Morning folks, how are we all doing today then, eh? Feeling chipper ahead of the weekend action against Bournemouth?
Little ‘Scotty’ Parker seemed to be in good spirits, as he had his press conference yesterday and said some lovely things about Mikel Arteta and his team for this season. He talked about how he thinks we’ll be ‘right up there’ come the end of the season, about how tough the challenge of facing us will be, as well as the fact we are a ‘very technical team’. I’d love somebody to explain to me what that means when some managers say that. It feels rather vague I have to admit. Does it mean that we are good on the ball and our technique for each player is such that it is difficult to get it off us because our passing is so accurate? Or that we have players who know their positions so well that they know exactly where to stand and that we have been drilled with a level of technical knowledge to know how a passage of play will pan out? Or that we have very skilful players who can score lots of goals and dribble around opponents? I never quite know. It’s an ambiguous enough statement to sound like you know what you are talking about, without actually giving away any admission on why you have labelled a team a ‘technical’ team. But hey ho.
He did talk up the importance of the home crowd tomorrow and I do think that is an interesting point, because it is something we were able to do to quieten down the Crystal Palace fans on the opening evening of the season a couple of weeks ago. I went in to that game expecting a raucous atmosphere, a home crowd who will give the home team an extra 10%, a physical contest that we could very well wilt under. But the key to going to tight, compact grounds like Crystal Palace and Bournemouth is to keep those home fans quiet. If we can do what we did against Palace – start VERY well and give them almost nothing to cheer about – then I think it will have a bearing on the game and the result. Scoting early has been a feature of the first two games of the season (scored on 20 minutes at Palace, then at 23 minutes at home to Leicester) and that has to be the mindset that Arteta needs to have for his team tomorrow evening too. That’s not going to happen every week so if we don’t get that early start and the crowd does play its part as Parker has suggested, then it will be good to see just how much resilience this Arsenal team has in the face of that pressure.
He also gave a bit of a team update and I’m going to talk about it today because when I do my preview piece tomorrow I think I’ll focus on where we are at, how we will set up and then how we counter what Bournemouth will throw at us tomorrow. Plus we’ll have had Arteta’s press conference so there’ll be a little more to chew on from that. But as for Parker and his team news, they are awaiting the results of Dominic Solanke as a ‘doubtful’ player for tomorrow night’s game. Parker has called him a ‘maybe’ and I suspect that means he’ll be in the squad and get some game time. That sounds to me like a little bit of mind games and I think they’ll play the wide forward at some stage. They scored their two goals against Villa on opening day through balls in to the box from set play or second phase after a set play and they have big, tall players in Moore and Solanke so I suspect what Parker is hoping for is a physical battle. That’s why it’ll be interesting to see if White is fit because we will need plenty of aerial prowess at the back I suspect. It might be the first time Saliba is tested properly in the air so we’ll have to see on that one.
In their last game they played City at the Emptihad and so it’s difficult to have any kind of proper insight in to how they might set up against us, because they basically just sat everyone on the edge of the box and went compact as a defensive unit but I’d be surprised if that’s how they set up against us on their home soil. They’ll know we’ll have more of the ball, but I don’t think their home fans would tolerate them just dropping in to a compact back five, two central midfielders tight behind them, then seeing if they can shut us out for a draw. they may think they can hit us with the old ‘rope-a-dope’ and catch us on the counter, but without wanting to sound too cocky, if we have Tomiyasu,/White, Saliba and Gabriel as our main players tucking in and happy to match up on the duels, I’d fancy our chances in footraces. I don’t know enough about how quick their players are but this article on Marcus Tavernier suggests he’s somebody who fancies those spring races, so that might be one to look out for if they decide they want to hit us with that rapid counter approach. Given the size of Solanke and Moore I’d guess that they’ll try quite a lot of long balls to see if they can win knock downs, so it will be an interesting match up to see how Saliba and Gabriel cope against that physical presence. Leicester don’t really do that and Palace had their strength in wide positions, so this will be a completely new challenge to any we’ve faced so far this season, although I recognise that it is because we are still just two games in to the season and so data points now are harder to draw conclusions from.
But I am optimistic. I think our confidence going in to the game, the way that we have played, the players we have available, the options from the bench, it all helps in that optimism. It counts for nothing if those Arsenal players don’t deliver the goods from 5.30pm onwards tomorrow I know, but seeing where we are at, with what Arteta has been trying to do in pre season and also the way we’ve started this season, that optimism remains. And given the fixture list before the international break, we simply must be picking up wins right now because it starts to get very hard after the break with the visit of The Scum.
Fingers crossed our players can deliver.
Catch you all tomorrow for a match preview and some thoughts following Arteta’s presser.
Have a good one folks.