Arsenal v Fulham: Preview and Lineup: Same 11?

Arsenal v Fulham – April  18, 2021

Craven Cottage has a history that dates back to 1780 when a cottage was built in the woods and the surrounding fields were used for various sports. The site, however, later fell into disuse and the original cottage burned down in 1888.

Fulham had already played at various grounds when their eye fell on the site close to the river Thames. After cleaning up the overgrown field, they played their first match at the ground in 1896. Craven Cottage at that time consisted of nothing more than a basic wooden stand.

This changed in 1906 when a first proper stand was built. The stand, currently called Johnny Haynes Stand, was designed by Archibald Leitch and had a characteristic red-brick facade. The stand was accompanied by a pavilion, which is the present-day Cottage.

Craven Cottage was further expanded with terraces in the next decades and reached its record attendance in 1938 when a total of 49,335 spectators attended a game against Millwall. One decade later, Craven Cottage hosted a few games during the 1948 Olympic Games.

Fulham were formed in 1879 as Fulham St Andrew’s Church Sunday School F.C., founded by worshipers (mostly adept at cricket) at the Church of England on Star Road, West Kensington (St Andrew’s, Fulham Fields). They won the West London Amateur Cup in 1887 and, having shortened the name from Fulham Excelsior to its present form in 1888, they then won the West London League in 1893 at the first attempt.

The club gained professional status on 12 December 1898, the same year that they were admitted into the Southern League’s Second Division. They were the second club from London to turn professional, following Arsenal then named Royal Arsenal 1891.

Famous names like Johnny Haynes, Bobby Moore, Rodney Marsh and George Best have been part of the team through the years.

Our first league meeting against Fulham was in Division 2 on March 14th 1914 and it ended in a 2-0 victory for Arsenal. Overall we have played them 28 times at home and Fulham have never won a single game; they have managed just 5 draws and have been outscored 71 to 24.

Arsenal v Fulham EPL Home Games
  WDLGFGA
123-Feb-021  41
201-Feb-031  21
330-Nov-03 1 00
426-Dec-041  20
524-Aug-051  41
629-Apr-071  31
712-Aug-071  21
828-Feb-09 1 00
909-May-101  40
1004-Dec-101  21
1126-Nov-11 1 11
1210-Nov-12 1 33
1318-Jan-141  20
1401-Jan-191  41
1518-Apr-21     
 Total10403311
Arsenal v Fulham – All Home Results
 LeagueWDLGFGA
2Total Div 220050
12Total Div 111103313
14Total EPL10403311
28All Results23507124

At the time of writing Fulham’s 2020-21 record is W5, D11, L16, GF24, GA42, Pts 26. – they are in 18th place and have played two games more then any of the bottom seven teams.

I cannot envisage anything other than a victory for Arsenal.

GunnerN5

Predicted Lineup by TotalArsenal:

With the sort of injuries we have – Auba, Ode, Tierney, Luiz all out – I cannot see too many changes to the lineup from Thursday. This is an important game for us as a win will get us much closer to the European places. Willock did us a huge favour by helping NU to beat the Hammers and a win will bring us much closer to them. But fatigue may play a role and maybe Arteta has to rotate a bit with the likes of Big Gab, Elneny, Soares, Bels, Eddie and Nelson. Still, I believe that we first should get the job done and I don’t expect it to be easy, as Fulham are not playing bad currently and will punish us if the tempo/intensity is too low. So I prefer us to start with the same 11.

The New Overmars, Arteta’s Masterstroke, King Thomas, Only one MOTM: 8 Arsenal Observations.

Slavia Prague 0 – 4 Arsenal.

It was a great win last night and we should be really pleased with the way the team played for 90 minutes. It is fantastic how Arteta has changed to shape and tactics of the team and, although we haven’t faced really strong teams with Sheffield United and Slavia Prague, there is real hope that these changes will give us a good return in the remaining matches.

