West Ham–Arsenal Live-blog. Jack and a Back Four Including AMN? Ollie Up Top? Changes Ring as the Midweek Madness of the Festive Season Kicks In.

The big Fella says, “Go get it out of their net, Jack!”

Not much time today to set up a live blog but it looks like we got a very interesting match on our hands with plenty of changes to our team.  It sure looks like a back-4 to me with Ainsley Maitland-Niles at left back.  Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi slot into a midfield with Granit Xhaka, then it’s the contract hold-outs, Alexis and Ozil, flanking the big man in the photo.


Here are the full teams:

Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Wilshere; Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud. Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Kolasinac, Coquelin, Elneny, Welbeck, Lacazette.

West Ham: Adrian; Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Zabaleta, Noble, Obiang, Masuaku; Lanzini; Antonio Arnautovic. Subs: Hart, Collins, Rice, Ayew, Sakho, Carroll, Hernandez.

Referee: Jon Moss.

West Ham seem to have gotten a lift by changing managers and new guy David Moyes might be transferring his own personal desperation to his players.  And it may be working.  They won a one-goal match in the London Stadium this past Saturday vs Chelsea and only lost by a single goal at Manchester City the week before.  Will that be enough to satisfy Moyes’ boys or will they be wanting another big scalp and a lift out of the relegation places?  Can Arsenal stop conceding early goals and get back on track?  Three points are a must tonight or we will be looking up at several teams above us in the fight for Champions League football… including Burnley.  Gulp…

We shall see, and, busy as I am, I’m gonna try and block out everything else to describe the action.  Please join me in the comments.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace


Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

4-2-3-1: Nacho/Xhaka in midfield, Alexis/Iwobi on Wings, Ozil/Lacazette in Middle | Time for Tactical Change v West Ham


Most football followers consider the 3-man defence as providing a greater defensive solidity than a 4-man defence, though the numbers say differently (3 versus 4). It is a popular belief fuelled by the potential of the 3-man defence to transform into the 5-man defence when under attack thereby creating a numerical superiority over the 4-man defence (5 versus 4). Note that the critical word in the last sentence is “potential”.

The efficiency with which the 3 transforms into the 5 is therefore critical. Clearly, the solidity of the 3-man defence depends on the quality of the two wing backs. If they are regularly caught upfield when the back line is under attack, then the 4-man defence with dedicated full backs is defensively superior. On the other hand, when the wingbacks operate with high tactical intelligence, the 3 invariably transform into the 5 when necessary, to give it a superior defensive edge over the 4-man back line. The 3-man is therefore a more sophisticated (adaptable) formation, but it’s balance sits on a knife edge.

For comparison, we look at our stats over the last 6 seasons (17/18 inclusive) after 16 premier league games (FM = Formation).

12/13——-4-MAN—–16——26——16—- +10——-24——7th
13/14——-4-MAN—–16——33——17—- +16——-35——1st
14/15——-4-MAN—–16——28——18—- +09——-26——6th
15/16——-4-MAN—–16——29——13—- +16——-30——2nd
16/17——-4-MAN—–16——37——17—- +20——-34——2nd
17/18——-3-MAN—–16——30 —–20—- +10——-29——5th

Goals against (GA) column shows that we have actually conceded more goals in our only season using the 3-man defence than in any of the other 5 preceding seasons where we used the 4-man back line. However, this is not enough reason for us to revert to the back-4. What we should be comparing is the effect that changes in formation have on the overall performances of the team and not just on the defensive numbers. Points garnered and even more so, the goals difference (GD), are better indicators of the performance level of a team on the whole.

Let us then compare the stats of this season (3-man) with the average stats of the preceding 5 seasons (12/17) after 16 games.



The table shows that after 16 matches, playing with the 3-man back line, we had conceded more goals (20 to 16), scored marginally less goals (30 to 31), garnered marginally less points (29 to 30) and achieved less goal difference (10 to 15) than we did with the 4-man back line (for a period covering the 5 preceding seasons over their first 16 matches).

Are these enough reasons to declare our 4-man better than our 3-man defence? Not necessarily so.  Rather, it is the kind of personnel we have that should determine which is better for us to use. If we revert to the flat-4, the wingbacks revert to fullbacks which, being essentially a more defensive role, means to me that Debuchy should supersede Bellerin and Monreal placed ahead of Kolasinac. Smooth transition at the back if you ask me. The problem area, however, would be the central midfield where Xhaka and Ramsey are our first-choice pairing.

