The Arsenal midfield conundrum for Chelsea

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I started to read Art of War. Like the business version of The Game (the teenage boy version of the bible). A tough read, because in the back of your mind, you’re imagining all the hopeless business execs writing down passages of inspiration that’ll help them deal with their office politik insecurities…

‘To prove Dave wrong on his deck template opinion, one must move Dave and not be moved by him’

What is interesting about it is you know Jose Mourinho has definitely read a copy of it. If you use it for business, you’re a bit of a wanker. For football, you can kind of see how the different managers use war like approaches. Mourinho and Alex Ferguson are psychological warfare merchants. Beating opponents before they’d kicked a ball. Ferguson used this technique to allow him to rotate his squad… if a team is beaten before you play them, you can use weaker soldiers (rotation) to finish the job.

Mourinho takes it one step futher… his mind games border on nasty. He tries to destroy the confidence of opponents at any cost. Crazy thing about Jose is that he’s lost his knack of keeping his soldiers onboard. He used to protect his players at any cost, bordering on insane. Now, we’re 5 games into the season, and he’s launching psychological warfare on his own players, which has led to leaks of unhappiness and a drop in performance. What’s great about this, is that his undoing at Chelsea was this exact behaviour. Dropping players, critiquing in public, sacking staff and being a total shit bag… cannot believe he’s letting his ego takeover again.

Arsene Wenger and Pep G in this book equation are very different. Wenger believes in attack and the power of his soldiers. If you have the most powerful and skilled, they will always overcome evil.

Pep G is a bit different, he believes in having the most powerful soldiers, but also the most disciplined and most informed. His biggest strength is that of unpredictability… having skilled players who can play a dazzling array of systems that can change at a drop of a pin. Ultimate flexibility combined with skill and discipline.

But Arsene is getting better. He’s headed into this season with a stronger army. The squad is looking pretty thickset with players. Big question is whether they’re organized well enough to compete for a whole season. One step further… whether they have the quality.

We play Chelsea at the weekend. They’ve looked menacing at times under Conte, but they’re still a bit inconsistent for my liking. As a manager, he’s all about systems and grit. He’ll have a plan for us, but you wonder if it’ll be too early to impact hard? Our midfield has been pretty open this year, it’s ripe for exploitation imo… but we’ll see.

Also, the big question for many Arsenal fans is how Wenger will deal with his starting 11. Having Coquelin sitting at the base of your midfield is a strategic opportunity for Chelsea. He’s not great on the ball and he’s working a high press. But that, versus Cazorla, who is incredible on the ball, but can’t cover the ground is a conundrum. Both playing at the same time feels like a massive risk for me. But against a fast Chelsea midfield, I think I’d sacrifice Cazorla for Xhaka. Coquelin’s engine and grit is perfect for upsetting their tempo, big worry is around his discipline… but to be fair, are Xhaka and Elneny better for that? Is our system built on discipline? Or should I say the right sort of discipline

I guess Xhaka would be. He’s played in a stricter system for a while under tactical managers and he’s not used to roaming forward. I think it would be a mistake not to have him play at the weekend. For me, Elneny and Xhaka would both be starters, based on our issues we’ve had with Chelsea in the past. A solid base that can distribute at pace… then I’d have Cazorla to come on as an impact sub late in the game when he’s taking on tired legs.

Just my opinion, of course.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

RIGHT, that’s your lot.

IF YOU E-MAILED ME OVER THE LAST WEEK, I DIDN’T GET IT BECAUSE OF AN ISSUE. I WILL MAIL BACK. Wondered why I didn’t get any love on the website upgrade question.

Pete x





79 Responses to “The Arsenal midfield conundrum for Chelsea”

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  1. Mark S

    I really am looking forward to an Elneny-Xhaka midfield being unleashed sometime this year, but will we have to wait for injuries or suspension before we see it? It’s weird how the central midfield pairing you would expect to see in the Prem is what you see in the EFL Cup, and the expected EFL Cup pairing is playing in the Prem. I’m all for bringing Santi on late in games. He use of both feet is second to none, and his cleverness against tired legs and minds would be beneficial. Great to see Xhaka shooting from range too. He’s banged in some great goals, but those shots can also lead to rebounds for the other players lurking in the box. Also happy to see Lucas score last night. The pundits were saying that it was against “Championship” opposition, so he really should be scoring, but I don’t care…a goal is a goal…I don’t care who it is against. Just to get off the mark is big.

  2. Mark S

    I’m probably going to curse us now, but it’s kind of nice to have a squad of 24-30 year olds. We could have played Debuchy last night and Ospina too. A second team fully of internationals…not a bad thing to have!

  3. igbo Amadi-Obi

    I agree entirely about Santi. Unfortunately, that would make us short on play makers. The rest of Coq, Xhaka and Elneny lack that capability. And despite the discipline concerns, I would sooner Coq than Elneny because he’s too nice for a Costa. We need him provoked because he’s not at his best when he’s busy fighting little personal battles.

  4. igbo Amadi-Obi

    @ Mark S. That Debuchy couldn’t make the line-up yesterday, and we had to drag a chap out of position, tells a lot about the state of his relationship with the manager, doesn’t it?

  5. Leedsgunner

    Last year, Chelsea beat us by Diego provoking Gabriel and getting him sent off. Let’s give them a taste of their own medicine…

    Although their midfield has lots of creative and attacking players, their defence is nothing to write home about.

    Instead of Giroud leading the line we need pace pace pace up front.

    David Luiz is unpredictable enough that if our CF goes past him he is liable to make a foolish tackle drawing a penalty… and or a sending off.

    For that reason I would be tempted to start with Alexis on left… Perez through the middle and Walcott on the right. Once the defenders tire later on in the game bring on Giroud to torment their defenders some more.

    More than anything, let’s not make their job easier by conceding a penalty or a sending off.

    Let them lose their cool.

    We can beat this lot if we keep our discipline.

  6. gonsterous

    For Pete’s sakes.. there ain’t no conundrum.. xhaka – coq and ozil..
    Bring on caz late on if we aren’t leading.. we have a stronger squad than chelseas.. thought that was clear !!

  7. Uwot?

    For me it’s coq & xhaka in front of back four.need that physicality.elneny,Santa & iwobi.this gives you craft & pace.up top Sanchez & Theo .pace.this game to physical for ozil from the off.but we’ll see…….

  8. gonsterous

    Rumours going round that debuchy was spotted practicing long shots in the training ground !! No wonder he’s going off !!

  9. tunnygriffboy

    I’d be gob smacked if he changed the team from the Hull game. I’d have to get Xhaka in there personally.

    He’s gone with the combo of Coquelin and Santi which served him well for a year and a half until their injuries last season. I respect that loyalty but I feel it could be misplaced as we now have a couple of other very good options.

    I do understand him slowly integrating Xhaka into the team and getting him used to the intensity of the league. I think he could help improve the side though.

    Post Chelsea we have the following fixtures


    I think we’ll see rotation throughout these fixtures, perhaps a couple of differentcombinations and a general intense fight to gain their position. I think by the end of October we are likely to see Xhaka become a key part of our midfield

    There is now huge competition for places not just in midfield but in the forward line as well. Theo has certainly picked his game up and Giroud hasn’t had a look in yet. Hopefully it’ll really mmotivate him

    It’s great. When was the last time we had this sort of competition and differing options ?

  10. TallestTiz

    Cech/Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Ozil, Alexis, Perez, Walcott.
    Cazorla for Özil as sub and Giroud for Perez. Third sub is open to dynamics of the game.

    But knowing Wenger, he will probably thow in Iwobi on the left in place of Perez and move Alexis top to prove unnecessarily that he nutures young talents. But Iwobi will be bullied by the occasion anfld Wenger looses against a big team once again.

  11. Leedsgunner

    “Post Chelsea we have the following fixturesBasel

    They are all winnable. We need to aim to win all of them, we lost the title dropping silly points.

  12. Louis Almeida

    How can Iwobi be bullied by the occasion? His first start for us was in the Nou Camp last season and he was our best player. He’s physically well built too so I’m not sure that’s an issue. Right now we lack creators and retainers in the final third. Iwobi is vital for that.

  13. Rhys Jaggar

    Mr Wood

    Plenty of people use The Art of War, even in medicine and medical research. I went into that field thinking that if anywhere would reward human decency, that would. Think again.

    I’ve seen a top UK University with its most senior Professors all strung out due to overwork, a culture of spite and meanness and open astonishment when I just did my job (which involved doing some grunt work for them).

    I’ve had a top consultant doctor actively seek to destroy everything I did because they were a queen bee who couldn’t allow others to succeed. The NHS should know about things like that, but they are a Cosa Nostra that protects its own name

    The best way of winning against that lot is shaming them. Beating them up is the appropriate way, but society doesn’t allow that.

    Business is the way business is ALLOWED to be.

    Go ask yourself whether being a thug is intrinsic to finding cures for genetic diseases. Go ask whether beating up yobs in the City is the requirement to solve fertility problems.

    If you think not, do tell a few politicians and financiers.

  14. Danny

    I reckon Debuchy will be sold in January. He wasn’t in August coz we need a back up in case Hector gets injured, Carl will soon be fit and Maitland-Niles is getting experience in that position.

  15. tunnygriffboy


    Yeah, the point of the list was that they are all winnable and they are games we can rotate in. By the end of October I would have expected Xhaka to have made the CM spot his own. Saturday is so important as it sets us up for the CL and a meaty run in the PL


    Young Iwobi is our master assister so far this season. He has three 🙂

  16. STV

    “I’ve had a top consultant doctor actively seek to destroy everything I did because they were a queen bee who couldn’t allow others to succeed.”

    I know how you might have felt man! Part of every business sadly.

  17. STV

    Chelsea at home.. No Coquelin please.. Let’s take the initiative. The players must feel confident.

    I’d like to see more or less this..

    ___Alexis Perez Iwobi_
    __Xhaka Cazorla Elneny
    Monreal Kos Mus Bellerin_

    Subs: Ozil Coquelin Giroud.

    Perez must be confident from the last game. So it’s not a bad idea to start him and ahead of Ozil.

  18. STV

    “Arsene Wenger and Pep G in this book equation are very different. Wenger believes in attack and the power of his soldiers. If you have the most powerful and skilled, they will always overcome evil.”

    They’re totally different but not because of the reasons you give.

    Wenger is hapless. Guardiola is a good football coach.

  19. tunnygriffboy


    I’d have to go for Coquelin up against Kante and Matic in midfield. I’d go for Xhaka as well but Wenger will go for Santi experience. I just hope he doesn’t get over run

    Also I think Theo has to play. He’s had his Theoisms this season but in between he’s been pretty effective. He’s put in some good crosses, is making those runs in the spaces Alexis makes for him, has a couple of goals and an assist and has been involved in many of the goals we’ve scored so far. He’s even doing a bit of defending.

  20. Up 4 grabs now

    Evening chaps,

    Saturday will be a tight game, I’m quite happy if we score in the last ten minutes to Nick a 1-0.

    I think wengers trying to ease in granit, but after scoring in the last two games I think he’s ready.
    For me this is the perfect time to rest santi on the bench.

    He’s had a run of games playing 90 minutes, and although it’s still early in the season could maybe be rested to come on late in the game. Especially if ozil isn’t firing.

    Can’t see Wenger dropping ozil for Chelsea &
    Just don’t want to see Chamberlain anywhere near the team!

  21. DivineSherlock

    I think early goal we be the key , if we manage to get one inside the first 25mins then we close them of defensively . They’ll be looking to attack more and we get counter attacking chances.

  22. Up 4 grabs now

    Back five picks itself (so nice to be able to say that again)
    Coq, xhaka,ozil
    Theo, Sanchez,iwobi

    With no Terry, Luiz and Cahill aren’t great, and played last night with extra time. No Maureen hoodoo as well should give us a very good chance.

    Perez, giroud, santi from the bench, works for me.

  23. Rambo Ramsey

    The real conundrum is who starts in goal. Cech deserves the drop.

    Re midfield: Xhaka-Coq seems to be the favorite I’ve noticed. Lets just say Diego ‘the Cunt’ Costa will be salivating at the prospect of winding up two midfielders, both of whom have temperamental issues.

  24. Up 4 grabs now


    Costa probably winds his own team mates up let alone our players, the guy is three bricks short of a wall.

    Would still rather have Cech than Ospina, just.
    I think cech will be out to put one over on his old team and may just raise his game!

