Tag Archives: Alexis

Norwich 1-1 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM

Things got off to an inauspicious start when Laurent Koscielny came up lame in the game’s eighth minute, but it was all
one-way traffic for Arsenal, leading up to a delicious goal from Mesut Özil, assisted by Alexis, to open the scoring. However, the Canaries found a toehold and an equaliser just before halftime. Things went from bad to worse when Alexis succumbed to an injury at the 60′ mark, meaning that we’ve now lost two of our best defenders and one of our best attackers in the span of one week. Thus depleted, we lacked the incisiveness or confidence against a Norwich side that seemed content to nick a point from looked on paper to be three points to Arsenal.  Well, enough said for now. Give our lads what they deserve in the poll below…

Return of Welsh Jesus: Ramsey resurrected against Watford…

The story of this one is that we eventually wore down a well-drilled, defensively tenacious, and physical side, one that bullied and pressed us up and down the pitch for the better part of an hour…only to fade down the stretch, as evinced by our scoring twice in under five minutes just after that hour-mark, and a third time shortly thereafter to close out the match. That third one, unnecessary though it was to the result, and beyond what it might mean for goal-difference in the long run, might just open the floodgates for a player who has beaten his head bloody against those gates for months, if not longer. On this day, Aaron Ramsey’s squibbled goal mattered not a whit. Going forward, though, it could be massive.

Ever since his miraculous 2013-14 season, Ramsey has wandered the wilderness, searching in vain for the form that saw him score more goals in one season (16) than he had in all of his previous seasons combined. Along the way, we’ve had to watch and worry as he pressed harder and harder to score goals at the same rate or, failing that, in the same fashion. There was a time when it seemed there was no shot Ramsey shouldn’t take, as he would almost certainly put it on frame, if not past the keeper. Ever since that glorious goal that delivered us to victory over Hull in the 2014 FA Cup Final, however, Ramsey has become a vagabond, even a pariah, as his quest to score appeared to mutate into a fixation that transcends the team.

Ironically, his last goal for Arsenal came some 1,103 minutes ago, give or take a few stoppage-time minutes, against none other than Hull back in May 2015. Even before then, however, the worrisome signs had already emerged: the ill-advised shots from distance. The overly-fancy flicks. Fluffed chances from in close. It seemed all to clear that Ramsey was trying too hard—and if he couldn’t actually score, well, dammit, he’d at least make the misses look complicated enough to earn a sympathetic nod.

Fast forward from 4 May 2015 to 17 October 2015, and the promise and peril of Ramsey’s pursuit become all too clear. Yes, in the 28th minute, he struck the woodwork, but it was a glancing blow, and it was from inside the six-yard box, but he really should have done better, shouldn’t he? Who misses by going over the cross bar from five yards out, after all? Ramsey’s critics were quick to light torches and wave pitch-forks, seeing further evidence to confirm that this is clearly not the Ramsey of 2013-14 but the Ramsey of earlier years, the one who cut an increasingly frustrating presence on the pitch as he tried in vain to help us forget Fàbregas.

Let’s revisit that “wasted” chance if only for a moment. Those who slate Ramsey for failing overlook the work he did to make the moment possible in the first place. Yes, he might have done better, but he was attempting a sliding volley at full speed with the tightest of angles against an onrushing keeper. That he glanced it high off the crossbar isn’t a character-flaw. It’s a sign of ambition and effort. One element that’s remained constant even as his finishing has fluctuated has been that effort. He never stops. On the upside, this means that he does get himself into scoring positions others can’t or won’t. On the downside, this also means he’s going to fail more-visibly than many others do—just as he did in the early going on Saturday.

For our second goal, some may heave brickbats at him for his tepid shot, the one that was deflected to Özil, who then found Giroud for the goal. Will those same critics credit Ramsey for fighting to win a 50-50 on the sideline to keep the attack alive in the first place? Probably not, but that matters less than the longer term.

When he did finally score against Watford, Ramsey ended a drought that had lasted almost as long as Alexis’s drought—if only on the calendar. Before exploding for a hat-trick against Leicester, Alexis hadn’t scored since 30 May 2015—ironically, in the FA Cup final, just as Ramsey had. Upon his return after a summer off in which he exerted untold amounts of energy for his club, Alexis seemed to be pressing almost too hard to score, overdoing what once might have been simple. He’s now tallied seven goals and an assist in four outings.

I’m not saying that Ramsey will be scoring by similar bucketloads, but there is something to be said for scoring that one goal. The pressure’s off. He doesn’t have to press quite so hard to prove that he can still do what he did in that one magical season. Without that pressure, he can and should feel that he can play with more freedom. One magical season can earn a player an albatross along with the accolades. Here’s hoping that Ramsey’s goal liberates him from that burden.

After all, we could do a lot worse than to support a player who’s given and is giving his all for the club…

Reading 1-2 Arsenal: Vote for Player Ratings/MotM

Alexis found his way through after a brilliant pass from Mesut Özil, but it was a scrappy first-half that ended 1-0. Shortly after half-time, sloppy defending gave Reading’s Garath McCleary a chance to squib a shot through Gibbs’s legs and past Szczęsny, who really should have done much better. From there, things opened up as Reading gained confidence. Gabriel hit the post with a header, and Ramsey had a golden chance in the 83rd but hit the post from close range while being mugged. That’s where regulation ended. In extra-time, Reading dropped deep to hold out for penalties, to the point that Coquelin was subbed off for Walcott as we pressed for the winner. Of all the ways to find a goal, Alexis’s shot squirted past Federici, who had been massive throughout. The Royals came out angry, though, and created a few chances for themselves. Ultimately, though, they didn’t have quite enough to overcome the deficit, and Arsenal are through to the final. Give our lads what they deserve in the ratings-poll below…

Withdraw a Chilean, add a Brazilian, and win?

As we go into our clash on Sunday against Aston Villa, news is that Alexis has picked up a “hamstring concern”—Arsène’s words, not mine—and may be rested. More news will come out on his status—Alexis’s, not Arsène’s—perhaps on Saturday. Whether he’s injured or this is more of an opportunity to rest the cheeky Chilean, we’ll have to hoep that others can pick up the slack his absence may leave. After all, his 18 goals and 10 assists to date represent and enormous portion of the team total. Scoring against Villa may be tougher than their league-position suggests; despite sitting 15th, just points above the drop-zone, the Villans have conceded just 25 goals, the same that we have.

At the other end, we’ll have far less to worry about from Villa, as they’ve only scored 11 Prem goals to date and haven’t score any since doing so at Selhurst Park on 2 December 2013. Their anemic offense might receive a boost through the recent addition of Carles Gil, freshly signed from Valencia after a successful loan spell at Elche—the crafty midfielder has already scored once (against Bournemouth in the FA Cup) and could a sorely needed creativity to an attack that has relied so extensively on Christian Benteke. A recently-complted loan deal for Scott Sinclair adds options to Lambert’s side, but our own recent addition might still find time to get a run-out. Gabriel Paulista, signed earlier in this week, is apparently is “ready to go”, according to Arsène, after seeing him train with the squad.

There’s a bit of precedent there from Nacho Monreal’s arrival in January 2013. The move, accelerated after the injury to Kieran Gibbs, thrust Monreal into the staring lineup against Stoke just two days after the deal was completed. He did well enough as we held off Stoke in a 1-0 win. At the time, Monreal spoke almost no English and certainly had had very little time, if any, to learn anything about his role alongside Koscielny and Mertesacker and behind Diaby and Arteta, or again the following week when he played alongside Sagna and Mertesacker and behind Arteta and Ramsey, or again the following week when he had Mertesacker and Vermaelen next to him and Diaby and Arteta as DMs. Three matches, seven different teammates. Gabriel, while joining in similar circumstances, looks to join a somewhat more settled defensive unit. Even if the defensive midfield is a bit depleted, he could come on later in the match for Koscielny and have the Spanish-speaking Monreal on his left and the Spanish-speaking Ospina minding the net.

