Rebuilding Starts Now: West Brom Pre-match and Predicted Line-up

The Future: Azeez and Balogun

We entertain West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates tonight in a game with little meaning for either side.

The Baggies are certs for relegation barring an unlikely series of miracles and our season ended with a whimper on Thursday night as we were knocked out of the Europa League by the manager we sacked 18 months ago.

An interesting sidebar to our last two games (the 0-0 draw with Villareal and our win over Newcastle) was that the stand-out Arsenal performer in each game was one of our young up-and-comers: Smith Rowe in the Europa League and Martinelli against the Barcodes.

In both games our senior players were the ones who let us down and that fact surely needs to inform Mikel Arteta’s thinking as we enter the final four matches of this dispiriting league campaign.

There is no indication from the club that the manager’s position is under immediate threat, but Arteta must surely know that if there is not a very significant improvement by Christmas he will be on the way out. Fans will be back in the stadium by then and they will be making themselves heard.

How will El Patron react in these circumstances?

I am hoping, hoping, hoping that he uses these remaining fixtures to give some young players a chance to show what they’re made of.

We need game time for Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Miguel Azeez, Folarin Balogun, Tolaji Bola and others as well as the more established youngsters Smith Rowe, Martinelli and Saka.

We fans are quick to write off youth players if they don’t immediately set the world alight, but just look at the impact Joe Willock has had in his loan spell at Newcastle: five goals in 11 appearances (many as a substitute) including four in his last four matches.

Given that our team scores fewer goals from midfield than anyone else in the EPL, how much different would things have been if Willock had been given a chance in our set-up? Imagine if those five goals had been scored for us in the last few weeks? We would probably be a few places higher up the table and, who knows, a Willock goal might even have taken us to a Europa League final.

I’m not saying Joe Willock is the new Liam Brady, but perhaps there is an issue with young players being written off too soon.

So, the big question today is whether Arteta will actually roll out the young guns. I have my doubts. In his season and a half with us El Patron has shown himself much less willing that his predecessor to gamble on youth and has preferred to send out the same ‘experienced’ players to underperform again and again (Willian being the most egregious example).

Smith Rowe really only got his breakthrough (along with a more prominent role for Saka) when Arteta’s hand was forced by injuries.

I feel our manager has many good qualities but is hampered by a large dose of over-cautiousness (a condition he shares with Unai Emery). He is someone who is driven by fear of failing more than by a desire to win – a fact that, I feel, explains a lot of his decisions, not just his team selections.

He needs to throw off those mental shackles and start creating a team that goes out to have fun and score goals, not a team that takes to the pitch with guts clenched and an overwhelming fear not to mess things up.

I have some sympathy for Arteta: our gut-clenching, fearful approach is partly a result of the string of ridiculous unforced errors that have blighted our season. A significant number of players are clearly going on to the pitch thinking “I hope I’m not the one who drops a b*llock today.”

It’s a self-imposed psychological handbrake and the only players who seem relatively immune are the young ones.

There is a good case for a big clear-out of senior players this summer, with names like Willian, Pepe, Bellerin, Xhaka and Luiz at the top of the list.

In which case let’s start building our future by using these dead rubber games to blood some more youngsters and start putting in place foundations for a better campaign next season.

Will Arteta do it? I have my doubts, even though we’ll be missing Xhaka, Luiz and Mari today with injuries. Consequently I am sharing the team I would put out, followed by the team I predict Arteta will put out.

Rocky Starting 11:

Ryan

Chambers – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney

Partey – Azeez

Nelson – Smith Rowe – Martinelli

Nketiah

My bench would include Balogun, who would get at least 30 minutes pitch time.

Likely Starting 11:

Leno

Bellerin – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney

Partey – Elneny

Saka – Odegaard – Martinelli

Aubameyang

Kick-off’s at 7pm. Come on You Gunners!

RockyLives

39 Responses to Rebuilding Starts Now: West Brom Pre-match and Predicted Line-up

  1. allezkev says:

    Azeez and Balogun played Friday evening in the draw that helped the U23’s remain in their top division, so I guess they could get a seat on the bench but it’s unlikely. Unlikely as well in the following game Chelsea (a) but there’s no excuse in our final two games.

    If we beat West Brom and Chelsea – don’t laugh – it increases our very slim chance of finishing 7th and the possibility of being a part of the inaugural Europa Conference so that might influence selection policy also, all the same there’s no reason why Balogun in particular and Azeez couldn’t get a seat on the bench.

    Good post Rocky

  2. LBG says:

    Thanks Rocky
    Allezkev did you see that U23 game. Penalties galore.
    Rocky, senior players have been letting us down for many years! Not only on and off the pitch in terms of discipline, backbone, leadership, but also in terms of their “limited” ability.
    Agree totally with fans tendencies to write off youth that doesnt work immediately. But it didnt used to be. Squads werent so big, players werent paid ridiculous money which immediately nowadays suggests they have “made it” and dont need to work hard at their game, their were no Leach agents, and probably, most importantly players used to regard it as a privilege to pull on OUR Club shirt.
    Hope Azeez and Balogun get a game and if they are too knackered for Chelski, so be it.
    Take the handbrake off, Mikel.

    PS. Saka and Smith-Rowe got their chance because of Freddie Llungberg.

  3. LBG says:

    “there were no….

  4. Felix von Geyer says:

    The reality is that you invest too much time with underperforming older expensive players: Willian, Xhaka, Ceballos, Luiz, Laca and Auba. At least Laca tries hard, Auba has always been a lazy player who easily should have double his goal tally. Azeez, Balogun, Reiss Nelson, Willock and AMN should have had their game time with Martinelli. Bring Saliba back. We’ve so many other good players out on loan. Let’s go back to the spirit of the George Graham side that rocked from 1987-1991.

  5. RockyLives says:

    I agree Felix

    For Rocastle, Merson, Thomas, Davis, Adams, Groves, Hayes etc read Martinelli, Saka, Smith Rowe, Tierney, Balogun, Nelson, Nketiah etc.

  6. RC78 says:

    I agree that we need to trust and ease in the younger players but we shouldn’t be too ambitious nor romantic about the idea that “our youth, nurtured by the club, will bring us back to the top of the world”. It would be nice but it is not going to happen. We also need better and more proven players.

    I would have no qualm about axing Leno until the end of the season. He has been a liability and the staff should be ashamed to have selected him over Martinez.. So let us start Ryan even if we keep him as a Nr. 2 next year.

    Bellerin – thanks for your services but you are not a starter. Chambers has demonstrated more desire defending and going forward.

    Holding – solid season overall. He can start and stay.
    Gabriel – started brilliantly and then faded. He is ready for AFC and the EPL. Let us finish the year with him.

    Tierney is a future captain but he may be tired. Let us play Cedric today.

    Partey – let us play him as much as possible. He needs more play, more rhythm…

    El Neny – may stay or not but in any case, must start today.

    ESR – our brave boy. He must stay and start.

    Saka – our biggest threat. Automatic starter.

    Martinelli – Let us do it Gabi!

    Laca – lead the line and make the team tick.

    So here is my line-up:

    Ryan – Chambo, Holding, Gabs, Cedric – Partey, El Neny – Saka, ESR, Martinelli – Laca

    Bring in Pepe, Balogun and Azeez during the game

  7. RC78 says:

    I agree that we need to trust and ease in the younger players but we shouldn’t be too ambitious nor romantic about the idea that “our youth, nurtured by the club, will bring us back to the top of the world”. It would be nice but it is not going to happen. We also need better and more proven players.

    I would have no qualm about axing Leno until the end of the season. He has been a liability and the staff should be ashamed to have selected him over Martinez.. So let us start Ryan even if we keep him as a Nr. 2 next year.

    Bellerin – thanks for your services but you are not a starter. Chambers has demonstrated more desire defending and going forward.

    Holding – solid season overall. He can start and stay.
    Gabriel – started brilliantly and then faded. He is ready for AFC and the EPL. Let us finish the year with him.

    Tierney is a future captain but he may be tired. Let us play Cedric today.

    Partey – let us play him as much as possible. He needs more play, more rhythm…

    El Neny – may stay or not but in any case, must start today.

    ESR – our brave boy. He must stay and start.

    Saka – our biggest threat. Automatic starter.

    Martinelli – Let us do it Gabi!

    Laca – lead the line and make the team tick.

