In the absence of Alex, our usual previewer I have stepped into the breach today. After all, he had to make himself write the review of the Old Trafford Horror show and deserved a rest. Anything else would be editorial mental cruelty on my part. My style of writing does not lend itself to a formulaic preview so on this occasion I will just pen my thoughts ahead of the must win visit of Swansea.
I have very strong thoughts about the away NLD and they will come later in the week but they revolve around a pressing need to set up differently. Because Tottenham, like it or not, not only deserve respect but in my opinion they also deserve to be surprised and the standard 4231 will not do that.
Today against Swansea it is a balancing act that requires serious thought by our under-fire manager. On one hand he faces a team fighting for their very Premier League survival; they have shocked us before and cannot be taken lightly. On the other hand it is patently obvious – whether he cares to acknowledge it or otherwise – that he has jaded players who need a rest ahead of Saturday. The challenge therefore is to select a team strong enough to win and win well, whilst resting key players whom he will need at the Lane.
For our visitors from South Wales he will undoubtedly not change the set up, but I expect some significant alterations to the team that capitulated at Old Trafford. I would be stunned if we see Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Ozil from the outset, and I think Wenger will gamble that he can win the game without them, whilst having them on the bench if things don’t go to plan. I know many think Alexis needs to be played into form, but I strongly disagree with this widely-held contention. He has had too much football after his return from injury and is just trying too hard. The results have been worrying to witness: his play has become predictable and his passing erratic. It may be wishful thinking on my part but surely Walcott will also miss out purely based on his poor form.
I consider it highly likely that we will see a Coquelin/Elneny midfield base – and if this works I think we may see it again in the NLD. (Don’t worry Ramsey fans I am not anticipating him being left out but I do think his position will move.) Giroud having sat out most of the United match – watching an ineffective Walcott – will be chomping at the bit to get back among the goals and will start.
In the attacking third that leaves us with Iwobi, Ramsey and Welbeck as the three behind the Frenchman but who starts where, or how fluid this could be, is the interesting part. If the young Nigerian is deployed in the Ozil role, where he has played most of his first team football, I would not be surprised. In which case I see Welbeck on the left and Ramsey back on the right. This would make perfect sense if Wenger has an eye on a compact crowded midfield that can combat Swansea’s energy. We all know and respect what Ramsey offers in the role in which he finished last season and began this one.
The alternative scenario with the same three would see Ramsey in the central attacking role allowing him the freedom to make his runs behind Giroud, get on the end of things and generally make a nuisance of himself in the opposition penalty box. There is no doubt this is where he is at his most effective and where he wants to be. In this set up we would see Iwobi from the left and Welbeck on the right, interchangeable and fluid.
An obvious omission from this line up is Joel Campbell and I would agree that he should feature well ahead of Iwobi which would place Ramsey centrails. However, I am basing my thoughts as much on what I think as what I think Wenger is thinking, That is some claim – to know his thoughts – but it was significant that he turned to Iwobi ahead of Campbell against Man United and also he simply played better than the Costa Rican when both started against Hull.
That leaves the defence, which is equally hard to call. I am sure many supporters are divided on Mertesacker and Gabriel, as am I, but ahead of our tough Saturday lunchtime fixture we may well see them both tonight with Laurent Koscienly – the other key player – given a rest. Chambers must be wondering what he needs to do as others make mistakes, but he does not seem to be at the fore of Wenger’s thinking for whatever reason. I cannot see either of the fullbacks being rested and both the Spaniards were in the small minority to leave Manchester with any credit on Sunday.
So this is the predicted starting 11:
Cech, Bellerin. Monreal, Gabriel. Mertescaker, Elneny, Coquelin, Iwobi, Ramsey, Welbeck, Giroud
Ospina, Flamini, Chambers, Alexis, Ozil, Gibbs, Walcott, Campbell