Arsenal-Watford: Midweek Momentum Builder or Potential Hornets’ Nest?

Can Arsenal build upon our drubbing of Southampton in the FA Cup or will Watford–who knocked us out of that competition last season on our home ground–prove that everything is different in the league?

It’s back to business in league competition against 14th place Watford, a team that sits 8 points above the relegation zone.  With that sort of gap they may not be desperate for points against 2nd place Arsenal but surely they’ll be coming to the Emirates with a nothing-to-lose attitude.  And, even though they were just knocked out of this season’s cup–losing 1-nil to a late goal at Millwall–they’ll remember fondly how they won themselves a trip to Wembley against a strong Arsenal squad some 10 months ago.

In that one, Arsenal played our best attackers–Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud–but the team could make no headway against a resolute Watford squad in the first half.  After the break, Watford looked the superior side and broke the deadlock with an Odion Ighalo goal.  Ighalo went close a couple of times after scoring, but it was Adlene Guedioura who doubled Watford’s lead.  Late on, substitute Danny Welbeck pulled one back for the Gunners, but Watford held out in the frantic dying moments to avoid a replay and end Arsenal’s chance of winning a third consecutive cup.  Going out at home to a team well below us in the table was one of the lowest moments of the season.

Unfortunately for Watford, they may be without Ighalo this time around as it appears he’s been sold to a Chinese club for a fee in the 20 million pound range.  Given all the misinformation at the close of the window I’m loathe to say it’s a done deal.  At that price, however, Ighalo, who was a rampant goal-scorer when Watford were in the Championship, might find other suitors.  Either way, it’s very likely he’s played his last match for the club.

Of course, the Hornets have other weapons including Troy Deeney, a player often linked with a move in our direction.  Another player whom Arsenal scouted, M’baye Niang, is on loan from AC Milan, and could make his Watford debut against us.  Yet another new face is Mauro Zarate.  The Argentine was just bought from Fiorentina but Gooners may remember him from his time as a forward at West Ham United.  The turnover at the club may be unsettling, but whoever plays will surely want to impress manager Walter Mazzarri.

The Italian’s first priority will be to stop Arsenal’s attack.  Former Spurs Etienne Capoue (midfield), Younes Kaboul (center back) and Heurelho Gomes (goalkeeper) will likely form part of the spine of the team designed to keep us out.

How does Arsenal go about breaking it down and beating Watford?

On the back of the big scoreline in our FA Cup match, manager Arsene Wenger may have some choices to make.  Theo Walcott got a hat trick, Danny Welbeck scored two and Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain did a fine job sending balls in from a deeper midfield position.  Lucas Perez made a sublime assist to start the scoring and demonstrated plenty of quality throughout the match.  Could any (or all) of them get a starting spot?  Given the slow starts Arsenal has made in other recent matches, mixing it up, especially in attack, might be something for Wenger to consider.

I don’t, however, believe he will, and I think we’ll see much of the same squad that started the previous league match vs Burnley.  It’s a bit of risk as critics may take him to task if the league regulars cannot produce a similarly lopsided result.  Nonetheless, I think it’s what Wenger will do as he generally seems keen to try and bring even more players into the ranks of the confident and ready-to-go.  Here’s the line-up I think he could use which would represent 9 changes to the squad that started at Southampton.






Substitutes: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Welbeck, Walcott, Lucas

As per usual, that’s just my best guess.  What do you think?  Who would you play?

With the Saturday match at Chelsea looming, getting off to a good start and securing the proper result seems even more important than usual.  Against a bottom half team like Watford, nothing less than a win will do.  If we could marry it to a performance that enhances our confidence ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge, all the better.  (And if Liverpool could take some points from the league leaders, it would be an even happier Tuesday night).

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

94 thoughts on “Arsenal-Watford: Midweek Momentum Builder or Potential Hornets’ Nest?

  • Total, I saw Deacon a few times, back in the day, in pre-season games, he was a hard working, hard running forward, with quite a good level of skill, maybe a late developer?

    Apparently Jefferey Monakana, another ex-Gunner is also a Sutton player.
    I can’t remember seeing him play, but he Deacon and Eastmond all played together in the Stiffs.

  • Yep 17tino, I think you could get 11 out of 11 with that line-up…

    I was at that FACup game last season and yeah, it was the biggest disappointment of the season for me. We just didn’t function that day and Watford outplayed us.

    Today will be different.

  • Ox for Ramsey and I’d be pleased.
    With no Xhaka (nor Cazorla), that spot needs dynamism.
    Ox is on a high.
    Like an inveterate gambler, I say: Let it roll.


