The natives were loathsome at the Emirates last Sunday, with Granit Xhaka bearing the brunt of their rancor as they made their discontent very clear to Unai Emery as we let slip of a two-goal lead.
Good day one and all…
Arsenal return to the Emirates Stadium this afternoon for a Premier League clash against Wolverhampton Wanderers; both sides looking to put midweek Carabao Cup defeats behind them.
The Gunners come into this game not in the best form, that’s being polite considering we’ve only won two of our last eight league outings.
Following the draw at Man United we sat third on the table, looking at a good run toward the xmas crunch with nine fixtures against sides outside the ‘traditional’ top-six; three games later it already feels more like a limp. Xhaka’s outburst at a section of fans that jeered him only seem to distract from the lack of clarity and purpose that has been the story of Arsenal under Emery.
Some may see sitting 5th on the log, just four points off top-four, isn’t that bad. Looking at it in isolation probably doesn’t appear too worrying, however, if you zoom a bit outer you’ll see that there’s also four points between us and 14th-placed Brighton, and that is what gives many pause for concern when it comes to the Spaniard. Can anybody honestly say our current approach to games are any better compared to that of mid table teams despite the obvious gulf in talent?
For a while Arsenal got away with their shortcomings due to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s individual brilliance. With him having now gone three league games without a goal, we registered just one win. We did score three goals in those matches, but from set-pieces as scoring chances created from open play were just scant.
If Emery want to overcome these skirmishes, he has to find a better linkage between the midfield and attack.
Wolves’ midweek defeat at Aston Villa put an end to a handy eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions. It’s unlikely to have bothered Nuno Espirito Santo too much as he gave most of his first teamers the night off, who have been playing in both their league and Europa matches. They had a slow start to their league campaign, ensuing a run of Europa qualifiers, having registered only two wins from 10 league fixtures (D6, L2), to find themselves just four points off the bottom three. However, with their players rested Nuno will be thinking he got a shot here to take advantage of our current funk; looking at a win to move them to within a single point off the Gunners.
They do have a habit of tuning it up against the ‘big teams’ eh, just before the last international break they stunned Man City 2-0 at the Etihad. So it goes without saying that Emery will be aware of their threat and may well be reluctant to throw caution to the wind even when under pressure to produce something special for the Emirates faithful.
Being confirmed that Xhaka will not make the matchday squad it gives Lucas Torreira a chance for a rare league start. Hector Bellerín could also return, having proven his fitness.
Mesut Özil had quite the night at Anfield and it’s going to be very difficult to leave him out, specially with us not exactly having found the desired consistency in his absence. Dani Ceballos has been preferred ahead of him, but since matchday 2 against Burnley he has been mostly anonymous – ironically something that Mesut often gets accused of. Will Emery end his exile? This afternoon will be telling.
This is a big match for both sides eager to get back to winning ways. We know Wolves took fives points off of us last season and if we don’t want a repeat of that, we have to show a bit more desire than recently to see off their challenge.
Sticking my neck out: the Gunners to keep all the points at the Emirates, but perhaps too close for comfort. CÖYG!
Before that there’s the small matter of South Africa vs England in the 2019 Rugby World Cup finals in Japan. Good luck to both sides and may the best team win… en mag dit julle wees Bokke… #BokBefok