Basel-Arsenal: Final Group Game in the CL–To Rotate or not to Rotate

Will Arsene Wenger rests his stars as he did last midweek vs Southampton in the EFL Cup or will he put out a reasonably strong team even as he knows that our only hope for topping our group will be a slip up from Paris St. Germain at Ludogorets?

I think it will have to be the latter.  Trying to win the final match seems important to maintain momentum in both our domestic efforts and ahead of the Champions League draw even if the knock-out stages are months away.  A few changes, perhaps, but I doubt many of our key players will miss the trip to Switzerland.

On the other hand, rotating in the EFL Cup seems to have proven a good decision followed as it was with a 5-1 drubbing of West Ham United, and, with tough games at home vs Stoke City and then away to Everton and Manchester City, keeping a star player or two in reserve might be a way of meeting in the middle.  I’d stump for the world class combination of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez suiting up but sitting on the bench while continuing with guys like Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott.  Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud seem the obvious replacements for Ozil and Alexis.  Francis Coquelin, suspended for this one, will also have to be replaced.

Le Coq’s suspension means our central midfield combination will have to be reshuffled?  My hunch is that Mohamed Elneny will line up alongside Granit Xhaka.  That would present another opportunity for Wenger to explore his options in this critical part of the pitch.

With the news that Santi Cazorla will have exploratory surgery on his injured ankle, Wenger, I think, might be searching for not only a replacement but also a new way to play in the center of the pitch.  We’ve been discussing it a lot in the comments recently but who can replicate what little Santi brings?  Maybe it’s not so much about replacing the man as it is about finding a new set of tactics that brings out the strengths of the players we’ve got.

Judging from the West Ham game where Arsenal looked always dangerous even if they ceded plenty of possession, I see a change in the offing.  West Ham–missing some key players of their own–probably weren’t strong enough to make it apparent, but, to me at least, I thought we looked content to play on the counterattack or at least try to play much more directly when in possession.  Santi’s absence, I think, takes away from our one-touch possession game.  Mohamed Elneny, again, just in my opinion, is the player who comes closest to keeping us “ticking over” in Santi style, but he was left out.  If he plays at Basel I wonder if our possession stat will be significantly stronger.

Maybe it was all just a bit more ad-hoc vs the Hammers and a one-off.  Early on they lost a center back to injury and maybe guys like the Ox (with his runs) and Xhaka (with his passes) just sensed weakness in a bus which was never able to truly park itself.  Eventually we scored on a Coquelin interception which fell nicely to Alexis who danced into the box before squaring for a simple Ozil tap-in.  After that, I thought, we played even more on the break, content to invite West Ham into our territory feeling as if we could spring forward if they lost possession.  At one-nil, even if they rarely threatened us at the back, it all felt fairly well poised and I worried that a moment of brilliance from the likes of Dimitri Payet or the introduction of Andy Carroll could make it even more so.  When Carroll finally entered the game those two were able to combine to spoil our clean sheet but two additional goals from Alexis had already put the match beyond reach.

Were we really playing on the counter and was this a model for future play?  With more and more English teams playing with three (or is it five) at the back it seems easier than ever to try and lure teams forward.  With Coquelin out for the Basel match we cannot set out in an exactly similar fashion, but will we try and let them (as the home team) have a bit of a go at us?  Inevitably we will face more organized teams than West Ham (Stoke City this coming Saturday, most likely).  Is rotation at the rear of midfield even more necessary if we know teams are likely to try and play for a nil-nil?  Wenger mentioned that we are more patient in away matches.  Should we actually have different playing personnel at the defensive mid pivot (Ramsey, Elneny or even, as discussed in the comments, the Ox)  for different opponents and different situations?   Please discuss.

But they can only be played one at a time, and, for Basel, your guess is as good as mine.  Who would you like to see vs Basel and then in the upcoming league matches?  That’s for those who want rotation and maybe there are some that believe in playing our best 11 on all occasions.  It feels a bit like throwing darts but here’s my best guess for the Basel match.

