Welcome to the weekend, which means the big game is just a day away and the two respective managers have had their press conferences, Arsene at London Colney and Claudio Ranieri at Aylestone and perhaps unsurprisingly, both have sugested that it is the opponent they face this weekend that is under more pressure. Ranieri is a likeable fellow, which is intensely more annoying for me as an Arsenal fan, and he has spoken about the fact that his team have reached their target of staying in the division and now they are just playing for fun. He will continue to push this line, I suspect, of the ‘who? us? never!’ for as long as he can, but there will come a time for which he and his players will have to admit that they can win the league and there will be the inevitable pressure that comes with it.
For us, that pressure is already on the team, so I would probably agree with Ranieri more than Wenger when I think about who is under more pressure this weekend. We’re the home side, we’re the ones who are playing catch up and unlike Leicester’s expectations, ours as a collective (fans, manager, playing staff) are much higher and as a result so too is the pressure. Will we crack this weekend? We only have another day to find out. The bookies however, are siding with Arsene, as they now make Leicester favourites. You’ll be hard pressed to get the same odds on a Leicester title challenge as you’d have got at the beginning of the season, but whilst Arsenal are favourites for this particular game at 3/4, Leicester’s title odds are at 7/4, so I’d imagine Claudio isn’t showing his players too many bookies odds at the moment as he tries to keep them in their ‘no pressure here, guv’ bubble.
As for Arsene, he inevitably spoke of Leicester’s quality and how they will be a difficult opponent on Sunday, but what he also went on to talk about was the value of returning players. Whilst he didn’t specifically say that Welbeck would be ready for this weekend, I would love it if he was able to make the bench, because it would be a real boost for us. It looks like the Hull game has been penciled in for a return, but given that Arsene said he is physically fit, he just needs competition, why not just give him a role from the bench? After all, he’s never going to get that competition unless he plays and so by giving him the opportunity from the bench – maybe to get ten minutes at the end of the game – it will not only give the player a boost, but also the squad. I don’t want to make the dreaded ‘LANS’ statement, but another option in terms of firepower this weekend would be a welcome one. Especially given the last few games and the poor form of Theo and Giroud.
The other key point from the press conference was about ticket prices. A few journos had a bit of a pop at Arsene because of his comments, but a more accurate analysis of the situation comes from Andrew (PR_WhoRu) who explains in a number of tweets why the media aren’t quite comparing apples with apples when they lambaste Arsenal on ticket prices. If you have read some of my stuff from last week you’ll know that I am in no way, shape or form in favour of the way the ticketing situation is handled in terms of prices or the way I think we’re treated as fans sometimes, but Andrew makes some really salient points that I’d urge you to head on over to his timeline to point out.
As for Arsene, I’d expect nothing else other than a clever defence of his employer, after all you don’t bite the hand that feeds it. Call me cynical, but I suspect that when Klopp made his bold statement about ticket prices and him having to be involved, I suspect he already knew what the Fenway Sports Group were going to do. So it becomes easier to make those types of comments when you know what is coming over the horizon. Arsene has to tow the company line, but if he doesn’t know what the clubs plans are on pricing, he is always going to try and talk up the positives of the way the club structures its match day revenue. I think if he probably knows that ticket prices overall are too high, that all football clubs should be doing something about reducing the prices, but whilst he is on the inside of that football bubble he will always measure his comments.
As for me, will I spend the first five minutes in the concourse watching the game on the TV screens, then head in after five minutes? I’m not sure. If I don’t I’ll certainly be applauding Leicester and Arsenal fans that do. Unfortunately I’m a little bit of a sheep when it comes to things like this. If there doesn’t look like there is many people in the concourses, I will fall victim to the apathetic thought process of “well, hardly anybody else is doing it, so what difference will I make?”. I know that’s wrong. I know that’s not how you start to inflict change. But I am not one of those brave people. I am one of those people who spends his whole week building up to going to watch The Arsenal, so I want to savour every minute when I’m there, which means watching from the first. Feel free to think bad of me if you like, but that’s just the way I am, it’s my nature.
Anyway, I’ll catch you tomorrrow with a preview on the match and how I think it’d going to go.