Howdy folks and a happy matchday to thee. It’s another Sunday game for us but it’s time to get ‘up for the cup’ as we face off against Sheffield United in our 697th away match in a row…
This was not a happy stomping ground earlier in the season and in fact our record there hasn’t been great when they have been in the Premier League. They beat us in 2006 and I seem to recall there was a Phil Jagielka goalkeeping session that they did it with as well. Arsenal can real fish out the banter sometimes, eh?
Today Mikel will hope to for a continuation of the form from Thursday though, perhaps with a little bit of rotation, which he hinted at during his presser on Friday. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t; there are probably a few aching limbs after three games in eight days and some players like Bellerin would probably benefit from a bit of rotation. So I suspect there’ll be a bit of a switch around and if I had to guess the team is would be:
My thinking on such large scale rotation are that there are some players that need minutes under their belt and despite the fact that Sheffield United will be up for the cup, they will also be acutely aware that there’s a chance they could get themselves a Europa League spot via the league if they can arrest their form since the restart. They’ve lost there last two games and drawn away at Villa and they’ll know that they need to sort their league form out. Chris Wilder has said that he wants to put a strong team out because of the importance of getting back to winning ways, but he’ll be aware of the dangers of going full streets so soon after travelling to Manchester where they were beaten by United. So whilst it’s a bit tricky predicting their team, I do think there will be rotation, and I suspect Arteta might pick his side on that basis too.
The back four leaves a bit to be desired of but with Luiz now committed to the club for another season hopefully he can get back to his pre lockdown form and if that can start today then grand. Soares will get minutes because, frankly, I think he has to. I can see the same for Kolasinac and given Guendouzi didn’t play in midweek it seems reasonable enough to assume that he might start today. I’ve also included Özil in there because, hey, he’s got to be integrated back in at some stage, right? Then you’ve got an opportunity to rest Lacazette and Nelson probably needs a start too.
It’s a heavily rotated side but if it’s a well drilled enough side the. We have to hope there’s enough about them to get us through to the semis. It’ll be a very tough game today and Sheffield United have been difficult for all of the teams to play this season, but what we need is a disciplined and compact side who can continue some of the good work Tricky Micky is doing.
From a tactical perspective everyone knows about how Sheffield United like to use width and create overloads with the centre halves overlapping. That will be interesting today because Arteta seems to have been telling his full backs to tuck in when we’re not in possession and that’s certainly something we’ve seen of from Bellerin and Tierney. If Soares plays it will be interesting to see if he does the same but I also wonder if it’s the reason why Nelson might play. He can drop deeper and create a more compact shape on the right, with would allow us to be more compact and allow Sheffield United the space on the flanks, providing they are stopped from getting the ball into the box. And if Saka plays then it also allows him to tuck in to get Kolasinac to be more compact on the left too.
Of course this is all speculative but it’s just an indication of how I think we should counter Sheffield United’s threat. Then when we break the full backs need to be fanning out and overlapping the likes of Saka and Nelson , with Özil finding room in the spaces between their midfield and defence.
Whether Arteta does this or not remains to be seen though. I am hopeful of course. I’m also hopeful of an FA Cup win today that would see us to an admittedly weird and empty Wembley in the semi final, but regardless of that it would at least see us get to this stage of the competition again and that’s pretty impressive. As a club we do tend to like the FA Cup and that’s why I’m getting excited at the prospect of a semi final if we can somehow get the win today.
We don’t have long to wait. A 1pm kick off means before you know it, we’ll be knee deep in the cussing and fussing.
Catch you peeps tomorrow for a match preview.