Right, it’s match day, so let’s get any negative stuff out of the way before we concentrate on the footie, shall we? You all know where I’m going with this first…
Mathieu Debuchy passed his initiation test at Arsenal, confirmed by the club yesterday, with the now obligatory long-term injury forcing our first choice right back out for three months. That’s a third of a season people. It means that there are no more lives left for our defence when it comes to fielding an experienced first team back four. Calum Chambers will be asked to play as right back between now and December and, whilst we all think he’ll do a decent enough job there, it means we have precisely zero experienced centre halves for when the inevitable injury happens to Per and Kos.
Let’s not labour on this point about lack of cover from the summer too much, but Arsène: you got us into this mess by not adequately replacing Thomas Vermaelen (because he admitted yesterday that Chambers was intended as a full back cover signing), so you can get us out of this. Good luck.
Anyway, like I say, let’s not go all head bangy over something that we can do nothing about and look towards tonight’s Capital One Cup game against Southampton. It’s a really interesting fixture to call. If it was a league game or a an FA Cup game, you’d have to say we’d be overwhelming favourites, but because it is a competition that is fourth choice I the pecking order from Arsène, one would have to assume that there’s an element of risk from Southampton tonight, because we don’t really know what team Koeman is going to put out against us. He’s said himself that he’ll go for his strongest side possible which, if true, will represent a very stern challenge for our shuffled pack.
I do expect Arsène to shuffle, and shuffle quite hard actually, because at this stage in the season and with the team having already picked up plenty of injuries there is no rhyme nor reason why a first team player should be risked tonight. In goal we should see the arrival of Ospina, whilst the back four needs to be totally changed, so I’m hoping we see Bellerin, Hayden and Semi Ajayi too. The final slot should be given to a Flamini or Coquelin to cover, but I suspect Arsène will give it to Chambers, in what will be a night of Arsenal fans biting nails hoping he doesn’t break down or pick up a card that prohibits his involvement on Saturday.
The midfield should include Coquelin if Flamini is in defence (the most sensible option in my opinion given his age and experience) and he should be accompanied by Diaby and Rosicky in the midfield. With a front three of Podolski, Campbell and Akpom (who the manager has talked up pre match), I think our attacking options should have enough to show Southampton the depth of our squad. It’s telling that as each season goes by, this competition has become more about rotating squad players than blooding youth, which is pleasing from my perspective when I think about the number of injuries we seem to get every season.
You have to look at the attacking senior players and wonder if this is one of their few chances in the early stages of the season to give Arsène a headache. Joel Campbell didn’t even make the bench at the weekend and with his chances now even more remote with the signing of Welbeck, you have to feel that only an exemplary performance tonight can force his way back into the managers plans, which will be a real shame. He’s somebody we’ve all been excited to see what he can do since his performances in the World Cup but it already feels like, should we get knocked out against the Saints this evening, that he won’t be afforded many more chances to shine on the Emirates turf. Being shunted into the last chance saloon before you’ve even started a game for The Arsenal is harsh, but it’s the competitive nature of the modern squad game this evening I guess.
If Southampton play a full strength team tonight, with players like Pelle, Schneiderlin, Ward-Prowse et all, it will be a real game we’ll have on our hands. But even if they rotate from the weekend, we know what they will offer. They will press high and look to close down space from the Arsenal back four from the off, which will mean composure for our young defensive charges is of paramount importance, hence why I think the need for a Flamster is essential in defence.
It’s a tough one to call, but hopefully it’s one that sees our team come out on top, providing a good boost for the weekends action.
Have a good’un.