Have we finally seen Mikel Arteta’s first-choice XI which can propel us up the table? (Opinion)

This weekend was the first time this season that Arsenal have had a full bill of health in the run-up to, and including, the matchday, and the performance was thoroughly impressive.

It was announced in midweek that we had no injury absences heading into the North London Derby, but there was still a few question marks on Mikel Arteta’s selection, but there was no shocks per se once the line-up was confirmed.

The Spaniard named Aaron Ramsdale in goal, despite a number of reports claiming that Bernd Leno had been promised a return to the starting line-up for the clash with Spurs, but his place in the team shouldn’t have been debated after his recent performances had shown him thoroughly impressing whilst not conceding a single goal.

Our back four picked itself however, as did Thomas Partey’s role, while many were unhappy with the return of Granit Xhaka to the line-up, having been absent for our recent string of wins.

Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka took up the remaining three open spots, with both Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette overlooked, and I can’t help but believe that this trio will be the long-term choice first-choice selection depending on form.

It’s likely that it will be rare that we will have an empty physio room of course, but watching the team interchange, press in numbers, and work so hard for both the manager and the team was simply a massive joy to watch, and I certainly hope that this exact line-up is in the manager’s mind consistently this season, and should they XI remain fit, I wouldn’t be shocked if we could mount a serious challenge for a top four finish.

Do Pepe, Lokonga, Leno or Lacazette deserve to be regulars in the first-team?


Tags mikel arteta


  1. He won the FA Cup and Community Shield beating impressively and assuredly Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool along the way, the best teams in the country at the time. Everyone knows what happened next.

    Not to take anything from yesterday outstanding performance, I hope to see consistency and most importantly the squad is good enough for at least the top 4 finish.

    Has he at last found his formula? I would like it to be so but I will embrace him as the right man for the job only if he finish the season in the top four.

    I would not be swayed by one week results be it either good or bad but I will follow the only truthfully and honest party in this affair, the league table.

    1. Well said. Yes we’ve won 4 games in a row which is fantastic but 2 of those wins were against the 2 teams rock bottom of the EPL and the third against a team not even in the EPL.

      Spurs was our first proper test (after our 3 losses) and we passed with flying colours. Let’s see what our next few games hold before deciding if we’ve really turned the corner.

      We are a very reactionary fan base. If we lose one of our next 2 games, most will upset again and we’ll possibly be in the bottom half of the table so pointless making huge claims now.

      1. We passed with flying colours all right. This is what I wish to see consistently going forward.

        When we play the big teams (Liverpool and Man Utd) and the big team pretenders (Man City, Chelsea, Spurs) they have to know they are playing Arsenal and that victory is not only guaranteed but near impossible to come by.

        After a very long time yesterday I felt I am watching the Arsenal I know playing.

        1. Man City and Chelsea are big team pretenders?
          Chelsea the most successful English team during the last 15 years are pretenders alongside City the most domini English team for the past 5 years?

          It’s so clear you make that statement based on history and not current achievements because you won’t Put United as that and leave out Chelsea, City.
          Also it opens your views more about Arsenal, you still think this is the Arsenal of the early 2000’s that competed against United. So you still expect things to go that way, falling to ignore the honest fact that we’ve fallen so far for the last 15 years and United ain’t even the same United we competed against.
          If all of these were truths you accepted, you’d know that City ain’t our mate on the pitch and Chelsea ain’t our mate on the pitch just like Liverpool while United ain’t far from us.
          There’s a huge abyss separating us from rubbing shoulders with Chelsea.
          I’m an Arsenal fan but I like to stay honest to my views bro.
          Chelsea and City ain’t no pretenders, we’ve fallen too far and we are not expected to walk over teams anymore unless we fight for it like yesterday.
          We are not entitled to anything or entitled to winning because we are Arsenal

          1. Chelsea we can beat anytime if we had the complement of all our players. We did the double on Chelsea last season and in couple of years ago beat them in an FA Cup final so Chelsea is not far off dear.

