Arsenal v Leicester: Time for Stage Two of the Arteta Project?

This is a big one

It’s Leicester at the Emirates tonight and, to me at least, this feels like a big and important game.

Most Arsenal supporters agree that Mikel Arteta has done a good job since he came in. He salvaged our 2019-20 season by winning the FA Cup. 

He has replaced the tactical confusion and defensive fragility of the Emery period by establishing a well organised system in which the players all seem to know their duties.

He has restored morale and gives an air of firm leadership at the helm of HMS Arsenal.

In simple terms, to continue the maritime metaphor, he has steadied the ship.

Now what?

Surely all this work hasn’t been put in so that we can just settle for being a well drilled upper-mid table team that can compete with the big boys without quite being good enough but will always Hoover up enough points elsewhere to maintain respectability? That would suck.

No, I’m afraid the time has come for Arteta’s Arsenal to move into the next gear (I’m switching from sailing metaphors to motoring ones now. Do keep up).

If a team in championship winning form can be said to be speeding along in sixth (top) gear, then you could argue that – under El Patron – we have moved from second and into third and now it’s time to put the foot down.

And that means we have to beat the Foxes today.

They are a good side, level with us in the table with a marginally better goal difference, but they are a team we need to be vanquishing at home to demonstrate that we really are progressing.

There are no distractions. The transfer window is closed, the interlull is over, the players and coaches have had time to work together. No distractions and no excuses.

That’s why I see this as a barometer match: win, and you can start to see that we might actually do something interesting this season (and let’s agree, so far this season the Premier League looks more open than it has for years); lose and it means that our ship still needs steadying (oops, we’re back on the ocean blue again) and we may need to recalibrate our view of what this campaign may hold for us; even a draw tends towards that latter analysis.

Yes, it’s only one game and we are always told not to place too much store on any single result, but I’m not buying that.

Action Man has fulfilled his brief so far and completed Stage One. Stage Two starts this evening.

As for the line-up, apparently Ceballos is fit again and Willian is a doubt with a calf strain.

There has been debate about whether Aubameyang should play through the middle and it remains to be seen if new boy Thomas Partey will start after his hugely impressive full debut against Rapid Vienna on Thursday.

Arteta talked about Auba needing to be in and around the box more and some have seen this is an indication that he will be played through the middle. I don’t buy that. I suspect El Patron has other ideas for how to involve him more, possibly using Saka as a left wing back so Auba can move inside more frequently.

Leicester’s central defenders are not the quickest, so I would go with Eddie Nketiah ahead of Lacazette.

My midfield partners Partey and Elneny, with Saka forming a third midfielder when we are in possession.

Here’s my predicted line up. 


Bellerin – Luiz – Gabriel – Tierney – Saka

Elneny – Partey

Pepe – Nketiah – Aubameyang

Here’s hoping we get Stage Two started tonight.



82 Responses to Arsenal v Leicester: Time for Stage Two of the Arteta Project?

  1. James says:

    With Partey in the team now, I feel it’s time to revert to a 433 formation with Partey behind the two pairing mfs Partey Saka and Ceballos/Xhaka is perfect or better still Saka plays on the left of the attack and auba through the middle

  2. Sue says:

    Nice one, Rocky 👍
    Well, I’m hoping to see Dani…
    Elneny/Xhaka.. Partey.. Ceballos
    Saka/Willian… Laca… Auba
    Apparently Pepe wasn’t in the training pictures…Willian was though…
    I’m excited.. COYG
    I hope Luiz isn’t too rash, as Vardy loves a dive 😄

  3. LBG says:

    Like the colour of your jib, Rocky, and, for this game, the selection and shape of your team!
    Dont let the Foxes get in behind and in this way neutralise a possibly returning Vardy. Explain to the Partey boy the danger of Maddison at long range and viola, three points.
    I believe Mikel has set his spinnaker for the downwind tack.

  4. RockyLives says:

    LBG 😀

    And a broadside from Auba and Pepe.

  5. RockyLives says:

    I’d be pretty happy with your line-up too (although I would still start Eddie ahead of Laca).

  6. RC78 says:

    Great post as always – thank you!

    I think we re going to stick with a back 3 so here is my line up:

    Leno – Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney – Bellerin, Partey, Xhaka, AMN – Pepe, Auba, Saka

    I agree that this can be a season (era) – defining moment for us. A win and we are on the good wagon for a Top 6 finish, a loss and we will be struggling make it to the Top 6.

    Leicester is very good but I think we can beat them at home if we avoid silly defensive mistakes.

    Watch Fofana if you can – the kid is incredible.

