3-1-4-1-1 to Beat MC: Elneny behind Xhaka/Ramsey, Ozil behind Auba: Preview


We go into this encounter as the underdog. Psychologically that will benefit us, is my belief. It will get us primed for a fight. There will be energy and commitment in our play and the handbrakes will be off. At our best we can stand up to anyone.

Arsenal and Manchester City met in the 2017 FA Cup semi-final at Wembley - the Gunners winning 2-1 in extra-time

With the ball, the philosophies of the two teams are very similar, to dominate territory with possession. But their tactics part company when the teams are without the ball. City does the high press. They want to regain possession as quickly as possible. We don’t press high. When we lose possession, we fall back. This major difference will define the key points of the battle at Wembley today.

If City is successful with their high press, they will choke us out of the game. On the other hand, if we are successful with beating their high press while maintaining an effective offensive shape, their usually undermanned half of the field would be reeling from our quick thrusts.

I see three major segments to our play. Win the ball deep, beat their press, lunge-blitzes through their poorly manned half.

Our midfield has a major part to play in these three different segments. Getting the personnel right there is all important. For the central midfielders I’d prefer the duo of Ramsey and Elneny because of their energy, ball winning ability and greater security in possession (beating the press). For transitioning the ball we have Ozil and Xhaka.  For blitzing my choice would be Auba, Kolasinac and Bellerin.

Something tells me that Auba and Kolasinac are made for each other. It might be of interest to remember that the tank was invented during WW1 in response to the stalemate of trench warfare. They were built for smashing through defensive barricades. It’s time to reinvent our Kolasinac, the tank.

Kolasinac and Bellerin would require a 3-man central defence. Using our wingbacks more offensively would demand using Elneny conservatively, as was the case in the 2nd half against Chelsea in the semi-final. It was very effective.

The line-up I’d prefer to see is:


—–Musti ——–Kosh —— Nacho—–


Bells —-  Xhak ——  Rams —— Kola



Subs; Cech, Chambers, Holding, AMN, Wilshere, Iwobi, Welbeck

Don’t forget that Wenger has a pact with the gods of cup ties. We will come out tops.


By Pony Eye

Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments

Lazy, no Power, No Commitment: Arsenal v Ostersunds Player Reviews


We were a lazy team. We played without energy. No quickness. No power. No commitment. Ostersunds was the superior team by far. I must confess, I felt embarrassed.


OSPINA ….. is better than Cech with his feet. But he needs to come out of the illusion that he is Ederson, the City’s keeper.

BELLERIN … was one of the better players but that’s not saying he was anywhere near great.

CHAMBERS …. never would be the athlete. He has to compensate by learning to be a game reader like Per. Otherwise …..

HOLDING …. same as Chambers.

KOLASINAC …. If there is one thing he is not, it is a defender. But as is his norm, came alive in our final third. Kola is the orthodox left winger. Nothing more.

ELNENY … lacked pace and incisiveness but compensated with energy and commitment.

AMN … too laid back. Does not utilize his gift of athleticism except under severe pressure. Not at all ready for the midfield.

WILSHERE …. his worst game ever. Very poor attitude made worse by the fact he had the captain’s armband on.

IWOBI … bustling with energy doing nothing.

MKHITARYAN …. one of the better players but still not enough energy.

WELBECK …. not a midfielder. Obviously not a striker.

XHAKA …. was a good influence when he came in.

WILLOCK …. promising. Could do with greater agility.

NELSON …… needs plenty of hours in the gym beefing up.

WENGER … contrary to popular opinions, Wenger does tactics. But I wonder if he works on his players agility, energy and commitment.

FINAL SHOT …. we are now into the Europa round of 16 amidst many big name teams. We need to wake up.

By Pony Eye.

Posted in Uncategorized | 39 Comments

3-4-3: Nketiah, Welbeck, Nelson Up-front, Willock and Mkhi Midfield: Preview/ Line-Up v Ostersunds

Arsenal v Ostersunds Preview and Predicted Line-up

It’s difficult to consider this Thursday’s game against Ostersunds in isolation, with so much of the team selection influenced by the big game at Wembley this Sunday.
So I won’t…

We now can see the true value in last week’s 3-0 success in Sweden, with just two clear days to rest and prepare before our team takes on the mammoth task of beating Pep’s Man City in this weekend’s League Cup Final, sorry Carabao Cup Final…

Arsene Wenger will understandably (or should) pick a starting XI and a bench with one eye on the Man City game, so this Thursday will possibly be more of a case of who Arsene, in my view, will rest and protect, whilst still picking a strong enough team to do the job.

