Emery Guns for a Win by Making Six Changes: Burnley v Arsenal Preview


Miracles have long ceased to happen. Even if the Spuds are to lose to Everton while we beat Burnley to finish level on points with them, we are never going to upset the 8 goals difference advantage the Spuds have over us. That is why so many are calling on Emery to send out a team of kids in this end of season game against Burnley. I doubt that he would. Why?

1) There is £1,500,000 prize money difference between finishing 5th or 6th on the table. Man U are 1 pt below us and playing at home against Cardiff. They are eager to lay their paws on that extra tidy sum that might be enough for us to pay ESR’s wages for the whole of the following season. It would be thoughtless of us to oblige them that. Am pretty certain the BoD would have made clear to our head coach that it is a must win game. Kronke, believe you me, is a lot more interested in our on-field success than meets the eye.

2). All footballers like being on the field. Amongst other things they like stacking up all sorts of stat, be it the number of starts or the total minutes played over the season. This is even more so for strikers whose value are referenced by the number of goals they have scored. Smart managers know that players chasing targets tend to give more so they not only want to play them but they also find it more difficult to deny opportunity to their hunger. I expect Emery to give Auba a chance to win the golden boot being only two goals behind the front man. Even Laca would be desperately wanting to increase his 13 goal tally. It’s difficult saying no to such hunger.

3). On a personal note, Emery would prefer to finish the season on 70 pts instead of on 67 pts. He knows that memory can be so short. Sooner than later the world would forget that he ended up at lowly 67 pts because he was protecting his players for a Europa Cup final. Dare he stumble afterwards and that stat becomes a stick to beat him with. Nobody remembers anymore that Wenger’s 63 pts earnings was in a season he had to prioritized Europa over the Premiership with many games still to go. That “evil” that he did now dogs his name

4). The rational mind seems to have very little to do with the emotions of football. Lose a match and morale everywhere drops, the fans and all the players alike, irrespective of whether an under strength team or not was fielded. Emery would not want that as we prepare for Baku. He’d want a result against the Clarets that would aid our mental state for the journey to Baku. He’d wants a win and so would field a team he believes can give him that.

5). Emery is the unrelenting tinker man. There must be something to try out, like Iwobi at left wing back. He’s already scratching his head looking for a way past Chelsea.

On the other hand Emery would be worrying about red zones and impact injuries, so it is a near impossible task predicting correctly the team we would see today. There are too many contradictory things to balance but for sure it won’t be a team full of kids. Here’s my guess:-


Bench: Cech, Jenkinson, M-Niles, Guendouzi, Willock, Ozil, Nketiah.

Every away win helps our away complex. Baku is a half-away match. We need a win at Turf Moor.


By PE.

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Split Strikers to Start as Koscielny Returns: Valencia v Arsenal Preview|Line-Up

An abysmal domestic run of form that has all but killed our hope for a top 4 finish in the league has us crestfallen, trudging towards Valencia like a defeated army in retreat. We need to pick ourselves up as the war for Champions League qualification is still very much raging for us. The Europa theatre is alive and the promise of victory seems not far off.

We take a good 3-1 lead to Valencia but with a worry that the team might be carrying a confidence that could quickly collapse. Valencia would want to capitalize on the disappointment of our weekend. They would know that the longer we are able to contain them the stronger we would grow. So expect them to come out to catch us early.

Who knows what Emery’s game plan would be? I hope it won’t be anything complex, anything that would make the boys run out of popcorns. Our opening salvo should be aimed at neutralizing the psychological thrust of their plan. We need to start off with all our guns blazing too and in so doing rehabilitate our self belief. This is going to be a game of character.

Luckily for us, this is a match Emery would be free of any worry for the next fixture. It should be for him a simple case of picking his strongest team and asking them to go give their all. Koscielny should start having rested in our last match. So also Maitland-Niles. We are never a good team sitting deep and for that reason I’d rather we use possession as our main defensive tactic for containing them while waiting patiently for openings. Our best orchestrator of intelligent control is Ozil and he should be on the field from the get-go.

If Emery opts for control of the game albeit with the offensive potential of the team intact, he would have a hard time choosing between Kolasinac and Iwobi for the left wingback position. Defensively there is little to choose between them. Both are poor. Offensively I would give it to Kola, but possession wise to Iwobi. However the fact that Valencia likes defending narrow might tilt the scale in favour of Kola.

With two games to go, Valencia are 3 pts away from Champions league qualification in the La Liga race. Would they have an eye on their weekend domestic match? I don’t think so. Europa-Cup-final beckoning is too tempting an option for them not to give this game a good go with only a 3-1 away deficit to account for at home.

The starting line up would depend on Emery’s game plan. Here is my guess:-


Bench: Cech, Litchsteiner, Mustafi, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Nketiah.

The Brighton result was very disappointing. Their equalizer triggering the spectre of falling out of the top 4 seemingly woke us up. We came out fighting achieving a season rare 20 attempts at goal but victory was denied us as the gods of football refused bluntly to smile at us. It was as if they were angry that we had all that quality and hardly ever brought them into use. If that trauma has shaken us to full wakefulness, I have very little doubt that we are into the Europa Cup final.


By PE.

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Valencia-Arsenal 2nd Leg Europa League Semi-final Preview. Either Way

We win!!!

I don’t want to wax overly negative about my football club…


Due to the vagaries of my recent travels and the availability of television/internet coverage, I wasn’t able to see much of the past several matches.  In fact, I only caught bits of our home loss to Crystal Palace and our defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers.  The loss at Leicester and the draw vs Brighton I only followed through narrative updates.  So too with the 1st leg, come-from-behind win over Valencia.  That being (by far) our best result, I was inspired to watch highlight packages and replays of the goals and other key moments.

In my view, this is NOT the way football should be enjoyed.  The game is meant to be watched, moment by moment, ideally from a seat in the stadium, but now, with cameras at every match, at least we should watch each and every minute from the vantage points they offer.

Sadly, when it comes to Arsenal as we near the end of Unai Emery’s first year in charge, and speaking only for myself, I find that there is very little to be enjoyed about our football.  If anything, supporters have clung to the notions that results are all that matter and that we have improved in that realm.  Indeed, last season we finished 6th in the Premier League on 63 points, this year we have 67 and still have one match yet to play.  Win it and we’ll finish one place higher and seven points better. Additionally, in the Europa league, we have a 3-1 aggregate lead going to the stadium of our Spanish opposition, Valencia CF.  Last season, despite having a man advantage for much of the first leg, we only managed a 1-1 draw vs Atletico Madrid, making the 2nd leg a far more formidable task, which, of course, we did not surmount.

So, as bad as recent (PL) results might make us feel, with a wider lens, or at least using the idea that the tables (or scoreboard) doesn’t lie, this Arsenal season is superior.

Why then have I stopped watching?  And why do I feel like I’ll be happy either way after the result at Valencia is posted?

Well, I haven’t really stopped watching.  It’s more that I just haven’t gone to the same lengths to try and get myself in front of a screen to see it all unfold.  Additionally, point totals and our current score in the Europa League Semifinal notwithstanding, my view is that the table (and other objective measures) don’t tell the whole story.  This version of Arsenal–in my opinion–is quite a bit worse and there are a whole host of things which look (and feel) more depressing (to me) than in all my days as a supporter.  I’ve gone over them before, most recently in another (non) preview of our previous Europa League 2nd leg match.  Y’all have heard enough of my moaning though I’d love to get a good discussion going in the comments section.  The (sad) truth is that I don’t mind missing the matches and that I’ve distanced myself from having feelings–ANY feelings–ups or downs, happiness or sadness, about my football club, at least match to match.  It all seems so (so) grim at Arsenal right now, and, for me at least, the sooner this season ends, the sooner I can rest up a bit and then maybe (though I wonder…) start the slow summer process familiar to all football fans–building a sense of hope for next season.  Arsenal, by dint of the final tie-breaker in football tables being alphabetical, will be top of the PL come August… 😀 … but also 😦 …

