Genius Ozil to Feed AubaCazette, Xhaka-Tor-Rambo to Boss Midfield: Pool v Arsenal Preview

Rest in Peace Peter Hill-Wood and thank you for all that you did for the club – including all the silverware and the new stadium. Our thoughts are with his family.

Peter Hill-Wood

Match Preview and Line-Up

Liverpool v Arsenal, forever a ‘classic’, is our second hard away game during the Christmas period, whilst our opponents tomorrow play their second home game in a row. The mood in that proud city could not be higher, now that Citeh has lost twice in succession and the red supporting side of this small city is becoming the favourite to win the title this season.

Time for World-Cup winner Ozil to play in the hole and get the respect he has earned

In recent seasons, Arsenal have struggled at Pool and there is every chance that we will be at the end of thrashing once again tomorrow. Having said that, Arsenal are only one of three teams not to be beaten by Pool, and it can be said that we could have won the home game. So there is some hope that Unai can get the tactics, team instructions and first eleven right and go home with one point, or even three points.

High confidence can sometimes lame a home team as we have seen so often during the Wenger glory years, and post-glory years. If we beat Pool and they then drop points at Citeh, we could even be back in the title race… but let’s not get carried away.

I guess our big issue will be once again the lack of quality in defence, further hampered by fitness issues: Monreal, Mustafi and Bellerin are all doubts for example (and Holding is out of course).

I have no clue how Emery will set up the team and who he will pick, but I reckon we have to play 3-4-3 – or 3-4-1-2 to be precise – to have a chance.

My ‘dream’ starting 11:

submit football lineup

Leno in goal but Cech would be good too. I guess Leno is the nr.1 now so let’s go with him.

A back three of Koz – Sok – Mustafi is ideal but it will depend on the fitness of Mustafi. I have a feeling he will be fit for this one.

The Wing-backs for me are Kola and Rambo, with both under strong instruction to be defenders first. Pool will press us into our own half and we need experienced players with speed and aggression (Kola) and good passing (Rambo) to beat the press and get the three front men into play. Rambo will also strengthen the central midfield which is key when playing Pool: we must not let them settle there.

Please let it be Xhaka-Torreira in the centre of midfield again. If not, I have no hope whatsoever for a positive result. This is not a game for the adventurous Guendouzi in deeper midfield.

Up-front it has to be harasser Lacazette to give the Pool defence something to worry about. We all know that Auba loves to run into space and that Ozil is the man to find space and spring the counter-attacks for us – and Pool will leave space behind their defence. Absolutely key is for Emery to trust Ozil and to give him a free role in das Loch.

Both Xhaka and Torreira can also quickly switch-over from defending to attacking, and if we start with Auba and Laca there is every chance that we will score at Anfield. Having said that, I would also be happy for Auba to come on in the second half and Iwobi to start. The Nigerian is good at controlling the ball in tight spaces in our own half and help us spring counter-attacks.

I think we would have a decent chance with the above team, subject to fitness of Mustafi. Will Unai have similar first-11 thoughts? Doubt it.

By TotalArsenal.


78 thoughts on “Genius Ozil to Feed AubaCazette, Xhaka-Tor-Rambo to Boss Midfield: Pool v Arsenal Preview

  • Sad to hear news about Peter Hill-Wood. RIP.

    We need to have both Mustafi and Sokratis to play in defense, with Kos as the backup. Xhaka must be in midfield alongside Torreira. Ozil in the hole with Laca and Auba.

  • Just to quickly say it was sad to hear the sad news of the death of Peter Hill-Wood. May his soul Rest In Peace.

  • TA …. good post. Balanced your worry with enough optimism. Good line up too but the reports are strong that Ozil did not travel with the squad. If so how should Ozil be replaced? Iwobi for Ozil?

    Without Ozil and Mkhi, Ramsey becomes a must but I wonder if the wing back role suits him. A wingback has to wait for the ball to come to him whereas Rambo likes to go to the ball. Still I understand why you put him there as the alternatives (Lich, M-Niles, Jenko) are not the best. If we expect Liv to dominate possession maybe Lich might prove the best of the poor lot. Ramsey then assumes a more central role.

    Am thinking of a 4:3:3 in which Kosh is used as a full back with Kola as a winger (he is a ready-made winger). That gives:-

    Lich, Mustafi Sokra Kos
    Torreira, Ramsey, Xhaka
    Auba Lacazette, Kolasinac

    With Musti back, we have a good 1st eleven. But a very soft bench. Half time substitution now looks a thing of the past 😅

  • Thanks for the preview TA!
    Agreed on a back-3. If Mustafi passes the fitness test– he starts. Can’t see relying on a player just returning from his type of injury– to come off the bench.

