Bels and Nacho Back | Jack, Mesut, Rambo, Xhaka and Mkhi to Boss Midfield: Line-Up/Preview

Tonight is a proper game for us Gunners. Yes we have a brilliant two nil lead to defend but let there be no doubt about it, this game is far from over. Milan are, at least historically, a big club and those sort of clubs don’t come give up easily; it is not in their DNA. The same would go for the Gunners.

Our biggest risks are complacency and nerves. A first half goal for Milan would put the cat among the pigeons, and we know we have the sort of defensive frailties in our team to just let that happen. What is then the best approach? Sit back and pick them off on the counter? Attack them with no mercy and get the game done and dusted within 30 minutes? A mixture of the two?

Not easy to say, but I reckon we need to not allow Milan to gain confidence and come and play their game in our half. This wait and see approach just does not suit us and would lead to a very nervy game. We should attack them in their half but ONLY IF we are prepared to attack them with the right intensity and focus. A half-hearted approach based on leading 2-0 in the tie will not suffice; that would be suicidal.

So attack with real purpose and intensity and dominate the Rossoneri in their own half, with quick and aggressive defenders to deal with any break-outs: Koz, Mustafi, and Bellerin and Nacho if they are fit, must play. Furthermore, key will be who will play in front of the defence in the double-DM pivot: Jack, Elneny, Rambo or Xhaka, or maybe Maitland-Niles? My guess is Rambo and Xhaka and especially the Welshman holds the most important role as our B2B beast. His discipline, positioning, interceptions and link-up play with attack will be pivotal tonight.

I expect us to play 4-5-1 or maybe even 4-6-0. Let’s face it, Welbeck is not a great attacking threat and Lacazette is still out. We will need the goals to come from our midfielders once again and Welbeck is probably also ‘just’ a midfielder. We can destroy them with our fast and inventive passing game and for this we need to add Jack, Mesut and Mkhi into the mix. It is a bit like the Cesc years, really. Midfielders playing football the Arsenal way.

Personally, I would go with these eleven and then give Elneny and Maitland-Niles and Kola half an hour in the second half, if the game requires it.

My predicted team looks like this (subject to players being fit enough to start):

submit football lineup

I believe if we start with the right attitude, intensity and focus, and avoid big individual mistakes as much as possible, we will get a result that will see us through to the next round. Let there be no doubt about it, this is a big game. A win means hope and focus for the rest of the season; a loss means the season is over and the proverbial will hit the fan for months to come.

Dressing Room music (from 27.30 minutes onwards):

This Scherzo will focus the minds of the Gunners.

Come on Your Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.


87 thoughts on “Bels and Nacho Back | Jack, Mesut, Rambo, Xhaka and Mkhi to Boss Midfield: Line-Up/Preview

  • TA,
    That’s a good post. One of the most accurate way to gauge the way our team feels is simply by one taking a look at oneself. Am so nervous. If the team is as nervous, Wenger would know that the best instruction would be to tell them to go do their thing. Quick passing game. That’s what they did in the last two matches.

    And that TA’s selection looks like the team. Marginally do I prefer Elneny’s security in possession to Jack’s forward runs with its greater turnovers. And that would mean a 4:3:3. With my nerves, trust me to err on the side of caution. I expect;

    Bels Musti Kos Nacho
    Eln Rambo Xhaka
    Mkhi Welbz Ozil

    jw, on the goal scorer(s) prediction, put your money on Welbz to score on Ozil’s assist. I won’t venture further.

  • PE you’ve just set out the change that I wondered about. It’s a little more defensive in outlook. But also reflects a good game by Elneny at the weekend and frees up Rambo to be more offensive as he prefers. Happy with either line up thus far shown. AMN if there’s any injury doubt with Bells too.

  • Yes PE that could work too. Only problem is we would probably sit back more that way and invite pressure, whereas Jack will help us push forward if Rambo and Xhaka are playing behind him. A subtle but possibly big difference.

