After a bit of a setback against the Eagles last Thursday, the boys are back in action again on Monday. Once again we are meeting the Barcodes at the home of football, but this time it is not for the FA Cup but for the league. All is not well in the Newcastle camp it appears, with players rebelling against the manager’s tactics and you name it. The cacophony of all those shouting and screaming magpies must be deafening!
So will they be up for it tomorrow or become easy pray for the hopefully again firing-from-all-cylinders Gunners?
The Eagles game saw us shooting many blanks and we lacked the ability to somehow crack their solid defence. This was bound to happen to us at some point again and I am not too worried about it – all teams have had these sorts of frustrating games in recent weeks. We saw Pool and Manu miss a load of (half) chances today, and the Chavs only overcame a determined and well-organised Fulham as a result of a lucky bounce rather than a well worked out attack, yesterday. Teams are becoming really good at defending and the only way to crack them is by applying high levels of energy (whilst protecting the shape of the team), taking a half-chance and hoping for a lucky bounce of the ball, it seems. We lacked that sort of energy on Thursday, and also did not take our half-chances or had the benefit from a benevolent bounce of the ball in the opposition’s box. Yet I was impressed by our defending and Xhaka had an inspired game in midfield. Would we have done better with Tierney, Mari, Elneny and Martinelli involved in the game? Probably, but we will never know. I fully trust Areta to have made the right call on the night.
We know that the Magpies will in all likelihood play a similar game as in the FA Cup game: make it hard for us to play out from the back, sit deep when we get through their midfield and hope to get something from a breakaway or, more likely, a set piece or high cross into the box. So we need to be disciplined and have a solid midfield, especially with such adventurous full backs Arteta likes to deploy. Up-front we need energy, close ball control, excellent movement and ability to take our (half)chances. For this we will need to reintroduce the aforementioned players, or at least some of them.
My preferred lineup is:
Mari does not yet appear fit to play and it is time to reenter Gabriel anyway. Maybe Arteta will give Holding a rest and play Luiz instead, but I would like to see the Gab-Hold duo tomorrow. Hopefully TIerney is available again but if not I would like to see Gabriel play at left back (and then Luiz to play with Holding). In the middle we need to reintroduce a solid defensive midfielder, either Partey or Elneny for Ceballos, as to keep our shape and discipline which will allow the whole team to play better, both in attack and defence. Xhaka may need a rest as he had a very busy game v Newcastle.
In attack we should see a start for Martinelli who is available again! Saka should hopefully play and in the centre of the three attacking mids it will probably be either ESR or Willian. I am wary of overusing ESR at this stage and he looked a bit tired to me on Thursday. Willian between Saka and Martinelli and with Laca up-front could be treat to watch, but Arteta should stick with the in-form Emile if he is fully fit to play.
Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners!