It’s an early kick off today and hopefully that means an opportunity to start the weekend off on a positive note by picking up three points away to West Ham.
It won’t be an easy game because Pellegrini seems to have steadied what feels like a wobbly old ship since they left Upton Park and having spoken to a couple of West Ham fans in the last week, they are feeling much more positive than they have done in a long time, even if they are a little more unpredictable with their results.
The good news is that we have players back, fit, playing in their most natural positions. We have Hector Bellerin who can hopefully come straight back in to the first team, Koscielny, Monreal, Sokratis and Mustafi who are all available and can plat centre half if Emery is going with a back three; plus Kolasinac hopefully continuing his good form playing as left wing back.
I think that’s what Unai is going to do – the back three and wing backs I mean – because it seems to be his favoured formation of late. But we still don’t know 100% so it’s all a bit of guesswork. If he does go with the three I’d expect Sokratis, Mustafi and Koscielny to be given the nod and that gives us the experience that you’d hope would be able to cope with West Ham’s offensive threat.
And there will be a threat. Not least because we always concede, but also because Pellegrini likes to play attacking football with a higher press. I saw a stat saying that between Arsenal and West Ham there has only been three clean sheets all season, which means both teams are conceding today and it therefore may come down to who makes the least eff-ups.
Or it could come down to the quality of the forward line and that’s why I’m praying we see an Auba and Laca front two with Özil behind. If West Ham press higher it might put more pressure on our back line, but if they push their full backs higher up the pitch and it creates pockets of space then you expect the likes of Özil to be able to take advantage. He sees space and if Auba and Laca find it the. He will find them.
But the question is more around whether Emery has basically given up on Özil and we see him on the bench again. If that happens then I suspect we can probably say that Özil will be a bit-part player for the rest of the season. To me that would be mental but hopefully he plays today, plays well, spearheading us on to victory.
West Ham’s question marks are on whether Arnautovic plays given his brothers comments this week about the move to China and often we’ve seen the old ‘heads not in the right place’ decision taken by a manager, but I think we have to assume he will play and we have to assume that he’s probably going to have a blinder for them. The same goes for Andy Carroll. He spends 75% of the season injured but always seems to come back when we okay them and always has a good game, so even if he doesn’t start today, I’m expecting him to get some minutes and probably get a goal. Or at least an elbow to one of our centre halves faces.
The same can be said for that ‘orrible little scroat Nasri. He’s just signed, has played one game, probably isn’t fully match fit, but we should all expect him to play some part and play an absolute blinder. It’s what happens to us with former players. ALWAYS. So it’s almost certainly nailed on that he’ll be influential for them somehow.
So what we need to do is counter them. We were fortunate at The Emirates in August and certainly the result flattered us, but we need the same kind of clinical finishing we had on that day and not the kind of lacklustre performance we saw away to Brighton on Boxing Day. That means the creative side of the team needs to pull its weight. With two teams who have pretty average defences, the attack could be the difference and so this lunchtime we need them on it.
Up the Arsenal.
Catch you peeps tomorrow.