Last night we saw the unlikely happen with United and I have to say it made me slightly more nervous for this Sunday’s game. I’m glad we’re in form and at home but they will be on cloud nine in terms of morale and confidence right now and that word I keep bleating on about – momentum – will be something that they have in spades right now.
The hope is of course that they are all drained ahead of the game on Sunday and it becomes a bit of a come down for them but with their tails up I do worry for us getting sucker punched by them again. Hopefully that’s not the case.
But enough of that, because we have our own European concerns for this evening and it’s an away trip to Rennes that we come up against tonight. Well, more like ‘later on this afternoon’, what with the ludicrous start times that UEFA have imposed on this competition. I’ll be at work when kick off starts and despite the fact that I’ll find time to watch the game it does feel like a frustrating old feeling having to live stream from ones desk. First world problems I guess.
The other guess is what Unai will do with his team selection and formation tonight. He seems to have reverted back to a back four of late and I wonder if we’ll continue to see that or if we’ll go back to a back three with wing backs? You certainly can’t accuse Unai of giving the opposition the upper hand in terms of knowing how to set up against us. Your guess is as good as mine but mine involves a back three. I think he’ll want to have some extra protection against the pace of Niang and the trickery of Ben Arfa who, as Unai admitted in his press conference yesterday, can be one hell of a tricky customer if he’s on it.
I remember seeing him at The Emirates for Newcastle a few seasons back and he stood out as their best player by a mile. That left foot can be magical at times but despite the fact he seems to be one of the most talented one-footed players that I’ve seen, his career has had a bumpy ride, with questions over a fiery attitude.
He’s the sort of player that will love a game like tonight though. Big opposition, at home, with a chance to really stick two fingers up to a manager in Emery that he regularly clashed with at PSG. It’s a fascinating game because there will be little battles all over the pitch and we need to match up to it.
That’s why I’m hoping we see a strong Arsenal team today. We should definitely be throwing Torreira in given that he can’t ply on Sunday and if we partner him with Xhaka we have more control from midfield possession and progression through the park I reckon. Behind them – assuming it’s a back three as I suspect – I think he’ll go with Mustafi, Sokratis and I wonder if he’ll keep Koscielny for Sunday and play Monreal. Our Frenchman has been in decent form of late and the partnership between him and Sokratis as a two central defender partnership looks like it’s been working.
So if he goes for a back three then the question is who plays in the wing back positions and do his engine and end product I’d be going for Jenkinson on the right then also Kolasinac on the left. Those two will get balls in to Auba and the hope is that he can capitalise.
The next question is who plays either side of Auba and I suspect it might be Özil. I don’t think he’ll play on Sunday and so I think if that’s the case he plays tonight with one of Mkhitaryan or Iwobi on the other flank. My guess would be Mkhi because I think Emery loves him. And given his form that would make sense. It also means we have a bench that would include Iwobi and Ramsey as options should the milk turn out to be sour.
And it might you know. We have the game in the first leg against BATE to serve as enough of a warning and that is why I’m still nervous about tonight’s game. Rennes are a mid table French team but they have players who can do damage. Think West Ham, but also think how they got the best of us on their own soil. Which is why I hope we don’t take too much for granted. We can’t afford to rest players and we can’t really afford too much mass rotation. Unai has tended to get the rotation right this season so I’m sure he’ll be very mindful of tonight and Sunday in terms of keeping players fresh, but we still need to keep our ‘eyes on the prize’ for tonight.
Here’s hoping to a good performance. We have a great opportunity to establish a firm grasp on qualification tonight and we need to not let the BATE situation become a ‘thing’ for us.
Right, that’s me done for today, so I’ll catch you all tomorrow with a match preview.