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Points To Ponder

Phew - that Villa game was closer than it needed to be. Two goals in a minute is pretty great but a two goal lead is far from game over territory and when you see players trying flicks and back heels after thirty minutes away from home you do wonder about the mentality of the team. Villa were desperately poor and while we certainly deserved to win there were more than a few negatives in our team performance.

Santi was once again useless and really looks like a player likely to make way should we indeed get Draxler at the end of the season. He hasn`t come close to his form of last season and the excuse of needing games gets a little thinner each week. His stupidity could well have cost us and it was good to see Mert reading him the riot act. Hopefully Santi cops on and ups his performance level but for me a little time spent on the bench would do him no harm. I like Gnarby as a player but felt he was the wrong option last night as Poldi should have started. We don`t really have players who always think of shooting first and against a team that defended deep like Villa Poldi would certainly have had more attempts than Gnarby. Maybe Wenger is trying to make Lucas angry in the hope that he explodes into games with a point to prove. I`m not sure about this tactic but our German looks pretty angry. Ox coming back gives us more options in the middle of the park and I think we`ve missed Ox`s directness at times so he`s a nice option for us.

Jack divides opinion among fans and while some see him as the second coming I see a good footballer who thinks he is already a great one. He seems to think that he has the physical strength to take on any player and while this aspect of his attitude is admirable his insistence of trying to beat one or two players every time he gets the ball is not. Regardless of fighting spirit he`s a small guy and he is too young to have yet developed that upper body strength that, regardless of hours spent in the gym, really only comes towards the mid to late twenties. Jack and Flamini are both about the same build (coming in at a relatively light 66kg) and I`d bet that Jack has the better defined abs and pecs but I know who my money would be on if they both went for the same ball. The amount of time a player of Jack`s ability spends on the ground is worrying, he needs to release the ball quicker and avoid the physical contests more. I think he has it in him and certainly looks a better player in the middle than out on the wing but if we had a fully fit squad I`d struggle to find a starting place for him in it. But while we have injuries he will play and his goal and assist last night showed us what he can do, more of that Jack and less of the other stuff please.

It`s funny to be critical of both our goal scorers last night but despite scoring I felt that Giroud had another poor game. Maybe poor is the wrong phrase here. I think by Giroud`s standards he had an average game but if you compare him to a central striker in a team hoping to win the league he was poor. It`s hard not to like Giroud, he has a tremendous attitude, his work rate is top notch and he really must be a real pain in the arse to defend against in that he never allows the defenders to have a rest. Missed attempts don`t seem to get to him at all and he could have a game where he misses five great chances only to score in injury time. It`s admirable in a way but I do wonder if it`s enough? He had a great chance after five minutes when Sagna whipped in a perfect cross which Giroud met, pretty much unopposed only about seven or so yards out, he headed it about five yards wide. Now thankfully we were playing Villa and they were so poor for seventy odd minutes that you pretty much knew we`d get more chances but against top teams these type of chances come once a game, and Giroud blew it as he has done before against top teams. I know that

he`s not at the same level as Suarez or RVP or Augero but that doesn`t mean that we shouldn`t judge him against these guys. What we`ve been great at doing all season is beating the teams that we should be beating and Giroud is fine in these games as even if he misses one chance another will come his way later on. The problem for us is that both City and Chelsea have upped their game and they too are now beating the teams they should be beating. They, like us, are now consistent. I hope that it doesn`t but it could come down to how the three teams do in the infamous "6 poniters" coming up in February and March. Question is will Giroud be good enough to decide these games? My fear is that he will not.

Ozil did what Ozil does. He moves the ball so well and while he is never going to be a player that will dominate a match what we do have is a player who can win a match with a moment. People who say that he drifts in and out of a game are correct but they also don`t understand what his role in the team is. His role is to be effective in those moments when he "drifts in". I don`t care if he does nothing for long periods of a game as long as he does something when it matters. Ozil is a match winner, a big game player, and should the league come down to the games against City and Chelsea I`m delighted that he`s playing in red and not blue.

The backline looked good again, they dealt with almost twenty minutes of balls being hoofed towards are penalty area and marking a pretty solidly built individual in Benteke and came out the other side. It wasn`t pretty defending by us and towards the end I would have liked us to keep the ball a bit more but we looked good again at the back, like we have done all season. The fact that I`m less nervous watching us defend a one goal lead this season than I was watching us two up last season say it all. Schzy, a keeper I always felt talked a better game than he played, has been particularly impressive this season, he seems to have matured and has really turned into someone reliable. And the fact that he loves baiting Spurs fans makes me like him even more.

