At this point in time there’s not much to dissect in terms of team news. We didn’t sustain any fresh injures against Chelsea. Our only absentee will be Mathieu Debuchy, who has a bit of hamstring problem, poor fella.
On the upside, Arteta and Oxlade may return soon if not for our visit to KC Stadium and this presents Arsene with an interesting problem, namely: who to omit?
I know we had this problem for several games now however the scale was not as large. Having 22 fit players, two our defenders didn’t make the bench (understandable, it’s silly to keep more than two at one time). Diaby and Rosicky joined Chambers and Gabriel, though I imagine omitting Thomas was in no way easy.
Should both Arteta and Oxlade make it, Arsene will be forced to omit further two players. Mikel for Flamini is actually an upgrade, but Oxlade is likely to displace Walcott, simply because it cannot be Welbeck. Also Theo seems to have lost the manager’s trust completely and as such he’s being used marginally.
Quite a group we have, eh? I should think Podolski, Campbell and Jenkinson don’t much fancy their chances looking at how guys like Rosicky and Walcott have become peripheral. For now we don’t have to worry about who we may offload (or, indeed, buy) in the summer. We only have to worry about the task at hand: beating Hull, then picking up enough points to secure 2nd and then win the FA Cup.
A bit of Chelsea babble
Because unfortunately our chances to beat Chelsea to the title are almost gone even mathematically after the Blues came out on top against Leicester in the week. If they best Palace at Stamford Bridge on the 4th, Liverpool will have to give Chelsea the guard of honour on the 10th.
However, it was enjoyable to watch Chelsea trying to fight against “Boring, boring Chelsea” accusations. So much energy was put into proving the opposite. Tough talk from Mourinho and Zouma, some articles in the newspapers, even leaked video of Chelsea’s players heading the ball into a dustbin in the Club’s canteen all because of a simple chant at the Emirates. Whoever started it deserves a medal. I Wish Chelsea put that much effort into proving they are not racist. Instead, they offered a new deal to their racist captain.
Deep down, everyone at the Club was fighting back against these “boring” allegations simply because they have struck a nerve. Midweek Chelsea won the game by more than one goal for the first time in three months. Three months! The Blues demonstrated football of higher quality before Christmas then they deflated like their rat of playmaker, Cesc Fabregas, did.
However despite demonstrating nothing even approaching beautiful attacking football, Chelsea (and I hate to admit it) demonstrated efficiency. They have ground out results and consequently Arsenal have thus far managed to gain only 3 points on Chelsea since Christmas. So much for 11 wins in 14 league games.
Why Chelsea haven’t tried to realise their attacking potential in the second half of the campaign is another question entirely. For me, because it’s the way Mourinho plays. He doesn’t set up his teams to play beautiful attacking football like Arsene does. The Portuguese prefers to defend deep and strike on the counter. Even winning at Leicester, Chelsea scored 3 from only 4 shots on target.
Make no mistake: Chelsea will win the league not because they play the best football. They’ll do so because they were pretty consistent at racking up points. If Arsenal manages to demonstrate such consistency next year, we’ll be celebrating the title come May 2016. Although we can be quite sure Arsene won’t sacrifice his philosophy for the BPL crown. Which will please most but not all Gunners.
We had a full week before the game and will have at least five days for recovery after it, so no worries about exhaustion levels. Debuchy will most likely be replaced with Chambers, Flamini with Arteta and it will be really intriguing to see whom Oxlade will come in for v Hull or in the next match. I expect most of the side to be unchanged, though.
Debuchy’s injury means it will be at least another week till we have the answer to our right-back question. Bellerin should start in Mathieu’s absence. However, there are still some interesting selection choices for Arsene to wrap his head around.
Ox or Ramsey?
At this moment in time, I feel like it’s the only change Arsene may be tempted to make. Not only will it preserve the balance, we’ll finally get a real winger to play on our right.
I can’t fault Ramsey for the work he’s done on the flank, though it only really paid off once: against Liverpool. Whether because of the opposition or just the fact there was an element of surprise to this decision, it’s hard to tell.
After that, the Welshman out wide didn’t help our cause much. Sure, he’s worked his socks off, but (and I’m getting tired of repeating this) Aaron is now winger. Not like Oxlade. Rambo played while AW doesn’t put much stock in Walcott right now (for whatever reasons), and Cazorla is in the form of his life in a deeper position. Why Welbeck wasn’t used on the right, we can only guess. I’ll put my money on the boss wanting to have a fresh striker on the bench should we need to sub off Giroud.
The only hindrance might be Oxlade’s fitness. He hasn’t played for two months, after all. That’s why I expect him to start on the bench.
Szczesny, Chambers, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere and Welbeck are certain. However, Oxlade’s possible inclusion leaves Arsene with another decision to make, namely: who gets the drop? Only two of Oxlade, Rambo and Walcott will make the 18, so which one of them won’t?
It depends largely on who’ll start. If Ramsey gets the nod, Walcott will surely be dropped. No sense in having two wingers on the bench. But what is the Ox starts the game? Will Arsene still view Ramsey on the bench as Ramsey the winger? Or will Walcott be preferred?
I somehow don’t think AW will be willing to drop his back-up DM (Arteta) or Jack Wilshere. May he go with one defender to accommodate three midfielders and two attackers?
It’s a hard question. For me, Walcott is staring the drop in the face. Ox will take up his place on the bench and Rambo will start. We’ll see if it is not v Hull then perhaps v Swansea.
We have one injury absentee, we are on a run of nine games undefeated and in sixteen games we’ve won 13, drawn 1 and lost only 2. Our last defeat came in early February.
We have a solid keeper, a stable defence, a stellar midfield and Alexis Sanchez with Ollie Giroud. Who may not satisfy Henry’s needs, but the Frenchman is doing his job and he’s doing it brilliantly. Frankly, I’ll be hugely surprised should we not win this one.
So some on you Gunners!