Rambo, Xhaka and Mesut to Zip the Barcodes: Arsenal v Newcastle Preview


Our last competitive match of a hectic schedule was on Thursday March 14th against Rennes. The inter-lull that followed afforded every member of our 1st team squad a change of environment excellent for refreshing the psyche. After such breaks, appetite for the “chores” won’t to be renewed, though invariably some cobwebs appear needing some dusting.

We were in a commanding form before the inter-lull. On their return to base, Emery’s immediate task would have been to get the boys quickly back to speed so as to keep riding the wave of the momentum as if there was never a break. I guess that wouldn’t require much from him beyond urging the boys in training to pass the ball quicker, to run faster and to jump higher. The goal: to reconnect them to their motor reflex memory.

Will he succeed? These boys are hungry. They know that every match from now on is a cup final and that there is no margin for error. Newcastle is an in-form team, managed by the experienced Rafa Benitez. Take them for granted and live to regret it.

Emery has done a lot of tinkering over the season and rightly so seeing that for him it is a new team and a new league. It now looks like it’s all crystallized for him. The team that waltzed through Rennes was the same team (cup keeper and Mustafi for suspended Sokratis apart) that spanked the top-form team, Man United. Is there any need changing a winning team? I don’t think so unless the changes are forced. But that is me. Emery likes responding to his analysis of opposing teams and what he comes up with might depend on what he thinks Benitez will do.

Benitez has been very pragmatic with his approach to games. He will come to the Emirate determined to deny Arsenal a goal. Expect the same 5:4:1 formation he has used against the bigger teams. With a draw, he has inched further away from relegation but Emery wouldn’t be in any mood to oblige him. Unai would respond by wanting to control the game and be patient with chances. That could make him revert to the 4:2:3:1 formation. If we score early the game would open up and that should add to our advantage. The Emirate finds its best voice when it is an open game.

Monreal and Ramsey, who were slight doubts, are back to full training. Though Xhaka was not in the injured list mentioned by our medical staff, he remains a doubt particularly as the recent team pictures did not capture him in training. My gut feeling is that he will be starting.

Predicted line up:-






Bench:- Cech, Mustafi, Lichsteiner, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Suarez, Aubamayang

With the Spurs losing, Man U and Chelsea sneaking their wins this weekend only 1pt now separates the four teams jostling for the remaining two Champions League spot, though Arsenal have this Newcastle match in hand. Nothing could be tighter. We dare not lose this one, not when it is at home. Let us suck to death the morale of the visitors with 90 minutes of full support for our team.


By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Bad News for Arsenal

Top Four is going to be an uphill struggle..

Arsenal have three remaining home matches against Newcastle, Palace and Brighton. With the 3rd best home form in the league behind City and Liverpool, these are winnable games. However, Arsenal’s away form has been poor, and of the eight remaining matches five are away from home, against a strong field of Everton, Watford, Wolves, Leicester and Burnley.


Arsenal’s average pts per game at home (pts/g@H) reduced to one decimal point is 2.6 pts and the average pts per game away (pts/g@A) is a lowly 1.4 pts.

Comparing Arsenal’s pts/g@H of 2.6 pts with the average pts/g@A of the away teams that they have to face gives:-
Arse v N’Castle — @ 2.6 > 0.9 statistically an Arsenal win 3 pts.
Arse v Palace —- @ 2.6 > 1.3 …………….. ditto ……………. 3 pts.
Arse v Brighton — @ 2.6 > 0.7 …………….. ditto ……………. 3 pts.

Similarly Arsenal’s away matches gives:-
Everton v Arse — @ 1.6 > 1.4 statistically an Arsenal loss 0 pts.
Watford v Arse — @ 1.6 > 1.4 …………….. ditto …………….. 0 pts.
Wolves v Arse — @ 1.6 > 1.4 ……………… ditto …………….. 0 pts.
L’cester v Arse — @ 1.3 < 1.4 statistically an Arsenal win  3 pts.
Burnley v Arse — @ 1.3 < 1.4 ……………… ditto ……………. 3 pts.

Therefore, for the remaining eight games Arsenal is statistically expected to add another nine pts from the home games and six pts from their away games. Add these to their current standing at 60 pts and they finish the season at 75 pts.

Applying exactly the same model with their top four competitors, their final season placing jumps out as:-
3rd —– Man United — 80 pts …… (5 home, 3 away games left).
4th —– Tottenham —– 79 pts …… (5 home, 3 away games left).
5/6th — Arsenal ——– 75 pts …… (3 home, 5 away games left).
5/6th — Chelsea ——- 75 pts …… (4 home, 4 away games left).

