Molde v Arsenal Preview and Lineup: Five Youngsters In Front of Xhaka – Balogun/Eddie CFs

Not much time today so I shall be brief. The big question for our fourth UL group match is: do we go all guns blazing for a win and with that qualification for the next stage OR risk dropping points by not playing our strongest team (on paper)? We have another big game against Wolves this weekend and then nine(!!) games in December. Arteta will want to wrap it up asap but he also needs key players to be fit and stay fit. He also has a keen group of ‘second-tier’ players and they need games for various reasons.

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Your guess is better than mine as to how Arteta will start v Molde. We know they are no pushovers and it will not be warm in central Norway despite this seemingly gorgeous town being situated on the shores of the North Sea. The home team will fancy themselves and will give it a real go, and we need to mix steel, experience, hunger and youthful enthusiasm with the right skill sets. My team would look like this:

Luiz needs a game, Kola is out so AMN to play, Soares is a good replacement for current nr1 RFB Hector, Mustafi will be up for it. That is the defence sorted. Keeper could be Leno but I guess Runarsson will get another start. In midfield we need Xhaka as both Partey and Elneny are not available for the game. In front of my favourite Gunner I would like to see two/three attack minded, ball-tidy midfielders and Willock and Nelson, and ESR a bit ahead of them will do a sterling job I reckon. Finally, I would play both Eddie and Balogun in attack with a licence to roam and help out midfield and full backs as much as possible. Hungry bunnies with a zest for goal.

Looking forward to the game and remember it is an ‘early’ kick-off (17.55h).

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners!!

LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 06: of Arsenal during a friendly match between Arsenal and Charlton Athletic at Emirates Stadium on June 06, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

By TotalArsenal.

39 thoughts on “Molde v Arsenal Preview and Lineup: Five Youngsters In Front of Xhaka – Balogun/Eddie CFs

  • Thanks for the post Total, I hope that GN5 is ok and enjoys his vacation.

    Molde have an artificial surface so I’d imagine that that could have an influence on the starting XI.
    So yes, Luiz and Mustafi is a real possibility but I reckon that Tierney might start in a back three.
    Win this game and Molde can’t catch us, in fact we could win the group, then Arteta can experiment in the last two games during the December/January programme when its two games a week.

    Xhaka would be well suited as nobody is going to really be sliding around making tackles and maybe Lacazette will start up top even though I’d rather see Eddie start.

    I’d love to see Cottrell get a run out, he’s more low profile than some of his contemporaries but I see a certain Cazorla’ness in his style, you know very busy, giving and going, keeping things moving but importantly looking to progress things. Size is an issue I know but I’m sure that his qualities will outweigh his longitude.

  • Hey Kev,

    Yeah I thought about Laca but I imagine he will play v Wolves so he could be kept sweet with that arrangement. He could always come on in the second half …

    Cottrell, did he travel? If so I also want to see him play! πŸ™‚

  • That is a really cool line-up, TA. I’m afraid you are being over-optimistic, since we didn’t deploy a 5-attacker XI at home (so there is less chance to play that offensive in Norway), but I would be very pleased with this team. Much more than my prediction, but I expect Pepe to start and another DM/CM in the formation. However maybe we’ll see Chambers or Cottrell joining from the bench…

  • Yes Total, I believe that he did go with the party as did Balogun, Smith Rowe and Azeez.

    You could be right about Lacazette although I think he’ll get some minutes this afternoon so that he’s not cold going into the Wolves match.

    Smith Rowe is an interesting one as Arteta has spoken in glowing terms of Emile and this could be his opportunity to push on and really join Willock, Eddie and Reiss in and around the squad.

    I keep on hearing about this Hungarian kid at Salzburg but all I saw was him blast the ball miles over the bar yesterday when I reckon it was easier to score, so I wasn’t too excited by him. So if we can develop our own players instead of gambling millions on imports then I’m on board with that…

  • Hi PB, it is my preferred line up not the predicted one, as that will be anyone’s guess 😁⚽

    I have a feeling that Pepe will get time to think by Arteta.

  • You know what Total, I’m amazed at all the negativity that is around on the Internet concerning Arteta and Arsenal at this juncture, I mean I understand that we’re living through unique times and that people are stressed and maybe a little depressed by life in general but the antipathy towards Mikel is quite astounding.

    Some of the bloggers I read must inhabit a very dark world when they can’t see any positives from how the team is evolving, to me it’s just a clear lack of confidence and the most obvious example of that is Aubameyang, he can’t hit a cows arse with a banjo atm but it’ll turn around, it always does.

