Leicester 0-2 Arsenal: Reasons to be Cheerful and One Worry (plus Player Ratings)

October 31, 2021

Wham bam thank you Ram

It seems a long time since we were bottom of the Premiership table with zero points from three games and our noisy neighbours were sitting smugly on top laughing at us.

Since then we have had an unbeaten run of nine games in the EPL and the Carabao Cup. There have been some excellent performances and a few less convincing ones.

Yesterday the team put in a thoroughly professional display to take all three points against a Leicester team that has caused us problems in recent memory.

Rather than a detailed match report, here are some observations that occurred to me. Feel free to add your own or dispute any of mine.

The Good

  1. First Eleven: it is clear that the manager now has most of a ‘first 11’ in his mind. There are one or two places up for grabs in midfield and attack, but the following names will generally be on the team sheet for important games when fit: Ramsdale, Tomayisu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang.
  2. Back-ups: the contested places are a good problem rather than a headache (with the possible exception of CM where it’s not yet clear whether Xhaka, Lokonga or AMN will be the long term partner to Partey). Odegaard or Lacazette as back up to ESR? Fine. Pepe or Martinelli as back up wide men? Fine. Lacazette, Martinelli or Nketiah as back up central striker? Not so bad.
  3. Ramsdale. What an impact this lad has had. Some of his saves yesterday were world class and character and commitment ooze from every pore.
  4. Team Spirit: it’s natural for a team to look ‘together’ when they’re on a good run of results (and the real test will come when we have setbacks, which we inevitably will) but the body language among our squad is exceptional at the moment. It’s clear they like and believe in each other and that they believe in the manager’s plan. The days of factions, cliques and ‘big personality’ players on huge wages at the tail end of their careers seem long gone. Arteta and the club management deserve credit for having grasped that particularly painful nettle.
  5. Centre Back Partnership: every successful team needs one of these and we have been lucky over the years to see some great partnerships at Arsenal: Frank McLintock and Peter Simpson; Tony Adams and Steve Bould/Martin Keown; Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure; Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. In White and Gabriel we appear to have the makings of another outstanding combo in the heart of our defence.
  6. Defensive commitment: we needed it at times yesterday when we were on the back foot (which we were for much of the game after our early two goal lead), but the commitment and effort never wavered.
  7. Quick breaks: not so long ago it seemed we had permanently lost the ability to break quickly (formations like the dreaded Horseshoe seemingly designed to stop any spontaneity of play). We’re getting it back (as in the second goal yesterday) and it’s a joy to behold.
  8. Attacking Set Pieces: what a terrific corner from Saka and what a great header from Gabriel for our opener. In general our set piece delivery was very good and we are becoming a genuine threat from these opportunities.
  9. Game Management: although Leicester made us ride our luck at times, you always felt the team knew what their jobs were. In the past, at 2-0 up, we might have been tempted to over commit and get sucker punched on the break (how many Vardy goals fall into that category?). Yesterday we played with a maturity that belied the youthful nature of the team, which brings me on to…
  10. Youthfulness: apart from Lacazette and Aubameyang this was a very young side. How exciting to think that most of these players are nowhere near their ceiling yet.
  11. Physicality: despite the youthfulness of our team, we stood up very well in the physical battles.

The Bad

  1. Lack of Control: OK, “bad” may be overstating it, but we struggled to keep control of the ball for long periods of the game. Although our defence held firm, it would be less of a heart-in-mouth experience if we were able to win and keep possession in the middle of the park more effectively. This will surely come.

The Ugly

  1. Jonny Evans: what a plonker. He tried to deliberately dead-leg Ramsdale when our ‘keeper was in mid air (a cowardly and dangerous move) and then went all handbags when Ramsdale remonstrated with him. I was delighted to see the way our players got involved quickly to let the Manchester United cast-off know that he wasn’t going to be allowed to mess with any of our team. Evans then proceeded to run around making nasty fouls and whining like a baby for the rest of the game.

Player Ratings

Ramsdale – 9 (MotM)

It would have been a 10 apart from the fact that his kicking was a bit off at times, leading him to give away possession on several occasions. Apart from that… wow. An outstanding showing from an outstanding ‘keeper.

Tomayisu – 7

Solid and athletic.

White – 8.5

Watch out, hyperbole alert, but White reminds me of a certain centre half who used to play for England a very long time ago, name of Bobby Moore – ring a bell? Another great performance from our summer signing.