This, let’s not forget, is merely a statistical picture which says that Arsenal have an up hill task making it into the top four because of their poor away form. Their form away from home must improve. The huge disparity between the teams’ home and away forms last season continuing somewhat into this season defies simple analysis. Is it about tactics? Is it about cojones?

It’s been proven that it is a myth that red colour excites bulls as bulls don’t see colour. They would just as equally charge at a white cloth or any with those dull Arsenal away colours. I am not sure I can say the same of the Arsenal players. Red and it seems red only makes them bullish. If you ask me, whenever it’s possible in our away matches the team should don our red home jersey. No superstition here just plain psychology. I am that desperate. Aren’t you?

Tactics wise I feel Emery might have hit the right chord just in time. I like the 3-man central defence of Sokratis, Koscielny and Monreal with Leno behind. I like the industry of Ramsey from the double pivot role. Mainland-Niles has suddenly turned a matador and he is obviously enjoying it. Kola has been fully licensed for feeding the box with telling crosses and no one in the premier league does it better. Count on Lacazette’s positive energy home and away. This team has got stuff all over and they have readied themselves for a fight to the finish. They can be heard over and over again saying that champions league qualification is non negotiable in their thinking. Something tells me they’ll defy the stats and make it to the summit of this hill.


By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

Emery Schemes: Two Outfield Changes to Run Riot on Rennes | Preview/Line-Up

Laca xhaka
One would expect the Rennes coach to set up his team to defend their 3-1 first leg lead. But their strength is in their attack: pacey wingers plus the mercurial Ben Arter whose play demands so much attention. Their coach might weight it all up and decide that the best way to defend their lead is by attacking. What he does however would be non of his counterpart’s business. Emery has only one option. To go out and fetch goals..

Emery would be thinking of at least 3 goals. Yes 2 goals would do it if we don’t concede but that would be heart in the mouth. In spite of his clear mission Emery has to get his balance right, a balance that must be tilted offensively. Easier said than done as he still has to balance between goal scorers and goal creators. They need each other. Ramsey and Mkhitaryan look as likely starters. They are creators that carry some goal threat and at the same time able to work a shift defensively.

Emery would like to use the speed of Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac to pose a challenge to the speed Rennes have on the flanks and this might necessitate a back three of Mustafi, Koscielny and Monreal (Sokratis suspended).

The Arsenal man would be very tempted to play Leno. But would he? Lacazette whose ban was reduced to two matches is available for today’s game. Is it him or Auba or both of them? And what about Ozil with Emery so much keen on lots of chances being created? Balance, balance, balance …… damn it. Emery has only 11 places to fit in players.

Predicted line up:


—–Mustafi. Koscielny. Monreal—-

M-Niles. Ramsey. Xhaka. Kolasinac.

———Mkhitaryan    Ozil—————


Bench: Leno, Lichsteiner, Torreira, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Suarez, Lacazette.

Emery knows the worth of smuggling the 12th man into the team. Let’s do it for him.


By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 111 Comments

How Emery will Outwit Solskjaer: Ramsey Crucial. Line-Up|Preview

This week could define our season with regards to Champions League football. It starts today with the match at home against the in-form Manchester United. We were unlucky to have been pegged back to a 2-2 draw in the reverse fixture but at the Emirate in the FA cup tie, despite dominating them in possession and territory, they beat us by 3-1. I expect that they would be trusting on the same tactics of sitting deep and countering to do the job for them again. They have devastating pace in the persons of Lukaku, Rashford and Martial, their front three. A high line by our defence would be us inviting trouble. For that reason Emery might choose not to press too high in order not to oblige their attack with so much space to run into as high press goes with high defensive line.  Such a tweak from Emery would set the stage for the battle to be won and lost on the flanks. Still, don’t rule out somebody pulling a rabbit out of the hat.

We haven’t been able to find the effective replacement for injured Bellerin in our right flank. Not Lichsteiner. Mustafi is a good winner of the ball but a poor quick-passer whose overlapping runs and crosses as a wingback aren’t of the finest quality. If only Maitland-Niles can resolve to employ fully and proactively his great athleticism, Bellerin wouldn’t be missed all that much. I expect his great promises to get him a start today. I also expect rested Kolasinac (our flanking tank) to also start which would suggest that Emery is likely to opt for a back-3.

When would Man United’s run of six EPL consecutive away wins (10 in all competitions) come to an end? No better day than today in a loss at the home of football. We have been neck to neck with them and Chelsea for the last Champions League spot. It is a fierce race that has already sucked in the Spuds who bottled it against Southampton yesterday. It is now four teams for two CL spots and there is no gainsaying it, the more the merrier. Lacazette is rested and roaring to go. Ramsey is crucial as a midfielder who offers a late body in the opponent’s box. The Greek god Sokratis would be available. Torreira is starting a three-match suspension. Mkhi could do with a little rest by joining the fray from a strong bench.

