Our trip to Arsenal on Monday night (8:00pm KO GMT) marks the start of 5 away games in the next 6 in all competitions; Sunderland on Boxing Day being the only home game, which is up next.
That’s a concern in many ways with no wins in our last 4 Premier Leagues outings; that last one being a last-gasp winner from Kelechi Iheanacho at Selhurst Park…on 12th September!
A good time to change that league away form, at least, in this 5-from-6-game run then…
Straight to it then with a predicted line-up, subs and outcome…
Hart to start.
Being away from home I was thinking, at first, that our manager might want to choose [also] ex-Arsenal left-back Gael Clichy. However, I’ve got a sneaky feeling our manager will want a kind of ‘contain & counter’ in many ways at the Emirates and will, therefore-instead, go for the more attack-minded Aleks Kolarov. Pressing them that way might keep their right-sided attacker a little quieter (whoever is fit for them to fill that role) but it does leave me a little nervous defensive-wise on that flank. Mangala & Otamendi pretty-much pick themselves (they need to have a good performance for both the team and themselves) as does Sanga; being the only first-team right-back fit at the moment.
Ahead of the defence, I think, will be a pair of midfielders whose main task will be to babysit that defence a little; with perhaps Fernandinho being given licence to help further forward whenever occasions allow. Fabian will be the main ‘sweeper-upper’.
Ahead of that is a little uncertain for me to predict; thankfully, I’m pleased to say, due to the personnel available in our more attacking areas.
But I’m going for the craft of Kevin & David either side of the power & penetration of Yaya…IF Pellegrini doesn’t play him too deep.
Too early for Sergio to start in what is sure to be a frantic, opening 30 minutes to this ‘top of the table’ clash? I’d say so – Wilfried to start I think.
Strong bench! Willy the keeper cover; Gael ‘the change’ at left-back and Martin as central defensive insurance. Then WHAT and attacking quartet we have at our disposal…and this is what I think part of the plan will be. As players begin to fade on both sides – if our manager goes with this starting 11 & subs – then he can swap ‘craft’ for ‘outright pace and direct finishing ability’.
Sounds like a winning plan to me…
Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (injured), Pablo Zabaleta (injured), Fernando (injured) and Samir Nasri (injured).
Looks a little shorter now, doesn’t it?
Samir, of course, is out until March / April 2016; Fernando is a little uncertain, Vinny’s injury appears to be taking longer to clear up than expected and might need a couple more weeks but Pablo should be back in training, at least, next week.
Result? Well in my mini, 8-game prediction recently (something we’re behind schedule on now points-wise) I had this one down as a draw.
It’s heartening to see so many players back-available, particularly in our more-attacking department. And although it might be a bit too early for a Sergio start; if those others can ‘click’ then we have enough in our locker to thrust past The Gunners, especially as they have their own horror show of an injury list in Cazorla, Sanchez (very doubtful), Arteta (doubtful), Wilshere, Rosicky & Welbeck.
But all things being equal, that being…
- Away at the Emirates
- Arsenal’s 10-game, Prem-League run reading: W W W W W D L D W W
- Our away, Premier League form
- Our ‘up & down’ form and performances in general
- Key returning / available players
- Arsenal’s key-player injury list
- A rare, 9-day rest (8 for Arsenal)
…then I’m sticking with both my pre-season prediction and that of the more-recent, 8-game forecast. It’s a draw.
I’d love the win, of course, but I’ll take that…