Cardiff host Arsenal at the Cardiff City Stadium today, with the game set to kick off at 1:30pm. Cardiff have picked up two draws from their first three games and sit 16th in the table. Arsenal have won one and lost twice, and are 13th.
At the start of the season, Cardiff were everybody’s picks to go straight back down to the Championship. That hasn’t changed. They have picked up two early season points with 0-0 draws against Newcastle and Huddersfield. They’re still yet to score a Premier League goal though, and they’ll be worried that they don’t have enough firepower. Cardiff are going to be a physical team this season, and they will take some points off teams, especially at home. They’ll claim a couple of big results against the big teams, and they could begin that today with a result against Arsenal.
The Bluebirds will surely sit deep today and try to defend against an Arsenal side that is so strong going forward. They’ll try to hit on the break, and that’s something that could pay off. We have seen that Arsenal are vulnerable at the back, and they leave a lot of space in behind. West Ham took advantage of that last week and got in behind the Gunners all too easily. If Cardiff can win the ball back when Arsenal have committed forward, there could be wide open spaces for them to exploit. Arsenal will play a high line, which doesn’t seem to really suit their two centre-halves – Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi – who aren’t the quickest.
The Gunners haven’t looked convincing so far this season, but it’s going to take time for Unai Emery to get his ideas across to his players. They picked up their first points of the season with a 3-1 win against West Ham last week, although they didn’t look convincing. It’s still far too early for them to worry, as they have been able to take plenty of positives from their first three games. Their defence needs to improve though, as it has looked suspect so far. Arsenal always look strong going forward, but Emery has a couple of big calls to make today. Alexandre Lacazette has improved the team when he has been brought on in their previous games. He surely deserves a start, so we may see him lead the line with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out wide.
Arsenal can expect a physical battle today, with Cardiff being tough on them and leaving a foot in here and there. There’s nothing wrong with the physical side of the game, and the idea that Arsenal don’t like a battle is something that has been talked about for a number of years. We’ll see Neil Warnock instructing his players to go for a Sam Allardyce-esque approach today. He has already said that he’s instructing his players to be tough on Aaron Ramsey. We’ll see if Arsenal can live with that.
Cardiff will be without Nathaniel Mendez-Laing for around three months after injuring his knee last weekend. Junior Hoilett faces a late fitness test, while Aron Gunnarsson misses out again.
Mesut Ozil is back in contention for Arsenal after he was ‘sick’ last week. Maybe he was sick, but reports of a bust-up with Unai Emery were reported all week. Sead Kolasinac and Ainsley Maitland-Niles miss out again, as does Laurent Koscielny.
Cardiff will look to turn this into a real battle. They’ll want to make it a very scrappy game, which is something we’ll probably see all season. They definitely have a chance of getting a result if they can keep it tight.
For Arsenal, it’s a game they have to win. I don’t want to revisit their away form from last season too much, as this is a different time for the Gunners and things should have changed under new management. But if they don’t win today, that poor away record could raise its ugly head again, and the players may doubt themselves on the road once again. They should have more than enough quality to beat newly-promoted Cardiff, but this won’t be an easy game.
I’ll have to leave it there for now. I usually do previews of all the games, but as I mentioned in today’s blog, I’m a bit busy. That means that I won’t be able to write previews of today’s other games. If I do get a bit of spare time, I’ll try to get something done, but I can’t guarantee it. If not, I’ll be back tomorrow morning with a blog. Enjoy your day and enjoy the football.