Sead, Jack, Aaron, Granit to Boss Midfield against Man City: Line-Up|Preview

These are the sort of days us club football supporters live for. We know that after today we will fall in a dark club-football abyss with yet another fortnight of international football on the cards. But today it is a football feast as we travel to the money-for-glory Northern-Oilers, who are flying high on their investments in both (probably) the best manager in the game and a fabulous squad of players. They are flying higher than Icarus once did, so let’s present them with hellish, blinding, relentless canon fire and bring them back down to earth.

Wenger has a good record against Guardiola, despite always being the poorer manager of the two, and from the interview with him on Arsenal.com we know that he has been preparing well for this pivotal match. A win would be just what we and the competition needs…. and a loss would create a massive gap between them and us – one that we are very unlikely to bridge during the large remainder of the season.

Arsene does not want to sit back and absorb City’s pressure for 90 minutes, but he also realises that we cannot impose our game on them, as this would leave too much space for Guardiola’s men to attack us with ease and deadly consequences as soon as we lose the ball in midfield.

Wenger’s best game against Guardiola was our 2-1 win against Barcelona at home a long time ago (it seems). Who does not remember the Wilshere-Fabregas instigated counter-attack from deep in our own half that was finished so brilliantly by Arshavin? I reckon our best chance to beat MC is once again by fighting them in midfield tooth and nail and sitting back as our base position. We need to be able to keep the ball when we have it and pass our way out of their suffocating press. In my view, Arsene needs to play five in midfield with one/two mobile attacker(s) ready to be at the end of a counter-attack or receive the ball from over the top. We need to keep them away from our ‘D’ area and protect our flanks by doubling up, or even tripling up.

Alternatively, and Wenger may well be tempted to do this, we can opt to push them back in their half and play our game – similar to what we did against the Chavs in the FA Cup final. But I hope we do not try this.

If there is a weakness at MC it is their CBs, and the likes of Alexis, Lacazette, or even Theo, could cause a real threat in this game. I would opt for Alexis and Lacazette in attack, but Wenger may be tempted to play Theo up-top for his added speed and ruthlessness when a ball is played over the top.

At the back we are likely to see Cech-Nacho-BFG-Koz, as Mustafi still appears to be unfit. The BFG is a brilliant organiser and interceptor and his lack of speed will not be exposed too much as long as we play compact at the back, and a lot deeper than usual (which is to be expected).

The big decisions Wenger has to make are what formation will we play and who to play in midfield. Luckily, he has plenty of options with Jack, Rambo, Ozil, Elneny, Xhaka, Bellerin, Kolasinac and Coquelin, and even Debuchy, all available. Wenger may stick with 3-4-3 on paper but surely we will see a compact formation that looks more like 3-6-1 or 4-5-1 or 5-3-2, or, most possibly 3-5-2.

In terms of midfielders, Wenger will have to go with experience, ability to control the ball in tight areas and passing skills. Ozil is a sure start. Kolasinac is a sure start. Rambo is a sure start (but his discipline will be a key factor). Xhaka and Hector are question marks. The former may struggle with the lack of space afforded to him, but then again he is the one who can play a ball over the top with precision… The latter is still a work in progress and his final ball when he is attacking is not yet good enough.

My gut feeling is that Jack may start in this game, possibly next to Rambo in the centre of midfield, or next to Xhaka with Rambo playing on the right side of midfield. We need proper, ball-loving midfielders in midfield for this one. So my predicted line-up is as below, with both Mesut and Alexis playing a little deeper than usual so we can win the battle in midfield.

Predicted Line-Up:

submit football lineup

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal

Posted in Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Jack’s Accelerations, Macey’s Pressence, Debuchy is Back: 8 Observations from Arsenal v RSB

Arsenal are through to the next round of the UEFA cup with two games to spare. Well done you youngsters and fringers. Many will point our that we did not play attractive football against RSB and I will not argue with you, but you really are missing the point if you feel that this matters a lot. The second team are of course not going to be an all conquering, free-flowing, beautiful Arsenal football playing machine; for this the components are not compatible enough, and they are still ‘finding each other’.

What we are getting from this is experience for the young talents and match fitness for the experienced fringe players, but I have said this now enough times. You also have to look a bit deeper to see the beauty and positives from a game like this.

