It’s match day at The Arsenal and it’s a home game against Huddersfield tonight for me and thee, as we hope to put a wee bit of daylight between some of the chasing pack and most notably the Totts, with whom I am hoping that we have given all of the November ‘curse’ to after their defeat to Leicester.
Of course this is Arsenal and I’m not counting my chickens just yet. Remember Watford at home last season? This is the type of game we could face tonight so I’ll save any schadenfreude until probably Sunday if we’ve picked up two wins.
Tonight is the first instalment of two home games in which it feels like the season could start to have more of a positive turning point though. Win the next two and we’re in a much better position than two months ago. Sounds simple, right?
Well, this is Arsenal and ‘simple’ is rarely something we do, so I suspect we’re in for a bit of a rough ride tonight. Huddersfield are an aggressive team, a boisterous team, a team that like to ‘get stuck in’ as the saying goes, so I’m expecting a match in which we’ll need to have our players on their toes and moving the ball quickly. Nobody wants to see any dangling feet when there’s a high chance a Huddersfield man will go for it.
The Terriers come into today’s game as a ‘freebie’ too; they know they’re not expected to get anything from the game so they have nothing to fear. They’ll be missing van La Parra through suspension, which will take away a little bit of their pace an attacking intent, but you only have to look at the way they’ve set up this season to know that they won’t expect a lot of the ball in the Arsenal half. They concede possession a fair bit but that won’t worry Wagner, as long as the team shape and discipline remains in act defensively. We always struggle to break teams down who remain compact and if the manager has an eye on rotation tonight I’d be thinking about players who are good in tight spaces.
That’s why I do wonder if we’ll see Jack and Giroud this evening. Yesterday we got confirmation that Iwobi will be out, which puts Jack another step closer to the first team XI, and the Englishman is very adept in some spaces wriggling through teams. It’s something I’d certainly be considering if I was in Arsène’s shoes though.
I think he’ll have to do some form of rotation. Despite what he says about only thinking about the next game, the thought of having one of our back three unavailable through injury on Saturday isn’t really something I’d like to countenance, but if all three play this evening you just know one will break down. That’s why I’d be resting up Koscielny’s Achilles and be giving Big Per the nod. Mustafi will still be fresh having missed a few weeks through injuries and Monreal seems like a chap who is robust enough, so I’d certainly be considering that as a threesome.
I’d like to say that we should be rotating our fullbacks, but with no real understudy for any of the positions I think we’ll see a similar line up to Sunday, which I also think we’ll see in our midfield. I just have a feeling that Arsène won’t roll the dice on the whole team tonight and that is why I figure he’ll give the front three a bit of a shuffle and that’s it.
Of course I’ve been pretty wrong before and I’ll most likely be wrong tonight!
United won, the Totts lost, which means we’re playing both catch up and run away with this game, but it should be a game we’re capable of winning though. We do need to be at it quickly though. As I recalled above this sort of game could quickly turn into a Watfordesque debacle if the players aren’t putting a shift in because much like Burnley at the weekend, you know that Huddersfield will put a battling performance in this evening.
Arsène has some tricky decisions to make today but here’s hoping he makes the right one, gets the teams mind set in the right place, picks up three points and sends us all home happy.
As an aside to tonight’s game, it’s good to see that there are clear indications for life after Arsène, with the appointment of Raul Sanllehi as Head of Football Relations from February. It’s an interesting appointment because despite Arsène’s clear disdain for a Director of Football, this seems very much like a similar sort of position and it’s very telling that it’s Ivan talking about the appointment rather than Arsène. The message has clearly been read and understood that one man can’t have all the power in the modern game and the club are beginning to put the pieces together for life after Arsène. Who’d have thunk it: some succession planning at last!
Catch you all tomorrow folks. Hopefully with a positive blog talking of three point godliness.