How Arsenal should setup against Cologne tonight – And why….


Arsenal will kick-off their Europa League sojourn tonight by welcoming Cologne FC to the Emirates Stadium. One of the things that’s quite odd about this competition with reference to Arsenal will be the fact that the fans, including myself, are not used to watching their team play on Thursdays, apart from pre-season friendlies. As this is the first time Arsenal will be playing in the competition since the European Cup Winners Cup was Merged with the UEFA Cup. Considered the lower rated UEFA competition there is an ongoing sense amongst Arsenal fans that it should be approached the same way Arsenal had approached the Carling Cup over the years. Conversely, some sections of the fans are suggesting that the club take the competition very seriously and aim to win it, as it can be an alternative route back to the elite UEFA Champions League, in the event that the club doesn’t make top 4 yet again in the Premier League. I am of the opinion, that we can have a third approach.

The club should use the Europa League to bed in some youth players that we suspect, might be ready for the first team but, shouldn’t have more than TWO on the pitch at the same time unless we are leading by a decent margin. We should also play at least 2/3 of our first 11, and fill the rest with the bench players or what we call the second team. In other words, and in my opinion, Arsenal should start; two of our bright youngsters that have been promoted to the first team already; 2/3 of the current starting 11 and; 5/6 of the second team, as we all know, its Ospina’s goal all tournament. That’s the way I think Arsenal should generally approach the competition.

Talking about tonight’s kick off at home against Cologne FC and considering DAVID OSPINA is the designated competition goalkeeper, I would in the next few paragraphs suggest what Arsenal team setup should like at the back, in the midfield and upfront in a 3-4-3 formation.

Defence: I would like to see Arsenal’s captain PER MERTESACKER return to the heart of the team’s defence to hopefully continue his heroics from his last competitive game for the Gunners at the finals of the FA Cup last season. But this time around, I will suggest he be flanked by 2 rookies and hopefully he will inspire and mentor them on the pitch. On his right should be ROB HOLDING, who is not particularly a rookie but his loss of form of late, has again reminded us that he was playing in Bolton only a year and half ago and he’s only 21, yet very talented and calm in possession for a defender of his age – on this I can bet Arsene will agree. On the left of Per is where I’m sure Arsene and most Gunners wouldn’t agree with me. I will play a proper rookie in JULIO PLEGUEZUELO and my reason is simple. We will be able to assess and determine his future at the club or otherwise from opportunities like this. This guy has been on the fringes for some time, signed from the famous La Masia Barcelona Academy four years ago, He’s had his fair share of injury, also gone on loan to Mallorca, last season, where he didn’t see much game time for him to be properly assessed. It’s these kind of opportunities that will reveal whether we have a ‘Bellerin’ or a ‘Toral’ in this player. We might just be surprised that we have a very immense player in our hands – My preference though would have been for Kristian Bielik, who is unfortunately injured. I know most people would rather Monreal but we shouldn’t forget he is 32 and playing twice in 3 days is not for him anymore, and definitely not when the next opponent is Chelsea at Stamford bridge. Then to the midfield.

Midfield: Every single Arsenal fans suggested line-up for tonight’s game that I have read tipped Reiss Nelson for the RWB position. I defer. I have posited in time past that this is a waste of this boy’s immense talent. I watched him play in the PL2 against Derby County, where he turned the game on its head and handed Arsenal a hitherto unlikely victory, the moment he moved from RWB further forward. Playing him in the RWB role in the name of learning the defensive side of the game is untenable, its dangerous, its unfair, its wrong and not consistent with success story of modern day development of exceptional talents. Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, even to our own Alex iwobi, Oguzan Ozyakup, Gnabry and all, NONE of them needed to be played in a WB role to learn the defensive side of the game! Its disorienting and stifles growth. Wenger needs to drop that idea like a bad habit. Therefore, my pick for the RWB position tonight will be AINSLEY MAITLAND-NILES. He is coming into his own and should be given more opportunity strictly in any of the 4 midfield roles in our preferred 3-4-3 formation. I like AMN and like the idea that he will grow to be proficient in any of the central 4 position and that creativity in his game is the reason I will play him ahead of Debuchy. In the center of the 4 I’ll for sure go with MOHAMMED ELNENY and JACK WILSHERE and on the left it will be SAED KOLASINAC. Saed needs to continue playing and blending into the game, he is also coming from the Bundesliga so he will come into the game with loads of experience on the opponent. I will only pray that he will not be too tired for Chelsea on Sunday but if we are lucky to get an early lead by a decent margin I’ll rest him for the second half and introduce Debuchy, moving AMN to the left. Finally to the front three.

ATTACK: My pick for the attack will be straight forward. THEO WALCOTT and ALEXIS SANCHEZ with OLIVIER GIROUD at the tip.

The target will be to lead by 2 or 3 in the first half and substitute Kolasinac with Debuchy, Alexis/Walcott for Nelson and Wilshere for Iwobi.

Having said this, the most important thing is that we go out there and win emphatically to send a reply to Chelsea’s message on Tuesday and let them know they will be in for a battle on Sunday.

What would be your choice for tonight’s first 11?




  1. Arsenal_Girl says:

    My guess would be

    Mertsacker Holding Chambers
    Theo… Alexis

    Mustafi.. Koscielny.. Kolsanic
    Bellerin… Xhaka.. Ramsey.. Monreal
    Alexis .. Ozil

    1. Pablo Picasso says:

      Le Coq is out injured.

  2. Chuks says:

    Coquelin is out for three weeks

  3. ramterta says:

    chambers koscienly holding
    nelson xhaxa elneny Montreal
    Sanchez giroud walcott

  4. ALM says:

    I’d love to see Julio on the bench along with Reiss and Eddie.

    chambers – per – holding
    AMN – Iwobi – El neny – Sead
    Alexis – Giroud – Walcott

    Jack – Julio – Reiss – Eddie – Cech – Monreal – Debuchy

  5. Petr cech yourself says:


    Holding.. Koscielny.. Kolsanic
    Bellerin Monreal
    Xhaka Elneny
    Lacazette Welback

  6. Sue says:

    So Podolski wishes he could play a half for each team tonight! I miss him! Love you Lukas ❤

  7. Wally S. says:

    Holding, Mertesacker, Chambers
    Kolasinac, Elnenny, Wilshere, Reine-Adelaide
    Walcott, Sanchez

    Nelson comes on for Sanchez in the second half, early

  8. Roachie says:

    Interesting article, in particular your thoughts on Nelson. I’ve been keeping an eye on him lately and agree with you. Arsenal really need to play him where he is strongest so he can challenge for a premier league place and not just slotted in where we are weak in the squad just caus he is talented enough to do a job

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