The Three Midfielders to Give Arsenal Cojones: Watford v Arsenal Line-up/PV


I haven’t looked at the odds for this fixture. I know it must be against us. After all it’s an away match. This season at away, we have only beaten:-
1) deep in relegation waters 18th placed Cardiff City,
2) bottom half 15th placed Newcastle,
3) already relegated 19th placed Fulham,
4) bottom half 12th placed Bournemouth,
5) already relegated bottom placed Huddersfield.

The away points accumulated so far this season by the the “big 6” teams are:-

1) Liv —— 38 pts @ 2.24 pts/g.
2) City —– 35 pts @ 2.19 pts/g.
3) Spurs — 33 pts @ 1.94 pts/g.
4) United – 29 pts @ 1.71 pts/g.
5) Chl. —- 28 pts @ 1.65 pts/g.
6) Ars. —- 19 pts @ 1.27 pts/g.

Thanks to our home form, where we already have 44 pts @ 2.59 pts/g, we are still a member of the B6. Such contrasting fortunes home and away can only mean a team with a mentality that is very susceptible to hostile away environments. Last season confirms this. With the core of the team made up of same players but under a different coach (Wenger), the pattern was the same.

Emery has been trying to solve this problem visible in the Ozil saga. Omitting Ozil from his away team seems not to have yielded the desired result but it’s probably a move in the right direction. There are some players who are undeterred by a hostile environment. If anything it pumps them up the more (think CR7). At the other end of the spectrum are others who are intimidated by it. The latest loss at Everton like the thread that broke the camel’s back must have Emery more determined than ever to pay greater attention to the resilience of each player in the selection of his away team. Here is how I would categorize them.

Group A: Leno, Sokratis, Lacazette, Ramsey, Torreira (the greater the odds against them the tougher they get). ….. Group B: Monreal, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Koscienly, Lichsteiner, Jenkinson, Mkhitaryan, Aubamayang, Cech (more or less on an even keel). ….. Group C: Iwobi, Elneny, Nketiah, Ozil, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles (shouldn’t be expected to grab situations by the scruff of the neck). The others like Suarez and Mavropanos am unable to place.

Group A are my must away-starters unless for reasons of fitness, followed by Group B ahead of Group C.

Sokratis is not available as he starts the first of a two-match ban. Torreira, another in Group A, has served his three-match ban and is expected to start. Xhaka is in contention with a late fitness test.

With the mental resilience of each player more than ever on Emery’s mind, I expect this line up from him:-





Bench:- Cech, Licsteiner, Elneny, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Ozil.

In my opinion this starting eleven can stand up to the bullying of the Watford home fans, to the likes of Troy Deeney and to the usually pro home-team refereeing. I particularly like the midfield trio. The selection doesn’t  look that great on the wings. That should be the away trade off. I’d always take a boring, boring 1-0 win for the rest of the season. I hope Emery is there with me.

At this moment we are 6th on the table with this game in hand. It’s a must win game for us. A loss or a draw would mean a top 4 finish out of our hands.

Suggestions on how to improve our current squad’s away form are welcome. I know a lot of fingers would point in the direction of our defense. What about this? At home we’ve conceded only 12 goals with Liverpool and Chelsea being the only teams that have conceded less on 10 goals each. A poor defense per se should be leaking goals everywhere.

I detest Troy Deeney. I’d never forgive him for trolling us about our lack of cojones. It was all the more painful because he was right and they had just beaten us a Vicarage Road. Am still smarting and nothing would please me better than seeing him eat his words at the end of today’s encounter.

And what do you think of my groupings? Controversial? Let’s know yours.



57 thoughts on “The Three Midfielders to Give Arsenal Cojones: Watford v Arsenal Line-up/PV

  • Cheers PE. I don’t agree with your categories at all but it is an interesting way of looking at it. I shows a lot about how you see players which is of course fine. You know my view by now: sort out the midfield and we have a good chance of winning tonight; mess it up again and we will lose. This is less to do with ‘cojones’ and much more with qualities and synergy. Away we have to play with two DMs of whom one is able to spring forward. So two out of Torreira, Xhaka and Ramsey are required. It ALWAYS has to include somebody who can find the gaps, makes himself available and adds that extra dimension. This is of course Mesut Ozil – but not everybody understands. I still prefer 4-2-1-3 in away games with now and again a FB joining the attack. Let’s dominate midfield, play our passing game and take our chances. Laca and Auba have to step it up again.

  • Given that the Napoli away fixture is almost upon us some changes are likely. I am sure he will want to rest Koscielny with that fixture in mind. I harbour some fears for the defensive set up as sokratis is suspended and we may have to depend on Moustaffi. A draw would be a good result given the circumstances.

  • TA, all you’ve put down look right. But I keep wondering why so much travel sickness.

  • My groupings are not neccessarily valid for home games. Some Group C player under the friendly Emirate atmosphere do play the best football, Ozil for example.

  • I won’t argue too much with your groupings (like the thinking behind it, actually) PE, save for the fact that the “Away day problems” seems to me to be more of a selection/motivation (on the day) thing for us. Besides, I’m not sure Elneny, Mustafi and Iwobi deserve to be classed as players who have “travel sickness” as they have had good games on the road. At Everton, for instance, without Xhaka and Torreira, AM-N stood little chance without proper and trusted support, playing against Digne and Bernard, two tricky players. Ozil was the player ahead of him and we know he has something of a free role. Mkhitaryan didn’t play too well on the other flank, either. Something was just wrong with our balance that day, or it would be a different result, despite Everton’s industry.

    I haven’t investigated but I recall a few of those Away games we’ve dropped points at coincided with a midweek game just gone, or looming; there were some in which we had injuries to key players and suspensions and the team was still out of sorts, which has affected results.

    For me, we are starting to flow with the manager’s expectations and with the right mix, will beat Watford at their game. Just forget about Napoli and dominate possession.

    Other than the above, I like your predicted team and expect you to be 11/11 unless Iwobi is preferred over Mkhi. Still, with Emery (and Napoli in mind), expect one or two surprises.

  • i agree with your line-up, not for the same reasons though – but it doesn’t matter
    i find it harsh to have “categorized” kos the boss in the “even keel” group – if ONE guy in this squad has proven his resilience, laurent’s the man
    i wonder about eddie in the same group, how can he possibly be judged when he wasn’t given the slightest opportunity to shine? actually, the one thing that’s worrying me about the red machine at the moment, is what will become of the amazing “products” of our academy (eddie, but also willock, smithrowe, nelson, amaechi, balogun, …) will they ever be given the chance they deserve?
    have a nice game tonight, though it’ll probably be a nerve-racking experience for all of us

  • Permit me to post here in reaction to Kev on the last thread:

    allezkev says:
    April 14, 2019 at 13:47
    Eris, PE et al, the following squad has a look of ‘We mean business’ about it;

    Arsenal’s Dallas Cup squad: Balogun, Clarke, Coyle, McEneff, McGuinness, M. Smith, Swanson, Hillson, Daley-Campbell, Spencer-Adams, Cottrell, Alebiosu, Dennis, Flaherty, Matthews, T. Smith, Greenwood, Azeez, Ogungbo, Musah, Taylor-Hart, Butler-Oyedeji.

    Kev, that looks a strong squad and we can expect to hear some thrilling results since Away games don’t faze players, at this level. 😅

    Greenwood looks the real deal and for me, is one who may just make it into our first team, or at the worst, succeed at a top 10 premier league side. Same goes for Balogun and Musah. I also like Azeez for his confidence on the ball, for one so young. It looks like we can’t take Bukayo Saka, Willock and John-Jules for this one, seeing as they are featuring in the Europa league with the first team.

    PS: TA, I am presently at Amsterdam Schipol, on my way to Lagos, Nigeria. Nigeria gives me better luck with our results, so fingers crossed, we give Troy Deeney a bloody nose tonight (not like we haven’t beaten Watford after he made that Cojones chatter). It’s all the press trying to get into the heads of our players as they look to give United and Spurs (their favourites) the advantage.

  • Welcome Adrian and good comment. With Sok suspended for tonight, I reckon Koz will have to play and then on Thursday we will at least have Sok back and then, depending on fitness, Emery can decide who to pair him with… Mustafi or Koz.

  • PE, the travel sickness is possibly due to tactics and a combo of lack of guts by us and more guts by the opponents playing at their ground. We push harder at home and are more comfortable with the risks, but away we seem to struggle to get that mindset, and balance in midfield, right. Really hoping Xhaka is fit for tonight’s game. We need him.