If we can take a lead into the second half, and if we have enough of a lead with a sub or two to burn, why not give Gabriel a run-out? Language might prove to be less a barrier when compared to positional experience, and Gabriel is a “specialist at centre-back”, says Arsène, and that might mark an upgrade over playing Debuchy or Monreal out of position, for as fluent as they each may be in English. Gabriel learned Spanish in less than a year after his move to Villareal, and he’s been described as obsessed with improving. As one such marker, his market-value has more than tripled since he originally joined Villareal, as shown by the fee they paid 18 months ago (€3.5m/£2.6m) and the one they received a few days ago (€15m/£11.2). It’s just one measure, but it does provide some degree of insight into the player’s rise.

With a tense North London Derby looming, I’d love to see us see off Villa while giving Koscielny a bit of a rest, even if it is just 15 or 20 minutes on Sunday. That sore Achilles of his could use all the rest it can get, and the sooner that Gabriel beds in, the better for all involved. 

Middle Earth 3-0 Mordor: setting things right again…

By rights, it should have been 3-0 inside of five minutes. But for a pair of high-class saves from Begovic inside of five minutes, Stoke would have been on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline. As it stands, Begovic was the only one standing between Arsenal and a proper mauling, and one well-deserved. Normally, I try to stay above the tribal fray, but I have to admit that Arnautovic’s shove on Debuchy—which occured well-after the ball was out of bounds and Arnautovic himself had both feet beyond the byline. Debuchy comes away with a dislocated shoulder, and Stoke emerge with intent announced: win or lose, we are here to injure. With that in mind, a 3-0 scoreline is all the more satisfying.

Perhaps more than Tottenham or Chelsea, Liverpool or Man U, this fixture grips me more than any other. I’ve tried to see it from Stoke’s point of view, and I’ve suggested that Shawcross was guilty of nothing more than bad timing, but I just can’t ignore the body of evidence that this squad has turned in. At times, it starts to feel as if this squad will literally turn in a body as evidence, shrugging their shoulders nonchalantly as if to say, “what? It’s a body. Deal with it.”

It’s not revenge but justice then to see us win as we did. First goal, scored from a set-piece, on a header. Koscielny scooped up a failed clearance, tapped it out to Alexis, and curled in to the box to nod it home. Ace. Shortly after that, of course, came Arnautovic’s shove. We’ll shrug it off, but Debuchy will be sidelined. Something in me wishes that the transgressor should sit out just as long as the victim, but that would open up the door on all sorts of hijinks. Pity. Referee Jonathan Moss certainly didn’t see the shove or he would have seen fit to address it; I’ll have slept soundly knowing that his match-report will not mention the event, freeing the FA to sanction Arnautovic after the fact. While I sleep, I may dream of pigs that can fly. Don’t wait up.

Fine. So one goal would not be enough, not when Stoke seemed hell-bent on punishing us. So be it. Enter Alexis. Not content to have assisted Koscielny’s goal (giving him 16 goals and 10 assists across all competitions), Alexis won the ball, dodged a reckless N’Zonzi tackle, ran onto to Cazorla’s pass, and outdanced Shawcross in order to go near-post to beat Begovic. Vintage Arsenal. Stoke had tried to bully and wrestle us off the ball but failed—and would continue to do so until late in the second half when Moss finally remembered that he had some conveniently-colored cards in his pocket—and it was therefore all the more delicious to see that our second goal came on such a technical display. A 17th goal for #17 while beating #17. I do like prime numbers.

Still, I can’t help but feel for Begovic. He turned in a number of nifty saves to keep the final score far-closer than the run of play suggested, but he was victimized on Alexis’s free-kick, which squirted through the wall and hit the post, only for Begovic himself to nudge it across the line as he tried to save.

That’s about all there was in it, aside from a Peter Crouch, uh, “breakaway” that seemed to take roughly 11 minutes to unfold. Walcott took a moment to remind us that (a), he’s back, and (b) he’s been out of action for most of the last 12 months.

Still, there’s enough in it to see us climb to fifth, just a point behind Man U and three behind Southampton. Currently if not comfortably in the rearview would be Tottenham, West Ham, and Liverpool. Whichever way you slice it, it’s three points gained. Justice done.