I have three main areas of concern going into this afternoon’s derby clash with the noisy neighbours.
Firstly, our inability to shake the habit of gifting goals (or goal scoring opportunities) to our opponents through unforced errors.
Secondly, the attacking threat posed by the Spuds with their front three of Kane, Bale and Son, all of whom can score and one of whom (Kane) has the record for goals scored in this fixture.
Thirdly, our generally poor record against teams managed by Jose Mourinho.
All three factors make me nervous about how today is going to pan out, but there are counterweights in the other half of the scales that can provide grounds for optimism:
The renewed scoring form of Aubameyang, the sudden uptick in goals being scored from midfield, the dynamism of our attacking play, the fact that, despite their decent run of late, the Spuds’ form has been up and down like a yoyo this season.
Going back to my three areas of concern, if we can eliminate the first one by not shooting ourselves in the foot we are definitely in with a chance.
The tactics will be interesting to observe today. We lost at the Armitage Shanks arena when, despite being the home team, the Totts sat back and invited us onto them, then hit us on the break.
However, Mourinho must have been looking at our recent catastrophes playing out from the back and will surely be tempted to try a high press and force more errors. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Here’s the team I expect Mikel Arteta to send out:
Bellerin – Luiz – Gabriel – Tierney
Xhaka – Partey
Pepe – Odegaard – Willian
I think Saka might be saved for use as an impact sub (he has played an awful lot of minutes this season and looked tired in the last two games).
I would start with Smith Rowe in the middle and Odegaard on the bench, but the Norwegian had a good game in midweek and I fancy Arteta will stick with him.
It goes without saying that I don’t want to see Willian start, but Arteta (who apparently was instrumental in bringing the Brazilian to the club) clearly can’t admit the signing was a mistake.
At the back Luiz and Gabriel seem to be emerging as the first choice CBs. Luiz always has a kamikaze moment in him, but on the other hand he tends to do well in the big games and this is a big game.
If it were down to me, we’d start with this line-up:
Cedric – Holding – Gabriel – Tierney
Xhaka – Partey
Pepe – Smith Rowe – Aubameyang
It’s about time we beat this lot again – let’s hope today is the day.
Come On You Gunners!