Friday, 24 January 2014

Arsenal vs Coventry: Match Preview


The good thing about our Arsenal squad - as Arsene Wenger points out - is that we can rotate the squad and still have a starting XI with no dearth of quality. it is why players like Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky and (dare I add) Nicklas Bendtner are in the reserves, so that they are fresh for FA Cup matches, just as important as Premier League games. In a club like Arsenal - approaching 9 years without a trophy - we must defeat Coventry today to maintain hopes of a realistic double, or a trophy for that matter.

It seems that this Arsenal side has matured enough to not slip-up against underdogs. Indeed, we've only dropped 5 points against teams that we should've beaten (West Brom and Aston Villa), a remarkable figure compared to previous seasons. I'm not taking that statistic as inference that progression to Round 5 is guaranteed, but I won't deny that it will instill me with confidence.

Coventry City are a club in worse conditions than Blackburn (please don't ask me why I'm making this comparison), and we're an Arsenal team miles better than last year. Needless to say, anything other than a win for us would be a massive shocker, but it is something that I'm almost ruling out. Almost.

Even if we play Park Chu Young or field Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the center (an idea I'm not exactly a fan of), Arsenal should have much more in their locker than Coventry to cruise past them. With odds overwhelmingly in our favour - the current best team in England playing one of the worst AT HOME - there really shouldn't be any excuses in the post-match conference, and there probably won't.

In team news, players like Ramsey, Arteta, Vermaelen and Sanogo are ruled out, but should be back against Southampton or the game after. While people are suggesting that the manager might be tempted to play Viviano in goal, I think that he will still stick with Lukasz Fabianski, with the back four of Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Nacho Monreal in front of him.

Arsene's midfield selection should be a tricky one. Can he risk starting players like Zelalem and/or Frimpong, or should he stick with players like Flamini and Wilshere? Should he consider The Ox in the center to make space for Gnabry and Podolski on the wings, or should he include Santi Cazorla instead? The fact that he has so many options should lead him to consider which pairings would hurt Coventry's defence the most, and then proceed with a suitable lineup.

Then there's the striker role - options like Podolski, Bendtner, Park and Giroud spring to mind. I think Wenger will decide to start Nicklas with Park on the bench and Giroud rested. While I think that Bendtner would have a good game if that is indeed the case, the need for a striker still wouldn't be lessened.

Apparently Wenger thinks the opposite, focusing on Yaya Sanogo's and Bendtner's strengths, along with almost ruling out a signing. I'm tired of saying that Arsenal CAN get a striker, if Arsene Wenger has the willpower, but he so obviously does not. If he did, we would either be sitting with Berbatov or Morata and also made plans to shore up our defence. If we tried even harder since the start of the window, I'd reckon we would've even gotten players like Jackson Martinez or Mirko Vucinic by now.

However, I find it very painful to say that deals like these are NOT going to happen. While I'm not ruling out a loan signing on deadline day or a decent cut-price transfer, I'm appealing to all Arsenal supporters who take time to view this blog - please don't torture yourselves with links to Draxler and whatnot. It's not going to happen (at least not in January); it's a deal as unlikely as Yaya Toure going to Aston Villa on a 6 year contract.

I understand the feelings of Arsenal supporters who decide to believe the news that they want to. I (used to) feel it too, because I want Wenger to buy those players. However, the cold hard truth is that such deals are not going to turn into reality, so it's better to view the remainder of the window as a realist than believing half-reports and creating a fantasy world for oneself. In the end, you will end up feeling the same dissatisfaction, but at least if you take the realistic path, acceptance and recovery will be much quicker.

A lot of Wenger's purchases have happened when he was under pressure - barely under free will. The late trolley dash after 8-2, Nacho Monreal bought in after the fiasco of Andre Santos and Gibbs getting injured on deadline day, Arshavin's purchase when top four was on the line, and also the buys of Mathieu Flamini and Mesut Ozil bought after unbelievable pressure on the manager are examples that spring to mind.

This time though, Arsene Wenger is not under pressure at all. Our Champions League spot is almost confirmed, confidence is sky-high among the Gooner community and the Emirates is housefull yet again. We're competing on three fronts and also showing financial stability, not to mention announcing an imminent Puma deal on Monday. Why should the manager feel pressure at all?

What frustrates me is that the manager needs to be put under pressure to sign someone, not the mark of a good manager at all. Why can't Wenger realize himself that a player needs to be bought, instead of witnessing a bunch of angry fans chant the obvious truth in the stadium, and then making a move? How can Arsene possibly imagine that Giroud and Bendtner can compete with the duos of Negredo-Aguero, Sturridge-Suarez and Rooney-RVP? When will he become wise to the obvious truth that this team will run out of steam come the business end of the campaign?

Arsenal's horribly split fan base means that there won't be enough people agreeing to my views, let alone decide to protest in large numbers. Yes, I am very proud of the players that currently don the red and white, but I don't think there are enough number of players in the team to be proud of.

Something must be done in the next week. Nothing will be, I'm afraid.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )