I wonder if there was a conversation between Theo and Arsène, before Walcott talked up the teams ‘mental strength‘ post Stoke away. It does seem as though that interview was straight out of the Arsenal Wenger handbook on how to talk up your team, so perhaps after ten years in his regular presence, Le Boss’ words are beginning to rub off on the striker. “Errrrr, Theo, I sink maybe you should say it a little bit zis time, because I sink zey are getting a little bit tired of me saying it, you know?” It was a hard-earned draw, but I’m not so sure it shows as much ‘mental strength’ as he is portraying. I think there’s a bit of spin going on here. But hey, if it keeps the players positive at an important time in the season, then so be it.
Personally, whilst I’m pleased that we have avoided defeat this last week, I am somewhat concerned about our stuttering away form of late. I think we’ve won one in our last four or five, away to Villa, where as the rest of the games have been defeats and draws. So whilst it’s pleasing to see us top and the overall form looks good, we’ve got to start nicking some wins away from home, if we want to win the league. It won’t come any easier, either, as we still have United, City the Spuds away. There’s also a decent West Ham side thrown in to the mix as well. That’s four of our remaining seven away fixtures to very difficult opponents, as well as a trip to Goodison and lord knows in what mood they might be in. Everton are the sort of team that can be either brilliant or abysmal, usually the former against us on their own turf, so that means you’d have to group the remainder of our away games as being quite challenging indeed.
A friend of mine said before the Newcastle game “win your home games and draw away to win the league”. We’ve done that in the last week and another nine home wins would see us on 71 points. Seven draws would see us hit 78, which I’m not sure will be enough, so somewhere in there we have to be winning a few games. There’s Sunderland away, as well as Bournemouth, which would take us over this mystical 80 point barrier that a lot of the pundits are talking about, but the margins for error are so fine that it would mean nothing more than a 100% home record will do. There will always be slip ups, which is why having a buffer is handy, but hypothesising as I have just done that we’ll go the rest of the season unbeaten is probably wishful thinking.
Each game carries significance now. Each set of dropped points will represent more anguish and frustration, because the general consensus seems to be that this season represents the best poss how opportunity of us winning the league. I’d go along with that. We have players returning in the next month and they have to hit the ground running. They have to strengthen us and provide us with something different, something we don’t have at the moment, because it feels like we’re reaching the end of our “let’s get through this period, lads” time with the same set of players. We need the Welbeck’s, the Rosicky’s and the Wilshere’s to inject some spark into our play. We can’t rely on Mesut Özil between now and the end of the season. He will pick up a knock, it’s inevitable, he’s an Arsenal player after all. So we need more from these returning players.
The good thing is that there seems to be a collective of them who are all returning at the same time. Wilshere, Welbeck and Rosicky are all back in training and I believe Coquelin isn’t far away either. I reckon the Burnley game should be targeted by some and if that’s the case, let’s hope it’s used to get players up to match speed for the remaining three months of the season. We are going to need all of them at some stage.
Wouldn’t it just be typical though, that as the Elneny deal has just gone through, a host of players come back and are available for selection? Mohamed might be in with a chance of getting some game time over the next couple of weeks, but when we hit February, you just know he’ll find competition for places quite intense indeed. Ah well, it’s what we as fans want to see, so I’ll refrain from sounding like I’m not happy about a plethora of good players to call on.
Right, that’s me for now, so I’ll see thee again some time.