Arsenal’s top four charge starts today

Drink deep my friends. Drain every last drop from the flagon of footbally goodness because after today we have to wait a whole two weeks for another game.

And while a fortnight’s break may be good for our team, giving bruised muscles and creaking joints a chance to heal, allowing our January arrivals to assimilate and providing Mikel Arteta with breathing space to work with his players, for us fans it’s going to be a sun-parched desert.

On the plus side, today’s match is really important.

In my ‘glass half full’ world this is the day we begin our push to end the season in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.

It’s a tall order, but I believe we have a half decent chance of doing it. If we win today we will have 33 points and will climb to ninth in the table. Totteringham are playing Manchester City today and if City win we’ll be just a point behind the N17 knuckle-draggers. And we’ll be two points behind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s wobbly Man United.

More dauntingly, we’ll be eight points adrift of fourth place, currently occupied by Chelsea, on 41 points.

But do we really think Chelsea are consistent and reliable enough not to drop plenty of points between now and season’s end? If it hadn’t been for Bernt Leno’s howler when we played them at the Emirates they would now be on 38 points and we would be on 33 with a game in hand (today’s game).

So it’s all to play for, but it needs to start NOW.

The uptick in performances since Arteta arrived has been obvious and very promising, but we need to start converting more of those good showings from unlucky draws to deserved wins.

This season we have drawn more games than any other team in the EPL (12). It’s not so much “one nil to the Arsenal” as “one point to the Arsenal” these days.

Mind you, something should give today as our hosts, Burnley, have the fewest draws (3) of any team apart from Liverpool who have only one, and Man City who also have three.

A trip to Turf Moor is not the easiest place to start our winning run, but I believe we have the ability, the determination and the confidence to do it.

Burnley are coming into this one off the back of two impressive league wins: they beat Leicester 2-1 at home on January 19th and Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford three days later. However, they followed up those victories with a 1-2 home defeat at the hands of Norwich in the FA Cup.

Nevertheless their confidence will be fairly high and Sean Dyche always gets plenty of effort from his players.

Scoring goals has been an issue for the Clarets, and they won’t be helped today by the likely absence of Ashley Barnes through injury. He’s their second top scorer with six, but their number one striker – the New Zealander Chris Wood – is a threat, with 10 goals to his name.

So what line-up will Arteta send out today?

We have Aubameyang and Luiz back from suspension and all the long-term injured are still out, so I predict a starting eleven like this:


Bellerin – Sokratis – Luiz – Saka

Torreira – Xhaka


Pepe – Lacazette – Aubameyang

I don’t see Ozil starting – his form has been too patchy and he sometimes struggles in tough games away from home. Willock has done enough in recent outings to get the nod ahead of him. Lacazette is on a lousy scoring run but his work rate is not in question and I suspect him to start in his usual position.

Tempting though it would be to pick Martinelli, I suspect he will be held back as an impact sub.

That team is good enough to win today providing we can avoid the sort of individual blunders that have blighted our season so far and provided we don’t get yet another shafting from that evil emperor of football technology, Daft VARdar.

A win for the good guys.

Up the Mighty Arse!






73 Responses to Arsenal’s top four charge starts today

  1. Thank you Rocky, a great rousing pre-match. I also feel that the climb up the table should start today.

    I’m hoping (like every game recently) that Lacazette will start scoring again. He’ll have Aubameyang back alongside him so fingers crossed, today is the day.

  2. Rasp says:

    Excellent PM, thank you Rocky.

    We’ve temporarily dropped to 12th after yesterday’s games, I too see this as a MWG if we are to launch an assault on top 6/4.

    Top 4 would be an achievement up there with AW’s best Houdini acts, but top 6 and finishing above the totts should be achievable.

    It seems like every game is a test of a different kind that will expose whether or not we still suffer from old frailties. Up there in a hostile atmosphere (on and off the pitch) against a team who refs subliminally make allowances for because they are ‘that kind of side’, will once again test of our mettle. It will test our mental and physical strength, it will test our stamina and it will test our confidence in terms of playing the quick attacking ‘Arsenal’ football Mikel has resurrected.

    We’ve routinely lost against teams whose players are valued at a fraction of our ‘stars’ …. but every game I see us closer to achieving our potential …. one day soon I hope we will be better than the sum of our parts. We are close. A win today may just herald that landmark.

  3. LB says:

    Thanks for the read Rocky

    I see Ozil starting, Willock has done well but still not enough to usurp Mesut in my not so humble opinion.

    The other reason for the view is that it seems as though Arteta likes the maturer players and that is the reason I agree that Lacazette and Auba will start with Martinelli on the bench.

    All the signs to me are that Arteta has brought his Man City mentality with him and that is: bringing young players through for the sake of bringing young players through equals dropping points.

  4. Le Coq Monster says:

    Quality Rockster.

    I expect a really hard, bruising game today, it will be tighter than Kroenkes wallet with no quarter given by either team and after a goaless 90 mins I expect us to edge it 8-1 in injury time!

  5. LBG says:

    So no Torreira AND Mustafi!!!!

  6. Rasp says:

    I’m not passing judgement on the team after I got it wrong last game. Burnley starting with 9 English players, an Irishman and a Kiwi I see.

  7. LB says:


    Is the European transfer window still open or something?

    Very strange.

  8. Rasp says:

    I thought Mustafi was playing really well last game up until he got the injury.

  9. Rasp says:

    Gabriel Martinelli is looking to become only the fourth player aged 19 or younger to score in three consecutive Premier League matches, emulating Danny Cadamarteri, Michael Owen and Francis Jeffers.

    Francis Jeffers 😂😂

  10. Sue says:

    Nice work, Rocky.
    Mesut’s 250th appearance today! Excited at the thought of Auba, Laca, Martinelli and Ozil!
    Maybe Torreira isn’t quite right? As thought he’d start 🤔
    Not gonna lie – the CB pairing does worry me a little…. I can’t think why 😂😂 COYG

  11. LBG says:

    Let’s hope no foul water in the Burnley well, Rocky.

  12. LBG says:

    What has happened to Lacas first touch?

  13. fred1266 says:

    What shit I does be seeing saka goes down injured and the Burnley players told him to come off the field

    So he could get treatment off field so the can play us with 10 men

  14. RockyLives says:

    Is Torreira carrying a knock? It seems odd that he’s not starting but is on the bench.

  15. LBG says:

    And the reason for losing the ball (six) times is balls up to forwards with back to defenders. Wont work against Burnley, has to be faster delivery to wide players in space.

  16. LBG says:

    AND Aubang is not up to/ lazy in trying to beat close defenders one on one. Needs ball inside fullback.

  17. LBG says:

    Illustrated perfectly.

  18. LBG says:

    Too much falling over. Behave like men, Arsenal.

  19. RockyLives says:

    I missed the first 15 but from what I’ve seen we don’t seem to have the compactness between our lines that we have had in recent outings.

    Who’s the co-commentator on Sky? Is he called Bernie Burnley from Burnley because his one-sided comments are doing my head in.

  20. LBG says:

    This is why no conventional full back on either side to STOP CROSSES against, most teams in Premier League, but especially Burnley is asking for trouble. Believe this referee will sink us before the end.
    Play Martinelli centrally, please Mikel. Take Laca off and go back to pressing high.

  21. LBG says:

    Turned him off, after 15mins, Rocky. Combination of him and ref enough to make one scream.

  22. LB says:

    We really have turned it into an art form, making crap teams look good, that is.

  23. RockyLives says:

    The half hour I saw was pretty poor, sadly.

    Time for some Arteta magic at HT.

    Let’s just get the points…

  24. LBG says:

    This is a classic chance for Mikel bomb up the bum half time talk. Throw a few mugs, kick a boot, Arteta. Ask them if they are happy to be bullied by oppo, ref, commentators and pundits and if not, come out roaring!

  25. RockyLives says:

    Not sorry to see Torreira coming on.

  26. RockyLives says:

    I’d like to see us win at least one 50/50 in the middle of the park…

  27. LBG says:

    Laca and Aubang dont have the fire, sorry. Martinelli wasted.