The 3-man back line suits Ramsey to a tee, so much so that he should be one of the first names in the starting eleven. In the 4-man formation Ramsey needs a partner who is competent in the defensive part of the game, obviously not Xhaka. On the other hand, the back-4 that goes with front wingers suits Xhaka’s long raking passes (observe that those long passes have all but vanished in the 3-at-the-back formation). In my opinion, the flat-4 back line demands that our central midfield be manned by Ramsey or Xhaka and never by Ramsey and Xhaka. The big question is who should partner either of them. I have looked around for that suitable partner and I think he is somewhere in the market. But meanwhile, Coquelin is decent enough but should never be used against the high pressing teams. Apart from him my first choice, from our present squad, is Mr Consistency. He defends well. He passes well. He reads the game very well. He knows when to take a card on behalf of the team. Ageless Nacho Monreal, the full back, the wing back, the central defender and now the defensive midfielder. Desperate times
need desperate measures if we want to return to Europe’s elite competition.
If we can get our selection right, it is back to the back-4 for me. It’s beginning to get ridiculous the way we abandon the back 3 and scamper to the back-4 at the sound of the first shot, each time.

In our midweek match against West Ham at the Olympic Stadium the team (with Ramsey out injured) that I would like to see is;


submit football lineup

SUBS: Ospina, Chambers, Bellerin, Coquelin, Wilshere, Welbeck, Giroud.

Gooners, we all have a way of seeing the same thing differently, so what’s your take on these?


By Pony Eye.

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

Eight Tough Questions for our Faltering Gunners

Very little time to write about the Saints’ game but still feel we need to talk about this one. So rather than just give you my views on a missed opportunity to regain momentum, I will put eight pointed questions to you, my fine fellow BKers:

  1. Why were we once again deadly vulnerable at the back at the start of the match? Are the Gunners not drinking the right stuff? Should 17HT become their coffee master? Does Wenger need to dump the ‘three at the back’ right now? Where are the wing backs and central midfielders at the start of our games?
  2. How much are we getting from our wing-backs at the moment? It has been a while since we had an assist or a goal from either Kolasinac or Hector Vector. They leave our CBs exposed regularly and are not offering width and penetration from the wings in attack: final balls are often not good enough and partnerships with either Ozil or Alexis are not working right now. Time to try something/somebody different?
  3. I am a big fan of the Rambo and Xhaka combo but is it really working? In yesterday’s game there was little invention from either player and Rambo’s first touch, passing and decision making was unimpressive to say the least. These boys should be the double-engine, midfield beasts of the team, but they are stuttering. Time to try something/somebody different?
  4. Alexis is great in space and in front of goal but how many passes go astray? How many times does he make the byline and crosses towards our CF? Has he been found out? Never lacks a willingness to get stuck in, but how effective is he?
  5. Should we play Lacazette central against park-the-bus, or should I say compactly defending in front of their goal, teams? Would he not be better off on the left (instead of Alexis) with Giroud (or even Alexis) in the middle?
  6. Can we afford to leave Wilshere much longer on the bench? Ozil needs support in the creating-chances-department and Rambo, Alexis and Granit are not contributing enough?
  7. Should we go back to playing more defence-minded midfielders in the middle? Coq and Elneny were solid against BATE; okay, they were not the strongest opposition but we looked solid and stable and hammered them by six goals….?
  8. Anything else I should have asked/put on the table?

I know we got a point in the end and on paper that is not a bad outcome against Southampton away, but  where was the hunger, focus and energy to put the Saints to the sword on Saturday? The players were well rested and injury-free but our tempo was low and the belief was hardly there. Surely, time to shake things up?

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments

Live-Blog Southampton-Arsenal. Neither Wind, Nor Sleet, Nor Early Kick-off Can Stop This

Courier from trying to tell it like it is when Arsenal have a league match… At least if the match is on the telly.  Oh my it looks grim on the South Coast, and, trust me, in my head, the tempest is nearly as strong.

But that’s why I have a timer on the espresso machine.

 The BFG comes in for his Countryman Mustafi and says, “That’s the way forward today.”  Or maybe, “I’m a tea-pot.”  I need my espresso.  Our taxi-man Kevin, needs his tea, so why not?…

It’s all a bit early so I’m doing what I can…

Here are the line-ups.  Just the one change for the Arsenal from the group that started so poorly vs Manchester United.  Looks like the 3-4-3 stays, for the moment at least.


Help me out in the comments sections, eh?… You know how it works…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 265 Comments

Super Jack Masters BATE all over the pitch

Not many supporters turned up for a dead rubber on a deepest, darkest Spursday in December. Those that did make the effort will have left the home of football with big smiles on their faces. A king was reborn, as Jack mastered Bate all over the pitch with breath-taking vision and razor-sharp passing for 90+ minutes. He was not one but two levels above all other players on the pitch, except for maybe Coquelin and Debuchy who also had a good game in their positions.

It is hard to tell why Wenger went for 4-3-3; whether it was to make the best from the players available or whether it was to avoid another early deadly onslaught like the one the team suffered against the Mancs, is hard to tell. And it was clear that BATE’s tactics were to replicate what MU did over the weekend. They pressed us high and aggressively at the start, but we were so much more compact and disciplined and so dealt with the pressure much better.

Playing four at the back and two defensive-minded, but quite all-round central midfielders, in Elneny and Coquelin, made us compact and solid throughout the game. Up-front we had the solid but rusty Giroud, surrounded by two frantic, energetic ‘wingers’ Theo and Welbeck. At the back, we played Ospina, Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Holding and Debuchy, and all together that is not a bad set of 10 players.

The eleventh player needed to be the creative hub, the brain of the team. Jack set the tempo in attack by making himself constantly available and demanding the ball. His omnipresence, forward movement and direct passing  was of Ozilesque, Cescesque, yes even Bergkampesque, beauty. He saw the next pass quicker than anybody else  time and again, and boy did he deliver the ball beautifully well at many an occasion. At times, it looked like he was playing snooker with his left foot, so sharp were his balls over the ground and over the top. It has been a while since I saw a midfielder play that well for us, other than Mesut of course.

He could not have done this on his own, of course. The team worked very hard and kept a very high tempo, whilst remaining compact as much as possible. That tempo created space and options for Jack and it also created total mayhem in the BATE defence. Welbeck and Theo were well up for this and kept running at the defence, with our without the ball, which made a real difference. Our play forced mistakes by the BATE defenders, leading to giving away a penalty, a deflected ball in the box that Debuchy put away with deadly venom, and an own goal. Our attackers, especially Welbeck and Giroud, lacked composure, but it was the tempo played by the team and relentless whipping forward of the ball with breath-taking passes by Super Jack (and occasionally Coquelin), that forced the game our way.

Jack himself scored a beauty of a goal and Elneny, from a wonderfully worked Wilshere assist within the box, also produced a beauty late on. The boys were up for this and treated those that bothered to come to a game – and a ‘re-birth’ – they will not quickly forget. Consider me very jealous!

By TotalArsenal.


Posted in Uncategorized | 42 Comments

Arsenal-BATE Borisov. Live Blogging the Deadest of All Rubbers. Our 2nd 11 Get Another Chance to Impress.

Can Jack and Ollie combine in the final Europa League Group Game?

What about Theo and the rest?

Manager Arsene Wenger appears to be switching formations, in this case making just one change from the 11 who lost at Cologne.  It’s a big one, however.  Out goes a central defender, Per Mertesacker and in comes Theo Walcott, who will surely play off the shoulder of BATE’s last man back.

Interesting, very interesting.  Could this signal that the days of three at the back are over?  Could eighty minutes of quality attacking after switching to a 442 formation–even if it came up short vs Manchester United this past Saturday–have convinced Wenger that this is the way forward?

Even with a fully changed starting group from that match, I believe Wenger wants his entire squad–his cup 11 and his PL group–working on the same system.

What do you think?

Of course, that’s more of a long term question.  For tonight, here are the team sheets.

 Arsenal  Ospina, Debuchy, Holding, Chambers, Maitland-Niles,Coquelin, Elneny, Wilshere, Walcott, Giroud, Welbeck. Subs Macey, Reine-Adelaide, Akpom, Nelson, Nketiah, Sheaf, Willock.