  • I am also amazed and saddened about it, Kev. It really puts me off football at times. When we lose I also feel down but it does not turn into anger often.

    Once Auba starts scoring again he will be scary. I predict eight goals in December for AubaBangBangMeyang! πŸ™‚

  • Morning all – Don’t forget to make your predictions for this week.

    Here are the choices for this weekend,s games, there will be two extra points for the correct score between Chelsea v Tottenham.
    Everton v Leeds
    W.B.A. v Sheffield United
    Chelsea v Tottenham
    Arsenal v Wolves
    Southampton v Manchester U.
    Real Sociedad v Villarreal

  • I don’t know about the chances of Chambers, but he played 74 minute last Friday against Everton U23 (while ESR played only 45). And he is no longer appearing on the injury list of the team news.
    But according to Untold Arsenal (citing the Evening Standard) Calum is not among the players traveled, although Hein isn’t on the list which contradicts Jeorge Birs’s intel. So it is even harder to predict.
    But the most likely scenario – knowing Arteta’s reluctance to take risks – is that AMN and Cedric will play full backs in a 4-3-3 formation with the trending Xhaka-Ceballos-Willock midfield as well as the EL-regular Pepe-Nketiah-Nelson attacking trio. I don’t think Tierney or Gabriel will be playing, so either Holding or Mustafi will be paired with Luiz in central defense.
    I hope that as the qualification is only a matter of time, RΓΊnarsson will be given the nod, and Leno traveled only four touristic purposes.

  • TA, I think (but I’m prone to wishful thinking) that Arteta will demonstrate his support to Pepe by starting him as well as the practical necessity as neither Saka nor Willian have travelled, Auba should get some rest, and Lacazette, Balogun and Nketiah are all wasted on the wings, and I don’t think Mikel will start playing 4-4-2 with 2 strikers for the first time.
    Willock or ESR can play makeshift wingers (in fact it wouldn’t be out of character from Emile), but I don’t think we are that desperate to start gambling for the sole purpose to teach Pepe a lesson.

    I expect the regular 4-3-3 and hopefully we’ll see ESR, Cottrell, Balogun, maybe even Azeez joining from the bench.

  • Everton v Leeds Home
    W.B.A. v Sheffield United Home
    Chelsea v Tottenham Home (2:0)
    Arsenal v Wolves Draw
    Southampton v Manchester U. Draw
    Real Sociedad v Villarreal Draw

  • As per Charles Watts, looks like it could be a 4-4-2:


    Hopefully we’ll see some second half appearances for ESR, Balogun and maybe even one of Azeez or Cottrell.

  • PB, I guess it depends on what Pepe told Mikel was the reason for his action. But I am happy to see Pepe start tonight; I have no problem with him! πŸ™‚

  • Haha HH, that will tell PB that 4-4-2 might be on the cards after all! πŸ˜‰

    That lineup would mean 9/11 right so that would not be bad, hey? πŸ™‚

  • It indeed seems 4-4-2 as well as 9/11 – no conspiracy theories intended. πŸ™‚
    I don’t know how Partey’s injury and Elneny’s rehabilitation is progressing, but assuming Arsenal will need Xhaka at the weekend against Wolves, he will likely be substituted for ESR or Cottrell, instead of Ceballos. I hope Cedric, Nelson and Pepe will provide the key passes the team was lacking in recent weeks. I expect a clean sheet, but we may score 4 just like we may score none.

  • Hopefully we will see five subs so many get a chance to play. I expect Xhaka to sit deep in front of the four defenders and the rest to go attack, including the full back when they can.

  • Completely different team. That’s always fun. I don’t care for Eddie and Lacazette playing together, but hopefully I’ll be wrong and they’ll both score. I hope we get a lead so we can see more youngsters come on earlier.

  • Hmm, very versatile line up, a 4 4 2 that could even be a 4 3 3 or a 4 2 4 when were on the attack, plenty of tracking back for Pepe and Nelson?

    Would love to see us go into a three goal lead and then give the youngsters a go, but winning is crucial as we can put the group to bed tonight if results go our way…

    Big game for Niles and Nelson down the left…

  • Well that was a tonic, especially the 2nd half, some of the movement the one touch the tempo was just what we want to see and I also think that the enthusiasm and vigour rubbed off on the likes of Pepe and Ceballos, some sparkling interplay, special mention for Soares as he had a very solid game, linked up well with Pepe.

