Is this Bench the Best in the Premier League? Arsenal’s Dizzying Squad Possibilities!

It is all about backbone, leadership and squad depth…. and plenty of pairs of these of course! 🙂


Like many, I don’t like international breaks but the good thing is it gives Arsene and the team an opportunity to work towards a deadline and then take stock. In the last few weeks post the September interlull, Arsenal have been solid and moved up  the table considerably. There are still important games to come: Basel at home and Burnley away. And after a very encouraging, successful game against the Chavs, we now have to be careful not to underestimate our opponents and work really hard to get vital wins before the next break.

Whether we will depends on the maturity and ability to focus by the players as much as anything else.

The team to beat is, of course, Pep City. Some believe he is only as good as the players he had at his disposal, which of course have been the pick of the world or there about ever since he started to coach, but I am a firm believer that the vision to develop a system/style of football and then be able to get the players to execute it, is what really makes a great manager. In the short term, a manager can take over a great team and have success on the basis of what was established by their predecessor, but in the mid to long term it is the manager’s ability to implement a competitive system of football and gather the required players to execute it which will make the difference. And Guardiola is already having an added positive impact on what is mostly Pellegrini’s squad.

Of course it is early days and MC have not had a hard start to the season in terms of the teams they have faced, other than MU away of course. We will have to see how they will fare against Liverpool, Chelsea and Leicester and if they can win all those games than they are further then us right now.

We are five points behind and that really is a few too many to feel comfortable at this stage. We need them to drop points and let’s see whether it will happen against our North London rivals this weekend. I am not underestimating the Spuds this time round, even though they are very capable of farcically imploding towards the last six weeks of the season once again. So I am not wanting a Spuds win against the Northern  Oilers: a draw would be just fine.

But as always, we need to focus on our game and try to get as many wins as possible by the OGAAT principle: one game at a time. To achieve this we need a strong backbone and leadership in the team, and we also need squad depth. 

The question is whether Arsenal have this now. The best way to establish this is to see how we will deal with adversity, but other than the first game of the season against Pool we did not really have to deal with much of it. Although it is fair to say we did well when Arsenal went behind against PSG and somehow managed to get back in the game in the second half, helped by Lady Luck it has to be said.

What really encouraged me was the way that Koz and Mustafi, supported behind them by the cool and experienced Cech and in front of them by the beastly Coq, controlled the game, both technically AND psychologically. And when le Coq went off injured, Xhaka did very well in replacing him both technically and in terms of presence on the pitch. And the latter is as important as anything.

Mesut Ozil

On top of this, we had Ozil and Alexis leading the attack with both intelligence and a guttural hunger. And our wing-backs, Nacho and Bellerin, were also dominating proceedings with their feet and their personas. To complete it all, Santi, Theo and Iwobi had strong presence and hunger without ever looking to hide behind their team mates. That is what I loved more than anything else about our team on Saturday.

Our first team against Chelsea:

submit football lineup

These players now more or less are our first team players, and after the Chelsea demolition there is good reason to believe we have the backbone and leadership to go all the way this season in the PL, and maybe even in the CL. However, we all know that fatigue, injuries and possibly suspensions will affect our team.

Just as well then that Wenger did not sell anybody whilst still adding to the squad, which will allow him to rotate and also deal with unexpected setbacks, like this Saturday when Coquelin had to come off. This is just as important as having a strong core of leaders and winners in the team.

Yesterday we had Gibbs, Perez, Giroud, Ospina, Ox, Holding and Xhaka on the bench: seven players who all deserve to be there if not a place in the starting eleven.

Ramsey, Gabriel, BFG, Elneny, Debuchy and Welbeck were not on the bench, and they are all fighters for the cause with leadership qualities. Once they are fit, our options for the bench are mouth watering; and can you imagine what availability of all would mean for Wenger’s possible strongest first eleven team?

Our bench could be, when all are fit: Perez, Giroud, Welbeck, Ramsey/Xhaka, Gibbs, BFG/Gabriel and Ospina!! Would this not be the best bench in the premier league?!

So there you are, we have a strong core with backbone and leadership skills and a squad depth that makes you dizzy with first team selection possibilities. As dizzy as looking at the ceiling of the wonderful Sagrada Familia…

Bring on our next opponent is all that’s left to say!

By TotalArsenal



18 thoughts on “Is this Bench the Best in the Premier League? Arsenal’s Dizzying Squad Possibilities!

  • you left elneny out of the bench he’s also been a beast whenever he’s played
    its good be a gooner right now.
    all we need is those moronic fans who keep putting up the Wenger out brigade to with get on board and support the team or fuk off we done need fans like that.

  • I’ll feel better if we get Rambo back. I don’t want santi to be over used at his age, maybe better to say preserved a bit. , but in general, i do feel that we are the deepest team. All the proof you need is wilshere and campbell loans.
    Huge credit to Arsene.

  • thenry, yeah I forgot to add in Elneny who is one of my favourite players. Having said that, there are even better players available right now both for the first team and the bench… We have too many fantastic midfielders it seems…

  • Johnnie be good, I thought the same about Santi…. but he had the whole summer off and looks very fit and keen at the moment. Good to know though that Rambo will be back soon to rotate a bit more in midfield. And there is Elneny of course …

  • In my opinion, our bench will be more like, Giroud, Xhaka, gabiel, ospina, Ramsey, Perez and Gibbs. The amazing thing is how we still left out players like welbeck, holding, Jenkinson, Per, Debuchy, + wilshere. It will really be a difficult decision for wenger to make, but its health for the team. I believe Campbell will be sold thou.
    Happy for the prospect of watching Arsenal in the champions league this week. I guess I have play some football bets. Please anyone here that plays football bets? Please I need info.
    Thanks my people.

  • Oh I didn’t include the OX, now am even more confused than wenger…lol, Please someone should help me fix OX somewhere in my bench, am confused….lol.
    Again, anyone plays soccer bets here?

  • Hi TA…Another good one and all agreed. Also, the latest on Coquelin sounds promising, as if there wasn’t any ligament damage on the knee…

    The main thing about the big, high quality bench is the ability to compete on multiple fronts. I think we’ll be far less worried about these midweek games hurting our chances at the weekend…

    Competition for places is the 2nd major factor. Everyone who gets a start knows that there are capable guys chomping (we say… you say champing?…) at the bit… And, like you point out, some who could contribute might not even get a bench seat. Wow…

    All told, it should do wonders for our focus and the one game at a time business is where we need to keep it. Basel in approx. 50 hours…

  • Watched Burnley tonight and it will be a battle to crack them open on Sunday. Plus they are dangerous with set pieces in the most traditional way you can imagine. We need additional height in the box.

  • Not sure of the accuracy of the reports but I’m hearing that Coquelin could be out for around 15 days…

  • We have a better player in Xhaka, Allezkev, so we should not miss him too much.

    Agreed that our best XI when everyone is fit is as TA mentioned, but we have to use them wisely.

    We should rotate in the midweek match, and we should see Ollie, Perez and Rambo coming in.

    We have not been able to have this sort of depth for a long while, which is encouraging.


  • Davydavy,

    I feel that playing with one system is not enough. We need to have different systems, for different teams.

    We cannot play with one system for all teams. That is as good as shooting ourselves in the foot when we are outdone playing with that system by teams more superior than us.

    We should have another system, a tougher and less speedy attack which suits Ollie.


  • Much as I like the idea of this post TA …. I am not touching it with a barge pole.

    My reason, apart from lack of sleep, is because the need will change from game to game. What you have done is have a ‘closed shop’ of around 20 or 22 players, with the additions from other comments.

    DavyDavy makes a good point about Giroud, But the real weakness in just looking at players, listing them by what they might be or have been capable of before, completely misses the point made in the last post on cogs and unity.
    For example, in your super bench you have no cover for right back? No Holding, Elneny, or even Jenks. More to the point, apart from the injured Coquelin, nobody on the playing staff to fill that role?
    Personally I would not have Ramsey anywhere near the starting 11 until he has shown some decent form in the Under 23’s, because his negative play in the B2B role, he would slow down any attack. The only place he would do well in, at his best, is in Iwobi’s spot, but if you think he should be allowed to work his way back to top form in that spot, then you can kiss good bye to any title hopes. His average play is so far below what Iwobi’s current level is, we would stutter and shudder to a halt in almost any attack. I just hope AW does not go down this ‘favourites’ route this time around. However, if Ramsey does get to the level he plays when in the Welsh side, then the current team dynamics could suit him fine.
    All I want is for him, and the rest, to be there on merit, and equally important, there because they can fill a vital role when they are called upon to do so?

    It is important to remember that we will not always go in at half time a goal or two in front. Indeed, the Liverpool game should be a warning. We battled back that day, and I have little doubt in my mind, had if we played like we did on Saturday, we would have turned that deficit around.

    What we will find, as the season goes on, that clubs will learn how to play on our weaknesses. They will not be as slow as some of the snails in my garden as Chelsea were in attacking us on the counter. They will spot like you did, that Monreal does get left to cover a large area, with little assistance from Iwobi, who like Ox, is right footed so tracking back makes tackling difficult, and is not his strong point anyway. That makes it a DM job, and let Iwobi occupy the space inside.

    We all love the fluidity in the attacking quartet, but it comes at a price.

    One way we solved that problem above was bringing Gibbs on, who still provided an attacking threat, but sealed our left side at the same time. There could be a strong argument to use him in the starting line up, certainly against Man C, as they are likely to have De Bruyne scooting down that wing, and Gibbs could have the freedom to track him across the park if necessary. They also have thingy (?) keeping Bellerin on his toes on the other side, so if we can stop them switching play at will, we might just stop the supply to Aguero? But not the way we played against Chelsea. ‘Unplayable’ going forward, but very very vulnerable at the back?

    I realise this is me ‘not touching this with a barge pole’, but I have warmed to the task. 😀
    We have to play to our strong points, but also address potential weaknesses. Just throwing ‘names’ on a bench is not good planning?

    Take Perez for example. How good will he be in a stating role? We do not know, at PL level at least. I suspect he might be what Giroud is crying out for? Will he surpass what Iwobi adds? We do not know, yet. But he is on everyone’s list on the bench. Presumably Akpom and Welbeck are alternatives? I am sure there will be games when those names will appear on the starting list, but if they get excluded from this closed shop of names, then they may never get a look in, they may not get to show their worth when asked to so in time of need. Jeff R-A should not be excluded either, heaven forbid should Ozil get injured..

    I think if Arsene can play it smart, then rotation can leave teams unsure how we will line up. That is a bonus. So this forthcoming fixture I can see both Perez and Giroud starting, but more likely as a tester from the bench. I would be tempted to keep Gibbs in that advanced role, and use his pace to be the extra defender. That might give Iwobi a deserved rest, and may allow Ox a spot on the bench. Because the bench needs refreshing every bit as much as the first 11 will need to ring the changes?
    Meanwhile the Youth team will also be playing Basil, so I hope they too can play a strong side.


  • Cheers Gerry, two defenders on the bench is enough and Rambo/Xhaka is DM cover. There is no doubt that Rambo will start many games when fit again.

    Davyx2, one of the best comments on here for a long time. I can turn it into a post if you want to? Otherwise I will respond later today. 😀

  • Thanks TA, very happy to turn it into a post because I sense that our team has evolved, and that the next step up for us is to make our combinations so rehearsed that they become intuitive, almost instantaneous, and able to withstand the loss of one or two individual players. But I also feel a bit sorry for Oliver Giroud because he is, and perhaps must be be, left behind by all of this.

  • Gerry

    If you look at the stats over the past year or so, opposition teams almost always favour attack down our left side. Whether that’s because they think Monreal is a weakness, or whether they feel we leave the left wing more vulnerable is open to debate.

