Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Arsenal's Trip To West Ham Previewed

It's only been a couple of days since Arsenal got a rather fortunate point at Southampton and they face another away game tonight. While their home form has been up there with the best of them this season they have generally struggled on their travels. Eight points from eight away games is hardly awe inspiring or the form of a team hoping to challenge for a chance to finish runners up to City.

After the defensive shambles in the opening stages at home to United I expected Arsenal to be a lot tighter at the back against Southampton. The reverse was true though and they were very lucky to be only one down before any semblance of decent defending appeared. Arsene Wenger blamed it on nervousness as a result of the performance against United which is quite bizarre.

If we were to believe that then it says very little for our players or their ability to get over a bad performance. I would have thought a bad defensive performance would have led the players to concentrate harder and make sure they did the simple things properly at the start against Southampton. Instead we were treated to players passing straight to the opposition, failing to track runners and defending as if it was something they had never worked on in training.

We can't afford to defend like that against West Ham despite their lowly league position as they showed when they beat Chelsea 1-0 on Saturday. I've seen a bit of West Ham this season and I have been far from impressed with them, but like any Premier League team they can bite back if they're underestimated. Their home form hasn't been exactly great this season and their performance against Chelsea was by far their best one at home so far.

The manager has a few choices to make before the game with Aaron Ramsey picking up a knock against Southampton and due to miss out as well as Shkodran Mustafi. He has to decide whether he will stick with three central defenders or switch to a flat back four. For me playing four at the back makes more sense and the extra man in midfield might give us more control in the game.

I can understand his desire to stick with a formation which got us out of a tight spot last season, but it's obvious he doesn't have faith in it. As soon as we're chasing a game he switches to a back four and it's difficult to believe it's not something he would like to switch back to on a permanent basis. Our personnel are far more suited to that formation and it's a method used throughout every other level at the club as far as I know. It just doesn't make sense to stick to three central defenders, but when did making sense ever have anything to do with football or Arsenal for that matter. 

If I'm not mistaken Nacho Monreal is the youngest of the three central defenders who started against Southampton and he's 31. Laurent Koscielny has struggled with injuries and it's a big risk to play him twice a week, but it's one we seem happy to take regularly. I suppose we could be playing the three of them together while Mustafi is injured as the manager thinks playing only two of them would be a risk.

In midfield the absence of Ramsey should open a door for Jack Wilshere, but the manager has already said he sees his best position as further forward and I wouldn't be surprised if he's on the bench tonight. Maybe Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin or Alex Iwobi might get the nod alongside Granit Xhaka and all three of them would probably be better suited to the defensive duties that come with the role. It's not as if Ramsey has been ultra defensive though and Wilshere would certainly offer more creativity than the other three in my opinion. 

We will miss Ramsey and I hope it's only a short term absence with so many games over the next few weeks as he has been one of our better players so far this season. That's not to say he has always been good, but neither has anyone else for that matter.

In attack I would hope Alexandre Lacazette will continue to lead the line, but I would imagine Olivier Giroud will think he can't do much more than he has done already to try to get a start. His late goal saved us against Southampton and I would be more inclined to think he should get a chance if he had been better in the Europa League games when he did start. Like so many of the more experienced players he seemed to do little more than go through the motions in those games when he should have been trying to stake a claim for a place in the first team.

We didn't lose as much ground as we might have last weekend with Chelsea and United losing, Liverpool drawing and only Spurs winning, but we cannot afford to drop any more points tonight. Chelsea won last night and I will be very surprised if United, Liverpool or Spurs drop any points tonight so we need to at least keep pace with them. It won't be easy, but we have the players to win the game without a doubt if they would only go out and play as well as we know they can play.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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