When a team like WBA can be level with Chelsea and the Spuds, and five points ahead of us in the league, nothing else but respect for the Baggies is due. There are no big names in the WBA first squad: Myhill (Foster is injured), Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Popov, Yacob, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Rosenberg, Gera, Long, Odemwingie, Morrison, and Brunt. Yet, they are fifth in the PL, despite losing their last two games, which is simply amazing and a lot of credit should go to their current manager Steve Clark.
We are seeing more and more a shift towards quality management in English top football, where real football nous is now the most important job requirement, as many clubs simply do not have big budgets anymore to buy expensive stars on big salaries; like Bolton, Blackburn, Birmingham and many others used to do. Liverpool, Aston Villa, Norwich, Swansea, and also WBA have all appointed managers recently who know about tactics and building a team from the bottom upwards; who know how to spot a good footballer and getting the best out of his players. And in Steve Clark, WBA seem to have found a manager who can do all of this very well.
I find this a fantastic development for English football, although the downside is that Arsenal will face more and more teams who can have a real go at us; and on the day can beat us.
Enough has been said about the transitional pains we are going through once again this season, as a result of letting two of our best players go and having to incorporate three new ones. It is now time for our team to find our mojo, our rhythm, and our ability to play and fight as a team, and I hope that a week’s rest to most of our best players will have done them good.
Arsenal will be missing Pod, Theo and Koz due to injury and Sagna is a major doubt. Koz will be replaced by our captain and Sagna by Jenkinson: absolutely no rocket science needed to figure that one out. But it is less clear what Wenger will do with regards to replacing his ‘wingers’ Podolski and Theo against WBA. Furthermore, and most excitingly, who will Arsene play as the most advanced central midfielder; who will be his conductor?
Cazorla has worked his socks for the team in recent weeks and just for that I love him. But he has also produced just one assist in his last eleven PL games, and has been generally less effective in conducting the game for us recently. Add to that Rosicky’s fantastic performance on Tuesday, and you can see that it is not easy to predict who will be conducting our football against WBA.
I am going for Rosicky in the hole, as he is clearly a player who knows how Arsene wants Arsenal to play football, and he can give our team both shape and purpose. Cazorla can play anywhere and be effective, and I reckon Wenger will play him on the wing against WBA.
On the other wing, I expect Gervinho to start, as he is our most natural winger, and I hope he will rediscover his form and scoring ability today.
Let’s hope we will see an Arsenal team tomorrow with a strong spine: Szczesny, Mert, TV, Arteta, Jack, Rosicky and Giroud all to give us shape and purpose tomorrow.
Let’s hope we will see a cohesive team which is more than the sum of its parts; a team that gels a lot better and automatisms start to work properly.
Let’s hope we see an energetic and attacking Arsenal that play with a high tempo, collective chasing down of the opposition and a never-say-die attitude.
Let’s hope the boys do us proud and we end up worthy winners today.
Let’s hope the supporters get fully behind our team today.