In this craziest of crazy seasons, where everybody can beat everyone (including Watford smashing the Scousers), consistency will be king. Those teams who can put together a winning run like – gulp – Leicester are doing at the moment, will find themselves within touching distance of the title.
Tonight we’re up against a title rival in Moneychester City and whilst any result won’t rule out our title chances, you can’t help but think that victory will be a serious statement of intention, a ‘tick in the box’ of an archetypal title challenge. You have to beat your rivals – more often than not – to stand a chance of winning a league. Not just for the points, but for the psychological advantage it gives, so tonight is a time in which our squad need to step up.
On the face of it, you’d say we have the advantage, what with being at home and with City missing their talismatic centre half, Vincent Kompany. His absence is a loss for City, but Ottamendi looks like a decent and rugged enough centre half, and not just for his hipster-beardy looks. City have also been scraping results recently too, with the game against Swansea at home, one in which they can consider themselves fortunate not to draw or even lose.
If defensively there is a perceived weakness, then in attack is where any potential issues melt away. Sterling, De Bruyne, Silva and Aguero are all fantastic players and even if Aguero doesn’t start, Bony is a very good deputy. But I think Aguero will play. I think City saved him from the Swansea game in prep for having him ready for this game.
Last year at The Emirates we looked like we might get a win from the game after Alexis’ stunning volley, but I think we were pegged back for large swathes of the game, which is what I think will happen tonight. We may have plenty of confidence, we may be at home, but the pragmatism that existed at the Ethihad, needs to also be prevalent today when you look at City’s attacking options.
Our options are all very well known to us, but whilst there’s a question mark over the fitness of Alexis, there’s always the opportunity for the manager to throw a curve ball in the starting line up. I’d be surprised if he does though. We will need our Chilean dynamo for the rest of the Christmas period, so bringing him in too early and risking him breaking down, would seem a bit suicidal to me. But if he makes the bench, if he’s a player who can make an impact in the second half, we should take that option. He’s such a fantastic player, who can make something happen and if he was to start from the bench tonight, think of the potential powder keg explosion we could get from him if we’re trying to salvage a point or even win the game.
So I suspect we’ll see the same side as the one that played Villa last weekend. The back five will remain, the midfield duo of Flamini and Ramsey in front of them and Özil further forward of those two. The flanks will continue with Theo and Joel and Giroud will start up top.
The players have had over a week since their last game and as a result should be massively fired up for this. I suspect we’ll see a cagey first 15, or maybe even the first half, but at some stage we’ll have to start asserting our influence, which I’d expect to be in to the second half.
Leicester’s win against Everton on Saturday may seem like we can’t drop any points, but they will surely drop points against the teams they play over the Christmas period; but that doesn’t mean we sho of rest on our laurels. Champions in waiting don’t do that. They go for the jugular. That’s what I want to see Arsenal do for tonight.
Take advantage of the inconsistency of this league Arsenal. Take the game by the scruff of the neck and prove we’re the ones to beat, by beating the ones everyone else thinks are the ones to beat.
If I had to pick a player to be the one to lead the way today, it would have to be Rambo. Two goals in his last two games, playing in his favoured central role, it is the kind of action we saw for his goal against Villa that could be the difference. Winning tackles in his half, then getting on to the ball in the opposition half. Players like that make you feel you have an extra guy on the field, so that’s what I’m hoping we see from our Welshman today.
I’ll be there, with Tom, terrified in the build up, but also excited as to the potential of this Arsenal team. All they need to do is show us they’re capable.
Come on The Arsenal!