            This is the EPL and it can change anytime

        2. Yes Eddie I am talking about history. The big three success and status have been achieved in over a century of hard work and consistency.

          The way I see Man city and Chelsea they are not different from someone who won a lottery. Had Abramovich or Mansour invested in other teams for example Southampton and West Brom, Chelsea and Man city would still have been a mid table team for the former and the relegation contender for the latter.

          I do not disagree that Arsenal and Man Utd have been left behind (you are perfectly right in that) but I will not put Chelsea and Man city in the same status until I see decades of consistency.

          I do not think that will happen because the way they have been setup is more likely to fall somewhere along the way.

          1. They ain’t failing anytime soon, if anything, Chelsea’s success over the past 10 years shows that. They have a passionate owner who loves his club and puts everything into it to see his club succeed. So I don’t know how you see them failing.
            Yes there’ll be seasons they’ll struggle, but they won’t be getting in our shoes anytime soon because they don’t even allow any single manager the stability to ruin the affairs of the club.
            City is being bankrolled by a full nation.
            Good luck having those two fall.
            Aren’t we all about getting owners willing to spend now? Only solution will be you either take the Liverpool way or you spend to catch up with both teams.
            There’s no falling, this ain’t the late 90s or early 20s anymore, football has evolved

          2. They are spending more than they make so their success depend completely on the source (hence I don’t consider them in the same level as the big three). A change in regulations or when the source is no longer able to provide will bring them down as fast as they rose.

            You have made interesting points there and I am not sure about my argument. I have to sit and think this through.

          3. HH It is clearly true that both Chelsea and City have ONLY been elevated to their current status as top level TEAMS- though not top level clubs – when compared to us Liverpool and United, because corrupt owners who were, at the time, both looking to buy ANY top club, decided to buy them both.
            Abramovitch seems to have become a real Chelea fan, though was not so before buying them.

            Sheikh Mansoor has more money than God and has thrown it willy nilly at City and – in order to curry favour- thrown much at the local community. But both owners remain deeply corrupt and bad individuals and that alone prevents any team they own from being an honest top status CLUB, even though their TEAMS ARE top class.

            Neither can even approach the historical greatness of us, Liverpool, and United.

            That is obvious, however much Eddie argues to the contrary!

      1. Consistency for me is the key, I will agree that this is MA best choice if we go on to win our next two fixtures comfortably. Good combination and formation so far, replace xhaka with Sambi.

  2. for 1 its a squad game and we cant expect this 11 to play every game in the league

    We are actually quite lucky that we have a squad or varying skill sets and qualities so we can all expect, based on tactics and opposition that the team will change based on that.

  3. Forget the fall 2020, calculate points by the premier league teams on spring 2021 and what do you see? Yes, you are going to see that on spring Arsenal was already top-4 team.

    And now… the team is even stronger than it was on last spring.

    I fear to be overly optimistic, but I’ll say that Arsenal will finish this season much better than last year. Arsenal is going back to Europe again. I would say that it’s possible that Arsenal will go to Champions League on next season, but for that the rest of the season needs to go perfectly.

    I think we are going to be thereabouts anyhow 4th, 5th we’ll see.

    1. …and if we only count the last three matches, we’d have won the league! I though only Spurs supporter celebrate being ‘champions’ at the begining of September. Have we really fallen that low?

      I am happy about the win, but it beggers belief the rubbish some ‘fans’ will come up with just to defend the second coming of MA.

  4. Pepe needs more time on the bench, at least until Saka maybe drops form.
    With Saka, ESR and Ødegaard we are more direct on the attack and more fast on the break.
    With Pepe it’s always a different ball game, man might be tricky, but he’s too slow because of his indecisions.
    Pepe would’ve held the ball too long yesterday till Reguilon got enough cover and killed those fast attacks.

    I know he was our biggest contributor last season, but nah, he has to be on the bench till he improves his decision making. A 20 years old doing better than he is needs to give him a push on the back.
    Now the midfield picks itself, with a pivot of Xhaka-Partey, those three alongside Auba have enough freedom to focus more on attack and direct approach just like yesterday.
    Ødegaard drops deep a lot to take the ball and start our attack in the last three games, once Pepe gets back in the team, the attack becomes slow and static because we have to wait for him to make a decision or successfully carry out a dribble attempt.

