We’re on the back of a rollercoaster week.
Just over a week ago, we were riding high after our tactical masterclass against Chelsea, allowing possession to the Blues but clinical in front of goal. The perfect blend saw us through.
Then, we played Manchester United in the Cup and were downed by the same tactic. Quick breaks and clinical finishing, with us reverting back to the old, tired formula of tiki-taka, while Lingard, Lukaku and co ran forward and played havoc.
It hurt more as the FA Cup represented a great chance for us, like in previous seasons. Now, we must knuckle down and gun for the top4 and the Europa League, and the first step is against Cardiff.
The Bluebirds are winless and goalless since their 1-0 away win over Leicester City - that’s four games in total, including a dismal 1-0 loss to Gillingham. But let’s not get complacent, Cardiff have earned some results that are entirely unexpected and stand a great chance of avoiding relegation.
They have a great fight and they will make it tough for us, but home factor is key, The Emirates is a foreboding place to come if you look at the results we’ve earned, and if we keep the same work ethic we have been putting in - no other team has covered more distance than us this season - then we should have enough to give us a boost before we face City in the weekend.
We lost another two defenders in our loss this weekend. Sokratis is expected back in a month’s time, which is a real blow. Laurent Koscielny suffered jaw damage, and it is unclear whether he will be risked. With the City game so close, it is expected that Konstandinos Mavropanos will make his first start of the season, with Shkodran Mustafi the only other fit option. Nacho Monreal is another alternative though, and a viable one.
In midfield, rotation may come into play. This could give a start to Mohamed Elneny, who is the subject of speculation with a move away. Mesut Ozil should make a start in at least one of these games, but whichever game he is selected for will gauge how Emery views him. If he starts versus City, he still has a future under the Spaniard.
Will Lacazette or Aubameyang be rested? It could give young Eddie Nketiah a shot, but it is more likely Emery will switch to one up top.
The Cardiff keeper has shown remarkable consistency this season, and some dazzling saves have been the difference between wins and losses for the Welsh side.
Etheridge has also shown he can be a one man barricade, and we have faced plenty of teams who have done that to us in the past. We need some superior finishing early on to take the wind out of his sails.
An early goal will do wonders for us and get the crowd onside for more noise. It will also destroy any semblance of resistance, as long as we don’t do what we have a worrying penchant for - and that is leaving the door open when we do score.
Whether it be Laca, Auba or Ramsey, we need our big players to make an impact. Our defence is going to be decidedly second-string, and organisation will be low. Let us hope that Cardiff try aerial bombardment. It doesn’t need a strong line and Mustafi and Mavropanos are excellent athletically.
I think we’ll come through this, but our defence will need Koscielny back for the City clash, otherwise it could get messy.