  25. tunnygriffboy


    That’s a good point re discipline from Coquelin and Xhaka. It would be Xhaka biggest game by far in an Arsenal shirt and the atmosphere will be angry. Perhaps another reason Wenger may go for Santi experience

    Mourinho had Wenger’s number. Sit deep on edge of area, bank of four and five with not much space between the banks and they were very narrow between thewidth of the penalty area. Then look to counter.

    That was with a younger Terry and Cahill.

    I wonder if Conte will try to out football us ? If he does it’ll leave gaps. On the other hand if we’re too gung ho and Coquelin and Santi get caught infront of the ball then it leaves Kos and Mustafi exposed

    Hopefully with the team put out yesterday the others will have had time to rest and work on our plan for the game

  26. BigCheese

    Don’t give a monkeys who plays on Saturday just hope we win, and win convincingly.

    Top many false dawns over the last 10 years. Finally we have a mature squad with plenty of talent sprinkled with a few genuine class players (Alexis, Ozil, Kos, Bellerin). No excuses against a team who are in transition and getting used to their new manager.

    I would love to see a disciplined display like the one against City at The Etihad. No red cards and no silly penalties please lads!

  27. Cesc Appeal


    Agree with your line up.

    I’d go with a 4-3-3 and drop Ozil as well, Elneny, Xhaka and Caz in the middle, Iwobi, Perez/Giroud and Sanchez up top.

    High energy, aside from Caz, but still provides more energy and willing than Ozil, if we’re in a position of strength later on I’d bring Ozil to try and find killer balls on the counter, maybe lose one of Iwobi/Perez and bring him on, be more compact and explosive later in the game.

    But, this is Wenger we’re dealing with, so a Coq, Caz middle is likely, Ozil beyond…at that point I shit my pants thinking about Kante, Matic and Oscar/Fabregas operating in that same space, all there have legs and only one of our three does.

    You’ve then for to worry about the middle being open and allowing Chelsea to exploit our flanks that have been a real weakness this season, Willian and Hazard could do some damage if we allow that.

    I think a three man middle of Elneny, Xhaka and Caz could work well, Caz use to like a bang from distance as well, so I would give all three licence to have a pop, keep Chelsea on their toes.

  28. Batistuta

    Santi has to rest this one out, has to be Coquelin-Xhaka for me, santi to come in 2nd half,if Wenger goes santi-coq, we’d lose very well cus they’d be bullied all over the park especially santi

    But knowing Wenger and his tendency to gift these big games, I’m sure Conte will claim his first scalp this weekend,best not to get your hopes up fellas

  29. BigCheese

    I really hope we don’t sit back and hope to hit on the break. We can outplay them with the team we have. Front foot, early goal then counter.

    We sit back and Costa, Hazard and Willian will kill us.

  30. Hitman

    That article on Bellerin to Barce is just a blackops to unsettle our boy.
    There’s no truth in it. Cuntalans will do anything to get their way.
    Anyway £38m isn’t enough.

  31. Hitman

    Didn’t we lose 6-0 last time Wenger had a big anniversary/milestone?
    Wenger always finds a way to mess up against the big teams.
    Any other manger and it would be easy 3 pts as the Chavs just aren’t firing at the moment.

  32. Redtruth

    It’s strange how AKB’s latch on to last nights result.
    Fielding a second string team shows Wenger has no regard for the competition.
    His not bothered attitude is exactly how i viewed the game….

  33. tunnygriffboy

    I’d be gobsmacked if he changed the team from last week.

    Rotation will happen over the next month post Chelsea where we have a run of favourable fixtures in the CL and PL. I would expect to see Xhaka properly bedded in by then.

    I worry about us being over run in midfield

    A win Saturday really does set us up for October

  34. Ankit_gooner

    Chelsea mainly attack through wings so need CMs who can shift horizontally to support the fullbacks and wingers defensively and cut off passing lanes to the centre.Also,we need to bypass their midfield so that we get likes of perez and alexis running at them.The wide players need to be in half spaces and the forward needs to on the shoulder of the last defender constantly looking to run in behind.Chelsea are a very beatable side.But they are a superb side defensively.