  • Good one TA–
    I’m on board with your lineup. Nice to have this kind of MF selection headache. Where every one of their ‘last games’? Was a good one!

    Xhaka scoring? If he does TA? I will send you a gift from Texas. Really. 🙂


  • Hi all.. Hi TA.. Nice post as always..
    But I like PE team more.. With Elneny there.. We need to make sure our defense is strong enough.. And I thought Bellerin won’t give much added value to the team.. So I will choose Chambers or maybe Niles..
    Welbeck did ok last game.. So we must believe in him now..

    My teams :
    Chambers – Koscielny – Mustafi – Monreal
    Elneny – Xhaka
    Mhkitaryan – Ozil – Ramsey

  • JW1.. Send me also.. For I also believe that Xhaka will ‘boom’ any time.. Hehehe..

  • Henry–
    Well. I do have one too many cats… 🙂
    It’s a deal. Go Granit!


  • Hahaha JW and Henry, now we have created more pressure on Xhaka. He will try a couple of shots but Wenger will give him the dirty look, no doubt. Still I feel he will be on the score sheet tonight.

    Henry that team works for me too. I have a feeling that Bellerin may be on the bench tonight, but Jack will surely play as he is keen on keeping the ball in midfield and start the counterattack.

  • Arsenal: Ospina; Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Ozil, Ramsey, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan; Wilshere; Welbeck
    Arsenal bench: Cech, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Elneny, Iwobi, Nketiah
    Milan: G Donnarumma; Borini, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Rodriguez; Suso, Kessie, Montolivo, Calhanoglu; Andre Silva, Cutrone
    Milan bench: Storari, Zapata, Musacchio, Locatelli, Biglia, Bonaventura, Kalinic
    Ref: Eriksson (SWE

  • Full marks TA. Let’s hope the right team turn up tonight – the one that’s going to kill off the tie in the first 30 min, not the one that starts slow, concedes a sloppy goal early, and then gives us heart attacks for the rest of the game. If we’ve turned a corner we should see the former turn up with some steel in them, nothing too flash or complacent until the tie is dead. That would be a big lift for the fans and put some of the noise back in its box. I’m hoping.

  • Kos grabbed his lower back after heading Mkhi’s corner and landing awkwardly.


  • We never get that call.
    PEN. Foul on Welbz.

    Donnarumma guesses left– Welbz goes right.
    Danny converts!
    1-1 / 3-1 agg.


  • Very dodgy penalty methinks. Most unusual to see a decision given by the 4th official, or whatever the guy who leans on the goalpost is called.

  • Not exactly convincing so far. But the result is still looking like the right one. I will take that. Good for Danny to put the pen away well.

  • Jack with a rifle-shot from 25yds– Donnarumma saves diving at the right post.


  • Sorry for my absence… Continuing health issues (this flu…and maybe a sinus infection) just won’t lift… 😦 The tiny amount of energy I’ve got has been dedicated to shoveling/blowing snow and trying to get the dog out in it… I’ve got about an hour on skis when I would usually have about 25-30 given the recent storms… It’s pretty sad… No (evening) drinking and I’ve even thought about skipping my morning coffee…

  • So.
    We’d been good at keeping possession for stretches in the first half.
    Right before Milan’s wondergoal– I was thinking:
    “Now this how you burn 45 minutes.”

    Should have just not thought about it.
    I’d seen this before somewhere before…


  • So… The last thing anybody (you or I…) need is my bad attitude about my football club…

    On the one hand, some results have gone our way–and I have no worries about this one, even before the diviest of dives by Divey Welbeck–but what’s the point? Either way we win (or lose). IF we can get eliminated from this competition it’s just happy times for those who blame all upon the manager. If not?… Well, soon enough… It seems unspeakably sad to me, but blame is the name of the game and if you’re not (1000%) happy, you gotta point the finger…

    OK, 2nd half on…

  • Seventeenho?
    I can promise you will feel better if you take these three things 3x daily everyday:

    Eternal Energy.
    Better Than Bouillon.


