Probably the single thing that sums up the current situation at Arsenal best is that I’m hoping for our game today to be called off due to weather conditions in London.
It’ll likely go ahead and I’ll have to write about another defeat come Friday. Even the fact we are playing at home does little to instill confidence in yours truly. We are in a dire state. We were supposed to at least be good at Wembley, but we failed miserably, and somewhat predictably.
It is rare to play the same team twice in a matter of days, which naturally makes it harder to write about the second game, as much has been said already. Playing City twice at this stage is also quite unwelcome – I would be happy to face literally any other PL team after Sunday’s humiliation. But we don’t have a choice.
I think let’s just snap to it, shall we?
Team news update
We have lost Nacho Monreal in the Sunday defeat – the Spaniard is facing a couple of weeks on the sidelines by the looks of it:
“He is out for the two games on Thursday and Sunday, certainly out. He might be out for two more, Milan and maybe even one more. He had an inflamed back, a disc problem.” – Arsene Wenger
I have to say what little confidence I had in our defence has evaporated with this news. Monreal has been, by far, our best defender this season, possibly our best player. We are a complete mess as it is, his absence means Kolasinac or AMN at left-back, neither fill you with confidence.
The good news is that we can use Mkhitaryan once again. The bad news is that he has been awful against Spurs and Ostersunds, so don’t exactly see his presence as panacea. But then no one single player can fix this side.
Cech will most certainly come back into the side. Most would welcome this swap, but I’m somewhat indifferent. Only this season Cech made four mistakes leading to goals in the league – the most by a keeper in the league, level with Begovic.
It’ll be interesting to see how many of the others Wenger axes. There was an article earlier today about how the Frenchman issued an ultimatum to the team: finish in top 4 or there will be a mass clear-out come summer.
Does he mean it? Will he drop certain players instantly? Is that his last card, the final attempt to shake up this group? Your guess is as good as mine.
With persistent rumours flying around Arsenal’s board are courting other managers behind AW’s back (Low, Jardim and Rodgers have been named), the Frenchman’s days themselves may be numbered. So just how much weight his threats carry is another matter entirely.
I believe that we will see a couple of changes, but those might happen higher up the field. There is no other viable option at right-back apart from Bellerin, Koscielny is the only man keeping us afloat, while Chambers and Holding continue to be largely ignored by Wenger.
My guess is we’ll see Holding and Mustafi alongside Koscielny centrally and AMN on the left. I just can’t see Wenger sticking to Chambers or Kolasinac. Chambers got turned for the third goal in a carbon copy from Thursday, Sead have become a fringe player recently.
The only way I can see the Bosnian start will be if Xhaka is dropped for AMN – and that’s something worth considering. A safer option will probably be
Coquelin Elneny, and my gut feeling tells me we’ll see the Egyptian in an attempt to stifle City’s midfield to some extent. Ramsey is a must in this scenario too.
The crux of the matter is whether we can allow the luxury of fielding both Ozil and Miki. One will come at the expense of Jack Wilshere should AW decide to start both his 10s. I think the reasonable thing to do is bench Ozil for the game. We’ve already seen the kind of impact he makes against City this Sunday (clue: it rhymes with “pun”). Meanwhile keeping Wilshere guarantees us at least some fight, workrate and ability to break the lines.
Auba will continue to plough a lonely furrow up front and all we can do is hope he gets some service and doesn’t miss any sitters. Seeing as we no longer have Giroud, and Lacazette is out injured, there really is no viable alternative to the Gabon international.
Predicted line-up: Cech – Bellerin – Koscielny – Mustafi – Holding – Kolasinac – Elneny – Ramsey – Ozil – Wilshere – Mkhitaryan – Aubameyang
Player in focus: Aaron Ramsey
The Welshman was clearly not fit for the Sunday game. However any hope we can have to limit City’s supply to Aguero (apart from pressing Bravo) rests on injecting at least some energy and discipline in our midfield.
In this context Elneny and Ramsey is the best pair we have. I would add Jack Wilshere there, maybe there’s sense in fielding a flat back three with the Englishman playing closer to his own goal.
Ramsey, however, is also a danger going forward. His secondary runs into the box can be devastating if times correctly, and that will provide at least some support for Aubameyang. Hopefully other midfielders will have the sense to cover for the Welshman when he makes those runs.
Even last season I would have rounded off a preview for our next big game, on the back of a (heavy) loss with something along the lines of “we usually bounce back, so I expect to see a reaction”.
However this is not last season. 17/18 has abundantly demonstrated we don’t have what it takes anymore to bounce back. We can lose two or three in a row and still see no reaction whatsoever.
In fact, we are on two losses right now – Ostersunds and City. The chances of us notching a third straight loss are high indeed, and I don’t need to visit William Hill to know that.
This team plays like a bunch of disinterested amateurs and I can’t see it changing until we change the manager. This doesn’t paint the players in a favourable light, but it is what it is, and we are who we are.
I still hope we can somehow arrest this slide, however not because there is any reason to back it. Prove me wrong, Arsenal. Please.
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.