Post-Everton thoughts on Ospina, Gabriel, Walcott and more

Give David Ospina his dues…
Would I pick him over Wojciech Szczesny? No. Am I convinced he’ll be Arsenal’s long-term number one? Not even nearly. However, credit where credit is due: he was excellent against Everton.

As anticipated, Arsene Wenger dropped Per Mertesacker for Gabriel. However, what was arguably more intriguing about his team selection was the players who retained his trust. Ospina and Olivier Giroud, both disappointing in midweek, kept their spots.

In Giroud’s case, that wasn’t a huge surprise. Arsene has a longstanding admiration for the striker, who has established himself as the club’s undisputed first-choice centre-forward at the club.

Ospina is a different case. Although he has been a regular in the team since January, Arsene has never publicly declared him the new “No. 1”. There has been a lingering suspicion that the manager was simply waiting for Ospina’s first substandard display to reintroduce Szczesny.

The Monaco debacle made this an easy time to justify a change, yet Wenger stuck with the Colombian. That’s a significant show of faith. It begs the question: if the boss didn’t see fit to change after Monaco, does that suggest Ospina is likely to retain his place until May? And if so, what does that mean for Szczesny’s future?

Gabriel had a decent game…
I think there’s a danger that assessment of his performance falls victim to hyperbole. He made a couple of outstanding tackles, but those eye-catching contributions were balanced out by some glaring errors.

His decision to let the ball bounce in the first half, allowing Romelu Lukaku to steal in and run at David Ospina, was particularly bizarre. There was also a wildly misplaced pass and a couple of mistimed jumps for headers. Perhaps nerves were a factor for a guy making his first start in the Premier League.

There’s a lot to like about Gabriel, but he looks very much like a player still adapting to the demands of a new league. Koscielny suffered from plenty of teething problems; Mertesacker too. It may be next season before the begin to see the best of the Brazilian. His adaptation will certainly be accelerated if he retains his place ahead of the jaded German.

Theo Walcott must be worried…
If he can’t get off the bench in a game like this, when the manager has made a definitive decision to rotate his squad, he’s in trouble.

For weeks debate has raged about which of he or Danny Welbeck is more deserving of a first-team place. That dichotomy was a disservice to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was one of few bright spots in the first half of the campaign.

It now feels as if both Welbeck and Chamberlain are more prominent in Wenger’s thoughts. Some have suggested a connection with Walcott’s contract situation — when he stalled on a new deal in the Autumn of 2012, Walcott was excluded from the XI until form and fitness forced Wenger’s hand.

However, I believe it’s more to do with Walcott’s lack of defensive contribution. Speaking before the Everton match, Wenger said:

Offensively we have lots of solutions. We have to find a team balance. It is more about team balance than any individual.

When you have the ball in the modern game you have to attack, when you don’t have the ball you have to defend. All the players who can’t do that, cannot play.”

Until Walcott’s all-round contribution improves, it seems he will be confined to the sidelines.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.

5 Comments

  1. QuartzGooner   •  

    I think Walcott is more effective than Oxlade-Chamberlain or Welbeck.
    He is rusty, but his runs are the most intelligent of the three.
    As for next season, a lot depends on whether Cazorla leaves.
    If so we might try Ozil as number 10, meaning more chance for another wide player.
    Ozil has been less than average, but I really want to see what he can do as a number 10 with Walcott as one of our wide men.
    Gnabry and Maitland-Niles will consider themselves genuine contenders for a bench place next season, so competition is fierce.

  2. Drain Bammage   •  

    Yup, Ospina did a good job. Still worries me when he goes out of his crease on the ground and the air. I also dont think he is a #1 so I have to wonder, how long the Szszscszesny saga is going to go on. What exactly are we waiting for? I get that team discipline is important but at some point you have to move on.
    Just watched NBA’s Rajon Rondo get a 1gm suspension for his sweary argument with the Dallas Mavericks coach during a game. Sat the rest of the game, missed the next game and was back as a starter after that. And the coach Carlisle is as old school hardass as a Fergie but he said “We took care of it, we now move on. We are not letting this interfere with our season, it would be counterproductive.” This GK saga hasnt cost us yet but it feels like it could.

