Wenger needs to be ruthless with his Arsenal players ahead of Madrid showdown


Arsenal visited old foes at Old Trafford, Manchester United, on Sunday, and many got the the pictures of the team travelling and got the idea of what Wenger intended to field, and all must have said the same thing – It will be a white wash closer to the 8-2 Arsenal received when they last fielded such a young side. But it turns out, the boys did so well against the men (Manchester United) and almost stopped a bad record from rumbling on. The bad record is that Arsenal have not picked up a point on the road this calendar year. They were two injury-time minutes away from picking a point at least – even stealing the match and getting all three looked possible.

Arsenal obviously play their crunch Europa League Semi-Final Second Leg at the Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday. The game at Old Trafford was of little significance to Arsenal as we are out of the top four ‘trophy’ battle which would see us play in the Champions League next season. Getting past Atletico will afford Arsenal a chance for one more match, the most important this season, against teams billed to be weaker than Atletico they are facing this Thursday. The final will be played on the 16th of May in Lyon, France.

Atletico Madrid must be having half a boot in the final after the teams came all square in the first round match at the Emirates stadium. This season, Atletico Madrid have made a fortress of Wanda Metropolitano, having played 26 games, winning 18 times, drawing 6 times and losing just twice. They have scored 45 times and conceded just 8 times at home. They also have an away goal from the first match.

After playing Manchester United, in one of the most intimidating arenas of football anywhere on the planet and fielding the boys against men in that match-up Arsene Wenger should have picked up a few more reliable men that he should consider playing against Atletico.

The centre back pairing of Konstantinos Mavropanos and Calum Chambers did what Arsenal’s senior player have not been known to do for long periods this season – stand up against a lethal attacking side. The team conceded two goals, but it is instructive that the defenders did not have obvious blunders associated with Konscielny and Mustafi in many matches this season.
Wenger therefore needs to do the simple thing – Ruthlessly replace the regulars with the two arguably more reliable youngsters. He needs to trust that what we saw against United can be replicated with a few tweaks here and there to shut out Griezmann and Diego Costa, or keep their goal scoring as low enough for Arsenal – because the script written this season that seems unchanging is that Arsenal must concede when playing away. Perhaps the younger players can run faster and cancel out the threats.

In the midfield, the other culprit for Arsenal defeats this season was at it again. Granit Xhaka was at fault for the two goals. He allowed Pogba the room leaving him for the dead literally, and his challenge was poorly timed that it gave the United man more push on flight than restricting him, and Pogba played an inspired one-two with Lingard and scored. In the second, he lost him marking on Fellaini who outjumped the Arsenal defense and scored through a deflection on – who else Xhaka himself. Credit to him, Xhaka got the assist for Mkhitaryan to score against his former employers. On the day, Xhaka was the captain and perhaps Wenger’s captains curse was on him. Whatever it was, Ansley-Maitland-Niles played in the central midfield and gave an inspired account of himself. So ruthlessness and trust demands Xhaka out and Maitland-Niles be played against Atletico. For the manager coming in, Xhaka’s assist shows what he can do best – take his place in the bench as Ramsey’s understudy. When Ramsey is having a bad day in office, bring in Xhaka, for now.

Mkhitaryan – injured, was supposed to be out till end of season, miraculously healed, plays an inspired game, dominates the game, scores against his former employers, and almost gets a brace in there, and leave the game – injured again. In Madrid, Mkhitaryan must play and Wenger must just resort to what England did for Rooney for the 2006 World Cup, the hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Whatever one thinks about it, Rooney ended up playing at the World Cup and Arsenal need Mkhitaryan to play in Madrid.

If Wenger has returned back to back four, then my team for Atletico Madrid on Thursday is a 4.3.3. pattern as follows. If this is what we will play, Wenger may just rewrite the history of Arsenal, just by having guts.

————-Ainsley Maitland Niles ———-
—–Monreal-Mavropanos-Chambers-Bellerin —-

We need to score goals but also defend meanly and the team above can deliver on both. Lacazette was really playing as lone forward in the first match up, and in this pattern he has Welbeck and Mkhitaryan for assistance. An on form Ramsey in an advanced role alongside Ozil is mouthwatering. Save for Xhaka’s intervention, this defense almost succeeded in shutting out Manchester United, in hostile Territory. If entrusted with a similar role, they could just keep Atletico quiet. And we may advance on a 1-0 win away, like we did in 2006 when we stopped the other Madrid after and 0-0 draw in the first match at Highbury Stadium.

If it is of any consolation – of the two matches that Atletico lost at home this season, one was against Chelsea…


  1. Nayr says:

    I disagree.

    in competitions like the europa league or the champions league sometimes you need experienced guys.
    a good example is how juventus dumped out tottenham from the champions league.

    I would not bench koscienly just because of the experience he has.

    but i agree xhaka needs to be benched for AMN.

    1. ThirdManJW says:

      The same experienced players that go missing, or play terribly, every time we face a quality opponent? The same guys that messed up big time in the first leg?

      As I said yesterday, this last chance saloon for Wenger, so he should FINALLY start looking at players performances when deciding his team lineup.

      Cech, Kos, Mustafi, Ozil, Xhaka, should all be dropped, although I would keep Bellerin in because he’s picked up some form recently.

      1. citrenoogeht says:

        With comments like the one you have left, I’m glad you have no authority at Arsenal.

  2. JustJoy says:

    if that team is fielded, most of you will start the hammering slating that inexperience and so on…

  3. Liam says:

    I don’t see why Xhaka should be dropped for AMN. AMN should 110% start against Athletico but it should be in place of the rat Wilshere. Whom we seem to forget is actually out of contract in the summer and will not sign a new deal. Wilshere does not deserve a better contract as he’s been paid very handsomely for. being injured. Couldn’t even get in the Bournemouth team when fit so. My 11 for Thursday
    Bellerin Chambers Mano Monreal
    Niles Ramsey Xhaka
    Mki Ozil

    1. Midkemma says:

      To me it looks like Wilshere has been offered a paydrop and TBH it was AFC fault for overpaying him to begin with, AFC should offer his current wage with incentives, not drop the wage.

      It looks bad for future youngsters, who wants to think that the club might decide they paid too much and offer less in wages?

      Either release him or offer him his current wage with bonuses.

      You calling Wilshere a rat is poor form IMO, he is far from a rat, he loves AFC and holding off to try and stay.

  4. Jeremy says:

    Mustafi can be benched for the game. It may a gamble worth taking for now. I don’t understand why AW is so afraid to give young defenders a chance, looking at how badly the so-called experienced ones had done.

    Maybe we can continue w the experienced players in midfield but we just need Ozil and Miki to show up.

    We have to play as though we are one-nil down. Athletico can be broken down as we had seen in the first leg. We just need to keep it tight at the back.

  5. Ray says:

    I would promote Mustafi to groundsman because he spends so much time on it! 🙂 Replace him with Mavropanos. Keep the rest the same. I would probably put Cech in goal although I doubt any of our keepers would install confidence!

    Xhaka should be promoted to “sock puller-upper” because he has more interest in that than say, defending and tracking back! 🙂 Replace him with JW and tell Jack his Arsenal career depends on a perfect game along side Arron Ramsey.

    The rest as is..?

    1. Sue says:

      Groundsman ?? love it!!! ?

  6. gotanidea says:

    Agree on being ruthless, because a lot of energy to face Atletico, which could be gained by using younger and hungrier players:

    Bellerin . Chambers . Mavropanos . Monreal
    ……….Mkhitaryan ……… Wilshere
    ……………………Ramsey (false nine)
    ……..Welbeck …………….. Lacazette

    The problem is Wenger rarely benches the first team players like Ozil, Mustafi, Koscielny and Xhaka. Arsenal need hardworking players that can pressurize Atletico and the ones can force them to make mistakes

  7. barryglik says:

    Wenger will play the most experienced.

    Bellerin Koz Mustafi Monreal
    Xhaka Ramsey Kolasinac
    Ozil Mkhitaryan Lacazette.

    Ospina Chambers Mavropanos Nelson Wilshere Iwobi Wellbeck

  8. john says:

    mouthwatering ramsey and ozil. this two r the whole reason we dont play football at arsenal at all. if you have missed watching all arsenal games that ozil and ramsey play, we only win easy games. but big games blackout, total blackout, reason only being ozil can only play well when we have 9 super players covering him like germany national team or his old club real madrid. try count how many scoring passes ozil has ever provided to lacazette this whole season, as main number 10 in a whole big club like arsenal. apart from that deflection lacazette collected to create a goal while playing cska at home. make it worse when u mention ramsey, who should be our attacking midfielder, but alas, ramsey happens to be the main striker game after game making sure more than 80 minutes his always at the box waiting to score. people blame jack and xhaka, cause midfield always misses one play day in day out. at man utd, iwobi forgot he was covering number 8, but unfortunately niles and xhaka got exposed. when we played atletico at emirates, ramsey was just running to the box each minute full game, and he ended the game without even exchanging one play with lacazette. if u have noticed all arsenal games when we build up play from defence, we always have to cross to wings to get play. ask yourself why u have never seen our attacking midfielder collect balls in the middle to push for a direct box to box attack. like at least ramsey only tried once this whole season playing man city at home passing to lacazette and it created a goal. and watch, this days poor ramsey fully abandons midfield because he wants goals to his name, each game, but he never corrects it. look while playing atletico watch how he and welbeck were in the box scrambling for one ball, until welbeck headed it back to atletico defender , rather than directing to lacazette who was just next to them, meaning some arsenal players cant reason well in big pressure games, something that wenger knew since 2005 when buying cheap players to just impress in small games. so change your team formation if u expect a victory at atletico madrid. and once ramsey cant play midfield, jack, xhaka and ozil r finished. and defence takes all pressure. so we always play 6 to 7 players active most games. aubameyang never got even one ball from iwobi the whole game at man utd. how do we win anything with only 6 players active game after game. and ramsey only really passes when the game is in his favour. evident playing west ham he only passed to lacazette after his lucky goal. away to cska, ramsey dint exchange even one pass with lacazette. so ramsey doesnt know which position he plays at arsenal, and ozil gets to switch off cause no number 8 to pressure him game after game. we need a player like nabil fekir, and at man utd aubameyang would have got goals to win the game.

  9. Chiza says:

    Get Julian Nagelsmann!!!!!!!!!… Let our future be blessed with Nagelsmann

  10. Ignasi says:

    There is definitely a shout to start Mavropanos or Chambers over Mustafi. Would still like to keep Koscielny in.

    Atletico 0 – 1 Arsenal (Mavropanos 89′)

    (1-2 on agg)

  11. Sergio says:

    Agreed Xhaka should be dropped for AMN.

    I would like to keep Kos in the lineup though Mustafi has to go. Unfortunately it’s hard to predict how one of the youngest will partner alongside Kos for this game, so I agree with starting Chambers and Movrapanos together too.

    However, we all know Wenger won’t play any of these 3.

  12. Grandad says:

    Our experienced players and our experienced Manager are the reason for the decline of AFCthis season.

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