This game will have a sadly strange feel about it today I think, what with it being the first game since Cardiff City have played, having tragically lost Emiliano Sala to that plane crash over a week ago.
It’s times like that in which you realise how football is just a side distraction in your life and when you think about how Neil Warnock looked visibly affected by the events of Sala’s disappearance, it goes to show how sad life can be sometimes, especially as it must always go on.
That’s the same with football and whilst it will be tough for Cardiff City fans, players and other staff, they’ll be aware that they’ll need to pick themselves up and put in a performance today and in that respect we really don’t know what type of mainframe they are in. They could be massively pumped for the game tonight and I think Neil Warnock will certainly want the players to “do it for Sala”, but they’ve not been in great form and they come up against an Arsenal team whilst also not in great form, who must win tonight in order to even start thinking the top four is an outside chance.
At the weekend we ply City and that will certainly lead to defeat, so anything other than maximum points from tonight will just serve to show that top four ambitions or more importantly, Champions League qualification, rely almost exclusively in the Europa League.
That’s a tough route in to the main competition either way you look at it and when you add to that our mounting injury list, things aren’t looking 100% awesome for us.
How Unai lines up tonight may well depend on who is available rather than a tactical selection. But with Koscielny and Sokratis our it will surely be Mustafi plus one other if Emery goes for a back four. With Cardiff sure to sit a little deeper and soak up the pressure that’s surely the best formation i.e. committing and extra man in the offensive positions and so my hope is that it is a back four. I’d also be going for Mavropanos to start tonight. He’s been fit for a few weeks, we need a game in which he can potentially show us what he’s got and hopefully we see more of the positive stuff we saw at the tail end of last season.
And if it’s a back four I’d be going with Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles in the full back positions because I think even in a four there will be more expected of those two going forward than defensively.
My hope is that it’ll be Leno, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Mavropanos, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Aubameyang and Lacazette.
I don’t think it will be that because I don’t think Özil will start, but certainly I’d be giving him minutes today because if Cardiff sit deep then it will need a player like Özil to find that killer pass in tight spaces. Then we need an Auba or Laca to be finishing them and so I just hope that Emery sees that.
He may see it, but having the compunction to actually do it is probably not for him, so I expect we’ll probably see Iwobi dribbling in to full backs again and not delivering any real end product as usual. At this point in his poor form I’m minded to say that even Mkhitaryan would be a better option than Iwobi. Although whether the Armenian is back and ready to play is a different matter.
Cardiff will most likely cede possession tonight and look to remain compact and frustrate us. They’ll look towards willing runners like Hoilett and Niasse but will also hope to get chances through set pieces. That’s why Arsenal will need to be patient I feel and it’ll be the players with better passing range that will secure us victory, if it comes tonight, so my hope is that we can see an Arsenal team that gets a quick goal. An early goal forces Cardiff to come out and play and that could open the match up for us, but given our home form against smaller teams this season I’m not expecting anything early on.
I think this is going to be a frustrating evening. Let’s just hope Arsenal do the business.
Catch you all tomorrow.