Arsenal v Man City Preview/ Lineup: No Surprises at Back or Midfield, but Different Attack

Mikel’s master is coming to the home of football for a League Cup encounter in late December. Both have bigger concerns to deal with right now but they also have a chance to get closer to winning some silverware this season, so we may get a decent game. In a way, the lack of pressure may work for both teams tomorrow night.

Is Mikel going to play tons of youngsters? I doubt it very much, but if he does that is fine with me too. I expect a 3-4-3 formation with the solid three of Holding, Luiz and Gab at the back and the wing backs being covered by Bells and Tierney. The heart of midfield remains an issue as we are missing our first choice duo of Granit and Partey. Their likely replacements are once again Elneny and Ceballos. And once again I am hoping for AMN to play in midfield, and maybe Mikel will opt for him.

Up front, with Auba out and Pepe and Willian struggling at the moment, we may see some youngsters getting a start. Is Martinelli fit enough for a start? Will Saka get another start – he could do with a rest? Laca is likely to start but maybe we will see a bit of Balogun in this game, although a start is unlikely.

Anyway, with the likes of ESR, Joe Willock and one or two others on the bench Arteta should be able to make some changes in the second half if needed.

Looking forward to this one.

By TotalArsenal.

60 thoughts on “Arsenal v Man City Preview/ Lineup: No Surprises at Back or Midfield, but Different Attack

  • From the last article, JW I wholeheartedly disagree. The signs under Arteta are actually that we’re regressing to a side far worse than what we even saw under Emery. The only reason we’ve looked better in the second half of games is because opposing teams know we cannot score and they simply give us the ball. Yet Arteta continually complains about playing against a low block, when it’s the same strategy he uses against opponents but gets scored on anyway (see Everton, City, Liverpool etc.).

    When people compare Arteta to Klopp, Pep, Hassenhutl etc. and compare his potential turnaround to theirs, you also have to remember that each one was able to turn it around because they had experience to fall back on, as well as better structures behind the scenes to support them. Between Edu, Vinai and Arteta, we have about the experience of peanuts between those three numpties that have never run a football club before.

    Then, if we look at Arteta in isolation, we can clearly highlight his awful job in two areas:

    1) Tactics – there has been so much said of this and week after week, we see Mikel setting up the team poorly, choosing the same out of form players and expecting different results. Yes the squad quality is poor, but at a certain point, he has to realize Willian on the wing isn’t working, Xhaka vs. a counter attacking side is not a good fit, Bellerin is a liability defensively and so on. The naivety in how he sets up the team when it’s clear how the opposition will play is more worrisome (see Spurs and TA’s post-match post). He’s not learning from his mistakes and that’s usually what happens to a first-time Manager.

    2) Man Management – His non-negotiables and individual man management is atrocious. He played Willian right after he broke lockdown rules for his unannounced Dubai trip during the interlull. He risked playing and rushing back Partey against Spurs when he was clearly not ready to go. He continued playing David Luiz in a match where he was clearly concussed. He had 4 months to evaluate whether Saliba was ready to be with the club, but decided on the last day that he wasn’t and then the loan deal was botched and there was no real plan in place for him. He blocks ESR’s loan out because he wants to work with him and knows we’re short on creativity, so instead once he’s been healthy for the past 6 weeks, he’s had him on the bench for two league matches total and not played him a single minute (a couple Europa matches being his rare game time).

    This isn’t to say that Arteta can’t turn it around or won’t learn from his mistakes. It is to say that we’re currently in a relegation fight and don’t kid yourself for a minute to think we are above that. The problem is that he has no experience in these situations to fall back on and that’s what worries me the most. We aren’t in a position to be a club that has a Manager that can learn on the go – he’s been figured out and sometimes first-time Managers only learn once they’re fired. Mikel could absolutely go on to be a great Manager some day, I’m just no longer convinced it’ll be here.

  • To answer the next part of JW’s question of who would be able to do a better job. I would choose someone that understands how to continually get promoted and knows how to motivate a team to move in the right direction, as well as one that can handle “star” players.

