Today is going to be a tough game. We’re at the point in the season where there are many aching limbs, we’re missing key players, plus those that are fit are being patched up and sent out twice a week and expected to get results.
Today is no different and after Man City just about did the business against the Tiny Totts, today there is an opportunity for us to go back in to third spot if we can beat Palace on our own turf.
If we’d have had a full week of rest then I’d be feeling more confident but there aren’t many teams who are playing in Europe at the moment who are also able to pull out impressive performances in the following game. So I’m expecting today to be one heck of a grind.
Palace are a better team away than at home and that’s because they have pace on the counter. Lots of pace on the counter. At home teams sit deep and the likes of Zaha and Townsend don’t get as much space to run in to, but away from home teams have a go at them and that’s what I’m expecting today, so my hope is that we are sensible enough not to be hit with too many bodies forward and Crystal Palace countering is today.
Palace will most likely ply with a variation on 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 depending on how you see it and they will rely on exploiting the wide areas. Both Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles played in midweek and I’m expecting both to start again today in a 3-4-2-1 style formation and if that happens there may be space afforded to Palace’s wide forwards to give them time to attack whoever plays as the right or left sided centre half.
Alternatively Unai could go with Monreal at left back and Mustafi at right back but with Koscielny now having played two games this week I can’t see him partnering Mavropanos in a four man defence. So I suspect it’ll be Mustafi, Mavropanos and Monreal in the middle as Sokratis serves the final of his domestic bans for picking up a bazillion yellow cards this season.
That’s Palace on the counter and I suspect we might concede today, but the key for us will be scoring and I think we’ll see a return to the team of Özil and Iwobi, both of whom will be fresher having not played or only played the tail end of the game on Thursday night. Lacazette was pulled off on Thursday and so I think he might start as somebody who is fresher and I suspect that means it’ll be Auba from the bench if we need it at some stage.
The biggest worry for me, however, is what Unai Emery does with his midfield. Xhaka supposedly picked up a knock, Torreira was holding his groin, Ramsey is out, so if Emery wants to rotate the only options are Guendouzi and Elneny. That midfield was a travesty to watch against Everton but if we go with it again today then you have to assume that it is because Unai has looked at the numbers and sees just how ‘in the red zone’ his midfielders are. There might be a few angry people on social media if he picks those two in midfield but let’s not forget that we have Wolves on Wednesday away from home. At home and with some rotated firepower we should be stronger than Everton away and although that midfield doesn’t off us as much control as one with Xhaka and Torreira, you’d hope that it can at offer a little bit of protection against Palace counters.
Actually, the more I think about that, the more I worry that it won’t. :-S
But I think if it happens it represents the fact that Emery doesn’t really have any other options. He could try to Chuck Willock in but that’s harsh putting a kid like that under pressure in that area of the pitch.
Whatever options he has I just hope that he sets the team up with plenty of goals in them, because I think we will need it today, so let’s hope for an Arsenal performance that is as professional as the one last Thursday.
I was feeling surprisingly confident for the two Napoli games. I don’t think I feel the same about today. Palace are safe, the pressure is off, they can play with the kind of freedom our side can’t and that is a real cause for concern from my perspective.
Let’s hope Arsenal can do the business though.
Come on you reds!