    The Ornacle states that Ozil did not travel:

    Seeing the 3-4-1-2 as such then:

    Got to position Mustafi in the center of the 3-back. It’s the spot where he’s ever played best. Limit his sprints– and free Sokratis and Kos to do the positional work.

    We’ll need to be hitting on all cylinders up-front to have a chance. A prodigious day for the Auba-Laca-Ramsey triad is a must.

    In Arsenal’s favor– Pool will be missing James Milner, their Energizer Bunny in midfield. He is also their corner taker. Small things can make big differences in a team’s efficiencies. Maybe one of them?

    Go Gunners!


  • Cheers guys. If Ornstein is saying it it is most likely true. WTF is going on there as he was never a doubt on for this game.

    I would prefer JW’s line-up to Pony’s. Key is for Rambo to come and help out but not to be in the space of Xhaka and Torreira: let them sort out the midfield and Rambo can play in his favourite (ou not o!) position in the hole. That would work for me fine. Alternatively, we play in Iwobi in the hole and keep our 3-4-1-2 shape with sharp shooters Laca and Auba to scare the pooh out of the Pool defence.

    Hard to predict one. It could be a humiliation, a score draw, a goalless draw or a big victory for the good guys. Bring it on!!

  • Mustafi is the classical example of the adage ‘you only know the value of something in its absence’.

  • Douzi loves that extra one or two touches of the ball and he’s not particularly quick. If he plays he could fall prey to Liv intense press. Further he’s really worked hard the last couple of games and a role on the bench might just be what the doctor ordered.

  • With Ozil unavailable, we do have a problem as he was immense in our ability to keep offensive control in the reverse at the Emirates. Ramsey is his most likely replacement (wonder what we will do when he leaves; not sure I like the sound of Eva Banega, a 30 year old who has to adapt, as direct replacement, even if Emery wants a RE-union) and hopefully, he has a barnstorming performance.

    Not sure we will see Kos start this one. He is being RE-introduced gradually and with him leaving at Brighton with a knock, he is more likely to start from the bench. It is looking like a 4-3-1-2, with a variant of the team predicted by jw. Sokratis and Mustafi as CBs, Kola and Lichtsteiner as full backs. Something about Am-N didn’t look right to me, last time out (maybe, he needed better support).

    We have to go there with confidence and match them as we did a few weeks back. It’s a game we have motivation to win, if for nothing else, to end their attempt at “invincibles” immortality.

  • jw …. a lot of people can’t make the confession that they are secretly thrilled Skodran is on the way back. I guess you’re not one of ’em. 😅

  • Lovely preview, TA, by the way. Clearly, everyone agrees we have to play both Auba and Laca for good effect. Emery has made a habit of taken Laca off in games and I daresay, this is one game he must not do that or he will have a riot on his hands. Then again, with the technology available to clubs now, there may be information about his injury threshold (red zone) that we don’t know about. However, with the player showing resentment each time, that possibility may be far fetched.

    Early on, the subs were effective largely because fitness of the players wasn’t much of an issue. Of course, fans were out in their numbers applauding his pro-active approach (rather than the reactive one of the previous regime), but making changes for the sake of it may not be what this team needs now. Players need to know where they stand with the coach and that they have his trust. My point: make changes only when absolutely necessary. Injury to a player, fatigue, to rest key men, or where a tactical adjustment is being made.

  • Teams are known. Emery disagrees about starting both Laca and Auba, despite Klopp’s comments which showed he feared the pair. Maybe, Emery’s Way of improving the bench?

    Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Lovren, Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Shaqiri, Salah, Firmino, Mané

    Subs: Mignolet, Clyne, Keita, Henderson, Sturridge, Lallana, Origi

    Arsenal: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira, Ramsey, Maitland-Niles, Iwobi, Aubameyang

    Subs: Cech, Koscielny, Elneny, Guendouzi, Willock, Saka, Lacazette

    Referee: Michael Oliver

  • Looking at that bench, we are indeed, down to bare bones and Emery needed to give the bench a feared name. That’s me playing Devil’s advocate there. I would rather put my best foot forward and do the damage early on. In fact, I would rather start Laca for this. He keeps defenders busy.

