West Ham v Arsenal Line-Up: Time to get the midfield and forward line fully working

My preferred Line-Up:

GK – Cech
RB – Jenkinson
CB – Mustafi
CB – Koscielny
LB – Gibbs
CDM – Xhaka
CDM – Coquelin
RW – Walcott
CAM – Ozil
LW – Perez
CF – Alexis

Interesting prematch comments from Wenger about how he sees Arsenal’s midfield and forward line working:

“You think about [the solution] in a global way and when you integrate more than two players, with Ozil [in the side] you have to balance that,” Wenger said. “Sometimes I play Iwobi or Chamberlain so the combination has to be in the four or five.”

“I consider Walcott and Alexis to be strikers, in their mind and the way they play. So around them you have to build a team that is balanced.”

“When I play Santi most of the time I have Coquelin because he is a really defensive breaker of attacks. He gives Santi more freedom. He is a more offensive player first although he is disciplined tactically. He is not a ball winner but a more creative player.”

“We are close with the balance as Xhaka in midfield is moving upwards. He has a different influence to Santi. Santi is more of a guy who gets out of very tight situations with a very short technique, right and left foot, while Xhaka has a pass and is not a dribbler. He passes through the lines.”

My read of Wenger’s comments is that he clearly sees:
– Alexis (CF) and Walcott (RW) as the team’s attacking/goal scoring outlets
– Iwobi/Ox (LW) and Ozil (CAM) as the forward creators
– Xhaka/Santi (CDM) as the transitioning central midfielder
– Coquelin (CDM) as the tackling central midfielder.

That’s fair enough in principle, though there are a couple of practical issues I can see with that approach.

1. Alexis frequently likes to drop closer to midfield and act as another creator. To account for that I think Arsenal need another attacking outlet in their front four. As Iwobi and Ozil have proved inconsistent in naturally adopting that role when required and as Ozil is the better creator of the two, I think a more natural attacking outlet, like Perez, in place of Iwobi would provide Arsenal with better balance in their attack.

2. I don’t think Xhaka is comfortable or needs to physically “move upwards” on the pitch to improve Arsenal’s transitional play. For me Xhaka lacks pace and nibble feet when on the ball. So Xhaka, like Xavi Alfonso, has built his game on collecting the ball in deep central midfield and quickly firing long accurate passes forward to allow the more attacking players to subsequently create and/or score goals. By making those passes from a deep lying midfield area and not physically dribbling the ball vertically up the field Xhaka positions himself better defensively in case his long pass is inaccurate or one of his more attacking teammate subsequently turn over position. In an Arsenal context, with regularly advancing fullbacks and intricate passing amongst its forward creators, Xhaka natural game from deep central midfield should suit Arsenal nicely, without the need for him to physically move upwards on the pitch.

Looking forward to the clash versus the Hammers. COYGs!

By Waldo

45 thoughts on “West Ham v Arsenal Line-Up: Time to get the midfield and forward line fully working

  • Nice one Waldo and TA,

    Yeah, I read some of those quotes, and others. But personally, I think a player had to look really good in the match on Wednesday, and through no particular fault of his own, Perez didn’t.
    Iwobi did. Gabby did. Ox made a difference from the bench, but I think he will do the same here, and start against Basel.

  • Cheers Waldo 🙂

    I like the line up and I reckon you are not far off, except for Jenkinson who is unlikely to start given Wenger’s recent comments. I really like your summary re our midfield and attack:

    My read of Wenger’s comments is that he clearly sees:
    – Alexis (CF) and Walcott (RW) as the team’s attacking/goal scoring outlets
    – Iwobi/Ox (LW) and Ozil (CAM) as the forward creators
    – Xhaka/Santi (CDM) as the transitioning central midfielder
    – Coquelin (CDM) as the tackling central midfielder.

    However…. the big omission is of course our dynamo… Ramsey. Aaron is mr transition and mr connection of attack with defence, and I expect him to play a big role this season. I can see Xhaka playing deeper and deeper as the season goes on, as per your explanation and I can see Rambo playing the b2b role, with Coquelin and Elneny very, very worthy back ups/alternatives for a different style of play.

  • The referee and their attackers let City down today. Chavs were lucky to escape with all three points, but you have to give it to them that they were able to fully benefit from their luck. We need a win today to keep up with the Chavs.

