Battle 15/17: Arsenal Starting 11 and How the Gunners like to Devour their Spuddies

None of the BBC pundits – 20 in total – predicted that either Arsenal or Spuds would finish in the top four at the start of the season. Well they were wrong. I am still amazed that Arsenal are so close to a top four finish given the huge transformation project Arteta is making the team go through. I have no doubt that the extra money and prestige will help Arteta significantly in speeding the whole process up, and getting some CL experience into our young players will be good too.

Arsenal have a great opportunity to achieve both CL football and St Totteringham’s Day simultaneously by winning the NLD. Now that would be special. Spuds have an experienced squad and manager and we kind of have the opposite. They were in a CL final only three years ago and the likes of Winks, Lloris, Son and Kane are still strutting their stuff for our bitter rivals. But rather than build on that successful squad (and manager) they have chopped and changed far too much, and to me they look like a bunch of headless chickens in a shiny and new, restless chicken pen. Conte seems the most restless cockerel of them all and rumours continue of him jumping the pen at the end of the season.

But this is not about having a go at our neighbours. We want to beat them and have the bragging rights, but the thing that matters most is that we finish above them come the end of the season. It really would be a great achievement given the youthfulness and big change process the team is currently going through.

This will be all about whether Arteta wants us to play our usual game – which may leave too much space behind our defenders – or whether he will adjust the team to be compact and play on the counter. The Spuddies need to win. They need to attack for this and their passing game is less developed compared to ours. Conte, as all Italian managers, loves it when teams come and attack them and leave space behind (results agains Citeh and Pool prove this). But we do not have to do this and can do a Spurs on them instead on Thursday. Let’s give the likes of Son and Kane no space and no time.

Who should play? I am inclined to put Holding, ESR and Laca into the starting 11. They know about the passion of the NLD and have the fight AND calmness about them that can make all the difference. Eddie has been brilliant recently but I think that Laca is the sort of forward warrior we need tomorrow, especially if we sit a bit deeper and need a CF to disturb the high-line of the Spuds’ defence. If White is available I would play him as right back; if not, let’s play Soares.

This would be my starting-11 (apologies for the cultural stereotype):

Ramsdale (loves his spuds boiled, crushed and roasted)

White (loves his spuds deep-fried in beef dripping)

Holding (loves his spuds as jacket potatoes with chilly con carne)

Gabriel (loves his spuds spiced and skewered)

Tomiyasu (loves his spuds with soy sauce, white wine and brown sugar)

Xhaka (loves his spuds fondue-smothered in gruyere)

Elneny (loves his spuds in a colourful casserole)

Saka (loves his spuds thoroughly mashed with pie)

Odedgaard (loves his spuds as dumplings)

ESR (loves his spuds as patatas bravas)

Laca (loves his spuds chopped up in a green salad).

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!!!! Make North London Red!

By TotalArsenal.

73 thoughts on “Battle 15/17: Arsenal Starting 11 and How the Gunners like to Devour their Spuddies

  • I’d mash them but wouldn’t eat them for fear of botulism.
    Interesting call on Laca, Total. Eddie would stretch them more, but Laca may create more space behind their defence by drawing out the Centre Backs.

    Chelsea v Liverpool – FA Cup Final * 1-2
    Tottenham v Burnley draw
    Aston Villa v Crystal Palace draw
    West Ham v Manchester City *1-1
    Everton v Brentford home
    Newcastle v Arsenal * 0-1

  • Nice preview, TA. Love the cuisine-themed team prediction too. I’d go with Spiced and Skewered Spuds, and that’s what I hope the Spuds feel like at the end of the game.

    Laca does love to score against his countryman, Hugo Lloris; however, with the form of Eddie, hard to see how Arteta makes that call. I would like to see Laca play a role, one way or another and not just a brief closing minutes cameo. Elneny and Xhaka would be crucial in the midfield battle with Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Bentancur; if we can dominate them there and keep it tight for long periods, we can frustrate them, forcing them to open up for us to exploit spaces behind.

    It won’t be easy because Conte would be revving them up for a battle royale. We must show we want it more. I always felt we would go there and win it, but now, with us not needing to win outright, I won’t scoff at a draw.

  • My predictions for the weekend’s picks:

    Chelsea v Liverpool – FA Cup Final * H 1-0
    Tottenham v Burnley H
    Aston Villa v Crystal Palace H
    West Ham v Manchester City * A 1-4
    Everton v Brentford H
    Newcastle v Arsenal * A 1-2

  • Thanks guys. Eris, Eddie would be fine too,but Laca has my preference in a NLD. Agreed re battle for midfield, and that’s one reason I like Laca to start as he breaks things up there for us.

