It’s the first game day of the season and like I said yesterday, despite feeling like I’m done with football in May, here we are in August and I’m right back in the game.
An away trip to Newcastle it is for our lads and with the new signings probably not all 100% ready, I suspect the team will have a familiar look to it, with just a sprinkling of new blood from the summer acquisitions.
Leno is obviously the man to start in goal but then it starts to get tricky. With no Tierney or Kolasinac available that just leaves Monreal, but will it be Monreal the left back, or Monreal the wing-back? I am of course talking about whether we go to a back three and whilst it is much more maligned by others than me, it is a possibility that Emery deploys it today given the injuries and lack of players missing.
For example, he could go with Sokratis and Chambers, then have David Luiz in the middle with the licence to push forward a bit more. I don’t watch too much Chelski but I think that when he’s played in a three he’s always looked very good. That will displease some people but given that we have a bit of a selection crisis with all of the missing players, it could be a case of ‘make do and mend’ for Unai Emery today.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles will most likely be operating on the right and so we will either have a four at the back, which he isn’t as strong as a full back in, or we’ll go with that five.
I think Emery has played all summer with a back four, only occasionally dipping in to a back three with wing backs, so I see today’s game as a start with his preferred choice as a back four and I suspect Luiz and Sokratis will get the nod.
In midfield I’m not sure that Torreira is back up to full fitness so I suspect it’ll be Guendouzi and Xhaka, although I wouldn’t mind seeing Willock given his pre season exploits. He seems to have grown taller, more physically imposing, so why not give him a shot?
Of course all three could play if Ceballos isn’t given the nod in the middle but I suspect the Spaniard will start. He’s looked good in the patches we’ve seen him play in so I think now’s the time to see what he can bring to us.
In the wide forward positions I’d love to see Pepe on the right and Nelson on the left but I suspect Pepe will start from the bench and with no more Iwobi I think it’ll be Mkhitaryan. It’s a Mkhitaryan who looks like the same old ineffective player from last season and so I’m expecting little from him at all if I’m honest. I’m sorry to say it but he’s a busted flush and the sooner we can move him down the pecking order the better. Up top will be Auba because I think they’ll ease Lacazette in after his injury he picked up in the Emirates Cup.
As for Newcastle, they’ve bought a few players in including Andy Carroll but I suspect he isn’t fit yet, although it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him on the bench today, probably coming on cause us problems once again. He’s been a thorn in our side for many a year and Bruce will know that. He’s suggested that they will go with two up top this season and I suspect that will be Almiron playing just behind Joelinton. Two good players – the former of which I was particularly impressed with last season – who have technical ability to cause us problems. The challenge for them will be getting the ball from front to back quickly and so I’ll be interested to see how this Newcastle team performs with that quick transition. Are they going to go long with somebody like Shelvey and rely on their two attackers to chase balls down? That sounds like a tactic we could see to be honest. If that happens then whoever plays centre half needs to be prepped for it because Sokratis, Mustafi, Chambers and Luiz are hardly the quickest defenders on the planet. But also what we need to see is that outlet from Shelvey closed down quicker. Stop them at source and it cuts the supply line. Can Ceballos do that? We might just find out today.