    My expected line up:
    Gabriel – Mus – Koz – Mon
    ———- Coq/Rambo——-

  • Good post Waldo…The news on Santi’s injury is what predicates all of AW’s ponderings so it will be very interesting how he shapes the team in this period of lots of matches. Xhaka for Santi seems the logical fill in and we have to remember just how good the Coq/Santi double pivot was. As such, Coq/Shock(a) I think it will have to be, esp. away from home. Like everybody else, of course, WTF do I know… 😀

    Longer term, esp. in games we need to win I think it’s Xhaka/Rambo AW envisions back there. Shorter term, I think Ramsey subs in (if goals are needed) today but gets another run vs Basel and maybe Elneny is seen as being (currently) ahead of him at least when the #10 is occupied by Ozil. Overall we have to just wait and see how Wenger plays the whole group. In general I’d say Less Coq and Elneny at home or in games where the three points seem critical. With Chavs win this early morning (for me here in California) this one at the Olympic stadium seems a must-win. Too bad we’ve had such trouble with the Hammers (last year at least)…

    So, for me, the line-up doesn’t quite pick itself. Beyond the MF pivot pair who goes at RB? Which of Ox or Iwobi gets the opposite flank from Theo? Does Giroud EVER get a PL start? Certainly he would seem ahead of Lucas and more likely both to start and come off the bench if we need goals. Also I doubt that Gibbs has done enough to take Nacho’s place and that AW isn’t quite ready to fully crush Jenko’s confidence… So, if pressed, I’d guess:


    Cheers again for the post…Anything to help me get through the Spurs match…

  • Spurs look comfortable at 2-nil…The first was a gift of a pen but the 2nd was real quality from Son…

  • Cheers TA… For some reason I thought the classico was a night game…looks like I missed the first half but no goals…

  • Yeah they are playing now to get the Asian market viewers apparently…. We cannot see it here live but it will be screened later this evening.

  • Interesting about the Asian market…It’s siesta time in Spain so very different from usual…

  • The game’s got a goal in it now so everybody seems perked up… 😀

    Arsenal line up as I predicted except for the gaffe about Jenko… Maybe I should get back on those previews… More smileys… No Giroud on the bench…

    Arsenal: Cech; Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Walcott, Özil, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sánchez. Subs: Gibbs, Ramsey, Pérez, Ospina, Holding, Iwobi, Elneny.

    West Ham: Randolph; Collins, Reid, Ogbonna; Fernandes, Noble, Obiang, Masuaku; Lanzini, Payet, Fletcher. Subs: Nordtveit, Arbeloa, Feghouli, Carroll, Zaza, Adrian, Ayew.

    Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)

  • Well done, 17HT, indeed you could have had 11/11 with a bit more research…

    You are welcome to do previews whenever you want to do them. 🙂

  • Half time and West Ham look pretty poor…(They miss Antonio, Kayoute and Sahko…) Still at 1-nil they’re in with a shout… Gabriel’s late injury also doesn’t look so good…and Le Coq’s yellow card was super silly… I think we need another goal or it will get nervy when they sub in Andy Carroll. Do we really need to be playing so much on the break, giving up so many corners, etc., etc.

    I might take you up on getting back to doing some previews, TA, esp. if we don’t get any more snow…

  • Ramsey on for Theo…who had some chances but has to wait on his coffee machine…

  • Finishes 5-1…Maybe playing on the break suits us better than I thought…

    Happy weekend…

  • It was on at 1.30am local time and I had a late night out.. slept at close to 11 and got knocked out before I even tried to wake up for the match.

    A little over 3 weeks to go for the full fledged comeback but this blog is bustling.

    Have yet to see the whole match replay but am proud of Gabby. He is the right back to rely on and even better than Jenko.

    Cheers on a good 3 points.

  • Impressive victory and performance by the Gunners versus West Ham.


    – Xhaka and Coquelin were outstanding in the centre of midfield and did a fantastic job in their defensive positioning as well as tackling and intercepting West Ham’s attempts to move the ball forward.
    – Koscielny and Mustafi were quieter on the tackling and interception department, but I thought both players defensive positional play was also excellent and they appeared to take a no nonsense approach which was reflected in a high number of clearances. Aerially both players were very strong also.
    – Monreal and Gabriel didn’t really contribute too much defensively but their defensive positional play was good. Individually, Gabriel was probably the more impressive of the two of them.


    – Alexis was simply sensational with 3 goals, an assist, 4/5 shots on target and 5 key passes.
    – Ozil had a strong game also with a goal, an assist, 2/2 shots on target, and 4 key passes.
    – Theo was willing but not clinical enough with 0/3 shots on target and no key passes.
    – Ox arguably had a stronger game creatively than Ozil, with an assist, 4 key passes and a highly impressive 2/3 accurate through balls (the only Arsenal player to execute an accurate through ball in the match) to go with his goal and 2/4 shots on target.
    – Creatively, Coquelin’s output was limited, while Xhaka recorded an impressive 5/8 accurate long passes.
    – Further back, I thought Monreal struggled again in terms of output but his offensive positional play was excellent.
    – For a specialist CB, Gabriel did surprising well going forward with 1/2 accurate crosses and some good positional play.

    A great performance from Arsenal! Bring on Stoke next weekend!!!

  • 5-1 victory is a resounding result, still I find it difficult to definitely categorize our performance as this or that. I felt that we were far from our best but at the same time I saw that we were creating good chances with ease. We missed many chances in the 1st half, and took most in the second half. Were we good or were W. Ham very poor? I can’t get it out of my system that it is more of the latter. But then, who cares.

    Where I happen to be caring a lot about is Walcott’s declining form. In the 1st 9 matches or so of this season Walcott was one of the brightest spots in the team. His transformation into a very effective and lethal player was most dramatic. Against W Ham, I saw a player who was doing some hiding. Is it a reversion to the old? I think he needs competition. He needs something to keep him permanently awake. Perez is there and Welbeck would soon be back. Wenger should use these two to keep him on his toes. Walcott awake can be devastating but something next to his skin has to be used to keep him from dozing off.

    Elsewhere Gabriel showed he can hold the fort in the absence of Bellerin. He completely shackled the outstanding Dimitri Payet. We can now afford not to rush Bellerin back.

    The possession stats says 50-50. An open game obviously suits us. Maybe we have to perfect how to tactically invite some pressure to open up games. We threaten much better with quick incisions.

    I guess against Basel, Wenger would send out his 2nd string.

  • Well I managed to watch a delayed recording, fortunately in 4k Ultra high definition, rather than the poxy stuff the ‘Player has to work with. With that, it is only the close ups that look sharp.
    But I digress before I have even started.

    Well not only did the midfield work well, the whole team, back and up front worked as a unit. such a difference to 90 hours previously? I said then, when it is a collective failure it not appropriate to blame any one indiividual. Here it almost the reverse, as every player deserves credit because they all gave everything.
    There were just a couple of standouts though, Alexis and Ox. Neither could have won the game without the team effort behind them let us not forget. But ….

    Alex has improved his game beyond recognition since being given the freedom to go anywhere his fancy takes him. The biggest area of improvement and what makes a better all round player, is his team work and creative passing. Previously I always felt that a lot of his play was him doing what was best for Alexis.plc. Now, perversely, he is a better midfielder now he is a striker.

    Note to AW, and the BoD; Yes! He is worthy of a contract equal to that of Ozil. Make it so!

    Ox, I think, had his best game for us. Not only did he provide endless burst of pace that set WHA on the back foot on almost every occasion, he kept it up for 93 minutes. No fade. No dropping back. No half hearted runs after an hour. This was a complete performance. Capped by a superb finish for his goal. The close up of his contact with the ball showed just why, if any anxiety crept in it could go high wide and handsome. This contact, with just enough instep to make it curl, hit about 3 inches off the ground to keep it within the bounds of the goal, was simply perfect.
    We have seen the real Oxlade-Chamberlain, long may it last.

    I could go through the rest and give another 9 positives about the game … like Xhaka showing off his passing skills? Just as AW said, not Santi in the style of play, but Santi’s replacement in that key transition role? Or the professional performance of Gabriel, tough as teak. The solidity of Kos. The endless running of Coquelin. The absolute need for the creativity and hard work of Ozil. The refreshed Monreal using all of his experience. The second pillar of defence in the shape of Mustafi. Not forgetting Cech in goal either, who only had to do what he had to, but did it very well.The unrewarded, but ever willing Walcott whose game was overshadowed by Ox on the other wing. True he has had better games, but the balance he brought to the side was value in itself. His replacement at the predicable time, Ramsey, fared better as the game opened up as West Ham pressed up more, and this suited his running style better ….
    but telling you all this would be a bit like telling you what you know by watching the game? 😀


  • Guys, somehow it looked like if we shot straight at the keeper he wouldn’t have saved it. But those were the highlights of course.

