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St Gallen? I hear you say. Surely, we should be playing our opening Europa League Group A match away to FC Zurich in, well, Zurich, and not in a city 50 miles to the east in a different canton? It is rather like Real Madrid turning up to play us in Southend.

Well, dear reader, Stadion Letzigrund, the mussel shell-shaped stadium that FCZ shares with arch-rivals Grasshoppers, does triple duty as an athletics track and a concert venue, too. The Weltklasse Zurich track and field meet that serves as the final of the Diamond League already had the date booked.

Heart of Midlothian also had to play their Europa League playoff away leg against FCZ in St Gallen. In their case, it was because of a sold-out gig by Gola & Trauffer, the popular Bernese-German rockers — do try to keep up, old people. Other local residents to have sung there include Tina Turner, a Swiss national since 2013 and whose estate overlooks the pristine waters of Lake Zurich. The Stones, Guns N’ Roses and Metalica have all made tour stops there over the years. Ipswich Town-sponsor Ed Sheeran will be playing two shows in the week of the group round two matches. Fortunately for FCZ, it is away to Bodø/Glimt then.

St Gallen’s Kybunpark, like Letzigrund, is a compact, solar-powered stadium built for the 2008 Euros. It takes its name from one of FC St Gallen’s sponsors, the eponymous local maker of health shoes and rehab and orthopaedic kit for those gone in the fetlock or at risk of musculoskeletal injury. Kybunpark claims bragging rights as the largest stadium in eastern Switzerland, having, at 19,568 seats, some 3,000 more than Letzigrund, even though the Zurich stadium has the larger overall capacity when safe standing, allowed in domestic Swiss games, is taken into account.

We have not played FCZ before, and it is four decades since we played any side from the city of FIFA, financiers and other miscreants posing as prosperous citizens of one of Europe’s staidest cities. In November 1971, we beat Grasshoppers 2-0 in the second round of the European Cup, when they still played in Zurich’s now demolished Hardturm stadium.

Grasshoppers, founded in 1886 by alums of Manchester Grammar School, are Zurich’s blue bloods, but FCZ is its blue-collar cub. It dates its founding to August 1, 1896, by when we were about to embark on our fourth season in the Football League. I say ‘dates’ purposefully. Members of three local clubs, Turicum (named after the Roman name for the city), Excelsior and Viktoria, started playing together that year and retroactively decided they had created their new club on that particular Monday, which coincidentally came to be celebrated as Switzerland’s National Day. One of those founding members was Joan Gamper, who would later be a founder of Barcelona.

FCZ’s first Swiss championship arrived in 1902. The second took another 22 years. The third would not come until 1963. However, the Sixties and Seventies proved fruitful years for FCZ, with six league titles and five Swiss Cups. With domestic silverware came European football, most notably, two runs to the semi-finals of the old European Cup in 1964 and 1977, when it took Real Madrid and Liverpool, respectively, to stop them. In all, the club has played more than 150 European games, winning one-third of them. It last made the knockout stages of the Europa League in 2018-19, the same season it ended two places off relegation in the Swiss Super League, as it did again in 2019-20 and then one place off relegation in 2020-21.

Having turned that run on its head to win its 13th title last season, pipping Basel, captained by Granit Xhaka’s elder brother, Taulant, FCZ has taken the long way round to this season’s Europa League group stage. Eliminated from the Champions League by Qarabag 5-4 on aggregate after extra time in the second qualifying round, they dropped into the Europa League’s third qualifying round, where they beat Linfield 5-0 on aggregate and then disposed of Hearts 3-1 on aggregate in the playoff round.

The opposition

Title-delivering head coach André Breitenreiter moved to Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga in the close season. The arrival of Franco Foda, previously the Austria national team coach, has brought a dramatic turn of league fortunes for the worse: two points from seven games, with four goals scored and 16 conceded. Last Sunday’s 1-2 home defeat by Lugano only lifted them off the bottom of the table on goal difference as fellow cellar-dwellers FC Winterthur lost by a larger margin. We should not put too much stock in league form: in domestic and European cup ties games this season, FCZ has lost only one in seven.