Gabriel – 8.5

Less skilful on the ball than White, but more physically aggressive, Gabriel had another excellent game. This pair are really becoming something special. Also, Gabriel’s aerial threat is now an ever present danger to our opponents on set pieces.

Tavares – 7.5

The youngster is emerging as an excellent back-up to KT. Some people at the club really did their homework before dipping into the market this year.

Partey – 8

Thomas is beginning to find his feet on a consistent basis. He still makes the odd loose pass here and there but his combativeness and reading of the game are first rate.

Lokonga – 7

His inexperience means he gets out of position sometimes and occasionally over-commits in the wrong areas, but in general this was a very encouraging performance from young Sambi. He is strong, fast, intelligent and very comfortable on the ball and is a terrific prospect.

Lacazette – 7.5

I like him in the deep-lying forward role and his contributions were important in the first 20 minutes when we took control of the game. He tired around the hour mark again and was replaced by Odegaard.

Smith Rowe – 8

Took his goal beautifully (I love it when players pass the ball into the net) and had another game full of great touches, progressive attitude and physical commitment. I’ve said it before, but for my money ESR is the player with the highest ceiling of any in our squad. He could be world class in a year or two.

Aubameyang – 7.5

Given that we spent 70-plus minutes on the back foot he got few opportunities to threaten the Leicester goal, but he put in a good defensive shift when needed and his body language – as captain – was very good throughout.

Saka – 7.5

Offers so much more than any of our other wide attackers. Every time he gets the ball you think something is going to happen. That said, I thought he looked tired in the later stages when he might have made more of a couple of good opportunities.

SUBS

Odegaard – 8

Replaced a tiring Laca in the 58th minute and helped restore a bit of composure and possession for us during a nervy period of the game. He put Saka through on goal on at least two occasions and pressed the Leicester players high up the pitch with great energy.

Pepe – 7

Came on in the 85th minute and held the ball up well on occasion.

Kolasinac – N/A

Got a couple of minutes in stoppage time.

RockyLives


Arsenal Go Fox Hunting: Leicester Preview & Predicted Line-Up

October 30, 2021

Tally Ho! The boys in red and white go Fox hunting

In most fox hunts the quarry escapes, but on the occasions that turn out less well for the fox it’s usually because it has been run to exhaustion by the chasing pack of hounds.

And that approach may be key to us taking all three points from an in-form Leicester City in the lunchtime kick-off today.

We have a young team with lots of energy and plenty of miles in their legs. If we’re prepared to work hard in all 11 positions today and run until our feet bleed then we have a very good chance of coming out on top.

We showed this level of commitment against Aston Villa and (with a second string line-up) against Leeds where, even at 2-0 up, we continued to press the opposition in their own half late in the game.

Both teams have grounds for optimism: Leicester are coming into this game off the back of three straight wins. We’re hoping to extend an unbeaten run of eight games in the EPL and Carabao Cup.

Most recent games between the two sides have produced results, usually with plenty of goals. Draws are a rarity.

We know that Leicester have hurt us in the past, particularly through Jamie Vardy who has a good record of scoring against us (often when Leicester hit us on the break).

I have faith in our first choice defensive line-up and in Mikel Arteta’s coaching to be hyper aware of that danger today, although I suspect we will need more than one goal if we’re going to grab all three points.

There were no real injury updates from the club yesterday apart from the manager saying that Tierney was still a doubt. We can only hope that Ben White has recovered from the illness that saw him leave the field early against Leeds. His awareness and speed will be important in countering Vardy.

Formation wise the main conundrum is who should partner Partey in central midfield. Arteta may opt for Odegaard again so that he can find room for both Ode and ESR but, as was highlighted in comments yesterday, this has not been a successful approach so far and Ode seems to work better when playing in a more advanced position. It’s a toss up today whether he gets the nod ahead of Lacazette (I can’t see ESR being dropped as he’s the best player in our team right now).

Lokonga has generally impressed when given a chance and Maitland-Niles had a very good game against Leeds earlier in the week, so El Patron has options, even with Xhaka on the long term injury list.

Unless there are any injuries we don’t know about (and working on the basis that Tierney is unlikely to be available) here’s my predicted line-up:

Ramsdale

Tomayisu – White – Gabriel – Tavares

Lokonga – Partey

Saka – Lacazette – Smith Rowe

Aubameyang

Whenever I see images of a fox hunt my sympathies are with the hunted animal, but not today.

Tally Ho Arsenal: let’s get another win under our belt.

RockyLives


Pepe, Odegaard, Martinelli…what are your thoughts?