    This individual would also have to be able to speak English and have experience to fall back on. I must also state the disclaimer that the problems at Arsenal extend beyond Arteta. If Arteta were to go, I would also get rid of Edu and change Vinai’s role. We need people who know how to run a football club in the self-sustaining model the ownership wants Arsenal to be.

    My pick would then be Ralph Rangnick. Speaks English fluently and brought Leipzig up from the fifth division all the way to the Bundesliga and essentially made them the juggernaut they were today, while handling all aspects of coaching, man management, tactics, scouting, recruitment etc.

    He helped Leipzig establish the playing style they have today and understands how the entire Red Bull empire was run and built. I’m not saying he’s a miracle worker and would win us a title anytime soon, but I do think he’d be able to make us respectable again with a clear strategy for recruitment, while still being able to develop youth and a particular playing style that is easy on the eye.

  • Strong arguments, HH. I am with JW but it is hard to argue against your criticism right now. I do feel we need to give it much more time and Arteta is very able to turn things round.

  • TA, nothing wrong with that view. I just want to provide a balanced viewpoint. I hope he figures it out and at least starts to get some results. I still have a glimmer of hope that we can also play more expansive football with better pieces, but it’s tough when he’s never played that way and our offensive statistics are as dour as they are now.

  • TA, think you’re right that he’ll unfortunately go with a pretty senior lineup as he looks to try and win the game and get any momentum possible. I think we should rest Saka for Chelsea and I would love to see Nelson and Martinelli both start on the wings.

    I’m very worried about Balogun’s contract, as he’s free to agree terms with international clubs starting January 1st. Would love to see him get a start or even a sub appearance but Arteta may not want to do that until his contract is sorted. Only other players that might get a start are two of Mari, Mustafi and Chambers, but reckon your predicted lineup is more or less right!

    On another note, did folks know that UEFA is starting a third tier competition called the Europa Conference next season? The winner of the Carabao gets automatic qualification, so more reason for us to win for some little chance at European football again!

  • I agree with HHs assessment of Artetas ability to turnaround and the lack of experience.
    I go back to my posts earlier where I have mentioned about Artetas initiation to football coaching which is through Pep. All he has learnt in coaching and Mgmt is being assistant to Pep. Now that’s a very lopsided and rosy view of day to day life of 95% football managers. Pep can manage the players as he likes due to sheer weight of his achievements as both player and manager. Arteta has tried to employ the same style with players like Ozil and it’s failed utterly. I belive thats a primary reason for teams performance. Either the team are terrified or they have divisions within the team.
    The things that I cannot understand is why would you freeze out your top paid employee. Either you get him out or play on his ego and keep him around the team play him week in week out and then ship him out. Look at Guendozis situation. The whole world knows what is Arsenals assessment of him and irrespective of his talent other teams will pay him pittance and tell Arsenal that they are taking a problem child and thye should be happy with whatever they get. Every club knows eventually Arsenal will sell Guendozi. You got to be intelligent and more discreet when you manage. Ultimately you should be very cunning in the way you operate in transfer market.
    Finally Arteta has to realize that he needs more experienced and nuanced people around him if he is ever going to succeed at Arsenal. So he should swallow his ego and get someone senior enough like Ragnaik above him while he just coaches the team. Well that’s not going to happen is it?

  • One more thing I think we should stop blaming Wenger for all ills. It’s been 3 yes since he has left with no shadows of him on the team. Move on and it says a lot about incumbents if they cannot show progress in 3 years. History will always remember Wenger for his unbeaten season and his revolutionary ideas and Mgmt. Yes he did grab power but put it in perspective of what Arteta is doing. Wenger was a colossus but Arteta within six months grabbed power when he saw a vacuum. History will tell us if he will succeed or not but it’s human beings greed for power which will always bring his one downfall.

  • From yesterday…..
    Kev, I’ll try to catch the documentary. Seattle and Portland seem as if the inmates have taken over the asylum.

    HH, those stats you posted about Arsenal being 19, 20 in all those categories !
    That’s more than bleak… I knew the attacking stats were horrible, but even some defensive ones!?

    Arteta was throwing out some meaningless stats recently… your stats are the ones he should be focusing on.

    TA, – I usually don’t want us to put to much into this cup competition. This year especially.

