With a legitimate goal threat at last we can go into Sunday’s game against Arsenal with realistic (although faint) hopes of getting something out of it – something we wouldn’t have considered a month ago.
Arsenal have been reliably erratic again this season, letting in eight goals in their first three games then going for long periods without conceding at all. They’ve already lost five this campaign, so are already fighting for Europe at best, and their recent run of three clean sheets sandwiched between defeats to the top two perfectly illustrates the gulf in class between them and their Manchester rivals.
However they are scoring at an average of two a game with 11 different players providing goals from all over the pitch, so let’s not kid ourselves that this will be anything but a really stern test for us.
Still, Forster proved he’s back on song at the weekend, van Dijk’s getting his head down and putting a solid shift in too. What had been a settled defence may be reshuffled again, with Hoedt’s recent underwhelming displays and Soares’ apparent injury, meaning Yoshida and Pied may come in to the back four.
Overall though I’ve been heartened by a more fluid and aggressive style of play of late. If anything, Pied looks more attack-minded than Soares, so with him and Bertrand charging up the flanks I can see us causing the Gunners problems.
We’ll need to bide our time though, and not overcommit, but eventually against a less than impressive Arsenal rearguard we are bound to get chances. Right now Austin is the man to take them.
Most feared opposition player
At the start of the season I would have said Sanchez, without question, and even though he and Lacazette are starting to find some good form, it’s the performance of Ramsay that has really impressed. The Welshman has already weighed in with three goals and eight assists so far this season, so his contribution to the success of the Arsenal team cannot be underestimated. Keep him quiet and we keep the Gunners quiet.
It’s hard to tell with Pellegrino at the moment which team he’s going to field as the Argentinian has really been ringing the changes of late. Austin, Hojbjerg and Pied have all impressed when they’ve been called upon, and given our English striker’s run of form it’s hard to see how he’ll be left out.
However Boufal and Hoedt have been frustrating and erratic in equal measure so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Yoshida or Redmond in the starting lineup. Soares was apparently unfit to play against Bournemouth so Pied may get an extended runout in the team.
Virgil van Dijk, Jeremy Pied, Maya Yoshida, Ryan Bertrand;
Steven Davis, Dusan Tadic, Mario Lemina, Oriol Romeu, Nathan Redmond;
Gunners are really on a roll – 0-2 to Arsenal
Austin bags another brace to level up – 2-2