October 28, 2021
Arsenal facing big dilemma as two extra exits in same position predicted
Arsenal on Twitter: "A double sub... 🔛 Smith Rowe, Lacazette ↩️ Odegaard,  Pepe 🔴 0-1 ⚪️ (73) #ARSMCI… "

Pepe joined us a a few years back now for a hefty transfer fee and his level of performance and consistency so far have not really justified the huge sum we paid for him…That said and despite being frustrating and predictable, he somehow manages to snatch a few assists and goals (1 goal, 3 assists in 8 games so far) here and there and also, he has vastly improved his defensive contribution. Now, is he being unfairly judged because of the price we paid for him? Is his improvement since he joined us good enough? Can he be more decisive? On the latter part, I think we should push him even higher up the pitch so that he has no choice but to make quick, instinctive decisions…

Odegaard, I am still unsure on why we bought him. He is a good passer of the ball, a decent presser as well but his defensive awareness is not great at all and seems he can only be trusted as a Nr.10. He does not seem to have the tactical awareness or physical attributes to play as a Nr.8. Arteta likes him and I can see why but I would much rather see ESR as a Nr. 10 and Lokonga, AMN or even Xhaka as an 8.

Martinelli, our Brazilian speedster who got slowed down in his progress because of injuries. He is always trying to make things happen on the pitch but he can be a bit clumsy at times and his lack of playing time seems to affect him and his ability to score or assist. Make no mistake, the kid is very good but he needs more playing time and for that, he needs to be better when called upon…It is a catch 22 situation..

So how do you feel about Pepe, Odegaard, Martinelli (POM)? In our 4231 set-up, are they good enough to challenge the Saka, ESR, Auba (SEA) trio? Can the POM take over the SEA?

Food for thought…


Arsenal Understudies See Us Safely Through: Leeds Report & Ratings

October 27, 2021

Eddie’s shin pad does the biz

Mikel Arteta made nine changes from the team that outplayed Aston Villa but his second string 11 encountered few difficulties getting past Leeds United in the Carabao Cup last night.

The home win in front of a noisy crowd at The Emirates puts us in the quarter finals of the competition (one of only two realistic chances of silverware this year along with the FA Cup). Or one of three if you think we’re in with an outside chance of winning the Premier League (I’d be tempted to suggest you keep taking the tablets but… never say never).

Leno was back in goal, Holding joined Ben White in central defence with Cedric at right back and Kolasinac at left back. Maitland-Niles and Elneny were the deep-lying two in the centre of midfield and there were starts for Pepe, Nketiah and Martinelli up front. 

Apart from White, Emile Smith Rowe was the only other player retained from the Villa victory.

We started brightly, as has been our habit of late. There was some nice movement and passing as we carved through the visitors’ defence in the first 15 minutes only to be thwarted by bad decision making or committed defending.

Leeds started to make their presence felt and threatened our goal on several occasions. A superb long ball over the top found Dan James rushing into our penalty area. His first touch was pretty good but Leno was off his line very smartly to smother the danger. On the touchline Arteta was going ballistic about the fact we almost allowed ourselves to be undone by a 60 yard pass.

Leno was called into action twice more to make good low saves. One shot in particular was struck with vicious power but the German’s reactions were faultless and he steered the ball to safety.

At half time I thought we were the better team overall but Leeds had had the better chances, which was a bit of a worry. We’d made some pretty patterns but without much end product.

Whatever El Patron said to the players at half time clearly worked, because we went up a gear immediately after the restart and never really looked back.

There was greater sharpness to our play, particularly off the ball: we just did not let the visitors get into any sort of stride and we harassed them high enough up the pitch that it became increasingly difficult for them to pose any real danger.

The breakthrough came in the 55th minute. Ben White had just gone off with an injury (later it was reported that he was feeling sick and that there’s a bug doing the rounds). Calum Chambers came on as we were taking a corner. 

Emile Smith Rowe sent a perfect delivery into the Leeds box, Nketiah managed to flick it towards the back post where Pepe nodded it back across goal again for Chambers to head home just seconds after coming on and with his first touch of the game.

Watching in real time the ball seemed to have crossed the line but there was a nervy minute while the ref hesitated. When the goal was confirmed the celebrations were fun to watch and betokened a positive sense of togetherness in the squad.

The game was made safe in the 69th minute when Nketiah latched onto a defender’s header back towards the keeper, Meslier. Eddie’s speed and anticipation were outstanding as he got to the ball just before Meslier and flicked it over the keeper’s head.

