Good morning from Islington, and we take on Brentford at home today.
After two successive defeats, and with Man City coming up on Wednesday, we very much need to get back on track this afternoon. The fact we play before City take on Aston Villa tomorrow allows us to put a little pressure on if we take all three points, but make no mistake, we’re going to have to work hard and be very close to our best to do it.
Although we beat Brentford fairly comfortably in the first game this season, I think it’s fair to say they were below par that day. It’s not that we weren’t good, we were, but a side that has hammered Man United, beaten Man City and Liverpool, and drawn with Sp*rs and Chelsea were nowhere near their level. They’re unbeaten in the Premier League since October (World Cup break notwithstanding), so we should expect them to be tough to break down today.
From our perspective, the loss against Everton will have stung, no question, and the reaction to it is something Mikel Arteta addressed in his press conference, saying:
Really positive. We sat together, discussed the game and what happened. The opponent played their part and you have to congratulate Everton for what they did on the day. It’s true that there were things we didn’t do like in other games and that’s the reason you lose football matches. There’s always an opportunity to bounce back, show the character that we have and how much we want what we are fighting for.
At home, with a 3pm kick off, in front of a raucous home crowd, would be a very good way to get back on track. It will be interesting too to see if he makes changes for this one. On the one hand, there must be the temptation to pick the strongest possible team to build confidence and get the win; on the other, the looming prospect of City and the need to flesh out the competitiveness of this squad should also be a consideration.
As I wrote earlier in the week, we have to become a team that is more than 12/13 players, and the ability to make confident changes – as opposed to rotating/resting – is going to be important. For example, Ben White (who I love) hasn’t been at his best in the last couple of games, so do you give Takehiro Tomiyasu a start at right back? Maybe bring in Kieran Tierney at left-back to keep him involved and to give Brentford something different to think about on the left? Leandro Trossard starting would remind Gabriel Martinelli that he’s got competition in that position after a couple of games where he too struggled to find his best form.
Which isn’t criticism of any of those players, but we can’t pick the same team for every single game. It gets predictable. Nor is it taking anything for granted against very good opposition, simply using our squad to the maximum. So, I’m curious to see what the manager does a bit later on, and whether we see this team respond. We’ve done it before this season, so there should be confidence that we can do it again.
The reaction of the team has been superb this week and tomorrow we’re going to put in a great performance in front of our crowd to try to win the game.
Let’s hope so.
Right, I very badly need some coffee that isn’t hotel room coffee, and possibly some breakfast too. See some of you pre/post-game, I hope. There’s a preview podcast here if you have time this morning too.
Come on you reds!