Results so far this season tell us that no team can be taken for granted. We were lucky against West Ham. Wolves stood toe to toe with City costing the champions 2 pts. Man U left Brighton empty handed. No big six team has not been subjected to a nail biting finish by a supposed minnow and this after only three games into the season. Against Cardiff at away we need to gird our loins.
From our match against West Ham, the widely held opinion is that Bellerin was the best and the worst in the team. Best offensively, the other of course you can guess. That should make him a recurring feature (in, out, in …) as Emery tussles with the task of formulating a plan for the match against Cardiff City.
How does he get Bellerin’s best without his worst. Clearly not by dropping him for Lichsteiner. Pushing him up as our right winger with Lichsteiner behind him would have been a solution except that his effectiveness going forward has been due in no small measure to the understanding between him and Mkhi. That understanding is about the only exciting offensive phase combination that Emery has identified. He would like to keep that relationship intact and look for ways of getting round it’s defensive weakness.
A 3-man central defense, to compensate for the pair’s defensive weakness, makes a lot of sense but it’s ripples have never been to Emery’s liking. He’d rather put more bodies in the central midfield. Come to think of it, West Ham were slicing through our midfield like knife through butter and more bodies there would help check that also. A 4:3:3. family appears to be shaping up.
Who leads the line, Auba or Laca? It could as well be a toss of the coin. Emery knows that the goals would begin to come for Auba sooner than later and that replacing him now would be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in him. He would choose not to cause that harm. Meanwhile Laca’s restiveness grows, understandably so, for a man with his pedigree. The super sub role, irrespective of whether it is Emery’s joker or not, can’t sit well with the him much longer. Consequently, Emery would give some thought to starting the two of them with Auba shifted to the wide left position. Like us all, he must have recognized that there is an extra verve their combo brings to the team offensively. But balance is always the key. Kept in view he would turn to consider the other options available at wide left.
Ozil and Ramsey are better suited to the more central attacking areas. That takes them out of the mix wide left. Iwobi’s excellent performance at Chelsea slumped to an underwhelming display against West Ham making it unlikely that Emery would gamble on him so soon after. Welbeck should excite him. His pace and power and natural ability to press fits his needs. That would make it a straight choice between Welbeck at wide left with Laca on the bench and Laca as striker with Welbeck on the bench. Good selection headache if you ask me. Good bench too.
We move down to the midfield three. The chiding Carcedo gave to Torreira after the Chelsea match quickly rid him of his home sickness and brought his charrua coursing through his Uruyuayan veins. With our full backs flying forward, Torreira would be asked to sit in front of our central defenders who have so far been horribly exposed. Guendouzi, I expect, would be given a tad more time to to digest the fact that doing less sometimes is doing more. He sits on the bench but bet on that lad to be back quickly. Xhaka starts as the deep lying playmaker. The leftover in that middle-3, that middle vertical strip of the pitch, the highway to the opposition box becomes Ramsey’s to ply otherwise it is adapted as a 8-10 for the creative Ozil. That means one or the other misses out from the starting line up for this match and maybe for many more, ……. not titans at war, just good depth in the squad.
The remaining four positions in the team are filled by Cech, Mustafi, Sokratis and the most consistent of them all that wasn’t named a captain, Nacho Monreal.
After all said and done my prediction remains a long long shot:-
BENCH:- Leno, Lichsteiner, Holding, Guendouzi, Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck.
It would be nice grabbing another three points. It would be nicer if it is done with a reassuring performance.