Morning all and welcome to another matchday, at the beginning of what is a very tough month’s worth of fixtures, starting with Leicester City away in the Carabao Cup this evening.
It’s a game in which I don’t think there’s been a full press conference due to the timings, but Mikel did spend a little bit of time in front of a Zoom call and there was a chap in the press association that asked:
- Why nobody takes the League Cup seriously apart from Man City (he said that we will take it seriously and the standard of players in the competition is getting better)
- Why William Saliba hadn’t been playing and whether her would start (Mikel said he wouldn’t give away his team selection)
- The impact that David Luiz has on the young players (in which Arteta said what a role model Luiz was).
So nothing ground breaking really. He wasn’t asked if Arteta thought Brendan Rodgers would rotate, he wasn’t asked how many of the so-called ‘first team’ players would play, he wasn’t asked about the tactical set up of Leicester and which threats would be most important.
I suspect we’ll see a mixture of rotation and first team tonight. It isn’t what I’d do; personally I’d rotate the whole team because there are going to be enough games for rotated players in the Europa League when that comes around, so even if we get knocked out it isn’t the worst thing in the worl. But I think the fact we play on Monday night and therefore have the whole weekend with which players can recover, might just mean we get a stronger team.
We have a large enough squad for a lot of rotation though. In goal we could play Runarsson, at right back we could see Maitland-Niles (Cedric is injured), at centre half you can play Saliba, Luiz and perhaps even Gabriel on the left to test him on that left hand side, then on the right you could play Kolasinac with the view that he won’t set foot on the field up at Anfield next Monday because Tiereny and Saka are ahead of him in the pecking order.
In midfield we could bring Guendouzi back in for a bit of a ‘shop window’ exercise, plus we could also do the same with Torreira. Alternatively the likes of Willock could be given a chance to play there.
In the front three Pepe has only made sporadic performances from the bench so I suspect he might start and for him there is the incentive that if he puts in a good performance then he could be back into the starting XI for the Liverpool game. Up front Nketiah should get a start, whilst on the left I hope Arteta is sorely tempted to give Aubameyang a rest. We have plenty of options there. We could play Saka or Nelson, for example and whilst Ornstein reported yesterday that Nelson was available for a loan out and that Arsenal were open to the idea, he can still be given game time this evening I reckon.
That team would be a mixture of rotation and first teamers and would be a decent side to at least have a go at a tough nut to crack in Leicester this evening. Ideally I would have hoped to see Cedric, Mari, Martinelli, Smith-Rowe, Chambers, maybe even an Ozil getting some game time tonight, but they’re all injured and I just don’t think we’ll see the German from the start at all. Perhaps he’s in the squad and perhaps he’s given an opportunity to get some minutes on the pitch, but his complete lack of inclusion in the first team squad over the first two Premier League games of the season suggests to me that he’s still very much frozen out. I suspect if we don’t see him from the start tonight, or even on the bench, then we might as well forget he’s an Arsenal player.
In terms of Leicester, Brendan Rodgers has made it clear there will be rotation this evening, which makes me wonder if that plays on Mikel’s mind. I wonder what changes he’ll make though? I suspect Jakupovic will come in for Schmeichel, but then we’re probably looking at the likes of Wes Morgan and Soyuncu in defence I think, as they’ve got a few injuries to the likes to Evans and Benkovic. Maddison is rumoured to be starting for the first time in three months and so that will provide a more creative outlook for them, but I suspect they’ll also give games to the likes of Amartey, Pereira and Fuchs if all are fit.
I’d also expect Gray to start and probably the likes of Choudhury to kick people about a bit in the middle of the park. Iheanacho will probably get the nod ahead of Vardy and whilst that would represent a fair bit of rotation, there are still a decent smattering of players that have pace to hurt us.
It’ll be interesting to see how Arteta copes with Leicester tonight. The game at the Emirates saw us in control until Nketiah’s ludicrous sending off and in the last couple of games we’ve had players sent off against Leicester. Maitland-Niles got done by a Maddison dive to get sent off and if we can keep it to 11v11 tonight i’d be interested to see how Rodgers’ possession-based game gets on against an Arsenal team that have learned to sit tight and hit teams on the counter if needed.
That’s why whoever Arteta picks tonight, I hope we go from front to back quickly because if we do, we could cause Leicester some damage. If we have rapid forwards and Leicester press us higher up the pitch we can hurt them, which is what I’m hoping for this evening.
Unfortunately it’s not live on TV so it looks like there’ll be a live stream for me tonight, which will be fun as always given my internet isn’t the best. But here’s hoping we’ve got something to be pleased about tomorrow, in which a win will deliver us another away trip to Anfield if they beat Lincoln (oh joy).
Catch you all tomorrow.