HAS IT ALL CRYSTALIZED FOR EMERY? TOP-4 BATTLE INTENSIFIES.
(PREVIEW ARS V NEWCASTLE).
Our last competitive match of a hectic schedule was on Thursday March 14th against Rennes. The inter-lull that followed afforded every member of our 1st team squad a change of environment excellent for refreshing the psyche. After such breaks, appetite for the “chores” won’t to be renewed, though invariably some cobwebs appear needing some dusting.
We were in a commanding form before the inter-lull. On their return to base, Emery’s immediate task would have been to get the boys quickly back to speed so as to keep riding the wave of the momentum as if there was never a break. I guess that wouldn’t require much from him beyond urging the boys in training to pass the ball quicker, to run faster and to jump higher. The goal: to reconnect them to their motor reflex memory.
Will he succeed? These boys are hungry. They know that every match from now on is a cup final and that there is no margin for error. Newcastle is an in-form team, managed by the experienced Rafa Benitez. Take them for granted and live to regret it.
Emery has done a lot of tinkering over the season and rightly so seeing that for him it is a new team and a new league. It now looks like it’s all crystallized for him. The team that waltzed through Rennes was the same team (cup keeper and Mustafi for suspended Sokratis apart) that spanked the top-form team, Man United. Is there any need changing a winning team? I don’t think so unless the changes are forced. But that is me. Emery likes responding to his analysis of opposing teams and what he comes up with might depend on what he thinks Benitez will do.
Benitez has been very pragmatic with his approach to games. He will come to the Emirate determined to deny Arsenal a goal. Expect the same 5:4:1 formation he has used against the bigger teams. With a draw, he has inched further away from relegation but Emery wouldn’t be in any mood to oblige him. Unai would respond by wanting to control the game and be patient with chances. That could make him revert to the 4:2:3:1 formation. If we score early the game would open up and that should add to our advantage. The Emirate finds its best voice when it is an open game.
Monreal and Ramsey, who were slight doubts, are back to full training. Though Xhaka was not in the injured list mentioned by our medical staff, he remains a doubt particularly as the recent team pictures did not capture him in training. My gut feeling is that he will be starting.
Predicted line up:-
Bench:- Cech, Mustafi, Lichsteiner, Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Suarez, Aubamayang
With the Spurs losing, Man U and Chelsea sneaking their wins this weekend only 1pt now separates the four teams jostling for the remaining two Champions League spot, though Arsenal have this Newcastle match in hand. Nothing could be tighter. We dare not lose this one, not when it is at home. Let us suck to death the morale of the visitors with 90 minutes of full support for our team.