Will the Arsenal Starting XI Please Stand Up?

I had some interesting discussion with my followers on twitter yesterday. We mostly talked about who will start in which positions this Sunday but there was also a discussion about Theo Walcott and how many goals he will score this season.

This weekend’s lineup against Liverpool is driven mostly by attrition. Who will play? Who do you got?

Cech starts and at keeper Arsenal are set. At right back, Arsenal have a solid first choice in Bellerin and a back-up in Debuchy. Debuchy might not be happy with his position as back-up but he’s a well paid professional footballer and sometimes you get pushed down the pecking order.

At left back, Arsenal have two good options. Monreal is the starter and Gibbs is his replacement. Gibbs is better than a backup and could even start if Arsene moves Monreal to the center back position.

Center back is where Arsenal start to have serious problems. Wenger couldn’t have predicted that all three of his starting three center backs would be out with injury. He has also been working on signing a center back for a while. Exactly why that’s not coming off yet is one of those things that divides the fans: some people say Wenger doesn’t delegate, that Wenger is too cheap, that the valuations are off, that the players are too expensive, etc.

I’ve heard all the arguments and frankly, it’s old. Wenger is slow in the market, he likes to find value, and as he said the other day he treats Arsenal’s money as if it were his own. I am not taking a side on this debate because I have accepted that this is just how Wenger is. It’s sure frustrating at times. I mean, I wish we got business done last month. I wish that Wenger would just spend the money on the players that we need. But no amount of me crying into this blog or harassing the official twitter account is going to force Wenger to do anything: he’s going to do it in his own way and I accept that. Acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process.

That’s why I’m in the “the prices for players have gotten ridiculous” camp. Man City signed John Stones today for nearly £50m and Arsenal are reportedly going to spend £30m on Mustafi. I don’t know much in this world but I do know that’s a crazy sum of money for a player who is obviously talented (Stones) but has a pretty big cloud over his head. I have said it before, I like John Stones. He is a rare English defender because he can bring the ball out of the back. That’s an underestimated skill in the Premier League. Wenger has almost always tried to have defenders who can do that, play vertically, the ball on the ground, up to midfielders or forwards. Stones does that. He’s also comfortable with the ball at feet. And again, in a ball-control situation, like what Guardiola will no doubt do at City, that’s an invaluable skill.

Wenger is undoubtedly looking for a defender who offers a similar set of skills to what Stones brings. Is Mustafi that guy? Probably. The German national side play possession-based football. But his League stats are not really telling.

But buying a player isn’t going to get him to start for Arsenal this Sunday. Is it? That would be a tight turnaround. So, I think we have to look at the current team and guess who Wenger is going to start.

Gooners are very big on Chambers and I can see why. He’s similar to Stones in that he can dribble and is comfortable bringing the ball out of defense. He’s also similar to Stones in that he has a tendency to switch off defensively.

Last season in the same match against Liverpool, Chambers started and had one of the worst matches of his Arsenal career. He played passes to Coutinho, he let Benteke nutmeg him, and all around looked lost in the center of defense. He was dropped after that game and only played in League Cup matches and as a sub. In this summer’s pre-season he seemed to revert to that nightmarish form of last season: he had one “tackle” in particular which was so awful and uncommitted that I figured he didn’t even want to play center back anymore. So, it’s a bit of a surprise to hear Arsenal supporters tout him as “future Arsenal captain” and say that he’s a sure starter against Liverpool.

Chambers’ nightmare match was against the Liverpool team under Brentan Rodgers, which was hardly the kind of Liverpool team that we will see this Sunday. This Sunday, they will be pressing Arsenal and will almost certainly apply pressure to Arsenal’s center backs. But then again, who will Arsene pick ahead of Chambers? Bielik? Holding? Monreal? Force Koscielny back early?

Of all the center backs I’ve seen this pre-season, I liked Bielik the best. Yep, I’m mental and I don’t understand football. In fact, I should stick to baseball. Bielik made mistakes (they all did) but he has this calm presence about him, it’s very unusual to see a young player with that much confidence about his game. Again, he reminds me of Stones in that regard and also in his ability on the ball. He’s a converted midfielder and so his control and touch shouldn’t be a surprise. Nor his passing range.

I have to think that Arsene will start one of the two young center backs along with Monreal. He will probably start Chambers and that will prove that I don’t know anything about football (or that Wenger doesn’t think Bielik is ready to start a Premier League match). And at left back Arsenal will have Gibbs.

In front of them Arsene almost has to start Elneny and Xhaka, right? Except now you start to wonder what Wenger’s thinking: will he want more control of the game, or better shielding in front of an inexperienced and nervous back four? In the return match against Liverpool last season, when they had Klopp, Arsenal got another draw, this time 3-3, and the Gunners were absolutely dominated by Liverpool in that game, especially the final 30 minutes.

But that match saw Flamini partner with Ramsey in what was probably Arsenal’s worst ever midfield. To sort of nail the point home, Petr Cech led Arsenal in final third passes. Petr Cech, the goalkeeper, was 13/22 in the Liverpool final 1/3. Özil was 11/19. It almost feels like Wenger simply cannot play Coquelin, despite the added shielding. That means Xhaka and Eleny have to be extra switched on for their defensive duties.

Ramsey will be the third midfielder and will no doubt enjoy the Özil role greatly. He’s also a better defender (though he gets dribbled, A LOT, because he tries to tackle when maybe he should just stand his marker up) than Özil which is a bonus.

And in the front three we aren’t really settled yet either. Most Arsenal supporters I’ve spoken to want Alexis in the CF spot and Iwobi wide left but I wonder what Wenger will do here. Wenger did say he doesn’t want to play Walcott on the right because he doesn’t play defense. Those are Wenger’s own words, don’t @ me, bro.

“He is not a great defender. On the flank, today there is much defensive work asked from the players that you lose a lot of his qualities when you put him there. For me in my head I will use him more up front.”

Of course, then he played him on the right against City..

