Elneny/Xhaka DM pivot, Giroud CF, Perez on Wings: Line-Up and Match Preview


Gunners, compliments of the season.

After the Crystal Palace match, Arsenal have only about 48 hrs of rest before they take on Bournemouth. Eddie Howe’s boys have an extra day’s rest. That extra day is massive when viewed on the recovery graph. The only way we can offset this advantage they have is by clever rotation and substitution of players that would guarantee fresh enough legs, yet without the quality of the starting two XI’s being compromised. We have the squad depth to easily achieve this.

Apart from fresh legs for maintaining good performance levels, crowded fixtures tend to increase the chances for muscular injuries occurring if legs are not kept fresh by rotation. Crowded fixtures push players quickly into the red zone. The top six teams on the table represent a tough-tough field, and what we have to strain to avoid are injuries arising from poor management of rotation of players. This could make all the difference at the end.

Let us look at the different positions and the options in players available to us.

GK: Cech/Ospina – not much to choose between the two, but Cech, not being an outfield player, can handle the two matches.
RB: Bellerin/Gabriel– Bellerin the obvious choice but Gabriel has performed well there.
LB: Nacho/Gibbs – very little to choose between the two.
CBR: Gabriel/Holding – not much between the two but hoping obvious choice Mustafi would be available for the Tuesday match. I hear he has started training.
CBL: Am afraid only Koscienly available here particularly as Mustafi remains doubtful or is just about to return.
DM: Coquelin/Elneny.  Against Crystal Palace/ Bournemouth little to choose between them.
B2B: Xhaka/Ramsey. Again, against these oppositions either will do
WR: Walcott/Ox/Perez.  No big gulf between these.
WL: Iwobi/Oxlade. Difference only in tactical choice.
#10: Ozil/ Sanchez. They enhance each other’s performance meaning it’s best to always play them together so Sanchez is deleted here and Ozil stands alone at this position.
CF: Sanchez/ Giroud. The tactical set up of the team determines the choice.

What the above suggest is that only Koscienly and Ozil, and of course Sanchez who must always partner with Ozil, are indispensable for the two matches and therefore substitutions must have to target them.

Crystal Palace is 11th on the possession table while Bournmouth is 8th and Arsenal 4th. With Crystal Palace playing at away, expect Arsenal to dominate possession, but at the same time don’t expect Palace to pack the West Brom kind of bus. Palace has shipped in 33 goals. Only Swansea has shipped in more. On the other hand Palace has scored 29 goals, the 6th highest in the league. They love to go down fighting. What effect would their new coach Big Sam have on their game?  Maybe more hoofed balls. So I would say Koscienly and Gabriel to man our central defense.

Bournmouth would be playing at home and they like to play the Arsenal way, but they have shipped in 31 goals and scored only 23 which isn’t Arsenalike. Their big brother on the other hand have conceded only 19 goals and scored 39. That suggests that big brother needs only to stay in their comfort zone at Dean Court to give Bournemouth a hiding. Plan B wouldn’t be necessary and Sanchez starts as #9.
Rotated line ups for the two matches:



Note: Elneny might not be available for the Tuesday match as he might have headed off for the African Nations Cup. Hope Ox would have recovered fully otherwise Perez.



** those to be targeted for substitution in the two matches.

These are two well balanced 1st eleven line-ups regardless of the  six changes made. Quality has not been compromised and if targeted substitutions are achieved, no muscle would have been driven into the red zone.

Gunners please offer your opinions. For me 48 hrs apart defies OGAAT: One Game At a Time.

By Pony Eye.

24 thoughts on “Elneny/Xhaka DM pivot, Giroud CF, Perez on Wings: Line-Up and Match Preview

  • Season’s greetings to all 🙂

    Thanks PE.

    Lovely post and I agree with the sentiment of using the width and depth of the squad in order to avoid injuries. However, the boys have had a rest since Boxing Day and if we beat Palace tomorrow, Wenger will be tempted to play the same eleven as in not changing a winning team.

    The other problem we have is that we feel we need to play Koz, Alexis and Mesut in each and every game if we want to win them….. So if they run the risk of getting injured then others can do too?!

    I am hoping to see more of Perez now. This is the time to add a bit of attacking energy and drive which the flat-haired Spaniard will bring if selected.

  • You forgot Welbz. He’s back in serious training and looking really sharp according to the manager. Ox and Theo and Gibbs should have recovered from knocks for Tuesday.

  • Nice preview PE. But here are a couple of additional thoughts…..

    Going into today’s game, only two teams had only just one player missing from their squad: Leicester – Vardy suspended; Bournemouth – one player injured.
    They both won.
    Crystal Palace have possibly 3 defenders out. Key players, and a couple of others
    Bournemouth have had Wilshere, who has been their star player. He does not play against us.

    Big Sam will play it long to Benteke, and hope to get players up to support him?

    Our Tactic should be to play our fast starting, speedy best. Giroud on as super sub.
    If successful, repeat on Tuesday, as TA suggests.
    Preston in FA Cup the following weekend, play the fringe players.
    Rotation does not do OGAAT,. It is how well you can follow one game after another, but like chess, keep several moves ahead in mind?

    Finally, selection of team should be made on how well the knit together as a whole, not just replacing one body for another.

    Over to you AW.


  • Happy New Year all!!

    Nice write up PE. I agree with your notion of rotation being key to Arsenal’s success in their upcoming fixtures versus Crystal Palace and Bournemouth (and I would add Preston to that list as well). That said, I have a slightly different view as to how Arsenal should rotate for those three match to be played over the next 7 days.

    For the match versus Crystal Palace, Allardyce is likely to follow a similar tactical approach to that which served him well at Sunderland. That is, deploy 7 or 8 outfield players deep in their own half to defend and then hit long passes to two or three attacking players in an attempt to score on the counter attack.

    Accordingly with a lack of space for Arsenal’s wide strikers to run into (similar to what we witnessed versus West Brom), I think Arsenal should play Giroud in the CF role, play wingers and fullbacks who possess strongly crossing ability to accentuate Giroud’s aerial strength and play a central attacking midfielder like Ramsey who naturally likes to offer himself as a goal scoring target in the box.

    Within that in mind the starting 11 I’d like to see versus Crystal Palace is:

    GK: Cech (Undisputed number 1)

    RB: Bellerin (Strong crosser of the ball to support Giroud.)

    CB: Holding (To give Mustafi another match to recover from injury. Like the WBA match, I’m not expecting Arsenal to be too busy defensively versus Crystal Palace.)

    CB: Gabriel (To give Koscielny a rest and again I’m not expecting Arsenal to be too busy defensively versus Crystal Palace.)

    LB: Monreal (The only option in light of Gibbs’ injury.)

    CDM: Coquelin (While I’m not expecting Arsenal to be too busy defensively versus Crystal Palace they will still need at least one of their CDMs to be a genuine defensive midfielder to support Holding and Gabriel. In that context Coquelin is Arsenal’s best central defensive midfielder and should get the nod.)

    CDM: Elneny (To give Xhaka a rest in a match where I’m not expecting Arsenal to be too busy defensively.)

    RW: Ox (Arsenal’s best crosser of the ball from the right wing which should compliment Giroud’s aerial strength nicely.)

    CAM: Ramsey (One of Arsenal’s few central attacking midfield options who naturally likes to offer himself as a goal scoring target in the box. In that context Ramsey can provide important support for Giroud and an alternative target for Arsenal’s fullbacks and wingers to aim at when crossing.)

    LW: Ozil (With Gibbs injuried, Ozil is Arsenal’s only naturally left footed wide crossing option. While Perez is naturally left footed he is more of a wide forward than a traditional crossing left winger.)

    CF: Giroud (As we saw versus West Brom, Giroud’s aerial strength is Arsenal’s key to scoring against opponents who like to defend deep and with numbers (which is exactly how I expect Crystal Palace to approach the game). That said, Giroud needs players in the fullback and wing positions who are not only capable of delivering accurate crosses but willing to do so regularly. To that end I think the above combination of fullbacks and wingers should be able to fulfill that role.)

    Conversely for the match versus Bournemouth, I’m expecting Eddie Howe’s team to attack Arsenal with greater regularity and commit more players to attack.

    Accordingly, Arsenal’s central defensive midfielders and defenders will need to focus on positioning themselves closer to Cech, prioritising defending over attacking and the team should primarily using Xhaka’s long passes to quickly transition from defence to attack. Offensively there should be more space within Bournemouth’s penalty box for Arsenal’s wide strikers (Walcott and Perez) to make off the ball to runs into, with Iwobi and Alexis pulling the string in central attacking positions.

    With that in mind the starting 11 I’d like to see versus Bournemouth is:

    GK: Cech (Undisputed number 1)

    RB: Jenkinson (Has been more impressive defensively this season than Bellerin.)

    CB: Mustafi (Should be fit and ready to start versus Bournemouth. Half of Arsenal’s undisputed first choice central defensive pairing.)

    CB: Koscielny (Should be rested and ready to start versus Bournemouth. The other half of Arsenal’s undisputed first choice central defensive pairing.)

    LB: Monreal (The only option in light of Gibbs’ injury.)

    CDM: Coquelin (Arsenal will need their best two genuinely defensive central midfielders versus an attacking Bournemouth side. Coquelin’s is Arsenal’s best option in that regard.)

    CDM: Xhaka (Arsenal’s second best genuinely defensive central midfielder. Also an excellent deeplying transitional midfielder that can allow Arsenal to play on the counter attack thanks to his proficiency at executing accurate long passes.)

    RW: Perez (Along with Walcott, Perez is Arsenal’s best wide forward option, thanks to his off the ball diagonal runs from wide to central positions and his goal scoring efficiency. With Perez being naturally left footed, I think Arsenal should try deploying him on the right wing as it would provide him with better shooting angles.)

    CAM: Iwobi (Is Arsenal’s third best creative central attacking midfield option behind Ozil and Cazorla. But with Ozil deployed versus Crystal Palace two days prior and Cazorla unavailable due to injury, I think the match versus Bournemouth is a great opportunity for Iwobi to get a start in the number 10 role and combine with Alexis centrally to create for Arsenal’s wide forwards Walcott and Perez.)

    LW: Walcott (Along with Perez, Walcott is Arsenal’s best wide forward option, thanks to his off the ball diagonal runs from wide to central positions and his goal scoring efficiency. With Walcott being naturally right footed, I think Arsenal should try deploying him on the left wing as it would provide him with better shooting angles.)

    CF: Alexis (With there likely to be more space within Bournemouth’s penalty box for Arsenal’s wide strikers (Walcott and Perez) to make off the ball to runs into, I think Alexis is the ideal choice to pull the strings from the CF position.)

    Finally for the match versus Preston, given Preston’s struggles to defend against crosses and set pieces I think a line up similar to that which I’ve proposed be deployed against Crystal Palace would be appropriate tactically as well as from a squad management perspective. The only personnel changes which I would like to see for that match is Martinez for Cech, Gibbs for Monreal and Sheaf for Elneny.

    It will be interesting to see how Wenger manages the squad over the next seven days.


  • I’ll echo the season’s greeting with a Happy and Healthy 2017 to all.

    Thanks TA for the link to GC. He updated me on his situation. 2016 has been a tough year for a lot of people. I just hope ’17 will be a break not a continuance?

    Happy hangovers to all that enjoyed the night before.


  • Great comments all.

    They say a sound mind in a sound body. About 48hrs is nearly not enough for bodies and minds to recover from 90+ minutes of any epl dog fight. Our matches against Everton and Manc, with slightly more resting time, should be timely reminders. Very pertinent the fact that we have quality depth which we should utilize to our advantage when need be.

  • tunnygrffboy, l believe Wenger wouldn’t want to rush Welbz back, but he could appear on the bench.

  • Gerry, how right! Rotation is having moves ahead in mind. Chess. And the moves ahead in time must be intelligent. Knitting well together as a whole is an essential part of that project. We must utilize our advantage of a superior squad when called for. We must.

  • Waldo, great analysis. But imo, your basis for naming your teams are a bit too reactive. As the “bigger” team, we must also impose ourselves on them. They should have the bigger headache of finding ways to respond to us.

  • Hi

    Been awhile. Happy new year to all.

    The essential debate seems to be consistency (same team) vs rest (less injuries/wear). Figure also that AW won’t change more than (say?!) 3 players. So, let’s reverse the argument / question.

    We “know” the 11 he generally favors. So, who will get a run and which game?

    IMO:: Those three could be:

    A. Perez – could get one or both runs. He’s well rested and performed well to date.

    B. El Neny / Coquelin – 1 each i would guess. Counterpoint would be that he seems to prefer Coq now. Counter counterpoint. Against big Sam sitting back, El Neny’s cannon might be more useful than Coqs tenacity.

    C. Who needs rest? I like Iwobi to see a run for maybe Sanchez. Or two early replacements for Sanchez if we get up 1 or 2 in the first half.

    Just my 2p, and again, happy, New year!

    Cheers — JGC

  • geoffchase, very well distilled. The debate “same v rotated” must have an optimum number. Yours is 3 No. mine is 6. Trust Wenger to always be elusive.

  • Happy New Year…

    Strongest team against Palace, then see how the players recover and who has a knock or two…
    Is Akpom fit yet?
    When does Elneny leave for Africa?

  • allezkev, Elneny leaves tomorrow. Akpom back in training but don’t know if match fit yet.
    Your route is very pragmatic. But is there a strongest 11?

  • Confirmed line up;
    Bel, Gab, Kos,Nacho
    Eln, Xhaka
    Iwobi, Alexis, Perez

    Bench: Ospina, Niles, Musti, Coq, Rambo, Jeff, Ox.

  • I hate this line up. No guarantee that the FB’s will get forward to provide crosses, as was the first half v WBA., as they have Zaha and Townsend keep them on their toes, and it looks like we will try high pressing whenever the ball goes back to their keeper, because the good news is Puncheon and not Benteke up front, so no target man. A real bonus!

    On the positive side, Elneny will work well with Iwobi, and I expect two goals and an assist from the latter … which means we should still win. 😀
    But I don’t expect a clean sheet.

    Nice to have an early input Prof 😀


  • PE, thanks for info on Chuba and Mo…

    Iwobi in the hole perhaps?

    Is Ozil injured or rested?

    Good to see Perez start…

  • Listening to BBC5Live, Martin Keown, co-commentator was just saying how flat the atmosphere was at the Grove, then Giroud scores a brilliant goal…

    1-0 to the good guys….

  • PE, your question “Is there a strongest 11..?”

    The fact that we’d have to think about it is what you really want to see, it shows the strength in depth we’ve needed and currently have….

    Iwobi 2-0, could be an OG off of a defender…

    I think that most of us would pick a similar back-four and goalkeeper, the rest is up for grabs.

  • Palace are pushing for a goal back, Benteke and Cabaye come close, Petr Cech shows his value.

  • Good to see Reine-Adelaide and Maitland-Niles on the bench….

    Just seen the Iwobi effort, it’s gotta be his goal, it seemed over the line before the Palace defender got a touch…

    Coquelin for Elneny.
    Ramsey for Perez.

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