Theo and Alexis on the Bench, Giroud and Rambo to Start: Middlesbrough v Arsenal Preview and Line-up

Oh how we like to wallow in negativity. I am sick to the teeth with the fan base complaining about everything Arsenal, from the players to the manager, and from the BOD to the main shareholder. Where is the perspective and where is the essence of being a supporter? Are we supposed to support the team or is it the team that should support us? In my view, very few get this anymore. The team is there to make you happy and if they don’t do it you get very angry with everything Arsenal. I cannot stop you but don’t expect any sympathy from me on this site.

We are of course victims of our expectations, and  they are always high at Arsenal. So what if we finish sixth or seventh? Are Arsene and the team not allowed to have a bad season once in a while? It is remarkable that we have been in the top four for the best part of 20 years and tasted Champagne League football as long as we can think back, and that against challenging financial circumstances,

We are now in good financial health, are managed sensibly by the BOD, keep hold of most of our quality players, have a decent to good transfer budget every season and a manager who cares for the club. It may be time for Arsene to move upwards or onwards, and we will see what happens this summer. All to play for again next season that’s for sure, but let’s see how this one finishes first.

So tomorrow we will play low scoring Middlesbrough away. It is of course key to get back to winning ways and playing away may be an advantage: the manager and players can focus on the game at hand without too much disruption from the (away) supporters. I don’t think the chosen first eleven matter that much. What really matters is the mental preparation of the team and the desire to work their hearts out for the shirt and the manager. Except for one or two players, I have no doubt that they will all give their all again tomorrow, and that is all we can ask for.

Preferred Line-up:


Bellerin – BFG – Koz – Nacho

——- Xhaka —- Elneny ——-



It is about time to have a proper centre forward in attack again and Ollie is simply ideal for this as a ‘Holding CF’. Theo and Alexis have their merits but, for different reasons, are not team players, so, for me, they can warm the bench. With Rambo and Welbeck we have proper cover for the full backs and allround team players, and they also strengthen the midfield. It may not be a team for the purists, but it is a team that will play together and fight for the course, and that is the most important thing right now.

I guess Wenger will not go for the above. He will probably go for Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koz, Nacho, Xhaka, Elneny, Alexis, Ozil, Theo and Wellbeck, and that would be fine with me too.

The team are feeling low and need our support more than ever. Let’s get behind them once more, cause that is what we supporters do. Victory Through Harmony and all that.

By TotalArsenal


47 thoughts on “Theo and Alexis on the Bench, Giroud and Rambo to Start: Middlesbrough v Arsenal Preview and Line-up

  • I understand the need for a shake up, but it has to be done with team balance in mind. So, the team Wenger puts out is more likely to be the alternate list you have made, rather than your ‘preferred’ list, TA.

    If you play Giroud upfront, you must have a ball crosser on at least, one of the wings to give him a chance, playing to his strengths. I will drop Theo and use Welbeck/Ox and Alexis on the flanks, with Giroud as striker. For me, Ox needs to be playing more often; he makes us look more dangerous in forward play, something we don’t look much like, these days. Alexis needs to fire himself up and put himself in the box more often so he can restart his goals count. He deserves to be in the top 3 goal scorers chart and could easily have won the top gong but for the drop in team form.

    I fear that we desperately need to improve and fast or we lose out on top 4 places. I, honestly, hoped our rivals (Liverpool, United, City) will drop points in their fixtures (WBA, Chelsea, Southampton, respectively) for this weekend but the fact they all won tells you it is going to be a hard grind to just rattle the 3 teams in front of us. We have to wake up!

  • Bingo TA. your lineup is what I always had in mind. Rambo and Welbeck are players that help out in defense if we are attacked, and can turn defense to attack quickly.

    If Wenger does not see that playing Theo too many games is detrimental to the whole team, I do not know what to say.

    Hope for a good game by the lads tonight.


  • TA,
    This is one of your best post ever! How come you are not caught in the mass hysteria? That bit “….are managed sensibly by the BOD….” is so incredibly fresh I feel released from a torture chamber. Thank you TA. I would strive harder at managing my disappointments and pains more positively.

    I like your line up. It’s bold, BFG and no Sexy Lexy. Though I would love to use this line up against a more attacking team than Middlesbrough who are the 5th least conceeding team (at 37 goals) and the worst scoring at 22 goals.

    Wenger should seek a way to play Giroud and Alexis together and the former goes with Ox at WR. Gibbs for Monreal because of Adama Traore’s pace and as he is a better crosser of the ball with Giroud at center. Rambo at CM because of his added late runs into the box for more goal threats.

    My prediction:-


    My preference though is Ozil and Sanchez interchanged in position. Ozil assists well with his crosses.

    It’s OGAAT for me more than ever. We play each game for pride and at the end see where they have landed us.