    Spurs go down 1-2 at home. Please hang on, Wolves!

  • …and what vision for the goal, by Raul Jimenez. One of the many “greats” in the Wolves register this season.

  • Oops! When I said “Spurs go down”, it must have been in excitement. Game is not over yet…

  • 3-1, Wolves. Cool finish, brilliant play by the Away side. They showed no fear at Wembley and that is the template Arsenal has to adopt today.

  • Looks like 3:4:2:1

    Lich ~ Musti~ Sokr
    Niles Torr Xhaka Kola
    Rambo ~~~~~ Iwobi

  • No PE– I’m pleased he’s fit to play! Lord knows we need the help.
    But IMHO– it was Holding’s steadiness that gave our defense the foundation– however tenuous it might have been. We’ve not been the same without him.

    As I stated above I’m glad to see him in the center CB role. It’s the one spot where Joachim Low found his talent a benefit. To my knowledge he never lined up elsewhere for Germany.

    So yes, please Lord (again) — give him strength, stamina and attendant good sense required to fulfill his ability today! (Amen.) 🙂


  • Yeah, PE. 3 at the back with Lichtsteiner, Mustafi and Sokratis. Maitland-Niles is right wing back, a role which suits him best as he doesn’t look like he wants to defend.

    It is a weekend where key results can go against the grain, so, good luck, boys!

  • Eris– just able to see the last 15 minutes– of Wolves playing Spurs like a toy after the second goal. Tottenham barely touched the ball in 5 minutes of extra time. That was the performance I’d hoped they have vs Pool a week ago (losing 0-2).

    Hoping we can stay composed.
    Klopp is going to want us tested for a stretch to start the match I feel.


  • May also be 4 at the back, with Am-N at the right wing. At least, that’s what the tv line up suggests.

  • Liverpool have started at a very high tempo. Just survive the early pressure and we should be fine.

  • Lichtsteiner apparently up to some early game-playing– with Mane putting his hands to Stephan’s neck– mostly symbolic it appeared. The result of a supposed elbow to Mane’s ribs.


  • What a time for Am-N to score his first goal for Arsenal. Iwobi has done well there.

    When we go 3 up, maybe Saka can get his chance. 😀

  • Two goals conceded in quick succession. If you add our goal, that’s three quick goals. The neutrals May enjoy this but our defence have got to be asking themselves questions there. We need to calm down now the game is open. More goals expected.

    Ramsey takes too long in the box and is well tackled to deny an opportunity.

  • Brilliant set piece play that only a chance flick of the ball by Alisson– prevents a header by Mustafi.


  • Mane from Salah 3-1.
    And the axes come out as Xhaka hacks down Robertson at the knees.
    Booked with a lengthy talking to from Michael Oliver (Ramsey acting as barrister).


  • We’ve made it too easy for Liverpool today and it’s a bit disappointing, to be fair. Hard to see who comes off for Laca now; any decision made in a hurry could see us shipping in a cricket score here. We would need cool heads and conviction we can rein them in or it could get embarrassing.

    The goals have been gifts, including the penalty call. I’m not sure what Sokratis has done there to get that called against him. Scoring first has seemed like stirring the hornet’s nest.

  • We CANNOT afford to lose this game and certainly, not by such a damning margin. I still feel we can rattle them if we score a couple at the resumption.
    Focus is key. They’ve been luckier with the bounces and been clinical with the chances they’ve been given.

  • Eris … Sokr was tackling from behind. He should have gambled it because Salah’s angle was very poor.

  • Dunno’ Eris.
    I can’t see us packing it in and playing them on the counter. That’s where Pool have excelled on defense. We’ve had near-chances that we haven’t capitalized on. Got to soldier-on going forward.

    But you’re right about ‘gifts-for-goals’.
    Seems– ’tis the season.


  • Mustafi makes way for Kos at half.
    Auba takes a knock to his left-foot right off the start.

    Pool has 2 more very good chances– that Papa and Leno avert.


  • Kos on for Mustafi. I thought it was too soon for him, this game.

    Great tackle on Mane there by Socrates. That, for a man who’s just conceded a penalty on same man. If we can only just keep the ball for any period of time.

  • Kos cannot handle this game. Too much pace for a man only just returning from injury. Our touches lack conviction.

  • Ramsey off by inches for Auba at the far post!
    Shame. That was the one we needed early this half.


  • Auba is so isolated. I think Emery is worried about changing this shape for some reason. We are 4-1 down man.

