Brighton Preview: Avoid Another Embarrassment
On the 12th of December, Arsenal came up against a lower division team 65 places below them in the English top-tier. Judging from their goal-crazy outings against Coventry and Reading, many had expected the Gunners to knock a hatful of goals past lowly Bradford City in Valley Parade. To make things worse for the hosts, Arsenal fielded a strong lineup that was good enough to dispatch any Premier League side on their day.
Profligacy became Arsenal’s watchword on the night and against the run of play, the hosts grabbed the lead. After hitting the posts a couple of times as well as Gervinho’s legendary miss of life, it took a late Thomas Vermaelen header to take the game into extra time.
90 minutes wasn’t enough to separate both sides, and so was the extra 30 and the game went into the lottery of a penalty shootout.
We all know how it panned out and all Hell was loose afterwards. The AMGs (Arsene Must Go) and WOBs (Wenger Out Brigade) came out firing all cylinders and like in the days of the Romans, they wanted the manager’s head on a plate.
Since then, some lessons have been learned while some haven’t, like Arsenal’s consistent poor first half outings lately, but the vice-captain, Mikel Arteta, has come out to explain why the Gunners turn into ravaging beasts in the second half of most encounters (via Arsenal.com),
“When teams play against us, they normally sit really deep and are really organised. If you are patient they [tend to] suffer physically in the last 20 to 25 minutes.
“That is when you can find holes, and mistakes come when teams are more fatigued. It could be down to that, or the fact we know we have to go for it in the [second half of] games.
So that’s the trick, you little Devils.
However, Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Arteta and Francis Coquelin are out for today’s fixture (via Arsenal.com), as well as the captain, Vermaelen, that sprained his ankle against West Ham. But the boss also confirmed that his darling Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky are available for action (via Arsenal.com).
I feel a bit sorry for Rosicky, as he hasn’t been afforded the chance to strut his stuff on the pitch since the arrival of Santi Cazorla. In the tail end of last season, TR7 was in phenomenal form and his resurgence in the middle played a key role in Arsenal’s final surge to a third place finish, as well as Alex Song’s assists and Robin van Persie’s goals of course.
Arsene Wenger still believes that Rosicky can make an impact this season (via Arsenal.com) and many Gooners will like to see that happen because in as much as Cazorla is indispensable to the team, he could do with some rest right about now, bearing in mind that Arsenal plays Liverpool, Sunderland, Stoke and Bayern Munich next.
Rosicky’s last match for the team was in that dead-rubber clash against Olympiakos in Athens, where he scored a well-taken goal from an Aaron Ramsey cutback.
Wenger also talked about Podolski’s outstanding delivery (via Arsenal.com) and Walcott’s massive improvement (via Arsenal.com). Podolski’s performance against West Ham left me drooling and the fans can only wish for more of the same. To be honest, I really can’t wait to see Podolski’s performance against one of his former teams, Bayern Munich. That’ll be an interesting one for the neutrals.
Walcott on the other hand, is justifying his huge paycheck and with a lot of football to be played, the forward can soar to greater heights this season. Everyone can see that his finishing has improved massively and his best years ahead of him. It’s really heartwarming to know that he’ll be at Arsenal in those years, unless…
Today’s opponents are led by a former Chelsea and Tottenham player, the Uruguayan legend, Gustavo Poyet, and they shocked the football world with their comfortable win over struggling Newcastle. If Arsenal takes Brighton likely, they could pay the price and the Seagulls have a quality striker in the form of Craig Mickail-Smith.
Little ol’ Mickail-Smith isn’t the kind of striker that would make top quality defenders like Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny pee on their pants, but he will punish them if they undermine his abilities in front of goal. He has scored 11 goals in the npower Championship thus far.
To team selection, I wouldn’t necessarily expect Wenger to shuffle the squad too much but I have a hunch that Vito Mannone could be given a run-out in goal. This would be the kind of fixture you would expect him to start that’s why I was a bit surprised when Szczesny kept against Bradford.
In defense, I expect Mertesielny to play together in the heart of defense and Vermaelen’s injury probably means that Sebastien Squillaci might be on the bench. I’ve even learned that Johan Djourou wants to remain in Hannover on a permanent basis.
In the fullback positions, I would like to see Carl Jenkinson return to the starting lineup but Kieran Gibbs should retain his position, because Andre Santos playing as a left back scares the shit outta me. He’s better suited as a left winger.
In midfield, Diaby and Rosicky just returned to action, so this game comes too soon which means that they could do with some time on the bench, allowing the Cazorla-Wilshere-Rambo triumvirate to work their magic in the middle.
In attack, Arsenal doesn’t have much options, but I see the manager resting Lukas Podolski to give the Ox a run-out on the left. With Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott retaining their places.
Enjoy the game wherever for are.
Bonus: I recently became a sports writer for a website, WhatCulture.com and I published an article tagged, 5 Reasons Why Theo Walcott Should Have Jumped Ship.
Disclaimer: I’m happy that Walcott signed a new deal so don’t crucify like the other commenters did. :D
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