Let’s get this show back on the road
Just over a week ago Newcastle United held us to a goalless draw over 90 minutes in the FA Cup. We managed to beat them in extra time but there’s no extra time in the Premier League so we tonight we have to do better.
The good news is that Tierney and Martinelli are both back in training and are available. That’s particularly pleasing in the case of our Brazilian attacker because his looked like a bad injury when he broke down during the warm-up for the cup game against the Barcodes.
Only Mari remains unavailable because of injury (he is “continuing to rehabilitate” from a calf injury).
It gets boring to keep saying how important each game is, but this one does indeed seem to have some significance.
We ended a truly awful run of form when Mikel Arteta either decided to (or was forced to – take your pick) shake up the team, bring in Emile Smith Rowe and play him in a No 10 role and push Saka out to right wing.
Victories over Chelsea, Brighton and West Brom followed. There was a real sense of momentum. Then we struggled in the cup tie when Arteta brought Willian and Pepe back into the starting line-up. and we huffed and puffed against a well organised Crystal Palace team last week without finding a breakthrough.
Some of the encouragement we felt after West Brom has dissipated a little. We have by no means gone back to the cluelessness of the bad run but there was a lack of smoothness in our play.
To my mind a fairly clear first choice eleven is beginning to come together, but it brings selection problems for El Patron.
Barring injuries and the need to rest players, that team would be Leno – Bellerin – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney – Partey – (Elneny/Xhaka) – Smith Rowe – Saka – Lacazette – Martinelli.
The two obvious problems are: who plays alongside Partey in central midfield? And can we really drop the captain from our first team?
The answer to the first question should be Elneny. He does his job unfussily and has more positional discipline than Xhaka. But then we’d have to drop Xhaka just as he is finally hitting some really good form and I doubt Arteta will do that.
The second question is one which I fear Arteta will not have the courage to address in the way he should. Martinelli should be starting, with Aubameyang as the back-up option.
For tonight’s match I expect the following:
- Martinelli will not start because of his recent injury but will probably appear off the bench. I wholeheartedly approve of this approach because he is too important to risk aggravating his injury with a full 90.
- Therefore Auba will get to start and wear the armband.
- Tierney will start because he’s almost indispensable. We need better back-up for him.
- Gabriel will be recalled ahead of Luiz.
- Saka possibly should be rested but won’t be (Arteta talked in recent days about potential burn-out among the squad).
- Smith Rowe will start (notwithstanding the burn-out fears) because we really need the three points tonight.
We have almost five days before our next match – an FA Cup fixture away at either Southampton or Shrewsbury, when there will be an opportunity to rest some of the over-worked players.
With the right team selection we should be able to overcome Newcastle. They are struggling to score goals (they couldn’t even bag one against bottom placed, winless Sheffield United in their last outing, losing nil-one in the process). We just need more crispness in our decision making in the final third of the pitch.
Bellerin – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney
Xhaka – Partey
Saka – Lacazette – Aubameyang
I fancy us to win by a couple. Let’s see.
Hi Rocky – I think you have nailed the starting XI and I agree with you that Martinelli should start. Another option would be to drop Laca and to play Saka, ESR, Martinelli – Aub up front. If this is the case, then I would like to see Martinelli move in the middle behind Auba and ESR to play like “Grealish”.
£128 million outlay in 71/2 years. 254 matches, 44 goals, 77 assists, three FA Cups. Thanks for the joy and good luck.
Has the Big 0 departure been officially announced yet?
The end to a sorry chapter. Time to move on…
…And now we’ve got to deal with the ‘White Elephant’ deals that landed us with Pepe. Saliba & Willian.
Thanks Raul, I hope your bank balance appreciates the work you put into those duff deals.
Excellent, Rocky, you really are the doyen of blog writing.
I was happily chuntering my agreement while reading through your Post (‘to chunter’ and ‘happily’ — an oxymoron if ever I saw one) 😉 – when I realised you had only named 10 players in your preferred team suggestion, and then repeated the error in the predicted team line up.
Oh, boy I was delighted with the thought of you trying to wriggle out of that one!!! 🤪
Until … until … I turned the page upside down — well, technically, it was the PC I inverted, like one of GB’s wingers, and re-read the Post (I find when something does not feel correct it’s always best to re-read them standing on my head – actually, when I descend it was akin to lumber falling on anything in a direct line – usually that was the dog when he came to sniff out what I was doing – hence the obvious solution was to insist the PC succumbed to my bidding and it stood on its head, under threat of me allowing the dog to pee on it otherwise.
PCs – dogs – life can be difficult sometimes, especially as I am more of a custodian, as I do not own either.
Girding my loins, I set to, intending to bring a scintillating and devastating argument to the fore – you and your 10 man teams.
You will be aware that standing on your head — come on Rocky, I bet you do it too — I certainly bet that Sue does it, because she always understands everything RC says – it makes reading the Post from its new top – which was its – ahem – bottom, it makes everything seem more apposite somehow.
YIKES!! Sugardamnbuggerfart I knew – I just knew – you had got an eleven man team after all.
My poor brain simply refuses to comprehend that Hector Non-Protecter can ever be your preferred RB — that’s as fitting as having the Sugar Plum Fairy dancing on my treacle tart!! No can do – even allowing for the fact Hector moves as fast as the said Plum Duff Fairy extracting his skinny inverted right leg covered in treacle, while a pair of dancing shoes approximately the same size 12s as Hector’s favourite moleskin boots.
OK, OK, you win this one maestro — but I am scrutinising every word or non-word you write from now on — starting with this in your first para;
“There’s no extra time in the Premier League, so we tonight — we have to do better.”
You think the team we-ing together, tonight – will be better? Gotcha – you Hectorite!!
Excellent Redders 😀
The thought of you standing on your head is simply terrifying. Timberrrrrrr indeed.
I take your point about Oh Hec!
He was poor against Palace, but his better displays this season have been when we have Tierney on the opposite flank and Saka ahead of the Belli, with Smith Rowe oiling the wheels.
And that’s what we have in my predicted line-up.
So voila! An 11 man team after all, on the basis of counting Hector as a full man, as it were.
Could we do better than him at RB? Definitely.
Do we have better in ur squad at the moment? Very debatable, particularly after AMN’s recent poor showing.
And I have just read a report that Pochettino is keen to take Hector to PSG (valuation £22m).
A deal worth taking, if we can line up a decent quality replacement?
I think RC has said for some time that PSG are interested in Belli – as were Barca. Personally I find that difficult to believe.
I hope I am wrong, and would, of course, snatch the £2:20 offered by either of them.🤪
As regards AMN – he has on more than one occasion said that he wants to play in midfield, and that is honest of him, altho he does not complain — and to be honest, I do not think he is any better than Belli Button at RB. Midfield?
I don’t know that he can oust Partey, or El Ninny, or Xhocker, but you never know.
Thanks Rocky you are far more consistent in your quality than our team these days.
There seems to be some kind of senior players’ freemasonry embedded in football, and for that reason I think you’re right that Xhaka and Auba will get the shout over Elneny and Martinelli. If Auba can rediscover his goal scoring form it will prove to be the right decision. I have watched the series of 8 twenty minute episodes on YouTube documenting Hector’s ACL injury and battle to get fit again and I have a lot of respect for our left back. He really loves the club and everyone in it thinks the world of him. He also helps the young players more than I had realised.
This is my punt at Mikel’s team tonight.
Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Tierney
Willian, Smith Rowe, Aubmayang
I think that Saka will be given a break and as such it should be interesting how ESR get on without his buddies.
I would have the same team but Saka and Martinelli in place of Willian and Auba but then again I suspect everyone would call for that with the additional change of Gabriel for Luiz.
That was a bit mean — you watched You Tube showing Hectorin our famous RB struggling with an injury — and then you praise our outstanding LB, Tierney the wonder man. 😁
Oops, quite right Redders … slip of the digit … RB … of course
I am looking forward to tonight’s game, which after that boring performance against Palace slightly surprises me.
But once we become loyal, dedicated fans the last game does not matter — and on we go!! 👍
Hi RA. Hope your well Buddy.
