Van Persie on the bench for the Champions League Final – written by Rasp

It is not teams but squads that win the EPL or the CL. If the CL final was tomorrow and everyone was fit and available, what team should we pick based on what we know about the players at this stage?  For the first time in several seasons, we have well balanced squad comprising a solid defence, an embarrassment of riches in midfield and a true cutting edge up front, so competition for places will be hard fought.

Players will develop through the season. Some will come into contention and others will be surpassed. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume the impossible – that we have no injuries.

Guaranteed to start:

There are some players who we know would be in the starting line-up if available – but not as many as you might think. This is purely my opinion and I expect many to disagree, but at this stage of the season, for me, there would only be 5 guaranteed starters – Vermaelen, Sagna, Song, Cesc and Chamakh.

The formation:

4:5:1 is here to stay – but more in the form of a 4:2:3:1 or a 4:1:4:1 depending on the opposition. The midfield 5 continually interchange and cover for one another according to the pattern of play. All of our midfielders like to go forward and look to score goals and that is a great thing, but when we are under pressure, they need to be disciplined and defend as a unit. We are often criticised for being too narrow in our play and there is some truth to this. The width will have to be provided by the full backs overlapping as Nasri and AA will always look to cut in towards goal.

The keeper:

Almunia is on a mission to prove his many critics (myself included) wrong. He hasn’t been subjected to huge pressure yet, but you’d have to say he is the safest choice for keeper based on his performances so far and long may it continue.

The defence:

Vermaelen is a gimme. He has been outstanding and would make any team in the world. At the moment it’s hard to choose between Koscielny and Squillaci for the right sided centre back. Kozzer has been extremely impressive in the way he has adapted so quickly to the team and English football albeit with the occasional lapse of concentration that could cost a goal. Squillaci has shown us what experience brings. He is strong, solid, and aggressive. He keeps it simple and reads the game very well. I thought he was better than Koscielny against Braga and didn’t get beaten for pace. At the moment I would just plump for Squillaci for a big game, but if Kozzer continues to grow in the side he may well become favourite by May.

We are lucky as we have 2 excellent players vying for both left back and right back. Sagna is having his best start to a season since he joined and has to get the nod over Eboue. Clichy’s experience and attacking ability will keep him as favourite for left back unless the mistakes and over-elaboration when defending creep back into his play, in which case, Gibbs is a more than adequate replacement.

The midfield and attack:

Our midfield is so fluid in its movement and interaction that it is almost pointless to talk about position on the pitch; but here goes. Song has to be considered as one of the deep lying midfielders although he played very effectively in advance of Cesc in the second half against Bolton. So would we play another defensive midfielder? The candidates are Wilshire, Rosicky, Ramsey and Denilson and Diaby. Wilshire has played this role in the last couple of games. He is tough in the tackle although sometimes a bit too reckless. He is scarcely able to last the full 90 minutes at the pace Arsenal play so we must be careful not to heap too much pressure on him. That said, Cesc was good enough at his age, if he continues the form he has shown so far, he’d get my vote for the position – controversial I know, especially when you look at the quality of the other players available.

So who will play either side of Cesc? On Tuesday we saw Nasri on the right (but actually he played right across the pitch) and Arshavin on the left and those are the two I would currently pick. Arshavin can be brilliant one minute and frustrating the next, but he has a rare ability and is a big game player.

The spearhead:

Chamakh is my choice to lead the attack since he has all the attributes necessary – he’s strong, a handfull for defenders, he wins headers, he can hold the ball up, his close control is excellent and he brings his team-mates into play.

The bench:

Mannone (I wouldn’t risk Fabianski), Koscielny, Eboue, Diaby, Rosicky, Walcott and van Persie.

Most likely to come on as a sub:

Depending on the course of the game, RvP and Theo  if we are looking for a goal, Eboue and Diaby if we need to consolidate a lead.

Not even on the bench:

Bendtner, Denilson, Ramsey, Gibbs.


No RvP in the starting line-up? It seems madness that a player rated by many as the second best in the squad would not make the starting eleven. He is a brilliant player, but do his particular skills compliment those around him? I don’t think he is as good a target man as Chamakh or a better dribbler in tight situations than either Nasri or AA, so reluctantly RvP sits on my bench – but what a sub!

