Just go for it Arsene: Xhaka deep, Ox box to box, Perez, Iwobi, Alexis and Ollie in Attack.

Arsenal – Bayern Preview

What can we say about this game? We should be excited to welcome one of Europe’s best teams, currently as well as historically, to the home of football. But we are not. The season held a lot of promise but it has almost all fizzled out, and a big reason for this is the second half humiliating drumming by the Germans a few weeks ago.

We have a more than decent defence and plenty of excellent attackers but Arsene cannot get the midfield right, and this seems a structural problem. Would a fit Cazorla have made all the difference? Should we have kept Jack Wilshere? Would Rambo have turned our season round if he had played without recurring injuries? Who knows. Fact is that we are weakest in our midfield and that is where we are losing the battles with the big teams, and sometimes the smaller teams too. It sucks like a drain.

What is Wenger going to do tonight? Try and avoid further humiliation by defending deep and play on the counter? Attack, attack, attack from the start and go for it? Or a balance between secure and adventurous? Je ne le sais pas. But I reckon Wenger has not much choice in the matter… his midfield options are very, very limited without Santi, Elneny and a surely not fit enough (read too rusty) Rambo. Other than a youngster in the centre of midfield, which is not a good idea, he can only play two out of Coq, Xhaka and Ox. The first two are too similar in terms of wanting to be the anchor of midfield, so it has to be one of the them. That is Xhaka for me. So Xhaka and Ox, our attacking (b)ox to (b)ox for the night, is the duo to go for imo.

The rest is a matter of individual confidence and hunger, and I reckon Wenger will pick the strongest team, even though he knows the game is up for us, and possibly him. The game will still be watched all over the world and pride (and avoiding further humiliation) is at stake.

Predicted Team for tonight:


Bellerin – Mustafi – Koz – Nacho

—– Xhaka—————-

————Ox to Ox——-



Theo or Welbeck could start instead of Perez or Giroud, or come on later to make a difference. Rambo could replace the Ox in second half to put new energy into the midfield.

Let’s go and attack them and just go for it. Entertain the fans and regain some pride, even if it means risking another drumming. Es gibt viel zu tun, packen wir es an.


By TotalArsenal.

Ludogorets 2 – 3 Arsenal: Blood, Sweat and Tears until Ozil’s foot-ballet

The Ludogorets Arena will always be remembered for that Ozil display of foot-ballet. Yes there was also a mighty comeback, and the best ones are always those when a team are 2-0 down and then win 3-2; yet this was somehow to be expected. But without any doubt, Mesut’s demonstration of total control of time and space whilst caressing the ball with his feet, will become immortalized in many a Gunner’s red and white brain.

You do not want to make this Arsenal side angry, as Sunderland and Ludogorets have now experienced in the space of just a few days. It took the new team, without the normal ‘midwingers’ Theo, Iwobi/Ox and second choice full backs, Xhaka restored to the double DM-pivot and Ollie as our CF, a while to get into the groove. It looked more like 4-5-1 than anything else; as a result we had an army of central midfielders trying to dominate proceedings.

Before we could take proper control of the game, we were two goals behind. That’s football!

Did Arsene make too many changes to the team? Was playing with OG up-front too much of a tactical change for in-form Arsenal? I reckon we needed to rest Ox and Iwobi who looked tired against Sunderland on Saturday. Playing Alexis on the left meant we could start the super-fresh legs of Ollie and Rambo in the front three, so it was a one-off compromise to me. And having Nacho and Bellerin back fresh and focussed on Sunday will also help our cause in defeating the Spuddies; so playing the limited Jenkinson and Gibbs was another compromise we got away with.

A teasing cross, from a wrongly awarded free-kick, kept Ospina rooted in goal and our defenders struggled to cover the attackers. A clumsy goal to concede but there you go. Soon after that it was 2-0 to the Bulzilians: Gibbs got skinned and a cross was put into the box from close range; Koz went to block it but was too late and Mustafi, not for the first time in recent games, allowed an attacker to squeeze between him and his fellow CB and beat Ospina on his left. Upsidaisy, that was not part of the script.

