Alright, just a little over 24 hours away from the home opener against Pompey and there’s very little news, apart from the exclusive with Le Boss on the dot com. Still, we have to have a match preview, right? So, let’s get stuck in.
Much has been made of home form when it comes to winning trophies and looking back at last year, where United lost just one and Liverpool zero, one would tend to agree. Arsenal lost three matches at home all season (six matches all told) and that simply won’t do if we want to challenge this year. Not to heap pressure on the boys, there will be plenty of pressure as the year winds on, but good home form especially over these next two matches is absolutely critical before we take a road trip to Manchester and face those two. I see this Pompey match as a jumping off point for this squad, we showed we can get 6, on the road, now lets show what we can do at home.
Those of you who are there can help out as well by bringing the atmosphere and helping to make the Emirates a place where no team wants to play. Now’s the time to start intimidating other clubs with a vibrant atmosphere and a team that scores bags of goals.
Like I said, no pressure!
Pompey will very likely use the 4-5-1 to try and stop us from playing so this means that tomorrow’s match will be our first real test against one of the Premiership’s defensive teams. My man inside the Emirates just emailed me and said that Paul Hart has finally parked the bus in front of the goal, and… yep, now he’s unpacking the tent, the cooler, and the grill. Did I say that they’ll play a 4-5-1? It should be more like a 9-1-1.
And their 1 is a guy on loan from Lyon, Frederic Piquionne. He’s been around the block but never really impressed for any stretch. That said, he will need to be watched because he’s strong and still has some pace left in his 30 year old legs. Set TV5 on him and I think we’ll be ok. Pompey are one of only 4 teams that have yet to score a Premier League goal, let’s keep it that way.
I am a huge proponent of clean sheets. Clean sheets build confidence. Clean sheets win championships. Lets keep a clean sheet tomorrow, especially against a team for whom 4th from the bottom is going to be an admitted victory at the end of this season.
To keep that clean sheet, Wenger will be looking to Vermaelen and Gallas again:
At the back it’s always difficult to combine aggressiveness and commitment and calmness and I think he (Vermaelen) is a good combination of that. And, overall, I think he’s a good combination with Gallas.
Up front, Wenger is already talking about what will be needed to break down Pompey tomorrow. When asked what his favorite part of the season has been so far he replied:
What’s pleased me most is that we play like a real team, who works for each other, and who relentlessly tries for 90 minutes to go at the opponent and score goals.
So, we’ll be attacking, nay marauding their bus, and they’ll be back there cooking sausages on the grill. I don’t expect a high scoring game, because unlike other teams who, once opened up, tend to stretch and attack back, Pompey will defend the whole time. Even if the score is 6-0, I’d be surprised to see Pompey attack.
The injuries (so far HA HA) are Rosicky, Djourou, Nasri, Fabianski, and Walcott. Wenger didn’t mention Vela’s injury so it’s safe to assume that he’s recovered.
Rosicky is starting to worry me, on August 6th it was revealed that he has a slight hamstring injury and on the 8th, Wenger went so far as to say it’s “not major.” It’s now the 21st and he hasn’t even been training. You have to start to wonder how many games he’ll get this year.
Theo Walcott’s a bit different. He traveled with the England team with a back injury, so that kept him from playing with them. When he came back, Arsenal put him in practice (there were photos of Theo practicing) and had to withdraw him from practice when “a scan came up negative.” Le Boss is saying that Theo is only a matter of days, fingers crossed that this is not the same as Rosicky’s “no big deal.”
When asked whether he’s got his eye on anyone in the transfer market, Wenger specifically stated “defense.” I think he sees the problem of having Djourou out for another month (and then trying to get his form) and the only backup being Gerry or Senderos. Senderos reportedly wants to leave, even though no one reportedly wants him, according to, erm, the reports. I tend to agree with Arsene on this, yes, we have some injuries in our attack, that doesn’t mean that 2 games into the 60 game season we need to throw in the hat and buy another attacking player. It’s a bit of a gamble, but I think Theo, Rosicky, and Nasri will play quite a bit this season — especially Theo and Nasri, who combined for 85 matches for Arsenal last season. Not shoring up defense, on the other hand, would be a much bigger gamble.
As for the lineup, given that we’ve got a match on Wednesday, I’d bet money that Wenger rests folks and my starting XI is going to be like this:
With ManOne, Arshavin, Silvestre, Denilson, Ramsey, Wilshere, and Vela on the bench. Yes, I know, it’s a 4-4-2 and we’ve been mostly seeing Arsenal in a 4-3-3, but it’s the only way I could rest anyone!
As for tomorrow’s match on the telly, I’ve created a handy little guide here for my North American and UK readers. The U.S. listings I’m pretty certain of (multiple sources) but the UK Listings, well, I got them from Arsenal dot com so they are as accurate as that site. If you’d like to add data to that list, please, send me an email. I’ll be updating it as we get more information.
Anyway, tomorrow’s match is on Setanta and our friends over at Doyle’s will be hosting us local Gooners. Come on down and have some breakfast if you’re in town. Oh and hey, look at that, it’s a 7am kickoff!
Stop by here after the match (noon-ish PST) for the post match Good, Bad, and Ugly. No sense in doing a 7am blog tomorrow, when I could just as easily wait till after the match and do the “match report.” Right?