    Per was weak last time out but the point of having a 3rd CB is too rest both Per and Kos. He had a bad stretch before and like a pro he bounced back.
    And by the way, a big F U to the a-holes that pollute ArseTV.
    That whole channel only helps perpetuate the “Arsenal fans are the biggest whiny twats in football.” which is right up there with “Arsenal and City fans are so pathetic at home that europeans teams never feel like they are at away games”.
    I was on the once great 101GG (since they lost i guess their goals battle, its simply a social media site and now we go elsewhere like arenagoals to find recaps and goals) and right after a game we won, some giant cunts are slaggin on Per something fierce. These were the same kind of mental midgets who enjoyed booing Giroud last game after giving us 10goals in 12 games I believe. THATS the kind of fans that the world sees all the time. Yup, Giroud didnt have a great Monaco game but after the production he was given us, only the bandwagon jumpers would do that.
    Im sure they applauded his goal today with clenched teeth because I still meet regularly these types who say he isnt world class (what was he last year…5th best scorer in league while being totally burned out by March)
    Fuck, I hate our fans more that opposite fans.
    Btw, Giroud missed half the season and has ONE goal less than Rooney who also takes PKs and RVP and tied with Hazard and Silva. Again, he missed HALF the facking season.

    Gabriel did pretty good for his FIRST start like you say inthe excellent description. And a whole training camp this summer still wont be enough to get him comfortable because I doubt he will play more than 5 games till the end of the year. Lets talk again about him in December but I like what I saw. apart from that big bounce, he did well against Lukaku.
    And I loved Gabriel’s movement that created the space for Girould to score his goal. He wont get any mention for it because its not sexy but its one of those small things that make a huge difference. You know he will be better when fast counter attacking teams are played than Per who isnt the best in open space and bigger pitches.

    Theo Walcott should be worried…
    Ox is ahead of him and then its Wellbeck then Theo. he is by faaaar the worst of the three defensively.

    I dont see where Gnabry fits in this equation especially when other midfielders come back: Jack, Ramsey, Arteta.

    Ozil played today, right? I have to look on the lineups like I often do when he plays. Im not sure I would consider a corner kick and a pass on a deflected goal (but it was a nice cutback) enough to justify the long stretches where you forget he is onthe field. And dont be bitter about Cesc, his ingame contribution can not be compared to Ozil. Its not even close. Cesc WANTS to have the ball, Ozil looks the opposite. ( I dont rate indirect or corner kicks the same as a carefully weighted through ball just like I dont rate PKs to mean the same as other goals when comparing strikers)

    Love Cazorla. Love the way the little guy turns with the ball, how he escapes to empty space and his willingness to track back and get stuck. We HAVE to keep him. Not to pick on a guy when hes down, but ‘Cazorla or Ozil’ isnt even a question.

    Alexis was off today and I think he’s hit the wall physically. Look, it was bound to happen to any player coming over for his first year and he was overworked for quite a while. He’s not the same player and needs a rest. Still think the world of him and his drive and desire but you can tell he isnt the same.

    Poor Coq. After that nasty friendly fire, that ball to the nose cant have been fun. Big respect for gutting it out with two wads in the nose.

    Jagielka had a handball taht should have been a PK.

    Gibbs and Bellerin did well.

  3. Alex   •  

    I’m stupefied by the critics at Özil. Well… the level of your critics against him are spot on with the level of the English clubs in Europe and of the national team.

  4. oladayo   •  

    ospina………buffon, there is no differ between them…..i love ooooooooospina…..

  5. Julian   •  

    I think after yesterdays display of calamity schez.. And ospina fine form.. We can move on from who deserves to be number 1.. Ospina makes schez look like an amateur!!!

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