To be precise it’s the feast day of St. Joan de Lestonnac who was, by all accounts, an all round good egg and particularly nice to children, the abused, those rejected by religious orders and widows. There have been many miracles reported to have taken part in and around the vicinity of her tomb and as such it is perhaps appropriate we play the Saints on her special day. Arsène and Arsenal were written off as dead and buried after the defeat at St Mary’s a few weeks ago and yet, miraculously, neither seems to have managed to remain among the expired.
Lazarus like the team has continued to roam the earth in a post deceased state. Somehow the failed tilt at the league title is still on and even more amazing the team is ahead of Tottenham despite everyone saying how much better they are. Truly we live in a time of wonders. Jack Wilshere was reported to have gone and joined the choir invisible on Sunday only to roll away the stone on Monday and Mikel Arteta’s long since defunct legs were seen moving in a most unlikely and agile fashion.
Can this age of marvels continue? Can Arsenal rise up and vanquish the bogey team of the South Coast? Will we see Aaron, Alexis and Mesut back in their supporting role with Larry at the apex or has Joel done enough to keep his place? If the preferred attacking threesome are indeed reunited will Mo and Coq reprise their nascent performance as the Vieira and Petit for a new age? Or will the Ox continue to show us his versatility by slotting into the Santi role? Will I end a sentence in this paragraph without a question mark?
It’s rather splendid to have such conundra upon which to ponder isn’t it? The cavalry which George anticipated has definitely arrived; witness the fact that Arsène was able not merely to have certain first teamers warming the bench against Burnley but to rest them altogether. Oh, by the by, if you wonder at my use of condundra rather than conundrums I did waste a lot of time researching the appropriate plural form. The Grauniad notes and queries debate on the subject was hugely diverting. I recommend you follow that link – it’s far more entertaining than me straining the limits of my creativity here.
The last time I previewed a league match my theme, if such a lose collection of disparate and fanciful thoughts can be so described, was revenge. I knew lightning couldn’t possibly strike twice and that with eleven men on the pitch instead of having to play with our centre back sent off we would surely exploit home advantage and show the most hated team in the land who was boss. That didn’t turn out so well and I am naturally hesitant, one might almost say timid if not downright bloody terrified to return, like the fabled dog to its vomit, to such a motif or theory today.
However there is no denying that as with Chelsea we have unfinished business with Southampton. Try denying it, privately, to, as it were, yourself. You see? Didn’t work did it? The Saints tucked us up like a kipper in a most inhospitable way the last time we were their guests and such behaviour surely merits no bonhomous, polite and considerate reciprocal behaviour now we are the hosts. I would like very much to see the boot firmly on the other foot and preferably connecting with the ball immediately prior to it entering the visitors’ goal.
I suggested pre Burnley that someone is due a good spanking, six of the best, trousers down. We’ve seen it before. A run of disappointing results followed by a sudden blood letting and tonight would be the perfect night. Redress the damage done to our goal difference at St Mary’s and put the fizz back into our jizz, to coin a phrase.
With Tottenham facing a potentially awkward trip to the far flung kingdom of the East Angles, Leicester entertaining the entirely unpredictable but never dull Jürgen Klopp road show only Man City are positively predicted to profit from this evening’s entertainment. The table might get even tighter by nine thirty this evening. There is in fact every chance of us seeing a three way tie with everyone boasting 47 points – but of course with a season such as this one absolutely nothing can be taken for granted.
What of our opponents then? How have they fared since poking us in they eye in a most unfestive fashion on Boxing Day? Well, they promptly lost to West Ham, Norwich and Crystal Palace before going on a three game winning spree at the expense of Watford, West Brom and Louis’ Flying Circus. They are second behind Spurs in the form guide a whole eight places above us. Ronald Koeman talks up their defensive resilience saying
“We believe in our qualities and we play out of good organisation, that’s always difficult for the opponent to beat Southampton. That’s the reason why we have some good results in the last few weeks and we like to continue with that. We had a great result at home against Arsenal not so long ago. They will try to show they are the better team, but we know it’s not so easy to beat Southampton.”
but I’m more concerned with their attacking abilities. I sincerely believe that with Aaron, Alexis, Larry and Mesut we have the guile and skills required to unlock the most resolute of defences, it’s whether we can be sufficiently alert and astute to nullify their threat on the counter. This is where the return of Le Coq is so important. His extra pace and the way he harasses and irritates the heck out of the opposition is vital to buying time for the rest of the lads to resume their starting positions manning the thin red line. More than that his interceptions often put us back on the attack after losing the ball which alters the balance of play so quickly, a perfect scenario for our fast thinking attacking players.
Three points and a barnstorming performance would suit me down to the ground. I’m giving up my radio show to watch this one, a move which has, in the past, met with less than unmitigated success, so I think I’m due a visit from the football fairy tonight. I do appreciate the line which all Arsenal blogs are supposed to toe is that the three points is all that matters – but come on. We aren’t train spotters. We don’t watch football for numbers, we watch for the thrills, the clenched, nervous sphincter, the groans and shrieks and the roaring around the house like a gorilla with a Carolina Reaper up its jacksie. We crave excitement and artistry and total football, so yes of course if things don’t work out I’ll take a 1 – 0, but I’m in the mood for something a little more spicy tonight, go on Arsenal, make my day.