Today needs to be some kind of amazing hangover cure for us after Wednesday night’s debacle. Today wants to be the hearty breakfast after a night of boozing that turns you from bear with a saw head, to soft fluffy animal that just wants to be loved, in the form of a satisfied can knowing our team has retaken third spot in the Premier League and have vanquished Everton.
Despite what some of the pundits are saying about Everton this season, I don’t see the game as a foregone conclusion, so have bought in my secret weapon: The Management.
You might remember her from such victories as Hull at home, both 5-2 Spud victories and a Watford three-niller a few seasons ago. Yep, she tends to preside – at home at least – on victories and only the occasional hiccup has occured over the last five or so years.
So I’m taking this game seriously and I suspect the team will today. Arsène will want a reaction from his wounded soldiers and the fact that the league offers a different competition and one that could allow us to stretch our good form, certainly works for me, so I’m expecting the players to be up for it.
But that’s only one element of the story, because we need to beat an Everton team who will be buoyed by their midweek success against a group of Young Boys. But scoffing we shall not be doing on their midweek opponents, because the gods of footballing karma look not kindly on such things.
Our head-to-head against them on both home soil and away is not great either. In the last five league games there have been four draws and one defeat, coming last season as we were blitzed by an Everton team chasing down fourth alongside us. Whilst this season the same cannot be said of Everton in terms of their own personal goals, they will still offer a sizeable obstacle for us to overcome if we want to leapfrog United back into third by the end of the day.
Team wise I’ve already sort of deliberated over what Arsène might do with some of his players. He’s already intimated that there will be some rotation, which I have a feeling will come in the form of Szczesny, Rosicky, the Ox and Theo. Ospina wasn’t great in the Champions League and this could be the opportunity for Arsène to show Wojciech that this is his chance. Rosicky has played well every time he’s come on so I do think Arsène will give him a shot. The Ox looked distraught after he was at fault for the third goal, but he looks like the kind of player that will spend the rest of the season trying to make amends, so I’d be tempted to throw him in. Finally to Theo, who likes the odd goal against Everton and Martinez being the kind of manager he is, I think he’ll not be sitting too deep with his team and trying to play for a 0-0. It’s just not his style and these types of games, where the defence could be playing a higher line, are the types that Theo thrives on.
Quite who is replaced I’m not sure. There are a number of candidates in the non-obvious positions like the front three or the midfield. But players I don’t think will lose their place would be Coquelin or Giroud. Le Coq offers more than Flamini who, incidentally, isn’t quite fully fit yet. Olivier Giroud won’t be dropped because I think Arsène will play the “I have total confidence in you, Olivier” card and look to be rewarded in his trust of the Frenchman by a fantastic performance. One just hopes he doesn’t go two for two in terms of shocking misses. He doesn’t have to score today, but a performance in which he’s interval to the build up play, offers something positive to other players and looks strong, will do him the world of good. I don’t even want to imagine what will happen to him mentally if he has another stinker this afternoon.
Alexis will run and run forever but perhaps the manager might choose to take him out of the first eleven for now.
As for Everton, they’ll have Stones and Lennon back, creating a bit more solidity at the back and more natural width from an ex-Spud sure to get a tasty reception. Lukaku is their obvious danger man, but providing we stifle the play behind him in the form of Barkely and Naismith, he can be negated if he’s isolated. I’m not saying we will, that is, just that it is what we have to do.
Come on Arsenal. We’ve been knocked off the horse, but we need to get straight back on it, like now.