67 Responses to Van Persie on the bench for the Champions League Final – written by Rasp

  1. A says:

    This your team/guaranteed starters or what you think wengers is?

    Chamakh wouldn’t be a guaranteed starter with everyone fit, vp absolutely would though. Chamakh is a very good player, but vp is world class, and although not as strong as chamakh the way he links the play is a joy to behold, and he makes everything tick

  2. Big Raddy says:

    Thought provoking post Rasp

    I would have to find a place for Theo, but who gets dropped is another matter. Theo brings something teams fear, blistering pace. If he can regain his form following his lay-off, he would be a starter for me.

    Which I guess means leaving JW on the bench and playing Cesc in a deeper role.

    I agree with your defence.

    Chamakh or RvP is a hard choice. Givenn a fit Theo and RvP, I would probably go with them, but Chamakh’s play has been outstanding and should it continue he would have to start ahead of RvP.

    We have yet to see how well RvP and Chamakh can gel – in the few minutes they have shared, it seems as though they work well together.

    So no starting place for Chamakh, Vela, Diaby Rosicky Wilshere Denilson Kos Gibbs EE NB ….. what luxury

  3. am says:

    I would have gibbs on the bench

  4. charybdis1966 says:

    Morning all,
    I see what you’re saying Raspers/Radders – however as we well know no way will we ever have everyone fit so such a conundrum over who to bench is not going to arise..FACT(to use a cheesy blogmatic way of sounding important)
    However I agree on a number of big, specific points – Vito as number 2 goalie, Fabianski to be assigned a hi-visibility vest and jettisoned at the nearest building site.
    I would rather have Theo to start instead of Nasri and maybe Chamakh up top with Robin playing behind him, although that would mean a reversion to 4-4-2 or at the very least 4-4-1-1, both options unlikely I agree.

  5. Joseph says:

    Gibb is 1st choice LB. Ridicules didn’t make the bench

  6. kelsey says:

    Morning all.

    Rasp, I will take this seriously even though it is over 8 months away until we play the Final.

    I would argue that neither RVP or Chamakh are out and out strikers, though RVP can turn on a sixpence and score (as at stamford bridge) volley as he did against United and charlton)and chamakh has an outstanding record of headed goals, something we have dearly missed from a striker, though Bedntner has had the odd one.

    Too early to judge which of Squillaci or kos will turn out the better.
    Being Wembley, Theo,if he maintains his improved form would start, the wide open pitch is suited to his game.

    We now have the luxury of Cesc,Jack,Nasri,Arshavin and Rosicky to interchange and play “pinball Wizard”.

    but most important of all is who the opposition maybe,as this would have a huge baring on the team selection.

    Red and white hoop shirts in the final,exactly 40 years on from the Charlie George winning double team, it has to be.

  7. guntastic says:

    current form I would pick Diaby over Jack, for experince, plus Diaby is streets ahead of him at the moment.

  8. You’re forgetting Ramsey too. An on-form Ramsey is a definite contender, although I’d probably choose an on form Diaby over them all to partner Cesc and Song.

  9. rockylives says:

    I agree with you Rasp on the big controversial one – Chamakh-attack ahead of RvP. Robin is already an Arsenal legend, but I’m not sure he’s as suited to the lone striker role as Cham is. For me, Robin works best as part of a striking twosome, whereas in our current formation Cham holds up the ball better and can bring others into play, as well as offering the headed threat from crosses. I have a sneaking feeling that Cham will emerge as the first choice striker this year and that Robin will end up leaving, sad thought that will be.
    I’m also with you on Wilshire – he’s still raw but he’s developing from game to game and is going to be a big star. He may be less experienced than Diaby but I would say he’s already ahead of Abou for concentration and commitment.
    However, you’d be disappointed if I didn’t take issue with you over some things… so I’m going to swap in Theo ahead of Nasri in the right midfield role. If we’re assuming it’s the Theo we’ve seen in the opening part of the season then it’s a no-brainer.
    Kozzer versus Squelchy? Too early to tell.