What’s weird here is that when I mentioned Walcott’s defenselessness people jumped on Ox. They said Ox is a worse defender than Walcott. I don’t know where that comes from. Ox is a much more active player up and down the flanks than Walcott. He literally tackles more and intercepts more than Walcott (always has) and while he’s not the world’s most terrific defender, he puts in his shift. The same can’t be said about Walcott, literally, it can’t be said, Wenger said so.

Arsenal’s right forward will probably be tasked with marking Alberto Moreno. He’s a player who LOVES to go forward. So, whomever Wenger picks will have a tough first day in the League. I suspect that Wenger might put Campbell on the right for his superior work rate. But that means that Wenger will almost certainly start Alexis on the left and Theo in the middle.

Personally, I like Alexis in the middle and Iwobi on the left with Campbell on the right. And I have no reason why I think that Wenger will start Theo up front other than Wenger saying he sees Theo more as a CF. I would love to be surprised and see Alexis played as the CF, I think he just offers more to the position than Theo.

So, that’s my guess as to how Wenger will lineup.

Now, finally, how many goals will Theo score? I asked in a Twitter poll (super duper scientifical) and 46% said 5-10. Only 8% said 15-20 goals and 18% said less than five. This is a huge repudiation of Wenger, who feels like Theo is ready to have the breakout season that all of us thought Theo would have two years ago. If you take all of your feelings about Walcott and put them in a pile, then dump them into the garbage, then set that on fire, you can see that the 5-10 and 10-15 (74% combined) people have a good sense of Walcott’s abilities. I am in the 10-15 goals camp. He has averaged 11 goals a season and 76 shots a season over the last six seasons.

Walcott, like all forwards, needs shots. Unless you see Walcott taking 5 shots a game, and that would mean that he is Arsenal’s number one forward option, and you see him tally 150 shots over say 30 games, he is probably not going to score you more than 15 goals. The other option is that Walcott has a real breakout conversion streak season, like Jamie Vardy had last season, and starts converting 20-25% of his shots (or he’s given penalty duties and Arsenal win a bunch of penalties).

Twelve goals is exactly what you should expect from Walcott, if he gets to take 75 shots. If he gets 150 shots, and he converts at his career average or better, you could see a 23 goal season from him. In his best season for Arsenal, he got 111 shots and scored 21 goals. That was kind of a magical season: he got more shots than ever, but not too many to be considered the number one option, and converted at a 19% rate — which was bumped up because of his League Cup goals. That is also an option, but it seems like such an outlier. Personally, I don’t see Walcott getting fewer than 10 goals this season, unless Wenger buys Lacazette or another top quality striker, and I don’t see him being Arsenal’s number one forward either. Thus, I predict he will be somewhere in the 10-15 goal range. I’m 75% confident of that.



    1. I understand your frustration but I don’t think he reads the comments section of my blog. And I don’t see him retiring until at least the end of his current contract.

      Might as well sit back and enjoy this last season of Arsene.

      1. I am not as confident as you that this will be his last season Tim.

  1. I guess I am feeling particularly pessimistic today…I am in the 5-10 camp with Theo. And I think we are done in the transfer market. Sigh.

    1. He’s going to get a good run at the start of the season. I expect him to get 3-4 goals right off depending on playing time and whether Arsenal can get him the ball. That’s the biggest problem, there.

  2. I think I mostly agree with that lineup, though I suppose Chambers will start because he’s got experience playing with us and at this level. If I were Wenger I’d tell him to look for Xhaka or Bellerin, and if they are marked, to just hit it up the field.

    In which case, I could see the merits of Theo as striker. If Liverpool are pressing, he might be able to find space from a long ball. A bit like he scored against Stoke last season. He’s also probably the most confident he’s been in a while after that City game, so it’s worth a shot.

    But if Theo is playing up front, I think I’d rather Santi as the 10 than Ramsey. I know Wenger said he’s not fit enough to start, but that might have been a bluff. Or at least, I hope so.

    Why Santi instead of Ramsey. Santi offers more control and is a better passer. Ramsey offers more movement and goal threat. I think he’d fit better with Alexis up front, who likes to drop and get involved in the game.

    So two different ways to go up front for me, based on fitness and tactics.

    Alexis-Santi-Campbell with Theo up top, or
    Iwobi-Ramsey-Ox with Alexis as striker.

    1. Santi is out of shape. Clearly. Must have gone on holiday with Nasri, who was given short shrift by Pep.

      Still, he could start… one of a number of compromises we’d have to make because key parts of the squad are not ready. He looked mighty effective at No. 10 in that pre-season game in America in which we scored 8, but the opposition wasn’t that great. Liverpool won’t give him the time, space or breathing room.

  3. We have played Alexis up front and Iwobi on the left before (though not in the same match) and neither of them did well in those positions. Why not play players where they have experience playing? I would start with Theo upfront, Iwobi in the Ozil role, Alexis on the left and Ramsey on the right (not his natural position but he has done decently there and will help out defensively when Moreno comes forward).

    As for the CB partnership, I would pair Monreal with Holding.

    1. Ooh… I totally forgot about Santi. I would play Santi in the Ozil role. Iwobi and Ox can be super subs.

        1. Maybe he has information/stats/medical test results/trained staff that say he isn’t fit that you might not have? Just a guess.

    2. No on Holding. He needs a lot of time to develop. He was the worst of the CBs for me (just barely below Gabriel, who I think may just be a disaster).

      No on Iwobi in the Özil role. That would be suicidal. He just can’t create enough.

      No on Ramsey on the right. I think that was one of Wenger’s worst decisions.

  4. The idea that ox is a worse defender than theo might stem from those 3 or 4 big mistakes he made in important games. It’s easy to focus on those and forget whatever he does the rest of the time.

      1. Oh I agree. I meant my comment to be about how ox is better defensively but I think people’s opinion about him might be coloured by a few high profile mistakes when most of the time he’s a lot better. I see the comment could be read as me being critical of ox though.

  5. “Where have you gone, Corporal Jenkinson?
    A fandom turns its weary face from you.