  • Chelsea v Liverpool – FA Cup Final * A (1-3)
    Tottenham v Burnley D
    Aston Villa v Crystal Palace D
    West Ham v Manchester City * D (1-1)
    Everton v Brentford H
    Newcastle v Arsenal * A (1-2)

  • Total,

    My wife and I are going out for a walk – it’s the first time in a week that we have both felt well enough and it’s also a lovely morning. I look forward to reading your post when we get back.

  • I’m feeling the pressure as are all the fans. I hope the young squad can stay cooler than us. All my friends and the podcasters are ultra nervous because top 4 is such an important step in the evolution of the club.

    Not nearly as much for the symbolism as for the practical benefit of recruiting a higher level of players to continue higher in the next year or two. That’s what we as fans have in the back of our minds.

    I’d go defensive and make them try to play through us. The stats on spuds are blindingly obvious. Teams this year that try to play football against them have been burned on the counter. 2 wins against Man City, and 2 draws against Liverpool.

    They lost to far weaker teams that played it tight at the back. So the evidence isn’t even debatable. Add to that – the pressure on them to get 3 points should open them up for us to counter.

    I can’t see it any other way.

  • Great post Total – whatever your cooking preference I say lets make a meal of them. We bought a BBQ chicken this morning and I intend to eat a leg during the game and then celebrate afterwards by b-eating a breast and then finishing off with a roll of a drumstick. Oh I almost forgot -it’s a very well skewered Chicken…….

    I hope my meal prediction comes true – but I will be one very nervous cat on a hot tin roof during the game.
    It’s a tough one to predict and I hope that Saka and White are available – but I doubt that Arteta will divulge that before the game.

  • I agree JYNC, we cannot leave ourselves open, if we neutralize Song and Kane it go go a long way to us taking home at least a point – three points would be wonderful.

  • I am not really nervous. We can afford to lose without devastating consequences. We don’t want this to happen and the team will fight tooth and nail to avoid this, but if we don’t succeed we have to finish it all in Newcastle and at home.

  • 32 Ramsdale
    18 Tomiyasu
    16 Holding
    6 Gabriel
    17 Cedric
    34 Xhaka
    25 Elneny
    7 Saka
    8 Odegaard (c)
    35 Martinelli
    30 Nketiah

    1 Leno
    20 Tavares
    69 Swanson
    4 White
    23 Lokonga
    87 Patino
    10 Smith Rowe
    19 Pepe
    9 Lacazette

  • Good morning Gooners. Ben on the bench, Bukayu and Eddie start. Looks like 4 2 3 1.

  • It was bold and somewhat naive to think Arteta would make even a single change to the team that won against Leeds.
    Nevertheless we have the 4-point advantage, so even after a – foreseeable – defeat we will be the front runners to finish ahead of Tottenham.

  • I do hope Tomiyasu plays from the right back position. I am not sure Cedric can manage Son’s ability to run into the channels.

    We would need to double up (Martinelli and Eddie) on Romero. He is one no-nonsense defender but capable of a rash challenge every once in a while. For me, he is due a red card for some of the disguised, obscene tackles he engages in.

    It’s the NLD. Expect an Arsenal performance.

  • Don’t want to jinx it now, but I did feel Rob Holding would be a better bet for today. He just defends and that’s what we need more than passing out from the back. We may yet have need to play 3 CBs as the game progresses and Ben White can make an entry.

    Good luck boys!

  • Wow that did not take long do not know about the decisions but Rob was uncharacteristically shaky and I was saying why get that first yellow it seemed to be panicky. Our players have to be smarter knowing the history we have with refs.

  • I love Holding very much, but that wasn’t a smart move at all.
    This was his first time of a double-yellow sanding off in his entire career.
    He won’t be playing for the remainder of the season…

  • The pen was soft but was still a pen.
    Holding is an idiot and the game is done now. We need to make sure it does not become embarrassing and at least try and score.

    We can still beat Newcastle and Everton and get top 4. So the most important thing now is heads don’t drop and no injuries.

  • After rewatching those replays the first one is a clear yellow to me and he had already had an incident with Son and have to say that second one was just so risky knowing you are on a yellow very poor decision making.

  • We started well and just started to drop the intensity midway through the halfway point of the half. I thought I might jinx i5 for Holding but the man should have been a bit smarter to know not to do anything silly when on a yellow.

    We would have to do this with 10 men and it is hard but not impossible. I noticed some nerves in the home side and believe one goal from us will unsettle them no end. The problem is how to get that goal.

