Southampton-Watford-Chelsea in 8 days: Arsenal Team Selection Implications

If you were Arsene….

I don’t think many of us get excited about another cup game against the Saints. Especially away they are a hard team to beat, and our performances against them over the last few years are in general nothing to be proud of. Luckily, Southampton have a lot of arrows on their bow right now and if we play them at a high tempo and mean business from the start, we should be able to beat them.

There are four months left till the end of the season and now is the time to play in top gear. Part of me thinks that we cannot compete for all three silvery pots in earnest. In Feb, March and April too many big games feature for us and not playing in the FA cup anymore could really help us to keep the team fresh for the crucial PL and CL games. On the other hand, it is the FA Cup and we should not treat it as some throw away competition.

Hard for Wenger to strike the right balance, as he knows that selecting a weakened team, as he did against them recently in the Micky Mouse cup, will almost certainly lead to elimination. Not playing the likes of Koz, Ozil and Alexis against the Saints is a recipe for disaster, but playing them comes with a risk of them getting injured or fatigued – all three played a lot of games in the Summer and we need them to stay fit and fresh till the end of the season if we want to win anything this time round. Just three days after the FA cup game we play Watford at home and then the Saturday after we have an early kick-off London derby with the league leaders.

So three games in eight days… what should Wenger do re team selections? Over to you!!

By TotalArsenal


37 thoughts on “Southampton-Watford-Chelsea in 8 days: Arsenal Team Selection Implications

  • Field a strong team against Southampton please. We need to be in the FA Cup. It may turn out to be our most realistic trophy prospect. Getting over Bayern in the CL or overhauling Chelsea and other teams above us in the EPL is not a piece of cake if we must be realistic.

  • Ogban, cheers. I reckon we could play our strongest side against the Saints and then put a few key players on the bench against Watford. A team like this against the Hornets:

    Gabriel – Mustafi – HOlding – Gibbs
    ——— Coq— Rambo ———
    Perez —— Iwobi ——– Welbeck
    ————- Alexis ——————

    Resting Koz, Bellerin, Nacho, Xhaka and Ozil. Take off Alexis after 70 minutes (and give him a hot chocolate for under his coat! 😀 )

  • A never ending headache, the right line up!


    WATFORD 3-DAY-REST …… 9-changes.

    CHELSEA 4-DAY-REST…….3 changes


    We can gamble the line up against Southampton who have the extra EFL semi final 2nd leg tie against Liverpool 3 days before our FA cut tie with them. A faint heart never won a fair lady. Our sight is firmly set on Chelsea.

  • Southampton travel to Anfield for the 2nd leg of their League Cup semi-final this coming Wednesday, carrying a 1-0 lead and the prospect of a Wembley final…
    Claude Puel isn’t going to rest anyone…
    So we should go for them in the FACup with a full strength team.
    Get the job done…

    Watford face Millwall (a) FACup, on the Sunday before we play them, meaning we get an extra 24hrs rest…
    So again, go for them, full strength team, get the job done…

    Chelsea face Brentford (h) FACup, so can rest a few.
    But they face Liverpool at Anfield the day we play Watford…
    We’ll both have the same amount of rest before we visit Stamford Bridge, where Giroud will lead us to a famous victory, won’t he Total 😉…

    I think we can’t negotiate those three games without too much to worry about fatigue and not need to rotate too much. Sensible substitutions if a game is won could help…

  • Hi all.. Nice to be back.. hehehe..

    As you always said.. OGAOT.. One Game At One Time.. First thing first.. So Soton first.. with full team of course.. hehehe..

    FA Cup is always important for us.. And We will make another record with this Cup.. hehehe.. without underestimated Soton.. They weren’t the same Koeman’s team.. And they will focus on EPL Cup.. They will do all their best there.. and PL to survive.. So FA won’t be their priority.. but full team will still a must..

    3 days and 4 days rest is enough.. Our players are familiar enough with this situation.. hehehe..
    Some vital changes will be optional depend on our first game against Soton..

  • Okay, this is my edited and ammended version …

    I am going with OGAAT:
    A Burnley win is the priority. But winning with style and confidence is a close second? For that reason alone, I think Giroud will be benched.
    So to pick a team by eliminating Giroud, and players who can play to his strengths. Namely, Ox or Matland-Niles (if he plays wide right or FB), and probably Perez. That leaves Welbeck, Ozil, and Iwobi playing behind Alexis in the CF position … nominally that is. Fluidity is the key.
    The midfield duo will continue, for better or worse, whilst the back 5 will be the best of the fittest.

    Come Southampton, we might actually get to see the Xhakaitland -Niles pairing? The returnees from injury might also get their moments, but I would like them to get some minutes playing before thrusting into battle. If they still have Van Dyke by then, and it must be a doubt as both Mancs club could do with a CB, and big money talks? Which rules us out 😀
    Anyway, if he plays, then Giroud could be the one to go with?

    Finally, worry about Watford after that game. The Chelsea game is more or less a title decider for us, but it is no good if we drop points to Watford. The two games before should give us an indication of what our ‘strongest’ team is, and equally important, if we have a good enough back up option. Good enough to have confidence in them that will spread to the team, who ever plays. The only players that will suffer fatigue by this point will be the runners, and mentally, the thinkers. Getting all the units to play as one team is vital, and style and confidence will help in that.

    The players that will need to drop at least one game before the Chelsea clash, are the FB’s, possibly Kos, certainly Ox if he plays two full games, and may be Welbeck after injury. Rotation with the DM’s needs proper consideration, which is why I hope M-N is given a try, if only to ease Coquelin back. Some good news on that front, Elneny might be back sooner than expected?
    Needless to say, any fresh injuries will be a killer in this period, as we sa goodbye to a fixture friendly February and head for the toughjer March April?
    That, I think, is the way to go. I just hope AW feels the same?


  • Oh yes Gerry.. Forget about Burnley..
    We must win.. period.. and we will.. hehehe..

    I wish Chelsea, Spurs and Pool have a bad games.. hehehe.. Draw will be enough.. So we can narrow the gap..

  • Cheers Gerry, not going to bite re the Giroud and style comment. The Chavs game is too early to call it a title decider, but not losing it is key of course.

  • Wow TA it’s hard enough trying to choose one team let alone 4 incl Burnley. As others have said it’s Ogaat for me. If Perez gets a chance against Burnley and scores a hat trick, would I rest him….no way.

    The Burnley game is every bit as important as Chelsea, so I don’t think we can gamble too much. I would leave the defence unchanged barring injuries. It’s in the midfield we can maybe be a little more adventurous.

    Given how finely balanced the season is, I think we have to put our best team out against Southampton

    I would leave Giroud up front , with the exception of the Chelsea game where I would play Alexis (I think Kev had suggested this in an earlier post)

  • Cheers Retsub, the Burnley game stands loose from the others as there is plenty of rest time after it. Agreed that we need to put out our best team against the Saints… and then let them play with a win at all cost mentality, which is equally important imo.

    Re Chavs, they will park the bus and I reckon that, just as against the Toffees, we will struggle to create scoring opportunities if we only play Alexis up-front and leave Ollie out. So both for me all day long 🙂

  • Afternoon All

    Yep, as mentioned above, the Chelsea game won’t mean much if we don’t take maximum points from Burnley and Watford…

    Gerry, I see that Joe Willock has been offered professional terms, but has yet to sign…
    On the surface, that shouldn’t mean a lot, but if I recall correctly, both he and his brother Chris were tapped up by Man Utd and their elder bother is at Old Trafford, so don’t be surprised if retaining him could be problematic…

  • I hope not Kev, Joe the younger could be a more interesting prospect?

    May be he is waiting to see if anybody comes in this window that might be a further stumbling block. It is strange though. Most of them are more than happy to get their hands on a professional contract because they have seen many of their mates not get one.
    I still think they need to nail down Zelalem too. Play him or loan him. Just don’t leave him in ‘limbo land’.

    Sorry TA, that was not meant to be a ‘biteable’ sentence. Just me abbreviatiing things. The extended version was more that, with all the kerfuffle with Alexis, getting him back in the middle will be good. Secondly the quick start. We need to score early and often. Giroud’s presence tends to slow that down. I was also going to add, the Giro tends to score against a tiring defence, ie, late first half, or later.
    He will get his opportunities, and his goals late on will be very welcome. I just think we need to see if we can slip back into that quickfire mode before we meet Chelsea.

  • I think Gerry that we all better get used to Wenger playing his two super CFs together as much as possible. The perception of us being slowed down I can understand, but it is a matter of using oG better that will make us play better as a team from the start. If Ollie is injured then I can see Wenger going for Alexis as CF again, or he might opt for Welbeck upfront…. We will have to see! 🙂

  • Friday morning here in California and we’ve got lots more snow (waaay too much, IMO) but not enough to obscure the satellite dish so I just saw the “peaceful transition of power” on my telly… Ugly stuff, sort of like the fart noises, but even scarier and more depressing, IMO…Apologies to the world that such stuff is coming from my country… 😦

    Enough with the politics and now I’m gonna do some shoveling and some blowing and move some better (studded) tires onto my car… Later on, I’ll be working on a match preview for the Burnley match on Sunday…

    I’m with TA, Akev and others who think we’ve got enough time after this one (Burnley) to field a strong team to try and outplay Southampton who will be giving their all in midweek to try and get to Wembley for the EPL Cup final. Though much criticized, I thought Swansea was a better performance (than the previous few…) which we must continue to build upon. Hopefully Burnley, So’ton and Watford all represent steps forward so that we can go to Stamford Bridge with both hope and a real measure of confidence. Ideally we do this all with a solid group of 16-18 players ALL contributing at a reasonably high level. For the FA Cup match I’d really like to see Ospina doing a better job commanding his back line and distributing the ball well, esp. as I believe AW will be sticking with him for the Bayern match. It’s a very bold move to have a dedicated “cup keeper,” and that first half at Preston needs to be put behind us if we’re to proceed with a level of real confidence.

    Anyhow, I need to keep some of my ideas in reserve for the preview, so there you go…

    Here’s to a good weekend… Enjoy…

  • Hi TA, We can get out and about at the moment but they’re saying an even stronger storm is due Sunday into Monday… I’m staying in today because the storm skiing yesterday wasn’t worth the (harrowing) drive home…and it was good skiing. Now that I’ve changed to the studded snow tires I’m somewhat tempted but taking a nap is a thought too… 😀 (And I still need to do that match preview…) The official forecast for the weekend has warnings like “driving may become impossible” and “keep provisions of non-perishable foods.” There could be some extreme efforts needed to keep the satellite dish clear during out match…and that’s if we continue lucky with the power outages. Touch wood and all that…

    Getting back to the thread topic… I do think there will be some rotation for the cup match at Southampton. This week Iwobi did some social media indicating that he might have caught Ozil’s illness–it could get worse for him… Alexis might catch it too, esp. if he throws his gloves around or pouts if he’s subbed in the Burnley match. I’m not saying that Wenger put the virus into Ozil’s water bottle or anything, but, if he did, our Messy might also have a one match relapse… More smileys, eh… But I do think resting one or two of the big guns will probably happen.
    The matches are spaced such that the Watford game is the one where another key switch or two (a bench seat for Alexis, Giroud or Ramsey, for example) might put pressure on those players if they appear jaded (i.e., perform poorly) this Sunday or in the Cup match while giving a chance to returnees or others who could use more playing time like Theo, Lucas, DW or the Ox. Of course we’ll cross each bridge as they come, OGAAT, etc., etc…

  • Gerry, I am reliably informed that Chris Willock was also offered a new contract a couple of weeks ago, and as of yet has not signed it…

    Apparently the word is, that Man U are ‘sniffing’ around…
    Don’t shoot the messenger mate…

  • Nice topical post TA!

    First up versus Burnley, I’d like to see a starting line up of:

    GK: Cech
    RB: Jenkinson
    CB: Mustafi
    CB: Koscielny
    LB: Monreal
    CDM: Xhaka
    CDM: Coquelin
    RW: Perez
    CAM: Ozil
    LW: Welbeck
    CF: Alexis

    6 days later versus Southampton, I’d like to see the same line up with one variation and that’s Walcott replacing Welbeck on the LW if Theo is fit again.

    3 days later versus Watford I’d like to see a starting line up of:

    GK: Martinez
    RB: Bellerin
    CB: Holding
    CB: Gabriel
    LB: Gibbs
    CDM: Iwobi
    CDM: Ramsey
    RW: Maitland-Niles
    CAM: Welbeck
    LW: Ox
    CF: Giroud

    3 days later versus Chelsea, I’d like to see the same line up that played versus Southampton.

    I have to say trying to come up with a rotated starting line up for the clash versus Watford was tricky and really highlighted our lack of depth in genuine central defensive midfielders and the lack of a crossing left winger. It’s not really ideal playing Ox out of position on the left flank or having to resort to playing the attack minded Iwobi and Ramsey in the central defensive midfield positions given their lack of positional discipline, but Arsenal simply can’t keep flogging the same 11 player match after match and expect to maintain a genuine title challenge. Even when Elneny returns from the AFCON, I still think Arsenal need better central defensive midfield options to support Coquelin and Xhaka. I’m also becoming increasingly convinced that Ramsey is not the goal scoring central attacking midfield option Arsenal need to support Giroud when he is played in the centre forward role.

    To address those squad deficiencies and keep their title aspirations this season alive I am hoping Arsenal splash some cash and bring in:
    – Thomas Lemar (LW) from Monaco
    – Maxime Gonalons (CDM) from Lyon
    – Davy Klaassen (CAM) from Ajax

  • Another possible remedy to address Arsenal’s lack of a crossing left winger (when Giroud is in the centre forward role) could be to recall and deploy Wilshere there. He certainly has the dribbling and passing skills to fulfill that role, he is naturally left footed, and if Wenger rotated the first team on a semi regular basis, he would get plenty of game time throughout the course of a season.

  • Waldo, I am sure you are aware that Jenks, or the club, are keen to see him being on his way to Crystal Palace,personal terms permitting. In those circumstances we are most unlikely to risk it by playing him, any more than we have Debuchy?
    Likewise, the later idea of recalling Wilshere? AW did not insert the recall clause. A response to their discussion about his future, that went badly I suspect?
    So it would take Bournemouth to send him back, and they like him.

    Other than that, I agree with the general rotation pattern. Although I am not sure if the Watford line up is a 2-5-3 attacking formation, or a more conservative 4-3-3, because I do not see a Ramsey and Iwobi pairing performing as a defensive unit? Both like to get forward, and most likely will !!
    Even with M-N in there, he too is more Elneny than Coquelin, so who protects the back line?

    Two thoughts. Save Coquelin and Perez for the Watford game, the former at DM and play Lucas in the left wing role. Your dilemma is resolved?

    Interesting TW targets, but a lot of difficulty in any coming our way. Despite speculation about AW’s future I still think he has one eye on next season’s youngsters that we have out on loan. Osano and Nawakali in particular. So he will not buy for a final push for the title (or CL).
    He is not Fergie, he is better than that. 😀

    As for those names you mention. nobody will want to leave Monaco while they are leading in Lique 1, and the CL to follow next season. We have no such guarantee?
    We don’t get anywhere buying from Lyon, and said player is not that good now … imo.
    Klaasen I think I saw linked with Everton, or one of the big spenders in that region?

    I agree though, that a proper left winger is a position we could improve upon, but January is very difficult to land any long term target, and battling with monied clubs does tend to rule us out of those that might be available? The Cazorla extension is another interesting addition to throw into the mix, as he too could allow home grown youngsters another season to develop, like the aforementioned Zelalem, but also Bennacer who has been in action in the AFCON tournament. Talking of which, it is the final round of the group stages next, so we will know if Eleneny is about to return before this window closes?

    So, imo, it will be better deployment of the players we have will be the way to go I’m afraid. For example, the return of Per Mertersacker could release Mustafi into a pseudo-defensive mid?

    Still another week of the TW to go, but if I had a wish list of one player, it would be Ake.
    No more likely than Jenks playing on Sunday though 😀


  • Kev, I wasn’t about to shoot the messenger. 😀

    Unfortunately it is the way of the world at the moment. We have done it to other clubs, so what goes around …

    I just read J.Bird’s report on the Under 23’s Southampton game. The new guy Bramhall played left back, but Bielik and Ben Sheaf as the CB’s is a new one? The midfield was strong though, with Maitland-Niles, Jeff R-A, and Nelson all providing an attacking threat for Mavididi, C. Willock and Chuba A to finish off. Mavididi got the first, and the prolific Nketiah coming off the bench to add another two.
    It sounds like Akpom is still taking time to get back to full strength after his back injury. Also, Nelson looks to have got ahead of Zelalem, on the bench, in that creative role, and noted by JB as doing well. That might explain GZ’s rethink? Vlad the Impaler (Dragomir) also on the bench, so C.Willock is under pressure. No doubting he is very tricky player, and uses his intelligence well, but his lightweight frame might mean Arsenal may not fight too hard to keep him?

    It is that time of year when youngsters are finding out if they are getting their first contracts, and Nathan Tella has been told his time will be up come June. The club can reverse their decision if he can get an opportunity to shine in the Under 23’s. Another to be blighted by injury, sadly.

    But we cannot keep them all. They may offer better terms to both the Willocks, but I am guessing their hesitation means they have already got an idea what is available elsewhere?


  • HT, your new President has just reminded the American people that ‘God gave them the best Country in the World …. ‘
    With an ally like that you should be getting 18 out of 18 right every week. No pressure then? 😀


  • Nice line ups Waldo. I like the thought of Jack playing on the left occasionally next season. However, I am not worried about our crossing ability as it stands. Key is to play the ball to Giroud and to work off him, and not all those balls need to be pinpointed passes…

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