Yesterday evening The Management and I went out for an evening stroll in the crisp London air and after discussions about returning to work, I was given one of the greatest gifts one could get as a working man: an extra days leave. Well, I am seeing it as that, because I didn’t realise that what with the UK having a bank holiday on Monday 2nd January. So in my mind I’ve been granted an extra day away from having to work. Which also means an extra day’s gluttony. Hazar!
It’s just a shame there isn’t a game today, then one at the weekend, because that would really make Christmas. In fact,I find the whole fixture scheduling a little weird this year. Last year we played on Boxing Day, 28th December and then on 2nd December. Were our fixtures to fall on those days,it really would be greater us as fans as we’d get three Christmas fixtures before even have to go back to work. As it is though, we only get two before we play on 3rd January against Bournemouth, with one on New Year’s Day. I can kind of see what Arsene was getting at when he called the fixtures strange, because we now find ourselves in a position where the players have had eight days rest, then five days rest, then just 48 hours. Had the games been spread out similarly like last year, then we could have played every three days, with one on Boxing Day,one today (29th) then one on New Year’s Day.
I get that the PremierLeague want to maximise the fact that we’re the only major European League hat plays over Christmas, which means more exposure, but ultimately the quality of football suffers.m Every single Premier League team has to rotate and so the people tuning in to watch the Premier League’s ‘product’, end up not getting to see the strongest possible teams.
It just strikes me as weird, is all.
Still, it is what it is, which means we have to wait until Sunday before Arsenal play Palace. We will probably also have to wait until tomorrow before Arsene delivers his presser to the assembled media, which I’d imagine is tomorrow. Tomorrow is Friday, right? I have no idea. The days of the week are rendered irrelevant for me at this time of the year. They just get referred to as “x number of days until I have to go back to work”. I like it better that way,anyway.
So anyway, yeah, presser tomorrow and we’ll get an indication of how Arsene might shuffle his pack. If I had to speculate, I’d suggest that any players that need resting should be done tomorrow. Athomer, against a Palace team that have a little less confidence and will sit and look to hit us on the counter, I expect we can give a little more opportunity to some players who are on the edges of a start. On paper everyone can see that the Bournemouth game away from home looks the trickiest, so if you’re ever going to rest certain players, you’d do it on Sunday.
I don’t know which players we can afford to rest though. Alexis? Ozil? Koscielny? You could hardly leave those two out, could you? Then you’re looking at Mustafi, Cazorla both out, which means that Gabriel will certainly start I would have thought. Perhaps Monreal and Gibbs can exchange starting roles, but Bellerin is pretty much our only viable right back option, so he has to stay too. Midfield should see Xhaka able to play in all of the games, because he hasn’t played as much football as others, but his partner for the day would be an intriguing one. Does Ramsey get another stab at sitting alongside him (using that term loosely, because we all know Ramsey will be further forward on the pitch for most of the game against Palace if he plays)? Or do Elneny and Coquelin rotate because of the frequency of games within two days?
Arsene has already said he wants to be cautious with Ramsey and Welbeck, who was again pictured in training yesterday (and what a lovely sight it was too, I might add), so I wonder if Arsene will rotate the two defensive-minded players. Elneny is going to be toddling off to the AFCON soon, so if Arsene wants to give Coquelin a breather he could potentially look to play Mo in the game against Bournemouth and see how Rambo gets on against Palace. But if I had to go with gut feel, I’d say that Coquelin and Elneny will rotate over the next couple of games.
The decisions don’t stop there though, because Arsene also needs to work out what to do with his front three. If Palace replicate West Brom’s formula, then you’d think a big, strong, centre forward causing the two Palace centre halves problems, would be a good move. But Arsene is loving a bit of pace in attack when he can get it this season, so if both Walcott and Ox are back fit for the two games, he might decide to rotate the three between them and Iwobi, either side of Alexis. Personally, i’d rather see more pace in attack for the Bournemouth game, because the onus is always on home teams to be a bit more progressive in front of their own fans, so that’s how i’d expect Bournemouth to shape up against us. But i’ll be damned if I have any idea what Le Boss has in his mind at the moment.
Hopefully we’ll find out in the morrow. In the meantime, I’m off to see if I can shed some Christmas blubber by doing a bit of swimming, then i’ll put it all back on again by doing some drinking later all.
‘Tis the season.