Well that came around quickly didn't it? So much so that it only occurred to me this morning that we were playing this evening. With the league so tight these days it makes Premier League predictions so much more difficult, but I hope we can step up now that the intensity increases.
I must say, I am feeling excited about this one, not because of the fixture itself exactly but because we are going to have a team out there that is very close to our first choice eleven and if that is not exciting then I don't know what is. We had witnessed some of those players on show on Saturday against Burnley in the FA Cup, hopefully a few more days of ball work will have sharpened up Alexis and Coquelin even further. The former already looks near to the level in which he caused havoc in opposition defences across the country. Coquelin was understandably further away given that it was his first game since his injury. Hopefully we will see another step forward in that regard this evening.
The Flamini/Ramsey central midfield combination has had a few teething problems that I don't think we truly fixed so even if Coquelin is not at his sharpest just yet, I imagine Arsène will be willing to play him into his best form. The Coquelin/Ramsey partnership is an interesting one because it was clearly one that Arsène has avoided for the most part. It lasted for 45 minutes on match day one against West Ham until Arsène went back to his tried and trusted Santi/Coq duo.
Fast forward to 2nd February and the team has had to adapt to injuries, has had to do without Santi Cazorla for a number of weeks now so I am intrigued to see how they do as a pair. Ironically though, you would think that the part of Santi's game that is missing from the team in his absence could well be within Mohammed Elneny's skill set, at least in terms of building up our game but the manager sounded rather cautious when talking about the physical side of the game and his need for adjustment.
Arsène does seem rather particular about the need to withstand challenges and all that, he often mentions this when it comes to younger players.
Anyway I digress, as I tend to do. The whole digress thing started when I was a kid, I was at my home enjoying an egg sandwich and I....
Alexis will start on the left, that seems clear and you would expect Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey to come back into the middle of the pitch so I guess the only real question mark or marks could be who starts wide right. If Arsène is desperate to get Walcott into the side then he could start him at centre forward and rest Giroud but I don't think I see that happening. So the candidates for the right flank are Joel Campbell, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. Ramsey at a push if Arsène goes all Elneny crazy, which I somehow doubt.
Interesting one really, Joel Campbell is in good form and is fully rested but also know that Arsène loves a bit of the Ox, as do I in fairness. Chamberlain had a good game against Burnley and might want to give him another go to see if he can gain some momentum, he did that after the last FA Cup match against Sunderland, Ox went on to start the next Premier League match. It would be very harsh on Joel Campbell who has worked his socks off, so much so that Vic Akers has had to dig around for a new pair. He deserves his place in the first team at the moment but I get the suspicion that the Ox is still higher in Arsène's long term pecking order.
The other option is Theo Walcott, there is Mr pecking order right there. On current form he is probably the least likely but the advantage that Theo has is his ability to give the team that no other can or attempts to. If Arsène wants to get a player running in behind then Theo is first pick, even if he isn't at his best.
For the sake of a predicted line up, I am going to go with Joel because a) he deserves it and b) he has fresher legs. If Campbell doesn't play then you would have to assume it is because he doesn't think Campbell and Alexis compliment each other as much, I dunno, just speculating here.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
Per Mertesacker returning was the other player I forgot to mention, he should come straight back into the team after a one game suspension. Any chance of Koscielny being rested for this one? He hasn't been at his very sharpest in recent weeks so I wonder if Arsène would be willing to drop him out for a game, especially as he played a few days ago. I can't be bothered to change the above graphic (the professional that I am) but I reckon this is a possibility. Bellerin, Monreal and Mertesacker have all had a breather while Kos has had to continue to be the boss, even if his bossy ways haven't been as bossy as they have been earlier in the season.
Danny Welbeck isn't yet ready for a return to the bench (I don't think) so we may have a bench of Walcott, Elneny, Arteta, Chamberlain/Campbell which is better than recent weeks.
While the Saints have been somewhat of a pain at their ground, we have been pretty strong against them at home. Apart from last seasons league cup knock out but we don't need to talk about that.
I would usually say something about the result being all that matters but I'm not sure that is quite the case. Think we need a good performance now that we are closer to full strength. We have done the digging in part and now we need to get back to our best because we have some real tough fixtures on the horizon, tough fixtures that a fully functional and in form Arsenal can deal with but perhaps not the Arsenal in the last few weeks, so it's time to up our game.
Apologies for the lack of Q&As and other articles in recent weeks, I have been swamped with work so really haven't had the time.
Anyway enjoy the game and fingers crossed for a win and good performance.