So, if we revert to our usual away form and blow this not-bad-at-all 3-1 lead and lose out on the Europa League final, then there’s only Burnley away on Sunday and surely I won’t be watching that one.  Two really fine teams (Liverpool and Manchester City) have games that will determine who wins the league title–and they’re up against solid teams (or at least ones who’ve taken results from Arsenal recently–Brighton and Wolves) who I’m sure will be playing with a sense of pride that I haven’t seen lately from Arsenal.  Again, however, I haven’t really been watching, so I’m only judging by our (recent) results–and what I’ve heard/read from the fans in the couple of blogs I still follow.

On the other hand, if we make it through to a final in Azerbaijan, the season (and our hopes for it) are extended.  What’s wrong with that?  Personally, I’d love to see Petr Cech lead his team out, play a great final match and hoist a trophy.  If it were against his former club, all the better.  Let’s not forget, the last time we raised a trophy it was also against that club (Chelsea) but our manager at the time, Arsene Wenger, stuck with his “cup-keeper” David Ospina for the match itself.

Will Emery do the same?  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  All looked good for a top 4 finish just a few short weeks ago.  We need to get through to Baku (hey, that rhymes…) first.  Or not.  As I say, either way, I believe, Arsenal win.  For me at least…

So, I present no preferred (nor predicted) line-ups, nor “keys to the game,” nor any other standard elements that match previews usually contain.  Perhaps Pony Eye, who has been a stalwart–at least when the blog was not on break–throughout this “broken” (perhaps?) season of ours.  I’d argue (maybe when the season is truly done and dusted) that the club itself is broken and has gone (severely, tragically…) in the wrong direction since the one man who was holding it all together (initials AW, if you cannot already guess my sentiments) was eased out.

Of course, I’d love to hear what others think and maybe it’s better done BEFORE a(nother) result pushes our thinking in one direction or the other.  For me, although I believe we’re only beginning to circle around rock-bottom (from where, theoretically, we can only push upwards…) I can’t decide what result best suits (this current version of) the Arsenal.  What do you say my fine, fellow Gooners?  Don’t be shy (and feel free to call me a plastic supporter, or any other dirty names as you must)…

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

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Torreira, Ozil, Auba On to Keep Top-4 Finish Alive: Arsenal v Brighton Preview

Four of Arsenal
Our last two fixtures for the season are today’s match at home to Brighton and Burnley away the following Sunday. They are winnable games. If we win the two matches the results of Manchester United’s remaining two matches become irrelevant to us. They would finish below us.

Chelsea’s last two fixtures are at home to Watford and Leicester away. That’s a more formidable pair of games than ours. If Chelsea who, like us, are battling with the extra work load of the Europa competition should as much as suffer a draw in one of their matches, goals difference would decides who between them and us finishes in the top 4. That is assuming we win our two winnable games. If they lose one of the games we are surely in the top 4 assuming again we win our winnable games.

Tottenham who have an uphill task in their 2nd leg away match against Ajax in the CL semi were beaten at away to Bournemouth yesterday in a match they lost two players to straight red cards.  They are in a rotten place at the moment. Their last Premiership match is against the inform Everton. If they lose or draw to Everton and we win our winnable games we are in the top 4.

These scenarios are not in any way far fetched. As a matter of fact I consider our top 4 chances more likely than not and nobody is aware of that more than Emery.

From what our boys have been saying it is clear that they are up for the fight of finishing in the top 4. They too know there is still a corridor of hope and being a coach that resonates with his team expect Emery to send out the strongest team he can under the circumstance. At this moment the Premiership and the Europa routes to Champions League qualification are equally in his sight.

Maitland-Niles would serve his one match suspension. Koscielny who has played the most minutes since the games started coming thick and fast was so knackered in the last game that he was substituted with 10 minutes left. Cumulative fatigue seems to have caught up with him so he should be exempted with a start on the bench.

When Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles are available, Emery favours three central defenders. With Maitland-Niles suspended, Emery might opt for a four man defence, particularly as it is a home game where he usually wants his team on the front foot. In the back line should be Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal and Jenkinson or Litchsteiner.

The defeat suffered by Cardiff yesterday has assured Brighton a place in the top flight next season. They would come at us with some extra springs in their steps. As a response to that, I expect Emery to start the fresh legs of the duo of Iwobi and Mkhitaryan. At #10 should be Ozil who plays his best football at the Emirate. With three attacking midfielders on the field, one of Laca or Auba might be benched. Laca worked his socks off on Thursday as he usually does and could do with a substitute role.

Expected line up:


Bench: Cech, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Elneny, Nketiah, Lacazette.

This is the last home game of ’18/19. It could prove crucial to our season. All hands are needed on deck. It is a must win game as the top 4 race heads to the wire.


By PE.

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Arsenal v Valencia Preview: Emery to Play to the Strength of the Team – Ozil and Nacho Back


Morale is at a low ebb after three consecutive losses in which we shipped in 9 goals scoring only 3. Yet hope is not completely extinguished because our direct competitors in the Premier League are all stuttering too: Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham. So poor have they also been that despite our miserable run, there is still the remote but distinct possibility of our qualifying for the Champions league via the Premiership. But today it is strictly OGAAT (one game at a time). Qualifying through the Europa Cup is fully in our hands, what with the visiting Valencia also stuttering.

Valencia who are 6th on the La Liga table have lost their last two games and like us they are straining to get into their top 4. Worse for them the team’s below them are so close to be threats to even their Europa League qualification. Therefore they are left with no option than to keep fighting on two fronts. It is fighting on two fronts that seems to have taken a heavy toll on us and on these our direct competitors. Who qualifies between us and Valencia is likely to be decided by the team that is able to dig deeper into its reserves of energy.

Marcelino, the Valencia coach, organizes his team in a 4:4:2 formation similar to Diego Simione of Atletico Madrid. Little wonder that Atletico Madrid is one of only two teams that have conceded less goals than Valencia in the La Liga. We must be ready then to face a team that is compact, space conscious and that attacks via counters.

Emery is ever keen to be reactive to teams but injuries have robbed him of much options. It might be best for him to play to the strength of his team. If he does so, with Ozil and Monreal expected back, we are likely to see this starting line up:


Bench: Leno, Mustafi, Elneny, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan, Nketiah.

On the Valencia side our own Francis Coquelin is out suspended, but Gabriel Paulista is expected to start. Emirate would welcome him, would also be praying that his defensive line be bridged time and time again.



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Iwobi in the Hole Feeding AubaCazette: Arsenal v Foxes Line-up/ Preview


Yes, I think we should. That is why we should find it easy to rest Koscielny who has now played every minute of our last 5 games in only 13 days. That is also why we should forgive Skodram Mustafi of his grievous error in the Palace match and give him a starting berth against the Foxes.

We rest Ozil too, not because he is close to the red zone, but because we want him at his best in our first match against Valencia which is at home sweet home. Aubameyang was absent from the Wolves match after a minor medical procedure so is rested to join the rest of the squad, not out injured, in contention to start.

Prioritizing the Europa at this moment, of course, should not mean abandoning the Premiership campaign to its own fate. If Chelsea lose or draw its game against Man United at Old Trafford and we win ours, the destiny of a top 4 finish falls back into our hands. Instantly the Premiership becomes the priority again with two winnable games home and away left for the season versus the potential three games of the Europa Cup. Luckily there is a good four days of rest between Leicester and Valencia so Emery can comfortably choose his strongest away side (whatever that might mean) bar Koscielny who should be close to the red zone. Also not to be overlooked in the calculation is that the four teams battling for the two remaining two Champions League spots all seem to be laboring under their more exhaustive season’s schedule. The four have been losing unexpected points. The latest is Spurs 0-1 to West Ham.

