There’s no use hiding behind it. Today, Arsene Wenger will fully utilize the every corner of his squad. Suspension has robbed (but justified) us of Alex Song, Emmanuel Frimpong and Gervinho. Injuries have put paid to the hopes of seeing Kieran Gibbs, Nicklas Bendtner and Sebastien Squillaci. Though, we were hardly going to start with the latter duo.
All those combined does not make for good reading, going into the important away fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. United have won their opening two games and together with Manchester City are the only 2 teams with maximum points in the league. It is fair to say, those two teams will be our main rivals for the Premier League title.
Despite the gloominess, there’s some silver linings which we can cling on. Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou and Tomas Rosicky seemed to have recovered from their respective problems and the majority of them should start today. According to YoungGunsBlog, we’ve added 5 youngsters to the travelling team. Giles Sunu, Francis Coquelin, Ignasi Miquel, Oguzhan Ozyakup and Henri Lansbury are those who were called up.
Of those, the highest chance to feature would probably be Coquelin. This is of course due to the fact that we are without the service of the two known defensive midfielders in our first team, Song and Frimpong. It’s fair to say that whoever plays this position today will have the most important role. Against the expected midfield of Tom Cleverly, Anderson and Darren Fletcher, that is never an easy task.
Coquelin of course had the experience of playing a full seasons’ loan at Lorient in Ligue 1 and will be reasonably fit considering he only recently came back from the U-20’s World Cup. That he played every single minute of France’s campaign in the tournament should hold him in good stead.
That said, he’s not the only option to play there. Djourou was a midfielder before Arsenal came calling. Having him in front of the back four could also work. However, I’ve always said that it is better to put players in the positions that they are actually meant for and trained for. On that note, I would love for Coquelin to get his baptism of fire in the biggest football ground in England.
Here’s my best guess at the line-up;
The onus on attacking will fall on the shoulders of Robin Van Persie leading the line. It was good to see his open his accounts for the season at Udinese and generally with him, once it starts, we could expect his form to continue. But we expect him to be at the end of things would mean that someone else would have to be that creative outlet.
That’s where my attention is fixed on Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin. Both have not had the best of starts to their season. I’m putting Walcott into this bracket because despite scoring 2 goals in 3 games, he has not played particularly that well. Both did not contribute much, especially in the home game against Liverpool.
Walcott will not have an easier time at today what with Patrice Evra being his opponent. This will be one game where he will find it hard to use his pace to get through. It will more of a test of the cleverness of his movement off the ball to allow others to find him.
As for Arshavin, games as tight as this are the ones that might actually suit him more. He is the one player in our line-up who has the ability to conjure up something out of nothing. Whether its to find that shot from outside the box or to thread that final ball, the Russian must find it in himself to pull out that part of him tonight. If he’s playing with the vigour that we know he’s capable of, then we’re in with a chance today.
Given the state of the squad, I won’t mind taking a draw from this game. Not that I want Arsenal to go there with negative tactics and just try to prevent United from scoring. I’m saying purely on the result basis. It will still be only the third game of the league season and 5 points behind the leader is no big worry.
Losing today will put the strain back on the the players’ mind. More questions will be raise of the quality of the squad and the shortcomings in our transfer activities. Drawing or winning does not mean those question will go away, only making those noises not grow larger.
This is an opportunity for the players to show and prove that Wenger’s faith in them is justified. Put in a shift for 90 minutes and they will be blameless. Any lack of effort and the players might find that the travelling Gooners be less accommodating.
Here’s to a good game. Come on Arsenal!!!!!
baptism of fire in the biggest football ground in England.