  6. Considering the strength of the team, central midfield, and shortages both in defense and up top, 4-3-1-2. Don’t really care who plays in back, it’s makeshift. Walcott especially can’t play on his own up front but paired with Sanchez as a pair, his speed and movement without the ball will distract defenses when Alexis has the ball at his feet. Santi, Xhaka, and Elneny as a trio bring toughness, mobility, and ball retention which will be key against Liverpool’s press, especially since we’ll have a vulnerable pair of defenders. Xhaka and Cazorla especially can play clever forward passes to bypass the press and springboard an attack. Ramsey to link play between the midfield and forwards similar to his Wales role and to provide a goal scoring threat with his late runs.

    1. This idea of playing two up top is being mooted by a lot of people. Wenger seems to not have faith in his midfield to dominate with only 4.

      1. I suppose if you’re talking about a traditional, english style flat midfield four than I agree, it’s harder to establish an effective possession game, especially when opposing teams are playing a central midfield three. But a 3-1 midfield isn’t flat, the midfielders are closer together and the formation lacks width, not numbers in central midfield. But Wenger seems wedded to 4-2-3-1 even if if might not take advantage of our current personnel.

        1. I think we need to get away from talking about formations. I’m not so sure formations exist in the way that we imagine them. But regardless, by putting a 2nd player up top Wenger makes the pitch too narrow for his own attack.

          Wenger’s one main tactic is verticality. That’s why he loves Ozil and why he bought Xhaka. If we don’t have wide players we actually hurt the ability to find spaces between the lines because the defense and offense are all packed into the middle. Wenger needs wide players to open up the vertical passing lanes.

  7. My guess is that Koscielny will be one of the starting CBs. I mean, last season he rushed Alexis so much he was still waving his Chile kit above his head, he will have no problem putting on a centre back who doesn’t run as much and gets tired less. His partner will be Chambers, and he will play them along Monreal and Hector.
    In midfield, I suppose Elneny and Xhaka, although I don’t remember seeing them play together in any of the preseason matches.
    I personally would put Ramsey and Xhaka with Santi in front of them, because Ramsey is not as creative as Ozil and I fear with behind the attackers we might have a problem of creating a more fluid passing game.
    Up front, Alexis in the middle, Ox on the right and Iwobi on the left. Walcott as a substitute that can have an impact.
    This is just my gut, Wenger will probably put Alexis on the bench, pair Coquelin with Elneny and play Bielik with Monreal.

  8. It’s awfully, awfully hard to make good decisions in a market with rapidly changing prices. Harder still for a person looking to be a value buyer. Football is no different. And this year seems crazy even by recent standards.

    In any case, its easy to sit on the sidelines and urge someone to spend their own money. And no, Arsenal fans, Arsenal money is not your money. If I had to make such rapid decisions (weeks) involving tens of millions of dollars/pounds, I’d have had an infarction by now.

    1. Well said man.

      My work personally has been in bars and hotels. I’m one of the last people who should be telling a multi million pound club what to do with their money. And whatever money i’ve chosen to give them over the years is theirs. They don’t owe me anything.

  9. Whatever our excuses or explanations or frustrations regarding Wenger’s inability to buy a CB and forward this summer, you can be sure Klopp and his players are salivating at the prospect of pressuring our make-shift back four. I’m sure Leicester will be similarly buoyed the following week. As for our striker situation, I can hardly imagine a half-fit Sanchez and a half-consistent Theo Walcott will cause them fits. Hoping for the best, but have a bad feeling about our opening fixtures.

    I’m sure we’ll fare better once our more established players return, but by then we could have dropped six points, and that can be huge come May.

  10. By the way, Tim, are you going to be doing any surveys or polls this summer (about where we might finish, who we think will have an unexpected break-out season, etc.)?

  11. Arsenal money isn’t Wenger’s money either, is it.
    Did you expect this year’s asking prices for players to stay stagnant with the new TV revenues kicking in?

    Perhaps not buying last year was even a bigger mistake than most had thought.

      1. I’m sure you did.
        There’s very little that hasn’t been said or written about Arsenal and its transfers under Wenger.

        In my personal opinion the biggest factor that stimulates Wenger’s apprehension in the TM are the odds of winning. There’s not another PL manager who’s said ” in the end, only one team can win it” as many times as Wenger has. Not because it’s so insightful, I mean, everyone knows that. But rather because no amount of spending pushes the odds to around what they were when it was just Arsenal and Man U duking it out in his earlier years.

        With Leicester winning it last season, the narrative pushed by Wenger has changed from the usual ” five or six clubs can win it ” , to “anyone can win it now”. Why would Wenger spend upwards of £100M on transfers most neutral observers think he could safely spend, when the odds of winning are less than 20 %
        Wenger does gamble on things, usually when it comes to players’ fitness. But it’s one thing to take a 20-30% chance on a player pulling a hamstring from accumulated fatigue , but it’s quite another to risk a high expenditure on a relatively low chance of winning, especially when there’s virtually zero impetus from the club owner to win.

        1. the best argument I read , make lots of sense and I do believe this is the last truth to understand Arsene Wenger, an economist at heart.

  12. Why bother about the cost of Stones? It’s not our problem, or even City’s problem. They got their man. At a price that makes sense for THEM.

    You know, I spent many years examining BS for a living, and I don’t buy Arsene’s about spending the money like his own. Getting essential buys over the line in time is not solely down to cost. It’s also in large measure down to planning. And he’s shown for years now that he does not plan transfer summers properly.

    Don’t tell me that we are going to use the striker shortage excuse 3 year running. Come on, now.

    The inflation in the market is staggering. We didn’t want to pay 32m for Higuain, and look how much he costs now. Suarez release claude was 40m. How much is he worth now?

    So what’s Arsene’s strategy? Wait for the prices to come down? He’ll wait a long time. Meanwhile let’s watch him pick up and carefully examine the 30th tomato in the pile, and come back and haggle to the last penny with the vendor.

