Welcome to Monday. How was your weekend? Did you do anything disgraceful? You know, like, something you shouldn’t have done in a neighbours plant pot?
Just wondered about you.
What did I do? Well, I bought a laptop, so I can now respond to e-mails (so sorry if you’ve e-mailed lately and I haven’t responded) and write blogs that aren’t on typed out on a phone. It’s liberating, like defacating in a noisy neighbours plant pot.
So what’s new today? Well, we have a Monday night game. Feels like the first of the season? It’s away at Villa. We’ve had a nice few days worth of rest, which should make for solid performance lacking in jaded legs. I’d take today to hand out further respite. I think Monreal has been excellent of late, he should continue ahead of Gibbs (if he’s fit). I’d like to see Gnabry given a game… he could cause havoc against Villa and their quite dodgy backline. It’d be good to see Ozil back in the side and it’d be nice to see Per get a rest if TV is available.
Speaking of rest,Wenger gave some insight (Guardian) into the way he thinks about the hot topic, which accurately follows the narrative I’ve explained to you for years (and heavily in the last 6 months). Firstly, he let us know what a total double hard geezer Giroud is…
‘He played the whole game at Newcastle with an open ankle and without complaining. And when I took him off, he didn’t want to come off. He needed five stitches.’
Now, whilst we might all coo at the courageousness of such behaviour, because it totally flies in the face of ‘foreign players don’t like it up em’… we have to remember, attitudes like the above need to be managed sternly. Giroud wants to play every game, and he’ll say he’s fine because of that, but the simple facts are that he can’t. You don’t want to demotivate the hunger, you just need to make sure it’s charged sufficiently…
This is why the next sentence, which shouldn’t be surprising to regular readers, is a massive worry….
‘I was always there thinking: ‘I have to rest him.’ Then on Friday night, I always changed my mind. He’s a tough boy. Even when the medical people say he should rest, he says: ‘I’m all right’. He’s always ready for a fight even when he’s tired.’
Wenger said a similar thing in the aftermath of the Pires injury and said not resting him was one of his biggest regrets. The above issue is the whole reason we pay for GPS kit. A player can’t lie about his physical state, because you can map performance against their usual baseline. You can make an educated, data backed decision. Simply playing him reeks of amateur fitness management. Wenger giving himself a round of applause because Giroud had an enforced rest doesn’t sit well with me… because he’s not been the only player in need of such a break. Wenger has a history of running players into the ground which directly impacts our ability to compete.
Anyway, Wenger hit Giroud up with more praise…
“He has qualities that the rest of the squad has not got. He always gives us that strength. We have small players who combine quickly, so to find someone who can hold it, keep the ball, make some room for other players, he does that very well. He gives us a very good balance.”
Is the above an indication of what he’s looking for in a striker? Will he go for a better version of Giroud, or opt for something different? Costa is cut from the same workrate cloth as Olivier, but he has incredible finishing. Martinez is very similar in style, but he is loaded with more pace because he’s far lighter on his feet weighing 18kg less than the Frenchman.
One league I’m surprised we rarely look to is the Italian one. I watched Milan vs Sassulo last night. Fascinating because Milan are terrible at the moment. Allegri, the Milan coach handed his notice in… fatal mistake. The players don’t look interested at all. A few things I liked. Firstly, Milan, sitting in 11th are in a United situation.
Their star man is the 18 year old Christante and lunatic Mario. The striker looks good in parts, he also scored… my god what I’d do for a sane Mario. Big, technically outrageous, fast and explosive. On the other side, it was the Berardi show. 19 years old, scoring 4 against Milan for a weak side. What a talent! Such a shame Juve co own him. He didn’t start playing organised football until he was 16!
Anyway, the Italian market feels untapped to me…
Back to Arsenal…
Tonight is a game I personally think we have won before we kick off. Villa won’t be expecting to tank us, they’ve been awful. That doesn’t mean we should be complacent, it just means Wenger can afford to rotate strongly.
The three points are imperative. Everyone picked up maximum points this weekend, so we have to keep up the momentum. I have no doubt the boys, whomever they are, will be totally focused. It’d be nice to get through a game without an injury disaster. It feels like the bad news hasn’t stopped over the past month.
The next 5 games are hugely important to our season. Why? Because we’re playing ‘3 point musts’. We’ve been excellent at winning the games we’re expected to win this season. Really, we need to take 12 points from 12. We have Villa, Fulham, Southampton then Palace. Wedged in there is an easy game against Coventry in the FA Cup. If we max out in these games, we’ll head into the nightmare run full of beans and hopefully loaded with points… possibly even a little gap at the top. Hopefully the top three will have pulled away. We really don’t want to be stuck in a top 4 battle this year.
First we take on Liverpool (6 pointer), United (hopefully a sh*te United), Bayern, Sunderland then Stoke. There might also be further FA Cup games. My big worry is Liverpool. If they’re still around the top of the league around that time, they’ll have that extra rest the main challengers don’t have. Say it quietly, but they could be genuine contenders as well.
It’s such an exciting season…
I wonder are there any Gooners out there who are worried about not winning this game? Those fans that are thinking back to Aston Villa’s glorious triumph at the Emirates on Opening Day and worrying that this Villa side pose an actual threat to their title-gunning squad? Well let me just reassure those fans, that they need not worry. This Villa team are currently 100% relegation fodder, and what’s worse, they don’t even have the decency to realise it yet and actually start fighting to win games.
Our absolutely scandalous home form (11 wins out of 48 home games since 2011) has been regularly documented and lambasted, almost as often as visiting teams swan into Villa Park expecting a game, only to comfortably trot about for a bit, marvelling at our basic ineptitude, before bagging a couple of goals in front of an exasperated Holte End, collecting 3 points and being on their merry way.
At home games, when Villa would be expected to take some possession and dictate the play, they look completely lost. Shorn of the opportunity to counter attack, the team look as bereft of ideas as a dog sitting at a slot machine. There’s more creativity in a rolled ball of snot than there is in our midfield, our defence has become completely reliant on Ron Vlaar for even a semblance of competence (what does that tell you?), and our attack, last year so formidable with the free-scoring Benteke, finds itself severely stunted due to his regression into a mixture of Emile Heskey and a terrified rabbit.
Oh but there is Brad Guzan though, he’s pretty good.
Villa need to bring some proven winning experience into the team, but Lambert is more likely to trawl the French 2nd division for a gangly teenager with more more experience of beating acne than opposition football teams. Unless Wenger gets there first of course…
This time last year, Villa took an absolute drubbing throughout the Christmas period, (15-0 over 3 games), before following that up with a League Cup defeat to Bradford (how shit do you have to be??). The team did eventually show some grit and ended the season displaying evidence of the free-scoring exciting potential that this team is capable of, so as a fan, I’m clinging to a faint hope that this could possibly happen again. Soon.
However without any January reinforcements to date, and with genuine Top 6 contenders coming to town, I can’t see that revival beginning just yet.
But then, I thought we’d get spaffed on opening day at the Emirates, so what do I know?