Cech or Leno? Sok, Mus or Hol in the CB pairing? Can Unai afford to drop Xhaka to LB again? Line-Up|Preview

A lot of Gunners and non-Gunners are looking at next weekend’s encounter with Liverpool as our first real test/ as a game in which the credentials of this Arsenal team will be really tested. I say ballsocks to that: winning tomorrow v the Glaziers is as important as the Pool game. They are both about winning three points, and playing against CP it’s the sort of game that we have often struggled to win when we are on a good run. We are starting to get light-headed after WWWWWWWWWWWins and Palace are struggling this season, so the biggest risk is underestimating the task to come back home with all three points.

And despite the good run, Arsenal are still a work in progress and Pool are ahead of us right now. We could still beat them at the home of football, but structurally speaking the Dippers are a level higher right now. Emery keeps saying something similar, as per this extract from the BBC preview on tomorrow’s game:

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery: “I think the first thing we spoke about when I arrived here was to improve our competitiveness, both individually and collectively as a team. We are doing that.

“When we started with the losses in the first two matches, maybe a lot of people were thinking it could be a difficult way for the club this season. Now, when we are winning, maybe the same people are thinking we are on the way to arrive in the top four.

“We aren’t the best team now, and when we lost we weren’t the worst team. We’re a good team who need to improve a lot of things and take more confidence, responsibility and ambition to improve.”

Emery is of course managing expectations and also keeping himself and our players with both feet on the ground, but it is also clear that he sets high standards and is not yet happy with the way the team is playing: “take more confidence, responsibility and ambition to improve”. For me it remains OGAAT – One Game at a Time – and if we work hard, play with the right tempo and intensity, and take our chances, we have a good chance to take three points from the match. The Eagles have nothing to lose and will play in front of a loyal and loud home crowd; our luck may run out and we could concede a couple in the first twenty minutes or so, and then the true character of the team will be tested. What I am saying is, I don’t expect this to be an easy one at all and the real credentials of this team will be tested tomorrow as they will in seven days from now.

How are we going to line-up? Cech or Leno? Sok, Mus or Hol in the CB pairing? Can Unai afford to drop Xhaka to LB again? A start or a Supersub cameo for Auba and Rambo? You tell me!

Here is my predicted starting 11

submit football lineup

I reckon keeping Auba fresh on the bench to come on after sixty minutes to shatter the crystals is highly possible. Guendouzi and Rambo could join him then too from the bench. Nacho and Kola are doubts so I reckon it will be another tough one for Xhaka on the left, even though I don’t think we can afford to take him out of the DM-pivot. However, Elneny, who remains an underrated player with many of the fans, will do a fine job next to our Uruguayan aspiradora, I reckon, and Xhaka just has to do another job for the team there (fingers crossed he doesn’t get injured). Welbz, on a high after the winner in Lisbon, should get sixty minutes to run at the Palace defence and Ozil and Iwobi are expected to make starts. Mustafi to replace Super Sok to keep easing him back into the team and Cech to start on the bench with our midweek fixture v Blackpool in mind. Yep that is my team for this weekend.

Danny Welbeck celebrates

Enjoy the game fellow Gooners: forget about anything else and let’s play our best football to make it 12xW so far.


By TotalArsenal.


36 thoughts on “Cech or Leno? Sok, Mus or Hol in the CB pairing? Can Unai afford to drop Xhaka to LB again? Line-Up|Preview

  • A repeat of the Fulham performance would be nice, but Emery is talking sense, managing expectations and most importantly keeping our players focused and humble.
    He bigged up Crystal Palace after the Sporting game, he’s not underestimating anyone, it’s OGAAT for sure Total, good post btw…

    In Zaha, Palace have a very dangerous striker who can really hurt us, just as dangerous as Vardy last week. We dealt with Vardy but the threat remains.

    Emery can do some serious R&R of his squad next week vs Blackpool, so tomorrow I expect him to roll out the big guns. Welbeck has probably done enough to keep his place, three strikers gives Emery the luxury of rotating them and keeping them fresh and he’s doing an intelligent job in that regard.

  • yeah Zaha is a threat, Kevski, and will give Xhaka, or whoever plays left back, something to think about. Would be a good player to have at Arsenal if and when Rambo or so leaves.

