Or Will Other Arsenal Heroes Put Them to the Torch?
It’s also Claudio Ranieri vs Arsene Wenger–A blast from the (happier?) past featuring a bit of respect between our manager and the guy who fertilized the pasture ahead of the Moo-Man? What will AW do to counter the former Chelsea Manager?
Do we revert to the group which lost to Diego Costa and Mike Dean, er, at Chelsea, or go with some who prevailed up the road at White Hart Lane? Who comes in for our (still recovering) Coq?
Does this guy get a shot? Seems to me that if you take them like he did, maybe you deserve one? This one is for you, Mathieu…
We’re in the thick of it now. Two matches per week, things starting to come back to normality (Chelsea cheating to win, Arsenal beating Spurs, etc., etc.) yet some things still seem off.
West Ham United go to opposing stadiums and knock off the big money clubs? Leicester City, a team which came up just last season–and had to work hard to stay there–are undefeated in 6 matches and sit tied 3rd with the Hammers (who they’ve actually beaten twice, once in the league in East London and again this Tuesday in the Capital One Cup). What is going on here?
Well, it could be just that a couple of teams–both with new managers–are having that nice blip that comes with a new leader at the helm. That both hired their guy over the summer and got in some good players could be a factor–even if it goes against the (press-driven) motif about giving the gaffer the sack whenever a team loses two in a row.
For Leicester City, it could also be that Claudio Ranieri actually knows a thing or two about how to build a squad and manage a team. This team has a decent enough rear-guard–and a solid keeper in Casper Schmeichel–but looks more ready to control matches now that they’ve brought in a very accomplished veteran, Gokhan Inler, the Swiss international from Napoli. His presence should help organize hard working younger players like Marc Albrighton and Daniel Drinkwater and work to help link Leicester from back to front. Up there, it’s all about the season’s early sensation, Riyad Mahrez, (a guy who looked extremely dangerous and came close to scoring a couple of times at our place last season) and pacey James Vardy (working on his racial descriptors, perhaps…) alongside new buy Shinji Okazaki. Leonardo Ulloa, who scored the goal which took two points from us in this fixture a year ago, is now (usually) a super-sub and seems to be relishing the role.
In their last two matches, the Foxes have spotted the opponent two goals but then turned them around, scoring three and taking full points vs Aston Villa two weeks ago and getting up for the draw at Stoke City last Saturday. We’ll need to play ‘the full 90’ (as they say) and most certainly take Leicester as a serious threat even if they’ve lost the guy who got the winner (in the bravest of fashions) against Villa. Nathan Dyer, inch for inch one of the best (i.e., smallest) attackers over the past several years at Swansea City, was another savvy deadline day acquisition.
For all the demure pre-match talk from Ranieri, who has said that his team must be ‘perfect’ to beat us (and that we should be well in the mix for the league title) the team and its home support will not want to give up their unbeaten record without a fight.
Does Claudio flatter to deceive or does he speak truth? Do we have the tools to win this one and get our league season (once again) back on the right footing?
Based on the history between Raineri and Arsene Wenger, the smart money would suggest we might. At Chelsea, Ranieri only beat Wenger once, in that Champions League showdown which came during our unbeaten season in the league. That was one for 14, however, even if it was the most recent one. It was also 11 years ago.
Of course, it’s not mano a mano between the managers even if they shake those hands. (There’s your Spanish lesson for the day, by the way…) In this early season at least, the Foxes look the better oiled machine, even if they seem a little leaky at the back. Both teams have played six and both have won three. Leicester, however, have drawn three and lost none while Arsenal have lost two and only drawn once. We’re on 10 points, they’re on 12. As such, we have an opportunity to end their chance at invincibility AND leapfrog them in the table.
In truth, it’s the goals which tell the story. Their thirteen scored, nine conceded sounds more like Arsenal than our 5 scored, 5 conceded. Could this (finally) be the chance to let our horses run? Maybe not, but nil-nil would seem one for which a punter would insist upon longer odds.
Ranieri’s quest to play a ‘perfect’ match translates to defence first and playing on the counter. Why not? That’s how every team sets up against us (even defending league champions on their home pitch) and we have yet to look convincing in breaking down the parked buses. My guess is that this one will be no different, a bit of a chess match–at least until the first goal is scored, after which it will have to open up. Whichever team can get a nose in front will want to keep going but should also be happy to try and kill the match through possession.
How then does Wenger set up? Until Wednesday the answer would have been Captain Arteta in for Coquelin and 2nd Captain Per Mertesacker in for suspended (then un-suspended then re-suspended) Gabriel as the only changes from the last league match, the Dean debacle at Chelsea. Flamini’s heroics at White Hart Lane, however, might be rewarded, and–despite the beautifully taken goals–he actually seems the more defensive option. Here’s my guess:
Bench: Ospina, Debuchy, Chambers, Gibbs, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud
As per usual, that’s just my analysis. (And I will not be at all surprised if Arteta gets the start and Flamini takes the pitch in midweek vs Olympiakos.) What do others have to say?
It’s become a bit of an echo chamber around here, but maybe that’s a result of the matches coming so quickly and Arsenal actually winning one. If there’s less to critique, maybe there’s less to say. Personally, I would hope we can get back to some consistent winning ways and maybe find a voice for a measure of appreciation and maybe some finer analysis. Supporting Arsenal shouldn’t be a weight upon our shoulders…Maybe?
First things first, of course, and one game at a time, so…
Let’s skin us some Foxes!!