Happy Saturday folks. It’s match day which is always a lovely old distraction and today, after what feels like a long week of turmoil and rumour, we get some actual football to sink our teeth in to.
Chelski Cole to our gaff and it’s weird because although it’s essentially a season definer for The Arsenal, I don’t feel as nervous as I thought I would. Why? Perhaps it’s because I’ve just become a little wearied by all of the supposed upheaval or perhaps it’s because deep down I know that the top four challenge has certainly faded.
That’s why it’s a season definer of a game. Lose today and it’s nine points off Chelski, it’s probably the end of any hope of top four and with a team in poor form it’s probably not really something that is recoverable.
A draw today is also not really good enough. A draw will keep Chelski six points clear of us, it’ll probably mean we drop below United into sixth (they’ll be three clear by the time we kick off having inevitably dispatched Brighton at home), plus it won’t exactly give us the boost that we need ahead of a tricky run in the league which also sees City away on the horizon.
A win however, and we have reduced the difference in the league, have a big game victory to give the players a confidence boost, plus the hope that the team can start another winning run.
So it really is ‘all or nothing’ with regards to today’s game.
As for the the team news at least that is positive. Bellerin back will be a big boost for us on the right hand side. Him and Kolasinac as our wing backs provide more natural attacking impetus and hopefully will challenge Alonso and Azpilicueta at full back.
I suspect Emery will once again stick with a back three and that means the importance of our wing backs is essential because if they are on form and push Chelski fullbacks back in to their own half and defending rather than attacking, then we should get chances, certainly if the game at Stamford Bridge is anything to go by.
In that game we missed a hatful of chances and it really stands out as a day in which Auba had a horror show so if he gets chances today I just hope he puts them away. But he’s got to get those chances and after last weekend I’m less expectant than I would have been if I’m honest.
It’s why I’m crossing everything in the hope that Emery picks a front three of Auba, Laca and Özil. The German is an ace chance creator, he has had some good games against Chelski down the years, plus after last weekend it is painfully obvious that we need a player of his ilk in those pockets to pick the ball up, find space and find vision to spot those timed runs of Aubameyang and Lacazette.
Behind them I would hope for Xhaka and Torreira and as lovely as it has been to have a prospect like Guendouzi get game time and show us what he could develop in to, it’s time to pull him out and leave him be for a while, because it’s doing him and us no favour with his overplaying that he’s had so far. his form hasn’t been great, his positional discipline isn’t amazing, yet he’s been one of the most regular features this season. It’s time to let Xhaka and Torreira boss things again.
The back three will be the most experienced defenders and in goal we’ll have Leno to make my ideal XI. I’d be surprised if that’s the case though. Iwobi is invincible when it comes to Emery’s eyes and despite the fact he’s been poor for most of the season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him in from the start.
As for Chelski, well, they don’t really have any concerns so it’s likely they’ll play a 4-3-3 with Kante, Jorginho and Kovacic in midfield, whilst Hazard, Pedro and Willian will be in attack. The danger man is clearly Hazard and he always seems to score against us, so expect more of the same today and that means I think we probably need at least three goals to win the match.
At the beginning of the season we essentially gifted Chelski a two goal head start and then ended up clawing our way back in to the game, before a bizarrely defensive second half saw us give them three points even though we’d been the better team overall in the second half. My hope is that Chelski will be as open as that today and we can create plenty of chances because you’d expect our £100million+ worth of attacking talent to bury some. But we need to not start like idiots and give Chelski something to sit on.
Teams have realised that getting a player sat on Jorginho stifles Chelski and so whoever players behind Lacazette and Aubameyang needs to be given the duty of stopping him by closing down the space. If that’s Özil then he’ll have an opportunity to show Emery he can buy in to the defensive side of the game as well as the offensive. But we wait and see.
Here’s hoping to three points to The Arsenal.