  • Good-good TA, thanks!
    Leno, it is, for continuity. Fulham and Leicester were momentum-building matches. Watford, though barely visible in the rear-view, were stifled. Disappear Hector’s OG– and we’ve conceded just one goal in our last 270 PL minutes+extra-time. With goose eggs for Qarabag and Sporting too? Little question who the #1 is now.


  • Ah JW1, one of your favourite themes! 😉 I wonder what Leno’s stats would be like if had to play without Torreira’s midfield protection… Stats and dammed lies and all that.

  • Bloody quiet again. It looks like the blog is on its last legs and I can really do with the extra time. Ah well all good things come to an end sooner or later.

  • Total, chill with the negativity. The discussions here have been pretty active lately, and always insightful. We all come on when we have a moment. I’m commuting to work right now for example. You’ve got all different time zones to take into account also.
    Anyway, I’m hoping for Leno too continue for now unless he shows some bad form. I think our defenders flow and confidence look better with him also. That helps even with our midfielders too, so it affects everything in some way.
    I like aubamayang coming on later if that’s what the coach wants, but I hope it doesn’t start to bother him.
    Plus, I hope we don’t get cocky and look past palace with the big game next Saturday.

  • TA, nice post. Leno has become my No. 1 keeper principally because he doesn’t bring that nervousness that grips everybody particularly the players when we are playing out from the back. To me Cech should assume a similar role as Mert. did last season …. our No.2 keeper but more of a big positive influence in the dressing room.

  • Hi all.. Hi TA..
    I prefer playing Welbeck as our LWB and 3 CB than to put Xhaka in LB again.. Moreover if Zaha is his opponent..

    Elneny isn’t bad player.. but with his last performanced.. it will be saver if Xhaka playing in his position..

    So TA, I agreed with 10 of your starting eleven but will change Elneny with our Greek Buffalo.. Sokratis.. in a 3 CB position..

  • Atm I’d say our top front four players are Ozil, Laca, Auba and Iwobi. Can’t remember they’ve been started together. Emery might start with them.

    Bel. Musti. Sokr. Monr.
    Torreira. Xhaka.
    Iwobi.Ozil. Auba.

    If Monr. and Kola fail the late fitness test Xhaka transfers to the LB while Guendz pairs with Torreira.in the double pivot role. Emery and the boys would be keen to get a better 1st half performance.

  • Hi there, TA… I want to agree with you–about it being awfully quiet–and I want to STRONGLY disagree with Jnyc about the discussions lately. Beyond the drop-in by Herb’s Army for an extremely depressing repudiation of Ozil (and Wenger)… (It truly made me sad to be a Gooner, that one…) and a couple of spirited responses (cheers to JW and ‘Eris)…there’s been just about nothing here with any meat on it. I put up a post by Frozen, then one myself and got…exactly nothing, for at least 1/2 a day on each, then a few dutiful chimes. I was at least excited that my post made JW go back and watch a half of our football, but I’ve got his e-mail address so maybe I’ll just write him directly…

    My impression is that we’ve whittled down to a group of guys who sometimes watch a little Arsenal football, and, mostly, are fine going by what they see in the highlights packages, hearing what the pundits say or just by reading the scoreline. Do people watch any other football? That was the question I posed in my most recent post. It sure doesn’t seem like it… (I actually like to write when watching neutral football…maybe a reason my posts/comments get a bit too long… Interesting also might be this current game between Leicester and WHU, down to 10 after a leg breaker from Mark Noble…)

    Additionally, mostly because of TA, BKesque is one of the more POSITIVE Arsenal blogs out there, which is maybe the WHOLE problem. Trying to celebrate the football? (Like actually watching it…) is perhaps maybe an almost quaint way of doing things. We’re in the election season here in the States and you certainly don’t see a lot of positivity in the political ads, for example. Talking points…and creating outrage…that’s what gets you hits on the internet (and motivates voters). Too much winning, I fear, equals nothing to say… Everybody has their favorites (who maybe get a pat on the back) but more often we have our targets of ire. At present, the hated players are getting away with their idiocies (and other faults) so what’s to say? Credit then (again…) to Herb’s Army, I guess, for sh*tting on a hated player AFTER a brilliant performance. Digs at the former manager are also always something too…