To Arsenal’s credit, the boys did not panic and started to attack with more intensity. There was still a lot of miscommunication and bad passing of the ball, but with so much individual quality in the team we had a good chance to get back into the game. And soon we did. Ozil, who at the start at the game had missed a glorious opportunity to give us an early lead, crossed the ball to the edge of the box from the by-line and there was Xhaka to score ala Giroud on Saturday with a finely placed left foot shot. 1-2 and game on.

Ludogorets kept defending really well in numbers around their box but it was a simple floated cross by Rambo from the flank and an easy header past the goalkeeper by Ollie that undid them. They had prepared for the Sanchez-as-CF Arsenal but forgot to practice the classical Giroud areal threat… to devastating effect.

Equalising before the break was just what we needed and the last thing the Bulgarians had wanted.

The second half was a lot of hard work by both teams and it looked like we were going to settle for a point in the end. But there was Mesut Ozil who felt it was time to show us all how good he is again. Giroud steels the ball of a midfielder and it ends up with Elneny. The Egyptian has no hesitation in putting the ball brilliantly over the top to the German maestro. Mesut’s first, deft touch is exquisite: it keeps to momentum of the ball going but it is now under the spell of the magician. The keeper, Borjan, does well to spot the danger and comes running out; Mesut spots Borjan and then eliminates him instantly with an out-of-this-world half circle scoop only the very best are able to produce. But he is not there yet as a few eager defenders have made their way back to block any of Mesut’s attempts to shoot on goal. The German spots the danger and decides to ballet-dance his way to goal with the ball magnetised to his feet, fooling the defenders who subsequently end up on the floor and then slotting the ball home with total composure. 2-3 to the good guys!

Mesut Ozil lobs goalkeeper Milan Borjan.

More CL football in 2017 for the mighty Arsenal, even though we have two more group games to come. A job well done, decorated by one of the finest goals we have ever seen. Ooh to be…

By TotalArsenal.

Rambo and Xhaka DMs, Iwobi and Ox on Wings, Gabriel for Kos? Match Preview | Predicted Line-up


Tomorrow Arsenal play a crucial game against Ludogorets Razgrad in the CL. A win and qualification for the next round should become a formality, if it will not be in the bag already; a draw or a loss and we will be up against it with hard games against PSG (at home) and Basle (away) to come. Add to this that Arsenal will have tough fixtures in November, and it becomes obvious that Arsene would love to secure early next round CL qualification tomorrow evening.

Wenger also seldom or never plays a weakened team in CL games, especially not when there is still something to play for. From what we saw in the home fixture, Arsenal should be able to win tomorrow, but this will not just happen by itself. The home crowd (about 9000 seats only) will be behind their team, and they will want to revenge the dreadful 6-0 defeat a few weeks ago. And if we play with a low tempo and lack of intensity and aggression, it could become quite difficult for us to secure the three points. They definitely have players that can hurt us and are pretty strong in midfield to give us a game.

I reckon we have too many ambitious and proud Gunners in the squad to be at risk of underestimating the challenge, and Wenger will select the right team to achieve victory. But he also needs to guard for fatigue and keep an eye on Sunday’s big NLD encounter.

As always, predicting the exact line up is not easy, but a mixture of what I reckon will work and what Wenger is likely to do leads me to the following starting eleven:

Predicted starting 11:

submit football lineup

Ospina in goal is more or less a given. Gibbs to continue on the left and Jenkinson on the right in defence as Bellerin is ruled for tomorrow’s game. Mustafi starting once more and I reckon Koscielny could do with a rest and Gabriel with a game, so I am going for a MusGab central defence duo.

There are a lot of training pictures of Xhaka on Arsenal.com and this seems a great game to reintroduce him. I also feel that Rambo will get a start which will allow us to rest Coquelin and Elneny, who will be desperately needed on Sunday.

Mesut Ozil struck his first professional hat-trick as Arsenal thrashed Ludogorets

Either Iwobi or Ox should get a rest as they both looked knackered after playing 60 minutes on Saturday. However, Wenger has not got too many options right now with both Welbeck and Perez injured and Theo not fully fit either. So I reckon both Ox and Iwobi will have to start even though it is unlikely they will play the full 90 minutes. Ozil in the hole and Alexis up front for at least 70 minutes, but maybe Arsene will start with Giroud instead. I have no doubt that Ollie will play at least 20 minutes tomorrow and let’s hope he can add another goal, or two, to his impressive tally.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!!

