Arsene Wenger kicked off his agenda by aiming a bullet right at Conte and the Premier League fixture masters. (two bullets, probably)
“In 20 years it is the most uneven Christmas period I’ve seen,”“The difference in rest period is unbelievable in terms of all the teams.
“The difference in rest period is unbelievable in terms of all the teams. Honestly I don’t really know if the Premier League masters the fixtures. It’s more that we have sold the rights to TV for a lot of money. So we have to accept TV chooses the games. But some teams have more luck than others.”
I’d love to know how they knock out the fixture list, I always had it in my mind that it was done in random behind the scenes with national lottery balls, starting to realise that was naive. A few of the coaches are complaining about the easy ride Chelsea are getting at the moment, even more frustrating because it’s not like they need the easy ride. No Champions League to worry about because of a horrible season last year has meant their schedule has been particularly light, so you’d think that would have been taken into consideration.
TV controls the schedule in the main and they’re shooting for global audiences these days. Interesting that they’re frustrating the American market as well. Premier League viewing figures are down 12% on last year. In part down to making the East coast audience wake up at 7 consistently (4am for West) this season for big games. But hey, before you go slating American’s for being weak wake up fans, figures for the Premier League in the UK are down as well, by a whopping 20%.
Have we hit peak Premier League? Is there too much soccer ball? Or is there too much access to too many leagues, so the audience pot is growing but across more channels? I watch WAY more football than I used to because I sit on my arse and start at 7 and watch across the league’s until 4pm.
Who knows, but for me, the big worry for the Premier League is the home crowd, fans who bother their arses to go. We’ve written about it before, but less young people are watching in the ground, less young people watching TV in general, football isn’t bullet proof to changing tastes and I’d hope there’s a plan to bring more young people in the game before it’s too late and we’re tuning in at 7am on a Sunday to watch a Youtube star tell us how he ate a banana yesterday and it tasted really nice.
ANYWAY, what a digression. Why don’t we pull ourselves back on track and talk rotation. With around 50 hours of breathing space between games, we need to rotate and rotate heavily. Someone mentioned to me that Aaron Ramsey was benched because he had a touch of the flu. Not sure there’s such thing as a touch of that nasty disease, but whatever. You’d imagine he’ll start today with Elneney gone. Or, the manager will opt again for Xhaka and Coquelin in the middle because Bournemouth can play ball and we need someone to run around and hustle.
Wenger sounds a bit nervous…
“We have to hang on, try to win and hope that results turn in our favour. We had an exceptional run, and we lost two games. I hope it’s out of our system. But every game is so difficult. In 48 hours we go into a game with a big handicap on the fixture and I have to find fresh legs.”
Not sure we’re at a massive handicap. We’re playing a tiny club with a tiny squad who have also come off the back of a bit of a fixture pile-up. Spanked by Chelsea on Boxing day, they beat Swansea on the 31st and they have us today. They don’t have the players to rotate in, so it won’t be peak Bournemouth, which is good news.
From our perspective, we could see Kieran Gibbs brought into the fold for Monreal. I’d imagine we’ll see Ozil return in at number 10, maybe we’ll see another game for a pretty fresh Perez and possibly a role for Oxlade-Chamberlain. What about Welbz? Would be great to see him, but I still think it’s too early.
However we cut it, we should have enough. Wenger can’t complain he has to find fresh legs when he has a monster squad he’s barely used this season.
Bournemouth have a patchy home record. Of their last 9 they’ve lost 3, won 5 and drawn 1. Still, we have to be on our game, they normally control possession, taking an average of 52% (compared to our 54%) this season and they can score goals clocking up 26 so far, and worryingly for us, 11 from set pieces. Good news for us, their number 1 chance creator is Jack Wilshere with 20, but he’s not playing today. Interesting that he’s number one creating 20 chances… Iwobi created 5 in his last game.
They’ll press us today, they’ll work incredibly hard and their manager, a potential target of the board to replace Wenger will be relishing the opportunity to show Ivan what he can do. This is a game not to be taken lightly, but it’s also not a game we should be panicking about. We have fresher players, better players and we’ve not really been troubled by smaller teams this season.
It is an important game though. We have to keep the gap with Chelsea respectable. It’s 9 at the moment, which you could see us catching, but if it creeps out to 12, you have an issue. Chelsea losing more than 4 games with their schedule and a manager who has built a team of smart robots is going to be tough. Great news is today gives us the opportunity to make ground on a Liverpool who blew their win against City by dropping points against the worst Sunderland in years (which is saying something).
Win today and we nestle back into the chasing pack and we jump City. That’s a very good place to be as the teams around us start to battle each other. Spurs vs Chelsea tomorrow means a rival drops points. Leicester vs Chelsea next week might throw up an interesting result (we have Swansea). I’m sure Everton vs City and United vs Liverpool will come with casualties next Sunday. The week after, we see City vs Spurs (we have Burnley).
Lots of blood to be drawn. This is a month for racking up a cushion of wins so when we face Chelsea on Feb 1st, the worst that can happen is a damaging flesh wound, versus a fatal bullet to the head.
COME ON ARSENAL! BRING THE POINTS HOME!
P.S. First indoctrination of the years. Congrats to my pals on making this little Gooner the happiest boy in the land yesterday (those are tears of joy people, not the reaction after I told him Wenger might sign a new 2 year deal).