Derby day did good in the best possible way; and at the moment bragging rights are worth more at the Emirates more than at any other ground in London, following that much needed 3-0 first half drubbing of Chelsea yesterday. In line with this season’s early rhetoric, Matchday 6 served as a welcome revenge against a “thorn in the flesh” Chelsea side that prior to this latest episode, pretty much enjoyed taunting their rivals into complete chaos.
These maddening events were absolutely tamed to a no contest on a day the Gunners Faithful united with the Manager and players, to give the Arsenal boss his richly deserved 20th Year Anniversary, arguably showcasing an ‘Invincible’ status considering how immortal Arsène has been, in carving his “Top 4″/Champions League Qualification NICHE. (discussion for another day, for those who feel differently).
However, on the evidence of what we saw before Alexis forced the error from Gary Cahill, The Blues, through their Tormentor-in-chief, tried to showcase that attitude to once again ruffle the feathers of Peter Cech’s back four and beyond, but the soap opera script had barely been flipped, before it read ‘game over” and a lost cause for Antonio Comte; who saw’ the 2015 EPL Champions’ law of misdemeanor abruptly breached.
Some of the aggressive and stylish edge showcased on the day emanated from the aforementioned back 5, but it was Arsenal’s central midfield duo of the “ageless” Santi Cazorla and the tireless Francis Coquelin who constantly smelt blood and created pockets of traps for the initial ultra defensive set-up of Chelsea.
In essence, the Boss’ decision to stick with the Frenchman and Spaniard respectively, proved a master stroke, and contrary to the presumption of many (myself included), on how the double Pivot could be exposed if Conte did assign man/zonal-markers to halt the pressing and passing of the duo. Now with the aid of hindsight, It’s safe to say that the midfield pair vindicated Wenger’s claim of having an impressively experienced core in their prime – especially in midfield, capable of righting the wrongs of the team’s recent game-bottling history.
Apparently, the bromance of Coq-Caz has been dominant at the top of Arsène’s personalised selection process. This much talked about pairing as we know, dates back to January 2015 in that almost flawless 2-0 win at Manchester City’s Etihad but it’s also interesting to note that at the tail-end of last season, the duo were replaced by the impressive Mo Elneny and Aaron Ramsey in central midfield, who themselves were on the back of a growing stretch of partnership, only to once again lose their place to Coq-Caz in the 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa on last season’s last episode.
With that in mind, it is a palpable fact that the inadequacies of last season have been tried to address, following the January and May additions of Mo Elneny and Grant Xhaka respectively, as well as the expected departures of Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta in particular, who couldn’t have been better replaced in the frame of Granit, Arsenal’s most expensive screener/deep lying orchestrator.
To this end, the bar of Arsenal’s broad perspective of the midfield battle has been raised, culminating in lots of possible pairings, moving forward, which has been summarised into phrases of the aforementioned expansive context.
NB: The partnerships arranged in the method of Screener and Box to box midfielder respectively.
Xhaka-Elneny – The duo are the quickest passers of respective long and short angles, demonstrate ideal pass and move bliss, love to press, with the added influence of runs from deep; can certainly get even better.
Xhaka-Santi – Absolute Wengerball, easy on the eye, most seamless build-up
Xhaka-Coq unlit – Provides presence and steel; especially on those cold European nights.
Coquelin-Elneny – Already have a great understanding playing together, as was seen at the final stretch of last season and would offer a seamless option in the unavailability of other key midfielders; also ensures an ultra defensive shape/understanding when trying to hold on to a lead.
Ramsey-Elneny – When Aaron Ramsey returns he’ll definitely force his way back into contention, being such a dynamic midfielder; As stated earlier, this duo have history together and did fairly well, providing enormous and evasive engines in tandem.
Xhaka-Ramsey – Now this is another mouthwatering combo and points to potential bliss, when they get to strike the balance in creating an ultra attacking threat. Shades of Arteta-Ramsey appears in this duo but would need a more disciplined Ramsey to sustain a partnership for a long stretch.
Santi-Ramsey – Now as we’ve seen in some massive games involving teams desperately trying to ensure survival, parking the bus becomes a requirement to come away with something at the Emirates. Hence our normal set-up gets frustrated and while this partnership doesn’t guarantee crushing the bus, it ensures we stay on the front foot and camped in the other half, albeit with the risk of being caught out at the back.
Elneny-Santi – Lastly, this option provides a bit of security to the aforementioned while still also ensuring front foot status on home soil and on the road. A partnership of this nature also gives Arsène the added option of fielding three to four strikers, knowing Elneny and the much disciplined Santi have the ingredients to hold their lines when necessary.
That’s it guys, unprecedented plethora of options in an unprecedented year for the Management and an unprecedented year for the club.
Thank you Arsène.