Happy Saturday one and all, hope you’re having a good one, especially since the season can now officially start today after a couple of engine stalls.
Of course the engine could still fall apart on us today and anybody expecting West Ham to be a nice easy ride should probably have a think about that again. I know they haven’t looked in any great shakes away to Liverpool and at home to Bournemouth, but with an Arsenal team still trying to find its way under Unai, there’ll have seen our first two games and know that they will get chances today.
The hope from our side is that West Ham aren’t as clinical as City or Chelski. Those two teams were able to punish us frequently but today’s game will certainly take a different format and West Ham would be mad to press us as high as we were in our first two games.
West Ham under Pellegrini look to be a side who he wants to be compact defensively and use technically gifted players to break quickly. Woz did an interesting piece of analysis on how they might set up and I have to say that it was good in showing just how we might get at them today, depending on the personnel they – and we – choose to start the game.
If – as is pointed out on the video – West Ham adopt the same approach as the first two games – there will be space for our creative players and that’s why for me this game is tailor made for Mesut Özil. If you give Mesut space in between the defence and the midfield then he can do so much damage. His vision and passing range can slice open any team and if Pellegrini is going to try to frustrate us today then we are going to need to have those players who see things others don’t.
So for me the decision on who plays offensively is key. I’d like to see Özil, I’d like to see Auba, plus I’d like to see Laca. He’s deadly inside the box and in close confined quarters he can fashion chances. Whether that means Mkhi misses out I don’t know, but if I was picking the team he probably would.
Mkhi was good after the first half an hour against Chelski, but for most of the first two games he’s been poor and despite what people are saying about Özil, I think he’s had better games than Mkhitaryan and overall he’s a better player anyway.
The next decision Unai has is who sits behind the three attacking players and given West Ham are likely to let us have the ball and probably rely on counter chances, I’d have more players on the pitch that can spot passing lanes and execute balls more effectively. Guendouzi has shown he has that passing range and despite being pretty poor in the first couple of games, we know Xhaka’s strength is with the play in front of him and the ball at his feet. So today also feels like a game for him. The third man then comes down to a shoot out between Ramsey and Torreira and this is where I’m not so sure. If we go with Ramsey there is the inevitable late runs in to the box, the intensity higher up the pitch for the press, which could force errors and see us catch West Ham cold. But these were the sorts of games last season where we would commit too many many forward and leave ourselves vulnerable defensively.
Despite that, and as much as I think I’m going to like Torreira, I think I would opt for Ramsey today, because I think we need firepower and that’s what he adds to.
How West Ham set up is a bit of a mystery to me but Pellegrini has been opting for Wilshere and Noble with Rice covering. That’s not a pacey midfield that can break and so my hope is that players like Arnautovich, Yarmonlenko and Anderson all left with big gaps between them and their midfield. They still have a bit of pace about them and they can create chances, but I just hope we have more for them offensively, that stops them from functioning at their top end.
This is certainly not a game we should be taking lightly, but now is the time that we need to be getting points on the board. Nothing more than three points is acceptable I’m afraid. Come on Arsenal, do the business.