It’s been a while since I wrote home. Hopefully that will change from now on.
It’s Chelsea away this Saturday as Emery tries to get a better result out of his team than on the opening day. I hasten to add some of our play against City was encouraging and will hopefully continue as the season progresses – but much has been said on the subject already.
While a trip to Stamford Bridge is never simple (some of our losses there down the years have been diabolical in one sense or another), what provides a measure of comfort for me is Chelsea too have a new manager. They were overrun by Guardiola’s side as well, though have since taken apart Huddersfield.
Team news update
Koscielny and Kolasinac will be joined Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the sidelines. The Englishman suffered a fractured fibula against the reigning champions on Sunday and will miss six to eight weeks.
The good news however is that Nacho Monreal is back in full training, while Lichtsteiner was quietly impressive after coming on. It seems Unai Emery is considering both options:
“I tried with Lichtsteiner, who is a player with experience. He can play at left back but his position in the team is more at right back.
“This week Nacho Monreal is working every day, training every day with us. The two options we have now are Nacho Monreal and Lichtsteiner to continue in this position.”
Chelsea will be without Cesc Fabregas, after the Spaniard suffered a knee injury, while Gary Cahill’s participation is in doubt as the Englishman might be short on fitness after his World Cup exploits.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been this unsure about what our starting XI will look like and that is exciting.
Interestingly though, we do know at least one player who’ll start, barring a last-minute injury: Petr Cech. Emery said he’s happy for our number 1 to continue:
“I am very happy with his performance. He has experience, he has quality, he has the capacity. Also, with Bernd Leno [it’s the same]. They are two goalkeepers who are important for us. They have different qualities but for us in the way we want to play, they can [both] play. For Saturday, the decision for me is easy. Petr Cech can continue to start the match, I believe in him. [But] If Bernd starts, I believe in him also.”
I’d expect Nacho Monreal to slot in for the injured AMN at left-back and the rest of the defence to remain the same, i.e. Bellerin, Sokratis and Mustafi. Not the least because we lack quality options, stranded without Koscielny and the loaned-out Chambers. I somehow doubt Emery will opt for Holding but we shall see.
It’s midfield’s and attack’s composition that genuinely has my scratching my head. Will Guedonduzi start again? Will Ramsey be deployed closer to our own goal? Will Mkhitaryan’s indifferent showing force Emery’s hand?
Questions, questions. If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on Lacazette and Torreira getting the nod over Mkhitaryan and Guendozi. The former pair made an instant impact after coming on, solidifying our midfield so that it stopped resembling a Chinese takeaway and adding threat up top.
This would probably mean a 4-2-3-1 with Auba and Ozil playing wide (at least nominally). I’d try and see whether a 4-3-1-2 is a better option with our current personnel, but then I don’t know nearly enough about how Emery is going to set up. Which, again, is hugely exciting.
Predicted line-up: Cech – Bellerin – Mustafi – Sokratis – Monreal – Xhaka – Torreira – Ramsey – Ozil – Lacazette – Aubameyang
Player in focus: Alexandre Lacazette
The Frenchman made us look much more dangerous immediately when he came on against City. I would expect him to be given the nod over one of Mkhitaryan/Ramsey and I think it’s the former who’ll drop out. Ramsey was clearly charged with leading our pressing game from the front, while Mkhitaryan is essentially a second playmaker – a shootout between him and Ozil can only have one winner.
That being said, Lacazette’s ability to harass opponents may actually see him overshadow Ramsey. I have a sneaky feeling the Frenchman is much better at link-up play and creating chances for others.
With two strikers on the pitch Ramsey’s runs into the box become less important and his other attributes do not give him an edge over Ozil/Mkhitaryan/Lacazette. Emery subbed the Welshman off on 53 minutes, showing there are no favourites if you don’t perform, so it won’t be a cultural shock to see Unai go one further and bench Aaron.
I look at Lawro’s prediction over at BBC and it warms my heart. The lad is so bad at guessing outcomes I might actually introduce a “Me vs Lawro” regular tracker and see who does better.
It doesn’t mean I have complete confidence we will get a result, far from it. A trip to Stamford Bridge is challenging no matter what the circumstances: we lost 5 of the previous 6, achieving a goalless draw in the remaining game.
What I am sure of is that we’ll have a go and won’t hide. Chelsea weren’t much better than us in pre-season, they too will take time to gel under a new manager, so it’s a race at who can get the best of their respective team quicker.
We have the personnel to hurt Chelsea, I don’t think that’s under any real doubt. Even against City there were glimpses of promise, you could see how we could nick a goal and what we were trying to do. A week down the line we should get better at doing it.
So come on you Gunners.
Back here to review the game.