Wenger Spoiled for Choice: Arsenal v Middlesbrough

We are back from our mid week champions league triumph with morale sky high. And why not. What with a run of 11 matches undefeated in all competitions, 6 successive wins in the epl and feather weight Middlesbrough our weekend opponent. Surely it’s another stroll in the park. Or is the stage perfectly set for a rude awakening?

If truth be told, every premiership match holds a gritty promise. Who would have thought that Burnley would cave in only in the last second by the hand of fate (pun intended). Or that the Swans would have us collectively praying that the referee goes for his final whistle. Wenger has to get his line up spot on, the team don their battle gear, and the Emirate in full voice.

Wenger’s philosophy is always to focus mainly on his strength, buoyed by his faith that his team would respond intelligently to whatever they find on the field. He believes that intelligence should not be too restricted, too structured. That is why Wenger, you can bet, cannot be engrossed with the fact that Middlesbrough is 17th on the epl table, swimming in relegation waters. He probably doesn’t even know that in their 4 away matches they (Middlesbrough) have collected 5pts against their 1 pt at home. Wenger would tell you that factoring too many details would make the wrong answer jump out. So my bet is that he is ignorant of the fact that Cristhian Stuani who plays as an attacking midfielder is their top goal scorer with 3 goals while their striker Negredo has scored only 1. If he knows much about Daniel Ayala a central defender or George Friend at left back then understand that scouts have told him about them. Wenger prefers to spend his energy knowing his players and his team.

For example he knows that his team is transiting into a more vertical, quicker passing pattern of play with a lot of player movements and interchanges. He knows that Iwobi is an excellent vertical ball carrier blessed with a accurate well tailored passing skill. He knows that Alexis at centre causes chaos in the ranks of the opposition defense that allows Ozil and Walcott to make runs into abandoned spaces with the keeper at their mercy. He knows that Theo is a goal-hound. When he sights the posts he begins to snarl. He knows Musti is a boy for a bit of a game. He knows that Le Coq is angry when he sees an opponent with the ball. I mean angry. The one he wonders about is where Bellerin gets all that energy for all those sprints. These are where Wenger’s attention are. But he is also keen to get to know more about pairings and combinations.

Getting to know the different pairings and combinations is every managers biggest headache. You know why? The next match is always a cup final. You dare not loose. It precludes all experimentations. But then managers cannot play the same players all the time. Physically and mentally the players cannot stand up to the strain of all the matches all competitions all season long. Also there is the issue of right man management of the squad. These are some of the major details of the treacherous terrain that a manager has to navigate to name a line up.

What does Wenger do versus Middlesbrough? He wants to win the match. He does not want to include tired legs. He is keen to try out new combinations. He wants to appease restive players in the squad. Luckily next midweek cup match has lessened the pressure for him of the restive players. New combinations can wait. Why fix what ain’t broken. From Wenger’s visible XI only Bellerin, Musti, Kos, Le Coq, and Ozil played the the full 90 minutes in the match against Ludogorets that we had won before the hour. All signs are pointing to the fact that the visible XI would be back. Santi has declared himself fit.

Predicted line up:

——- Cech ——–

Bel – Must – Koz – Nacho

—— Coq – Santi —–

——- Mesut ——–

Theo ———— Iwobi

—— Alexis ———-

Bench: Ospina, Gibbs, Gabriel, Ox, Jeff, Perez, Elneny

By Pony Eye

82 thoughts on “Wenger Spoiled for Choice: Arsenal v Middlesbrough

  • Cheers PE, really appreciated.

    copying the graphics over on an IPad proves to be beyond me, so had to type in the first eleven team. Will respond later.

  • ‘Boro is a tougher opponent compared to Ludogrets. We might see some fireworks.

    If Santi can shake off his foot injury we will see him back, but if not we will see Elneny alongside our master tackler.


  • Cracking post PE. I will allow for poetic licence as to how much AW doesn’t know πŸ˜€

    I would not argue with your suggested AW line up either, but that does not mean I think it will be the correct 11?

    It is easy to think that because of the midweek game against Reading we can take our eye off rotation. Yes, the bulk of the players will be the best Academy youngsters, plus the likelihood of Giroud and Ramsey, and may be Perez if he is not cut loose in this match? The reason I say this is what follows the Reading game: Sunderland away Saturday, Ludigorets away Tuesday, Spurs home Sunday, PSG home Wednesday, Man U away Saturday.

    Looking at that list, the last 4 will require pretty much our best combination. So players like Kos, Bellerin, Alexis, Walcott, and Ozil are likely to need a break? Sunderland looks to be the obvious for some of them, but you cannot just assume because it is Sunderland that too many can miss that trip, even without any injuries?

    So I think AW will rotate in this match, even if they are on the bench, and skip the midweek fixture. Therefore, rest the other key players on the trip up North?
    Why wait until it is broken if you can avoid it needing repair?

    In attack, I think Alexis and Ozil could miss the Sunderland trip, along with Koscielny. Whilst Walcott, Santi and Bellerin sit this one out. Mindful of Monreal’s age, Gibbs could keep that spot too, with one eye on the longer term?
    Replacements this weekend could be: Perez for Walcott (on the bench mind); Jenkinson for Bells (ditto); Elneny for Cazorla.
    I make no guarantees that this will be a winning combination, here or ones made for Sunderland, but the 6 games in December mean some more alternatives need to be explored?

    There is an Under 23 game on Monday next, which may decide how much involvement Giroud and Ramsey will have in the near future. By that I mean if they play Monday, and look sharp, they are more like to be the replacements at Sunderland. Play them Wednesday, less likely? Likewise with Jeff and Zelalem, as this combination could be considered if the aforementioned play the Reading game, and vice versa?
    Luckily, Xhaka will be back to relieve Coquelin when required in three league games time. Gabriel and Holding the likely CB deputies.
    If these alternatives work as well as they did midweek then December will not be seen as such a nightmare … or alternatively, a disaster waiting to happen?

    I still think Boro’ are a banana skin if we have a touch of complacency, following a midweek game.
    They may be tougher in defence than Ludogorets, but I am not sure many will be better going forwards, at least based on their first half display? Changes might just dispel any player thinking it will be easy because of our relative league positions, as they will have there own positions to think about!?


  • Lovely post, PE, and yes that will be the starting eleven more or less. Maybe Gibbs will keep his place and the Ox could start again instead of Iwobi, but I reckon you will get 10/11 right. The boys can get a rest midweek and then it is back to business against Sunderland.

    Would love to see more Perez tomorrow.

  • Good, well written post Pony.
    Thinking long term, wanting to keep as many healthy and rested as possible for a long title run, i would like to see some changes from your predicted line up.. I agree with TA that i would like to see more Lucas. Also, I really want to see El Neny give some rest to santi, because foot issues can be nagging.

    One criticism of Arsene. I think he missed a chance to strategically rotate in Xhaka vs ludogrets. This because, he is only available for european games for the next couple weeks. So both Santi and Coquelin will be more needed prem matches. I thought it was a waste not to give him 90 vs a weak Ludogrets. Remember that Coquelin is just back from an injury himself, which was first thought much worse. I wouldve given Xhaka 90, and gotten El Neny time as we did.

    On the positive side, it was great to see Gibbs get a rare start. I think his performance was excellent. In my book, he has been a super sub. The reason being that he can rest a winger, bring on an extra defender, but he also gets forward even better than Nacho on the counter attack, to add to a lead. A real luxury, and a dual purpose sub. He has great value. Playing like this, i think he will get more starts also.

  • Yes well written PE. Wenger looks to me to be trying to put the same side out wherever possible and only making changes for the less important games (Reading) . It’s crucial that we don’t drop points against the two North Eastern relegation regulars, prior to the bigger games coming up. Six points from those two games would put us in a good frame of mind ahead of the Spurs game. Certain players like Alexis don’t want to be rested and the way the team is performing, I suspect many of the current 1st eleven won’t want to risk losing their place.. Monreal has done very little wrong, but as others have suggested Gibbs has staked a claim even if it was against a fairly poor team which I am not sure I can spell. As has been said there are no easy games anymore. I would have staked my house on us taking Burnley apart and would have been busy packing when the hand of Kos intervened.

    Iwobi I think was in need of a rest, but I expect Wenger to recall him. Good to to the Ox chomping at the bit (pardon the pun). He is beginning to show some of the consistency he has longed promised.

    Also some brownie points for Oooooooospina. He will find it very difficult to displace Cech, but isn’t doing himself any harm with recent performances.

    Subject to Santi being fit. I think you have the team spot on.

  • Interesting to see who Wenger selects for the match versus Boro. With this being Arsenal’a third match in 8 days I’m hoping the boss rotates the starting line up a little. With that in mind the starting 11 I’d like to see is:

    GK – Cech
    RB – Debuchy
    CB – Mustafi
    CB – Kosicelny
    LB – Monreal
    CDM – Coquelin
    CDM – Elneny
    RW – Walcott
    CAM – Ozil
    LW – Perez
    CF – Ox

  • njk, agreed Elneny would replace Santi if the Spaniard fails the fitness test which I suspect he would not.

  • Gerry, l believe the two major reasons why Wenger insists on playing nearly always the same XI is (1) because they are giving him good performance and results, (2) to get them gelling more and more as a team. Therefore Wenger is unlikely, atm to make more than 3 unforced changes at a time to this XI.

  • TA, Gibbs and Ox performed well against Ludogorets and you are right they can reappear in the starting line up. However I feel Wenger would not want Nacho and Iwobi at this point to conclude that they have been definitely supplanted. Man management stuff. The heat, though, has been upped on them.

  • Jnyc, yes I was equally surprise that Wenger benched Xhaka against Ludogorets. With Le Coq, Santi, Elneny there and Ramsey almost back, it looks like a luxury he could afford while Xhaka absorbs the full weight of his red card. There are always a million things to consider.

  • Retsub, I completely agree that Ooooooooosssssssspina has been terrific. He really suits our high defensive line because he is so quick off the line. He is also obviously better with his feet than Cech. But who dare say that the king is naked!!

  • Waldo, I wouldn’t also mind a rest for the excellent Bellerin. He has been sprinting all season. But l know nothing about Debuchy except that I see he practices with the team. I really wonder if he is still part of Wenger’s plans,

    Perez must have impressed Wenger with his performance. But Wenger’s experimentation with Sanchez leading the line, which is what has altered our offensive pattern, is still ongoing. A patient man, Wenger, I believe will bide his time with Perez.

  • PE, I am sure your are right regarding AW, now has a good idea what can be his best playing team, and the bench to go with it. However, I think he wants to preserve the key players for when we play the most difficult of opponents?

    In the CL, alaso a game of high importance, he made just one change in each area of the pitch.
    GK – Expected. It also enhances the belief that this position is safe, barring double injury?
    LB – Not surprising, given the pressure applied in our Swansea game. Gibbs also proved that when fitness is not an issue, he can match Monreal’s in most areas, and surpass him when it comes to pace? I think this game will suit Gibbs more than the Sunderland. We also know that Club Arsenal do not like hiking up wages on the 30 plus players. Rumours of interest elsewhere will interest the finance boys, as an understudy to Gibbs could be an attractive option? Real world kicking in ….
    MF – Not a forced change here, as has been stated above, so it was a tactical one? With hindsight, nobody can argue that it was the right choice. Personally I think that was Coquelin’s best performance to date. It was as though all the features of his junior years came together in an outstanding display of mature, confident, tactical nous of our finest defensive midfielder since Viera?
    AM – OxCham also turned out to be a masterstroke. I feared Ox on the left for Iwobi we would lose the magic of combination used with so much success, and which Iwobi was an integral part? What we got, with Alexis moving away from the wider roaming role he had been using before, to a free role in a more central area. Again, I think it became key to the way the game unfolded. His early goal. The space created because three defenders were invariably drawn to him. That effort did much to open them up in the second half, to which the Ox goal sealed their fate.

    I know people will argue Ludogorets are minnows, but they were very strong going forwards, and used a lot of effort in defence in the first half, but the changes worked. If you take the minnow argument forward, Middlesborough are PL minnows … on paper, I hasten to add. Therefore I think AW will be consistent with his changes here. Thus:

    GK – Reverts back to Cech
    RB – Bellerin rested.
    MF – Cazorla rested
    AM – Iwobi’s replacement, OxCham, and the holder of that position, rested.
    LB – Unchanged.
    You said it yourself PE, AKB when it comes to his players πŸ˜€

    I am not saying AW will make all of these changes, but GK apart, at least two are likely?

    It was good to see Akpom’s name appear in the squad. I hope he gets a few minutes against Reading. Which reminds me I made an error as that game is on Tuesday, not Wednesday as originally scheduled. TV getting involved I guess, as the Sunderland game moved from a prime Sunday too?

    That is my match day thoughts done. Enjoy the game.

  • Hi all.. Great post Pony..
    I think we can be on top by tonight.. cause City play tomorrow.. hehehe

    But if we win another 4 or more goals.. and City will face Soton with all their CL problem.. Maybe we will continue on top for the rest of the games.. hahahaha..

    Cazorla must rest.. don’t rush on him.. We have Elneny or Ramsey.. They will be just fine and give us solidity.

    Perez must play.. He got the momentum.. don’t waste it.. Either for Walcott or Sanchez.. They also need some rest.
    We knew how bad thing will happen if Walcott or Sanchez get injured..

    Boro will defense more.. So we need more creativity and speed.. maybe Gibbs can give more speed than Monreal..
    I think Ox also than Iwobi.. hehehehe..

    But.. whoever play we will continue winning.. cause we had a very strong and depth squad.. hehehe..
    I don’t know what happened to Giroud.. is he still injured..?? Hope he will find his way back..

  • henrychan, yes Perez was super midweek, but we shouldn’t forget that Wenger’s objective is to make the team greater than the sum of its parts. He must be taking notes, conceptualizing and testing them out but at a cautious pace mindful of disrupting his campaign that is going quite well. He knows it is not a question of the best 11 players for the team, but of the best team of 11 players.

  • With that last sentence PE, you have said what I have been saying for weeks now.

    This is why people are coming around to the view that Giroud does not fit well into THIS system. Not that he cannot play for Arsenal. It just needs another combination of players to make it work?

    I refrained from naming the substitutions for the players I thought could be rested in the previous comment, because there are options available to AW. But it is not as simple as just dropping a name … because what a player did in a previous incarnation of an Arsenal style. The consequences have to be thought through.
    I’ll give you a quick example at right back. In the Youth game against Ludogorets Clori Johnson was the RB, Donyell Malen the right winger/wide man. Both excellent young players in their own right, but in this game they did not function as a unit. Every time Johnson brought the ball forward he moved away from the right touch line. This gave Malen no option but to stay on the line, and marked by a single player, no option for Johnson to pass to him. Result; no by line play/crosses.;no one two’s down the line; and virtually no input from Malen throughout the game.
    Rest Bellerin, no matter who plays, they will not have the same connection with Walcott. Take Walcott out of effective play and you miss out on 50% of the benefit that a roaming magnet for defenders that is Alexis Sanchez brings in the way of space. Suddenly your attack is screwed!
    For the record, I suggested Jenkinson as a likely sub, but he has a tendency to the Johnson thing and drift away from the touch line, unless instructed otherwise? Holding could do a sound defensive job, but not the pace going forward ….
    It is just not that simple.

  • The line up is as you suggested. I hope AW plans for early subs given a two goal lead? Otherwise we will pay dearly for the lack of changes in the key positions, imo of course.

  • Comfirmed line up:
    Bel, Musti, Kos, Nacho.
    Eln, Coq.
    Theo, Ozil, Iwobi.

    10/11 for the post. Elneny for unfit Santi.

  • Not a good first half and we have Petr Cech to thank for being level…That was a good chance at the very end, however…

  • 17HT. Always difficult to tell on the radio, but it sounds like our left hand side is under a lot of pressure. Is Nacho not playing well, or is he not being supported?

  • They’ve got a speedster in Adama Traore who has been dangerous down that side. The big chance in the first half was Koscielny’s fault, however…

    Just over 10 mins to go and we’ll need a bit of fortune, I think…

  • Chances not taken.

    We should have won this with a fight but how many chances did we not manage to convert?

    We only have our defense to thank.

  • True, i found myself noticing that Giroud would have been very helpful as a sub. I thought Arsenes subs were perfect for the circumstances, though.

  • Evening guys, did not see the game but listened to the radio on way back from the fabulous Assynt area in the Highlands. A draw does not surprise me too much; we just cannot keep winning each game…at some point we will hit a low, whoever we will play. No doubt we could have done with Giroud or even Welbeck but we don’t know whether that would have meant a win for us. Given the number of chances Middlesbrough had, I reckon we should be happy with getting a point out of our ‘bad day at the office’. A week’s rest for the core players will do them good and then it is early kick off against Sunderland. I have tickets for the game and cannot wait to go and see it. πŸ˜€βš½οΈ

  • Yes TA..
    Wenger said that his men were tired.. We all knew that.. that’s why rotation is the key.. but Wenger just can’t see a plan B.. His think next game is a long week rest, so winning a lot with full team will secure our top position.. hehehe..
    But as We all also knew, Boro will defense more.. A stupid thing to do for them to follow the Ludogerets fail..
    And facing this kind of team.. we really need what so call LUCK.. hehehe..

    Is a blessed for us to had two great Keepers.. the one we can rely on.. and Cech did us another great save..

    Agreed with TA.. We can’t expect to win in every games.. but Wenger must think of plan B seriously.. cause We will face more defence team.. Maybe someone like Xhaka or Cazorla who can shoot from 15 yards..

    Klopp just can’t sleep well lastnight.. hehehe.. Losing the top in the last 10 minutes was very unpleasant.. hahaha..
    Let’s hope the worst for City tonight.. hehehe..

  • Henry, the players that looked tired were Ozil, Alexis and Theo. With Rambo and Ollie and Welbeck still out, Wenger did not have too many options, although a start for Perez seemed warranted. I think very few teams achieve three wins in a week’s time; especially winning after a CL game is often hard.

    Let the boys enjoy their mini break and come back strong against a desperate Sunderland. Also this will not be an easy game.

  • Who do you guys reckon should start the next game?

    The same 11 who started the last league cup match or a changed line up of Matt Debuchy at right back and youngsters filling up the midfield spots and playing Chambers alongside Holding in the central defensive area?

    Perez looks a starter for the midweek game, on the right wing, which he looked good yesterday with his passes.

    Giroud looks set for a start up front, while Ox looks a good bet in the defensive midfield pivot area. If Xhaka is eligible, which I do not think so, he should play, as yesterday’s game showed that Elneny is weak at finding areas to pass quickly and we were caught out by his indecisiveness.

    Now to the youngsters. Martinez looks a starter for the next game, while Jeff and the American midfielder (sorry guys, I forgot his name) looks likely to attack the opponent.

    So, my conclusion is that we will see a much changed lineup to cater for what we have to rest, and Reading is another of the park the bus teams around. Incisive passing and timing is the key this week.


  • Not read any comments above as I have not seen any of our match.

    Instead I spent the early hours watching Moto GP, which I am sure will prove to be much more rewarding than a nil-nil draw?
    Spoiler alert! .. for those who want to watch the GP without knowing the results.

    Congrats to Crutchlow for winning the main event. First GB rider to win back to back races in the same season.since Barry Sheen … that for us oldies that can go back to 1979. But the first EVER to win in Australia!
    ‘The Doctor’ was second, and Maverick came with a late rattle for the third podium spot.
    Great race, marred by Marquez crashing out, after confirming his World Championship last week.

    Motor 2 was had more drama, as Swiss rider Luthi led all the way until the last lap and a half, only to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat … by inches on the line. He slip streamed the runner up on the hope straight … but agonisingly he stayed behind with the line only seconds away …
    but he got there! Fantastic!
    There is a still photo on the twitter feed on the BT website that shows exactly what I mean

    Moto 3, to which I missed most of, had more spills, including on of the Brits catching another bike full on. Still having checks in hospital last I heard. It was a bizarre incident involving several bikes. But from what the replay graphically shows, two bikes going off track no problem. Two bikes that stayed on track, wide but on the bend, the second rider hit the stricken bike, goes over the top. yet appears okay … but as he gets up to get off the track, another bike swerves to miss the bike on the deck, smashes straight into him full on!
    Amazingly, the rider in hospital is reporting a broken thumb πŸ˜€ These guys are made of tough stuff?

    How do you follow that lot with a disappointing draw …..

    At some point today I will get around to watching at least some of it to make a comment. At the moment I just feel it was a wasted opportunity to give some guys a proper break, rather than just not playing midweek. True, with hindsight, it may have only cost us another point and may be a bit of goal difference. But the gains that might have ensued come December would more than compensate? So unless we send the entire team, that we hope will beat Reading, up to Sunderland, that chance is now lost. Furthermore, December is the month when several of our players have known a mid-season break!
    Yes, I am angry. Angry that I convinced myself into thinking that our key eleven players would play at the top of their game and win 4-1.
    I am sure AW thought that too …but for the most of that team it was the seventh tough game on the trot, and the Internationals also involved key players?
    This time just expected more from AW ….
    Few cheers
    p.s. I am assuming that Boro’ didn’t play like a super team, and they beat us in every department except getting a goal.

  • Rest assured, Gerry, that had we rested players and dropped points, many would have pointed out that we should have played our stars… it is just football, we don’t win them all, and that was a good point in the end. The benefits of resting players so early in the season are also debatable.

  • I have only seen the highlights having listened to the game on Arsenal Player. I think the aftermatch mood of supporters can be very much driven by how the game is watched listened to? Listening to a radio commentary left me feeling a little flat, but unable to put forward a view on what went wrong. At 3am this morning there was a TVs show with 3 members of the Arsenal 1970 double team, Frank McLintock, Bob Wilson and George Graham. McLintock who won footballer of the year played in excess of 75 games plus three internationals that season. He believes that players today are very much fitter than in his day, when only one substitute was allowed and in my opinion the tackling was a lot tougher than it is today. The Arsenal double squad had a hardcore of around 16 players compared to 35 today. In his opinion and I have to agree the big difference is mental toughness. Players today are under far greater pressure to achieve, backed up by endless stats, although the latest craze seems to be , the team with the least possession wins.

    So where am I going with all of this (I have no idea).i think this emphasisis the need for regular rotation. I got the impression (and remember I haven’t seen the game) that the teams seemed to run out of ideas. the Ox when he came on sounded like he added some urgency to the team. It’s hard to change a winning side, but is this just a blip or is it time to sweeten the squad up for the Sunderland game. In my opinion it is time for the latter, let’s give some of the hungry squad players a chance, Perez, the Ox . Gibbs etc. Meaning not risking them at Reading.

    Just my thoughts.

  • Well thought out, Retsub, but it is not for me. Forming a steady eleven is important during the first third of the season and I am convinced that resting more than the odd player will quickly lead to a weakening of the team and dropping points. We are doing great with this team and I reckon they won a point rather than drop two. Playing post CL PL games is just tough, as Citeh, who had a day more rest than us, just demonstrated.

  • you may well be right T A I would certainly have had the same opinion prior to yesterdays match, its easy to suggest changes with hindsight. As you say all games are difficult. don’t think I will ever think that a home point against Boro is anything but two points lost though

  • I am disappointed a bit too, Retsub. But the game has to be seen in context of playing three matches in seven days. And for breaking parked busses you need a lot of energy and ingenuity. I thought the boys gave all they had but it wasn’t enough.

  • Well said TA.

    Sometimes the pieces just don’t fall into place (ball just too high for Kozzer to nod in is a perfect example of this).

    They looked zapped but still gave it their best shot. Cech had a bit too much to do for my liking, but it is good knowing you can always count on him to be an excellent keeper from start to finish. Hard to get the points when boro closed down all the available spaces well. Sanchez had no room to move.

    Did anyone else want to uppercut Valdes or was it just me? That smug look he had every time we missed or he made a save…was grating. You don’t play at Barca any longer…

  • Okay, I have watched the entire game. Here are my conclusion:

    1, First half, first 19 minutes, it looked promising. However, Boro’ came into the game with three very good chances. From there on it seemed to me that too many players were expecting someone else would create something. Two exceptions up front, Iwobi and Walcott. They were the only ones that showed any movement when our midfield was in possession. Alas, neither could get an end product because the rest were not firing. Both Bellerin and Monreal gave them width, but with a taller defence from Boro, it again required movement off the ball.
    Conclusion; Complacency brought about by how well we had played recently, players kept thinking we will score sooner or later … but without them putting the same effort in that produced those fine results. Ozil got frustrated, and joined the just pass brigade.
    Boro’ defended well.

    2, Second half they came out with quicker movement, but with the same personnel. Alexis found more room by coming deeper. Spce opened up with the quicker passing, but much of it was to slow getting it forwards. The midfield pairing of Coquelin and Elneny, particularly the latter, produce too many ‘safe’ passes that lacked the creativity of, say Cazorla. That was a big factor. Also, even our better players in this half, Alexis and Walcott, their passes were fractions off, shots were tame or optimistic. Koscielny and Mustafi,had good moments, but also showed signs that this was one game too far.. The sharpest of the bunch was Cech … who did not play in the last game. Nor did Iwobi, who was the pick for movement off the ball in the first half.
    Perez still does not convince (me) that he can comfortably displace any in this set up.
    It says a lot about the game when the commentator said ‘this game is crying out for Oxlade Chamberlain’ … given the general prognosis of many? It actually needed his drive and energy from the start. But even that might not have overcome the lack of zest from the others?
    Conclusion: Too little too late.

    The good news is they are one point better off than my long range prediction. I said I thought this game was a banana skin waiting to happen.
    Yes TA, you are right, it happens in football. Teams cannot keep producing. It is also very predictable … after playing an important midweek game when the stakes were high, so everybody kept their focus very well. It is no coincidence that all the top teams floundered after playing in CL or Ul. Southampton came out best of that bunch, and they made 5 changes!

    Taking this model forward, I assume you, TA, will be happy to see this team bounce back against Sunderland, go into the following week with this same team, playing midweek, struggling at the weekend, playing midweek, struggle again at the next weekend, and conclude that footballers are not robots so they cannot always perform at their best … and say that is the way football is?
    Come on. It is one thing to be disappointed, but don’t just shrug shoulders .

    I fully accept your point that if we made changes we might have lost. But to continue with that thought into December, and may be next month too, just how many points will we gain by having key players fresh? Not to mention knowing how well some players will perform when they are brought in.
    The other thing about ‘over playing’ players will be injuries, AND the build up of yellow cards. Both will be out of AW’s control when suspensions and injuries kick in. Whereas, making changes against lesser opposition is within his control. I think he gambled on getting a win and going clear at the top, which in turn would have lifted to players?
    Granted, most will be rested mid week, but to do what? A game of golf on Thursday. If they missed this game and not played until next weekend could have fully refreshed with a mini break. Same with those who played on Saturday would not be needed until a week on a week on Tuesday.
    I am talking about key players, may be half a dozen. The others can be comfortably covered from the squad. It is being proactive.
    This pattern of sticking with a small group of players will haunt us by the end of the year …
    if it continues?

    That is my case for the prosecution πŸ˜€


  • Hey Oz, how is it hanging. I didn’t mind Valdez feeling pleased with himself. He lives and works in Middlesbrough which is cruel so let him have a bit of THOF happiness. πŸ˜€

  • Gerry, my view is that we first have to establish and optimise the first eleven, or there about. Only then can we start resting players occasionally as not to upset the delecate balance. Arsene has tried resting three or four players at a time before and it backfired….. so he will do what he believes works best…. because he knows more then you and me together. πŸ˜€

    But I know that every time we drop points you will come out and say we should have rotated more by now… 😳

  • Gerry and TA,

    Identifying the backup to Santi is more important than choosing the first 11.

    Ox is close but still needs work. Elneny has proven he is better roaming the attacking positions. Rambo is the closest IMHO, but he needs to be fit.

    Your thoughts?

  • TA, am with you all the way. Granted there are many options for a manager, maximizing the use of an XI, in the 1st quarter of the season, that is churning out good results is an excellent strategy imo.

    By the way, in the EPL and CL matches so far this season (12 games) we have already used Cech, Ospina, Bel, Musti, Kos, Holding, Chambers, Nacho, Gibbs, Coq, Santi, Xhaka, Eln, Iwobi, Ox, Rambo, Ozil, Theo, Sanchez, and Perez as starters. 20 players already in the 1st quarter. In fact we should be telling Wenger to slow it down.

  • No TA, I will not becoming back reminding you of every dropped point. Nor I am I blaming the players, as it was a collective mood.
    As I said on my first response after I followed the game unfolding on text, I just expected more from AW this time around.
    I could also remind you that he made 4 changes against Ludogorets and it worked spectacularly well? And Gibbs, who played in that game said he was disappointed because he thought we came out of the block too slowly. This was a step further along that line.
    PE, I would rename this post of yours as ‘Wenger sploiled his choices’. Regards the changes made so far … Politician’s speak, imo – By including that one EFL game where 11 changes were made, you completely distort your argument. You name 23 starter, take away 11 and you get get. That too is a distortion, as some have been starters before or since the EFL Cup game. You and I know that the last half a dozen games revolves around no more than 14 starters, at a guess? If by ‘maximising the use of an X!’ you mean running to a grinding halt, and then think about making changes … no, forced into making changes, is a good strategy for this quarter? Then please come back and tell me what you think at the end of 2nd quarter?

    In fairness, there were three players he would have like have used, or have been available, namely Xhaka/ Cazorla, and Giroud. But I still think it was an opportunity missed.

    I just hope the team that plays tomorrow will unearth further options. However, the make up does look to be on the youthful side from the training photos. The under 18 lost 5-1 to Reading on Saturday, which should sharpen their focus?

  • Gerry, I named 20 starters in the epl & CL competitions only. EFL competition not included. Only Bellerin and Walcott have started in all the 12 matches, Walcott has enjoyed some substitutions. Bellerin is the only one left, 12 matches @ 90 minutes. Remember only 12 matches yet. Gerry, facts and figures!

  • Those were risk free changes, except perhaps Ox for Iwobi, Gerry. The players Wenger cannot yet afford to rest are the CBs, Koz and Must, and Ozil and Alexis, and Theo if he keeps playing the way he does currently. A fit Coquelin. Is also a must start. But once Rambo, Xhaka, Giroud, Welbeck and the BFG are fully available, Wenger will be able to rest players more easily. I expect this to happen from late November onwards.

  • Imo, the 1st quarter of the season is about enough time for Wenger to have established his XI and enough time for them to have gelled sufficiently.

    From about now, am expecting minor departures from the XI per match for resting of legs and for evaluaton of new combinations. A new 1st eleven can always emerge even if unforced.

  • TA, you inverted the stats. With Santi 2.07 pts per game. Without Santi 1.72 pts per game. Santi is missed most dearly.

  • Stats notwithstanding, I felt we missed Santi’s little moves between the lines that both Elneny and Le Coq don’t really try. That means that there’s just a little bit less pulling the defenses out of shape, esp. when Alexis drops deeper. With so many players coming (or staying) deeper Ozil needs to get forward more. He did, on a few occasions at least, but he didn’t look convincing this time out.

    The stats seem to say that we draw more matches w/o little Santi…which is what we got at the weekend. So, maybe we’re more stable w/o him but less able to get those breakthrough goals… Inch for inch, a pretty effective player, I still believe…

    Giroud after 70 mins would’ve been nice too, but that’s a separate argument…

  • Continuing on… I’ve been watching a bit of the baseball and… πŸ˜€ Just kidding. If I want to talk baseball, I should probably go to a baseball site, no?…

    Continuing on… I think we’ve got a few players who really benefit from more open matches. Top of the list are the guys with the monster engines: Ramsey and Elneny. When it comes to the parked buses we need players who can work tighter spaces and lure defenders into trying to play in those tight spots and step up out of the last line of defense. For me that’s Santi and Ollie above all others. (Alexis and Iwobi are pretty good in tight spaces too, Ozil, Theo and Welbeck are next…) We came close a couple of times vs Boro but not close enough.

    Already we’re seeing lots of draws by the top teams (Spurs still need that 1st loss btw–one perhaps we’ll have to hand them…) so I’m less concerned. At least the fans stuck by the team (or so it seemed on the telly)…so maybe there’s a growing bit of good feeling around the team. Six goals one match, none the next is a bit hard to take but maybe folks are realizing that Arsenal are in the mix with as good a chance as any of the teams to do the deed over the long, long season. I’d love to hear any “man at the match” thoughts and consider me jealous TA that you’ll be attending at Sunderland…

  • Santi is less effective against deeply parked busses and I feel his defensive shortcomings would have cost us a point potentially. But we all have our favourites and many agree with you that Santi was missed on Saturday.

  • The stats look good for Santi, yet how much did he contribute? No goals and just three assist in the PL last season does not look that good, does it? He had 2.5 key passes per game which is good but this season he only manages 1.3 key pass per game which in his position is average….

    I watch games and must see things differently as I see a decent player but not a great one, who in my view is often a luxury on the pitch and who does not offer enough defensive support for Nacho and Koz if and when we play a high line. That’s why I prefer Rambo as our box to box beast.

  • TA, you could say, “in my opinion…” Or maybe you’re just right and I’m just wrong…

    (I’ll still take that Cazorla kit off your hands anytime…You should only wear the names of your favorites, IMO… You have my address still, I think, and I can reimburse you for the postage… πŸ˜€ )

    Overall, given that Boro made some decent forays into our area (where our defending looks suspect–and is the area I worry about more than attack in truth…) we were also slow on the break…another area where Santi’s range of passes really helps. On that account we also probably missed Xhaka, too…

    But, what do I know… 😦

  • ‘I feel’ not the same? πŸ˜³πŸ™ƒ

    Elneny is very good at moving the ball quickly forward, so I am not sure I agree that Santi would have made a difference on Saturday.

  • I will accept “I feel not the same…” πŸ™‚ You could also give me some additional benefit of the doubt given that I watched the match. πŸ˜‰ Still, feelings are feelings so everybody is entitled to their own…More smileys and I’m still angling for that Santi shirt of yours…

    For me, it’s not so much with the ball but w/o it… Santi slips into little spaces further forward, I think, whereas Elneny (obviously another favorite of mine given my avatar…) stays a little flatter or further back and seems less inclined to pursue 1-2s the closer he gets to goal.

    For me, breaking down the parked bus involves more play akin to baloncesto (basketball) using picks and screens and (sometimes, maybe…) a big (or little…) man who can hold up the ball with his back to the goal while others move tightly nearby…

    Again, that’s just my take on things. Overall we just seemed slow with the ball on Saurday and not very convincing defending when we lost it. I’m sure they’ll do better for your trip to Sunderland…

  • You may have seen the game live but by now everybody has had a chance to watch and analyse it. I reckon Elneny was instructed to play conservatively to deal with the counter threat, something Santi is less equipped for. This is something you do not seem to want to acknowledge. I just do not believe that Santi is such an important player for us as you do. Let’s just agree to disagree. The shirt was a gift by a special person so no chance of getting it. πŸ˜€

  • Hi all..
    All I can say that Draw is a nice result.. at least we still in the same position and same points as City.. Yes, Chelsea and Pool are chasing us.. but We will overcome them.. Hehehe..

    And don’t hurry to the top too soon.. as we will keep the spirit high..
    We used to be on top too soon.. You know what I Mean.. hehehe..

    I believe this season We are better than last season.. So it will mean some trophies.. period.. hehehe..

  • Before moving on to the next game, I will just add the comment on the Santi debate, and echo what JK said in his comment.

    I said in my assessment that we lacked creativity in midfield, from somebody ‘like’ Cazorla.
    The fact that Cazorla was not available, so the real point was ‘who is the alternative’ to Cazorla?

    Of those available;
    Elneny, who got the vote and is very good at moving forward. But with such lack of movement up front, he went for the safe and secure pass, which is admirable in most circumstances, but it lack the creativity to play the key passes that were sorely needed?
    OcCham, would have added drive and directness, which would have been a bonus when we won possession in our half. But defensively, he would have put a lot of pressure on Coquelin?
    Holding? He might have made the defence look more solid, and allow Coquelin to do the B2B thing. Unfortunately, Coquelin too, needs the space created by movement for him to run into?

    With no other ‘fit’ candidates, it does expose a weakness. I could suggest one more name who might have got the nod, had it not been for tonight’s game, Ainsley Maitland-Niles? He has been partnering Zelalem in the Under 23’s with good effect.

    Which brings me neatly on to tonight’s line up:
    GK – Ospina
    RB – Jenkinson
    LB – Bola (one of them?)
    CB – Holding
    CB – Bielik
    MF – Maitland-Niles
    MF – Zelaem
    AMF – Perez
    AMF – Ramsey
    AMF – Jeff R-A
    CF – Giroud

    Bench: Martinez; Gibbs, Gabriel, Sheaf; OxCham: C. Willock, Akpom

    Bola was an unused sub last night (under 23’s) and we lose both DaSilva and Nketiah who played the full 90. However, those that did not play will appear no doubt be in the squad.
    I will assume that the those who been with the first team, namely Gibbs and Ox, will only be used if absolutely necessary, but Gabriel could start, although I expect Bielik to keep his spot for an hour.
    Similar thought regards Ospina, as he too may only be a security bencher?

    Hoping for a good game, and they are strong enough to get through. Reading will put out a very strong team as these Cup games are their life blood.
    Unfortunately I think it is on Sky, so I will have to follow it on ‘Player radio.


  • PE, I am still suspecting more Politician’s speech in your reply ….

    You may well be correct in what you say, and I am sure you are. My original point was the number of players who played in the winning run of games leading up to the last one.

    As far as I can see, since the Watford game, and including the two CL fixtures, but ignoring the EFL Cup one, it goes as follows:
    Holding started one game – Watford
    Gibbs started one game – Ludogorets
    Perez started one game – Southampton
    Ospina played the two games in the CL.

    However …. a closer look shows that only two positions have changed more than twice.
    Namely the midfield pairing, and Ox coming in up front.
    Ergo, the number of players who have started ALL games from the Watford game, ex the Notts Forest one, are as follows:
    Those that missed one start:
    Two starts
    Three starts:
    In fact the only ones who have missed more than that, apart from the one or two starter above iare:

    These are the FACTS not the SPIN coming into our last game. Add the that the first 5 on my list above who played every game, all key players note, were on International duty during the break.
    I can only assume that your list of 20 player, the missing ones were prior to the Watford match, as I only have named 17 in total, subject to my usual error parameters of course πŸ˜€
    Which means my guess at 14 was pretty close to the actual figure of 13?
    Also note that Mustafi only missed the Watford one, but played every other one to date. Monreal only missed the last one, but played in all the rest.. In fact 9 players played the majority of those games. and for the majority of those games changes only involved the midfield areas of the pitch?

    Now do you see why I was arguing the case so strongly for changes???


  • ArsΓ¨ne Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of his side’s EFL Cup fourth-round clash against Reading at Emirates Stadium:

    on the latest team news…
    Cazorla will not be available, but it looked after the game that apart from some tired legs and disappointed minds, we had nothing else to declare.
    on Giroud and Ramsey…
    I think Olivier will be included, but for Aaron it is too early although he is back in full training now.
    on his squad against Reading…
    It will be a similar squad to against Nottingham Forest. We will have Gabriel, Holding, Jenkinson will be back and will play. Jeff Reine-Adelaide will play, otherwise I think Iwobi, Lucas, Oxlade-Chamberlain will also play. Gibbs – who captained the team at Forest – will do it again on Tuesday.

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20161024/team-news-giroud-santi-and-ramsey#LH2Skyrvlt4pmetX.99

  • So no need for a preview. As per above line up will likely be:
    Jenks- Holding – Gab – Gibbser
    Elneny Jeff
    Lucas – Iwobi – Ox

    Maybe Ox and Jeff swap positions.

  • Mmnnn I see you slipped Elneny in there TA, as well as interpreting Wenger’s words slightly differently to what he said; i.e ‘will play’ and ‘will star’t are not necessarily the same thing? He also only said about the last 3 ‘ I think’, again only about playing not starting.

    I am not sure AW will want to risk Ox before we hit a run of games ….err, 5 in 15 days?
    With Gabby I guess it might depend on how close to full fitness he is, andif either CB are to be rested at Sunderland? Holding hasn’t played in a while, but he is not coming back on an injury. So my guess would be if Gab starts, and plays well, he could start at the weekend. If he only comes on for 29 minutes, he’ll only make the bench.

    Given the talking up of M-Niles, I am pretty certain that Elneny spot will go to him, especially if Cazorla is missing again for the weekend?
    Along side him I would have thought it will be Zelalem? Otherwise it has the same lack of creativity we experienced last weekend – Just on that note, did you see on that Arseblog ‘By the Numbers’ feature that Alexis did not get a mention in those passing stats? Ozil only had 77 touches. And Elneny to Coquelin and vice versa, had 80% of all passes made by us.
    That says playing ‘safe’ to me?
    Back to this team- they have been using Jeff R-A more centrally, so that could be the case this time..
    But if I am right about Ox and Iwobi not starting, and Ramsey not ready, then it would leave one more slot available? Rather than risking aforementioned, I’d go with Willock.

    On he other hand, you may be quite right, and AW goes all out to get a lead in the first half?

    We shall see …

  • Here is another quote from AW in that interview, and picked up on in the feature fore tonight’s game ‘The Inside Track’:

    β€œI felt that the focus of the team was there [against Middlesbrough], the desire was there but maybe we were not as fresh as we could have expected to be because we gave a lot against Ludogorets.

    [ This just wants to make me go Grrrrrr! ]

    β€œWe had a lot of possession but were not as creative as we are [normally], and not as fast with the combinations as we are used to. It means we have to find solutions to win these kinds of games even when they are very difficult and very tight.”

    [ For ‘solutions’ try looking up ‘Rotation’ AW …Grrrrrrrr! ]

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/match/report/1617/pre/first-team/arsenal-v-reading-the-inside-track#iUlOLKeLjbKf7mDp.99

  • And on Maitland-Niles

    β€œHe’s an interesting prospect because he does not have an imposing frame, but he’s mobile, he’s quick and he’s sharp technically,” the manager said.

    β€œHe has a good eye, he can win the ball and he has the speed to fly into people and get the ball out of their feet. That’s a very interesting quality that you do not find often.

    β€œHe did extremely well at Nottingham Forest as a right-back, but maybe his best position is as a defensive midfielder at the moment.”

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/match/report/1617/pre/first-team/arsenal-v-reading-the-inside-track#iUlOLKeLjbKf7mDp.99

  • I’ve just read Akpom is likely to be out until the New Year – stress fracture in his back, apparently.

    I saw him among the training photos which is why I gave him a bench spot.

    Another report says Reiss Nelson trained with the first team, much as I would like it, I cannot see him taking any part tonight.

    AW says the squad will be ‘similar’ to the Forest one. Well I have just checked, and no player who played in the weekend game before that game found their way to start midweek …. because there were 11 changes. So depending what ‘similar means, but it likely rules out Iwobi and Elneny, even though the latter did start in the last round.

    I’ve reached my comment limit now so enjoy the game.

  • 10/11 right, with Maitland-Niles starting and Giroud on the bench. You see Gerry, when you just do a quick analysis based on Arsenal.com info you can get far. I could also do a Gerry and write down every thought that comes up instead 😜😜

    Shame we cannot watch the game live as I would have loved to see Perez as CF tonight… will have to wait till tomorrow. CoyGs

  • Good game with both keepers in top form, and we should have started Ox in the last league game. He is the player that made the difference.

    Sunderland is another team with good defensive record, so we need Ox there.


  • Very disappointed with the ‘Player. Nothing to see but for a long range shot when Ox scored his second?

    Sorry no detailed report from me. What I got from the audio commentary was that; Iwobi and Jeff linked well together. M-Niles played well, Ox made poor choices at times, but scored two goals. Martinez made a very good save. Oh, and Perez might be injured, but prior to that he should have scored , but made a poor pass instead. The latter was a shame as I was hoping to see how he paired with Giroud. As it was, that only lasted 6 minutes, and two of those was Perez hobbling when some brick ‘outhouse’ clobbered his achilles, or so we we told.
    Of the rest who got single notable mentions: Jenks for his early attempt on goal; Holding for his pre-assist run and shot; Gabby for his near own goal, and an unnecessary foul in a dangerous area. Gibbs made one error, but otherwise positive

    That, I think, captures everything, except the movement, the skill, the dominance, and general attitude you get with watching ‘live’, or on a flaming video!

    Ergo, nothing to add.

    TA, I have to admit, memory of the previous round clouded my selection process. I had it in mind it was very much a ‘Junior’ team, but the reality was, it was very much like this one. The reserves plus a couple, and a bench full of academy players. Hence the players I named, apart from Ramsey and Akpom, were all there, just not in the right places πŸ˜€
    If you had done more than a casual glance at Wenger’s quotes you might have got all 11. AW was very strong on Maitland-Niles, as was I. You see to have thoughts, you have to be thinking ….

    How this game will affect the Sunderland game will depend on what AW saw, and who is fit from the last 11. Thinking, as it is what I do, Ox has done his chances no harm at all. However, he is still facing that perennial problem of finding a position in the squad. Now if, and it is a big ‘If’, he displaces a hobbling Cazorla, and it comes off, it could be the making of him. I did see a quote from him saying he enjoyed playing in the middle while (training) on England duty, but he saw playing wide with Arsenal as his best chance of getting game time.
    Maitland-Niles could also gain a bench spot on the strength of this, and AW views of him. Jeff R-A likewise. Gibbs too must have enhanced his chances the next time our opposition have a fast right winger or wing-back … the Spurs game comes to mind? Gabby will have to step up on his game, but there will come opportunities as rotation will be the name of the game from here on, forced or not?. Holding, I have no idea without seeing how he played throughout …

    Allezkev, please say you were at the game, and can give a mini report on the above?

    Gerry … in Rodin statue mode πŸ˜€

  • Morning, sorry Gerry, I did intend to go, but my son forgot to get me the tickets…
    I saw the goals on You Tube and thought that Oxlade-Chamberlain finished quite well, his first reminded me of his goal vs Chelsea in the Charity Shield…

  • Hi all..
    Happy for Ox.. and all youngsters.. Very impressive game..

    Yes.. Maitland-Niles is a special talents.. both with Jeff will be our next great midfielders..

    And Yes JK.. Martinez is another great GK that we had.. love it the way he block the ball.. hehehe..

    Sunderland will play tonight.. with all their first team.. So they will get physical problem against us on Saturday.. hehehe

  • Gerry,

    Yes, been there done that, and moving on, but starting Ox, against another PTB and counter attacking team which is Sunderland, in the Santi position if Santi did not get his injury out of the way is something that Wenger should have done instead of putting Elneny there.

    To Ko Henry, our keepers have been fantastic this season. Has the goalkeeping coach changed or something?


  • I think more importantly JK, is whether AW accepts that the Elneny pairing was, with hindsight, a mistake, and he will not repeat it?
    All agreed that going forward Ox would have done well, but as I said earlier, it would have left Coquelin (and a CB) rather busy. However, nothing to stop a half time change when it was clear they were stagnating?

    I had time to look at a few other reports on the Reading game and they vary wildly with some players. It is very confusing? I am not sure how much the Arsenal lot can produce, as there did not seem to have the full range of cameras there.

  • Take your son’s pocket money away from him for a month Kev … even if he is in 40’s! πŸ˜€

  • If Rambo and Santi are not available, Wenger will of course play Elneny again. Ox doing well against Championship teams is nothing new; but that is not the level he needs to be at. Having said that, it will have done him good to score a brace last night, and let’s hope he will push through to PL level now.

  • Yeah, I have to say I was not very impressed by the level and intensity of the match which was on Spanish language TV for me. (Later, on the same channel I watched a replay of Valencia-Barcelona that was infinitely more compelling…) Did Reading even want to win the match? Maybe not given their position in the Championship?… That said, there was some good passing into space and Arsenal looked in command with and w/o the ball. Elneny was definitely the class of all the MFs, IMO… Lucas also looked good (very up for the fight and the English game generally and also good passing into space…) but couldn’t quite find the wavelength with the others. He’s got a nice little burst of pace and plenty of power. Rob Holding should get proper credit for his role on the 2nd goal… Giroud as a target man and intelligent force up top seems good to have back in the fold…

    On another topic: Gerry’s thinking… At times I try to follow it but I always wonder about the length (or depth, perhaps…) and whether or not the comments section here is the correct venue. You’re a good observer of the footy so I scan for actual, you know, observations (and analyses). Otherwise, the mental gymnastics are too much for me. (Again, the actual observations I do value…so I’m just urging you to consider your audience…) One bit I have caught (a couple of times now) is that you’re under the impression that we have lots of games in very little time coming up. We’ve got three on the trot–Sunderland on Saturday then Ludogorets on Tuesday then Spurs on Sunday. After that there’s an international break before we play ManU. Maybe this knowledge will help you feel better about Wenger’s lack of rotation and our prospects as the season moves along.

    For me, we’re far from the finished article but so too are (or aren’t…) the others in the top group of teams and we look much better positioned than a year ago to withstand the normal distribution of injuries and fatigue. Bring it on, I say…

  • TA, I think the result of that game might well depend on who qualifies to play for that ‘back up team’ at the time?
    The timing of this quarter final is perilously close to our 6 fixtures in December … hang on, error checking..
    Oh good, that is correct, but it was a good job I did a check because we only have 5 ‘league’ games, plus an away trip to Baael in the CL. But you can imagine what a difference it would make if we had 7 matches to play in December? But no. thanks to the kindly intervention of Sky Sports, our last match of the month is no longer on December 31 st, but January 1st.
    I really thought we had fixture congestion. Even this quarter final against Southampton, is on the 29th, a Tuesday, and our next is not until the 3rd of December, on a Saturday. The best news is that our next opponents after this tie, West Ham, have also got to play midweek in the EFL Cup. It is amazing. All my fears about fatigue are a thing of the past. Even more so, because we apparently we have an International break, whenever it is in this month, I forget. I am sure someone will remind me …. But no matter, as we only have our fringe players getting games during that break, you know, like: Cech, Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Xhaka, Iwobi, Alexis … at least Walcott is getting his Wenjury in early, but that might mean Ox gets the nod.
    But the real point is we are able to keep all our ‘key’ players well rested so no need for rotation.

    As I was saying TA, not only will this game be more difficult, because it gets whoever wins that much closer to a trip to Wembley. But on the other hand, have you noticed how tamely some of our main league rivals have ducked this competition?

    Ah well, OGAAT, and not let us worry about the future eh?

  • Gerry, I will put in a word of caution, due to the games being tougher and our depth is not so deep until Rambo and Santi comes back.

    If we have more injuries I suspect we will have a tough time getting through November and December. But touch wood of course (I am actually touching my table, which is made of wood, as I type).

    So, I can say, as TA and you always say, OGAAT, and look no further than the next game.


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