    Unfortunately, it takes a few more characters to write in balanced fashion… It’s like reading from the teleprompter, instead of Tweeting out the vitriol at 3 in the morning… (Sorry, too political, again…)

    TA’s match reports (observation posts) have been fairly well balanced and while there has been plenty of celebration of the players and the new manager’s approach, it’s also tempered with an appropriate level of restraint. For me, the run of wins has blown my mind…but I think we’ve also benefited from the fixture list (of course)…and some real luck. We’ve yet to concede a penalty nor have a player sent off, among other lucky bounces…

    Maybe tomorrow we’ll have our comeuppance… And all will be right (again) at Arsenal…and we’ll get a few more comments here on the blog…

    I hope not. We’ve got tougher games coming and I really believe that this season is (almost) all about the NLDs, including the inevitable (feeling and likely two-legged…) confrontation in the Europa League. (And, after that, it’ll be Chelsea for the winners…) I’ve been watching a good deal of the CL football and I see nothing wrong with five English teams in that competition…

    Palace away has been a tough match, but all the away matches were tougher with so much Wenger-out hatred spilling towards the players in recent years. Bellerin took a tonne (English spelling…) of travelling support bile in this fixture some 16 months ago when we lost badly at Selhurst.

    I don’t quite agree with the starting 11. Holding or Sok to pair with our anchorman, Mustafi? I’ll go with Holding but both have ridden their luck and could have been sent off or called for pens recently. We need our LBs back sooner than later and it would be good if one of them could at least be ready from the bench. For this one, I think it will be Lichsteiner (to start) over there again. This means it’s Xhaka (plus LT11) in the DM spot. Elneny, who’s likely gone in January unless we can get some money for Ramsey instead, is unlikely to get his first PL minutes as a starter… (And, I’m gonna have to get me a new avatar… 😦 …if I keep writing and/or the blog continues on…) Despite the goal, I’d pick Welbeck to start on the bench in favor of Aubameyang…in a preview of the attacking power we’ll need from the get-go at home vs Liverpool and in other tough games at Bournemouth and Old Trafford (and in the NLD). As always, what (TF) do I know?…

    I think the blog SHOULD continue BUT I (often) wonder if I should keep writing (here). My comments are too long and, when I get no (or little) response, I tend to repeat myself (if I don’t lose motivation entirely…) Additionally, I can’t stand the blame-game (and lack of balance) when it comes to (tweeting out) our criticism of the players and the club we purport to support… We all have our favorites (and favorites to blame…) but…as long as they’re wearing the shirt, can’t we find a positive word (to balance out the vitriol)?…

    Just asking… And, if you’re still reading this, TA, I can try and put up a live-blog post for tomorrow’s match. We gain an hour as the British Summer Time ends (ours changes next weekend, I think) so the start isn’t so terribly early for me… Lemme know…

  • Finishes 1-1…but with a REAL leg-breaker at the end… tough stuff for Amartey… But actually kinda interesting watching the 11 v 10… WHU only dropped the points on a late deflection…

  • Yeah, I’m probably gonna need a bit more encouragement than that ^^^… Sorry, TA… You’re not even gonna stand behind the 11 you picked?

    In that case… BKesque Out (is probably the correct answer, I fear)… Or, like J or somebody from NYC might say… forghedaboutit… 😦

    Or, since you agree with *everything* I wrote, that should me not writing here anymore…

    Obviously, once again, I was hoping for a little bit of feedback, but I also tend to honor the commitments I make (to the live-blog, tomorrow)… I guess I’ll leave that as a “game day decision…” 😦

    Before going into hiding again, however, I wanted to mention that I enjoyed a bit of the Ultimate (frisbee) video that JW put up… And one of the cogs in the San Jose team’s offensive team, Ashlyn Joye, is the son of a guy I used to play with… (Plus, I dated his aunt… :0 …)

    Laters… Enjoy the match… Go on then… Or maybe not… End the winning streak in order to save the blog, or something…

  • Live Blog? I’m in guys. I need the diversion!

