Santi Returns | Giroud to Lead the Line? Sunderland v Arsenal Preview/ Line-Up


At 12:30 pm Saturday early kick-off, our team will line up against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. It will be a confrontation between the joint table toppers Arsenal and the team firmly rooted at the bottom Sunderland. The result looks a fore gone conclusion, but that’s on paper only. This is the Premier League where nothing is ever assured. Nine games have been played and Sunderland stand at 2 pts: 1 pt at home, the other away. The team has scored a total of 6 goals, conceding 16 with an average possession of 41.7%. They also average 9.6 shots per game.

One thing these stats tell us is that this is a team that sits deep counting on counters for their goals.  Even more loudly, the stats tell us that the team is not very proficient in these tactics. On the other hand, our stats show also a clear lack of proficiency on our part at unlocking ‘parked buses’, as we were able to score only 1 controversial goal in 270 minutes of football against Middlesbrough, Burnley and Leicester where we enjoyed our most possessions of the season so far (75%, 67% and 61% respectively). Such high possession ratings indicate games against ‘park the bus’ teams, and so toothless has been our displays on such outings. It might be apt to note that we banged in 6 goals where we had the least (43%) possession of the season in our game against Ludogorets. We love playing against teams that love to play. The other way, not at all.

Is the stage then all set for a stalemate?

It is this threat of another stalemate against a PTB team that brings the big question of who leads the line: Giroud or Sanchez? That is assuming we are able to shackle the duo of Jemain Defoe (4 goals) and Patrick van Aanhole (2 goals) who between them have scored 100% of Sunderland’s epl goals.

If Giroud is selected, Walcott would cease to drift inside as Giroud is now there. Instead, Walcott hogs the wide areas for whipping in crosses for Giroud to attack. With Walcott that wide, Bellerin’s overlap is largely stifled. Ozil would have no need to again push up as Sanchez, aka false 9 or is it aka double 10, is no longer there to suffocate Ozil’s #10 spaces. Instead Sanchez has moved wide-left, seconding our best vertical ball carrier Iwobi to the role of bench warming.

Nacho or Gibbs would have to bump up the field more frequently because Giroud in the box is excellent when feeding off crosses. Coquelin would be asked to keep an extra eye on the space vacated by ‘wing back’ Nacho or Gibbs and the rippling effect of Giroud for Sanchez continues, affecting the entire structure of play. Your guess is as good as mine, whether the great ripple across the whole of our play would improve or lessen our fortunes. Poor Wenger, this is his headache. All we care for is that Sunderland will be trounced.

To be or not to be is the question for Mr Wenger. Nacho or Gibbs? Iwobi or Ox?  Should he risk Santi, the brain box, who has been seen training since last week or does he play the exquisite but safe passer Elneny? Is it Ox in place of Walcott who has a hamstring alert? Ludogorets away looms on the horizon also? And our eternal enemy Spuds soon after? Questions, questions and questions all poised delicately on the knife edge of us wanting Sunderland trounced.

  1. S. Eliot maybe was making reference to this conundrum when in his ‘The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ he wrote:

“And indeed there would be time

Time for you and time for me,

And time yet for a hundred indecisions 

And for a hundred visions and revisions

Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.”

Image result for micheangelo david image

The assurance I can give here is that by the time Wenger gets his line up ready for submission Saturday morning, he would have poured himself another cup of tea because the first one is gone cold. Dead cold.

Predicted line-up:

submit football lineup

Bench: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Elneny, Ramsey, Walcott, Giroud.

Score: 0-2 (Arsenal win). Alexis and Iwobi to score.


By Pony Eye

42 thoughts on “Santi Returns | Giroud to Lead the Line? Sunderland v Arsenal Preview/ Line-Up

  • Many thanks for a fine match preview, PE.:)

    I think you have got the line up almost right. I cannot see Arsene starting with both Ox and Iwobi, who do not score a lot of PL goals, and leaving red hot Theo on the bench for this one. I agree that Ollie is likely to sit on the bench tomorrow but I expect him to play at least 30 minutes, with Alexis then moving to the left. Starting with slow Santi would be a mistake in my opinion (the latter added to assure 17HT I am not arrogant hahaha 🙂 )

    I am nervous about this one as we have often had a soft underbelly for struggling teams when playing them away. A colleague of mine supports the Black Cats and he says the home supports don’t care much about good football, but they do care about hard work and winning. Moyes is struggling but expectations will be low tomorrow and that could help him and the players. What is there to lose for them? I expect them to sit back and play on the counter, and we have seen enough of our team in recent weeks to know that we are vulnerable to it. And if they score first with one of those breakaways, it could become a difficult afternoon. So no Santi for me but athletes Coq and Elneny in the double DM pivot. Theo, Alexis and Ozil have had a break so they should be fit and raring to go.

    My team
    Your back five
    Coq – Elneneneney
    Theo – Ozil – Iwobi

  • Good logic TA.

    On Theo, Wenger announced in his press briefing this morning that he has what he called hamstring alert and that Theo would undergo a late fitness test. Unless it is to throw the opponent off scent, l wonder if he would risk him.

    On your Coq/ Elneny I feel it must have been clear to him from the Middlesbrough game that he needs more creativity from the central midfield than that pair can give, and as we are expected to dominate possession the balance he would seek is bound to favour offense. I expect him to favour Santi if he passes the late fitness test.

  • Ok you could be right re Theo. That would make sense.

    I am not sure whether Wenger was looking at Elneny in terms of more creativity. With Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis and Theo we have four players who can score and create chances, and Elneny can pick a pass as well. I reckon the attackers just were a bit unlucky/tired and this should be fine tomorrow. Playing Santi adds a bit more creativity, agreed, but I am worried about the gaps he will leave behind and the lack of support he will be able to give when dealing with counterattacks. If I see Santi next to Coquelin at kick off tomorrow, I will not count on three points.

  • Still on injuries, didn’t Wenger also suggest Monreal had something of a tight Hamstring? My guess is Gibbs to start both this game and the one in midweek. I also feel nothing wrong with starting both Coq and Elneny for some early minutes’ security before introducing Ramsey late on. If Theo is injured, then Ox should start alongside Iwobi, with Giroud coming on later for one of them, retaining Alexis in the side.
    Anyway, what do we all know? Wenger gets paid well to make these decisions.

  • Santi alongside Coq had guaranteed us many wins so far. Why would it be different against, well, the bottom placed team? If Santi is fit, I will have him playing all day long.

  • Santi is good when WE play deep and we need to turnover opponents in tight spaces quickly. When we play a PTB team he can help with us being more creative but this comes at a price in terms of helping to cover for counterattacks. We have been very vulnerable on our left anyway and I reckon Santi’s lack of defensive qualities is a big part of this… we need a proper box to box midfielder which is Rambo, but Elneny is good cover for him.

  • Sounds like Nacho and Theo will be rested indeed. I would not be surprised to see us start with Alexis – Giroud – Ox/Iwobi tomorrow.

    Arsène Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
    He revealed updates on Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal and this is what he had to say:
    ‘The pressure is on us every week’
    Follow LIVE coverage of the Sunderland game
    Watch these classic Sunderland goals
    on the latest team news…
    From Tuesday night we’ve lost Lucas for a while with an ankle injury. I think he’ll be out for six to eight weeks. We have Giroud back available and Aaron Ramsey will be in the squad. We are [almost] in November, they have not played so it’s good to have them back. We have a few uncertainties over Walcott, Monreal and Cazorla, but they will all have tests today.
    on Giroud and Ramsey…
    They are available for selection. I have to be a bit cautious, especially with Aaron Ramsey, because he has not played at all yet. He has only had one week with the team so I will be a bit cautious with him.
    on Lucas getting injured just as he was getting more minutes…
    Yes it’s very frustrating because he worked very hard to get there. Of course he is absolutely gutted, because it’s an injury coming from nowhere, and a stupid one, because it was a deliberate kick. It’s a similar tackle to [the one from] Xhaka [against Swansea], but there was no red card. But the red card would not have helped Lucas. What is most important is that he’s out for six to eight weeks.
    on whether Theo Walcott is ill…
    No, he is not ill. There is a slight hamstring alert, a very minor one. He will have a test today.
    on whether Theo will be available to face Ludogorets…
    He should be OK for Tuesday. If it’s not tomorrow, it’s OK for Tuesday.
    on Nacho’s injury…
    He has a little muscle tightness.


  • Hmmm. We are an offensive team by structure so, my thinking is that we would not be worrying too much about ‘covering for counter-attacks, so long as we can score goals against Sunderland. Like I stated, I do agree with an Elneny – Coq starting midfield though, unless Santi is fit.

  • Having watched us recently, I am worried about our ability to deal with counterattacks. If we have a lot of possession but we have not scored after say 35 minutes, this will become an even bigger threat. It is a delicate balance and like PE is saying above, Wenger has to make some key decisions.

  • Goonereris, you summed it beautifully with your remark that Santi and Coq had guaranteed us many wins so far. How can it suddenly change.

    I actually appreciate Santi’s defensive contribution. Some people equate defensìve competence to crunching tackles. No. Tackles in contemporary football are only indispensable for last ditch. More important in a general sense is defensive awareness and a defensive sense of responsibility.

    Defensive actions, apart from tackling which has a high risk component, include blocking passing lanes, anticipating and intercepting passes and closing down opponents on the ball.

    Santi, apart from crunching takles, is so able with the othe defensive actions because of his awareness, his ability to read games and respond correctly for the good of the team. Santi fit, any day is my 1st choice.

  • that is just your perception against mine, PE. Defending is indeed more than tackling alone, which he is actually not too bad at. This season, now that we are playing less deep and more forward, Santi only manages 0.9 interceptions, 0.4 clearances and 0.3 blocks per PL game. Hardly what I would call good defending. We also know that he is slow and often leaves his fellow DM isolated and having to cover too much space and too many players. But I will cover this in one of my future ‘early season conclusions’ posts. 😉

  • Nice post PE and I agree re: Santi but there’s no surprise there… Hard to say if AW will mix up the team and maybe he doesn’t know quite yet as the injury (late tests) would indicate… We shall see… 4:30 AM kickoff for me…ouch…

  • Hahaha! Curious to know what is the “better than footie” thing though.
    Mine is a 7:30am kick-off time, but only just coming into another country from Lagos Nigeria (same time as London, for now) and will have to contend with jet lag and all that. But, I am so looking forward to the game, I won’t mind that at all.

  • At the peak of his CAM powers last season, right before his injury, I did read some place that Cazorla’s ‘defensive action’ stats put him close to top amongst Europe’s best DMs, which goes to corroborate PE’s point about how his defensive nous may go unnoticed.

  • Yeah right, Goonereris, he is the bee’s knees when it comes to defending – why am I just not seeing this? 😀

    Come on guys, he has a wonderful smile and a few nice actions every game and I understand you can fall for that, but he is not the box to box midfielder this Arsenal is crying out for. That guy is Welsh and is almost ready to go.

    Where are you flying to then, Gis?

  • In light of Lucas’ absence and an injury cloud surrounding Walcott and Monreal, the starting 11 I would like to see versus Sunderland is:

    GK: Cech
    RB: Debuchy
    CB: Mustafi
    CB: Kosicelny
    LB: Gibbs
    CDM: Coquelin
    CDM: Iwobi
    RW: Ox
    CAM: Alexis
    LW: Ozil
    CF: Giroud

    With Walcott and Lucas out Arsenal will lack the off the ball movement to sustain Alexis as the CF. So I’d like to see Arsenal adopt Plan B – frequent and accurate crosses into the box from the likes of Debuchy, Ox, Gibbs and Ozil to target Giroud’s aerial strength.

    Also in central midfield I really hope Wenger abandon’s the Elneny experiment and selects the more creative Iwobi in Cazorla and Xhaka’s absence. The young Nigerian’s defensive stats aren’t much worse than the Egyptian’s but Iwobi offer so much more offensively.

    To be honest, Arsenal’s deeplying central midfield stocks are missing Wilshere, who in my opinion should have been groomed this season to take over from Cazorla.

  • Waldo, brilliant tactical thinking that bit on Walcott’s absence causing a lack of off the ball movement that gives meaning to Sanche at #9 which makes Giroud a better option in the box. But I still don’t think Giroud wifi be started for these reasons;
    1). With only that one cameo appearance after a fairly long absence Wenger would not want to start Giroud.
    2) the current Ars playing philosophy is centered on quick passing and movements and Sanchez at centre makes it click. I don’t think Wenger would abandon it because of the absence of one player. He’ll rather want to see how that pattern accommodates another fast, better technically gifted but more direct player like the Ox.

  • TA, it truly beats me why you are not seeing the thrill in Santi. If not for anything else he makes the team play better particularly Ozil. He is so intelligent and so technically gifted. Already this season we lost (Liv) and drew (Boro) both at the Emirate in the two games he did not play. In the other 7 games that he played we won 6 and drew 1 away to the Champions Leicester. Same pattern last season when he got injured. Little wonder, he is one of Wenger’s musts. Rub your eyes TA, rub them hard.

  • Lol @ Rub your eyes, TA….
    I arrived Canada, TA. Long flight so, still recovering. Hope we win tomorrow (or later today, depending).

  • Yes, another nice post PE. You have summed up AW’s dilemma really well … to a tee, a cold cup.
    I agree with your latest reply above, in that AW will want to play in the same style that has brought rich rewards. I think the key to beating PTB teams is starting with quick passes, and getting an early goal if possible. Not easy, but it should be remembered that teams at the bottom of the table are there for a reason. Other teams have beaten them, and if we are not capable then perhaps we are not as good as we think we are?
    That is nonsense, of course. Each game should be taken on its merits. Sunderland are missing 5 or 6 of their would be starters, including arch clogger Cattermole. Our top game will see us through, if we get the combinations right.
    With all the doubts surrounding some players, I am not going to try and second guess AW choices this time, just make a few observations:
    The Giroud + Sanchez combination does not work well because both like to move into the space on the left side of goal. This in turn squeezes out space that Iwobi takes up. It is about movement.
    Ox in for Walcott offers a different type of movement. Different angles. Ox, with the ball, has a tendency to move off the wing towards the centre, unless instructed to stay wider? Walcott goes for space out wider, angling towards the edge of the box, either pass and move, or directly.
    Coquelin + Elneny combo? The Boro game was a collective failure, so a bad one to judge their merits. Lack of movement up front led to safe passing, 80% of all successful passes was between the two of them. That cannot be repeated here or the same result, or worse will ensue.
    Koscielny + Holding, Mutafi + Gabriel, or unchanged? Big question?

    I think if there are any doubts about player starting this game, they will miss this in favour of the CL game midweek. With the majority of our A team rested midweek, unlike Sunderland, who played a day later and with a stronger team, AW is in the driving seat over selection … as long as he gets the balance right. Any doubtful player taken out of the line up will not appear on the bench, as that would be pointless surely?

    AW likes to reward players he has publicly praised, if not a start, then promoted to the bench, so my only guesses will be these; Ox to play, Giroud, Holding, Jeff, and M-Niles on the bench?
    Overall, I think those that come out of this game well and uninjured, will keep their place v Spurs, along with the key players from the CL away trip.

    Vague, but hopeful of a convincing win.

  • Gerry, I guess you are right. If Wenger would not start a player like Walcott as a precaution, he’s not likely to put him on the bench. Nacho’s was a slight muscle tightness, he could start or sit on the bench. Very little to choose between him and Gibbs.

    I feel strongly that Santi would play because he has been in full training with the team since last week.

    On Elneny and Coq, I also agree that we unfairly made a scapegoat of the pair over the Boro stalemate. The team as a whole was poor and I believe Elneny is sufficiently creative, though not as much as Santi, but then creativity is not the only thing on offer.

    The good thing about next week matches is that ther is 6 days between them.

  • I see what I see PE and Santi’s personal defensive and attacking stats, as published here on a few occasions, back me up whilst rubbing my eyes into delirium! He is a good passer of the ball, so is Elneny, but he adds very few key passes and assists to the team and his defensive contributions are limited.

    Santi adds value but he is very overrated based on a hypnotic smile and a few nice movements every game… the rest of the team carry him, not the other way round. But that is my view and I happen to be the owner of this blog… so you will have to put with it for a while hahaha 🙂

    In the meantime, I respect your and a few other views re the puffin man. 😉

    Morning Gerry 🙂

  • TA, you are right that I love Santi’s smiles, nice guy he is, but the one that really grabs me is the Ox’s……when he scores.

  • Team to play Sunderland: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Elneny, Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez

    Subs: Gabriel, Ramsey, Giroud, Ospina, Holding, Jenkinson, Maitland-Niles.

    Santi’ injury must be worse than Wenger is letting on. Well, good luck, lads.

  • It’s time for Giroud and Ramsey to play their part. Giroud for Iwobi and Ramsey for Elneny..

  • Well done team. T A you must have enjoyed that.
    A little frustrating that having gone one nil up, we slipped into cruise control and sat on it until the equaliser. Better teams might not be as generous as Sunderland.

    I cant think of anyone having a bad game, but I think Gibbs, did well, Giroud was fantastic and I thought Ramsey looked very classy when he came on.
    Just a couple of words of advice to Sunderland.

    You should know by now not to upset a nest of wasps!!!

    The Commentator mentioned that Rodwell has started 34 games and still hasn’t won a match. Errr don’t start him!

  • Good result, considering we went first. Now, that’s putting down a marker for sure. COYG!

  • At one point I was thinking “same old same old”, but Ollie came on and did what he does best.

    Shall we revert to Alexis out wide and Ollie top?

  • Was it me or did we see us playing with Alexis and Ollie up top for a while after Ollie came in?

    I thought we did well after we conceded until Ollie came on, and boy he gave Alexis a fright of his life by scoring on his first 2 touches. 3 goals scored between 70 to 77 minutes made me thought of last season when we did the same with Ollie, effectively killing our opposition.

    My man of the match is Gibbs, and Alexis. The pairing of Alexis and Gibbs on the left wing is quite good, due to the type of passes from that side.

    The movement of the whole team with and without Ollie became less prominent, not that Ollie became faster, the whole team has a better idea of who goes where and that is a good comeback for us.

  • Well I enjoyed watching this match on the ‘Player … apart from anything else, it was available at 3.30 am GMT. Yes, my body clock takes a while to readjust.

    Without being too pre-emptive of what TA has to say with his view from the ground report, my observations were this.

    Were were sharper that last weekend.

    The start from Ox had beneficial consequences: A, He was given a ‘free role’ laterally, but deeper than Walcott; B, His positional interchange with Elneny work very well indeed; This also worked to the benefit of Coquelin, who was able to assist Iwobi defensively down our left.

    We kept our attacking focus going throughout the first half.

    I think Sunderland were sharper from the start of the second half, rather than us sitting back.

    Their goal/penalty came from an individual error.

    The introduction of Giroud had a big impact around the 70th minute: A, He replaced Iwobi, whose space he would have restricted anyway; B, The latter was less effective going forward, despite having a couple of good chances, but his tracking back, and starting from deeper was taking its toll, and would have made him vulnerable at this point; C, Giroud’s first well taken goal showed he was sharp after his lay off; D, His second, a snapshot header with Alexis behind him, shattered the home team.

    Both our wing-backs had excellent games, in part I venture to suggest, due to impact Ox had on balancing support in defence on both sides, rather than Bellerin Walcott doing the attacking, and Monreal doing his best to defend counters on his own? Just an impression I got. It may be that Sunderland are just not strong down either wing. We shall see, should this line up be repeated?

    Funny moment on the ‘Player. A couple of times the commentary sound track was about ten seconds behind the action, as a single voice roared ‘GOAL!’ … so we had to wait while they finished their side chatter, which then turned to who was in possession, before they picked up the actual movement … Very odd?

    Annoying moment on the ‘Player. Pienaar’s foul on Alexis, a trip from behind.
    ”Why was it a red card?’, cried the commentary team, and again referencing the Xhaka red.
    I mentioned this at the back end of the last post, and if the commentary team are not up to speed with the current laws of the game, then somebody should inform them?
    It is quite simple; The combination of not making an attempt to play the ball AND it considered dangerous.
    In this case, Pienaar crossed behind Alexis, caught his leg and he went down. No attempt to play the ball, but no way was it dangerous. Just a slight touch on the trailing foot. Indeed, Atkinson gave the benefit of the doubt and deemed an accidental foul, so no card at all
    Other referees may have seen that as a ‘professional foul’, and given a yellow. Throughout the game Atkinson seemed to assume that Alexis was throwing himself to the ground, but falling short of calling it a dive, including a very strong penalty claim.
    However, Coquelin was guilty of a ‘naughty’ challenge on Pienaar,when he followed through on Pienaar’s standing leg … with studs raised! That could have been a red, because it was dangerous, or a yellow. He got neither. Lucky boy, unless it gets referred?

    Talking of Coquelin, how on earth was there no doctor called on when he got a kick in the head?
    He got the mark to prove it!

    Overall, it was an excellent game for Arsenal to bounce back, but it has given AW even more selection headaches?


  • Gerry,

    I saw the second half and Le Coq’s blow to the head is not something light.
    Looked quite painful to me, but he is a tough guy.

    Selection headaches is good, and when Xhaka is back maybe he will get the nod ahead of Elneny. I am not sure though….


  • JK, I just thought these days it was taken away from players to decide whether they are fit to carry on? Delayed concussion can be a dangerous thing..

    On your point about Giroud, I would not rush to make a judgement on whether that finishing line up would work from the off. I still hold to the view that our quick fire passing and movement is the way to weaken the opposition, and instrumental to that is having Iwobi high up the field.
    It was clear the time off the field had Giroud all fired up and raring to go. Same could be said of Ramsey, with his quick thinking for his assist. However, going forward against a side that had been holding out for over an hour, is not the same as being challenged by fresh legs?

    For me, the standout within a unit was the way Ox and Elneny clicked. If one came inside, the other went wide. Both being effective coming from deep. Elneny thrived in a similar way he did with Iwobi when he made his breakthrough. That partnership wants bottling for future reference. 😀

    I felt sorry for Iwobi, but he is still on a learning curve, and helping out when needed in defence is part of that. But it cost him in this game.

    I am not adding any more as I expect a bubbling ‘New Post’ from TA this evening.


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