I sort of mentioned this yesterday, but today’s game against City feels to me like a free hit, because they are chasing down Liverpool for the league title and on their home turf they should be expected to beat us.
There’s also the fact that we have enough injuries to contend with as it is. With Sokratis, Bellerin and Holding all out, plus rumours that Xhaka, Mkhitaryan and Maitland-Niles have not travelled, it does leave us seeming a little light on the ground.
Which all adds to the feeling of expectations being extremely managed and so all I’m really hoping for today is signs that we can at least play well against the Champions and that at least we can demonstrate that there’s a bit of fight about us.
I’m also hoping to see Suarez and get a glimpse of what he could do, whilst praying that Unai starts Mesut Özil, ffs.
What’s the worst that could happen with him playing against Coty anyway? We’re most likely to have players like Lichtsteiner or Jenkinson be completely rinsed by Sterling, we’re sure to see a few dodgy defensive slides by Mustafi, so we might as well get some grace from Özil on the pitch.
I guess our big question is whether it’s a back three or back four and with City sure to throw everything at us going forward id expect a back three of Monreal, Mustafi and Koscielny to start. I’d probably give Mavropanos a shout instead of Monreal (he’s got to play sometime, right?) but because of the fact he’s been out for some time it wouldn’t surprise me to see Nacho start.
In front of them if Xhaka hasn’t travelled then we do have a question mark because personally I’m not sure Torreira and Guendouzi is that effective. Guendouzi’s positional discipline has been called in to question at times and after an impressive start to his Arsenal career pre Christmas, it feels like Torreira has had a couple of blips. Hey, it was always likely to happen, but in a game like today you’d have to say that midfield two would have to have the match of their lives up against City.
When we last beat them on their own soil it was down in part to the excellent performance of a midfield two that consisted of Coquelin and Cazorla and they provided the basis for a very impressive away performance. The type of away performance that if replicated away from home to the big teams would certainly have us fighting for the title like the old days.
But those performances have been few and far between and whilst I certainly do believe that Torreira can match what Coquelin did in 2015, I’m not as convinced Guendouzi can hit the same levels that Santi did in that game. That’s not so much a slight on Matteo, more that he is a guy who has potential but that potential hasn’t been realised just yet.
I think that midfield could define today for us. We’re always going to concede and with City’s firepower that is a given, but what we need is a midfield to control the game more and in front of them the bravery and clinical finishing of Aubameyang and Lacazette to see us take our chances when we get them.
I’m not expecting a victory but as always as a football fan you hope for the right result. Let’s hope Arsenal do the business.
Catch you all tomorrow.