  10. tommystout says:

    good post rasp.
    nice problems to have if we ever again have a fit squad!
    At the moment i go with chamach.
    Kozzer and squilly is a good one, i think kozzer has been massively impressive in TV’s position, maybe the left side suits him better. So a shrewd purchase indeed from monsieur wenger getting someone able to play both sides effectively. In the last couple of games ive barely noticed squilly, that must be a good thing. So my minds not made up at all once TV is fit!

  11. Joe says:

    almunia, clichy, vermalen, koscielny, sagna, song, fabregas, diaby, arshavin, nasri, van persie

    subs, Chamakh, Walcott, Rosicky, Denilson, Wilshere, Squillaci, Manonne.

  12. London says:

    Great stuff Rasp

    How fantastic it is to be an Arsenal supporter? The wonderful arrogance of being able to discuss seriously the team selection for the CL final in May.

    I’m in the Theo ahead of Nasri camp and I still think that RVP is ahead of Chamakh by some distance. As dull as this may sound I would probably go for Denilson over Wilshire or if we need height Diaby.

  13. josh says:

    my team would be
    sagna vermalen squalici clichy
    nasri fabregas
    walcott RVP arshavin

  14. Rasp says:

    Morning guys,

    Thanks for debating the subject in the spirit it was written.

    I’d love to have put Theo in, but can’t realistically say he’s better than Nasri (although completely different in his play) I think the defining reason in my choice is that Theo would be likely to have more impact on a tiring defence than Nasri, so I’m sticking with Nasri to start and Theo to replace him after 70 minutes.

    As regards RvP against Chamakh. Don’t forget that Jimmy Greaves was the best striker in the country in 66. He was injured at the start of the WC but was fit fore the final and didn’t get picked. Teams win games not individuals, so I’m still happy with Chamakh as the ‘1’ in a 4:5:1

  15. Rasp says:

    Hi Josh,

    Did you ghost write that for Arsène? 😛 , I’m pretty sure that would be his choice of first team too.

  16. charybdis1966 says:

    Raspers, I know the prevailing consensus on Theo is that he is best coming on against a tiring defence, but I take the view it’s better to come storming out of the blocks as a team at the beginning of a game to hit the opposition with your best shot and take an early lead.
    Saving Theo’s pace for later, presumably while we are trying to claw back a deficit, is a little negative in my book, in the good ole days of the invincibles we used to be 2 up against a lot of teams early on. I know this wasn’t always the case but to my mind it’s a good template for our game plan.

  17. SammyNelsonsPants says:

    @Kelsey – ” Chamack is not an out and out and striker….”

    What is he then, a defensive midfielder?


  18. 26may1989 says:

    Hello everyone – apologies for the radio silence yesterday after my match report, I was on the road. But belated thanks for the kind words.

    Interesting thoughts Rasp. Of course, our fondness for injuries and the nature of the squad system mean the premise is false, but you make very valid points.

    My ideal team from the current personnel would be:

    Sagna, Squillaci, Vermaelen, Gibbs
    Song, Ramsey
    Nasri, Fabregas, van Persie

    But leaving out Walcott, Rosicky, Arshavin, Koscielny, Clichy and especially Wilshere is painful! They, with Szczesny, would make up my bench.

    On the van Persie question, I don’t think our 4-2-3-1 structure suits him (but it suits Chamakh perfectly) – that’s why I would have him drop back to the attacking midfield line, which I think he would suit. And with one substitution (Walcott or Arshavin for Ramsey), we could switch to 4-4-2, by pushing van Persie upfield again.

    Those are just my thoughts though, what do I know??!

  19. London says:

    Now that is something I never think works: bringing Theo on to try and claw back a deficit. In that situation the opposition are inevitably trying to protect their lead so they have lots of men behind the ball, it all gets a bit tight which is not Theo’s strong suit. Start him or bring him on when the opposition are tiring but still need to come forward, in this situation Walcott is devastating.

  20. redandwhiteviews says:

    Guntastic – what????? Diaby is streets ahead of wilshere? Seriously? I don’t know what Diaby is for. Wilshere is far better in all departmetns. Honestly…. sometimes I wonder why I bother.

  21. London says:


    Ian Wright was an out and out striker, Chamakh is not one of those wouldn’t you say? FFS

  22. Rasp says:


    I reckon you guys are sufering from ‘Lampard syndrome’ = he’s a world class player therefore we must fit him into the side. To change the formation to accommodate RvP makes no sense. I think he’s a number 10, therefore Chamakh has to be the lone striker. I think he is excellent in that role.

