It’s a simple tactic, designed as much as to give your team a morale boost as to strike fear into the hearts of your rivals.
When you come up against the weakest team in the land, rip their defence to shreds, score at least 4-5 goals in the process, humiliate them completely and then tell everyone willing to listen that you’re back on the top of your game.
Simplistic? Perhaps. But if Arsenal can actually score half-a-dozen goals against Sheffield United (and there are chances that they could), would anyone really speak up (apart from yours truly at Soccerlens) against the idea that Arsenal are hitting top gear?
On the back of Arsenal’s convincing away-win at Old Trafford, a big win is exactly what Wenger, Henry and co. will be gunning for at the Emirates Stadium.
Sheffield United are, statistically at least, currently the worst team this season. Arsenal have an excellent opportunity, with Henry returning to the side, to dominate this home tie and go into their midweek Champions League match on a 3-match winning streak.
Players to watch for
If Henry is restored to the lineup, look for Adebayour and him to continue their prolific scoring partnership. I’m expecting Arsenal to revert to a 4-4-2 lineup, so Silva and Fabregas should start in the middle, with Rosicky, Ljunberg and Hleb vying for the other two spots.
Fabregas should be his usual assured self but my money is on Rosicky to score (if he features).
For Sheffield United, it would be optimistic to assume that they’d be scoring lots of goals, but if they do score any, Rob Hulse and Phil Jagielka are more than likely to be in the thick of things. Niel Warnock’s more immediate worry would be to avoid leaking goals, and he will look to shore his side up defensively. Their goal is survival, and while they may win a few games this season, it’s not happening against Wenger’s side.
Apart from the long-term casualties (Senderos, Clichy, Diaby, Lauren), Arsenal have onle Henry and van Persie to worry about. Henry should play, but I’m not sure that Wenger will play van Persie. Walcott was injured in a Reserves game, so he would be doubtful as well (even if all he does is get on the bench).
Expected line-up (Arsenal)
If Arsenal play 4-4-2:
Eboue, Toure, Djourou, Gallas
Rosicky, Fabregas, Silva, Ljunberg
Sheff Utd will make mistakes in defence, and anything less than a 2-goal margin win for Arsenal will be considered a disappointment. Arsenal to win, comfortably.