Preview by Numbers: Cardiff City v. Arsenal

Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
Saturday, November 30
10:00 a.m. EST, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Lee Mason
    • Assistants: Lee Betts and Mick McDonough
    • 4th Official: Roger East
  • This Match, Last Time: Cardiff 1 - 1 Arsenal (October 28, 1961)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 18 Arsenal wins, 10 Cardiff wins, 14 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: D-W-W-W-L-W
  • Cardiff's League Form: L-L-D-W-L-D
  • Weather: Clear, 8 C / 46 F
We're coming into a log jam of fixtures here, and it's not even the notoriously busy holiday period yet: Arsenal play Saturday in Cardiff, then Wednesday night against Hull, late Sunday against Everton, then Wednesday night in Naples, before the early Saturday game at Manchester City; that last bit there is especially unfortunate scheduling. Then, a rest, as Arsenal get eight days off before Chelsea at the Emirates on the 23rd, West Ham on Boxing Day, Newcastle on the 29th, and Cardiff again on New Year's Day. Nine matches ahead for the Gunners in the next 33 days.

Technically, we're already in the middle of the log jam, as it's a total of 11 games in 40 days, which started with the 2-0 win over Southampton last weekend. Arsenal's results have been strong this year, and their positions in the tables (in England and in Europe) will tell you that, but when the going gets tough is when you truly see what teams are made of. Critical stretch, this, and Arsenal have to pick up all the points they can.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)
Doubts: Gibbs (illness)

No changes to Arsenal's injured list, after Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla were rested on Tuesday. Theo Walcott could be back in contention for a start while someone else gets a rest, considering Arsenal play again on Wednesday. Rotation is the word and for a change, Arsenal have depth in midfield to do that. Kieran Gibbs should likely be available again, after missing Tuesday through illness.

Otherwise, it's as you were in terms of available squad. Who rests in the midfield? Aaron Ramsey? Jack Wilshere? It's impossible to know, so I'll take my best stab at it.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Flamini, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, Giroud.

Cardiff Squad News

Out: None

Cardiff had only one injury concern, as Rudy Gestede was doubtful with a knee problem, but he's been loaned to Blackburn until January. So, that leaves Cardiff with zero injuries.

As such, I don't expect there to be any changes to the side that drew United at the weekend. Cardiff play basically a 4-5-1, with left wing Peter Odemwingie playing a little more forward behind striker Frazier Campbell. Well, maybe it's more of a 4-1-4-1, with Gary Medel hanging deep as a holding midfielder. Anyway, I suspect it'll be the same XI for Cardiff tomorrow as last week.

Predicted XI: Marshall, Theophile-Catherine, Caulker, Turner, Taylor, Medel, Mutch, Whittingham, Cowie, Odemwingie, Campbell.

Current Form

Over their last nine matches, across all competitions, Arsenal have won six, but have lost once in each of the competitions they've played. Still, that's good enough for top of their Champions League group, top of the Premier League, and being out of the distracting League Cup at a stage where it wasn't damaging to the team's psychology. Best case scenario, all things considered. Moreover, this will be Arsenal's sixth and final match in the month of November. November is often Arsenal's trickiest month, but they've won four and lost one so far, and have only conceded once in the process. Yes, that's right, van Persie's header is the only goal Arsenal have conceded in the month of November, and all four wins have been clean sheets. Considering the competition (Liverpool, Dortmund, Marseille, and Southampton,) that's nothing to shake a stick at.

Cardiff are coming off a hard fought 2-2 draw with Manchester United last weekend, but on the whole, their results have been all over the map this season. They've beaten Manchester City, and Fulham, and rival Swansea. They've drawn United and Everton, but also Hull and Norwich. They've lost to West Ham, Tottenham (in the 90th minute,) Newcastle, Chelsea, and Aston Villa. They've actually lost twice to West Ham, including once in the League Cup. All-in-all, those results are good enough for 15th place, just three points clear of relegation. It's the definition of low-to-mid-table. They're not as bad as Crystal Palace or Sunderland, but they're not good enough to be comfortable either, and that's what makes them tricky to prepare for. They've taken four points out of six from the Manchester clubs at home this season, so it's a fixture not to be taken lightly.

Match Facts

The Cardiff City Stadium opened in the summer of 2009; this is Arsenal's first game there. Arsenal's last trip to Cardiff came in January of 2009 in the third round of the FA Cup; Cardiff took the tie back to the Emirates after a 0-0 draw. Arsenal then won that replay 4-0. Arsenal's previous trip to Cardiff came in the 1982/83 League Cup, when the Gunners won the tie 5-2 on aggregate; they won 3-1 in Cardiff in the second leg, after winning 2-1 at Highbury.

Cardiff's last year in the top flight, before this season, was 1961/62. Both matches between the clubs ended in 1-1 draws that season. Arsenal finished 10th that year. It should be noted that Cardiff were relegated along with Chelsea in 1962. Cardiff's last win over Arsenal came the season before that, 3-2 at Highbury. Cardiff's last home win over Arsenal was on September 24, 1960, as Cardiff took both matches in 1960/61.

The Referee

The referee is Lancashire-based Lee Mason. Arsenal saw Mason earlier this year in their 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion. This will be Mason's first Cardiff match of the season.

Arsenal also drew both matches in which they had Mason as the referee last year, 0-0 at Stoke and 0-0 at Aston Villa. They won both of their matches with Mason the year before that, over Stoke and Everton. While I've never been fond of Mason as a referee, Arsenal are unbeaten in their last eight matches with him, dating back to Lukasz Fabianski's 3-2 loss to Wigan in April of 2010.

Cardiff have not had Lee Mason as a referee since April 28, 2012 for a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Sunderland; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Everton v. Stoke City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Norwich City v. Crystal Palace; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Fulham; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Saturday (late): Newcastle United v. West Bromwich Albion; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Sunday (earliest): Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester United; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday (early): Hull City v. Liverpool; KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Sunday (late): Chelsea v. Southampton; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (late): Manchester City v. Swansea City; Etihad Stadium, Manchester