    I will be furious if Saka even has to warm up. Same for Tierney. Runarson should be used. Leno is still an excellent keeper even on this failing team, and we don’t need another crisis with him going down.

  • RA!
    I keep missing you lately but I’m so happy to have you around.. you have no idea.
    Happy Christmas to you.
    And of course the same best holiday wishes to all our fine friends on Bergkampesque… the best place to come, whether Arsenal win or lose.

  • Appreciate the responses HH. But let’s be realistic. There’s not a snowball’s chance that Ralph Rangnick would up and leave Leipzig presently– with his club 2 pts off top-of-table. That also feels quite unlike what KSE would do in this situ. If the Kroenke’s deigned to make a change– it’s going to be short-term and low-risk. A recent, former-PL manager to recalibrate and ensure the club reach 40 pts. Anyone that would come? Would have to convince the club they could do it with the current roster. If not? Why not give Arteta the players HE would need in January? It’s not like the pool of available players that ‘might’ make a difference– would be different or more likely to come with a new, interim manager.

    Can claim an accurate sense of what direction the club would choose over the last 3 years– and when. There’s just no buzz to be gleaned with regard to replacing Arteta.

    When Ornstein or Lawrence or McNicholas start dropping clues we’ll know. And that’s funny in a way. Because when it occurred to me to search and see what The Ornacle has gone on record with lately? I found this from a day ago:

    And it sounds a whole lot like what I posted in the previous post– and here.


  • jw1, wikkipedia says “In July 2020, after eight successful years, Rangnick resigned from his position as head of sport and development at Red Bull GmbH thanking owner Dietrich Mateschitz, collaborators, players and fans for their support and trust.”
    This is what i read elsewhere as well. So he is available if we try.

  • Hello, people.

    I would like to make a small not-so-much-off-topic that should tell us how difficult it is to become a first-team manager after you had spent years being either an assistant manager or a coach.

    Hajduk Split have been going through another disappointing season. They are one of two pillars of the Croatian club football – the second one being Dinamo Zagreb – but this season they even managed to get knocked out by the Maltese side after winning the first leg away 2-0. In a 10-team league Hajduk are currently fifth, 16 points behind Dinamo and just eight above the last-placed Istra. Hajduk have never been relegated in their history and have won the league 18 times but not once since 2004-05.

    After they had failed to win a game for two months, they decided to hand the managerial place to the head of their academy. Their new manager has started well and arrested the two-month slide with a few good results.

    Then the old flaws popped out again and Hajduk have been going through a winless streak that is on four games now. Their experienced coach yet inexperienced manager would have been pulling his hair out if he hadn’t been bald already.

    I forgot to write the name of the coach. You may find it familiar – it’s Boro Primorac.

  • Well, doesn’t that just sum up UEFA, they scrap the European Cup Winners, a competition with a clear avenue into and one that I enjoyed, to allow more space for the bloated Champions League and then repackaged a competitive UEFA Cup into the depreciated Europa League for the also rans and now they’re resuscitating the CWC but giving it a groovy new name to further congest the football programme. What a bunch of money grabbing tossers…

    Some good points HH and difficult to disagree with even if I’m hovering somewhere between yours and the TA/JW wings of the party. When it comes to experience I also wonder how much Mikel can lean on his coaching staff?

  • JW, Rangnick left Leipzig in the summer and is currently holding out for a job with the premier league his preferred destination 🙂

    I’m well aware of what Ornstein and the Athletic are reporting in terms of the club backing Arteta. I’m just saying the signs are not good and there’s a real chance that any wins could be very superficial and the task at hand to turn Arsenal around is too big for a first time Manager, but time will tell. From listening to Arteta’s interviews and seeing the on field product, you can see he’s completely lost the plot and is unravelling – he makes no sense anymore and is just constantly deluded if he believes one shot on target is exactly how we should be playing and we’re just missing some luck.

  • I didn’t know about the Europa Conference, HH. But it is indeed another incentive to try and win the League Cup. Can we d do it? Surely only if Mikel and the team take it seriously and a solid defence and central midfield are key, so I would respect Arteta for going with experience rather than too many youth players.

  • Cheers Admir, I am sure there are good examples of coaches taking over the nr1 position and making a big success of it too….