8 Observations:

  1. Xhaka to the left in defence/midfield is a masterstroke. Was he a left back or left DM in the last two games? I think we got a bit of both and it worked a treat. Partey was clearly the MD king in midfield and Ceballos was given a role with much more freedom – more about him later. If need be either Xhaka or sometimes Chambers would move up in midfield and help out defensively. Both can play in midfield and are confident passers, and so there was a real balance both in defence and midfield. Xhaka is not very fast for a left back but it never showed. He clearly does not bomb forward like Tierney does, but with Pepe/Saka, ESR and Ceballos in the team there is no real need for this. Our defence and midfield looked solid, and despite Slavia having more possession of the ball they seldom or never got anywhere close to where they could hurt us. It was very impressive how Arteta had set up the team and how much space we had when we attacked.
  2. Ceballos might finally have found his best position in the team. I think he is an okay footballer but always appreciate his workrate. In front of our defence he can be a bit of a liability but running between the lines and collecting and redistributing the ball really suits him. It is like having an extra man in the team to go and help others wherever he is needed. A very handy handyman who helps gluing the team together. There are more players in the team who can do this but it is really nice that Mikel is giving Ceballos a continued chance to proof himself.
  3. Calum had another fine game: very disciplined and keen to move forward where and when he could. He played in Saka well for his superb goal and helped out in defence very well too. During set-pieces or when we were hemmed back, the back-line of Chambers-Holding-Mari-Xhaka with Partey and the more attacking midfielders in front of them was very solid, resulting in two clean sheets. Okay it is early days but I am sure you will agree it was fun to watch us during those games. There is something about Calum that makes me, hmmmm cal(u)m.
  4. Being the main man in deep midfield really seems to suit Thomas Partey. He offers a lot of everything you would hope to see in a midfielder and we may well see the end of us playing two DMs from now on. Partey has real presence and a fine eye for where the action will be next. He controls proceedings with his good ability to hold on to the ball and excellent passing skills (and he is not yet 100% as far as I can tell). His interceptions and blocks are so effective and he really likes to drive forward too, without holding on to the ball anymore time than necessary. A joy to watch. But then there is Xhaka who with a fine left foot can help out with the distribution of the ball, both from out of the back and the middle of the pitch. This really has looked good over the last few games.
  5. Saka is just awesome. 19 years old and he has such a cool head. He always works hard but he does not overdo it. Bukayo is efficient with his energy and is making sure he does not get unnecessary injured. But when he senses an opportunity Saka is focussed 200% and what he does next is almost always so effective. He reminds me a bit of Marc Overmars who also had such a great efficiency/effectiveness balance in his game. His goal was just so clever and well taken and he almost scored a peach of a goal earlier but for the woodwork (and then ESR’s harshly given offsite).
  6. In general, it was that combo of a very solid defence and midfield and the fluidity of our attack that made us play such great football at times. The movement up-front was fabulous and it made us utterly unpredictable. Pepe, who scored a very good goal early on, ESR, Saka and Ceballos combined so well and used the available space on the pitch to perfection. ESR had a great game with his effective work between the line and fine passing and what a ball for Pepe’s goal. It simply was far too much for Slavia.
  7. The MOTM has to go to Laca. Alex took the penalty that put the game to bed (that goal was effectively worth two) and then he scored a masterfully controlled second late on. But it was his pivotal attacking play that was so good. Laca occupies defenders AND can then pass the ball into the space he has freed up so well. The other attackers love working with him and he loves working with them. Long may it continue.
  8. It is in the nature of some people to find something to pick on, as if all that sweetness is just too much for them (let’s be wary of them). Some, not on this site, have been picking on Leno for some reason. Bernd is a human being who, like all of us, will have many good periods and also the occasional bad one. We as fans should not want to make this worse by picking on him, even if there really is nothing to pick on. Leno may well not become Arteta’s long term choice – who knows? – but he is our nr1 goalkeeper this season and always wears the shirt with pride. Let’s stand right behind him.

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal Preview/ Lineup: Solid Defence, Mouthwatering Midfield, Deadly Forwards

The biggest game of the season for Arsenal so far will be tonight’s at the Sinobo stadium. Winning a European cup would be great and we are now just three games away from the final.

I know that winning this cup would also automatically qualify us for the money-ball that is the Champions League, but for me this is much less important. In fact, I dislike this ‘additional benefit’ that simply undermines the importance of winning the UEFA League Cup as a major prize on its own. There used to be three European Cups to be won every season but now it all seems to be about the elitist and utterly predictable Champions League, with just the odd season throwing in a surprise.

See the source image

Anyway, let’s enjoy the moment and that Arsenal are playing European football at a level that we can deal with right now. Tonight we will play in beautiful Prague and we have a big job to do. We will have to score at least once and therefore need to attack, but we don’t have to go overboard. We know that every away goal will count double in case we end up in a draw so, 2-2, 3-3 etc will all be in our favour. Last week we played too tentatively and it cost us in the end; today we need to play with real purpose and confidence… and with all guns blazing of course. We need goals and to mean business, and I am confident the boys will be well up for this.

