The chaos of the television-controlled fixture list continues with Arsenal waiting until Monday for their next game.
A decade ago, switching Manchester United vs Arsenal to Monday Night Football was unthinkable; it was the biggest fixture of the season. Now, a Monday in a week when both face Europa League tie? How the mighty have fallen.
The result of beating Nottingham Forest is a trip to Anfield in the next round of the Carabao Cup. It falls in a busy time of the season; back-to-back Europa League fixtures with Vittoria Guimaeres, and sandwiched between the visits of Wolves and Crystal Palace.
With that workload, the cup team has plenty of opportunity to impress Unai Emery. Some more than others, however. Some, like Mustafi aren’t going to change their futures at the club. Admirable as his decision to stay and fight is, a year of cup football isn’t much to be going on. Especially as we know the first XI comes in when the silverware is in sight.
Squad rotation is key and just like us Liverpool won’t be fielding a strong team. It should be an interesting clash, not least because our cup team will feature the likes of AMN, Kolasicnac and one of Luiz or Sokratis, if not both.
Rob Holding, the saviour of all things defensive at Arsenal, returned with a goal on Tuesday night. Is it enough to get him back into the side at Old Trafford? Let’s be honest, it ought to be the way our current pair are playing.
However, that relies on Emery shedding his conservative coat. His faith in certain players is unshakable and it is hard to see him ditching both Sokratis and Luiz. Nobody will be surprised if he reverts to a back three.
It’s a rare occasion when Emery has been spoiled for choice. Injuries and suspensions always step in to disrupt plans. This time, there’s none of the latter while the former is affecting the full-backs more.
Holding is unstained by last season’s collapse or the mixed start to this campaign. Thus he is seen as the answer to our prayers, of a time when defenders, well, you know, defend.
Is that the end of our problems? No; defending is a problem for the whole of the team, not just the back four. Granted, their mistakes lead to goals but make no mistake, others made errors which lead to the situation arising. Mostly.
The one thing which is most striking about Sokratis’ and Luiz’s mistakes this season is just how many are unforced.
Pulling shirts, charging into unwinnable headers or whatever; those are rushes of blood familiar to novices but by their age, their levels of experience? Those should be already ironed out of the game, largely.
Hence Holding, whom I think is a good player, occupying an elevated status. The question is whether Calum Chambers should be thought of similarly?
Whatever anyone says about him, Chambers fought hard to get where he is. A year or so ago, he looked like he was on his way out. A decent season with Fulham seemed to be his farewell to Arsenal.
Fair play to him. Chambers did well in preseason – which is not the best time or place to judge a player, I agree – but at Newcastle he looked comfortable in the first XI. Subsequent cup exploits only served to remind Emery he has a good, versatile defender on his hands.
But still Luiz and Sokratis remain in situ.
Ever Decreasing Circles
Wholesale changes aren’t going to happen. Holding will come in but Xhaka, for example, remains. Whatever those photos are, they must be dynamite.
The Swiss occupies many minds. Coaches rate him, supporters – sweeping generalisation time – don’t. It underlines how differently the two view the game.
However, how does Xhaka feel? His cause wasn’t helped by the bizarre not my fault post-match interview in which he pointed the finger at the forwards. Fair play; they do miss but they aren’t our fundamental problem. The defensive side of our game is.
Decisions, decisions. Yet, the more things change, the more players return to the first team from injury, the less they change. It’s not stretch to think the back four at Anfield for that Carabao cup-tie will be the one which faced Liverpool in league with Kolasinac for Monreal.
Does anyone really think that will be the case? Emery has shown his conservative nature with team selections in the past; a month is too far in the future, even with his crystal ball.
Let’s be honest, the way this season has gone in that month, we could see a whole raft of team changes and have gone full circle back to the original Keystone Kops.
Football, eh? Dontcha just love it.