    I predicted before the season started that I expect Chamakh to be our top scorer averaging aroung a goal every two games.

  23. 26may1989 says:

    You may be right Rasp!

    But one thing you get from having van Persie in the side is variety – he is the squad’s best at shooting from distance and the best for shooting from free kicks. Rosicky, Fabregas, Ramsey, Arshavin and Diaby all have decent shots on them but not as potent as van Persie.

  24. T_arsenal says:

    We will never have our full suqad ever it’s jst a dream as bieng in the final at wembley!!!
    I don’t see bendner name atleast put him on the bench lol I don’t actuly miss him when he is out injured but he is very important to the squad, I would prefer to hv him up front if the other two strikers injured than puting arshaving upfront

  25. the fabster says:

    Personally, I think Gibbs will develop to overtake Clichy by the end of this season.

    I also reckon Djourou could possibly force his way to fore, as when he’s 100% fit, he’s only second to Vermaelen.

    Also, I think in a game of that magnitude, Rosicky and Theo would have to start, though maybe in the formation you described, Wilshere would be a better alternative to Tomas.

  26. Rasp says:

    This is making it look like I don’t like RvP which couldn’t be further from the truth. He worked very hard in the WC with little reward and wasn’t able to stamp his mark on the games. I just think we looked a perfectly balanced side against Braga. I know we’ve got to ignore that game because they were supposedly so poor (despite dumping Sevilla out of the competition).

  27. SharkeySure says:

    Great set up for adebate Rasp….top quality.

    It does seem mad to even think of benching RVP, but I do agree with you.

    I’ll hopefully get time for a read thru later and add a bit to the debate. Works been shit/busy all week.

  28. Tsokan says:

    @Rasp Can u pls share what u’ve been taking?
    Cus i know u’r high on something.

  29. naijasoccer says:

    Wow. I don’t know why people are saying vermaelen is a given and a sure starter. I disagree with that sentiment totally. He is a good player, scores a lot with his head but is he a better player than koscielny and squillaci ? Let us not forget that this is the same arshavin that played a major part in a defense that conceded tons of goals last season. As a matter of fact, if he hadn’t scored the goals he did last season, most fans would be divided on his ability right now with some callin him good while others call him average. Me personally, I think he is a good defender but based on what I ve seen so far of koscielny, he is a more natural defender and a better one than vermaelen. If he cuts out his mistakes here and there then he will be the first on my list before vermaelen, squillaci and djourou.

    Also I know chamack has played well for us so far but all of a sudden people are now suggesting he should play before van persie as he is more suited to our game. WHAT THE FUCK ? What is wrong with us arsenal fans ? Why are we so fickle ? Before he got injured we were all saying he’s the second best player we got and definitely one of the best in the world. I even remember that during and after the blackburn game people were saying chamakh is a good player but he doesn’t impact the team and game the way VP does but after two routs we are all of a sudden saying VP should be benched ??? Again I say WHAT THE FUCK ?

  30. Rasp says:

    Hi Tsokan,

    Perhaps you’d like to expand on what I’ve written that you disagree with. Friday is the ‘graveyard day’ in the blog world. I have written a lighthearted piece to stimulate debate, but my team selection is honest and has not been affected by any mind-changing substance 😉

    Hi naijassoccer,

    It’s all about opinions. You are welcome to yours and I stand by mine. I think TV is the best player in our back four. He is also a born leader, hence being the captain of Ajax and his national side.

  31. 26may1989 says:

    Debates like this are interesting, just when you think you know the zeitgeist amongst Arsenal fans, up pop others saying things like Djourou is better than Squillaci and Koscielny, Squillaci and Koscielny are better than Vermaelen and most amazing of all, Diaby is better than Wilshere. I don’t agree with any if those ideas but I like the fact there is so much variety. I’m just wondering somebody’s going to start bigging up Fabianski……

  32. Rasp says:

    Agreed 26may,

    I was surprised by the Djourou one I must admit. Not many have complained about Mannone in place of Fabianski. I agree with London – it’s all Pat Rice’s fault 🙂

  33. naijasoccer says:

    I respec ur opinion and everything but vermaelen is not the best defender we got. Koscielny reads the game like no other, his interception rate is out of this world and on one on ones he almost always come out on top. Ever since koscielny been playing for us, the defense has been stable and more fluid bar the inexperience mistakes he made. Squillaci on the other hand I don’t know much about yet as I ve only see him for small shades in games. It don’t matter who starts between vermaelen and squillaci as long as vermaelen starts.

  34. naijasoccer says:

    Koscielny I mean*

  35. 26may1989 says:


    Koscielny has been impressive but (a) he’s made significant mistakes along the way (at least two have cost us goals), (b) this is only his second season in top level football, as he’s spent most of his career to date in Ligue 2 and (c) we haven’t seen him against top quality opposition yet (Liverpool are no longer top quality). He’s the real deal and has the makings of an Arsenal legend, but let’s wait to see how he does against the best – we play the Chavs inna few weeks and if Kos plays that will be a real test.

  36. charybdis1966 says:

    26May – it’d be a tough job to big up the Flapper. I think he is this season’s Diaby, a player who I’d rather not play for us. To be fair Diaby seems like he could step up this year, but the possibility of a ruin of games to judge him by early season has been extinguished by another northern clogger.
    Take a bow Paul Robinson – the future of English football. For some reason a picture of a sweating, bald Spanish man grinning springs to mind.

  37. Rasp says:

    No worries naijasoccer,

    I’m a fan of kozzers too, I just think TV is better at the moment.

    We haven’t seen the best of Koscielny yet and what a masterful piece of scouting to pick him out from relative obscurity, the £8m (ish) we paid for him seems like a bargain already.

  38. charybdis1966 says:

    Raspers – I’ve just seen an article calling Kozzer “the new Senderos” due to his two goal conceding gaffes.
    A tad early to be so harsh about Kozzer I reckon.

  39. London says:

    That game against Braga changed a lot for Kozzer, up until then I felt he was still trying to find his feet but as Tuesday night’s game wore on it was clear that he felt more and more as though he belonged the result being that his confidence soared. This guy is already stronger and more determined than Senderos ever appeared and the difference in acceleration? Don’t get me started.

  40. London says:

    My guess at tomorrow’s team.


    Wilshire and Nasri both played 90 minutes in the week so I expect them to be on the bench tomorrow but start and play 90 minutes against spuds.

  41. charybdis1966 says:

    It was a dumb article London, a knee-jerk, reactionary post if ever there was one. While I quite liked Senderos, and I felt he could have been good for us, to say Kozzer is gaffe prone is pretty stupid.
    For me the Squid looks more suited to the Sunderland game than Kozzer, but we have to stick with both as Djourou, for me, is a 4th choice centre back all day long.

  42. Rasp says:

    Hi chary, London,

    It’s ridiculous to compare kozzer to Senderos. That does make me mad. What do Arsenal ‘fans’ expect? – instant player.

    The guy has done amazingly well and improved in pretty much every game right in front of our eyes. When I saw him at Barnet, I was slightly worried. He looks twice the player he was that day. I’ve only put squidgy in front of him in the article because I think he has the edge at the moment, but as I wrote above, I expect him to keep improving.

  43. charybdis1966 says:

    Yeah Raspers, Kozzer didn’t look really outstanding that day, but as I said to you at the time, he looked no worse than the Verminator did at exactly the same game the previous year.
    And we all know how Vermaelen worked out afterwards.

  44. London says:

    I thought Wenger usually does a press conferece on Friday’s? A bit of news on the injury front would be useful.

  45. charybdis1966 says:

    He did it yesterday London, basically Diaby and the Verminator are back for West Brom; no other injury news were given.

  46. London says:

    Ah, I knew there was something that I wanted to add about today’s post. The post highlights the embarrassment of riches we have to the point where some would consider leaving RVP on the bench, an excellent state of affairs. We have cover for every position bar one: the keeper, if Almunia gets injured just before the CL final we are in trouble, a scenario I feel sure that has already been envisaged by Wenger and so much so was the driving force behind the offer for Schawarzer, the same problem could still occur and it is for that reason I expect Wenger to renew his interest in the Aussie during the January window.

