Happy match day goners. But will it be come 5pm? Will we have something to smile about or will it be more exasperation caused by yet another display in which the selected XI in red shirts toil over their goalscoring attempts as Crystal Palace aim to be tough to break down and hit us quick on the counter?
That is the main question on every goners lips today and whilst confidence-wise we probably have little to be optimistic about, at least we’re at home and at least we have some returning first team players who can be in the team from the start.
Kolasinac, Monreal, Koscielny and Ramsey all simply must play today and is Ozil is fit enough, there’s no way he shouldn’t start. That’s five players we can welcome back into the first team – half the outfield players on the pitch. It sounds like Ozil will have a fitness test and maybe he will be somebody who will start from the bench but personally, having witness the dross-like performance last Sunday, I’d throw in as many of those as we can.
Chambers and Holding have looked good in patches but with our midfield being as absent as it usually is they’ve been thrown a bit to the lions. So bringing them out of the fire and getting our first choice back three – assuming Wenger goes with a back three – would be welcome. He could of course opt for a back four and if he does i’d be inclined to have Monreal and Kocielny at the back, Kolasinac on the left and Hector on the right. In the middle I’d tell Jack and Xhaka to sit a little deeper and i’d give Rambo licence to push forward. Why? Because Lacazette will finally feel like he has another partner and a willing runner who can provide him with space. Ramsey and Lacazette have both looked good when on the pitch together and so I want to see the Frenchman and the Welshman link up again.
Along with that I’d like to see Ozil sitting behind Lacazette and then the only other decision is whether Alexis plays today or not. We know he’s out the door. We know he won’t be an Arsenal player this time next week. But until we get Mkhitaryan or Aubameyang in, I don’t really want us relying on Welbeck or Iwobi, do you? So I say give him today to show his professionalism because I still think he’ll put in a performance against us and I still think it will frighten the Crystal Palace back line more than ‘Bambi on Ice’ (Welbeck) or ‘the man whose brain melts in the final third’ (Iwobi).
I’m not sure he’ll go for that though and I think he’ll start with three at the back, with Xhaka and Jack in midfield and Ramsey from the bench to ‘ease’ him in. Personally the Premier League season is already down the swanny so I think we should probably be easing players in anyway, but the challenge we have is that we’ve been hit with so many injuries all at once, that we can’t really afford to, so I think Wenger will choose at least one – maybe two – of the returnees to start from the bench.
So I suspect we’ll have the best available back five (including wing backs), Xhaka and Wilshere in the AWOL midfield, with Lacazette, Iwobi and possibly Welbeck as the front three. The when that inevitably looks like we won’t score for 1000 years, he’ll change it up.
What we simply must avoid is being caught cold on the counter. Zaha is on form. Benteke appears to have finally woken up from his footballing slumber, but I suppose the good news is that they have a few of their pacey players out like Schlupp, Puncheon and Townsend. They’ve also got Dann and Sahko out at the back so it’s fair to say that we’re not the only ones with injury problems that have hit our squad as of late.
Regardless of that the blueprint for Palace is obvious for all to see. Stay compact. Sit your defensive midfielders tucked in deep in front of the defensive line and leave outlets like Zaha and Benteke to spring counters. If I was in Hodgson’s shoes i’d be telling both of those players to peel in behind the marauding Arsenal wing backs – who will inevitably be looking to push forward as much as possible – and ask the defensive and midfield players to pick out balls in to the channels to test the Arsenal defence.
As for us, we need to show a little more intensity than we have done of late. There needs to be a drive from the start, otherwise I fear the malaise amongst the supporters might kick in. It’s a pretty grim day in North London as I type this, so it doesn’t look like it’ll be too much fun to watch in the rain, but that should make surface nice and quick and so the passing for the Arsenal players has to be infinitely better than last weekend. If we read tomorrow of centre backs with 70% passing accuracy, or midfielders with less than 80%, then we probably know the story of the day and that’s that we couldn’t spring together three passes to one another. None of us want to see that.
We wantb to see a win. We want the team to show its ready to move on to life without Alexis and with two new stars and we want to see the players recapture some of the lost confidence.
Up the Arsenal.