Eight observations from Arsenal v Red Star Belgrade:

  1. Macey had a very good game with plenty of ‘presence’. Being a good goalkeeper has a lot to do with mental strength, and Macey showed strong concentration levels, fearlessness and the ability to make himself a big, orange octopus when faced with an attacker who only had him to deal with. He saved us acrobatically from a certain goal, even though he needed a big dollop of luck with it (the ball hit the underside of the bar and did then not fall to a RSB player to slot it in). Macey announcing himself like this is reason alone to value last night’s game;
  2. Willock shows what a great dynamo and stride he could have in future. Yes there were only glimpses of this during the game and his final ball was still below par, but we were up against a physical, unadventurous team and our attackers lacked mobility and imagination for Willock to be more effective. I like his potential and he was the best young-Gunner on the pitch in my opinion.
  3. Elneny played as a/our leader from the back. His positioning was very good and I loved the way he moved the ball forward with good energy and thrust. He was all over the pitch and usually able to intervene before danger could ensue. He played a big part in our clean-sheet on the night – and I for one was very happy to achieve one after three ‘1-0 behinds’ in Arsenal’s previous outings.
  4. Jack’s accelerations were a joy to watch; those little bursts forward to free himself up and allow his colleagues to move into space to receive the ball were of special quality. But it all had to come from him and nobody really was at the same wavelength. Nevertheless, he got very close to score the winner and this game will have done him good. I would not  be surprised at all if he were to start against MC on Sunday, but that is for another post.
  5. Unfortunately, our two main attackers, OG and TW, were static or not at the game for most of the time. For me they were the only real disappointments, as they left the young midfielders with limited options when coming forward. Of course, it also has to be said that RSB had parked a very physically aggressive bus and the referee allowed them to commit foul after foul, but still, I expected more from our experienced attackers.
  6. Maitland-Niles and Nelson had half-decent games and I think they struggled more than a bit with the ‘manliness’ of their opponents. Still, a really good experience for both of them, and there were glimpses of what is to come on a more regular basis.
  7. Debuchy played with passion and experience and this was a joy to watch. This man wants to be back in the first team, or indeed play first team football for another team. I thought his positioning and interventions were strong and he also should take pride in having kept a clean sheet.
  8. And finally, Holding: I liked his forward runs and confidence on the ball. He was also strong in the air and showed physical strength against very physical opponents. Rob is making good progress this season.

Two more UEFA League games to play in this group and we could see Arsene try out a more attacking style of football for these. Replacing either Walcott or Ollie with Iwobi, if indeed available, so Jack has somebody to play with, could make a big difference. I cannot wait to see them play together again.

By TotalArsenal.

Posted in Uncategorized | 33 Comments

Live-Blogging the Europa League. Arsenal-Red Star Belgrade. Macey in Goal; Jack, Theo and Ollie in Attack

We left it late last time. What will it take tonight in North London?

Olivier Giroud’s audacious overhead kick was the difference in the reverse fixture.  Manager Arsene Wenger makes just one change to the line-up that played in Belgrade as he seeks to secure his team’s place in the next round of the tournament.  Petr Cech finally gets a rest and takes a bench seat while 23 year old Matt Macey starts between the sticks.  That is it.  Otherwise the starters are the same, as is the bench.

Here’s what it looks like:

Macey, Debuchy, Elneny, Holding, Coquelin, Willock, Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Walcott, Wilshere, Giroud.  Subs: Cech, Tutu, Sheaf, Dasilva, Mcguane, Akpom, Nketiah

What do you think?

Your opinion, in fact, is just as good as mine.  I’ll be trying to keep up with the action but I can always use help.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 105 Comments

Jack to Conduct, Iwobi-OG-Theo to Attack, Willock, Niles and Nelson to Grow: Line-Up|Preview

Wenger is loving the UEFA Cup and League Cup games as much as many of us do. On Arsenal.com he said:

“If you look at the number of minutes played by all of these players since the start of the season, many of them are in very competitive shape and that should be an advantage for the rest of the season.”

Bang on, Arsene, and what a fine position to be in! A win tonight and we are through but the boys and men will have to put in a performance to achieve this. We rode our luck against Red Star Belgrade a few times but a fine goal by NaNaNaNaah was enough to bring home all the three points. Let’s hope our eleven will want it badly and put in a performance for the home support.

This is my predicted line-up, with the BFG to captain the team:

submit football lineup

Here is another good chance for the youngsters to shine and the likes of Wilshere, Iwobi, Theo and Giroud to show Wenger that they can replace first team players if he wishes to do so.  We all look forward to seeing Super-Jack doing his three-dimensional magic again, and let’s hope Walcott is fully focused. I am also hoping for a good game from Iwobi, who really needs to step it up a bit. Furthermore, Chambers and Holding have an opportunity to get closer to the first team, and who knows, a certain youngster may come on late to score a brace or more…

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

A.L.O. in Attack, XhakRam in Midfield, BFG to lead Defence: Arsenal v Swans Line-up|Preview

Can the Gunners make it 10 consecutive PL home wins in a row?

But there is no time for swanning around: the cannon needs to roar and roar. I am always nervous when we play home games against teams ‘we should beat’ as there have been many games like these when the team did not play with the required intensity and focus and dropped costly points as a result. The Swans took home 10 points from the Emirates during their last six PL games, so the boys are more than warned!

Luckily, the current ‘First Team’ squad has been fully rested and will be eager to play again. Another win at home will make it 10 League victories in a row. There is not much more to say re this game. The first team is likely to be the same as those that played against the sorry Toffees last weekend.