Predicted line up with 6 changes made:-


~~Sokratis. Koscielny. Monreal.~~

M-Niles. Xhaka.  Guendouzi. Kolasinac.

~~~Ramsey.  Lacazette.  Iwobi.~~~

Bench:  Cech, Mustafi, Elneny, Suarez, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Aubamayang.

From now to the end of the season every of our match is a cup final. How much our team can cope with that pressure would prove critical to our fortune which surely would have a bearing on how much voice our fans are able to give to the team particularly when at home …..


By PE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 52 Comments

Suarez-Torreira DM Pivot, M.O.I to feed Auba, Ainsley M-N to start? Preview|Line-Up

Tonight is another big game for the Arsenal: Rennes away in the Europa League. Rennes is an old and fine city and have a more than decent stadium. I have no doubt that tonight we will see a good game of European football. A win over two legs will get us into the quarter finals and for this we will need of course a good performance during the first leg.

Rennes had a requested league-football rest over the weekend and will be fresh and focussed. Arsenal, on the other hand, played in a tough NLD last weekend and are awaiting another top-four battle on Sunday. Luckily, we played really well and are starting to get back into a winning groove, and with the right focus and energy we surely should be too strong for our inexperienced, low-flying opponents?!

Arsenal took a strong squad to Western France and we should expect Unai to pick a very competitive team. Yet I also expect him to initially leave out a few players who will start v MU – one or two in each section: Leno, Koz, Kola, Xhaka, Rambo and even Auba?? This would allow us to have a fresh, strong spine which we surely will need on Sunday.

So what does this leave us with (bearing in mind that Lichtsteiner and Elneny have not travelled)?

Predicted/preferred line-up:


submit football lineup

  • Cech instead of Leno!

It would be good to give Kola a break and allow Monreal to get further into shape and form. If Ainsley is fit it would be good for him to get a start. Torreira has to play and I have a feeling that Suarez may start next to him in the Double DM-Pivot (resting Guendouzi, at least initially).

Iwobi could be rested too but I reckon we will need him to start in this one as Laca is not available. Ozil in the hole and Mkhi on the right, with Auba in attack as we do not really have much choice. Eddie may get a chance in the second half and I, for one, would love to see him in action again.

Should be a good game as long as the team treat it with respect from the start!





Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Unai’s Big Statement, KosSok Rock, Leno’s PL Arrival, End the VARce: 8 Observations

Eight observations from a season-defining game for both North-London teams:

  1. We are right to feel disappointed not to take the three points from our second home in London and the Spuddies will feel relieved that they got away with it, but the big picture is that we were stronger and out-classed them, AND that they have now been dragged into a top-four fight rather than a title-fight/ sitting comfortably in third place, as they were just a week ago. It was really important not to lose this one and a win would have been great and just, and had the refereeing been up to European standards we certainly would have won. This is Emery’s best away performance of the season; let there be no doubt about it, this is a big milestone for him at Arsenal.
  2. Emery got the tactics about right. Starting  with Guendouzi instead of Torro seemed a bad decision, and was enough for me to fear the worst. It is almost like Unai wants us to be vulnerable as to entice our opponents forward and have a go at us, which then leaves space for us to attack in; would we have scored our goal if we had started with a more solid midfield set up? Still, I was pleased to see Emery plug the midfield gap after half time, as we were struggling towards the end to get them away from our box. Emery’s changes were all spot on imo; we were more solid throughout the second half, controlled the game and had very good chances to win it. The fresh legs of Ozil and Auba kept our momentum going, which was of course vital in an away-derby.
  3. This was also a big game for Leno. His second stop late on in the first half, was de Gea-esque. It is one thing to anticipate were the ball will end up and to put your arm there, but then it needs a lot of strength to push it over the bar. It was a magnificent stop at a crucial moment in the game.
  4. The KosSok partnership is working very well. At last we have two central defenders who combine calm with craft and operate in partnership. They are leaders both physically and verbally and let’s hope we will see them combined for the rest of the season.
  5.  The Spuds missed the aggression and forceful runs of Dele Alli through midfield; we, on the other hand, had such a player on the pitch in Aaron Ramsey, yesterday. It was a good, mature Lampard/Gerrard-esque goal by Ramsey and a reminder of what a player he could have been had he been more consistent for us in recent years. Am I said to see him go? No, but thanks for that one, Aaron.
