Tag Archives: Mesut Ozil

It's Giroud's fault we didn't win the Prem in 2016.Really? Hmmm…

The moment when it seemed to come together…

One of the more-pernicious myths out there is that it was Olivier Giroud’s fault that we failed to win the 2015-16 Prem title. Giroud was and remains a convenient scapegoat; after all, he did fail to score in fifteen consecutive matches from January to May as we slumped to a second place finish behind Leicester. In a year in which 81 points was enough to win the Prem, we finished on…71. Surely, a striker who scored just 16 goals all season deserves the brunt of the blame, if not all of it? With the international break upon us, let’s revisit this hoary old cliche.

Let’s get one thing clear here. Giroud was only ever a decent striker, not nearly good enough to elevate our squad to win a title even in a season in which so many other clubs faltered. Like many players, he was not as bad as his critics insisted and not as good as his defenders maintained. Scapegoating someone is easy, convenient, and efficient..and frequently inaccurate. In Giroud’s defense, he was our only fit striker for most of the season. Welbeck would miss most of the season after knee surgery, and Sanogo was clearly not ready for prime time (Prem time? Nah…). Giroud therefore logged heavy minutes for across the Prem, Champions League (sigh…), FA Cup, and even the League Cup after having done the same in a busy summer for France at Euro 2016 and in international friendlies during the 2015-16 campaign. Simply put, the man got run into the ground, and the real wonder is how he finished the season without collapsing.

So, yes, he suffered a goal drought—but, of those fifteen matches, he only played more than 25 minutes eight times because Welbeck was finally fit. He became the de facto starter and Giroud went to the bench. it might have been nice for Giroud to play the role of super-sub, coming on late to exploit weakened defenders, but he could only do that if others around him could create the chances. 

This was the season in which Mesut Özil offered 15 assists in our first 19 matches, only to finish with 19. Maybe Özil didn’t feel it was right to match or break Henry’s record of 20? I think we might have forgiven him if it had lead to us winning the Prem. However, he’s not the only one who faltered. 

Aaron Ramsey, just two years removed from that scintillating 10-goal, 9 assist season, reverted to a milder form, offering just five goals and four assists. The current squad includes two players who have already surpassed that goals contribution: Jesus (five goals, five assists) and Saka (four goals, six assists). It’s looking like Ødegaard, Martinelli, and Xhaka will all overtake Ramsey’s total as well, and we’ve only played 14 matches.

On to Theo Walcott. Walcott only chipped in with five goals and three assists, with just two goals and no assists at all from Boxing Day to the end of the season. That’s eighteen matches for a man who always wanted to play through the middle to show that he could. He, like Ramsey and Özil, failed to raise their games as Giroud wilted and Welbeck struggled to fill his boots.

In the end, it was only Alexis Sánchez who seemed both willing and able to rise to the occasion, doing his level-best to drag this squad, kicking and screaming, towards the top of the table. Seven of his 13 goals and three of his five assists came in the last ten matches of the season. Most of them either saved or secured points for us, but it was clearly not enough.

None of this absolves Giroud of his own failings. However, it should offer enough context to lend a little more nuance to the legacy of that season. Did Giroud fail? Yes. Did others around him fail as well? Yes, clearly. I’ll spare you the tired bromides about it taking a team to win the title.

There are plenty of other reasons to scorn the buteur du charme, such as his taunting of Arsenal after he won the Europa League with Chelsea, but singling him out as the reason for our failure to win the Prem misses the mark. Anyone still willing to insist that it was Giroud’s fault should feel free to let me have it with both barrels. Bring it on.

At long last, Vieira returns to Arsenal!

It’s true, and not for the first time. Some are saying that he may soon be here to stay. Not me, though. That’s a bit of madness, but it’s understandable, such is Vieira’s legendary status, Arsenal’s difficulty in finding his “heir”, and the fact that we find ourselves mired midtable, just three points clear of Monday’s visitors. Of course, on Vieira’s first return to Arsenal, his erstwhile friend, colleague, and compatriot Robert Pirès greeted him with a somewhat impertinent tackle that left Vieira frustrated as Pirès launched a counter that saw Henry feed Fabregas for the opening goal in a 2-0 win, taking us one step closer to that 2006 Champions League final. Ever since Vieira left, we’ve hungered for someone to fill the role from which he dominated and domineered. Ever since Wenger left, many have wondered if Vieira could return as Arsenal’s manager. Come Monday, we have have more (or less) to wonder about.