  47. chaf says:

    Good post Rasp.

    I agree with your selection, RVP on the bench, if he’s fit, Theo on the bench, if he’s fit. But I would have Ramsey in the team, if he’s fit, in place of Jack, who would probably be knackered by then.

    The back two did look comfortable the other night but Braga were one of the most useless teams I’ve seen in the CL. There was more space than George Michaels garage.

  48. London says:


    Chaf me ol mucker, more space than George Michael’s garage, it’s the way you tell em.

  49. London says:

    I have just stole this off another site but hey ho it’s funny.

    Policeman in Liverpool pulls a man over after seeing him driving with a dog in the front seat. As the policeman approaches the car, the scouser starts smacking the dog over the head. Coppper asks him;

    “Why have you just been hitting your dog over the head?”

    “Because the bastard just ate my tax disc”

  50. London says:

    Am I the only one who thinks this time of the day drags, it just never gets to the point fast enough where a man can have a drink.

  51. London says:

    I think everyone must already be in the bar.

  52. SharkeySure says:

    Not everyone London.

    Just about wrapped up here at work…so I’ll not be keeping you company I’m afraid.

    Maybe your old buddy Gnarley’s about !!??

  53. Rasp says:

    Hi chaf,

    I was bigging up Ramsey two years ago and it was apparent that AW had big plans for him before he got injured. Everything I hear/read tells me that he has dealt with the mental side and will make a full recovery, but it is a bit much to expect him to surpass LJ in time for the CL final.

  54. SharkeySure says:

    Lol Rasp…I admire your self belief.

    There’s just no sense of ‘if we get there’ for you is there..good on yer.

  55. Rasp says:

    I made the mistake of listening to the usual good cop/bad cop bollox debate on TalkShite this afternoon. For once, Adrian Durham was supporting Arsene in his condemnation of dangerous tackles and that scouse moron Mickey Quim (not a spelling mistake) was saying AW should shut up. Firstly it was a quote by AW taken out of context and in the rest of the interview he said that the game would be boring without tough tackling. I believe we ‘outfouled’ braga by 19 to 13 on tuesday.

  56. Rasp says:

    😆 Sharkey,

    If you’re asking me if I believe we have a realistic chance of winning something this season, the answer is a resounding YES!!!! I can feel it in mi water – as my ‘ol grandad used to say. I do think that the chavs will win the prem this year with us clear in 2nd place, but next season it will be total domination 😛

  57. chaf says:

    London – you don’t need much encouragement to think it must be time for a drink.

    “Oh dear, their talking about tackling on the radio”, or “Emm friday afternoon is taking it’s time” Cue for a bottle opener.

    Some people have to work you know…

  58. London says:


  59. thelittlemozart says:

    joke of the day, and it’s really fucking hilarious..HAHAHA!!!

    what the hell does he thinks?

  60. Neamman says:

    This great article addreses the point I made in yesterday’s comments [badly]. I dont see RVP in our starting 11 anymore. A great player, a favourite of mine, along with Big Nic, but he would ruin the balance we have it seems. In fact I would go as far as saying if Chamarck was injured I think Nic B is a better fit.. IF we play this formation.
    My preferred 11 if all fit
    Sagna TV Squillai [spelling ?] Gibbs

    Song Ramsey
    Nasri Cesc Archevin

    subs Mannone Rosicky Clichy Djourou Bendtner Theo RVP

  61. Rasp says:

    Hi Neamman,

    I was hoping you would come on. I have felt the same way about RvP for a while now and your comment stimulated the article. Why don’t you write your thoughts for us in the form of a headline post for the site next time.

  62. London says:


    The Boy Wonder shall return 😉

  63. Carlito11 says:

    Gotta day rosicky should be in the midfield 5 on form- nasri was great preseason and jack had a great game on Wednesday but thomas rosicky looks to be the finished article this season as I’m sure he’ll show tomorrow again sunderland… Cmon you gunnners!

  64. Neamman says:

    hahahah, I teach English in China but not sure I can write anything interesting!!! Ok, if I get some sort of original thought I will give it a try.

    But the bar is very high on this site!!!

  65. Big Raddy says:

    Post in ……..

  66. Rasp says:

    New post……

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