A genuinely crazy week of League Cup football has provided a confusing and exhilarating backdrop to what is sure to be a spectacular clash with Manchester United.
I absolutely love this fixture and the Robin van Persie affair will only add further fuel to the fire.
Here’s a list of the things I’ll be looking out for in our game at Old Trafford:
- The return of proper defending, maybe — four goals conceded in the opening half at the Madjeski? Unbelievable for a backline that featured Koscielny, Djourou and Jenkinson. We can only hope for better with Mertesacker and Co in control.
- A start for Theo Walcott — It might not happen, particularly after 120 minutes of football just a few days ago, but surely Walcott’s form means he deserves a starting spot. Should we play him up front? Perhaps, but I’d prefer Olivier Giroud also get the opportunity from the opening whistle.
- Faster transitions — I spoke about the fact that our transitions from defence to attack — in other words, our counter-attacking — had lost intensity in recent weeks. I don’t see us getting a lot of opportunities to counter United — our midfield domination should see the home side sit deep and lure us into a false sense of security — but when the opportunity arises we need to move the ball quickly and accurately.
- The return of Wojciech –Will he play? Maybe not. But if he does, it is the perfect platform for a spectacular return to form.
- Improvement from Vermaelen –– Our new captain has had a poor start to the season, no doubt. He has made mistakes defensively and his decision-making has been poor, particularly in contrast to Mertesacker’s calm presence. Games like these are made for captains to show their mettle and I expect a lot from Mr Vermaelen.
- An epic van Persie fail –It is more likely that van Persie will leave Old Trafford as a match-winner rather than a person responsible for a defeat, but I can only hope something extraordinary happens. An own goal? A red card? A missed penalty? Maybe energetic Jack will give him a good kick to the knee, that would be pretty funny.
As a final note, thanks a lot to Midas PR for sending me a copy of the new Thierry Henry biography, written by the incomparable Philippe Auclair. I’ll be churning through this as quickly as possible and writing a book review on the blog ASAP.
Enjoy the game!