Subs: Cech, Gabriel, Gibbs, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis, Perez

So, I think a strong team but with some reserved on the bench in case we need goals.  What do you think?

Have it at please…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

West Ham v Arsenal Line-Up: Time to get the midfield and forward line fully working

My preferred Line-Up:

GK – Cech
RB – Jenkinson
CB – Mustafi
CB – Koscielny
LB – Gibbs
CDM – Xhaka
CDM – Coquelin
RW – Walcott
CAM – Ozil
LW – Perez
CF – Alexis

Interesting prematch comments from Wenger about how he sees Arsenal’s midfield and forward line working:

“You think about [the solution] in a global way and when you integrate more than two players, with Ozil [in the side] you have to balance that,” Wenger said. “Sometimes I play Iwobi or Chamberlain so the combination has to be in the four or five.”

“I consider Walcott and Alexis to be strikers, in their mind and the way they play. So around them you have to build a team that is balanced.”

“When I play Santi most of the time I have Coquelin because he is a really defensive breaker of attacks. He gives Santi more freedom. He is a more offensive player first although he is disciplined tactically. He is not a ball winner but a more creative player.”

“We are close with the balance as Xhaka in midfield is moving upwards. He has a different influence to Santi. Santi is more of a guy who gets out of very tight situations with a very short technique, right and left foot, while Xhaka has a pass and is not a dribbler. He passes through the lines.”

My read of Wenger’s comments is that he clearly sees:
– Alexis (CF) and Walcott (RW) as the team’s attacking/goal scoring outlets
– Iwobi/Ox (LW) and Ozil (CAM) as the forward creators
– Xhaka/Santi (CDM) as the transitioning central midfielder
– Coquelin (CDM) as the tackling central midfielder.

That’s fair enough in principle, though there are a couple of practical issues I can see with that approach.

1. Alexis frequently likes to drop closer to midfield and act as another creator. To account for that I think Arsenal need another attacking outlet in their front four. As Iwobi and Ozil have proved inconsistent in naturally adopting that role when required and as Ozil is the better creator of the two, I think a more natural attacking outlet, like Perez, in place of Iwobi would provide Arsenal with better balance in their attack.

2. I don’t think Xhaka is comfortable or needs to physically “move upwards” on the pitch to improve Arsenal’s transitional play. For me Xhaka lacks pace and nibble feet when on the ball. So Xhaka, like Xavi Alfonso, has built his game on collecting the ball in deep central midfield and quickly firing long accurate passes forward to allow the more attacking players to subsequently create and/or score goals. By making those passes from a deep lying midfield area and not physically dribbling the ball vertically up the field Xhaka positions himself better defensively in case his long pass is inaccurate or one of his more attacking teammate subsequently turn over position. In an Arsenal context, with regularly advancing fullbacks and intricate passing amongst its forward creators, Xhaka natural game from deep central midfield should suit Arsenal nicely, without the need for him to physically move upwards on the pitch.

Looking forward to the clash versus the Hammers. COYGs!

By Waldo

Posted in Uncategorized | 45 Comments

Perez CF, Rambo nr10, Ox/Iwobi on wings and Xhaka/Elneny DMs: Wenger to go out with Four Cups!

Will this be Arsene’s last season or not? This, my friends, is the big question. As the malaise at Old Toilet has shown us in recent years, a well-established and successful manager is very hard to replace. Change is not always bad, but successfully replacing a man who led the club in every sense except in financial terms is a very hard thing to do. Wenger has assembled a strong team that can win a lot… maybe even all four cups available. Can you imagine Wenger leaving the club holding four cups above his red and white shoulders? I kind of can and what a reward that would be for him!

The Saints are visiting and, as we have already played them at THOF, we know how good they are. They will be well up for this as winning the League Cup is a straight ticket to European football. Claude Puel has impressed me with his tactics and team set-up and he is the kind of guy who could one day manage our club; he is French after all🙂

There is no doubt Puel will select his best players for this encounter and Wenger, who, I believe, fancies winning this cup for the first time in what could be his final season, will also field a strong team: a team that has the right attitude and quality to win the match. Alexis needs a break and Koz and Mustafi could do with one too, but other than those I can see Arsene considering all the other players.

