VaVaVoom Gunners – The Return of the Direct, Pacey and Skillful Arsenal we have missed


Soon the international break will finally be over and Premier League football returns  and the upcoming encounter with Southampton will tell a lot about the way Arsène Wenger wants the team to play, this season.

Against Liverpool, Leicester City and Watford it was mainly the fitness levels that dictated the line-up, with some key players still recovering from their Euro 2016 duties and others battling to be fit after a summer disrupted by minor injuries and niggles; now that we’re three weeks into the new season, it will be all about tactics and team chemistry.

We have Lucas Pérez and Skhodran Mustafi ready to make their debuts, Olivier Giroud battling to win his place back and Rob Holding pushing to retain his spot in the starting XI after two solid performances against poisonous strikers like Vardy, Deeney and Ighalo – Arsène Wenger already has some big decisions to make.

Southampton is an extremely well-organized team, they might have lost a great manager in Ronald Koeman but Claude Puel is highly rated in European football and will surely give continuity and consistency to the team, possibly enhancing the defensive part of their setup, compared to the former manager.

New Saints boss

New Saints boss

The Saints are still without a win but I wouldn’t write them off too quickly: they lost important players like Mané and Wanyama so they need time for their new arrivals to gel but I don’t question the ability of Hojberg, Austin, Boufal and Redmond to make an impact in the league, so the Arsenal should really not underestimate Claude Puel’s men when they arrive at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Anyway I digress so let’s get back to the Gunners.  So far, Arsène Wenger has continued his on his three-years on and off experiment of playing Alexis Sánchez upfront and, while the initial results weren’t really encouraging against Liverpool and Leicester City, the Chilean was in scintillating form against Watford. Surely he was helped by the presence of Mesut Özil behind him and the continuous movement of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and especially Theo Walcott on each side.

What happens now that Olivier Giroud is available for selection and shone for France against Italy? Will he get his place back?

Will Wenger ignore Giroud?

Will Wenger ignore Giroud?

It’s a big call because our game would change drastically: against Watford we’ve seen a very dynamic front line composed of players always willing to attack the space behind the defensive line, always looking for a long-ball from Granit Xhaka and constantly exchanging positions and roles; with Olivier Giroud as part of the attacking trio, that wouldn’t be possible as the Frenchman would be the target man we know very well, the catalyst of any ball hitting the final third but surely not the marauding forward running in behind and ghosting across the whole attacking line.

We’d gain physical presence and aerial ability but lose unpredictability and pace – what would you choose?

My feeling (and wish, to be honest) is to see the same trio that tore Watford apart, the same pace and intensity upfront and possibly a more confident version Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the one we usually see during pre-season; the boy was very wasteful against Watford but possesses all the qualities to be a valuable asset to the team and hopefully have a big performance against Southampton.

A reprieve for the Ox?

A reprieve for the Ox?

Perhaps he’s the most at risk once Alex Iwobi is back from injury and Lucas Pérez will be ready, he must make the most of the chances he’s been given at the moment.

Talking about Lucas Pérez, I’m not including him in the equation as it very unlikely that he will start against Southampton, he only had a few training sessions with the team and will surely come off the bench to begin his Arsenal career.

Once fit and integrated with the team, though, he will surely be a serious contender for a starting place and the current crop of forwards should really be looking nervously over their shoulders.

Arsène Wenger brought him in for his intelligent movement and quality finishing, my guess is that he’ll be our main man and swap positions with Alexis Sánchez and Theo Walcott in a very fluid 4-3-3 formation.

From the bench?

From the bench?

Unlike Lucas Pérez, the other new boy Shkodran Mustafi has a big chance to make his full debut with the Gunners against Southampton but his place alongside Laurent Koscielny is far from acquired: the young Rob Holding has been impressive against Leicester City and Watford, Arsène Wenger might be tempted to give him another chance to gain experience in the Premier League before implementing what will be the centre-back pairing for this season and beyond.

As unfair as it might appear though, Arsène Wenger could start the German international over the England U21 defender against the Saints and take the opportunity to give Laurent Koscielny and Skhodran Mustafi some playing time, before we play Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday. It would be a wise move, in my eyes, and Rob Holding will surely have a lot of chances to grow and become the top defender we all wish he’ll be.

Holding on or missing out to Mustafi?

Holding on or missing out to Mustafi?

