As expected, literally none of the ‘smaller’ teams playing against those in the top six were able to cause an upset yesterday evening, which pretty much makes this latest round of matches this midweek as a disaster for us in terms of how the table unfolded. But it’s a disaster the isn’t one from which we can’t recover and if you take it in isolation it doesn’t look good, but when you think that a month ago we were fourth and all of the other teams like Liverpool and City were starting to look like they were building some momentum, so where we’re at right now isn’t the worst situation in the world.
It could however, start to unravel quite quickly if we don’t get back on that winning horse, and quick. At the weekend we face a really tough test against City and to be honest with you right now, i’d take a draw if it were offered to me. There are those that would scoff at such a suggestion given City’s form, but Everton had the same lack of confidence and form going in to the game against us, so the same happening on Sunday against Guardiola’s team isn’t exactly unthinkable.
Just after there Stoke game this week I asked about what would a good points tally look like by the time we’ve played Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day. Even when I asked some of the gents in the pub last weekend, the view was that we should be looking at 12. I was a little more conservative, but now that I look at it, 10 points would probably make for an ‘ok’ return. It would mean that we’ve been defeated to Everton, drawn with City and won the rest of the games in the month. It would also see us having reached the halfway point in the season and have only been defeated twice. Last season Leicester won the league having been defeated by us and Liverpool before 1st January. They lost three games all season and so if you’re going to look at small rays of hope, that would be one of them. But we need to avoid defeat away to City and so that’s why i’d bite yer hand off for a draw.
What we need is the players to pick themselves up, which is where the manager earns his crust, because he needs to get them into mental shape for Sunday. They’ll have had yesterday off no doubt, but they’ll all be back in today and he needs to be having a think about who is mentally but equipped for the trip to Manchester. Particularly on the flanks I think. We had a glimpse again of ‘Silent Theo’ at Goodison and whilst The Ox was a bit more active, he had one of those games where nothing goes right for him. But the problem we have is that the replacements for both of those players aren’t exactly ripping up trees. Iwobi is still learning his trade and so he will get patch of form whereby his form doesn’t quite click in to gear, and Perez has had injury and doesn’t seem to be trusted so much on the flanks just yet, which is a shame because I think the gnarl consensus is that he probably should have been given more minutes against Everton rather than Giroud.
Perhaps this weekend will be the Spaniard’s opportunity to deliver in a big game and stake his claim for a starting position in the team? He’s been prolific enough to give Arsene something to think about, that’s for sure, but what Arsene has to start doing if we want to win the league is to start playing the right team for the right occasion. And when that doesn’t work out, making subs that clearly aren’t predetermined.
I speak to so many people who are fans of other clubs, who say that we might just have the strongest squad in the league, but that doesn’t really make any difference at all, if we don’t play the occasion and the opponent to nullify their threats and emphasis their weaknesses. We need to be better at out-thinking our opponents. That’s where I’m not sure that Arsene has it. I hope he does. All I want is for Arsenal to win the league. I am, after all, and Arsenal fan. So I don’t care who the players or manager are, I just want to see Arsenal successful, which is why I’m hoping Arsene gets it right in the next two weeks. If he does, then we could be in a fantastic position to start the year. If he doesn’t, sadly the agendas are too ingrained for some and the knives will be sharpened too quickly for him.
More thoughts tomorrow. I don’t know if Arsene is doing his presser today or not, but we’ll get some team news no doubt, so let’s see what he says about squad availability.
Catch you tomorrow.