Nelson, Ozil, Iwobi behind Auba | Swiss-Egyptian Masters in Midfield: NU-Arsenal Preview/ Line-Up


Our team from the CSKA match in Moscow got into London about 5am Friday morning, I learnt. A little over 48 hours after their arrival would they have headed north to Newcastle in a match that takes us nowhere. With all our focus on the Europa league, everything points to a massive rotation. But make no mistake about it, we’d all be thirsting as ever for a win, dead rubber game notwithstanding.

We like to win and hate to lose. There is also that little matter of our not wanting Burnley to finish above us. Chelsea is in a poor run of form and who says they can’t be overtaken by us? Spurs lost last night and it’s quite possible they have set up for their seasonal collapse. I want Auba to extend his Arsenal goal scoring record and Cech to add to his 200 clean sheet mark. Indeed there are still plenty to play for and countless “trophies” to win and celebrate.

Wenger, being one of us, hates to lose too. So expect him to assemble a team he believes can give him victory. After Newcastle, there is a whole week till our next match against West Ham. After West Ham we will have the all important 1st leg match against Atletico Madrid. That’s far from a hectic schedule. Therefore, about the only dilemma facing Wenger, as he agonizes over the team selection for the Newcastle match, is the fatigue of those who played in Moscow. Players have to be rested. A capable team must be selected. I can literally see Wenger wipe the sweat off his brow when it gets all resolved.

My guess at his selection is:


Bel Chamb Holding Kola




Subs: Macey, Metersacker, Mustafi, Monreal, Willock, Welbeck, Lacazette.

Newcastle are in form having lost only once in their last eight matches. Now 10th on the table, Benitez’s dream must be expanding and he’d be counting on us fielding a beatable team. When he sees our team sheet he’d know he has a task at hand. Dead rubber, yes, but we play to win for the sake of winning. We are the Arsenal.


By Pony Eye.

Posted in Uncategorized | 81 Comments

Elneny for Xhaka, but Who to Support Lacazette in Attack? CSKA Preview and Line-Up


If we had 5th columnists in the CSKA camp the report they would secretly file to us would read something like this:

“…………………… CSKA Moscow know that qualifying for the semi-final of the Europa League is an uphill task after their 4-1 loss at the Emirates. But they have not thrown in the towel. They weighed their options and decided that their best bet lies in going all out for it. They plan to attack from the blast of the whistle knowing that 3 goals can do it for them. What Roma did to Barcelona, coming from a 4-1 defeat in the 1st leg to qualify has buoyed the spirit in their camp, no doubt.

They have identified the right side of our pitch as their best route for getting behind our back line. At the Emirates, Ahmed Musa repeatedly left Bellerin for dead. Only wayward finishing by him saved us from conceding some more goals. They are not thinking about our strengths. They are thinking only about our weaknesses ………………”

How do we respond to such a game plan? Go toe to toe with them? Sit back to soak up their pressure and hope to hit them on the counter? Or use possession to control the game while patiently watching out for openings to pick them apart?

A low scoring match of a maximum of 2 goals shared between the two teams in whatever manner qualifies us, and should give the cue to what our game plan should be. Emphasizing possession suits such a game plan and also happens to be very compatible with our playing style.

See the source image

Jack has been poor in his last few games, more so in the area of turnovers. Is his contract situation weighing him down? Turnovers are what we don’t want conceding in this match. It would make good sense if Jack is positioned on the bench to give way to Elneny. A game of possession is a game for Elneny. His red card against Southampton has been rescinded and that should act as an extra fillip to him for the Moscow encounter. Jack, whose poor form coincided with his switch to the #10 role, should then revert to a more central midfield role in our EPL match against Newcastle on Sunday.

A midfield containing Xhaka, Ramsey and Elneny cries out for a 4:3:3 formation which very much would suit our game were we to aim at controlling the match through possession.

(The narrative has changed because Wenger just informed the press on arrival in Moscow that Xhaka is out with a flu. So Wilshere is back in my line up. Would this necessitate a change in tactics? I don’t think so. Maybe a little bit more offensive play to balance Xhaka’s tidiness in possession).

Who replaces injured Mkhitaryan? It’s a straight tussle between Welbeck and Iwobi. A tussle between Welbeck’s hard work and ability to pull apart defenders and Iwobi’s line-breaking-ball-carrying ability. It’s a close call, but for me the scale tilts in favour of Welbeck.

Do we bring in Maitland-Niles in place of Bellerin to counter Ahmed Musa’s pace? Is Maitland-Niles safer in possession? I’d rather play it safe by asking Bellerin to just stick to his man. Anyway, Maitland-Niles is rumoured to be not fully back from injury. And don’t forget that CSKA can pull one on us by switching Musa to their right flank.