Sell Bellerin and buy Lamptey (Brighton)
Thanks Rocky. Its probably Holding and Gabriel at CB for me with our usual 2 FB’s. Like RA I still have doubts at RB as well but at the moment Belli is still our best option.
It seems to me that Partey, Xhaka and Ceballos are all better with another holding midfielder alongside them and it only really looks like Elneny currently offers that disciplined role within the team.
I wouldn’t be rushing Partey or Martinelli back yet and would have them both come off the bench later in this game. Xhaka played well last game and I think I would get him to play a bit in front of Elneny and try and find the defence splitting passes.
Newcastle are not pulling up trees but are difficult to break down and a player with the ability to score from distance could be useful against a tight packed defence.
I am not writing off Auba who has been through a bad patch while the whole team was misfiring. I dont think Martinelli has replaced him in the pecking order and expect Auba to prove his worth as the season goes on.
If anything, I would start Lacazette then look to bring Martinelli in for him. Would be interesting to see how he dovetails with Auba switching in and out between the 2 positions but with Martinelli as the predominant 9 and Auba as the predominant left wing forward.
I’m afraid I feel we need to start Saka right now but if we get on top look to replace him with Pepe ASAP. My team:
Belli Holding Gabriel Tierney
Saka Martinelli Auba
Arsenal XI: Leno, Tierney, Cedric, Luiz, Holding, Partey, Xhaka, Smith Rowe, Saka, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Newcastle United XI: Darlow, Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Lewis, Shelvey, Matty Longstaff, Almiron, Joelinton, Carroll, Wilson.
Hi ya, VCC. 😁
I’m with you — Lamptey is building a really good reputation. 👍
Thanks for asking — health is still a bit of a problem, unfortunately, but I manage.
I Hope you and the family are OK.
Shame Luiz and Xhaka!
Cedric and Luiz instead of Belli and Gabriel.
Seems like they’re being cautious with Gab.
Cedric – Holding – Luiz – Tierney
Xhaka – Partey
Saka – Lacazette – Aubameyang
I’m ok with that team and pretty excited about the front four plus KT.
Steve Bruce talked about ditching the back 5 that Newcastle have been using (started by Benitez and apparently popular with the players) in favour of a back four.
It might mean they will offer more attacking threat than in the cup game, but it could also mean there is more space for our attackers to work some opportunities.
Bruce gave his players a proper roasting so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a reaction from them tonight.
This game may be tougher than we’d like.
Forgot when I just commented that we were about to see the line up imminently. I’m with you Rocky that I’m ok with that team. Primarily for me is that it keeps the best formation in place. It’s important we keep developing in this formation even when there are the odd games where we look a bit off.
I also like VCC’s suggestion on Lamptey. I like Bellerin but there has always been that slight doubt in my mind. A bit like we were saying with Ozil, I wonder if this league completely suits him.
Also if Barca are in for him I can see a problem with his head being turned even if he does really love Arsenal. He’s a Barca boy and it could be Cesc 2. The important thing is to ensure we make it work for us and if we get a decent sum for him and then slap that down on Lamptey it could work out well for us.
Sensible as ever, GB, and I can go with you on that analysis.
As usual, I like the way that you look at ‘groupings’ of players to see how they will interact, each with the other, in each category of defence, midfield and forwards, with the subsumed inverted wings expected to support the backs, and also the midfield as necessary.
It goes without saying that we need dynamic forward moving to win, and less of the sterile immobility and backward passing that we sometimes specialise in.
Are you a teacher? (apart from teaching camels to fart downwind, of course?) 😜 Tactics and man management are your speciality.
Thanks for the info, Rocky, so fingers crossed we can get on top of the barcodes, tho I worry about their ability in the air.
I wonder how many dives we’ll see from Almiron?!
Carroll, Wilson and Joelinton!! Brucey baby is on a mission!!
Well I guessed Leno correctly………..
Not a teacher RA but I guess my line of work demands a lot of analytical thinking.
I mean knowing how to line up those camels relative to the wind direction. Which ones should be grouped with others so that all the stinky ones aren’t lumped together, and knowing where to stand as they unload. All this requires careful planning.
