Basel-Arsenal: Final Group Game in the CL–To Rotate or not to Rotate

Will Arsene Wenger rests his stars as he did last midweek vs Southampton in the EFL Cup or will he put out a reasonably strong team even as he knows that our only hope for topping our group will be a slip up from Paris St. Germain at Ludogorets?

I think it will have to be the latter.  Trying to win the final match seems important to maintain momentum in both our domestic efforts and ahead of the Champions League draw even if the knock-out stages are months away.  A few changes, perhaps, but I doubt many of our key players will miss the trip to Switzerland.

On the other hand, rotating in the EFL Cup seems to have proven a good decision followed as it was with a 5-1 drubbing of West Ham United, and, with tough games at home vs Stoke City and then away to Everton and Manchester City, keeping a star player or two in reserve might be a way of meeting in the middle.  I’d stump for the world class combination of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez suiting up but sitting on the bench while continuing with guys like Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott.  Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud seem the obvious replacements for Ozil and Alexis.  Francis Coquelin, suspended for this one, will also have to be replaced.

Le Coq’s suspension means our central midfield combination will have to be reshuffled?  My hunch is that Mohamed Elneny will line up alongside Granit Xhaka.  That would present another opportunity for Wenger to explore his options in this critical part of the pitch.

With the news that Santi Cazorla will have exploratory surgery on his injured ankle, Wenger, I think, might be searching for not only a replacement but also a new way to play in the center of the pitch.  We’ve been discussing it a lot in the comments recently but who can replicate what little Santi brings?  Maybe it’s not so much about replacing the man as it is about finding a new set of tactics that brings out the strengths of the players we’ve got.

Judging from the West Ham game where Arsenal looked always dangerous even if they ceded plenty of possession, I see a change in the offing.  West Ham–missing some key players of their own–probably weren’t strong enough to make it apparent, but, to me at least, I thought we looked content to play on the counterattack or at least try to play much more directly when in possession.  Santi’s absence, I think, takes away from our one-touch possession game.  Mohamed Elneny, again, just in my opinion, is the player who comes closest to keeping us “ticking over” in Santi style, but he was left out.  If he plays at Basel I wonder if our possession stat will be significantly stronger.

Maybe it was all just a bit more ad-hoc vs the Hammers and a one-off.  Early on they lost a center back to injury and maybe guys like the Ox (with his runs) and Xhaka (with his passes) just sensed weakness in a bus which was never able to truly park itself.  Eventually we scored on a Coquelin interception which fell nicely to Alexis who danced into the box before squaring for a simple Ozil tap-in.  After that, I thought, we played even more on the break, content to invite West Ham into our territory feeling as if we could spring forward if they lost possession.  At one-nil, even if they rarely threatened us at the back, it all felt fairly well poised and I worried that a moment of brilliance from the likes of Dimitri Payet or the introduction of Andy Carroll could make it even more so.  When Carroll finally entered the game those two were able to combine to spoil our clean sheet but two additional goals from Alexis had already put the match beyond reach.

Were we really playing on the counter and was this a model for future play?  With more and more English teams playing with three (or is it five) at the back it seems easier than ever to try and lure teams forward.  With Coquelin out for the Basel match we cannot set out in an exactly similar fashion, but will we try and let them (as the home team) have a bit of a go at us?  Inevitably we will face more organized teams than West Ham (Stoke City this coming Saturday, most likely).  Is rotation at the rear of midfield even more necessary if we know teams are likely to try and play for a nil-nil?  Wenger mentioned that we are more patient in away matches.  Should we actually have different playing personnel at the defensive mid pivot (Ramsey, Elneny or even, as discussed in the comments, the Ox)  for different opponents and different situations?   Please discuss.

But they can only be played one at a time, and, for Basel, your guess is as good as mine.  Who would you like to see vs Basel and then in the upcoming league matches?  That’s for those who want rotation and maybe there are some that believe in playing our best 11 on all occasions.  It feels a bit like throwing darts but here’s my best guess for the Basel match.

Subs: Cech, Gabriel, Gibbs, Iwobi, Ozil, Alexis, Perez

So, I think a strong team but with some reserved on the bench in case we need goals.  What do you think?

Have it at please…

by 17highburyterrace

29 thoughts on “Basel-Arsenal: Final Group Game in the CL–To Rotate or not to Rotate

  • Nice post 17HT! I’m more on the rotation side for this one given that it doesn’t matter whether we win this match or not..We have a tough December ahead of us, so if we can afford to rest players we probably should. So I would keep some players, like Alexis, Ozil, and Koscielny, well out of this one and try to bring in players who need a game or who need time to re-establish their form.

    How about this for an alternative line-up:

    Gabriel – Holding – Mustafi – Gibbs
    Xhaka – Ramsey
    Theo – Iwobi – Lucas

    I’ve left Gabriel in there to allow him the chance to get more experience in the right-back position, and also it seems a good time to give Ox a break because he has played so many games recently. I’m interested in the Xhaka/Ramsey midfield combination as well, as these two are arguably our two most complete pure midfielders, and this could be a chance to see them operate as a pair with the advantage of a very mobile attacking trio in front of them.

    On the other hand I would not be surprised to see Elneny alongside Xhaka, with Ramsey taking Iwobi’s place further forward. Lots of options but for me the important decision is resting Alexis, Ozil and Kos in preparation for Stoke and Man City..

  • Great job HT. The old days seem to be back.

    We have Basel tomorrow, Stoke at the wkend, Everton midwk and Manc the following wkend. The General evaluates the battle field and decides that the least important issue to his season’s campaign is whether to come 1st or 2nd in our CL group.

    Bayern and maybe R. Madrid are possible opponents if we top the group.

    Barca and maybe R. Madrid again are possible opponents if we a runners up.

    Nothing to choose between those choices, made worse by the fact that topping our group is completely out of our hands. The Basel game therefore assumes the lowest strategic importance, so I expect a lot of 1st team players to be rested there.

    My expected line up:


  • Would love that line up Seventeenho, and many thanks for a well written preview. Really good to read one of your posts again! 😀

    I would be very surprised to see Alexis or Ozil on the bench/ not starting, as this is not Wenger’s style for CL games. There appears to be an expectation by UEFA that all CL games are played with very strong first teams to allow for both fair competition and good football till the end. But I would love to be wrong.

  • Good preview HT, One aspect not mentioned though, is that Basel are clear by 11 points in their Super League, and play their last game on Saturday before their Winter break …
    Which means they can throw everything they’ve got into tomorrows game?

    I tend to agree with TA on the protocol of playing strong teams. For one thing in could reduce the number of places we may be allowed in the future if the EPL teams fade badly, although being runner up is already a given as far as we are concerned. The other thing is it might have a bearing on who else ends up in the Europa League? I could be wrong, but I thought there were two places given to the highest point scoring teams also went into that competition. Again, I doubt if it affects this game as Basel so far only have points from Ludogorets?
    Just pointing out the reasoning behind the need to have all teams putting out a strong representative side in these group stages.

    Despite that, AW lately seems to give our key players a complete break, which makes it more difficult to fathom out the AW mindset. But if they travel, they start, in line with TA’s view.

    No surprise if the morning pressy if a couple have ‘a little soreness’, given there were two who got bangs on the head, and Ox too, put a big shift in. Also, Giroud is back in training, but if he starts, would AW pair with Alexis from the off?

    More questions rather than answers I’m afraid. As I said on the previous post, if they go hard for 45 minutes and see where we are in relation to PSG. Then a couple of unusual half time subs if things haven’t gone our way? it might satisfy all aspects, short of giving a full rest to players needed for the League line up.

    Btw, we are away at Preston in the FA Cup in January.

    As far as rotating the midfield is concerned, that will happen anyway with so many mid week games in the near future. Post Christmas and New Year I expect AW will have a preferred line up which he will use as often as he can.

    As who I think AW will play, it is this:

    Subs: Martinez; Gabriel; Maitland-Niles; Elneny; Ox; Giroud; Perez.