    Just finished a near-60hr work-week and after crash-burning at 9pm last night– awoke at 3am this morn, eyes-wide wondering: ‘What could I post that might have TA consider blogocide?’ 😉

    Kidding aside TA? I get where you’re coming from– keeping a blogsite running long-haul is no easy thing. Once worked as communications director for an organization of about 400– for about four years– writing daily or every other day. And moderated a well-trafficked political site for about 18 months.

    Look. We’d just come off the least contentious interlull in like, forever. With 11 wins in a row? What? We should just conjure up conflict? My cuppa’ schadenfreude runneth over weekly– with United’s traveling comedy (home and) roadshow. Juventus is a good team. But a 1-0 yawner– turned into a snoozer before it ended. Real is borderline tragic. Though I do watch City when I can just to gauge where we sit. Still not convinced that Pool is on ‘another level’– with just one win of note– against Tottenham. And I toss out ‘of note’ with a wry smirk.

    Perhaps not-so-much these past 3 weeks (2 dead ones!). But there’s a lot of good Arsenal commenting here that I don’t see elsewhere in my travels. Enthusiasm for the club; with a civility that isn’t prevalent in this era.

    I’m not going to go overboard on this next point– but. The teams in front of Arsenal right now? None are looking like City did last season. Each have dropped points either twice or thrice in the first 10 matches. And Arsenal? Are looking a lot like a certain Cinderella Story from 2015.

    Early days indeed. But what’s not to like?


  • Emery has been testing things out time and again. Just to come to come to conclusions one way or the other. Clearly, in his model, he wants a #10 presser. Hence Ramsey at #10. I suspect he’s come to a conclusion there and that conclusion might not be unconnected to Rambo’s contract leaving the table.

    Against Sporting he played a 4:3:3 using Elneny as a sort of #10 presser. It never worked. Elneny was substituted. But the Elneny experiment showed Emery’s lingering hunger for a #10 presser and this inspite of the incredibly creative Ozil.

    Luckily for him he has a #9 presser in Laca whom he encourages to play more as a 9/10 (a false 9). with the fallout that Ozil begins to play as 8/10. It is Carragher winning the famous “Carragher/Neville” debate. Emery is meeting the players half way. That’s brilliant of him. Come to think of it, at bottom, intelligence is nothing else but the ability at adaptation.

    Meanwhile Emery knows he already has his dream in the shape of the up and coming lad ESR aka KDB Mk 2.

  • Moreal and Kola didn’t show up in yesterday’s training pictures. That suggests they are not ready for today’s match. AMN had a short cameo for the U-23 on Friday. So we are likely to see Xhaka or Lich at LB.

    I doubt a 34 yr old Lich’s ability to cope on the back of the Thursaday exertion. Xhaka mindful of his lack of pace is conservative in venturing upfield. What is likely to be Emery’s decision seeing he likes using his fullbacks offensively?

    Would he dare use Iwobi or Welbeck as a full back? Or use one of them as a wing back in a back-3 formation? Or use Xhaka with Guendz at pivot (I don’t see Elneny in the team), letting most of our attack flow through the right side?

    Back-3 appeals to me.






  • I don’t about any of you guys around the globe, but here in the U.K. on match days they have football phone ins where the fans ring in and give a view on the game, current state of their club, all things related to football etc, here in Blighty the most well known is on BBC5Live, it’s called 606, because that’s the time it usually starts.
    I guess in the US that they have phone ins for Grid Iron, Baseball, Ice Hockey etc…

    Anyway, I don’t know if it’s me ( probably is) but I’m bored at listening to fans ringing up and moaning about referees, managers, any given poor result, the owner, blah blah blah.
    But bad news seems to generate calls, ask any newspaperman and it’s always been thus.