Who will start? Hard to predict but I reckon our starting-11 will/could look something like this:

It could be Mari or Big Gab partnering Holdingho, but with Xhaka as left-footed left back likely to continue in the same position, the passing out from the left should be much better and Gabriel’s dynamism will be needed. Soares is our best right back and I would play him there ahead of Bels or Calum.

If ESR or Odegaard are not fully fit, expect Ceballos, who had a good game on Sunday, to start instead. The attacking midfield of a deeper Partey with the young, mobile wolves of Emile and Martin in front of him is mouthwatering. In attack it should be Saka and Laca and then there is a choice between Auba and Martinelli (Willian or Pepe). You can pick your favourite but I would go for Auba’s experience to take chances when they come his way. If after 60 minutes or so Auba has not done so then bring on Martinelli or Pepe. The good news is that we have options in most positions and all are very keen to play tonight. They’ll need to be.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal Finally Have Their Monster of a CF

With five PL goals in his last six games and 13 in total now, Alexander Lacazette is on fire! Laca is at the moment third best in terms of minutes between goals in the league (just behind Kane and Salah), and if he continues like this he may well be the most productive finisher at the end of the season. What is obvious is that Laca likes to both battle physically with his opponents and tire them out with his runs and movement. He is much more the wolf type than Auba who is more of a pouncing puma type (and there is nothing wrong with that either). Alex loves playing with his young fellow wolves, Saka, ESR, Ode, Martinelli, etc, and scare the living daylights out of their opponents. Laca, the steppenwolf, is reborn!

He must be a menace to play against and of all our attackers it is Laca who seems to have the best papers to still be in the team next season. Laca gets fouled only less than Saka of all Arsenal players and he is also very efficient with just 1.6 shots per game on average, which makes him joined third with Pepe (Auba has 2.0 and Saka has 2.2). Alex picks his moments more carefully, it seems, but when he is ready to pull the trigger there is a good chance he will score. This is the most remarkable thing of all, as Laca works his socks off constantly and should often be too tired to pull the trigger properly; yet when he does he is incredibly successful, especially in recent weeks.

Of course scoring goals is not the only thing to look at, even though we are desperate for them at the moment. Laca’s assist count is surprisingly low with just two in the PL, but this goes for all our attackers. The only exception is the much maligned Willian who has produced five assists (Auba and Pepe have one each, Ceballos has three and ESR has four). It remains a mystery why there has been so little cohesion between our main attackers, with no clear, outstanding assist-maker in the whole team.

Our attack has been weak with just 43 PL goals in 31 games (1.4 goals per game): eight teams have scored more than us and seven teams have already scored 50 or more goals. However, from Christmas till now Arsenal have scored 31 goals in 17 games which is a much more palatable average of 1.8 PL goals per game (multiply that by 31 and we would also be well above 50 PL goals now: 55 – the very poor start of the season is still costing us now).

So there is real progress and that is just what we should be focusing on: Arteta’s revolution is taking shape right under our eyes. There is so much more potential in our attack, though. It is just inconceivable that we had so few goals from the likes of Auba (9), Willian(0) and Pepe(5) this season; surely at some point they too will start adding goals left, right and centre?! If they do so we really will end very strongly this season and I have a feeling this is about to happen.

Arsenal’s attack is a monster that is desperately struggling to find it’s perfect shape and modus operandi. It looks like Laca has decided to force himself to the fore of this team and as such has become the monster-attacker we all knew he had in him (and sorry for ever doubting you Master Alex)!

By TotalArsenal.

Arteta’s Surprise, a four-legged Mobile Monster, Laca Makes it 50: Arsenal Afterthoughts

Sheffield United 0 – 3 Arsenal

Well that was a lot more fun to watch and the boys did us proud.

Eight initial observations from a much needed win:

