Feed on

This weekend sees the visit of the high-flying league leaders to The Arsenal, who will, no doubt, want to bring City down to earth with a heavy dose of bumps. We have returned from our Italian job mildly frustrated not to have put the tie away, but on the whole I think confident that we can finish it at our new home in Greece next week. Confidence is something we will need for this game as our visitors have won 12 on the spin and in the process blown away all predictions of a close finish to the PL this season. Can we make it an unlucky 13 for the men from Manchester? Let us hope so for while we should show respect for their footballing prowess and the excellent job done by Pep & Co we can at the same time recognize that Man City are, fundamentally, cash-doped cheats, liars and purveyors of values that would not be out of place in the meanest of Dark Age slums. In my opinion. Enough of them and their iniquity for now as I am more interested in The Arsenal’s fundamentals, if I may put it that way, and from where I am sitting they are looking basically unchanged after the last two games – as goes Auba so go The Arsenal. Let’s hope he has put his scoring boots back on for this one, if he even plays of course, as predicting Mikel’s selection for this game is really quite a challenge. The boss himself has made it difficult with his startling new idea of playing the same XI two games running – whatever next? Three in a row? He wouldn’t would he? A visit from the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Footballers will surely follow. Anyway, for what it’s worth let’s give it a go.

The Arsenal XI

As I write this preview on a Saturday night in Osaka, I have no news on any injuries picked up in the Benfica game and know only that Thomas Partey remains unavailable. We are in the midst of a run of challenging games and our 10th place league position means we need every point we can get – in the circumstances I think Mikel will certainly take a risk or two but also keep an eye to the next few games as well. In the circumstances, the only selection I actually feel sure of is Leno in goal. I believe KT will start and that Hector will get the nod over Cedric at right back. There has been some criticism of Hector’s performance in midweek but I would say that from an attacking point of view he scored against Leeds and would have had an assist against Benfica but for Auba’s profligacy. I believe Rob will return for this one to partner Gabriel as three games in such a short space of time is asking a lot of David Luiz. In midfield I think Mikel will favour the more conservative approach of starting Xhaka and Elneny though Dani has done little wrong in the last two games and it is simply a feeling on my part (and not a good one I suspect many of you may be saying to yourselves). Up front it must surely be time for a break for Saka and ESR and a return for the now well-rested Pepe and Laca. That leaves us with the XI below, which I freely admit may be largely incorrect.


Bellerin Holding Gabriel Tierney

Elneny Xhaka

Pepe Odegaard Auba


The Opposition

They have as I said won 12 in a row, beaten us in 9 of our last 10 meetings and were described during the week by Mikel as “the best team in Europe at the moment”. Arguable though that may be, City also have De Bruyne available again and a strength in depth that if not pivotal has certainly been very important to their rise to the top in this most congested of seasons. Additionally, they are stronger defensively this season and are one of only three teams in the PL with a better goals against record than us this season. However, they are like anyone beatable, and we beat them 6 months or so back. We know how they play, we know who their danger men are – De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Sterling (who has done well against us in recent games although, as I may have mentioned before, he deliberately fell on Mustafi’s leg and injured him in the FA Cup Semi-Final. He was sulking at the time as the referee hadn’t fallen for his very best dive just prior) and of late Gundogan, who is on a ridiculous goal-scoring spree. To state the bleeding obvious, we will need to be at our best. 

The Holic Pound

What to do? Actually, this was a trickier assignment than selecting the starting XI. At a loss as to how to proceed I decided to take a radical step and hope you will forgive me for breaking one of The Guvnor’s cardinal rules and introducing religion into the preview. Yesterday, I bravely sacrificed a fine leg of lamb to the Thrice Blessed Dennis in the traditional manner of my forefathers (20 mins per lb at 180 degrees) and sought for inspiration. Dazed by the succulent aroma of Larry, I decided to aid my meditations with a bottle of Gigondas and it was, in the fullness of time, the combination of the two I believe that allowed me to understand that Dennis was telling me to savour the benefits of home cooking because he wanted me to get on a home win for The Arsenal! Not needing to be told to read the runes twice I quickly ascertained that the remarkable odds of 11-2 about a home win for The Arsenal were available. 

