Arteta to Make a Statement: Chelsea Pre-match and Predicted Line-up

“Don’t write me off yet”

Chelsea are in the Champions League final, are playing brilliant football under new coach Thomas Tuchel, are sitting fourth in the EPL and spent £220m in transfer fees this season.

So it seems obvious that it will be an Arsenal win tonight.

Sometimes you just feel it in your bones that your team will win and this is one of those occasions. If I’m wrong, don’t have a go at me, have a go at my ageing skeletal structure.

Most significantly, I feel a win will be a statement of intent from Mikel Arteta, who has come under a huge amount of mostly-justifiable criticism since we limped out of the Europa League with a pair of tepid displays.

There’s no doubt he has made many mistakes in his first full season as a manager but there is a lot of “glass half empty-ism” in most analyses of our campaign.

These analyses tend to overlook the scale of the challenge he had to contend with. In the first half of the season a huge amount of his emotional energy must have been taken up with making sure that a trouble-making clique of senior players was moved out. Anyone who has managed teams of people will tell you how much damage can be done by a small group of malcontents.

Arteta also inherited a woeful defence from Unai Emery. Do you remember all those games when even lowly teams were clocking up 25 or more attempts on goal?

This season we have conceded fewer goals than any of the EPL teams apart from the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea. And when you consider how many of those goals have been gifts to the opposition in the form of unforced errors, our record could be even better.

Obviously our problem has been at the pointy end, where we have not been making enough chances and scoring enough goals. But when Arteta was appointed how many of us said “fix the defence first and then we can build on that”? Well, he has done exactly that and now we must give him time to do the second part.

Yes, we need to offload some more underperforming players in the summer and bring in some upgrades, but we are not starting from as insecure a base as it can sometimes feel. It’s time to get behind the manager, back the team and start spreading a few more positive vibes around N5.

As for tonight’s game, Chelsea are clear favourites and they have every incentive to go for the win given that Champions League is not yet assured for them via Premier League position. But we have players who are good enough to take the game to the Chavs and beat them on their own turf, and I fancy we will do so.

I have not seen an update on injuries, so it’s possible Xhaka and Luiz will still be unavailable. On that basis here’s the winning team I expect to see tonight:


Chambers – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney

Partey – Elneny

Saka – Smith Rowe – Aubameyang


If Xhaka is fit he will start instead of Elneny. And if Smith Rowe, the Beast of Thornton Heath, is unavailable after feeling some muscle pain in the Newcastle game then, hopefully, Odegaard is fit and will play instead.

This is a chance for Arteta and Arsenal to answer their critics and show that the fires of passion and glory are still burning deep inside the Arsenal heart. A chance to make a statement about NEXT season.

Come On You Gunners!



77 Responses to Arteta to Make a Statement: Chelsea Pre-match and Predicted Line-up

  1. bruce says:

    Not sure if this is inspirational or delusional…… yeah dude…..Come On You Gunners!

  2. LBG says:

    Thanks for all your efforts, Rocky.
    Mikel says “he has got the maximum this season out of the majority of Arsenal’s players”.
    Well Mikel that doesnt say much for the “maximum capabilities” of a good number of them! We hope it means you know for which ones their maximum is not good enough for The Arsenal!

  3. LBG says:

    Inspirational for me Rocky! I get that same gut feeling about our team ( this season unfortunately more often than not, that another team will break their 150 year history of not winning at Highbury/Emirates!!)
    Think Xhaka ( unfortunately) will be fit. (Mikel, let’s see Azeez in a full game before the end of the season! And a run out for Balogun, he might do a Martinelli?)
    Whatever. COYG.

  4. allezkev says:

    Azeez is playing for the U18’s vs Chelsea atm.

    He’s scored our first goal and Henry Francis has made it 2-0.

  5. RC78 says:

    I think this game is going to require:
    1. Ability to keep the ball
    2. Ability to manage and close spaces
    3. No mistakes at the back and effectiveness up front…

    more than any other games. Chelsea is brilliant under Tuchel.

    Now, I would play a very tight 451 today

    Ryan – Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney (if fit) – Saka, Partey, XhakA, El Neny, ESR – Martinelli

    We need hard workers today…I think their back three’s massive issue is more related to pace so I d play Martinelli up front rather than Laca. Saka and ESR will be able to cover the wings and the trio in midfield should be able to nullify the runs of their second line (Mount, Pulisic ,Havertz…). The main issue is going to be Havertz and even Werner.

    So I am hoping for a good game and a point for us, ideally 3 but not much hope of 3 points. Chelsea is playing the best football in the EPL since Tuchel joined them

  6. JM says:

    From The Athletic: Special report: Lack of experience in Arsenal’s positions of power causing cracks in rebuild (by James McNicholas, Amy Lawrence, David Ornstein).

  7. LBG says:

    Now that I approve of Mikel! ” We want players who want to join the Club because ( we are The Club, my words) not because they want to be in Europe!”

  8. RockyLives says:

    Holding – Mari – Gabriel – Tierney
    Partey – Elneny
    Saka – Odegaard – Smith Rowe

  9. RockyLives says:

    Unusual back 4.
    A back 3 maybe?

  10. RockyLives says:

    3 right backs on the bench, but no RB starting… 😕

  11. LB says:

    Must be the versatile Saka playing there. Chuckle…….

  12. LB says:

    Well Arteta still knows how to draw me in, Holding at RB piques my interest but the other half of me is thinking this is as stupid as playing Xhaka at LB.

  13. RockyLives says:

    It’s a 3-4-2-1 according to the telly folks.

  14. RockyLives says:

    Arteta the new Tinkerman?

  15. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky

    Mikel has gone and matched them with the back 3. Saka plays as a right wing back so should often still be in the attacking right side where he can cut in on his left foot as he likes to. Interesting. Let’s see.

  16. GoonerB says:

    First observation is that they started their pressing high up the pitch in our last third when we had possession. We dont press till they get to the half way line at least so they have more time to pick out passes and then we dropped deeper still as they inched up the pitch.

  17. RockyLives says:

    Decent start apart from our usual attempt to gift the opposition a goal.

    Don’t know what Gab and Mari were thinking of.

    A let off.

  18. GoonerB says:

    Bloody hell. Maybe this gifting goals is contagious

  19. RockyLives says:

    😀 makes a change to be the recipient!

  20. LBG says:

    Gabriel having a stinker so far.

  21. Rasp says:

    Saka is looking out of sorts too …

  22. GoonerB says:

    Ok we’re looking hard to break down but I sont like us being a team that sits that deep with so many players behind the ball.

  23. LBG says:

    Saka having to defend.

  24. Rasp says:

    I was talking about Saka’s defending. He’s been skinned a couple of times and other times he hasn’t worked hard to get back and defend. Quite unlike him.

  25. LBG says:

    Leno and Holding two goodies for me in first half. Partey much happier with Elneny alongside. BOdeguard and Smith-Rowe working their nuts off.

  26. RockyLives says:

    KT clearly not fully fit (or at least not match fit).

    My boy ESR 😀

  27. RockyLives says:

    Alan Smith is a miserable fecker when he commentates on Arsenal.

    You’d think we were a non league team playing Chelsea the way he talks.

  28. GoonerB says:

    I’m watching it but somehow I can’t get even remotely excited by this game. I would like to see us play braver and more on the front foot and kind of start setting up the way we want to play next season.

  29. RockyLives says:

    I’m enjoying it GoonerB

    Given the relative trajectories of the two teams this was always going to be difficult for us, but I’m enjoying the effort and commitment of our lads.

  30. RockyLives says:

    We’ve got to find a way of getting some possession in the middle of the park.

  31. RockyLives says:

    I’d be tempted to bring Laca on for Auba.

    He’s better at defending from the front and holding up the ball.

  32. GoonerB says:

    Sorry to be a proper humbug but I’m hating it. A constant invitation into our box in an Alamo type siege defence. Aubamayeng our most advanced player only 20m from our own box and their deepest player up alongside him.

    We’ve conceded the initiative in the game and I feel t’s only a matter of time before we actually concede. Might be wrong and we might get away with it but I worry if this is us moving forward to next season.

  33. Rasp says:

    Three points is vital to keep our slim hopes of European football alive so I’d be quite happy to win this 1 nil.

