3-5-2 v Man City: Auba/Ozil up-front, Welbz-Jack-Elneny-Xhaka-Bels to Win Midfield Battle

How to beat those suffocating, self-celebrating Northern Oilers? That is the question on all our minds. Wigan did a great job yesterday, but we cannot play like they did and only once in a while do such tactics actually work. The Latics did a great job in sitting back and frustrate Man City with very impressive defending, but they were lucky that the visitors had left their shooting boots down the road. They did not take their chances and then came that one decent chance at the right time in the game for Paul Cook’s men and it was taken; FA Cup romance is still alive and kicking!

Man City were frustrated and they will want to make amends in their next game, which is against the mighty red and white of Arsenal. Football at the Wenger and Guardiola level is often about playing chess games. Wenger will need to align his pieces correctly and decide on how to open: king’s gambit, Sicilian, Catalan or English Opening, etc.

As we saw in the Spuds game, it is not easy to get it right. The first half was spot on tactically but in the second half we were poor and lost our positioning big style. I said before the start of the second half that the first five minutes may decide the game, and it did. After we conceded, we were lost and could have conceded a few more.

Against Man City Wenger will need to get the tactics right for 90 minutes. What we know is that they will want to camp in our half and suffocate us. They are drilled to passing the ball around and finding openings time and again; and once they’ve lost the ball they will put big pressure on our midfielders to regain it as soon as possible. They are like a pack of wolves that will never leave you alone.

In our last PL game against them, Wenger chose to press MC high and try to dominate them in their half at the start of the game, but it went wrong and only through a lot of luck did we avoid it all being over after just 15 minutes. MC would love us to come out and play football with them at Wembley on Sunday, and let’s hope we will not be that reckless/stupid.

Paul Cook said it was paramount to get through the first 15 minutes without conceding, and I reckon the same goes for us this Sunday. As described so well by PE in the previous post, we have a man who can hurt MC and his name is Auhhhbameyang. They will play with a high line in order to keep us hemmed into our own half and Auba will love to run into that space and latch onto a pass from Xhaka, Wilshere or Ozil. We also have the midfielders to pass the ball round in tight spaces and break the MC lock time and again.

Therefore, sitting back, staying compact and disciplined and absorbing pressure, should be our default position. It is a real shame that Lacazette is not available as we need another player to be able to run into that space behind the MC defence. Welbeck can do it, and I guess he will play, but he is out of form right now. We also have Bellerin who can get himself behind the defence with his determined runs, but he also struggles in terms of delivering a quality final ball.

I reckon our strategy should be something like this:

  1. Start calm and compact; don’t be over-adventurous and stick to the game plan;
  2. Frustrate their midfield and once we get hold of the ball, pass intelligently but avoid unnecessary risk-taking;
  3. Launch Auba as soon as we can and get Ozil, Welbeck/Iwobi to push forward to support him. The B2B midfielder to join them when possible but never forgetting his defensive duties next to the deeper-laying midfielder;
  4. Stay compact and disciplined throughout the game, but don’t be over-defensive; that would be unnatural to us and, as we saw against the Spuddies, will cost us in the end.

I reckon Arsenal can win this game if we start well, stick to our tactics and then dare to be ourselves, which is playing football the Arsenal way. The team I would like to see start with the above in mind is:

submit football lineup

I trust Jack, Elneny and Xhaka or Rambo if fit, can play a disciplined game and make the difference in the middle. I expect Ozil to help out in midfield and play a bit deeper than indicated in the formation above. I have also no doubt that Nacho, Mustafi and Koz will be okay in defence. But it is the full backs I am not sure about, and I feel we need to do something different, especially on the left. I have a feeling that Welbeck would do more than a good job if he stays disciplined and only move forward when appropriate. Or maybe it is a game for Maitland-Niles; he has definitely been v impressive recently…. What do you think?

Really looking forward to the game. Don’t care about the silverware of the League Cup but I would love us to beat the Northern Oilers in a final at Wembley.

By TotalArsenal


21 thoughts on “3-5-2 v Man City: Auba/Ozil up-front, Welbz-Jack-Elneny-Xhaka-Bels to Win Midfield Battle

  • I get what you mean about the League Cup TA, but to me every piece of silver wear is worth winning, and to beat the champions elect would be a feather and a half in our cap.

    In the long run it shouldn’t have any influence on what the club has planned in the summer and beyond, but winning against the odds is a nice habit to have.

  • Kev–
    Completely agree on the silverware.
    We’ve been building a resume of beating the heavyweights in Cup comps the past two years.
    Don’t think they don’t want this one badly.

    I’ll buy-in to your formation/lineup– but it must be AMN and Rambo in the places of Xhaka and Welbz. We have to supremely athletic– so Rambo. Then AMN has run that WB spot quite well this term. Sorry Danny, there’s no room for sentimentalism here. Welbeck is not dat guy for dis game.

    I’m still waiting to hear what the FA has to say about 3 egregious infractions by City during and after the Wigan Hindenburg.


  • actually it’s a fantastic game, we expect aubumeyang/ozil to start upfront then in the midfield Jack/Eleny/Xhaza but my doubt is Webz who has performed poorly in last game vs Ostersund

  • Hi all..
    TA.. I think our problems against big club.. Is lack of confidence.. We’re too afraid to attack but at the same time also too afraid to not playing our most expensive player Ozil..

    We must choose.. If we want you play the counter attack scheme.. Then putting Ozil in whatever position won’t give any value added..
    But if we want Ozil to be shine and lead our team.. Then give him his best position.. In the middle of our attacking formation..
    Don’t try to make Ozil as Mike replacement .. Or even Ramsey.. Just put him in the CAM post..

    For me.. Better to lost in attacking rather than park the bus..and still lost.. Hehehe..
    But As we all used to say OGAAT.. Let’s talk about the outer-sound first..

  • HT,
    What else is there to add except there are always a million more things to add which actually is saying what you have already said in a different way.

    We know how the game would be. It would be a battle of City compressing and us bursting out. It’s a game we’d want to win so our strategy would be to have a good balance between resisting their compression and aiding our burst out (still haven’t said anything that TA hasn’t said).

    It is of vital importance that we are able to beat their press and our best ‘security in possession’ man is Elneny. To be joined by Wilshere and Ramsey. I fear Ramsey might not be availed and I worry if City’s high press would be too quick for the slow but otherwise exquisite passing of Xhaka.

    Football is all about combinations and it stares me in the face that Kola going forward and Auba would make a perfect combo. The only name not in TA’s selection.

    Our emphasis should be to beat their press not through hoofing the ball out but by passing out of the back. A compressed team that successfully passes the ball out of the back I has regained its offensive shape while still in possession of the ball. So Ospina for me over Cech.

    My preferred line up:

    —-Must Kosh Nach—-
    Bel Xha Eln Wilsh Kola

  • City’s defensive half are always undermanned. But their insurance is that teams are unable to get there with their offensive shape intact. Solve that problem and you’d have City reeling. And how do you solve the problem; by beating their press and transitioning men quickly. Easier said than dome but it must remain the aim.

  • PE, very happy with your line up and additional thoughts. Kolanisac instead of Welbz would work too, even though he also suffers from a lack of confidence. I slightly prefer Welbeck as he looks best when there is space to run into, and there will be plenty of it on Sunday.

  • Henry, you are still banging on about Ozil’s position. The man is a free agent, allowed to roam the pitch wherever he wants to and to do his Mesutmagic wherever he feels like it. Let it go buddie! 🙂

  • It is a cup too many, Kev (and JW1), and nobody really cares about it, but I can see where you are coming from. The real meaning, as you are pointing out as well, is in getting a victory over current high-flyers MC. 🙂

    Thank you for the post – very much appreciated!!

  • Meanwhile we all seem to be suffering from collective amnesia as far as Ostersunds is concerned. It will be reckless to make 11 changes to our 1st eleven. They look better than Forest who spanked us 4-2.

    The worst we can do is have our attacking big guns on the bench for rescuing the game if need be. More than that I believe Wenger would start with at least 4 of the 1st team players.

  • TA, I think PE’s lineup is more plausible compared to your lineup. Auba must be the CF that finishes.

    Maybe we should play like what Chelski did against Barca yesterday. Without Mkhi, we would solely place our playmaking role on Ozil. Jacko is another possible playmaker, but he must be playing behind Ozil.

    Shall we do another Wigan on Citeh?

  • JW, I thought for a moment that you was a Led Zeppelin fan…

    Total, agree that it’s a Cup too many, but only if you’re still in the FA Cup and competing in the league, which we aren’t mate. I’ve heard the UEFA Cup referred to as the ‘ropey cup’ a play on europa so even that competition is dismissed. But we cannot afford to be choosy because we aren’t in a position to be competing at the top table, we haven’t been for a long time, not on the field at least, so for me the League Cup is a big deal and worth winning mio amigo.

    Regarding your starting XI I do like the idea of Welbeck as an attacking wing back, but I’m with JW and would go with AMN. The rest of the defence is as good as we’ve got and selects itself.

    As for the thorny question of our midfield, can we afford Xhaka switching off, Jack running out of gas, Ramsey going walkabout or Elneny being too inhibited?
    I guess it could all hinge on how fit Ramsey is?
    Maybe start with Wilshere, Elneny and Xhaka and pray… 😉

  • Nothing wrong with a bit of praying, Kevski. 🙂

    I reckon everyone of the midfielders you mention is more than okay, but it is a matter of discipline and alchemy between them…. I have a good feeling about this match. We will give them a game and them parade that shiny piece of silverware around NL to annoy the Spuddies

  • Evening TA. Many good thoughts and options set out above. Hard to know where I would put my money were I minded to bet. But I will offer an alternative formation for amusement as much as anything. We need solidity at the back. Cover in our central midfield. Passing ability to make for swift counters. And pace to give us scoring opportunities from those breaks. So I will try and 4, 2, 3, 1 line up for these qualities.

    Bellerin, Musti, Kos, Nacho
    Elneny, Jack
    Welbs, Ozil, Iwobi

    I’m not putting any money on this mind! I don’t like us playing with a back 4 in the main. But I think Elneny in DM mode and slipping back to join the CBs gives us a bit more resilience. I’m with those who see this as being a better time for Jack and for Xhaka. Ideally we would have Santi there, but Jack is te nearest we have to that. Jack need to provide some transition and find Ozil. Welbs and Iwobi need to do the hard running, defending and being off on the break. And between the 3 of them they need to give Auba some space to run through.

    It will be interesting to see who does the full 90 min tomorrrow night. It would be good to see Danny and Kola find some confidence. I’d like us to rest both Kos and Nacho tomorrow. Nacho seems to be on the edge of injury all the time at the moment. But he is essential to our cause on Sunday.

  • Hi AB,

    Good to hear from you and you always give us a balanced view. I like that line up too. I am not entirely sure about playing Iwobi and Welbeck together, as both are not at the required level at the moment. But with the right instructions and focus they could be a success on Sunday.

  • Arsenal can’t survive the ferrocious constant attacking prowess of man city . They got good qualities that can break in arsenal from midfield. To make matters worst, lost against Wigan will make them strategize against poor arsenal defense Im bonified arsenal fan Buh I see this encounter One off for Arsenal

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