  • Hmmm tough one for Mr Wenger in disguise, but I think you may have it right. I did hear some whispers about both Le Coq and Ramsey carrying injuries, so we shall see. I would like to see the Ox get another chance, just to prove the Saints game wasn’t a one off.

    If he does pick the Burnley side,, bringing back Kos, the bench will be difficult. With Ospina warming one seat and presumably Gibbs and or Mertesaker on one or two others, it would leave The Ox, Perez, Wellbeck and Theo fighting for the remaining spots. That’s not including the Jeff, mainland Niles, Perez, Holdding and Gabriel

  • Wow TA and 17ht, I wasn’t saying about needing the posts prompt, but 25 comments when I was asleep was something special.

    If both Le Coq and Rambo is out, play AMN and Ox at the DM positions, would suit us just fine. AMN’s performance on Saturday evening is better than his previous first-team stints at right back, where his lack of speed showed. Ox can have a good game in one and have a torrid game in another. Please do not let this happen this evening please.

    This evening’s match is not to be taken lightly, as Deeney can cause us troubles if we are not solid at the back. Maybe we need a back 5 instead of a back 4, and a deep lying DM should suffice.

  • Hi HT, I also think you may be on the money with the starting 11.

    I say that based on our FA Cup game being used for the mass rotation. Add to that, the quick turnaround to this game usually means that the few who do not normally start, will at best only make the bench?

    However, Watford have have even less time to reorganise, and have far bigger problems with their squad. I watched their Cup game and they got kicked around a fair bit (thank heaven we did not draw Millwall in the next round?) and have lost two player for certain.
    Sub GK Pantilimon.
    Holebas banned
    Zarate banned
    Amrobot injured
    Pereyra injured
    Janmaat sold to Crystal Palace
    Guedioura rumoured, an agreed sale to Hull?
    Ighalo not on the bench, so that sale may go through now they have Niang on loan. However, he is listed as unlikely to play, but they may be desperate, and he is good.
    They also rested; Prodl, Cathcart, Cleverley, Capoue, on the bench, where both Gomes and Deeny came on. The latter for the 15 minutes.

    So for once we come out on top on available players. Which is good, because that elephant we are not mentioning is coming up at 12.30 Saturday morning.

    Despite all of the above, it is still not a game to take lightly. They will be strong in attack, and rugged in defence. Deeney is a handful, and Niang if he fits in from the off, would double that danger. The kid Sinclair looked pretty useful on the wing, and Okaka is a hard worker, but took some big knocks on Sunday. We should dominate in midfield though, as frequent changes in their line up makes them vunerable.

    Conclusion: Whatever side AW picks they should win.


  • HT, lovely post and reminding me of the FA loss to Watford last season has brought me down to earth from the Southampton high. It’s hardly ever easy if truth be told.

    We’ve got a rich depth and we must take a clever advantage of it. I believe 3 games in 7 days remains a major consideration for Wenger. Can he achieve a maximum of 2 games per player in those 7 days? That would mean resting those of his best 11 against Chelsea that played against Southampton ; Bellerin, Mustafi, Walcott, Welbeck.

    My guess:


    The Gab-Hold pairing might worry Wenger, in the area of playing the ball out of the rear with Coq and Rambo ahead of them. But in my little head I see him stamping his approval of the pair, because, after all they ain’t that poor.

    An orgasm of unending ‘cup finals’ we absolutely need the 3 pts today. COYG!

  • Very informative preview, Seventeenho… like reading the Times or the Guardian. Love the line up even though I expect Arsene to tweak it a bit, given the individual performances on Saturday. Nobody should be thinking about our next game. What game, I hear you say?! Exactly! Another big battle for three points tonight, against a proper opponent. BIO!

  • With Arsenal’s most challenging match this week being versus Chelsea, Walcott, Lucas, Bellerin having already played this week and Ox turning in a sensational performance in the CDM role versus the Saints, I’d like to see the following starting line ups versus Watford and Chelsea:

    Versus Watford

    GK – Ospina
    RB – Jenkinson
    CB – Holding
    CB – Gabriel
    LB – Gibbs
    CDM – Maitland Niles
    CDM – Ramsey
    RW – Jeff
    CAM – Welbeck
    LW – Iwobi
    CF – Giroud

    With that setup, I’d like to see Holding, Gabriel, Ramsey and Maitland Niles focus on defence and Jenkinson and Gibbs combining with Iwobi and Jeff respectively to create crossing opportunities for the fullbacks targeting Welbeck and Giroud.

