.West Ham this evening and after the weekend’s results for both sides, it’s going to be a tougher game that it seemed a week ago. Have the ‘Appy ‘Ammers shot their bolt in beating Chelsea? Is this something of the morning after the Lord Mayor’s show for them? I doubt it, somehow.
Arsenal, on the other hand, were a blunt instrument at Southampton to the point where Arsène is thinking about rotating the side. It depends on “how they recover” and “the balance of the team”. It says a lot that there may not be any changes beyond those enforced.
Per Mertesacker couldn’t steady the defensive ship and if anything, his lack of match sharpness made things worse in the opening ten minutes or so at St Mary’s. If there is to be ‘rotation’ in defence, his is the place most under threat.
However, Laurent Koscielny is suffering from an Achilles problem. It’s nothing new and there must be a question mark over his fitness to play three games in a week. If that is the case, we’ve got problems.
The question for Arsène is whether he sticks with a back three or moves to a four. Confidence is shot at the back at the moment, which was a prime reason for switching formations in the first place. Wenger never hid his distaste for it but the players told him they preferred it so we stuck with it.
Has it improved us? For a while, yes. I don’t think you can argue that we look better with three centre-backs but the bar was set low at the time so anything was an improvement. Are we at the point where we revert to a four. Perhaps that’s why we’re interested in N’Zonzi, adding a physical presence into midfield for protection.
Five, Four, Three, Two, One
I’d suggest tonight is going to herald a return to the back four. In recent Premier League games, it has been a case of circumstance but now this is a choice, even necessary to restore some confidence to the season.
One reason for switching to a four – Koscielny and presumably Monreal as the pairing although Rob Holding could come in with Nacho moving to the left – is to beef up the midfield in Aaron Ramsey’s absence. With West Ham sure to be combative, does the manager offer some support to Xhaka?
Add Coquelin and it’s a combustible mix; Elneny’s calmness is more reassuring. However, it’s almost expected that Jack Wilshere will slot into Ramsey’s slot in the team. What we get is a different solution in both a 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1; and one we desperately need.
Moyes isn’t a brilliant manager but even he will have seen United and Southampton frustrate us with banks of four and five. Wilshere’s ability to run between them and create openings for others is a reason for his inclusion. Against BATE, he managed to get forward into the box to support the attack. If he can reproduce that form, it will further his case for a regular starting place.
It’s a different solution to Ramsey’s late runs into the box. However. tonight may benefit from freshening things up, doing things a little differently. Or a lot differently, if we’re honest.
Arsène spoke of how big clubs face greater “density” in the final third but teams have been coming to the Emirates and doing that since the day it opened. This isn’t a new tactic, just one which has become more honed over the years.
Heading for Change
One change I think we will see is Olivier Giroud start, giving the West Ham defence a physical presence to think about. Almost softening them up for Lacazette’s introduction on the hour mark.
The problem with recent performances that Cech aside, there’s a case for any of the XI to be dropped. Cech is only saved because I don’t think Ospina would improve us. Wenger’s job is to find a balance between belief in the players and freshening things up.
Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac; Xhaka, Coquelin; Sanchez, Wilshere, Özil; Giroud
If it’s a back three, swap out Coquelin for Holding.
Returning to winning ways tonight is important if December isn’t to become the new November. It’s a busy month with plenty of games and a good or bad run can build very quickly. Let’s nip the mini-bad spell in the bud.
Ahead of the game, there’s a new post on Dad’s Jukebox, brought to you by the letter ‘w’.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.