Lacazette laat specialiteit op het juiste moment zien
  1. Arteta surprised us all by leaving both fit full backs on the bench and playing Chambers and Xhaka instead. Both did very well and added a lot of physicality to our defence. With Partey in front of them our defence looked solid all game long. Xhaka had quite a fluid role and as always gave structure to our play with some fine passes and good positioning, even when played in an unfamiliar position.
  2. Ceballos played in a sort of ‘ESR role’ and this suits him much better. Whilst a liability on the ball in front of our defence, played behind and around our attackers the Spaniard is much more effective. His assist for Laca’s opener was perfect and he played well between the lines all game long.
  3. Saka, Laca, Pepe and Martinelli were a four-legged mobile monster that made life impossible for the blades: so much movement and clever passing from all of them. All wanted to play football tonight and once the selfishness of a few had been shaken off the team started to purr, resulting in that fabulous first team goal, finished by Laca. It was obvious that Partey loved playing in this formation and with these sort of players: movement, movement, movement is everything.
  4. Martinelli had a great first game which he crowned with a well deserved goal. It was good to see him back and enjoy himself on the pitch with the other lads. Saka clearly loves to play with him and the young Brazilian is actually a similar type to Laca in terms of attacking style. Pepe is the least comfortable with the ball in tight spaces of all our attackers but he made the all important second goal. He often frustrates me but the longer Pepe is on the pitch the better he gets, as long as there are plenty of good passers and movers around him.
  5. There were some top highlights in this game. I already mentioned the quality first goal involving a number of Arsenal players, and then there was Partey’s slick move in midfield in which in a fraction of a second he switched himself from facing our goal to facing the Blades’ one and then picking the pass of the night for Laca. The ball was so good that Laca could just pick his corner and whip it in brilliantly for our third goal. What a goal!
  6. Mari and Holding had not much to do in defence but what they had to do they did with coolness. Mari especially put some nice balls over the top, and both tried to join the attack whenever they could. Chambers managed to get to the byline a few times and whipped a couple of fine crosses into the box, and we could all see he was enjoying himself.
  7. Laca was of course the MOTM with his two fine goals and general attacking play – that is 50 PL goals for him now! But Saka, The Silk, also played very well in his free role behind the attackers. They both added an extra quality and dimension to our football tonight, and we have to hope that Bukayo is available again on Thursday.
  8. I know that SU are not a good team and that we should have won this game possibly with even more goals, but let’s be honest: how many of us had expected such a strong, confident and fun performance tonight? Arteta mixed it up a bit whilst resting the likes of Bellerin, Soares, Big Gab, Ode, ESR and Auba. With the good, confident performances tonight, Arteta will feel he has a wider squad to pick his first eleven from for the Slavia Prague game on Thursday. So a very successful evening all round.

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal v SU: Time to Freshen Things Up With Two Hungry Young Gunners

Our game v Sheffield United falls in the middle of the two Europa League legs and I have not got much of a clue what team Arteta will select and how much priority he will give to it. We need a win of course as we can still finish strongly in the league with a good run from today till the last game of the season, but with a number of key injuries and injury-doubts it may be hard to achieve it, even against the lowly Blades. However, as Eris said yesterday, psychology is important too and we need to get back to winning ways.

The big challenge for Arteta is to put up a team today that is not just good on paper but actually gels well and gets the job done. We need intensity, high tempo and yet calm at the back. Easier said than done. Our biggest problem is getting the attack to work as a unit, as is reflected in the poor tally of goals Arsenal have scored in the league (although improving recently). The chemistry between the very talented bunch of Auba, Laca, Pepe and Willian is very poor; for some reason they just do not work together. With Martin and Emile being injury doubts, I would imagine that at least three of these experienced players will start today. We will need a bit of youthful zest and hunger, and hopefully Saka can bring this. But maybe we need more and is this the time for Arteta to start Martinelli… or even Azeez. Freshen things up a bit with the aim to keep a number of players fresh and on their toes for Thursday’s return game against Slavia Prague.

Anyway, I don’t think there is much more to say about our game tonight, so here is the preferred lineup:

I think we need to spare one of our full backs, so Chambers should start. Partey needs a break and we need him to be fresh and focussed on Thursday, so a start for Elneny (who is much better when started in a game rather than being thrown in at the end) would seem right. Martinelli has been chomping at the bit for a while so should start and yes I would play Azeez in the hole today. Laca loves working with these sort of players but I am happy for Auba to be started as CF instead: either will do. After sixty minutes the likes of Auba and Pepe can come on to finish the game off for us. All to play for – COYRRGs!

TotalArsenal.

Arsenal Leave it Late to Ruin Themselves… Or did They?!

Ooh that late goal against us was a kick in the proverbial, and it is once again all doom and gloom in Arsenaldom. The fact that this is a game of two legs does not seem to count any more. We are obviously doomed and should not even turn up for the away leg. All home teams in the Europa League failed to win last night. In fact, the other three lost their matches, so maybe a draw ain’t too bad after all?!

We were tentative but well organised in this game and were able to create a number of half-decent and good chances. The boys hit the woodwork a few times and on another night would have scored a few in the first half and it would all have been a different experience. The beating by Pool was still in the minds and legs of the Gunners and it showed. The boys were weary of the way Slavia Prague had somehow managed to dispose of Leicester and Glasgow Rangers and therefore showed the opposition a bit too much respect.

Yet I liked the way we created opportunities and put pressure on them when they played the ball out from the back. I also liked how Holding and Gabriel tried to put some balls over the top. It was poor initially but they got better as the game went on. It was great the way Auba connected with Pepe for the goal and I also liked the way ESR disposed of his rust as the game went on to finish really strongly. Then there was Saka who was so influential and competitive but just missed a bit of composure with his final ball; something to be expected from a 19 year old who has been out of it for a while.

I saw a focussed and keen Arsenal team throughout most of the game. The final ten minutes were a disappointment and we paid for the lack of professionalism at the entire back. It would be easy to hang one or two players out to dry, but for me it was every player at the back and midfield that should get the blame. I think they can do much better as indeed they have done during the season at times, but right now confidence and automatism between the players are not high/great. I can think of a number of causes but the only way to deal with this is through practice and getting it right again during matches. We are now at the business end of the season so we have to hope that Arteta and the boys will get it right asap.

I would have really liked it if Arsenal had kept a clean sheet but all is not lost. In fact, it may turn out to be the best thing that happened to us. Think back about the last round. The Spuds took a 2-0 home game to Zagreb but then managed to still get eliminated. The psychology of having to defend a cushy lead is not easy to grasp or indeed to prepare for. I could see Arsenal struggling with this too: do we attack or do we sit back, and if we do the former how committed will we be?! A team can struggle with such a proposition and I reckon we don’t have the leadership in the team right now to maturely see out a second leg on that premise.

The 1-1 means that we have to score at least once; that we need to win or draw 2-2 or higher. The mission is clear: play football and play to win. We have a better team than them, so much is clear from the first leg. This is no time for throwing in the towel but for standing up and getting behind the team. In six days time we will see a much better and determined Arsenal, that I will promise you. All to play for. COYGs!

By TotalArsenal.

Match Preview/ Lineup – All You Need to Know About Slavia Prague

Slavia Prague: the next opponent on our road to the 2nd EL final in 3 years

Arsenal’s bid to reach a second UEFA Europa League final in three seasons continues against a Slavia Praha side who have already eliminated two other British clubs on their way to the quarter-finals. Czech opponents are rare to come by in the later stage of European competitions, but this is far from the first time to visit Prague. In fact, we have played against clubs from the Czech Republic – all in the beautiful capital city of Prague – but mostly (6 games) against their local rival Sparta Praha. We met Slavia Prague once already (literally 2 games in the Champions League in 2007/2008) and we have nice memories from the first game… but let’s not go there so quickly. This post is not primarily about Arsenal, but our next EL opponent, Slavia.

Club history

Slavia is one of the most renowned and successful clubs in the history of the Czech Republic. It is located in Prague, and has been playing in the Czech top tier. They are a big-time sports club there as they have decorated teams in hockey, basketball and rugby as well under the same name: Slavia Prague.

Their closest rival and arch nemesis is AC Sparta Praha – the most successful club in the local history – but they were crowned Czech champions last time in 2010, while Slavia came up first 3 times in the last 4 years. So the supporters of our current opponent believe that the trend is about to turn maybe in this very decade.

While Sparta Praha was named in the fond memory of the bravery and fighting spirit of the ancient Greek polis Sparta, Slavia Prague focused the recollection to the people inhabiting the region from 1500 years (Slavs have been populating almost entire Central-Estern Europe – apart from Hungary – for a long time: from Ukraine to Slovenia, from Poland to Bulgaria, from Slovakia to Russia, from Macedonia to the Czech Republic). The club was named SK Slavia Praha in 1893 – 1 year after its founding – and been called different versions of this name except for the 1949-1965 period.

The club’s colours, red and white, were chosen as standing for the heart/blood and sportsmanship (fair play) respectively. Therefore the team plays its home games in a red and white jersey – another red & white team after Benfica and Olympiacos, and hopefully one more in the Gdansk final: Ajax. There is a tilted red star in the logo as well, it represents the traditions and history of club and country as well as new hope, forever strengthening the mind and uplifting the spirit.

Stadium and legends

Slavia plays its home games in their own stadium called Eden Aréna which was renovated between 2006 and 2008. While the supporters still informally refer to the place as Eden (the reference to the garden of eden is applicable in the Czech language too) the stadium has undergone a few name changes in the last decade, eventually called to Sinobo Stadium when CITIC Group, a Chinese – state owned (!) – real estate company saved the club from bankruptcy and became majority shareholders.

The stadium was refurbished for 1B koronas (~€30M) 15 years ago, therefore it is the biggest and most modern stadium in the Czech Republic. It has a capacity of 19.370 seats, and besides Slavia Prague occasionally  acts as home venue for the Czech national team (In the 2011-2012 season FC Viktoria Plzen played their home games in the Champions League group stage).

