At 12:30 pm Saturday early kick-off, our team will line up against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. It will be a confrontation between the joint table toppers Arsenal and the team firmly rooted at the bottom Sunderland. The result looks a fore gone conclusion, but that’s on paper only. This is the Premier League where nothing is ever assured. Nine games have been played and Sunderland stand at 2 pts: 1 pt at home, the other away. The team has scored a total of 6 goals, conceding 16 with an average possession of 41.7%. They also average 9.6 shots per game.
One thing these stats tell us is that this is a team that sits deep counting on counters for their goals. Even more loudly, the stats tell us that the team is not very proficient in these tactics. On the other hand, our stats show also a clear lack of proficiency on our part at unlocking ‘parked buses’, as we were able to score only 1 controversial goal in 270 minutes of football against Middlesbrough, Burnley and Leicester where we enjoyed our most possessions of the season so far (75%, 67% and 61% respectively). Such high possession ratings indicate games against ‘park the bus’ teams, and so toothless has been our displays on such outings. It might be apt to note that we banged in 6 goals where we had the least (43%) possession of the season in our game against Ludogorets. We love playing against teams that love to play. The other way, not at all.
Is the stage then all set for a stalemate?
It is this threat of another stalemate against a PTB team that brings the big question of who leads the line: Giroud or Sanchez? That is assuming we are able to shackle the duo of Jemain Defoe (4 goals) and Patrick van Aanhole (2 goals) who between them have scored 100% of Sunderland’s epl goals.
If Giroud is selected, Walcott would cease to drift inside as Giroud is now there. Instead, Walcott hogs the wide areas for whipping in crosses for Giroud to attack. With Walcott that wide, Bellerin’s overlap is largely stifled. Ozil would have no need to again push up as Sanchez, aka false 9 or is it aka double 10, is no longer there to suffocate Ozil’s #10 spaces. Instead Sanchez has moved wide-left, seconding our best vertical ball carrier Iwobi to the role of bench warming.
Nacho or Gibbs would have to bump up the field more frequently because Giroud in the box is excellent when feeding off crosses. Coquelin would be asked to keep an extra eye on the space vacated by ‘wing back’ Nacho or Gibbs and the rippling effect of Giroud for Sanchez continues, affecting the entire structure of play. Your guess is as good as mine, whether the great ripple across the whole of our play would improve or lessen our fortunes. Poor Wenger, this is his headache. All we care for is that Sunderland will be trounced.
To be or not to be is the question for Mr Wenger. Nacho or Gibbs? Iwobi or Ox? Should he risk Santi, the brain box, who has been seen training since last week or does he play the exquisite but safe passer Elneny? Is it Ox in place of Walcott who has a hamstring alert? Ludogorets away looms on the horizon also? And our eternal enemy Spuds soon after? Questions, questions and questions all poised delicately on the knife edge of us wanting Sunderland trounced.
- S. Eliot maybe was making reference to this conundrum when in his ‘The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ he wrote:
“And indeed there would be time
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.”
The assurance I can give here is that by the time Wenger gets his line up ready for submission Saturday morning, he would have poured himself another cup of tea because the first one is gone cold. Dead cold.
Bench: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Elneny, Ramsey, Walcott, Giroud.
Score: 0-2 (Arsenal win). Alexis and Iwobi to score.
By Pony Eye