Everyone feeling a little bit happier now? A shot of league cup and North London Derby victory in the old veins has done the trick I trust? It may not have made a difference to our league position but by Jimminy the world seems a brighter place after a win doesn’t it? The league position by the by, may, as far as I’m concerned, be anything between first and twentieth at the moment. I must confess I’m one of those curious coves who doesn’t peruse the thing until the tinsel has been taken down and the old calendar put out with the recycling. The only time I’ve ever broken this rule is those few seasons where we’ve gone off like a gingered horse out of the starting gate and led the field right up to the festive season.
On those occasions I have to admit to stealing furtive and blushing glances at our standing relative to all comers. In the same way I can sometimes be caught wistfully flicking my eyes over the more fascinating profiles of young women who are more likely to offer me their seat on the bus than anything more entertaining to the lascivious imagination of a fading middle aged libido. Otherwise I simply don’t care and I simply don’t look. Can you imagine getting in a lather over the table in September? What an absolute arse you’d look come May if you set any sort of store in such irrelevancies. This is the time of year to enjoy each match in its own right – the old ‘one game at a time’ mantra was never so pertinent.
Firstly we need to get past the trailing wisps of smoke from our recent fixtures which resolutely cling to us no matter how hard we try to push forward. I refer of course to Costagate, the ramifications of which rumble on. Poor old Jose’s persecution complex is battling with both his paranoia and his bizarre, slightly creepy obsession with Arsène for dominance in his tortured psyche. The reptiles lap it up because they need something to write about and meanwhile he makes himself look ever more ridiculous.
What of our manager? As expected he remained dignified and focussed on the football. He is well aware of the form Leicester are in now and the strengths of two or three of their better players and so no matter how many Arsenal fans enjoy riding the see saw (We lose – we’re shit. We win – we’re world beaters) Arsène knows that we will need to find an exceptional performance to become the first team to puncture Leicester’s enviable record. Unbeaten in their first six matches they look a relaxed and happy side to me. I attribute this to Claudio Ranieri, the last decent man to manage at Stamford Bridge. Mr Ranieri admits his record against Arsenal is a bad one, the only time he did contrive to beat us I would happily have swapped for almost any of the other thirteen fixtures.
Since his time as Chelsea manager he has obviously not kept himself abreast of developments in London, admitting in a recent interview that he didn’t know why Arsenal haven’t won the title since he left England in 2004. Presumably no one told him about the super rich clubs who suddenly distorted the transfer market out of all recognition and the way our best players had their heads turned by ridiculous wage offers year after year. Or that all the while the club was building a stadium in the midst of a global financial collapse. Perhaps he missed those minor details.
Anyway he wasn’t being rude, he seems genuinely to respect Arsène and was gushing about our style of play so that’s all very nice isn’t it? Such a change to face an away fixture after a cup win and against a manager we can like and respect. A major improvement over the mood in the run up to our trip to Fulham last Saturday.
It’s interesting to note that the win which has so revived us and settled the collywobbles was achieved by a side which may bear little resemblance to today’s team. We are always being told the modern game is supposed to be all about squad and not first and reserve teams but there does seem to be a predictability about the line up when everyone is available. The talking point today is who will come in now that Coquelin has managed to bugger up his knee.
I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see our captain in the role although hot shot Flamini might have genuine hopes for a recall as reward for his heroics at White Hart lane. The other choice is Chambers but it seems he’d being groomed for a centre back place. I know, I know – I don’t do line up speculation but hey, four match previews in a fortnight and I am fast running out of padding so indulge me. In any event I’m not telling you what the line up ought to be or will be. It’s just that there has been so much debate rumbling around the place ever since the end of last season over this particular near mythical part of our formation. What, people ask, lips quivering and palms sweating, will we do if Coquelin gets injured? Well today folks you are going to find out.
The Grauniad has Aaron dropping deeper to play alongside Santi and that is of course a possibility but The Welsh Wonder is more creator than destroyer and it would be a bold move indeed to face a side in their pomp without any sort of bite in our midfield, especially away from home when we can expect them to fancy themselves and come at us. Experience is surely all important, and to that end I can’t see young Calum being thrust into the role – but hey what do I know? Santi may be need to be rested and the double pivot so successful against Tottenham could be retained. It’s all guesswork, but it helps while away the hours until kick off.
One thing is certain the calamitous event so dreaded by so many has finally happened and Francis Coquelin is, gasp, injured! And you know what? It doesn’t seem quite the crisis everyone pretended it would be does it? Even with my limited grasp of the options available to the boss I’ve managed to rustle up four names to throw into the hat, any of which would be quite competent to provide a couple of weeks of cover. As long as neither Oxlade-Chamberlain nor Alexis get the job I’ll be quite content. Not only are they far more deadly up front but both have a propensity for wayward passing that I’d rather see as far away from our area as humanly possible.
Whatever the side and whatever the result I trust you will all enjoy a good hour and a half of top notch footballing entertainment. Not every sporting fixture can produce a Japan versus South Africa level of scalp raising exhilaration but we can at least anticipate a few thrills, a couple of gut wrenching moments in defence and hopefully a few goals scattered throughout the ninety minutes. I won’t be watching – it’s Likely Lads for me as I am taking me mum out for the day so if you see me say hello but don’t tell me the score will you?