Rotation vs Retention
There have been times this season when it’s been difficult to even pick a first XI to start a game with the injuries that came knocking on the door right from the first day. Now the epidemic is phasing out and with the schedule of games that have been played and those still ahead, there is the inescapable need to rotate the squad. Mertesacker, Cazorla, Alexis, the Ox, and until recently, Calum Chambers, have hardly had a breather this season, but we cannot rotate too much to destabilize the team. Alexis has a very good recovery system, so says Wenger, and it is almost certain he’ll play. Santi is in exciting form and does not look like he wants a rest. Debuchy has only just returned and is in need of games. There is basically no one to rotate!
What’s the Poison to What Koeman’ll Cook?
Without their stout midfield machinery in Morgan Schneiderlin, we would expect Koeman to make a decision that will keep the midfield as congested as possible, with outlets on the flanks. It would be resemblance of a 3-5-2 from Southampton, a set-up which worked well for them at Selhurst Park against QPR, with Wanyama, Davis and Ward-Prowse the obstacles to climb in what will be an engaging midfield battle. A strong back three of Fonte, Alderrweireld and Yoshida will be hard to beat, unless we do better than the no-trouble we gave to a quite inferior-looking Toure-Skrtel-Sakho set-up at Anfield.
Coquelin-MIni Double Pivot?
The cameras did not focus much on him but another look at that first half at Upton Park will convince you that Francis Coquelin was one of the best players on the pitch. We don’t expect Southampton to always go route one but they have very mobile players who still need a lot of energy to keep them tracked, and in that sense, retaining the Flamini-Coquelin pair in midfield may be a wise decision. He made more tackles than any other Arsenal player in that first half, and it was inevitable he would tail off in the second. His confidence cannot be any more on the high if given another opportunity to finally make a case for a career at the Emirates.
Can Sanogo be our Forster-Beating Giroud?
In the end it was Alexis who got the winner in the first leg at the Emirates but there was no doubt it was Giroud’s impact that made the difference. After being denied several attempts by the England goalie, his presence made it difficult for Southampton’s defence to make good clearance of the ball, Ramsey eventually cutting it back for the Chilean’s winner. We won’t Giroud and we may not have Welbeck either; Sanogo? The Saints back four are all big lads and we’d need some physical presence in that box. Podolski did not do well as a Number 9 when we played them in the League Cup and we have not tested Campbell there well enough to know. Sanogo has plaayeda good game against Bayern Munich and scored against Dortmund, nothing on his CV to say he can’t do it against the Saints.
A basic thing to do in every game really, but Wenger would have to sound it more clearly as we nearly paid for our wastefulness at Upton Park.
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