Make no mistake, after the events of the Wigan game, Man City will be like a dangerous wounded animal looking to take out all their disappointment and frustration on their next opponents. And whilst a lot hasn’t been mentioned it, wouldn’t surprise me at all if Guardiola isn’t still very sore at losing to Wenger in last season’s FA Cup semi-final. So Arsene has to do all he can to protect what will be his starting XI against the Blues, because we’ll need to be at our absolute best to prevail…

In considering all the above, I’m expecting Arsene will go with quite a young and experimental team, initially, against Ostersunds. However, the team will still be strong enough not to lose by the 4 clear goals the Swedes need to progress. Even if Arsenal lost the game, it is the importance of protecting our players for Sunday which is the priority to me.

Definitely out is Lacazette, out until the middle of March, but according to Physioroom Aaron Ramsey is expected to return by this Sunday. Is Arsene keeping Ramsey under wraps for the Cup Final..?

Aubameyang remains our big hope for Wembley so he’ll be held back, as I also expect will be Koscielny, Ozil, Bellerin, Mustafi and Monreal. Mkhitaryan is cup-tied, so he can play against the Swedes and he’ll probably be given a central role in the heart of the team. Others who could be involved, maybe from the bench are Kolasinac, Mertesacker, Holding, Chambers, Mavropanos, Wilshere (he needs a few minutes) Iwobi, Xhaka, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Welbeck, Nelson, Nketiah, Da Silva, Gilmour, Dragomir, Osei-Tutu, Ospina and Macey.

I would go with a back-three, with wing-backs for that extra bit of defensive insurance to cover for an inexperienced midfield and attack. With a clutch of experience on the bench in case of emergencies, but with no real need to risk them.

My starting XI would be:-
Mertesaker, Chambers, Holding,
Osei-Tutu, Kolasinac,
Mkhitaryan, Willock,
Nelson, Welbeck, Nketiah.

submit football lineup

On the bench:-
Mavropanos, Xhaka, Elneny,
Maitland-Niles, Wilshere,
Da Silva, Macey.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners.

By Allezkev.

Posted in Uncategorized | 49 Comments

3-5-2 v Man City: Auba/Ozil up-front, Welbz-Jack-Elneny-Xhaka-Bels to Win Midfield Battle

How to beat those suffocating, self-celebrating Northern Oilers? That is the question on all our minds. Wigan did a great job yesterday, but we cannot play like they did and only once in a while do such tactics actually work. The Latics did a great job in sitting back and frustrate Man City with very impressive defending, but they were lucky that the visitors had left their shooting boots down the road. They did not take their chances and then came that one decent chance at the right time in the game for Paul Cook’s men and it was taken; FA Cup romance is still alive and kicking!

Man City were frustrated and they will want to make amends in their next game, which is against the mighty red and white of Arsenal. Football at the Wenger and Guardiola level is often about playing chess games. Wenger will need to align his pieces correctly and decide on how to open: king’s gambit, Sicilian, Catalan or English Opening, etc.

As we saw in the Spuds game, it is not easy to get it right. The first half was spot on tactically but in the second half we were poor and lost our positioning big style. I said before the start of the second half that the first five minutes may decide the game, and it did. After we conceded, we were lost and could have conceded a few more.

Against Man City Wenger will need to get the tactics right for 90 minutes. What we know is that they will want to camp in our half and suffocate us. They are drilled to passing the ball around and finding openings time and again; and once they’ve lost the ball they will put big pressure on our midfielders to regain it as soon as possible. They are like a pack of wolves that will never leave you alone.

In our last PL game against them, Wenger chose to press MC high and try to dominate them in their half at the start of the game, but it went wrong and only through a lot of luck did we avoid it all being over after just 15 minutes. MC would love us to come out and play football with them at Wembley on Sunday, and let’s hope we will not be that reckless/stupid.