By TotalArsenal


Theo the Panther, Iwobi the Polar Bear, Alexis the Pack of Woles: Arsenal are Full of Deadly Animals

Two games, 3-0 and 2-0 to the Arsenal, five goals, clean sheet and mesmerizing football for two times 45 minutes. It is good to be a Gunner this week! 🙂

We expected it to be hard to break the Swiss defence down, and previous Basel games on British soil proved very hard for our PL colleagues. We were warned. So what is the best thing to do: bamboozle – or bambasel – them with high pressure, run around the emmental holes  like crazy killer animals and pounce as soon as possible.

Arsenal’s first half against Basel was as good as football gets. We could have scored five in that half alone, but two was still a fine reward for the attacking football we unleashed on the Basel players. Just as against the Chavs, the job was done after 45 minutes, and Arsenal once again put on the handbrake in the second half to see out the game and spare our opponents. This may sound easier than it was, as it still requires discipline and concentration. The fact that we were able to see out the two last games with such composure and maturity is also very welcome.

Eight Positives from Arsenal v Basel:

  1. Theo the panther: Walcott loves space to hunt down his pray and pounce instinctively on any opportunity that comes his way. Theo does not overthink things and sometimes this shows but often he is victorious as a result of it. His second goal was a typical Theo finish: beautifully executed. But his first goal was even better: as a desperate panther he pounced on Alexis’ fine cross and left the Swiss defence for melted, fondue-ready Gruyere. What a fine brace by the reborn one;
  2. Alexis the pack of wolves ‘in one’: flipping heck I love this Alexis even more than the previous seasons’ one. What an engine this guy has, and what a desire to play football, enjoying the dirty work as much as the lofty stuff. Desperately unlucky not to score himself but he won the game for us with two selfless and clever assists. Burnley are you hearing that sound of howling wolves coming your way?!
  3. Ozil the enabling chameleon: Mezut is just so adaptive and flexible, always aiming to add maximum attacking value to the team whatever it requires. He still does not have an assist this season, yet we score about 2.5 goals per game now – wow. He has two PL goals already, though, after missing the first few games and could have had one or two more on Wednesday. The link up play with his fellow attackers is such a joy to watch and more is still to come.
  4. Iwobi the polar bear: Alex is fast when he attacks and already has an artic cool head when it comes to decision making. He also has stamina to run and run  between the defence and attack lines, and sniffs out danger with his footie nose. A really good team serving performance on Wednesday and looking a bit better after the Cheese than during the weekend. Monreal appreciated it;
  5. Xhaka the black bear: you don’t mess with Granit. He protects the forest behind him and will pounce on you if you leave him any space. A very disciplined performance based around his excellent positioning and presence on the pitch – gave his fellow countrymen no chance.
  6. Santi the puffin: Is there a more colourful and joy-inducing animal on the British shores? Cazorla brings joy and creativity to the team with a constant and positive energy and a fabulous ability to spot and pounce on openings. What a well spotted pre-assist for our first goal.
  7. Ospina, Koz and Mustafi the triangle of doom gorillas: they did not have too much to do, but every time they had to get involved they formed a triangle of morale sapping doom. They are fast, they are hard (but fair), they don’t give up till you are well outside their domain, and if you do not get the hint you will come to regret it. A vey mature and focussed performance.
  8. Bellerin and Monreal the hyena-leopards: is there one animal that sums up our fantastic full backs? For me they have the never give up attitude of the hyena and speed and pounce of the leopard. The final part of the hunt still needs improving a bit as we need more key passes and assists from them, but they are vital animals within our team.

By TotalArsenal

Starts for Ox, Gibbs, Perez and Xhaka? Arsenal v Basel Preview and Line-up

A home game in the CL is always something to look forward to. Wenger picks his best players and the quality of the football is usually very high. I don’t know much about the current Basel team but I expect them to be well organised and well drilled to defend as a unit and not give away much space where it matters most. I don’t expect them to totally park the bus and to press us high up the pitch regularly, though.

The home of football.

If Arsenal can start with the same focus, intensity and tempo as we did on Saturday, we should be able to control the game and hopefully create, and then take, the same number of opportunities. Key is of course not to underestimate our opponents and give our all to win this game.

