Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Arsenal preview and…

…so it begins. I’m not gonna say “I told you so” with regards to limited cover through times of injuries and I certainly wasn’t the only one to raise eyebrows at the end of the 2014 summer transfer window.

But already it’s started with a Vincent Kompany scare and an injury to Stevan Jovetic.

Will ‘no Jovetic’ change our plans for Arsenal?

Well the short answer is “No” – Pellegrini likes his 4-4-2, even if it can be a ‘fluid one’ when required. And, of course, he still has two fit, first team strikers at his disposal…for now at least.

The longer answer might lie in the fact that we are away to a VERY good side indeed and one, which, by design or forced-otherwise, might once again pack the midfield behind just one striker. I say “again” because, of course, that’s exactly what they did against us at Wembley in the Community Shield and albeit a very much weakened City side; it worked tremendously well for them.

With Giroud out and with their new acquisition firing for England – along with the added incentive of a home debut against his former employer’s rivals – you won’t get good odds at all on Whinger playing an attacking 4-5-1 against us on Saturday.

Even with Ozil (a small doubt) & Walcott (definitely out), The Gunners have plenty of attacking flare AND pace in their side and, for that, we are going to have to be 100% alert throughout the whole of the 90+ minutes. That being the case, it poses some interesting questions about our personnel throughout the whole of the team for the early Saturday KO (12:45pm BST).

For example…

‘To Mangala’ or ‘not to Mangala’. A defender, we are told, with BAGS of pace and power. Fully fit and ‘at pace’? Then I’d say ‘go for it’ Manuel.

Debut this Saturday?
However, it doesn’t get much more ‘baptism of fire’ than a game at the Emirates facing the pacy duo of Welbeck and Sanchez (to name just two) and so would introducing the ex-Porto player be a big mistake? Then again ‘next up’ (in the league) is a certain Chelsea after a trip to Bayern…and so how long would we have to wait to ‘ease Eliaquim into a Premier League game’?

Away at Hull (27th September)?

Away at Villa (4th October)?

Home to Spurs (18th October)?

Perhaps ‘in at the deep end’ might be the way to go here…

And I say that also because – baring in mind the afore mentioned formation and pace of the opposition – the alternative would be the considerably slower Martin Demichelis. For this game, at least, that sends shivers down my spine!

And then there’s the inevitable left-back dilemma. Neither have BLISTERING pace and although I think Clichy would win a race; I don’t think there would be much between both him and Kolarov. Clichy for me is the more defensive of the two...

Normally I wouldn’t have a seconds thought about the right back slot but, on this occasion, would ‘familiarity’ win on the day? Would Sagna’s recent release from Saturday’s opponents have an advantage for us? Would it have a disadvantage / be an advantage for them?

Never, in my time of doing this Blog (since 28th April 2013), has a fixture thrown up so many intriguing questions about ‘personnel possibilities’ – and I’m not even past talking about the defence yet!

The right-side of the defence, however, could well be decided by ANOTHER possible injury rather than by choice or design as, apparently, Pablo hobbled off against Germany the other day. He might be a doubt or, at least, a risk to start with him.

Moving on and up the pitch…

We’ll certainly need at least one, solid-defensive unit sitting in midfield just ahead of the back 4 for this game; two in my opinion if we are to (over) stretch ourselves by fielding two out & out strikers from the start.

This is tailor made for Fernando, should he be deemed fit to play following his recent injury. Fernandinho could, of course, fill that role too; providing he listens to instructions to mostly defend and not ‘go-a-wandering’. Milner, for me at least, is another fine option ‘in there’.

Not sure this is a game for Yaya to be honest; not unless we stick him right up top against their defence / behind our striker. Heavily populated midfields just aren’t his thing; especially on the back of a relatively slow start to the season for the big man. It would be a bold move by Pellegrini to leave him out of course and GOD would it get the media tongues excruciatingly wagging. But it would be an understandable one in my book at least.

Then there’s the Arsenal fans / Nasri factor. Putting it bluntly, they just…DO…get to him. I might well be wrong here but I’m sure my memory banks recall more ‘poor’ performances from the French winger / midfielder than ‘good’ ones when facing his old club. Again…it would be another bold but understandable move to leave Samir on the bench at the start.

I just can’t see that happening though, and although I can’t see this either…










…I would certainly like to see our Manager adapt to a game without Jovetic by putting in our very own frightening, attacking and fairly pacy midfield.

However, this is what I THINK our manager will go with (tough one for me to call though):

v Arsenal

4-4-2 (albeit a fluid one):





                               * Fernandinho





Subs: Caballero, Clichy, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Lampard, Fernandinho, Milner, Navas.

* Update (13.09.2014): Fernando out for 2 weeks as from 12.09.2014; Jovetic about a week to 10 days as from the same date.

I think he’ll go with my centre back 2 pairing but he might plum for Aleks instead of Gael on the left. Why? Well, as you can see, I’ve gone for him picking a diamond 4 midfield (that includes Aguero sitting slightly deeper) with Samir & David ‘tucked in’ a little more. This, I think and if he ‘does do’, will encourage Sagna (preferred over the recently 'knocked' Zaba) and Aleks to attack more than you might expect away to Arsenal.

A very busy afternoon and a hard task there then - pasta for breakfast Aleks & Bacary!

Dangerous tactic? Well…not really. And knowing our Engineers’ psychi as I think I do; he’ll want to put the home side – and their potential, marauding midfield – on the 'back foot' as much as possible. Hope so. And what better way than to squeeze our midfield in slightly and allow room for an extra ‘wing bursts’ from the back from time to time (with Fernando or whoever watching the back like hawk).

A‘bench spot’ for Frank today I think. WHAT a reception he’d get from the home crowd if he came on! And, in ‘Lamps’, we’d have the potential for late goals, which'll be a bonus with a lack of substitute strikers on the bench.

Result? It should be a very intriguing & exciting game indeed. I’m sticking with my pre-season prediction for this one and I’m going for a draw - goals...but a draw.

I’ll take that…

Of course this Blog-posting comes a good way before the official pre-match press conference and only about the time some of the players are just returning from international duty. Therefore I’m sure we’ll all know more about who is available and who isn’t.

Personal note

I’m at a flippin’ 12-noon wedding on Saturday!

If anyone tells me the score before I get home at about 5:00pm to, then-hopefully, watch the recording; I will be mightily peeved to say the least. With a room full of both Blues and reds I don’t think I’ll be able to avoid it really…

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