It’s another match day for the Arsenal and as annoying as it is to be another Sunday game, the reason for it being this Sunday is certainly one that we can stomach, because it’s due to the teams participation in the Europa League and the excellent performance that was Milan.
In a way I’m kind of glad we’re playing so soon after that game because I’m hopeful that the performance on Thursday will still be fresh in the players minds and they’ll all be collectively realising that actually, they’re not that sh*t after all.
That’s why a win today is so important. Not a draw, not another defeat, a win. That’s what we need and that’s what the players need to start rebuilding the fragile confidence that will be existing within the dressing room right now. The Premier League is, to all intents and purposes, a confidence builder for this Arsenal team now. We can’t get near the top four and we’ll probably not be seeing Champions League football next season unless the Europa League is navigated somehow, but if we can start to win games again in the Premier League then that can provide a platform to build confidence and hopefully get the swagger back in the team for European competition.
We also play Milan next Thursday and having had four defeats in a row in our games prior to Thursday night’s win in the San Siro, a win today could put us in a great position to get something next Thursday and suddenly if that happens you’re looking at what feels like a bit of momentum.
But more than that the game today represents somewhat of an opportunity to get one over on a player who so publicly lambasted Arsenal with his ‘cojones’ statement earlier in the season. After Watford came from behind (with the aid of some poor refereeing decisions in being allowed to be conned by Richarlison for his dive to win their equalising penalty) in the game at Vicarage Road Troy Deeney was certainly vocal enough to the assembled BT Sport team that this Arsenal side lacked fight, so putting in a performance today, that hopefully results in victory at home, will go some way to ticking two fingers up to the Watford striker and that statement he made in October last year.
But Arsene Wenger has some decisions to make when it comes to team line up. Does he play as many of the first team players as he possibly can after the team delivered on Thursday? Or does he rotate some of them?
Personally I say go with our strongest team. The team hasn’t been able to build any kind of winning run for ages and as well as that no player currently available has played such an amount of games that they should be completely knackered at this time in the season. We’ve had a cup and league team all season and it hasn’t worked so now I say let’s just merge the two and see if we can have a consistent team – injuries permitting – for a run of games and see if that makes a difference.
So for me the side would be Cech (because despite his poor showing he’s still the better ‘keeper than Ospina) in goal, Maitland-Niles at right back (because I think he’s in better form than Chambers), Mustafi, Koscielny at centre half then if fit, I’d have Kolasinac in. Arsene said he should be ok despite coming off in the San Siro so if he’s fit, he plays for me, because he’s another player that I think needs a run of games.
Sitting in front of those two I’d give the midfield two of Ramsey and Xhaka the nod and hopefully both of those will have a bit more confidence about them after Thursday, because both performed well and were the key contributors to a successful evening had by The Arsenal.
Then it gets a bit tricky. I’d definitely have Ozil and Mkhitaryan but who should get the nod playing with them in a three behind Aubameyang? Jack Wilshere is starting to worry me and he’s looking like he’s lost that spark that he had six or seven years ago. In Milan on Thursday night he did well like the whole team, but there were little moments that worried me, like when Kessie picked the ball up in the middle of the park and pretty much just jogged past him as he tried to keep up. If Wilshere gets tired that quickly in games, can he really put in another performance just three days after his last start?
The problem is that the other alternatives aren’t exactly great either. You’ve got Iwobi as one but every time I see him these days he’s having a mare and he was once again dreadful against Brighton. When he wasn’t running down blind alleys he was passing the ball to opponents or just looking brain dead when the opposition had the ball. The other option is Welbeck but like Jack, can he do it just a few days after exerting so much energy in Italy? I’m not so sure.
I’ve always banged on about Arsene and his hierarchies and so there’s no way any other player is going to be given a chance other than those three players, even if i’d personally give someone like Reiss Nelson a shout in an advanced position and see what happens. He’s got something about him and it would also give him the confidence that he might have a future in the first team and with that contract of his still unsigned, it could be a convincer for a young player that all of us think has a bright future, so I’d definitely be thinking about giving him that opportunity.
As for Watford, they’re missing Cleverley, Kaboul and Delofeu through injury and the latter would certainly be a pace threat on the counter. They’ll most likely go with Deeney up front and whilst he isn’t the one with pace to trouble us, we know from last season’s home defeat that he still has good timings of runs and will still be a threat in our box. They’ll aim to use the pace of Richardson and Carillo to hit us on the break I suspect and that will mean their back four will be well shielded by Capoue and Doucourre. But I believe Doucourre likes to venture forward occasionally so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a little more space if we give them the ball once in a while.
I’ve said above that this is a ‘must-win’ game for confidence and that has to be the case today. It isn’t about points and league position, but about trying to build some momentum.
Come on you reds.