It is always hard to predict a Wenger first 11 and I have no doubt that he will tweak the team a little bit to allow for some rotation and keep his wider squad players happy. Will Gibbs or Ox get a start against Basel for example? Hard to say. It is important that we do everything to win our home game against Basel as we need the points, so the first eleven should not differ much from Saturday’s team. I expect us to line up as follows:


Ospina in goal, same back four but with maybe a start for Gibbs, Xhaka to replace the injured Coq (potentially not more than just three weeks out), Alexis up top, Ozil in the hole, Theo on the right wing and either Iwobi or Ox on the left wing. There is a small chance that Perez starts instead of Alexis, but I don’t think the Chilean will allow it! 😉

Looking forward to this one.


Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal


Ospina gives Cavani Nightmares, Alexis our new CF, Mustafi Class: PSG – Arsenal Review and Positives

A vital away draw against the group favourites in a hot and sweaty Paris after conceding a goal within the first minute: our boys did us proud.

Yes we were lucky at times but we should not underestimate the sequence of events in this game: there was plenty of adversity to overcome and to do so is the making of champions. How many times did we see the likes of the Chavs and MU grind out a result with big dollops of luck over the last ten years and eventually win the league or CL? It requires backbone and Arsenal have it.

Although I would not have started with Coq and Santi in the double DM pivot necessarily, I can see why Wenger went for the same duo from the Saints game. Francis offers defensive solidity and Santi is good when under pressure at the back. But more about that later. With Theo out injured and Perez needing a bit of time to get used to the way Arsenal play, Wenger had to fall back on Ox and Iwobi to play on the flanks. Regular readers on BK know my views on the Ox as well as Iwobi.  I reckon the former is not going to make it and the latter should be given more chances to shine. And as soon as Perez is fully integrated in the team I reckon the time for the Ox is up, but that is for a future post.

The obvious issue for Arsenal at the moment is the solidity of the back four. In the last two games we have given away a large of number of half and full-fat chances and that is an area of concern. A logical one, though. Mustafi looks already at home and is the sort of modern CB we have all been craving for. But it takes time before he and the other quality defenders and goalkeeper will gel into a solid and controlled defensive unit. And if we then concede a goal in the first minute, against a team that was still looking for its seasonal mojo and then gets the perfect lift/gift for crowd and players, you know it will be a difficult game for our team. I feared the worst initially.

You can blame Wenger for choosing a first eleven you do not agree with, and I have some sympathy with that, but the bigger picture is that we conceded a rotten early goal which gave the Parisian Oilers a great boost of confidence at the Parc des Princes, and we played a CB pairing with just 90 minutes between them. After the goal we were put under a lot of pressure and our DM pivot was pushed right back, divorcing the attackers from the much needed link-up play, who were struggling to get their game going on their own against a number of strong PSG central midfielders and defenders.

It was a typical game in which we needed a mobile, continuously running B2B midfielder and that, my dear friends, Cazorla is not. And that is also why le Coq is often seen up front, lately.

You could see the effect of Wenger’s team talk in the second half. We dared to push up more and our midfield started to link up with our attack better. We started to play better even though it did not lead to many chances for us and PSG were given some very oohlalah opportunities to score the all important second goal. Rather than going for the cheap, guttural ‘Alexis is not a CF’ I would like to focus on the lack of cohesion and understanding by the mid-wingers of how to play with Sanchez and, to some extent, by Ozil. Many reckon that Mesut deserves a better CF than Ollie, but I reckon the Frenchman is the perfect link-up player for all his magic to come to fruition. Mesut and Alexis also have a good understanding, so I don’t think it will take long for both to adjust to the Chilean’s new role.

Whether you like it or not, Alexis is our new main CF for the season. And just like getting used to playing with Mustafi at the back, the team will also have to work hard to get the best out of what Alexis has to bring, which is a hell of a lot. When the midfield did not come to support the attack, Alexis did well to go and do the link up himself. That then means that one of the midwingers needs to utilise the space made available up-front. Ox does not get this and Iwobi is slowly improving re this. On top of this, they need to learn to balance attacking with supporting their full backs… a work in progress (especially given Aurier’s freedom on our left).

