Had a bit of a heavy one in Richmond yesterday evening for a friends birthday party, so today’s ramblings will probably be more incoherent than usual, but let’s give it a go at previewing today’s game at the Emirates against United, shall we?
Firstly, some form of prediction. I think we’ll get a draw today. We shouldn’t – we are a better team than United, we’re on home soil, these Arsenal players have shown dominance in all of the games this season, but this is the sort of game where United turn up, have little of the ball, hit us on the counter and smash and grab something.
This fixture is usually full of goals and last season both home and away it was the same so I’m expecting more of it today. We aren’t great defensively at home and we’ve given cheap goals away already so far this season, as well as last season, and Man United are the sort of side who can conjure something out of nothing.
So I suspect we might be heading for a 2-2 today, because I think we’ll score, but I can’t see us shutting them out today. They’ve got some injuries – Shaw and Varane the most notable – and they’ll have to play either a makeshift left back in Dalot or Reguilion from the Scum, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Saka is going to get his own way on that right hand side. He was poor against Fulham so I’m hoping that he’s up for it and can make amends from 4.30pm. We all know he’ll start, as will Martinelli, but there are plenty of other questions that need to be answered in terms of who else plays. I suspect the news of Partey’s injury – confirmed by the Ghanaian FA – will mean a shuffle is needed and for me that only means one thing: Ben White needs to come back in at right back. We need to revert back to the approach from last season and that means Zinchenko on the left, Gabriel in the middle alongside Saliba, then White making up the four man defence.
Partey’s injury will mean Rice has to play in at six and when you consider what a Partey injury would have meant last season, it’s not too shabby to have a player like Rice who can slot in and deliver what is hopefully another good performance at the base of our midfield.
Either side of him I would personally have a think about ESR, Vieira or Trossard as the left eight, but I suspect he’ll stick with Havertz and with a game like today there would be no better time to announce yourself as a key player than a proper performance today. On the right we know it’ll be Ødegaard, but I do wonder what Arteta will do through the middle. Eddie Nketiah will be buzzing after his first international call up and his form is such that it wouldn’t surprise me to see him start today. Regardless of who plays through the middle though, I’m comfortable with Eddie and Gabriel Jesus so that’s all good. What we need to see from whoever plays, however, is the ability to properly test the United back line. I was chatting to a United fan yesterday and he was saying how poorly they’ve been playing and how Casemiro hasn’t been great, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he’ll be on it today. So we have to be equally ready for the battle.
Ideally we want to start this fast and get ourselves up and running quickly. No brain farts early on, please, Arsenal. Concentration, control of the football and look to move this United team around a bit. They will want to tuck in and push us out wide I suspect, which is why we need to see something special from our wide forwards. With Wan Bissaka and potentially Reguilion as their full backs, there will be space and we have an opportunity to exploit with our set up in wide areas, but we need to not be as wasteful as we were against Fulham last weekend.
This is one of those fixtures I just do not like. I’ve seen too many games against United over the years in which we’ve battered them and still come away with nothing. I hope today that is not the case. They want us to come at them. They want us to commit bodies forward and they want to catch us out; we need to be ready to deal with it.
That’s yer lot from me today. I need to have myself some food now before heading over to the ground. You have yourselves a good one and I’ll catch you all tomorrow.