    When you see Nelson play like he did tonight it does make you scratch your head and question what on Earth they saw in Willian?

    Niles started out left back and finished centre mid, Tierney and Smith Rowe made it look simple with their passes leading up to the highlight and Balogun’s goal, just goes to show the importance of accuracy and weight of pass in making goals, delighted to see Pepe score and Willock was excellent, very very good evenings work.

  • It was wasn’t it Total and I also didn’t think that Nketiah was offside for his goal.

    I keep on seeing us linked to that Hungarian kid who plays for Salzburg, apparently a January deal is suggested and he might be good, but I’d rather see us push our youngsters instead, why spend big bucks if we already have the talent in situ? Hopefully Azeez and Cottrell can get a game in the last two Europa ties and show that we don’t need to spend.

  • I’m sorry Kev, but we absolutely do not have a player like Szoboszlai. He can not only be the primary creative force, but he’s incredible at driving a team forward and can score goals from distance and set pieces like Ronaldo. He can be to Arsenal what Grealish is to Villa – he’s a complete bargain at his buy out clause of Β£22 million.

  • I see that Willian gets a lot of abuse from fans, akin to what Xhaka receives. I still believe that Arteta should play Willian as a 10, in order to not exhaust his old body for all the defensive work he constantly has to do on the wing. He was looking good vs Leeds in the first half until he was subbed off for a muscle problem. There’s a chance that muscle problem plus the injury he had earlier in the season have been affecting him, much like the tackle that injured Auba’s ankle against Sheffield.

    Be patient. Give Willian a chance!

  • On the match, Reiss was absolutely fantastic today. MOTM performance for me. Pepe, Xhaka and Willock were all also very good, as were ESR and Balogun in their cameos.

    I am hoping that at least one of the players can carry over their promising EL performances into the league because we could really use an injection of energy and bravery there. Reiss has a brilliant opportunity ahead of him and I’m really hoping he takes it and never looks back.

  • Have some comments on the match– but it’s after 2am on Friday here.
    Wanted to post these:

    Everton v Leeds = Away
    W.B.A. v Sheffield United = Draw
    Chelsea v Tottenham = 0-2
    Arsenal v Wolves = Home
    Southampton v Manchester U. = Home
    Real Sociedad v Villarreal = Home
    Thanks GN5 for your efforts on this!


  • “When you see Nelson play like he did tonight it does make you scratch your head and question what on Earth they saw in Willian?”

    I’d like to think I’m a bigger person than keep saying “I told you so the whole August”, but apparently I am not. πŸ™‚

    It is not that the Β£50M Willian cost Arsenal (3 times the annual 13M [excluding bonuses and add-ons] + the 10-12M sign-on fee) is a total waste of money, just seems unnecessary – and not only from hindsight. Pepe and Nelson would easily cover for the RW position whole season. In fact, surprisingly better than Willian + Pepe + Nelson, since Willian is an obvious exception to the rule (or PR-stunt) that “always the player in the best form should start in the next PL game”.
    I don’t know what Willian brings to the trainings and dressing rooms in terms of experience, motivation and leadership, so I am far from condemning his marquee signing; nevertheless his presence is not only about his on- and off-pitch contribution, but also his effect that limited Reiss Nelson to a total of 400 minutes senior appearance, which is clearly a major limitation of his development and confidence.

  • You have an urge to turn something positive into a negative, PB. The game was good and Nelson played well but why link that to Willian at all? Maybe the Brazillian would have scored a hattrick in this game, who knows?

    Willian is finding his feet together with the other attackers and we should not judge him until the end of the season. Give him (and Arteta) time is all I am saying.

  • I was merely replying to Kevin’s paragraph from 20:38 – hence the quotation marks.

    It had nothing to do with yesterday’s win, which was indeed positive – especially the second half. Or maybe it had a small relevance of stating that we have a bunch of talented players expecting and deserving minutes, which is really hard due to the unreasonably large squad. But in my opinion it is not turning any positives into negative, just trying to make a less-known yet objective fact into common knowledge – without any emotional intent.

  • Ok HH, that sounds a big big call, but I’ve not really seen enough of him to judge and if you are right and he’s the next Ferenc Puskis then yeah, Β£22m is a steal if we can get him for that?
    My only reservation is that we have a lot of young attacking midfielders who are probably about a year away from really developing, Matt Smith, Miguel Azeez and young Patino, who could see their progress hindered, but if your man is that good, then get him and see who comes out on top?

    Good comment

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