Foda has flip-flopped on formations. He switched recently from 4-2-3-1 to a back three but appears not to have settled on a trio in front of 6’5″ skipper and local lad Yanick Brecher in goals. Perm three from the sextet of Kosovo internationals Fidan Aliti and Mirlind Kryeziu, Kosovan-born Switzerland U-20 international Lindrit Kamberi, Estonia international Karol Mets, Nikola Katic, the Croatian newly arrived from Glasgow Rangers and the highly rated 20-year-old Becir Omeragic. Geneva-born of Bosnian parents, Omeragic has already played more than 90 senior games for the club despite missing a chunk of last season with an ACL injury from which he is only slowly returning. He has won four Swiss caps, having been hurried into the team to fend off Bosnia claiming him.

Adrian Guerrero, picked up on a free from Valencia B and Nikola Boranijasevic, also a free, from Lausanne, provide the width in midfield either side of summer signings, Guinea international Cheick Conde and Ole Selnaes, a former Norway international who was playing in China. Veteran German DM Marc Hornschuh may be drafted in if Foda opts to play five in midfield as he did against Hearts in the second leg.

Up front, goals have been in short supply. Last season’s top scorer, Assan Ceesay, departed for Lecce. His replacement at centre-forward, Nigerian-born Benin international Aiyegun Tosin, has hit five this season in 12 appearances in all competitions. Two much-travelled summer signings, Croatian striker Ivan Santini and German-born Kosovo international winger Donis Avdijaj, have two apiece, as has centre-back Kryeziu and veteran Swiss international Blerim Dzemaili and fellow midfielder Fabian Rohner coming off the benchStriker Wilfried Gnonto, the 18-year-old with four Italy caps to his name after being let go on a free by Inter two seasons ago (it is not just us that do such things), will not be adding to his tally for FCZ. Leeds United has just bought the starlet for 4.5 million euros. 

The Arsenal

With the Thursday-Sunday routine now underway, Arteta will draw on our squad depth, although with ESR joining Elneny and Partey off games, his midfield rotation options are limited. Hoping against hope that Arteta resists his instinct to play Saka in every game and holds Ødegaard and Zinchenko back for Sunday’s Everton game, I hazard:


Tomiyasu Holding Gabriel Tierney

Lokonga Xhaka

Marquinhos Vieira Martinelli


With 12 subs allowed, pretty much everyone else from the first-team squad who is fit will be on the bench, plus a handful of youngsters, such as Zane Monlouis, Catalin Cirjan, Amario Cozier-Duberry, and Matt Smith, who could conceivably start and will likely get some minutes. Arteta should try to get as many of his Sunday starters off as early as possible.

Yet we need to get straight back on the horse after the setback at Old Trafford. Nor will Arteta want to drop points against the weakest team in the group. We need to top the table to go straight into the knockout stage and avoid a playoff round.

FCZ has enough Balkan backbone to make a scrap of it. Regardless, we should have the calibre and depth to roll the Swiss.

The ‘holics pound

The gentlemen of the turf have us as firm favourites and require us to score four without reply before offering score-betting odds above tens. Chancers in the bar might be tempted by 5-0 at 30s, but 3-0 at eights seems more realistic, or, for those harbouring doubts about Matt Turner, 3-1 at elevens.

Enjoy being back in Europe, ‘holics near and far.

55 Drinks to “Up the Kybun: Gunning for it in St Gallen”

  1. 1
    Ollie says:

    Cheers Ned, great and well researched (or did you know all of this already? Kudos then) preview about a lesser known team.
    12 subs allowed? Oh, I know what you mean.
    Cheers. I’ll go for 4-1. Keeping the 8-0 for the return leg.

  2. 2
    Bathgooner says:

    Congratulate the monks on the research underpinning your excellent preview, Ned! I am now infinitely more informed about our opposition. It makes me somewhat nervous to see the sprinkling of back-ups for this away tie in the ECL – perhaps it’s the effect of absence. I hope Ødegaard gets a start to help establish an unassailable half time lead with Vieira switching from the right flank to take over his role after HT. I am not as confident as your good self so predict 2-1 to the good guys rather than the drubbing I hope we are reserving for the Toffees. No injuries please.


  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    Informative and entertaining as always, Ned. How many times was Kosovo mentioned in that preview? I’ll take a punt that the winner will be scored by nobody with a Kosovan connection but I have been wrong before. COYG

  4. 4
    Trev says:

    Top stuff in your inimitable style, Ned.

    The monks have excelled themselves in providing an interesting and enjoyable lesson of history, old and not so old – as I call Countryman and Steve T !

    Good enough to “roll the Swiss” indeed ! You do the history and I’m supposed to do the puns !

    Hopefully, 4-0 to the Arsenal and all downhill for the Swiss 😏

  5. 5
    TTG says:

    Brilliant preview Ned . I worked for a firm headquartered in Zurich for twenty years and indeed have stood outside Zurich’s stadium. One of my colleagues organised the Weltklasse for several years BUT I have to confess I’ve learnt a huge amount from your preview.
    Zurich is a lovely city but not a football city and FC Zurich are having a tough start to the season .I think your suggested side is very close to the one we are going to field . I shall be at the Oval for the next two days but I hope to return home to a 2-1 victory

  6. 6
    North Bank Ned says:

    Thanks for the kind words, all. A fun one to preview.

    Ollie@1: I have spent a little more time in Zurich than is probably good for the waistline, but I don’t recall having visited St Gallen. It looks like a historically pretty Swiss town despite having an IKEA superstore next to its football ground as if it was Milton Keynes.

    Trev@4: At one point, I had added a gloss to that sentence, Not in the Trev class, I know, but you get what you pay for. But then cut it for space. Honest! And despite the editor’s gentle goading, I got to the end of the piece avoiding any slang references to the city’s bankers — I was gnome free.

  7. 7
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks Ned, informative as ever, a nod of appreciation to the monks for a fine bit of work.
    Guessing the team selection is a bit tricky for this one but I’d guess you’re close. I’d put the team for Sunday on the bench wherever possible to bring on as required in the last twenty rather than start them I think. Time to get a look at Smith and Marquinhos as well as Tomi at CB, where he starts for Japan.
    Cédric, Rob, Tomi, KT
    Smith, Sambi
    Marquinhos Vieira, Gabi

    Don’t know enough about our academy group to know who is ready but be great if one or two of them started.

  8. 8
    Cent says:

    Very informative, review, Ned. Cheers.

    Like most, I say rest as many of our first 11 as possible. Definitely rest Saka, actually, if I was in charge, I would have given him the week off. He looks like he needs some rest.
    I have a feeling Fabio Vieira’s quality will surprise a lot of Gooners.

    OM @7 word on Twitter is that Cedric didn’t travel with the team.

  9. 9
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@7: I did wonder about Tomi starting at CB but I think Arteta will want to get him back into the routine of playing RB as he won’t be displacing Saliba. I can’t imagine Xhaka not starting a game in Switzerland, and especially a Kosovar fest.

    bt8@3: the Balkans conflict of the 1990s transformed Swiss football. There must be a thesis waiting to be written on the impact of natuons’ policies on accepting refugees from conflict zones on receiving nations’ national football team performance. Sweden is another country to have benefitted.

  10. 10
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Filled with history ancient and recent, sprinkled with anecdotes and amusing insider trivia, it’s almost as if the monks spend a nice slice of their summer in the Swiss alps. 🙂

    Fun and informative preview Ned, thank you!

    ESR’s injury is really unfortunate, these were the games for him to get back to full match sharpness. Relentless and ever willing though Martinelli is, I wonder given how much he puts in every game whether giving him a break will not be a good idea as well, but there is no easy alternative.

    Reiss didn’t go in loan in the summer but he too is injured. So right now this must feel all a bit stressful to Mikel. I wish after letting Pépé leave on loan we had signed another attacker.

    Big games for Vieira and Turner.

    We should win but this may not be as straightforward as it feels because FCZ will play without any expectations while trying to shake off the malaise of their league performance.

    Enjoy the match everyone, especially the faithful travellers … 🙂

  11. 11
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks to Ned and the monks for another fact packed preview. How they managed to fit all that in and still turn up for the offices (Prime, Matins etc) I have no idea. Father Abbott runs a tight ship. Suggestions above for the team are good. We cannot play the first team twice a week, every week, rotation in games like this are why we have a squad. Our quality should be more than enough for a team in a Swiss slump. Looking forward to seeing Vieira and Marquinhos strut their stuff. I can’t watch the game live tonight (family mealtimes are sacrosanct especially on holiday) but hope to catch up with highlights on Pravda later.