    Versus Chelsea

    GK – Cech
    RB – Bellerin
    CB – Mustafi
    CB – Koscielny
    LB – Monreal
    CDM – Coquelin
    CDM – Ox
    RW – Perez
    CAM – Ozil
    LW – Walcott
    CF – Sanchez

    With that setup, I’d like to see:
    – defensive pressing from Arsenal’s front four
    – a compact and disciplined defensive display from Ox, Coquelin and the back four
    – reasonable separation between Arsenal’s back six and front four when we are defending so that we are better equipped to play on the counter attack as we would have multiple forward options already in advanced positions when attempting to transition from back to front
    – diagonal off the ball runs from Walcott and Perez and a slightly withdraw but creative centre forward performance by Alexis (similar to Perez’s performance versus the Saints)
    – nice long passes beyond the opposition’s defensive line by Coquelin and Ox.


  • Waldo, always good to read the alternative view, but with a rest period of four days and no travel involved, Arsene can play the same eleven, or there about, against the Hornets and Chavs.

  • Further update on Watford’s unavailable players. The winger, Sinclair, has gone out on loan.

    It also looks like Niang will start. I think that pairing with Deeny will become a formidable force. I just hope they don’t click tonight.

    I read an amusing comment on Holding’s display on Saturday ‘…. think John Stones, only good’


  • Hey fellas…Cheers for the comments… Not much time to write this morning and I actually have to miss the first half of the match itself(!)… 😦

    It’s interesting to read other folks ideas about players they’d like to see even if some of them (Waldo’s…) seem pretty far fetched. I agree that the success of the Southampton match offers up some alternatives for Wenger but I also think that a Tuesday to Saturday turnaround isn’t too tough. Soon enough we’ll have some even bigger midweek clashes (vs Bayern) that will require first-teamers to play every 3-4 days…

    OK, Gotta run, thanks again…

  • Is it the rain or are the boys starting too slowly again? Olivier Giroud doesn’t look right and up for it just yet. There is a bit of care-free disposition about his play so far.

    Referee Andre Mariner has been looking for every opportunity to offer Watford set piece situations and we cannot afford too many.

  • ….and as I write, the last one has resulted in a goal. Something not right with the boys just yet.

  • No telly for me either & I tuned in to see us down by 2 goals…

    I’ve got a good stream, at least, but from what I saw of the final 10 minutes we’re not looking like we’re anywhere near threatening the Watford goal…


  • It is just like Arsenal to let you down when you least need it. We look tense and have allowed the Watford players to sense it. They have swarmed midfield and have a plan not to give us time on the ball once we cross the halfway line.

    This is a most unexpected scoreline but it is retrievable. Like you stated, TA, the big players are letting the team down. Nerves all round.

  • No, we have not threatened them and it is down to some poor coordination by Alexis. He’s had two opportunities laid on a plate to test the keeper and he dwells just long enough to be dispossessed by the opposition. A day I would have had Welbeck replacing Giroud immediately. He seems to always play poorly against Kaboul.

  • With Chelsea leading, maybe the nerves will be worked on; I just fear that we may go on to dominate the second half exchanges, but we are equally likely to let them get another.

    For me, we are condemned to win, so the boys just have to come out and get the job done.

  • Things can turn round just as dramatically. I would put on both Perez and Welbeck and go all out on attack, with Coq sitting deepest. Pool will fight back as they were a bit unlucky to go behind from a freekick and they are playing at home. COYGs, show us your pride!!

  • This makes things a bit awkward because we will be short on height, especially as Cech tends to kick long balls upfield. Alexis must try harder to keep the ball, for Pete’s sake.

  • Welbeck isn’t on the bench. Otherwise, he would be on. Giroud just didn’t look up for it.

  • Theo when close control is required is an odd choice, if you ask me. i guess he will make runs behind the defence whenever he gets a chance…

  • Got soaked going to the ground…
    My feet are bloody freezing…

    As for the the football?

    Well, I thought our midfield was porous in the 1st half although Oxlade-Chamberlain improved things…

    If we score then I think we can win this game, even now…
    Iwobi, good boy… 😃

  • We do have time yet to win this! But it perplexes the hell out of me how we get into this mess. Get a second quick boys.

  • Looking at our bench and the players Watford can bring on, we will be lucky to get the draw tonight. Success will give us similar problems to Niang and we don’t have anything to bring on. We will run out of time, methinks.

  • Yup Perez time. We will be open to the counter now. But we have the firepower up front. Come on boys

  • If Alexis will play the simple passes and make the obvious touches, we would be at 3-2 by now. He just seems to fail to see runs by Walcott and intercepts balls that aren’t intended for him.