I should in the interests of your wallets remind you that we have not won a game after any of my previews this season. Though that is deeply saddening for me, it is not even close to how saddening it was to hear that some morons are racially abusing Willian online. I regret having to finish on such a note but it is important we speak out when the tiny minority of tiny-minded do disgusting things. Go away, we don’t want you.


87 Drinks to “Is this a good time to being playing the blues?”

  1. 1
    TTG says:

    Lovely preview Matt- witty and insightful .
    I don’t think anybody in Europe can beat Citeh at the moment and very few sides can draw with them. I don’t think a side who flew back from Italy in the early hours of Friday after a tough match have any chance but I know of a City fan who worries that we have ‘ such a lot of good creative players ‘ at present .
    I’d pick this side
    Bellerin Holding Gabriel Tierney
    Ceballos Xhaka
    Pepe Odegaard Martinelli
    I’d have a strong bench but we will need fresh legs tomorrow and we must go through on Thursday . I’d be ecstatic with a draw but in honesty I suspect we will lose 2-0

  2. 2
    Countryman100 says:

    A fine and thoughtful preview Matt. I wonder what the aroma of roasting lamb did to your Japanese neighbours – not a dish I can ever recall being on a menu there. I would cook mine a little pinker at maybe 15 mins per pound at 180C plus 15 minutes. Depends how large your joint is. A shoulder joint of course would be long and slow cooked.

    Concentrating on the cooking because I think we are going to get pasted in the football!

  3. 3
    Trev says:

    Nice one, Matt !

    Roast lamb – the best red meat baa none 😉

    Oh yeah, the football. I quite like TTG’s side, and Saka and ESR did look a touch weary on Thursday. They could well be kept back ready for Benfica again, which would give a presumably frustrated Martinelli a chance to let rip with Tierney down the left wing.

    The odds are very – it could be evens so – oh, go on 2-1 to the Arsenal, and a good sofa to hide behind.

  4. 4
    bt8 says:

    Great preview Matt. Must try to replicate your inspirational lamb roast. Anything better than 0-2 is gravy against the gods of football but the win could be on the cards. COYG

  5. 5
    Bathgooner says:

    Thanks for a most enjoyable preview, Matt. I hope your sacrifice to DB10 was as succulent as you make it sound and the subtle message proves to be correct thus yielding an unexpected 3 points and thereby breaking your own personal duck as an oracle. Well said about the online abuse to Willian. As Tim on 7amKO has recently suggested, people who indulge in such abuse should be identified from their MAC number and at a minimum permanently banned and if they have indulged any of their racial, homophobic or religious prejudices they should feel the full force of the law. No one should have to put up with the crap that some people propagate.

    I must confess to thinking TTG’s suggested team selection will be closer to our starting eleven than yours though, as you say, MA8 has given himself a bit of a headache by selecting the same team for the Leeds and Benfica games and we need to ring several changes to prevent burn-out or injury in several of our stalwarts with a critical second leg looming in Athens. However I think your call on Elneny rather than Ceballos is very likely to be accurate as the latter’s greater offensive capabilities may be preserved for Athens.

  6. 6
    bt8 says:

    Safe to say James Rodriguez has been a better Premier League signing than Gareth Bale among the ex-galácticos.

  7. 7
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent preview Matt! Approve of your elaborate and delectable rituals at the altar of Dennis.

    Mikel’s teams are hard to predict. I wonder if he would be tempted to bring back the dusty old 3-4-3 playbook and the knife-between-the-teeth underdog fight of the FA cup semifinal.

    Holding – Gabriel – Tierney
    Cedric – Elneny – Ceballos – Martinelli
    Pépé – Lacazette – Aubameyang

    If we can manage to get even a draw it will be a great result.