My predicted Line-Up for tonight’s game is:

football formation

I reckon Holding and Gabriel will be the CB pairing and Jenkinson and Gibbs the FBs. Elneny and Xhaka deserve another game together to further gel and provide a strong base against the very strong midfield of the Saints. Rambo in the hole and the apparently recovered Perez up-front with Ox and Iwobi on the wings. Wenger may try a youngster on the wings instead of the Ox but I am going for the player who is improving gradually and who could really do with a goal to boost his confidence further. I believe this team will play good, typical-Arsenal football but it remains to be seen whether they have the quality to finish their chances. For that, Arsene may need to add either Alexis or Theo during the later stages of the game.

Enjoy the game FFGs – Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!!🙂

By TotalArsenal

The blog sabbatical continues and this is just a one-off post; next post will be up on 27 December.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 42 Comments

Arsenal were on to a Wimmer but post-CL fatigue cost us again

A draw is not a bad result but it is hard to feel good about it as we all hoped for more. I have said many times on here that if a team – or more or less a same set of players – play three games in a row within a week, it often proves to be hard to win them all. A win at Sunderland and late victory against Ludogorets was not followed by a win in the NLD. Many CL participating teams dropped points this weekend and it is the likes of Chelsea and Pool, who were resting during the week, who are benefitting from this at the moment.

I can live with the draw and think it is a fair result. Our intensity and passing was not fast and accurate enough, and especially on the wings we were not penetrative enough. It looks Iwobi needs a bit of a break from starting games regularly, and the same goes for Ox who came on later in the game but was equally below the expected level. Theo had his moment and was unlucky not to score with a beastly shot from outside the box that hit the woodwork. Alexis also looked tired/less dynamic and Ozil was well marshalled throughout the game.

But we could have been on to a Wimmer when the sorry Spud headed the ball into his own net after we had started to find our swagger. 1-0 at half time and Wenger having a chance to instruct the team to deal better with the ‘three at the back’ of Spuds, should have seen us take all three points from the game. Unfortunately, the tired looking Koz gave away an unnecessary penalty at the start of the second half to let our North London rivals back into the game. Both Koz and Mustafi looked like they were playing one game too many in the space of eight days and I reckon we paid for it.

We tried to take back initiative and Wenger made some inspired subs but we did not do enough to win the game. Spuds also did not deserve to win the game but had perhaps the best chances to do so. Some excellent defending by Monreal, Bellerin and Cech saved us from going behind. In the end it was a draw from a hard fought match in which we just lacked the energy and aggression to come out victoriously.

I happily take the point which keeps us level with Man City and three points of the Spuddies. Now let’s enjoy the break and get Ozil signed up to a new contract!😉

By TotalArsenal

Cheers for all the support, comments and other contributions.🙂

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 134 Comments

Rambo/Coq in DM pivot, Iwobi/Theo on wings, Alexis CF: Arsenal v Spurs Preview and likely Line-up

A short but sharp match preview as we all know what is at stake here: pride, NLD bragging rights, a six point gap, and leading the table before the November interlull. I reckon it has been a great achievement to get level with Pep’s City and now we have the chance to overtake them, which would just be bliss. Of course Pool will have something to say about who will lead the table at the end of the day, but we must just concentrate on our challenge. It is about time that we beat the Spuds again, but it will not be easy despite their recent form.

Wenger has been able to rest the players who do most of the running for us: Nacho, Bellerin, Iwobi, Ox, Elneny and Theo. It is not entirely clear who of those are deemed fit to play as Arsenal.com has not updated its info re this since Thursday. It is to be expected that the Spuds will mainly play compact at the back with a desire to spring a counter as soon as we make a mistake. They will also press us high when they can but always in such a way that there is very little chance we can break them easily. Pochettino has his teams play a lot like Mourinho’s old Chelsea: they are hard to break down and score against and rely heavily on an in-form striker or two to win games for them. The latter they do not have currently and let’s hope this will remain the case today. We must play with care but also take the initiative and without any doubt will give away a few chances today, so our defensive discipline and their ability to take their chances will be a key factor.

