I think this is going to be tough against Cardiff today. It’ll be gritty, they’ll leave tackles in on us, try to be overly physical and despite the fact Stoke are thankfully nowhere near playing us again in the league, I reckon we’ll have a similar experience against the Welsh side today.
Why? Well frankly they don’t have a team technically anywhere near as good as some of our players, so besting is through skill and creative guile like City and Chelski did isn’t on the cards. Which means the ‘rough em up’ mentality from a dinosaur of a manager with a style that probably should be consigned to the annuls of history is entirely on the cards.
Warnock has already said so himself and with that in mind you have to hope that Antony Taylor has half a brain today. Last night I dreamed that Cardiff got a penalty in the last minute to win the game 2-0. The penalty came because a Cardiff player elbowed an Arsenal player in the box as they raised their hand to punch the ball in the net. But because the ‘keeper saved it (I couldn’t make out if it was Cech or not) the ref gave Cardiff a pen.
So not a ref performance like that please, today, Mr Taylor.
The opening exchanges of the game will tell us what we need to know on that front, but it will also tell us how we’re going to approach a game with a team happy to cede possession and hit us either on the break or, as is more likely, through dead ball situations. The like of Murphy will be a player to watch as he’s the main man with the pace in that Cardiff side.
They will sit, be compact and try to be difficult to break down, which is why the opening exchanges are important because if we manage to score in the first 30 minutes without reply, they will have to come out at us, which could give some of our creative players opportunities to find space and create chances.
Personally I hope that the side lines up with Torreira and Özil today and I’ve talked about it on during the week too. I just think that Torreira will give a bit of physicality but he’ll also be able to provide covering ground and passing range. For me that means Guendouzi drops out of the team. Perhaps that sounds a little harsh but Xhaka with all of the play in front of him – which should happen today – will be more effective and that’s where he can shine with his vision from midfield.
I’d also be starting Ramsey because he’s against his old club and despite the fact he’s a Cardiff boy and they love him, there’s always a little bit more of an edge when a player goes back to their boyhood club.
So for me that means the team is Cech, Bellerin and Monreal (who we’ll need going forward), Mustafi and Sokratis, with a midfield of Xhaka, Ramsey and Torreira. Then the decision is what we’re going to do with the front three. Personally I’d have Özil, Lacazette and Aubameyang, telling them to rotate where they play regularly, stretch the Cardiff back line and don’t allow them to ‘pick a man’ because you’re cropping up everywhere. I think those three give us the goal threat and creativity to operate in close confined quarters and that’s the team with the best chance of winning the game.
I don’t think he’ll pick Özil though. I think Mkhi will play, although if Iwobi and Lacazette don’t start it’ll mean Auba up top with the two number 10s either side. Not sure if that works as well but I guess we only have to wait a few hours to find out.
On the radio show last week Giles said he thought this game would be comfortable and I disagreed, mainly because it’s Arsenal, but I see this as a scrappy game that we might only win by one if we win at all, which is by no means a given when you think about our away form last season. The hope is that we banish the demons of them and get a result today and whilst we certainly have the quality of players, it’s the mentality that we need to get right too.