The Chavs are coming to the Home of Football and they will be smelling blood. The Arsenal are wounded, self-confidence is low and Arteta is struggling to get his vision and instructions to bare fruit on the pitch. The fans are livid, the Arsenal hating press are having a field day and the club’s management are hiding under the Christmas tree. Poor Mikel has to deal with it all on his own. But our own Paddington Bear is made of sterner stuff and he is giving his all for the cause, and I think today will be his lucky day. The turnaround.
Why do I think this? Because I believe that Arteta understands that this sort of adversity was to be expected, and he is using it to make breakthroughs. He set out on a different course and it was bound to lead to difficulties. He knew that and that’s why he is relatively calm. But he has also announced that this week of football is absolutely crucial for the club, and I like that. We are due a bit of luck, and I feel once it starts running the floodgates will open. I predict a 4-1 victory to the Good Guys today.
Team news is sketchy at the moment. Auba and Martinelli are being assessed but Partey is still out unfortunately. The good news is that Granit is back (and that he does not have to play in front of fans). Much maligned as he is, I believe he will bring much improvement to our midfield today. Xhaka has a good bond with Elneny and this is of course key in any midfield. Against the Chavs they will have a game on their hands, as always is the case.
Our best defence includes Luiz at the back but only in a trio of CBs. So I expect/hope we will play three at the back: Holdingho, Luiz, Gabrielho. They are solid in general. The full backs: Tierney of course and one of Hector or AMN. The former is rested, the latter looks more solid; they are both not perfect and I expect Mikel to go for experience rather than youth.
The real question is what to do with the three remaining positions… and will we play with three attackers or two, with then one extra midfielder. I so hope it is the latter. Four in midfield in a 3-4-3 is deceptive: the wingbacks just go everywhere and suddenly the midfield is just two bodies (and maybe a CB who comes stabbing forwards to help out when they see danger occasionally, with often bad consequences as we have seen recently). So I feel we need to have an extra midfielder in front of Xhaka-Elneny; somebody who can defend, pass and score in a game like this. For me that boy-man is Bukayo.
Finally, who should play in attack? Well it depends on fitness. If Auba and Martinelli are fit, and I expect that this is the case, they will play. They work well with Saka and offer both clinical finishing and energy. Auba is (still) to good to leave out and Martinelli has that bit of extra that we have been missing in attack. Eddie, Pepe and Willian have been under-par recently, but Laca may get a start for either Auba or Martinelli. I could live with that.
Anyway, my ideal lineup v the Chavs today is:
Of course a lineup is only a small part of the job, the rest is attitude, concentration and being decisive at the key moments. We can do it today.
C O M E O N Y O U R I P R O A R I N G G U N N E R S!