The highest profile game played here was the UEFA Super Cup final in August, 2013 when CL winner Bayern Munich beat EL holder Chelsea on penalties (after 1:1 and 2:2 a.e.t). The Czech national team defeated England for the 2020/2021 UEFA Euro qualifying in October, 2019 – Kane’s 5th min penalty was responded by Brabec (9’) and Ondrášek (85’).

When thinking about the player who scored the most goals of their life people usually guess Romario, Puskás or C. Ronaldo, but that might not be accurate. Legendary Josef “Pepi” Bican was born in Vienna in 1913 and became one of the best football players of 20th century. He played for Slavia between 1937 and 1948 and after his spell in Vítkovice returned to red and white in 1953 for four more years. He scored 447 league goals. He is probably the football’s leading goalscorer of all time. It is said he scored close to 1,500 goals in total during his days, other sources claim above 1800 (yet he still is 2nd when all unofficial goals are accounted). http://www.rsssf.com/players/prolific.html

Another player worth mentioning is Pavel Kuka, icon of 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Slavia Prague. He was also a key player of the Czech national team winning a silver medal at the 1996 European Championship and coming third at the Confederation Cup a year after. He may have not reached such stardom as Bican or Poborsky (played a single year for Slavia), but his name Kuka – which incidentally is the Hungarian name of Dopey, the 7th dwarf – made him an instant favorite among Hungarian football lovers.

For fellow bloggers more knowledgeable in English football, Patrik Berger could be the notable mention as the cheeky attacking midfielder – between starting (4y) and ending (2y) his career at Slavia Prague – was German champion and cup winner with Borussia Dortmund, but is better known for his contributions (including his trademark long range rockets)  to Liverpool’s domestic and European success when he was playing his trade there between 1996 and 2003. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3zxic_esVo

Football results

Slavia Prague are 13-times Czechoslovakian champions, and won the Czech competition (after the 2 countries have split in 1993) 6 times already, including last year. They won the cup 9 times (4+5).

In Europe Slavia was runner up in the summer of 1930 when Swiss champion Servette organized a major tournament of top European clubs from Spain, Italy, Netherlands, etc. that is considered the ancestor of the European Champions’ Cup (forefather of UEFA’s Champions League). It is unofficial though since 4 countries (Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia) didn’t take part as they participated in the World Cup in Uruguay. The tournament was won by Hungarian club Újpest who scored 14 and conceded only 1 in the entire tournament. Slavia Prague won the Mitropa Cup – a Central-European mini Champions League in 1938 ahead of runner-up Ferencváros. This tournament was officially called the La Coupe de l’Europe Centrale, the first recurring major European football cup and was held between 1927 and 1992. Slavia was runner-up in 1929.

In the mainstream European football the biggest success of Slavia was reaching the semi-final of the UEFA Europa League in 1996 (losing against future runner-up Bourdeaux), and they reached the quarter final 3 times: in 2000 they lost against Leeds, in 2019 they lost to future winner Chelsea and they are facing a huge challenge against us currently. J

In the Champions League Slavia Prague qualified to the group stage twice in their history. In the 2007-2008 season they came third – behind Arsenal and Sevilla – thus continued in the Europa League, and last year they were drawn in a hardcore group against FC Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, where they were eliminated (ended up last with 2 points), but their away draws at Barcelona and Milan are quite respectable performances.

This season Slavia started in the CL, but lost the play-off round against Danish champion Midtjylland. They were drawn to group C with Bayer Leverkusen, Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Nice (without Saliba) where they qualified for the knock-out stage by finishing 2nd in the group. They won all 3 home games and the away fixture in France.

In the first elimination round they met Leicester City whom they defeated in the second leg in the King Power Stadium after a 0:0 draw in Prague. Rangers had a similar fate, with the small adjustment of the 1:1 draw in the first leg, but they were also eliminated after a 0:2 home defeat. So basically after a strong home start in the group stage Slavia managed to overcome 2 strong UK teams by winning the 2nd leg away from home. The other notable difference is that they conceded 10 goals in the 6 games of the group phase, but only 1 in the 4 knock-out matches.

Slavia and Arsenal

Arsenal have played eight games against Czech opponents in Europe, winning seven, losing none, scoring 22 goals and conceding just two. The biggest win came against our current opponent Slavia in October, 2007, when Wenger’s men won by 7:0 thanks to braces from Fabregas, Hleb and Walcott (concluding a Bendtner wrap-up goal). Arsenal started the game in 4-4-2 with Almunia in goal, a Sagna-Toure-Gallas-Clichy defense, Eboue, Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb in midfield and Adebayor paired with Walcott in attack. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhGq8lWqK-g Slavia general manager Stanislav Vlček played for the club in the 7-0 defeat at the Emirates.

The game in Prague ended 0:0, but our memories are rightfully fond. Yet we must respect the opponent. Not only for general sportsmanship reasons, but they have good footballers, even though star players (outgoing record transfer €20M) Tomáš Souček and Vladimír Coufal both joined Arsenal’s London rivals West Ham United from Slavia in 2020.

While Arsenal stands 10th in the PL with the form LDLWWD, Slavia Prague sits on top of the Czech championship with an excellent form of DWWWDW. Our opponent is a compact team with quality players (mostly on the wings and flanks), and they are full of confidence based on the domestic run and the impressive EL history this season, but they have limited experience in playing against teams of Arsenal’s caliber. Currently, both teams prioritize the Europa League; Arsenal because it’s the only way to play in Europe next season (and in the Champions League!), and Slavia because they have a massive 14 points advantage ahead of city rival Sparta Praha, having played only 2 games more. Even if Sparta wins both games in hand the remaining 8-point advantage should be more than comfortable with 9 matches remaining from the season.

Failing to score in their last game (vs Olympiakos), Arsenal ended an impressive record of scoring in 25 consecutive European matches. Hopefully we’ll get back to finding the net on Thursday.

Current players and predicted line-up

Not only Arsenal is injury-ridden, but Slavia Prague lost its star goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar 2 weeks ago (sinus fracture), as well as experienced (and gigantic) center back Simon Deli to coronavirus. Nevertheless they are strong on the wings, 19-year-old Abdallah Sima (already playing for the national team of Senegal) and Nigerian Peter Olayinka will put pressure on our full-backs. Their midfield is also quite capable, but due to injuries and inexperience I expect our boys to score a few goals as 20-year-old David Zima would be the most senior player in the Czech central defence (out of 5 CBs 3 are injured and 1 is ineligible in the EL).

Nevertheless their attacking 4-5 is quite dangerous (age, primary position and season goal contributions in brackets): Jan Kuctha (24, ST, 22), Abdallah Sima (19, LW, 25), €4M incoming record transfer Nicolae Stanciu (27, AM, 19), Lukas Provod (24, LW, 14) and Peter Olayinka (25, RW, 16) are not to be taken lightly.

I predict Slavia starting in 4-1-4-1 formation, with a possible line-up:

–––––––––––Kuchta–––––––––––

Olayinka–Stanciu–Provod––Sima–

––––––––––Hromada––––––––––

Boril©–––Zima–––Holes––––Bah–

–––––––––––Vagner–––––––––––

TA will provide the predicted Arsenal line-up below, but let me sign off with an interesting fact – and a possibility to screw one of our London rivals:

A maximum of five PL teams are eligible for the Champions League. If a Premier League club (Liverpool) wins the Champions League while another (Arsenal) wins the Europa League and neither finish in top 4 in the PL, the club lying fourth in the table (Chelsea/Spurs) will drop into Europa League.

Yours truly:

PB

Predicted Lineup (depending on fitness) by TA:

Luiz and KT are out, Ode is a doubt for the game, so ESR may replace him and Auba may then start too.

Surely It Is Not Too Hard to Support Arteta Unconditionally Till At Least the End of Season

What a roller-coaster season we are witnessing. One week we are full of hope and the next one we are down in the dumps again. I am blessed to have so many level-headed readers on BK and this keeps me going. Looking at some of the other blogs and social media just gives me the shivers and makes me want to support my team on my own; is it a reaction to the C19 crisis or are Arsenal supporters the same spoiled prats as anywhere else? 😦

Luckily, this is not needed because of the fine blogging community established here over the last nine years. I welcome honest opinion and we really do not have to agree all; something that happens seldom here anyway. But the ability to look at the bigger picture and the ‘primal’ desire to be supportive of the team and manager are vital for healthy, positive blogging. So thank you all for doing this on here.

There is nothing else to say about our dire loss v Pool than that we were pants. Arteta and his boys did not do the shirt proud. I think there are mitigating factors at play, though. The first game after an international period is always a bit of a gamble. Fitness is hard to assess and there is little time to prepare for a game with the first team. The same goes of course for Pool but they are a much more established team than we are; Arsenal, on the other hand, are in transition under Arteta and this was once again obvious on Saturday.

