Aaron Ramsey, Lord of The Overload
Lord of The Overload.
Mathew 18:20 Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name – there shalt you find me in their midst.
And the Lord spake further: “Let me be more specific, as I have had complaints in the past from people saying they weren’t really sure what I was getting at. For example: where do I stand on Holy War. Well, I can only apologize. To be honest it does depend a lot on the mood I was in when I was making the pronouncement. So here is what I mean in this specific case…
It’s about football. Football is all about the overload, players showing to form a triangle to create options in numbers, faster than the opposition can set up to defend against it, and with a numerical advantage. I hope that was obvious all along, But I’m sure the usual suspects got that completely arse over tit. So, there! Don’t kill anyone over this. It’s about football. Triangles. Overloads. Oh and circumcision is silly. I’m not sure how that all got started.
Oh. And Aaron Ramsey is my Son in whom I am well pleased. Hence forth he shall be called “Lord Of The Overload.”
And lo and behold, doesn’t Wenger tell Ramsey he’s starting from the right but not to worry about any of that position bollox when we have the ball. But to get out there, make his runs, cause the overload.
If he really was Lord Of The Overload, I guess he was involved in a lot of our top passing combinations against Palace?
Apparently. Mister Triangulator.
Here are Ramsey’s touches in the attacking half against Palace.
It has 2 main clusters. It’s most advanced and attacking cluster is high up on the left wing. The boy travelled.
Interesting for a man that started the match on the right wing. This is the touch pattern of a man who has been told he has one weekend away from his lady, a certain Ms. Rightwing, and that there would be no questions asked. He is off to Vegas for Hangover 7. He wakes up drunk by the left corner flag, spooning Ozil, with a tiger in the bathroom, a tiger Sanchez is now trying to drag down to the beach so that it can motivate him to run faster sprints.
Ramsey also had 4 shots on goal against Palace. That’s striker levels of attacking.
Where Ozil sprinkled his 74 touches mostly in the left attacking wing, Ramsey shared his 95 touches of the ball equally in the attacking half of the pitch. Have ball? Will travel. But he did his most advanced work on the left side, interestingly, mainly because that’s where Ozil and Sanchez were hanging for most of the game.
Here are Ozil’s touches for the attacking half…
So, that would be why the Lord Of The Overload spent so much time out on the left.
In contrast, Ramsey’s touches in the defensive half were all by and large on the right side as he fell back into position to cover Bellerin.
But clearly, to be able to wander so freely to the left side of the pitch in attack you’d need some pretty effective cover in midfield. Someone with athleticism of his own, able to cover the ground, make the tackles, block the channels for that extra second or 2 so you can scamper back to the bottom right side from the top left corner. Someone like, say, Francis Coquelin.
It would be ironic indeed if the player that some seem to resent for somehow displacing Aaron in midfield was actually part of a partnership that enabled Aaron to finally play his full unexpurgated game again, albeit from the right, following a long Arsenal tradition of devilment-makers on the wing.
The Merits Of Discombobulation
When I compared the EXPECTED GOALS charts between the West Ham and Crystal Palace matches, a few things struck me. As I remembered it, we created enough chances in both matches to win the games. Dumb errors against West Ham cost us 2 goals and we didn’t convert any of our chances.
But they don’t tell the full story. The chances we got against Crystal Palace were better – not because they were slightly more numerous and certainly not because of better positions. They were because we had Palace’s defence all moved around and tangled, so there were fewer blocks and less organization in the attacker’s way. Think of the 2 or 3 chances Alexis had and the goal mouth scrambles. Getting the ball into an attacking position is one thing. Making their defence discombobulated when you get there is another thing. Overloads and runs in behind do that for you.
The charts of Expected Goals are helpful but they don’t reflect the degree of discombobulation you have put their defence into.
Theo talked about who he modelled himself on, and one of his heroes was Freddie Ljungberg because of the intelligence of his runs. Theo and Ramsey are mates and play golf together. I suspect they have talked about Ljungberg up one side and down the other (a bit like Ramsey’s pitch movements, Ba Boom!). Goonerdave66 did a great piece which among other things likened Ramsey and Ljungberg. Where Ramsey starts the game from may not be that important. As long as he can get into the attacking third and be where the action is, make his runs, cause his overloads, press the opposition, and still make it back in time for dinner, I mean, to cover his defensive duties, do we care? Does he care? I doubt it.
