Ozil and Alexis Back | Our Strongest Possible Team against West Brom

….Playing football the Arsenal Way!

Proper football is back on the agenda this weekend but we need to wait till Monday evening to get our ‘injection’. It will be interesting to see how our main competitors for the title will fare this afternoon. Hopefully some will drop points to give us an opportunity to move closer to the top four.

The good news is that most of our first-choice players are fit. Ozil is still a doubt but I reckon he will play. Welbeck is out but he was only keeping Sanchez’s spot warm. Our defenders will be well rested as will be our midfielders and wing backs, and Lacazette will be relishing a new opportunity to win over the home fans.

It will be nice to see Kieran Gibbs return to the home of football. I am glad he moved on and chose to play regular football. You only live this life once so may as well take the opportunity to play football rather than warm the bench season after season at Arsenal. Let’s just hope he plays ok against us but not a blinder.

As many here know, I am excited in the partnership of Rambo and Xhaka and reckon that, together with Ozil as the more advanced midfielder, they can lead us to silverware. As a team we need to play with intensity and focus as to attack AND defend together as an unbeatable unit. Against the Chavs we saw, once again, how strong we can be if we play like purpose, pace and discipline.

Now it is important to continue with the same shape and focus against Pulis’ West Brom, a team that will sit back and defend with discipline, hoping to beat us on the break and with set-pieces. If we attack them without intensity and not as a solid unit, we will make it hard for ourselves. I reckon Ozil and Alexis – our two true top footballers – will both start on Monday with Lacazette in the CF position, and I cannot wait to see them play together from the start. This is a very exciting attacking trio to have, possibly the best one we have had in more than a decade.

The final excitement I want to talk about is the trio of Koz-Mustafi-Nacho at the back. Surrounded by very good wing-backs and a solid, steady goalkeeper , they have the speed, aggression and defensive skillset to allow us to press high and dominate play in the opposition’s half.

And as long as Arsene is at the helm, this is the only way for Arsenal; and long may it continue. Good, classic defending may be an art worth watching – and we all like a clean sheet – but true excitement comes from relentless, clever and deadly attacking football. We have the team and bench to play that sort of football so let’s go for it.

Predicted Line-Up:

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By TotalArsenal

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Jack Wilshere, without any doubt in my mind, is one of the game’s most intelligent players.  Intelligence in this sense is seen when a player is able to choose the best option at every given moment with or without the ball. With the ball, Jack is up there with the incomparable Santi Cazorla as both have the technical skills to match the quickness of their footballing minds. Without the ball, which had been Jack’s weak point, it now appears that all the hard knocks to his career have helped him grow.  Against Doncaster Wednesday night in the Carabao Cup, when Mohamed Elneny pushed forward, Wilshere dropped to occupy vulnerable spaces. It’s no more Jack the lad, it’s now Jack the man.

I saw plenty in that match against lowly Doncaster Rovers.  Plenty.

Watching him, I saw that he played with a certain detachment. He was in it, yet out of it. That state gave him the unique awareness that belongs only to geniuses like Andrea Pirlo and Xavi Hernandez, maestros who seem to see what the fans high up in the stand see: a panoramic view of the game while not missing the details. Jack Wilshere is back, only bigger–though he will need time, support and recognition for it all to become fully forged.

He needs time to build up his fitness and get away from the scares of his injury traumas. He needs everybody’s support in his transition from the impetuous kid who drove headlong at defensive brick walls to the metronome who would orchestrate play. Fully back, he would need his teammates to recognize that he has become the center, the soul of their team. And never again should a cruel injury befall him. That is the prayer that should be on the lips of every lover of football.

Jack, it appears, has been reconstructing his game to diminish his proneness to impact injuries which have all but blighted his footballing career. Arjen Robben did likewise and enjoyed a more injury free tenure. So did Robin Van Persie. Jack is doing the same, and, providentially, it is the reconstruction process that has heightened his awareness that has given maturity to his game. With this quality, a player begins to see himself merely as a cog in the wheel and so becomes more team conscious. All the world greatest players have it.

What should be the best role for Wilshere? Simple answer: any creative midfield role, but the deep lying playmaker role would provide a better insurance against the vicious tackles. He might actually play better further forward but his provocative style invites the harsh tackles. To play him deeper is to help his effort at reconstructing his game. Wilshere has enough genius in him for the team to be built around him.  Am I straying into dizzy heights?  I would wager on it, that, not long from now, Jack would be taking all of us safely through these same dizzying routes.

Let us indulge a little bit and imagine Ozil, Santi, Jack and Rambo in the mid-areas firing on all cylinders. The feints, the back-heels, the drag-backs, the no-look passes, the one-touch passes, the through-balls… The vision, the swagger… The aforementioned dizzying heights…and the victories.

This is my song to Jack.

by Pony Eye

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Elneny and M-Niles in Midfield, Giroud up Top, Wilshere Nr10: Preview and Line-Up


As a football opponent to Arsenal FC in the FA Carabao Cup, what is there to know about Doncaster Rovers except that they gained promotion from the 4th tier of the English league system last season and are now competing in League One (3th tier) where currently they stand at 1 win and 3 draws in 8 games. It is not likely that Wenger would be loosing any sleep about wholesome rotation or not. What might be a bit of an issue to him is the choice between the 3 and 4 man defense for the match. I expect Wenger to opt for the latter. Why?

A formation should suit the selected players and vice versa. The 3:4:2:1 goes hand in hand with wing backs, inside forwards and no #10. With Kolasinac, Bellerin and Monreal all expected to be rested we would be without any recognizable wing back unless Wenger decides to rely on our junior pair of Kosh Dasilva (LWB) and Reiss Nelson (RWB). Furthermore 3:4:2:1 utilizes inside forwards, a role that does not suit Walcott who is expected to play. Walcott is best as a wide man running off the shoulders of the defence on passes supplied by a #10 that does not exist in a 3:4:2:1 For these reasons Wenger might opt to ditch the 3:4:2:1 formation. On the other side of the arguement Wenger might want his Teams “A” and “B” playing the same system. His compromise here might be the 3:4:1:2.

My predicted line up in a 4:2:3:1 formation is:-






BENCH : Macey, Mustafi, Xhaka, Iwobi, Nelson, Willock, Akpom.

I expect Sanchez to be played as part of getting him back to speed for replacing the injured Welbeck in our subsequent premier league matches. I also expect our senior fringe players (fringe as at the moment) to be expoused to as many games as is possible to keep them match fit. Any one of them, for one reason or the other can transition into the first team at no notice. Also Wenger would be using these kind of matches for crystallizing his Team “B” for the Eropa League competition.

Meanwhile it is OGAAT (one game at a time) as on our path stands Doncaster Rovers! Yawn at your peril. The last time the two teams met was in a league cup quarter finals in 2005 where Arsenal sneaked through on penalties . COYG!!!

By Pony Eye

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No Need for DM, Rambo Rocks, Mustafi Missing Link, Kolasinac adds Steal: 8 Observations

I sat in my car in beautiful Ardnamurchan, listening to Talksport with very limited reception. Every twenty seconds the sound would disappear for ten seconds or so, but it was a joy to listen to the radio nevertheless, with the odd golden eagle flying over and sensing that our boys were putting up a fight against the Chavs from the first whistle. All I wanted to know is that we started with fight and intensity, and the boys fought for ninety minutes alright!

Eight Observations/Discussion Starters:

  1. Wenger showed the rest of the world that we do not need an old-fashioned DM to beat a top team. Rambo and Xhaka played as a tandem and both Kolasinac and Bellerin helped them to make the midfield solid. It is all about playing as a team with intensity, rather than outsource defending to one or two classical DMs.
  2. On Sunday, everybody defended and we attacked as a team. Welbeck and Iwobi fought for the team and helped to keep it tight and intense until they were substituted. Clearly, it came at a cost in attacking terms, as Sanchez and Ozil have the maturity and magic to score a goal, but in terms of team cohesion Welbeck and Iwobi were good alternatives.
  3. The return of Mustafi has been very good. He is not our best defender but he adds bite and energy and combines very well with Koz and Nacho. Two games two clean sheets; it is something to build on.
  4. Rambo is growing into a man. The Liverpool humiliation may have done Aaron good. He is now at an age when he cannot look around himself for inspiration anymore; he should be the leader who makes things happen. And that is what he did on Sunday, coming very close to score the winner and influence the game all over the pitch.
  5. Kolasinac is adding steal to the team. Those who want a typical beast of a DM in the team should want him to play next to Xhaka or Rambo. But I like him on the left. He combines power and speed with a fine first touch and good close ball control, and his final ball into the box is simply superb. With Koz and Hector on the right and Nacho and Kolasinac on the left we have some very strong wings. IF Hector would improve his final ball into the box, and he looked a lot better re this on Sunday, we can boost very strong wings indeed;
  6. Lacazette is playing in isolation. Alex is very mobile and does not need much to hit the target, but the team is still learning to play attacking football with him. Neither Welbeck nor Iwobi have developed a bond within as yet. I reckon he needs somebody like Ozil, Welbeck or Iwobi, say in a 3-5-2, to play closer to him as to get the full value from him. I would also like to see Giroud-Lacazette to start a few game together this season.
  7. How strong is Wenger!?! Whether you want him gone or not, you have to admire how quickly he turned things round with the team, in terms of structure, tactics and belief. We were closer to winning on Sunday than the hosts, but the most important thing was that we improved our team defending from a humiliating 4-0 defeat at Pool to a hard-fought for 0-0 against the Champions. Many pundits predicted us to lose badly; Wenger stood up against all of them.
  8. Alexis is nowhere near 100%. Welbeck’s injury was a blow, as bringing on Alexis for Lacazette seemed a very good move. With Danny gone and Giroud replacing him, we became less mobile and effectively had to change our style of attacking play. And, as I have said before, Giroud and Sanchez just do not go well together. Alexis is still growing into the season and we need him to get sharper soon to win us games when we need it most.

By TotalArsenal

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Chlesea-Arsenal Live Blog. Line-ups are Out. No Ozil, No Alexis. The Future is Now?

Here are you line-ups…

Arsenal: Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Bellerin, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac; Lacazette, Welbeck, Iwobi. Subs: Ospina, Mertesacker, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Sanchez,  Walcott, Giroud.

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Morata, Pedro. Subs: Caballero, Rudiger, Christensen, Zappacosta, Bakayoko, Hazard, Batshuayi.

Is this a message to the Board?… Life without our contract hold-outs starts now, I guess…

Please join us in the comments as I attempt to describe some of the action…

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Chelsea-Arsenal. Live-Blog Tomorrow, Preview Today.

Wembley’s Been Good.  Is Stamford (a) Bridge Too Far?

We shall see.  Please join us in the comments section at game-time for some in-match impressions.  Due to the early start–5:30 am my time–there won’t be time for any sort of preamble or preview.  The machine comes on with a timer, but pulling myself my (first) espresso at that hour will be tough enough.  As such, here’s your lot…

Much has been made of our struggles in “big away matches” and even more about our past five trips to Stamford Bridge, all of them losses, and featuring a collective scoreline of 15-2.  Ouch.  I prefer to think of our two most recent matches vs Chelsea, but, admittedly, those were at Wembley.  Truth be told, both clubs didn’t have the most convincing summers and Chelsea actually had the worse opening day, losing at the Bridge to Burnley.  They’ve since righted the ship–including a strong win at Wembley over Spurs–and sit just a point below the Mancunian league leaders going into the 5th weekend of play.

As Gooners, as per usual, our own issues are the focus and two losses (and no goals) in our other road matches does not bode well for the trip across town.  We’ll just have to do something about that, I guess, and we might be at least somewhat buoyed by our come-from-behind win against Cologne on Thursday night in our Europa League opener.  That it came in a crazed atmosphere–after a delayed start due to an excess of inebriated away supporters–might just help us prepare for other, er, challenges, including playing Chelsea in their stadium.  Again, we shall see.

Just as Chelsea will present stronger opposition, so too will Arsenal be putting out a stronger team.  Here’s the group I think will start at Stamford Bridge.





Substitutes: Ospina, Holding, Elneny, Wilshere, Alexis, Walcott, Giroud

Keen observers will note that it’s the same group who started vs Bournemouth last Saturday.  More hysterical types will be saying, “Alexis on the bench, WTF!!!”

Of course, we’ll have to see what Wenger does, but I think Alexis, having played his first full 90 minute match, will be looked to for the final half-hour–whether goals are needed or not.  As always, however, what do I know?  Who would you start and why?  Any changes to the 18 names I’ve listed?  And what about formation?  We’ve been starting matches with a back three but finishing them playing four at the back, and, if Thursday is any example, we appear far more comfortable once the switch is made.

My thought is that this match comes just a bit too early and that we’re still reeling from the ugly end to our transfer window dealings–and non-dealings–plus the debacle that was our trip to Liverpool.  Defending first has to be a mantra for this one, hence the three (or is it five?…) at the back.  For me, Alexis’ contributions in that formation has, thus far at least, been a mess, another reason to hold him out until later on.   In my view, despite the competition obviously being much tougher, we need to build upon our win over Bournemouth and try to move forward from there.

Those are mine.  What are your thoughts headed into the match?

Let’s be having them–in the comment section below and tomorrow on the Live-Blog…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

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Maitland-Niles Shines, Elneny the Dynamo, Alexis is Back, Kola & Bellerin Beasts of the Wing: Match Review

What is not to like about Spursday Nights?!!

Now that was a proper night of football. Clearly, the crowd control was poor and lessons will have to be learned, but it is hard to deny that the home of football was very atmospheric last night. A few years ago, I experienced something similar when Dortmund played Arsenal at home, even though they did seem to have a lot more tickets allocated to them and were mostly all in designated areas. The thing is, the Germans know how to sing and be collectively loud; you just have to give them that.

The line-up did not hold too many surprises, except maybe the inclusion of both Bellerin and the Nacho man. The former really needs to get in to a ‘game rhythm’ this season, and the latter should have been spared in my opinion. It does look like we have limited options in the full back positions if Wenger feels he needs to play the likes of Hector, Nacho, and eventually Kola too in a UEFA cup group game at home. And if Debuchy is not even used in a game like this, only God knows what he did to Wenger to get in such bad books.

Our boys looked a bit disorientated in the first half and clearly struggled to find a collective rhythm, or a if you want, a sense of togetherness. These players were not working as a well-oiled unit and many passes went astray. On top of that, Koln had one of those moment a manager always hopes for when playing away against very strong opposition: a wonder goal out of the blue by Cordoba. The lively Ospina ran out of his box to clear a ball but it fell to a Koln player and then it ended up with Cordoba, who did not think twice and produced a fabulous long-range shot over the helpless looking keeper and high into the net. Unfortunately for the red-shoed manager, it fell only in the ninth minutes, leaving Arsenal plenty of time to make amends.

We were not clicking in the middle of the field and our wing-backs were struggling to provide the much needed width to crack the German walls of four and five in front of them. Alexis was shaking off some rust and Maitland-Niles and the Chilean were not clicking. Hector struggled to stretch the defence by coming inside time and again and thus slowing our attacks down. Elneny worked his socks off to push the team forward and make things happen in midfield, but Iwobi struggled to get into the game and make the required difference around the box.

At the back, the BFG was imperious with great interceptions and clearances and providing structure to the defence. Unfortunately, Holding had another jittery game and lacked intensity when making interceptions, regularly leading to half clearances and dangerous loose balls in the box.

The second half saw us play much, much better. Maybe it was due to a change in formation, with now four at the back, or maybe it was the team-talk at half time that did it. We played with lots more intensity, harmony and purpose and managed to get pressure on the Koln defence in and around the box. It was only a matter of time before we would hit the net, and it came within four minutes. Kola put his laces through a deflected ball that was forever dropping down from the sky and his howitzer was sooo ferocious that it would have killed anything in its path. 1-1 and game on.

And then Alexis re-announced himself. A typical run from the flank towards the middle of the box followed by a bended shot that the keeper saw far too late to respond too; and if he had seen it earlier, he would not have got close to it anyway, so hard and precise was the Chilean’s far-post-bender. It was a goal the game and the player needed and we were now leading: 2-1.

The third and last Arsenal goal was also a beauty, even though, just like the first one, it had an imperfect Theo moment in it. Our English winger struggled throughout the game to hold on to the ball and make a difference, but his runs in and around the box became better the longer the game went on (and he got spotted and served better in the second half). The team worked cleverly together to get the ball to him in the box but his effort on goal was too hasty – so typical of Theo who often scores like that but also regularly wastes really good opportunities through this lack of ‘taking a moment’. Luckily, Hector was there to pounce on the rebound and I loved the conviction he put into his attempt. He really needed this game and I expect him to play really well on Sunday against the Chavs. 3-1 to the good guys and game over.

After that we strutted our stuff with back-heels and flicks and dummies and dinks, but no more goals were added. Maitland-Niles grew and grew and showed what a box-box potential he has. Koln had a couple of half-chances but Ospina was sharp and keen and a good game of football came to an end.

A few first teamers shook off some summer-rust, a few youngsters experienced a proper European cup-tie, a few oldies smelled football again and gained a lot of fitness, and Maitland-Niles showed us all what a prospect he is: what is not to like about Spursday football?

By TotalArsenal

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