We've coped pretty well thus far without messrs Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla, so much so that the gnashing of teeth has been down to a minimum even though we are down to the barest of bones when it comes to our midfield.
But since Francis Coquelin hobbled off at West Brom and Cazorla ended his game at Norwich on one leg, the opposition we've faced hasn't been of the very highest level, this is about to change as mega bucks Manchester City roll into North London looking to give us one of our biggest tests of the season to date.
It's been a pretty fun weekend of football hasn't it? Arsenal fans were down in the dumps when we drew to Norwich away from home so imagine how Manchester United must be feeling after losing to the same opposition at home? Jose Mourinho was given his P45 from Roman which made me chuckle several times until it became apparent that he could well be angling for Van Gaal's job. Which quickly wiped my smile off my face but that's a topic for another time.
What I am interested in today is how we approach the game given our personnel. I remember this fixture a good few seasons ago when Balotelli lost his mind and got sent off. We pressed the bejesus out of them and did not let them play at all. We missed a host of good chances until Mikel Arteta strode forward and unleashed a long range strike past the sprawling Joseph Hart for a 1-0 victory that flattered the visitors.
I am hopeful that we can do the same to City tonight. They have a wealth of attacking quality going forward and have been suspect defensively. Perhaps the best way of stopping their offensive players will be to win the ball back before it gets to the likes of Silva, De Bruyne, et al. If we are to play that way it would be kinda helpful to have Alexis Sanchez fit and starting on the flank, Arsène has understandably kept his decision tucked away under his hat. Arsène said that Alexis was running but hadn't started ball work, but you cannot take much of what he says about the team pre match at face value.
I get the feeling that we may well see Alexis starting the game assuming he has come through the medical tests at London Colny, it may only be for 70 minutes or so but I think he will start rather than take a place on the bench. In a game against one of your main rivals there is more than 3 points at stake, beating City would give the players a massive amount of belief that could be vital for what will be a tough Christmas period. Given the size of the game I think Arsène will be keen to put out his best possible team and we already know what Alexis is like when it comes to playing football.
If that is the case then it will be interesting to see who starts on the other flank. Theo Walcott is clearly higher up the pecking order but you would think that Joel Campbell would give us a better balance opposite Alexis. Ideally Arsène would want a midfielder to tuck inside and support Ramsey and Flamini against the likes of Toure, Fernandino, De Bruyne and Silva. While Theo Walcott has plenty to scare City at one end, his limited amount of touches of the ball could give City a good chance of dominating the game in the middle of the pitch. If we decide to play counter attacking football from the first whistle then I would imagine our lack of midfield options would force that choice upon Arsène Wenger.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
I have to say, I would be much more confident if we had Coquelin and Cazorla in the middle with Ramsey starting on the right in this one but we have a lot to hurt Manchester City if we are able to stamp our authority on the game. l
I haven't even mentioned that Sergio Agüero is back for City which obviously is a huge boost for them. We have to hope that a) Koscielny has another top performance and b) Agüero takes a few games to get up to speed. Ideally he won't even last the 90 minutes before his hamstring goes once again. I know, I know horrible thing to say for such an enjoyable player to watch and all that but come on, my investment is in the Arsenal here, a Cityless Agüero gives us a better chance of winning the league or at least competing so I am going to have to sacrifice Agüero's hammies. I'm sure he'll understand.
Now obviously none of our players are allowed to get injured you understand, we've had quite enough of that so far this season and many past for that matter.
It will be interesting to see what sort of reception Bacary Sagna gets back at the Emirates. I don't think he managed to get on the pitch last season, I am too tired to go and check. Hopefully Bellerin returns to his best and shows everyone why we have all but forgot about Sagna this season. Hopefully Sagna will get a good roasting from Alexis for good measure.
It should be a good game of attacking football from both teams, I just hope we can get the win.
Fingers crossed and all that.