Luckily, the midfield pushed up to take the game to PSG in the second half, and we played much better then. And it is fair to say we played better again when Ollie arrived, as the team could fall back to their old system of attacking our opponents. When we scored the goal there were four Arsenal players in the box. Mesut put a good, fast ball into the box and the first touch of Iwobi was pretty perfect; he then unleashed a well executed shot but it was at the right height for the keeper who still saved well. Luckily, the rebound fell to Alexis who finished like a proper CF: a well placed and venomous shot beyond the reach of the goalie.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game against PSG

Both teams had chances to win the game after that and PSG deserved it more than us to be fair, but we showed resilience and fighting spirit to hold out and a very valuable point was brought back to the home of football. And with a draw in the other group game, it has been a pretty perfect start for us in this year’s CL campaign.

Eight positives:

  1. Ospina, our uncontested MOTM, was sublime. He has great presence and energy and Cavani will be having repeated nightmares of him this Autumn. 🙂
  2. Mustafi’s passing and positional play. Only his second game and he looks class – just needs to be integrated into the defensive unit, which takes time.
  3. Alexis’ goal: great finish at a crucial point in the game.
  4. Iwobi’s attacking play: great first touch in congested area for his shot on target that led to Alexis’ goal and could have won it for us later on. He still has a lot to learn but you can see he is destined for greatness if he can continue his progress.
  5. Koz: battered and bruised on Saturday, but no stopping him on Tuesday. What a spirit! Violently happy, Koz we love you (yes from the Bjork song).
  6. Bellerin: nobody attacks us these days from the left a lot. Why is that? Only 20 years old and such an established Gunner already. WOW.
  7. Wenger: for turning the game round with his team talk at half time. Not by taking out players and blaming them, but by talking to all his players and making them play better. A typical ‘McGregor Y-manager’.
  8. Coquelin and Santi: for playing two games in three days and being able to adjust and turn round the game in the second half.

Next up in the CL are two home games and let’s hope we will play with the same fighting spirit and be a bit more ‘gelled’ by then.

By TotalArsenal.

Xhaka/Elneny in DM Pivot, Alexis CF, Ozil to Rule, Theo/Perez on wings: Preview and Predicted First 11

We love the group stage of the champions league as some of the best games are being played in this competition every season. It is quite special that the two favourites of the group meet each other in the first group game, rather than in game three and four as usually is the case. PSG are yet to hit form and the same goes for us to some extent, so both teams could do with a very good match of football and three points. A good performance and a draw would also probably suit both clubs. With a bit of luck we should witness a feast of attacking football tomorrow.

For Arsenal this is an opportunity to lay down a marker in Europe, England and for ourselves. We need a good game and I reckon Wenger rested Sanchez, Giroud and Xhaka so he can field a very strong team in the capital of his home nation, even though I don’t expect Ollie to start. A good start is not crucial in this competition, but as we are playing the favourite team to win the group stage, a win tomorrow would give us a strong position to win the group eventually: an absolute necessity to get far in this year’s CL competition.

PSG like to play football and push opponents into their own half. If they do that we will have the weapons to punish them on the break. Arsene could start with Giroud and play a France national team style formation with Alexis (as a Griezmann) behind our solid Frenchman. He could also opt for pure speed up-front with Alexis as our ‘holding CF’ and with a licence for him to take on defenders left, right and centre.

I have a feeling that Giroud will have to miss out on a start in Paris. Wenger would be sentimental enough to allow Ollie to shine in their joint capital, but this is too important a game to not do the right thing. And against a team that is able to push us back into our own half, it is better to not start with a slowish holding CF. So I reckon we will start with Perez – Alexis – Theo, but would not be surprised if Iwobi gets a chance instead of Perez or Theo.

At the back, I think we will see the same GK and defenders as against the Saints. This leaves us with midfield and this is a game for Xhaka, no doubt. His ability to launch our attackers and get Ozil involved as quickly as possible, should be absolutely key tomorrow. Who shall we play next to him then: the steel of Coq or the immaculate passing of Elneny; or is Santi ready to start once again? Really hard to predict who will play in the double DM pivot, but I feel Xhaka and Elneny will get the nod, with both Coquelin and Santi coming on at some point in the second half to shore up the game and/or replace tired legs. And tired they will be tomorrow evening.

