Happy good morning to all of you lovely bloody people.
I was all prepared for writing this, then booze got in the way. I was shown all the special whiskies by my fancy drink hero of a flatmate.
Hell, it’s Christmas, so why not. Anyway, that means we’re going to GO BIG on the post today.
TITLE FIGHT NIGHT
How good does it feel to say something like that? I can’t remember the last time we were in the mix in December.
Oh, I can…
2 seasons ago… when we had an almighty crash away from home. We lost, what, 6-3. I think Aaron picked up an injury… 10 days later, Theo broke down and we were over.
This time, it’s kinda different. I remember going into the City game and we were on the verge of squad breaking point. This time, we’re already broken… difference is, we’re actually winning this time.
So tonight is about two things for me.
1. Is our squad any good
2. Linked to point one. Have we been good lately, or have we just been playing shite teams?
I think when you look at question 1, you have to compare Arsenal and City. We’re the two best squads in the Premier League. My point at the start of the season was that we had two very capable first team 11s. Losing against Sheffield Wednesday and losing against the two worst teams in our CL group didn’t support my case… but we’re starting to see now that maybe I wasn’t too far off the mark.
The difference between Arsenal and City is that they have a squad of individuals… we have a squad that can work as a team.
So tonight, we’re going to see which works better in a big game.
We cannot forget that this evening is going against us. We have no Santi, no Coquelin and probably no Sanchez. Those are three massive losses that almost no squad could cope with.
The replacements aren’t incredible. We’re asking Flamini to be a big game player, we need him to keep his head, stay back and run efficiently… not like a madman.
Aaron Ramsey has to play a different type of game. He is playing next to a player who isn’t that great, so he has to tame his lust to drive forward. He has to play for the team, not himself. He has to sacrifice part of his game for the greater good.
Sanchez… well, if he’s being replaced by Theo, we have a good swap. If he’s being replaced by Joel. Well, who knows. The Costa Rican has done well of late, so hopefully he puts his body on the line and brings some of that flare he’s shown lately.
… also worth noting that I’d rather sacrifice Sanchez for the battle, to have him fit for the war. Even if we lose because of it.
We then need big games from the defence.
If I were the City coach, I’d be looking at how exposed we’ve been down the right and I’d be licking my lips. I’d be looking to target the ailing Per Mertesacker… he’s not looked the player he once was this season. I also think Bellerin has looked suspect of late. There are holes in our backline at the moment and I think if Aguerro starts, there could be trouble because City have a lot of creativity in Silva, Sterling and KDB.
We have a lot going for us. We have the irrepressible Ozil. We have Giroud firing on all cylinders and we potentially have Theo Walcott ready to rampage.
If we’re going win, we’re going to have to do it the smart way. That might mean we play like we did against them earlier in the year when we beat them at their place. I think going toe-to-toe could be a risk.
We need a draw at the very least. A win would really set the tone for the rest of the year.
What we have going in our favour is that usually we’re breaking going into this period. If we can make it through to January unbeaten. If we can recruit in a way we haven’t done for a long time (at the expense of trophies every time), get our players back and play like we always seem to normally in the second half of the season… we have a chance.
Tonight is about not choking. It’s about pure belief. It’s about 10 years of excuses, laid to rest.
This is the night we find out who the real Arsenal are… is this an illusion? A precursor to the usual. Or is this different?
Is this the start of a spectacular fairytale ending? Is this closure? Is this the beginning of a dawn that’s threatened so many times?
A big night for Wenger. A big night for Arsenal.
See you on the other side!