I expect our starting eleven to be:






submit football lineup

SUBS: Macey, Chambers, Holding, Kola, Nelson, Iwobi, Nketiah.

Control remains the key. If we succeed in controlling the game, trust CSKA to give us space and time to nick a goal or two.

The semi beckons …………. COYG!!!

By Pony Eye.

Posted in Uncategorized | 188 Comments

Arsenal football club – strategy, what strategy?

Arsenal players wave to fans from the bus

A look across the majority of recent Arsenal blogs would find amongst the many conflicting opinions a general agreement that the mighty Arsenal FC have rather lost their way in recent seasons.  Whilst some criticise the direction being taken both on and off the field, many simply bemoan that fact that they see no apparent direction at all.  And this is what many people cry out for – firm, clear, decisive leadership that is transparent to the fans.  Arsene Wenger is at the very centre of this debate of course, with many simply concluding that he has lost the plot or the capacity to adapt with the times.  I’m a bit confused by this, on a number of fronts, so I thought I’d set out some of the tensions concealed within what many seem to see as an obvious truth.

Firstly then, the strategy question.  I would argue that looking back over Arsene’s career there have been very clear and distinct phases of club strategy.  His arrival heralded both new fitness and training regimes and the import of young overseas talent, in particular those from the French leagues.  The team comprised power, pace and technique, and the mix of players provided arguably the most exciting football of the premier league era.  Inevitably the formula was copied by every manager in the league.  None matched the end product, but our strategic advantage had gone as every club looked for the best foreign talent.

The next phase was shaped by financial stringency resulting from the Emirates project, whilst oil fuelled clubs raised the competition levels.  We can debate the timing of the Emirates venture – arguably in hindsight we might have been better waiting to higher earning times to reduce the proportionate debt load.  But hindsight is just that.  We adapted our strategy to live within a reduced budget and youth talent development became the central theme, as we could no longer buy the best from overseas, nor could we retain stars who wanted big pay rises.  This was a great time in many respects, for the sheer excitement of the young talent we could bring in and the brilliance of the football played, albeit inevitably without the consistency.  But any young player wanting to develop and get a chance to play in the first 11 of a Champions League side must have thought hard about joining us.  We started players at 16 if they showed the talent, and regularly fielded several teenagers in the same team.  Again, this strategy of trusting youth has been mirrored successfully by other clubs since Wenger introduced it.

As loss of key players continued to set us back intermittently we moved into a home-grown talent strategy, still operating within budget constraints, but trying to build our squad around a British core that could grow up together – in concept, much as we see the current Spurs side developing.  Sadly this strategy did not bear the fruit that was hoped for – too many injuries and too many young players who never quite fulfilled their promise.  The concept wasn’t necessarily a flawed one, but the players weren’t the right mix, for which all (Wenger included) must share the blame.  The vision and plan was clear and purposeful however.

As our finances finally improved we broke out of the spending shackles and started to make significant strategic acquisitions, players of the very highest calibre in world football.  The strategy has been to blend these in with the best of our established core, adding one or two a year.  This is exactly what most fans have been waiting for through the last 10 years.  The profile of our team changed accordingly, and the style of play also moved with this. We no longer play with so many youngsters in our team, and some of the brash flair has gone with it as a result I believe.  As we bought big names expectations sky rocketed.  And as these have not been met fans have turned and demanded further change – a new leader for one thing. And this is where the question of the next strategy arises, and is so important for us.  We are a team that is currently in transition, but what is the transition that we actually want to see played out?

I am struck reading so many articles that implore us to sign up Jack and Rambo.  I like them both, so I can’t object to that can I? Then I see articles about the players we would like to see bought in the summer – midfielders from Germany like Meyer, or wingers from the PL like Zaha.  Good players no doubt, no reason for me to not want them in the squad? Then I read articles expressing deep frustration for our failure to play the young talent that has been shining in our youth teams – players like Nelson.  Surely we should be playing these stars of the future? And we seem to be at risk of losing such young players to other clubs because frankly there are too many current stars in our squad already for them to have any chance of playing.

So what’s it to be? We can’t have all of these at once – we need to make some hard choices.  And I think there is a clear strategy to that effect being played out at Arsenal, that we saw glimpses of last summer and then bit hard in January.  We are now going to create space in our squad to either buy the very best talent or to allow the best of our youngsters to come through.  This means playing hard ball over contracts with those who marginal in our squad, and selling those who do not make it or are not willing to take less than stellar terms.  But we will pay top dollar to the very best.  Our strategy has hardened, and I applaud it.  It may well mean that Jack or Rambo, or even both, go in the summer if they aren’t prepared to fight for a place in this team – but if that opens the way for Nelson or another then sobeit.

