This feels like a strange ol’ match day, doesn’t it? It’s barely registering on my internal fear-o-meter if I’m honest with you. That’s largely because of the fact that unlike The Grand Old Duke of York and his 10,000 men, we can’t go up or down the hill. We’re just stuck in sixth. The worst of the elite teams and too far away from the rest of the league to be caught.
So tonight it doesn’t really matter what happens. Of course we all want Arsenal to win, but it’s more about breaking the current media catchphrase of “zero points in 2018” which will be used ad nauseum until we final pick up at least a solitary point.
It’s at this point in the blog that I usually start to look at our fitness concerns, then our opponents, how they’d line up, etc, etc, but it all feels a little redundant to be honest. Arsène gave his update and it appears Mesut has been gifted an extended break due to a persistent back problem, whilst the rest of the news is nothing we didn’t already know. It would have been nice to see Santi put on an Arsenal shirt in a ‘competitive’ fixture on the final day but it’s not surprising that he isn’t ready having spent as much time out as he has. Let’s just hope that delightful little Spaniard hasn’t had his career ruined and can still play a season or two somewhere.
We should also spare a thought for Koscielny, who had it confirmed that he’ll miss six months with an Achilles injury and when you think of his age profile too, you can probably say it’ll take him a month after that to be ready for first team action. That’s half the season and at 33 he’ll be a player who will be desperate to get as much out of the remaining years as possible, so it’s hard not to feel sad for such a great servant, and a good guy by all accounts.
As for who will play tonight, my gut tells me Arsène opts for a semi rotated team. I think he’ll play Cech, probably Bellerin, then you’ve got Chambers who has impressed and I wonder if Mustafi plays tonight alongside him. I’d give Mavropanos another shout but I think Arsène will play the German because he is higher in the pecking order. Plus with the rapid pace of Vardy you need somebody with a bit more pace and I’m not sure how much Mavropanos has, although we’ve only seen him for a short period of time and I don’t recall seeing him in many foot races so far.
On the left will probably be Monreal and if so I think Kolasinac will play at the weekend. I think Arsène will give starts to all of the first team squad in the next couple of games so it’ll be one or the other from those two.
Midfield should have Maitland-Niles in it and I’d probably give Ramsey a run out given he didn’t start on Sunday. Then we will have an attacking trio that I think will include Mkhitaryan and Lacazette, mainly because those two haven’t had as many minutes as some of the others have had through injury.
That would leave one of Iwobi and Welbeck behind Auba and I reckon it’ll be the Nigerian, with Danny playing on Sunday. If that happens then you could also expect to see Wilshere and Xhaka come in at the weekend.
Leicester will probably fancy a bit of rope-a-dope against our back line and that’s why I really hope Chambers and Mavropanos play. We need to test them out in different scenarios and so having seen them in a big game perform well, then seen them in the classic ‘home team domination’ display at the weekend, if they impress against a side who will look to break rapidly on us, I think we’ll get a better idea as to whether they can at least plug some of the gaps that we currently have in the centre of our defence.
We’re at the stage of the season where it doesn’t really matter what the result is, but with it due to be all change this summer in terms of the way the team is managed, I want to see performances of individuals rather than results. If we get some players who look like they can step up next season, then as far as I’m concerned, that’s happy days for me.
Catch you tomorrow with some match review thoughts.