It’s matchday people!! Whoop!
And it feels like more of a ‘whoop’ because it feels like the international break has enabled a lot of people I speak to, to think about today as the ‘new’ start of the season. The Brentford game had unfortunate circumstances. The Chelski and Man City games were always going to be tough, but today we have players returning, we have a home match, it’s a 3pm kick off and as I sit here typing away in my kitchen before heading to The Arsenal in a few hours, the sun is shining.
I am feeling positive today. I just hope that positivity is transferred to the pitch and it is rewarded by performances from the Arsenal team today that leads to three points.
Boy, do we need this one and boy, does Arteta. In his press conference on Thursday he was asked if it was a must win and of course he said all games are must wins, but he’ll be more than acutely aware of his fate unless the team ‘clicks’ soon and by that I not only mean winning games, but starting to imprint a style and approach that is interesting to watch and gets fans out of their seats. If we play terribly today and win by scoring a dodgy penalty then I’d take it, but it won’t do anything to assuage some of the nagging doubts people are having about Arteta. So we need to start seeing signs of life today. It doesn’t have to be peak ‘Wengerball’ but we just need some green shoots to appear. I think most of us appreciate that there are a lot of new players to bed in and that it will take time for those famous ‘automatisms’ to kick in and those mini partnerships on the pitch to develop. We could potentially see a whole new back four, central midfield today, for example. But whilst we all know it will take time for that to develop, we simply can’t afford not to start picking up points.
That needs to start today.
So how will Arteta line up? This is a tricky one because it depends on how fit some of these players are. People have speculated about Partey being able to play from the start but given the absentees in midfield (no Elneny through injury, no Xhaka through suspension) I don’t think Mikel has an option. There has also been some talk of Sambi having a knock but I suspect he plays today too. That’s a midfield I am looking forward to seeing. It has mobility, passing range and can cover spaces. It also adds a bit of variation. I still think Xhaka – despite his flaws – is a good player for us, but his passing has felt quite predictable of late i.e. sweeping the ball out wide to Tierney at most opportunities. The midfield of Partey and Sambi has an audition to become a more permanent fixture and so I hope we see it from the start and I hope it works.
I suspect in defence it’ll be Tierney, Gabriel and White, but who takes that right back slot? Tomiyasu has been in the country for about three days and trained twice I think. For that reason I’d be surprised if he started, so it’ll be one of Chambers and Cedric. Both have been equally poor in their last two outings and whilst I’d be minded to pick Ainsley Maitland-Niles there, I think he might go with Chambers. I just think Chambers is a more favoured of the least favoured and so I suspect it’ll be the Englishman who gets the nod.
The worry is Chambers up against Rashica, who is nippy and will easily have the drop on him in terms of pace, which means if we are caught on the counter that is where I expect us to have challenges i.e. in behind our full backs. On the other side we know Tierney will bomb forward and that screen of Sambi and Partey will need to be ready to cover spaces, because they’ll play with a 4-3-3 if their previous matches are anything to go by. If we play too high a line I worry that we will get caught on the counter by those wide men. Pukki has cut a loan and isolated figure at times already this season, but he’ll know that if he can get up in to the box arriving when those wide forwards get in behind our team, then he could have some joy.
Out of possession it will be interesting to see what Norwich do. They’ll expect us to have more of the ball and so would I, but it’ll be interesting to see how deep they sit and whether they leave men up top to hit us on the counter. If they do, how forward do we press? Maybe in that instance it would be good to have Chambers in the team because with him, White and Gabriel perhaps not venturing forward as much, Chambers can tuck back in to a back three when Tierney is forward and we can go man-for-man against their attacking trio.
At the other end we need to have Odegaard, Saka, Aubameyang and then Pepe in my opinion. ESR has had an illness but there was no mention of that in the absentee list on the official site, so I suspect he’ll be on the bench and perhaps he’s an impact sub. But we need to see movement from our goal threat of Pepe and Auba and we need to see guile and line breaking passes and dribbling from our two creative players Saka and Odegaard.
We need this today. We need those four to come up with something. So far it’s not a single goal to speak of or to cheer of, so we need the team to produce that today. Preferably a few of those. I am hopeful. Not expectant, nor complacent about it definitely happening, but hopeful we can do the business.
Up the Arsenal.