I’m excited about this transition.  We have a lot of top talent, in particular in our attack, and we need to give these players time to get used to each other.  But we have lost some of that youthful dynamism that came when we played a few teenagers, filled with cocky confidence and out to impress.  I want some of that back.  And if that means letting some established stars and fan favourites go then I’m up for it happening.  We do still need to buy, but for now only at the back in my view – unless the proverbial ‘exceptional talent’ suddenly becomes available.

Soccer - FA Cup - Arsenal Winners Parade

He got his man! Well done Arsene and team to get one of the very best in the world to the home of football and so early on as well!

So what do we think, is it time for pruning this squad and making space for some youth as well as top imported talent, or should we keep all the current team and try to add to it as well?  Are we prepared to let some of our favourites go in order to fund these changes?

By  AB


Posted in Uncategorized | 60 Comments

Player Ratings: Auba is Quality, Welbeck Almost MOTM, Xhaka and Elneny Sooo Tidy!

After a low-intensity start and a clumsy goal conceded, Arsenal took control of the game with goals from Auba and Welbeck. Wenger made seven changes and left his creative fire-power on the bench, but that offered a fabulous opportunity for my MOTM to shine.

Player Ratings:

Cech: 8 – Calm, secure, leads through his wisdom like a Greek philosopher and the responsiveness of a Bohemian tiger.

Kola: 6 – What has happened to his confidence and his early-season thrust? Couple of decent defensive interventions but he is not replacing Nacho anytime soon.

Mustafi: 5 – At fault for the goal as a result of a lack of anticipation and not taking the initiative. After that a few poor balls out of defence and some kamikaze defending in and around the box. Needs to look more around him.

Chambers: 5 – Not dynamic enough and too easily fooled for the Saints’ second goal.

Bellerin: 5 – He has recently been much better with his deliveries into the box, but today he was mainly disappointing. Hector also played some bad balls out of defence.

Xhaka: 8 – Calm, controlled performance. Speeds game up when there is an opportunity and dominates the midfield area through intelligence and technical ability. Lovely to watch if you like tidiness.

Elneny: 7.5 – Solid and always totally focussed. Looks around him and pre-plans his steps. Lovely to watch if you like tidiness.

Welbeck: 8.5 – Could be MOTM. Excellent running and presence all over the pitch. Two goals and an assist almost says it all, but his energy and willingness to do the dirty work also deserves praise.

Auba: 8.5 – Just quality personified.

Nelson: 6 – Struggled to have an impact on the game.

Iwobi: 9 – Superb allround performance by the Nigerian Ninja. Two assist and one pre-assist. Great movement and ball control and without the presence of the Nr10 beasts of Ozil, Jack, Mkhi and Rambo, he had a chance to shine. And boy how he did!!!

By TotalArsenal

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Starts for Holding, Chambers and Kola | Iwobi/Jack/Ozil to Feed Auba: Saints Preview

Tomorrow we play the Saints and the question is how serious will the manager and the team take this game. Four days later Arsenal are playing in Moscow the second UEFA leg game against CSKA, and although we are in a strong position to go through, the team cannot afford to play a weakened team there. We need to play to win the game rather then sitting back and could really do with at least one away goal.

So my guess is that Wenger will prioritise Thursday’s game and rest a few players for tomorrow’s encounter with the Saints. I reckon Wenger will rest Koz, Bellerin and Nacho, Rambo, Lacazette and possibly even Welbeck (with Mkhi possibly not being fit for a while).

My predicted line-up is therefore something like this – although I don’t expect another correct 11/11 this time round 🙂 ):

submit football lineup

With the above players rested, Wenger can give the likes of Holding, Chambers and Kola another game. Mustafi can lead them and I reckon we also need the experience of Cech in that ‘Back Five’.

I would expect the plan to be to attack and not sit back at home, and therefore Ozil should start the game – with the advice to take it easy and avoid injury…. just do your magic, Mesut. Auba will of course play up-top as he does not do Thursdays for us this season, and I reckon Iwobi will get a start with Jack back in the hole. After sixty to seventy minutes expect Xhaka, Ozil and Jack to get substituted, as they are all likely to play in Moscow.


