So, where better to start today, than the announcement that we’ll face Burnley away from home in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Personally and for purely selfish reasons, I’d have fancied Burnley away, as I’ve got a mate up there and last season The Management and I had a decent road trip up to Lancashire. But you can’t have everything in life I suppose. The only other real shame is that some of the other big guns aren’t facing off against each other, which means they’re more likely to progress and the latter stages of the competition are likely to be harder, but we’ve navigated the Spuds, Liverpool, Everton and United in the last couple of seasons, so we should not be surprised to see any of the better teams in later rounds.
Let’s just hope we can navigate Burnley and then draw another home tie.
In the world of the Premier League, all eyes are turning to games tonight and for Arsenal specifically, tomorrow night when we played Liverpool. The bad news is that we’re still missing Alexis, who has now been out for coming up to two months and whilst it’s great that he should be ready for Stoke at the weekend, it is a real shame he won’t be ready for tomorrow. I know that Liverpool are injury-hit, but on their own turf and in a big game, they will be massively up for it, so the idea that we’ll have an easy ride in Scouseland is preposterous to me. I remember a number of years ago when Liverpool were hit with a massive injury list, so big that they had to play Neil Mellor as a loan striker, who promptly scored the winner against us. So I’m certainly not going to feel comfortable tomorrow evening.
It doesn’t matter what position Liverpool are in the league, tomorrow is a big game, and you need your big game players playing in these types of fixtures.
At least there are no more unpleasant surprises on injuries from Arsène’s presser yesterday. Rosicky is back in training, so I’d imagine we’ll be looking at a February return in some sort of capacity, probably giving him the full compliment of minutes in the FA Cup against Burnley, then hopefully he can settle back in to his usual Spring talismatic figure thereafter.
What Tomas may have to contend with though, is a few new fresh faces, with even Arsène admitting this might be the busiest transfer window in January ever. His logic is sound, citing the new TV money coming in, but given the popularity of the Premier League as a marketable brand, there will always be a new TV deal on the horizon. In the transcript of what was said at the presser that I’ve read, it doesn’t look like he’s talking about Arsenal specifically though, in terms of being busy. With Elneny still sitting on his hands waiting for his work permit and visa clearances, perhaps what Arsène means is that the lawyers and HR team at Arsenal are the ones that are very busy!
Anyway, let’s move away from the sordid and grubby world of transfer speculation and dive into the pool of purity that is actually football. As you’d expect, Arsène has been full of compliments for Klopp, calling him a great manager with a different style. I think I’m right in saying this, but I think Arsène’s record isn’t that great against the German, having won only one game I believe. I’m not sure that’s an indication of him being ‘out-foxed’ by Klopp, or whether it was more indicative of the quality of players Arsenal and Dortmund had when playing, so I’ll be intrigue to know if his ‘heavy metal’ style works well against Arsène’s ‘classical music’ approach when the boot is on the other foot and Wenger has arguably the better players on the pitch (more so given Liverpool’s injury list). More on some sort of match preview tomorrow.
For today, I shall leave you with thoughts that are positive, as Arsène has mentioned whilst talking about the momentum the team has built in the last ten games. He knows we’re in for a tough game, but that he can talk about the confidence of the players and the desire to keep up the winning run, is a positive in my mind and I hope the players can take some of their trademark swagger to the game tomorrow evening. We’ll need it to overcome a team that will press high and hard and rely on their intensity of performance rather than indifferent form.