29 November 2017

Arsenal-Huddersfield Preview: Can Arsenal climb to third in the Prem?

A weekend that was both exhausting and exhilirating for very opposite but parallel reasons leads to Wednesday's clash. Arsenal, of course, might have a spring in their step after nabbing a late and controversial winner against Burnley. Huddersfield might very well feel hard done by after seeing a potentially glorious result slip away after City found a controversial equaliser and rather-lucky winner. Whether they can bounce back in short order will be a pressing question, all the more for a side that has not won away from since matchday one, beating woeful Crystal Palace. Arsenal return home, where we have been dominant.

Don't underestimate Huddersfield. As already mentioned, City could only escape by the slimmest of margins and dodgiest of methods. Just a few weeks ago, they bested Man U. They're sitting mid-table, not too shabby for a newly promoted club. David Wagner has the Terriers playing an aggressive, pressing style, drawing frequent comparisons to Jürgen Klopp's style. Klopp and Wagner are also quite close from having worked together at Dortmund, so much so that he was best man at Klopp's wedding. Enough of the soft-focus feel-good, though. Wagner has been bold in his tactics against the larger clubs to varying degrees of success, the aforementioned home-win over Man U, a 3-0 thrashing at Anfield, and last weekend's 1-2 loss to City. If anything, the manner of the loss might actually infuse the squad with defiant confidence that, but for a few harsh moments, they could have toppled another Goliath.

At our end, it's not too early to say that we stand on the verge of a turning point. Just a few weeks ago, our own loss to Man City seemed to expose an uncrossable, gaping chasm between us and the top of the table. A North London Derby win, followed by a hard-fought win at Turf Moor, has narrowed that chasm ever so slightly. We know that a win on Wednesday would generate even more momentum for the weekend—not that I would suggest for a second that we look past the Terriers, tempting though it may be. The progress we've made is still tentative, and there are asterisks. Kane and Alli were not fully fit. We needed 90-plus minutes to find a goal against Burnley. It's still hard to feel like we have the upper hand in most matches other than against relegation-fodder.

With that in mind, here's a suggestion: start Wilshere. He looked sharp and incisive in his brief spell against Burnley, and for as slowly as Wenger has worked him into matches, it's time for his first Prem start. He's dominated in the various Europa League fixtures in which he's featured, and his energy should enliven the rest of the squad. The likely absence of Özil means that we'll need someone who can create chances, and Iwobi has not been up to that challenge. With Sánchez and perhaps Giroud in front, Wilshere will have a variety of options at his disposal, and he does link up very well with Giroud. Let's hope they both get a chance to prove me right.

LAST THREE

  • Arsenal 2-1 Huddersfield (30.01.2011 FA Cup).
  • Arsenal 1-1 Huddersfield (05.10.1993 League Cup).
  • Huddersfield 0-5 Arsenal (21.09.1993 League Cup).

FACTFILE

  • Arsenal are undefeated in their last eleven home matches in the Prem.
  • Huddersfield have failed to score in their last five away matches in the Prem.
  • Legendary manager Herbert Chapman led Huddersfield to two wins over Arsenal by a combined 10-1 scoreline in the 1923-24 and 1924-25 seasons before becoming Arsenal manager in 1925.

INJURIES 

  • Cazorla is still out; Özil, Walcott, and Welbeck face late fitness tests.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI

  • Čech; Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Bellerín, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolašinac; Wilshere, Sánchez,

PREDICTION

  • This could be a free-flowing, high-energy match with plenty of chances, but Arsenal have the momentum and advantage.
  • Arsenal 3-1 Huddersfield.