    Come on you Gunners!

  12. 12
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks Cent, I see now no Cedric so Tomi
    at RB it is then.

  13. 13
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Thanks Ned and Monks
    2-0 will do nicely thank you, whoever plays.

  14. 14
    North Bank Ned says:

    I wonder if the speed with which Potter has been appointed head coach at the Bus Stop could suggest that his move had been in preparation before Tuchel’s sacking was announced.

  15. 15
    bt8 says:

    Potter is still sern as a golden boy for now but for how much longer ?

  16. 16
    bt8 says:

    sern = seen

    But it’s an interesting appointment at a club like Chelsea seeing as Potter has lost considerably more Premier League hames than he has won. Wikipedia says he won 42, drew 46 and lost 47. A better record than any other Brighton manager at the top level but still not the record of a top manager based on experience.

  17. 17
    North Bank Ned says:

    I suppose the measure of Potter is whether his Brighton won more games than would have been expected given the players at his disposal. At the Bus Stop, Potter will have players good enough not just to win games but also silverware. Is he the man to make the most of them and deliver success? Not that that seems to protect Chelsea head coaches from joining the ever less exclusive club of sacked Chelsea head coaches.

  18. 18
    North Bank Ned says:

    Tomiyasu, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney,
    Xhaka, Lokonga,
    Marquinhos, Vieira, Martinelli,

    Bench: Ramsdale, Hein, Zinchenko, White, Saliba, Smith, Cirjan, Odegaard, Saka, Cozier-Duberry, Jesus.

  19. 19
    bt8 says:

    27Oliveira Alencar (Marquinhos)
    23Sambi Lokonga
    21Ferreira Vieira
    9Gabriel Jesus

  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    Looks like FCZ is setting up in a 4-5-1

    Boranijasevic, Kamberi, Kryeziu, Aliti
    Dzemaili, Selnaes, Okita, Krasniqi, Guerrero

    Bench: Kostadinovic, Omeragic, Santini, Marchesano, Hornschuh, Conde, Avdijaj, Vyunnyk, Rohner, Hodza, Mets, De Nitti

  21. 21
    bt8 says:

    You beat me to it Ned. Easier to read, too. 👍🏼

  22. 22
    bt8 says:

    Come on Fabio, Marquinhos and Turner. Competition for places is what’s on the line, and what can make our season.

  23. 23
    OsakaMatt says:

    Absolutely nailed the starting XI Ned 👏👏👏
    Hope you got the score right too!

  24. 24
    Esso says:

    Cheers Ned!


  25. 25
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great counter Vieira, Eddie, Marquinhos 1-0!!

  26. 26
    OsakaMatt says:

    Instead of 3-0, it’s 1-1 at half time. Should have put this to bed really but then gave away a penalty just before half-time.

  27. 27
    bt8 says:

    We contrived to lose our lead leaving it 1-1 at halftime. Let’s see them come out firing in the 2nd. If not we could be cooked.

  28. 28
    OsakaMatt says:

    Well we won, but I just saw the news and it’s a very sad day

  29. 29
    Esso says:

    Enjoyed that. Performance better than the result but both OK with me.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    TTG says:

    We won a football match and lost a major constitutional and historically significant figure . I couldn’t concentrate on the game tonight but thought Marquinhos was excellent.

  32. 32
    Cent says:

    Esso knows, @ 29 and 30.

  33. 33
    Esso says:

    Cent is a fucking boy!

  34. 34
    North Bank Ned says:

    Black armbands on Arsenal players and staff after halftime. Respectful.

    As for the game, fluent and disjointed at times, as to be expected of a rotated team, but victory was secured. Vieira and Marquinhos both look promising.

    I wonder if UK football will be cancelled at the weekend.

  35. 35
    bt8 says:

    Brady, Bergkamp and Beyond commenting on the VAR travesty last weekend: “That wanker Tierney was two inches away and had eyes on this. He did not think it was a foul. Yet, VAR hundreds of miles away, someone deep in a bunker, decides this was clear and obvious. They spent an extended period looking in microscopic detail for any contact or possible foul. If you look long enough and in excruciating detail, you’ll always find something. Now, it’s clear and obvious that VAR can’t help trying to re-referee a game.”

