By Bulldog Drummond
To begin with the injuries, we have five of them, while just three teams are above us on six. One of them might not be an injury at all but is normally formally classified as a “slight doubt”.
|The man||What’s up||Return?||Read all about it|
|Sokratis||Ankle Injury||November 8||Slight doubt|
|Elneny||Hamstring Injury||November 25||“Expected to return to full training in two weeks.”|
|Monreal||Hamstring Injury||November 8||Still a major doubt|
|Mavropanos||Groin Strain||November 11||Coming back to full training|
The notion of Koscielny coming back this month was always unlikely, but December is a possibility. Monreal’s injury seems to be put back and back and back each time, but he must re-emerge some time. It could be today it could be on Sunday.
Elneny’s date seems to have drifted back a bit but Sokratis might be ok.
Emile Smith Rowe, or as we must now learn to call him (because this is what the newspapers and web sites call him) “Teenager Emile Smith Rowe” is “expected to get another start”, and certainly the manager seems as convinced as the rest of us that this guy just needs time on the pitch to evolve into a first team powerhouse.
Petr Cech will start in goal, and I think that one is fairly certain, as the manager is clearly not going to just ditch the keeper and leave him out to dry.
But what of the defence? What we saw against was Arsenal playing a 4-4-2 formation when under attack, but changing to what could be called a 2-4-3-1 when we went on the attack. Now Sporting are not Liverpool, but if this is the approach that the manager believes in, it makes every sense to adopt this approach in every game to get everyone used to it. Which means we want players who can be flexible.
That approach gave us a four across the back when defending of
Bellerin Mustafi Holding Kolasinac
in the previous game against Blackpool we played
Lichsteiner Mustafi Pleguezuelo Jenkinson
If Monreal is finally fit again he could come in at left back but otherwise I think we could see
Lichsteiner Mustafi Pleguezuelo Kolasinac
I don’t think we would dare play the two youngsters in the middle and I suspect Bellerin will need a good week’s recovery having returned for the last match. Unless of course Monreal is not fit and may not be risked at the weekend, in which case we could give Jenkinson another game.
In the middle we played Ramsey, Guendouzi and Smith Rowe against Blackpool. Against Liverpool it was Torreira Ozil and Xhaka. I suspect the chances are that we could go with Ramsey, Guendouzi and Smith Rowe, although if the manager suspects there could be some attacking strength from the opposition he might include Torreira or Xhaka.
Then up front we had
Maitland Niles Welbeck and Mkhitaryan against Blackpool. Against Liverpool it was Mkhitaryan, Lacazette and Auba.
Maitland Niles as we know can play anywhere so if the manager doesn’t want Jenkinson again at left back the obvious thing to do is to put Maitland Niles at left back.
Missing from the lists is Sokratis who was injured but could come back for this match. And although I am thinking that Holding might need a break, he most certainly is young enough to feel he ought to keep on playing match after match. Plus not included in my lists is Iwobi who will want to be starting. Somehow the troops will be reduced to XI starters by the time of the game – but the fact that it is not easy to pick the team these days does reflect the growing depth of the squad.
I’m hoping the manager might give us a clue before I have to make my final selection before leaving for the match tomorrow.