Giroud and Alexis up-front, Holding and Mustafi CBs, Coq and Xhaka to get new chance: Preview

Sutton United v Arsenal – FA Cup fifth round Preview

I am not sure whether to spend many words on this must-win game. Sutton United deserve all the plaudits for getting through to the fifth round by eliminating Leeds United. they will play us at their stadium, the Borough Sports Ground, on their artificial surface and will want to give us a game of course. And what is there to lose for them? These are the sort of games the players and supporters dream of, and even if the former lose handsomely against us, the latter will still see them as heroes. And if they were to manage to beat us tomorrow night, the local hospitals’ midwifes will be in overdrive come November this year. 🙂

Arsenal’s only real enemy are themselves. After that utterly demoralising second half against BM last Wednesday, there is a chance of a lack of focus or appetite for tomorrow’s game. That would of course be unforgivable, so it is quite unlikely that the boys Wenger will select for tomorrow’s game against the U’s will not be really up for it. This is about pride for the shirt as much as anything else. And with a more than doable home tie against Lincoln City next up, there is an additional incentive to play well and make winning the FA Cup a big priority for the remainder of the season.

Wenger finds himself in a difficult and dark corner right now, but he knows that nothing more will bring back the light than winning games again. He also needs to re-balance the team as to get back a better spine and resilience, which should form the basis of a strong run towards the end of the season in both the league and FA Cup. I am not sure he has the players for this right now, but by playing Elneny and Xhaka in the DM-pivot and playing a bit deeper and more compact, we should see a much needed improvement. Well, that is what I would do, but not necessarily against Sutton. Reintroducing Giroud, who luckily cannot be blamed for our recent disasters this time round, seems also a good idea. Welbeck played today so is unlikely to play again tomorrow.

Looking at the training pictures on, I reckon this could be the line-up:

Iwobi and Alexis are likely to swap positions and fill the space in the hole. Ox (or maybe Theo instead) will also be allowed to move into the hole regularly, and Giroud will become a strong central pivot to create space for the team and connect with fellow attackers as much as possible. As Sutton are likely to park the bus, we also need Ollie’s aerial presence to add variety to our attacking play.

As long as our attackers play with a high tempo, passion and concentration, which means helping out midfield and defence as much as possible, we should create plenty of chances and then the goals will come.

Let’s get behind our team once more. COYRRGs!

By TotalArsenal


55 thoughts on “Giroud and Alexis up-front, Holding and Mustafi CBs, Coq and Xhaka to get new chance: Preview

  • Pretty close T A but I don’t think we need Coquelin for this one, I would put the Oxin there and give Theo a run. I am assuming Perez is injured?
    I would also be wary about Jenkinson and would prefer Debuchy if he is fit and available?

  • Could live with that, Retsubster. Just feel Wenger will want to give that duo another chance in midfield. Jenkinson features in the photos, so am assuming he’ll start.. 🌶🌶

  • I like your team Total, but I’m leaning towards Retsubs tinkering, that is Walcott on the wing and Ox in the middle, where he could thrive on their plastic pitch.

    Jenkinson would do just fine in what is going to be a very English cup tie, so I’m not worried there.
    I wonder if Elneny’s pass and move style would be more fitting on the plastic or Coquelins more combative style vs Eastmond, who can put it about?
    Not sure if this type of domestic cup tie would suit Xhaka?!

    From what I’ve seen of Sutton, Roarie Deacon looks very dangerous, quick and with an eye for a shot taken early and from distance. I recall seeing him playing for our academy team, back in the day, and liking his all-action never give up style.

    Have you seen the changing rooms at Sutton, Total/Retsub, they reminded me of the cattle sheds on the Hackney Marshes. A culture shock for our guys, for sure…

  • Cheers, TA, for taking this one on… I’ll be driving to the airport tomorrow during the match but I’ll tape it and probably watch it upon my return… Otherwise, like so many other Gooners, I fear, I’ll probably have to rely on the scoreline (and the analysis of others…) to figure out how I feel about things… 😦

    I think my predicted line-up would be pretty different from yours and I’d mostly look at who played at Southampton in the previous round, noting the obvious changes that you have–i.e., no Welbeck, who played today in order to avoid the plastic pitch. The 11 I think will play would be as follows:

    Jenkinson–Mustafi–Holding–Gibbs (Captain)

    Subs: Martinez, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerin, Iwobi, Alexis

    If Lucas is really hurt (and didn’t merely suffer a Weng-jury for the CL match…) then Giroud probably has to play up top. Like at Southampton, I think Iwobi and Alexis probably take up bench seats as our only attacking options and play the last 15 or 20 minutes as they did in that one…

    As always, WTF do I know? And writing it up as a 4-2-1-3 feels awfully strange. Maybe it should be the same 11 in a more traditional 4-2-3-1 with the Ox and Theo on the wings, JRA as the #10 and Elneny and AMN as the deeper lying pair of MFs. Leaving Le Coq, Xhaka and Giroud (not to mention Ozil) completely out of the 18 also feels weird.

    Being drawn against the other non-league team for the next round should be an incentive (and a ticket straight to Wembley…) but you just never know with this group. “Spine and resilience” is maybe not quite the same as “passion and fight” (the words describing what a lot of other folks believe the team lacks) but I think we’re so far gone in these regards that the group will be (once again…) hoping that it can rely on technical superiority to get us through. On a plastic pitch that quality should be even more highly prized and maybe it’s best to let the Sutton lads fly around and get the rug-burns… That said, “Focus and determination” (my best combination of go-to words…) don’t have to go out the window, either…

    Thanks again…

  • Cheers Kev

    Roarie Deacon…what a great name for a footballer. All good points re squad. If there is one thing that doesn’t excite me right now, it is seeing Theo on the pitch, even against Sutton. But yes, he will probably play. Didn’t see Elneny on training pictures and I would imagine Wenger given him a break now (after the ACN).

  • Seventeenho

    Have a good flight and break.

    Interesting line up and you is very good at this. Wenger said he would go with a strong team…. but we don’t know anymore what that means. But I think I am closer to the line up than you on this occasion. 😍🎯

  • Hackney Marshes the Wembley of the Sunday football league. When I used to rarely go North of the river to play football, we sometimes used to get a game there. If I remember correctly there must have been a bout 100 pitches packed pretty close together. In fact they used to paint the backs of the goalposts green so you knew what goal to shoot at.

    Kev if it’s any consolation I prepared a literary masterpiece last nice and having been told it was a duplicate post it then disappeared into the blogospere never to be seen again

    Looking forward to tonight. I don’t think they can win it, but we can certainly lose it..

  • Nice preview TA. I feel like I’ve been saying the same prematch comments for the last three months but I’ll say it again. I’m really hoping to see Arsenal learn from the mistakes they’ve made in recent losses to Watford and Chelsea and Bayern Munich and the unconvincing performances they’ve displayed since the loss to Everton back in December. By this I mean:

    – Arsenal’s central midfield and defensive line should sit deeper to show greater respect to the defensive side of the game
    – Arsenal should play an extra man in central midfield to account for the fact that Arsenal’s squad lacks central midfield options with sufficient defensive resolve and transitional skills to accomodate a central defensive midfield duo
    – Irrespective of the chosen centre forward Arsenal should seek to play more on the counterattack to give their forward line the space it needs to create clearer goal scoring opportunities
    – Whichever centre forward option Arsenal select, Arsenal need to pick complimentary wingers and fullbacks whose strengths accentuates the strengths of the chosen centre forward
    – If and when Arsenal are able to monopolise possession in the opposition’s half I’d like to see some more long range shooting from two of our central midfield trio to provide an alternative attacking threat.

    With all of that said, and with Arsenal only playing two games this week with a four day break in between, the starting line up I would like to see versus Sutton is:

    GK: Cech
    RB: Debuchy
    CB: Mustafi
    CB: Holding (in the absence of Koscielny)
    LB: Monreal
    LCDM: Xhaka
    CDM: Coquelin
    RCDM: Ox
    RW: Alexis
    CF: Perez
    LW: Ozil

    In that setup I’m envisaging:

    – Alexis and Ozil taking turns coming in off their flank and dropping into the No 10 role when Arsenal attack, with the other winger moving centrally to playing alongside Perez as a strike duo and that duo making off the ball runs behind the opposition’s defensive line for the winger who has assumed the No 10 role to target
    – The back seven keep it nice and simple by focusing on maintaining their defensive structure and shape, staying compact, tackling and intercepting and Ox and Xhaka being the transitional outlets and long range shooters.

    Alternatively, if Wenger is wanting to give Giroud a run, the starting line up I’d like to see is:

    GK: Cech
    RB: Jenkinson
    CB: Mustafi
    CB: Holding
    LB: Gibbs
    LCDM: Xhaka
    CDM: Coquelin
    RCDM: Ox
    RW: Alexis
    CF: Giroud
    LW: Ozil

    In that setup I’m envisaging:

    – Alexis and Ozil staying wide and forward along side Giroud in the CF role and trying to deliver accurate early crosses for Giroud to attack.
    –Again the back seven keep it nice and simple by focusing on maintaining their defensive structure and shape, staying compact, tackling and intercepting and Ox and Xhaka being the transitional outlets and long range shooters.
    – If and when Arsenal are able to monopolise possession in the opposition’s half I’d like the see purposeful build up play with the aim of creating opportunities for Gibbs and Ozil on the left and Sanchez and Jenkinson on the right to deliver accurate crosses for Giroud to attack.

  • Like TA, I don’t see why we won’t be playing a fairly strong side in an FA cup 5th round tie, even if against lowly Sutton. It is made even better that we have about two weeks of rest before our next game; nothing like a 5th round clash to keep the players fit, while resting only those identified as being in the red zone.

    With Kos injured and after Mustafi’s exertions, I expect to see Holding paired with Gabriel (or Mertesacker, if ready). Martinez will start in goal, methinks. Wenger will know best who is ready between Debuchy and Jenks, but my guess is Jenks with Monreal completing the back 5. I would give Gibbs another chance to play as captain, especially as he will know a few of the ex-Arsenal lads in the opposition, but Monreal does need game time which means we need a good pick for captain.

    For the rest, I’d rather not play the guessing game but Giroud has got to start. The artificial pitch means we have to be careful not to add to the injury list so we must rest players like Sanchez and Iwobi, though. This should be an Arsenal win, after the early excitement about some giant-killing story in the making. It just won’t happen.

  • Retsub, I never played or did any refereeing south of the river, where did you play over there?

    The Hackney Marshes has changed quite a bit, there were 5 distinct areas of pitches, the main ones were the North and South Marsh, Mabley Green has been redeveloped, The Triangle is now some kind of nature reserve and The Arena with its plastic pitch as well its gross pitches were still in use when I last went past.

  • Kev

    Born and raised in the Bromley area and spent my working life in the City. I championship medal in the Eltham and district Sunday league, so I never did make the big time or even get close to it lol.

    I spent about 10 years working in Stratford, so am sure on a clear day I could see Ackney

  • Play 1st team players who’ve not been busy lately, Bel, Xhaka, Walcott.
    Rest those who’ve been busy lately, Ozil, Sanchez, Ox.

    Line up:

    Bel, Mert, Gab, Monr.
    Theo —-Jeff—–Iwobi

  • Team news is out; a mixed grill of predictions, if you ask me:

    Arsenal XI: Ospina; Gabriel, Mustafi, Holding, Monreal; Elneny, Xhaka; Lucas, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi; Walcott
    Substitutes: Martinez, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Maitland-Niles, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez

    The shock for me is Lucas is back fit and Giroud doesn’t start/feature.

  • Cheers Eris and others, especially Waldo with a fine, detailed preview on his own.

    Looks like Theo up-front and Perez behind him with Jeff and Iwobi on the wings. But the good news is that my preferred DM duo is playing tonight. Time to put order into the team, boys.

  • 1-0, Perez

    Ignore all the hype and get the job done…

    Then the media can concentrate on hyping up Lincoln…

  • Hopefully fitness will tell in the 2nd half.

    If I didn’t know which sides were playing I would have though two teams of similar skill levels were playing. Seems to me we have come down to their level

    Bit of class in the 2nd half please

  • I’m working Retsub, I’ll watch the game later, but my son said that it was like score-season friendly…

    I guess we’re being a bit circumspect because of the pitch.
    Interesting line-up, I didn’t see Reine-Adelaide starting.
    How’s he doing Retsub?

  • He’s just been subbed Kev. He tried hard but wasn’t that effective. The ex Arsenal guy just smashed the bar from 25 yards. alexis on now. A bit better in the 2nd half, but the class gap isn’t that much.

    The Sutton reserve keeper is about 16 stone

  • Gotta love it their reserve keeper is stuffing a great big pastie down his throat while the game is on

  • Interesting Retsub, he obviously isn’t following Wengers mantra of pasta and steamed chicken… 😊

  • Funniest thing I have seen for ages. I think the commentator said the same as you Kev

    As usual I got a barrage of texts from friends supporting other clubs. Two of them independently said how bad Iwobi was. Seems to me he is being overplayed. In the past youngsters have been bedded in slowly. He seems to play all the time.

    I do like Lucas he does have his radar set on the goal

  • I think we played like a team still in a daze, induced by all that running around in the Munich stadium. “Just get the win”, may have been the instruction, and Sutton must have been both surprised and elated at the respect we showed them.

    Not much to report from the game; we were expected to win it and did. Theo got his 100th goal, which must be the reason he was started in my view. Usually, we would have been at our flowing best but it wasn’t to be, with a few misplaced passes in the offensive 3rd. I feel the nature of the pitch had something to do with that, though you will expect Theo to be a bit more composed on the ball and with decision making. Alexis came on for a cameo and couldn’t get the goal he would have wanted. Still a nice work-out for everyone who played.

    Well, next stop in the FA cup is Lincoln at home so it is fair to say we shall be in Wembley. Meanwhile, we have the small matter of Liverpool away to consider.

  • It does not seem like the defense is doing anything great last night, with reference to the highlights.

    Why did we even let Sutton crowd around Ospina?

    Haven’t see the full game so will comment later, but I think we were still hurt by the German destruction.

  • My initial reaction while watching the Sutton game was that Arsenal seemed to be playing on ice, while the home team, more used to the surface, seemed able to control the ball better.

    A decided disadvantage to the Gunners, altho AW said professionals should be able to adjust/cope – not sure that all our players did. Anyway, job done, and on to the next round.

  • HenryB, apparently they did well. It looked as though it is a training match, and even Alexis had some fun. What quality he is.

    Oliver the ref should have sent off the Sutton player for pushing him, but I think even the ref thought it is just a Sunday league game.

    The lads absolutely were not at their top level today. Only Perez and Alexis were themselves. Even Mustafi looked uncomfortable with the physicality and the pitch.

  • I thought the Ox acquitted himself well too. The Ref, of course, gave Xhaka a card, as his reputation continues to dog him each game.

    TA, Xhaka’s slow pace is going to be the problem he will have in this league. He seems to need too much time to make a decision to pass the ball….time which this league doesn’t always allow.

  • Funny you say that, Eris…. Xhaka was by far the best player on the pitch imo… 🙂

    He was never too slow for me and he was always using the ball and space intelligently. The Ox on the other hand… did equally good stuff as bad stuff, and that against a weak opponent.

  • Classy Arsenal

    Arsenal were taking flack this morning because we didn’t exchange flags, pendants or whatever they are called prior to kick off.

    Turns out we had already presented them with a silver Cannon, a cheque for £50000 and all the players left their shirts behind. It’s also been suggested that Alexis came on as a mark of respect.

  • Would we do better against Lincoln? That is the question many people are asking. We might see this as a win, but to me we have to work much harder to get everyone involved in link-up play and get the goals we need.

    If not, it will be a similar story to what we did last time: Win 5-0 in the FA cup and lose the next league game.

    We really needed some spark, some level headed guy that says, “Ok guys, we won the match against Sutton but we were well below par. We need to turn up more and keep our heads on.”

    To me, Xhaka is doing quite well in seeing spaces and crosses, but some of his passes were cut out too easily for my liking. Apparently it was the whole team, but we need everyone to play well, not only on the pitch we were used to.

    Holding has his own Ospina moments, but luckily he did well to atone for his “sins”. We need him back against our next opponent, if Kos is not ready.

  • njk, thanks for turning up and saying “Ok guys lets keep our heads on”. Our players can only be a reflection of the fans and vice versa. We need more leaders like you here and on the field. Luckily our next match is 4th March against Liverpool. Enough time for us to pull ourselves up.

    I very much like Niles. His play is calm and simple. He is strong and athletic. Am thinking of him because a clear solution hasn’t emerged about our CMF. Can we throw him into the deep end? The Nilea/Ox was super for the Southampton cup game, but because it was their reserve we aren’t paying much attention to it. I believe that Southampton team is better than Luton and yet Xhaka and Elneny never created any sparks. Not an easy decision I must confess. It’s like going with two rookies.

  • Yes Retsub, certain sections of the media, tried to dig us out over the fact that the captain of Sutton gave Theo a pennant and we had nothing in return.
    Ignorant in the fact that the club had presented Sutton with a silver cannon in advance.
    And with the donation of £50,000 all that typical snide rhetoric that the media thrive on, quickly disappeared…

    I’m surprised that nobody in the Press criticised Arsenal for leaving the players shirts in a heap and for not folding them up.

  • The 2nd leg vs Bayern could be an interesting evening, I mean the stage is set, we need 4 goals, so we might as well go for it. Bayern will probably be complacent, so we can give them a scare if nothing else.

    We do have previous. I was there the night we tried to upset a 4-0 lead that Milan had and I can tell you it was rocking that night in the Emirates.
    3-0 at half time, Milan had brown shorts on, but we ran out of gas in the 2nd half.
    It was a great evenings entertainment all the same.

  • Hey guys! Quite a few posts after my last. I had to leave Toronto for Lagos Nigeria on Tuesday night and just didn’t bother to access the internet.

    TA, I know Xhaka didn’t have a bad game, per se. I just noted how slow he looked on a night when we played an opponent that backed away, largely. If we played a pressing side or one that won’t allow time on the ball, he will be dispossessed in dangerous situations. That game was a stroll which we needed so, the sooner we got down to the hard graft in readiness for Liverpool and then, Bayern, the better.

  • “I’m surprised that nobody in the Press criticised Arsenal for leaving the players shirts in a heap and for not folding them up”- kev.

    Believe it or not, Kev, I did see one that insinuated we littered the dressing room, noting that our players left their jerseys in a pile, while failing to point out it was a gesture to give the Sutton players shirts to share.

    Talking about pennants, Arsenal actually did arrive with one but a picture I saw of the team coming onto the field showed that the flag was held by the mascot who came out with Theo. Maybe, Theo should have remembered to take it off the lad as the on-field formalities were about to commence.

    Kev, fingers crossed the Arsenal fans do all to make things a-rocking at the Emirates when Bayern come calling. It will be hard, mind, while a toxic atmosphere is more likely, seeing as our fans a cannon fodder for the media’s agenda to make every issue a melt-down state with our club. One can only hope…

  • The thing is Eris, everyone throws their shirts in a heap after the game, but as you say, any opportunity to criticise Arsenal won’t be passed up by the gentlemen of the Press.

    Eris, the pressure is off in a way, Bayern are through, I don’t expect us to overturn their advantage, but we can sure as he’ll give them a fright and regain some self respect.

    Gerry, if you are out there, I notice that Mavididi is making a good impression at Charlton.

  • Maybe Niles and Elneny, PE? It would be a good double pivot.

    Xhaka offers a more “sit back and mop up the passes” approach. Elneny and AMN offers something that is “plug the hole”.

    Both tactics are good, but in the PL we need to plug the holes to make the defense compact.

    This break brings me to another sport that I like: F1 racing. This is a good time to see the car launches and hope that Mercedes can continue their brilliant form. The lads needs to learn that.

  • Surely, every man and his dog knew that already, no? As soon as another 2 months was envisaged, after was first to return by December, you knew we will be talking April, which leaves little time to introduce/risk him.

  • njk, “plug the hole” is very essential, equally is ” transiting the ball”. Elneny appears too safe for the attacking phase of the game while Oxlade has it all there. The short passes, the through balls, the cross fields, the dribbling runs. He can also tackle at pace which Elneny, Xhaka and Ramsey don’t have enough of. His one big flaw though, is lapses in concentration particularly in the later part of games with exhaustion setting in. In terms of balance I regard him, atm, as our best B2B.

  • Claudio Ranieri manage Leicester to their best ever season, provides all the Leicester fans with the kind of success that they’ll never again enjoy, earns them the opportunity of playing in the Champions League and only 9 months later he gets the sack…

    Work that out, because I cannot.

    Maybe they now deserve to go down?!

  • I agree Kev it stinks. That’s what comes of having a foreign owner who probably doesn’t understand what a miracle has occurred and is only looking at finances.

    I am sure there are lots of other factors, but it does show what an important player Kante was to them.

  • Interesting thought. I wonder how many Leicester fans would swap their miracle season for a regular top four finish, but no title?

    I bet many of them wouldn’t swap.that one miracle season will live with them forever.

  • Retsub1, it seems that Leicester is having a “Chelski syndrome”. It does not seem that other than Kante, their players had changed much.

    The thing is maybe similar for us. We lost Santi and our form dropped. Or maybe, just maybe, that the bigger teams were shocked last year and resolved to play better this year.

    However, it might not be that the players’ mentality changed after one season. And it could not be that the manager suddenly asked his players to stop playing so well. It even should not be that the players were so sad of Kante’s move that nobody knows how to play well without him.

    In a saddening facebook post that I came across, the last 4 out of 5 managers that won the EPL got sacked the following year. That, with a picture of our very own Monseiur Wenger in the background. Wanted to write negative comments but I stopped myself.

  • The thing is, retsub1, that analogy doesn’t reflect the Arsenal/Arsene situation because we have won titles with and without Wenger; 13 in all now. So, a regular top 4 finish for us gives hope of a win some time soon. I will rather such a situation than having to sit, waiting for a miracle, all my existence.

    Hi, jk. The thing with that “4 out of 5” managers post is that in all the cases, except for perhaps Pellegrini, all the managers in question were having poor season and in relegation form. That’s a status Arsene Wenger has not allowed Arsenal experience.

    It is always easy to make broadsides against Arsenal club, but I guess it is the cross we have had to bear for running the club in a certain way, steeped in traditional values and not getting carried away with the mob.

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