Wenger Can’t Play Ramsey And Santi – One Needs To Go For Palace
Match Preview – Crystal Palace vs Arsenal – Premier League – 16.08.15
Well, that didn’t quite go to plan. After about 60 minutes of last week’s match I started to feel like a prize plum with my huge 5-0 prediction. I expected a weary West Ham, reeling from their Europa League exit to be swept aside by a fresh, invigorated Arsenal team high off their Chelsea win.
Instead I saw a lacklustre, disjointed Arsenal out fought by a determined, hungry and well-organised West Ham side. The gulf in real match practice was as clear as the light of day and West Ham were our physical superiors.
Some will point fingers at the manager and claim we were not as well prepared as expected but in all fairness you cannot truly judge how prepared you are until you play your first competitive game. It just so happened that our first competitive game was against a team 6 matches ahead of us with a gritty desire to overcome their recent disappointment.
The Chelsea game was semi-competitive. There is always an element of preseason to it but to us it was a competitive game and on the face of it we looked ready to start the season. Against Chelsea we faced an opposition at the same competitive level as us and had we faced such a team on opening day the story might have been different.
Arsenal, for all their flaws against West Ham, weren’t short on intent or threat and for a while looked to have gained control of the game. A contentious freekick lead to some sloppy defending and our Messianic new goalkeeper made the first flap of his career. It was as though Mourinho had implanted a chip in his head before he left and took control of the glazed-eyed Czech as the freekick floated in, laughing maniacally as he made Petr do his best Almunia impression.
As much as I would like to blame Mourinho in reality it was the poor defending of the players in front of our new stopper which led to his error. Possibly he felt he needed to make an impression or maybe he knew his only options were to stay put and concede or rush forward for a 50/50 punch and hope it went his way. That shouldn’t have been the end of the matter and looking back he probably did the best he could in that situation and certainly far better than he did for the second goal.
I do not wish to finger point or absolve any one player of blame in what was a collective clusterf*ck but if we are going to apportion blame for the second goal on Cech it must be at the very least equally shared with Oxlade-Chamberlain who partook in his favourite sport of stupidly giving the ball away in his own half.
For all his explosive power, raw talent and ability for excitement young Chamberlain can be an utter liability with the ball. He is a fan favourite and as such is usually exempt from criticism and I am sure I will get more stick for fairly criticising him than he will ever get for the repeated errors he makes. I’ll do a proper write up on my thoughts on Chamberlain (who I actually think has the potential to be our best player) another time. For now let’s focus on Palace away.
Away games at Selhurst Park are never easy but we’ve made it harder on ourselves with our poor start. We cannot afford to drop points here and with Chelsea and City playing one another this weekend a win is the only way to keep in touch with them regardless of the outcome of their match (a draw please).
Pardew claimed a few famous scalps last season and we will have to be at the races to ensure he doesn’t get an early one this season. Certainly the manner of our defeat to West Ham should serve as the kick up the bum we need to stop being complacent in these types of games.
Arsenal could welcome back Bellerin to the match day squad and Alexis is likely to start his first game of the season. If Alexis starts it will be interesting to see who makes up the rest of the front 6.
Cazorla excelled in midfield last season alongside Coquelin and the ambidextrous Spaniard was crucial to the successful integration and performance of the young Frenchman. Coquelin – perpetually in beast mode – had added bite and athleticism to the defensive midfield role but his play building and range of passing isn’t quite up to the standard of his fellow midfielders and he has relied on the superior passing talents of Cazorla to balance the team.
It is a compromise that means Aaron Ramsey has often found himself pushed out to the wing – a position he has publicly, and almost incessantly, announced he does not enjoy. Ramsey has solid technical ability but not enough to balance out Coquelin the way Santi does. The Welshman was clearly at his best when partnered with Arteta who only finds himself displaced by Coquelin, I would assume, due to the latter’s greater stamina, pace and recovery.
Ramsey on the wing makes us extremely narrow as we find ourselves with too many players drifting around the number 10 spot and Santi in the middle makes us slightly less penetrative as he doesn’t make the box to box runs with the same never-depleting energy that Ramsey does.
Which of those starts in midfield I feel determines who starts up front but I believe there is a right answer and a “making it harder for ourselves” answer.
I don’t believe we should try to accommodate the both and should we opt for Santi then Theo would be the best option up front as he is most likely to benefit from the through-balls Özil and Cazorla will play, but should we plump for Ramsey then Giroud would be the best striking choice as he is most likely to play to Ramsey’s strengths.
I’m unsure which I would start with as both options have their appeal, Giroud can physically dominate the Palace defence whilst Theo can pull them hither and thither creating space for other players to take advantage.
Tim Stillman wrote this week for Goonersphere.com about the potential of a Giroud/Walcott tag team and this is just the type of match where either approach could work. Were it a home game I would say go for the option most likely to net you early goals to quell the crowd but our away crowd, on appearances, seem to be a more patient bunch.
Arsenal from; Cech, Ospina, Bellerin, Debuchy, Gibbs, Monreal, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Koscielny, Chambers, Reine-Adelaide, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Flamini, Coquelin, Özil, Ramsey, Cazorla, Walcott, Giroud.
Cech, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Özil, Alexis, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Walcott
I expect to see substitute appearances from Giroud and Ramsey.
“Every defeat makes you a bit smaller, but it is our job to take it in perspective with 37 games to go” – Arsène Wenger
Last 3 Meetings
- Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal (21.02.2015)
- Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace (16.08.2014)
- Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace (02.02.2014)
Arsenal Last 5 (inc preseason)
Crystal Palace Last 5 (inc preseason)
Crystal Palace’s win over Norwich, on paper, flatters to deceive. Norwich had an equalising goal disallowed and Cabaye added a third in the dying minutes to no consequence on the outcome.
That said, they are still a dangerous outfit. Palace have rapid wingers and in Cabaye someone to help feed them on the counter. Arsenal will need to be patient to break them down and ensure they don’t give the ball away cheaply.
- Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 12 visits to Selhurst Park in all competitions
- Crystal Palace have never won their opening two matches in the top division.
- Arsenal have not started a season with successive league defeats since the inaugural Premier League season
- Arsenal have won 42 points in 2015, a joint-league high with Chelsea
- Arsenal won both fixtures against Palace 2-1 last season, scoring in the 45th minute in both games
After last week’s prediction nightmare I’m going to keep it tight at 1-0 to Arsenal
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