  7. Rasp says:

    Ahoy there Rocky. Absolutely this is a game we have to win to establish ourselves as top 4 contenders. We need to be fleet of foot, sail down the wings, batten down the hatches in defence, give them a broad side in midfield and sink them up front 😂

  8. fred1266 says:

    We need to take our chances remember the 1-1 draw last season when we dominated

  9. RockyLives says:

    Rasp 😀

    Hello Sailor!

  10. RockyLives says:

    It’s a tricky one, because they are very dangerous on the break and Vardy has always been a thorn in our side.

    I would like to see us win the midfield battle and build from there. Hopefully Partey can be a significant factor in that.

  11. RA says:

    Hi Rocky, 😁

    Well, as was said above, I too like the cut of your jib, and with the wind filling the mainsail I hope we will show the Foxarses a clean pair of heels and allow us to brace the mainsail, and raise a tot or two to the stern of Leicester.

    Ohhh, Rocky, Rocky – the best goddamned Author in the West. 😳

  12. RockyLives says:

    We could do with those former Arsenal stalwarts David Seaman and Paul Mariner.

    Also, er, William Galleas… Nwankwo Canoe… Anders Limpet…

    OK, I’ll stop there.

  13. fred1266 says:

    Didn’t watch midweek game how was partey

  14. fred1266 says:

    He also best in North East and South

  15. fred1266 says:

    Hope this is pepe coming out partey

  16. RockyLives says:

    Partey was very good against Vienna, particularly second half. He just looks like a quality player capable of imposing himself on the game.

  17. LBG says:

    At the moment Pepe is still on the jelly and ice cream.
    Soon as I posted, knew someone (could have guessed!) would get “cut of jib”, as necessary correction.
    COYG. A full on broadside required.

  18. Aaron says:

    Way to come through with a colorful post.

    When the foxes change the course of their winds, Mikel needs to tack!

    Line up looks close to what Mikel will most likely go with, but possibly Xhaka and AMN in there with the shoehorn.

    Need this game big time!

    Will say this, an advantage for Leno is a short memory, and his playing in so many competitive games is a big time bonus for me.

    That is all I will say for now.

    Let’s see this one through to the other side AFC.

  19. RA says:


    Wasn’t intended as a correction – I was speed reading a lot of comments today, after the GrandPrix, and a beer or two to celebrate, I pinched the theme as part of my Jolly Roger reply to Rocky’s Post.

    If you require an apology – you have it – I am sorry, if I have offended.

  20. RockyLives says:

    HAPPY INVINCIBLES DAY !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Saints beat Everton 2-0… so the only unbeaten record this season has gone.

    This is such a strange season.

  21. fred1266 says:

    I hops the season keeps being strange with us lifting the trophy

  22. RockyLives says:

    Amen to that Fred.

  23. LBG says:

    Not offended, sir.

  24. RockyLives says:

    My son in Toronto just told me an interesting stat…

    Apparently Partey has already made more tackles this season than both Xhaka and Elneny.

    Partey 6, Elneny 5, Xhaka 4


  25. LBG says:

    And X’s tackles were probably him tripping over and somehow finishing with the ball at his feet!

  26. LB says:

    I find it hard to believe that MA will start with the much talked about 4-3-3 line up from the start.

    I find it equally hard to imagine that Partey will even start.

    My prediction is the familiar line up with Pepe in for Willian and the continued experimentation in the Dundalk game of Partey and Elneny.

    Now, if Partey does start, Xhaka may as well start sailing up the motorway looking for his P45.

  27. Sue says:

    Arsenal XI: Leno, Tierney, Gabriel, Luiz, Bellerín, Ceballos, Xhaka, Partey, Saka, Aubameyang, Lacazette.

  28. RC78 says:

    Hi Sue – are we playing 3412 or 433:

    Leno – Luiz, Gabs, Tierney – Bello, Partey, Xhaka, Saka – Ceba – Laca, Auba

    Leno – Bello, Luiz, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, Xhaka, Ceba – Saka, Laca, Auba

  29. Sue says:

    Hi RC.. 433… Vardy’s on the bench!

    Guess who’s back? Back again.. Dani’s back.. jeez I sound like Eminem 🤣 COYG

  30. RockyLives says:

    Interesting team. I did say I wanted us to control midfield and Xhaka-Partey-Dani could be a decent line-up for doing that.

    8/11 – I’ve been closer 😶

  31. RC78 says:

    Maybe this is it – the game that sets us back to a 4 men defense.

  32. seedeee says:

    Stupid sky box office – £14 to watch it when you already pay for sky sports is ridiculous

    I’ll be listening to the radio then!
    Excited to see how Xhaka-Party-Dani get on


  33. RockyLives says:

    Come on you Gunners!

