Time for an Upset: Man City Prematch & Predicted Line-Up

How your humble scribe looked on waking up this morning

What I most love about match days is that I always wake up with an advanced case of “football fan over-optimism syndrome.”

So even today, as we prepare to welcome the supremely in-form champions-to-be Manchester City, I kind of fancy our chances.

On paper there’s no point in us even turning up, but luckily we play on grass and, football being football, anything is possible.

The tender small shoots of my optimism are not built solely on delusion and hope (those two travelling companions of every supporter’s psyche). I have a few scraps of evidence to support my position:

  1. For some reason we tend to play quite well against the better teams. Not always, but sometimes. Our abysmal run of form earlier in the season was ended when we thrashed Chelsea, who at the time were flying. Last season we beat Manchester City and Chelsea on our way to lifting the FA Cup. We’ve taken four points from two games against Manchester United in the league.
  2. We have been playing some really nice football in recent games. The first half against Leeds; a fair bit of the Benfica match where we were let down by our finishing; the Southampton win. Even the games we’ve lost (Wolves and Villa) were characterised by us playing well but shooting ourselves in the foot.
  3. We now have some truly creative players capable of hurting any opposition. Saka first and foremost, but also Smith Rowe and Odegaard.
  4. Kieran Tierney is back and, let’s face it, he’d be happy to take on City all on his own.

If I was to do a similar list of reasons why the light blue Mancs will probably win today it would, of course, be much longer and would include things like “David Luiz’s tendency to give away penalties” and “our ability to conjure a clown-show moment from the most promising of situations.”

Yesterday I wrote about my fear that we would probably pick up yet another red card at some point in this game (because of the speed of City’s movement and the habit some of our players have of bringing down players who get past them). But after a good night’s sleep I am, as previously stated, feeling more positive so I shall banish such negative thoughts.

Predicting the starting line-up feels both easy and hard. Easy because, in one sense, Arteta seems to have found something close to a first eleven. Hard because most of those players competed for 90 minutes on Thursday night with international travel thrown in, so you’d think there would be rotation today.

But do you really want to rotate your most reliable players against the best team in the country? I’m probably wrong, but I’m going to go with the idea that El Patron will send out a mostly unchanged side for the third game running and hope to rest some before the end when we’re a few goals ahead (haha).

Injury wise, Thomas Partey is said to be ‘progressing well’ from a thigh problem and was being assessed before today’s game. His presence would be a huge boost but I think it’s unlikely he’ll be ready and we will not want to take risks with him.

Here’s my guess at the line-up:


Bellerin – Luiz – Gabriel – Tierney

Xhaka – Elneny

Saka – Odegaard – Smith Rowe


I have Elneny in instead of Ceballos, which would be a bit unlucky for Dani, but Mo gives us more athleticism and is more defensively minded.

I would not be at all surprised to see Lacazette start, with Auba on the left and Smith Rowe on the bench, but if you read this blog regularly you will by now know my feelings about ESR and I will be disappointed if the Croydon De Bruyne doesn’t start.

Keep our concentration, work our socks off, create some chances and who knows what could happen. The one good thing about teams that are on a seemingly irresistible run (like City) is that they always end up meeting resistance in unexpected places. Let the Emirates today be that place.

Come On You Gunners.



38 Responses to Time for an Upset: Man City Prematch & Predicted Line-Up

  1. foreverinourshadows says:

    Xhaka and Elneny, in midfield will be a pushover for city, Luis in defence another disaster, I am afraid your optimism for a result will not happen, but it is commendable

  2. Rasp says:

    Great read thank you Rocky. I’m a fully signed up member of the pre-match optimism society. Why can’t we win? This season has been peppered with surprise results and team records broken. Liverpool just lost 4 home games in a row …. the last time they did that was nearly 100 years ago.

    If the tots lose away to Wham and we beat City at home we go above them … wouldn’t that be something.

  3. LBG says:

    Thanks for your effort, thanks for your optimism, and praise the “funny old game” which has been known to throw up miracles, Rocky!!
    Hope Holding is picked ahead of Luiz, and in truth I would start with Laca instead of Aubang.

  4. LBG says:

    The best thing, apart from the score, in the West Ham v Totteringham game, is WE wont have to put up with Smith for the commentary on our game!!

  5. Rasp says:

    Well that’s the first part of my prediction achieved … zero points for totnum … we just have to beat the league leaders to go above our noisy neighbours 😂

  6. RA says:


    I would, of course, have to happily accept your admission of having an emoji mouche image at the breaking of dawn, but I would have to say that to describe yourself as just a happy scribbler is a little harsh.

  7. LB says:

    Well Levante beat the Athletico and Frankfurt beat that all conquering Bayern yesterday so maybe a weekend of upsets.

    That’s the most I can add to the optimism.

    We can pick any team we want and City can match it, so it is what is it I suppose.

  8. Las says:

    Hey Rocky, thanks for the sunny spells!
    I think we should go for it and we mighr as well nick a good result.
    But first and foremost I want us to fight last man standing and avoid stupid mistakes.
    We are good enough against anyone on our days.
    The team geled quickly around Auba, Saka and ESR.
    Let the sunshine live.