  36. 36
    TTG says:

    The UK enters a period of mourning which will last ten days . During that time I’m not sure any sport will be played . I was due to be at the Test at the Oval tomorrow ( having been there today to see not a ball bowled) but it and horse racing meetings tomorrow and two EFL games have been cancelled .
    The football authorities will make an announcement in the morning but public sentiment will surely dictate that the games will be postponed

  37. 37
    North Bank Ned says:

    When Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI, died in 1952, we played the North London Derby three days later at White Hart Lane. Rugby and hockey suspended games, but football went ahead with its full weekend fixture list.

    However, from this distance, it is difficult to judge what is now appropriate to the mood of the nation.

  38. 38
    ClockEndRider says:

    Morning All,
    On a purely practical level, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this weekend and next weekends games cancelled but Thursdays game go ahead. League games can be pushed to the second half or end of the season. UEFA competitions can’t.

  39. 39
    Ollie says:

    Let’s wait to see what decisions they come up with, but looks like I may have an afternoon on the piss in London without a football match….

  40. 40
    Countryman100 says:

    RIP her Majesty the Queen. Long live the King.

  41. 41
  42. 42
    Ollie says:

    Nice one, C100.

  43. 43
    Countryman100 says:

    All Premier League games postponed this weekend including Arsenal v Everton

  44. 44
    North Bank Ned says:

    The Tottenham programme for the 1952 NLD carried a black-bordered box on its front page headlined, The Nation’s Great Loss. The text read:

    The passing of King George has evoked worldwide tribute to his memory. This afternoon on every football ground where a match is played under the jurisdiction of the Football Association a simple but sincere tribute will be paid to the memory of our late, beloved Patron. In the minds of us all at the hour must dwell a tender thought for the Queen’s Mother and the Royal Family.

    Instructions followed for the Enfield Central Bank to play the first two verses of the hymn Abide With Me, the words of which would have presumably been familiar to the crowd, ahead of both teams lining up in front of the West Stand to observe a minutes silence before the singing of the national anthem.

  45. 45
    Ollie says:

    Probably would have been a more reasonable tribute this time around too, Ned, but hey-ho.
    I do however wonder if England would have pulled out of the World Cup if she’d died in November.

  46. 46
    North Bank Ned says:

    Enfield Central Bank should have been Enfield Central Band. Spillchucker!

  47. 47
    ClockEndRider says:

    The amount I pay in poll tax I thought I was the Enfield Central Bank

  48. 48
    Ollie says:

    Heh CER.

  49. 49
    North Bank Ned says:

    Ollie@45: I read that the UK government’s national mourning guidance advised that cancelling fixtures was not obligatory, leaving the decision to individual sports. I will give the Premiership and FA the benefit of the doubt that they have correctly judged the mood of the nation.

    It did strike me that in 1952, when the two teams lined up for a minute’s silence, it was 17 Englishmen, three Welshmen and two Scots paying tribute to their departed monarch, and a crowd that would have had a recent shared experience of living through the Second World War, and its losses, with their king. On Sunday, there would likely have been barely half a dozen UK citizens in the two teams and a crowd whose experience of a 70-year reign would be far from uniform. Autres temps, autres moeurs.

  50. 50
    Ollie says:

    Last time I travelled to a postponed match, I didn’t know it would be postponed when I travelled. Stoke match in December snowed off.
    I ended up having an absolutely monumental session with Dave. Happy days.
    He walked me back to Holloway Road (in fact I think it was the first time I walked back to HR rather than my usual Finsbury Park), and I was sick in the Eurostar terminal before taking the train home.
    Those were the days.

  51. 51
    Ollie says:

    Yeah, I think it makes sense that way Ned at 49.

  52. 52
    North Bank Ned says:

    CER@47: 🙂

  53. 53
    Countryman100 says:

    Ollie @50. I bet Irish whiskey was involved. Either that or Talisker.

  54. 54
    Ollie says:

    Correct C100. Irish (starts with J…). A very Irish day as a lot of Guinness was involved too.

  55. 55
    scruzgooner says: