Tonight Arsenal play Man City in the League Cup and surely I’m not alone in thinking:
I mean sure, I want Arsenal to win and sure, it would be great for morale, but with a few players out through injury and a hectic Christmas period that will see us play Chelski on Boxing Day, Brighton on 29th and West Brom on 2nd January, this is just a game we need to get over and done with, right?
My hope is that we use it to give a few of the fringe players a shot and so what I’m praying we see is a fairly different side to the wasters of the recent weeks. It’s time for experimentation and I hope Arteta makes that decision tonight.
So let’s have Saliba in. Let’s give Chambers a go. Let’s try with Maitland-Niles in the middle of the park. Give Smith-Rowe the creative midfielder role in the hole behind the front three. Show Balogun how close he is to the first team by starting him. Allow Reiss Nelson the opportunity to prove his hunger against a good side.
Just those suggestions there would mean six pretty big deviations from why Arteta has tried and when you think that chucking Leno in for this game won’t affect his fatigue as a ‘keeper, that would be most of the team switched around. It would also mean he could still use a smattering of the senior players too if he wanted to.
You’ll note that I haven’t included Martinelli in the starting line up. That’s purely and simply because he made his first appearance against Everton as a sub in like nine months last weekend, so throwing him in now feels like the opposite of the gradual integration that we need to ensure he doesn’t break down. So I absolutely would be giving him 30 minutes, but those 30 minutes need to come after half-time methinks.
Arteta held his press conference yesterday and I’ve got to be honest his stat-loaded semi rant about how percentage wise we should have won against Everton, Burnley and Tottenham felt a little desperate to me. The facts of the matter are we haven’t got into good enough scoring positions all season and that’s because of the atrocious midfield and lack of players connecting midfield to attack. We know this and his comments felt a little sad because it felt like an intelligent man trying to convince himself that whilst everything else was burning around him, he wanted to make himself a cup of tea because everything was a-ok.
We know it isn’t. He knows it isn’t. I do think he has been unlucky in some situations and I’ve referenced them on the blog a few times now so I won’t repeat what I’ve already repeated a couple of times now. But we do need something to go our way. We need some kind of fortune at some stage to turn the tide and my hope is that it begins tonight. If this team can beat the perennial winners of this competition tonight, then perhaps that would be the adrenaline shot some of them need to up their intensity in the following league games which, let’s all be honest here, are far more important than what happens tonight.
Perhaps what we need more than the result is a performance. A game in which we create chances and score goals. Heck, I’d take us losing 4-3 if it meant I saw a reaction and more chance creation from these players, rather than the scared long ball “GET IT AWAY FROM OUR GOAL!” Mild panic approach we’ve seen in recent games.
We need something. We need some kind of spark. Anything.
As for Man City, well, we know what we’re going to get and we know that they will have most of the possession today. They would even if we were a side in form and confidence, so I’m expecting this to be a game in which we shift to the three at the back, we look to be compact and hit them on the counter. There’s no Aubameyang due to injury, but I’d be looking at players who can travel quickly with the ball, or run the channels when we want to break.
City are massively odds on to beat us today and there’s no surprises there really, but by the sounds of what their predicted line up will be, there will be a fair few familiar faces when we play them, which surprises me as I thought that Pep would undertake a bit of mass-scale rotation tonight.
Apparently not. Apparently most pundits are predicting the likes of Sterling, Mahrez, Foden, Ederson, Walker and Fernandinho to all start. That’s a pretty strong first team and if they do start then I’m not really sure how long we last out under continuous pressure before we crack.
Hopefully we can. Hopefully the fates can smile on us tonight. Not so much because of the result; I have little interest in the League Cup, but I do have interest in us trying to rebuild the confidence which feels like it is just broken bits of porcelain on the floor right now.
We need to see a reaction from these players. We need to see a ‘who gives a f*ck’ approach to this game because it doesn’t matter if we get knocked out. Maybe that can release them a little to play more freely? That’s what I’m hoping for anyway. Remove the shackles, tell the players this is a freebie, tell them to go out there with as little fear as possible. Let’s see if it kicks some of them into gear.
I’ll catch you peeps tomorrow. Hopefully just being able to take anything positive from the game.