Having watched Arsenal get overrun against the Bavarian machine Bayern Munich and those pesky spuds from N17 in the space of five days has left me with a feeling of anxiousness and confusion about our ability to perform when it matters. The feeling of anxiousness comes from seeing our central midfield axis of Santi and Le Coq become ineffective and lethargic. They look like an out of shape Sylvester Stallone chasing a chicken before “AAAAADDDDDRRRIIIAAANNN” has told him to win it for her. And then the confusion comes from the fact I’ve seen these two be unbreakable and unflappable against City away. Along with Bayern and United at home.
Then a thought – like a bolt of lightning sent down from Dennis Bergkamp himself struck me – there’s a player missing from these performances, one ‘Aaron Armando Welsh Jesus Ramsey’; the man I was thinking was the weak link in our midfield at the start of the season. I pined for the Ox to be involved on the right, give us width and excitement I typed as if it was second nature. Well I was wrong and I’m sorry for belittling your effectiveness Aaron. Against Bayern in Munich we just seemed unable to cope with the numbers and energy in front of our back four. On one hand it’s understandable they are the best team on the planet at the minute, with a plethora of world class footballers in every department. Did you see their bench? Honestly it was ridiculous. They had Arjen Robben on it, for me the third best player in the world on his day. So I didn’t jump on the injury bandwagon for our defeat and simply put it down to the fact they’re regrettably a far superior side.
Then the north London derby came about. A game I’ve never liked because it’s always a harder game for us than our more competitive rivals just because of geography. However the pattern from the Bayern game continued and our midfield duo were out fought but not by Thiago Alacantra, Xabi Alonso, Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal. It was Dele Alli, Eric Lamela and Moussa Dembele- good players but not great players like the pre mentioned. Then it dawned on me without Ramsey’s world class engine to get back in from the right to help the axis of doom in the centre they are left isolated and over ran. Not being able to get a grip on the game. It’s not something Joel, Mesut or Alexis can do, yes they all work hard but not with the effectiveness and intelligence the Welshman does it with defensively. He covers the right ground in the right areas rather than just ground.
With the cogs in my head doing over time I turned to ‘Sqawka’ to see the stats. First off I wanted to compare his defensive stats compared to Joel and the Ox on average per game. They proved my eyes to be correct, Rambo wins on average two tackles per game compared to Chamberlain’s 0.3 and Joel’s 0.33 with also 1.78 interceptions compared to 0.6 and 0.33 respectively. Unfortunately it’s not only defensively he usurps his right flank rivals it’s also in ball retention. Key to any Wenger side. The Welshman averages 61 passes per game compared to Chambos 16.8 and the Costa Ricans 7.33. That ability to look after the ball is crucial for relieving pressure on the back four and starting attacking periods of play.
Successful teams all need effective conduits between the thirds of the pitch and I believe Ramsey’s one of these. This is what Ramsey can do, he can win the ball in the middle third and release it accurately in the final third. Santi’s very good at dribbling and passing out of dangerous situations through the thirds. However, he’s not the best tackler and never will be, meaning he needs Ramsey to pick up his slack because Coquelin can’t do it by himself.
Now I don’t think everyone’s calls for the Ox on the right were totally misplaced. In fact I think against the lesser sides in the premier league at home we can afford to have less defensive stability just because naturally we will be able to risk losing the ball on the flanks because opposition players won’t be as effective in possession. And a certain young Spaniard has somewhat quenched our thirst for width on the right hand side. He is superb going up and down the pitch, fast and strong. Don’t get me wrong he’s not Cafu just yet but he’s improving at a remarkable rate. The big games though we need the Welshman’s engine and intelligence to counter balance Santi’s defensive deficiencies for the team and the diminutive Andalusian to thrive and appear solid.
Another player who could do his job effectively is Jack Wilshere however he’s injured as well at the minute which meant these two games we didn’t have many options other than what we went with. Personally I would have gone with Iwobi in the derby just because I believe a local lad can really raise his game in a derby a la Lansbury and dare I even mouth it but danny rose (he doesn’t get capitals). But besides that we really were hamstrung because Arsene, like the majority of supporters, doesn’t believe Flamini or Arteta are at the required standard to start these games. Which unfortunately makes me have to ask why there wasn’t another more defensive orientated midfielder signed this summer? They would have been worth their weight in gold these last two games. A Schneiderlin, Vidal or Khedira would have made the world of difference tucked in alongside Santi and Coquelin. It could have spared our embarrassment in Munich and put us two points ahead of City going into the international break.
But I won’t dwell on the transfer trophy because 12 games gone we’re in the hunt for a real trophy – the one I want so much, the Barclays Premier League. Sorry to be cliché but titles are not won in November but they are lost. And we need our players back to compete first and foremost. Ramsey, Bellerin, Walcott are all crucial, I also think Wilshere can be our long-term central midfield partner to Coquelin. Unfortunately though, bar Bellerin, the other three are all injury prone and until our fitness record improves we’re going to be on tenter hooks all season. So strap in tight Gooners it’s going to be a wild ride but just maybe a fruitful one!