Howdy Gooners. It’s that time of the week again – the match day without any pressure in the midweek!
I love the feeling of going to a game where you don’t want to chew all of your nails off. I love not spending the day being nervous. I love not having that feeling of dread that I’m pretty sure will envelope me come about 4pm on Friday afternoon. And I love that we’ll see some fresh faces this afternoon.
I suspect we’ll be treated to a bit of Ospina, Debuchy, Chambers, Holding, perhaps Kolasinac, Coquelin and Elneny, with Walcott, Giroud, maybe someone like Nelson given that Iwobi played the last two league games, as well as a returning to fitness Welbeck. And on paper, that feels absolutely a-ok to me.
But the team has struggled in recent midweek games and I think the West Ham game plan will be a familiar one to any rendition of an Arsenal side: sit tight, frustrate, make the most of set pieces and sucker punch Arsenal.
Depending on which West Ham side is picked, this could arguably be the most difficult of any of the midweek games this second string has faced so far, so it’ll be interesting to see how they react to a team with a bit more quality.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting a potentially rotated West Ham team are Barcelona or anything, but they’ll give a little more than some of the European teams I reckon and also given the trouble Norwich caused us I suspect we’ll see a similarly dogged performance from the Hammers.
But I do think Moyes will rotate. They’ve had some tricky games in which he hasn’t shuffled his pack too much of late, whilst their matches over the Christmas period are seen as a little bit more winnable, and the West Ham Manager is playing for a new contract, which he’ll only get if he steers them to some clear safety. So I think this competition will be viewed in a similar fashion to how we will view it: a nice distraction.
I certainly hope we win and get through to the semis. It’s hard to imagine anyone not being blown away by City at the moment, but an afternoon at Wembley in February could be a happy distraction from what will possibly be an uncomfortable period of the season for us, depending on how the next six weeks go. So I’d take it all day long at the moment.
But first we have to overcome West Ham and I think we do that by upping the tempo. It was slow and ponderous against them at The London Stadium and of the team deliver more of the same it’ll be a cold, cold, night. When teams come to sit in and defend against you it’s important to move them around the pitch and/or draw them out. If you give them a little sniff then they can often lose their shape and discipline in search of goals and so I’d have no problem if we were ceding possession as long as we remain defensively resolute. But failing that, we have to move the ball quickly and keep probing at them.
If you’re a team who is constantly being moved about and you have little time with the ball then you eventually tire and make mistakes. That’s what Arsenal need to do if they don’t score early and that’s what I want to see from the team. It’s not about millions of shots from outside of the box, it’s about pace when passing the ball and movement to pull your opponent out of their shape.
I’ll be off to the game and I’m looking forward to seeing what type of team both sides put out.
I just hope it’s a winning one for us. Let’s keep this happy distraction going.
Catch you all tomorrow.