It seems like an age since our last match so it’s good to have football back today. We’ve had to endure the post-Stamford Bridge gloom, a rake of injuries, an Interlull and a rather contentious AGM, so hopefully we can add a bit of silver lining to that collective cloud with a performance and a result today against Hull.
In terms of the team, we’re short at the back as we know. Calum Chambers’ one game suspension means a probable start at right back for Hector Bellerin, and with Laurent Koscielny suffering from a chronic inflammation of both Achilles tendons, we’re short a centre-half.
The options are Nacho Monreal, designated fourth choice in that position by Arsene Wenger after the window had closed, or youngster Isaac Hayden. My gut feeling is that he’ll go with the Spaniard to prevent his back four being too inexperienced against a team that will look to exploit that. Even with our best team out, we found ourselves 2-0 down to Hull at Wembley in May and, but for a Kieran Gibbs header off the line, it could have been worse.
I suppose the issue for the manager is to find the balance between the experience and the requirements of the team. Monreal is more experienced but also a 5’9 left-back who finds playing in the centre of defence ‘strange’. Hayden would certainly add some height and physicality to a team that has had some difficulties from set-pieces this season, but with just two first team appearances he’s very raw. Does he have enough faith in the two young defenders to thrust them both into action? I’m not sure, but we’ll see.
Ahead of them Mikel Arteta is back in the squad so he could come back, although Mathieu Flamini, if not quite a bright spot at Chelsea, certainly had a decent game that day and giving Arteta a bit more time to recover from his calf strain might not be the worst thing in the world.
Ahead of him we should see Jack Wilshere with Arsene Wenger saying that England won’t get the best out of him if they play him as a deep-lying midfielder. I tend to agree with that. He’s combative and tenacious, but I think he’s much more effective further up the pitch and doesn’t really have the aerial ability needed in that position. Indeed, there might even be a temptation to use him as a number 10 in the absence of Ozil but I don’t think that’ll be the case today.
Santi Cazorla should take on that creative role today, and for as long as the German is sidelined (provided his form justifies it, of course), with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis either side of him. Danny Welbeck up front will be looking to add to his goal tally and while it sounds kind of redundant to say it, this the area that will decide the game for us.
Even with our defensive deficiencies we should have more than enough at the top end of the pitch to get a result today. There’s some serious attacking talent with options on the bench – players who can get us goals, and provided we don’t do anything stupid at the back then we can hopefully get this run of games off to a good start.
It’ll also be interesting to see what way we line up. The attempt to make the 4-1-4-1 work hasn’t yet been successful so perhaps we’ll see a return to the formation of last season which the players seem more comfortable in. However, looking at the opposition the manager might see these games as just the ticket for the newer system to finally work.
Either way, it’s important that we get three points under our belt today. When you’ve been able to have a good laugh at someone like Man Utd because of how poorly they’ve started the season, yet find yourselves below them in the table, nothing less than a win will do today.
In other news, Theo Walcott made his comeback last night, playing 45 minutes for the U21s as they drew 0-0 with Blackburn. Pressed on whether he might be back for the midweek trip to Anderlecht he said:
I honestly don’t know. I think it’s important to recover and I have to be a bit patient. The manager will choose to play when he wants and it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. I need to just be calm and not get too excited right now.
With such spotlight on our injuries and question marks over every element of the rehab/treatment process, I suspect we’re going to err on the side of caution with Theo. It’s not as if we don’t have options and the last thing we want is to bring him back too quickly only for him to break down again. Still, it’s good to see him back.
And in the Guardian there’s some stuff about the data company we bought a couple of years back. It’s interesting in and of itself, and the use of statistics, data analysis and so on is obviously something that will become more widespread. That said, this bit stuck out like a sore thumb:
StatDNA’s database is now Arsenal’s database, so if Wenger wants to sign a defender, who is, say, 6ft 4in, an excellent reader of the game and an accurate passer, one push of a button will bring up the best options in world football.
Well, that worked out well in the summer eh?! I’m also a little dubious about the implication that this might be connected to the ‘services’ for which KSE were paid that £3m. If it were the case, surely that would have been part of any answer at the AGM. Nevertheless, it’s interesting stuff but as yet it’s hard to know how tangible the benefits are.
Right, that is about that. Don’t forget if you want to follow the game later and chat with other fans while doing it, we’ll have a live blog for you. You can check back here closer to kick off for a post with all the details or simply bookmark our live blog page and updates will begin automatically.