  8. 8
    TTG says:

    Bt8 @6
    I’m inclined to agree with you but I think Martin Odegaard might be better than either this season .James produced a fine pass to Richarlison but the rest of the game seemed to pass him by

  9. 9
    Bathgooner says:

    TTG @8, I agree totally. Ødegaard is the pick of Real Madrid loanees in the Premiership. Even ona few minutes playing for us, I hope we can extend his loan into next season and better still that we can negotiate a purchase price.

  10. 10
    BtM says:

    Enjoyable preview, Matt. I’m tempted by TTG’s team. More than our fair share of moron’s I’m afraid.

    Enjoy the game. I expect to see the team in blue on the ball for much of he game – but that’s not to say I expect to see them win.

  11. 11
    Goonersince54 says:

    If ESR and Saka don’t start against City, then Arteta clearly doesn’t think we can win the game.
    If City are over the hill and far away by the 2nd half, then he can sub them.
    But if we are still in with a chance with 20 to go, they could be the difference.
    Interesting that of the teams playing CL this midweek, Gladbach/Bayern and Athletico Madrid have all lost today, Chelsea could only draw, and last time I looked Real were drawing 0- 0.
    Will City be distracted as well. ??
    But regardless, we have to start and stay on the front foot, have the belief that we can compete with them and get them out of their comfort Zone.
    They had a tough game at Everton midweek, so they will have to rotate the squad .
    What i don’t want to see is us retreating into our shells and playing as though we expect to lose.
    That’s why i would play ESR and Saka, they are both fearless and unencumbered by the weight of expectancy, and will always play forwards rather than the safe option of sideways and backwards.
    If we are to lose, then let it be with heads held high, chest out, lungs and legs empty, having given City one hell of a game.

  12. 12
    Osakamatt says:

    Thanks all👍.

    I spent my first 10 years in Japan
    missing roast lamb but it’s much
    easier to get these days, thank
    Dennis. Though, it has long been
    a staple on the menu in the northerly
    climes of Hokkaido. The slightly wider
    and flatter open spaces being more
    conducive to the beast I suppose.
    The gigondas is harder to find these
    days but will certainly be worth the
    “sacrifice” if we win😄

  13. 13
    Uplympian says:

    Cheers Matt for an entertaining preview. Appropiate you bring up the analogy of roast lamb as City are minted of course!
    I’m uncertain which players will start the match and agree with Clive that they should be our best available – unbeaten runs come to an end eventually and it could be our turn to stop them. Only players well & truly in the red zone should be rested. Let’s give them a game to remember.

  14. 14
    Osakamatt says:

    Fair points Clive, there must be a temptation
    for them to focus on the CL given their
    relatively poor record in the competition and
    Pep’s desire to win it again.
    Whoever plays I expect 100% from start to
    finish and no repeat of some of the more
    disappointing losses to Shitty.

  15. 15
    North Bank Ned says:

    Excellent preview, OM. Let us hope your sacrificial ritual foretells of City being chopped down to size and then put on the rack.

  16. 16
    North Bank Ned says:

    And well said about the abuse of Willian. Unacceptable on any level.

  17. 17
    North Bank Ned says:

    Clive@11: Arteta does not strike me as the sort of person who goes into any game accepting it is lost before it starts so I suspect that one or both of Saka and ESR will play. I think also that you are right that we probably need both of them to win. I am sure Arteta had a plan for the teams he would pick for this difficult run of four games. I hope it was not upset by the failure to take a lead into the second leg against Benfica.

    The Croydon De Bruyne against the Drongen ESR should be quite a match up.

  18. 18
    Osakamatt says:

    Thanks Ned. I hope we don’t lose
    as my fellow gooners may start
    giving me cold shoulder 🙁

  19. 19
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Excellent preview Matt. A really good read that made me laugh. Strangely, it has also left me rather hungry…

    The team is so hard to predict. I keep thinking Pepe will start. At some point this may be right! Maybe Martinelli too. I reckon we will only play Ødegaard or ESR but not both. Who knows?

    We have as good a chance as anyone of ending their run. We have to play to win. Against City that means keeping things tight and giving them nothing, not going toe to toe with them. Yet, we have to play to our strengths and express ourselves. So it is a balancing act today. Keep a solid base and attack from there.

