On new years day, Cardiff City travel to the Emirates to take on the league leaders, Arsenal. Arsenal will look to continue their two game winning streak and prove the three game winless stretch just a couple of weeks ago was nothing more than a blip. Cardiff will be looking to end their first three game losing streak of the season. After the firing of popular manager, Malky Mackay, Cardiff’s controversial owner, Vincent Tan, could use a victory to help quell the fans anger.
The two teams are at opposite ends of the injury spectrum with Cardiff nearly injury free and Arsenal having the injuries pile up as they have all season. Cardiff will be missing Premier League veteran and Cardiff boy Craig Bellemy who has been missing time all season. Cardiff may also miss Anthony Taylor after he picked up a knock in the meeting with Sunderland. Arsenal will be hoping Nacho Monreal and Thomas Vermaelen will recover from illness they picked up just before the team’s meeting with Newcastle. Arsenal will also hope to have Kieran Gibbs back after he picked up a slight hamstring injury vs Newcastle but was moving freely when he was subbed off. Arsenal’s star men this season, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, will both miss out after the former Cardiff man pulled his thigh against West Ham and the German recovers from shoulder inflammation. On top of all of those, Arsenal will continue to miss Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Abou Diaby and Yaya Sanogo to long term injuries.
In the reverse fixture, Arsenal came away with a 3-0 win in Cardiff with the goals coming from Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini. That meeting was their first one ever in the Premier League. Cardiff have only scored five goals away from home, tied for the last in the Premier League. Arsenal are tied for the best home defense in the league only conceding six goals at the Emirates. Arsenal are also tied for the best total defense only allowing 18 goals this season. Cardiff have not gone to Arsenal in the league since the 1950s.
With Arsenal finally getting some people back from injury, last seasons leading scorer, Theo Walcott, is rounding into goal scoring form with four goals in his last four games. Walcott has looked like he did last season when he was the teams only 20 plus goal scorer. While he has done better recently Walcott has lots of room for improvement in his finishing this season. Walcott has missed all seven of his clear cut chances this season, which is quite abysmal, and his chance conversion percentage has gone down from 23% last season to 19% this season. Walcott has been more creative this season creating a chance every 45 minutes this season as opposed to every 60 minutes last season. Walcott has been instrumental in getting Arsenal out of their funk scoring two goals against West Ham and assisting on the lone goal in the 1-0 win over Newcastle. After getting the team out of their three game funk, Walcott will hope to help continue the teams new winning streak against Cardiff.
Peter Whittingham is Cardiff’s longest serving player and also one of their most important players. One of the main things Cardiff have hung their hat on through winning the Championship and now entering the Premier League is, they are very efficient when it comes to set pieces. Whittingham is key in that as he is the main set piece taker. Whittingham has created 26 chances this season, including four that were assists. Whitingham has been creating a set piece chance every 66 minutes meaning that at least once a game Whittingham’s delivery makes an impact on the game. Whittingham’s crossing has also been strong for Cardiff. Whittinham has attempted and completed more crosses than any other Cardiff player and is completing his crosses at a decent percentage (27%). Cardiff will have to take their chances against a strong team like Arsenal and Whittingham’s delivery into the box could be crucial.
Cardiff would have to pull off a small miracle to get three points from the gunners this week and it will be tough for them to even get a point off the league leaders. While they have gotten big results from big teams like Manchester United and Manchester City at home, Cardiff have fallen to teams like Villa and Crystal Palace away from home and have been smashed by Liverpool and Chelsea. Arsenal have come back into form and have been good at not getting caught out by the smaller teams all season. I can’t see anything but an Arsenal win here.
Prediction: 3-1 Arsenal