Paul Cook said it was paramount to get through the first 15 minutes without conceding, and I reckon the same goes for us this Sunday. As described so well by PE in the previous post, we have a man who can hurt MC and his name is Auhhhbameyang. They will play with a high line in order to keep us hemmed into our own half and Auba will love to run into that space and latch onto a pass from Xhaka, Wilshere or Ozil. We also have the midfielders to pass the ball round in tight spaces and break the MC lock time and again.

Therefore, sitting back, staying compact and disciplined and absorbing pressure, should be our default position. It is a real shame that Lacazette is not available as we need another player to be able to run into that space behind the MC defence. Welbeck can do it, and I guess he will play, but he is out of form right now. We also have Bellerin who can get himself behind the defence with his determined runs, but he also struggles in terms of delivering a quality final ball.

I reckon our strategy should be something like this:

  1. Start calm and compact; don’t be over-adventurous and stick to the game plan;
  2. Frustrate their midfield and once we get hold of the ball, pass intelligently but avoid unnecessary risk-taking;
  3. Launch Auba as soon as we can and get Ozil, Welbeck/Iwobi to push forward to support him. The B2B midfielder to join them when possible but never forgetting his defensive duties next to the deeper-laying midfielder;
  4. Stay compact and disciplined throughout the game, but don’t be over-defensive; that would be unnatural to us and, as we saw against the Spuddies, will cost us in the end.

I reckon Arsenal can win this game if we start well, stick to our tactics and then dare to be ourselves, which is playing football the Arsenal way. The team I would like to see start with the above in mind is:

submit football lineup

I trust Jack, Elneny and Xhaka or Rambo if fit, can play a disciplined game and make the difference in the middle. I expect Ozil to help out in midfield and play a bit deeper than indicated in the formation above. I have also no doubt that Nacho, Mustafi and Koz will be okay in defence. But it is the full backs I am not sure about, and I feel we need to do something different, especially on the left. I have a feeling that Welbeck would do more than a good job if he stays disciplined and only move forward when appropriate. Or maybe it is a game for Maitland-Niles; he has definitely been v impressive recently…. What do you think?

Really looking forward to the game. Don’t care about the silverware of the League Cup but I would love us to beat the Northern Oilers in a final at Wembley.

By TotalArsenal


Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

What a Signing, but How to Get the Best out of Arsenal’s new Super CF?


Who is Aubameyang? He is a prodigious goal scorer. There are few of them on this planet. A good fraction of his goals are tap ins. So far this season in all competitions, he has three times more goals per game, from inside the 6yds box than Aguero or Lacazette (WhoScored). Rarely does he score goals from outside the box. He is blessed with a blistering pace and for a man standing 6ft 2ins tall, his incredibly quick reaction and amazing acceleration are quite surprising. In the 30 meters sprint he posted a time faster than Usain Bolt’s (maybe hand timed which isn’t very accurate but which still tells a story) having clocked it in 3.7 seconds. He is brilliantly equipped to be there first. And he knows it and uses it.

He can smell a goal quicker than anybody else and has an uncanny sense for knowing where to be for the final touch. Capping it all, he’s got ice cold nerves in front of goal as well as the biggest grin you ever saw.

If you look elsewhere you find him a bit in the shadows. His tackling numbers are low (0.3 pg). So also his dribbling (0.5 pg). He averages 18.7 passes per game compared to Aguero at 24.5 (all stats WhoScored, all competitions 17/18). He does not go into duels for duel’s sake, but where he senses his lightening quickness would dispossess his man, he steps out. His mind is cunning and alert. A beast of the jungle as it were, crouched, waiting, off radar. Suddenly it is all electricity and bang and yang! Auba has scored yet again. The experts say we are damn lucky to have acquired him literally for the value of about 21 times his weight in gold! They say that’s cheap for a breed like him.

Auba’s genius is centered around his ability to get behind the back line ; with ball on feet, with off the ball runs and with runs without the ball, in each utilizing his athleticism and his acute sense of timing.

BALL ON FEET: Ball on feet and the tiniest of opennings, Auba is gone. If an opposing defence plays a high line to back its team’s high press it leaves itself at the mercy of Auba’s pace. If the defence drops deeper, the team loses its high press structure and otherwise finds vast spaces between its lines. His presence on the field puts teams in a quandary and places the onus on them to adjust. This rhymes perfectly with Wengerism.

OFF THE BALL RUNS: Auba loves playing off the shoulders of the back line. When a through pass is made, he utilizes his quicker reaction and powerful acceleration to get ahead of his markers through to one on one with the keeper. You bet your money he is the king of the one-on-one-with-keeper stats. We’ve already witnessed a number of these in the two matches he has played for us with only slight margin calls counting against more prime goal opportunities for him. When our our players have decoded his lightening quick reaction and his initial bust of speed they would know that all they need do is put well weighted balls between defenders at every opportunity. Luckily, we need no tweaking here as our team is awash with technical and visionary passers of the ball; Ozil, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan et all.

RUNS WITHOUT THE BALL:  This is where the team needs to be tweaked for him. He scores a chunk of his goals at the far post from balls across the face of the goal. The typical of such crosses comes from a player in the wide areas who has gotten behind the opposition back line to place the ball between the retreating defenders and the goalkeeper. Auba (completely without the ball) is able to race into the no man’s land ahead of everyone. Usually he heads towards the far post.

This model situation arose three times in our match against Tottenham but unfortunately in two of them, Mkhitaryan crossed the ball poorly with his weaker left foot as he was playing on the left wing and so messed the golden opportunities up. The third occasion was when Lacazette screwed narrowly wide against Spurs. Had he known the first thing about Auba he would have placed the ball across the face of goal. Auba had raced in, all set for his trade mark tap-in. Three tap-ins missed because we were not properly set up for or (in Laca’s case) educated in, Auba’s patterns.

What adjustments do we make to our current team to play to his (Auba’s) strength? Very little.

If it is a back 4 formation we adjust by doing away with inverted wingers to play a left footer on the left and a right footer on the right. This way our wide men can get the ball across the face of goal quicker and more accurately.

On the other hand, if it is a back 3 where wing backs are used we could persist with the inverted inside forwards (eg Mkhi or Laca left inside, Ozil or Wilshere right inside). The wing backs are then used for getting behind the opposition back line.

Expect Auba every now and then to be the one that has bridged the back line in a wide area. In such an instance we should have men busting their lungs racing towards the far post turning Auba into the provider (easy to conjure up visions of Ramsey). How I wish Wenger would sanction drills on a few moves, these two last described in perticular. If some automatisms would give us a few more goals, well and good.

With our present personnel, the back 3 formation is my preference. My choice of it here is not because of defensive consideration. It is chosen so the team can play to Aubameyang’s strength, chosen for more goals in our favour. But for it to be meaningful we must have excellent offensive wingbacks. Kolasinac is a wingback made for going forward and he would suit Auba’s patterns perfectly. Bellerin has got to improve with his crosses. Maitland-Niles looks like he could grow quickly in that position and to my thinking should be used to give competition to Bellerin. Maitland-Niles has good speed which has equipped him for the forward runs. All he need acquire is getting right the timing of his crosses into the no man’s land. Or is it the Auba’s land?

A typical selection and formation that would play to Auba’s strength, when all are available (less Santi), would be:

—Kosh  Musta  Nacho—
Bells  Xhaka  Ramsey  Kola

This arrangement, in my opinion, would optimize our present team’s potential. There is still a lot of work to do in our central midfield, defence and goalkeeping. Those are personnel issues that must wait for the next transfer window. If we can get them right, we would be fully back and swinging.

Meanwhile we should live for the next game. More than ever, now is the time for OGAAT. Please chip in with suggestions on how to get Auba firing on all cylinders.

Click on link below for video of Aubameyang and goals! We’ve got someone special in our midst.



By Pony Eye.

Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments

Welbeck CF, Iwobi, Mesut and Mkhi AMs, Elneny/Xhaka to Protect Defence: Match Preview

Ostersunds FK v Arsenal – UEFA League: 

Sweed relief or more bitter (cold) disappointment?

I like this competition. Playing clubs you know little or nothing about in new grounds offer us a sense of adventure. After our second half debacle against the Spuddies on Saturday, we could do with a nice, big win at the beautifully named Jamtkraft Arena in Ostersunds, Sweden, but it remains to be seen whether the Gunners are capable of this.

