When it comes to football, I like to think of every conceivable way in which Arsenal can gain an advantage, against every current and future opponent. Which is why I always look out for upcoming opposition matches, to see if there is any injuries, suspensions, or even poor form that I can hold on hope for. Injury is an uncomofortable hope to have and I don’t really want any other human being to suffer pain or discomfort – but I always have an ‘every cloud’ moment when I hear we have a little advantage.
Even the small advantages too. Like yesterday, with Sunderland away at Southampton, I wanted Moyes to pick a strong team so that the Mackems might be a little more fatigued than our team on Saturday lunchtime. It’d be nice for us to profit from that problem for a change, wouldn’t it?
It looks like Moyes did play a few first teamers, which hopefully is good news for us, and the fact he was sent down to the stands might also be an advantage if he’s suspended at the weekend. It probably won’t have that much impact, but like I said, small victories, etc.
It does work the other way though. With all of the small victories I take from opposition matches, I do also get fraught with concern about teams at the top of the division, like I am with the scum round the corner and Man City. Both have now been knocked out of the competition and whilst it’s great for our chances of getting to a final, there’s part of me that worries that with less games to play, it’s more rest time.
I suppose the caveat with this particular competition is that most of the top teams rotate their side anyway. So with Arsenal we rested Cech, Monreal, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Coquelin, Alexis, Özil and Theo from the weekend. The result should be they are fresh for the weekend, so there’s no reason not to assume that Arsène won’t do the same with his team selection when we play Southampton in a month’s time. So whether it actually affects any levels of team fatigue is debatable.
But hey – like Matthew Syed says – it’s all about the marginal gains.
So ultimately I guess what I’m saying is that I worry when teams go deep into competitions (as I don’t want teams like the Scum to win anything), but I also worry when they’re knocked out early (as I don’t want it to help their chances in the cup competitions).
Talk about damned if you do, damned if you don’t, eh?
I could talk about the disgrace that was West Ham ‘fans’ versus Chelski ‘fans, but I don’t want to give any kind of publicity to morons. There’s a reason Chelski have a recognised collective of horrible football fans: it’s a horrible club.
Instead, let’s have a word on the enigma that is The Ox, who has said he hopes his form gets him a recall in the league. I was talking to Giles during the Reading game and we spoke about how – for somebody who has been so out of form this season – he actually has a decent goal return. He’s up to five this season and he has hardly been starting every game. He’s got goals against Liverpool, Ludogorets, Forest and Reading and whilst you can question the quality of the opposition for a lot of those games, he’s still done what has been asked of him. The challenge he has, is that his game is based on percentages, or the old ‘buy a ticket’ approach. In other words, he often takes a few chances before he buries one, a bit like Anelka used to back in the day when he first arrived at Arsenal.
For The Ox to truly stake a claim on a regular basis he’s going to need this season Walcott levels of end product. Not in the goals department, because he’s clearly getting those, but in the distribution part of his game. His final ball can be erratic. There were a few balls from out wide that he overhit on Tuesday night, plus a couple of instances of stray passes, and that’s the part of his game that if he ironed out there would probably be more clamour for him to start.
He just needs to work on his own marginal gains. Do the basics right in ball retention and distribution, take a split second longer to pick a pass, work on your byline crossing a bit more in training. Do what Theo did: take a look at your weaknesses and work your arse off on them.
He’s given Arsène something to think about for this weekend, at least, but I still think we’ll see the front three of Iwobi, Alexis and Walcott in the North East.
Hopefully we won’t have too long to wait though, as I suspect Arsène will do his press conference today, with a view to travelling up tomorrow morning with the team.
Let’s just see how much he talks up The Ox.
Catch you tomorrow.