Dinamo Zagreb vs Arsenal–Predicted Lineup. Gibbs, Dechuchy, Ox & Giroud In? Another Shot at the Big Cup

Or More Trouble on the Continent? 

Can Arsenal actually compete with the best in Europe or has the predictability of the tournament–not to mention the additional exertions it requires–sucked the life-blood out of our club?  How Do Gooners really feel about these European Nights?  Are they ‘Big’ or are they just a big drag?

Personally, I love the Champions League, even if I think it could be improved and reformatted into a better competition.  Yes, it’s true, with the money pouring into the game it gets more and more predictable and it seems that only a handful of teams could actually win the big trophy.  Still, there’s just something that little bit exotic about these trips to foreign cities.  Hearing different languages and seeing different ways the game is played and appreciated is one of the fundamental pleasures of the sport.  In a certain way, you just never know what to expect in these matches and that’s never a bad thing.

To begin this, our 18th consecutive appearance in the tournament, Arsenal travel to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, to play Dinamo.  I haven’t had a lot of time to research this match but what I can tell you is this: these are the invincibles of this part of the Balkans.  41 matches without a loss means that Arsenal will play a group unaccustomed to giving away points.

It will be all the tougher because we can expect a full house at the Maksimir Stadion with fans full of a special sort of passion for their club, one that has been riddled by controversy and scandal in recent times, despite their winning ways.  Just as Arsenal are a club with dramatic narratives underpinning all the action, so too is EVERY club.  For further reading, and it’s a good one, check this out: http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/sep/15/dinamo-zagreb-arsenal-mamic-brothers-champions-league

Arsenal, of course, bring our own drama and narratives wherever we go and this, our first midweek match of the season, surely will get into the blood of die-hard Gooners.  News that Jack Wilshere will be joining Danny Welbeck (and Tomas Rosicky) in the long-time, recovering-from-surgery group will make some Gooners minds skid as out of control as Per Mertesacker’s automobile recently did on the M1.

We know that manager Arsene Wenger needs to rotate his squad ahead of the early Saturday kickoff at Chelsea but we also know that full points are needed to get off on the correct footing in this competition.  With Bayern Munich in the group, nearly all pundits are predicting we’ll come 2nd, meaning another tough round of 16 battle in the new year.  Stumbling out of the blocks in Zagreb would make that qualification all the harder; starting the group stage in style and taking the full points back to London would swing the pressure back onto Bayern and create a bit of breathing room–and excitement–for the looming matches with the German champions.

How then does Wenger balance all those priorities?  My thought is that we’ll see a measure of rotation in the squad, especially at the running positions (fullback) but also a desire to continue honing the continuity of the squad, especially in our possession and attacking game.  Getting anybody amongst those from whom we expect goals off the bagel (as we sometimes say here in the States–i.e., Alexis, Rambo, Santi, Ozil, Ox) would be a very good thing.  Tight at the back, strong on the ball and, most of all, clinical with our chances (something we have lacked thus far this season) and we might be able to rest players who will be needed for the lunchtime kickoff on Saturday.  Here’s my best guess at Wenger’s starting group.

Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Monreal, Arteta, Ramsey, Walcott, Campbell

Some, of course, will argue for deeper rotation (some, perhaps, for none at all) but I think a group somewhat like this gives chances to those who might need a bit of match time while allowing for some of the key partnerships to continue growing ahead of the tough match against the (struggling, backs-to-the-wall) domestic champions.  The objective must be to control the match through possession and technical superiority and get the early goal(s) so that we don’t have to press for them late on.  Of course, that’s not as easy as it sounds, and who knows, Dinamo may yet be developing another Luka Modric or two.  Surely their proud players–who haven’t experienced defeat in such a long time–will come into the match with other ideas.

So, what say you, fellow Gooners?  How do you feel about the Champions League?  Do you find it exciting or has the lustre gone?  Have too many years of just qualifying (for the group AND elimination rounds) got Gooners thinking more about our domestic competitions or is there still a thrill in taking our team to the Continent?

More specifically, who would you send into this opening night battle?  How important is the result and how should the manager try to balance getting the points in Croatia ahead of the Saturday Match at Stamford Bridge?  Or perhaps he should also be thinking longer term and about the two matches per week schedule we now face until the next international break.

In many ways, with only a match per week, the distraction (and then disappointing conclusion) of the transfer window and that first international break, fans of the game live on tenterhooks during August, perhaps reading too much into each result and rumour.  As Summer eases into Autumn and the matches come thick and fast we start to learn more about our team and what questions we’ll really be asking as the days get darker.  Is this when the season really starts?  Perhaps?

If so, I say, let the games begin…

by 17highburyterrace

42 thoughts on “Dinamo Zagreb vs Arsenal–Predicted Lineup. Gibbs, Dechuchy, Ox & Giroud In? Another Shot at the Big Cup

  • Hi, 17. 🙂

    First of all, thank you for making a preview of the game that I still have slim hopes to see from the stands. 🙂

    Anyway, I’m completely calm about the game. Dinamo Zagreb are arguably the worst team in the Champions’ League. I’ve watched them for years (go check my profile here), one of the first game I recall was Dinamo-Auxerre 1:3 (in 1989) when ex-Arsenal man Davor Šuker was their No. 9. In 26 years I can recall just one Dinamo team that knew a thing or two about defending – the one that was managed by Vahid Halilhodžić. You can’t find too many teams that have conceded MORE goals that resemble to goals that had frustrated us over the barren years than Dinamo.

    Dinamo have a few good talents though. They always do. There are players to watch:

    Marko Pjaca, Marko Rog, Ante Ćorić.

    Angelo Henriquez is Alexis’ compatriot and a former Manchester United man. Not a bad striker but not the one that should put fear to our face.

    They have a lot of Portuguese players in their squad. Ivo Pinto, their right full-back, tends to neglect his defensive duties so our left winger should teach him a good lesson.

    Their central defenders are crappy and Giroud might finally get his first hat-trick.

    I would go with a very combined eleven and still expect a 3:0 victory.

  • Om of my main problemproblems with Wenger (and I have very few) is that he does not rotate enough so that by Christmas key players are tired in the EPL and the team goes thru a spell where they end up effectively surrrending the EPL title race. My other problem is that he does not force wWalcott to defend enough and ends up compensating on the right side of Arsenak’Arsenak’attack bt using Ramsey as the solution because he is better defensively. With that in mind the only changes I would want to see for your suggested starting line up are (1) Walcott coming in on wide right forward and slipping Oxlade-Oxlade-Chamberlin to the left to give Sanchez a rest (2) Flaming and Arteta coming in central midfield to give Coquelin and Ozil a rest and (3) slipping Carla into attacking midfield behind Giroud.

  • Fab preview, Seventeenho. 🙂

    Unlike you, I do not get too excited about the CL anymore. Too predictable and no romance anymore. It will be Barca, Bayern or Madrid again this season. But the football can be good and watching it can be a nice way of spending a midweek evening. I like the lineup.

  • 17ht, TA, do you think as the cup keeper wenger will deploy Ospina?

    I read the papers this morning and they mentioned that Zagreb has won 41 games in the local league, spanning from an unbeaten run last season.

    So Admir, will we be seeing something differently?


  • Mertesacker, Bellerin & Ramsey stayed back in London (all rested).

    Provisional squad: Cech, Monreal, Gabriel, Koscielny, Debuchy, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott, Giroud, Ospina, Cazorla, Campbell, Gibbs, Coquelin, Chambers, Flamini.

    Arsene Wenger & Mikel Arteta addressed media at press conference in Zagreb. (Arteta expected to get a start).

    My starting team: Cech, Debuchy, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta(Cpt), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Walcott, Giroud, Alexis.

    Bench: Ospina, Gibbs, Chambers, Coquelin, Flamini, Cazorla, Campbell.

    Match referee: Ovidiu Haţegan (from Romania)

  • The worst we’ll do to ourselves is underrate Dinamo Zagreb. So am not expecting more than 4 changes. If the game is going well for us, I expect Wenger to make early substitutions with an eye on the Chls clash.

    —————– Cech —————–
    Deb—— Gab ——- Kos —— Mon
    ———— Coq ——- Art ————-
    Ox ———— Ozil ———– Alex
    —————–Walcott —————-

    Bench: Osp, Chamb, Gibs, Flam, Carzola, Giroud, Campbell.

  • Nice one HT. I always enjoy a bit of background stuff that you put into your pre-views, as we do not know how the strengths and weaknesses will play out on the night.

    Regards the question on European nights. It is much more important that many may think. It is not just an interruption to our domestic league ambitions, nor should we be thinking of winning it at this early stage. However, from the view of what it means to Arsenal, getting good results are vital. Not just from the financial angle. Man Utd are said to have missed out on £35m when not involved the season before last. True, more like pocket money for them, but that is another Alexis Sanchez to us? Beyond that it is essential that the EPL puts in a meaningful challenge this time, as the talk of reducing our number of clubs being given automatic places will be dropped to three. The two Mancs clubs hardly improved our argument last night, so I really hope Admir is right, and Dinamo are indeed ready for the taking, and a home defeat follows?

    Back to the the meaty part of your post. Clearly from the latest squad news, there will be changes tonight, so perhaps some, not ‘lessons learnt’ exactly as that is too harsh, but at least AW is treating his squad as a strong squad, and is going to to use them wisely this time around?

    I have decided not to try and predict a squad, full of my favourite players who never actually make it. Instead, treat the post writers thoughts as if it were AW’s, and just tweak it to get the best out of it, as I see it.

    In a way, JM has beaten me to it, both with team thoughts and the squad updates. But I go back to the first principle of not losing in away legs of this competition. Even ‘stubborn’ AW will know that you cannot go into the unknown territory to ‘gung ho’, no matter how much scouting and how many videos they rely on?
    Following on from that, there are the next two games to consider, it is equally important not risking key players. For that reason I would go along with the reasoning that neither Coquelin or Cech will be starters in this one. Cech will get his chance later, probably against BM? Ospina needs game time prior to his expected CoC appearance against Spurs.
    In the defensive midfield I think Arteta will play the leading role of organizing, and a more radical move will be to put Ox in the Cazorla role, and let the latter share the 90 minutes with Ozil, but with Ozil starting. But to have a more defensive look have Gibbs in the left sided midfield, leaving Monreal keeping the FB spot.
    In other words, you have a core 7 defending, plus Ox. He provides the pace in transition.

    So the front trio will be Giroud to start(most likely), or possibly Campbell and Alexis, with Ozil doing the feeding? Ox carrying the ball out of defence, but without the Wilshere ‘blind alley’ stuff hopefully? Given that both Ox and Gibbs can provide the width, depending on how wide Campbell and/or Alexis stray from the centre, but it has a pacy look, as well as a sound defence.
    For once the bench would look good too: Cech; Chambers; Flamini; Coquelin; Cazorla; with Wlalcott/Giroud or Campbell/Giroud or Campbell/ Walcott making the two attacking subs?
    Good cover in all areas.

    Believe it or not, that only amounts to 4 changes, but a radical shift in focus, which is what I think is key?

  • Thanks 17 !

    I like these CL games as they are similar to the COC games in that I`m not too bothered as we all know we are not going to win it, so not much pressure . The COC games used to be the same when we played our youngsters and could be pleased if they won or have the excuse that it was only our youth team if we lost !.

    Going back to Mourinho becoming our manager, here is the evidence to prove he is being groomed by Arsene !……………………look away now Totes !…..I don’t want you having nightmares !. 😆

  • CM (sorry i couldnt bear to type your name in full), if Mourninho ever becomes our manager it will be hell for him. See what our fans and players will do to him.

    Hehe.. can we see a better showing in CL this season? The last time we have a real sniff at the trophy is the year we lost to Barca. Did we have an invincible BPL season then?


  • @People 🙂

    Dinamo haven’t won a single game in the Champions’ League since they had been called “NK Croatia” in 1999-2000. Since then they have played 15 games and lost 13. The Croatian League is one of the worst in Europe in terms of quality, the refereeing is terrible, number of scandals including the one about bribing referees for “honest refereeing” (basically, you pay money so that you get referees that won’t massacre you), Zdravko Mamić is the absolute ruler of the Croatian football (most of Hajduk Split – Dinamo’s arch-rivals – have boycotted the national team due to Mamić’s dictatorship)…

    Now, Dinamo have made a lot of successful players – they have one of the best youth academies in Europe – as the fact two of their products (Luka Modrić and Mateo Kovačić) are now at Real Madrid (not directly via Zagreb though) and Marcelo Brozović is at Internazionale. Dejan Lovren is also one of their products, mind you, and that says a lot about their defending. 🙂

    One more thing: Dinamo have dreamed about the European spring since 1970. If they finish third in the group, their dream would come true. It’s amazing that they couldn’t do it even with the team of Luka Modrić and Mario Mandžukić, the one that had knocked out Ajax of Luis Suarez, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Jaap Stam and others in the qualifying round.

    I expect us to exploit their right side of the defence and poor footballing intelligence of their central defenders. Theo Walcott has already scored one hat-trick at Maksimir, hopefully the second one is coming tonight. 🙂

  • super background info, Admir. Keep it coming. 🙂

    My predicted line up:
    The Cech
    The Bush The Koz The Gab The Gib
    ———– The Art——The Caz———
    The Camp – The Ox – The Alexis
    —————-The Giro———————

    COYG!!! 🙂

  • The silence on the airwaves reflects that this really could not be going much worse than it is…. The sending off is one of those things with CL games. But how many times do we get caught on the break by teams that have parked the bus? It is absurdly predictable and I’m at a loss as to why we seem unable to learn this painful lesson. I’m still hoping that our 10 playing properly should be good for at least one goal in the second half, but I don’t think they are going to gift this to us……

  • Can’t believe what I just watch…luckily, from my living room. If I were on the stadium, I would have sold Giroud to the highest bidder right now.

    We are about to lose to the team that probably won’t collect a single point until the end of the group stage. That’s what you get when you insist on Cazorla on the wing.

    Arteta should retire immediately after the game.

  • Bad day at the office. Probably too many changes and Giroud not keeping discipline will not go down well with Arsene. Need to forget about this one and focus on the Chavs game. Simple as that.

  • We paid the price for underrating Dinamo. 4 players in the back 6 who are far from being match fit (Ospina, Deb, Gibbs, Arteta) is, in my opinion, just too many. We now have Olymp sandwiched betwin Leic and Man U. If we focus too heavily again on the Man U game, we would be committing the same error. The CoC and the early FA rounds are better for giving so many match unfit players, game time together.

  • I strongly reiterate the desire to have the ox dropped from the squad.. his refusal to defend the ball peoperly makes me unhappy.


  • Admir,

    Please do not blame yourself. I was expecting a tight game but i didnt expect to fail.

    As the game kicked off early morning local time, 3.45am to be honest, i didnt catch a single minute. I have yet to see the highlights.

    I have noticed the past seasons that we are in trouble if we have a man down. This cannot go on. We must man up when we are a man down, get our heads together and work as a unit. Not stick our heads in the sand and hope that we do not lose any goals.

    We have to change this mentality before the chelski match. They are rolling and we are wounded.


  • Welcome to the ‘roller coaster’ …..

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If everybody had it nobody would make any mistakes. I did not see many comments on HT’s team selection to suggest it was all wrong, and he should have gone with the team that played on Saturday? That would have left the same ‘unfit’ players ready(?) for the CoC.
    Again, tactically, nobody was surprised that Giroud got the nod up front? I expected it, although I would have preferred what we finished up with, as least some positives came out of that?

    Yes, everybody can point the finger at Giroud for letting his frustration get the better of him. How you can argue against Arteta though, without hindsight, or say Gibbs was unfit, when he looked sharp in everything going forward. It was a strange tactical decision to put him on the nearside at the set piece, as he normally is the on goal line at the far post? Hindsight calling it? I don’t think anyone expected AW to take off Giroud before the 65th minute, when the foul he made shortly after the booking, could have, should have set the warning bells ringing?
    Hindsight, you wonderful thing!

    We have dropped one point (that we started the game with) in a CL league where there are 15 more on offer.
    We have 3 players who will be in better shape going into the CoC.
    We saw something more of Joel Campbell that shows real promise than all his other appearances in an Arsenal shirt put together.
    We saw Alexis in the centre be more effective at the end of the game, which may be the biggest benefit to take from this game?
    We rested 4 key players, and Coquelin stock has risen to even greater heights.

    For me it was that the Kos-Gab partnership did not look so assured as they did in the previous game. Partly because more came at them, but it was more that Kos did not look the rock he normally is on the left of goal, than he was on the right? Both played well, but in those little key areas it made a difference … imo … with hindsight.
    Ox, having been in great form before the break, until he lost his spot on the right, looks like he has gone back to trying too hard. Unlucky with the goal, and that seemed to affect him. It is one thing being an attacker who can track back and support the FB. It is another thing to try and replace him?
    Debuchy, is not quite the same player who came in and looked a good replacement for Bacs. His long time out with injury, and then losing his place to a 20 year old has not done his confidence any good either. All credit to him for keep putting in the effort and commitment for the full 90 odd minutes. Coming back into the side was tough enough, but trying to emulate what the ‘king of speed'(PES 😀 ) just added another level of difficulty. He will improve for this outing, without doubt.
    Even the ‘dream partnership’ of Ozil and Cazorla looked a little impotent until the game opened up in the second half … Oh how we could have done with that extra man then? … I know, hindsight!

    Early Saturday we will find out if our ‘coaster ride is still dipping, or shooting up to a new high?

    Unfortunately, projecting my hindsight forwards, I think the tweaks that will be applied to the last league game may have a negative effect, and the upswing will come in the CoC game.

    Repeat, we have dropped 1 point from our CL total, don’t dwell on it too long.

  • An interesting game (in the bigger picture). I thought the match reiterated some themes which are emerging or have already emerged about Arsenal’s attacking strategy. For me it seems as though Arsenal are caught between wanting to deploy one of two attacking systems (depending upon the centre forward) but are not entirely committed to either.

    The first involves Walcott as the centre forward. When he is deployed there the likes of Ozil and Cazorla in particular target his excellent off the ball attacking runs, with through pass. That is a fine strategy but it becomes a bit ineffectual if Walcott is only Arsenal player making those attacking runs. That lack of multiple attacking off the ball runners makes it easy for the opposition to block the passing lanes to Walcott. I thought it was noticeable, the number of attempted passes, particularly from Ozil to Walcott, which were intercepted by the Zagreb players. I think if Wenger continues to deploy Walcott as a centre forward option (and I hope he does), more off the ball running behind the opposition’s defensive line is needed from Arsenal’s wide forwards to really make that an effective attacking strategy.

    The second approach involves Giroud as the centre forward. In my view Giroud’s biggest assets are his physical strength and touch. Looking back at the highlight reel of his best performances for the club and you’ll see a litany of quick one-two plays with Giroud providing the final flick or touch in the 18 yard box to create a goal scoring opportunity for a team mate. That is an acceptable strategy to a degree (its a bit one dimensional in that if the opposition cut off the passing lanes to Giroud what do Arsenal do?). But to really make that attacking strategy effective Arsenal need their wide forwards and attacking central midfielders to be willing to attempt those one-two with Giroud and they haven’t thus far this season.

    That’s why I don’t really blame Giroud or Walcott for Arsenal’s early season attacking struggles (though I admit they could have been more clinical with their finishing is some games). My disappointment is more so directed at the likes of Sanchez, Ramsey, Ox and to a lesser extent Ozil.
    I always remember that for every great season Henry had during his time at the club, Arsenal only were a genuine title threat when the likes of Pires, Ljungberg, Bergkamp also contributed the 10 to 15 goals each. I think Wenger knows this as well (given his recent comments) but he is unfortunately being let down by Arsenal’s attacking support cast, and it was more of the same versus Zagreb.

    It will be interesting to see the response versus Chelsea.

  • Guys, especially Gerry and Flo8,

    Will we see the same team that started last weekend or will we see Giroud up front?

    I prefer the defensive partnership of Kos and Merte.. Gabby needs games yes, but he is still too green for big games.


  • Hey JK good question.

    I think I would go with Walcott rather than Giroud in the centre forward role vs Chelsea. I think Walcott is in better form, is a more clinical finisher, and his mobility will give the likes of Terry, Cahill and Matic more problems than Giroud.

    I agree with you on the Per and Kos partnership as well. At a small ground like Stamford Bridge in particular, I would prefer to see that combination than Kos and Gabriel or Per and Gabriel.

    The big question for me who to start in the wide forward roles. Whilst I’m expecting that Sanchez and Ramsey will start on the left and right respectively. Neither have contributed on the goal scoring front this season (though Sanchez was a genuine threat versus Stoke). For me, regularly contributing to the team’s goal scoring output is a core requirement of those two positions. With the exception of his disallowed goal versus Liverpool, Ramsey hasn’t looked like a goal scoring threat. His off the ball runs behind the oppositions defence are becoming more infrequent as is his willingness to shoot. You could never say Sanchez isn’t willing to shoot, but like Ramsey his off the ball attacking movement has been poor so far this season.

    The problem is that who in the squad could genuinely replace them? Ox, for all of his potential talent, seems to have even more of a phobia of making off the ball attacking runs. His repeated insistence on dribbling on the outside of the left full back to whip in a cross to our lonesome centre forward (who is being marked by both of the oppsition’s centre backs) rather than at least attempting to dribble at the left full and towards goal is somewhat bemusing. After watching his development over the last couple of years I genuinely don’t believe he is suited to the wide forward roles in Arsenal’s setup. I think he might be better suited to Cazorla’s deep midfield role but as a player who advances the ball through dribbling rather than a passing.

    Genuinely not sure who I would like to see play in the wide areas for Arsenal. Maybe going two upfront with Walcott and Sanchez is the answer, with Ozil in the central attacking midfield role, Coquelin anchoring the midfield and Ramsey and Cazorla alongside him?


  • flo8,

    Chelski dropped Terry and look at the win yesterday. Their opponents are minnows, but ours are too.

    I am not sure but having Theo up front does not give us the height advantage.
    How about deploying rambo on the left and theo on the right and alexis in the central forward position? As alexis is a better header of the ball.


  • Out of all our attacking options JK, Alexis is the one I would like to see deployed in the centre forward role for a good run of games. His off the ball runs behind the opposition defensive line would need to improve in my opinion, but I think he is more than capable and probably our best goal scorer. Theo on the right and Ramsey on the left sounds good to me too though Walcott is a bit lazy in defence so Bellerin would have to work very hard defensively and Coquelin would need to be mindful of that too.

  • Up early with lots to do, so I’ll try to keep this brief…esp. as I watched the match on a stream and couldn’t really see too much… I guess TA is too busy for a match report (?)… I’d ask if anybody else wants to write one but I’ve got no time for editing and publishing and with the Chavs match in less than 48 hours it’ll be tough enough to get our a preview… Shame that…

    The big talking points seem to be Giroud’s petulance hurting the team (in a big, big way) and the match exposing the drop in quality we seem to have when we try to rotate too much. As TA pointed out, I got 9 out of 11 correct on the line-up, missing only the changes at keeper and DM. Those might’ve been two changes too many, according to the analysts, at least.

    I’m less worried at the goalkeeper position. Nobody is giving Ospina credit for the very brave save he made on the goal as it bounced off the Ox and into the net. Debuchy out of position and the Ox desperate to not look the fool with his (late) run which could only rush the shooter were the true culprits but Ospina will feel the pressure when he takes the net again at Spurs in a week’s time.

    It doesn’t help that his size (or lack thereof) was exposed on the 2nd goal, which almost certainly could have been prevented with Giroud at the front post. With little time to prepare for Chavs on Saturday it might be good if our first team works on positioning at set pieces, plays for which the Moo-people will certainly be striving. If Giroud doesn’t start that match (and I doubt he will) having the BFG in there at least gives Chelsea set piece takers a taller defender to try and avoid.

    I can’t really comment on our (apparent) lack of threat going forward. In the 2nd half it appeared we suffered from being on the wrong side of some very close off-side calls (including one which Ozil put into the net). This is the type of attack FLO8 (and others) favor (favour?) and there’s nothing wrong with it except that it can be tough when the calls aren’t going your way. Overall (and again, I could hardly see well enough to say yes or no) it seemed like the officials were definitely leaning towards the home team. I want to move on from this match ASAP so I probably won’t even search out the highlights to see if AW has a point on their first goal being offside…

    Did the triple sub help? Theo stayed onside (or at least wasn’t flagged off…) and took his goal very well. Le Coq seemed to settle us in the middle of the pitch but Campbell looked just as ineffective as the Ox in terms of possession, being able to defend (without fouling) and moving the ball forward (I don’t believe he did, but I may have missed something as my stream went blank for several minutes in there). Inactivity in the transfer window, plus those long-term injuries, seem factors in our ability to compete in these other competitions, I fear.

    Worst of all, the result sets the exact wrong tone heading into tough London derbies in the opponents’ stadia. Oh well… We probably shouldn’t expect to get results in those two matches which–perversely–is maybe exactly what the team needs. If we can play a bit of defense-first football, who knows, we might be able to get something from the Chavs match and nick a winner up the road in the CoC. OGAAT, of course… and, with another failure in the first match of a competition (West Ham in the league opener being the other), we have another “wake-up call” on our hands. I’m sure it will help our focus for the other CL group games (as we try to get up for 2nd) but may also have the effect of making the two against Bayern become somewhat meaningless, which, IMO, is a real shame. Arsenal should be relishing these opportunities against the best competition rather than trying to just get through them in order to focus on being professional against the teams we *should* beat…

    Anyhow, that’s my (quick, hahaha) take on things…

  • “—– rambo on the left and theo on the right and alexis in the central forward position —” I agree with you, JK/ FL08, that this is a front 3 positioning that should enter seriously into our thinking, Rambo and Theo being our two best off the ball runners. Theo is a better finisher of the two and in my opinion should be given the prime spot of the two wide positions, with Alexis at centre, but as a false 9. F9 still gives us the benefit of Alexis energy and his well rounded ability. That prime spot for me is Theo on the left wide and not right wide. A lot of people still seei Theo in the traditional winger mold. No! Theo’s devastation comes from running the channels from wide. And left wide suits him to perfection. His goal last night against Dinamo is the perfect illustration of what am trying to get across. Approaching the goal from the left gives him far more strike options. Incidentally, for the goal last night, Alexis was at the centre occupying the F9 position.

    Name tags do constrain thinking. A winger can be giving the role of striking. A centre forward can be positioned to provoke chaos for laying passes for others running to the centre to strike. The function is what matters, not the tag. Theo in such a role is best regarded as a striker positioned wide left. Such a view should accommodate a tweaking of the team to free him of the extra defensive demands on a wide player, which we all know is not a strong point of his. We need to find how to maximize the use of what we have. Goal returns must improve.

  • PE, lots going on today (for me) but I just wanted to say that I think you”ve hit it spot on with a couple of statements…

    “Name tags do constrain thinking,” is oh so true. Alexis will start on the left, Ramsey on the right and Theo up top as a lone striker at Chelsea and “journalists” (I want to use the term VERY loosely, here…) will begin writing obituaries. They fail to see that it’s all about movement and the front three will change positions at will and that all three will track back to help (defensively and w/build up play) as needed–hopefully a bit better than the Ox did on that first goal last night. Our Spanish FBs provide our width, but, ideally, ANY of the front three can go out to the touchlines and work with, or interchange with, them as required… So, Gooners, don’t panic or go into, Stubborn.C**t.Wenger mode when you see the front line listed in my preview (and elsewhere) which I still have to find time to write…

    The other key element (which you, PE, also noted) is the desire for an “easy 3 points” which the manager signals through rotation deeper into the squad. Unfortunately we seem to lack the professionalism to take care of business in these competition openers–in our home stadium in the league vs West Ham and in the CL last night. Our ability to accept adversity–chances not taken, 1st goals scored by the opposition, referees not doing their job (as we perceive it) seems to be too much… We’re pretty calm at the back, even when things go wrong but, up front, Giroud seems even more petulant than usual, Alexis a bit more subdued than we would like and the Ox pressing and making poor decisions as he sometimes does. Ozil and Walcott keep trying but they’re very subdued characters and not the types to get the others back on track. Anyhow, it’s another element I should save for the match preview, but there it is..

    OK, off now, but I just wanted to note areas of agreement… 🙂

  • A rather bizarre coincidence:

    Dinamo hadn’t beaten a team from Top 5 European leagues since 2010. They won their first group match in Europa League against Villarreal of Santi Cazorla. Santi came in as a substitute- their manager opted for rotation.

  • Hey Admir… Just checking in at lunchtime here…Like TA, I appreciated all the pre-match info…

    Are you back on the Santi = all our troubles?… Like I wrote, I couldn’t really see much of the match so it’s hard for me to say he was effective or the opposite… To me, of course, Santi seems like a pretty strong player. Maybe things were a bit off given that he didn’t have his usual hard-man partner, Le Coq, working with him during the period we were outscored.

    From the outside, it seems like the way things unfolded wasn’t so crazy… Arsenal were rotating and our defending got exposed on the break (with a tough bounce after a great save) and at a set piece, having lost one of our primary dead ball defenders. That guy (Giroud) lost his mind (and was punished very harshly) and the crowd seemed a factor in influencing the (not very professional) crew of refs… All told, it’s a very disappointing result but (perhaps, maybe) not the end of the world…

    What am I missing?

  • HT 17, you put it so succinctly —- ” it’s all about movement—–“. Anybody holding rigidly to the paper formation is completely disconnected to the reality. The reality is not rigidity but fluidity. Movemen, movement ……… so much so that the paper formation is hardly more than a language for instruction and analysis, a kind of reference datum used by the players to chart their movements. Yes, the football field is a raging sea…….!

  • One bonus re-Chelsea, according to the FPL site both Willians and Pedro are out.
    Nacho, it could be your lucky day?

  • Some very interesting points of discussion you raise 17 and PE.

    On the issue of formations and on field movement, I definitely agree that the players need to be flexible in their on field positioning in order to effectively defend, retain possession and create good goal scoring opportunities. However, some on field structure and stability is also necessary as at the end of the day there are 10 individual players (excluding the goalkeeper) on the field who, despite Wenger’s best efforts, won’t always intrinsically know what the other players are trying to create.

    I think its all about finding a balance between fluid movement and structured play. The Invincibles often provided great examples of this. Frequently Henry would drift from the left striker role to the left wing and Pires would counterbalance his movement by drifting from the left wing to the left striking role. The same thing would often occur on the right with Bergkamp and Ljungberg. The movement was fluid without being extreme and still retained the structural integrity of the team’s formation.

    I don’t think the current Arsenal side has found that right balance as yet, particular our three attackers and Ozil. A lack of lateral interchanging of positions between Sanchez and Walcott and Walcott and Ramsey along with a lack of vertical interchanging of positions between Ozil and Walcott, Ozil and Ramsey and Ozil and Sanchez is stagnating Arsenal’s attacking play. If Arsenal can improve that, their attacking quartet make more off the ball runs behind the opposition’s defence and Arsenal take some more risks with their final pass, I think they could be prolific.

  • Btw 17, you got me! 😄 I loved Ozil’s off the ball burst through the centre for his disallowed goal. Happy to take the odd offside call if it means more of that style of attack. It was great to watch!

  • FLO8, as you commented, some field structure is inevitable. Some systems want it more structured, others less structured. I feel that Wenger prefers the less structured system to allow for on field improvisation. That’s why he is so keen on players with technique and intelligence. Gaurdiola, also loves technique and intelligence but a more structured play. Wenger’s is loftier, more evolutionary, demanding no disruptions and a lot of time. Guardiola’s is more revolutionary, it says there is not enough time. I am squarely on Guardiola’s side. But we must remember that Wenger, slightly handicapped, is competing with the very bests, and he might have reasoned that this ie the best path for his team to stay competitive.

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