  34. RockyLives says:

    Auba playing wide right – interesting

  35. fred1266 says:

    Playing 433 interesting

  36. Sue says:

    Seedee..Try Hesgoal.. I’m watching it on my phone

  37. fred1266 says:

    We need to take our chances

  38. RC78 says:

    Tierney on fire
    Saka dangerous
    Xhaka smart
    Luiz great with his long ball delivery
    Gabriel owning the box

    Laca and Auba, need to pick up

    Bellerin having an inconsistent half
    Ceba absolutely anonymous – can be replaced imho.

    Partey playing seriously but we need more from him.

    Leno with his usual rash decision

    I d suggest brining in AMN or Pepe in the mix at the beginning of the second half to replace Ceba.

  39. RockyLives says:

    Fred’s right.

    Whenever we’ve had a chance our players seem to have had their boots on the wrong feet

  40. LB says:

    Hmmmm, who would work well in that tight situation.

  41. RockyLives says:

    I’d go with Pepe – have him try to break the lines with dribbling

  42. RC78 says:

    Leno – Bello, Luiz, Gabs, Tierney – AMN, Partey, Xhaka, Saka – Laca, Auba for me in the second half

  43. RC78 says:

    Rocky – I am happy to also go with Pepe but for some reason, I have a feeling AMN can be the trigger today…

  44. Aaron says:

    Felt totally comfortable with the half.
    Wish Laca would have got his head on that cross.

    Mikel will need to just make a small tweak at either the wings or in mid.
    Pepe on for that move?

    Build on a solid first half.

  45. RA says:

    It’s a fairly balanced game.

    The Good – ish:

    There have been some good performance, with Tierney, Luiz, Gabriel and Xhaka defending well when necessary.

    Partey is looking very assured.

    The Bad – ish:

    I am worried that playing Bellerin (witless) and Ceballos (really slow) together could be our undoing.

    Auba still cannot pass for toffee and should have scored from a header.

    Leno has not had much to do – but nearly gave away a goal at the start.

  46. LB says:

    I just looked back at my predictions, way off to say the least.

    We are looking very different, more powerful, more purposeful we obviously need a goal, they would then have to come out and I think we would then run riot.

  47. LB says:

    The close control in the build up of Laca and Auba leaves a lot to be desired.

  48. RA says:

    We need pace — bring Pepe on, maybe?

  49. fred1266 says:

    Should we go to back 3

  50. RA says:

    Gabriel has gone all Brazilian in the opposite half – and missing passes, leaving us open to counters.

  51. fred1266 says:

    Can Tierney even cross a ball jeez

  52. LBG says:

    Speed, or lack of, of thought and action for Dani and X, is so evident.
    Then forwards who dont take or make chances.
    Please Gunners dont let Vardy come on and score.

  53. RA says:

    Tierney and Saka have switched (Saka looks injured).

    The bad news is Vardy is on — oh, dear.

  54. RA says:

    The balance has changed in favour of Leics, but that could open the game up for us.

  55. RC78 says:

    Anybody liking Fofana so far?

    Why is our midfield so unadventurous. Our most threatening players have been Tierney and Bellerin. We need more from Auba and Pepe and definitely more from our central midfield.

  56. RC78 says:

    Mustafi in, goal in 😦

    Partey does not close down, Xhaka being slow and misplaced as always and Mustafi totally out of position and Vardy just scores. Easy Peasy.

  57. Rasp says:

    I can’t understand what Xhaka is doing still on the pitch … he slows the game down every time he receives the ball. He chokes the life out of every attacking move

  58. RC78 says:

    Ceballos has been even worse than Xhaka to be fair

  59. Rasp says:

    Yes, he’s been so invisible I forgot all about him RC

  60. RC78 says:

    Today, it seems that there is no energy or creativity to our side.

  61. Aaron says:

    1 damn shot and they score…grrrr

  62. fred1266 says:

    Did we pay with a back four mid week?

  63. LBG says:

    But those that need to get hold of the game, have got hold of something else……….dicks!

  64. RC78 says:

    Anybody still thinks that Mustafi can play for us?

  65. RC78 says:

    Leno – 5
    Bellerin – 6
    Luiz – 6
    Gabriel – 6
    Tierney – 7
    Ceba – 3
    Partey – 5.5
    Xhaka – 5
    Auba – 4
    Laca – 5
    Saka – 6

    Arteta – 4

  66. LB says:

    If that is our new system we have got a lot more pain in store.

  67. Sue says:

    1973 was the last time Leicester beat us at home!!! Vardy’s 11th against us, 1 behind Rooney now….
    I’m lost for words, but hey we saved 35k not playing Mesut….