    1. I reference Stones’ price for the point that prices for players are spiraling out of control.

      I think that there is something else at work with Arsenal’s transfers that no one wants to talk about and whenever I mention it, I get yelled at: players don’t want to join Arsenal. We have been publicly rejected by Suarez (that deal fell through when he didn’t push), by Gustavo, by Aubameyang, by iheahancho, by Ben Yedder, and by Vardy. Thierry Henry said it best “Vardy didn’t want to join ARSENAL???” It’s not all players, obviously Ozil, Cech, Xhaka, and Alexis joined, but I don’t think that Arsene’s planning is entirely the problem. I think there is something else at work here. I can’t tell if Arsenal have a black mark when it comes to forwards, whether the wage structure (which has been an Arsenal thing since at least the Graham days) is the problem, or whether young players just see Arsenal as a dead end. I don’t know. But I think it’s clear that a lot of strikers have been rejecting Arsenal.

      1. Pure speculation on my part but I’ve wondered over the past few seasons if it’s not players who refuse to come to us but agents who refuse to deal with us. I think it’s fair to say that Wenger is a fairly upstanding guy who places a high priority on ethics. Maybe I’m biased but I’m willing to bet that a large proportion of agents don’t share his outlook on ethical business practices. I feel agents wield an enormous amount of backroom power. The ease with which Mourinho seems to get Mendez backed players seems a little unseemly given that Mendez is also his agent. Wenger is still hated by a significant minority of French football elite (owners, clubs, agents) for his outspoken criticism of the match fixing scandal involving Olympic Marseille in the early 90’s when he was at Monaco. It wouldn’t surprise me if Arsene isn’t as forthcoming with the gifts, kickbacks, and outright bribes which are needed to help grease the wheels on big money transfers in football.

          1. I’m not defending him. I’m merely speculating that perhaps Wenger is as stingy with agent fees *cough-bribes-cough* as he is with transfer fees and wages.

          2. Well, what you can’t argue with is that Wenger doesn’t get the players he needs in our transfer windows, and that costs us actual points in the season. When you compare that kind of inactivity with our direct rivals, that’s pretty damning.

            We should expect more of a manager. For all of Wenger’s virtues, he is rarely proactive in the transfer market, and that is supremely frustrating.

        1. I agree. I’d venture this is also part of the reason he gets it bad from the press, particularly regarding transfers. The press, one way or another have ties with agents as sources, and they as marketeers who do the work of building up some players’ reputations and profile.

          1. There’s absolutely no evidence to support that posit on Arsene and agents. None at all.

            It’s a speculative POV that comports with what you’d like to believe.

            The record of summers past speaks for itself.

          2. Yup, it’s speculation, as is the lack of planning you believe in. By the way, this isn’t a defense or an excuse. Personally, I don’t worry about the transfer market too much. I do agree that we’ve not always had the players we’d like. As to why this is, we’re all speculating to a degree.

          3. The lack of planning is not a faith-based belief like Arsene’s purity. It is manifest. To those who wish to objectively view the facts. Has been for ages. The man’s defenders are souring on him, one by one.

            This is our annual transfer window exchange 3 years running. Arsene’s painful inaction, your abiding faith against all the evidence.

            And I’d say, on the evidence of the past 5 years or so, the long-running absence of a quality striker will not be addressed this window. I’ve never hoped to be more wrong.

            Two years ago we started the season with one fit striker, Giroud, remember. And last year, despite being off the pace with goals,he decided that all we needed was Cech.

            There’s a pretty substantial body of evidence of a lack of effective planning of transfers.

          4. But you’re assuming that it is a lack of planning that causes that to happen, or that it is the primary cause. It is still a ‘faith-based’ argument.

            There is quite a lot of evidence to suggest Wenger is a decent, principled man. There’s a reason even his ‘souring’ critics still largely believe that. In fact one of the criticisms against him is that he’s ‘stubborn’ or too wedded to his principles.

            There is also evidence(and common sense)to suggest that football, operating in a mostly unregulated, cash rich environment with multiple vested interests, isn’t a ‘clean’ arena. I remember reading a report a few years ago, by the FATF, an intergovernmental body, about how football is prime ground for money laundering. It’s not an entirely wild belief pulled out of the blue that there’s stuff that goes on that is less savoury, and that Arsene would be reluctant to get involved in it.

            It’s still speculation. But it’s not totally without evidence.

          5. Actually, taking that speculation further, it might be part of the reason why more and more managers are willing to work under a director of football who handles transfers (and why Mourinho had a problem at Chelsea last season with his).

            Let the club suit handle the legal and financial aspects of it, while the manager who is only likely to be a 2 or 3 year employee is isolated from this stuff. Win win.

            Not saying this is absolutely true. Because having a GM model also has its advantages from a specialisation point of view. Just a thought that occurred. In this case, pure, and wild speculation.

          6. No one’s arguing that Wenger isn’t principled. So was Louis Van Gaal. So was David Moyes. So is Jurgen Klopp. So is Claudio Raineri. Yes football is mucky, but there’s not necessarily correlation between efficient transfers and staying clean. Besides, Arsene is not above tapping up players or exploiting rules and loopholes. He’s not above keeping a player on permanent loan and then cutting him loose (Wellington). These things don’t make him a bad man — he simply does not sit on a pedestal as a sainted man of football.

            The notion that Wenger’s purity is what is responsible for his stuttering transfer outcomes is supported by zero evidence, while concluding that he presides over a lack of proper planning is underpinned by evidence of an at best ineffective transfer policy in recent years. You don’t have to agree with the conclusion — you won’t — but one can see how such an inference is drawn.

            Youve said before that it was Wenger who drew you to Arsenal as a supporter several years ago. I think you’re still in love with an ideal. Most of the rest of us are cynical housewives who stopped being taken in by the smooth talking old charmer a long time ago.

          7. And this somehow makes you more objective? Even if I accept your statement. No one said he’s a saint anyway. Being a good man doesn’t make you a saint nor does it make you infallible.

