“The gloves are off now… I’m going to do it my way. Okay, we’ve played a certain way to try to make sure we get the results that we need. It’s pragmatic. But I’ve said from day one the way I wanted to play – more on the front foot. I haven’t done it enough. It’s something I’ve toyed with since I’ve been at the club and, for me, to change is sometimes difficult for them. “We all like being comfortable. I’m going to do it the way I see fit.”
These were Steve Bruce’s comments from his Friday morning press conference after calling our performance at Sheffield United “absolutey *****” and “frigging hopeless”.
He’s lost the plot and is well and truly rattled by the criticism he’s been forced to accept over the past week, but will he actually follow up on his promises this time around?
We’ve been hearing that we’re a “work in progress” and that he wants to get us playing a “certain way” for 18 months now, yet he’s constantly fell back on a five-man defence, thrown the ability of his players under the bus and made excuses for our inability to play this ‘attacking football’ he claims to offer if it was down to him.
Well Steve, let’s see what you’ve got at Arsenal on Monday!
His amateurish comments on Friday stunk of a man under pressure and failing to cope with it, so the big test now will be how he changes it and how the players respond to his criticism and Tuesday’s abysmal effort.
- Federico Fernandez – “We’ve got a problem with Federico” were Steve Bruce’s comments in Friday’s presser, suggesting the Argentine will be forced to sit out this one.
- Jamal Lewis– Bruce has confirmed that he’s back in training and in contention to return after missing our last few.
- Ryan Fraser – Serving a one-game suspension after being sent off at Sheffield United for two stupid yellows.
- Allan Saint-Maximin – Back in light training but this one will come too soon for the Frenchman, sadly!
- Paul Dummett – Walked off gingerly at Bramall Lane but Bruce insists it was a ‘precautionary’ measure from tiredness, NOT a muscle injury.
For The Gunners, Kieran Tierney faces a late fitness test, centre-back Pablo Mari has been ruled out, Gabriel Martinelli (ankle) is a doubt and Gabriel Magalhaes and Thomas Partey are pushing for recalls.
Predicted line up
(4-4-2): Darlow – Krafth, Lascelles, Clark, Lewis – Murphy, Hayden, M Longstaff, Ritchie – Carroll, Wilson.
OUT – Yedlin, Schar, Fernandez, Dummett, Hendrick, S Longstaff and Fraser
IN – Krafth, Lascelles, Lewis, M Longstaff, Murphy, Ritchie and Carroll.
Bruce said he’s doing it “his way” now, so you can only assume that’s him dropping ‘Benitez’s back five’ and having a go.
Darlow did nothing wrong against Sheffield United and kept us in it at times, so he doesn’t deserve to be dropped. That said, Dubravka did nothing wrong when we played Arsenal in the cup…
With Fernandez struggling and Schar not trusted by Bruce in a back four, I can see a fit-again Lascelles partnering the reliable Clark.
At full-back Yedlin often struggles in a four and Manquillo (our best RB for me) has been off the scene ever since he got COVID, so Krafth could well come in – a player who Bruce has picked quite a few times when he’s gone with a back four.
Down the left, Dummett’s display at Sheffield United and withdrawal through fatigue could pave the way for Lewis – the £15m man who’s been tipped to return by Bruce after a few weeks out with a swollen knee.
In midfield, Sean Longstaff and Hendrick will surely drop out after dire displays at Bramall Lane, so I can see Matty coming back to give us that energy we’ve lacked and partnering Hayden. Shelvey has been spotted in training but his recent groin issues and absence from the side makes me wonder if he’s still not fully fit – something that wouldn’t make him suited to a two-man midfield tasked to protect a four-man defence!
Out wide, Ritchie may be seen as someone who can put palls into the box and offer some protection to Lewis, while Murphy’s impressive cameo from the bench at Arsenal last weekend makes me wonder if Bruce will give him a chance from the off here.
Up top, Wilson is nailed on and he could well be joined by Carroll. The latter had his best game in a black and white shirt for many a year in the FA Cup clash and will be gunning to make up for those misses that could and should have sent us through on another day.
Here’s a few ones to watch in Arteta’s Arsenal side:
Emile Smith-Rowe – Scored their all important opener in extra time when we met last weekend. A talented young player who is playing with real confidence in an attacking midfield role.
David Luiz – Back in the side in Mari’s absence and always has a mistake in him. Hopefully he has an off day here and we can take full advantage this time!
Kieran Tierney – Is an injury doubt, but could give them a huge boost if he’s back. Krafth, Yedlin and Murphy all failed to cope with his pace and energy down their left-hand side in the cup.
We can’t get any worse, but we’ll have to be SO much better here to have any joy against a much improved Arsenal side who’ve showed real signs of a revival in recent weeks.
I have no idea what’s coming. I’m hoping we’ll hit back with a surprise result, but Bruce’s comments can’t do much for the confidence or morale of a squad that have already been showing worrying signs of no longer playing for the manager.
This one will give us a very good idea if he’s lost the dressing room totally or has a a team ready to respond. A bit of both and ultimately another defeat feels likely to me, sadly.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle