Xhaka/Elneny in DM Pivot, Alexis CF, Ozil to Rule, Theo/Perez on wings: Preview and Predicted First 11

We love the group stage of the champions league as some of the best games are being played in this competition every season. It is quite special that the two favourites of the group meet each other in the first group game, rather than in game three and four as usually is the case. PSG are yet to hit form and the same goes for us to some extent, so both teams could do with a very good match of football and three points. A good performance and a draw would also probably suit both clubs. With a bit of luck we should witness a feast of attacking football tomorrow.

For Arsenal this is an opportunity to lay down a marker in Europe, England and for ourselves. We need a good game and I reckon Wenger rested Sanchez, Giroud and Xhaka so he can field a very strong team in the capital of his home nation, even though I don’t expect Ollie to start. A good start is not crucial in this competition, but as we are playing the favourite team to win the group stage, a win tomorrow would give us a strong position to win the group eventually: an absolute necessity to get far in this year’s CL competition.

PSG like to play football and push opponents into their own half. If they do that we will have the weapons to punish them on the break. Arsene could start with Giroud and play a France national team style formation with Alexis (as a Griezmann) behind our solid Frenchman. He could also opt for pure speed up-front with Alexis as our ‘holding CF’ and with a licence for him to take on defenders left, right and centre.

I have a feeling that Giroud will have to miss out on a start in Paris. Wenger would be sentimental enough to allow Ollie to shine in their joint capital, but this is too important a game to not do the right thing. And against a team that is able to push us back into our own half, it is better to not start with a slowish holding CF. So I reckon we will start with Perez – Alexis – Theo, but would not be surprised if Iwobi gets a chance instead of Perez or Theo.

At the back, I think we will see the same GK and defenders as against the Saints. This leaves us with midfield and this is a game for Xhaka, no doubt. His ability to launch our attackers and get Ozil involved as quickly as possible, should be absolutely key tomorrow. Who shall we play next to him then: the steel of Coq or the immaculate passing of Elneny; or is Santi ready to start once again? Really hard to predict who will play in the double DM pivot, but I feel Xhaka and Elneny will get the nod, with both Coquelin and Santi coming on at some point in the second half to shore up the game and/or replace tired legs. And tired they will be tomorrow evening.

So my predicted starting eleven looks like this:

submit football lineup

What do you think fellow Gooners: Will we win this game and is this the starting eleven to do it?


By TotalArsenal.


42 thoughts on “Xhaka/Elneny in DM Pivot, Alexis CF, Ozil to Rule, Theo/Perez on wings: Preview and Predicted First 11

  • PSG are not playing possession based football anymore, Emery is setting them up to play counter attacking football. They relinquish possession much more and this transition is the reason why they are struggling lately.

  • Well hello Alcide, is that how you greet old friends? 😀

    Thanks for the back ground info. Does that mean that Wenger could well start with Ollie, with the aim to press PSG into their own half?

  • Nice post TA.

    Alcide, on the contrary PSG is still a tiki-taka team. They are currently leading the French league possession table with 62.4% and 4th in the top 5 European leagues behind Barca, Bayern, and Dortmond.

    Therefore I go with TA, and expect Wenger to employ a counter attacking tactics. Sitting deep demands the 4:3:3 formation which can very easily adjust to 2 banks of four.

    For the middle three I expect Santi and Elneny to start because of their ability in tiny spaces with Xhaka as the third for pinging the counter attacking balls.

    For the front 3, I suspect that Wenger will go with Perez over Theo. This might be the very reason why he suprisenly played him on Saturday to get a first feel of the team as he had been earmarked to start against PEG.

    Expected line up:


    Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Hold, Coq, Theo, Iwobi, Giroud.

  • Hi all..
    Now come the Champion Cup..
    All team seem to rest all their key players to welcoming this great league.. hehehe..

    TA.. I disagree with your team..
    Wenger will start with Giroud.. moreover after watching Perez.. he seem to need more time to blend with our attacking system..

    And you won’t rest your MOTM.. Cazorla is a strong player just as Sanchez.. He don’t need a week rest.. He will play along with Xhaka..

    Great to know that Koscielny is okay to play tonight.. We will need his solidity and experienced..

    So will play with our best players..
    Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny and Monreal as our defenders..
    Xhaka and Cazorla as our double pivot.
    Sanchez, Ozil, Walcott and Giroud ad our Attackers..

  • I like that starting 11 TA. My only changes are Debuchy for Bellerin and Coquelin for Elneny. With the caliber of PSG’s attack and their wing backs in particular I think Arsenal will need their best defenders on the pitch in central midfield and defence. For me that include Debuchy and Coquelin. Up front I would like to see the combination of Perez on the left, Alexis in the centre and Walcott on the right.

  • Good morning TA. Yes it is nice to be playing on a Tuesday night rather than Thursday?
    Thank you team of 2015/16. 😀 😀

    You are right to query your own decision making, as I am sure Arsene will, The thing is there is no right selection, until they perform well and preferably win … It is that preview of hindsight again.

    Personally, I would start with PE’s choices, as up front we are more likely to beat their makeshift defence with speed. Not that we should underestimate whoever they put out, as they can all be tidy players. They are just not quite a ‘team’. That can change in an instant!

    As I said yesterday, the battle will be won or lost in midfield. If we can stop them feeding their strong attack, we will be more than halfway there. Key will be Xhaka behind Santi and Elneny, with the latter pair capable of blocking the space that PSG would like to slip their passes into.
    It may be a tighter call for Perez to start, but at no time do I see Alexis as CF when Giroud is an option, even in the No10 position? Sorry TA – btw, Jorge Bird kindly answered my query on Mavidid staring position in the Under 23’s. It was No10 behind Akpom, and it suited them both very well. JB’s new blog format is a must for bookmarking if you want to keep up with the progress of our youngsters coming through.

    I am keen to see if AW will go for two up top, with the Alexis-Perez duo, it could be a real winner if we can get the ball to them quickly. A bit of high pressing in the way Liverpool destroyed Leicester at the weekend, would do nicely?
    Naturally, behind the midfield the defenders have got to play their part. I thought that Kos looked a far better player when he did not have to be ‘mother hen’ to the rest of the back four. Just as he showed with Mertersacker. £35m well spent, in the current market regards Mustafi, I think?

    As far as subs go, I would think Giroud and Iwobi to come on at 65 minutes, and Coquelin to seal it up later. Therefore, I am guessing that both Theo and Ox, along with Gibbs, will be starters in the Cup game. I would like to see Zelalem take Ozil’s spot, and rest Cazorla as well. Possibly Jeff R-A as his side kick. The back four will see changes in that one too, and up front I guess Akpom will be paired with the first named.
    Straying into future territory, I know, but I think it will be a common theme this season. Always one eye on the next game?

    That is my effort for the day. Thanks Pony Eye for selecting my choices too … great minds and all that? 😀

  • Cheers PE

    I cannot see us opt for 4-3-3 with Ozil as a false nr9, but good rationale nevertheless. I am quite positive it will be Alexis leading the line with two of Perez, Theo, Iwobi or Ox playing next to him.

  • Cheers Waldo, would be nice for Debuchy and Coquelin to get a start in their capital city…. Hmmm the more I read the comments the less sure I am I will get more than 8/11 right tonight.

  • Here, I come up with a 2nd line of thinking.

    Something that is not recognised by many is that Wenger loves the unexpected. The general expectation is that Wenger would set up for the counter game as PSG would dominate in possesion and force us to defend deep.

    Wenger might do the very opposite by opting to defend high up the pitch which is the same as pressing high. In which case expect him to include 4 of our best energy pressers in our front 6: Sanchez, Perez, Elneny and Coquelin. Then he includes Ozil as our advanced ‘eye of the storm’ and Xhaka as the deep lying one.

    The line up in a variation of the 4:3:3 would then be;


    Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Hold, Santi, Iwobi, Theo, Girouď.

  • TA, discard the paper configuration of the front 3. There would be so much interchanging between them both vertically and laterally.

  • It is Bergkampesque’s fourth anniversary today as the blog was born on 13th September 2012. 933 posts later and we are still going strong thanks to fellow writers and regular commenters. Thank you all. 😍⚽️


  • Sorry TA, I wasn’t expecting anyone to recognize my name 🙂 Happy birthday! And I hope things are going well around here.

    Pony Eye,

    Possession stats don’t always reflect an intention, sure against Monaco they had 60%+ possession, but they were behind the score, and were forced into possession most of the time – Monaco just letting them pass the ball around (and rarely in the last 30m).

    Unai’s philosophy is (and I quote) “Defend to attack”, he likes a high press and counter attacking, and has made mention of it a few times in PSG related interviews. It’s still a work in progress, though (and not diddimilar to what AW may b trying to do with Arsenal), but they have been trying to play with a more aggressive defensive line and more direct play. We may well both aim to press high! We’ll see – I’m more concerned about our fluidity than theirs at the moment, I haven’t seen us click much (apart from the Watford game perhaps).

  • Hi TA, Congrats on the BK B-Day!

    Also, a big hello to Alcide…Where’ve you been?…

    I think AW is less worried about opponent’s tactics than in finding our own best game plan and that PSG, presents a great chance to do just this. As such, Ollie up top, I think, esp. back in Paris. For me, Xhaka comes back in so the questions are Lucas vs Theo on the right and Santi vs Elneny to partner the Swiss guy. In the end, if pressed, I’ll go with


    I have to miss the first half today so no live blog (from me at least). I should make it for the 2nd, however…

  • Happy Birthday Bergkampesque! An intelligent, friendly arsenal blog and it’s a privilege to be able to read, comment and be here.

  • Congrats on 4 years T A

    Other than the killer centre forward .(an extremely rare and expensive commodity). We are now much stronger in all positions. Wenger could pick numerous midfield partnerships, who would all do well. I am not going to try to outguess him on this occasion.

    Hope Musafi and Perez play, as I haven’t seen either yet


  • Daily canon have this as the line up:

    Arsenal Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Cazorla, Coquelin, Iwobi, Ozil, Ox, Alexis

    Subs Cech, Holding, Gibbs, Xhaka, Elneny, Lucas, Giroud

  • As far as am concerned, Xhaka and Santi are the most important players in our midfield, especially in a game like this, where PSG has too many technically gifted players. We need to match that with our own best technically gifted players and also players with steel, which is why I will play coquelin with Xhaka and santi.

  • Happy 4th Birthday Total…

    Listening to the game on the radio, 1-0 PSG, sounds as if Cavani has missed 3 good chances.

    As long as it stays 1-0 then we might nick a draw…

    Xhaka on for Coquelin…

  • 1-1…. I’ll take that…

    Not a great performance by us, according to the radio, so take it and move on….

  • Well, going one goal down after a minute wasn’t the best idea against a team set up with 4 defensive midfielders – and Veratti, Matuidi, Krachiowiak, Rabiot are not average players…

    And am I glad we never bought Cavani from them 🙂

    Considering the situation, I thought we did alright – but Ox is starting to become reaaaally frustrating, and Iwobi showed some limits (normal considering his age and experience) at this level. We haven’t seem much of Xhaka, but – and maybe I am just biased and see what I want to see, but he inspires a lot more confidence when we have the ball than Coq – the latter having had a good defensive game however, it’s just his positional sense and ball distribution that is lacking attacking wise.

    Montreal struggled (his wing is being targeted regularly these days), but seriously our wingmen really don’t help him out much (Iwobi or Ox after they swapped wings).

    Our pressing was quite decent at times, a few less misplaced passes would have gone a long way to improving the overall performance, but it was a great game not to lose, so I’m quite pleased.

    Hi 17ht and Gerry, you’re one of the main reason I thought of coming back 🙂

  • Ok, we obviously didn’t play well, but a draw is a lovely result.
    Like I have always said, we will be better of with coquelin, santi and xhaka starting the game, but we got a shocker from wenger by dropping xhaka to the bench. We all could see that it wasn’t the best selection, but at the end we managed to leave paris with a draw.
    We all could see the importance of giroud when he was not playing, there was no bite in our attack, but when he came in, things changed even thou he didn’t do much, just his presence was enough.
    One thing that was quite noticeable in this game was the lack of cohesion in our central defence, We were so lucky not to concede up to 4 or 5 goals in this game, koscielny and mustafi do not understand each other yet, I hope they do so as quickly as possible, else we will concede too many goals just because of that. We also look weak defending aerial balls against a PSG team that is also weak in defending or attacking aerial balls. Lets hope for a better arsenal in games to come.
    Good night my people.

  • One last thought. I still don’t buy Alexis as lone striker – he could become one but it would take time, he’s dezoning too often and too much, making it difficult for AMs to find an anchor, not keeping CBs busy, clogging midfield, losing balls n possession… When OG came on, we found more space and some fluidity in the last 30.

    Oh and a friend insists that actually Coq hasn’t been good defensively and missed most of his tackles and interventions… :/

  • On Xhaka, Arsene must have some reason for not starting him, fitness maybe? I’m sure we’ll see more and more of him. One thing that seems to be happening this season, is rotation, and long term that may pay off. Btw I was watching the game on PPV and the French (unknown and lousy commentator) did mention Theo and a knee injury :/

  • Guys,

    I am surprised that Iwobi replaced Theo, and not Ox. I feel that Ox plays worse than Theo. Bad selection for my liking.

    We could have did much more if Ox did not play, but somehow he did and we played poorly with him in the squad.

    A point in the bag is still good for me against a good PSG, so, kudos to the team.


  • Ospina was fantastic. He is so quick off his line. He definitely needs better support from the fans.

    I had been a huge advocate of Alexis at #9. But now I’d say his talent is under-utilized there.

    I believe Coq was used for MF pressing. Aftet his yellow card he got timid with his tackles and lost his main contibution to the team. His substitution was timely.

    Iwobi, excellent going forward but needs to grow in his defensive duties. Nacho was unprotected.

    Ozil still to find his form.

    Great getting a point away against a very good PSG team but one can feel that so far this season we are yet to get into our full stride.

  • Morning all. I am a bit bemused like most I guess. The result was great, the commitment great, quality of play ….. yuk!

    I’ll be brief, as only I can 😀
    I watched the Youth’s game which kicked off at 5.0pm, and it was a similar story, except there was no scoring. Completely overrun by PSG for the 1st half hour, got back into it, 0-0 half time. PSG came out in the second half without the same effort, intensity, or energy which made our control that much easier. Too many loose passes, and no real threat on goal. Donyell Malen was the main culprit in attack, but was transformed when subs came on, and he moved to the right. There he played his natural game … if this sounds familiar, there is more …
    Vlad Dragomir for the hard working Chris Willock, Then Nketiah for the hard working, but slightly disappointing Mavididii, both around the 80th minute, and we were transformed into a real threat?
    What changed? Well we brought on a recognised striker, but one bang in form having scored 4 in 3 games ….
    Finally the ‘keeper, Keto, made some superb saves to keep them in the game.

    The differences … Willock backed up the impressive Johnson at right back whenever they threatened down that wing. The back 4 were in a ‘backs to the wall’ mode early on, but performed well as a unit,, albeit, last ditch tackles saving the day.
    The similarities … Midfield had little control. Late substitutions underling the weakness in starting selections …(hindsight speak here), Subs that could/should have been made earlier?

    Surely the kids are not on the same pitch-time related bonuses? This, for those who may have missed the story … Apparently, Wenger knows these contract details intimately, so he consciously delays substitutions to save the club money. So now you know? Ha! Ha!
    …. at least I hope it is a joke???

    Not much I can say about the CL game, it is all there in mirror image. However, to answer Alcide’s point – Welcome back, and thank you for the kindly mention. As one who has been on the ‘naughty step’ a few times, I try to follow Pony Eye’s humble approach and not get too carried away with my own intelligent reasoning … to err is human, as the saying goes. Cheers anyway. – on Monreal being the target side to attack, or so it appears? Much of it is down to lack of support, and not just when he is under pressure. I think he drifts in too far from the line, thus leaving the opposing winger the time and space, particularly the latter, to be permanently stationed out there. This not only gives him 10 yards start, but in that time support can come from deep and make it two on one.
    That cross field ball was on throughout the game last night. But as I said after our opening game, it is not Monreal’s bad positioning that is at fault, but more the space that Monreal occupies is not being filled by a midfielder. God knows, we have enough of them!

    I’ll leave any further comments until the ‘8 positives’ post arrives – Namely, 5 saves from Osina… (What was it you said in the preview program Rio?) – Alexis effort and goal, Coq here, there, everywhere, and Iwobi’s pre-assist. Just fill in the blanks TA 😀

  • Agreed regarding Montreal and the large amount of time/space he has to cover, I did sound like I was blaming him, but my point was really about the lack of support.

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