Let me start of with a review of our last game that against Cardiff City which resulted in a 2-1 home game for the Welsh team. Two things that Simon Grayson got horribly wrong in the game were :
1. The formation : I have no clue why he has changed from a 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 in the last three games(against Portsmouth, Boro and Cardiff) when the former was working like a dream. You may say we are lacking quality central midfielders at this moment and especially for this game (with Neil Kilkenny on national duty with Australia in the Asia Cup), it was not possible to play with three central midfielders. I wouldn't agree. Grayson could have and should have played Robert Snodgrass in a central attacking role in midfield and put Sanchez Watt or Lloyd Sam with Max Gradel on the wings.
2. Resting Becchio and no Somma : Okay, I can understand that the FA Cup tie at the Emirates on Saturday is a big match in terms of money and revenue. But seriously, is it more important than the league? I don't think so. I would have taken a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Arsenal on Saturday for a win at The Cardiff City Stadium in exchange. Moving on to Billy Paynter and Ross McCormack, the two strikers who started up front for us - Both haven't scored a single goal this season, I find it a bit strange that Grayson has been preferring the two over Davide Somma who was very prolific in front of goal when he played for us at the start of the season. McCormack is a top player but form definitely needs to be considered and should be first priority.
Michael scoring the winner for Cardiff
Photograhph : Stu Forster/Getty Images
Those were the major tactical mistakes I feel Grayson made for the game. But there is another small issue, I find wrong with Grayson's tactics with respect to the team selection. It comes in the area we've been poor all season - Defence. Neil Collins has been very average this season. On the other hand Leigh Bromby, in the one game he played where he came on as a substitute against Queens Park Rangers for the injured Alex Bruce, looked assured at the back and impressed me in the game. Surely, he deserves a second chance especially when our defence can't hold on to a clean sheet to save their lives. Although we can use Bromby for now, we are in desperate need of a quality centre-back to partner Andy O'Brien until Patrick Kisnorbo is back. The same goes for central midfield which I spoke about earlier. We need players in both positions and probably a left-back will do as well if we fail to get George McCartney back on loan. Heard Adam Clayton is doing well at Posh, wouldn't mind having him back to boost our central midfield options.
Now moving on to The FA Cup 3rd round tie against Arsenal on Saturday. I expect this game to be very open since both managers Arsene Wenger and Simon Grayson endorse the brand of attacking football through their clubs. We need no reminding of our great run in the Cup last season, do we? Beating Manchester United in their own backyard was probably one of the greatest moments in our Cup history since the 1972 Cup Final(where we beat Arsenal 1-0 thanks to a Allan Clarke goal and lifted the famous Cup). After that, we gave a spirited performance against Tottenham Hotspurs at White Hart Lane, earning a 2-2 draw and a replay at Elland Road which we ended up losing 1-3.
I am hoping Grayson goes into the game with a 4-5-1 with Bromby in defence. This formation will surely help us make up the numbers with Arsenal in midfield as they are likely to play with three central midfielders as they have done all season.
Desired formation :
Saying all that I do expect Grayson to go for a 4-4-2 for the game which looks like this :
Expected formation :
I'm a bit sceptical about a 4-4-2 because Arsenal will then not only out-class us in midfield, but they will out-number us as well. Playing an attacking formation might also result in us looking like Arsenal playing Barcelona last season. Two teams that are looking to play an open game, but there is clearly a better team among the teams. In a 4-4-2, defensively we are much weaker as well which includes Arsenal being able to counter-attack regularly, which is quite scary considering our defensive record this season and the fact that they have great pace and movement.
What are our chances of beating Arsenal? I wouldn't say much. I never expected us to beat Manchester United either last season, but two reasons why we might not see a repeat of that performance :
1. Rivalry : Will the players be as determined and spirited to beat Arsenal as they were to beat Manchester United? The hunger will be there, it's a trait of a Simon Grayson team. But I doubt if the players and fans would be as pumped up for the game as they were for last season's tie at Old Trafford. I'm sure there are a few fans who won't mind losing to Arsenal and concentrating on the league. No Leeds fan on the planet would have even had the evil thought of losing the game against Manchester United last season.
2. The Football : Arsenal like to keep it on the ground and pass the ball. I feel we have a bit of a weakness against such teams. Case in point, our loss to Cardiff 0-4 in October. They didn't play as well as they did at Elland Road earlier this season, but in the game last night they were excellent in the first half and we were lucky to concede just one goal in the entire half. Considering that factor, it will be tough not to imagine the team that play the best football in the country ripping us a new one.
I won't go on to predict the result of the game. But I will predict one thing, our fans will out-sing their fans with ease and make the players feel they're playing the game at Elland Road and not at the Emirates.