Everything looked good heading into Wednesday’s EFL Cup match, or maybe it still does? Realistically, seeing the squad Arsene Wenger sent out there, it was obvious what his priorities are. Actually, we’ve all known well before he announced the starting XI what his priorities are. There’s a reason why he has never won the League Cup. Not because he’s not capable of doing it, but clearly because it’s his lowest priority.
A loss to end the month of November wasn’t what Arsenal supporters will have expected. But, if given the choice on November 1st to pick the one match we’d rather have lost, it would certainly have been that one.
Now that the unbeaten run in all competitions has come to an end, Arsenal will look to avoid two straight defeats.
With the regular starters set to return, I’m still a bit nervous about this fixture. Not so much because of what West Ham is doing, but mostly because of what Arsenal hasn’t been doing.
These guys we’re playing some beautiful footy after their opening day defeat at the hands of Klopp’s Krew. It was all about show ponies and unicorns for a while, and it’s slowly fizzing out into ponies that don’t quite make the show. In this case, I guess Santi Cazorla would be the unicorn, and with his absence, the fluid offensive passing is harder to find than a video of Arsene Wenger successfully zipping his big puffy coat.
We all know Le Prof’s success rate in zipping his coat is extremely low!
On Saturday, Arsenal will be expected to drop points by most. But, the lads must do everything in their power to keep that damn bubble machine from blowing around soap balls. Who’s idea was that anyway?! Yea, let’s get a bubble machine and let it loose every time our team scores. Brilliant idea… Not!
Anyway, seeing as the Money Bag Classico is earlier in the day at the City of Manchester Stadium, Arsenal has a chance to make up some ground. They cannot afford to drop points here.
Who Will We See
While the back four basically picked itself earlier in the season, right now, Arsene Wenger has some headaches.
Carl Jenkinson is healthy again, but his confidence is clearly non-existent at the moment.
The young Englishman showed fight and desire while on loan at West Ham last season, and he certainly hasn’t lacked desire since his return. But, the problem is that while he is a Gooner and puts in an effort, I’m just not sure his desire plus his skill is adequate for Arsenal. I think proof of that is the fact that Arsene Wenger didn’t even include him in the squad against Bournemouth, and instead opted to start Debuchy who we all knew was not 100% fit.
So when Wenger says he’s cautious with Jenko because he’s just lacking confidence, I say he’s just protecting his player, like he always does.
In front of Petr Cech, we will likely see Gabriel on the right, an unbeaten partnership of Mustafi & Koscielny, and Monreal on the left.
Further ahead, choosing two players to feature in the center of the park continues to be another frustration for Wenger.
He’s tried all sorts of combinations, but for some reason, they just can’t seem to make it all click. When is Santi Cazorla back again?
Xhaka should get the start for sure. The Swiss international and new Arsenal signing has struggled to break into the squad, but Arsene Wenger states that he’s being patient with Xhaka. It’s already December Arsene, I think he’s had enough time to adjust. Now let him show us what he’s capable of.
Alongside him we should see Coquelin.
The Frenchman offers the defensive approach needed, while allowing Xhaka to dictate play. Let Coq do the dirty work, and Xhaka will provide that killer pass we’ve all been waiting for since Santi got hurt. He’s capable of it, but his role needs to be clearly defined.
Last time they both featured, I felt Xhaka looked a bit confused as to what his responsibility was off and on the ball. Maybe several weeks later he’s become adjusted to what Le Prof is asking of him? I hope so.
Over on the left, I want to say Ox, but then I want to say Iwobi, and ultimately I want to pull my hair out.
Iwobi began the season in fantastic form, then dropped off. Lately, he’s been hit or miss, but one thing that’s been a definite miss is his defensive contributions.
On the other side of the coin, you have Ox who is equally as talented, will put in a shift defensively, but can’t provide decent service consistently. If only he could provide a cross as he did for Giroud’s game tying goal at Old Trafford five out of 10 times. That’s all we’re asking for Ox. A decent cross half of the time. Is that too much to ask for?
I’m not sure who Wenger will deploy on the left, nor am I going to take a guess, but whoever it is, he sure as hell better be up for it.
Ozil will pull the strings behind Alexis. That’s a given, while Theo will be on the right. I think these three are certainly guaranteed, with Alexis a definite to lead the line seeing as Giroud is injured.
Hammer Them While They’re Down
Having moved to their new stadium, I think most people expected great things from Bilic and the hammers. Unfortunately for them, everything about them has been far from great.
At the moment, they are one point clear of the relegation zone, and one must wonder if they’ll be able to keep Payet in January. But for the time being, the Frenchman is trying to do his best to help his side fight through this.
While they’ve struggled to be consistent, Arsenal’s record away to West Ham won’t give the hosts any added confidence. If anything, it will make them a bit concerned.
Dating back to 1999, they’ve met 15 times in the Premier League. West Ham have won twice, with their last victory coming in 2006. For Arsenal, they’ve won eight, and drawn the other five. With both of them at opposite ends of the table, these three points are equally important.
As I stated in my expectations for the month of December, Arsenal is in better form than West Ham. They can’t afford to drop points here, especially since Manchester City hosts Chelsea earlier in the day. There’s a possibility of making up some ground on both, if not, at least one of their title contenders.
Last season’s six goal draw still aggravates me. I already disliked Andy Carroll, but seeing him net three goals against Arsenal really put me over the top.
Prior to that draw, Arsenal had won four straight away PL matches against West Ham. It’s time to get back to winning ways against the bubble blowing hammers.
It may not be easy at times throughout the match, but I don’t see this being the banana peel match in the month of December.