  • The officials have certainlay had their part in this result. We didn’t deserve much but the scoreline flatters them.

  • The good thing is we don’t have to go there again this season (in the league). It is over, we lost badly and have to tell ourselves we are a work in progress and give Unai time to get things right. A harsh lesson for him no doubt.

  • A blessing in disguise, PE? Unless Emery has allowed us to lose so as to show management the weaknesses we need to correct, the transfer window can only afford us 2 players (or 3, max) and those will only be to replace departing or injured team mates. It’s crazy how Ramsey, whose departure is public knowledge, wears the arm band. That doesn’t send the right message, in my view.

    Most teams have injuries now, as we do, so we just have to learn to live with it and ensure those who are called on as replacements put in a shift. We can only get better as players like Mustafi, Mavropanos, Monreal and Bellerin return (unfortunately, we have too many long term cases: Welbeck, Holding, Mkhi).

  • Today has Wenger’s finger-prints all over it, but not just his, the whole lazy application at the club.
    It is four years and ten months since Brendan Rodgers smashed Arsene Wenger’s sorry looking side 5-1, at the same venue. Or four and a half seasons ago. Eight months after destroying Arsenal, Rodgers was sacked because they are a forward-thinking club who demand, and are used to success. Their whole structure and recruitment is dynamic, but more importantly it is professional and shows a lot of thought and care has been put in.
    Far too much procrastination at Arsenal, and an inability to see the obvious.
    Arsenal are absolutely miles behind and their DNA needs a major overhaul.
    Stan needs to open his vast wallet for Unai Emery to have any hope of closing the widening gap.
    Liverpool are a massive club, Arsenal are the sort of club Liverpool laugh at.
    Embarrassing from the Arsenal hierarchy for allowing this rot to fester for far too long.

  • Yes, but we have to get a couple of wins while hoping United and Chelsea keep losing too. Tomorrow, if united beat Bournemouth at OT, they will suddenly be 3 points behind us and you know how a little “squeaky bum” can unnerve a team without mental resolve. This isn’t looking good for us, giving the start that Emery has had. He must go back to where he started from: the basics.

  • Trying to be positive no matter what anyone says about other teams having injuries we have it worse than any of the top 6 sides im not sure about other teams as I don’t keep up with them. We literally had a whole back 4 out plus mavrapanos who might have been a better option than at least 1 of our 2 centerbacks today. The worst of this injury crisis happening hitting at the busiest time of the season while trying to bed in a new manager without previous English league experience.

    We are still doing better than anyone would have predicted and with a couple of new signings I like our top 4 chances but goal difference gas taken a hit.

  • Herb, Liverpool are a massive club yes, Arsenal are also a massive club and I’d like to see us act as such in the January Window. It remains to be seen if they will..?

    As for Liverpool laughing at us, I’m not too sure about that, Liverpool are far too focused on the title to be that unprofessional and I doubt that they’ll put out selfies of themselves celebrating in the dressing room after one good result, they’ll save that for the end of May.
    But as of yet they’ve won absolutely nothing, so let’s not go overboard about the Scousers as I thought they looked bang average at times, Arsenal shot themselves in the foot by our own inept defending rather than some brilliant play by Liverpool.

    We have many defensive limitations, many brought on by our appalling injuries. How fit was Kolasinac as I’d heard he wouldn’t play? Then there was no Bellerin, no Holding, no Monreal, no Mavropanos. We had Mustafi just back from injury and it showed, Koscielny a long way from the player he once was, Lichtsteiner looking like he should hang up his boots, Sokratis had his worst game in an Arsenal shirt, it was a car crash at the back.

    Our defence has looked suspect all season, but it’s our midfield that worries me, Xhaka and Torrieira looked wasted and without them shielding our defence, it’s painful to watch.

  • They say the first step in trying to cure oneself of an ailment is to recognize that there is an ailment. We are such a massive club that even our 2nd string (injuries) should not be conceding 28 goals in 20 matches. There is something very wrong:-

    1) Defensive personnel (which can go beyond defenders) or
    2) Structure or
    3) Both.
    I believe it is both.

    When we talk about following the Liverpool model it seems as if we talk about a 3 yr plan. The more important thing is the quality of the process, not the time duration. Under Klopp Liv recruited players like Mane, Firmino, Salah. Van Dijk, Emerson, Fabinho, Shaqiri, Keita. On our side under Emery we have bought 34 yr old Lichsteiner, Sokratis, Leno, Torreira and 19 yr old Guendouzi. The quality of the recruitments is an indication of the respective ambitions of the clubs. We can only be what we recruit. If it is gabbage in, it is gabbage out.

