Match day for The Arsenal unfortunately – not from my perspective because we haven’t played and won our League Cup game as it hasn’t been played yet – can’t really be laced with lashings of schadenfreude in relation to Derby’s win at Old Trafford. If we can overcome Brentford tonight then by all means, I’ll giggle my areoles off at what is happening in the red half of Manchester, but we have to do our job tonight.
And that’s not an easy task. Derby are in sixth and they went to Old Trafford with a slightly re-jigged United side. But Brentford come to The Emirates in seventh and they will have taken plenty of heart from Lampard’s team last night.
The Bees are no mugs and despite the fact we should all have Arsenal as favourites tonight, I can’t see it being a completely comfortable evening for those chosen to represent the club, not by a long shot.
Unai has already hinted that he’ll make some changes and give some minutes to some fringe and younger players and much like when Norwich came to town in form, the Brentford team will probably see the line up tonight and again take more heart in the players they are up against, and I think they’ll smell an upset.
So for us it’s about starting with a little more intensity than we have done in all of our home games so far this season. Against West Ham, Vorskla and Everton it has felt like the first half has been one of caution in terms of our attacking efforts and it’s fair to say we haven’t had a first half of football that’s clicked.
Usually that means we’ve come out and just about done the business in the second half but as many a blogger, podcaster, Arsenal fan in the pub and pundit-alike have said, there’s only so many times you can start a football match sluggishly and get away with it. We did on Sunday but that won’t keep happening.
If we think that Brentford won’t be the sort of side that might punish us for another sloppy and sluggish first half, then we’ll be in for a rude awakening this evening I fear. I’ve only watched Brentford a couple of times in the last six months but each time they’ve impressed me. Impressed me enough to know that they’ll be pumped for this game and they’ll try to catch us cold by pressing us in defence or hitting us on the counter when we push our full backs forward.
But who will those full backs be?
I suspect Lichtsteiner will once again get the nod and I would imagine it’ll be someone else other than Monreal, so perhaps a start for young Dominic Thompson at full back? We certainly could do without starting Nacho this evening because without Mavropanos and Sokratis it means Holding and Mustafi are the only senior centre halves we’ve got. I doubt Unai will go full rotation but it does mean that we need to cross everything to hope that if both play neither pick up a knock.
In midfield I suspect it’ll be Elneny as Guendouzi given the mop-haired Frenchman didn’t start at the weekend and Torreira played well in his absence. In front of them I’d expect to see Smith-Rowe, Iwobi and possibly Welbeck with Nketiah up top, but Emery could just as well switch the two players around to have Welbeck up top and Eddie behind. He has a similar issue with square pegs in round holes with Lacazette and Aubameyang in the Premier League and so Unai will be well versed in what he tube he has to get out of players playing slightly out of position in that regard.
The final question is whether it’s Leno or Martinez and whilst I think it will be Martinez, I’d be inclined to start Leno. We paid £22million for a ‘keeper who is going to get in to October having only started one game, which is a little strange if you ask me, so I’d be giving him all the minutes I could if I’m honest.
Neal Maupay will be their main man tonight and with eight goals and three assists we need to make sure he isn’t given the chance to get in behind our back line. Brentford like to try plenty of through balls and with our back line seemingly giving teams opportunities for one-on-ones each week, the worry is that we might need another performance like Cech’s in terms of individual duals tonight.
For our fringe players it’s a chance to show that they should be considered for the weekend’s fixtures. The positive of the Emery era so far is that it’s clear that a meritocracy exists more than under Wenger, demonstrated by so many first teamers in the side that played against Vorskla, where as under Wenger it was clear there are two teams and no player in the midweek side was going to be given a shot in the weekend ‘First XI’ unless there was an injury. Emery appears happy to be able to dangle the carrot in front of his squad players and hopefully that motivation can be evidenced this evening by a victory that puts us in the hat for the next round.
I’ll not be at the game as I’m on our usual Wednesday night 7 – 8.30pm slot on LoveSport. If you can’t watch the game then feel free to tune in on 558AM or searching for ‘LoveSport’ on DAB Digital radio.
Catch you wonderful humans tomorrow.