After the win over Chelsea on Wednesday, it’s Man Utd at the Emirates today, in the lunchtime kick-off.
At his press conference yesterday, Mikel Arteta sounded a positive note regarding Takehiro Tomiyasu, saying that if he trained yesterday and felt no ill-effects, he’d likely be involved today. I suspect it’d just be a place on the bench, but given how we tweaked things tactically at Stamford Bridge, another quality addition to call on if we need it would be no bad thing.
I suspect that we’ll play more or less the same side today. I spoke more than once about form dictating team selection, so when Eddie Nketiah comes in and scores twice, he has to keep his place. This is what he was looking for, and while I don’t think expect another double today, another hard-working performance (he had 5 shots, as well as making 3 tackles), could help put us on the front foot.
We did start with a back three against Chelsea, but very quickly changed to a back four – as explained in our Patreon preview podcast – so there is some scope for change at the back. He might consider Tomiyasu from the start; he has Cedric if he wants to pair Ben White and Gabriel centrally again; or he could keep Rob Holding in with White at right back.
Midfield kind of picks itself. Arteta was very complimentary about Mohamed Elneny during his press conference, and like Nketiah I thought he played well enough to start again today. He’s very rarely spectacular, but he’s almost always solid, which might well be what we need on a day like today. The experience he and Xhaka have was important the other night, and should be again.
Up front, Emile Smith Rowe looks to have found his spark again after a period when he’s been in and out of the team and I wouldn’t change him from that left hand side. He and Saka are our joint leading scorers, and while I love Gabriel Martinelli as much as the next man, just one goal from his last sixteen appearances means he’s likely to stay on the bench – but what a great option he is for the last 20 minutes or so. Not least because he can play right across that front line.
As for United, they might be an absolute mess at the moment, but take nothing for granted. They’re a wounded animal after a hammering by Liverpool, and although they are a long way from their best as a collective, you just need to look at the squad to see the individuals who have the quality to cause us problems (while Scott McTominay will be allowed to blunderbuss his way around the pitch without a yellow card to his name as our players get booked for their first innocuous fouls).
It won’t be easy, but then no game is going to be easy at this stage of the season, and if we want to keep that scrap for the top four going, then this is the kind of test we have to pass. Hopefully the atmosphere inside the stadium is rocking, there’s a Tifo display planned, something the manager is glad to see:
I am really pleased to hear all of those things because that initiative means that they are really engaged with the team and they want to show them they are with the team, that they want to participate and they feel like they are really participating in the success of the team and I’ve always said that if make this stadium a fortress it will be really difficult not to be successful. They have a big big part to play and hopefully tomorrow they can help us do that.
Hopefully Wednesday went some way to restore confidence after a difficult period, and today we can build on that, do what it takes to win, and compound United’s misery.
Elsewhere, we’re being linked with a summer move for Man City forward Gabriel Jesus who will have one year left on his contract in June. City are going to sign Erling Haaland, we need additions to our forward line, Arteta knows him well, so this makes a lot of sense.
I’m a bit staggered that there’s any Arsenal fan out there turning up their nose at a player like this. In 229 appearances for Man City he has 89 goals and 45 assists (as per Transfermarkt so the assist figure might be slightly off), he’s 25 years of age, with tons of Premier League and Champions League experience. What more do people want?!
Is it the only addition we need to make? Definitely not, but we’ve just gone through most of a season with Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah as our centre-forward options, and this is a very obvious upgrade on both of them in my opinion. Anyway, let’s see how it pans out but I like him and I think he’d definitely add to this squad next season if we can get it done.
Right, that’s it for now. Time for some breakfast, dog walks and I’ll catch in a bit for the match.
Come on you reds!