I’ll be trying to describe at least some of the action tonight even if I’m unlikely to know one BATE player from the next.  Please chime in in the comments section if you can provide some aid.

Given that we’ve already won the group, tonight’s match is probably more to see if the team–and the individual players–can show enough intensity and overall quality to suggest that we’re a truly deep squad with guys who might seamlessly make the leap into the group that plays in our Premier League matches.  Who do you predict might stand out in this regard?  Will we see that sort of effort, or, given that the match is truly a dead rubber, will it be more of a training exercise?

We shall see and again, please join me in the comments…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 118 Comments

A Lack of Cool and Preparation cost the Gunners but What a Passion, Pride and Quality they Showed Us

What a game that was. It was one of two parts. One lasted 12 minutes and basically meant the game was almost certainly lost, and the other lasted 80+ minutes and showed us that the Gunners have a lot of passion, pride and quality within them. We had the better players but were tactically undone by the Self-Adoring One, and that really hurt.

Just like against MC, we were undone within the first 15 minutes of the game….. through tactics. Back in Manchester we hung on a bit longer but we all knew it should have been two or three nil to the home site. Against the Northern Oilers, we tried to press them high and left acres of free grass behind us and we got punished. Against the Self-Celebrating One’s first eleven, we had no answer to the early and aggressive pressing of our mobile, but rusty looking, ‘three at the back’, with devastating consequences.

Koz made an uncharacteristic mistake that needed a lot of quality attacking moves (to be fair) to see us go 1-0 behind; and then Mustafi – normally our rock and lucky charm – was not able to get his feed sorted out in time to simply pass the ball to our deepest midfielder, Xhaka. Instead, he was robbed off the ball and they could pounce again. 0-2 and we all felt sick in the stomach. For the first goal, Koz also had an opportunity to play the ball to Lacazette early on, but he did not see his fellow Frenchman or simply made the wrong decision; who knows? Fact is, they were well prepped and aggressive from the start when our defenders were hoping to ease themselves into the game. And boy we paid for it.

The risk of playing three at the back is that they can get targeted through aggressive pressing; and we have proven to be vulnerable to  this time and again this season. Our full backs – in my view our weakest area on both sides – are often too far away or isolated to help out; and CBs like time and space to pass the ball around. It was clear that the Self-Loving One has prepared well for this game and our weaknesses were exploited to the max. The first goal is something that ‘can happen’, but the second one was utterly avoidable and therefore extra painful and very, very costly.

After going down two nil, both players and supporters, could have given up but we did the opposite. We showed real pride and belief, hunger and an ‘over our dead body will we lose this game’ attitude. This made me really proud of our boys and it is something I have not seen for a long time  when going behind against the despicable Mancs. I reckon our fine fellow Gooner on BK, Retsub, summed it up brilliantly with:

“…. I thought our boys were fantastic. The ups and downs of our team, must have taken its toll over the years, because I have to admit I haven’t found this season as exciting as previous seasons. But on Saturday they played so well, I found myself yelling at the TV, the ref, the dog and any other poor sod who walked in the room. I hate losing, even as much as I hate Manchester United, but if we  have to lose, let’s do it in style as we did. Brilliant game, I nearly enjoyed every of it. How we didn’t score 10 I don’t know.”

It is true that De Gea was outstanding, but we were also lacking coolness in front of goal. I can forgive our boys the latter. In order to put the pressure on as we did against our Arch non-North-London rivals, we needed to have extreme levels of testosterone pumping through our red and white veins, and this does not easily allow for a cool head. I guess the best opportunity we had to turn the game round was when our most experienced attacker on the field and so often the embodiment of COOL, Alexis, pounced on a rebound from another on goal effort by the very impressive Lacazette; he needed a cool head to put that one past De Gea but the Spaniard must also have hypnotized him, as the Chilean’s effort was saveable and so it was kept out.

Not much later, they restored the gap to two and we all knew it was not to be. The boys, though, did never give up and fought on and on till the 96th minute. That is all I can ask for, all we can ask for!

Still, I also ask for an urgent review of our 3-4-3 system’s defensive deficiencies and better tactical preparations from our loyal manager. The two games against our Manchester-based rivals have clearly shown that we have a very good first team but can still be undone tactically/positionally.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 34 Comments