    It was always going to be a big job for anyone who would take over, and I am sure the club realised that with taking on Arteta it would need even more time. It is not looking good right now but it is nowhere near as bad as some are making out.

  • “Is Mikel going to play tons of youngsters?”
    That’s the question indeed, TA. I wish he were, which in your 3-4-3 might give something like:
    Well, it actually looks like a mix of experience and youth, but:
    I’d very much like Mikel to give some rest to the likes of Kieran, and above all Bukayo. At Goodison, in extra time, the lad was knackered after chasing the ball back on his right wing. He looked like an empty shell. What we’re doing with him right now has nothing to do with giving playing time to a young talent, it’s child labor. Is this what we have become? Really? Give the kid a break!!
    If Chambers/Mari, don’t play tonight, when will they? The same goes for Laca; if Mick doesn’t start him tonight, he will do him a “Cedric-against-So’Ton” thing, and we’ll have lost one more respectable professional – not sure that’s what we need ATM
    Martinelli, on the stroke of the hour will give us a boost, starting him seems way too early to me …
    I’m looking forward to the game too, TA – this is a cup quarter-final of no great consequence, against a very good team, pleasant to watch. I wish the lads were told to have fun, enjoy the game, do their best to score goals, feel free to make mistakes, … take a load off!!

    More importantly, I hope you and GN “feel a whole lot better”

  • Thanks LeGall, that line up would work for me too. I do expect changes v Chelsea this weekend anyway. It all depends which game Arteta (and you and me) find most important right now. I have a feeling that Arteta will prioritise tonight’s one. A win tonight would also give us renewed believe and energy for the Chavs’ game, and a loss would….

    First day of days getting longer again; a good day to make a new start. COYRRGs!!!!!!

    I feeling much better thanks, LeGall.

  • yes indeed!!
    or … a 20th century French teacher.
    At the beginning of my “career” (I don’t like that word much), in Dieppe, I had a colleague, a History teacher – well, a Marxist History teacher (he would’ve picked a fight with the sky if he didn’t like its shade of blue, I liked him a lot) – who looked exactly like Garth Hudson, the organ player (second from right). Only two (Garth himself, and Robbie Robertson) of these 5 great musicians are still alive, I have difficulty getting my head around this. I do hope the next issue in Dylan’s “Bootleg Series” will collect the “Planet Waves” sessions – the 1973 album on which Hudson had one of his moments of glory (a scorching solo ending up “Tough Mama”).
    As for tonight, I forgot to mention that I’d very much like to see Folarin on the bench, and possibly him and Martinelli together on the pitch around the 6Oth. And AFC get him what he wants, and sign him fast, please!!

  • That is funny, LeGall. My first history teacher looked quite a bit like the guy on the left. He liked to drink and often was so pissed/hungover in the morning that he would be lying with his chest on the desk, head to the side, and teach us somehow a lesson. It was bizarre how he got away with it back then.

  • The reality is that this cup is very hard to win this year. Even if we beat the Northern Oilers we are likely to have to face OGS or JM, or both, and those boys are desperate for silverware, any silverware. So I think we go with solid defence plus youth.

  • Good Evening, good sirs, 😁

    I loved all the comments, which have been top class theories, about the club; the manager; and the players, but in differing ways. Excellent! 😳

    Perhaps I do not entirely agree with any one specific view, but I respect them all.

    The reason for that inability, on my part, to find at least one clear, unambiguous opinion is, as I have said many times, that opinions are not facts, and if and when facts do eventually come to light they often do not completely chime with any particular opinion.

    Nothing wrong with that, but with so many really good opinions/theories, above, it leaves one a hostage to fortune should one ‘choose’ one over another when they all have so many substantial merits.

    [Gets on knees and bows to the worthy and erudite BK’ers.] 😁

  • Hi Jync, 😁

    Great to see you too and in such fine form — we will eventually get the timing right and be on BK at the same time!

