Normally I like to look at the tactical aspects of a game while writing a preview. In this case, I tried thinking about it but frankly, I’ve no clue what’s going to happen. It’s always difficult to predict what Arsene is going to do, and it seems even Twitchy is feeling the pressure of the Champions League so will not start with his first team as he did last year.
I do feel we don’t have much room to manoeuvre as far as the starting eleven goes. There are far too many injuries and some promising youngsters are out on loan. Wenger will have to play some first team players even if he doesn’t want to.
From what we are hearing it seems Fabianski will start in goal. Last year Arsene showed that he preferred a strong defence behind the youngsters and this game should be no different. Eboue, Djourou and Gibbs should get a game, and with Bartley on loan, the fourth defender will be one of the two heroes from the battle at the Stadium of Light. I’d prefer Squillaci simply because I wouldn’t want to risk Koscielny, who will become more and more important to the side as the season develops.
I’ve no idea who will play in midfield or in attack. Denilson will probably get his first start of the season. Will we risk Wilshere in this game? Will we play Nasri in midfield to give him a run in a role he will have to perform against West Brom? Will it be left to kids like Lansbury and Eastmond?
Up front we might see Vela start in a central role with JET on one side. Once again I’ve no idea who the third attacking player will be. Will Rosicky get another start?
I think one of Nasri or Rosicky has to start if not both. And I’d prefer they start in midfield because we need their skills and experience to control the game. The starting line-up of my choice is,
Fabianski – Eboue, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs – Eastmond, Denilson, Rosicky – Lansbury, Vela, JET.
I’d say Djourou, Vela and JET have a good chance to show how close they are to the first team. Some fans want to see Vela get a start ahead of Arshavin. Similarly, some think JET is ready for the first team. The Swiss defender has a lot to prove after his injury problems last season. I was not very excited by his performance for the reserves against City’s “elite development squad”.
I also have my doubts about JET. Not regarding his talents but about his attitude. He seems to be overconfident and far too casual for my liking. I feel players who believe they are better than others need to show it in their performances that lead to results, and not just in some neat flicks and tricks or the occasional goal. Of course, he is young and has time on his side but a poor attitude can kill careers. This is the game for him to show he can cut it at the highest level.
Vela has not had that many starts even though he has been an Arsenal player for years. I’m not sure his initial loan spells were very useful to him in the sense of preparing him for English football. They just served the purpose of getting him eligible for a work permit. Since he’s been with us, the Mexican has suffered due to the poor timing of internationals and some injury problems. I like the fact that he’s impressed Arsene with his hard work during the summer and seems a lot more mature now.
This is his chance to show he is good enough to start ahead of Arshavin. Scoring the fourth goal in a 4-1 home win or the fifth and sixth goals of a 6-0 win is one thing, but leading the line against bitter rivals in a derby game is the real challenge.
To be honest I don’t have a good feeling for this game. I’m not sure the line-up I’ve listed above, or any that I can think of without involving too many first team members, has enough fight in it. I can see players like Vela or JET not chasing enough balls, not winning enough 50-50’s, and someone at the back making a bad mistake. Of course, a lot will depend on the opponents and they might put out a weakened team themselves which could even things out.
Even then, something about this game doesn’t feel right. Last year we had many bad results in pairs. It could be the reason Arsene wants to put out a strong team. And I’ll be a lot more confident if he does. Fingers crossed till the starting line-ups are announced.