    Our club can achieve their goal with a GOOD AND COURAGEOUS PLAN. Money must be involved. The quicker done the better because our rivals are not resting on their oars.

    Emery favors the 5-4 win to the 1-0 grind. Emery was dead serious when he said that. All the goals we’ve scored and all the goals we’ve conceded under him bear testament to that statement. Even though I do not care for a 1-0 grind, some pragmatism is called for. Benitez at Newcastle would love to play with a swagger but he knows he dare not with the personnel he has. 2-1 wins can be our compromise as we continue with the ‘process’. We have to do with a more conservative philosophy until we are ready. The bottom line in football is the result. Coaches are there to get the best out of the players they have.

    Kronke, the executives, the coaches all have to perfectly synchronize their strategies.

  • PE, for me, the structure of how we play and position the midfielders play a huge part in the way we score and concede goals.

    Lately we had been unable to break the opposition down due to this structure issue. Rambo was in the midst of a few of the games, and Iwobi had been in some of them. Both had chances to bring the ball forward, but they are not technically strong enough to see spaces in front of them like Hazard and Ozil do.

    For me, Douzi is the one that should replace Iwobi in the offensive areas and his positioning is a tad better. Playing Douzi in the AM role will let Xhaka and Torreira drop deeper to protect the back 4, like what we see in the second half.

    On the defensive side we need to add one more, but it is fundamentally the structure that needs change.

  • Hi Kev,
    It was said tongue in cheek, and with a good deal of anger. If as a club you’re still making the same mistakes as five years ago, and you’re still easy to beat, there is something incrementally wrong.
    Arsenal have always aesthetically been a massive club because of their profile and decades of Etonian ownership, Liverpool are a massive club because of the silver they put on the table. Compared to Liverpool, Arsenal are like the southern ‘Everton’ with money.
    Any club on any day can be caught cold and handed a thrashing, but it’s how they react, and Arsenal fans in recent years have had to accept being routinely thrashed from those they are meant to be competing with, without accountability. Arsenal should always be difficult to beat, home or away, and that takes guts, heart a collective determination, and a disciplined team unit that I think has been missing for a long time.
    You don’t see any of our rivals getting beaten quite as easily as Arsenal, because whilst it hurts us supporters, it just never seems to have any impact where it matters.
    You have to want it.
    Five years after our last 5-1 Anfield mauling, Liverpool are reaching Champions League finals and sitting at the PL summit. Arsenal have gone backwards because the decision makers are comfortable with not winning.
    There isn’t a single player bought after 2006 who would get into the ‘Invincibles’.
    We have to stop being cautious penny-pinchers, and remind fans why we love and support the club, because if they have no desire or hunger for real, tangible success on the same scale as a club like Liverpool, what is the point?

  • Excellent comments Herb. I’m not so articulate as you my friend, but I couldn’t have said it better.

    Although, I do have some sympathy ATM for UE. He inherited a load of dross, of which you and I have been banging the same drum. He will not have the money or resources at his hand as Klopp has had, and Kronke had made that quite clear.

    Give him two or three seasons and I’m sure he will get us into the top four at least.

    He is not as blind as Wenger had become in the last several years, as even a blind man can see we have, at best, just ordinary defenders.

  • Hi VCC
    Good to see you mate.
    I don’t post much now, mainly because in the past I’ve found most fellow ‘Arsenal’ fans to be ungracious, ill-mannered, or just completely in denial regarding the club’s circumstances (present company excepted).
    So much time wasted on a once-great manager, who in the end made the club a hostage to his selfishness, and set us back years.
    I was excited at the appointment of Unai Emery, but last summer’s transfer business was ultra-cautious, and if we’re going to challenge at the top we have to give Emery the tools to do it.
    I like his CV and think he could do special things if he is given the resources.

    Thanks for the acknowledgement, PE. I

  • Thank you PE.

    It is amazing what a bit of adversity can do. I have some doubts about UE but do I feel the need for self-deprecation and look at a club like Pool and feel inferior? F*ck no. Not won anything for 13 years and not won the league for nearly 30 years. Let’s see whether they can win the league this time round or buckle come April/May. In the meantime, let’s focus on our own club and put things in perspective. It is a transitional year, remember.

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