Oliver Giroud has a very good scoring record against the Toon and I expect him to keep his place but I wonder if Arsène may consider throwing Theo Walcott back to the right as additional goalscoring threat. We haven't seen it for a while now but given the fact that we are creating chances for fun and not converting (not so fun), Walcott is certainly a player who can help in that area. But as ever, a change like that would cause a domino effect onto the midfield. One of Coquelin, Cazorla or Ramsey would have to sit out and I am not willing to hurt my head by thinking about that so I will cram them all into my predicted line up and see if one of them drop out, if not then we may well stick to the same line up as against Liverpool
Liverpool on the other hand, started only three players in their last match against AFC Bournmouth who also started from that team beaten so well in April. Those chaps are Mignolet, Henderson and Coutinho. So the Scousers are somewhat of an unknown quantity this evening and perhaps even more so if Brendan Rodgers adjusts the way his team approach the game. Last season they tried to play out from the back and were met by the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey who stole the ball off them time and time again in dangerous areas. As much as I'd love it, I can't see them playing into our hands like that this time around. So it will be interesting to see what their response will be because I imagine we will approach the game in similar fashion once more.
Arsene will have to decide between Giroud or Walcott for the central striking role which is a pretty tricky one to guess. Away from home, perhaps having more space to get in behind would suit Theo but having a focal point and a strong player from set pieces could suit Giroud. It will be the midfield area that will be the most intriguing selection. Cazorla and Coquelin have been a successful partnership but Ramsey wants to play centrally and is a game changer when on his game. Have we seen enough of the Coquelin/Ramsey partnership to categorically call it unworkable? Is Cazorla now unsuited to a wider position? Do we lose control of a game without him centrally? So many questions
You all chuckled and giggled at us during the early part of last season, you smirked as we failed to get our attacking game together, grinned when we dropped points against lower placed clubs like Tottenham Hotspur and chortled when we lost player after player to injury. Well I hope you enjoyed your fun because you won't get another chance to do that for a long while. We have been slowly building this squad after tearing up the Santos, Bendtner, Gervinho team. I don't know how but we have managed to slip under the radar until now. Picking up a footballing freak like Mesut Özil who has already read five steps ahead of your first thought on the pitch. We picked up a South American whirlwind in Alexis Sanchez and now we have one of the best goalkeepers in Premier League history.
My constant and probably quite random outbursts of 'we really cannot lose this game' did not go unheard. On cup final day I along with a few Gooner friends went to watch the game at another friend of ours where we consumed plenty of beverages and food, pre match it was all going so well and the spirits were high until we of course went 2-0 down, nearly 3 but for a Gibbs clearance off the line. It was that point where I received a phone call from Mrs Lean telling me to try and refrain from passing on my football stresses to Lean junior in future. He had moved into the kitchen to get away from his younger sister who was winding him up and obviously didn't understand the seriousness of the situation. By gee it was serious. Sitting on his own upset at what he had seen on TV. 'This is a match Arsenal have to win' he told his mother desperately trying to fight back the tears
Santi Cazorla has got to miss this one, his little legs have worked very hard this season. When his passing range is off then you know Santi isn't mentally or physically at his best. Alexis might need dropping out but Arsène rarely opts to sit him out. One suspects that if the doctors give the oxygen in his bloody the all clear and there are no physical knocks to worry about then he is patted on the bum and sent out for some more non stop chasing around for 90 minutes
I fully expect the pattern of the game to be very similar to our recent home game against Swansea City. But it will be down to us to open them up and score the first goal. Against Swansea we started the game far too slowly, our passing was laboured and there was not enough movement to shift them out of position. Quite possibly it was our most boring half of the season so far. Had we started the first half
- Manchester United (a) Thoughts & Line Up: A fixture made for Coquelin
- Swansea City (h) Thoughts & Line Up: Will strategic Wenger start Walcott at centre forward tonight?
- Hull CIty (a) Thoughts & Line Up: The Ramsey/Cazorla conundrum & Rediscovering that spark
- Chelsea (h) Thoughts & Line Up: We owe detestable Chelsea a beating
- Reading (n) Thoughts & Line Up: Winning will be a consequence of commitment
- Burnley (a) Thoughts & Line Up: Midfield could give Arsene a happy headache
- Liverpool (h) Thoughts & Line Up: Form suggests Arsenal win but Pool will have other ideas