    I’m still invested in the league, I think it is the number one priority. So let’s play like we want a result!


  20. 20
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks OM
    Colin Lee through to Sterling – submariners – dive dive dive.
    Let’s drown them – 2-1 to the Arse.

  21. 21
    Countryman100 says:

    Referee is Jon Moss. Worst in the league?

  22. 22
    Osakamatt says:

    He is certainly a leading contender.
    But he’s facing some real bottom-
    quality competition

  23. 23
    Esso says:

    Cheers Matt!

  24. 24
    Esso says:

    Always nice to see Sp*rz lose. Even if it was to East End Murdering Scum.

  25. 25
    Esso says:

    @ C100 21

    Its a low bar but he may indeed surpass it.

  26. 26
    North Bank Ned says:

    The neighbours’ loss would make three points today all the sweeter.

  27. 27
    Esso says:

    Flag of Scotland
    Flag of England
    Flag of Spain
    will partner him

  28. 28
    Esso says:

    Leno, Bellerin, Holding, Mari, Tierney, Elneny, Xhaka, Odegaard, Saka, Pepe, Aubameyang

    Subs: Ryan, Cedric, Luiz, Gabriel, Ceballos, Willian, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, Lacazette

  29. 29
    Esso says:

    Getting our money’s worth out of Odegaard then.

  30. 30
    Countryman100 says:

    I always love to watch him but are we over playing Saka?

  31. 31
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Obviously central midfield is a bit of a worry, but it was always gonna be. Apart from that it is a sensible side. Saka for Martinelli seems like an obvious sub as surely Saka cannot play the full 90. Glad KT3 is back.

    Hopefully Auba has saved up his clinical finished from the Benfica game for this one!


  32. 32
    ksn says:

    A fine, funny preview which was spot on that for us to get anything from the match would need divine intervention.
    Luiz, Gabriel, Ceballos and ESR replaced by Holding, Mari, Elneny and Pepe. My worry is that Saka is getting run to the ground; maybe he will be rested on Thursday. We have the pace up front but not the creativity and not sure if Odegaard will be enough to create the bullets for Auba and company to fire.
    Will be a tough game to watch.

  33. 33
    North Bank Ned says:

    Interesting yet enigmatic team selection. Good enough to win on a day all goes right while leaving plenty in the tank for Athens.

  34. 34
    BtM says:

    Villa go down 2-1. Leno would have saved both of the goals they conceded I reckon 🙂

  35. 35
    Esso says:

    Certainly would have been disappointed with him not saving the second.

  36. 36
    ksn says:

    Missed KT for Cedric.

  37. 37
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Alex Scott already making the good point that Cancelo likes to wander forward which might leave space for Pepe to attack. I hope so.

  38. 38
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:


  39. 39
    ksn says:

    Sterling scores in 70 secs. 0-1. Couldn’t ask for a worse start. KT didn’t close in on Mahrez to stop the cross.

  40. 40
    Countryman100 says:

    Fucks sake

  41. 41
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Never mind Tierney ksn. Holding just got beaten in the air by 5’7 Sterling. Awful defending

  42. 42
    Steve T says:

    How in the hell does a 5’07” Sterling win a header against 3 Arsenal defenders to score in less than 2 minutes???????

  43. 43
    Steve T says:

    We are an utter shambles at the back.

    Remember when I said that one of David Luiz’s qualities was his organisational skills???

    It’s a total mess at the moment

  44. 44
    ksn says:

    We have seen this chink in our defence before. We don’t mark the opposing forward in our box. Sterling had all the time and space to head the ball with no pressure on him at all.

  45. 45
    ksn says:

    Aruba’s general play is so poor and passing under pressure so atrocious that he has given the ball away twice already in the first fifteen minutes. His one attribute is that he scores and I hope that part of his game is working today.

  46. 46
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Holding is struggling.

    Although we are starting to get forward

  47. 47
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    ksn @45. Agreed.

  48. 48
    Steve T says:

    Pepe, you lazy fucker. No attempt to get back onside.

    It never looks great when you start with Xhaka and Elneny in midfield.

  49. 49
    ksn says:

    This match would need players with loads of stamina and energy and not the sort of game for Saka who has run the length of the pitch at full tilt so many times. He won’t have have anything in the tank for the next match against Benefica which is crucial. Hope he is subbed at half time.

  50. 50
    Countryman100 says:

    Spot on ksn.

  51. 51
    ksn says:

    We improved after the first ten minutes and didn’t get run over as I had feared and we have done enough to get some respect from the opposition. COYG.

  52. 52
    bt8 says:

    Only saw the second half of that first half but my reaction is that the game is there for Arsenal to take.

  53. 53
    Esso says:

    We’ve played OK, but were caught a bit cold for the goal. Would not single out any individuals personally as being markedly more poor than others.

  54. 54
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    We are still in this. We grew into the game and ended the half definitely on top.

    We won’t need Saka to start at Benfica. I think he’ll get at least 25 mins of the second half. And I won’t be surprised if he creates more chances in that spell. KT will have to come off as he is knackered already. Cedric to come on anytime after 65 mins.

    Auba wake up. Xhaka having a decent game. Elneny gotta start playing forward. All of them get it to Ødegaard quicker. Pepe keep making runs when Ødegaard has it. Auba wake up some more.

  55. 55
    Steve T says:

    Going in only one down is a real bonus. It could have been a lot worse.

    Citeh are obviously a very good side but at times we really do not help ourselves. Pepe and Bellerin are offering virtually nothing going forward down the right. Xhaka and Elneny offer nothing in a creative way. PEA and Odegaard have hardly been in the game.

    At the moment, with the odd exception, it’s men against boys.

  56. 56
    Countryman100 says:

    Can’t agree that we won’t need Saka on Thursday GSD. Massive game for us.

  57. 57
    'desi'gner gooner says:

    GSD that’s exactly how I see it.
    Need to start solidly in the second half and I think they are there for the taking. We didn’t allow a shot on goal from the 4th minute onwards. I just hope that the nervous start doesn’t cost us.

  58. 58
    Countryman100 says:

    One change I would make is Dani for Elneny. Elneny tries hard, but he’s out of his depth here.

  59. 59
    'desi'gner gooner says:

    That’s harsh Steve T@55. We dominated the last 15 minutes and just lacked the final ball.
    Agree with C100- we will need Saka in Athens.

  60. 60
    ksn says:

    Need to start solidly in the second half as Desi said but they would have gone two nil ahead if Sterling had shot first time and not dilly dallied off De Bruyne’s excellent pass. Got lucky there but after that we held our own.

  61. 61
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:


    He is one player. And one who will need a rest. With ESR, Auba, Ødegaard, Laca, Martinelli and Pepe to choose from against a side who created fuck all in 90 minutes against us last time I think we will be okay without Saka. And I don’t think he would have started the last three if he was gonna be a starter again against Benfica. There is no point playing him for one half in this game. I expect he will get a while longer. And that both he and Tierney will be off before the end.

  62. 62
    Steve T says:

    What bit is harsh desi????

  63. 63
    ksn says:

    Saka gets kicked in every match. He is clearly the most dangerous player for any opposing team.

  64. 64
    'desi'gner gooner says:

    @Steve T your comment about it being men against boys felt a bit harsh. We had ended that first half really well. City have upped the tempo in the second half though.

  65. 65
    ksn says:

    Cancelo takes out Tierney and gets a yellow.
    A major problem on our right is that Pepe does not or cannot run beyond his marker on the flank and that makes him predictable and easy to defend against.

  66. 66
    Sancho Panza says:

    Created nothing this half though.

  67. 67
    ksn says:

    Always wondered why Laca has started for the last three games. At least he is on now along with ESR.

  68. 68
    Steve T says:

    That small passage of play leading up to Elneny smashing one is one of the most bizarre bits of play I’ve seen in ages.

    Decent changes. Let’s see if we can hold the ball and do something with it.

