I can’t even remember a home match day in which I’ve been less optimistic than I am about today’s match against Man City. I mean sure, city aren’t exactly the dominant force they were last season and sure, defensively they look like they can be got at. But it feels like today we could be on to a hiding given our fragile confidence.
Personally I think we could have done with a slightly easier opposition after bagging our first win in two months on Monday but you’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt and this is what we’ve been handed so we have to just deal with it I suppose.
One way of looking at it is probably that there won’t be many gambling pundits putting cash on an Arsenal win or probably even a draw, so given the way we’ve been playing anything other than defeat would be a big bonus. Maybe as well – and this is whatever optimist resides within me talking now – given that the expectation is that we’ll lose we’ll have players who feel a little more released of the pressure. In games against Palace, Southampton and Brighton the expectation has been dominance of the football, goals and points. Today we aren’t expected to have more of the football, we’re expected to concede and probably a few times too. So who knows, maybe the players will react to this ‘free hit’ and we finally get a performance this season, eh?
We haven’t had a game in which I’ve finished watching and said “wow, that was a great team performance” this season, so maybe today is the day?
Probably not, but at least at this stage it is possible and so for those peeps going to the game it’s a case of that hope trickling through the murmurs at the pubs around the ground pre-kick off.
The other chatter will be who Freddie selects and how he selects his side today. Leno in goal is obvious, but Bellerin and Tierney’s injury isn’t a blow because it means some shuffling is needed. A month ago it would have been Chambers and Kolasinac to play at full back but Chambers’ performance at centre half against West Ham would have me, personally, looking at Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac as our options. The only problem with that, of course, is that both look ropey as full backs and work better as wing backs and so an option could be that Freddie goes for that today too. The only problem with that is that it doesn’t make the most of the other players in our team. We’ve seen so far over the last 18 months that it doesn’t provide any width and I think it also means that we don’t fit Pepe into the team. That’s something that, after bagging his first goal from open play this season, we should be looking to do at all costs, because his confidence will certainly be high.
As will Martinelli’s and so as a result I think you have to ‘lean in’ to the attacking side of our team, rather than accommodate the more defensive players, because we’re bad enough at the back as it is. So personally I’d go with four at the back and not three with wing backs, Xhaka and Torreira as the two in midfield, then Özil in front and Martinelli and Pepe as the wide men, with Auba up top. Essentially the same team that played against West Ham and for me that gives us the best option of getting something.
We would also have options like Lacazette or Nelson on the bench if we need it and I suspect at some stage we would need it today.
City will go with three up top and probably Jesus with Sterling and Bernardo Silva. That’s enough firepower as it is to cause us damage but with DeBruyne behind as well we’re going to have to be very mindful of being cut through out wide I reckon. They love to thread those balls in behind and cut back to the byline and so that’s why I’m a little worried about our makeshift fullbacks today. I just hope that we can minimise the threat out wide by keeping the ball higher up the pitch and we can avoid being put under too much pressure.
So we need to be on the front door. Start hard, press and close down quick, show the home fans that you’re up for this Arsenal. You have the players to hurt City, you just need to recapture some belief and if in the first 15 you start well, then the crowd will get behind the team and we’ll see a team a little more like the one in the second half against West Ham.
Let’s cross everything and hope. I have that more than expectation today.