I think with that title I’ve made my thoughts about what we should do this evening very plain and clear!!
Tonight we’re back in action on the European stage and whilst it’s not the stage we want – and probably deserve – it is an opportunity for some more midweek football and I have to tell you that I’m glad it’s here. The team travel to FC Zurich-not-actually-in-Zurich this evening and it’s an earlier kick off that means I’ll have to be watching the game from my phone and praying for a decent connection throughout my travels after work.
My hope is that come 4.45pm we have an announcement from the club that Mikel has undertaken mass-scale rotation for this game. The lack of purchase of a central midfielder and a wide forward has meant we look a little short in numbers – something Mikel also admitted himself in his press conference yesterday – and with injuries to have already hit the squad this season of Zinchenko, Partey, Elneny and now Smith Rowe following the United game, we are already looking a little thin and so my hope is that Mikel takes heed of that and rests a bunch of players so we have a fuller and fitter squad come Sunday lunchtimes game against Everton.
So for me we have to look at a starting line up something like this:
Cedric – Holding – Tomiyasu – Tierney
Vieira – Xhaka
Marquinhos – Nketiah – Nelson
I’m not sure if Reiss Nelson is fully fit but I believe he’s been back in training for a couple of weeks and whilst I suspect he’s the guy who will most likely not feature if Arteta decides he’s not ready, personally I’d be putting him in because we don’t have a squad big enough to handle what is currently happening to it from an injury perspective. Just look at the fact I’ve chosen Xhaka to play in this ‘ROTATE EVERYONE!’ team; that shows you that we don’t have the squad size to deliver on this volume of game to be playing players three times in eight days.
Rest the front three because we need their intensity in the league. Rest Odegaard and Zinchenko because both had knocks. That feels like obvious plays to me. But also, I’d like to see Eddie for a full 90 and see what he can deliver for us. He’s had some impressive cameos so far – if not with any end product in the shape of goals, so I’d like to see just how much energy he can bring in our forward line and I’d like to get confidence that he is a good enough understudy for Gabriel Jesus and can bag the goals for us if needed.
I’m also hopeful that we might see Marquinhos and Vieira this evening. The Brazilian has, by the sounds of it, been very impressive in his under-23s games and against the Swiss Champions who are currently bottom of the league in their division, you’d hope that the calibre of opposition is such that he can have an impressive debut and show us glimpses of exciting things to come. Likewise the Portuguese Vieira, who made an impressive cameo against United and who I think a lot of us – me included – had kind of just semi dismissed as ‘one for the future’. I think (and hope) that perspective might prove to be naive on my part and given the amount he cost the club I suspect we will see more of what he is capable of and hopefully start to get excited from this evening.
You’d assume he’ll take up that Odegaard role and what I’m hoping for from him is seeing the kind of passing range and ability to control a game that Odegaard has shown us at times since we signed him. Vieira looked like he had that kind of passing range about him last Sunday and so hopefully we can see more of the same on the way to three points this evening.
It is usually at this point that I talk a little bit about our opponents for the game but I’m not going to pretend to you that I’m an expert on Swiss football. Most of us know already that they are joint bottom of their league on two points from seven games and they haven’t won a game domestically this season, with their only wins coming against Hearts and Linfield in the Europa League qualifying games. My hope is that this means they are not in the greatest of places from a confidence perspective and whilst Arteta might ring the changes and play players who haven’t been part of our impressive start so far this season in the league, as a squad the mood in the camp must be pretty buoyant and that means we hopefully have a psychological advantage over our opponents.
What I am looking for is for us to start like we have started the other games this season: aggressively. Let’s aim to play football in their half, let’s force them back and look to pin them in. They are the ‘home’ side in theory, although the game is being played miles away from their home ground, but I suspect they will look to be compact and hit us on the counter. A quick look at some of their stats in their own league – a difficult barometer I know given the calibre of opposition – shows that they make some of the highest interceptions in the league, have scored some of the fewest goals and are conceding goals at a rapid rate – more than two a game. That tells me that they will try to keep it tight and hold on and with that in mind we absolutely must be looking to drive home our superior talent amongst our players.
We need to get back on the winning wagon and whilst I doubt this result will have much bearing on how we play at the weekend, it will be nice to go in to the weekend having the last result in your mind as a victory, so hopefully the boys can do the business in Switzerland tonight.
Catch you all tomorrow for a post match review.