  • Leicester vs Man Utd… H
    Aston Villa vs Palace… H
    Arsenal vs Chelsea….. D
    Sheffeld U vs Everton.. A
    Wolves vs Tottnum…… H
    Dundee vs Mothrwell.. D

  • Rünarsson
    bench; Leno-Tierney-Mari-Pépé-Nketiah-Balogun-SmithRowe
    Calum, Reiss?? From now on, there are things I’ll try not to ask myself too many questions about …
    They picked a strong side, especially upfront (Mahrez-Silva-Foden-Jesus)

  • Leicester vs Man Utd… H
    Aston Villa vs C. Palace… H
    Arsenal FC. vs Chelsea….. A
    Sheffield U vs Everton… A
    Wolves vs Tottenham… D
    Dundee vs Motherwell.. D

  • Respect to Arteta for keep playing with the B team.
    It seems a luxury though not to play any of our 3 RWs who are desperately competing for playing minutes. All in all I’m 80% satisfied with the line-up.

    Guardiola plays with a strong team and an even stronger bench.
    Even their 2 “weakest links” – the 2 player in the starting XI who worth less than 30M (we have only one in the line-up who worth more than 30M) – have 39 (USA) and 63 (Ukraine) caps…

  • We are all affected by the state Arsenal are in, and everyone expresses their concerns in their own way. There is only one remedy and that is winning games again.

    CoyrrGs ⚽⚽⚽

  • According to the Sky Sports introduction of the teams we play in a 3-1-4-2 formation and Manchester City plays in a 4-2-3-1 line-up. Their defense is really strong, but anything can happen.

    And… City is already ahead in only 3 minutes. Jesus scored.
    This doesn’t start like getting back to winning games…

  • well, that was eventful – hope the staff know what they’re doing keeping Marti on the pitch. What a lad!!!
    Our Viking goalkeeper is great fun too – he did save us eventually, though. If we succed in keeping the ball as far away from him as possible, we might stand an outside chance tof making it to the penalty shootout.
    The lads are very brave, they put up a fight Joe’s coming of age is a joy to watch
    What’s more to ask from a carabao quarter-final??

  • Our inability to:

    1. defend pacey wingers is at an all time low. If we come up against a small quick team you better believe we are going to be up against it. It has been an issue for so so many years now. It’s borderline pathetic.

    2. be no threat the other way despite having one of the best forwards in the game and pacey wingers ourselves is quite astounding. Our wing play is suited to a giroud-like striker because we don’t get it in quick enough to give our forwards any opportunity. Opposition centre backs must think it’s a training drill clearing high ball after high ball.

    If you can’t defend and can’t attack the hell are we?

    As for the mistake that led to their 2nd goal…lost for words. If I was Arteta i’d be on the sidelines waving a plane ticket to him. Letting him know that it’s 1-way and he’s not required after the xmas break.

  • well, a shrink might entitle that game “mick’s death wish” (as an, arsenal headcoach, of course!!)
    there were positives – i mean this – but how could runarsson be picked (and bought) in the first place??
    should we lose against chelsea, mikel will be in great danger, now such a run of defeats in a club as arsenal is just not sustainable … although, realistically, which top-level coach could we hire at this time of the season?? I’m not telling you right now the only solution I can think of …
    Emil and Joe were great, Folarin is pure class, I just hope Marti is not seriously injured (how could he be brought back onto the pitch after HT?? that just begs belief)
    rarely has a match been as important for this club as our next game has become … COYG

  • Well if our goalkeeping coach was the main arbiter behind the signing of Runarsson then I would never listen to his opinion again…

  • Runarsson is such a poor signing that we should sack every single one of our scouts…oh, wait.

    This team doesn’t fight for Arteta meaning they don’t fight for Arsenal either. Of all defeats, losing a game in a Mickey Mouse cup (a competition I’d scrap tonight) is the least painful.

    What worries me is that this same group of players have shown in the past they can do way better. They have also shown when they want to sack a manager (and their performances have made clear to me that Arteta is already done in their heads), they act like a problematic high-school class that only respond when a bad-ass teacher with non-conventional methods gets a job.

    There are a few questions I’d ask any potential replacement for Arteta but the first one would be: “Would you play Mustafi?” If a candidate would respond in any other way than throwing an ashtray at me, he wouldn’t get a job. I’ve read a rumour that Per might be in line as ad interim boss but that would be another terrible decision.