What’s become of Lichsteiner? A burst up or now decrepit? Strange that he doesn’t even appear on the bench in spite of the congestion of games and our miserably thin squad. Just wondering.

We need Laca and Auba playing together. Laca plays deep like a false 9 yet we do not have midfielders who know how to run past their striker (except injured Ramsey). That explains why we lack sufficient threat in the box when Laca is fielded as the lone striker. It should follow that when Ramsey is unavailable, as he is now, it should never be Laca alone. Against Wolves we had only one shot on target and that from a defender in a set piece, our 71% possession notwithstanding. On the other hand, Auba who is a natural box prowler fits the lone striker role with a midfield like ours that is only good at progressing the ball forward. I hope he passes his late fitness test otherwise Nketiah should start alongside Laca.

If am Emery, I would stop all these video study of teams outside the top six. I would stop giving them too much respect. The onus should be on them to solve us not the other way round. Leicester City should be the ones studying our videos and spending sweat working out how to respond to us. With teams outside of the top six, I totally embrace Wengerism: get unto the field and just do your stuff. So sorry if you were expecting some lines from me on City under Brendan Rogers. Yes they are trying to keep a little bit more possession … and so what?

My line up for the Leicester game:


Bench: Cech, Koscielny, Elneny, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Nketiah.

I feel calm or resigned, don’t really know which but exactly the way I feel 35,000 feet above mean sea level, my fate completely in somebody else’s hands. I imagine that’s the way the players must be feeling too. Who knows, it might be what they need to come up with a more assured performance. Meanwhile I bank on United not losing their 8th game in ten matches. Spurs 1-0 loss at their new stadium to West Ham is a timely reminder that the battle is not over until it is over.



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If You Are Going Through Hell… Keep Going

A very bad day at the office for Arsenal. Wolves devoured our more or less strongest available team and made us really worried about the stamina, quality and belief left in our Gunners.

It is so easy to blame the quality and mentality of the players; if it is was just that simple! It is also easy to blame the manager’s tactics and football vision, as I often like to do. I liked that starting 11 v Wolves, especially from a defensive point of view. Yet we copped three in the first half and lost our belief and energy more or less after the first goal went in. It probably was a combination of fatigue and Wolves just being a good team that can play football which did it for us.

We needed to win the CP game first and then see what happened at Wolves, as we all knew that would be a very hard game to win. Had we won v CP we could have rested the key players with the aim to have them fit for the Foxes game (and hope for the best v Wolves with our second string team in the main). Emery chose a weakened team and we lost with CP having more shots, and shots on goal, than us. Then we had to win v Wolves and Emeritus did put his strongest team up, even though a few were not fully fit/ in the red zone. It back-fired and we conceded six goals over both games and did not get a single point.

We should not fool ourselves regarding how good we are this season under Emery. The stats really do lie. Recent away games v Everton, Watford and Wolves should make us very worried about next season when the real Emery influence will start to show (there are still remnants of Wenger – good and also not so good – in this team).

OK, he will be able to strengthen the team this summer and make it more his team, and maybe this will make it all different, but I would not yet count on it. We are lucky that MU and the Chavs also have rubbish PL seasons so we are still in with a shout to finish in the top four some how. Luckily, we are in the semis of the Europa League, and if Emery has anything in common with Wenger it’s his ability to do well in cup competitions. That might save him and us. However, Emery will need to refocus and reenergise his team for which he has very little time. My only advice is to not give up and keep believing. As Churchill once said “If you are going through hell… keep going.”

I still believe in our first team but realise that our squad is weakened right now (without Holding, Bellerin, Ramsey and Welbeck and some of the fit players struggling to play at the required level) and that fatigue is playing its part. Strategic choices will have to be made re which games to focus on most, who to play when and the formation and tactics to get the best possible result given the circumstances.

The good thing is we (and the BoD) will really see what Emery is made of over the next few weeks, and that will also help those with the deep pockets to decide how big his summer transfer budget will be (and whether he is the right man for Arsenal after all).

By TotalArsenal. 

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