After a very disappointing result in the home fixture against Spurs I hope to see a more dominating and confident Arsenal take the field today. We have been playing extremely well of late, comfortably beating Stoke 3-0, City 2-0 away, demolishing Aston Villa as well as booking our place in the next round of the FA Cup. But this is the North London Derby and as most people should know form goes out the window for derbies. It’s all about who wants it more on the day.
The club from Seven Sisters will desperately want to beat us as it would mean they leapfrog us in the league. This is why we should look at the Manchester City game as our game plan. They will leave themselves exposed as they try to constantly attack through Christian Eriksen. If we can take the Danish playmaker out of the game then we should be able to frustrate our opposition into making even riskier plays for us to capitalise upon.
The big discussion over the last couple of days was whether Alexis Sanchez would be fit to play or not. Arsene Wenger said in his press conference that Alexis is in the red zone and will be rested, returning against Leicester. Others have been suggesting Wenger is playing mind games ahead of the derby. I think we’ll see Alexis on the bench as a ‘break in case of emergency’ scenario.
One player who can fill in for the Chilean is Danny Welbeck, who returns from injury. Welbeck is a player who also has tremendous work ethic and always chases back. But could throwing him into the NLD for his first game back be too much? Possibly. Tomas Rosicky, who was rested against Villa, is another player who loves playing, and scoring, against Spurs. Could he return to the lineup?
The back five pretty much picks itself for me. Ospina to continue in goal after keeping 3 clean sheets. He also instils confidence in the players in front of him. Bellerin has to continue at right back after his recent performances. Koscielny, Mertesacker (who also isn’t adverse to scoring against the scum) and Monreal will complete the defence.
Whilst on the subject of our defence, Aaron Ramsey had this to say:
“We’ve learnt from last season when we left ourselves a bit too open in the big away games and teams picked us off. We’ve proven that against Manchester City – sometimes you have to sit in and get bodies behind the ball to try and frustrate them. I thought we did that really well against City.”
Our midfield will consist of Coquelin, who has been integral to our recent turnaround in results and will have a major role to play in keeping Eriksen quiet today. Santi Cazorla, the Spanish magician, who has hit some major form lately will be trying to unlock that woeful Spurs defence. Aaron Ramsey will be the engine in midfield who gets stuck in and also tries to keep play moving. One criticism I have of Ramsey lately is that he slows our game down too much when there are great options to choose from. Let’s hope that’s not the case today.
Our forward line will be led by our handsome battering ram Giroud. Now this is where it gets interesting, who will play either side of the Frenchman? Will Wenger keep Mesut Ozil out left after his confident performances or bring in the more battle hardened Tomas Rosicky? I think we’ll opt for the Mesut Ozil in the absence of Alexis with Theo Walcott on the right.
I’m going for a 3-1 win (to Arsenal of course..duh!)
In other news, it has now officially been confirmed that Chuba Akpom and Francis Coquelin have signed contract extensions, after snubbing several clubs. Chuba Akpom definitely looks a talent up front and is exciting to watch, he offers far more than Sanogo for me. It will be interesting to see what happens with Sanogo once his loan at Palace is over. Francis Coquelin has also deserved this extension after his recent performances and could even be regarded as the spark that turned our form around.