Morning fellow Arsenal sufferers and welcome to a brand new year. A new year brings hope of renewal, recharging and refresh, which is exactly what we need as ~Arsenal fans having had to sit through 2019 and watch our team slowly implode from about March onward. Much like the beginning of a new season bringing hope, this new year also fills me with hope that we can have a better one than 2019 and right now the biggest hope of all is that it starts tonight with the visit of Man United to Old Trafford.
The only worry is that we have some elements counting against us unfortunately. Most notably the injury list, which sees us currently top of the Premier League injury table, and when the news comes out at some stage today over additional players that may or may not have picked up knocks against Chelski a few days ago, we may even find ourselves out their on our own in terms of the volume of injuries we’ve got right now.
I’m crossing everything that we have some returning players who are able to start tonight, because it very much feels like a completely patched up Arsenal side that has to try to beat a Man United side who are better away from home, hitting teams like us on the counter, than they are at home. My hope is that Saka is fit, that Bellerin might even be back and that Ceballos is in the squad, because at least that bolsters our numbers a bit. Then we have to look in central defence and I suspect there will be no Sokratis, no Chambers, no Holding (still in rehab), which means a central defensive pairing of Luiz and Mustafi. That’s enough to give any Arsenal fan nightmares and the likes of Martial, Rashford, James, Lingard, etc, will all be licking their lips at the possibility of engaging those two on a one-on-one.
Which is why I am praying we see the same discipline and compactness that we saw on Sunday. By squeezing the space between defence, midfield and our attack, when Chelski had the ball we made it very difficult for them to connect multiple passes together and but for the individual errors that we saw towards the end, it felt that this was a game in which we could have easily picked up three points. But we all know what happened and we have to hope there isn’t more brain fart moments this evening. Although with our lot we all know it is entirely plausible.
We have to approach this game with the same level of intensity and so I suspect we’ll get a very similar side to the one that played just three days ago. Leno in goal, the same back four that finished – assuming Saka is fit enough as he went down a couple of times against Chelski towards the end of the game – a midfield that includes the excellent Torreira, but what I’m hoping for is Xhaka instead of Guendouzi. The Swiss might be out the door but he’ll still put in the effort for his teammates until that happens and as a lot of people are now realising, he’s a better option than Guendouzi, so if he can come in with Ozil in front then i’d be more than happy with that.
In front of that team would be the front three and I have a feeling it’ll be the same as Chelski. Arteta’s comments about Pepe make me think that he won’t start tonight although i’d be tempted to instead of Nelson. Nelson hasn’t played a lot of football, has just come off the back of a good game and perhaps we need to just keep him rotated. The other option of course is to move him wide left, Pepe wide right so we have inverted wingers, then Auba through the middle. It would mean no place for the out of form Lacazette but i’ll be honest with you, I wouldn’t have a problem with at all and I don’t thin k there are many Arsenal fans who would.
Man United will come to us buoyed by back-to-back victories and just one defeat in six. They are in better form than us and will be more confident. They’ll look to control the ball as much as possible but when we have possession they will break with lightning speed. It’s a serious concern for our beleaguered defence and so what we don’t need tonight is positional ill-discipline. We need players who can step up and demonstrate that they are willing to execute Arteta’s tactical set up like they did against that scummy lot from West London. But think about the second Chelski goal – that could be a feature tonight.
I hope it isn’t though. There have been so many times down the years when Man United have been injury hit, out of form, but still beat us on their turf. It seems unfair by the cosmic karma forces of football for us to suffer after seeing years of them skank us on their own patch. So I’m calling on the footballing gods to be given a favour or two tonight. It feels like we haven’t been given much luck at times this season and coupled with terrible tactical set up and confidence-shorn players, that makes for depressing watching. Let’s have tonight where we can see a good performance, a team buying in to a new manager, then three points as well.
Catch you lovely people tomorrow. Hopefully with a positive blog. I haven’t been able to write too many of them this season.