This is a match Pellegrini of West Ham United would set his team out not to lose. They have lost their first two matches of the season and are playing at away where they made 15pts last season.
Emery would set his team out to win. They have also lost their first two matches of the season and are playing at home where they made 47pts last season.
Emery would want an expansive game but he knows Pellegrini would want to keep it tight. The first goal could be crucial so expect Emery to instruct his team to start with a controlled aggression.
Understandably Emery should still be in the mood to chop and change as he continues his search for the best combinations to fit his ideas. But as a must-win-game for him, that urge would be tempered by a measure of conservatism. This is not the match to stray too far into uncharted territory.
I expect him to start with the same back five that he used against Chelsea. Many thanks to Aubamayang’s leaked list, we now know that Papastathopoulus isn’t that slow.
For the double pivot, Guendouzi for sure retains his place. Xhaka was substituted at half time in the Chelsea match probably because he was on a yellow coupled with the fact that the pace of that match was too frenetic for his more measured style. West Ham are not coming with that kind of intensity so expect Xhaka to start again. Or would Emery start Ramsey instead as he might see his box runs as suited against a West Ham team that would be reluctant to throw men forward. As for Torreira, Emery seems to be giving him time to adjust to his new environment but there again he would desire to have his full backs push up high for width and the terrier sitting in front of the central defenders.
It would be head scratching deciding who to select for the front four. Big reputation would be vying with current form in a new system (albeit only two games yet). With West Ham likely to defend deep, would Lacazette be more effective than Aubamayang in the tiny spaces the opponent’s compactness would leave? Or does Emery start the two of them at the expense of one attacking midfielder?
Attacking midfield would be his biggest headache. He has in Ramsey and Welbeck excellent pressers of the ball, Ozil and Mkhitaryan the creative pair but never quite up to speed when without the ball and Iwobi who played so well against Chelsea and who is his best ball carrier.
Who starts, who drops? We can imagine how he would keep turning these questions over and over in his mind, viewing them from different angles, seeking the best balance, consulting and discussing with assistant Carcedo, and finding himself revisiting decisions as the perfectionist in him keeps conjuring up myriad scenarios. Time constraint finally would bail him out of this torment as he literally is compelled to submit that last moment’s list of starters and subs. I suppose many of us go through such rituals buying something as simple as a tie or a scarf.
It is fascinating trying to figure out the possible lines of Emery’s thinking and here is my prediction (long shot) of what his line up would be:-
Bellerin. Mustafi. Sokratis. Monreal.
Mkhitaryan Ozil. Iwobi
BENCH:- Leno, Lichsteiner, Holding, Xhaka, Torreirai, Welbeck, Lacaztette.
The project is to get 3 pts and we will get it. It has rained, it’s now time for sunshine. There would be one strange sight, Jack not in our colours. I would cringe were Shkodran Mustafi to leave him in a crumpled heap on the ground in a fair but crunching tackle. Him and us are for ever, this Arsenal legend that never was.