It’s difficult to write about such a game. Almost everything is conjecture.
Coventry City got relegated from the Championship last season and are currently second from bottom in League One having lost the last five league games. What does one expect from such a team? Furthermore, they’ve just recently appointed a new manager, Mike Robbins, and only time will tell what he is or isn’t able to do with the players he has available.
Since this is a home game for Arsenal it’ll be a surprise and a major disappointment if the Gunners don’t dictate play and create some opportunities to score. The game will be more interesting if Coventry come out in the spirit of a Cup tie and play higher up the pitch. Whether they can do that will depend on their confidence levels and tactical approach as well as the side that Arsene Wenger fields.
The Gunners’ boss knows such games cannot be taken lightly. The technical difference between sides can be negated by poor attitude and Arsenal are not likely to enjoy a scrappy battle, especially if some youngsters are picked. It’s vital that the seniors who are picked take the opportunity to show they deserve a start in the big games.
Djourou, Santos, Arshavin, Giroud, Walcott, Coquelin, and Oxlade-Chamberlain could all get a game and have something to prove to the boss. Put youngster Damien Martinez in goal and that’s 8 of the 11 places taken. Wenger will still have to pick three more players and those choices could be the difference between a quality Arsenal performance or a nervy, disjointed one.
The problem with the names listed above is that there are too many players who have a direct style of play and are capable of losing the ball at inopportune moments. As we’ve seen over the last few years, once the possession game fails any Arsenal side tends to struggle. The opponents get their confidence up, the crowd gets fidgety, and any technical or tactical superiority is surrendered.
Arsene will have openings at right back. centre back, and midfield to fill if the eight players discussed above are picked (or if Chamakh starts over Giroud). Yennaris seems like the prime choice for right back and Wenger said in his interview with Arsenal Player that Miquel will play. That only leaves one role in the centre of the park alongside Coquelin. Hopefully, that will go to one of the first team midfielders. Ramsey could be a good choice considering he’s not played as much as the others and seems to be hitting a rich vein of form.
Arsenal could look like,
Martinez – Yennaris, Djourou, Miquel, Santos – Coquelin, AOC, Ramsey – Walcott, Giroud, Arshavin.
I don’t know if that team has the right balance but it definitely has a great deal of pace. If I was the Coventry manager I’d be tempted to press high against such an Arsenal side but the risk of leaving space in behind for Walcott or Oxlade-Chamberlain to charge into would worry me all night. I’d also have some hopes of troubling that defence on the break and through set-pieces.
The real problem for Arsenal could be that these players don’t really read each other’s game as well and that leads to unforced errors on the pitch. An early goal will certainly help settle things but if the game goes on scoreless for a while the visitors will grow into it.
I don’t expect Arsenal to have great bench strength. We might see the likes of Gnabry, Olsson, Bellerin, Eastmond, and Frimpong on the bench. It will be a surprise is any of those who started against City is picked to provide a plan B in case things go south.
At best Chamakh and Squillaci might be the senior names among the substitutes. That’s assuming Wenger wants them in the squad and doesn’t include them in the starting eleven. He could leave Yennaris and Ramsey out, put AOC with Coquelin in the middle, shift Djourou to the right, include Squillaci at centre back, and Chamakh at centre forward in a 4-4-2 that would be a recipe for disaster. I hope that doesn’t happen as it’s difficult to see any benefit in giving playing time to Squillaci or Chamakh.
We’ve seen an unbalanced Arsenal team struggle to impose Wenger’s preferred style on the game. Ipswich and Leeds are good examples from recent past. When that happens it really boils down to the oppositions quality on the day and the defensive discipline and resolve that the Gunners can display. Hopefully it won’t come to that. The players who are selected should have enough ability between them to do the job. It’s just a matter of avoiding mistakes, keeping things simple, adhering to what they have been taught, and taking their chances. They’ll have a full stadium to back them and some of these Gunners can use the opportunity to earn the support.
I don’t know if the game is available live anywhere. I’ll be watching it once it’s up on Arsenal Player, which reminds me I’ve to try to find a way to watch it spoiler free. Loading the page where the first half is uploaded before the game and refreshing it later when the time is right has worked once in the past.
Here’s to one capital performance from the Gunners and not a COCup.Follow @goonerdesi