Giroud & Alexis Need To Forge An Understanding To Elevate Arsenal
Match Preview – Arsenal vs Tottenham – Premier League – 8.11.15
After another midweek disappointment Arsenal fans will be hoping for another winning response from the Gunners. Arsenal passed the first test of this run of tricky fixtures with a 3-0 win over Swansea but crashed to a 5-1 defeat against Bayern in Munich. That may be a harsh assessment as the performance was not really deserving of a 5-1 defeat the way we deserved the same scoreline against Liverpool a few seasons ago.
Today is another opportunity for Arsenal to keep pace with City. It’s unlikely that Aston Villa, under the tutelage of ex-Gunner Remi Garde, will present much of a challenge to Pellegrini’s side so a win is essential for Arsenal today for more than bragging rights. It will also be my first live attendance of a North London Derby at the Emirates and I’m disgustingly excited about it.
The North London Derby is a trip into Dream Country with a belly full of Frobscottle. The aim is to catch a Golden Phizzwizard but we must always be weary of accidentally netting a Trogglehumper. Dreams of winning the Premier League can quickly turn into a nightmare where Arsenal watch Spurs win the league at the Emirates and then you travel home only to find Piers Morgan balls deep in your mother, who sadly is enjoying it, whilst your cuckolded father is sobbing in the corner as Piers rhythmically taunts him with each soul crushing thrust telling your mother “It’s good to see you’ve finally stopped accepting mediocrity”. And there’s a disturbing look into the darkest parts of my mind.
If you didn’t get the dream references I urge you to read the BFG by Roald Dahl or watch the film if you prefer.
My slightly obscure references are in honour of our very own BFG whom I believe can make a real difference today. Far too often his contribution is overlooked by people who rate footballers purely on their pace or outward effort. The sort of person who will slate Walcott for his technique but then bemoan the fact Giroud isn’t as quick as him. Who will say Gabriel is Per’s immediate replacement, Özil is lazy and claim Oxlade-Chamberlain is as good as Alexis on his day.
The match on Wednesday highlighted what he brings to the team that none of our other centre-backs do and that is world-class reading of the game. When we are caught out with poor application of the offside trap it’s easy for many to immediately blame Per, he is the slow one so of course it was him, except it is rarely, if ever, his fault. Koscielny and Gibbs are usually the ones at fault and even young Bellerin has been caught out a few times despite his Flash-like moving speed. Gabriel was the culprit on Wednesday for the first goal and none of them are anywhere near as slow as Mertesacker is.
His strength in reading the game means he doesn’t have to crunch into tackles or desperately lunge forward to spring an offside trap. He knows where to move, when to move and where his colleagues should be. Sure, he gets done by pace a few times a season but it’s surprisingly rare given the rapidity of the players he faces every week.
Mertesacker’s reading of the game and his organisational skills will be key against a Spurs side who have become more dangerous whilst scoring fewer goals. They are a more tactical side under Pochettino and are more than capable of seeing out a low-scoring game in their favour.
A key partnership will be the one between Giroud and Alexis. It may not be that clear in results but they go together like pineapple on pizza – sometimes it works but usually it’s an abomination. Okay, maybe my feelings about pineapple on pizza has led that analogy to a place I didn’t mean to take it. But the point is sound.
Giroud is yet to assist a single Alexis goal since the Chilean joined the club. Also, perhaps more tellingly, Alexis hasn’t registered a shot on target since Giroud came back into the starting XI. Possibly Alexis benefits more from the space created by Theo’s runs and Olivier’s more noticeable presence hinders Alexis’ propensity for ambulation somewhat. Perhaps it is Giroud’s one-touch style that doesn’t quite marry with Sanchez’s direct running approach. It might even be the loss of Ramsey which forces Sanchez deeper and restricts Giroud who misses his favourite partner in crime.
The lack of a defined relationship between these players isn’t massively affecting us on the pitch but an improved one could push us up a level. They are clearly both important to the team but they don’t connect with each other the way they do with other players. Özil is connected to Alexis and Giroud and possibly that helps link the team together but a direct connection could prove devastating.
We have an international break after this match and with it an opportunity for our players to convalesce and return fresh to continue their assault on the title. A win against Tottenham has never been more imperative in recent years. This isn’t a must not lose match, it’s a must win.
Arsenal could welcome back Koscielny and Ospina but sadly Bellerin is out for this one.
Arsenal from; Cech, Ospina, Macey, Chambers, Debuchy, Gabriel, Koscielny, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Monreal, Cazorla, Coquelin, Flamini, Reine-Adelaide, Özil, Campbell, Giroud, Alexis, Iwobi
Cech, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Özil, Alexis, Campbell, Giroud
I expect to see substitute appearances from Flamini, Reine-Adelaide and Chambers.
“It’s a game with a big importance in the table and psychologically it has a big meaning. It is always a special game and a game where you want to come out on top” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal (23.09.2015)
- Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal (07.02.2015)
- Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham (27.09.2014)
Arsenal Last 5
Spurs Last 5
Tottenham have the Premier League season’s longest unbeaten record having not lost in 10 matches. Mauricio Pochettino’s team have crept up the table into fifth place and have largely done so with their top scorer from last season looking off the pace and unlikely to score. No such luck going into this game as Harry Kane has rediscovered his touch scoring five in his last three games. Hopefully for the Gunners he’s emptied his reserves for at least this match.
The partnership between Kane and Eriksen is one that could tip the balance in this match. Eriksen lays them on and Kane scores them, without Eriksen the young England striker is relatively toothless so restricting Eriksen is the best way to nullify Spurs. How well Coquelin shackles Eriksen and Mertesacker controls Kane will largely determine the outcome of this match. Arsenal can score goals, we know this, and Spurs aren’t scoring as many as they once did so a low scoring game with a strong defensive display will grant the points to the Gunners.
- Arsenal has only lost twice in their last 18 home league matches
- Mesut Özil has the most assists in Europe this season (9)
- Tottenham have only won once away to Arsenal in their last 25 attempts stretching back to 1993
- Giroud has scored in 5 of his last 7 league outings
- He also has two goals in his last three games against Tottenham. So does Flamini.
- Özil has assisted four of Giroud’s six league goals this season
- Cech is one clean sheet shy of equalling David James’ league record
2-0 to Arsenal. Giroud and Alexis.
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