  • oh dear. what a shame. lets hope other results stand and we only drop a single point against those around us. Mancs will be laughing

  • Really disappointing. But alas, with the draw, we postpone our farewell to the cruel face of hope.

    Oh to be a gunner

  • Giroud at #9, Iwobi WR (1st half) doesn’t work. Iwobi should be WL or centre or not at all. With the options we now have Giroud should be definitely Plan B only. Another crawling start. Definitely its a psychological thing with our 1st teasers. It seems they run better on negative fuel …. When defeat is looming. Not the stuff of champions.

  • There goes Mustafi’s heralded “invincible” status. Why, oh why did he have to open his mouth to speak of going unbeaten as an Arsenal player? I remember thinking the media will make so much of that and he’ll jinx it; I never thought it could be against Watford, who have simply beaten us by being set up to deny us space, and we didn’t try enough, in my view, to just win it. We needed to be a bit more aggressive and not lose physical battles.

    With our thin midfield, we now lose Ramsey and (if that injury is worse than he made out) the Ox. Perez needs to be starting over Theo. Welbeck, Alexis and Perez in the next game; plus Ozil to be dropped for Iwobi. We need speed and risk taking for that next game. I am a bit disappointed, to be honest.

  • For me the issue is in midfield. We are just not getting the balance right and get punished time and again when we need to push on. But we got away with it and have something to fight for on Saturday. Getting the balance right in midfield will of course be key.

  • Looking back on that opening 45 minutes, Arsenal looked shell shocked and totally unprepared, Watford could and probably should have gone in at half time more than2-0 in the lead.

    I cannot fathom why Arsenal have been so slow in so many recent games, shambolic at times.
    Heroic 2nd 45 come backs cannot keep on getting us out of trouble after these sloppy starts to games.
    This team is quite capable of going to Chelsea and winning and then losing at home to Hull, I just can’t work them out…

    Night All

  • TA, am no blaming Giroud per se, but using him in a system that CANNOT play to his strength (crosses) makes no sense at all. 13 touches only in 45 minutes is unacceptable, made worse by the fact that a lot of those touches aborted or slowed down our moves (66.7% pass success rate, zero attempt at goal).

    In the air, Giroud, Benteke and Carrol are on a class of their own. We set up using inverted wingers and overlapping full backs who are not the best in crosses when they do cross which is rarely and then we plug in Giroud at the centre. Not fair on the poor boy.

  • I’d rather that Holding gets all these game time that Gabriel is having. Something says Gabriel wouldn’t grow but Holding would quickly.

    Mustafi is all guts, but he needs to begin adding more brains to it. At 24, he has time.

    I fear for Ramsey. The Ox has the agility, the quickness and power for CMF duties but he still has to learn the trade. One might worry about his lapses in concentration. Couldn’t hit the height of his game against Southampton maybe because he was trying too hard to replicate it instead of flowing with the moment. I wonder about his limp.

    Our CMF as at the moment is our weakest link. Now that we can field a fast front three, (from Alexis, Walcott, Welbeck, Perez) I want to think that 4:3:3 might be our best option. Middle three from (Coq, Ox, Ozil, Iwobi, Niles, Jeff). I hold my breath against Chelsea and Hull and Xhaka I have forgiven all his sins.

  • It’s honestly as if the team forgot how to play with Giroud as our CF before the Alexis experiment. We were forcing a lot of direct balls to Giroud instead of playing our normal game. Alexis was out of sync with all his teammates. Ozil was shocking. The title is Chelsea’s to lose now.

  • I am with PE, blaming Ollie for the slow start.
    Wenger, please play Alexis up front against chavs and we will see why with Ollie we start slowly.

    Alexis and Perez comes to the same line as the AM at the start, meaning we break quicker and have one more person to protect the midfield area. With Ollie, we cannot protect the midfield from quick counters, and Watford is capable of doing much damage.

    Maybe we should start Bells for the next game. He is looking good enough to start against Chelski, so we need him back at RB.

  • Well I have not seen the game, and I am not sure I want to, but no comments from me.

    I do have a theory about Iwobi, on his 1st half 2nd half performances. I think early on in games the team tends to follow whatever plan/tactic they were given. His game is more dynamic. It feeds on chaos in the opposition. But it needs that instinctive fluidity from those around him, and he gets in the second half.

    I was scouting our next opponents which was on BT Sport, and it gives me little comfort for us.
    Liverpool are playing without a recognised striker, and they really out played Chelsea in the first half … but in the final third they come up against the Chelsea defence. It was noted in commentary that the moment they(Chelsea) lose possession they get 10 behind the ball. That does not bode well?