  • Cheers Eris

    This thing about ball crossers I just don’t get. A. Giroud is more than a threat in the air, so I don’t see it as a pump the ball in the box option, and B. The likes of Ozil, Rambo and Bellerina can put in a decent cross anyway. I still believe that 4-5-1 is the best style of play for us, especially for grinding out results. Giroud’s anticipation and positioning is so much better than Welbeck or even Sanchez’s and he becomes the hub in attack: less fluid but sharper where it and when it matters. I also believe that Ozil plays at his best when Giroud is central and ball controllers are on the wing.

  • Cheers 84 and PE.

    PE, the BOD are not everybody’s cup of tea, which I understand. Whether Kroenke sits in at games and waves his scarf when we score means nothing to me. I want my £500m turnover BOD to be responsible and manage the club strategically, and that is exactly what they do. The comms could be better and I would like to see more ex players involved, but our general ability to hold onto players, spend up to £100m on new ones and focus on the long term stability and viability of the club, I cannot fault.

    Love your believe in the Ox and why not play him, but then instead of Welbeck I reckon, cause Xhaka-Elneny is essential for me.

  • And PE, I would love for Alexis and Giroud to play together well, but I reckon Alexis hates Ollie and it makes him play at his worst, in terms of passing and assisting. Just imagine you are the dogs bollocks in your home country and then you take a team shower ending up next Le Handsome, hung like a mythical, bearded unicorn. You would probably hate him too 😜🌶

  • TA,
    Am in total agreement with you that Giroud’s positioning in the box is the best we have. Welbeck is not hungry enough for goals and is a bit too laid back at critical moments. Alexis is a great goal scorer which hasn’t got much to do with his position in the box. His feat depends largely on his box agility and his ability to contribute handsomely to creating his goal scoring opportunity. That’s why I think of Giroud and Sanchez together. But if your suspicion is right, which on reflection I fear it might be, then too bad for everybody. I don’t like fat egos, but at this stage am keen with the benefit of doubt. Giroud and Alexis to start.

  • Hi PE, I don’t think Welbeck is laid back but I reckon he just hasn’t got the instinct of where to be in the next five seconds or so. I guess this is hard to train and you either have it or not. Sanogo has it for example…. but his finishing is a huge work in progress.

  • BKers please note that my sentiment in the post is not aimed at anybody in particular but just a general stance against the culture of self pity and blame that has invaded the fan base. There is a hell of a lot good to great about our club, is all I am trying to say. 🌷🌸🌺🌻🍀🌼🌈🌦

  • Retsub, loved you recalling 1989 (sorry to bore you youngsters with the reminiscing) it was a seminal time for me as I qualified as a taxi driver about 10 days before Anfield, so for me May 1989 will remain one of my greatest months ever.
    Two others were beating the Spuds at Wembley in 1993, via a Tony Adams header.
    And beating Man U on pens in 2005 at Cardiff, after being thoroughly outplayed.

    Great post van der Total… 😉

    Middlesbrough cannot score goals and Arsenal have a good record at the Riverside, but I wouldn’t risk Koscielny or Cech, I’d save them for Wembley….

  • Nice post TA. While I don’t think Arsenal have been playing great football for a while now and I attribute that largely to Wenger’s tactical approach and team selection, I don’t think any good comes from abusing Wenger or the players. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying supporters should bury their heads in the sand and blindly agree with and cheer every decision Wenger or the club makes. In fact I quite enjoy trying to clinically critiquing the players’ and the team’s match day performances as well as the club’s decisions and think some good rationale debate (as opposed to the generalist dribble Sky Sports “football experts” concoct) is a positive thing for supporters. That said, I whole heartedly agree that there is no need for the ridiculous vitriol currently doing the rounds regarding the club, the coach or the players.

    Anyways onto my pre match thought and no surprises that the starting 11 I’d like to see versus Middlesbrough is:

    Really good write up 17. I think your predicted line is what we’ll see versus Palace.

    If Wenger intends to persist with that 4231/4213 setup, Arsenal really need to focus on continuing to stretch the pitch vertically, like they did versus Man City and West Ham. By that I mean they need to ensure there is a a generous amount of space between back four and CDMs, the CDMs and CAM, and the CAM and front 3.

    Doing so:

    1. Provides Arsenal’s defenders, CDMs and CAM with more forward targets to improve the team’s offensive transitional play.

    2. Provides Arsenal’s forward players with the space they need to display their individual on the ball skills (e.g. Ox/Alexis), speed (e.g. Walcott) or physical dominance (e.g. Giroud) to generate or capitalise on clear cut goal scoring opportunities.

    3. Encourages the opposition to commit more players in advanced positions to try and capitalise on Arsenal’s lack of defensive compactness, which in turn presents more counterattack opportunities for Arsenal.

    That in my opinion was the big difference in Arsenal’s displays versus Man City and West Ham and Arsenal’s displays in the 3 months prior, which were characterised by a highly cautious possession monopolisation attacking approach where Arsenal pushed all bar their two CBs (and sometimes even them) into the opposition’s half and continually recycled possession looking for a through pass in a highly crowded penalty box to directly create a goal scoring opportunity, only for Arsenal to lose possession and concede a goal when the opposition counterattacked or from a resulting corner.

    While I still don’t think a 4231/4213 setup, even with generous vertical spacing between the various lines, will bring Arsenal sustained success, it is certainly an improvement from the side’s prior tactical approach.

    That said, the starting line up I would like to see versus Crystal Palace is:

    GK: Martinez
    RB: Debuchy
    CB: Mustafi
    CB: Holding
    LB: Monreal
    LCDM: Xhaka
    CDM: Coquelin
    RCDM: Ox
    RW: Alexis
    CF: Giroud
    LW: Ozil

    Like usual, in that setup I’m envisaging:

    1. 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.

    2. The back seven (i.e. the back four and 3 CDMs) predominantly sitting deep, focusing on maintaining their defensive structure and shape, staying compact, tackling and intercepting.

    3. The Ox and Xhaka being Arsenal’s primary outlets to transition the ball from defence to attack and doing so predominantly by executing long range passes into the channels for Alexis and Ozil respectively.

    4. 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 primary aim of creating opportunities for Monreal and Ozil on the left and Sanchez and Debuchy on the right to deliver accurate crosses for Giroud to attack. Failing that I’d like to see Arsenal focus on creating long range shooting opportunities for Xhaka and Ox.

    Just to clarify in case there is any confusion, I in no way expect Wenger to select the above team. That is simply the team I would like to see play, based upon my own research on player performances, the successful tactic employed by numerous recent Premier League champions and how i think those tactics could be adapted to best suit the strengths and weaknesses of the players which comprise Arsenal’s current squad.

    Hoping for an entertaining performance by Arsenal versus Middlesbrough, with plenty of goals from the Gunners.

  • Cheers TA for the match preview and the refreshing perspective…

    Line-ups are out and it appears to be a 3-4-3 for us…

    Boro: Guzan, Barragan, Ayala, Gibson, Fabio, Clayton, De Roon, Leadbitter, Ramirez, Downing, Negredo. Subs: Dimi, Friend, Bernardo, Forshaw, Traore, Bamford, Gestede.

    Arsenal: Cech; Holding, Koscielny, Gabriel; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Xhaka, Monreal; Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud. Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Walcott, Iwobi.

    So… It appears the “nothing to lose” idea is in full force…Or at least trying out some new things… To my mind it’s actually a fairly attacking side given that both the Ox and Rambo are in. I don’t quite buy the idea that Alexis and Giroud cannot play together but I guess we’ll see it in action and make our own conclusions…

    Anyhow, grim as it’s been for us, I’m looking forward to the match…

  • 17ht, it is more of the trying out new things than a 3-4-3. That thought must have something to do with the way the names were reeled out. I expect we will still have 4 in defence but with Monreal the only full back allowed to bomb forward, basically to assure defensive security. Like I said, going back to the basics, defence first.

    Alexis can play with Giroud upfront, when we are in possession and attacking. When we lose the ball, I will expect him to drop to the left wing or at least, drop deep. With Giroud starting and the Ox given a run, I fully look forward to a more purposeful game and the win.

    Good luck to the lads.

  • Evening TA and others. I see the team sheet, but I’m not clear why this means 3,4,3 as people are inferring? It can equally well be the conventional 4,2,3,1. With Gabby in the right back, Xhaka and Ox in the pivot and Rambo out to the right. What news of Mustafi though – as he’s not on the bench that worries me?

    Its impossible to predict tonight. We have the squad and team to make this a cake walk. But do we have the mentality to actually deliver? And do the team want to? I know that shouldn’t be a question for any of us, but in these ‘professional’ times it seems to be increasingly relevant.

    Anyway, I totally buy the premise of the post – our job is to support the team and urge them to do their best; its not our job to judge what position they ought to end the season at, and complain about anything less (or even a trajectory that might lead to something less). Its a mystery why this team isn’t performing better; but not one I pretend I can answer.

  • I take that back. I can see how it will be 3 at the back. Ox and Monreal on the flanks, perhaps. Let’s see how we can make this work.

  • We’ve started brightly and need a few minutes to get used to this, but we’ve already seen crosses to Giroud. Have the Boro ground staff put some grease on the pitch or what? Our boys have been losing their footing easily.

  • Giroud has been wrestled down in the box and ref Anthony Taylor has turned a blind eye. That’s a penalty all day long!

  • Not a game of the highest quality by the sound of things. I only have 5 live tinbase that on mind. But no shots by us yet. None on target at all yet

  • Anthony Taylor is breaking all the rules (advantage rule especially) to give Boro a set piece opportunity, it is amazing. He has blown his whistle for some niggly stuff refs will usually ignore, if it means a chance for them to launch it in.

  • ALEXIS!!!! From the FK won by Xhaka… In general we (finally) had some better interplay near their box…

  • It’s not been a vintage display by the Arsenal, but that is understandable, considering the poor run we’ve endured affecting confidence. But it is fair to say we have done the basics right in some instances and that’s the way to rebuild confidence. However, I make the observation that we have two players who cannot jump for headed confrontations and are unlikely to win anything in the air: Mesut Ozil and Xhaka. Whenever Ozil ‘pretends’ he is contesting a header, it is to duck into the opponent and handing fouling them to the joy of the ref. Xhaka just has to wait for the ball to drop. It is disturbing at this level.

    We need to grind this one out, methinks.

  • Hey, TA. The Ox has been great on the wings and bombing in cross after cross. To me, he’s looked our best player and gives the Boro full back something to worry about. This isn’t over by any stretch so we need to be smart now and know they will make it a game in the second half. A second from us will kill it off.

  • 1-1… Nacho let Downing get onto his left foot. The cross is ideal and Negredo uses the sole of his foot to put it in… Easy stuff for Boro on the break…

  • OZIL!!!! 2-1 Chested down by Rambo on the lifted ball from Alexis… Ozil one touched it in at
    the near post with his right foot…

  • …then we go right back to giving away a silly foul to give them another set piece opportunity. Why don’t we learn. No need to slide in. I think we need to bring on Coquelin for Ramsey or Xhaka. He can stay with Traore who looks set to give Monreal a hard time. He needs support now.

  • Hmmmm. Nice to see Ozil and Sanchez celebrating the win with passion, and from the bench, after the whistle went.

  • FT…. Sheesh that was hard… Credit to Cech for those couple of saves when Boro were able to knock down a couple (more) high balls…

    I’m a bit surprised we weren’t able to hold the ball a little more once we went ahead for the 2nd time and esp. after Ozil and Alexis went off… The urge to score a third was strong, I guess…

    Far from fluent but we got it done…

  • A hard fought win and we deserved it. It was not vintage football and especially our wings where poor, but we got there he in the end. How many balls did Alexis lose and how many times did he provide accurate service to Giroud? Yet he gets MOTM. Holding was my MOTM and Rambo was his old self in the second half, which is very good news for the cup game. Xhaka had also a v good second half

    Eris, honestly, I thought the Ox was poor throughout the game. We all know he can skin a player but the next, crucial pass is sooo poor. The thought that we let Gervinho and Campbell go and we kept him is very disappointing to me. But as always, I respect your view.

  • TA, I feel Wenger let Gervinho go because of fan pressure; not the Arsenal way, I agree but the lad was getting a barrage of abuse every time he went to the sidelines, owing to his penchant for big misses in front of goal. He was unhappy and must have asked to be sold. I would have kept one of them (Campbell and Gervinho), at the least, but we can’t know what the manager sees to make these calls.

    Ox was the Man of the match on most polls (not sure who won it officially), including the one on the Club website. You may have a point about his final ball, generally, but he was on point last night. It won’t be his fault that the Boro CBs got to the crosses before Giroud, would it?

  • Eris, I was perhaps a bit harsh on Ox and I can see why others rate him a lot more than I do. Picking the right ball is an art and I reckon he did not do it enough, but you have a point re the quality of the defenders. In general though, I don’t care what others say or think and make up my own mind. I honestly had to check whether he was still on the pitch in the middle part of the second half as I had not heard his name for ages. Love your and others support for him and I can say that I appreciated his willingness to get stuck in and make the runs

  • It was a hard-fought win for us. Given the circumstances, we did the best we could and got all three points. Wenger has made a bold change and it paid off. Credit where its due.

    Now – Wembley.

  • It’s been a right battle at the Santiago Bernabeu tonight. Now, all set for extra time with Bayern just cut down to 10 men after Vidal rightly got sent off towards the end of the 90minutes.

  • Did I say Vidal was “rightly sent off”? Meant to type “wrongly”.

  • Wilshere out for rest of season with broken leg.
    I’m hearing that he’ll miss the start of next season, so that’s contract talks put on hold I guess. Although, if I recall, Wenger did agree a new deal with Diaby when he was out with a long term injury.

  • It’s a shame about Wilshire’s injury. Like with Diaby my dreams of him are beggining to evaporate. Another genius that might never be.

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