This afternoon at 3 P.M. Arsenal make the trip across London to take on West Ham United with a fully fit squad to pick from. Quite who Arteta will pick is beyond me, I suspect that Saka and Willian, both of who were doubts, wont be starting, As this is our last outing before the interlul we could see Mikel choosing who he thinks is his strongest eleven, Who those players are, beyond Leno and Xhaka, I’m not sure, and I’m not sure Arteta is sure either.
Common sense tells me we are competing with Leeds and Villa for 9th 10th or 11th come the end of the season, but you never know who above that could slip up and if we are to take advantage of any collapse, 3 points today is a must.
Arsenal are 5 places and seven points behind our opponents today. Moyes has his team playing solid stuff and it will be a difficult ask to come home with the points. However, we have seen improvements recently in our play and we do have the better players. We might not be riding on the crest of a wave but we are astride a decent ripple. Although we qualified for the quarters of the EL, it was anything but impressive. Hopefully that wont have dented our fragile confidence.
The way I see it is that if we play well, we will win, So let’s do just that.
On this podcast with @shotta_gooner I start swallowing some of the humble pie that Arteta has been serving and talk about the performance, the marked recent improvement and Xhaka’s dominance in our midfield.
At 4.30 P.M. Arsenal take on Spurs in the battle for the best midtable team in north London. We are 10th and just 7 points and 3 league positions behind them with 11 games to go. It’s a sorry state we find ourselves in but today is an opportunity to start putting thing right. Ok, if not right, a bit better and this particular game means more than 3 points, it always has. If we lose, our bitter rivals will have done the double against us for the first time in 30 odd years. Pfft.
Fans are clinging on to the idea that “the process” is bringing about an improvement, but many are struggling to hang on to this hope, and a slapping for us today could easily turn the tide against “the process” and those in charge of it. So, it’s a huge game for Arsenal, because there will come a point where fans with goodwill will say enough is enough and with the prospect of fans returning to the stadium it could get ugly very quickly.
Unfortunately for us Spurs are on the midst of a mini revival, while we are up and down like a fiddlers elbow. Home advantage seems to count for nothing this season, for all teams, so any advantage that would bring is absent.
The good news is that Arteta has a fully fit squad to pick from. Quite who he will pick is anyone’s guess. Beyond Xhaka, Bellerin and Leno, it could be anything, any set up and any tactics.
I feel we need a win and a good performance today, as much, if not more, than any game for years. We have the players to do it and I think those players do have the spirit that will be required.
No need for me to bang on about silly mistakes being cut out, that’s a well trodden path across all media platforms, and those platforms are enjoying battering us with this new stick, so every individual error will be highlighted by gleeful critics.
Just win lads, please, pretty please. We need you today, not sure we can take another kick in the nuts
In todays podcast @shotta_gooner and I look at the daylight robbery at Burnley, the wasted opportunities, the good play and the disastrous mistake that cost us 2 points. We credit Arteta for recent improvements and blame him for being in the position that we found ourselves in.
Another early start for us away at Burnley, and another different type of test for our fragile form. They beat us at The Emirates but we cant be that bad again. It truly was a horrible display, but we have improved recently and are playing much better than we did then. Then again, it’s away at a real lump it and kick e’m ground, so it could be a battle. That said, if Spurs can brush them aside, why shouldn’t we?
There are some fans still holding on to the prospect of a revival good enough to get us into European places, personally, I can’t see that, but you never know. If such an upturn is possible, a win today would look like a necessity.
It appears that we have a fully fit squad with only ESR being a doubt, so Arteta has no problems there. Burnley , on the other hand, have all sorts of injury woes. Let just hope at the final whistle we still have no injury problems as we have a lot , if not all, of our eggs in the EL basket and we will need a full strength squad for our encounter with the Greeks.
Anyway, best of luck guessing the team selection and best of luck to those selected. I’m going to stick my neck out and predict a comfortable 3-1 win for the lads.
Earlier today I saw a Tweet from Blackburn George asking his ‘followers’ who their current favourite player was, as well as proclaiming that Granit Xhaka was his. Certainly few could dispute that Xhaka has been one of, if not the, most consistently good players since Christmas: his appetite for hard work, his on-the-field leadership and his game changing performances at the heart of the midfield have all played a part in the gradual climb towards a more respectable league position. But not many, I suspect, would have him as a favourite – and certainly none of those who manufactured outrage and abuse against him, and then spat their own dummies as he responded in kind. He is a player many fans love to hate, especially those who have been influenced by anti-arsenal pundits.
As is one of my almost favourites, Hector Bellerin, guilty in the eyes of many for no less a heinous crime than suggesting that some of the louder and more prominent supporters make a living out of negativity. Guilty too for taking a while to come back from a serious ACL injury. And guilty, I suspect, for not conforming to stereotypical footballing virtues, such as short back and sides and unambiguous masculinity. Perhaps it is certain fans’ dislike of him that is one of the things that George likes most about Xhaka, that I like most about Bellerin. And indeed there can be a certain smugness about going against popular opinion, or of believing that you see qualities missed by others.
But having football favourites or sporting heroes is not just about point scoring – and I think it is certainly far more than being a ‘fan boy’, that pejorative term thrown in the direction of any one who dares to voice support for a player not currently the flavour of the month. I got to wondering what makes me side with one player over another, and what qualities they have that elevates them to favourite status. And from there I began to wonder whether it is because they show qualities that I recognise, that I perhaps have something in common with – or whether it is because they have abilities that I may only dream of, so far beyond my abilities they are.
Of the current lot I like Bellerin, but that is mainly because I remember watching his debut game and enjoyed seeing him progress from there: I happen to think he is a fine player (I prefer him to Cedric Soares) and I always want to see him do well, but he doesn’t really qualify as a true favourite. Should he leave and return to Spain it will not sadden me unduly. I can certainly understand why Tierney is admired by so many, but great though he undoubtedly is I suspect he will never be a favourite, whereas Nacho Monreal was (and I can’t quite explain why, something about rooting for the underdog maybe). Chambers is a favourite but I doubt I’ll see any more of him in an Arsenal shirt, whereas I think that ESR has enough brilliance to become a favourite player of mine. Ozil was definitely a favourite, given that he possessed many of the qualities I look for in a sporting hero (sublime but fragile and inconsistent – in old fashioned cricketing terms a Gower rather than a Gooch) and I had a ridiculous soft spot for Danny Welbeck, who never quite managed to live up to the extravagant hopes I had for him.
So I begin to realise that to qualify as a hero of mine a player must either have frustratingly mercurial brilliance, or feet of clay that occasionally transform into match-winning ability. I am aware that any half decent psychiatrist would make much of my enthusiasm for vulnerability, which is perhaps why I almost prefer the Arsenal in its post 2005 state than in the years of its impossible pomp. But I would also love to know who are the ones that you support more than others, and what it is about them (and you) that makes them stand out as especially worthy of your support. This is not a call to debate who are the best players, merely an opportunity to reflect on the absurdity of investing our hopes and fears in those we will not only never meet, but who will never ever know of our existence!
In Today’s podcast @shotta_gooner and I wax lyrical about everything, including Arteta, This is what we have all been waiting , for ,surely? We saw everything come together against a good team. Arteta made some big calls and was vindicated, if we can moan when it’s bad we have to cheer when it’s this good.
What stood out was how well the “deadwood” played, For me this showed that we do have a very good squad, with depth, and that the rebuild is nowhere near as big as many people think. For the first time since the restart, I’m full of hope.
Early blog for an early start start, high noon in fact.
This is a hard game to call, we go into the game feeling chipper following our late winner in the Europa League, while Leicester have their tails between their legs having been dumped out of the same competition. On the other hand they are doing well in league, while we are struggling big time. So in short, anything could happen.
Normally I can at least hazard a decent guess about the line up, but not today. I seriously have no clue what Arteta will send out to start the game. We have some players seriously in need of a rest, Saka, Xhaka, Bellerin for sure, but can he afford to rest them, or even some of them? Even one of them? The cheer up that Thursday gave us will soon disappear if we lose our 12th PL game, he has to turn our league position around, because putting all our eggs in the Europa league basket is a dangerous business. People are clinging to the hope of winning the EL, but if we get dumped out of that and are stuck in 12th or 13th place, the cat will be among the pigeons.
Make no mistake, this is a big game and in difficult circumstances, unless we win questions will be asked about selections and priorities. We can all understand why players should be rested and other given game time but that understanding will fly out the window should we lose again. That’s the nature of hindsight management. I don’t like Arteta, but I don’t envy his task over the coming weeks. He has to go on a good run or things will get nasty, and with the chance of fans returning to the stadium, that nastiness will become very vocal.
Anyway, we shouldn’t forget that we have some very good players, no matter who is selected and at least Maddison isn’t fit, so that should help.
Today @shotta_gooner and I look back at the limp surrender to City and try to work out why a squad of this quality is wallowing in mid table and scoring goals at a miserable rate. To be honest I surprised myself with my conviction that Arteta is way out of his depth as a manager. I try to understand where people are seeing progress but I fail miserably and conclude that the future is bleak unless surgery is done.
If you think I’m wrong, please use the comments section to educate me, I would love to be shown as wrong.
This afternoon at 4.30 P.M. we welcome the rampant Manchester City to an empty Emirates, a daunting task is ever there was one, While City have notched up 15 wins on the spin, we have lurched between wining and losing, being awful to decent while they sit clearly on top of the pile as we are stuck in dead centre mid table. All logic and statistics point to a City win, and yet? We still have hope. This hope may be based on nothing more than wishful thinking, but without hope, why bother?
City have no injuries to speak of, but I doubt Pep will risk his current star man, Gundogan to start. Aguero and De Bruyne either, so although they may all be technically fit, we should be spared the sight of them at kick off, then again, that will make their bench even more scary.
So to us, Partey wont feature but everyone else of note is available. I’m not even going to attempt to guess who will be picked beyond Xhaka, Leno and Bellerin. Any line up and set up is possible because I think Arteta will have to try something different to what we have seen recently, I don’t imagine we will be even attempting to out play them.
I normally look forward to watching City, but not today, I’ve put a kettle and a box of biscuits behind my sofa ,where I’ll be hiding for 2 hours. But as I said, we still have hope.