Normally I’d be opening today’s game with ‘ahh matchday, that glorious of things’ or something similarly positive, ahead of a midweek trip to the Emirates. But whilst I’m happy to be getting there once again, and whilst it means my day has something to look forward to come the end of it, there’s part of me that is apprehensive.
I’m apprehensive because I don’t know how muted the atmosphere will be. I don’t know how everyone will react to the team and I don’t know if half the stadium will be empty. Of course, I haven’t even mentioned the way the team is going to play, probably because we are in unchartered territory right now.
“Eh? What’s he on about? Unchartered territory? We see this every year!” I hear you snort to yourself. But when you take the chance to think about it, what’s happened this season is unchartered, because we have never established a proper winning run. Over the last few seasons we’ve either gone on an early run and fallen apart, or fallen apart and finished the season strongly. This season we’ve had nothing of the sort. We’ve kind of stumbled along winning two or three games then dropping points. We just don’t look like a team who seem to be able to pick up results when in seasons past we have.
Tonight’s game is a classic example, much like last weekend, because the game against Palace was as much of a ‘banker’ at home in previous seasons as you could possibly wish for. Yet we completely fudged that up, didn’t we? So I have no idea what we’re going to get tonight.
Except we kind of do, because we know exactly how Pulis will set up his side and it’s exactly the same as how Pardew set up Palace, except you’d expect a Pulis side to be better at it! He’ll play deep, he’ll play compact and he’ll look to expose us on the counter with Rondon, Berainho and the nasty piece of work that is James McClean. The guy loves a rash tackle and so if I was in charge of Arsenal I’d be telling some of the players to wind him up, because he’s got a rash tackle in him that can be his undoing, and to our advantage. But Arsène won’t. He won’t even look at how West Brom set up, because he’ll think it irrelevant because if Arsenal play the way they’re supposed to play, then three points are guaranteed.
Except we have rarely played the way we have supposed to play this season, so my hope is that the team has spent plenty of time looking at the opposition, because if we are tough to break down as a starter, we can build a better base from which to take advantage.
I say this, but we all know that we need the team to score early, so pragmatism against a side who will start off with little desire to venture forward will probably result in nothing more than a snooze-feet in the opening minutes. So what’s the answer?
Energy. We had little of it against Palace and looked as though we were going through the motions. We probably are. The fans certainly were on Sunday, but that was mostly because we were treated to a testimonial performance from the start, which didn’t exactly help. So there needs to be a fair chunk of Arsenal players today who need to pick up their heels a bit.
We’ll probably see the same line up as Sunday, so it’s up to those players to show that they actually give two sh*ts about finishing as high up the table as they possibly can. There’s tonight’s game against The Baggies, followed by Sunderland away and Norwich at home. In any other circumstance that would be three wins, but this Arsenal team rarely do anything conventional, so anything’s possible.
I’d like to see big games from Welbeck and Özil tonight. Danny has been good but hasn’t scored since Everton and if he wants to convince Arsène he’s number one then he has to bag goals too. He got a lovely assist at the weekend, but I’d like to see him on the end of them and Mesut notching up a few more before the end of the season. It won’t be easy against a wall of West Brom players, but when you have a difficult lock to unpick, having a master like Mesut able to see that tiny bit of space is vital, so let’s hope we can do it tonight.
I’ll be there. I’ll sing. I’ll cheer on Arsenal and I’ll forget about all of my issues with the current malaise at the club. Matchday is always a time to get behind the team and that’s just what I intend to do. I just hope the players are up for it though.
Catch you tomorrow.