  9. RA says:

    Your early optimism, Rocky, may be laced with a soupçon of chagrin after reading the following.

    Altho many fans and pundits, some not associated with Arsenal, are more than happy to say that they have been really pleased/surprised by the burgeoning skills of your favourite player, ESR, there is one ex-player, only rivalled by the pickled gherkin visage, and acidic views of Roy Keane, who has said that ESR has only a ‘chance’ of becoming a ‘good’ player in time, but he has been over-hyped by many Gooner fans and players, as well as top players from other clubs, but they are wrong..

    And the name of the curmudgeonly denyer is ……. Graham Souness — now there’s a surprise.

  10. RockyLives says:

    Just seen the Spuds result 😀

  11. RockyLives says:


    If Souness says that, then ESR is definitely destined for greatness.

  12. RA says:

    I very much hope you are awesomely correct, O Happy Scribbler, aka, Rocky. 😳

    I mentioned Souness’ nonsensical opinion, because he and so many other ancient ex-players have a high opinion of themselves first and foremost — and need pensioning off — TV and non-Pool fans do not need his biased bilge.

  13. RA says:

    Umm — seems my speed reading has let me down — I read ‘scribble’ — you actually wrote scribe.

    Doh !! 😉

  14. RockyLives says:

    Well, the word scribble derives from scribe, so it’s the same thing really.

  15. Aaron says:

    Nothing is set in stone Rocky, so yes, break out those tools and engrave whatever you wish in the sand, just make sure the at the end of the day the scribe writes something about AFC edging out the oilers..

    Sticking with the positive, no change to your lineup.

    Saw the West Ham score, had to laugh, did we not beat them earlier in the season? They are doing quite well, glad we got the points.

    Time to take some of pups aura away and climb the table.

  16. LBG says:

    That same Sourness said in advance of yesterday’s Liverpool result, that their new Turkish centre back is better than Gomez and Matip and will be VVD’s partner for years to come. Then Richarlisson swept passed him as he did his impression of Lot.

  17. LBG says:

    ……Lot’s wife. Sorry!

  18. LBG says:

    Happy ish with that team, except Pepe. Mari fit again. No injuries please. COYG

  19. RC78 says:

    Strange line up…I m surprised to see ESR and Laca out.

  20. RA says:


    Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Mari, Tierney
    Elneney, Xhaka
    Saka, Odegaard, Pepe, Auba


    Gabriel, Ceba, Laca, Willian, Cedric, Luiz, ESR, Ryan, Martinelli

  21. RockyLives says:

    The CBs selection surprises me.

    Not surprised by ESR being started on the bench.

  22. LBG says:

    My only concern now, given how gushing Mikel has been about bOdegaard, that he may believe currently he is more worthy of that central position than ESR.
    He could be resting him of course…….. likewise Martinelli, Gabriel, Laca.

  23. LBG says:

    And one request Bernd, kick it long more often against this mob!!!

  24. RA says:

    Rocky: Emile needs a break – agreed.

    LBG: if the defence start short passing or dribbling around the keeper — it could be 0:5 — just clear the ball upfield, or Row Z – agreed

  25. Sue says:

    Already??!!! Sheesh

  26. RockyLives says:

    Haha. Sterling is 5’ 7”.

  27. LB says:

    Terrible marking from David Luiz, he was miles away from Sterling.

  28. RockyLives says:


  29. Aaron says:

    So, Mahrez, who can’t kick the ball with his right foot to save his life, cuts inside to move the ball to his left, the defender knowing this still lets him, and bang there you go.

    Just so dang predictable.
    Mahrez is not exactly a bastion of physicality, play that dude hard….

    Lots of time to get back in this.

  30. RockyLives says:


    KT has let Mahrez switch onto his left several times now. Seems strange.

  31. Aaron says:

    Going back to reality, the Xhaka and El Neny matrix is unplayable against top squads. El Neny had a chance to drive to the box and what does he do, stop, look around, and pass it backwards as he does more often than not.

    Pushed Mahrez to his right and what happened-not much.

    A few attacks and Auba might have saved a goal….

    Creeping back into this..

  32. GeordieGooner says:

    On a positive note, if Arteta is half as good a coach as Pep and he gets the same £2bn to spend on the team, we’ll be watching footy like this in 3-4 years 😱

  33. RockyLives says:


    Now that’s the sort of positivity I like!

    All we need is for Stan to find his wallet…

  34. LBG says:

    Sorry Pepe you offer little or nothing!
    What is the point putting the ball forward to Aubang (feet or chest) with his back to defender, he cannot control it and it immediately puts us back under pressure.
    John Moss his usual fat, incompetent self.

  35. LBG says:

    Good job Luiz wasnt on from the start!

  36. Aaron says:

    $h*tTy and their serial fouling never gets punished-ever..

    Just could not get that last pass and shot on target…

    Onward to Thursday.
    Win and we move on, lose and season is done and we are out of EL too.
    Everything to play for, can AFC get it done?

  37. RockyLives says:

    Our best ‘half chance’ fell to Saka and he slipped at the crucial moment- kinda summed up our day.

  38. RC78 says:

    New post with the match report and player rating

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