    1. Any thoughts re Pepe being slow because henis on the.wrong wing !!

      He is left footed so always has to cut back inside… if on left wing he could get past the defender and cross the ball
      ..and during the game switch over

      Not sure where these tactics came in where people play kay out of position..same as Auba on wing ! It has been very narrow for a while

      Hopefully with Ben White spraying long passes can now be a more expansive game

  5. We’re certainly starting to see a blueprint emerge: play from the back, suck the opposition in, break the lines and attack with pace and precision. The attack we saw yesterday complement each other very well in this regard but all teams need several tactical options to make into the top 4 in order to grind out results against opponents who sit deep, or those that dominate the central areas (something Spurs did the opposite of).

    What we saw yesterday will get us far, but the extent to which it can be tweaked using the bench will make or break our season.

  6. Yes, I also think we just saw our strongest starting line-up for this season. However, Arteta still has other tricks under his sleeve

    I predict he’ll use Guardiola’s or Mancini’s style one day, when we lose all our natural LBs. Maitland-Niles and Soares showed they could play that role, despite being highly inconsistent there

    Lacazette and the other backup players also offer different playing styles and abilities, which will come in handy when the other teams figure out how to nullify our current tactic. Pepe will be highly useful when we need to field three left-footed attackers behind the CF

  7. I prefer to look at it another way, in that I think our bench yesterday was a good deal stronger than that of Spurs.It’s a squad game, and ours is stronger than it was last season.Just a pity we failed to sign Bissouma, who would bring, pace, energy and ball winning skills to our midfield area.While Xhaka and Odegaard are intelligent midfielders neither has enough pace to recover the ball ,and defensively they are distinctly average.I cannot fault their work rate , but faced with top class opposition, which was not evident yesterday, they will not measure up.

    1. “Xhaka is intelligent?” Oh really?
      In what parallel universe is this happening then Grandad?

      I see a hotheaded, out of control, pigheaded, desperately slow thinking and slow moving player for sure.

      But “intelligent ” would be the last word on Earth that I would use to descibe this “player”!

      1. I meant intelligent in his use of the ball Jon.He may not always be progressive,but , by and large, he has decent football intelligence imo.

        1. I fail to see how such a woefully slow player can ever be said to have intelligence, when it takes him ages to pass the ball and his long passes are telegraphed well in advance, Grandad.

          Without even adequate pace, which he simply does not possess, NO player can be truly effective in our 100mph Prem.
          In international matches, often played at about half the Prem pace, he can look useful but when faced with fast thinking, fast moving opponents -as he is in all the key Prem games – he is next to useless, IMO!
          His immobility and slowness has been the main obstacle to us having a fast and flowing midfield (as we once used to have), ever since he first came to us.

          I fervently wish we could lose him, this very day.

  8. To answer PATRICKS question(since virtually all fans always ignore his usually banal questions anyway, as do I too!).
    I do think Lokonga should be the permanent replacement for Xhaka.

    Mind you , I also think my cat would do a far better and more reliable job than Xhaka but Lokonga is a far more mobile, much faster and better all round player than woeful Xhaka.

    How this awful player is still here after all these damaging years is, to my mind, one of lifes unfathomable mysteries!

        1. Yes I stand corrected and thanks for pointing it out! I can’t even claim, as an excuse, to be from USA, as that lot always bastardise our fine language!

          I esp despise the so common “gotten” which must be about the single most ugliest word in that appalling USA version of English.

  9. This Arsenal Team is a top 4 squad. And assuredly would win titles!

    But, Arteta must stick to building on the standard, letting dead woods go, and replacing them with players that are nothing short of the statutory qualities…. Arteta must not loose focus, he must not deviate, he must not compromise PLAYERS MOBILITY (SPEED) for anything.