            I wasn’t saying I know this for a fact. Merely that it can also be a factor for us not signing some players. Is it the main reason in general? Not even to me it isn’t. And sure, I don’t discount the idea of ‘poor planning’. But none of us know how transfers work, and what ultimately leads to deals happening or not. If you want to pick poor planning as the number one cause, that’s fine. I won’t argue. It’s just not as provable as you think. The outcome is inarguable, the process isn’t.

        2. Exactly what I have been thinking for some time. It’s not that a lack of strategic planning and his unwilligness to comfort agents are mutually exclusive, but it’s probably both. How many Mendes cients have we actually signed in the past? Not for the lack of trying to push William carvalho unto us judging by the stories that I have no doubt were planted by Mendes camp. to me it seems Arsene is trying very often but fails to close deals (which to me is even worse than dithering).

  13. With the story coming out that Mustafa is nursing an injury, I’m positive that we’ll buy him and his niggling thigh injury will morph into a career ending amputation as soon as the deal is complete.

  14. I have increasingly come to believe that players not wanting to come to Arsenal must be one of the factors in our difficulty in the transfer market.

    Becoming an Arsenal player greatly increased your chance of injury. That is just a fact as evidenced by being at or near the top of the injury table for several years running.

    Each year without a major trophy probably decreases Wenger’s currency among a significant number of influencers in the game. Arsenal has not been the place to go to win the big prizes for a number of years now.

    As a long time Gooner I’m hopelessly biased towards our club but the realist in me acknowledges that we may very well be a fading star on the eyes of some of the top talent.

    1. Arsenal’s lack of desirability could be because Wenger is so moribund in the transfer market. He comes across as stingy and reactive. Why would you want to join a club where the manager sniffs at an extra £5m on your fee. What kind of wages are you going to get at such a club? What are the chances that your ambitions will be realized at a club that refuses to pay the market value for top players?

      1. Your assumption is absolute bulls%&t – for those players who are only interested in 4th place! And there so many of those I COMPLETELY understand Wenger’s reasoning. You should really get a grip Bunburyist.

  15. Cech
    Hector Debuchy/Chambers Holding Monreal
    Xhaka Ramsey/Elneny
    Oxlade Cazorla/Ramsey Sanchez

    Early form says Oxlade and Walcott play. Wenger seems to have a lot of belief in Ox.Cazorla’s fitness is suspect, but he could start, and skipper the side.If Elneny plays, Ramsey plays further forward at 10. Ramsey automatic starter, Santi and Elneny probable ones.

  16. And since I’m already annoying people here, I’d just like to get it off my chest that I have changed my mind, and now want Trump to win.

    1. Ha ha Shard.

      I know not signing Ben Yedder was a disappointment, and our injury situation is already at Defcon 5 before the season has even begun, but please don’t go overboard and condemn us all to live in a post apocalyptic wasteland for the rest of our lives. That’s just mean.

      1. No, I’m serious. I know Trump is an a*****e, who says all the wrong things which sends a bad message, but all the crazy warmongers are allied with Hillary. I’m tired of the misery caused by the illegal US wars and support for terror groups across the world, and the noises around Syria, Iran, Russia and Ukraine are not encouraging from the present political establishment.

        Trump may or may not change that. I don’t really think any President can at this point. And he’s not really an outsider like he pretends to be. But there’s a chance he pursues a different policy. He has a more balanced view on Russia (Russian stooge!) I think he simply acts like a loony rather than is one. So yeah, electing a racist, hyper-macho, reality tv idiot as President can cause all the racists to come out of the woodwork. But the alternative is an assured continuation of war in the middle east and around the world.

        What it means for the domestic US population though, I don’t really know.

        PS. Defcon 5 is a lower state of emergency. Defcon 1 is panic stations. I think that’s what you mean. Unless you’re unusually calm about Arsenal’s lack of signings.

        1. Oh, I thought you were just throwing your hands up and saying ‘to hell with it, bring on the apocalypse’, if only as a joke.

          I don’t know enough about politics to offer any better alternative or encouragement sadly. I feel like Trump could be much much worse for America domestically but if you’re coming from a position of foreign policy then I would be way less sure which of them would be worse. You could be right.

          Thanks for the correction. Maybe I should stick to defcon 5 then for now ha ha.

        2. my asian-based friend, i fear you may have very well lost your mind. throughout recent history, the warmongers are the republicans. anyone siding with the russians as being upright are clearly delusional. have you ever heard of an entire country threatened with being eliminated from olympic competition?

          lastly, i’ll readily admit that obama got syria dead wrong but i believe it was an attempt to avoid war. what’s plain to see that trump has no idea of the significance of war or what it means to live in reality and the concerns of most people all over the world. there is nothing about him that’s presidential.

          what you’re seeing is not warmongers aligning with the democratic party, you’re seeing anyone with an iota of common sense not wanting to have anything to do with donald trump. don’t be documented supporting this man. i can assure you, trump in the white house equals disaster that will be felt all over the world.

          1. I don’t think there’s any real difference between the Democrats and Republicans. Russia is definitely on the ‘good’ side in both Syria and the Ukraine. ISIS, AL-Nusra etc are US creations and foreign policy tools.

            There is a whole host of worldviews which the Western media never presents or constantly derides, so maybe you don’t get to even see it. But this whole Russia thing is a start of a new cold war type propaganda because we’re in the process of moving towards a multi-polar world again.

            Specifically on the Olympics. I have referred to it before where any time a sporting event is held in a country not aligned with the West, it becomes a reason to malign that country. It’s a pattern from at least Beijing 2008, including Commonwealth games and World cups.

            Anyway. I’m done hijacking Tim’s blog. Sorry.

        3. Trump sees nuclear first strike as a viable foreign policy tool.

          Not sure Trump would make the world safer as I’m pretty sure he would nuke someone.

          1. Does the US otherwise have a stated no first use policy? (genuine question. India does)

            Sure, I suppose it’s a risk, and possibly an existential one. But I’m not certain that it is a very real risk. Maybe if you believe Trump is insane and unhinged, but doesn’t the US constitution guard against that?