We picked up a few injuries last night with Rocky and Nacho-Man both going off. Rocky`s nose looked pretty broken to me which means a week or two out before he can risk the Phantom of the Opera look. Nacho could be longer term, broken metatarsal is 6-8 weeks which would put him out for the season. We need Gibbs to stay fit as the prospect of our only backup centre back playing left back is a worrying one.

We have 3 more "winnable" games coming up (Fulham home, Soton away and Palace home) before we have a few tricky games in February and then a really tough run in March. I had hoped that we could have built up a bit of a buffer at the top by the end of this month but, thru no fault of our own, that currently doesn`t look likely which is unfortunate. The bar has been raised over the last few games and all three teams have responded. Despite our defeat in Manchester and dropping points at home to Chelsea our point return per game has actually risen from 2.19 to 2.29 and our ending points trend from 83 to 87. This is based from the first 16 games versus where we are today having played 21. The problem is that Chelsea have responded in kind (2.06 to 2.19) and Man City have been awesome (2.00 to 2.24). It`s going to be an incredibly close finish to the season and it looks increasingly likely that if we are going to win it we`ll have to win it the hard way.

The good news is that we have the back line and midfield to meet the challenge. It`s the forward line I`m worried about.

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The Journalist

Writer: Galway Gooner Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday January 14 2014

Time: 6:15PM

Your Comments

"Santi was once again useless..." 89 passes with 90% accuracy, won 3 out of 4 tackles, made of couple of good interceptions, and 5 decent defensive clearances in the second half when we were under pressure. He also made a couple of foolish passes one of which led to the goal and another earlier which put us under pressure. That's not enough to justify the hyperbole in describing him as useless.
Good article Galway. While you are nuanced in analysing the opposition in your scouting columns, you are far more abrupt and direct in analysing your own team! Sweeping generalisations about good players in our team are inaccurate as the view becomes highly subjective as opposed to your normally objective views on other issues.
Sorry GG have to agree with Amos. Whilst it was a poor game by Santi's high standards in that he gave a few passes away which we were punished for. He still has a lot more to offer over the season and in no way will he be sold come the summer. Giroud will never be the out out goal scorer such as the names you mentioned but he's a vital cog to this team, and he allows us to play. I think that once this team really do start to show confidence and dominance in their game come the summer Wenger will look for a world class striker to take us up a notch. Until then the big Frenchman is key to our play. Podolski did indeed cut a very frustrated figure on the bench when Ox was being subbed on, it's a shame because apart from Theo I believe him to be our best finisher, I also would of started him over Gnabry but I can see why Wenger done it. The balance of the team would not of been right, although Gnabry did not stand out as much as he did in previous games the whole Podolski thing is a bit weird. February and March...ouch!
How does one indent and leave a paragraph in the comment section? The whole block paragraph thing looks terrible, I think overall the comment section format on Vital Football could be done better! I blame the referees!
I call it the way i see it lads, if I'm wrong I'm always open to correction and am more than willing I'm wrong! I just happen to think that Santi had a dinner of a game last night and has, for whatever reason, been very disappointing all season. He was perhaps our best player last season and this season he's been pants! It's all just opinion and if it generates a bit of debate then all the better.
Galway Gooner
< P > without the spaces gives you a new paragraph.
Galway Gooner
Also turning off auto-correct, Santi had a stinker of a game, not a dinner of one!

Scout Reports are meant to be an impartial and critical look at the opposition, writing more specifically about Arsenal I admit that I do get more passionate!

Galway Gooner
Also turning off auto-correct, Santi had a stinker of a game, not a dinner of one!

Scout Reports are meant to be an impartial and critical look at the opposition, writing more specifically about Arsenal I admit that I do get more passionate!

Galway Gooner
The thing with stats is that they never really paint a true picture. Cazorla could have completed 100% of his passes and still have had absolutely no influence on the game whatsoever (I'm not saying that's what happened). But I do not remember him making any meaningful contributions in the game (again, what actually happend and what I remember could be two completely different things) in last nights match.
Was it this year he played in the Confederations cup? Either way the Spanish Globe Trotters do like an international game halfway across the world and Santi is usually involved. Not that that is an excuse, he played poorly but I think him and Ozil are yet to played to the full potential plus Santi is playing wide this season. Again, not an excuse really because they swap positions!

