Thursday, September 20, 2007

Arsenal vs. Derby: Match Preview

Match Review (5-0 Arsenal)

So here we have it. League leaders Arsenal are ready to take on Derby, a team that has been labeled as the worst ever to play in the Premiership. They have been living up to this label, losing 4-0 to Tottenham and 6-0 to Liverpool and 1-0 to Manchester City in their first three away games this season. They were admittedly given a tough opening schedule, and a visit to the Emirates will not do much to help.

Arsenal, who lost only one home game last season, are currently lossless, after having taken the full three points from 4 games, and having drawn with Blackburn after a Jens Lehmann error. The on form leaders may choose to rest some key players, but Arsene Wenger will be sure not to take any opponent too lightly, and is likely to play many of Arsenal's big names.

However, Jens Lehmann, William Gallas, Tomas Rosicky, and Emmanuel Eboue will not be among the big names present. All four are out with injuries (Tomas Rosicky having been knocked during the midweek Sevilla game) and are not going to feature on Saturday. Alex Hleb and Philippe Senderos are doubts, after having both picked up slight injuries, also in the 3-0 thrashing of Sevilla.

I expect that Wenger will start with something similar to our regular lineup with the exception of the injured players. Gale Clichy, Kolo Toure and Bacary Sagna are sure starters. If Senderos is out, Gilberto is likely to start in his place, despite the defensive midfielder looking rather shaky against Tottenham. I would rather see Bacary Sagna played as a central defender with Justin Hoyte, Lassana Diarra, or even Mathieu Flamini taking over at right back. Either way that we do it, it's hard to envision us conceding to a Derby attack that has only scored 4 goals this season.

In the midfield Cesc Fabregas is the only sure starter. If Gilberto is deployed in the defense, I would expect to see Cesc play alongside Flamini and Diaby. Theo Walcott is the most probable deputy for Rosicky, and it would be nice to see him start another game. Another possibility for the left wing spot is Eduardo, who Wenger has stated he would like to see play as a winger. Saturday's match would be a good time to test this out against a lower opponent, since Hleb and Rosicky are out.

Up front, I have to unfortunately guess that Wenger will start Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor. The pair are quite good and should ensure us a win, but I would rather see one of the two rested, with Nicklas Bendtner being given a starting berth. The big Dane could do wonders for Arsenal and this is a perfect opportunity to introduce him as a starter.

With Wenger likely to play a nearly full strength lineup, I expect us to beat Derby 4-0. I can't believe that I'm predicting such high numbers, but I can't help it. We've just beaten Tottenham 3-1 and Sevilla 3-0, so we should do some damage when we play the bottom feeders at home. This game should significantly improve our goal differential...