Midweek match days. I love ’em. Not least because it gives you something to look forward to after the monotony of a day at the office.
Not that I don’t like my job – I actually find it quite rewarding – but if you gave me the choice of not doing it and sitting at home playing on my computer until the Arsenal game starts then I’d probably plump for that option.
Bournemouth visit us tonight with a pretty poor away record, with a few injuries and the absence of wonder strike merchant (in our favour) Lerma this evening, which means our ‘shots from outside the box’ numbers might be affected tonight 🙂
But whilst the signs should point towards an Arsenal win we all know the reality: this Arsenal team is predictable in its unpredictability and so this evening I’m expecting a difficult game against an opponent who in reality has nothing to lose. Bournemouth are comfortable in mid table with 34 points, they’ll probably pick up a few between now and the end of the season to get north of 40, so for them tonight represents somewhat of a ‘free hit’.
That’s not the case for Arsenal. With The Tiny Totts away on Saturday and then Man United wedged in between an away and home leg against Rennes to focus on, Arsenal simply cannot afford to drop points tonight. I’d go as far as to say that even one point will probably not be enough because we need to build a buffer for what might be a difficult lunchtime on Saturday.
This season every time we’ve tiptoed in to the top four we’ve quickly been nudged out and I suspect even with their injuries tonight United will beat Palace at Selhurst Park. If that’s the case then a draw for us this evening drops us back down in to fifth. If be some quirk of delicious fate United don’t beat Palace, then a victory for us brings a much needed buffer that I believe we’ll need because I’m not confident of us getting anything on Saturday in the NLD.
What Unai needs to decide is who he starts this evening and I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest of rotation from Sunday’s game is a factor. I’d expect Leno to start and perhaps Lichtsteiner at right back. Monreal at left back is an option to rotate with Kolasinac. I’m not sure who the best central defensive pairing is but I’d be tempted to stick to Sokratis and Mustafi this evening because I would use Koscielny and Sokratis on Saturday against Harry Kane et al.
This is of course assuming Emery goes with four tonight and four at the weekend. He’s tended to be pragmatic in the away games against the bigger teams so it wouldn’t surprise me for him to use all three central defenders against the scum so if that’s the case then you’d have to take Kos out for tonight.
Xhaka and Torreira has to make up the midfield two if you ask me and bringing in Özil for Ramsey tonight makes sense if you’re playing the Welshman against Tottenham for the intensity he brings.
The decision then is who plays either side of him and although Unai played down Suarez for 90 minutes I’d be throwing him in from the start tonight. Iwobi and Mkhitaryan played well at the weekend but both should be used against Tottenham and so one should sit out for tonight’s game in my opinion. We need to see what Suarez is made of and five or ten minute cameos here and there is hardly a good enough indicator as to whether he’s somebody we should be seeing more of next season. Right now that looks like a ‘no’ from me but he’s hardly played so it’s very difficult to judge.
The decision the manager might also make is whether he plays Suarez and Aubameyang either side of whoever plays at number ten tonight. It would be tempting I think, especially as Lacazette is on form and should definitely start in the next two games I think. He’s suspended for the Rennes game next week so I’d be playing him from the start but whether Auba starts will be interesting. He flits in and out of games but I recall a few times during the unbeaten run that he came in at the back post to tap in. If Bournemouth give us space then he’s a player you’d want in and around the box to profit.
As for Bournemouth themselves, well, I don’t really know what to make of them. Brooks and Wilson are missing tonight which will be a blow in terms of their creativity and Lerma’s suspension means they’ll be without another key player to anchor their midfield. They have pace on the counter with Ibe and I’d expect Howe to be telling his players to go front to back as quickly as possible to get in behind our flaky defence. Howe only needs to look at how Redmond got in behind us early on at the weekend to see just how easily pace can worry our team.
Then there’s the threat of Solanke who will provide a willing runner in to the channels but is also a big player who will be a threat on set pieces. So we need to marshal him well tonight.
My hope is that ‘Mr USB’ Emery goes with a back four and aims to press Bournemouth high in to making mistakes. Yes they have pace on the counter, but if we push them deeper in to their own half I feel like it’s a team with a mistake or two in them. We need to put the emphasis on though so my hope is that from the first whistle we see a similar Arsenal team to the one from the weekend.
Hopefully we can get the three points and then start worrying about the Totts away at Wembley.