Morning good morning! Alex here, emerging early from my winter hibernation – a lot like the John Lewis bear. I’m tired, hungover and when I find the bastard rabbit that woke me up I’m going to kill it.
It’s been a while friends so I thought I’d do a quick preview of today’s game then run over some issues with you. Agreed? Ok great thanks.
Today sees a visit from perennial nonentities Fulham. If they were a country they would be Switzerland, completely neutral. They arouse no anger or joy in me whatsoever. They did have a good run in the Europa League a few seasons ago but other than that they’re a bit meh.
Running through their teamsheet is like playing the 2007 version of Football Manager. There are a lot of players who used to be quite good – Berbatov, Duff, Sidwell and yes Super Scotty Parker – but are now a bit shite. They did have that chap Ruiz who could pull off a trick or two but I’m not sure where he is now. They have a dislikeable manager who lured RVP away from us to Man Utd. But when you think about it he did that knowing Ferguson was going to retire and that Robin would end up being coached by Phil Neville and scrapping for a Europa League place – so actually fair play.
(NB I realise that by being so rude about what is actually quite a decent club I’m completely jinxing our chances of an easy win today but as I said I’m hungover so I’ll take my chances.)
On our side few of the walking wounded seem to have returned with the boss confirming Rambo, Michael Arteta, and Vermalalaem won’t be seen this side of the Coventry game. Mind you if there was a time for key players to be out and get a bit of a rest this is it. We should have enough in the locker to beat teams like Fulham and Coventry. It’s the fixtures after that – Chelsea, City, Bayern – that we want our star men ready and raring to go.
Rosicky and Monreal did train yesterday though so hopefully they will be options from the bench otherwise we will be looking quite light. In terms of a starting line up I’d go with something like:
Sagna Mert Kos Gibbs
Podolski Ozil Cazorla
However I expect we may see Gnabry get the nod ahead of Podolski. I’m not sure I understand the issue with Podolski. Obviously the manager sees him in training and knows a lot more about the player’s workrate than you or I but there is no denying that when played on the left he can be decisive in terms of goals and assists.
Not only that, but his presence helps lift the team – remember all the “Aha” stuff? How funny was that! Ok not very but the squad seemed to like it (we’re talking about footballers here not the board of directors at the National Theatre).
Anyway that’s not to take anything away from Gnabry. The young German has really taken his chance in the games he has played in. He’s not being raved about in the same way that Januzaj or Andros Townsend are but I think that is probably better for him in the long run.
Nonetheless the Podolski conundrum is a strange one. I really hope he can prove himself to Arsene and he stays on, though you have to think an addition like Julian Draxler would see him pushed further down the pecking order and eventually out of the door. It is a shame. Though he is bench warming and constantly gets taken off after 70 mins he rarely complains and clearly loves the club.
I watched Arsene’s presser this morning and something that he touched on, and others are also touching on in a totally appropriate way, is our defensive stability. I tweeted after the Villa game that the Mert Kos axis is our best CB partnership since Campbell and Toure – that’s nearly a decade! Crazy to think it’s taken that long to find the balance but it certainly seems to have happened now. They are both fantastic defenders in their own right (my fave stat is that before he came to us, Koscielny had 100% tackle completion rate in League 2 for the whole season. That’s ridiculous)
But they also compliment each others’ styles perfectly and they seem to have taken each other to the next level. It’s lovely to see but it also seems to have made the whole team more composed when we don’t have the ball.
There have been quite a few occasions this season where we have gone 1 or 2 nil up and both the team and fans have surprisingly remained calm. I say surprising because in the last few seasons as an Arsenal fan, taking the lead was actually the scariest part of the game because that is usually when we would go to bits. Clichy would trip over his laces. Denilson would fall over in the centre circle like he’d been shot. Squillaci would head butt his teammate. Eboue would ruby tackle a striker in the penalty area in the 99th minute. The result that always sticks in mind is the 4-4 versus Spurs where we Clichied it up conceding two goals in extra time. What a nightmare.
This season though we never seem to get nervous under pressure and we see games out comfortably. While that can be attributed to the way the whole team defends and a change in training, you have to think having a solid CB pairing is a massive factor.
Anyway back to today, we have enough to beat a very average Fulham side. Man City will spank Cardiff but Chelsea have Man Utd. The minnows could cause an upset so there’s a chance for us to put some space between us and Mourinho’s shower of bastards. Just a thought on Chelsea… media darling Jose says he wants to build a dynasty at Chelsea, in the same way Arsenal have. Yet on the same day he loans out a young player Ryan Bertrand and re-signs a player for £21m. Nice one mate.
Final word is on transfers. Now I know talking about transfers is a filthy habit and anyone who doesn’t #trustthemanager is scum but I would quite like us to sign someone. Draxler looks like a real player and the sort of signing that would lift the whole team. Is he exactly what we need? Well no, but neither was Ozil and that worked out ok. While there seems to be positive developments in terms of new contracts for Mertesacker and Sagna it would be nice to have another body at the back as cover. Someone like Vertonghen who can play at CB and RB but ideally younger and not from Spurs. But fuck it, I’m allowed to dream, so if I was being spoilt I would love us to sign Vertonghen, Cabaye, Draxler and Morata on loan. That would give us the squad depth and quality to smash the league and challenge for the Champions League. Obviously that is never ever going to happen but a boy can dream cant he? Who would you like to see? Answers below please (lets keep it within reason too we’re not going to be signing Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo or Tom Cleverly anytime soon).
There is probably more I could right but the Paracetamol is wearing off. I’m off to the game later with Pedro to hear him extol the virtues of the red zone and consider how many Nicklas Bendtner’s could dance on the head of a pin, but I’ll be back again tomorrow with a match report. Follow me on twitter @aldo_doel (please do it, im desperate for twitter love).
PS Just wanted to check the le grove parody account is still going? Oh yeah it is. Super funny stuff but spare a thought for the guy behind it who has to trawl through five years worth of posts to look for material. Could we have a whip round to see if we can pay for a holiday for him?