04 August 2013

Arsenal v. Galatasary match preview

After a nifty comeback to earn a draw against Napoli, we face Galatasary, who bring long-time nemesis Didier Drogba and old favorite Emmanuel Eboué back to the Emirates. This should be an exciting game; our two-goal draw with Napoli leaves us in second place with three points, and Porto's one-goal victory leaves them in first with four. Winning on Sunday wins us the Emirates Cup, plain and simple. Should we draw and Napoli defeat Porto, Napoli takes the Cup.

Gala's manager Fatih Terem favors an attacking style, and with the arrivals in January of Sneijder and Drogba, he moved to a 4-3-1-2 to position Sneijder in a #10 role, allowing him to distribute to Drogba and top goal-scorer Burak Yilmaz. Of course, the big story of this match is the return to London of Eboué, who has waxed rhapsodic about coming back, and it should be lovely to see him squaring off against Arsenal. 

Interestingly, Gala fielded a nearly full-strength squad against Porto and didn't seem to make any substitutions that I could find record of. It looks like Sneijder, Drogba, Melo, and Eboué were still on the pitch in the 80th minute as far as I can tell, so their fitness for Sunday's game is questionable. Sneijder at 29 is the spring-chicken of the bunch, Melo and Eboué are 30, and Drogba is 35, so I imagine that they and even their younger teammates may come in a bit winded. Despite playing so close to full-strength for so much of the match, Gala was lucky to advance as Porto dominated possession but missed on two penalty kicks. Yilmaz didn't play on Saturday, so he may come on in place of Drogba and might just be the more-dangerous attacking option. 

By contrast, our rotation against Napoli not only seemed to rejuvenate us and spark a comeback, it keeps us comparatively fresher. Fabianski, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Rosicky, and Giroud played a full 90' (highlighting the need for greater squad depth in defense and at forward), but rotation elsewhere was strong as Sagna replaced Jenkinson and Walcott replaced Gnabry at 56', Arteta replaced Wilshere at 64', and Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Ramsey at 63'. Chuba Akpom joined the fray at 88' for the ineffective Podolski, for what that's worth.

In their 4-3-1-2, Galatasaray can leave themselves exposed on the flanks, which we could exploit through some combination of Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry (all of whom should be fresh), or Podolski. Gedion Zelalem was on the bench for the Napoli match, so we may see him make an appearance as well. Even if Cazorla isn't available, our attack looks dangerous. Giroud seemed rejuvenated over the last 25-30 minutes of the match, and a bit of confidence and relief from scoring could allow him to relax enough to create some great chances. No one on Gala's defense stands taller than 1.84m (6'), so Giroud has a good 8cm (4") of height to work with as well.

If we can start this match as we finished against Napoli, we should have little to worry about. I said in my Emirates Cup preview that Napoli were the most-dangerous team we'd face, and I stand by that. Despite playing only 30 minutes of so of quality football, we nabbed a draw. I'm not a big fan of this kind of extrapolation, but Napoli did beat Gala 3-1 in a friendly on 29 July and did so without Higuain or Reina, so that's an encouraging sign in our favor. Looking within, I think that the draw with Napoli was just the right amount of a jolt after the Asia Tour; we'll likely go into the match with Gala reminded of the importance of starting strong and playing well for a full 90', and that should be more than enough to earn us a victory.