He got to the bounce just before it was about to go out of play and shinned the ball home from a tight angle.

Yes, he almost made a hash of it but he deserved the bit of luck that came with his mis-hit effort spinning into the net. (In fairness, I thought he slipped just as he struck the ball, which explains the mis-hit).

From then on we were always comfortable and the crowd were able to enjoy a relatively relaxing last 20 minutes.

So How Did the Understudies Do?

Some of the second string enhanced their prospects last night; others – particularly among the attackers – probably did not do enough to convince Arteta that they should be in the Premier League first 11.

Leno had an outstanding game and didn’t put a foot (or glove) wrong. Holding, Cedric and Kolasinac all did well overall despite fans’ reservations about some of them. In midfield I thought AMN was terrific, while Elneny had a poor game. 

In attack, Eddie was industrious all night and in the end got the goal he deserved but… Pepe and Martinelli both showed why they’re not being preferred in the bigger games. They each had good moments, but their lack of decisiveness on the ball was telling. They both tend to hold on to it for too long, running and dribbling until they inevitably get tackled. More work to do on the training field for both.

Player Ratings

Leno – 7.5

Had little to do in the second half but his first half performance was faultless. I think he was helped by the fact that Leeds did not try many long balls into our box (the area where he can struggle), but the performance was a reminder that we have two ‘first choice’ ‘keepers at Arsenal. I would expect Leno to leave next summer (if not in January) and for us to get decent money for him.

Cedric – 6.5

He looked a little lost once or twice in the first half but settled down well and contributed to the attack on several occasions.

White – 7.5

Looked very good until he went off. I love those times when he takes the ball out of defence and charges into midfield. It really messes up the opposition’s defensive organisation.

Holding – 7

Big Rob did what Big Rob does: good in the air, committed and physical. I really like Holding and he is a great back-up CB to have, but White is definitely a bigger asset.

Kolasinac – 6.5

There’s always a bit of “watch from behind the sofa” energy when Kola starts, but in fairness he did fine last night. He knows he’s a fringe player but when he’s been called on his commitment has been good. (Kola getting a start presumably means Tavares was being rested, which therefore means that Tierney won’t be back for the Leicester game at the weekend).

Maitland-Niles – 8 (MoTM)

AMN was all action last night and will have given Arteta something to think about. It was a high energy, combative game from him and he looked like a real leader on the pitch. On this form he is vying for a regular starting position alongside Partey.

Elneny – 5

Mo has not had much game time lately and it showed. He seemed off the pace throughout.

Smith Rowe – 7

Not as dominant as he was against Villa, but everything this lad does looks slick. I think he suffered last night from the fact that the other forwards were not as much on the same wavelength as him as the likes of Saka and Auba.

Pepe – 6.5

Oh how we all want Pepe to blossom into a £70m player. He shows flashes of real genius at times but whenever the ball goes out to him on the wing you kind of know what’s going to happen. He’ll cut inside, maybe beat a player or two, then get tackled by the third or be forced into a backwards pass. No, I haven’t forgotten the occasions when he cuts into the box and buries the ball in the net, but if he doesn’t do that the end product is usually very little and contrasts badly with the directness of Saka. That said (and as RC pointed out in comments) he did get an assist for Chambers’ goal.

Martinelli – 6

When Gabriel made his breakthrough in the Europa League the season before last I really thought we had the next Cristiano Ronaldo on our hands. However he seems to have hit a plateau since then and needs to make the next step. One simple rule he needs to take on board is: use the ball more quickly!

Nketiah – 7

Struggled for service, particularly in the first half, but never stopped trying and had some good moments. His goal kept up an outstanding scoring record in the EFL.

SUBS

Chambers – 7.5

Gets an extra half point for the goal, but also looked very comfortable at CB after coming on for the ailing White.

Tavares – 6

Replaced Holding (who appeared to have cramp). Had little to do.

Lokonga – 6

On for Elneny. He did fine.

Lacazette – 6

Replaced Smith Rowe and looked sharp. Could have got his name on the scoresheet late on but fired his shot over the bar.

RockyLives


EFL Cup jouts: Arsenal vs Leeds

October 26, 2021

Back to Cup Games…aka our realistic opportunities for silverware and as such, the conundrum is “Shall we play our strongest line-up?” or shall we rest key players for EPL games and play our B squad tonight?

The plus of having our best players on the pitch is that we should have a better chance of winning and also we keep the momentum with the same squad. The minus being that they get over played and our benched players get restless and the mood in the team gets affected…

I would probably opt to play a mix but there is one player I would find hard to drop for tonight’s game: Ramsdale.

He has demonstrated that he is better in the air, at commanding his defense and also at passing than Leno. I think their shot-stopping abilities are more or less similar but Leno is better at getting to the ground faster…

Anyways, if I were Arteta, I d play enough players from our “usual bench” but keep also some usual starters as well. Leeds is no push over and will field a strong team.

Ramsale – Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Tavares – El Neny, AMN – Pepe, Odegaard, Martinelli – Lacazette

I keep Ramsdale, Gabriel, Lacazette in the first squad and I would not be against keeping Lokonga in the team ahead of El Neny or AMN either…

ANYWAYS! Let us win this game at home tonight and keep the EFL Cup dream alive! COYG


A good win with a good performance, a good evening :-)

October 23, 2021
Arsenal fans call for increased Tavares game-time following Villa win –  News 100

Three points in the bag. A rather accomplished performance (barring the last 10 minutes) and some interesting displays from some players…

We totally dominated the first half, had 14 shots and did not concede one shot…We were passing the ball smoothly and creating chances and Aston Villa was all over the place. We score on set pieces first through a Partey header and then an Auba rebound from a saved PK…The score line was fair and the PK was obvious.

In the second half, Aston Villa changed their system and were a bit more coherent going forward and also defensively. However, after some good passing, ESR scored through a deflected shot but as a result of a potent counter-attack. Martinez made a few saves, we conceded some chances and then Ramsey scored a screamer for AV. Few minutes later, we almost conceded another one through a header following a throw in…The last minutes were nervy but we managed to see the game through.

So what did we learn?

  • Lokonga is a much better option than Odegaard next to Partey in a double-pivot
  • ESR is more at ease without Odegaard and playing through the middle or coming in from the left. He is in good form and really is showing that he can be a key player for us.
  • Laca is really a key clog in our team especially for the press and hold-up play
  • Tavares is showing early promises of a good left-back. What are we going to do with Cedric?
  • Tomy had a good first half but then faded. Shall we rest him a bit?
  • Partey had one of his best outings yesterday and his goal is a deserved reward. I hope that his injuries will leave him alone because it seems he has finally found his rhythm.
  • Saka also had a good first half but also faded…Shall we rest him too?
  • Auba had some good looks at goal and seems happier with Laca in the team.
  • Gabriel was impressive last night especially in the air.
  • Ramsdale’s passing is much better than Leno’s and he is also much better at launching our attacking play

Some pundits say we played a 442 but I am quite sure we were set-up as a 4231 with Auba just playing higher up on the left.

Here the ratings:

MOTM: Emile Smith Rowe

Ramsdale – 6
Tomy – 6
White – 6
Gabriel – 7
Tavares – 7
Lokonga – 7
Partey – 7
Saka – 6
ESR – 8
Auba – 7
Laca – 7

Next up is Leeds in the Carabao Cup, a chance to play some subs like Martinelli, Pepe, Balogun, AMN…However, I d not want to see Leno in goal to be honest…


AFC vs Aston Villa or 12th vs 13th or Ramsdale vs Martinez or Arteta vs Smith…

October 22, 2021

Here we go again…It s back to EPL football and to start the week-end, we are treated with an interesting encounter between Arsenal and Villa at the Emirates.

It is safe to say that Aston Villa had a good season last year and are still playing well this year although they are letting in a bit more goals than before, which is hampering their ability to pick up more points. They love to play with width and have some devastating players in Bailey and Traore but also have a good GK in Martinez who has blossomed into one of the top 5 GK in the league…

We may be missing Saka tonight, which may force Arteta to play Pepe or Laca from the on set. I d also like to avoid seeing Odegaard next to Partey as part of our double-pivot. He needs to play higher up the pitch if he plays at all. Now, given the opposition, we need pace on the width and good recovery when we lose the ball. If I were Arteta, I d really consider playing Pepe, ESR, Martinelli and Lacazette from the on set. I know it leaves Auba out but I think he d be great later on the game….

So here is my preferred line-up: Ramsdale – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, AMN – Pepe, ESR, Martinelli – Laca

We are playing on a Friday, which until two years ago was good as we had won 7 in a row but the last two years were less kind. We are playing Aston Villa who is amongst the top 3 teams to have beaten us at the Emirates and who has beaten us 3 times in a row in the league now…

I expect a nervy game and the most likely outcome to be a high scoring draw like a 2-2 again but I am hoping for a 2-1 victory…

COYG!