  6. Laca worked so hard based around his energetic, sometimes frantic, approach to the game. Auba is by nature calmer, stealthier and more calculated in his efforts. Together they prepare and score a lot of our goals, and we are blessed to have them. Unfortunately, yesterday the apparent character traits of Laca and Auba did not work so well at the crucial moments: Laca fluffed two very decent chances where a little calm would have served him better possibly; and Auba could have done with a bit more aggression/energy both for the penalty (which seemd v soft to me) and the rebound that came his way.
  7. It is a real ‘varce’ that the PL is still without VAR. I am not saying it is perfect, but the linesman and referee made a few poor decisions that would have been overturned in no time. As Unai said to the men in black: VAR is coming for you.
  8. The Torreira sending off is a costly one for us. Although there were no bad intentions, his leg and boot were high and could have caused a bad injury and so I believe it was a correct decision. Not having El Torro against the Mancs in a week’s time is a real concern, and it may well be that we will start once more with the Xhaka-Guendo combo. First we are off to Rennes, though, and that will be another fine challenge for our boys in red and white.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 26 Comments

How to Mash the Spuds: 3-4-3, 4-2-1-3 or 4-3-3? Tactical Musings.

A pivotal NLD awaits us. The Spuds lost two in a row and we won two. They still had a chance to win the league but needed at least four point to stay in touch with Pool and Citeh. They could be three points behind Pool but now look at a nine point gap; they could be ten points ahead of the mighty Gunners but now the N-L rivals are just four points apart. It has been bright and sunny over the last week and, as we all know, the Spuddies only thrive when it’s dank, dark and miserable. It will be relatively warm and dry this afternoon, so let’s finish the gap-closing job in style.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scores Arsenal's second goal

A Gunners’ win would reduce the gap to just one point and that just over six calendar days! It would be THE turning point in the Spuds and Arsenal seasons, as that would condemn the knuckle-draggers to a dirty top-four fight with us, the Mancs and Chavs; and it would give us the belief and further impetus to finish in the top-four. Today is crucial for both teams, let there be no doubt about it. It is a six-pointer game with our most detested rivals; it is a battle that is very likely to determine the outcome of the war. Let’s get the cannon loaded; it’s time to blast the silly skinny chicken of the ball. 🙂

Which team is going to do it? It depends whether we play 4-2-1-3 (4-3-3) or 3-4-3. I reckon Emery will go for the latter, with possible these starting 11.

Emery’s 3-4-3(?):

submit football lineup

I am not sure who he will play on the right in midfield, but reckon it will be either Licht or Rambo (not sure how fit AMN is but that could work too). I have a preference for Rambo but only if he fully commits, which I have not seen him doing since he signed for the Italian barcodes.

This formation would give us attacking options on the left – where the partnership between Kola-Iwobi is blossoming – and right – where Mkhi has made a big difference recently. The only problem with this formation is that it will ask a lot from both Xhaka and Torreira. They will need to play with discipline and protect the back-three; yet they also need to provide the midfield creativity and attacking passes. It also means that either Iwobi or Mkhi – or indeed Laca – will need to make themselves available in ‘the hole’ area to fill the gap there, and this may not be ideal for us against the Spuds.

Emery’s 4-2-1-3(?)

The alternative is to play 4-2-1-3 and allow either Rambo or Ozil (my preference all day long) to boss ‘the hole’. This would allow Xhaka-Torreira to boss the midfield without taking too much risk, and against the Spuds it is all about winning the midfield battle. It would still allow us to operate our wing-partnerships, even though it would be with different personnel. It would give us that extra bit of creativity in front of the Spuds’ ‘D’ and therefore make us less predictable. But it requires our ‘wingers’ to support the full backs and central midfield players constantly, and Rambo/Ozil to go deep now and again and support midfield.

It could look like this (4-2-1-3):

submit football lineup

I believe the above 11/formation would suit us best to conquer the Spuds at Wembley, as long as the instructions are clear to cover the space left behind when we are attacking. It would have been great to have Bellerin available for this one, but other than that we are lucky to have such a good starting 11 fit and available in early March.

Emery’s 4-3-3(?)

Alternatively, we could see a 4-3-3 with either Rambo or Guendouzi next to Xhaka-Torreira and that would definitely strengthen the midfield from a defence point of view.

It could look like this, and the more I think about it the more I believe Emery might go for it (4-3-3):

submit football lineup

I have a good feeling about this one: 2-1 to the good guys (Auba, as a sub, to do the manage in the last 30 minutes)!

What would be your preferred formation and starting-11? What is your predicted score?


By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 118 Comments