…ahead of this one. Arsenal have their fair share of injuries too - and to key players - but our ‘red list’ (below) is getting larger again.
Predicted line-up, subs and outcome.
It’s as hard as I predicted it would be at the start of the season, so far, working out what Pep might do personnel & formation-wise ahead of each game – he’s sprung more than a few surprises on me already.
We’re only 16 league (and several cup) games into his tenure, of course, so there’s time for me to become more accurate as he shapes his team into how he really wants it to work; as well as with more of his own players on board as time & transfer windows pass by.
Here’s today’s attempt…
Fluid 4-5-1 come 4-1-4-1 come 4-3-3 come 4-2-4…
___________(Outfield player with gloves on)_________
Apparently homesick Claudio to start in (or around at least) net.
I think it’ll be a ‘back 4’ for this one and I’m gonna ‘stick my neck out’ that he’ll go with 2 ex-Gunners on either side of that protective wall, in Gael & Bacary. Not involved on Wednesday (Dropped? Rested? Protected?); John surely to start in this one and partnered, I’m sure, by Nicholas.
I got it wrong pre-Watford about ‘reborn Pablo’ being deployed as central midfielder for a second time [following the Celtic game], despite him getting on the scoresheet against The Hornets with a delightful finish. However, I’m going for him to be slotted in there for this one and in the absence [again] of Fernandinho. Speaking of absences, with Ilkay Gundogan now out for the rest of the season with cruciate knee ligament damage; Kevin is likely to be shuffled inwards slightly, which isn’t a bad thing at ALL in my book. David to make up the rest of the creative ‘engine core’ of midfield. Nolito to slot back over to the left, after a striker cameo in midweek and Raheem likely to ‘go again’ on the right-hand-side.
Dropped / rested / protected on Wednesday night; I’m going for Guardiola to select young-striker, Kelechi, for tomorrow afternoon’s game (4:00pm KO GMT).
Willy on the bench as back-up for Claudio; Aleks possibly the only defender on the bench (with the option of Zaba dropping back if needed). Fernando, young Aleix & Yaya make up the central midfield replacement-options, while Jesus & Leroy provide wide, attacking choices from the ‘7 on the side’.
Notable absences: Vincent Kompany (injured – expected return date of 2nd January now), Fabian Delph (injured AGAIN and ‘no return date’ from a groin / pelvic issue), Fernandinho (suspended one last time / 3 of 3), Ilkay Gundogan (injured and out for the rest of the season) & Sergio Aguero (suspended: 3 of 4).
Do I agree with Pep’s (predicted) line-up?
Well I just can’t, for the moment at least, say that I’m “happy” seeing Claudio Bravo being the ‘holder of the gloves’…and Otamendi is often a concern for me; especially in games where it might get a little bit tense & tetchy.
I have to say also that I expected [when we signed him] Nolito to be a little bit more of a goal threat than he has been…but I’m not overly disappointed with him either at this early stage. It’s frustrating that Sterling appears to have faded slightly again after a decent’ish start to the season and I was full of hope that Iheanacho would grab this season - and this latest opportunity - with both feet…but hasn’t really done so.
But apart from that…it’s a decent line-up that should provide a bit of solidity as well as a decent amount of attacking / creative flare to trouble the visitors. I just hope we can ‘bag a few’ of those created chances!
Result? I really am ‘leaning towards’ a home win tomorrow and that’s despite a possible Arsenal ‘reaction’ to their Tuesday night defeat. I’ve got some confidence heading in this one and that’s in spite of a reasonably poor time of it [results wise] at home in particular and in recent weeks.
However, I think it’s that last factor – as well as our often-leaky defence - that’s pulling me back from leaning too far into the ‘optimistic zone’. I’m sorry to say that I think this will be a ‘points shared’ on our own patch.
Expected weather conditions during the game: It will be chilly at 6C and with the later-afternoon KO but there’s nothing really happening; with no breeze and just light cloud cover.