  • Agreed LeGall, the big challenge is to get some of those youngsters embedded in the first team squad going forward. It wont be easy.

  • Just read your post PE and that was a very interesting piece of work and should spark some debate and differing opinions, but healthy debate is good, well done.

    I think PE, that you make some valid points regarding our away form although I think the atrocious performances by our officials this season, have had a much bigger effect than should ever be accepted by any serious league or football association.

    We could well see the final positions of the top six influenced by referees more so than at any season I can recall for a long long time, where we see the six ending up being decided more by refereeing/linesmen mistakes than by the quality of the teams involved.

    Of course favouritism isn’t a new thing in English football, it’s everywhere, but it’s how we deal with it that counts. It’s no good sulking and throwing your arms up in the air, the best answer is to play harder and get the positive results despite the officials – it was something the Arsenal were really good at but that resilience has disappeared pretty much since we moved from Highbury and I have no idea why, maybe it’s just a coincidence?

  • Total, I think a back four is the way to go this evening, as you say, more bodies in midfield and I’d actually save Ozil for Naples, he’s gonna need to shine in that one, tonight it’s more about our 11 being prepared to battle it out and that’s not Mesut’s game, so for me it’s Ramsey, Guendouzi and Torrieira in midfield, for Xhaka read Ozil, those two should be the axis of our team in Italy as for me the Europa is the priority, I don’t think we’ll make top four if I’m honest…

    And if he’s fit then what on earth has happened to Mavropanos?
    It’s a pity he has had some minutes as he would surely come into contention this evening, but throwing him in cold vs Deeney isn’t a great idea…

  • Great comments all.

    the 2 competitions are so delicately poised I suspect Emery must be finding it difficult to prioritize. More than ever it would be OGAAT for him. This Watford match is dead crucial. So also the Napoli game. Atm, his strategy might be to use his tactically most suitable teams for the next 2 games, fitness considered. Changes for resting players might best be considered in the following home game against Palace.

  • Cheers Kev. Mesut fights with his brain and that is more than good enough. Let others put in the physical effort and let Mesut find the gaps, the key passes, the assist. Always first on the teamsheet for me, my friend. Brainpower.

  • Le Gall,
    I must confess that I thought twice about Kos before including him in the B Group. But by ‘even keel’ I was meaning that hostile atmosphere doesn’t impact on him negatively which is a great attribute. Anyway I accept that categorization can be so subjective.

  • Eris,

    My theory, which must have exceptions is that “travel sickness” is likely to grip the younger ones. That’s explains the names of AMN and Nketiah in my Group C. Mustafi is a warrior but you have probably not noticed that when he, say, commits one blunder,he goes to pieces. He is a guy who needs it right all the time. Of course I could be wrong.

    To me the sample size of nearly 2 seasons have gone beyond the coincidence of wrong selections.. You mentioned wrong motivation. Maybe better to frame it as poor reception of motivational talk at away games. Or still better “their motivation degrades quickly under a hostile environment”.

  • You are right Kev ……. hoped it would provoke thought and spark some debate. The poor refereeing looks a factor only one wonders why our home form is so good.

  • Our Academy has been contributing. In the last few years … Bellerin, Iwobi, AMN. ESR is Emery’s kind of player (technique and intensity) so am expecting him in the squad coming season. Maybe Nelson also. If we can be graduating one or two into the squad every year that’s great.

  • Confirmed line up

    Musti Kos Mavro Monr.
    Torreira. Xhaka.
    Mkhi. Ramsey. Iwobi.

  • Shame Ozil is not starting but other than that a good, solid line-up. Mkhi, Ramsey and Auba have a goal in them for this one, but I am hoping Alex I will score the first one. COTA!

  • Pleased to see Mavropanos start, even if there is a risk to throwing him in with so little game time in his tank. I really hope he does well…

    Off topic, there’s a terrible fire at Notra Dame in Paris, it looks like it’s burning to rubble, awful…

  • With one goal up and against their 10 men I love Ozil in and maybe Iwobi out.

  • I’m just watching the news Total, what a national disaster for France, that building is almost a thousand years old…

    Well getting Deeney sent off has certainly motivated the Watford crowd and their players, we’ve gotta be careful here, the referee may look to even things up by giving them a soft penalty or sending one of our players off.

    Time for some grown up game management by our players…

  • Agreed Kev, but I reckon Emery will make changes and we will push them right back into their own half. Ozil for Xhaka or Tor and then Rambo and Ozil to push up together in the middle.

  • Psychic Total 🙂,
    Ozil for Torrieira, good for this game and the big one on Thursday, now let’s see Mesut open them up like a sardine can…

  • Gutted about the Notre Dame incident.

    And I would take the 3 points despite not scoring more.
    Watford had always been a physical team, thus it’s ok that we do not score as many goals as we wanted and 3 points in the bag is a decent enough result.

    We need to continue our scoring streak against Naples away.
    Do it you lads!

  • PE, Group C of the team should be split into sub groups.
    Iwobi, Elneny, Nketiah, Ozil, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles
    Should be grouped as

    C1: Ozil, Kolasinac, AMN (Can and should do better)
    C2: Nketiah, Elneny (did not get enough minutes this year to really make an impact)
    C3: Iwobi, Mustafi (The get-rid-of-them group)

    Iwobi should have his tactics fixed and instead of shooting, pass more often and his passes should be stronger. If not, he will not win me over with just hard work. Never.
    Mustafi must have someone to pour ice over his head during the game. He just loses focus at times and is a liability when he does that.

  • After watching the full game repeat, i should say that the lads in my C3 team is broken. We couldn’t make full use of them even when we are one man up. Putting them as right back and winger meant that we were powerless on the wings.
    I even felt that we were the one down to 10 instead of them.

  • allezkev says:
    April 15, 2019 at 13:02
    Quick start, Eris, we lost our first game 3-1 to Monterrey (Mexican I guess?) so not a great start.
    Balogun scored from the penalty spot after being fouled.

    Thanks for the heads up, Kev. What were the odds they’d go on to lose, right after I had given them the big-ups, eh? First game; red card; maybe, they needed to settle into the surroundings better. I’d watch out for the second game. And the games come very quickly in the Dallas cup.

  • As for the game, just glad we got the 3 points. It’s easy to underestimate the encouragement it gives some teams when they are one man down and their fans get behind them. The question must be asked, though: would we have put up that much of a fight to get something, had it been the other way round? Clearly, we need to work on the spirit of the team when facing adversity.

    Emery has a reputation for rotating his squad when battling on more than one front, as the season comes to a close. So, expect Ozil to start in Naples.

  • They sure did, TA. Splendid chaps, when they want to be. Never seen as many gun-toting men around that airport as I did this trip. Is there a security high alert going on, or a recent development?

    Awful awful news about the Notre Dame fire incident.

  • Yeah Eris, it was a disappointing start by our U19’s, maybe acclimation was an issue with our lads, maybe Monterrey have a really good youth team, it’s all part of a footballers education?

    Two great strikes by Nketiah in the U23’s and a great run and finish by Jenkinson vs Chelsea.
    The only worrying thing for me was the Jenkinson beard, to me he now looks a little too much like Diego Costa with all those whiskers around his mush…

  • TA, I’m waiting for your observations from this match…

    1. Sometimes only the result matters.

    2. I have seen Arsenal successfully press from the front. Finally. Very cool goal…

    3. The linesman must’ve watched some of the “build-up” to this match, or otherwise had the cajones and I’ll hit him first quotes in his head. Was it a red card? Not in a million years. Do I care?… Not in a billion… In fact, I’d argue that it’s “good for the game” as they say. Talk (the talk) about how tough you are and then walk (the walk) to the dressing room, f*ckt*rd…

    4. Arsenal have a chance when we score first and can play on the break. Luckily, we didn’t need to score again.

    5. The back line and Leno look in sync. It’s hard to watch them playing it around the back but the CBs seem to know his (line hugging) positioning and trust him to make the saves he needs to make. He didn’t get caught leaning the wrong way on the (late) FK, either…

    6. We aren’t very good on the break, or at least at converting those breaks into goals. That said, we’d have likely been much better (at playing on the counter) with Lacazette in the game. Kolasinac too. Getting them full rests, however, seems a good thing ahead of Thursday in Naples. Playing LT11 and MO10 (only) 45 mins each is also probably a good thing… I still don’t understand how Guendouzi gets in (ahead of my avatar guy), but so it goes…

    7. Watford with 10 were the better team over the 80+ minutes of nil-nil, 10 v 11 football. It was not great to watch, but who cares.

    8. I still do (care, that is…), and I still lack any REAL sense of confidence (or maybe “purpose” is the better word) about qualifying for CL football. Does anybody else give a sh*t(e)? My guess is no…

    Over to you, boss…

  • Thanks 17HT. There are only two words I want to say about that game: three points.
    Bring on Napoli and let’s all play for the shirt (ala Ajax tonight).

  • Congrats to you (and Ajax), TA… Next year Juve will have Rambo… Might he have helped?… No team can get far with Sir Chez in goal, a guy named 007 (once or a thousand times…) might have written…

    Meanwhile, my baloncesto (basketball) team, gave up a 31 point lead, to create (negative) history… While Tiger Woods may have scripted the greatest story of redemption (in life, not just sports, and maybe including fiction as well as fact)… Meanwhile, Paris burns, but not quite all of it…

    OK, back to Napoli. I saw a match at their concrete monstrosity of a stadium in…OMG…wait for it…1990)… Maradona had 3 goals on that day…(two from the spot, as I recall)…

  • 17ht, good thing Napoli don’t have Maradona anymore, right?

    Nice roundup of main events around the world. I am so chuffed for Tiger Woods. What a story of resilience and bouncebackability (Wenger made that a word, by the way)! You support the Golden state Warriors, then do you, 17ht?

  • Exited about Ajax. Are the glory days of the seventies back. The shame is that the monster teams are already poised to tear them into pieces. Congrats TA.

  • TA, good to see Ajax getting back to their best… but still, De Jong might move to another club this summer, and Juve needs a rebuild badly. Juve getting beaten by Ajax is not something that I would have thought of last season.

    17ht, for me I would not see Rambo as the answer to Juve’s woes. It is a team thingy that works out, not just one player. They have a couple of good players now, but they need to gel and prepare for next season.

  • Cheers chaps, Roda are my Dutch team but Arsenal are my nr.1 team as I fell in love with the club whereas Roda was a matter of geographic loyalty. Having said that, Ajax’s football has always been a joy to watch and a combination of total football philosophy, investment in youth and Amsterdam arrogance (or confidence) will now and again bring them back to the top. They will lose good players this summer but key is the keep hold of the manager. Van Gaal left too soon in the nineties and the club needs to prevent this this time round.

  • Thank for that Eris, I enjoyed reading that, one game to go and we need a good win.
    Conceding 5 goals in 2 matches isn’t great I’ve gotta say.
    But it’s more about education than results I guess, even if positive results do help, just ask Liverpool U19’s…

  • Yeah, let me add my three pennies to the Ajax theme.

    Really impressed with not only their results but the style in which they’ve achieved those results, classic Ajax. The forward, is it De Beet or De Beer, I liked him, the Brazilian insides forward who were linked with, another really good player.

    Sadly Ajax are this seasons Monaco, in that they’ll probably lose 4 or 5 players in the summer, but if your a young player in the Ajax Academy then the opportunities are there for you to grow in a great environment, it’s just a shame that the Ajax players don’t stay together for another year or two and see what they can achieve as a group.

    Total, tell us something about the Ajax manager/coach, I know nothing about him…

  • Don’t know much about him, Kev, other than that he came over from Utrecht last season. Vd Sar, the CEO of Ajax now, and fat Marc must have seen something in him. Just love that idea of quality management, a vision that fits with the culture and background of the club, and good interpersonal skills making such a difference. Tadic and Blind and a bunch of youngsters and decent, experienced squad players beating the likes of mega-spenders Real and Juve; stuff of dreams… romance in football is still not dead.

  • Seems like Tadic found his calling at Ajax.
    Wasn’t much of a player but this season he turns heads.
    Ajax to win the UCL?

  • City flunk the CL test again and their quadruple dreams turn to the treble now. Have to say I did fancy Ajax more vs City than the Spuds. The Dutch side look a team set up for giant killing. Against Spurs, they will be playing as equals. Looks like we have to suspend much of the banter against them till after the semi-final tie (assuming they lose); then on to the finals…. I shudder to think the Spuds have a chance to win the CL with Pochettino.

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