Happy Saturday gooners. It’s match day and it’s an away trip to Leicester City that the team has in front of them to try to erase the residual embarrassment that was caused from last weekend’s home defeat to Liverpool.
Sadly, there’s no new faces to freshen the team today, so the decision that Arsène has to make isn’t so much based on which players to pick on form, but who is fit and available. None of us are surprised I’m sure, but this current injury crisis has come too soon and is already threatening to go deep with this team. No Gabriel, no Mertesacker, possibly no Koscielny, no Ramsey, no Özil, no Giroud, no Iwobi. It’s a challenge on Arsène’s ability and pulling out a win today feels like the only outcome that will result that won’t send the fanbase in to get more melancholy. And that’s me putting it mildly I think.
It certainly won’t be easy and what makes it more difficult is that Leicester will be buoyed by the recent resign afire of Mahrez. He’s the last of the uncertainties to commit and the crowd in Leicester will be rocking today. They’ll see an Arsenal team short on numbers, low on confidence, and they’ll smell blood.
Last season’s game saw Leicested try to ‘out-Arsenal’ us, which worked to their detriment, so I don’t expect them to be the same today. I think they’ll revert back to the side that played more conservatively in the second half of the season, on the break, so I think they might try to give us a little bit more possession and hit us on the counter. They’ve got Huth returning to the line up from suspension, so their back four from last season will be back in place, which means we might see more organisation than last weekend at Hull.
For us, there are decisions all over the park, which is strange given that Arsène likes to keep the same XI normally at the start of each season. At the back I can’t see that he has any other option other than starting Koscielny. Holding and Chambers did OK I thought and like Tim Stillman has said on a pod and a blog recently, it’s more the midfield partnership and their screening that we need to improve compared to last weekend. But there’s no doubt that Kos back in the team will improve our back line. Assuming he’s fit. Which he isn’t.
Midfield has to be different from last weekend. It just didn’t work and I think this is where he might change it around a bit. A midfield trio that includes Santi and Xhaka surely has to be given a shot? They are the two players who will ensure we retain possession of the ball but more importantly, they have to ensure that the decision making when making those passes Forward and in between the lines. Last season we had a bit of joy with Leicester with balls in behind and I seem to recall that Theo had a particularly fruitful day. If Arsène chooses to go with Theo, Ox and Alexis, they are all players who have pace to get in behind. That’s why I hope he goes for Xhaka and Elneny with Cazorla in front of them. I just think it will work.
But the real question I have is: how damaged and low are the team feeling mentally after last weekend? The good news is that we’re only at the beginning of the season, so any setbacks can be overcome, but I do fear team morale if we lose today. Two defeats back-to-back at this early will mean the Sharks will be circling. Nobody with an interest in Arsenal wants to see that.
Come on Arsenal, let’s do this – make my Saturday better!