Arsenal have a problem to deal with on Sunday.
It’s not an Egyptian/Spanish/Swiss issue, nor is it Mikel Arteta perusing through his wardrobe to find the appropriate touchline attire (some coat that, wasn’t it?). No, Arsenal have to deal with Jack Grealish.
Bloody Jack Grealish.
He’s annoyingly good, isn’t he? Bar Liverpool, he’d waltz into all the sides in England. I’d welcome with open arms at the Emirates.
Well, he’s coming to north London, but seeking to inflict damage, not plug holes. Thus, Arsenal have to find a way to deal with him on Sunday. Anyone got any suggestions?
No task is impossible, but there are ways, at least, of nullifying the threat to the best of your capabilities. With a bit of muscle in midfield via Thomas Partey, maybe the approach is to roughen him up – within the laws of the game, of course? Sadly not. Grealish was the most fouled player in the top-flight last season and is by no means a pushover. Look at those calves for crying out loud.
Holding’s superior one-on-one defending and better pace than his fellow central defenders is a big part of him becoming Gabriel Magalhaes’ trusted partner. However, he falters with opponents running across him infield – which Grealish loves. The best way of stopping that taking place is by ensuring the opportunities to do so are as limited as possible.
Bellerin has to play in the opponents’ half. All game. Matt Targett needs pinning down by his own corner flag, forcing his teammate down that flank has to provide cover. Arsenal can afford to limit Kieran Tierney‘s attacking influence on the left in favour of constraining Grealish’s own offensive mindset, having him in constant fear of overlaps. If he switches side, Arsenal attack accordingly.
With Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny, there is mobility and aggression to cover inside spaces in the case of high turnovers, while Holding’s form makes him someone Arsenal fans should trust to show a forward down the line effectively.
It all sounds so simple.
There is, of course, no cure to someone of Grealish’s quality. Do all the elements right and he’ll still punish you. Despite that, Arsenal have not been this well prepared to deal with talent such as his in a very long time.