“We now want to focus on the championship again and forget about the cup a little bit. We have a good month to come back in a strong position in the Premier League.”
Arsene Wenger, talking to arsenal.com, sums up where the focus lies going into a run of five Premier League fixtures interrupted by yet another infernal international break. Three of those matches are on the road and this weekend we are off to face West Brom at the Hawthorns. We are five points behind fourth placed Liverpool and six behind third placed Manchester City, and they face each other at the Emptihad on Sunday. Three points are essential to enable us to gain ground on at least one of those.
The team news is mixed with Kieran Gibbs and possibly Alex Oxlade Chamberlain doubts ahead of the match, but Mohamed Elneny back to fitness earlier than expected following his ankle injury. There is no need to rush him back potentially too soon so a place on the bench is likely for him. The back five probably picks itself if Gibbs is ruled out. Hector Bellerin, Skhodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, and Nacho Monreal to start in front of Petr Cech.
The formation ahead of them is really a tough decision for the boss. As he himself pointed out in that arsenal.com interview the Baggies have a formidable record of scoring from set pieces this season. Who would have thought that of a Tony Pulis team, eh? That might mean a start up top for Olivier Giroud with one eye on what he can contribute defensively in the air.
That would probably rule out any thought of playing a 4-3-3 set-up in which we have looked most comfortable of late. So, Granit Xhaka to start alongside either Aaron Ramsey or in-form Oxlade-Chamberlain behind Mesut Ozil? Theo Walcott on the right and Alexis on the left? Try and get our best fast moving accurate passing game going. It’s surfaced all too seldom this season, but these players have the ability to bring it back again.
For the Baggies the experienced Morrison will miss Saturday’s game because of an ankle injury, and winger Phillips is also ruled out with a hamstring problem. The hosts are three places and ten points below us in the table, and will be buoyed by the memory of their 2-1 victory in the corresponding fixture last season. To put that into context it was their only win against us in the last thirteen meetings of the clubs.
The ‘holic pound
We have to turn our disappointing away form around and this spell of Premier League fixtures affords us that opportunity. An open contest is a distinct possibility so I am tempted to put a portion of my Cheltenham Gold Cup winnings on a 2-3 to the Arsenal at 25/1 with Paddy Power. That would make for a happy Saturday evening!
Arsenal In The Community and The Arsenal Foundation
I sometimes don’t get the time to read all of the content on the official website, so thought I would share a couple of features I caught up with last night. Full marks to David Ospina, Emiliano Martinez, and Carl Jenkinson for helping blind and partially-sighted youngsters who participate in Arsenal in the Community weekly football sessions in the Arsenal Hub.
Also, I’m not sure how closely you follow the work of the Arsenal Foundation but I did spot this on arsenal.com this week and thought I would share as an example of the work they are doing worldwide. The Foundation have agreed a donation of £50,000 to global charity partner Save The Children to help the ongoing fight against famine in East Africa.
They are just two of the many stories that demonstrate that even at what might be considered a difficult time for the club on the pitch, off it we still exude class aplenty.
Have a great one, ‘holics.