  28. RockyLives says:

    When Burnley attack there’s a massive gap between our back line and our MF.

    Back to Emery bad habits.

  29. LBG says:

    Do we need a large hard centre back like Mee Tarkowski or what?
    Mari please help us.

  30. RockyLives says:

    We certainly can’t keep giving them clear headers in our six yard box LBG.

  31. RockyLives says:

    Willock for Ozil. Good move.

    I don’t know what’s happened to poor old Mesut. My heart used to race when he got on the ball. Now it sinks, because Mesut on the ball usually means the end of the move…

  32. Not just me not enjoying this ☹️

  33. Sean Dyche not happy 😂

  34. fred1266 says:

    According to the commentator our shot percentage has drop off by 25% since arteta took over

  35. fred1266 says:

    Also apparently we haven’t lost on the road since emery left

  36. LBG says:

    Two phrases on 75. Missed chances an Bullied.
    Still time Gunners…….my God, why have you forsaken us?

  37. Why is everyone so far apart???

  38. RockyLives says:

    I think Emery has secretly taken back control of the team

  39. Rasp says:

    Is Arteta urging them to close up?

    This has to be a confidence thing.

  40. fred1266 says:

    Would had prefer to see pepe instead of Eddie, think we need some to create for the aubameyang

  41. RockyLives says:

    No movement up front either. Very strange performance.

  42. Rasp says:

    Late away winner by Martinelli in the 91st minute anyone?

  43. RockyLives says:

    Would love it Rasp. Or maybe Eddie…

  44. Rasp says:

    No one has criticised Mustafi so far … does that mean he’s having an OK game?

  45. Sue says:

    Bloody hell… didn’t think everyone would have an off day! Deja vu again – teams round us dropping points and we don’t capitalise!! The women are losing too…….
    I guess that’s what I get for saying how crap the Mancs were last night!!

  46. Rocky that’s an awful thought!!! Shows how important bringing Saka into the attack is. Auba and Laca really disappointing today ☹️

  47. Rasp says:

    120 seconds to go Rocky ….

  48. RockyLives says:

    Why do our players slip over all the time? Wrong studs?

  49. RockyLives says:

    I’m saying this with a straight face – I think Mustafi has been our MoTM

  50. Not today guys ☹️☹️☹️

  51. Rasp says:

    Well that’s a good thing Rocky … I think Mikel has improved him.

  52. RockyLives says:

    Worst performance yet in the Arteta regime. Hopefully just an off day.

  53. Is there a prize for the most draws in a season 😂

  54. Rasp says:

    Sounds like a game to write off and move on. I hope the fact that we had almost a week to wait doesn’t mean we go off the boil … considering they’re about to have 2 weeks off ….

  55. RockyLives says:

    Peaches – we’re a “top drawer” team 😀

  56. Rasp says:

    Burnley are a decent unit. They’ve beaten manu and Leicester in recent weeks.

    Come on City … humiliate the totts …

  57. RockyLives says:

    Can I apologise for the typo in the headline for today’s Post. “Top four charge” should, of course, have been “top fourteen charge.” 😀

  58. LBG says:

    Aubang and Laca have been injected with an Emery-Corona virus.
    Still cannot understand why we have to have goalscorers so wide. Saka and Bellerin provided width and crosses. Personally, as oft repeated, want two players close together playing off each other. And they should be Martinelli and Eddie for me!!

  59. LBG says:

    It says it all, Mustafi MOM!
    And some of that was actually Burnley’s plan. “Press hard, make defenders or midfield pass back to Mustafi. He is slow of thought and action, (so many attempts at forward pass either straight out or half blocked and not finding forward player), so we will cut out all their creativity from the back”.

    Disappointed at both players on pitch and Mikel not able to find the key.

  60. Rasp says:

    I haven’t seen any of the game …. but weren’t we very good for the first 15-20 minutes? Could Auba have had a hattrick?

  61. Rasp says:

    Stabbings and police shoot a terrorist in Streatham ….

  62. RockyLives says:

    Oh great Rasp. The first 15 was what I missed. Typical.

  63. Rasp says:

    I haven’t seen it as I said Rocky … I was just reading the FlashScore commentary … we take one of those early chances and the game could have been different.

    But we didn’t and it appears our frailties are still there. I know we still have Mesut, but I do feel we need a midfield general/maestro

  64. fatgingergooner says:

    A few managers have been and tried to find a balance in this team and have failed, but Arteta does seem to be doing ok. We created good opportunities and we grabbed a clean sheet. We will come good i think in the next few months. It wasn’t a match to remember but it’s good to see effort from the team and a Willingness to work hard to get the ball back. That never stopped even though our attacking play slowed down at times.

  65. LBG says:

    An accurate, positive summation FGG.
    At least two clear chances in first twenty. Two or three further ones in rest of game.
    But Burnley made at least as many. Fgg’s approach is probably best way. Hate the experience forget it and turn over to watch the rugby……..oh my God, give us a break.

  66. LBG says:

    Hated that French Stadium as well. Pissy weekend!

  67. Aaron says:

    Your posting strength alone will make this team play better.

    Half full- clean sheet! Mustafi played well, and a few clear cut chances created.

    Laca and Mesut belong on the bench at this point.

    Leno needs to focus on distribution and box work for 2 weeks straight, as his shot blocking is always sharp, but the box coverage in horrendous.

    AMN would have been helpful on the bench, hope Saka is ok.

    Burnley are the so one dimensional, and just lump it in the box over and over, but halfway effective. When the Arsenal did not just put the ball in the air or out across the touch line, the team looked more effective.

    This will be the standard lunch for a while, hard to watch, but incremental improvement.

    The Arsenal would have lost this game for sure under emery.

    Mikel go work these guys on touch passing, put Guen on 2 touch restriction until summer, and movement of the ball and players to wide areas with pace.

    The defense is getting better and the Arsenal are becoming more difficult to beat, the goals will come with time.

  68. LBG says:

    Good man, seems appropriate to me……and certainly Rocky Rules……that first paragraph is pure poetry!

  69. RC78 says:

    Just saw the game now (delayed :-() and I think that it s just down to Laca and Auba appaling misses in the first half that we did not win this game.

    I am a big fan of both so I would not drop them even if Laca’s form is becoming a worry. I would, however, not hesitate to drop Ozil to make place for Martinelli and Pepe. I think Ozil is a wonderful player but he has not been able to make things happen for us despite all his talent and good intentions.

    Douzi had a good game overall but can indeed simplify his game. Mustafi had a decent game too but I thought that Luiz kindda went missing in the second half.
    Leno need to improve both in the air and in his distribution.

    As some of you mention, we d have lost this game with Emery in charge but would we have won it if Mourinho or Ancellotti had come instead of Arteta? Arteta is bringing more shape and intensity to our team but the results are still not there. If Tottenham finishes in the top 4, I don’t know what I will do…but for sure, I will be annoyed for a long time.

    So I will look at the glass half-full based on the fact that we did not concede a goal, that we had a good first 20 mins and that we did create some clear cut chances. Also, Torreira played a bit so let us continue to be positive and let us hope that victories will bless our team soon.


    PS: I can’t believe that France beat England in Rugby. I think we will lose the remaining games so do not worry Rugby fans, France will not win the 6 Nations and you still have your chances.
    PPS: Djokovic is a tennis legend. He is not a fan’s favourite but he is a true tennis great. His relationship with the crowd reminds of the one Lendl had with the public.

  70. LBG says:

    Interesting comment. I am doubtful Ancelotti and Moaninho would have been superior in their effect with the Gunners.
    I still feel the motivation of the youth would have held us in better stead, particularly in a game like this, up front.

  71. LBG says:

    Cant help still believing in Mesut, I’m afraid, for the doubters. Would AAers be happy to ditch him (again), if Aubang and Laca had scored one, two, or three of their chances in first 30 mins? All speculation, of course. Happy winter break to all. Hibernation beckons.

  72. Morning all

    We have a New Post ……………

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