As always, the first eleven and Arsene’s tactics will need to be supported by the right attitude on the pitch: a mixture of hunger to win, intensity and determination till the end. Those who actually look forward to being at the Home of Football tomorrow can of course do their part too.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments

Arsenal 4 – CSKA Moscow 1  European Night (So Right) Shows Where Wenger Went Wrong

Ramsey Runs Riot and Will Surely Follow the Ox Outta Ouch-senal.  Our Opponent Was No Good AND We Failed to Put Them Away. Etc., etc.

Image result

How many other ways can Gooners find to ruin a fine display of Arsenal football?  There must be a million, what’s your favorite? Please join us here on Bergkampesque and tell us why Arsenal (and, you…) are miserable?  Or look for us on Twitter… #nosuchthingasahappygooner.

Ramsey, why are you smiling?  Has Klopp just called you with a contract offer?

I jest, of course, but, if you’re a Gooner and you cannot enjoy that match, why bother?

From the kickoff, when Arsenal got a feel for the pitch by stroking the ball around the with some longer passes, I had a sense that we’d have some time on the ball and that pitch-space was there for the taking. Nobody knows these CSKA players, but there were some good anecdotal reasons to fear the opponent. They were playing an extra defender, i.e., a back three of experienced (or aged) defenders ahead of a name between the sticks that I did know: Igor Akinfeev.  As such, scoring would be difficult. Nil-nil, however, isn’t the worst scoreline to take back to Moscow given the away goals rule.

Except, of course, this is Arsenal, so giving up an away goal or three–the number CSKA scored at Lyon in the previous round–is a given.  Oh dennis, this means we must go for broke. Anything less than three of our own won’t be enough. Or maybe four or five or six. If you’re a Gooner you’re gonna worry.  No.Matter.What.

But that’s all pre-match.  Now, with this one in the books what can we say?

Well, I’ve got several observations, I’ll pick a nice even number.  How about Eight? 😀

1. THAT was Arsenal Football.  Open, attacking, easy on the eye generally and scintillating at times.  That’s what Gooners should be able to enjoy.  Like the scoreline, it’s not perfect.  If perfection is what we’re demanding, however… Well, back to the hashtag, I say.

2. Arsenal have a core of players who understand spacing and can exploit it to make chance after chance and dominate matches.  Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, ostensibly starting as inverted wingers, know how to move wide, narrow and (even) across into each other’s “positions”  Once these patterns of movement have begun, the widest spaces open up for our fullbacks, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal, to bomb forward and aft. Aaron Ramsey (more on him below) does likewise in more central channels, of course, while guys who don’t quite have his engine–our other central mids, Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka–work smaller areas in the center of the pitch, but under less pressure, because, you know, there is more space. This TEAM game is the essence of playing attractive, attacking football.  Ozil can’t do it by himself, nor can our new guy, Mkhi, who helps k(h)nit it all together, nor can anyone else in the team. This is total football, Arsenal style, and, in my view, is something to be celebrated to the heavens.

3. We must now hope that Mkhitaryan’s injury is just a bruise; Mohamed Elneny and Alexi Iwobi are skilled enough to fill in for Mkhi, but do they have the vision to fashion space for themselves and their mates in the same sort of way?  There I go showing my Gooner colors; on this front, I AM worried.

4.  Moves must be finished, and, four times they were, in excellent fashion.  Ramsey’s 2nd goal will stand out, of course, but his first was executed just as well.  Just as the team will lament not making this one into a cricket score, Rambo will lament not getting the hat-trick with his late smash off the post, but his early (non) goal, taken off the scoreboard by the most marginal of offside decisions, had perhaps an even more impressive element: AR8’s burst of pace that broke Arsenal through the lines and onto the counterattack.  We need a fit Rambo. If he can take a lead role in another trophy–he’s hit key goals in 2 of those 3 FA cups we’ve won recently–he will deserve remuneration with a sizable new contract at our club.

5.  The other goal scorer, Alexandre Lacazette, as Steve Bould recently noted, is more than just a finisher.  His hold up work was notable on the fantastic 3rd goal, while he often popped up in good “false 9” spots to help keep possession repeatedly during the match.  The finishing, however, should not be ignored.  His penalty, his second in 4 days, was again struck into the abandoned half of the net with full force and commitment, while his off-footed out-swinger was unsavable.  There is a focus and intensity in Lacazette to match his lightning fast (and usually correct) decision making.  It’s only been 100 minutes of play since his return to action, but the issue that required surgery might have been worse than we thought.