So my predicted starting eleven looks like this:

submit football lineup

What do you think fellow Gooners: Will we win this game and is this the starting eleven to do it?


By TotalArsenal.


A right-winger, DM cover and CF short of Victory: Arsenal v Barcelona Afterthoughts

The morning after the night before, and I cannot help but feel a bit melancholy. The head says the boys gave their all and we were beaten by a stronger team, but the Gooner heart is bleeding nevertheless. For seventy minutes we played well, as in we were disciplined and stuck to the un-Arsenal-like game plan. And then we became ourselves again, wanting to play the sort of football that our opponents do and which is so ingrained in our on-field philosophy. Self-denial can only last so long.

I cannot really blame the crowd and the players to forget themselves – or should that be ‘become themselves again’? – after seventy minutes of holding back our instincts, only then to get cruelly punished for it by the three-headed strikers’ dragon (at a vulgar street value of say £250m!).


We all knew that Barcelona getting the vital ‘away goal’ – an archaic rule that should be scrapped immediately – was a hammer blow we were unlikely to recover from. To get caught on the break like that, after seventy minutes of disciplined defending and careful attacking, is just nasty. It is easy to blame somebody for it, but it looked like the whole defence and midfield cocked up badly. I wish Koz had taken one for the team when he was dealing with Suarez early on of that counter-attack, but it is easy to say this in hindsight. Not long after that, Flamini, not even on the pitch for a minute, conceded a penalty after being short-changed by the until then immaculate, omni-present in the box, BFG, which Messi did not mess with.

0-2 with only little time to get back into the game, and, in fact, it could have got worse for us as our opponents were pushing hard for a third goal. A harsh and hard reality check for the Gunners and Gooners, but, on the plus side, we got a good demonstration of what we are still missing to make it to the very, very top of world football – and with us the other 99.9% of football teams in the world.

It could all have been different if we had taken our big chance when the ball fell to the Ox just three yards from the goal line and enough time to take a touch and focus on a clinical finish. Unfortunately, he did not make a good contact and played the ball meekly into Verstegen’s grateful arms. It seems typical of games like these that the best chances fall to the least strong attackers – remember Flamini’s recent chances against the Chavs?

It should have gone in but it did not, and when we play opponents like last night’s it always feels like a double miss when this happens – remember Ozil’s missed penalty against Bayern at home? I don’t want to blame the Ox too much for this as he is still at an age when these sort of opportunities often get wasted. I don’t think Wenger should have combined Ox and Bellerin, two promising youngsters, on the right wing, though. Against this sort of opponent experience and confidence is key, and one youngster on that wing was risky enough; two was asking for trouble imho.

That right mid-wing position is clearly still an issue at Arsenal. If Wenger feels that neither Campbell, Theo or Danny should start ahead of the Ox in a game like this one, we have some shopping to do in the summer.

On the left wing, we had Nacho and Alexis and I expected more from this duo. Nacho did very well defensively and tried to help out Alexis whenever he could. The Chilean firecracker really struggled to get a grip on this game and produce the sort of magic we know he is capable of (but we have seldom seen in 2016). That was one of the biggest disappointments of the night for me.

I thought Giroud did okay and worked hard to make things happen for the team, but it is fair to say that he also did not excel on the night. In our system, Giroud is not meant to be the lethal CF but a good CF and an excellent link-up attacker, who creates and scores in equal measure. In last night’s game we needed something special from our strike-force, and Alexis, Giroud, The Ox and Theo (who replaced the Ox early on in the second half) all played below par to make that happen.

There were plenty of positives though. Rambo played phenomenally well, showing us all what a great b2b he is and what an engine he possesses. The combo of Coq and Rambo were very disciplined and really were effective in stopping Barca play for 70 minutes or so; and how many teams can do that? Ozil was lively and always looking for attacking opportunities but was let down by the ball control and (lack of effective) off the ball running of many of his fellow attackers. Belerin had a fabulous game and so did Cech and Monreal. The BFG-Koz CB combo held out well for a long period of the game but suffered badly once the team discipline went out of the window – for which they are to blame as well.