  69. 69
    ksn says:

    Almost two goals down. Holding clattered him in the head and Moss doesn’t blow the whistle. That was a solid hit on Holding’s head in an accidental coming together. He should be ok.

  70. 70
    ksn says:

    Luiz on as concussion sub for Holding.

  71. 71
    ksn says:

    Ceballos on for Elneny. Elneny worked really hard and helped greatly in defending.

  72. 72
    Steve T says:

    Dani on. Dare I say it but that change shoukd have been made 20 minutes ago??

  73. 73
    ksn says:

    Luiz is stupid, goes for the man, gives away a free kick and plays into City’s hands.

  74. 74
    ksn says:

    We lost but we were not disgraced. With a few reinforcements in the summer we can be a force in the league too. Arteta is taking us in the right direction.

  75. 75
    Esso says:

    Citeh were really not that clever.

  76. 76
    North Bank Ned says:

    No doubt that the better team won, but we could have had a draw were it not for giving away a soft, early goal.

  77. 77
    'desi'gner gooner says:

    We have closed the gap on the league leaders in quite a short time under Arteta. Going in the right direction.

  78. 78
    Steve T says:

    To be honest, I’m grateful it only ended up one nil. We showed more fight and spirit as the game progressed I couldn’t ever see us scoring. We created virtually nothing. It’s games like today when you realise even more that some players just aren’t good enough at the top level.

    On a positive, I thought that Holding put on a decent shift. Saka also had a decent game. KT3 will hopefully benefit for getting 90 minutes under his belt.

    Our season won’t be judged by today’s result, but it may well be judged after the next 5/6 matches. Let’s hope there is some improvement.

  79. 79
    Countryman100 says:

    Can’t find too much there to disagree with Steve.

  80. 80
    Countryman100 says:

    We got what I expected from the game. Now a massive game on Thursday followed by another really tricky game against a rampant Leicester. This season doesn’t get any easier but it’s still all to play for. The schedule is brutal.

  81. 81
    North Bank Ned says:

    Once we settled after about 10 mins, we blunted City tactically, but the price was we couldn’t get much going at the other end. Elneny played as a third CB for much of the game, and Auba got precious little service. That said, he was having one of his awful first touch days when he did. Generally, we gave the ball away too often when playing out of defence, with Mari a prime but far from the only offender.

    The pluses from the game are that we dug in and were disciplined after the early, and avoidable setback, and that we were not under the cosh for the whole game by any means. Saka and ESR again looked top quality, and Ødegaard seems to be in their league. None of them individually will dominate a midfield, but collectively they could be a real force.

    I read elsewhere that this was a dull game, but if it was, it was because we were able to stop what is a very good City team from playing as they can. As others say above, we are moving in the right direction, even if we still have a ways to go.

  82. 82
    North Bank Ned says:

    One other observation: neither Holding nor Mari can match Luiz and Gabriel for delivering long balls over the top.

  83. 83
    Steve T says:

    I must say, I really don’t think we have closed the gap on Citeh in the slightest. I don’t think they got out of 3rd gear. If they wanted to up it then I believe that they could have.

    I’ve always thought we have been moving in the right direction and as a club, we are certainly making progress. But it very much agree with Alex Scott. We are 10th in the league and we are 10th for a reason. By this time next month we will have played Benfica in the Europa League. We then have Leicester, West Ham, Liverpool and Middlesex in the league. All sides that are currently above us. That may be the next time to see if we still feel that we are heading in the right direction? Or possibly, how much further we really have to go?

  84. 84
    bt8 says:

    Before the games if I had been offered 1-1 against Benfica and a 0-1 loss City I would have been content just so long as we take advantage in Greece and move forward positively in the league.

  85. 85
    Osakamatt says:

    Another home defeat is frustrating but
    I can’t fault the effort. Personally I
    think the time to judge will be at the
    end of the season rather than after a
    tough run of games though obviously
    the next few games will have a big
    impact. On to Greece.

  86. 86
    Countryman100 says:

    There’s two things I want this season fellow Gooners.

    The first is the Europa League

    The second is to celebrate St Totteringham’s day.

  87. 87
    Bathgooner says: