A full midweek programme of Premier League fixtures throws together two under-pressure managers as the Gunners host West Ham United. Arsene Wenger would not have wanted a deepening injury crisis but that is exactly what he appears to be facing.
With Petr Cech ruled out already the news that David Ospina is also a doubt puts the spotlight on third choice goalkeeper, Emiliano Martinez. In front of him there is another enforced change as Laurent Koscielny is ruled out with an achilles injury. Given that we are likely to be facing Andy Carroll it is an important selection. Gabriel is likely to get the nod to start alongside Hector Bellerin, Skhodran Mustafi, and Nacho Monreal.
There will hopefully be better news in midfield if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey have passed fitness tests earlier. It is likely that one of these will replace Francis Coquelin, and the boss must also be considering Mohamed Elneny to give Granit Xhaka a breather. Mesut Ozil, with ninety minutes against Manchester City behind him, will hopefully provide the ammunition to his forward colleagues.
Which three will get the nod? I suspect one change from Sunday, with Olivier Giroud replacing Danny Welbeck up top. Danny’s recovery needs to be managed and the Frenchman is surely fired up and ready to show what we have missed in his absence.
One win and Sunday’s draw in the last six fixtures is a worrying statistic going into a fixture we lost last season 0-2. To counter that the visitors have lost their last four matches and are even lower on form and confidence than we appear to be. Memories of our 5-1 win at their new Meccano stadium in December will still be fresh. They were short defensively that day and Alexis notched a hat-trick. Lets hope he is as dominant this time around.
Slaven Bilic has had the dreaded vote of confidence and defeat in this one could see him getting a taxi home, P45 in hand. It’s a shame. Once tipped to succeed Arsene Wenger this loveable rogue has had to deal with the issues surrounding the new stadium as well as having star man Dimitri Payet sold in the January transfer window. He just didn’t seem to understand. You can also tell he hasn’t watched much of us in recent weeks.
“Arsenal have their problems, but they are still a team with a lot of pace, a team you can’t afford to lose the ball against in your own half because the transition and pace they have up front is unbelievable.”
It’s a long time since we have seen that transition and pace. Will our high intensity pressing game get a rare outing? Talking of pace, the tricky winger Antonio returns after a hamstring energy and will test Hector Bellerin. The last thing we need to see is a string of crosses to Carroll.
The ‘holic pound
It’s hard to see us keeping a clean sheet so I am relying on us out-scoring them once again. For the third time in a row I am drawn to the 3-2 to the Arsenal. Let it be third time lucky at a fairly priced 18/1.
To those going, I hope as always that the boys will put on a show for you. Goodness knows it’s overdue.
Have a good one ‘holics.