    Not my prefered though.

  • Wow…

    None of Arsenal’s past 40 away games in the Champions League has ended goalless. Their most recent 0-0 was at Slavia Prague in November 2007.

  • Thanks for the comments fellas…And for added information about Basel. For a preview it was awfully light on info about our opponent (i.e. there was none)…

    What I was really trying to do was sneak in my takeaway from the West Ham match: that w/o Santi I think we’re purposely trying to lure teams forward and then spring the counter with very direct play. Does this expose our defense (in ways that make me twitchy…) or is it worth it as the best way to use the pace of Theo (against higher defensive lines) and the skill of Alexis in a false 9 sort of role? The chances we were able to make at the Olympic stadium were quality ones, I thought, even if they were a little few and far between until the dam broke late on…and highly predicated on very (very) good finishing from Alexis (and the Ox). Another (less positive) way of stating my feelings is that I think we’re still going to struggle against well organized teams who are very committed to defending with two lines of 4 (or 5). Breaking down those sorts of teams requires quicker one-touch play and players willing to get close to one another to do those sorts of moves. Santi (IMO) has that close control and quick thinking that nobody else quite brings to the table. Without it I predict some struggles…Or at least dependence on some great individual play (like we saw at the weekend). Wenger’s comments about “more patience in away matches” suggests he’s aware of the issue. Do we use different personnel in those matches or a different style of play or both?

    Anyhow, that’s where my interest lies but the proof will be in the pudding (line-ups) and we’ll see how it evolves…

    Cheers again…

  • I agree with you HT that the openness of the game v W Ham (50/50% possession) allowed more incisive play from us. However I do not think that our game plan was to consciously cede possession to the opponent.

    Instead, I believe the playing style of Xhaka (longer passes) coupled with the Ox’s dribling runs, helped set the stage for greater verticality in our aproach which in turn invited greater ball turnovers as against our more usual slow build up.

    These turnovers were not attacked with high press as we lacked the personnel for it (discount Alexis) so instead, we fell back to defend deep, creating the platform for our counters which yielded handsomely on the day.

    if Ramsey and Iwobi had played in the place of Xhaka and Ox respectively our game would have been more possession based which technically is a more cautious approach. It’s supposed to yield less goals in both ends of the field.

    It is not only Giroud for Sanchez that can change our Plan. We have the personnel that can give us Plans A, B, C, and D and you can bet that Wenger chuckles when he hears people say that he has not got a Plan B.

  • Regards the reflections on the West Ham game, I believe that a combination of factors played their part. Namely:
    1, The collective need for a better display that what went before.
    2, Key personnel were rested going into this game.
    3, The better balance in the side, with proper width. Despite Walcott not seeming to have a very good game himself, his mere presence spread their defenders. In Walcott’s defence, they were a strong attacking force down his side which led to less support than he might have got from Bellerin?
    4, The sheer size of the pitch plated to our strengths
    5, The nervousness and negativity that was in the West Ham players mind.
    6, The more assured presence of Xhaka, balanced with the defensive qualities of Coquelin gave a solid platform in midfield.
    7, The collective effort of everybody getting back when we lost possession, all 10 outfield players on occasions, nullified their attacks, so our only weakness was set plays. The off-form Payet helped in that department.
    8, The speed at which we could break out from defending on the edge of our box would catch out most teams.

    Take any single element out of that list, and the result could have been different? One of the platyers was quoted as saying …’We all clicked’.

    Will we be able to repeat that against teams that defend better? To be fair to West Ham, inside their box they defended very well in the first half, otherwise we might have been 5 goals up at half-time?
    Stronger sides will defend better in all areas, close down quicker, counter us quicker on turnovers higher up the pitch, and block any route to goal by sheer weight of numbers.
    So can we?
    The answer is, Yes. On the proviso that we have a collective 11 working as one, not pockets of two or three working hard whilst others are off their game. Weakness will be pounced on no matter who we play. The idea that we can consciously sit back to draw players forward only works when you have the players to defend stoutly, and win the ball back. And a corollary to that, the speed and skill to take advantage of such turnovers?
    That is when team selection will be all important. Key to that will be picking the players that work well together,and as a unit as a whole.