  • Mkhi with a saved blast near-post- and Mustafi heading over on the ensuing corner.
    Ozil providing both balls.


  • Game’s pretty open now…. Suso (I think, it was) needed that one on target…

    We still look the better team here, IMO, though our 6 midfielders haven’t found the right combo of finishes to get past their (solid thus far) keeper…

    Oh Aaron…

    That’s a good one to stay down after…

  • Yellow for diving? That was twice the foul that DW “won…”

    Shame about these things, I think… Like AW says, you have to have “values,” or something…

  • Elneny on for Mkhi.
    Thinking we should also put AMN on for any of Jack/Aaron/Mesut.


  • Also, J-dub… In general, I find myself agreeing with your in-match commentary… Quite a bit more than folks and their player ratings, for example. It’s possible that I just don’t quite understand how to do them. If we lose the highest rating is a 5; if we win the lowest is a 7?… I see a pretty good bunch of players–under extreme (and not very necessary) pressure–giving good efforts game over game over game. Some I rate higher than others but the reactionary short-termism (to the scoreline…) and blind favoritism seems OTT…

    Time to take my bad attitude outta here…just as Mkhi goes off for Mo-Neny…

    Enjoy!! 🙂

  • Danny still chasing the ball all the way to the GK.
    And he also gets a brace!

    3-1 to the good guys!


  • Oh, OK, no kitten then… (I’ll take one of whatever you’re sending TA… 😉 )

    DW gets a (legit) goal!!! With decent work putting Jack in who crossed nicely for Rambo… The Brit-core lives!!!!

  • Jack on a nice bit of tiki taca with Ramsey and Welbz fires wide left from 18.


  • Onto the draw… If we get Atleti, I’m DEMANDING that Admir do the match preview… 😮


  • J-Dub, I’m not sure we’re playing all *that* well… Mostly, we seem to be getting some bounces (and some calls and not playing teams quite as good as ManCity)… Playing Atletico in France (the final is in Lyon, right?…) over just 90 (or 120) mins, rather than in two hostile stadiums seems the better option…to me… Again, pardon the bad attitude…

    On the plus side: no more games to lose (er, play) until next Month!!! Enjoy! (Surely, I have to feel better by then…)


  • Saw the highlights. This is the Welbs that i missed.
    Controlled the game, kept the ball and passed like Ollie of old. Brilliant.

    Hopefully we get an easy draw for the next opponents

  • Good to hear from you, Seventeenho, and hope you feel much better soon. No coffee in the morning even???? WOW! Not sounding too great for you at the moment.

  • Watched the game in the pub and plenty to say about it but it will have to wait till tomorrow. THE good news is we made it through to the next round and JW1 will be sending me a feline in the post! 🙂

    Slaap lekker.

  • Hey guys, fine comments all round, after an inspiring preview by TA. Great Calls too, TA; 11/11 on the starting team was a good omen, not to speak of correctly predicting a goal for Xhaka. That’s psychic grade stuff. 😀

    I thought we played well and are looking good enough to take on anyone; losses to City was a nadir of sorts and has brought out the pragmatic side to the team which has become more defensive-security conscious, with Xhaka readily filling in for strayed defensive teammates. That’s not something you see often with him and when the stats are shown, it will surprise his detractors how important he was last night (and against Watford, when I first noticed this new style in him). His defensive actions are on the rise.

    Welbeck has improved with game time and may make it hard for Lacazette to get too many minutes as we near the end of the season and WC around the corner. I also thought Bellerin played one of his better games in recent memory. Could be because he was rested or as he’s seen AMN looking capable of taking his place… whatever it is, we need more of it.

    To the draws, it will be nice to avoid teams from far flung countries, teams from Germany and teams from Spain. I will fancy our chances against Italian, French or Portuguese sides.

  • * Losing to City was a nadir*

    PE, great outing with the previous article/post too (Player ratings). I enjoyed every bit of it and the comments which ensued.

    Onward and upward, the Gunners!

  • Eris–
    About to make the same points regarding TA’s holding forth in ‘oracular fashion’!
    Don’t believe that’s been done here while I’ve been coming ’round.

    I’ll say this– feel free to disagree– but I’ll have no part of ‘Milan were horrible’.
    I think it was more of a clash of styles– and Arsenal’s won out.
    And this may feel odd to accept– but I honestly think it had much to do with Welbeck’s inspired chasing of the ball up top defensively. Wilshere put in some stints assisting him. Milan were flat uncomfortable being made to move the ball vertically through midfield. The result were many one-touches that went astray.

    I did feel that after the Çalhanoğlu strike– we might see more in-swinging crosses from those areas on both sides. Suso attempted one from the right– and another later. Suppose we were fortunate their best CF was at RB, eh?

    But that’s as far as I’ll go in disparaging the opponent at the cost of giving glory to the guys who won the match.

    We were good on the day. Danny scored cleanly twice. PEN deserved or not. Whoscored give him a 9.0 and MoTM. And yeah– Eris is spot-on about Xhaka’s effort. That’s 3 good efforts in succession.

    The only concern now (other than avoiding Atletico next perhaps)– is Kos’ injury. Saw it when it happened– and knew he was going to be in trouble shortly. Looks like he wrenched his lower back. He went up for a header front of goal and was nudged on the way down– landing off-balance on on foot first.


  • The negative media blamed Welbs for the dive. Seriously..

    Did Manc dive to win games? Yes. Does any of the lower teams dive to win penalties against us? Absolutely yes.

    So, why did the media think that we are the villians? To hell with you crappy media.

  • Jw1, i hope Kos is able to come back after the Interlull. It is not good without him although we have 2 good understudy in Chambers and Holding.

    Welbs did his stuff well yesterday with comfortable play and awaremess of the ball and his teammates. So to give him flak for something he reacted after the defender grabbed him is bulls***.

  • UEFA Europa League Q/F draws in full:

    RB Leipzig (GER) vs Marseille (FRA)

    Arsenal (ENG) vs CSKA Moscow (RUS)

    Atletico Madrid (SPA) vs Sporting (POR)

    Lazio (ITA) vs RB Salzburg (AUS).

    Guess I didn’t get my wish and we have to travel to the land of bright moonlight and Vodka! So be it.

  • The champion league doesn’t concern me much (yeah, right), so will just add that the juicy ties in CL is as follows:

    Juventus v Real Madrid

    Liverpool v City

    Barcelona v Roma

    Sevilla v Bayern Munich

  • I’m with you on that subject jw1. Teams only become “rubbish” after Arsenal beats them. Had the result gone the other way, we will only hear how Wenger couldn’t do it again against “another European giant”.

    Milan has now gone 13 games unbeaten in the Italian league, conceding very few goals in the process. Anyone who thinks that’s not the standard of a very good team may only be practicing mischief. That is not saying we have “arrived”, either but, for some reason, the Milan side either had too much fear/respect for us or just weren’t allowed to play as well as they can. Not a mean feat.

    MoTM was between Welbeck and Granit Xhaka, for me. Hopefully, we improve on the quality of our game as confidence is slowly restored.

  • Kos’ Achilles issue is a known. If other physical aspects begin to breakdown– I’m not overly optimistic. Vincent Kompany comes to mind– as a parallel.

    You can tell Kos has played when not 100%. What we call a ‘gamer’ here in the the states. The type of player an opponent does not like to face. Again, like Kompany.

    The Watford start by Holding and the substitute performance by Chambers yesterday is a bit comforting. Though mostly possible through very good decision-making from Mustafi.

    Let’s not overlook just 1 goal scored in the last 270 minutes– that one on a wonderstrike. Won’t say we have ‘swagger’ yet. But confidence is rising.