Here it is:

submit football lineup

I cannot wait to see ALO ALO in our attack once again. Their collective movement,  creativity, thrust and fire-power is something to behold. Ozil is our ‘new’ Mozart and with a free role from the right, he will mostly be the creator and composer of our attacking play, whilst also adding a threat of finishing off a move. Alexis and Lacazetter offer so much in terms of forward play and Mesut will be looking forward to playing alongside them this afternoon.

The service to these three beasts will come from the linker-upper Rambo and from XhakaKAN from deep midfield. As always in this formation, we need our full back to be on full-throttle both in attack and defence, and I reckon we are almost there. Kola needs to improve a bit in terms of his defensive positioning and Hector needs to put in more good balls as well as take some of the chances he gets presented with. I have no doubt that Nacho and Koz will offer further thrust and passes from deep, but they also need to look after the less mobile, but brilliant organiser, BFG.

All to play for.

COYRRGs!

By TotalArsenal 

Posted in Uncategorized | 137 Comments

Why it is Great News Arsenal Drew the Spuds-mashing Hammers in the League Cup

Oh the sweet uses of adversity, as Shakespeare once wrote. No CL football means that Wenger can play about two different squads throughout most of the season, and this, my fine fellow Gooners, is great, great news.


We have a lot of good players in the squad and a number of youngsters who could make it into the first team. In previous seasons, these sorts of players would simply not get enough chances to play regularly enough to get to PL/CL quality levels. The experienced fringe players need regular, meaningful games to stay fit, focussed and enthusiastic, and for the young players it is absolutely vital that they can play regularly in competitive games in the red and white shirt.
The combination of midweek games in the UEFA League and League Cup mean that both sets of players now get plenty of opportunities to play meaningful, competitive football. Would we be playing in the CL, this simply would not be the case. Instead, our first team players would have to be played twice a week with all the risks of injuries, fatigue etc. Currently, only Mustafi and Welbeck are not (yet) available (and sadly Santi of course); the rest is fit, rested and keen.
So it is great news that Arsenal play at home against the Spuds-mashing Hammers in the next round of the League Cup. It will be a big battle and another great opportunity for the youngsters to get real-game experience. This will allow them to grow further and test themselves against PL opposition. West Ham will be up for this and the atmosphere in our stadium, the home of football, will be great. The experienced fringe-players will also enjoy playing in this one. And if we were to go through, Arsenal’s ‘second’ team will get a double bill in January – home and away. The more games for them the better!
It also looks like we will survive in the UEFA-Cup, which means more great tests for our youngsters. At the end of the season, Arsene can judge much better who is ready to be added to the first team squad and who should go on loan, sold etc. There is every chance that at least one, if not more, of the youngsters will be ready to join the first team come July next year.
There is an argument that Wenger will be tempted to play (lots of) first team players at some stage in both competitions and this could be detrimental to our PL campaign. I reckon that will not be the case, other than the odd player who needs another game to get fully fit or put into practice a certain tactical adjustment in their play. Wenger may involve more of the first team squad if Arsenal were to get to the quarter or semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, but surely that would be worth it then.
In a nutshell, I can see only advantages in us still playing, and continuing to play, in the League Cup and UEFA Cup: the first team players get plenty of rest, the experienced fringe players get plenty of meaningful practice and game-time, and the youngsters are provided with a proper platform to gain much needed real-game experience and show us what they are capable of. WIN WIN WIN!
By TotalArsenal. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Finally. Ozil and Alexis to Flank Lacazette as Arsenal Go After Everton. Join us on the Best. Live. Arsenal. Blog. Blab with us on the Bergkampesque.

Arsenal (3-4-3): Cech; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal; Bellerín, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Özil, Sánchez, Lacazette.
Subs: Macey, Wilshere, Giroud, Walcott, Holding, Iwobi, Coquelin.

Everton (3-5-2): Pickford; Keane, Jagielka, Williams; Kenny, Gueye, Sigurdsson, Vlasic, Baines; Rooney, Calvert-Lewin.
Subs: Robles, Mirallas, Martina, Klaassen, Davies, Lookman, Niasse.

Referee: Craig Pawson.

The line-ups are in and Arsene Wenger goes with what might be his best 11.  Ronald Koeman, perhaps under even more pressure that Wenger (is that possible?…), makes a few changes matches our own three center-back formation while building his attack around Wayne Rooney.

Everton away is always a tough one and last December it’s the one that began the derailment of our season after a long unbeaten run.  This time around–if we can win it–it might be a good re-boot after losing at Watford a week ago from a winning position.  What’s your prediction?  What else have you got to say?

Despite the early start time here in California, I’ll be trying to offer up some descriptions of the match, but, as always, it’s a whole lot more fun if I can lure others into the fray.  I’ll do my best, but we can only be the best if we get you into the discussion.

Go on then…

By 17highburyterrace

Posted in Uncategorized | 174 Comments