Written by Mean Lean on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 15:21
Arsenal football is back at long last. It has been an age since we last beat West Ham away from home and the players must be on a high after that very good victory.
A Gooner friend of mine has been winding me up and making up stories about how we have already played since that game and that it didn't go very well but I have no recollection of any of that. Fancy that, trying to trick me for no good reason.
Anyway, the boys are back in Champions League action this evening against a Schalke team that have just beaten the German Champions in Dortmund. That is the best preparation that a visiting team would need so if any Arsenal players were to even show a glimpse of complacency then I hope one of the coaching staff slaps that complacency out of their mouths. One crisp slap should do the trick.
Tonight's visitors are unbeaten in their last five matches so as Arsene would say, we shouldn't expect any weakness from them tonight.
Victory against this tough outfit should put us in a great position to qualify for the knock out rounds so I say lets get the basics right, let us do the minimum in every game and that is to work hard off the ball, to close players down, go into duels with the intention of winning them and defend as a team.
When we have the ball, lets move it quickly and make runs for the man on the ball. That should be the basic template for every match and failure to achieve those goals means that winning football matches will be an uphill struggle, regardless of who you are playing. Even struggling sides in our domestic league. *ahem*
Arsene could well make a few changes to the team tonight. As you may know, John Cross has indicated that Gervinho could replace Giroud in attack with Ramsey moving to Gervinho's wide position on the right to add that extra bite and creativity to our midfield.
It is a topic I wrote about last night when talking of Tomas Rosicky's comeback. Have a read.
Francis Coquelin could be drafted into the midfield to fill Ramsey's vacant position if that forward change was made. It is interesting to see how many players are affected by making only one change.
It would also mean that Mikel Arteta would likely be pushed a step further up into midfield, giving him more of a licence to get forward and support Santi Cazorla rather than solely protecting the back four.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line up
The rotation of forwards is something that we haven't seen before in Arsene's reign at the club. Well especially since moving to the one striker system. Has there ever been a time where three players have played the most forward position in such a short time?
I am not sure how much I like it to be honest because it feels like we are not allowing any of our forwards to settle down into the position. But it seems as if Arsene likes Gervinho for home games or at least Champions League games where as Giroud is preferred away from home.
I have banged on about this particular drum but it still strikes me that we are not getting the best from a few players in the positions they are playing in.
Gervinho - Struggles on the right but the left is occupied.
Podolski - Steady but not utilising his finishing ability as much as perhaps he should.
Giroud - Doesn't get enough crosses on his head.
What strikes me is that all those players are our forward players and it may not be a coincidence that our attack hasn't been firing on all the proverbial cylinders as yet. It could also be a consequence of having new players in our attack.
Watching the Manchester United match last night it struck me once again how they manage to score goals when they do not play well and for large periods they did not function very well in attack.
In the Manchester United games that I have watched so far this season, it looks as if van Persie has had to sacrifice his game, his game is now less about combination play, less about football if you like but more about playing as a penalty box striker.
The route through the middle was often blocked off by Braga but they managed to score all three goals from crosses. One corner and two crosses from wide areas.
They get the ball wide, get attacking players in the box and attack high balls. We now have a player who can attack high balls but we do not cross the ball well enough and do not get enough players in the penalty area.
I much prefer our combination football when we are doing it well, passing through the opposition. It is based solely on technique rather than percentages and is far more enjoyable to watch but if we could incorporate part of the crossing game into our football we would be a stronger team for it, and more varied, especially on days when our football is slow and we look as if we cannot up the gears.
But I digress totally from this match preview and that is not my intention. So let us get back to it.
Schalke 04 have good players especially Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay who I rather dislike. Well he is a friend of van Persie after all and hatred by association is good enough for me.
So they will be a threat going forward and the team will have to be switched on and focused this evening to get a result. I have actually had a rather bad feeling about this game to be honest. A lot of people expecting us to win but after that game that didn't happen I wonder what state the mentality of the players will be like, especially if we do not score early.
Are we in enough creative form to break them down if they come to defend in numbers? But perhaps that is just pre match nerves. What is not in question is that when we are playing well then we are capable of beating most teams in Europe, especially at home where our record is fantastic.
Fingers crossed that we get this team back on track tonight with a strong performance.
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