Morning all! Excited?
I know I am. Of course I’m also absolutely bricking myself as to what lies ahead because quite frankly, the Premier League random fixture generator couldn’t have made it more difficult for us if it tried. Man City were so many streaks ahead of everyone else last season that it’s hard to look at anyone other than them for the title this year, despite the millions that Liverpool have spent.
Chelski have their usual new manager situation to deal with but as usual were dealt a lovely old hand on the opening day by playing a fairly tame Huddersfield in probably the exact opposite of what we’ll face today. Man City last weekend looked sharp, composed, strong and they know exactly the style their manager will adopt and what to do against us. Pep will set his team up to close space high up the pitch, look to take advantage of what we already know is a leaky back line of ours, with not as much pace as Man City can offer in abundance in their front line.
They will get chances, a lot of chances, I suspect. And shutting them out feels almost impossible. So today we have to go for goals. Lots of goals. Also difficult when you have one of the best defences in the league.
But we’ve been given glimpses of how Unai will set his team up and they will look to try to win the ball higher back up the pitch and press City when we haven’t got the ball. There’s been quite the charm offensive from the club to show that the players are happy with all the work they’ve been putting in, but it all means nothing if the team don’t execute Unai’s will come 4pm, so my hope is that we can see some clear instructions of how to play City from the off today and that we are treated to a game in which we have some positives to draw from.
It’s weird because i’ve never felt so much like we might lose a game today and that is not the end of the world at home. I am a classic fan that thinks his team should always win at home and anything else is failure. Today if we are beaten by City i feel like – well, i certainly hope that i feel like – I will come out with little other than an opinion on how far we can go this season based on what positives in defeat can be drawn. It’s clear we’re nowhere near the same level as City right now and any Arsenal fan expecting us to compete is probably just kidding themselves at this stage, but we can draw positives from a defeat to City if it happens because as long as we see signs of progress and create chances, we know we’ll be alright this season. City are a team apart from anyone else and so it also kind of feels to me that our season probably won’t truly ‘kick off’ until after we’ve got this game done and then probably also Chelski too, because we have our usual traditionally terrible away performance at Stamford Bridge.
But I tell you what; despite all of this pessimism from me as you read the ramblings of a fully grown man whimpering into his MacBook like a child, I can assure you I’m excited to have the football back. The pre match build up, the meet and greet with mates down the pub, the arrival into the stadium, the smell of the immaculately cut fresh grass at The Emirates, the atmosphere as we approach kick off. Yes, Arsenal is traditionally known as a set of fans who aren’t the noisiest but I tell you what, today will be buzzing because we all got the change we wanted and now we see what that means for the club in earnest.
Team-wise I suspect it’ll be Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Torreira, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang. My gut feeling is that Cech will be preferred at this stage but as the season wears on it will become more blurred as to who plays and when. I also think that Ramsey back to fitness probably means he starts and because of that I think Lacazette misses out because I think Ozil will be pushed to one of the front three positions and Ransey will be asked to play centrally. He is a guy with an engine and will cover ground in that middle position where as Ozil and Mkhi will be given licence to float and roam a bit more I suspect. Personally I’d like to see Auba and Laca as a front two and play somebody like Ozil behind, but I’d be surprised if that happens because it pushes Ramsey closer towards our own goal and I have a feeling given that we want to win the ball higher up the pitch, that Ramsey will be spending most of his time in the opposition half this season.
What I hope we don’t see is a Ramsey and Xhaka midfield base. The reason we bought Torreira was to be that player who can cover space in front of our back four and also at times drop in to play as almost an auxiliary centre half when our two defenders split and whilst Xhaka has the passing range with everyone in front of him, having him as one of our last defenders being pressed by an opponent is a terrifying prospect. So for me if we play Ramsey we play him further up the pitch, you can’t drop Ozil or Auba, so it’s either Laca or Mkhi that miss out and I just have a feeling it will be the Frenchman.
But whoever gets the nod tomorrow, I guess at least we have the element of surprise for Pep given that we’ve played so many different formations in pre season and with so many different players. If Arsene’s Arsenal were predictable to a man who we’d line up, Emery cannot be labelled with the same charge.
I’m praying we can get something out of this game but I’m not overly hopeful. Hopefully I’m completely wrong and tomorrow I can be writing with the enthusiasm and gusto that a victory brings.
Come on you reds, let’s ‘av it.