    But this has been the case even when Alexis and Ox have played there. Not just Iwobi. This leads me to conclude that this is simply how we choose to play. Walcott is generally on the right wing playing to stretch the defenses and get them running back. And whoever is on the left wing plays with more freedom to drop inside and act as another midfielder. When Ramsey played on the right, he performed this role, while Alexis was (nominally) playing as a spearhead. (He and Giroud never really got an understanding going and Alexis kept coming inside to the ball when Giroud dropped deeper)

    As for Ramsey. You are dreaming if you think he isn’t going to be ;anywhere near the starting lineup’. There will be rotation, and there is increased competition which he must respond to, but I maintain that Xhaka and Ramsey are meant to be the primary midfield combination (Wenger’s also been talking about pairs)

    Playing Gibbs as LW is dangerous. One because he doesn’t have anywhere like the dribbling ability of Iwobi or even the Ox. Second, his crossing is generally poor. Three, playing both left backs together is asking for injury to rear its ugly head.
    As for RB cover, Holding, Gabriel, Mustafi can all play there. Jenkinson is back. Debuchy is still in the squad. And Maitland-Niles did a decent job there too (plus Chiori Johnson in the youth) So we have options, even if none are as good as Bellerin.

    I do agree though that picking an XI and a bench as a rule is difficult. It must change from game to game.

  • I know there is a ‘New Post’ out, but a quick response, Shard.

    1, Teams may well attack more down our left side because right footed players are more common?
    Inverse wingers tend not to take the ball to the by line?
    2, I did mention Ox and Iwobi in the same sentence when referred to them being (predominantly) right footed, as tracking back leaves the player on their right side. It leaves them vulnerable if they face the player too, because once committed to the tackle the ball can be knocked past them. A left footed player like Monreal or Gibbs can simply stick out a leg which is nearest the ball. Not a criticism, just a fact of physiology?
    3, I am also referring to how were are setting up the team now, as Alexis tends not to come back to defend, thus is proving stronger in attack later in the game?
    4, All my references to Ramsey were qualified by the statement about his fitness/sharpness. Not a long term view, as the last line of that paragraph clearly states.
    5, We probably disagree over where Ramsey might fit in, but the current quartet of; Cazorla, Coquelin(AW preference of the moment?),Xhaka, and Elneny. That provides 6 combinations of ‘pairs’. Now, temporarily down to 3, but by the time Ramsey is fit, and the next ‘Interlull’ is over, the full compliment will be restored. But that still comes down to form, which is something Ramsey is ‘generally’ a little slow in recovering. I repeat, I want players to be their on merit.
    6, I accept your point on Gibbs as a valid one if I were talking about making this a permanent thing. I was being specific for the Basle match, as the last thing we want to do is concede an away goal?
    He is a different type of player than Iwobi. You call him a LW, which is not Iwobi’s strength. Iwobi is best when he moves inside. Alexis has a free role, but it rarely involves going to the by line and putting in crosses from wide. Gibbs would need marking, and by sticking to line he makes space for others in the middle. He is also good at making triangles down that side. Above all, he is playing really well when he gets his opportunity to play.
    I also suggested he could play a similar tactical switch against Man City, because they are strong down their right side. The alternative of leaving Iwobi in, has our vulnerability written large?
    As to why there should be more vulnerable to injury, as the only difference it would make … unless they both get crocked in the same game? … would be our LB would be on the pitch, and the replacement for the injured party could be chosen in the usual way, either as a defensive sub, or an attacking one. Either way, we would still have a left back in the playing side?
    7, The reference to RB cover was related to the bench that TA was putting forward as ‘the best’. Yes, others can play as cover, and Holding makes sense because of his dual role as CB. If the ‘best’ did not include any of the names you mention, other than splitting up one of the ‘best pairings we have at the moment, it served to highlight my overall view that just picking ‘names’ for the bench is all wrong. And I think you agree on that point?

    If this comes across as a grumpy old man who had barely two hours sleep, then you are probably right Shard …. Sorry. 😀
    However, I do think if you read what I actually said, and commented accordingly I would not have batted an eyelid. I am disappointed because you are one of the bloggers I enjoy reading …

    I will now take myself off and have a big Grrrrrrrrr!

    I’ll be better tomorrow, honest.

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