With the countdown to the North London Derby (NLD) now well underway, the speculation on team line-up has never been so intriguing, from what I can see online and with people I speak to in real life. Us Gooners are collectively salivating over the possible options and, for the first time since I don’t know when, there’s genuine excitement.
The club itself has gone relatively quiet over the last 24 hours, but if that just means that there is an area of focus and intensity amongst the players ahead of this big clash, then all the better. There are a few that I speak to about this who dismiss the Spuds and the form they are in, but to my mind it would be naive not to see them as a team just in form as we are. Certainly results-wise, anyway, as they’ve been picking up 2-1s for what seems like half a season.
But whilst their form has been steady and consistent, ours has been a bit more sparkling than late, which I am hoping means our star burns more brighter on Saturday than theirs.
Let’s make now mistake about it here, Saturday’s kick off will be an extremely difficult one, regardless of how much more impressive we’ve looked. The confidence factor will help us to start the game positively I’m sure of it, but after 20 minutes it will settle into the type of NLD that we’ve seen many times before. There will be goals, but we have to minimise the chances of that by remaining difficult to beat. I doubt Arsène will play the way we did against City, but if it was me then I’d be seriously tempted to frustrate and hit on the counter.
I hope that we see Coquelin in feisty form. If he continues his trajectory and rise of importance in the first team, he’ll be occupying similar positions on the pitch to Erikson, so to give him a bit of tough love by making it hard for him will nullify their forward line a lot I think.
But here I am, getting all excited and starting to think about line ups and opponents, yet I still have three days of work (and subsequent blogging) ahead of me! That’s indicative of the excitement of this game I guess. I woke up this morning to have my cereal and Yakult, with the tune ‘One nil, to The Arsenal’ humming in my head, followed by the question: ‘if we pick up three points against that lot, it will be massive’.
And it will be massive. Not only would it put daylight between us and them, it would also mean that we go into a series of ‘winnable’ (touch something wooden – even though I wrote it and you’re just reading it!) games against Leicester, Middlesborough and Crystal Palace with the opportunity to further cement our top four credentials. Arsenal fans have talked about momentum all season, but four wins out of four will have us in the driving seat and with an eye on silverware.
I don’t want to seem like I’m being too presumptuous, but this feels like the start of the run we had in 2013. Remember that? How we were the most in-form team in the country for the duration of a calendar year? That was the followed by the nightmare of 2014 which – massive awesomeness of the FA Cup aside – we fell apart in the 2013/14 league season and started the 2014/15 league campaign in pretty indifferent form.
Hey, if 2015 is brilliant and we win another cup whilst securing Champions League football (maybe we’ll even win the Champions League, eh? Bet that would really get on Adrian Durham’s wick), then I won’t complain. Then if we start off the following season with the form we started off last season too, then all the better, as far as I’m concerned.
I feel like we actually have the nucleus of a side that could potentially challenge for the title. Not this season of course, we’ve left it too late and with too much to do, but who knows about next season. I mean, you may think I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but if we keep this squad together, whilst adding just one quality defensive midfielder, I don’t think there’s any position on the pitch where I wouldn’t be happy with our depth. Right now it looks to my eyes that we have two good players for every position and whilst Flamini is everyone’s cup of tea, he’s still a decent player. Given the infamous ‘deadwood’ we had three years ago, he’s a markedly better option than a Denilson, wouldn’t you say?
So there it is. I’ve set my stall out and I’m proclaiming wildly with the optimism that success brings, that we can have a brilliant finish to this season and have a go at the league next.
Am I crazy?