Holding/Koz, Xhaka/Santi, Perez/Giroud/Theo to Start v Saints: Predicted Arsenal Line-Up

I guess the one good thing about the international break is that we look even more forward to the weekend Arsenal game than normal. Add to this the fact that Mustafi and Perez have been training with the team this week, and with that prompting rumours of them both starting, and we are even more excited about our home game against the Saints.

I watched Southampton against MU a few weeks ago and was very impressed with their style of football. They had plenty of half-chances but lacked the quality up front to hurt the Mancs. For a long time the Saints were in the game but then fellow Dutchman, Jordie Clasie, gave away a very bad, unforced penalty and the game was lost. Let’s hope they are as generous with mistakes on Saturday as they were then.

The Saints pass the ball round well and will give us a game in midfield: a battle we must win if we want to take three points from this encounter. So it is important to get the double DM pivot right. I am tempted to play Elneny next to either Xhaka or Coq as he is brilliant in terms of making himself available for a pass and then not losing the ball. For me this will be key.

Having said that, I reckon we could start with Santi as we are playing at home, as long as he is prepared to stay deep when required. Getting this balance right will be vital. I am going to go with both Xhaka and Santi as they add so much to our attacking play and I am hoping we will be able to press Southampton well back into their own half for most of the time. This would suit the three football geniuses Granit, Santi and Mesut very, very well.

I have a feeling that Alexis will be on the bench for this one. After such a long flight it would be wise to rest the Chilean firecracker as we have a massive CL game in midweek. This should allow Arsene to give Perez a debut, and I reckon it will be on the left, with Giroud as our CF and Theo on the other flank. Wenger may start with the Ox on the left and then give Perez a chance later on, but I somehow feel he will opt for the newly acquired Spaniard.

submit football lineup

At the back I reckon Wenger will stick with Holding and Koz for this one. Young Holding has been doing very well and I think Wenger will want to ease Mustafi in. I guess it will also be a nice confidence boost for Holding if he is not taken out of the starting eleven straightaway.

So there you have my predicted starting eleven for Saturday’s game. Of course we will find out more about fitness levels and injuries of our players during tomorrow’s press conference, which may change my predictions, but for now this is what I am going for.

How would you line up the team?

By TotalArsenal.

No Theo but start for Rosicky, Coq-Flam in pivot? Line-Up and Preview

Very short match preview, as I am busy and the game starts in just two hours.

We will need lots of New Year's magic to beat the solid wall of the Saints defence: Can Alexis do it one more time?
We will need lots of New Year’s magic to beat the solid wall of the Saints defence: Can Alexis do it one more time?

It is the third time we will meet the team surprise of the season, and no doubt this will be a tight one. The Saints really know how to defend and it will be hard to get into their box today. No team, other than the horrible Chavs perhaps, operate the double-DM pivot system better than Southampton, but they will miss the constantly very impressive, Wengeresque, Schneiderlin today. One of the disadvantages of having two DMs in the pivot is the potential lack of connection between defence and attack, and Schneiderlin plays a very important role in this.

Against the Chavs the Saints managed to keep their opponents out of their box, allowing only one shot on goal in the whole match. At the end they tired though, and had their opponents been sharper when they finally penetrated the Saints’ box, they could have taken all three points. They always have a threat going forward from both full backs and wingers, and we have to play disciplined today if we want to go home with a result.

A win will be hard, very hard, given the quality of the opposition and the tired legs of those who will have to create the magic (Santi, Alexis, Welbeck, OX, the full backs?).

It looks like Wenger will not battle against the Saints with his very own god of speed, Theo. It has all become very precarious with regards to Theo’s return to the team, but this is just the sort of game we need him in. Our senior players need a lift: some fresh and dynamic support and that is just what Theo would offer. Let’s hope we will see him at least come off the bench: time to jump in the deep end TW14!

Luckily, we can field a reasonably fresh and complete back-five today. It is key though that we give them the right support and another stint of junior and senior French duo of CoqMini in front of the back-four is highly likely, and preferable imo. Can Cazorla do another battling performance in the hole and are Danny, Alexis and Alex still capable of squeezing another ninety minutes out of their tired legs? Will Rosicky add freshness? We will see. I reckon Wenger will go for his strongest available (and fittest) team and not worry about the FA cup game yet, as this is a very important game to not lose, or, of course ideally, to win.

The mind says a hard fought draw with none or two goals, but the heart is hoping for more. Both teams have had a few good games in a row and confidence is starting to return…. It is not just three – or indeed six – points up for grabs today; the even bigger reward of further/increasing momentum is at stake as well. Can we do it?

This is the predicted team (am pretty sure though I wont get them all correct today):

Ars v Saints Jan 15

Ox might well play instead of Rosicky or Le Coq, and Welbeck might not start due to fitness, in which case Alexis could play up top…. Let’s wait and see.

Come You Rip Roaring Gunners – Let the Cannon Roar!

Arsenal players celebrate with the FA Cu

Written by: TotalArsenal

Wishing you all a healthy, happy and prosperous Gunners 2015!

Arsenal v Saints Match Review: Giroud Is Not Afraid!

Arsenal 1 – 0 Southampton

Thanking The Guardian for picture
Thanking The Guardian for picture

Now that was a game of football. It might not win many beauty awards, and the neutrals will only have liked the second part of the second half; but, from a tactical point of view, very good football was on display tonight.

Koeman developed his initial playing career under Guus Hiddink’s wings, and his current Southampton team play football like PSV Eindhoven used to do under Hiddink’s reign back then. It is structured around a strong defensive shape and discipline and based around the simple, Maureenesque ‘philosophy’ of keeping a clean sheet and nicking a goal when the chances arrive. Hiddink won the Europa Cup One (now CL) for PSV with exactly that approach a few decades ago.

With Wanyama, who had an almost faultless performance and showed once again how useful he could be for us, and Schneiderlin, Koeman has the best midfield shield in the PL. The beauty about the Frenchman is that he can also play football, and he was duly missed by the Saints tonight. From an attacking point of view, the Saints did not perform well enough to hurt us, even though their Italian CF had more than a decent chance to score early on. The forced omission of Schneiderlin was a big advantage for us, which might have turned the game in our favour (and Cork’s injury helped a lot as well of course).

Our defence was also well organised: with BFG and Koz having a relatively easy, but very focussed and aggressive, game; and the FBs played very good throughout the match too. It is absolutely amazing how Chambers plays at such a consistently high level, and yet, he is still so young; and Nacho also really showed desire and high energy levels for the full 93 minutes.

Our DM-shield worked ok too. Flamini kept it simple – he completed 64 of his 69 passes – and did not get involved in our attacking play a lot. Ramsey had the free role and showed a lot of drive, but his lack of touch, his continuously misplaced passes and his over-eagerness to make a difference is holding him, and therefore the team, back.

Ramsey needs to link defence and attack up, so he has a pivotal role to play. Luckily, both Carzorla and especially Alexis helped him out a lot with coming deep to collect the ball and make things happen from there. But of course, this leaves gaps up-front. We can say the same about Welbeck, who was full of drive and desire, but ultimately not very effective – although this changed a bit when Giroud came on.

Bloggers on this site will know well how much I believe Giroud makes all the difference for our team. In the first 65 minutes our attacks were often chaotic and harmless, with lots of runners with energy, but very little cohesion and penetration. Giroud is our mobile anchor: the pivot in our attack around which we base our attacking initiatives. As soon as he came on the play centred around him: midfielders can play the ball into him and fellow attackers can take better positions and find themselves in more space. He also had no fear and found the weak spots in the Saints defence instantly. This, in my opinion, was vital for our attacks becoming more centred and deadly. It was evident that Giroud made such a difference once again as soon as he came on.

We finally cracked the nearly formidable defence of the Saints late on in the game. It was not a beautiful goal but well deserved in the end, even though we were helped a bit by the injury to the impressive Alderweireld, which meant Southampton had to continue with ten men as all subs had already been used. It was good for Ramsey to produce to cool-headed assist, and let us hope he will take this with him into the next game. It was good for Alexis to get a reward for running his socks off all night. This was not one of his best games by all means, but his work ethic and desire to win are phenomenal and it was sweet for him that he got us once again all the three points. At Barca he was one of many great players; at Arsenal he simply is the star at the moment; and boy does he like it, with already 14 goals in all competitions to his name.

And these are very sweet three points. They pull us up to just three points below the Saints now and keep us in touch with all fellow top teams, except the horrible Chavs.

Next up are Stoke: another heavy battle waits. Bring it on!

Written by: TotalArsenal.