Morning folks from a relatively wet Belfast, in which I’m treating The Management to a birthday weekend away to see the giant’s causeway. It means I’m not sure if I’ll get time to watch The Arsenal but I’ll have to see if I can find a pub to watch it in at some stage I’m sure. Maybe a sneaky ‘refreshment’ that enables me to watch the second half…
…Anyhoo, before I get into the game we’re playing today, let’s pour out a little liquor for football in general, because once again we saw another example of how new rules and implementation of VAR is the creeping death of the game coming about. Sheffield United absolutely got away with one last night because if Declan Rice’s “handball” was so, they need to bin the handball run straight away. How on earth can a footballer run without using his hands and therefore how on earth can you penalise a player when a ball is headed into his hand. It’s a disgrace really and I’m getting sick of it. That, and VAR, which the reverse of this fixture today for us showed just how much of a farce it is.
I was in the ground that Sunday when our perfectly good winner by Sokratis was chalked off for absolutely no reason whatsoever that anybody has been able to point out to me. It was a perfectly good goal that some idiot miles away decided he would play god and rule out. The implementation of VAR and the handball rule have sucked the life out of football in the stadium. People can’t celebrate any more.
And so today I’m hoping for some karma because Roy Hodgson stood there post game and said he could see why the goal was chalked off. Hodgson knew it was a farce but he was glad to hightail it out of the Emirates with a point Palace probably didn’t deserve. So, footballing gods, are you going to give us some karma today?
Actually, I don’t even want karma, I just don’t want to see that Arsenal have been skanked by refereeing or VAR-based decisions today. I also want us to give a good account of ourselves. I want to see that the Arteta bus is up and running again and that we’ve got yet more examples of a team and a manager that know what type of football they want to play, the players each know their roles, plus we have a clear way to play football both with the ball, as well as without it.
In terms of the team today I suspect we’ll see the 4-2-3-1 that Arteta has deployed to date and I suspect it will be Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac in defence, then it’ll be a midfield two of Torreira and Xhaka at the base covering the back four, followed by a three in front of them of Auba, Ozil and then probably Nelson. I still don’t think Arteta is sold on Pepe, even though he’s been better in recent weeks in terms of his running, but I think Nelson will get it because he puts in more hard yards. So I suspect Nelson gets the nod because he’ll be able to support Maitland-Niles more than Pepe would. In front of that three would be Laca and I think the key to this game will also be to minimise the space between our lines. Arteta has been trying to get Arsenal to be better off the ball but also squeeze us in to a more compact shape as a collective. That enables us to turnover the ball higher up the pitch and spring transition counters from the opposition half. I am hoping that happens today and I hope that we can also take some of our chances.
Palace won’t play like Leeds though. I don’t think they’ll press us has hard and high and I don’t think they’ll go man-for-man on their marking like Bielsa did. Palace will most likely go with a 4-5-1, leaning heavily into Zaha on that left hand side and that’s another reason why I think it’ll be Nelson being asked to double up on their talisman. Jordan Ayew will play the loan front man and Palace will look to use set pieces with the likes of Tomkins having scored recently and Gary Cahill being not too bad in the air.
I suspect Palace will want to be compact and not be drawn out too much by an Arsenal team that appears to have a spring in its step under Arteta. They are in better form than us this season, have amassed more points and sit one place in the league above us, so this won’t be an easy game, but if the mentality of our big players is there and we actually take our chances, I’d be hopeful that we can get the three points today.
That mindset has to be there from the start though. We were caught cold against Leeds in the first half and none of us wants to see that again, least of all Arteta, so I hope that match and the difference between first and second half serves as a beacon for the players on what not to do.
Here’s hoping to a good performance and an ability to actually watch match of the day this evening!
Catch you all tomorrow.