Paragraph check.

My paragraph check worked. Prepare to be bombarded!
Stats aren't meant to paint a picture - they are just data which you can join up with other information to form some sort of rational judgement. You can't really claim a player gave the ball away excessively if he has a pass completion rate of 90% - or that he did not make any meaningful contribution when he made more successful tackles than any midfielder with the exception of Flamini while also making as many defensive clearances and interceptions as he did. If a player makes a single but costly mistake in a game it can often disproportionately colour a view of his whole performance. It's worth taking a step back and asking whether that does paint the whole picture.
Do you think Santi was good last night Amos or good at all this season?
Galway Gooner
Again. Numbers don't paint the full picture unless you have all the information. If a player makes 97 passes back towards the goal keeper, yet when he's in a position to lay on three goals he makes a complete mess of each one, you could stil say his pass rate was 97% yet in reality his contribution was nil. Indeed with the tackle success rate .. his three tackles could have been easy tackles from a player maybe not in great control of the ball in almost neautral positions. Again, I'm not saying this is what happened just that stats are meaningless without seeing where these tackles and passes took place. As for GG refering to him as "useless" it's just a turn of phrase that really doesn't need to be taken so literally. Cazorla was, and has been pretty poor for the last couple of games.
Also, I think if a player makes a single, but costly mistake in the game his performance should rightly be coloured. If your errors are costing the team more than your positive contributions are giving to the side then that player is causing a problem. Jens Lehmann only made one mistake in the whole of the Champions League final :)
Santi has had good games this season, West Ham away for one, Liverpool at the Emirates another. He has been overshadowed by Ramsey and Ozil this season and has played on the flanks more so his role is slightly different now. As a left winger though he's about 500% better than Arshavin so it depends on what comparisons we're making. As for the number of passes (as with tackles, clearances and interceptions) you need to join that stat up with the chalkboards to see whether his passes were back to the keeper or not along with other data (such as key passes tally) to see whether any impressions are coloured unfairly. Fine if you wish to use terms like 'useless' figuratively but if you're going to exaggerate then it shouldn't be too surprising if someone picks up on it. The '500% better than Arshavin' was obviously an understatement. :)
Using similar but slightly different stats here's another appraisal of Cazorla's overall contribution in last night's game. Does it matter if a player is judged harshly I wonder?
OT - 2 assists for Cazorla all season seems pretty poor, but then the assists stat is another one that doesn't tell the whole story. He can only make the chance, not finish it too. Amos, do you have the "assist attempt" stat for Cazorla for the season? I always find that one a much more useful stat for the creative player.
I share GGs concerns about Giroud. You cannot fault his attitude and commitment, but I do&#324;t really believe that he makes others play our midfielders do not need that they need sharp movement in behind the opposition back four to get on to the clever angled passes that they can all make. Just cannot see giroud making the difference against any of the top six which is where the league will be decided. Would love to be proved wrong though!
The club's site gives key passes for the season as Ozil 48, Ramsey, Wilshere and Cazorla all on 26, Walcott on 23, Giroud on 22, Rosicky on 16 and Sagna on 13.
If there's a criticism against Giroud, it wouldn't be his movement or runs. His movements off the ball and quick exchanges have been a aspect of Arsenal's offensive play, the very reason the midfielders around him find much joy with him in the side. I see a positive in that even against the top sides, he has had opportunities (see Chelsea) so what he needs is composure and a "thick skin" (he reacts too badly to misses).

As for Santi, overall, he hasn't been at his last season's best, but we have to remember he didn't have a proper pre-season, had injury problems and has had to be shifted to the wings more often. As for last night, Benteke's goal could easily have come from an error by any other player (someone has to have made an error for a goal to be scored); maybe, Per could have been more alert to the presence of Benteke as the cross was made. Santi didn't have a fantastic game but in the circumstance with Villa having very quick players, you could see he was under instruction to help the full back and he took that job very seriously, maybe too seriously as it turned out with his error. He did well or Wenger would take him off. Podolski (GG's favourite for that position) is a different sort of player and would not have been a right fit for that game, given the need for defending and graft. Besides, he isn't fully fit and there many more games which would suit his style.
For me, Cazorla is an effective player; maybe, we need to observe how he gets attention from at least, two players, every time he gets the ball in the opponents' half. If he doesn't strike fear in the opposition, that won't be the case. We have to realize he is better known this season and getting kicked a lot in a World Cup year.
What distinguishes an argument backed by statistics from one based on opinion is that with the former conclusions are readily abandoned when standard assumptions (in statistics) are violated. With the latter though, as is in GG's piece, we either walk away repeating such opinions and thus creating an echo chamber or we have no points to ponder. How do we respond to "Santi was once again useless and really looks like a player likely to make way should we indeed get Draxler ..." Draxler arrives and the same cycle begins just as it was for BFG, Kos, and countless others. We should by all means pick apart the performances and mistakes of the team and individual players. We should have and keep our opinions but we should agree on a common standard of evaluation. Good data helps in this direction.
For reference on Santi;

Last season 12 goals and 12 assists in 38 league games so a goal or assist ever 1.58 games.

This season 1 goal and 2 assists in 14 games so a goal or assist every 4.66 games.

Stats wise there is no doubt that Santi is worse this season than last. Now there may well be reasons for this (injuries, position etc) but we can all agree that impact wise he is playing worse.

On top of that there is what we see on the pitch and I can see that along with the actual stats he is having far less effective games for us this season to last. I think he gives the ball away a lot more, has a lower pass accuracy and in his overall play contributes less to the team than this season. Its not to say that I don't think he's a good player as he most certainly is but his is 29 now and will always play second fiddle to Ozil when he's fit. If Draxler comes, and I think he will, then will Santi want to hang around when another younger (and possibly better) player comes into his position?

If he was hitting the heights of last season I'd say yes but on current form I don't think so. Its not a personal attack on the man its just my opinion (backed up by a little bit of fact!).

Galway Gooner
Santi isn't contributing at the same level as he did last season and there may well be reasons for it. He doesn't have the same freedom as he did playing centrally for one thing. Also he was at times the sole creative input into the side last season. This season with Ozil in, Rosicky fitter and Ramsey impressing the responsibility is spread and he has less chance to shine. However he isn't giving the ball away a lot more. His passing frequency and passing accuracy stats are much the same as last season. His overall stats this season compare favourably with Rosicky for example who most would feel has played very impressively so far. It's fair enough to say that Cazorla isn't having the impact he had last season but his contribution is still a long way from useless.
Incidentally, comparing Draxler's Bundesliga statistics this season with Cazorla's doesn't make compelling reading. 1 goal, 4 assists and 1 key pass, fewer passes, crosses and through balls - and lower completion rate. Maybe worth holding onto Santi's P45 for a while longer. Especially as Wenger may not necessarily see someone like Draxler playing the same role.
I don't think Wenger will buy Draxler to play on the wings, it will either be as a #10 or even (as some are suggesting) to convert him to a striker.

I don't like the whole "there are reasons for it" argument, I haven't scored any goals in the PL this season but in my defence there are reasons for it. The main reason being that I am not good enough. Santi was pretty amazing last season and has been pretty poor this season, the reasons for it don't really matter. I don't want to be looking back in May saying that we didn't win the league but there are reasons for it.

Regardless of what the reasons are if an attacking player (like Santi is) is only contributing a goal or an assist every 4.6 games (3 times worse than the previous season) then really regardless of sentiment he should be dropped.

Draxler is a remarkable player, a real potential world class player, if he is on the market you but him and worry about what current player his purchase impacts on afterwards!

Galway Gooner
Starting Podolski is a poor notion, especially above Gnabry, he has to manage his fitness for 70minutes, he's a far far better option off of the bench. He doesn't stretch defences at all.
Shewore - 11 goals and 10 assists in 30 league games last season isn't bad for a player that doesn't stretch defences, would love for more of our players to be as poor an option at this!

I like Gnarby but he doesn't offer as much goal threat, yes he likely works harder than Poldi but against a team as poor as Villa was it hard work or goals we were looking for?