In summary, we are still a little short of the very, very top level of football. There should be no shame in this: we are building a top, top team and this needs to take time, and our opponent are on a crest of long-term success, doped by continuous quality purchases that we cannot afford and/or attract as much as they do. In order to reach the European/World top level, we need to build further on the good basis of this team and we can do that by spending our money carefully in the summer. First we need to win the league and then establish a platform of squad quality and depth, confidence/belief and experience to beat the likes of Bayernlona, Barca or Madrid.

I don’t think it will be easy to achieve this but it is not impossible either – and we should not underestimate how much the German and Spanish Giants are ahead of the rest of Europe right now. We are lucky that we have the football ground – how fantastic were those aerial helicopter shots of THOF last night? – the financial structure and income, and a very decent, relatively young and still developing squad to make the leap forward.

But it also requires vision, guts and investment by the BOD, and, if last night’s game made anything clear, then it is where Wenger needs to strengthen the squad in the summer: a right winger/midwinger of Alexis’ caliber, possibly another CF (depending on the system Wenger wants to play), better DM cover/challenge for Le Coq and a quality CB to gradually take over from the BFG. On top of that, we need more leadership so we can last ninety rather than seventy minutes. Some will come from within and some will have to be bought.

But we don’t have to play one of the European super top-three teams every day and against Manure I expect us to bounce back to do the shirt proud. 🙂

“This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure” W. Churchill.

Bring on the Mancs!

By TotalArsenal.



How to beat Barcelona: Elneny, Le Coq and Rambo behind Ozil, Alexis and Theo

We will do a proper match preview tomorrow but let’s do a bit of tactics on our mega encounter with Barcelona on Tuesday night. We are lucky to have a large squad available, although it would have been perfect to have either Jack or Santi available as well. We can field a solid and experienced ‘back five’ and have many attackers available to find the right combination between helping out with defending and making things happen up-front. The latter has been a bit of struggle lately but this will have made our attackers the more desperate to find the net against such a high profile opponent; and I am confident that if we can create decent chances we will score tomorrow.

The midfield will be the key area for us and despite us missing two fabulous footballers in Santi and Jack, I still feel we could get the balance right tomorrow. Ozil is a given and will be key in linking midfield with attack: his running with and off the ball should form a constant positive for us. But who we will play around him, is still up for debate.

As Barcelona are likely to press us into our own half, whether we like it or not, we need to play compact wherever the ball is, whilst not leaving ourselves vulnerable in other areas. This Barcelona side is slightly different from the Guardiola era, playing more like a 4-1-2-3 with a preference to use the width of the field whenever they can. On the flanks they have of course world-class attackers in Messi and Neymar, supported by fast and furious attacking wing-backs. If we can prevent these players from getting behind our defence, we can achieve two things: stop them from being dangerous and force them into mistakes on which we can pounce, because we also have fabulous wing-backs and great attackers on the wings. Nacho-Alexis is a given, but who should be paired by the best 20 year old defender in the world? I reckon we should start with Belerin-Rambo and consider swapping Aaron with Danny Welbeck or Joel Campbell at some point in the game.

Rambo is normally my favourite box to box midfielder but I reckon we need to play him on the right for this one. We need to play with three central midfielders behind Ozil, who can all defend as well as play football to have a chance in keeping them away from our ‘D-area’: the other area we should not allow our opponent to get into.

So who else should play behind the German master of creating chances and assists? Le Coq is almost a given but only Wenger will know whether he is now fully up to speed for this game. So if it is Rambo and Coq who else should play in deep midfield (and deep we will be forced to sit for large parts of the game)? My guess is that Elneny will be preferred to Flamini, as he is a very good passer of the ball and has also, just like Rambo, that burst of speed and close control to stride forward with the ball. And it is this ability to defend and switch over to attack as soon as the ball is won that will make all the difference tomorrow. We all know that Santi and Jack are brilliant at the latter; but Aaron and Elneny are also good at this and better at defending, which I reckon will be the most important requirement skill tomorrow.

With Aaron, Francis and Elneny in the centre of midfield, we should be able to play very compact and yet be able to spring attacks whenever possible. Getting the ball to Ozil will of course be key, but we need more players that can receive the ball and keep hold of it for a wee while. And that brings us to our two attackers, the ones who play slightly in front of Ozil, if and when we can afford it.

