After getting the first win of the new season under their belt, Arsenal head to Wales seeking the first away win of the Unai Emery era. Hopefully this year we won’t have to wait till the very last game of the season – which underlined the woeful form away from the Emirates which the Gunners couldn’t shake off at al all last season.
But the Bluebirds won’t exactly be easy pickings for an Arsenal team still struggling to find it’s groove
Playing at the Cardiff City stadium in Wales, Neil Warnock’s men have displayed a rather steady, defensive nature as displayed by two clean sheets in their last 2 games.
From among the 3 promoted teams from the Championship – Cardiff have been the most goal shy having scored no goals yet – an unfortunate record they will surely look to cast aside at home against the North Londoners as they are currently the only top flight team without a goal scored. This is in continuation from their campaign while being promoted – they scored fewer goals as compared to both Wolves & Fulham en-route to promotion.
As in the last game Cardiff will continue with a 4-1-4-1 formation, with a greater emphasis for interception & blocking play rather than creating chances. Skipper Sean Morrison, his partner Sol Bamba & defensive midfielder Joe Ralls will have to on top of their game to contain an Arsenal side which can be quite dynamic in attack. Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge has been a star performer, having saved 2 penalties already in 3 games and will try his best to shut out the visiting North Londoners.
As for the Gunners – the performances have been a mix of finding their feet and adapting to a new, more urgent style of play while also factoring in a multitude of new team members. The last performance at home to West Ham wasn’t exactly too convincing but it resulted in a comfortable win nevertheless. What most fans are calling for is for Lucas Torreira to start – a pure DM unlike any other to have been a part of the Gunner’s first team in the past few years. The Uruguayan looks to be a significant upgrade on the last pure defensive midfielder – Francis Coquelin. Matteo Guendouzi has been a great performer in the opening 3 games with his youthful enthusiasm & constant, kinetic style of play but there have been some errors which have resulted in goals, something that surely needs to be cut down upon.
Granit Xhaka has continued to polarize fans with some calling for him to be dropped while other point out how assertive he has been – when playing besides Torreira who has been substituted in the second half till now. The Swiss international will look to start again today and will look to provide a calmer, more composed performance to win over more supporters.
One man assured of his spot in the midfield is former Cardiff player Aaron Ramsey. After completing the first full game of the season, Ramsey will return to Wales when he scored twice in the last League meeting against his boyhood club. With his contract extension still in the air & murmurs of uncertainty regarding his future, Rambo will aim to silence all the doubters by doing all his talking on the field.
In attack, Mesut Ozil should be back from his latest bout of illness – although his automatic start isn’t exactly assured under Emery’s watch as it usually was during Arsene’s tenure. There has been a stream of unpleasant off the field drama with the German – who has been under intense scrutiny post his decision to “retire” from the German NT due to what he calls a lack of protection from systematic racism – and he will want to focus all his energies on the pitch.
Surprisingly, Alex Iwobi will be more assured of a start at the right side of the attack, joined by Henrik Mkhitaryan on the left flank. Leading the line will be Gabonese hitman Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. The former Dortmund striker has been in a rather uncharacteristic lean scoring patch – and will be desperate to score a goal or two at the earliest. While contributing positively to attacks – the sitters missed at Stamford Bridge will still haunt his and the fact the he didn’t score against a rather pedestrian West Ham defence will play on his mind.
Alexander Lacazette has been patiently awaiting his first start of the season. Lacazette forced Issa Diop to score an unfortunate own goal, else he’d have got his first goal of the new campaign. There have been growing calls from fans & observers for the Frenchman to start alongside Aubameyang and an occasion like today’s will be a great occasion for Emery to test this dynamic – which has always looked lethal in the three games that it has been deployed, in which Aubameyang shifts to the left and Lacazette occupies a more central role.
All signs point to a rather sombre game but it wouldn’t be remiss to say that the Gunners are expected to win this feature. Despite the aforementioned woeful away form in the previous season and the loss away to Chelsea two weeks back, the Red & White army will still look to bring back 3 points from Wales.
Come On You Gunners!