  35. Sam

    The cunt that wrote that stupid article needs his filing head examined

    Bellerin is worth £100M, 10M more than Pogba

    And he said Arsenal are willing to do business ha ha ha ha

    This time their Barca DNA crap not gonna work, Cesc was silly

  36. wenker-wanger

    Chelsea are not the force they was 2 years ago. Arsenal are favourites in my book. However its chelsea and our tosser manager has a hopeless record against them. Take a draw 1-1…

  37. Frankie T

    So we have two solid central midfield pairings.
    Cazorla and Coquelin
    Xhaka and Elneny

    And who would have thought this a few years ago when we were watching Flamteta!

    And what’s even better is that we have forgot about that overated piece of shit Ramsey

  38. Dissenter

    I agree with the Xhaka and Coquelin comb with Ozil in front of them. I would start Theo Walcott.
    Give Ozil the muscle to do his thing.

    I wouldn’t have Cazorla in the team at all on Saturday. I would keep him for the CL game along with Elneny.

  39. Dissenter

    “And what’s even better is that we have forgot about that overrated piece of shit Ramsey”

    I reluctantly agree.
    It seems Ramsey is excess baggage right now. He really has no real place in the team.

  40. Louis Almeida

    We’re back!

    Joel Campbell isn’t getting good reviews in Portugal. Funnily enough, they’re criticising his work rate which is somwthing you couldn’t hold against him when he was here.

  41. Leedsgunner

    So we face Reading in the next round of the EFL Cup? Field the same team from Tuesday, except if Ramsey is fit I would play him instead of Xhaka. I want him fresh for the EPL.

  42. Louis Almeida

    Ankle-biter, I’ve watched a couple of games and think the criticism is a bit harsh. Maybe they were expecting more from a player coming from Arsenal. Anyway it’s still early so I’m sure he’ll improve.

  43. Rhys Jaggar

    Looking at the sides Conte has put out to date, plan A has to be beating that 4-2-3-1 system. Plan B should consider an alternative formation including Fabregas, who will no doubt be kicking the manager’s door down to get in the starting XI. Plan C should consider a more radical approach, 4-5-1/4-3-3, dropping Matic and Oscar.

    I must say I’d be tempted to go 4-1-2-3 with Coquelin as the 1, Xhaka and Cazorla as the 2 and Walcott, Sanchez and Ozil as the 3. This is a go-from-the -off formation targeting 2-0 or 3-0 at HT.

    El Neny can be sub to solidify to 4-2-3-1 if plans work out. Iwobi, Perez and Ox as impact subs if HT is 0-0 or worse.

    Critical is winning the midfield battle and that means Walcott and Ozil contributing to winning the ball back/ supporting their full backs.

  44. Carts

    “I reluctantly agree.
    It seems Ramsey is excess baggage right now. He really has no real place in the team.”

    Sooner people realise this the better.

    I still lol at those Barcelona rumour

  45. tom

    To Louis’ comment on Campbell.

    Basically a summary of the criticism he’s received in Portuguese press but also some interesting comments by coaches in Costa Rica.
    However, after painting a pretty bleak picture the article finishes with this:

    “Campbell has one goal and no assists for Sporting in four games so far. The general opinion in Portugal is that he’ll take a little more time to adapt and be a regular fixture in the starting eleven.”

    So it looks like there is some recognition of his promise.

    I suppose the Portuguese press are no different than any other. Always yelling.

  46. Louis Almeida

    Tom, I’d say the Portuguese press are fair. They are quite harsh on Sporting as they’re one of the big 3 (along with Porto and Benfica), and some may feel they are underachieving. The season is still young though so we’ll see.

  47. Uwot?

    Yes Rhys,winning the midfield battle & it will be is is the first’s a conundrum I ‘ m not sure our tactically inept manager will know how to deal with.even if for once we have the personnel to implement a plan.but then he doesn’t do plans does he?

  48. tom

    I’m not saying the press are unfair, though IMO they often are, just that they deal in hype.

    We all want something to read.

  49. Carts

    Sitting here now, I am confident that Wenger doesn’t know what his midfield and forward line will be.

    Conte’s has to make a simple choice of either starting Cesc over Oscar.

    Where as Wenger is 100% torn on whether to pursue it with Sanchez upfront and what two to pic from Xhaka, Coq and Santi as I’m quite confident Elneny will be in that bench