Well, here we are, the chance to go into 9th position in the league with a win against Crystal Palace.
This is the sort of high pressure / low expectations game we’ve usually not done well in under Arteta. This was the sort of game we lost last season at this stage. That needs to change tonight.
We’ll have a home crowd.
We are in decent form.
There will have been plenty of work delivered over the break.
We basically have a fully fit team to choose from bar Granit Xhaka. Yes, ever Gabriel Martinelli is back in the mixer.
The key things we’re going to be dealing with:
Wilfried Zaha is a menace and has caused is no end of problems over the years. Tomiyasu needs to be at his best this evening because if you keep Zaha quiet, you keep Palace quiet.
Their press. No doubt they are going to give it a go. Slightly harder for them to do away from home. But you know the routine. They’ll target our midfield like Brighton did. They’ll have a crack at our centre backs with some roughhousing. They will make it difficult. If we roll over and let them do it, it’ll be a tough night. But if we play through them early, then we have a good chances of making something happen. Part of doing well against the Palace press is to stop Villa doing the same on Friday.
The first game after the international break is usually a slow mover, but we can’t have that tonight. The fast starts we’ve had in most games needs to happen this evening. The fans need to be on side, the atmosphere needs to be intense, and that is partly powered by the sort of Arsenal that shows up.
Over in France, Matteo G dropped a beastly performance chalking up 2 goals and an assist. If he wasn’t such a whopper, you’d expect Arsenal to cut short his loan move this January so he could come back and support a midfield that will probably still be lacking a Granit Xhaka who is expected back into full training around then.
Finally, the return of Patrick Vieira happens tonight. Truly, one of the greatest captains that ever wore the armband. I had the luck to go from Tony Adams to Vieira. The French midfielder was something else. An absolute hero. A gladiator of the midfield. People say his technical ability wasn’t rated at the time, but that is utter nonsense. We all thought of him as far more than a bruiser. His rangy legs, tight controls, and the way he bring a ball down and beat a press was magical to watch.
Now he’s a manager. He’s finally made it to the Premier League. I hope it’s not a pleasant return outside the plaudits he’ll get from the home fans who miss his on-pitch leadership.
Right, On The Whistle Podcast will be recorded after, have a great day!