    So here is my line-up:

    Ryan – Chambo, Holding, Gabs, Cedric – Partey, El Neny – Saka, ESR, Martinelli – Laca

    Bring in Pepe, Balogun and Azeez during the game

  8. RC78 says:

    Players that shouldn’t feature for us (except if too many injuries) this season:

    – Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Ceballos, Odegaard, Willian, Nketiah

    Players that should not start for us this season (except if too many injuries):
    – Mari, Xhaka, Auba

  9. LBG says:

    Mari is a better CB than Gabriel.

  10. allezkev says:

    LBG, I saw the goals from the U18’s vs Aston Villa and it looks as if there’s quite a few more quality youngsters coming through the system for us to look out for in 2 or 3 years time, but I didn’t see the U23’s, good to see Omar Rekik get his first game after his unlucky injuries.

  11. LBG says:

    Why on earth would you need to play Saka at left back? Give him a rest.

  12. LBG says:

    Willian, waste of space. Ceballos and Elneny doesnt work.
    Only good thing is we can/ could/might relegate Allardyce.

  13. LBG says:

    Interesting interview with Ornstein on radio. Think it might appear in “The Athletic”. “Arsenal identity has gone.”

  14. LBG says:

    So are we playing at home, interested, want to rectify the disaster of Thursday, on the pitch at all?

  15. Rasp says:

    The two youngsters show the ‘experienced’ players how to do it again.

  16. LBG says:

    Pepe at his best!

  17. LBG says:

    Can we please stop West Brom from crossing the ball Arsenal,…… or score another three!.

  18. LBG says:

    Smith-Rowe and Saka are super stars in the making.

  19. RockyLives says:

    LBG
    I love watching them both. You don’t see many players around with a first touch like ESR’s.

  20. LBG says:

    Agree totally Rocky. A combination of Merson’s gliding running and Robert Pires’ first touch.

  21. LBG says:

    Rocky
    Have you calmed down a bit since Thursday?😉 I still think Martinelli has potential. Not really got in the game so far, but betting he scores in second half. Partey was very upset at your criticism of him. He said” I was only one in midfield, Smith-Rowe and Bodegaard got confused when Mikel said he wanted two No 8s”

  22. LBG says:

    Given that pathetic attempt at humour, seriously agree with comment today that “Mikel is trying too hard to be a second Pep. Get a recognised system and stick to it. You dont have the players to play like a Pep team.”
    I think in the last month that is fair comment.

    Right get into them Gunners, and stop those crosses.

  23. RockyLives says:

    LBG 😀
    Have definitely cheered up (but still worried about Martinelli’s first touch).

  24. RockyLives says:

    Chambers is having another excellent game.

  25. LBG says:

    Oh Mikel, how can Martinelli score if he’s gone off?

  26. LBG says:

    Big Sam, stuck in his seat! Shame for him!😁

  27. RockyLives says:

    Martinelli didn’t get a look in, but you can’t really fault him. It’s not that he played badly (maybe you could question his movement), it’s just that the way we played seemed to leave him mostly uninvolved.

  28. LBG says:

    Dani Ceballos stuck in quicksand for West Brom goal.
    What is the use of Willian?
    Furlong crossing the ball!! Will you please get hold of him.
    Where is the energy?

  29. LB says:

    Now……now, he decides to turn it on…….

  30. RockyLives says:

    Hopefully playing for that MLS contract…

  31. Rasp says:

    Our biggest achievement of the season is to be the first team to relegate fat Sam 😂

  32. RC78 says:

    Lol RASP

  33. RC78 says:

    The key men for AFC next year are all young and English: Holding, Saka and ESR…This is great news. I think that Pepe can also be one of the important players next year so basically if Arteta stays and keeps his 4231, we already have at least two out of the three behind the strikers with Saka and ESR.

    Saka, ESR, (Pepe/Martinelli)

  34. allezkev says:

    And Scottish

  35. LBG says:

    Please, please, please, if there is a God in heaven, dont let us come seventh!!!
    Oh it’s alright we’ve got Chelski on Wednesday!

  36. RockyLives says:

    New Post

  37. LBG says:

    Happy Birthday to two legends. DB10 – 52 years of age. And Sylvain Wiltord -47 years, and although not quite in Dennis’ league, a legend for that goal.

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