Sakazette to Do it Again, Xhaka First on Team Sheet, ESR Start? Arsenal Preview/ Lineup

Tonight we play an important football game at the cradle of Western civilisation: Greece.

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Many know about the most famous Greek person ever, Socrates. No I am not talking about ‘our’ Big Sok who now struts his stuff for tonight’s opponent, Olympiacos; I am talking of course about the man who stated about 2500 years ago that the ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’, the former soldier and developer of the Socratic Method – making people come to conclusions through consistent questioning: The Socrates.

Socrates is an inspiration to many and certainly to me. He was a successful hoplite for the Athenians but came to realise that fame and wealth were unimportant, despite coming from a well-to-do family and having had a ‘classical’/privileged upbringing. Socrates realised quite soon that natural ‘philosophy’ (science) was not for him but that examining life, truth and love (he said he was never not in love) were much more important. He did not want to be involved in politics and that may have cost him his life eventually, but he died true to himself and his beliefs, and he stood above and against the stupidity of his fellow men. In the end he died for truth: for his deep-rooted belief that if he cannot examine life and ask pertinent questions about it to his fellow human beings, he may as well be dead. Luckily, he was well loved by his friends, and Plato did us the huge favour of documenting Wise Soc’s thoughts and dialogues – including the last hours of his life when he willingly swallowed the poisonous hemlock – the most famous mini episode of Socrates’ entire life.

I can see a bit of Socrates in Arteta. There is a certain stubbornness in Mikel, a desire to analyse things and stick to his mission and (football) truths. I don’t get the feeling that he is in football management for fame and wealth (unlike Wenger, Ferguson and Mourinho for example) but for the love of the game itself. There is a lovely mix of humility, knowledge, determination and enthusiasm that totally suits our club.

Mikel is gradually but surely bringing us back to the essence of good, winning football and is asking his players hard and difficult questions, probably using some form of the Socratic Method. They are becoming followers and those who do not want to go with his vision have found the determined, over-my-dead-body, hoplite side of Arteta: you are either with me or out; and many went out already. He will spend time with those who are with him but need to improve, though. I am hoping that the fans will see what Arteta has set out to do and stay behind him, but I fear that in these days of keyboard heroes and utter impatience the cup with hemlock is not far away. I know that Arteta will drink it if he is pushed; like Socrates he is a man of principles.

Olympiacos are probably not too dissimilar from our previous European opponents, Benfica. I expect them to let us make the play and try and beat us on the counter and via set pieces. I have tried hard to forget about our games against them last season, but I remember us being suckered in by them with of course a devastating outcome. Let’s hope we have learned from it. They once again beat PSV late on in the second leg of the last round, so we are doubly warned!!

Here are the highlights from the game in Piraeus last year. Warning!! Fans in the stadium may lead to C19-hyperventilation!!

Olympiakos v Arsenal (0-1) | UEFA Europa League Highlights – YouTube

I love that Sakazette goal! Laca and Big Sok came close to scoring a second goal and how different it all could have been.

Our team then.

Of course Xhaka will be back. He will be first on Mikel’s team sheet. Arteta knows that now and again a mistake will be made from defending out from the back and he will not blame Granit for it one iota. The Swiss giant had played so many games in a row and was put in a difficult position as he so often is; Granit misjudged the situation this time and played a poor ball with his weaker foot. The modern manager knows that things can go wrong when playing out from the back but they will work even harder with the team to improve further. Klopp and Guardiola have done exactly the same. Now if you are the kind of person who likes to think that Xhaka cost us the game because of this one mistake at the end of the first half, then you would probably also have voted in favour of Socrates’ drinking the hemlock all those decades ago. It never stops amazing me how little progress has been made in this respect in 2500 years of ‘civilisation’. Stop the hatred and keep your prejudices in check: Xhaka is one of us and Arteta has big plans with him. Love and support Granit if you like to call yourself a supporter (rather than a consumer of entertainment).

ESR seems available again and Partey is hopefully fully fit to give his all for us. The CB duo is a guess to me…. who will Mikel go with? Auba, Saka and Laca had a good game there last year so I expect them all to start. I am hoping for another start for Soares but if Hector gets the nod it is also fine with me.

Predicted Team:





By TotalArsenal.

27 thoughts on “Sakazette to Do it Again, Xhaka First on Team Sheet, ESR Start? Arsenal Preview/ Lineup

  • That was a very enjoyable read Total thanks for your efforts, yeah I loved Socrates, him and Falcao made for a fabulous midfield back in 1982.

    Anyway, OGAAT today even if there’s that spectre of the Toilet Bowlers hanging about in the background with theatre nauseating nasty smell of a Mourinho smash and grab whiffing around my nostrils.

    Strongest team and get it done tonight and then think about Sunday. Five subs means plenty of options for Mikel tonight, could it be the time to unleash the Martinelli for a 30 minute cameo? Get him warmed up for Sunday..,

  • Good shout for Martinelli, Kev. It would be so good for him and us if he were to get his form back this month.

    I am not thinking about the Chavs game yet. Well trying not to! 😁

  • Great post Total – Arsenal along with a lot of interesting (ancient) history thrown in for us to enjoy.
    I would loved to see Martinelli strut his stuff – but just like Arsene – Arteta knows best. My fear is that if he does not get enough faith shown in him he will become frustrated and want to leave – and we cannot possibly let this gem even think of leaving.

    Xhaka must start – to drop him would be disastrous for both the team and the player.

    It’s a comfortable 3:00pm kick off here – so plenty of time to prepare the sandwiches, I’m off of wine right now so I will have a pint of Guinness instead – I’m looking forward to the game and I’m very hopeful for the all important away win.

