Friday, 23 April 2010

Arsenal preview

Things look less good than they did ten days ago. Last Wednesday we were four points ahead of a Spurs side who had just lost a draining, demoralising FA Cup semi to Portsmouth and who faced consecutive home games against Arsenal and Chelsea. From somewhere they conjured up their two best performances of the season and won both games 2-1, while we lost yet another stoppage time defeat to Manchester United. Now we're two points behind, with inferior goal difference and our chances of doing it look less than 50%. Not the best time, then, for Arsenal away - a fixture in which we have an abject record. We've been to Emirates three times and lost all three, conceding six and scoring one - and that was DaMarcus Beasley.

Nevertheless, I'm more confident than I ought to be about this game. Our away form is pretty good: three wins and two draws from our last five, for reasons I've pointed to here. In short, we can park the bus relatively well and have real pace and incision on the break. With that in mind, I favour the replication of the gameplan from Chelsea away. This means dropping Emmanuel Adebayor, which could actually do us a favour in terms of taking away one of the few motivations of the Arsenal fans and players at this stage in the season. I'd line up a front three of Craig Bellamy, Carlos Tévez and Shaun Wright-Phillips, on the basis that Adam Johnson has played three games against 'Big Four' sides this so far for us and has contributed nothing of note in any of them. There are three candidates for the extra spot in midfield - Stephen Ireland, Pablo Zabaleta and Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira. I'd go for Vieira and put Zabaleta at right-back ahead of Nedum Onuoha.

Why 4-3-3? Because I don't think we can afford to go 4-4-2, as thrilling as it would be to see Adebayor charging at Sol Campbell and Mickaël Silvestre. Arsenal always dominate possession but without a three man shield in front of our back four I think Samir Nasri would pick us off. Obviously we're compromising on goal threat to an extent, but Arsenal's vulnerability on the break at home has been well-proven by Everton and Manchester United this season already. I'd still feel confident if we can get Tévez and Bellamy at full pelt with only Campbell, Silvestre and the laughable Lukasz Fabianski between them and the net.

It's for that reason that I back us grab more goals and points than people are expecting. It might only be a 1-1 but it's not impossible against an Arsenal side that are deprived of both motivation and key players. Last Saturday was a huge blow, but under Mancini we have a remarkable record of winning after major disappointments. After our dismal loss at Goodison Park we beat United in the League Cup semi first leg. After losing the second leg in stoppage time we beat Pompey at home. After losing disastrously at the KC Stadium we beat Bolton. After going out of the FA Cup at Stoke we won at Stamford Bridge. And after that soul-sapping home defeat to Everton we beat Wigan. People like to say that this is a side entirely lacking in spirit, and I've been guilty of this too. But we're stronger in adversity than people think, and I think the memory of last Saturday could just work for us. So I'm forecasting 1-1, and ground made up on Spurs.

1 comment:

phil said...

Ok, yank here.

"and that was DeMarcus Beasley" as if that goal didn't really count. Why is it that every time a City fan mentions his name, it's with some sort of disdain, as if he represented some horrible era in MCFC history.

He was only on loan for one season, the 06-07 season. That was the season I started following MCFC and he's one of the reasons. I know he's not exactly world class and right now, not exactly in any class, but seriously considering the quality of the entire squad that season, he seemed a decent player. I know he only scored two or three goals, but one of them was a nice one against Bolton in a 1-0 win if I remember correctly.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that was in the last half of the season and considering the hard struggle it was to get any goals at all, much less 3 points in any game during that period, it seems that he should be deemed not with disdain, but some sort of american hero!

So lay off Demarcus Beasley, especially since, in light of the tremendous progress the USA has made in recent years, he may be our starting left winger against you in June!