I expect a lot from the team this season and even more from Arsène Wenger, who seems to be building a more aggressive, quick and direct Arsenal, compared to what we’ve seen in the past two seasons: it is likely that we’ll play more counter-attack football and rely less on possession, trying to make the most of our pacey forwards and Mesut Özil and Granit Xhaka eye for through-balls; also, a defensive line composed of Laurent Koscielny and Shkordan Mustafi – both very quick and good at interceptions – suggests a higher positioning on the pitch and a more regrouped team, instructed to closed down opponents and try to win the ball back as quickly as possible.

The blueprint must be the memorable win against Manchester United at home last season, when our midfield was outstanding in suffocating their opponents and our attacking trio created havoc during one of the most entertaining and exciting performances I can remember.

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The big loser of this change would be Olivier Giroud, a striker I never really rated but who’s been exceptional in his attitude and desire to improve; never he complained, never he replied to abuse and critics, he always worked hard on the pitch and – in all honesty – he’s been quite successful in each of his seasons at the Club.

Could he have done more? I don’t think so. I feel he did the maximum given his strengths and gave his all, he deserves a lot of credit for that.

Nevertheless, I feel that he was never the first-choice striker in Arsène Wenger’s mind: the manager first tried to sign Luis Suárez, then got Alexis Sánchez and spent the last transfer windows trying to sign Alexandre Lacazette and Jamie Vardy, before finally landing Lucas Pérez.

It’s not hard to see that the manager was looking at someone whose profile is completely different from Olivier Giroud’s – meaning that he wasn’t looking on an upgrade in that area but someone with a different set of skills.

That doesn’t mean that Olivier Giroud won’t come good throughout the season, he would be a great option off the bench and an important resource in a specific kind of games but would somehow be our “plan B” – which I think was Arsène Wenger’s “plan A” since the beginning.


I can’t wait to see what choices Arsène Wenger will make and if we’ll finally see the aggressive, direct, pacey and skilful Arsenal I miss so much.


VaVaVoom, Gunners!

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5 Responses to VaVaVoom Gunners – The Return of the Direct, Pacey and Skillful Arsenal we have missed

  1. Alex field (the real one) September 6, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    erm i have to disagree i think dropping Oliver would be a large mistake as would not starting Perez while i take your points made let me just make this one for you without Ramsey the team gain dynamism anyway he is very slow at getting the ball forward
    I digress my front line would be Alexis Giroud and Perez/Walcott the reason i think our manager spent his summer commentating on his nation France in the Euros and must have seen how much better olly plays with a Griezman type figure up alongside him.
    I have said it before olly needs a friend along with him not a 442 but a man who can play near him coming from the wing when needed with ozil in behind.
    Also Oliver offers great help to the defense at set pieces and corners i think many fans are to quick to write that contribution off

    • Dave Seager September 6, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

      You may well be right and you can read my take in my Shoot column tomorrow. I too think Giroud will start on Saturday. Dave

    • AndreaR September 7, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

      Hi Alex,
      if you read some of my previous blogs here, you know already that I’m not the biggest fan of Olivier Giroud.
      I like his attitude, his fighting spirit, his altruism and I reckon he’s a very good striker, on his day; unfortunately, he doesn’t have enough of “his days” to lead our attacking line and doesn’t have enough resources to be our main man, his game being one-dimensional really. That’s my opinion, which doesn’t mean Oli should be sold or whatever, only not be our plan A.
      He definitely plays better with another forward around him but it seems that AW isn’t going down that road – to Dave’s and many other Gooners despair – as Özil is the only one allowed to occupy the space behind Giroud, although he’s not a striker.

      Personally, I prefer a more mobile, upredictable and pacey striker up front and believe Alexis Sánchez, Theo Walcott, Lucas Pérez and Danny Welbeck can be that man, instead of Olivier Giroud.

      Again, I’m grateful to Olivier Giroud for all he brings to the team in terms of physical presence, goals, assists and contribution at both ends of the pitch but I believe we should have a different approach to create more chances and be less predictable for our opponents.


  2. onyeka September 6, 2016 at 7:59 pm #

    Just hope that the attacking force of Arsenal this season will terrify the opponents just as you said.Fast attacking players will bring one goals and Theo have improved just hope he doesn’t get distracted at all,Ox need to up his game more he can be a very important player too.I have big hope this season than before.You guys at the Gunnerstown are wonderful,doing well in your analysis of the team and players individually.

    • AndreaR September 7, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

      We share the same hope, Onyeka!
      Let’s see how the season unfolds and what choices Wenger will be making.

      Thanks for the compliments, I’m happy to share with the whole Gunners Town team, we’re doing our best to bring interesting points of view and topics about the Gunners.


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