What’s this? Two 3pm kick offs after each other? How novel, eh?
It’s bloody typical that last week I couldn’t bask in the glory of a traditional 3pm kick off at home, on account of being abroad, as well as this week’s game on account of it being away. And I am up in Northumberland seeing some of The Management’s family. But I won’t let that dampen my spirits, because I’m still going to bask in the glory of 3pmness, because it’s one of the few traditions left in the game that hasn’t been monetised in some way. By that I mean by televised coverage in the UK. All football is monetised in every conceivable way, but this one has remained steadfast to date.
(Although with today’s technology and coverage, I can probably get an iPhone stream when out and about, if the signal is good)
Yesterday Arsène spoke to the press and talked about the absence of Xhaka, with it being down to the partnership that Santi and Coq have, rather than anything specific on him. I understand that Arsène loves his cohesion, so at least we have an explanation from the manager, but given the Watford game I would have thought that the Xhaka/Santi partnership forged should get another crack. After all, how can you put together a run of 50 or 60 games (which he referenced for the Coqzorla partnership) if you’re not actually going to give it some opportunities to flourish.
He also has the evidence of a pretty dire first half on Tuesday night – albeit against much better opposition than we’ve played all season – as a reason now to give the Spaniard and Swiss a go and see if a Cazhaka partnership can be forged. I do wonder though, if just through his own stubbornness, the manager decides to stick to fingers up to the world and sticks with practically the same team as Tuesday night. He’s shown that he doesn’t get swayed by any kind of public opinion – often a good thing I might add – so it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if Coquelin retains his place.
But there’s one thing for sure, if the team is the same as Tuesday, they need to shift up about three gears. We got lucky in midweek and that won’t keep happening if we continue to be open defensively and relatively blunt offensively.
Cech will almost certainly come in and with the lack of other options we’ll see the same back four as Tgise that started against PSG. Monreal hasn’t exactly been great this season, but he’s been afforded no protection, so if Snodgrass is allowed to isolate the Spaniard or if he can double up with his Hull teammates, then I fear Hull might get some joy against us.
That’s why I’m hoping we see the return of Giroud, or even Perez, to the central spot because it will shift Alexis wide and his all-action style will at least provide some support for Monreal if he plays. I am starting to wonder though, if Kieran Gibbs might be having a look at the manager as an opportunity that could potentially come knocking? Perhaps a conversation for a non-match day.
Now seems like the time to bring Giroud in though. We’re a month in to the season, he’s been playing a bit and got game time for France, so I think his presence up against Davies and Livermore will be welcome. If it was me, it would be a front three of Alexis, Giroud and possibly Walcott on the right. But I’m not averse to seeing Iwobi given a go on the right. Despite it being an away game, i expect us to have plenty of ball, which means Hull will sit deep and look to hit us on the counter. That doesn’t really help Theo’s game too much and if the manager doesn’t pick Xhaka, it probably doesn’t help Theo either. Özil and Xhaka look like the kind of players that Walcott can thrive on distribution from, so if both are playing I’d think he’d probably start. But if you’re going for Coquelin, maybe you need somebody who will play with the ball at his feet in that wide right position.
Hull are a bit of an unknown quantity in how they’ll set up. That’s partly because of the fact I’ve only seen bits of their game against Leicester and Man United. Against Leicester they looked to hit on the counter and defend a little deeper to nullify Leicester’s obvious pace. But against United it was pretty much a case of just putting as many bodies on the edge of their box as possible. So you’d think they’ll do the same against us, but the real question is whether or not they will have joy getting behind our clearly still ‘work in progress’ defence. Against Southampton we gave away too many balls in behind and against PSG it was worse. If we continue to give top level strikers balls in behind so they can bear down on our ‘keeper, we’re going to start haemorrhaging goals. So I am just hoping that Koscielny and Mustafi can start to click more as a partnership.
I see our left hand side as the biggest threat. Snodgrass is arguably their best player and teams have been targeting Nacho. If Snodgrass can get in behind Monreal, expect Hernandez to be lurking and after he scored a decent header at the Emirates in a 2-2 draw a couple of seasons back, we should be well aware of his threat.
There’s added incentive for our boys to put one over on this lot, not least because it’s stacked full of ex-Spurs players. Livermore, Mason and Huddlestone make up a collective of proper scummers and Mason particularly is a the type of persistent fouly tossed that I can’t abide. So for that reason too, I’m hoping we give Hull a proper smashing.
Sing up for the Arsenal, and hopefully three points.