussion with Alexis which is essentially my entire argument.
 
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That's an interesting post and I'll have to give it some thought. For now I'll just say that I wasn't comparing Alexis to Zlatan, just to the notion of a world-class striker without a world-class #10 behind him. Alexis is surely much more comparable to Suarez, Lewandowski, Aubameyang, Cavani, Griezmann etc.
 

lars10

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It was a pretty oblique way of asking the question. Of course you value Messi more than Suarez because one of them is Messi and the other isn't. There's really no point to be made in asking the question.

I think "better than Ozil at #10" is the wrong way to examine it and you'll get endlessly stuck trying to rank players. For me, the question is how many players are in Ozil's class at the #10 and I think that while he's probably near the top of the world class CAM pyramid that you can make a case for quite a few players who are in that general mix. Your list is super PL oriented (and you missed Silva, maybe Coutinho but he's maybe more like Alexis than Ozil), if you expand to include more leagues you start to see a certain type of depth at the position globally (Draxler, Isco, Kagawa, Kovacic, James, maybe still Gotze). It's still a scarce position, without a doubt, but in general there are a fair number of players these days with an eye for the pass and an attacking mindset. Ozil is, again, one of the best at this, but the drop off to me isn't as severe as it is for a player like Alexis.

There just aren't many great players in world football who can play almost any attacking position and impact the match. Two footed, plays across the front line, scores and assists. Certainly even fewer of those have the work rate of Alexis. The stats are there for Ozil so I will concede that it wasn't a "hot take", there's a good case to be made for him, but I honestly believe that players like Alexis are far harder to find. I understand the idea that a great creator can make goals happen but Sigurdsson still needs someone to finish. As Arsenal fans are all too familiar with, sometimes Giroud hits it wide. When Alexis is on point, the ball ends up in the net and he needs his teammates to do less. He's almost single handedly turned that Chile team into an international powerhouse.

edit: I also think you really misunderstood my point. Alexis is hardly just a goal scorer. Comparing him to Zlatan is very strange. If anything, Messi and Alexis are closer than Ozil and Messi in terms of style of play. It's harder to choose between the pure goal scorers and the pure goal creators but that's hardly the discussion with Alexis which is essentially my entire argument.
Seconded. Sanchez is much more than a pure striker. One thing I will say is ozil is my favorite but Sanchez is creeping up... and I hope wenger does whatever he can to keep them both on the team.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Alexis
Iwobi-Ozil-Lucas
Xhaka-Ramsey
Gibbs-Kos-Holding-Gabriel

It is foolish to play Alexis and Ozil in this match given the very low chance the result of the match will even matter and the relatively small stakes (Pot 1 v Pot 2) if it does matter.

On the bright side, it will be interesting to see the Xhaka-Ramsey pairing and also to see how Lucas plays when alongside the likes of Ozil and Alexis rather than Ox and Jeff. It almost seems like Wenger is using this match to experiment with some attacking combinations that he is intrigued by but hasn't quite had the opportunity or guts to play together yet this season. I could see this front six playing some pretty good stuff.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Hat trick for Lucas!

Time to get Ozil and Alexis out of the game.

First or second doesn't matter that much at this point, since there are some big clubs who will be runners up, but it's always nice to win the group if you can.
Either way it's going to come down to the luck of the draw. And even then it doesn't always matter. Arsenal got a great draw a couple years ago against Monaco, and still blew it.
 

mikeford

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Does December 12th sound right for the round of 16 draw? That's all I could find online.
Its on Monday. Its usually like 7 or 8am EST.

We're totally gonna draw Dortmund or Bayern or some crap. Nice to win the group though. Deserved to top the group even if PSG had won because fuck away goals. Trash rule.
 

blueguitar322

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...given the very low chance the result of the match will even matter and the relatively small stakes (Pot 1 v Pot 2) if it does matter.
I agree with your post given my expectation that there was no way PSG would draw or lose at home, but do have a quibble with the bolded. Or, at least, a provisional quibble. Assuming Juventus holds on at home against Dinamo Zagreb, and Madrid beats Dortmund at home, here are the teams Arsenal would be eligible to play, along with their Elo ratings:

Pot 1: Average Elo 1901
Real Madrid (2031), Barcelona (1988), Atletico Madrid (1932), Juventus (1914), Monaco (1777), Napoli (1762)

Pot 2: Average Elo 1821
Bayern Munich (1969), Benfica (1873), Dortmund (1864), Sevilla (1752), Porto (1745) Leverkusen (1724)

Of the pot 1 teams, Arsenal (Elo rating 1858) would be pretty big underdogs against 4/6 of them. Of the pot 2 teams, only Bayern Munich would be a big favorite. That's a pretty clear difference.

Now if Real Madrid doesn't win and Juve chokes, the benefit of being in pot 1 decreases significantly.
 

The Gray Eagle

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The Guardian's The Fiver on Arsenal winning their group in the Champions League: "The first leg of their Round of Arsenal tie against Bayern Munich, or maybe Real Madrid, will be played on 14 February. The return is on 22 February, recriminations start the 23rd, and big depressing double-page post-mortems will be published in all the broadsheets on the Sunday."
 

blueguitar322

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2009: Porto (R16), then Barcelona (QF)
2010: Barcelona
2011: Milan
2012: Bayern Munich
2013: Bayern Munich
2014: Monaco
2015: Barcelona (after drawing Bayern Munich in the group)
2016: Bayern Munich

I do think Arsenal are a little bit better, and Bayern a little bit worse, than they were last year. But some variety would be nice. If Arsenal win, you know they'll end up drawing either Barca or Dortmund in the quarterfinals.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Arsenal down 2-1 at Everton with a couple minutes left, looking at being 6 behind Chelsea, with a weekend trip to Manchester City.