Of course, none of that means I have a scooby about football tactics.
Wonder if anyone is watching Neville…….that “five yards further forward for centre backs” is what we are needing.
You are being too modest about your tactical know-how.
I want to see how you would advise the team in defending against Andy Caroll — he is still very good in the air, but we can have severe problems defending balls in the air — is it that damned zonal marking??
Carragher and Neville are really going at it hammer and tong — amusing — they are just as contradictory in their opinions, even as ex-professional players, and more so than any of us down to earth bloggers.😜
Cut out the crosses at source. Dont give away unnecessary free kicks or corners.
Auba ran away from 2 good passes, took it to the byline for a tame cross when he had Saka trailing, then missed what he is paid to do!
Come on man….
ESR and Saka looking lively.
What LBG said RA. Mari is the only main CD we have that would match Carroll in the air so we can’t completely mark him out so best to cut out his supply.
Good chance that. Saka and Auba both unlucky there. That foul a few minutes ago on Saka. How does VAR not see that as a deliberate elbow to the face and inform the referee accordingly.
Auba the weakest link so far. Hopefully he’ll step up.
I don’t know Rocky. I sont think Auba has been too bad. He has linked up reasonably well and is getting into dangerous positions but just is just fractionally off on confidence so probably slightly tense when he gets the key moment.
I feel there’s a bit too much negativity aimed at Auba at the moment. He is and always has been a prolific goal scorer but is in a bad patch which happens to the beat players at times.
The pundits will focus on every missed chance. We as fans should support the guy who won us the FA cup and got us into Europe. He could be the guy to win us the EL when he comes back into form and that could get us ECL next season.
Almiron must be the biggest cheat in the EPL.
You only need to look in his direction for him to fall to the ground and roll around “in agony”.
Not a great half.
Auba very poor.
I feel drowsy now 🤣
Auba is the weakest link, how can there be any doubt about it.
I am enjoying getting to see what Partey is all about.
Understand your approach GB, but the test of our whole performance is….has the goalkeeper been tested? Martinelli please, and shoot! ( on target), please!
Aaron was right to point out two moments early on when he just wasn’t committed enough to get to the ball.
The second one led to a dangerous Newcastle break.
Then towards the end he didn’t bother chasing a long ball down the line until it was too late.
Then there’s his awful attempts on goal.
He’s such an amazing player but there’s something wrong at the moment.
Actually think some of the lower crosses today were not half bad, seriously, a few had some fizz on them, and not just floated into the center where we do not have that type of player to get onto them.
Let’s see what Mikel can tweak at halftime, to get us a goal.
Marti on perhaps…..
What a goal and what a pass from TP
I was obviously just talking about the first half lol.
Alrigtht, quick break and Auba with a great finish from his left foot!
And as I was saying 😂
I said Auba was our best player 😳
I am quietly impressed with Cedric for the first time! And not a dig at Hec Man. Good crosses, tackles and looks like a short RB. 😳
Dont give away unnecessary free kicks. But you need a brain for that, Luiz!
ESR and Saka — Brilliant!!
That’s it … let’s sell Pepe …. amazing goal from the young guns
Saka first times that one, and ESR with the dribble drive and delicious assist.
Tierney put that on a plate.
Laca needs to put that away.
Maybe if I type this again Laca will score…
Really appreciate ESR’s ability to one touch passes to place players into position.
Sue, glad that you are awake and was able to see those goals through your eyelids….
I think what excites me about watching Arsenal right now is that I’m starting to see positions being nailed down for a few years. Leno, Tierney, Gabriel, Partey, Saka, Smith-Rowe. They are all starters for every game going forward. Laca/Nketiah and Auba/Martinelli will be won by the older guys for now but won’t be long before they change. Then you’ve got battles for the rest. Bellerin/Soares ( how good has he been tonight btw!?) Luiz/Holding Xhaka/Ceballos.
I am definitely loving Cedric!!
Aaron.. wide awake now 😂👌
A fizzer from Cedric and Auba doing what he is paid to do….
Let’s sell Pepe and Bellerin.
For a profit, yes?
