Wednesday , 26 July 2017
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Cannon Fodder: Sunderland’s deconstruction

Hello happy campers…. Dare I say that yesterday was a good day?

Three more tasty points to fuel the (kind of) inexorable march of the Arsenal war machine as we deliver a sound thrashing in the guise of a footballing lesson to Di Canio and his motley crew of footballing comedians.

But the three points apart, Ozil played! And What an Ozilicious debut it was??!!!

THAT GOAL!!! His delicious first touch followed by that perfectly weighed ball into the box gift-wrapped and delivered with champagne to Oli who finished with aplomb. Mesut shone only in patches but still managed to create three clear cut chances (apart from the goal) through the game, a stunning feat in itself! The fact that he outdid Ramsey (one), Wilshere (two) and Giroud (two) in spite of being slightly ill is stunning to say the least. In spite of my misgivings, Ozil dealt with the physicality of Sunderland rather decently too. Though under their fascist regime, Sunderland employ a slightly more civilized brand of football when compared to the art under display during the reign of Fartin O’Nail, the Stadium of Light has not been a pleasant hunting ground in the recent past and not the ideal game to debut in. Ozil managed more than admirably.
All things considered, it’s hard not to wet yourself picturing Ozil and Cazorla mixing it up in the midfield.

As fantastic as Ozil was, but I’m not going into the detailed nook and crannies of his game, the knee-jerk merchants at billion other football websites will do that for you lot.

Instead let’s talk about Ramsey, the undisputed man of the match who took it upon himself to pick Sunderland by the scruff of their necks and beat them into submission with two punishing strikes. But the goals was only the icing on the cake, the Welshman was a dynamo in the midfield whether it was smashing Sunderland’s build-up play or circulating the ball all over the pitch to try and release an enthusiastic Wilshere or the devastating Ozil (too much?). Long have I been a fan of the young midfielder and there were times wherein I gave into to the despair that he would never be the midfielder of lore that he was once touted to be. But he has risen out of the ashes of his shawcrossing like some pissed off footballing phoenix back with a vengeance and hell-bent on making fools of his detractors.

While it looks like he won’t be one of those players with “flare”, he looks like he’ll be the head of Arsenal’s engine room for a while to come if he keeps this up. His pitch map of passes speaks volumes:

Ramsey's Passes, {Borrowed from the excellent www.fourfourtwo.com/statzone}

Ramsey’s Passes, {Borrowed from the excellent www.fourfourtwo.com/statzone}

Notice that his ‘presence’ was felt ALL over the pitch, right from our third to the central midfield to the attacking third. With a pass completion rate of over 92% he was easily Arsenal’s most influential player on the day, no mean feat in a team that boats of Ozil, Wilshere and Theo in the midfield.

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of extolling his virtues. After all what’s not to love? His work-rate? Or his complete lack of fear? Or his mature level headed-ness? Or his slowly returning confidence? Or his ability to keep things simple rather than attempt the spectacular when things aren’t looking too bright (Jack are you listening?) ?

As brilliant as the Welsh warrior was, he would have suffered a torrid time without the services of Flamini whose influence grew as the game progressed. During the first 45, the aggressive and silky play between Ozil, Ramsey to the attackers ensured that he was left with little to do other than patrol the midfield and grin smugly at the slack jawed look on Adam Johnson’s distinctly punchable face.

Post the break, two crucial events soon changed the balance of power in the game: Firstly, Sunderland regained confidence after their shitty little penalty and secondly, Di Canio (probably) instructed his team to try and mark both Ozil and Wilshere out of the game in a vain attempt to try and jam our main creative outlets.

Somewhere at this point, Matty started to shift into gear and impress himself upon the game. His methodology was simple yet elegant: ensure that the ball spent minimal time in the central midfield which was turning into a warzone after Di Canio executed Project Suffocate.  Allow me to describe Project Suffocate by means of a pitch map that shows each players influence:

Sunderland's Presence, {Borrowed from the excellent www.fourfourtwo.com/statzone}

Sunderland’s Presence, {Borrowed from the excellent www.fourfourtwo.com/statzone}

 

Sunderland’s map shows that the majority of their players concentrating in the center of the pitch. Most of Sunderland’s XI decided to agglutinate to try and choke the living crap out our passing game. This meant that their strikers Fletcher and Altidore had moved into deeper roles with instructions to unleash local Man-City reject, Johnson who was supposed to be their pacey threat out wide. Diakite whose mere presence is a promise of violence also began to stray higher up the pitch to try and contribute to Project Suffocate.

Ramsey & Flamini combatted this by simple short passes that moved the ball out wide to Jenkinson to relieve the pressure. My only complaint is that the French midfielder is far too one-sided, oddly he endeavored to pass only to his right to try and release Carl while Gibbs was often left high and dry which in turn meant that the left side was often left inactive while the right was put under more strain than necessary. Flamini’s pitch map of passes shows a distinct concentration of activity on the right:

 

Flam's passing {Borrowed from www.fourfourtwo.com/statzone}

Flam’s passing {Borrowed from www.fourfourtwo.com/statzone}

Perhaps one could argue that Wilshere’s tendency to drift right and Ozil’s fatigue contributed to Flamini’s skewed ball distribution but I sincerely doubt that Wenger will so accepting. Though he is but a stand-in for Art but he performed admirably in a tough game so credit where it’s due.

I’d like to say a few more words on Kos’s judgement or rather distinct lack of it. He rarely puts a leg out of place but when he does screw-up, the consequences are usually devastating. PERhaps Mert is the calming influence that keeps him from going bat-shit insane but that is a weak excuse in itself. Kudos to Sagna who was his usual bad-ass self and filled in admirably, but a ball-playing defender he is not.

Up next is our mid-week game at the Stade Velodrome (gotta admit that it’s a rather cool name) at Marseille. In the parlance of urban slang: “It’s gonna be a bitch.” Considering that our group is more than a little challenging, anything less than a win could prove devastating to our chances of progressing in the Champions League. But we’ll sort’em out, we are the bloody ARSENAL!

About Varun Chand

Profile photo of Varun Chand
Full time nothing doer and part-time Engineer (supposedly). I really hate the Arsenal and that's why I spend so much of time writing/talking/discussing/debating about them. I enjoy mocking YOU because it's fun.

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