Having said that, Arsenal have an in-form strike force and a strong midfield to boss the Spuds in their own half, and can create chances in the process. But we will have to take those opportunities early on to have a really good chance to win. If we are not leading by say 30-35 minutes it could become a tricky one for us.

I reckon, subject to fitness, that Arsene knows 9 of his 11 starters. The two areas where he will have some doubt is who to play next to Coquelin and whether to play Theo, Ox or Rambo on the right. We need to be solid in the double DM pivot with a strong focus on defensive duties and athleticism to cover the box to box challenges. Santi could play a big part in helping Ozil to crack open the Spuds’ bus but he may not be fit enough to play. I also doubt whether he is the right player to play as B2B in today’s game. For me, it is either Xhaka, Elneny or Ramsey. I would go for the Egyptian and play Rambo on the right ‘wing’ position. But I expect Wenger to play his strongest and most exciting team to watch.

Predicted Line-up:

submit football lineup

Whatever team will play, I am sure they will give their all for all the reasons given above; and let’s hope we will beat the Spuddies playing football the Arsenal way. Ooh to be…

COYRRGs!!!

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Best Arsenal 11, match preview | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Ludogorets 2 – 3 Arsenal: Blood, Sweat and Tears until Ozil’s foot-ballet

The Ludogorets Arena will always be remembered for that Ozil display of foot-ballet. Yes there was also a mighty comeback, and the best ones are always those when a team are 2-0 down and then win 3-2; yet this was somehow to be expected. But without any doubt, Mesut’s demonstration of total control of time and space whilst caressing the ball with his feet, will become immortalized in many a Gunner’s red and white brain.

You do not want to make this Arsenal side angry, as Sunderland and Ludogorets have now experienced in the space of just a few days. It took the new team, without the normal ‘midwingers’ Theo, Iwobi/Ox and second choice full backs, Xhaka restored to the double DM-pivot and Ollie as our CF, a while to get into the groove. It looked more like 4-5-1 than anything else; as a result we had an army of central midfielders trying to dominate proceedings.

Before we could take proper control of the game, we were two goals behind. That’s football!

Did Arsene make too many changes to the team? Was playing with OG up-front too much of a tactical change for in-form Arsenal? I reckon we needed to rest Ox and Iwobi who looked tired against Sunderland on Saturday. Playing Alexis on the left meant we could start the super-fresh legs of Ollie and Rambo in the front three, so it was a one-off compromise to me. And having Nacho and Bellerin back fresh and focussed on Sunday will also help our cause in defeating the Spuddies; so playing the limited Jenkinson and Gibbs was another compromise we got away with.

A teasing cross, from a wrongly awarded free-kick, kept Ospina rooted in goal and our defenders struggled to cover the attackers. A clumsy goal to concede but there you go. Soon after that it was 2-0 to the Bulzilians: Gibbs got skinned and a cross was put into the box from close range; Koz went to block it but was too late and Mustafi, not for the first time in recent games, allowed an attacker to squeeze between him and his fellow CB and beat Ospina on his left. Upsidaisy, that was not part of the script.

To Arsenal’s credit, the boys did not panic and started to attack with more intensity. There was still a lot of miscommunication and bad passing of the ball, but with so much individual quality in the team we had a good chance to get back into the game. And soon we did. Ozil, who at the start at the game had missed a glorious opportunity to give us an early lead, crossed the ball to the edge of the box from the by-line and there was Xhaka to score ala Giroud on Saturday with a finely placed left foot shot. 1-2 and game on.

Ludogorets kept defending really well in numbers around their box but it was a simple floated cross by Rambo from the flank and an easy header past the goalkeeper by Ollie that undid them. They had prepared for the Sanchez-as-CF Arsenal but forgot to practice the classical Giroud areal threat… to devastating effect.

Equalising before the break was just what we needed and the last thing the Bulgarians had wanted.

The second half was a lot of hard work by both teams and it looked like we were going to settle for a point in the end. But there was Mesut Ozil who felt it was time to show us all how good he is again. Giroud steels the ball of a midfielder and it ends up with Elneny. The Egyptian has no hesitation in putting the ball brilliantly over the top to the German maestro. Mesut’s first, deft touch is exquisite: it keeps to momentum of the ball going but it is now under the spell of the magician. The keeper, Borjan, does well to spot the danger and comes running out; Mesut spots Borjan and then eliminates him instantly with an out-of-this-world half circle scoop only the very best are able to produce. But he is not there yet as a few eager defenders have made their way back to block any of Mesut’s attempts to shoot on goal. The German spots the danger and decides to ballet-dance his way to goal with the ball magnetised to his feet, fooling the defenders who subsequently end up on the floor and then slotting the ball home with total composure. 2-3 to the good guys!

Mesut Ozil lobs goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

More CL football in 2017 for the mighty Arsenal, even though we have two more group games to come. A job well done, decorated by one of the finest goals we have ever seen. Ooh to be…

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Attacking football, match review | Tagged , , , | 21 Comments

Rambo and Xhaka DMs, Iwobi and Ox on Wings, Gabriel for Kos? Match Preview | Predicted Line-up

ludogorets-arena

Tomorrow Arsenal play a crucial game against Ludogorets Razgrad in the CL. A win and qualification for the next round should become a formality, if it will not be in the bag already; a draw or a loss and we will be up against it with hard games against PSG (at home) and Basle (away) to come. Add to this that Arsenal will have tough fixtures in November, and it becomes obvious that Arsene would love to secure early next round CL qualification tomorrow evening.

Wenger also seldom or never plays a weakened team in CL games, especially not when there is still something to play for. From what we saw in the home fixture, Arsenal should be able to win tomorrow, but this will not just happen by itself. The home crowd (about 9000 seats only) will be behind their team, and they will want to revenge the dreadful 6-0 defeat a few weeks ago. And if we play with a low tempo and lack of intensity and aggression, it could become quite difficult for us to secure the three points. They definitely have players that can hurt us and are pretty strong in midfield to give us a game.

I reckon we have too many ambitious and proud Gunners in the squad to be at risk of underestimating the challenge, and Wenger will select the right team to achieve victory. But he also needs to guard for fatigue and keep an eye on Sunday’s big NLD encounter.

As always, predicting the exact line up is not easy, but a mixture of what I reckon will work and what Wenger is likely to do leads me to the following starting eleven:

Predicted starting 11:

submit football lineup

Ospina in goal is more or less a given. Gibbs to continue on the left and Jenkinson on the right in defence as Bellerin is ruled for tomorrow’s game. Mustafi starting once more and I reckon Koscielny could do with a rest and Gabriel with a game, so I am going for a MusGab central defence duo.

There are a lot of training pictures of Xhaka on Arsenal.com and this seems a great game to reintroduce him. I also feel that Rambo will get a start which will allow us to rest Coquelin and Elneny, who will be desperately needed on Sunday.

Mesut Ozil struck his first professional hat-trick as Arsenal thrashed Ludogorets

Either Iwobi or Ox should get a rest as they both looked knackered after playing 60 minutes on Saturday. However, Wenger has not got too many options right now with both Welbeck and Perez injured and Theo not fully fit either. So I reckon both Ox and Iwobi will have to start even though it is unlikely they will play the full 90 minutes. Ozil in the hole and Alexis up front for at least 70 minutes, but maybe Arsene will start with Giroud instead. I have no doubt that Ollie will play at least 20 minutes tomorrow and let’s hope he can add another goal, or two, to his impressive tally.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!!

By TotalArsenal

 

Posted in Best Arsenal 11, match preview | Tagged , , , , | 48 Comments