Happy Saturday one and all. Right, let’s get down to this, shall we? There’s a small matter of a game going on this afternoon and we’re all pondering: a) what team Le Boss has already planted and will flower before our very eyes today, and b) what type of reaction we’ll get from the players, specifically the performance, against a dogged and surprisingly difficult team to play on their own turf in Cardiff.
It’s the measure of the success of the squad as a whole that we don’t know who’ll be rocking up on the team sheet first thing, such is the wealth of in-form options that Arsene has to pick from. Could it be that we see thee hustle and bustle of a Tomas Rosicky finally enjoying somewhat of an injury-free part of his career and the season in general? Or will there be a chance for Gnabry to show his stuff after recently signing a new deal? Will Monreal keep his place (as I debated yesterday)? Will there be a bit of rotation in central defence, giving the captain a chance to show he’s worthy of a more regular inclusion in the team? Does Santi deserve the chance to operate in the number 10 role with Özil taking a breather? Should Özil and Walcott start together just because of the sumptuous possibilities of those two combining to give Theo plenty of opportunities to improve on last years goal tally?
That’s where we’re at right now folks. We can legitimately suggest that a plethora of changes be made to the team and it’s not because of injury or a paucity of options. We have different compilations, different ways to ‘mix it up a bit’ and a core of players that are united in their one goal of taking that stupid weight of ‘no trophies in x years’ from around their necks and lobbing it into the local pond.
I’ve said before that Arsene doesn’t really like rotation, so it’s for that reason that I suspect we’ll see a very familiar line up today to the one that played against Marseille midweek, to keep consistency of performance. We have all spent the week on Twitter talking to one another about the need to rotate, but when you’re away from home against a rugged opponent that will be feeling fine-diddly-ine after a last-gasp draw snatched from the clutches of defeat against Man United last Sunday, I think there surely has to be an element of continuity that is favoured today. We’ve got a tough game midweek against Hull, but the fact it’s at home should provide a bit more comfort to Arsene when rotating, so I’d be more expectant to see some fresh faces on Wednesday night than this afternoon.
So I think it will mean a drop down to the bench for Monreal, no place for Arteta and a spot on the comfy seats for Cazorla and Walcott. Perhaps Santi will get the nod above Rosicky, but the Czech’s tenacious style away from home seems a more logical conclusion from this Gooners perspective.
As for the opponents, I think the stand out performer from last weekend was Frazier Campbell, but my hope was that he was simply doing that old chestnut of being ‘really up for a game against your former club to show them what they’ve missed’ mentality which means he won’t be giving our back four as torrid a time as he did Ferdinand et al on Sunday.
They have some other good players that can make an impact; the little rat Bellamy springs to mind, as well as Jordan Mutch, but with our boys in the form they are in, the expectation is that we should be able to get something from the game. We’re four points clear in the league for a reason – the form of the players throughout the season thus far - and it’s for that reason that I am hopeful and confident that we can get something from the game today. But in order to do that, we’ll have to win the midfield battle which will I’m sure be interesting to see the stumpy yet effective bulldog Gary Medel look to break up our creative attacking runs and Flamini doing the same for us. Rambo was of course in inspired form against Swansea and the hope is that he is in the same form against his boyhood club today. I expect he’ll be wanting to give even more than the 110% he already does against the Bluebirds and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on the score sheet at some stage today. Cardiff will look to flood the midfield with a bank of five, with Odemwingie operating as a winger with licence to get further forward and support Frazier Campbell up top. Our midfield two – probably Ramsey and Flamini - will need support from whoever plays in that three just in front of them but if we can bring our full-backs into play more often and further up the pitch, I suspect we’ll be able to pin Cardiff back a bit more.
I’m in Ware in Herts today, so will be desperately trying (and probably failing) to show a pub that shows the game, but will be keeping tabs by any other means necessary. So if you’re on your way, make sure you do your usual thang and sing yer ‘eart out.
Up The Arsenal.