Arsene was in fine form yesterday at the pre-match presser, wasn’t he? Laughing with the hacks, joking about their constant reminders on our form against the top teams, even giving a completely straight and direct answer to the questions about signing the young Legia Warsaw midfielder Krystian Bielik. All yes’ as far as that transfer is concerned, although I think we all knew that anyway so there was hardly any other person that really needed confirmation from Arsene that the young Pole would be joining.
Asked about the game on Sunday, I thought Wenger was quite upbeat actually, which I am hoping is a good sign. He was quick to point out the ‘special circumstances’ of last seasons battering at the Etihad, but given that we have such a shocking record against the traditional top three teams in the division, he seemed to be quite positive.
Dismissing history as a relevance to this game however, surely can’t just be the naïve belief that he has, can it? I mean, when you’re consistently turned over by the big teams there surely can be no way that it doesn’t play on the players minds. We have terrible records away from home to United, Chelski, City and I’d probably even say the Spuds over the last few years, so the idea that we’re going to turn up at Moneychester City’s ground with no real apprehensions about our inability to kill off better teams, seems a foolish notion to me.
I’ll lay my cards on the table now a day before my pre-match preview: I am not in confident mood ahead of tomorrow. I can’t see how we are going to win. A draw right now would be a dream result as far as I’m concerned. City have too much firepower and we have too much defensive fragility. Tomorrow i’ll try to put a more positive spin on my pre-match blog, but today I’m looking at the cold light of day and I can’t see – along with all of the pundits in world football, I’m afraid – how we’re going to win this game.
But Arsene has to believe differently, so he has to remain positive, so I’m glad he’s doing it more for all of us. I guess one reason that he has to be positive is that we’re a better team than we were when we played City last season. I’m not a fan of his ‘yeah, but this was why we lost’ excuses, but he had a point when asked about last year’s game. We had played in Italy on Wednesday, then were down to play on Saturday lunchtime, so it must have played some part. We were also a bit hard done by on a few decisions in the game and I remember counting persistent fouls by one City player on the day on my Twitter feed, which led to no booking whatsoever. There as also a disallowed goal too. Plus there was a penalty for City which probably should not have been. All of this sounds like very Arsenesque excuse making, which it sort of is I guess, but it’s just worth noting that the rub of the green didn’t really go for us that day. It went so far heavily in City’s favour that Pellegrini’s mum spent days cleaning the grass stains from his trouser knees.
I am also going to go out on a limb here too and suggest that we have a better team than we did last year. Certainly going forward, anyway. Although Welbeck is still injured, a front three that is likely to include Alexis in the form he is in, automatically gives us an extra 10% to our game. He was the subject of conversations in both pre-match press conferences of both manager’s ahead of Sunday’s game, with Pellegrini arguing that Alexis is the best player in the league right now. I listened to a radio station last night which had numerous City fans coming on to disagree and, whilst Aguero has the reputation and history of doing it across a number of years in this division, there’s no doubt that Alexis has done it more often, mainly because he’s been fit all season. When we played the oil whores last year, did we have a player in such a rich vein of form? I know we were in pretty good form as a collective up until that point, but even the top teams have that special player that gives them the ‘X’ factor (that phrase has been permanently ruined by Cowell and his cronies by the way, to which I’ll never forgive them), which I don’t think we had last season to the extent we have had this season in Alexis. The hope is that he sparkles tomorrow instead of having a quiet game.
Of course that will depend on his teammates also stepping up, because playing against the top team requires more than just one man to win the game. When you’re playing a Stoke or a Hull at home, you can rely on one player if you keep solid at the back and let him be the difference, but there’s no doubt City will score tomorrow, so we can’t rely on keeping a clean sheet and hoping that Alexis is the difference with the odd goal.
So we’ll need to look towards the team – the virtues of which Arsene emphasised with his clear dressing down of the Ballon D’or and it’s purpose in a game which is aimed at team success and victory as a collective – to provide the support for Alexis in winning the game. It’s going to be harder with the first choice right back out for essentially the rest of the season, but you have to hope that those that start tomorrow will give additional cover to whoever starts – Chambers or Bellerin. More on my predicted line up tomorrow methinks. For now, go and enjoy your Saturday. It looks like there’s a bit of snow coming down outside, so I’m going to make a snow angel. Then pray to it for three points for The Arsenal this weekend.