  68. RockyLives says:

    I asked a question in the Post.

    The answer was pretty emphatic.

    Arteta will get us there – I’m confident of that – but it’s a long term job and there’ll be no miracles this season.

  69. Aaron says:

    If spuds, manure and $h*tY win, AFC will be 13th.

    Ponder this for a moment, Luiz goes out at the attack stops!

    Darn I am peeved,

    1 point is better than 0 and somehow, someway grandpa vardy comes on after being out injured and scores…

    Can’t believe my eyes sometimes.

    Mikel, certainly has a project on his hands,

  70. RA says:

    There is so much to moan about during that 2nd half — but it’s pointless doing so.

    That team did not seem much better than Emery’s bunch of no-hopers.

    The lack of pace was just embarrassing.

    Anyway – we will be the kings of midfield, I suppose.

  71. 1979Gunner says:

    That’s 3 loses now. Brutal. Too nice. Ok, a work in progress, but having lost 50% of you games is not good enough.

    There’s no leaders in that team😉

  72. fatgingergooner says:

    FFS! We just can’t seem to escape these setbacks. The Premier League really does feel like a series of random events right now. It’s going to be a strange old season and top 6 may feel like an achievement in the end.

  73. fatgingergooner says:

    It’s fair to say there has been a real balance problem in this side for a number of years now and it would be unrealistic to expect Arteta to solve it immediately. He does seem to have finally given us a shape and an idea of playing, but I wonder if by securing the defence we are starting to lose our attacking play. It’s obvious that his main job was to come in and make us more secure, but it will take time to create that solidity alongside a free-flowing attack. We’ve had a few tough games recently and playing after Europe is never easy, but I just hope that this type of performance doesn’t become a regular thing otherwise we will be looking for another manager in a years time which none of us would be happy about.

  74. RC78 says:

    I think we need more dynamism in midfield and although he had a resurgence under Arteta, I think that we should really bench Xhaka.

    Partey can handle the defensive part of the game and he needs to be associated with players that can run with the ball and play more incisive passes. It was supposed to be Ceba today but he had an awful game and my gut feeling is that Arteta wants to play Willian next to Partey in a midfield 3 with Ceba.

    Leno – Bello, Luiz, Gabs, Tierney – Willian, Partey, Ceba – Saka, Laca, Auba

    Would that be our best XI in a 433?

  75. Red Arnie says:

    Long time no seen … and back to find a most delightful Rocky post.

    Very poor game, but hey … staying under the radar is good. If we bounce back next league game, I’ll be happy. Onwards …

  76. RockyLives says:

    Nice to see you Arnie

    A next game win would be very pleasant – especially as it is at Old Toilet.

  77. Sue says:

    11/5 – Jamie Vardy has scored 11 goals in 12 Premier League matches against Arsenal, with only Wayne Rooney (12) scoring more against the Gunners in the competition. Vardy is now also the highest scoring away player at the Emirates in top-flight ties (5 goals). Snatched.

    Sick to death of the sight of him! Just like I was with Drogba, Fowler, Hazard, Rooney and now Kane….😫

  78. LBG says:

    No mention of Elneny today. Dani and X not capable of speed of thought or action to open up a team intent to wait until Vardy was ready to come on…..or for that matter to stop the defence splitting pass which made the goal.

    Eddie and, hopefully soon, Martinelli more worthy of selection and commitment to, than Laca or an invisible Aubang.

    Would still like to see Smith-Rowe brought on occasionally with 20 mins to go to add speedy explosion to central midfield.

    All said and done, a goal in fourth minute and we could have won three nil with a Laca hat-trick, three points, and spirits high for a visit to Manure. Nothing funny about the game this Monday morning!

  79. LB says:

    It’s now crying out for Smith-Rowe.

    Auba out on the right wing, what a waste.

    Can’t see that Elneny would have been an improvement on Partey; the Egyptian doesn’t play left defence so can’t replace Xhaka and does he have a better passing range than Ceballos?

    And talking of Ceballos; he was the saddest disappointment, he is supposed to be the one who can thread passes to break the oppos lines — he failed.

    But after all this the buck for last nights shower should stop with Arteta.

  80. Sue says:

    That was the team/formation I’d been longing to see – needless to say, I feel really short-changed! Although, I never take into consideration that some may have an off night 😂
    What the hell is wrong with them though? What tablets was Auba downing during the game? He should’ve got on the red bull, just like Vardy!!
    Really concerning though that we’re scoring so few…our starting line up should’ve been more than enough to bag the points. Oh well it’s over now, great way to start the week – p****d off haha!! Dreading going to OT….even Dundalk will be licking their lips 😂😂

  81. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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