Then there were a number of key, unexpected injuries before and during the game that set us back. An established team can deal with this better I think, but realising quite late into proceedings that both Xhaka and Luiz will not be available was a big blow for the team and our style of play. Both are the key passers from ‘out of the back for us’, and Granit is vital for setting out Arteta’s game strategy. He was really missed. Holding did relatively well imo, but the lack of a protective wall in front of the defence was obvious. Pool had nothing to fear in midfield as Partey was left too isolated and is still looking for form and fitness anyway.

Furthermore, Arteta knew he had to do without two of his strongest ball passers, ESR and Saka; but to then also miss out on Luiz and Xhaka was a big blow. Auba and Pepe are players who do not really fit into Arteta-ball but one of them can normally be accommodated, somehow. They have individual qualities that can make a difference, but ideal for what Mikel wants to do they are not. And then came the injury to KT and all at once our left side missed two important players for such a difficult game, and it simply was too much.

On paper it still looked like a good team but a) Pool are a good team and played well on the night and b) the 11 that started just struggled to play the way Arteta had planned for. Still, I would have liked to have seen more fight from a number of players and I am sure Arteta really was not happy with them. This is also part of a transitional season. The summer will see a lot of goings and some quality comings.

For me, any judgement of the season just has to wait till all games have been played. We had a bad spell before Christmas and just a couple of wins back then would have us close to the European footie places now. I still feel we will get a good run together and end up about 3-5 places higher than where we are now. There is also good hope that we can progress to the next round in the Europa League.

Arteta is juggling between his ideal style/vision of football and the players he has at his disposal. We have a good squad but not all can play the sort of football Arteta has promised the BoD he will bring to Arsenal, that much is clear to all of us. And then, a few too many injuries do really set us back still. So let’s hope for quick recoveries of our key players and a consistent run of good form and games. All to play for. COYGs.

By TotalArsenal.

Arsenal V Liverpool: Preview/ Lineup – AubaCazette to Rattle The Teeth

So we are finally above water again and a mouthwatering Saturday evening game v Liverpool is awaiting us.

It is very hard to just live for the ‘football day’ but we should really forget about our position in the table, whether Odegaard will sign a long contract or not, whether Aguero will join us and all that sort of ‘future’ stuff; it is all about enjoying the journey itself and it is always good to play Liverpool and try and beat them. I will put one of my favourite Pirsig quotes up again: “To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow.” Arteta is presenting us with lots of shoots of green and I am loving this season.

See the source image

We know that Klopp’s boys have been running around like a wounded puma trying to find its appetite and bite again, lately. The Teeth has a formidable team and we have to be very wary of them. At one point they will find their form again and somebody will get it in the neck badly. Let’s hope it will not be us. We know they like to dominate the game and press high but they are missing NvD badly, not only for his defensive capabilities but also for his tempo setting/ leadership qualities. Every good team has a player who makes it play to a certain tune, and Van Dijk is that for Pool. The much misunderstood/valued Xhaka is that for us, and the bad news is that he was unwell on Friday and may be missing today. Granit has played a couple of games with the Swiss national team and looked already knackered before the international break, so it would not surprise me if Arteta simply has to rest him tonight. That would be a blow.

Now a fully fit Partey and Elneny partnership could fill the void but it is always hard to tell how any player will perform after having been away on international duty for almost two weeks. It looks like Pool will lose Wijnaldum at the end of the season and I must say he has been playing well below par in the last few months for club and country. It looks like he will be going to Barcelona for free but I would not mind him at Arsenal at all. Not going to happen though. However, I think if we keep the Pool midfield quiet – and Wijnaldum should be our main focus for silencing – we can do some great damage to them tonight through our counter-attacks and turnovers.

Tierney was awesome for Scotland and our other ‘rising’ full back, Soares, seems to also have played well during the interlull. I am looking forward to our battle of the wing-backs with Pool, which is just as important as the one in central midfield. Both Saka and ESR will be assessed today and I doubt they will play much if at all. So on the wings I expect both Auba and Pepe to play. If they are prepared to put the work in, they should really benefit from the space that Pool will give us behind their high press. I have started to doubt whether Laca and Auba should start in the same team again but tonight it would make sense to play AubaCazette. Auba is simply best when launched into space and a high press is ideal for him. Klopp knows this of course and will be wary but changing his style of play he will not: look at those fake, brilliant teeth, this is one determined man!

Luiz is out and so Arteta needs to decide who to play next to Big Gab. It really is time to give Holdingho another chance. So here is my predicted (and preferred) line-up for tonight:

Come on You Rip Roaring

G U N N E R S

By TotalArsenal.