    A test of that will come in the game tonight when we present a modified line up …


  • It is true that Santi is great at helping us unpicking parked bus teams, of whom there are less this season btw, but he also leaves us vulnerable to counter attacks. I see him mainly as our first replacement of Ozil, in case of injury, and very good option for us moving to 4-1-2-3, with him and Ozil or Rambo in the ‘2’, if and when required. Anyway, he is injured now and we managed well without him, possibly even better than we would have done with him imo.

  • Good preview 17. I’m assuming in the line up you’ve proposed:

    – Giroud (CF) and Walcott (RW) are the team’s attacking/goal scoring outlets
    – Ox (LW) and Ramsey (CAM) are the forward creators
    – Elneny (CDM) is the transitioning central midfielder
    – Xhaka (CDM) is the tackling central midfielder?

    That makes sense to me, but I’m not sure Ox on the left wing and Walcott on the right wing will effectively support Giroud’s aerial strength enough and unlike Alexis I don’t envisage Giroud making darting runs in behind Basel’s defensive line for Ox and Ramsey to try and pick out.

    That said I agree with your notion that Arsenal should rotate the squad for this match and keep the likes of Kosicelny, Ozil and Alexis fresh for the match versus Stoke. I would add Xhaka to that list as well but with Coquelin suspended Arsenal need at at least one of their two genuine defensive central midfielders to protect the defence.

    As such, the starting 11 I’d like to see is:

    GK – Martinez
    RB – Jenkinson
    CB – Mustafi
    CB – Holding
    LB – Monreal
    CDM – Xhaka
    CDM – Elneny
    RW – Ox
    CAM – Ramsey
    LW – Gibbs
    CF – Giroud

    With that setup up I’d be looking for plenty of crosses into the box from Gibbs, Monreal, Jenkinson and Ox with Ramsey and Giroud as the goal scoring outlets.

    The above said, from what Wenger’s has suggested in his pre match comments, if wouldn’t be shocked to see Arsenal deploy a very similar line up to the one we saw versus West Ham with the exception of Coquelin and Cech.

  • Waldo, I also think Gibbs down the wing is a good idea when Giroud is in the middle.
    And more so because it is added protection for Monreal.

    However, It was Kev that forewarned us of a possible Giroud injury, a groin strain rather than a hamstring. But having sat out the last two matches, not even on the bench, and only just returned to training, I just don’t see AW starting him?
    That would also allow Ox’s presence on the bench, rather than down the right I would have thought? And just playing Gibbs for Monreal might also be enough, but that may depend on the midfield duo?

    Your GK choice is wishful thinking, as I do not believe Martinez is in the squad?

    I also agree that at some point, and hopefully at the start, the two Basel ex’s will be the pairing of choice?


    p.s. For those who have the time, the Under 19’s play Basel with a ko at 3.09m GMT, and can be followed on twitter. That explains the odd youth popping up in the training photos?
    Plus 5 of Bellerin doing not much at all, but good to see him out there.

  • Teams are in and I was waaaayyy off…

    Arsenal: Ospina; Gabriel, Holding, Koscileny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Xhaka; Iwobi, Oil, Perez; Sanchez
    Subs: Cech, Giroud, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Monreal, Mustafi, Elneny

    No telly for me today here in the States…

  • I was way way off too. 6/11. I never believed Wenger would play Oxil, Sanchez and Kosh. It makes it an interesting evening though. But I worry about the crowded Dec fixtures.

  • PSG on fergie time it seems. 2-2 and 3 mins in extra time. It’s 4.48 into extra time before they blow the whistle. They gave PSG every chance and ever refused to let Basel make a sub.

    Thank goodness top of the group. That away goals rule is a joke to begin with. We are 7 goals ahead on goal difference for christ sake!