Alexis is another given. The Chilean, of course, knows better than anybody else what Barcelona are like and this game might just come in time for him to show us all again how good he is. Let’s not forget that Sexy Alexis already has three goals and four assists in five CL games this season, and, despite a lack of sharpness in recent games, I would not bet against him to score/assist for us once again in this CL round tomorrow. The beauty of Alexis is that he can defend too and hold on to the ball like a midfielder if need be; and he can also pick a deadly pass. He is also fast and very valuable in counter-attacks, and with playing three holding/passing midfielders, we should at times be able to play him quite close to our main attacker tomorrow. Moving between defence and attack, Alexis will have a key role to play tomorrow: from supporting his full back against Messi and co, to strengthening our wall in midfield, to supporting our CF and Ozil in making things happen up-front.

The main attacker is, at least for me, the hardest choice to make. Theo seems the obvious choice here: his speed and clever runs will make Barcelona’s high line approach vulnerable. The only problem with Theo is that he will not be much use in helping out the rest of the team when we are being hemmed in, which will affect our ability to link up with our CF and get our midfield to move forward. Theo needs to be launched into space, but we will need him to help out in creating time and space to launch him into it in the first place…

With Ollie almost the reverse is the case. He will link up well and allow our midfielders to get involved in the attack but he is too slow to expose the Barca defenders when being launched into the vast space available behind them. Barcelona will fear Theo a lot more than Ollie, unless of course they have to defend set-pieces. In an ideal world we would play them both, but this would weaken our midfield which we just cannot afford.

I hear you shout: play Wellbeck! He is fast like Theo and can do decent link up play ala Ollie. I don’t think that is a bad shout at all, especially in a game like tomorrow’s. The problem is that Ollie is less lethal than Ollie and Theo, with  on average just one goal in every five PL games he played until now. He is also only just back from a long injury and this (extremely intense) game might just come a bit too early for him. Theo was very effective against high pressing teams this season, notably Bayern and Man Citeh, so I reckon he should start ahead of Ollie and Danny.

I reckon with this line up, a solid defensive performance lead by the BFG (who will be excellent as long as we play compact/deep for most of the time), a very disciplined performance by Aaron, Francis and Mohamed, and some re-found deadliness up-front, we could get a good result tomorrow.


Come On You

Rip Roaring Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

Five ‘New Signings’: Le Coq and Rosa back, Jack, Santi and Danny to follow

All are fit against Barcelona in Nou Camp…. Who would you play?

Arsene announced today that Coquelin and Rosicky are available again and that Jack, Santi and Danny are a few weeks away – with the latter potentially nearer to a full come back than the others. That is about the best news we could have had: five very good Gunners ready to compete again for first team starts. They do not have to adjust to the playing football the Arsenal way… they are Arsenal through and through and will be fit again in no time. What is Arsene going to do with all those fine midfielders and attackers?!

We all know what Le Coq brings, and Rosicky is the sort of player we all enjoy watching: brilliant technically and tactically and he loves playing football, especially for the mighty red and white. And with the Spuds game not far away, we are lucky to have him back! 😉 Rosa will be able to give Mesut or Alexis a rest now and again and Le Coq will simply slot back into the double DM-pivot (after shaking Flamini’s hand for doing a sterling job over the last two months or so).

The news of Jack and Santi potentially returning towards mid to end of February is old fashioned heavy metal to my ears. Two very good midfielders who can play in various positions and fight for the course against any team. Fingers crossed their recovery goes to plan and we will see them in action soon.

The Welbz is also due back soon and, although I am yet to be convinced he has what it takes to make it as a CF at Arsenal, I am really looking forward to him injection energy and thrust from the wings into the team. His enthusiasm and extra goal threat have been missed over the last year or so.

I reckon these five returning is even better than buying five quality players, and there is little doubt that Wenger will keep his pennies in his pocket this January. Sorry other-people’s-money-shop-a-holics! 😀

Imagine that at the end of February we have indeed all these fine players fit and raring to go: finally Wenger will be able/forced (depending on how you view Arsene’s approach to rotation) to rotate his players in order to keep them motivated and fresh. During a midweek game we could field:




And at the following weekend game we could field:




And these are just two examples…

Now when we are playing Barcelona at the open bath tub in March, and all Gunners are fit, who would you choose to start in midfield and attack…. and why?


By TotalArsenal.

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