The Claret and Blue Army are coming to the Home of Football and, as per GN5s fine historical stats in yesterday’s post, this promises to become a goal-rich encounter. Add to this Emery’s tactics of gloves down defence and see who can punch hardest, there is even more chance of a goal-fest. Do I like it? Much more so if we win, but there certainly is also beauty in doing a bit of gloves-up defending.
Martin Keown nowadays works as a pundit and he pointed out the obvious during our dizzying boxing match with the Frankfurthers: Arsenal allow far too much space between defence and midfield and that is creating all those opportunities against us. Now I know some believe that we have rubbish defenders and midfielders, but it would be silly to think that our defenders and/or midfielders don’t know this. Of course they do, but they are either instructed to do so, as to lure our opponents forward (and we can go on the break as soon as we have the ball) or there is a lack of communication between defence and midfield: defence don’t dare to push up and midfield want to/ need to support the attack – in both cases lots of space is left between the lines for the opponents to strut their stuff.
For me, this is the single reason why we are so vulnerable when we need to defend. With a midfield of Torreira, Xhaka and Willock – our midfield in Frankfurt – we should be rock solid if Emery wanted us to be so. We weren’t, but as we won handsomely despite allowing a couple of dozens of shots, who is to complain? We are of course miles away from the Pool and Citeh approach of being mean at the back and deadly up top, so for me this approach will not get us to silverware, or indeed good football, but maybe it will be enough to get us into the top-four this season. I doubt it, but hey we are on this ride so we may as well fully experience it!
Despite the conceptional vulnerability of our game against the Frankfurters, there were many very good individual performances. This time nobody made a big mistake in defence and especially our goalkeeper, Martinez, was in splendid form. Our midfielders made fine runs into the box and produced many key passes and our main attackers – Saka and Auba – put their names on the scoresheet. So it will be interesting to see what Emery will do today in terms of his starting-11, especially if we take into account that we are playing Forest in just 50 hours after the game.
It is of course OGAAT (one game at a time) and a win today is badly needed. For this we need fresh legs and players who are in form, so on the basis of this I would go for:
I would rest Kola as we will need him to be at his best/ fit v Manchester United in a week’s time (Tierney is close to his first proper PL game but surely the Old Toilet encounter would come to soon). I also want to give Mustafi another game, but as RFB and not CB. Luiz is our leader and Big Sok returns, but if Chambers gets another game it would be fine with me too.
Xhaka is our organiser, our conductor, so he needs to play and I would love it if we once again played Torreira and Willock in midfield: XTW gives us everything you need from a midfield imo. However, I could also live with Guendo starting in this one, as long as Emery does not leave either Xhaka or Torreira out.
Up front it should be our big guns: Auba and Pepe, but it would also be great to give Saka another start after his phenomenal performance in Frankfurt. Auba is on a hot streak but we must be careful with him, given Laca’s injury and the Mancs encounter being around the corner. I am tempted to start with Pepe up top and Saka next to him/on the wing…
This should be an interesting game to watch but unfortunately it is not on TV. Here is hoping for a more mature performance and a very important win.