Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Stick or twist up front for Fulham trip?

It’s Fulham away today and despite the fact we have just one win in our last four games, it’s a chance to go back to the top of the Premier League.

We currently sit fourth, overtaken by Man City and Aston Villa after their wins yesterday, so it’s imperative we get back to winning ways. I’m sure that despite his post-game comments praising his team in public, the manager will have at least had a quiet word with some of his players after we failed to score against West Ham.

The question today is does he stick or twist with his front three? My guess is the former, mostly because we’re hardly replete with options of the same calibre, but there are ways he could mix it up a bit if he wanted to. For example, Eddie Nketiah could start up front with Gabriel Jesus in one of the wide positions. Or we could see Jorginho starting in midfield, with Declan Rice further forward, and Kai Havertz in the front three, but I’d be surprised by either of those.

In terms of the rest of the team, I assume the returning Havertz will take the place of Leandro Trossard in midfield, and I wonder if we might see Jakub Kiwior at left-back. Takehiro Tomiyasu is back in training, but is he ready to start? If he is, he’d be a good addition to the backline, and despite our forwards struggling, Oleksandr Zinchenko looks most like the player who could do with a rest.

Part of why we struggled against West Ham was the way they play – that low block, packing the box with players, and inviting us to try and find a way through. I don’t think Fulham can do that, which isn’t to say they’ll be wide open, but they’re at home and they’ll certainly play higher up the pitch than the Hammers. After that, it’s down to making sure we make the most of the opportunities we create. As I’ve written about this weekend, the players we have are under-performing in front of goal, but they are definitely capable of better, so let’s hope they have their shooting boots on today.

I don’t know what else there is to say about this one. Score. Win. Defend a bit better. Send us into 2024 at the top of the table. Come on Arsenal.

Meanwhile, there are some very strange transfer rumours doing the rounds this week. I saw a rather spurious suggestion that Kiwior could be sold back to Italy, and today there’s talk of loaning out Tomiyasu.

The manager has clearly referenced being light at the back in recent weeks, so it seems basically impossible that we would let anyone leave. Also, the fact Tomiyasu will be away at the Asian Cup from mid-January would scupper any chance of that happening even if it was true. Which it isn’t. As for Nelson, that would be less of a surprise, given he rarely starts for us, but he’s still a warm body whose departure would leave us a little light. Without an arrival, I just can’t see how it makes sense to let anybody go.

Speaking of players going away on international duty at an inopportune time for us, I saw some stuff doing the rounds about Thomas Partey not being in the Ghana squad for AFCON. However, according to the Ghanaian FA, the final squad won’t be announced until Monday, and I fully expect him to be part of it – unless his injury precludes his involvement, which means he’s further away from a comeback than we currently think.

Right, that’s it for now. We’ll have live blog coverage for you later on, and all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News.

Catch you later.

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