Morning all. Hope you’re all feeling good on the Saturday?
I’m off on an away day journey to the North West to see a bit of the mighty Arsenal take on the Tangerines Blackpool in my first trip to Bloomfield Road. And I must say I’m massively looking forward to it. A couple of seasons ago I went up to Preston for the away FA Cup third round tie under the floodlights and it was a great experience. It felt like football in the early 90s, minus the technical crapness of the players or the poor seating. Stadiums these days all have better seating in most grounds and although the Blackpool owners are tighter than ducks butt, I’d at least hope to be able to sit down in between important moments. Hopefully like just after we’ve scored.
It’s a competition that we know very well and as a club that has won it more than any other side, it’s one that we are certainly very fond of down the years. I’ve had the fortune of being able to watch the last three wins in the final and I have to say it completely changed my view on the competition because each was an amazing day out. The win at the end was a fantastic gloss but it really was something to savour and ever since that Hull victory I’ve really enjoyed the whole competition. Which is why I’m hoping we can do the business today and get another good draw in the next round if we do progress.
We already know Blackpool from the League Cup this season and despite the fact that Blackpool sit mid table in League One, they still gave us a very good game at The Emirates in October. It was a game in which Guendouzi will remember for all the wrong reasons, picking up a soft yet avoidable red card, which made the game a little more uncomfortable than it should have been. At 2-0 following goals from Smith-Rowe and Lichsteiner we looked pretty well set up to go on and win the game but Blackpool still created chances even before and after the sending off of Matteo and with this Arsenal team they’re sure to get chances again today as well. But the key for us will be whether or not we create enough chances going forward.
We’ve certainly been getting the goals this season and with 46 goals scored in the Premier League (level with the Totts and three behind Liverpool) it shows you that finishing hasn’t been our problem. But that’s because we’ve got two of the world’s deadliest strikers in our team, so what I’m hoping to see today is some contribution from elsewhere than Auba and Laca. I suspect Emery will take both today and given he spends every game pondering at what point he needs to bring Lacazette off, I wonder if he’ll start the Frenchman ahead of Auba today, but personally I’d also like to see what Eddie Nketiah can do with a few more minutes. Let’s face it, we’re two striker injuries away from the youngster being the main man at the club so we need as many ‘contingency minutes’ under his belt as possible. I think he might get a shot today and Unai certainly suggested a bit of rotation in his press conference on Thursday. But how much he rotates will be interesting.
Does he start two of the three centre halves we have? Who else does he play? If we went with four at the back I’d expect Cech in goal, Lichsteiner at right back, Ainsley Maitland-Niles possibly at left back, then maybe Mustafi and Koscielny as centre halves? The other option is to play three at the back and that could mean Lichtsteiner in the three, perhaps Jenkinson at right back and Maitland-Niles at left back.
It means quite a few square pegs in round holes but given the fact December saw players dropping like flies, we really don’t need to see some players going down with injury in a game like today. If I was in charge I’d be leaving out Leno, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Torreira, Auba and Laca and i’d make up a team from that. It would mean a back four with Jenkinson, Lichtsteiner, Koscielny and Maitland-Niles, a midfield of Guendouzi and Elneny, then a front three of Nketiah, Iwobi and Ramsey. The other option is Ozil to play if if. If Mesut isn’t fit then I’d probably think about playing Laca as a goalscoring threat and i’d tell Iwobi to play in the ten and see if he can’t be a little more creative than when he’s on the wing. That would also ensure that we rotate enough players and whilst I know we have a week for recovery, I do think we need to have some players rested after a hectic and overall pretty poor Christmas period for us.
Blackpool get a free pass today and so will be up for the game, but with their fans against the owners and questions over whether it’d be a sellout, it feels like a game we should be taking advantage of. We have technically superior players and we need to show that from very early on.
Away from the match itself, it appears we might be getting close to our first signing, in the shape of Denis Suarez from Barcelona. I am not a big follower of Spanish footballer but it sounds like a squad player whose never really had the chance at the club and at £14million it would represent only a little bit of a gamble. He’s also 24 years old and so still has plenty to offer and under a new manager – one who knew him from his time at Sevilla – I wonder if we haven’t found a player that could be seen as a Ramsey replacement. He will no doubt not be at the same level as the Welshman, but it seems like there is a replacement in place. We wait and see on that one.
For now though, it’s all eyes on Blackpool and hope for a place in the hat for the fourth round. Up the Arsenal.