Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Arsenal's Game With Cardiff City Previewed

Arsenal had a bad run in the middle of December with only two points from games against Everton, City and Chelsea. They managed to bounce back in their last two games by winning away to West Ham and Newcastle and need to keep winning at home to Cardiff tomorrow. It's a game a team leading the Premier League should win, but no team can be taken lightly in this league.

In the reverse fixture only a few weeks ago Arsenal won 3-0, but they were a little flattered by that scoreline with two late goals putting a polish on their performance. Cardiff have been a tough team to beat at home, but they have struggled on their travels. They have only won once in nine away games and only scored five goals in those games.

A full strength Arsenal team should be more than capable of blowing Cardiff away, but Arsenal have a few problems with injuries at the moment. They have a very tough FA Cup game at home to Spurs on Saturday and Arsene Wenger might well have that in mind when he chooses his team for tomorrow. He has treated the FA Cup as almost a second class trophy at times in recent years, but he won't want to lose at home Arsenal's local rivals.

Besides that upcoming game Arsenal have lost a few players to injuries and illness recently and the team will probably see a few changes to the one which beat Newcastle. Kieran Gibbs went off in that game and I would imagine he will be replaced by Nacho Monreal if he has recovered from the illness which kept him out of that game. I don't think there will be any other defensive changes as defenders tend not to suffer from fatigue as much as the players who play further forward and usually have to do a lot more running in a game.

In midfield I think Mikael Arteta will return to the team but there is a chance he will be rested again with Mathieu Flamini continuing in the defensive midfield role. With Aaron Ramsey definitely injured and Mesut Ozil more than likely out as well Arsenal will be missing their most influential midfielders so far this season. Both Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott will have to have fitness tests before it's decided if they are up to playing or not.

I don't think Rosicky will play even if he passes his fitness test as he has had so many injury problems it would be too much of a risk to play him. That would leave Jack Wilshere to play alongside either Flamini or Arteta with Santi Cazorla probably taking the attacking role just behind the striker. It's still a very strong midfield and it has to be remembered how good Cazorla was last season and how important he was to the team. He's looked like that form is returning in recent weeks and hopefully he will show against Cardiff that he has an awful lot to offer for the rest of the season.

I hope Walcott is passed fit and that he plays because I think his pace could be very important to the team if Arsenal can get a lead. He has scored four goals in the last four games since his return from injury and hopefully he will get the chances to add to that tally. On the other side I think it's time Lukas Podolski got a start and a chance to show how deadly he can be in front of goal. He has three goals and one assist in the 108 Premier League minutes he has managed in his injury ravaged season so far.

The big choice for the boss could be who leads the line with the hectic schedule looking like it's having an effect on Olivier Giroud. Podolski or Walcott could possibly do it but I think he might opt for Nicklas Bendtner despite his desire to leave the club. He's a similar player to Giroud and would offer the same assets in defensive set pieces and holding the ball up and laying it off to ease pressure on the rest of the team. I'm not saying he's the answer to Arsenal's striking problems but he did well in the Champions League game he started against Marseille and he's more than capable of playing very well at this level. 

As I said earlier it's never easy to beat any team in the Premier League, but even an injury ravaged and fatigued Arsenal have more than enough to take the three points. Cardiff have to be just as tired themselves and they have struggled to take points in recent weeks in particular. They're only two points above the relegation zone and have to fight tooth and nail for any points they get.

If Arsenal can start off on the front foot and attack Cardiff from the first minute I think the game is there for the taking by a few goals at least. Teams have to work very hard to stop Arsenal playing at home in particular and the more they work the Cardiff team the more chances they will get. I think they will put a few of them away and should be able to keep Cardiff out at the other end once they keep their defensive discipline.

Arsenal have taken more points in the Premier League in 2013 than any other team and have finished the year on top of the league. They are half way through the league campaign and have taken 42 points so far. If they can continue to play as they are doing they have a chance to do something really special this season. 

City are favourites to win the league and that's perfectly understandable but they will have to improve an awful lot away from home to win it. They still have to play away to Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, United, Spurs and Newcastle and that's no easy task. They have only played away to two of the top nine teams so far with a defeat to Chelsea and a somewhat fortunate draw at Southampton to show in those games. 

Of course Arsenal have some tough games to play themselves and both City and Chelsea have much bigger and stronger squads thanks to the bottomless pockets of their owners. I have lost count of the amount of fans of other teams who have told me they would love to see Arsenal win the title if their team can't win it. It would be great for football in my opinion if Arsenal were to win the title and it might prove money isn't everything in the game. I for one would be thrilled if City don't manage to buy the title or if Chelsea don't manage to buy it and kick their way to it.

Finally for today I'd like to wish all my readers a Happy New Year.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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