We visit Brighton today as the search for some semblance of form goes on.
I have to admit it’s been quite a while since I’ve felt this down before writing a preview. Possibly it compares to the events of 2016, when, after beating Leicester, we went on to lose to United and and Swansea.
Right now not only do we seem off the pace, we look entirely capable of blowing it against any opposition. A trip to Brighton will at least ease the toxicity of having to play at the Emirates, but our atrocious away record has to be taken into consideration. Not to mention the away fans will no doubt air their dissatisfaction should things go awry.
But there’s no escape from this. There are 10 games left in the PL season and we’ll play all of them, regardless of our form, fans’ attitude or anything else. We will also have to play at least two further matches in the Europa League, although I don’t think we stand any realistic chance of qualifying for the next round in our current sorry state.
It is what it is though. I think I’d better just snap to team news.
Team news update
Jack Wilshere appears to be touch-and-go for the game. Wenger said the Englishman will play if he trains on Saturday, but I found no training pics whatsoever. So not sure at all whether he’ll be fit. My guess is we’ll see Jack on the bench.
Lacazette and Monreal remain our other absentees. I sincerely hope both can recover in time to face Milan. However at least in the case of former it appears highly unlikely. The best-case scenario for the Frenchman is the return leg at the Emirates.
Nacho, meanwhile, might have a chance. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the Spaniard, although I doubt highly he’ll be able to greatly improve our defensive solidity.
I thought the manager would do that thing where he drops a lot of players on Thursday already, but Wenger named a relatively unchanged side. Cech replaced Ospina, while Mkhitaryan and Welbeck replaced Chambers and Wilshere.
This time around I really do think the time has come for sweeping changes. The obvious problem here of course is the lack of depth. Without Lacazette, Monreal and Wilshere our bench looked exceptionally dire on Thursday. It really made me long for Coquelin, Walcott and Giroud, however they are gone, we can no longer rely on them.
I can still realistically see Mustafi, Kolasinac, Xhaka and Welbeck given the boot. This will open up the opportunity for Holding, AMN, Elneny and Iwobi. Hardly an exciting crop, but this squad needs a shake-up, badly. At least three of the four players I named have been garbage recently, so it’s not like we are losing much anyway.
I’d also like to see Jack Wilshere start, naturally. He starts over Iwobi for me in the heavy rotation scenario. With Jack we know he won’t give up and will do his best every time. A stark contrast to Iwobi, who appears to not be even half-arsed recently.
Predicted line-up: Cech – Bellerin – Koscielny – Holding – AMN – Elneny – Ramsey – Ozil – Iwobi – Mkhitaryan – Aubameyang
Player in focus
Did you really think I’d pick one out on current form? Joke’s on you.
The lack of quality and away form in this team is such that I won’t be surprised even if we lose. The players look shot to pieces confidence-wise. Such is the current state of them, leaks from the dressing room have reared their ugly head. That is generally unheard of at Arsenal.
Despite all that, I have to say Brighton are not really formidable overall. Right now Hughton’s side haven’t lost in four league games, with two of those home wins, but we have to keep two things in mind:
- Before that, Brighton only managed one win in 14 games
- The teams they faced in the last four matches are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Teams that are on par with Brighton in terms of form and all the key metrics, and in some cases even worse off
If none of that sounds reassuring, that’s probably because it’s down to Arsenal’s atrocious form. Teams like that used to be our bread and butter. I remember we dispatched them in 13/14 with ease, which allowed us to stay at the top for long periods, despite having the usual poor record against big sides.
Now, however, we are poor against everyone. We have lost 7 games in 2018, four of those were to Nottingham Forest, Swansea, Bournemouth and Ostersunds. Meanwhile our loss to Spurs was only made respectable by Petr Cech, and our successive defeats to City were nowhere near respectable.
So your guess is as good as mine as to what will happen today. We can only hope something approaching form is found. I hate the idea of going to Milan on the back of four successive losses.