Toss up for MOTM – Auba/Croydon De Bruyne 👌
Brilliant 2nd half… well done lads! And another clean sheet…
Auba’s back baby!!!!
Well that all worked out well.
And we’re in the top half of the table! Yippee!
5 wins and 1 draw from the last 6 games with 13 goals for and 1 against is not to be sniffed at.
Maybe Hector! Might have to give Pepe away!
Very good second half.
Well done Auba after a poor first half (but no way was he MOTM, despite the telly saying he was).
MOTM contenders would be Cedric, ESR, Saka, maybe Holding.
Luiz and Xhaka also had very tidy games
It’s back on 😀
Emille SR (LBG’s recommendation) would be my MoTM, Rockabilly. 👍
Don’t know where all that class came from – as regards Cedric.
I know the barcodes are a poor team, but I believed it was a new player at first when Cedric crossed, tackled, attacked and did what a good RB should do.
Maybe we have a RB at last!!
It’s interesting there are so many candidates for MotM … in fact there was no player (who started) who didn’t have a good game.
Soares motm for me. Didn’t miss a beat and was as effective going forward as any of our attacking players. Fantastic performance.
Newcastle were dreadful, but we did well and controlled the game. We’ve stopped making sloppy errors and are scoring first. It’s fair to say the easier fixtures have allowed us to get some momentum, but the real test will be to see if we can carry it through the tougher games. I don’t think the fixture list was kind to us for the first 15 or so games, with what seemed like a tough away game every other match. I appreciate we play everyone twice, but it’s tough to gain form when you are at Anfield, Old Trafford, Etihad, Stamford Bridge every other match.
Really like Partey’s influence. We are a different team with him. His efficiency and calmness is something our midfield has needed for 10 years now. I am absolutely buzzing to see what he can bring to this team. He’s everything Xhaka needs to play alongside and is just an absolute beast of a midfield player. I can’t wait to watch more of him.
There’s a tougher run of league games coming up:
Man City (H)
Well that was all rather enjoyable.
Loved ESR interview post match, seems very humble and a nice lad. People won’t like me for it but I see a hell of a lot of Ozil in his play particularly one/two touch passes and then moving again, he looks for space constantly, often found out wife rather than in central positions that tends to work better when he goes right as Saka goes inside naturally you can tell they have played together before. That movement doesn’t come as naturally to PEA. But I particularly liked what he said when asked what Arteta tells him to do, and he said something along the lines of “free my mind, play what I see, and don’t worry about mistakes”. The last thing is so important for a number 10, stop playing forward passes because a couple didn’t come off
Also saying that Laca had given him the most guidance on and off the pitch, again I think it’s a player combination that works well, when Arsene signed him we knew Laca wasn’t an out and our goal scorer and his link up play is by far the best of any oth the rest of our senior pros up top.
Reading through comments I don’t think criticism of PEA in first half was unjustified he just isn’t as good at the triangle passing and let’s be honest is a bit of a one trick pony that isn’t the end of the world now we have Saka, ESR, Laca combination as it gives opposition lots more to think about so we will be able to Fred PEA like we did for the opener. That said that position will eventually go to Martinelli.
Martinelli – ESR – Saka is a very exciting proposition.
ESR reminds me of a combination of two greats, Merson, for his floating running style, and the best first touch player I ever saw, Robert Pires.
Partey could turn out to be the player we have needed in that position since PV. A right back not afraid to be a right back. Holding, Gabriel, Mari…as close to Adam’s, Bould and Keown as we have had. Let alone Saka and Martinelli. The future’s bright, the future’s Arsenal!
And I didnt even mention our future Captain Kieran Tierney.
I watched the game on SkyGo last night rather than TV, I didn’t get the crowd noise in game which was great, as all you could hear was players voices.
The voice of Tierney was heard quite regularly, but also the other young Guns (I assume anyway as they were definitely not much coming in a foreign accent). What amazed me was how basic some of the instruction was, “go right”, “work it round” etc.
One of the biggest shouts from the bench came from I think Steve Rounds, PEA had just taken a shot between three players (a rather take effort as his dribble was slowed) “he was available” which when they replayed the attempt showed Saka drifting in unmarked.