The build up to tonight’s league encounter with Swansea may be dominated by a certain player coming in from Dortmund and a certain handsome Arsenal player being an option for that most horrid of clubs Chelski, but I’m preferring to focus on the reason we are here today, which is the stuff that’s played on the green stuff with that circular thing and some hanging nets. It’s way more entertaining than the transfer soap opera. Even if I’ve been as guilty as the next person to be swept up in it.
So tonight we get to forget about all of the “what ifs” and permutations on players and look at how we could potentially get our season back on track against a Swansea team who have struggled all season.
Or we’ll lament yet another away day in which the players simply haven’t cut it.
It’s safe to say we are one of the Premier League’s biggest ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ teams that exist this season. At home we are one of the top teams in the league and yet away from home all of that confidence drains away and we look like a rabble of schoolyard kids, unable to string passes together, devoid of creativity in the final third, with teams understanding exactly how to counter our approach.
The better teams just move the ball quicker than us when we’re away from home and in doing that they isolate our players in certain parts of the pitch. They also work the ball well and rely on our complete lack of a midfield at times to overload our defenders.
The worse teams just sit. They remain dogged in defence and ask an Arsenal team who struggle without Özil to break us down. They then play to their own strengths by being good at set pieces, or by countering quickly, or in some instances just rely on mistakes from referees (see Watford and West Brom ‘penalties’ this season as an example).
Swansea will do the latter tonight. They have their blueprint by the way they suffocated the life out of the Liverpool game on their own patch and I’m expecting Arsenal to have the same resistance put before them. Which is why these types of games require quick responses. At home this season we’ve been good at getting goals early and I think that has helped the home matches from being frustrating for us. We’ve caught teams cold like we did against Palace the weekend before last and that has meant that teams have been forced to be drawn out. At least a little anyway.
So tonight if Swansea are leading or level without conceding at the break, I worry for us, because they will get confident and build on that, which means I’m hoping that the rest from the weekend ensures a vibrant and quick-passing Arsenal take to the pitch to move Swansea around this evening.
Swansea played at the weekend and it looked like a lot of their first teamers played too, so the hope is that we’ll be fresher, which I also hope means we can stretch them.
I suspect we’ll see Mkhitaryan and I hope it’s from the start. I’d be surprised though. Our last game saw us beat Chelski and I think Arsène will have seen how much better we looked in the second half and will go with the same starting XI but with Elneny making way for Monreal. I’m hoping that Kolasinac makes it back into the team because I think we’re going to see more of the ball going forward and there’s no doubting his ability when in the opponent’s’ half of the pitch. If we play with three at the back he has cover though.
Midfield will most likely see Granit but then we have a question because both Jack and Rambo are fit and Wenger loves them both. My money would be on Jack as Rambo is still recovering from injury, although I wouldn’t rule out the Welshman being deployed further forward with Özil and Lacazette. I’m no Ramsey fan in that position but hey, compared to Iwobi there is a massive gulf in class, so I do wonder if that might be an option. As better as Iwobi was against Chelski in the second half he still looks short on confidence and form and should have been taking out of the limelight months ago, but perhaps it tells more of our lack of options in those positions, than anything else.
So it’s three at the back I’d like to see, with more from our final third attacking options, but thankfully the arrival of Özil back into the starting XI should help us. He was once again brilliant against Chelski and had looked very good for some time now. Perhaps he’s playing for a big move somewhere else but for now we can just appreciate what we’ve got and how we’re going to use him. We need to see the best from him tonight I’d wager. He’s the type of man who can thread the eye of that needle and if Swansea sit deep and compact then we’ll need that special player to play that pass.
Hopefully we see enough minutes with Mkhi and Özil because I’m fascinated to see what those two together could accomplish. But I suspect we might only get a little glimpse tonight.
Right, that’s me done, so off for another day of work whilst waiting patiently for the football to arrive.
Catch you all tomorrow.