    We did well defensively, and I know that the west ham goal was not offside, we should have defended that better by reacting quicker?

    Will comment more as I watch the full match repeat.


  • When the Ox make those his dribbling runs through the centre he is nearly unplayable. Can a formation be contrived to accommodate him at the centre without jeopardizing the balance of the team? I should think so.

    With Coq shielding the CD and Xhaka creating from deep, the Ox can become the B2B ball carrier, in a 4:2:1:3 formation, with the Ox as the “1”.

    Or the Ox can be positioned wide right, for example, with permission to drift infield in a 4:2:3:1 formation, while the RFB (Bellerin) plays more as a wing back.

    Ox has a prodigious talent but somehow he has not quite found his niche. Playing largely at the central areas of the MF might do it for him and the team.

  • Agreed PE, but I like your first formation better.

    The wide right drifter creates all the criticisms I have of Ramsey in that position, in that it leaves the RB unprotected or overwhelmed by numbers?

    In a way, you don’t have to change too much to make use of those runs. Whether he is playing left or or right side it does not matter, just put his name on the team sheet. The reason I say this is most of those dribbling runs of which you speak come out of us defending around our box? Ox can be useful in a central position, but is the one to play the ball to on the counter?
    Think Tomas Rosicky rather than Santi Cazorla and you get the picture?
    Once the counter attack is up and running, with our quicker guys getting up with Ox, he can the move to whatever wing he was assigned to with a few crisp passes. However, it does seem wherever he plays he is either going to remove Iwobi or Walcott from the front line. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does prompt the thought that Iwobi might also benefit if he played this role too?

    However, the beauty of having Xhaka doing the Santi thing differently, but as with Santi, it has little impact on Ozil’s game. which is a major plus. It may also be the reason that prompted the comment above to say Ramsey’s best place is there when Ozil does not play? I would also remind those dreamer’s thinking Wilshere would be the solution right now. It wouldn’t, for the same reason.
    AW needs to go with what works.

    Tuesday will come around pretty quick, and whilst I don’t think it will be a complete ‘second 11’, I guess a good many of today’s recoverees would be better if they miss out on this CL fixture?
    Alternatively, start strong but the moment the news filters through that PSG are in a commanding position, get the subs on early?


  • Cheers guys 😀⚽️

    A lot of love for the AOC hahaha. 😜😂

    The Ox was great in the second half but mainly poor in the first one. Alexis and Mesut were superb in our attack but for a long time the midwingers did not support them to a level worthy of the Arsenal. The oX stepped it up in the second half and was brilliant at times, but Theo remained away with the new baby fairies. Rambo had an instant impact but it was the brilliance of Alexis goals that really made the difference. Also thought that Koz and Coq were real leaders and bossed their areas throughout the game.

  • Hey all, some great comments on Arsenal’s best deep lying central midfield duo. If Ramsey can improve what Wenger described as “positional discipline”, I agree that a central midfield combination of Ramsey and Xhaka has the potential to offer Arsenal a better blend of defensive security and effective transitional play than their internal competition.

    In the case of Ramsey:
    – while he is not as prolific as Cazorla in terms of passing through the lines, executing long balls, making forward dribbles or surprisingly and only marginally, making defensive interceptions, he is the more accomplished tackler and is the fitter, younger of and more mobile of the two
    – while not as effective in terms of defensive actions as Coquelin, he is conversely more prolific in terms of passing through the lines and executing long balls.

    In the case of Xhaka:
    – while he is not as prolific as Cazorla in terms of passing through the lines or making forward dribbles, he is the more accomplished tackler and interceptor and is more proflic executing long balls
    – while he is marginally deficient to Coquelin in terms of defensive actions, he is more effective at passing through the lines and again executing long balls.

    With Arsenal’s fullbacks notorious at taking up advanced positions and Arsenal’s front four employing a highly intricate passing system around the opposition’s 18 yard box in an attempt to create goal scoring opportunities, I think Arsenal need their two deep lying central midfielders to be positionally disciplined so that Arsenal aren’t exposed on counterattacks. That’s why at present I think a combination of Xhaka and Cazorla or Xhaka and Coquelin represent more suitable central midfield duos than Xhaka and Ramsey.