6.  Other teams will score goals.  Arsenal’s defensive frailties will be highlighted for the goal we conceded.  Mustafi’s weird (non)clearance, Xhaka’s pop-up and Koscielny’s obvious and unnecessary foul will be cited but I think we should note the glory of Aleksandr Golovin’s free kick and twist things positively.  We have been linked with the 21 year old before, so GO (get us some) LOVIN. We are a big club and we could offer good wages and a nice transfer fee. In open play Golovin looked good enough, last night at least, to fit right in with our style of play.  I’d do it before the World Cup where surely Aleks will be a bright spot for the host nation. With the departed Alexes (well, Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) taking their strong right feet with them, the free kick ALONE makes Golovin a very intriguing transfer target.

7.  I want to talk more about the Ox, but in a different context.  Our stadium was fuller, but still, plenty of empty seats were to be seen.  If you’re a ticket-buying Gooner who chose to miss this one you will likely find a reason (or ten) to rationalize your choice.  In my view, you missed some good football AND you’ve adopted an attitude which will not help your team. It’s your prerogative to demand entertainment and decide when none can be found.  Let’s check recent remarks, of the Ox, however, about playing for his new club. 

He doesn’t mention his previous club, but the silence about Arsenal is akin to the (near) silence in our home stadium and is very much at odds with the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” spirit at Anfield.  It will take individual decisions to form a collective atmosphere that turns guys like our (disappointing?) Ox into a player who makes special goals into parts of special wins. As supporters we have very little power over what happens on the pitch.  Nonetheless, our fine stadium–like any stadium anywhere, I believe–could be converted, into an Anfield-esque “terrible” place for opponents to play. Instead, it’s middling, at best, hardly a home for the type of football Gooners purport to desire. First, the stadium, next the Goonersphere.  Let’s turn this around. These places–our home stadium; our blogs, etc., etc.–shouldn’t be terrible for places…for us…

8.  Petr Cech is our goalkeeper.  Did he make a save last night?  I can’t remember one. Golovin’s free kick was just too good.  For the remainder of the match, Cech came off his line decisively on a few occasions and gobbled up balls or forced CSKA players to rush their shots off target.  With David Ospina’s injury now looking to be “at least a few weeks,” I think we’ve seen the last of the Colombian, although he probably has a chance to show his stuff at the World Cup this summer.  There are others out there with similar opportunities.  I’d expect a new keeper (young and very promising) to be brought in this summer to push Cech next season.

OK, as always, I’ve got more to say, so, observation number…

9.  This tie is not over, except that it is.  These two legged ties are games of four halves. We got our nil-nil in the 2nd after a fine 1st half of 4-1.  I GUARANTEE that we will do just fine in the remaining halves in Moscow to book our spot in the semi-finals.  When is the draw?  Worry all YOU like. We will score next Thursday in Moscow, meaning that CSKA will need FIVE goals to beat us.  Again, when is the draw?

Those are my observations/views.  What say you?  To me it was a good night and something to be enjoyed. It’s just one match (but on the back of a few other good results, 5 wins from 5, I think, and 15 goals vs 2 conceded).  I don’t want to over-sell things and I could find quibbles of my own to focus upon, if that’s where we feel we must go.  It’s a rainy day where I am, so come on out and I’ll play…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Cech and Xhaka back, Jack in Hole, MkOzLa Up-Front: Line-Up v CSKA Moscow

There is not that much to say about tonight UEFA Cup game. We need a couple of goals and a clean sheet, or ideally three or four goals to put the game to bed. CSKA Moscow eliminated Lyon and are of course not to be underestimated – including away from home! The away leg will no doubt be tricky, so a good home result is paramount.

It is of course a shame that we cannot select Aubameyang, who is starting to look sharp after a brace that could have been a hat-trick (his three-musketeership in allowing Lacazette to take the second pen was a joy to watch). Laca is fit and ready to go, and that is just as well, as the keen but limited Danny Welbeck is not one to rely on for the goals, I am afraid. Laca is fit just in time, and I reckon he will start.

Wenger has been vague about whether Ospina or Cech will start and that probably means we will see the man with 200 Clean Sheets to his name between the posts. Koz should be back for this and Mustafi will also start. Nacho looked hungry and pony-tailed Bellerin – time to shave it all off, Hector, and look all mean and moody 🙂 – will probably start on the flanks.


Xhaka-Rambo to be the deeper laying midfielders and Captain-Jack in the hole again, I reckon. The front three are likely to be Mkhi, Laca and Ozilski. There is a chance for Welbeck, or even the almost forgotten Iwobi, to start and Mesut playing in the hole – and Jack being benched – but I reckon this will be the starting eleven (and it would be mine):

submit football lineup

Enough of the talking – time for action.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 48 Comments