  34. RockyLives says:

    We need more from Ode this half.

  35. RockyLives says:

    We used to enjoy these sieges in the ‘one nil to the Arsenal’ days 😀

  36. Aaron says:

    Typical dross from the boss who is playing Saka every f’n where.

    Get back to me next year when we are in or close to the exact same position we are now at x-mas.

    5 players want to leave, how about the ones in admin that I mentioned before.

    Sheesh what nonsense the fans are being served up….

  37. GoonerB says:

    Yes Rocky but you’d feel happier with a siege when you were looking at the likes of Adam’s, Bould, Keown, Dixon, Winterburn attempting to see it out

  38. LBG says:

    Never in doubt!

  39. RockyLives says:

    Well done Arsenal!!!!

    Very proud of our lads tonight.

    Great battling performance against a really in form team.

    Well done Mikel!!!

  40. Rasp says:

    Great to see us work so hard … we had a bit of luck but we deserved it.

  41. RockyLives says:

    We earned those three points the hard way.

    Rode our luck.

    Should have had a pen right at the end.

  42. LB says:


  43. RockyLives says:

    Hate to say I told you so…

  44. LB says:

    You sort of know the night is going to be yours when the oppo get a double cross bar lol

  45. fred1266 says:

    Didn’t watch but did we start in a back three

    How did we play I had recommended we go to a back three some post ago was I right

  46. RockyLives says:

    Back 3 Fred but we were under pressure for most of the game so it was more like a back 5.

  47. LB says:

    You were bang on Fred.

  48. LBG says:

    Like Rocky
    “Given the trajectories…..I enjoyed it. This Chelski team is a smooth machine and have been walking through defences. We have kept them out with disciplined defence and working our bollox off. Well done Gunners, a fine effort and three points.

  49. Aaron says:

    Looks like we are coached by moaninho, and it apprears that we have regressed to that watford game again. Nightmares, just sit back and get our a$$es handed to us.

    Should be playing all the youth, Balo, Azeez etc. Why even waste our time with players we should have moved on from ages ago??

    chavs could give a flying nothing about this game.

    The irony is if Giroud goes onto win CL with them in 2 weeks time.

    This was a training exercise for them.

  50. RockyLives says:

    Alan Smith can do one.

    “Arsenal fans would have come into this game wondering how many they were going to let in.”

    Is he aware we’ve conceded fewer goals than all except Man City, Man Utd and Chavs this season?

  51. LBG says:


  52. RockyLives says:

    I saw a very different game to you.
    And Chavs very much wanted/needed the points tonight with Leicester coming up next in the league.

    They can’t rely on beating City in the Champs League final so they really, really want to get a top 4 finish.

  53. LBG says:

    “Arsenal are my Club” Too right Emile and you are our future.

  54. RockyLives says:

    Hope Everton win their games in hand.

    I want us to win our remaining games but I really don’t want to finish 7th and end up in that crappy third tier Euro competition.

  55. LBG says:

    It’s a brilliant night for Arsenal!

  56. LBG says:

    So, so agree. Anything but seventh.
    If you dont know what to expect from Arsenal, Jamie, what do you expect of your beloved Totteringham.

  57. Rasp says:

    I have to say Leno had a good game.

  58. LBG says:

    So it was a weakened Chelski team. Selves em right then. Come on Leicester, you FA Cup.

  59. LBG says:

    Reminded me of that Wenger win up at Maine Road.

  60. seedeee says:

    Such a nice feeling getting 3points, let alone against Chelski. Battled hard and restricted them to very few chances.

    I just don’t get the negativity of some. It truly sounds like they want their own team to fail just to say I told you so – pathetic.

    We all know where we are currently. What’s so bad about just enjoying a win for a change!

  61. Aaron says:

    Come on Rocky, for real?

    They play on Saturday in FA Cup final.

    On the 29th they are in the CL final.

    They will get 4th and qualify for CL one way or another: do you know which one I prefer, lesser of two evils unfortunately for me.

    chavs started kePa, enough said.

    They had 19 shots on goal, 2 off the post, and 66% of the possession, we did sfa mate.

    It is not sustainable!