          2. The constitution of the United States does NOT preclude nuclear first strike. The military of the US also rejected NATO calls for no first strike policy.

            We could use first strike but in practice we do not because we know that to use nukes would change the game forever.

            Russia, right now, is gassing people in Syria. If we use nukes, they will use nukes in these situations.

        4. Shard,

          Your position on Trump is entirely in keeping with your rose-tinted view of life. Just like you only conjure the good in Wenger, so too do you delude yourself into the wishful thinking that Trump is after all a good guy, not crazy, etc., when all evidence points in the opposite direction.

          It’s ironic that you, an Asian (Indian, I believe?), join Trump’s biggest supporters — namely white Americans who harbor racist attitudes towards brown people. Please do come over here, head down south, and taste that great hospitality reserved for those whose skin color is equated with terrorism and all economic woes.

          1. Or, as Trump might tell you: Get outta here, we don’t want you, and if you don’t leave, I’m sure someone will exercise their Second Amendment rights.

            That’s the guy you like. Hahahaha!

          2. Sigh.. A choice between the devil and the deep blue sea..Just because I have to choose one doesn’t mean I LIKE it. I am not a Trump supporter. He’s disgusting. I just don’t want Hillary and her war mongering to win. (which by the way is the reverse position which will ensure that Hillary wins even though nobody actually likes or wants her)

            And I realise that Trump is likely to do the same. It’s out of control of even the president to stop the warring it seems. But ok, so what? What is the ‘bad’ outcome, a few more overt racists in the Bible Belt and perhaps among the police force. But maybe then the conversation around US social problems are more seriously and openly discussed, while perhaps in the international arena they can’t continue dropping bombs and fostering terror outfits while claiming to stand for good and Freedom and Democracy.

            If Hillary wins (and she will I think) there’s going to be years of conflict and further wars. That’s something I’m virtually certain of.

  17. If we’re talking about reasons players don’t want to come to Arsenal I’d add..

    Why would you want to play for a team that gets nothing but bad press. Teams like United will be praised for spending €500 million in 3 years to win one fa cup, while failing to qualify for the Champions League twice. Any mention of Liverpool is accompanied by how ‘dynamic’ their manager is and their amazing ‘gen press’. Spurs will get all the credit for having a young organized team made greater than the sum of it’s parts by an astute manager. Meanwhile Arsenal can finish above them all and still be a disorganized mess with no leaders or fighting spirit, a manager that is clueless and a transfer strategy that is an embarrassment.

    Why would you want to play for a team that gets close to zero protection from referees and yet will pick up yellows for a first offense. And if some pumped up defender raised on a diet of ‘get in their faces’ breaks your leg and ends your season, all the real sympathy will not be for you but for your ‘shaken’ opponent who’s ‘not that type of player’.

    Why would you want to play for a team where, unless you’re winning comfortably, every misplaced pass will be greeted with an audible sigh of frustration or anger.

    Why would you want to play for a team who’s supporters will spend half the season complaining about the players your team didn’t sign, even when you’re top of the league, and will turn on the team right when they’re needed the most.

    Why would you want to play for a team that’s regarded to have some of the worst home support in the league. A team that’s saved players going through a bad patch for tough away games because the support away from home is more forgiving.

    I admire anyone who comes to play for Arsenal because that’s what they’re in for.

    1. Ouch! Spoken like a true Goober but I can’t disagree except for your characterization of the transfer strategy as an embarrassment.

      Wenger spoke of risk when spending todays kind of sums on players who may or may not pan out. But what of the risk of always pursuing “value” and not once just saying, “We need that guy and we’ll do whatever it takes”

      It’s not an embarrassment, it’s criminal! Crooked Ardene! Now if he were in the States maybe the 2nd Amendment people, who knows, might be able to do something.

      “Many people are saying” the transfer market is rigged. I dunno folks…oh, wait. I think Shard’s professed desire to get a certain some elected is rubbing off on me…

      1. Hey don’t blame me if those are the only two real candidates the American political system throws at us.

        And if Trump suggesting Hillary could get shot is bad, Hillary essentially celebrating the brutal murder of Gaddafi is way worse. But yeah, Gadaffi was only a middle eastern dictator so he doesn’t count.

        I agree with the fact that there is a risk in not buying, or always looking for value. I am certain Arsenal and Wenger know this and factor this in.

        1. I really enjoy your comments on here Shard and although your comments RE. Trump surprised me a little, I’m just taking the piss.

          You have proven yourself to be an erudite observer of all things Arsenal and otherwise. Peace.

    2. This is so true. I suppose the only counter factor is that the players are very well treated at Arsenal by the club. At both a professional and a personal level.

      Xhaka referred to it as being told it’s a family club (by Djourou I think). Poor fellow also said that the English league suits his style of play because the referees don’t always blow for fouls. He’ll learn quickly that that doesn’t apply to Arsenal.

    1. That’s cool. I thought we were going back to primary school insults for a second there ha ha.

  18. @Shard
    I think all those years of trying to justify and explain Wenger’s transfer policy has finally given you a nervous breakdown:)

    Trump better than Clinton on foreign policy for the Middle East, based on what exactly?

    John Kerry lost his presidential bid in 2004 because he flipped flopped on one issue.
    Trump has flipped flopped on every issue he has ever held.

    “Rounding up all Muslims and sending them away” ( not sure exactly where to) should give one an indication
    what a Trump Middle Eastern policy migh look like.

    Sure ,Clinton is a Hawk but Trump is simply insane.
    May I remind you that the standard response time to a perceived nuclear lunch from a Russian sub off the coast of Bermuda is about three minutes. Considering the fact there’s been false alarms before, you want Trump being in charge of the decision to retaliate?

    1. I don’t base my opinion only on the basis of what the candidates, or a certain section of the global mainstream media say. And believe me, I don’t say it lightly. It doesn’t sit right with me, but I think Trump might be the better option for the world.

      Trump flip flops are surely problematic for the public. They’d rather have an assured liar, or at least someone who says all the right things regardless of whatever the future will hold after being elected. While I think his flip flops reflect his lack of awareness on certain issues, it is also intentional so as to create constant noise around himself and promote himself through confusing the public, and not alienating anybody who he sees as his voters. They can believe what they want. It’s not a sign of him being insane or the blithering idiot he seems. It’s got him this far. Though I doubt he’ll win.

      Best case scenario would be, vote in a third party candidate. But that won’t happen.

      1. If you replace “Trump” with “Wenger” in all of Shard’s comments, you can see how his outlook on Wenger’s motives is entirely consistent with his political views.

        1. Perhaps you might want to try and understand someone’s political views before commenting on them. That it’s almost a reflex for you because Trump was mentioned says something about your conditioning too.

          Shocker. People view the world as a result of how they’re conditioned.

          People also see other people’s views based on how they’re conditioned. Yesterday I was LeGrovesque. Today I’m a Trump lover. All the years of my commenting on here, including on politics, is invalidated now?

  19. You want to change the US foreign policy, you need to start with defunding the Pentagon.
    It’s hard to justify a trillion dollars defense budget without starting some wars , and Trump wants to spend even more money on defense. Come to think of it , he might be a better candidate for the Arsenal boardroom job right about now 🙂

  20. claude makes a very legit point. how many recent transfers can you say were down to good planning? cech signed because he wanted to stay in london. alexis was because he chose to live in london over liverpool. mesut at the eleventh hour was not planning, it was wenger getting lucky. even xhaka wasn’t good planning. it would have been considered good had arsenal signed him last summer.

    think, arsenal have needed a center forward for years. they started last season with only one fit center forward. is that good planning? their contingency plan was to frankenstein a striker to try and play up front on his own and gamble with the form/fitness of the one center forward. does that plan seem sound? why is a club as big as arsenal trying to frankenstein a player? for me, this approach is way too artistic. the transfer market is not artistic, it’s pragmatic. are their rare opportunistic values to be had? sure, but they’re just that; rare. for me, arsenal’s failure to sign a center forward is the biggest reason they failed to win the championship last season.

    when cesc left, everyone knew he was leaving. what was arsenal’s plan to replace him? juan mata. why didn’t it happen? how about the plan when samir left? how about van persie? this approach has not always been the arsenal way. i’ve talked about how quickly arsenal signed henry when anelka left. this applies across the board in the highbury days. overmars left, bring on pires. suker left, in comes wiltord. tony adams, sol campbell. david seaman leaves, in comes mad jens. the list goes on. arsenal always had a complete team. now we go season after season with obvious holes in the team that don’t get filled in a timely fashion because of the seemingly artistic approach to the transfer window by the manager. what top player wants to join a team managed that way? it’s tough enough to win a championship with a complete team.

    1. I hear what you’re saying about signing players faster before but maybe one reason is Arsene made Arsenal into the top club in the league,or if you want to give credit to United, which I don’t ha ha, or at the very least one of the top two teams, significantly ahead of everyone else. A player signing back then was almost guaranteed to be joining one of two team going for the title.

      Nowadays, if we’re talking financial firepower, we’re probably the fourth most likely team to win the league, and we’re at a significant disadvantage to the teams above us.

      If we’re after the very best players, why should they come to a team that needs a minor miracle to win the league and can’t just outspend their direct rivals on either transfers or wages.

      1. i think it’s less about money and more about the approach to getting transfers in. it also correlates with the departure of david dein. people seemed to like doing business with dein but don’t seem to like doing business with arsene wenger.

        wenger deals seem to be to protracted far longer than anyone else’s. teams, agents, and players don’t want to dick around waiting for arsenal to make legitimate counter-offers. as a result, teams like chelsea or man united can come in and make a legitimate offer for a player and get the deal done quickly. cristiano ronaldo and juan mata are just a couple of examples where players were sure they were coming to arsenal and a protracted negotiations with arsenal led to them going elsewhere.

        wenger doesn’t see to be interested in paying a reasonable value for players, he’s interested in getting a steal. there are very few steals getting done for top players anymore.

  21. as for the starting eleven, i think cech starts. hopefully, he has a better season this year than last. if not, wenger should show the moral courage to drop him for ospina. maybe it re-focuses him. maybe cech is losing a step.

    i think the back four should be something we’ve seen this pre-season. koscielny might not be ready for this weekend but he might be ready for leicester city. we’ll see. while i like the idea of defenders good with the ball, it’s not a deal maker for me. first, you have to be a good defender, both technically and tactically. ball skills take a huge back seat to that. when vermaelen was at arsenal, he was by far the best technical player out of arsenal defenders but his tactical awareness meant he was deservedly dropped and has been moved on to and from barcelona. as for john stones, i wouldn’t want him at arsenal. he’s always falling into traps the strikers set. he’ll cost man city when he plays for them.

    in midfield, i completely disagree with you. i think wenger will start with elneny and coquelin. they’ve both got bpl experience that xhaka doesn’t and with a make-shift back four, i think arsenal will need to be solid there. besides, i haven’t seen xhaka do anything in preseason that’s impressed me even a little bit. his passing’s been good but that’s about it. in the ten spot, i think i’d go with santi over ramsey. arsenal should want to keep it tight, meaning no bombing forward from ramsey. besides, who’s going to leadership other than cech? that’s my thought but wenger has eleven captains so we’ll see.

    up front, i’d go with the same lineup from sunday; alexis up top with iwobi wide left and chamberlain wide right. neither theo nor alexis are center forwards but alexis is a better player. bring on theo wide right in the second half to change the game. if moreno starts, he likes to get forward but is a liability defensively. i’d be targeting the liverpool left back.

    1. So you don’t want a player playing in the #10 role to ‘bomb’ forward? And want semi-fit Cazorla in for his defensive nous? Ok.

      And you want a limited DM in Coq start ahead of an accomplished tempo setting player in Xhaka? Ok.

      1. yeah, i prefer a semi-fit cazorla to a semi-fit ramsey. i don’t prefer cazorla for his defensive nous, i prefer him for his defensive responsibility. i expect arsenal to have a very tough game and they need to be resolute in midfield. besides, what top #10 has ever made his name by bombing forward?

        as for coquelin/elneny starting ahead of xhaka, that’s based on several factors. first, xhaka has never played in the bpl. second, there’s a make-shift defense with no continuity that’s been frankensteined together behind that midfield. third, both elneny and coquelin have looked better than xhaka this pre-season. fourth, as a dortmund fan, i can assure you that jurgen klopp’s team is going to be a handful. that’s my take but its not my call. we’ll see.

  22. “Does the US otherwise have a stated no first use policy? (genuine question. India does)

    Sure, I suppose it’s a risk, and possibly an existential one. But I’m not certain that it is a very real risk. Maybe if you believe Trump is insane and unhinged, but doesn’t the US constitution guard against that?”

    The Secret Service accompanying POTUS, has in their possession the nuclear suitcase dubbed “football” , and the POTUS has on him the nuclear codes dubbed the “biscuit”. Whenever the POTUS is away from a fixed command center like the White House or any other presidential residence , and in the unlikely event of a crisis, the President has about three minutes to decide based on best evidence available whether to retaliate or stay put.

    The US constitution provides no overrides, buffers or safety measures in the event the president might be wrong.

    It’s simply a chain of command thing.

    I’m really surprised you would be so nonchalant about this , trully.

    1. Thanks for the information. I didn’t know that. The buffers I was referring to was in the scenario that the President is insane or mentally unstable. Not, of course, for a scenario such as the one you mentioned.

      But what of anti-missile shields? I don’t think any retaliation HAS to be within those 3 minutes. If the US can’t stop any missile launched on them, then they’re going to be hit there anyway. And their response capabilities are widespread and immense. They can wait and assess the situation before responding. So if you’re saying Trump specifically won’t do that, that would be a worry. But if you’re saying he’ll only have 3 minutes to take a call. So will anyone else.

      I’m not nonchalant. But it’s something worth considering properly and minus the fear it can evoke. I don’t believe Trump to be any greater a threat in that regard than Hillary, but I’m willing to listen as to why he is, which is why I asked Tim this.

  23. One last statement about this whole Trump thing I started, thinking, like a fucking idiot*, that I could say this among one of the most intelligent blogging communities who I have known for years, without it being a means to be attacked with, and perhaps something they might think about and discuss at some point.

    It’s cool. My initial reaction to some people I know who are as far as possible from fitting the profile of a Trump supporter to say they’d prefer him over Hillary, was the same. Bewilderment and an instinctive recoil. I get that. He’s disgusting and I can understand the problem everyone has with him and his supporters. I did think that the ‘changed my mind’ bit would lead to more questions rather than rebuttals, but ok. I guess I didn’t think it through properly and this isn’t the correct forum anyway, despite it occasionally being so.

    Far from thinking the world is a rosy, lovely place, I think of the world as a much uglier and nastier place than is made apparent to us. You’d probably call me a tin foil hat wearing conspiracy nut if I said some of the things that I think or believe to be true, or at least plausible. Not because they are necessarily outlandish. Just because they’ll appear as such to you.

    And this is why I don’t normally like labels. People are complex, and can hold a multitude of views, sometimes even conflicting ones, as a part of their truth. And these are also fluid, though a lot of people struggle with that part.

    I realise sometimes those labels are necessary to make a point or from convenience, and am not above using them. But seriously, the fact that I’m not white, not middle aged, and not American who sees some imagined prosperity being stolen from me by lousy immigrants, would I think be reason to give you pause and consider what you’re saying before almost gleefully painting a picture of me being beaten up by what you imagined to be my own monster. That ought to show me, right?

    And your broad brush strokes basically reducing years of comments on this site on a variety of topics down to a misrepresentation of my comments today, and use that to label and attack me, discredit me and hence disprove my standing on Wenger while at it. Seriously, I expected better of you.

    (I’m including a swear word so you can decide whether to let me out of moderation, Tim)

      1. Thanks Tim. I didn’t mean it as a free speech issue, in case that’s what you thought. I was just acutely aware that this is a football blog (primarily) and I sprung that out of the blue.

        1. You can pretty much talk about whatever you want. Just don’t call each other names. Also, I don’t tolerate sexism, racism, or other forms of nonsensical abuse.

  24. Modern submarine ballistic missiles have multiple independent warheads which can be simultaneously directed at different targets. Do you see Trump standing by, taking the hit and then assessing the demage before making the decision to retaliate, when it takes him minutes to retaliate through his Twitter account when he feels the least slighted by any one at all?

    What if one of the warheads is headed his way?

    Also, unless you conclude Trump has no intentions to become the president, everything he has done since the Republican primaries screams , ” irrational “.
    While it’s normal for Republican candidates to pivot hard right during the primeries, in the general election they always turn to the middle.
    Alienating women, minorities, Latino voters is a sure way of loosing in a general election.
    There simply just aren’t enough of white male voters to carry him through in a general election.

    So if that’s his strategy, it’s crazy.

  25. Not sure who in back.
    Seems to me Xhaka, Elneny and Santi for defense, ball control and distribution against the press.
    Theo up top, with Alexis left and Ramsey right with license to roam and extra defensive responsibilities. There’s some additional width / creativity if Monreal goes central and Gibbs starts on right.

    Much of this selection is based on ‘Pool’s aggressive press, our need to cover the back, distribute quickly, and then quickly and directly expose a ‘Pool defense that is suspect in its own right.

  26. Also. worth noting that at a time of crisis presidents seek advice of their National Security Edvisors, which is a non political position and hand picked by the president.

    Do you have any confidence Trump wouldn’t pick one of his sons for the position?
    I don’t.

  27. Seems as though the Mustafi negotiations might be progressing.

    And depending on the source, the Mahrez transfer looks like it’s either moving along slowly, or never going to happen.

    On the subject of the starting 11 I’d be tempted to with Bellerin, Chambers, Monreal,Gibbs in defense and maybe a Coquelin and Elneny defensive minded midfield. After that I’m not sure.

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