  • JK–
    “So, why did the media think that we are the villians? To hell with you crappy media.”
    Arsene Wenger stated something quite similar at his post-match presser.
    Delivering this one-liner adroitly, for maximum effect:

    “Your job is to get everybody to suffer,” he said, adding,
    “Our job is to get as few people to suffer as possible.”

    Rat b@stards. The entire lot of them.


  • Not sure I agree about the diving folks. I can’t stand it in football. And can’t feel much happier about it even when we benefit. I’m a big fan of Welbs as a player and a person. And I hope he doesn’t do it again. We should be above that kind of play at Arsenal. But I hope his confidence has taken a lift as he has a lot to offer our squad when fit.

  • AB, there were times during other games when he were clearly fouled but the ref didn’t blow for a penalty. So what’s the problem when he finally got the penalty he wanted?

    And didn’t we had a few soft penalties going against us? Why the media didn’t say anything about it?

  • AB–
    I wrote this elsewhere:
    “However, the defender Ricardo Rodriguez did reach an entire arm’s length to contact Welbeck– however slight. That’s a foul by any definition. Intentional too. Was the PEN awarded commensurate to the contact? Most say no.

    I was live-blogging at the time– and commented:
    “We never get those calls.”

    Arsenal never do. There’s the real surprise. That we did.

    With Welbeck heading for the goal line at speed– the likelihood of him making anything of or with that ball were next-to-nil. If Rodriguez had been smarter– he would have slid instead to Welbz’s goal-side. But reaching full-length and contacting a player in the box is a YC. And a PEN.

    The dive (yes, I’m saying ‘dive’) is a secondary act to the foul. The action by Welbeck does not negate the foul.


  • Considering that Real Madrid and Barcelona in most seasons, reach the latter stages of the Champions League, it seems strange how few times they get drawn against each other…


    Since the advent of the Champions League I think they’ve met twice, both times conveniently in the semi-finals.
    It’s actually quite amazing that all three Spanish clubs were kept apart, good for TV though.

  • Kev, spot on. I am no longer interested in that ‘competition’ for exactly that reason. The apparent ‘darlings’ of Europe, Bayern, Barca and Madrid, avoid each other once again, and the English ‘outsiders’ can play each other and one will be automatically eliminated. It stinks. The CL competition is one with many dancers but the big price will go again and again to one of those three. The biggest threat to them is MC but if there is one team that could eliminate them it is…. Pool. Hence the draw?

  • Welbeck did not dive but he over-accentuated the contact. The defender made some contact which could have put off Welbeck, and so I am not too unhappy with the foul being given. However, I am with AB that it was not worthy of being awarded a penalty, and I would have been very unhappy if we would have received such a decision against us.

  • So TA?
    It’s your opinion an indirect Free kick should have been awarded– yes? OK.
    Then should not Danny’s going to ground have been YCd for simulation?


  • My opinion is that Danny did not simulate as there was contact. He wanted to make the referee aware of this by overaccentuating the contact. The contact was not enough to warrant a penalty and I would have just given a goal kick with no card for DW.

    Would a video referee have been useful here? Most definitely.

  • Players exaggerate, yes, they even dive, and we have been on the receiving end many many times, especially at Anfield and Old Trafford, but I don’t remember the media making a big fuss, certainly not as much as this recent Welbeck ‘crime’…
    Welbeck joins Pires and Eduardo as Arsenal players harshly criticised whilst Stevie G, Rooney, Van Nistelrooj, Whiteside, etc, etc, got away with it without hardly a murmur.

    And don’t get me started on Arsenal in europe and how we are routinely stitched up.
    So I actually don’t really care fellas.
    UEFA will make sure we pay for it in the end…

  • Probably the best option TA. Hadn’t thought of it that way.
    As far as the ‘crime’ Kev? Had it not been given– and gone as TA infers–no one would have thought more of it.


  • TA–
    I do settle my wagers, sir.
    For your prognostic abilities– I will be sending something to you.
    Promise, no kitties. 🙂

    Can’t be sent direct– so I’ll re-ship once received.
    If you don’t mind? Email me an address please?


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