  62. GoonerB says:

    I’m torn. I always enjoy a win against good opponent’s but a lot of me agrees with Aaron. The stats in the game were horrendous and I think that we lose that game 8 out of 10 times.

    We got one of the 2 out of 10 tonight. Is it a hard fought victory or one we got away with? With very little for us to play for, a big part of me would rather see us lose but be considered unlucky because of how well we played, rather than win and feel we dodged a bullet.

    It’s all about developing for next season and the future now so I would like to see us play braver and on the front foot more. Try and develop a style of football that can take us forward.

    I may be alone in this, but I don’t think that Chelsea team is massively superior on paper player for player, so any superiority is as much to do with team cohesion and confidence to go and play as any individual.

  63. Aaron says:

    Everyone here knows I love playing Saka, ESR and any other younger players we can develop (Balo, Azeez etc). However, the club just keeps sliding down the table with the current set up we have.

    It is not about being negative.

    That performance today, other than keeping a clean sheet is exactly why we are where we are.

    Yes, a W feels good, but how many of you can honestly tell me that holding on to a fortunate goal for 75 minutes is what you all want to see for 38 games next year and so on.

    NOT me….

  64. fred1266 says:


    I saw pepe did the same thing weekend and lost playing a back 3 against Chelsea thank goodness it didn’t backfire on us

  65. GoonerB says:

    We’ve had some excellent wins and performances this season that show what we can do when we go out with the intention to play aggressively and on the front foot, but we seem to then revert to something lesser too often.

    The best way I could put it is that too often we seem to go out and play not to lose rather than go out and play to win.

    I agree about enjoying the win Sedee but just as there can be positives in a loss there can be negatives in a win. We need to see tangible progress otherwise these wins are sporadic and not enough to take us to where we should be going.

  66. VP says:

    Meanwhile, here in oz, as i finish my egg and bacon roll…


    its a great feeling starting work knowing that your team is the best there is. Anyone telling me otherwise can go suck the eggs I plan to eat in my next egg and bacon roll:-)

  67. Sue says:

    I’m sorry to sound such a misery – had there been something on tonight I’d be twerking and cartwheeling right now!
    Not the Chav team I expected.. they have their 2 finals to look forward to, while we’re in with a shout of St Totteringham’s Day. I’m sorry but I can’t seem to shake my Villarreal hangover, it really gutted me and I can’t wait for the season to end.. and then go again next season.
    Tough being a gooner right now…

  68. RockyLives says:

    Attaboy (girl?) seedee

  69. RockyLives says:

    How many clear chances did the Chavs have?

    One we gifted them, the double-crossbar moment and a couple of shots comfortably saved.

    We capitalized on their blunder and should have had a pen (trip on Partey) at the end.

    I understand the negativity – it’s been a challenging season. But come on! We just beat a team that all the media pundits are telling us is the next best after Man City.

    We did it on their own ground with guts and effort and occasionally some real skill, as well as riding our luck once or twice.

    Everyone can feel how they want to feel but I feel proud of the boys and I see signs of hope for a better season next time round.

  70. Aaron says:

    Hear hear!

    However, if Mikel shows up with the usual suspects lined up to start next year, Xhaka, El Neny, Willian, Luiz, Dani type, Laca, Bel, injured Tierney with no back up, and an unmotivated Auba with no service, the club will be dead in the water. Period!

    Churn the dang roster or forget it, not confident about it at all…

  71. GoonerB says:

    Ok so it seems we should just enjoy the win without any other consideration but I always think about where we are going. Are we on the right track? The right upward trajectory?

    As I more or less said, I would rather take some temporary pain if it was part of a bigger development plan to gaining us something better in the future. Just for the sake of sound objective debate the stats I’ve seen were as follows (chelsea as the 1st mentioned stats):

    Possession: 68% vs 32%
    Passes: 756 vs 365
    Shots on goal: 19 vs 5
    Touches in opposition box: 50 vs 5

    We kind of matched each other in formation so let’s compare each corresponding area from front to back to see how superior Chelsea are in personnel to account for those stats

    Aubamayeng vs Havertz
    ESR and Odegaard vs Pulisic and Mount
    Saka vs James and Chilwell vs Tierney
    Partey and Elneny vs Gilmour and Jorginho
    Holding, Mari, Gabriel vs Zouma, Silva, Azpil
    Leno vs Arriz

    This still tells me there is something wrong in our play and how we mentally prepare to play the game because I cant see a massive difference between us and them personnel wise in each matched up area that would account for the stats in the game.

