The biggest challenge of Freddie Ljungberg’s career as interim Arsenal manager awaits and although Manchester City have been surprisingly out of salts this season, it’s obvious to everyone that Guardiola’s gladiators are far superior from the front to the back.
Even the most loyal supporter must be dreading what mag befall the dysfunctional gunners on Sunday, especially because they have no way of plugging the holes in one of the worst defences in Arsenal’s history.
The problems have become worse for Arsenal, if that’s possible, with injuries to Bellerin, Tierney and Holding. Hector Bellerin may just be available but it won’t take much to see him exit the pitch in a game that will be extremely demanding.
Let’s hope that Ljungberg doesn’t throw Maitland-Niles to the metaphorical wolves because he will be overrun rather quickly as a temporary and inexperienced right back.
The fact remains that the choices are limited. Such is the desperate standard of defensive options, none of the permutations look solid or fill one with confidence.
Of course Chambers could fill in but he has never looked comfortable in the position and I’d prefer him at the centre of the back four with Holding or Mavropanos.
I doubt that will happen because David Luiz seems to be living a charmed life and is picked regardless of his indiscretions or performances and likewise, Sokratis seems undroppable at the moment.
The set up for this match is going to be crucial and any ambitions that Arsenal have of matching City with free flowing, artistic football should be put on ice, because throwing caution to the wind could lead to a landslide score.
Ljungberg will have to rely on counter attacks and players with natural pace and in that respect, I would certainly be thinking of a combination of Pepe, Nelson or Saka, I’d also include the ambition , guts and energy of Gabriel Martinelli.
Up front for Arsenal, it’s Aubameyang or Lacazette but not both, Arsenal need solidity which they haven’t necessarily got but Torreira must start, either on his own in front of the back four or with someone who isn’t Xhaka.
I continue to press for Luiz to play higher up the pitch to form a partnership with the Uruguayan but I’m not sure that anyone other than myself can see it.
Despite City’s recent woes, they will want to brush aside Arsenal and continue to gather up points in the hope that Liverpool stall. On paper that looks incredibly likely and even on line the gunners were 40/1 to get a victory, whilst City were 6/1.
Pep Guardiola tried to make it sound as if Arsenal were on a par with his stuttering City side but his words sounded slightly hollow,
“Arsenal have a typical style of play. If you let them play, they have the quality to play. Arsenal away is always a big test for any team.”
On Ljunberg he said generously,
“He knows the feelings of the club and the fans, the way they like to play. He made a good result the last weekend so we’ll see.”
I’m going to quote from The Bourne Identity in regards of this game “ you need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.” Arsenal fans don’t really anticipate a victory but a plucky and meaningful performance would be appreciated.
Score prediction: Arsenal 4-2 City
Leno, Chambers, Holding, Mavropanos, Koslasinac, Torreira, Pepe, Ozil, Guendouzi, Saka, Aubameyang.
Leno, Maitland Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Kolasinac,Torreira, Willock, Aubameyang, Ozil, Saka and Lacazette.