Galway Gooner
Sometimes It feels like dear Amos is always eager to defend any arsenal player to the hilt regardless of stats and facts. Is it loyalty or is it a love for mediocre performances? A spade should be called a spade not a farm tool! If a player is poor we reserve the right in the forum to point it out not justify why he was poor . Giroud, despite his goal was sub par cos he was tired by 70 mins hence we came under the cosh because he couldn't hold up play in the opponents half. I'm not knocking him for not scoring( he never used to score too many) but his stamina and workrate has markedly reduced.
I'm not really worried about Cazorla's assist rate as to get an assist you have to rely on other people to help you get it. Cazorla could have laid 10 marvelous passes to put Giroud through one-on-one in a game and he missed them all and Santi comes away with no positive addition to his stats. But he will have done his job. Key passes are a much more reliable source of information as to whether a player of Cazorla's style is providing the team with what it needs. Going from the stats Amos posted, Santi's rate is healthy enough. Surprisingly though, despite everyone claiming Ozil isn't living up to the hype he's provided almost double the key passes of Cazorla in less games! Back to Cazorla, he hasn't been as sensational as he was last season, and I do think he's been porr the past couple of games, but he is a class act and he will find his form again.
"there are reasons for it" is perfectly valid when, as in this case, some attempt to expand on it is given. The main reason you haven't scored in the PL is that you haven't played in the PL. Nobody else is really able to judge whether you're good enough to do so. In Santi's case there's a whole lot of space between 'amazing' and 'poor'. There doesn't seem to be any purpose in inviting anyone to ponder the point if there weren't any thing to ponder other than those two options. If there is a purpose then the 'reasons for it' are the points to ponder surely. Dropping a player because his figures aren't as good as last season is only a valid decision if someone else is able to show that they are consistently performing better in the same position - or that there're valid reasons why some of his stats aren't as good. Santi hasn't played every game but he has played well as often as he has played poorly. Belive it or not there were times when he played poorly last season too - he wasn't only ever 'amazing'. Draxler, who may or may not play the same role as Cazorla, may well be a potential world class player as are Gnabry, Zelalem and Ox but as he's out injured until March he won't be replacing anyone currently.
I thought Giroud's workrate was excellent. With his back to goal there is no better player in the league imo.
Its a bit ridiculous to go on about ozil having a high key pass/ pass completion rate while discounting his lack of assists in recent games. When he was bought, no one mentioned his key passes, all we heard was his assist ratio/rate. So to now turn around and say he is playing well because of his high key pass rate in the absence of assists is unacceptable. Same goes for carzola.
Rocky, watch giroud in the 1st part of the season, then watch him now especially in the 2nd half of matches, his workrate has dropped cosiderably by his previous high standards. This drop in workrate usually coincides with the opponents pinning us in our own half.
Surely you've got that the wrong way around nna! Some are far too eager to condemn a player despite evidence to the contrary. Is it objectivity or do some just need to have a whipping boy? The need to have some player on which to focus blame is a compelling trait among some supporters. Has Cazorla really gone from amazing to poor and therefore should be dropped and replaced based on the evidence of his stats and those of the other players around him? Were his contributions to Monday's game only bad to the extent that he was useless? I'm so much defending Cazorla as pondering the point made that he's useless or has become a poor player. I don't think either are true and believe there's enough evidence to support that belief.
nna - That's because Ozil's assist rate was so high we didn't need to bother adding any additional thought to ho much he could provide the team. Cazorla's & Ozil's job is to provide goals for our forward players (and bag a few themselves) if they are laying on the goals for the striker (which is what a key pass it) but the front men aren't taking those opportunities who is at fault? Cazorla & Ozil or the strikers. You can not blame them for the strikers not finishing the chances they provide to them.
I don't think he's become a poor player, but has has put in some poorer performances. That's not something to worry about, no player can play brilliantly every game.
Ozil's last assist I think was against City and you can't deny his telling contribution to our first goal against Villa even though it wouldn't have gone down as an assist. The only games he has played between those two points are Chelsea (no assists on either side and 1 attempt created) and West Ham (no assists but 8 created). Ozil's real qualities are not eye catching at all. He can only be appreciated for what he is.
Read my posts Amos, I didn't condemn any player or lay blame, I'm only pointing out those who's form has dropped recently. Amos and rocky, I appreciate your arguments and the facts you've pointed out. Maybe I'm a perfectionist but I do expect better. I watched ozil at madrid make 30yard sprints with the ball at his feet and take on players and also shooting from outside the box. But in our jersey he seems more content to hold up play and give a pass rather than try to beat the man and go for goal. You call it languid style, I call it being laid back deliberately.
If you read my posts nna you'll see that I didn't accuse you of condemning or blaming a player. You accused me specifically of disregarding stats and facts to defend a player and loving mediocre performances. I don't think the evidence supports those accusations either.
Hahaha! Enjoyed going through all the posts above. Ultimately, we all desire better performances from the players to the end that the club places well in the league and wins trophies at the end of the season. Our players are doing least it says something for us to be top of the league with the likes of City and Chelsea about. Enough said.

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