The Pressing Matter
And there are matches where pressing is a key tactic for us. If Arsenal are going to press strategically from the front, having Sanchez and Ramsey as 2 of your front 3 is a great start. Ozil is very alive to the press using his game intelligence. But something else that would really help the press is a midfielder who is athletic and front-footed so that momentum isn’t lost if there is a pass that breaks the front 4. Coquelin is a man up for the press. Loves it. Does well at it.
Strangely the mismatch and conflict of ill-fitting pieces in midfield may be sorting itself into some order.
A Small Tweak
One might say “but this is the same line-up that became the First XI of the second half of last season.” Yet it seems to be applying a subtly different set of operating instructions, based on Ramsey’s comments on Wenger’s instructions. Aaeon spoke as if this was something new, and akin to “Go Forth And Overload. We’ve got you covered.”
This Year’s Fall Guy
There seems to be a queer turn against Coquelin by many since last season. You have all seen it, I’m sure. It pops up in blogs and tweets that hint or state that Coq’s partnership with Santi is blocking Ramsey’s return to the midfield as if that were somehow Coq’s fault. And if there is fault, why his more than Santi’s? Or even Aaron’s? After all, it is Wenger who says that no one passes from deep better than Santi and that his days on the wing are over now.
Some have said Coq is blocking the purchase of some other DM, like Schneiderlin, who isn’t a DM, and who Arsene must rate, I guess, but apparently never quite enough. Coq has blocked us getting Pirlo via the club’s Time Machine. Or stealing Matic from Chelsea with a 60m bid (even though Coq has been out-performing him.) Or maybe he blocked Vidal, not a DM. Or Kondogbia.
Of course it assumes whoever it was Coq stopped Arsene buying, despite the fact Arsene hasn’t bought a DM for 78 straight windows, would have formed a good partnership with Aaron. Basically, there is a whole lot of assuming going on and some strange logic but only one fact. Santi and Coq work.
Different Formation For Weaker Opposition At Home?
There is a belief that this Cazoquelin pairing doesn’t work as well against weaker teams at the Emirates ie when we have lots of the ball and we could use an extra playmaker. Well, that’s one line of thought; a line of thought that simply didn’t work against Sunderland (0-0) at the end of last season. I would have said the last thing we needed was one more playmaker. A runner, a finisher, a speedster, a dribbler? Yes. One more technical passer to add to our usual plethora on the pitch at the same time? Not convinced. In my view too many playmakers are over-egging the pudding around their box and, before you know it, the opposition is bolting down the other end to hit us on the counter in the kind of situation where a Coquelin would come in handy, you would say, but he isn’t on the pitch.
Add to that the fact that Coq’s ability to athletically cover a lot of ground helps our attack when we have lots of possession anyway: The fullbacks (and others) can push forward with more conviction to give width, knowing Coquelin has them covered, rather than Santi’s little legs spinning as quick as he can make them to cover the opposition counter, as Aaron took off on a run to the byline.
It also gives Santi more freedom to push forward and join the attack without looking over his shoulder.
No. Not for me. It might sound clever on paper. But not on this piece of paper. Balance is balance. Coquelin gives the assurance to our mids, fullbacks and forwards that they can press home their advantage in a way no other pairing does, against big or small teams, home or away.
And, what’s not broken need not be fixed. Santi-Coq won us a long run of matches home and away. When we ran out of steam towards the end of the season, it was because we didn’t have enough cutting edge or enough threat in the attack and not because we needed an extra playmaker. Sanchez was pooped. Giroud was wrecked by Thierry Henry. Welbeck and Ox were injured.
Cazoquelin Hurts Our Style.
Some have said that even when we win now we don’t play great football any more with Cazoquelin. I trust they didn’t enjoy the outstanding and thrilling football on display in the first half against Palace then.
Aaron is a great player. Arsene is right to fight to get our best players on the field together. Doubly so when that player is the Lord Of The Overload, a great player who enables the other players. And he is right to use Coquelin’s and Bellerin’s super powers to give Aaron free reign in the attacking half of the pitch while Santi pulls the strings.