    In my prediction that we should beat Watford … ‘whatever side AW puts out’, perhaps should have read whatever ‘team’ AW puts out. Because from what I have read above and elsewhere, it was a case of; Best team won 5-0. Best 11 lost 1-2?

    So in answer to the question posed in the title of this post ‘ Momentum builder, or a Hornets nest ‘
    …. We Got Stung!


  • I see the Giroud doubters are all out again. Kev’s first paragraph is better then a thousand posts on the game. We were badly prepared for Watford’s strength in attack and then could not adjust, once again. Nothing to do with Giroud, but there is of course an issue of choice of style of attack. In my view, Alexis does not want/know how to play with Giroud and that slows us down as much as anything else. His passing towards Ollie is very average at best. When a team parks the bus really well, Ollie is essential in breaking it down. We missed him in the second half.

    Anyway, a huge setback that can only be put right with a win on Saturday. With our crisis in midfield – the only thing we should worry about imo – this is going to be a massive challenge.

  • TA, in your comment @0746: In my view, Alexis does not want/know how to play with Giroud and that slows us down as much as anything else. His passing towards Ollie is very average at best.

    This is what I was trying to say. Nothing towards Ollie really, and you mentioned it perfectly.

    If we turn back time to Saturday, what clicked was the attack of Perez and Welbeck. Reason being they are all pacy strikers, and what Alexis likes is a pacy lad to latch on to his passes.

    What changed this season vs last season was the pace of the attack. If we started with Ollie, the pace went down. This season Ollie was out for a while, and in come Alexis. Theo, who likes the pace in the team, did better. The whole team liked pace.

    What Ollie can offer is the brute force against teams who build a wall in front of their goal. What we changed in crossing into the box from last year was more low crosses, which changed what he is able to provide to the team as a player this season.

    You might beg to differ, TA, but what we can do without Ollie versus what we can do with Ollie is quite stunning.

    However,,,,,, we cannot say that Ollie is the one that hampers us, as our shot to goal conversion rate is absolutely lousy. We need to be more direct and one less pass might lead to more goals.

  • The game v Southampton was a training session against a poor, uninterested, inexperienced defence, 84. I knew people would read too much into it; and so did the team, it appears. Watford have an Italian manager, and they know how to defend from the moment they see their mamma for the first time. Fact is we lost against the Toffees and Citeh when Ollie did not start, and Wenger knew he had to change things. Since then Ollie started most if not all games and we won a lot of them- and scored a lot of goals in them. Ollie is an easy scapegoat but I am not fooled by it.

  • Hey TA, you know I’ve been defending Giroud since day 1. I’ve always been a fan of him but you have to see the change in style of this current Arsenal squad. Ever since Alexis was thrusted into the CF role, the team has adopted a more high pressing, high intensity style of play. This style of play suits the current crop of Arsenal players and we have shown that we can force many top teir teams back with this playing style. Giroud is a good player hindered by unsuitable tactics (for him, not the team) . Turn back the clock a few years, the team was a quick passing, intricate but way, way more patient and less direct than how we played against Watford. Look at how Alexis looked to pop the ball high and directly towards Giroud all the time yesterday. He was expecting Giroud to fetch those balls, impossible for a slower player like Giroud. Those direct balls worked a treat the past few months due to Alexis playing at CF, which meant Ozil would be the one running onto those balls instead of Giroud. It begs the question, do we sacrifice our high intensity style for one player or do we sacrifice one player for the sake of the entire team.

    Saying that, we DID miss Giroud in the 2nd half. Without him, the team played around the penalty box and not attempt to get men into the box. Not until the 80th minute anyways. Giroud is such a presence in the box and that fact cannot be neglected. Though I’m confident that will be fixed sooner or later,especially with Welbz coming back. Saying that, I’m sure we can find a way to make this system work for Giroud. My thoughts is to drop Giroud into the no.10 role when we don’t have the ball. Which means Alexis would be pressing from CF and Ozil would press as a winger. Not sure why that wouldn’t work.

  • I will only throw a few words into this discussion on Giroud

    I said, in my plea to get back to having Alexis start as CF, nominally, and use Giro as super sub, was that the area where Giroud operates is the easiest for the opposition to defend. This is especially true when the players are fresh – hence my query about how many goals Giroud scored before the 40th minute. That was countered by the 1:1000 ‘scorpion kick” – However, I did go on to say that Alexis would not fare any better in the same circumstances that Giroud faces.

    Sorry if this bores you TA, but what I and everybody else is trying to say, is this. When you play Giroud he is going to be operating somewhere between the width of the box in attack That is where packed defences have anything up to 8 or 9 players set up. This means that either CB can call up immediate support to block him out, or cut off his supply line … without having to move very far to do so. Therefore it follows, what Giroud needs to find space is not more attackers moving into the central area, but wide players, winger plus overlapping FB, to draw defenders out. Such is true in the case of short corners. But the same reasoning applies in open play?

    Therefore you do not send out the same set of players that work for the fast and fluid front line, as you do for a target man?

    There are many things that are not rocket science, this is one of them.


  • Droping Özil for Iwobi? Ok, guys, let’s be serious. Özil yesterday created 6 goalscoring chances, had 90% pass acuracy. I know this is fashion to love Iwobi whatever he does – or not -, but please, open your eyes…

  • TA, “The game v Southampton was a training session against a poor, uninterested, inexperienced defence, 84. I knew people would read too much into it; and so did the team, it appears. Watford have an Italian manager, and they know how to defend…….”

    Agree with all you’ve said there. I am not one for placing blame on Giroud because he comes through for us in most games. Yesterday’s game was not one of these, however. I pointed out that he looked all wrong and uninterested from the start; his first touch was lackadaisical and he lost the ball too easily, gave wrong passes and was offside inexplicably, at times. My guess is Kaboul and he may have had a banter or two and had a physical battle, which he lost each time, whether it was against Prodl or Kaboul.

    Having said that, he must not start against Chelsea. We do need power, skill and pace upfront (Welbeck, Perez, Alexis; I won’t mind to see Iwobi in place of Ozil for this game) to be assured of a win. Chelsea will know a draw is still good for them so, they will defend well, first, and take their chances when they come. Very unexpected turn of events/result, but very likely down to the players, club and fans assuming Watford was already in the bag, while looking forward to the Chelsea game instead.

  • Alex, just sharing my own views. Ozil usually fails to turn up or fight in these games. Go extract the stats in the games against big sides and see. I know it won’t happen, but I would rather not start him but bring him on later in that game. He shirks the physical battles and that’s going to happen a lot vs Chelsea. But when the course of the game is set and defences tiring, he may come into his own.

  • What goal scoring chances? The wrongly placed crosses that never found Giroud or anyone else? You know those stats count balls from corner kicks that we contested for, right? Iwobi, on the other hand, twice put balls on a plate for Alexis, which he bungled.

  • Hi folks… Like Gerry, I should refrain from writing as I only saw 10 minutes of the game. For some reason–despite my big $$ satellite bill–the other PL games weren’t on the telly. I had the good stream but then I had computer problems that required a reboot with password. I was able to get through to my wife but neither of us could remember that it was wilshere10… 😀 😦 (Luckily, when he came home from school, my boy knew the password…) Instead, my wife and I sat on the phone watching the minutes tick away while she read me some written commentaries. Sad…

    Giroud vs Alexis up top? Bench Ozil? I guess I prefer people debating these questions (or “solutions”) more than I enjoy reflexive calls for Wenger out or suggestions that Ramsey should be shot. Like I say, I haven’t seen the match but my hunch is that we failed in terms of midfield ball control as we have in first half after first half over the past couple of months. The January window has closed but we haven’t replaced Santi Cazorla and we’re still a couple of AFCON matches from getting my avatar guy back into the fold. Xhaka–not really a ball control guy himself–cannot play until the Bayern match. Bellerin and Monreal as possession helpers I like (but they have their limitations…); Gabriel (and Gibbs) not so much…

    I hope I’m wrong and that somehow we can bypass midfield entirely, but I do not see us competing well against midfields that feature guys like Kante and Matic playing the ball out wide to (Marcos) Alonso and Moses or up to Willian and Hazard, not to mention (Diego) Costa. Or maybe they’ll bring in Cesc for our match… It will likely get worse when we go against a midfield anchored by guys like Vidal, (Xabi) Alonso and Javi Martinez who can play out wide to players like Robben, Ribery and Coman (and wingbacks Kimmich and Alaba) or up to the likes of (Douglas) Costa and Thiago (plus Mueller and Lewandowski). Maitland-Niles, the Jeff and Iwobi did well against Southampton’s 2nd 11 but I fear they might struggle…

    I know the club (Wenger) likes to think long-term, hence a fine purchase like Elneny (from way off the radar) and attempts to develop guys like Ramsey, Ox and young Jack (including sending him off on a full year’s loan, with no provision for recall in January), and the aforementioned young guys. It’s also smart long-term thinking to wait on contracts for Ozil and Alexis–and the manager’s own potential renewal. All of that, however, assumes that you can take care of your short term business and beat teams like Watford at home, the toxic, entitled attitude of (many of) the fans paying their big money for a seat in the modern stadium notwithstanding. I heard the boos of the support at half-time. Hopefully it was better in the 2nd period…