Anybody here? Are the bloggers hibernating?

October 21, 2021

Good day everyone…We have posted a few posts in the last 2 weeks but the level of response, except on Match day is very limited. Shall we just stick to pre-match and match reports? Let us know…

Hope everyone is well!


AFC 2 – CP 2…A disappointing result reflecting a disappointing outing…

October 19, 2021

Lacazette saves Arsenal in derby against Crystal Palace

In the end, we can say that we did not deserve more than a draw given the fact that Palace dominated the game from the moment we took the lead through Auba’s goal until the 70th minute…We even basically rescued 1 point thanks a late stoppage time goal, courtesy of Lacazette…

The performance was disappointing on many levels:

  1. Why did we go to sleep after scoring the goal? We were really good in the first 15 minutes.
  2. How can we concede soft goals like this?
  3. Partey was having a stinker yesterday but Odegaard was even worse. Why is Arteta insisting in playing them as a double pivot? Where is El Neny? What about AMN? Or why not play Lokonga from the on-set…Odegaard can not pay as an 8. He is limited to play as a 10. That is a fact.
  4. Is Tierney low on confidence going forward?
  5. Tomyasu, Lokonga and Gabriel also were off their usual selves yesterday
  6. What happened to Pepe after he created the first goal? Started brightly, fell asleep with the team and then woke up again when Laca came on.
  7. Arteta’s changes were rather positive but does he tell the squad to sit back after scoring the first goal?

On the other hand, I felt like Palace was a team that was playing rather well with Edouard and Callagher in particular form. Vieira is definitely creating a strong team with a decent game plan. I hope they stay up and have a good run in Cups.

Ramsdale – 5

Tomy – 5

White – 5.5

Gabs – 5

Tierney – 5

Partey – 4

Ode – 3

Pepe – 5

ESR – 6

Saka – N/A (Lokonga – 4)

Auba – 5.5

Laca – 6.5

Arteta – 4

Definitely an opportunity lost to land 3 points at home but given the way the way the game panned out, we re lucky to get a point out.

Now regarding the referee, the second CP goal could have been cancelled since there is indeed a small foul on Lokonga but the most importantly, CP should have played with 10 men after McCarthur senseless kick on Saka’s leg. What were the Refs and VAR doing?

Anyways, I think that Laca reminded us on why he is such an important piece of our system.

Next game:

Ramsdale – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, AMN? – Saka, ESR, Auba – Laca


Arsenal vs Palace, the battle of two former AFC captains…

October 15, 2021

On one side, Palace will be coached by P.Vieira – one of our legendary and most decorated captains. Since he left the club, we are still search for the “New Vieira” not only for his amazing football skillset but also for his personality on the pitch and as a captain. If you were to ask to make an ultimate AFC starting XI, there is 99% chance that it will include Vieira…His coaching career has not hit the same heights yet but he has a definite game plan, which is very much based on fast transition so his teams do not hesitate to attack from the wings with fast players or to play long balls to an anchor point who can hold up the play and then link with his teammates. Clearly, C. Palace is a team with good players all over the pitch but not great players. They re playing more consistently and are only 3 points behind us…Guaita, Guehi, Schlupp, Kouyate, Zaha, Edouard are the ones to watch for sure but Ayew and Benteke have also bothered us in the past…

On our side, Arteta will hope to see a resilient, solid and accomplished display from his team. It seems that he has found his defensive set up. There are still some question marks around his team’s ability to create and score goals but with ESR’s recent outings, there is an overall sense of optimism. I think our team will also be hard to beat but it will depend largely on our wings players (full backs and wingers) and central defenders. If they are disciplined enough, I think we can sail through another home victory. So despite not being our most decorated captain ever, Arteta has a better squad at his disposal and seems to improve his tactical nous and he may well get one over Vieira on Monday. COYG

Predicted line-up for AFC:

Ramsdale – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, Lokonga – Saka, Ode, ESR, Auba

Preferred line-up:

Ramsdale – Tomy, White, Gabs, Tierney – Partey, AMN – Saka, ESR, Pepe (or Martinelli) – Laca

I think that ESR would be able to control the game so there would not be a need for Ode and I think that Pepe or Martinelly could hurt Palace’s defense with their pace while Laca could force them into making mistakes.

Prediction: 2-1 for AFC.

Goals from ESR and Saka for us and Edouard for CP if we play in my preferred line-up

Goals from ESR and Tierney for us and Edouard for CB if we play in Arteta’s preferred line-up

COYG!