For those doubting Arteta’s stewardship, Vieira’s visit must feel tantalising. He is, after all, a club legend and one of the best midfielders of his era. While we’ve had goalscorers (van Persie, Alexis, Aubameyang…) and playmakers (Özil) who could at least remind us of brighter days, we’ve never found that dominant, box-to-box midfielder who could disrupt opponents’ attacks, launch our own attacks, and get into the box to score. Abou Diaby showed flashes of it before Dan Smith ruined his career. There were rumours of us signing Michael Carrick, Xabi Alonso,or Yaya Touré , but of course none of that came to pass. Ramsey showed the occasional flashes but wasn’t enough of a defender to really fit the bill. There are hopes that Thomas will help us forget Vieira if only by being an upgrade on the likes of Xhaka, Coquelin, and other forgettable players.

More to the point, though, is that many are looking at Monday’s match as a showcare for Vieira’s heir but for Arteta’s, um, abdication? Sorry. I kind of painted myself into a corner with the rhyming, and nothing quite rhymes with “Arteta”. Anything less than a confident win for Arsenal will increase calls for his sacking, presumably to pave the way for Vieira to slot in…as if he doesn’t have a contract of his own to deal with. More to the point again, though, is that Vieira’s managerial CV is only slightly longer than Arteta’s, and his performance has hardly impressed. Yes, yes, he did do quite well with New York City FC, but his record at an actual club, Nice, where he lasted just a season and a half as Nice were eliminated from the Coupe de France in the round of 64 and from the Coupe de la Ligue in the round of 16, finished bottom of their Europa League group, and lost five matches across all competitions.

It’s quite likely that Vieira will prove to be a good or even great manager, but there isn’t much in the way of evidence of that yet. His Crystal Palace side haven’t really impressed yet, other than a 3-0 win over Tottenham due in some small part to Tottenham being reduced to ten men for the last half hour (during which time Palace scored all three of their goals). Vieira does seem to have the makings of a good manager. He doesn’t seem to project the kind of imperial arrogance that so many great players have, the kind of arrogance that makes it hard to communicate effectively with less-talented players. Very few great players go on to become great or even good managers. Instead, it seems that it’s the pretty good players who become the best managers. In time, Vieira may be one of those who bucks the trends. I wish him well. 

Just not on Monday. 

Arsenal 3-1 Leicester—Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

After a tepid first 30 minutes to start the match in which Leicester not only scored but looked likely to score again, Arsenal finally came alive as Özil found an equaliser just before halftime. On the hour, Aubameyang came on and almost immediately bagged a brace, latching onto Bellerín’s pass (from an absolutely perfect through-ball from Özil) and then tapping home from Özil himself, who had started the move by dummying to Lacazette and slipping through the defense to find Lacazette’s pass. Özil is now the highest-scoring German in Prem history—Klinsmann had 29—and Arsenal have now won ten in a row! Let’s get down to the poll…

Arsenal 2-0 Watford—Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

Arsenal won its seventh in a row, bouncing Deeney’s Hornets out 2-0 courtesy of an own-goal (or was it a Lacazette goal?) and another from Özil, and it’s starting to feel like we are building actual chemistry and momentum, enough to start perhaps believing that Emery is making progress in
rebuilding the squad around his philosophy. Whatever it is, it’s enough to see us keep pace with Tottenham and Man City, who each won, and create space between us and Man U, who (savor this) lost. Well, enough. Get down to the poll!

Arsenal 4-2 Vorksla—Vote for Player Ratings & MOTM!

Arsenal opened its Europa League campaign on a lightning-bolt of a counter-attack when Mkhitaryan
pounced on a wayward pass and released Iwobi into space behind’s Vorksla’s back line. Welbeck slotted a cross through the area that Aubameyang pounced on to score. That carried us into halftime up 1-0, and it wasn’t long after that Welbeck nodded home from Mkhitaryan’s cross to make it 2-0. It wasn’t long before Auba found his second goal—and Mkhi his second assist—and the romp was on. Özil came on and quickly found a goal to make it 4-0, and the only pressing question was whether a clean sheet was in the offing. The answer: nope. Ah, well. Let’s enjoy the win for what it is, and get down to the poll!