    There are 4 departments:

    1) A tall ball playing area commanding GOALIE: Ramsdale, (Karl, Arthur, Leno)…

    2) A tall speed-demon Defender who can cover CB, DM and SB: Partey, Mangalese, Lokonga, White, Tomiyasu, Tavares, SmithRowe, Kolasinac, Saliba, Guendozi, Chambers, (Elneny, Xhaka, Holding, Mari…)

    2) A diminutive speed-demon Playmaker who can cover WB, WF and CM: Tierney, Saka, Ordegaard, Niles, Cedric, Bellerin, Niles, OseiTutu, Nketiah, Folarin, (Lacazette)…

    3) A tall speed-demon Striker who can cover CF and AM: Aubameyang, Martinelli and Pepe…

    Lineup: GK-3-3-3-1
    Gk – Ramsdale
    Defensive spine: 3 – Gabriel, White, Tomiyasu
    Creative hub: 3 – SmithRowe, Xhaka, Partey
    Team width: 3 – Tierney, Ordegaard, Saka
    Target man: 1 – Auba

  10. I would like to see at least 10 games win in a row to be able t say “now I believe in AM and the team”.
    The last years, not only from game to game even within a game we saw many inconsistent appearance

  11. add Lokonga, drop Xhaka, and utilize AMN when it’s required to close out games…still would rather deploy different formational tactics, but if we can find a way to attack in a more direct fashion, like in the first-half against the Spurs, then this would be our best 11

    1. I’d like to see Arsenal sell Xhaka in January to anybody for anything and get Bissouma, if Brighton will sell. With Partey, Sambi, and AMN this give us the midfield depth and energy we need to sustain a run.

  12. I don’t think we can expect quite that level week in week out – Sunday was the perfect storm. We pressed magnificently, scored early and almost everything we tried came off. We were also incredibly up for it as a NLD.
    The pressing for the full 45 took a lot out of us and we were tired from 60 mins. We need to learn how to press in surges like City and Liverpool do. And then how to play keepball and defend late in games when we are tired.
    But with this line up and Saka instead of Pepe on the right, we can play to almost this level weekly and give any team real problems IF we stay largely injury free, as we only have IMO Lokonga, Tavares and perhaps Martinelli and AMN who can slot into this style of play. But with only one game a week let’s hope we get lucky.
    This defence can be awesome.
    DMs of Partey with Xhaka/Lokonga control the mf. We now play more balls though the centre as both our CBs and DMs can pass, rather than only using the wings, meaning fullbacks don’t HAVE TO push up – they can pick their moments, so we are less predictable.
    AMs Saka Odegaard ESR breaking together can rip sides apart with their pace, movement and invention. All 3 drift about so sides don’t know where the overload will be.
    Auba can play this system and looks a great player again.
    But key to it all is concerted pressing.
    Of course we WON’T play to this high a level every week but the exciting thing is now both we and the team know we CAN, so it will happen more and more often as the noobs get to know each other.

  13. As for the perfect team, I would like ASL to replace Xhaka in the midfield and use Laca more often. ASL is more mobile and forward passing than Xhaka and Laca’s hold up and link up play could be used to good effect against teams which sit back. As for consistency, if teams figure out how Arsenal play, Arteta must use other options like 4-3-3 or 3-5-2, with the use of players like Holding, AMN, Tavares, Laca and Pepe. As for now, this team formation seems to be clicking very well.

  14. A little early to get carried away, especially for a top 4 finish.

    We have 5 winnable matches in October. Four EPL matches, and one against Leeds in the League cup.

    Lets see where we are after those!!!

    (I just watched Serge Gnabry score an absolute cracker for Bayern in the UCL.

    An academy player who we let go.

    Lets try to avoid stupid decisions like that in the future, then maybe we won’t have to sign another Pepe!!!

  15. Passion, zeal and higher pressing of the ball from the players earned Arsenal the victory. Commendable from the coach for a wonderful line up and he should stick to that starting 11. The team is gradually picking up. The fans should be praised because they were 12 players on the pitch, the stadium was electrifying and buzzing so kudos the fans. A well deserved victory.

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