  • I agree oz – should be goal difference only, but to me it’s another big step forward for us to top the group. I can’t wait to watch some of the game when I get a chance, and I’ll be looking closely at how that Xhaka/Ramsey midfield combination worked. Quite well it would seem!

  • The manager’s gamble paid off and he should be given credit for still believing there was a chance we got 1st place. I am so chuffed with the win especially as Wenger has gone against popular wisdom which expected him to rest key players (notice how unhappy Ozil was to be coming off after 76 minutes or so), which re-enforces the manager’s stated view that good players want to play every game. Ozil is also pursuing a record and must have fancied his chances of scoring one tonight.

    Well done to the club. Now, for those contracts…

  • I did expect us to rotate, but what I did not expect is we have such quality in Perez and Holding that we can play 2 teams, with Ozil in one and Alexis in another and still fight for top position.

    Give Ozil and Alexis long term contracts please.


  • Yes, despite the changes it was another 11 man top performance.

    I have changed my mind about one player though …
    I would play Gibbs on the wing, with or without Giroud 😀

    Talking of Giroud, he looked a bit off the pace when he came on? Perhaps it was a bit quick to bring him back, so I am not expecting him starting anytime soon?

    As for rotation, much as it was desirable, I said from the start it was an option to start strong. Only TA was adamant that AW would keep the key players in. Well done TA, you eventually convinced me to go down that route too..
    I thought he might rest Koscielny, but it made sense for him to partner Holding so both could be on their natural sides.

    I am pleased that Ludo were rewarded for their ‘against the odds’ performance with a Europa place. Well done, and thank you.

    There were a number of little observations that came to mind during the game. The main one was how much more attention was being paid to the off ball runs of Gibbs. There was a time when he was totally ignored, both by Cazorla and Alexis(old style).
    Despite the hat-trick, I am not sure I would read too much into Perez’s game. Not that I decry his goals. If anything, it strengthens my view that he could be that goal poacher that Giroud needs alongside him? However, both he and Ramsey early on were guilty of losing possession with barely disguised passes that any competent defender could read. Fortunately, the 11 man unit saved us from unnecessary pressure.

    Other moments later on, after our subs came on. Iwobi dropping to the CAM role, and looking pretty effective. Hopefully his goal will release that pressure off his shoulders? His move deep was an AW instruction, as it was Ramsey that came off. Kudos AW.
    I also noted the difference when Elneny came on, that he quickly picked up on the bond between him and Xhaka, the pair working closely together that was so successful when they were the pick a couple of games back.

    I only mention these things because the game itself was such a commanding performance that was there for all to see. When we start on the front foot, there is a flow about them that is a thing of beauty. So the little nuances can easily be missed. The real test will come on Saturday against Stoke?
    Will the enterprise shown midweek be replicated in the next game? The good news is, we have ‘clicked’ two games running, and that is real form, so the signs are good? But Stoke are Stoke?
    A face off with Gabriel and any off their thugs could be a highlight in another sport?

    In the meantime we can bask in the glory of being top of our Group, and in the knowledge we cannot meet Barcelona in the next round …. 😀 😀 😀


  • Regards contracts JK, it was mentioned in commentary, that if we win something big, like the League Title, then they could afford to break the current ceiling.

    It is a very real sticking point if our top offer, along with regular play, is £200,000 and their (Alexis and Ozil) demand is £300,000, then without extra income, it will be a step too far. However, if we get a potentially good draw in the next round of the CL, and keep on track in the league, where the big crunch will be the Man C game, then I think a deal will be done before the festivities begin.

    The big danger is, the little whispers in their ears, phone calls etc, might make it too late> We can all remember the RVP saga, that when the truth was revealed later, Fergie had all but got the deal sorted in the January, and all the posturing later was just RVP’s way to get out. I do not say the same parallel applies here, because both players seem very happy at the club. However, egos play a part on the international stage, and they both want to be recognised as ‘valuable’ assets, and pay is one sure way of showing that to their peers?

    The key will be to get an agreement that does not start a ‘wage creep’ from others, that the club could not afford in leaner years? They are both exceptional players, and if Kroenke Junior on the BoD understands that and the potential they add, I think a deal will be struck in the next 3 weeks …
    Fingers crossed.


  • Yesterday I see Alexis dropping back when Perez goes further up top than him.. are we seeing that Alexis knows that Perez is a better striker?

  • Another impressive victory and performance by the Gunners versus Basel.


    – Gabriel put in another really solid defensive display. He tackled well, intercepted the ball a number of times and was strong aerially. He also needs to be commended on his defensive positioning which I thought was very good.
    – An equally solid display from young Holding, who also tackled well, made numerous interceptions and took a no nonsense approach by simply clearing the ball when Basel mounted pressure at different stages of the match. His performance arguably shaded that of Koscielny.
    – Koscielny was a little reserved in terms of his tackling versus Basel but he did intercept a number of the Swiss side’s attempts to get the ball in behind Arsenal’s defensive line. He was also very strong aerially and adopted even more of a non nonsense approach than Holding which was reflected in a high number of clearances. Kudos also needs to go to both Kosicelny and Holding for their defensive positional play which was excellent.
    – A slightly quiet defensive performance from Gibbs, though one of his interceptions and his subsequent pass did lead to Perez’s third goal. I thought his defensive positioning was slightly too advanced at times and against better quality opposition that might prove costly.
    – Xhaka was again excellent in the centre of midfield. His defensive positioning was again spot on and he repeatedly tackled and intercepted Basel’s attempts to move the ball forward.
    – Xhaka’s central midfield partner Ramsey put in a much improved performance. I thought his positional discipline in particular was much better and while his defensive anticipation was still lacking, he showed again his willingness to tackle.


    – It was much more of a creative as opposed to goal scoring display from Alexis versus Basel. That was reflected in his solitary off target shot (mind you it did hit the cross bar). Creatively though it was great performance from Alexis who provided the pre assists for Perez’s opener and Iwobi’s goal as well as an assist (of sorts) for Perez’s third goal.
    – Creatively Ozil also had a strong game with a pre assist for Perez’s second goal and an exquisite assist for Iwobi’s goal. Given Alexis’ tendency in the match to act as a creator rather than a goal scoring outlet there is an argument that Ozil should have adapted his game and fulfilled the role as Arsenal’s second goal scoring outlet (Perez being the other). I think that would have provided Arsenal with a better balanced attack (i.e. 2 goal scoring outlets and 2 forward creators). That said, as Ozil is Arsenal’s usual chief forward creator, there is a stronger argument that Iwobi should have been the player to adapt and offer himself as Arsenal’s second goal scoring outlet.
    – In relation to Iwobi, I thought it was a much improved performance from the Nigerian in contrast to recent outings and he scored a lovely team goal. That said he still struggled with his positional play which I thought was too central for a left winger and as mentioned above I thought he could have offered himself as a goal scoring outlet to account for Alexis and Ozil’s creative masterclass.
    – Perez’s 3 poaching goals from his three shot for the match and his off the ball movement from wide to central positions behind Basel’s rearguard demonstrated exactly the goal scoring outlet qualities I was hoping he would bring to Arsenal. That sort of attacking support play should not be underestimated. It is how former greats like Pires and Ljungberg built their Arsenal careers. Personally, I’d love to see Arsenal deploy a front four of Perez and Walcott on the wings (as the goal scoring outlets) and Alexis in the centre forward role and Ozil in the number 10 (as the forward creators)!! 😛
    – Creatively, Ramsey’s output was limited, while Xhaka recorded a solid 3/6 accurate long passes.
    – Further back, I thought Gibbs’ off the ball movement from the left flank was sensational and he was richly rewarded with an assist and was unlucky not to nab himself a goal as well.
    – Gabriel didn’t really offer anything going forward. But for a specialist centre back playing right fullback out of necessity, I don’t think he can come in for any real criticism in an attacking sense.

    Overall, a really strong performance from Arsenal. A couple of things that might need to be refined but confidence should be sky high going into the Stoke match. Just hoping the likes of Koscielny, Xhaka, Ozil and Alexis have sufficient energy to put on another vibrant display versus the Potters.