  • Thanks Total, lovely bit of prose. I’d only check you on Arsene being in it for fame or money. The man is so invested in the game, and especially the beautiful game that he surrended all for the cause. He drank hemlock every day for his and our beloved Arsenal.
    I’m off for an early morning fish, so will watch the game over lunch. Fresh snapper and a slice of watermelon to follow… Then two races in the America’s cup.
    Come on you gunners and you kiwi’s.

  • Cheers Stuart, he definitely gave all for the cause but I sensed much more vanity – a strong desire to be become immortal – behind it than I do with Mikel.

  • not bad, but i preferred your lineup TA. I dont mind Willian starting with 5 subs because I don’t like either him or Pepe for 90.
    T do we call the lily white Scum chavs also? I usually see that used for Chelsea. Fill me in on the etiquette please someone.

  • Btw, I also don’t want to hear any hate for Xhaka.either. I’m glad you mentioned it. He’s been rock solid lately and I can also forgive a mistake for anyone who’s trying their best.

  • What a cracking shot! Just what the boy needed. We need ESR to come on and keep hold of the ball between the lines. And we need more from Partey.

  • These guys just came to defend, as I expected. And foul Saka.
    Again Saka is our only outlet, and Willian needs to be more like that if he’s going to get starts ahead of Pepe and others. So far, not impressing.

  • What can we say, Total?
    I’m more and more discontented with Arteta.
    I don’t blame him for the the goal by any means. It just happens – even after the analogous goal against Burnley – I don’t blame Ceballos either, and Leno only a bit (although he shouldn’t have picked Dani, he should have rushed to the center of the goal and he could have dived sooner as El-Arabi was obviously aiming for that side of the net).
    Furthermore I don’t blame him for the line-up either. While I would have started Pepe – and possibly Martinelli – as both have been rested in the weekend, this is more of personal preferences than significant cause-and-effect consequences.

    But I do blame him for the repeated lack of urgency, and also reverting back to the “cross from the byline” tactics, which – apart from an early Bellerin cross leading to a dangerous Aubameyang header and Willian’s assist to our second – proved to be fruitless all night long. Apparently the only other type of attack the lads had the license was the long shots, and luckily we scored from 2 of them, but waiting for the replacement of the attacking trio to the 82th minute seems like a poor managerial decision to me – albeit I expect you to disagree.
    We managed to win the game with a comfortable margin after all, but the 18 crosses (4 of them accurate) seemed like a wrong strategy that Mikel didn’t correct during the game. And I’ve seen a painfully many times Odegaard (who played really well apart from a couple of too short defensive passes in the first half) running against the defense, but no Arsenal players were making positive moves to claim the ball. If we were playing against a stronger opponent, the outcome would have been less favorable. But let’s celebrate now for making the second leg only a little more than formality. And focus on the NLD, as well as the remaining 10 winnable game,

  • Well I only got to watch just after they equalized and I was very pleased for that last 25 minutes and especially for Mo for whom the whole team was delighted at his goal. I understand their goal came from an error once again (if its not red cards we are giving away goals lately) but nice to see the team pull it together and show the spirit to overcome adversity. The substitutes who came on all looked hungry and the competition for places is very healthy now. In that sense Pepe seems to have turned a corner looked lively again.

  • I’ll say I really think Pepe deserves starts over Willian. His confidence is really growing and he scares defenders and runs at them much more now. He can give us a better contribution over 60-70 minutes. Willian better for shorter stints.

  • I will have to view the rest of the game but I can also say I have had a few doubts about Mikel but then I remember just how young into his career he is and I think back to when Klopp and Guardiola took over their teams as much more experienced and renowned managers and had very difficult moments; in Klopp’s case did it not take about 3 years to contend and that was without also dealing with covid as Mikel has had to do.

    By no means is he without his faults, I would still have liked to see more youngsters used and better squad rotation but there have been enough positives for me to give more time to mold the team and for him to learn from his mistakes. I believe we are starting to improve on the transfer a little after our January and summer business so I will just get behind them and hope the board and upper management improve as well. They are presiding over a difficult change of culture after malaise had set in.

  • Good comments guys. We outplayed Olymp for the entire game and Arteta set up the team really well. The mistake was painful as Leno had easier options but decided to play it too cold Ceballos.

    But then the boys found something extra and scored two character goals. Not an easy to beat, especially not by two goals difference.

  • The concern is that individual errors and missed passes seems to be too much during teh game with ultimately one of them leading to the goal. If hou see the complete match Oly’s attempts on goal all came through our mistake in our own half. Surely there is a lesson to be learnt but we don’t seem to.
    We seem to hardly create any from the center of the pitch and mostly from flanks. This made Oly to allow us space in the center but our shooting from long range especially Partey needs much to be desired. Iam happy we got 3 goals from the unlikeliest source set piece and shooting from outside the box. As Arteta mentioned we should show more ambition in teh final third in the center of tbe pitch but we show ambition in our defense which is leading to opposition goals.
    Let’s give a shout to Mo. It’s a fashion to redicule him but he does his job. If iam not mistaken he hasn’t made an individual error which has cost us a goal. He is safe as a house in possession. His passing may be more backward and sideward but that’s his role to keep posession and move it along. His role is not to make daring forward passes. He knows his limitations and plays well within it. It’s time we recognise that.
    Having played a team game myself all my life a team needs various types of players. Remember a team is always greater than the sum of parts. I feel Arsenal are a te that are yet to demonstrate this. Great that Mo got a goal which might well be crucial and get us over the line.

  • Well, he is French, Total. Yet that desire for immortality drove the Invincibles to achieve just that.
    Gabriel was superb against the Greeks. What a find. Even before his goal, I had him down for MOTM.

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