Tonight sees us host Hull who are coming off the back of a big win against Liverpool at the weekend. It was a confident and complete win but it is worth bearing in mind that their only points on the road this season have come away at Newcastle. Hopefully they will be harboring some tired legs after the intensity of Sunday and we can bring their on-pitch joys crashing down.
Pre-match, all the talk (bar some farfetched transfer news) has focused around the potential rotation of the starting line up. Over the past few seasons the thought of rotation, given the nature of our squad, had many of us dreading the consequences. However, with our relative lack of injuries the current setup is looking very capable of coping. Sagna is officially ruled out and we will see the somewhat suspect Jenkinson replace him. I feel for Jenkinson a little. He has had his struggles but it is worth remembering a decent run he had in the team last year, including an assured performance in Munich. There is no replacement for minutes on the pitch, which currently with the form of Bacary Sagna, he has little hope of getting. He is young and although I don’t see him as our long-term right back he is capable of ‘doing a job’. Aside from that I expect to see the center back partnership remain the same, with the potential for Monreal to fill in at left back. On Nacho, I challenge anyone to propose a better back up left back around at the moment, he does an excellent job late on in the games, coming on to sure things up defensively and is capable of playing in a number of positions. His performance against Marseille was excellent and there is no doubt in my mind that if he comes in tomorrow we will see another assured display. Aside from that I reckon we will see Santi drop out for Rosicky, Walcott on the right with Wilshere and Flamini in the hold. And I imagine Giroud and Ozil will have to deal with another hard working 90 minutes. The hint from Wenger has been that Ramsey will be out, a tough decision given his form but he covers as much ground as anyone and will be pinnacle to our success over the next few weeks. Even with such changes to the side, it is a very strong team with the added dimension Theo brings. He has historically thrived against the ‘lesser’ teams and if he does get his opportunity tonight I expect him to have an impact.
A word on the competition in the squad, it is so evident how the presence of it breeds excellence. Every player on the pitch tomorrow night will know that a good performance could result in a start for them in the coming weeks. They are all massive games and they all want to be involved. They are also aware that an off performance could lead to them losing their place and so many of them are thriving under this pressure. You can even tell when players come on late in the game how keen they are to impress. It is as much a credit to the attitude of the players as the situation, but the competitive nature embedding itself in the squad cannot be underestimated when accounting for our success. It is something that Arsene has been reluctant to introduce previously, maybe, as much down to lack of resources to sign new players than anything else, but on the current evidence it’s working wonders.
It will by no means be an easy game tonight but I remain confident of a positive result. Always good to get in an extra mid week game under the lights as well.