    When you cannot, the “plan” goes out the window and the cycle of negativity grows. (And maybe the only “solution” is to lose guys like Wenger,Alexis and Ozil and start over…) As it is, it all hangs now from the wispiest of threads. Maybe we just need to get past those matches and look forward to playing Sutton in the FA Cup…

    To me there is no plan (and no quick fixes either) so, in the meantime, I’ll go with blind hope…

    Cheers, 17highburyterrace…

  • I guess it could have been worse. the other 3 games we have lost have all been from winning positions, the thought of being ahead against Watford at home and losing doesn’t bear thinking about. But given that we never looked like scoring in the first half made that unlikely. I haven’t seen the game, only listened to the commentary. it will be very interesting to see what side we put out at the bridge on Saturday. the side we put out last night with the exception of bellerin is pretty much our accepted 1st team last the moment, taking into account injuries. Unless we change something around I cannot see us winning on Saturday. Its easy to say that when I don’t know what the solution is, but in the past I have seen Arsenal teams in poor form galvanised by the introduction of young eager players. Going way back when Charlie George made a huge difference when he was recruited from The North Bank, Coquelin in a different way changed the team around when he was recalled from Charlton. Iwobi came in like a breath of fresh air. Maybe its time for The Maitland Niles, Jeff Adelaide etc to be given their chances.

    then again what do I know, didn’t we lose 8 – 2 at United when we played too many youngsters?

  • 17, I have to disagree. Ozil must not play as our no.10 against Chelsea. No, not because he hasn’t produced in big games or that he doesn’t put in an effort. It’s for a simple fact that we only have Coquelin as our only natural midfielder that’s unscathed. I imagine Ox will play alongside Coquelin. I can’t imagine Ox being disciplined enough for this game. Which is why i suggest Iwobi playing at no10 as he will track back and remain more disciplined than Mesut. This move will bring more balance into the side.

  • Changing tack a bit here, hopefully a couple of our young lads sent out on loan to grow up and develop on deadline day, will return to supplement Jeff and Niles, the next generation….

    Fingers crossed for Welbeck to recover fully for the weekend.

    Nobody will give a chance this weekend, that suits me, I love it when the experts in the media write us off…

    Gerry, funny that Willock didn’t go out on loan, I wonder if his contract situation has anything to do with that?
    I’ve got a hunch that he’s on his bike this summer.

  • Probably Kev. A few of the others, like Zelalem, did. No point on sending on a self advertising spree if we only get ‘training’ money back should they get an offer?

    I know their was criticism about GZ’s move to a lower level, but I think it is more about playing time. Because of their age and physical stature, they can fall into the cracks of being a liability to their team mates, despite having fantastic ability. Marc Bola for example has gone to Birmingham because he has that ‘outhouse’ build. Zelalem will always be of the light frame variety, but managed to hold his own, for the most part, in the tougher Scottish league. His problem was how he could keep himself involved when he hadn’t got the ball. So hopefully, in the Dutch league, his technical skills will see him develop his overall game if he plays regularly.
    Bennacer is another who should develop his game simply by playing. Before his injury, I thought Akpom was going the right way, and I expect him to make an impact in his second stint away.
    Another one who had a bad injury was the lad that came with Jeff, young Fortune. If he can get back to the promise he showed when he arrived, he could lessen the blow if C. Willock does move on? That is a big ask though, as the latter is very skillful. But another of the light framed variety?

    Just going back to the Watford game, which you saw pitch side, for a moment. You mention players being not interested, like Giroud. Do you think either of these possibilities could be at work?

    One, they actually thought they only had to turn up because they bought into the Mustafi presence making them ‘invincible’?
    Or did they have this up coming game at the back of their mind, so they were just going through the motions so they would be fit and ready for the much tougher game?

    If it was the latter, then your case for an upset at 2.30 pm on Saturday could well be a runner?


  • Can I just repeat for those with short memories, on this crap about Ozil not turning up for big games.

    It is a team game, and when the team falls flat then it is lazy thinking to look for scapegoats like Giroud and Ozil.
    I have said before, Ozil needs players around him to see the spaces he can see, so if they make the runs, he will get the ball to them. Against the ‘better’ sides they are more likely to mark both the players and the spaces for the full 90 minutes. If either they are not up to the task of creating spaces in different areas, or are just standing around waiting for someone else to work their magic, well of course the stats will look bad on the creative midfielder. But not because he ducks out, but because he had nothing to work with.
    By all means send people to look at the stats Goonereris, but go back yourself and have another look. Compare them with the stats from Tuesday’s game. Watford are not a top team, but when our team does not turn up for it, then key passes fall by the wayside, or whatever stats you choose for your particular measure of merit or otherwise. It is just so easy isn’t it?

    Indeed, the Southampton game that was disgracefully headlined as only ‘a training session’, showed exactly what team work can do for a creative midfielder. Frequently labelled by said author of that post, as ‘overrated’ or ‘inconsistent’, got near MOTM status. Not apparently from any particular skill of his own, as said piece wrote only ‘played at his level’ (implied Under 23 level), one would presume that it was all down to the runs that the ‘favoured’ ones made? It is amazing what blind prejudice can bring forth isn’t?
    Whereas the truth of that Southampton game was, because of the constant movement of the players both on and off the ball, we made the opposition look average, but enabled the creative midfielder to use his deft skill to find players and their runs into space time and time again. His stats no doubt showed it to be his best game in his Arsenal career? Not only that, he followed it up, by all accounts, as I have yet to put myself through the misery of watching the match, by lifting a game from abysmal to poor with his introduction? One set of ratings I read had the rest of the team on 1, 2, or 3, and Ox got a 6. Which is pretty amazing when every thing was going against creativity?

    I have also previously stated that when the team as a whole plays badly, it is wrong to look for individuals to blame. Whether that be Ramsey who may have been aware of his injury doubt, or Giroud when the team tactics and/or the players are not set up to play to his strengths, or Ozil, who can no more perform with excellence than a landscape painter can produce a colourful masterpiece when he only has chalk and charcoal to work with. So stop looking for scapegoats …



  • Gerry

    As far as the Watford game was concerned, Watford just seemed ‘on it’ from the start, quicker, stronger, more aggressive, where as we started as if Watford were gonna stand off and let us knock it about, and when that didn’t transpire we seemed shocked and slow to respond.
    And when the crowd got agitated that transmitted itself to the players who got nervous and started making silly mistakes. Watford scored, and I thought that Cech could have done better, just saying, and Watford must have sensed that we were struggling both physically and mentally and in truth could have gone in 3-0 up at half time…

    The 2nd half we should have got at least a draw, Iwobi was excellent, but our luck ran out.

    None of us really know mate, we can only guess, but I do question our preparation and how Wenger sends them out. We haven’t got a Vieira or Adams or Keown to shake his fist and gee up his team mates anymore, we are a bit too nice. Just my opinion of course…

  • Regarding the Chelsea game Gerry, I think a combination of the disappointment from the Watford game and the fact that we’re playing the champions elect will see a much tighter, more focused and motivated Arsenal team this weekend…

    We have a team that is capable of facing up to Chelsea and beating them, even with our midfield problems. Nobody will give us a chance, so just go for it mate, a draw ain’t any good…

  • Cheers Kev for your insight on the game against Watford, first hand as it were.

    I too wondered what the pre-match briefing by AW was, and not for the first time,. But as I was not looking for individual people to blame, I left that one alone.

    They say in politics, if there is a vacuum, then someone will come along and fill it. I think it is also true when one side does not start sharply, the other side will be able to do so?

    Your point on the lack of a credible voice from among the players to get them switched on is also valid. Alexis can shout and moan, but invariably he is only concerned about how team mates supports his efforts, not the collective as a whole. Kos hasn’t got that vocal personality to do it. Gabriel has the presence, but probably not the language skills, especially if he is part of the problem? Coquelin can have a go at times, but not in the same way that Viera could. Perhaps when Per is back that might change?

    The truth is that the collective sloppiness should not have existed if the preparation had been right. I mentioned before when Ramsey was ‘shocked’ how well lowly Preston played, which was disturbing then. A second time could indicate a serious flaw on behalf of management?

    I think you are on the right train of thought regards the Chelsea game, although, they too will be very switched on after the home defeat? The team will need a tweak or two anyway, with Ramsey out and Bellerin returning. However, 3 games in a row might just find Ox out?, But a proper defensive pairing of Coqueland-Niles, if the former remains defensive minded, would not be out of place, imo?

    If they play with 3 across the back, quick cross field balls to our overlapping full backs is the way to attack them. This should open up spaces for Alexis and Walcott to run into.
    Let us hope they have their shooting boots on?


  • Good points Gerry, I too couldn’t believe what Ramsey said prior to the Preston game, complacency or what? And we’re talking about an experienced international footballer here, not an idiot…
    It doesn’t fill you with confidence for the trip to Sutton does it?

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