    I guess we need to drop an offensive player to have Ben White on. I do hope he is truly fit and that having him on the bench isn’t a bluff. I believe the boys would come out with more purpose but this could leave spaces for moonface and company. Arteta gets paid for moments like this. He needs to earn his keep now.

  • Referee doesn’t seem to understand this a (NL) Derby. He killed the game with those two yellow cards for Holding so early on.

    Yes he didn’t play smart,i know, but…

  • Oh, and Paul Tierney is a right mug and has previous with Arsenal games. If he doesn’t give the penalty or the second yellow card, VAR won’t be overturning that.

  • You’re right, TA. Maybe, we let this group finish the game and allow White recover properly.

  • Holding deserved boyh of his yellow cards. He also could have got another one for kicking son on the floor. Eddie should have got a yellow card for a blatant dive. The ref has not been our problem tonight.

    We have caused all of our own problems tonight and need to sort it out so it is not a 4 or 5 nil loss

  • I think the pen was soft and agree that VAR would have gone with whatever the on field decision was. It is the sort of foul that teams get away with all the time but it is still a foul and we were just unlucky that it was caught by the ref.

  • All I know is Rob is disappointed in himself right now because he is one of the leaders and let down the team somehow some way Arteta has to work on this in the summer it is costing us too many points. Also have to remember that playing games with ten men for so long fatigues the team a lot more with just a few days to get ready for the next one.

  • It is a huge game and a hostile atmosphere that the kids have not been able to deal with. Sometimes these games are so much more than a game and it affects the lads in different ways. We needed an early goal to kill the crowd and we probably would have won. We need to make sure we get no more reds, no injuries and keep the score line to an acceptable loss ( like leeds did to us).

  • Like I said, this one is on Arteta to tinker with. Not sure in what state of mind White would be so…..
    We would need to look after the ball a bit better and be confident. Martinelli must quit taunting his countryman in Emerson Royals and just look to whip in crosses. It is the derby; if we stun them with one goal, it could just swing quickly. Whether Conte would allow the Spuds players give us a sniff is a different matter.

  • I like Eris’ thought of them being nervous there. Let’s get a goal or indeed a decision going our way. Big 45 minutes coming up 👆

  • We have to be mindful of not using too much energy for a lost cause its a fine balance I would rather do the Leeds thing if we had more defensive players I would bring them on its about defending that one point advantage we have. Every game we have played with ten men has resulted in a loss including against much weaker opposition. The Invincibles were a different kind of team with the mentality and experience to pull of a comeback down a man.

  • I dont when it went to 3-0 but I thought as much get Saka and maybe Ode/Marti/Eddie off. This game was hard enough with eleven men the way Conte organizes them so no chance with ten.

  • We have pushed them back a bit after their 3rd goal, but we do like we could let something in any time they get to our box.

    One thing that was not envisaged was us going a man down. It is going to be hard now. Still…. we get a goal and they won’t be too sure anymore.

  • I won’t be taking out Martinelli in this game, you know. I would have rather gone with Nketiah or even Saka, to push Martinelli further up. Well, Arteta probably has his reasons.

  • We can’t get close to them anymore and the more they keep ball, the wearier we get and may concede more.

  • It’s OK guys. As Stuart has pointed out we had a few decisions going our way recently. We just have to play this out and refocus on the Newcastle game.

  • Why would Mikel keep risking Saka who came into the game as an injury doubt and is our most targetted player he should be off already

  • His (Saka) presence has some value, though.

    I hope Paul Tierney is pleased with what he’s done to affect the, otherwise, potentially explosive game. I never liked the man.

  • Yes but he is more valuable well rested in a game the team has a better chance of winning which is only four days away at Newcastle. I would have been happier if he it was felt he was an injury risk and had been rested today but offcourse noone knew we would be down to ten men. Newcastle have been pretty good at home and it is going to be no easy task getting three points over there.

  • Yeah this one hurts. Not unexpected but still. Got to move on and play our best game of the season on Monday.

    Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners

  • I think taking Eddie off instead of saka could be the final nail in his arsenal career. He looked pissed off when he left the field and rightfully so. Saka was not as dangerous or as fit as Eddie and should have come off. Taking martinelli off was also not the right move as he was the most dangerous player on the pitch.

    Gabriel hamstring injury and white being so unfit that he could not come on for either of the 2 starting centre backs is more worrying. We could be playing an away game under the lights at Newcastle with no defence.

    We still have it in our own hands and to be honest 5th is a great achievement and we all would have taken it 3 games in to the season.

  • Dissapointing but expected somewhat considering the young squad. The issue now we have is taht next 2 is a must win and that puts much more pressure on the young squad. We had full back issues and with taht now we ahve a crisis in center backs. We have had so many red cards and players will have to understand taht the red card not only jeopardize the current game but also future.
    The other issue is taht the trend in this season is that we loose games in bunches. Can we beat that trend against Newcastle with a even more thinner squad. We had the rub of teh green for past few games and we are now running out of it. Tough two games and unfortunately no margin of error. It’s a real cause of worry. The defeat and the manner of it is what is going to trip us though.
    5th will make us rethink our summer targets and few of the names being linked might just get dropped if we are 5th.

  • Indeed, Madhu, there is no margin for error in the next two games. For the first time, I saw Arteta was a bit tetchy during the after-game interview and that is not a good sign. Last night, I saw even Tomiyasu was a bit too error prone, which is not what we’ve come to know of him. If Arteta can somehow get the boys to play freely, without the pressure, knowing even a 5th position isn’t the end of the world for us, we may just get there. It will be too much to hope Burnley and Norwich can do us a favour against Spurs. Unlikely. Plus, watch out for the refs.

    Newcastle have a few players returning now too. Calum Wilson is back and can give any defence problems, not to speak of one with a few out. It won’t help too that Spurs play before us. We will see how it goes.

  • Wedge, all agreed with the first 2 paragraph, and the first half of the third.

  • Sad result but not unexpected. I switched to Premier League Darts when in got to 3-0 – I just couldn’t stand watching the Spuds gloat.

    Newcastle is now the most important away game in many of the teams lives and Arteta has a short three days to boost the squads morale and sort out his starting eleven. Fourth is still ours to win and I will keep the faith – but 5th place and back in Europe is still a huge step in the right direction.

  • Fair point, GN5.
    I don’t think beating Newcastle will be the real challenge. They lost their last 2 games (OK, against the 2 top clubs in the league, so that not a sure sign of a bad form), and shouldn’t be too motivated about the remaining fixtures.
    Our last match of the season, the home game against Everton could be a tougher test, especially if it will decide whether they stay in the Premier League…

  • That was a hard watch. It’s a pity that Arteta didn’t read TA’s post and we tried to play our normal game. It was obvious that Rob was struggling with Son and after that first yellow, I was expecting a red for him if we didn’t change tactics. Kane has got most of the headlines but for me, Son was the player that won the game for the spuds. He ‘won’ the pen and Rob’s two cards and got a goal himself.

    The good news is that a CL place is still ours if we win the two remaining games (although they both look tough), irrespective of what the Spuds do. We can do it! COYG!

  • I guess they are both potato skins PB – Everton seems like it’s always our last game – I remember well (with a smile on my face) the beauty that Tony Adams scored.

  • Son is some player. I was disappointed with the way Big Rob played him, almost as if he was instructed to rough him up. Both his cards were deserved, and the second was a moment of foolishness from the usually level headed lad. Equally surprised that our Tomi wasn’t given the task to mark Son. His pace and calm could well have nullified the threat. If I was on the receiving end of Cedric’s challenge, I would have expected/hoped for a penalty. Often not given but the ref was well positioned to see it was a foul.
    Mikel, the boys and all of us need to take it on the chin and gather around the olive tree (reference to Balague article) before we face Newcastle. Two tough but winnable games ahead, a position to be envied by the vast majority of clubs and fans, and another couple of weeks of churning emotions… bring it on. North London is still red. As is Kerikeri.

  • Agreed, Stuart, I also had the impression that Son’s treatment of early intimidation was not something Rob invented on the spot, but rather an elaborate (?) scheme our entire coaching team cooked up.

  • There are rumours out there but this one does smell close; may be the reason Nketiah hesitates to sign an extension. However, he won’t be top striker for any top 8 team, to be fair. Better off staying here as back up with European competition and domestic cups offering game time.

  • As was expected, Spurs get the win against Burnley, albeit a narrow lone goal win. Must be said, Burnley gave it a go towards the end.

    Well, we always knew it would in our hands to do this. Fingers crossed then.

  • I just wanted to avoid moaning about the ref/VAR. It is up to us still, tough and nerve wracking as it would be.

    The nerves getting to City too, it would seem….. West Ham are 2-0 up at half time, even though city are playing the better footie.

  • If we are to win the next 2 games our players must be more clinical with the many chances we recently create. And do not commit any silly obvious fouls like in the recent game. I believe we can get top 4 as long as we keep cool and play with verve as we can at times but not consistently enough.

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