    Kroenke needs to move his arse or else we could be watching 46 league games next season instead of just 38. A few years ago, we needed Kroenke to spend money on players. Now we need him to mop the whole structure. Edu, Vinai and, sadly, Mikel.

    I really wanted Mikel to succeed, I really hoped and thought he’d make it and become one of those Arsenal legendary managers but I was so, so, so wrong. I wanted Edu to bring us success because his Arsenal playing career has always been, at least in my eyes, underrated.

  • Thanks HH– for the update on RR’s status. So he stepped down to take the job at Milan– before he had the job at Milan. Yet still works for Red Bull (the sponsor). That’s an interesting non-move. Seems he’s still held in some regard.


  • Thanks GN5.

    Leicester v Man U = Draw
    Aston Villa v Palace = Home
    Arsenal v Chelsea = 1-1
    Sheffeld U v Everton = Away
    Wolves v Tottenham = Away
    Dundee v Motherwell = Draw

  • Haven’t yet seen it. Not sure I will now.
    Can probably find a better use of 2 hours and just trust what I’m reading. Unsure though, how we’re getting our collective blood pressure up– over a B-Team vs Godzilla cup match.


  • Don’t bother watching JW unless you want a good laugh. The second goal conceded by Runarsson is quite the comedy.

  • I think we need to go back to project youth again. At the moment it’s the experienced players letting us down. We are in a scrap and we’ll be lucky to finish mid-table at this point. Actually, that’d probably be a good result :/

    We’ve got 900 CB’s and yet we play mustafi…he’s not going to be here next season so play him with the under 23s.

    We struck gold with Martinelli and Saka last year. Play more of Reiss Nelson, Smith-Rowe over Willian. Joe Willock has really surprised me in cups this year. I’ll eat the humble pie and admit I called him garbage. Start him in the PL.

    At this point in time, I’d be playing Auba, Martinelli (hopefully his injury isn’t too bad), and Reiss Nelson upfront. At least Martinelli can get his head on the ball and puts his body on the line. Reiss Nelson is like Saka and wants to make things happen.

    Holding – Gabriel – Kieran
    —-Partey (when fit) – Willock

    Off the bench: Smith-Rowe, Mari, Pepe, Balogun, Nketiah, Ceballos, Elneny

  • Thanks HH. But you piqued my curiosity enough– to spend 8 minutes watching City highlights.

    Wondering why Arsenal always seem to go in for short-ish GKs when they bring in a backup?
    Doesn’t Emi have any brothers? 🤔


  • JW, heard there’s a good GK at Villa that’s homegrown that we could probably buy.

    The transfer mistakes by Arteta and Edu are already starting to pile up and we’re not even a year into their reign.

  • After a terrible start, the team fought back and we were doing OK against a strong team with a second string team. We had a fourth string defence and that cost us. Runarsson had a mixed night but his mistake for the second goal was both painful and decisive for us. To leave the young goalie with just Big Gab to protect him and the below par of pars Mustafi and Kolasinac against this team was cruel. I feel for the keeper who was clearly too nervous on the night.

    But I saw some good midfield play and Martinelli was a joy to watch. Laca took his chance well, and Gab fought like a lion.

    It was not great of course and I was disappointed in the choices Arteta made in defence. Mari and Chambers were on the bench so they could have started, and they would have done a much better job than you know who.

    Nevertheless, no need to get too upset about this loss. Bigger fish to fry.

  • Morning all,

    We really watched a junior mixture of players and against a well drilled City team full of great players we were overwhelmed for the majority of the game. However we went in a half time tied 1-1 and came our strongly in the the second half but them three things happened which turned the game on it’s head. 1) we lost Martinelli 2) Runrasson let in a soft goal 3) they scored an obvious offside goal and we were 1-3 down – game over!

    We shouldn’t lose any sleep over this game as Man C are a superior team.The next game may also be a bridge too far at the moment as Chelsea are firing on all cylinders and are odds on to win the game.

    The following five games following Chelsea offer us more hope but Southampton have been proven to be a tough nut to crack. If we came out of these games in the bottom ranks then we should be worried.
    West Brom
    Crystal Palace

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