We play West Ham today, and it’s about time we got a league win under our belts.
Despite beating Slaven Bilic’s side comfortably back in December, the game up until half-time was much more even than the final score suggested. It was, indeed, reflected in the half-time score – 1-0 to the Arsenal in the pretty open-ended encounter.
West Ham had Payet back then, though they didn’t have Andy Carroll. I hear you chuckling at this, but lest you forgot, Carroll caused us big problems last time he was fit. I’d honestly have Payet over him.
The two mistakes we shouldn’t make this time around I’ll snap to in the squad section. But for now – team news.
We will definitely be without Petr Cech for one more game. I assume the same applies to Lucas Perez, as the Spaniard is becoming a bit like Debuchy – not even mentioned in the pressers. However, unlike with Debuchy, this eerie silence has me worried about Lucas’ prospects.
It goes without saying we’ll be missing Santi Cazorla (very, very badly on the basis of what we’ve witnessed since he went down). Another absentee is Laurent Koscielny. I’d swap his absence with probably any other team member, but unfortunately it doesn’t work this way:
“Koscielny has an Achilles problem. If he’s ruptured a few fibres of his tendon, it could be a few weeks. If it’s just an inflammation, he could maybe be available for selection next week against Crystal Palace. At the moment, I think he has a scan today (Tuesday) and we’ll know much more tomorrow.” – Arsene Wenger
I’m keeping stuff crossed I wasn’t even aware I could cross for Kos to recover quickly, otherwise we are really, really screwed. Even more than we are already. Yes, it IS possible.
Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are having late fitness tests, but were pictured in training and thus should be available. That leaves with one possible (and unexpected) absence to deal with – David Ospina. It appears our Colombian shot-stopper injured his back in the collision with Otamendi. Though not mentioned by Arsene, at least Mail reported he probably won’t make the squad, so it’s something to keep in mind. Just in case.
The two mistakes I alluded to earlier would be playing Ospina and both Gabriel and Mustafi. The first problem may sort itself out, the second will need an active intervention from our manager in the form of BFG.
Ospina and Gabriel both started in that 3-3 draw and it was a very, very poor decision from the gaffer. Andy Carroll absolutely dominated the air in our box and it lead to disastrous consequences. The fact Arsene acknowledged the problem now makes me hopeful he’ll address it properly this time around:
“Carroll’s strengths are that he protects the ball well, he’s good in the air, he’s very forceful with his commitment as well, so we will need to be good to stop the crosses. Once a cross comes into the box, he’s always very dangerous against anyone.”
This is why Ospina’s back problem may be a blessing a disguise. As you know I hate saying that when one of ours is absent, and thus I very rarely do, however for all his good qualities, Big Dave is just not your cup of tea to deal with crosses and tall strikers. I’d advocate starting Martinez ahead of the Colombian even if the latter was fit.
The back four will spot a forced change as Arsene will have to plug Koscielny’s gap, and I think Mertesacker is the obvious solution. Not only because the German is a good header of the ball and will negate Carroll’s aerial threat to at least some extent, but also while he is our captain, and we badly need a leader in Kos’ absence. I don’t expect any other changes at the back.
Get your replica wall clock here
With Ramsey and Ox back, Wenger has a midfield decision to make. There are whispers Coquelin is also nursing a problem, so that makes the choice a bit easier. I’m pretty sure Xhaka and Ozil will stay where they are, so it’s the question of who completes the three. I’d go with Ox, my gut feeling is Wenger will opt for Ramsey.
The front three is another interesting question. I think it will boil down to whether Arsene sticks with Welbeck in the end. It looks like Alexis and Walcott will stay put on their respective wings, so it’s either Giroud or Welbeck as the final piece of the puzzle. Based on recent experience, AW will continue with Danny most likely. I have my misgivings about that, but Giroud has also been pretty lethargic lately. I’ll take Wenger’s decision on this whatever it is. Really is half of one or half a dozen of the other.
Predicted line-up: Martinez – Bellerin – Mertesacker – Mustafi – Monreal – Xhaka – Ramsey – Walcott – Ozil – Alexis – Welbeck
Man City’s game should have gone at least some way to restoring the players’ confidence in terms of result. The performance didn’t improve by much, if at all, but the sheer fact we stopped losing games like there’s no tomorrow should help.
We will be able to climb back into 5th should we win, as United slipped up again and drew vs Everton yesterday. But before that we obviously need to get out and win.
West Ham have generally been comfortable opposition for us, barring last season’s 2-0 loss in the opening game, we haven’t lost to the Hammers in 16 league games, winning 13. Also, as I said above, Bilic’s men are in a tough spot, without a win in six games, losing four on the trot. No better way to restore confidence and get the three points than to play Arsenal, I know, but if we manage to slip up today I’ll just bin the whole thing and publicly declare we are hopeless.
Right, that’s your lot. Here’s for a win later today.
And come on you Gunners. Back with a review.