  • I think I like this style of analysing the game, Waldo, where you have introduced much more observational dimension, rather than the false picture that stats alone can give. 😀
    I also broadly agree with much of what you have said.

    However, and you should know me well enough to expect as least one ‘However’ in areas of disagreement? 😀

    This one concerns your points on our offensive display, and also touches on JK submission re Alexis and Perez.

    The whole point of our front line is the fluidity between the respective players, and by it”s very nature, it is organic. No two situations will have players in the same positions. No two games will evolve the same way either. Being organic, goal scoring and positional play occurs from what went before. This, with respect, is where you make a mistake in describing Iwobi as a ‘Winger’. He is no more a winger than Alexis is. In the same way that Alexis is oft described as a ‘false 9′, Iwobi is a false 7’.
    Therefore, in some games it will evolve that Alexis scores a hat-trick, others it will be as here, where the opportunities for himself to score were limited, but as you say, creatively extensive. Mostly, it is a bit of both?
    But to take JK’s comment as a forward projection:
    ‘Yesterday I see Alexis dropping back when Perez goes further up top than him.. are we seeing that Alexis knows that Perez is a better striker?’
    The simply answer is, No. Sorry JK
    When you go on to suggest Ozil should have read this organic situation and gone central himself (as a second striker), when as you point out, Iwobi had already done so, seems, in the brexit phrase, ‘you want your cake and eat’ it’? Is it not enough that Ozil plots away behind the lines, you now want him to be omnipotent? 😀

    What I am really saying is we really have several goal scoring threats, but when you are two goals up after 16 minutes, there was little need to overstretch ourselves going after more?
    If the situations developed differently, Alexis would have been a striking option along with Perez. But the changes in the squad, in particular Ox’s omission, meant Alexis was quite often the main ball carrier in transition, ergo, he created what followed by the positioning of others. When Ox brought the ball forward in the previous game, Alexis could position himself in a possible goal scoring position, albeit one or two passes down the line.
    It is exactly this development in his game that prompted my thought that he is a better midfielder since becoming a striker.
    If there is anything we can take forward from this game it is Perez is probably better in and around the box than Walcott? Unfortunately, the latter sort of emphasised that point on his first run at the Basel defence, shortly after coming on. He had a glorious opportunity to play a ball wide to the assist king of the night, but chose to shoot, with a tame shot which the keeper saved?

    One thing for certain, whoever starts against Stoke, this game will not be repeated because we are not playing in a rigid 4-4-2, or even the multi variations of 4-5-1. But if they play as an 11 man unit, the score could be similar?


  • For me, the result (cemented very early on) and performance of our match in Basel cannot be separated from the other result which sends us to the top of the group. We put out a strong team (though with some very interesting and unexpected changes) and came out smelling like a rose. Very nice and a reboot to feeling some better confidence ahead of a critical week in the PL…

    Between this match and the West Ham match (and maybe even Theo’s headed goal vs Bournemouth…) we can feel a lot of confidence in the guys who play out on the wings. Theo, Iwobi, Ox, Perez (and even Alexis moved there when Giroud subs in or Gibbs ahead of Nacho if we’re protecting a lead) all look stronger and better focused and have shown a nose for goal. It’s real competition for places sort of stuff. The same goes for the double DM pivot. Does Ramsey go back to the bench (Le Coq back in) or does the Xhaka/Rambo combo look like a winner, esp. in home matches? Elneny, I think, could be a useful player too. It’s hard to form definitive opinions (even for the haters/I Know Better Than Wenger types) when everybody is firing and the results are good and lopsided.

    On the other hand, we still (my opinion) look vulnerable esp. to high balls at the back and the lack of clean sheets would tend to corroborate things. I don’t quite believe we’re truly comfortable playing on the break (inviting the opponent forward) and I also wonder about our ability to break down parked buses if Alexis is mostly coming back for the ball. I still think a back to goal CF (Giroud is the closest we’ve got) helps in those situations. We shall see and we’ll know a lot more in the next 11 days…

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