    That said, if Ramsey can better control his positioning and be more selective in his forays forward, I think a Xhaka and Ramsey axis offers the best blend of attacking and defensive potency.

  • Brilliant analysis Waldo. Fine choices all. Decision on choice of pairing might boil down to the character of the opposing team, and whether the match is home or away.

    A more offensive set up = Xhaka and Rambo.
    A more defensive set up = Coq and Elneny.
    Best balanced set up = Coq and Xhaka.

  • Waldo, I think what Arsene has said in your quotes is more or less what we have been saying on here, Cazorla is simply the best.

    Read again that first quote. ‘ …only marginally [not as prolific] making defensive interceptions’ , this is a creative midfielder turned defensive midfielder versus a defensive midfielder turned advanced midfielder (No10), and his only superior attribute is he can tackle better?
    Why is there a discussion here?

    The real question if replacing Cazorla surely the place to look is the one that bring the most similar qualitie?. Of all the options, as I have repeated many times, Ramsey is the least ‘like for like’ of our options. In fact reading the various quotes, Ramsey should be better compared to Coquelin? Probably why the thought of pairing Xhaka and Ramsey, over the improving partnership of Xhaka and Coquelin it is obvious who is replacing?

    Now, when explaining the comparative merits of the players, AW is not going to be too brutal is he?
    So the term ‘defensive indiscipline’ in negative terms is pretty damning when talking about a defensive midfielder, and even more so about a B2B player?
    I think we all agreed that in the Bournemouth game Ramsey had his best game for a while. He played further up the pitch in the 10 role, which was vacant in the absence of Ozil. However, I don’t think many would argue that he is not as creative as Ozil, so that vacancy is more or less closed off when the latter is available.

    Which brings me to the point I made in my earlier comment, about the attacking half of the midfield duo not weakening Ozil’s game. Both Ramsey and Wilshere make vertical runs. Ozil operates laterally. That remains a problem, yet to be tested, if Ox was played in the B2B position?
    Cazorla’s major contribution, the one we have been lacking, has been his ability to link the defence in transition to attack without compromising Ozil’s multi-positioning, which is basically wherever he sees space for himself and he can create space for others to run into. Being a creative midfielder himself, Cazorla knew when to play the long ball effectively, and not clog the middle of the park with an extra body. Xhaka has that quality too, which is why the pairing with Elneny looked so good previously, and now with Coquelin. It was noticeable how often Xhaka was over towards the centre left or wider when playing his long and through balls. I think this is only his 3rd starting game, so this side of his game will only improve?

    I know the die hards’ with long memories want to see Ramsey back to his very best. I would too. The difference is we were playing a different type of football then. I think Ramsey has a big problem in that he has no position he can command when we play our best attacking style of play.
    So unless we have a winning combination in Plan B, then energetic sub may be his best, or only option?


  • Basel tomorrow. How would Wenger approach it. The 3 teams we would want most to avoid are Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern.

    Barca is already guaranteed top of their group.
    Bayern is guaranteed runners up in their group.
    R Madrid can be top or runners up depending on their final match against Borrussia.

    What position suits us best in our group, top or second? Feels like a choice between the devil and the deep sea (see above). Wenger isn’t just going to bother and that means he is going to rest a lot of his 1st team players.

    Predicted line up:


  • Not only would Wenger be resting many 1st team players (trying to equalize with Chls/Liv), he would also be testing out new combinations and roles eg the Eln/Rambo combo, and Iwobi at #10.

  • All agreed more or less, Waldo. The one thing you don’t touch on is the need to get goals from our b2b midfielder, to make those runs into the box and take chances, and this, my friend, is what only Rambo has to offer. That’s why I believe Wenger will want to integrate the Welshman into the team and Santi will become our super sub.

  • PE, I reckon Wenger will field quite a strong team, even though I hope, like you, that he doesn’t. In the CL he tends to do this as to show respect to the competition.

  • With Giroud back in training predicted line up:


    This is a no mean team.

  • I am split between the two of you, but I think PE will be closer. Although swap Ox with Maitland-Niles and it could be the full 11?

  • Well, I spent a little time and wrote a match preview so….

    New Post, New Post…

    It actually features a fair bit of my take on the West Hame game and the whole “how to replace Santi” discussion. Hopefully it serves to keep all that going…

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