Ironic it would be if it is Coquelin’s attributes that not only secure the midfield, enable Santi’s second coming as Pirlo, but most ironically of all, allow Aaron to showcase his acrobatics to their fullest by providing the safety net on the right side of midfield. Perhaps the clever interplay between Coq and Ramsey on the right touchline that started off our first goal was a symbol that it is not Coq versus Ramsey at all.
Give ‘em hell, Aaron, Lord Of The Overload!
This is enjoyable and enlightening – quite a feat. It’s especially compelling because the manager seems to be placing a priority on athleticism and assertiveness in attack, rather than overwhelming technical superiority. Not to downplay the technical excellence of Özil and Cazorla, e.g., but the tone is set by Coquelin, Alexis, and Ramsey. When they’re discombobulating the opposition – which is very difficult to prepare for if you’re the opposition – this team can be such a dominant force.
Cheers, Matey!! Ramsey’s ability to paint every blade of the pitch can present it’s own challenges. And I thought Coq did a good job providing an athletic counter balance to make sure we were covered. Add in Alexis’ and Giroud’s graft, and Ozil being no slouch, and that is a lot for the opposition to withstand in terms of raw output.
Excellent view once again from my favourite gooner. IMO Ramsey is one of the three best goal threats in the entire team and even in the premier league among fellow midfielders.
Thank you 🙂
Super blogging again. This could be the way to use Ramsey, Ozil and Cazorla to the best of their individual abilities and for the greates benefit to the team, without going back to 4-1-4-1.
I hope you don’t mind if I go off an a tangent now. I agree with all the positives you list about Coquelin, but I think maybe you have misunderstood people’s reservations. Coquelin is a specialist in the defensive side of the game. For a defensive-minded player he is very good at the creative stuff, he has decent vision, he passes well and is improving all the time. The argument that is being made is that ideally we would have a technically gifted all-rounder like Diaby or Pogba in that role, ie not a specialist at the destructive side and crucially someone who is more secure on the ball. I kind of agree, and I am someone who has championed Le Coq since his days in the youth team. More importantly, I think AW sees it that way as well. That to me explains why he replaces Coquelin with Ramsey on the occasions when Coq is taken off – Ramsey is an all-rounder. Sadly he doesnt have the positional discipline that Coquelin has. I have a hunch that he won’t buy a similar player to Coquelin, even as an upgrade. His ideal midfield anchor would be some atom-smashed hybrid of Cazorla/Arteta and Coquelin, but assuming no-one like that is available, then he would get a younger, faster version of Arteta/Cazorla in preference to a Coquelin type. I think Coq is undroppable unless and until such a player comes in, but I also see where the critics are coming from.
But…Diaby played with a DM. Pogba played in a diamond that included Vidal so they had sufficient cover. Vieira with Gilberto. So they are not in “that role.” Reality is that midfield is 2 or 3 roles spread across 2 or 3 players. 2 of those players are Cazorla and Coquelin and they divide up the jobs between the 2 of them.
Pogba, Diaba etc are rare types in any case, even if you went to get one. Schneiderlin is different again but the same holds. He’s not truly THE DM and again it would just be a different pairing to divvy up the roles.
All that really matters is how well Coq + Cazorla works.
I’m sure I recall Diaby being the anchor on his own at Newcastle in the infamous 4-4. He was majestic…until he had to go off injured.
I wouldnt disagree that the man could do it. Diaby was imperious on his day. Ironic after all the grief Coq got for a few milky challenges that we talk of Red Card Diaby to upgrade him. Lol. But there wasnt much Diaby couldnt do.
Real good stuff. Wit, original thinking, good use of stats and what, to me at least, are mighty impressive,erm, computer skills (shit, I don’t even know what to call them) make this a delight of a blog.
And yet, not for the first time this week, I have to take issue with one my kind of Arsenal people over a particular something : I just can’t have it that the Palace game tells us how we should have played against West Ham or points the way to how we beat the next West Ham.
The difference, between how West ham, and before them Swansea and Sunderland, set up and the way Palace set up is too vast for me. They are different challenges which almost certainly require different approaches.
By no means do you avoid referring to this- there’s quite a lot,actually, including a whole damn section devoted to the topic – but it still falls short for me of reflecting the importance of this bus-breaking issue and that giant difference between facing that challenge and the other one of facing relatively open opponents.
At the moment, it is staring us in the face that our rate of success against the bus at home needs to improve quickly and dramatically over what it has been in our last 5 home league games.