    It’s not about not enjoying the win. It’s more about what it suggests in the more important ensuing season. I’ve backed Arteta and there has been evidence in the 2nd half of the season that he can push us onwards and upwards.

    However, I think he has to make another transition this team again, and quickly, to something more confident and with greater attacking intent than what we saw tonight or it won’t end well later this year, and that’s not something I want.

  72. Mike M says:

    Evening All. Great win no matter how it came about. Just a stat to ponder, maybe someone who has been a better fan than me this season could analyse: Home games played 18, lost 7, drew 4. Of those games:scored 3, conceded 14. Failed to score 8 times, Auba 1 goal. Including the Fulham game when we scored in the 97th minute, we went 810 minutes of PL football at the Emirates without scoring a goal. Hard to take when you consider we may finish 3-5 points short of Europe and 10-12 from the Champions league (added to the fact that the failure to score vs Villareal at home also cost us). Anyway trying not to be negative after a great win but anyone got any ideas as to why? Is it just because we stopped leaking so many goals? If so, maybe it’s a means to an end – somewhere to start??

  73. LBG says:

    Made views clear during and after.
    19 shots, 3 on target. All that possession……..sounds like an Arsenal performance of the last eight years to me.
    Arsenal are limited at present, have dead wood by the ton. No I dont want to see any/many of your quoted players at the Club next year, Aaron. But what did you expect last night?
    Chelski were never going to let us play our football, give us space, even let us hit them on the break. If we had played Xhaka, Willian and Luiz, Ceballos and even Pepe, we would have lost.
    Progress is being made. Clear out the deadwood, bring back Saliba, Mavrapanos and Willock ( whatever RC says). Get some more gristle in alongside Partey and a right back. Build an attacking team around Saka, Smith-Rowe, Balogun, and Azeez. Give Tierney the captaincy and whatever happens dont come seventh!!

  74. GoonerB says:

    Morning LBG. It appears I’m the site grump for the time being. Oh well, hey ho.

    Fir the record I’m always happy with 3 points and if we win a game against a bigger club but after that I think what it means in the bigger scheme of things.

    One of the things I said at the end of last season and the beginning of this is that by the end if this season I wanted us to be closer to competing on a more equal footing in games with the better teams in the league.

    I wasnt expecting us to have completely caught up, but to have closed the gap. Last night’s win was very similar to how we beat them, Man City and Liverpool at the end of last season. By being the significantly inferior team that conceded the initiative in the game but resolutely held on for a batting win. I’m not sure I see the progress.

    Occasionally under the great Wenger teams a lower table club would hold out for a 1-0 win against the run of play and with the stats heavily against them. Although disappointing we would move on knowing we were feeding at the top end of things and put it down to a blip that would only occur once in a dozen times.

    That’s what we were to Chelsea last night, a blip. I have backed Arteta, and still do, but feel it is him holding us back slightly in his approach to games. As I’ve said he and the club need a further transition.

    He needs to come out of his shell in how he gets the team playing because it remains too conservative. That was fine a year back when he needed to solidify us more but to still be like it at the end if this season troubles me about what it means moving into next

    We have the players to compete on a more equal footing with a team like Chelsea right now even though we need some improvements to the squad personnel wise. It is not this that will see us bridge the gap to the top teams more.

    Arteta’ s success and ergo ours is rooted in how he progresses our playing style from this point. We need to start being more aggressive and on the front foot against all opposition else we will continue to win the occasional game like this but be considered the blip that carry’s no meaningful threat in the overall scheme of things

  75. LBG says:

    “Site grump”… of last night😉😁
    For info Partey on the night:-
    Most tackles 5
    Most interceptions 3
    Most duels 12
    Most recoveries 9

    Very impressed with Holding as well myself. Head up, calm, successful passing.

  76. LBG says:

    “competing on an equal footing” …requires not only a coach who brings out best in players he has, has scouting system that works, but has investment from owners equivalent to others.
    Next season!

  77. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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