No Laca (and no Auba) leaves us with either Welbeck or Eddie up front. Jack and Rambo are not available and neither are Koz and Cech. Wenger has said he will field a strong team, and I reckon it will be something like this:

submit football lineup

Elneny and Xhaka in the centre of midfield to support defence and link up with attack regularly. No Koz could mean that Nacho gets moved next to Mustafi or maybe Chambers or Holding get a start. Kola on the left and Bellerin on the right should complete the defence. Behind Welbeck, I expect Alex, Mesut and Henrikh to dominate proceedings in attack.

What we really want to see is a committed performance with pride for the shirt. Not much more to say; let the feet do the talking.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 52 Comments

Player Ratings: Cech MOTM, Jack OK, rest Below Par | Wenger’s Big Balance Issues

The secret to a happy life is not low, or even no, expectations but balance. Balance in everything: expectations, pursuit of your goals, effort, judgement, opinions… you name it.

The B-word is currently missing at the mighty Red and White. Arsene and his Gunners have lost it, big style! Is it a matter of playing style, tactics or quality of players or a bit of everything? You tell me. Fact is we cannot defend, and when we tried to compensate for this – as we did so admirably during the first half against the putrid Spuddies by sitting deep and play with discipline and compactness  – we lost our ability to attack. We also lost our identity and courage through this strong tactical adaptation, but at least we remained in the game during the first 45 minutes.

Our midfield was Xhaka-Elneny-Jack. They did well to form a strong wall in front of our back four and disrupt the Spuddies’ game. You could argue we gave them too much respect and should have gone all out attacking; but as a strategy to get something from the game, I thought Wenger was spot on. Our defence lacked confidence so they needed protecting. Unfortunately, our three attackers – Ozil, Mkhi and Auba – had only their second game together; they struggled to find each other and needed more support from midfield.

Our midfielders tried to find the right balance, and especially Jack made some good contributions to our attacking play, but as soon as they left their strategic positions, the Spuddies had a chance to get at our low-on-confidence defence; and this proved to be costly even before the first five minutes of the second half were over. A ball was pumped into the box and there was half-moon-faced Kane to beat our sorry defenders. A goal straight from the Eighties: awful to concede – a bit like being killed by a pack of wolves in the 21st century.

After that the game became a horror-show and we have Petr Cech (and dollops of luck) to thank for saving us from further embarrassment. We finished the second half quite strong with one or two decent chances to take a point, but it was not to be. It would have been undeserved if Lacazette had scored in extra-time, but who would have cared about it?!

I can take the loss, but the way we have lost our balance in the team is really worrying. The proverbial is never far away from the fan(s), and especially our encounters this month/1 March with the blue side of Manchester may get very, very ugly. Can Wenger get the balance right again and rebuild confidence? I suggest he follows Leia Organa’s lead and ask for help from the ultimate master: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope”.

Player Ratings:

Cech – 8: iffy (re)distribution of the  ball but never wavered when called upon.

Nacho – 6: part of a creaky unit. Worked hard.

Koz – 5.5: Worked hard but too much overcompensation. Needs a taller, more athletic CB next to him.

Mustafi – 6: Worked hard but too much overcompensation. Also needs a taller, more athletic CB next to him.

Bellerin – 6: Worked hard but neither a rock in defence nor force in attack. Still developing. Also needs a taller, more athletic CB next to him.

Xhaka – 6: Looks more and more lost in our system of play: identity crisis? Good discipline in first half but neither a rock in midfield nor force in attack.

Elneny – 6.5: solid enough but nothing more yesterday.

Wilshere – 7: Played a very disciplined game in first half and tried to link up with attack when possible. A couple of key passes that could have led to a goal.

Mkhi – 5.5: Lost on the left and in the new trio of attackers. Unfortunate with his passing.

Ozil – 6: Lost in the new trio of attackers. Came deep a lot to connect midfield with attack but his passing was well below par yesterday.

Auba – 5.5: Lost in the new trio of attackers and suffered from lack of dominance by the team in the attacking half. How many touches??!

By TotalArsenal

Posted in Uncategorized | 40 Comments