Premier League Match Preview; Arsenal v Cardiff City – Which Arsenal Shows Up?
After crashing out of the FA Cup, the Arsenal retake the pitch tonight to face off against Cardiff City in week 24 of the Premier League season. For us supporters, we wonder, which club will show up and who Emery will select for the squad and finally, what kind of atmosphere will there be with large swathes of seats still available.
Jekyll and Hyde Arsenal
When Arsenal last took the field in the Premier League they steam rolled Chelsea for a 2-0 win. From the outset of that match, Arsenal looked a side determined to get a result.
They harried and pressed Chelsea and showed an overall energy that had been lacking from the side for a few matches.
We know Arsenal are bad defencively, but Emery has done little in terms of structure, shape or system to stem that problem. A problem, that is now compounded by a growing list of defencive injuries.
Against Chelsea, the team seemed organized and communication across all facets of the side, especially in defence seemed effective. The same could not be said against Manchester United.
And that’s the biggest worry with Arsenal and part of the growing criticism being levied against Emery. This side is capable of fantastic performances like Match Week 23 versus Chelsea. Conversely, it’s equally capable of delivering a performance you long to forget.
Cardiff present a different foe than the last two but that shouldn’t matter, as we’ve seen against the likes of West Ham we are just as able to putout a dire performance against teams we’re clearly better than.
With Chelsea having their own issues and Tottenham enduring an injury crisis, making significant headway in the chase for top 4, is possible. But it’s only going to be possible if Arsenal sort out what kind of team they are.
Are they dynamic, high energy team like they were against Chelsea or the lackluster side that took on United and others.
Defensive Selection Headaches
Rob Holding – ACL
Laurent Koscielny – Facial Injury
Sokratis – Ankle injury
Hectory Bellerin – ACL
The list of Arsenal defensive injuries is well known at this point. It is a worrying trend for a team that isn’t well known for its defencive prowess. That means in terms of centre-backs Arsenal have only Mustafi and Dino Mavropanos available to start.
For right-back, Emery could opt for one of Licthsteiner, AMN or Jenkinson. Early reports are that neither Lichtsteiner or AMN are in the squad for tonight and Jenkinson will get a start.
Regardless, how Emery sets up will likely determine his defensive pairings. We’re all eager to see Dino play and this may be the perfect match for him to come into and get bedded in having only played in the pre-season before getting injured.
Emery could choose to completely alter his structure and go with a back 3 – and use Monreal and Xhaka back there but that would require taking Xhaka out of his more comfortable role as a deep lying midfielder.
It’s a nightmare scenario especially with Manchester City on the horizon.
Injuries and Suspensions
Arsenal: Holding (ACL), Welbeck (ankle), Bellerin (ACL), MKhitarayan (metatarsal frax), Koscielny (facial injury), Sokratis (ankle)
Cardiff: Morrison (appendicitis), Arter (groin), Zohore (thigh)
Form (Last 5)
Arsenal League Record vs Opponent
3W 0L 0 D
Goals Scored (average per game)
Arsenal: 2.37 (home)
Cardiff: 0.55 (away)
Goals Conceded (average per game)
Arsenal: 0.83 (home)
Cardiff: 1.91 (away)
What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
We played against Chelsea with the same situation and we won. We are speaking in the dressing room every time for this importance in our way in the Premier League and in each match. If you win against Chelsea but you don’t win tomorrow then you are losing three very important points. We have very big respect for Cardiff because they are a very competitive team. They won in Leicester and the played their last matches where the results were only just against them. Tomorrow, we need to impose ourselves and also show adaptation. I think they are going to play with a big motivation also and with a big fight in a lot of duels against us. We need tomorrow to be concentrated on the three points like we were against Chelsea.
Our challenge every day, every match, is to take a better balance in the attacking and defensive moments. We are scoring a lot, that’s a good statistic, but we are receiving a lot more than we want. It’s a lot of work but with patience, tomorrow I want to win and if we can score a lot it’s better. If we receive one goal because we are attacking and also pushing a lot, I prefer it like that. But every match we are working, between us, we need a clean sheet and we need also this balance to be better. But the first idea in our mind is to win.
Referee: Mike Dean (17M 67Y 9R)
Assistants: Darren Cann, Dan Robathan
Fourth official: Kevin Friend
UK: Arsenal.com (audio.com) 19.45 GMT
US: NBC Sports Gold – 2:45 PM
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal are unbeaten in 14 competitive meetings, winning all three of their Premier League fixtures against Cardiff.
- The Bluebirds have lost their last six away games against Arsenal in all competitions.
- Cardiff’s only two top-flight victories in this fixture both came in the 1960-61 season.
- The Gunners have won five successive Premier League home games, and are unbeaten in their past 11 at the Emirates Stadium (W9, D2).
- Arsenal have won 32 and drawn one of their 33 home matches against sides in the relegation zone since a defeat by West Ham in April 2007.
- They are also undefeated in their 23 most recent league encounters at the Emirates against promoted sides, winning 20 and keeping 14 clean sheets.
- Arsenal could keep consecutive Premier League clean sheets for only the second time this season.
- Aaron Ramsey began his career at Cardiff City, scoring one goal in 16 Championship appearances in 2007-08 before joining Arsenal. He returned to Cardiff on loan in 2010-11, netting one goal in six league matches.
Arsenal 2 – 0 Cardiff