We’ve been shut out on 4 of those 5 games and lost two of them. You can still just about put that down to an anomaly, especially as 4 of those games were last year, but all the same it has to be a big worry, as over the coming season we need to pretty much reverse things and be winning 4 of every 5 home games.
Rightly admiring the brilliant play at Palace is fine by me, but I don’t see how we can directly transfer it to the home games, other than saying ‘if we play as well- very well- in a suitable style against the bus as we do in a suitable style against open teams, then we’ll be fine.’
I don’t know what the solution is for those home games, other than the ,marginally more informative than ‘play well’, need to be ‘deadly’ and to ‘be good defending set pieces’ but it has to be something different- to look different and actually be different- than what worked well at Palace and has generally worked well away from home since the start of 2016.
We can’t break at speed into spaces which don’t exist; discombobulating rigidly set teams, who haven’t gone forward and so can’t be counter attacked, is many times harder than doing the same to teams who are regularly launching attacks with four or five players.
At present we are regularly treated to the phenomenally annoying sight of seeing teams who go full bus against us playing more openly in other big away matches- Swansea and Monaco within the last fortnight- but the truth is, from a pragmatic point of view, it makes total sense at present to set up this way against us as an away team : it’s been working.
We have to make them think again. Fingers crossed job for me at home for the time being; whereas away I feel confident we are very well set to thrive
Great comment, mate. I address it a little in this blog. And I’ve touched on it in a few others.
I believe the requirement to change formations against set defense at home is overstated. I think we think there is a burning need for 2 reasons. Poor results “lately.” And looking like we can’t break through ie frustrating performances.
Change formations all you like, they will still be hard to break down, we still won’t “look” good, and we’ll still need to execute in final third. We changed formation against Sunderland (0-) and we looked shit anyway because the main issues were still the issues.
1. We got tired at the end of last season
2. We lacked attacking options: DW; Ox; TW (not yet in form); Giroud lost form; Sanchez worn out.
3. Playing against a parked bus is always hard and you rarely look good whether you are Arsenal or any team. Except when you get an early goal.
It is not a question of formation imo. It is a question of execution, specifically in the final third ie attacking options/players, making runs, moving and finishing.
But what is certain is that THEIR plan will be to hit us on the break. Hence why you want Coquelin on the pitch.
The key to unlocking their defence is better execute the attack with fresh players who are in form.
Let me add, it’s not so much that I think you are wrong, or that the formation change we saw “dropping” Coquelin is necessarily wrong as such, just that I think we are going to still find it just as challenging, and it will still come down to execution in final third. If we’re tired and don’t have the right personnel, we WILL struggle. Otherwise we’ll be fine. There are different ways to skin cats apparently. Formations can help but I don’t think it is or was the major issue.
We’re pretty damn close in what we’re thinking, then.
I always want Coquelin in the team these days, so that wasn’t what I was driving at.
Can see why you’d have thought I was, though.
My main motivation to comment was..anxiety,really. Those damn buses make me anxious at this time. I hate them with a passion but have to admit they are a very sound tactic against us.
If we score first, of course, suddenly it doesn’t look half as clever; if we score early, even more so.
It’s not quite a case of all in- and not that at all if your bus parkers are,say, chelsea, who do have the personnel to wholly change their approach if they go behind- but it’s pretty close to that for clubs like Sunderland and West Ham. They put everything into the bus, and if it doesn’t work for them and we score they know they’re in a lot of trouble; worse trouble than if they’d set out with decent attacking intent and had the personnel and mainframe best suited for that
So we are set for tense times. They’re wise to do it. It’s hard for us. We’ve not done nearly as well lately against it as we’ll need to do to have a great season. For as long as the bus holds, the game can’t be as enjoyable and we can’t look as good as in games when there’s a reasonable amount of space for us to break into.
Worst of it is, if there are any people it’s really worth my while trying to spread my evangelism of ‘these buses are worse than we think, people’, they almost certainly wouldn’t be people who read this blog.
I think anyone who appreciated the special challenge of the bus would be less inclined to lose their shit over performances like the West Ham one. I sense most of those made angriest by that had heads full of us at our attacking best and compared the teams performance directly to that.
‘Play like you did against Lyon- once you’d gone a goal up, against a clean team who didn’t play with the intensity, dirtiness and sheer desperation you’ll get from a prem side- you bastards!
I have nothing more sensible to suggest about tactics and approach for the bus challenge than ; be incredibly sharp, lads; totally focused; you need to be at your best mentally and you need to appreciate that good chances could be in very short supply, so try make the optimum choice with the ball every last time. Brains, lads, brains.
Not really tactics, then, more like a bleeding pep talk from a motivational speaker
Haha. Well said. I think it is about execution. The best attacking teams ie AFC and City will face some parked buses. If we stay healthy and keep plenty of attacking options available then I think we’ll get stronger and stronger as the long campaign wears on. We need to win and keep winning so that we sap the believe of those smaller teams before they ever get to the Emirates.
Excellent Read, Although I am not a big fan of xG in its current iteration [ a more meaningful stat might be to indicate if the goal-scored had a lower xG ].
Rogers stated this on Saturday “If you assess the last 10 games Arsenal have lost at home, it was about dangerous possession for the teams who won. They only averaged four shots on target with 43% possession. That tells you you don’t need to dominate the ball but you can dominate the space.”
Against a more organised defence (example: chelsea, community shield) – we did unsettle the parked bus by fast-switch-flanks and excellent composure in the box. However, a more open play tactic (example: west ham , at home this season)…we fail to play-the-arsenal-way and “concede cheap” [ other words, bring out the fundamental problems which are never addressed?].
Why are we so inconsistent?
Believe it or not, I’ve a couple more things to say about the bus/West ham game.
Normally I don’t re-watch the painful ones, but yesterday I watched the game again.
Time-wasting goes hand-in-hand with any attempt to play ultra defensively , and increases considerably the closer you get to succeeding, especially if you have managed to get in front, but I had no idea quite how bad it was in the West Ham game.
Surely I knew during the game that it was pretty bad, and could have said so soon afterwards, but my thinking at both times was overwhelmingly dominated by,well, horrible disappointment and frustration.
Anyway, with my old friend the stop-start button it was very easy to note the extent of the time -wasting. From the time of the Giroud/Tomkins head clash on 74.02, the ball is not in play (inc held by keeper) for 7 mins 59.- corners take 30-40 seconds, free kicks half a minute, even throw ins take no less than 15 seconds. A goal kick/ sub combo takes 50 seconds.
Think how hard it is to build any momentum or fluency when the game is like that?!
– you have to play hard, while not letting the ball leave the pitch or be gathered by the keeper, while trying not to go anywhere near,say, Mark Noble, who engineers weak free kicks every frigging time. Really, it’s verging on the impossible, or at least extremely improbable, when 2-0 down against a bus, with such awful time-wasting, and a referee who is completely happy to let them do so.
I won’t make a habit of re-watching the painful ones (and hopefully won’t get much opportunity anyway this year) but it offered me a hell of a lot of insight, especially into one of my favourite topics : a fan’s experience of a game versus the reality of it. The fans experience is dominated by the result. The reality of the game, including a team’s performance, is a different ,neutral thing.
My take is that it is very easy for the two to blur completely. So if it’s a wretched experience for the fan, which certainly means the team haven’t won, why the team must have been wretched to that exact degree!
I’m someone who actually supports in the old-fashioned sense of liking and rooting for players and manager, who has a near-obsession with the bus, and with dodgy refereeing against us… yet it took two weeks and a repeat viewing for me to get close to the truth of the match.
The very thing that, I now fully realise, made the game especially frustrating and hard to bear- the awful time-wasting, which consequently denied us any chance to build fluency and exert real pressure- very nearly became lost within the experience of not enjoying the match at all.
Or did get lost, only to be found later on through particular circumstances.
Meanwhile, and entirely predictably, legions of our fans leap on the fact West Ham have conceded six in two games as killer proof of how badly we failed that day.
No thought of just how differently West ham will have set up on those days, or the simple fact that the bus’ main characteristic is being a very good idea until/unless you concede, when it immediately switches to a distinctly average idea.
If you fixate purely on the times when the bus happens to work, any coach is indeed the idiot Mourinho suggests they are not to follow his example. Every coach should be obsessed with defend and counter football. The time of the parasites will be upon us. Which, of course, would be the time of the parasites extinction.
Excellent analysis. I also see that Coquelin keeps adding to his understanding of the game.
I will not dwell on the yellow card / red card issue. And about West Ham: Atkinson is a twat.
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