Today’s game is a win-win for me I feel. I normally get really wound up before any Arsenal game. Cold hands and feet as my circulatory system begins to re-route blood to my vital organs, set about by a feeling of unease that instinctively my body has told me that there is danger.
When Arsenal play anybody, the only danger is of my own unhappiness and disappointment. So why is today a win-win?
Because it can either mean something or not, depending on the result, so come 7pm tonight when I’m tucking in to my dinner having come home from Wembley I can either choose to brush off the defeat or wax lyrical about the hoo-do that has been undone. Yes, we’re talking about Chelski and their undefeated record over us and yes, it’s something we’d all like to see ended. But with this game elevated only because it’s so close to the actual season curtain raiser next weekend, there will still be part of me that will question “is it really over? Is the psychological barrier really overcome?” After the match if we’ve won.
I suspect we’ll only really find out if this team has overcome that barrier when the teams play each other in the league, so again this game is demoted in my mind to that of something that is relevant or irrelevant depending on the outcome of the result.
I hope we win. I would rather see Mourinho shrug this off as a friendly than see him happy. An irritant such as he should not be allowed to be as happy as he’s been in his management career. He’s an odious character prone to spiteful outbursts and if a win allows him to try to open up more bitter words towards either Arsenal fans or Arsène himself, then we know we’re getting under his skin. Yeah, getting under his skin, because we do things the right way and he represents the all mighty evil dollar in football. Love it.
As for the game itself, this is not going to be the first time this season that I think I’m going to say this, but I have no idea how Arsène will set the team out. I mean, I have a rough idea, but there are a few question marks dotted all over the pitch. We know that Alexis and Ospina will not be available due to their extended seasons for their respective nations in the Copa America, as well as the injury to Welbeck which keeps him out, but how else Arsène unleashes his team is a tough one.
That doesn’t mean I won’t have a go though!
I think we will surely see Cech make his first Wembley appearance in an Arsenal shirt, which I think he’ll be protected in the middle by Koscienly and Mertesacker, but who plays out wide? Based on last season I couldn’t tell you who is now the first choice right back, but I suspect we’ll see Debuchy get the nod because of his experience. On the left my initial reaction is that Monreal will start, but it’s a new season and Arsène may be taking the view that both the Spaniard and Gibbs are beginning from a standstill position, so he could play either. I would play Nacho. He was the form player from last season and I think we need as many form players in the team against a good Chelski team as possible. Gibbs will get his chance though, of that I’m sure, possibly next weekend against West Ham who will surely set out to defend and so the presence of quicker and more attack-minded full backs might be an option.
Coquelin will surely start in the engine room of our midfield and it will be his job to stop Hazard in his tracks from picking the ball up deep and trying slalom his way through our defensive unit. Hazard will drift of course, but Le Coq will need to be ready, willing and able for when the Belgian comes centrally. Or he can track him for the game. I suspect we’ll see Remy up top against our back four, rather than a two man attack, so Hazard will be the danger man and Coquelin can help to Roy me up on him.
Fresh from inking his extension, Santi must surely get the opportunity to play as the deep lying playmaker and with Cesc probably operating a similar role in Chelski’s side, it will be interesting to see how both players perform. Hopefully Santi has the better afternoon.
That leaves an attacking quartet in which I’d be surprised not to see Özil, but after that it gets tricky. Arsène could play Giroud, but equally he could opt for Theo up top. Both have their positive attributes against Terry and Cahill. Any ball knocked up to Giroud he’ll be better at bringing others in to play, but he’s the type of player that those two love to play against, where as Walcott has pace and will run in behind the two centre halves. The only downside to Walcott, however, is that if Chelski sit deep we will not see much space for at do to run in behind on. It’s a difficult one to call. Personally I’d stick with Giroud and surround him with players that he can bring in to play, like The Ox or Rambo. I do think Rambo will play, probably wide right, but that then leaves just one space left in my starting XI, to which I could fit The Ox, Walcott (out wide), Wilshere, Rosicky or even somebody like Gnabry. Heck, maybe Jeff Reine-Adelaide has warranted a go?
Probably not. But I do wonder if we might see The Ox starting. I think it’s going to be a big season for him and I reckon Arsène might think the same too. He’ll give the Chelski players something to worry about with both pace and power, but his ability and dribbling on the ball is far superior to Theo, which is why I wonder if Arsène won’t tell him to go out there and do his stuff.
Whatever happens, I just hope we can continue to stay positive. It’s been a good preseason and next week we start the real thing, so I’ll save all my nerves for then.
Catch y’all tomorrow.