Archive for October 2nd, 2011

Derby Day Preview

173 comments October 2nd, 2011

Hello all.  As fate would have it I am unwell on Derby Day, so this will be a very swift, digestible preview.  Which is ironic, as my stomach seems unwilling to digest anything at the moment.  Let’s begin with team news.

Laurent Koscielny is almost certainly out, and with Sebastien Squillaci lacking match practise Alex Song is expected to partner Per Mertesacker at centre-back.  The goalie and right-back pick themselves, but Arsene has a tougher call to make between Andre Santos and Kieran Gibbs.  I expect him to opt for the young Englishman, though Santos’ performance in midweek will certainly have given the manager food for thought.

Wojciech Szczesny will keep goal behind the defence, and he has revealed that Arsenal have jettisoned their much-heralded zonal marking system:

“We have decided to change it since Blackburn. It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it correctly and it works. I think zonal works better for us. We have worked on it during pre-season where we never conceded from a set piece and it looked like it was working.

We did concede a stupid goal at Blackburn [Alex Song’s 50th-minute own goal when no defender dealt with a free-kick] and I hope the man-marking will work for us now.”

I do find it slightly disconcerting that after a summer working on a tactic to counteract our set-piece frailties has been abandoned quite so quickly.  Hopefully the man-marking system proves a little more effective than it did last season.

Song’s place in midfield is likely to be taken by Emmanuel Frimpong.  Arteta and Ramsey are guaranteed to start, and it’ll be one of Frimpong, Coquelin or Rosicky completing the trio.

Robin van Persie will lead the line, whilst the selection of the wingers will be dependent entirely on the fitness tests of Theo Walcott and Gervinho – Walcott is considered more likely to be ready.  Beyond those two, Arshavin, Rosicky, Benayoun and Chamberlain are all in contention.

It’s a massive game.  We got hammered at Old Trafford, but we were never realistically going to compete with United.  This season, our immediate competition are the Spurs and Liverpools of this world.  Defeat today would leave us adrift and having a significant hillock to climb to reach the Champions League.  Victory, however, would take us above our local rivals and within a one-game swing of Liverpool.

A final note for those going to the game: by all means boo Emmanuel Adebayor if you want, but don’t sink to the level of Spurs fans and worse by singing racist chants.  We’re better than that.  Hopefully we’ll show it on and off the pitch.

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