Today is one of those days where I spend my Saturday semi-supporting other teams, with Arsenal playing tomorrow, because I have some sort of weird theory in my head that if at least one team in the top four drop points, then that’s a positive for Arsenal.
The reality is probably that we need to see just one team dropping more points, in Man City, because they are the ones we all fear the most. Leicester got a good result in midweek, but they were battered by the Spuds and although I was happy the Spuddies managed to drop three points, the fact Leicester are now level was only a mild cause for concern. I fear that Tiny Totts team more than Leicester, whether that’s right or wrong, but I fear City above all. They have the best squad, they have some of the best players and although we got good news that they’ll be missing their best defender for another chunk of the season, they will still need to be the ones that we need to finish above to win the title I think.
I keep looking at the second from last game in the season – us away at City – as one in which I think we need to be a minimum of three points clear of them.
Anyway, let’s save that particular nail chewing for May, because we might not even be in that position and we have a plethora of obstacles to overcome before then. Starting with Stoke on Sunday, with whom everyone seems to be suggesting either another draw, or a defeat to them given our record up in Mordor. Perhaps that’s a good thing and perhaps we can therefore surprise a few people. I recognise that Stoke are a better team than they’ve ever been before in the Premier League, but to get a team who consistently finish mid table, consistently beating a team who regularly finish in the top four, is a strange situation. Stoke’s record at home against us reads like you’d expect a top four team to have against a mid table side that visit them every season, not vice versa.
It’s a record that Arsène will be acutely aware of, as he takes his team up there today in prep for tomorrow’s game. The good news is that he rates Alexis as ’60:40′ to play. I wonder if he’ll give him 20 minutes from the bench on Sunday to ‘ease’ him in (as much as that is possible with Alexis!). We’ve missed him for six weeks now and it’s been a blow, but the rest of the team have – by and large – delivered and so getting him back so we don’t see a similar situation to Kompany, is the preferable option. Other than that, it seems there isn’t really any other news about injuries or players returning, so we can be pleased that we will at least take a similar squad, as well as a new signing, up to Staffordshire.
It’s also important to note, as Arsène said in his presser yesterday, that whilst we have a poor record at the Brittania, last season we went in to the game with a very different line up to the one we have this year. Martinez in goal, a Bellerin with a years less experience under his belt, as well as Chambers alongside Mertesacker I believe. That partnership hasn’t really always worked for me, as it doesn’t have any recovery pace about it, where as this season we go into the game with our strongest possible back four. We may not be at full-strength in midfield and there will certainly be questions over Ramsey and Flamini, but I think we’re in better shape than when this game was played last season, so I’d certainly hope we can do better than being three down at half time tomorrow. Famous last words, I know…
Still, we can go in to the game with hope and confidence and if we can pick up three points it will put us in an amazing position in the league, with a week’s rest before Chelski rock up at the Emirates.
Enjoy your Saturday.