After seeing off Championship side Ipswich Town in the League Cup Arsenal next face Huddersfield Town from League One in the FA Cup.
To be honest, Arsene Wenger must have been really pleased with this draw. I know I am really happy Arsenal are facing a team two divisions or 44 places below them, and that too at home. Given the fact that this fixture is just two days before Arsenal host Everton in the League we could certainly have done a lot worse in the draw.
It won’t surprise you if I confess ignorance about their style of play or the attributes of most of their players. Arsene said in his pre-match interview that he expects them to be very organized and throw their bodies on the line. They have a big striker who is good at holding the ball up and a small one who links up well. Le Boss also mentioned that the Terriers are good at coming out in support of the striker once he gets on the ball and holds it up. Not very different from the recent meeting with Leeds and Ipswich one would think.
As long as Arsenal turn up and perform, this game should not be a problem. But given the proximity with a crucial League game I expect many second string players in the starting line-up.
I’d not mind a forward line of Arshavin, Chamakh, and Bendtner for this fixture. The Russian is working his way back to form, Bendtner keeps improving as he gets more game time, while Chamakh must be refreshed and raring to go.
The big decisions for Arsene will be in the midfield and defence. And this is where I am a bit surprised Arsene has let the likes of Eastmond and Lansbury go. He could have played one of those two in the midfield for this game.
I won’t be surprised if Gibbs and Eboue take the full-back spots. Denilson will probably keep his place in the starting line-up from the Ipswich game.
Arsene will have to find the right balance when he picks the other two midfielders and central defenders. At the back I don’t see much choice. If Squillaci is fully fit he could come in for Djourou. Koscielny will have to keep his place.
In midfield the choice is between Diaby, Rosicky, and the regular first team starters. Since Wilshere played against Ipswich I expect him to sit this one out. In my opinion Song should start this game to ensure Arsenal put out a strong defensive unit. The other starting spot in midfield should go to Nasri.
Preferred starting eleven,
Szczesny – Eboue, Squillaci, Koscielny, Gibbs – Song, Nasri, Denilson – Arshavin, Chamakh, Bendtner.
There is no argument this is not Arsenal’s strongest eleven but we have to be realistic. I’d like to see a strong first half with a couple of goals. After that Song and Nasri can be replaced by Rosicky and Diaby as both will be needed against Everton.
If Arsenal start strongly and score a couple of goals any eleven players from this squad should be able to hold on to a lead against Huddersfield, no disrespect intended. In fact, the front three of Arshavin, Chamakh, and Bendtner should relish the prospect of playing on the break against the Terriers.
Given the fragile nature of this back four and the fact that they haven’t played together for a while now, it will be critical that Song stays deeper and provides cover in the early part of the game. The attackers should be able to score goals without the need for the Cameroonian to be adventurous.
Similarly, if Arsenal get an early lead it will be important for the midfielders to stay deep and allow the front three to exploit the space behind the defenders, which will inevitably be created.
The only way I see the visitors scoring is through a long ball on which a run is not tracked, on a set-piece, or on a counter attack down the channels. Almost all attacking moments for the visitors will be a combination of these. Most of these situations can be defended easily if the midfield is available to win the second ball or to provide cover on the wings.
I’d also like to see the tactic used against Leeds repeated in this game. Song should play on the left side of midfield to support the Gibbs-Arshavin axis. Denilson can play alongside Bendtner and Eboue on the right.
I’d like to see Gibbs show better position discipline and judgment in terms of his forward bursts. I’m also hoping for better concentration and decision making from Eboue. One of the two full-backs must stay back at all times and this will require good understanding and reading of the game.
The final point that comes to mind is that the offensive players will have to be clinical. For that reason I’d like to see Bendtner get into the box as often as possible. Over the course of this season Arshavin has done well to create plenty of chances for Walcott and Nasri when they’ve played on the right. Hopefully, he will do the same for Bendtner but for that the Dane will have to make some well timed diagonal runs. Huddersfield do have a good young goalkeeper in England U21 international Alex Smithies. Let’s hope he doesn’t put in a MotM performance.
It will be massive embarrassment if Arsenal fail to get past Huddersfield. A draw will just put us in shuddersfield while I can’t even comprehend the reaction to a loss at home. Some might say that calls for a stronger team to be selected but I feel it’s time everyone in the squad stands up to be counted.
With the usual Jinx Disclaimer, I’d like to predict goals for Nasri and Bendnter with Arshavin picking up another assist.