    And whilst I’ve noticed a general decline in comments on all blogs, you wait and see when Arsenal lose, everyone will go apeshit.
    So a lack of comments isn’t a reflection on the work you do Total, it should be seen as a kind of contentment among the fan base, it means we’re doing ok, if that makes sense. 🙂

    As far as knocking it on the head re: Bergkampesque is concerned, as Dick Van Der Kuipers once said “dont u durft”…. 😄

  • Tbh, what with Pittsburg, the helicopter crash at Leicester and Glenn Hoddle seriously ill in hospital it’s been a crappy last few days so we all need a lift from our boys…

  • Seventeenho, Licht to play three games in a row seems one too many for me, but you could be right. Auba and Laca to start together I will always like, but Auba started on Thursday and he is such a weapon to bring on after 60 minutes (and like everybody else here, I like to stick to a theory I came up with 😉 ). I reclon Elneny was taking off after 60 minutes so he can play again but Emery loves Guendouzer, so I would not be surprised to see him start next to Torre11ra instead. To be honest, as long as Torreira, Ozil and Laca start I will have a good feeling about the game and the rest of the line-up is less important to me. Hope you make it in time from the warmth of your marital bed for the game, and just decide for yourself whether you are up for a live-blog.

  • Love your comment, JW, and it is an honour to have you on the blog. Pool are a well-oiled machine and they are getting the results now they did not get in other seasons. I also think they are less reliant on their main striker doing well these days. The title battle is likely to be between Pool and Citeh, and the rest of the top teams will fight it out for third and fourth place.

  • Cheers PE, not sure you are correct re the pressing nr10. Laca, Welbz, Mkhi and Iwobi do also a lot of the pressing and Ozil is the one who next to the pressing also is able to have the overview and finesse to pick the one pass. I reckon we are pretty much sorted there with Mesut now.

  • Ok, I’m out all day, but I’ll try to check in for the live blog.

    Thanks for the work you do Totes, lata

  • So let’s get ready for all quiet in BK if we make it a perfect 12. Or is the doomsday Pool effect going to unleash an avalanche of opinions from pillar to post?

  • Hello 17highburyterrace.
    You shouldn’t take my comments to heart. I’ve been supporting Arsenal for almost 50 years now, and lived through a long period of Liverpool dominance, followed by Alex Ferguson at United.
    I don’t hate Wenger, as I’ve said on here before, if you look at his record at Highbury, it is better than Herbert Chapman’s, who laid the foundations for our only dominant period in the clubs history.
    But he had huge flaws, which were laid bare when he decided to try and replicate Barcelona on a shoe-string budget. He publicly admitted he had stayed on too long, which is a bit of a selfish act.
    When he bought Ozil, Arsenal needed a striker, hence the failed attempt to buy Suarez a month before Ozil arrived. It’s not that Giroud wasn’t decent, but he’s not Thierry Henry or Wrighty. To maximise Giroud’s specialised skill-set, he needs someone to play off him, as France did with Benzema and Griezmann, which was never implemented at Arsenal. Whilst he scored goals, he was never prolific, and he took a lot of unfair criticism more through being a victim of Arsenal’s tactical set-up.
    Maybe that’s the same for Ozil. Arsenal just haven’t been tactically set up to accommodate the full range of Ozil’s ability.
    If my comments make you ashamed of being an Arsenal fan, perhaps we have very different perceptions of where we think the club should be. A random stranger’s comments shouldn’t stir such strong emotion, I know Total from quite a while before BK was born, and he knows my opinion on all things Arsenal.
    At the current time I am very excited and up-beat about Arsenal and the immediate future.

  • Laca
    Auba / Ozil / Iwobi
    Guen / Torr
    Xhaka / Hold / Must / Bell

    Confirmed. NBCSN.


  • ‘…you wait and see when Arsenal lose, everyone will go apeshit.’

    A global colloquialism Kev? 😉


  • I like the line up under the circumstance. I particularly like the front 4. They are starting together for the first time.

  • Good morning, I guess…

    Commitment, I knew, would rule the day… So, I’ll give it a go…Expect a new post but it will take a few minutes…There’s a ghost in the machine (the espresso machine…) and it took a few extra minutes to get the temperature/pressure to the right levels before pulling the first one. It’s in me now, however…

    Sorry for my bad attitude and everybody’s got the right (as JW and Eris stated midweek). I just find it sad that some fans know more than the manager(s) AND choose to go elsewhere than toward (the great) appreciation (a performance like Ozil’s a week ago deserves. To me it’s sad… but that’s just me…

    Back in a bit, asking people to move it on over…

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