Morning all. It’s back to Blighty, back to the office, which means back to my daily commute and blogging as a result and having had nearly two weeks to relax in the Caribbean sun, I feel somewhat rejuvenated when it comes to The Arsenal too.
I managed to watch the Burnley game on a stream, but only managed sporadic glimpses of the Southampton game, which of course I found massively inconvenient given the performance and result away from home, but I must say the score line somewhat tempered my rage as I caught up on what was happening.
But as is the way with football, there’s precious time to appreciate such matters as Welbeck’s return to goalscoring, or how our squad seems to be able to handle some of these types of games like Southampton at the weekend, better than any other collective of players we’ve had beyond our first XI. Nope, tomorrow we’ve got Watford at home, which is another game that anything less than three points won’t be enough if we really do have some kind of outside hope of winning the league. Indeed, the next two games might even define whether there’s a true belief that this year could be different, or whether we’ll fall again in similar fashion to year’s gone by.
Chelski playing Liverpool at Anfield at a time in which the reds seem to be spiralling in to a metaphorical pit of their own despair doesn’t really help any situation for us or the neutral, but the fact the scousers are at home gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, they can pick up three points against those west London scummers. If they do, we simply must have beaten Watford, because we won’t get many more chances to close the gap this season I fear. Then there’s just the small matter of having to go to Stamford Bridge and avoid defeat. Something we’ve only rarely done in recent times and usually it’s meant the best we’ve hoped for is a draw. So I’m hardly confident ahead of that one. Which means we have to beat Watford.
Arsène will deliver his team update and the hope is that the absentees from the weekend aren’t more long-term and worrying than we’d hoped. It’s mainly in midfield that we neee to see some kind of positive news, because the attacking options leave the manager with a glut of different players available and so perhaps there’s argument that he can rotate tomorrow evening too; not because of fatigue, but because of the competition for places. Theo got a hat trick at the weekend, Welbeck is probably a little short after playing most of the game and having returned from injury, Giroud has been in fine form, Perez looks excellent every time he plays, Iwobi has improved since December form-wise, Alexis is…well…Alexis, then you’ve got the Ox who has also looked better since just before the Christmas period.
So in the front three positions, he’ll have some decisions to make, but his hand might be forced if there is something wrong with Ramsey and/or Coquelin. Perhaps he might consider giving the Ox another stab in the middle? He will be riding high after that performance against his old club and up against a Watford team who will still be reeling from defeat to Milwall yesterday, I think it’s the type of game he’d love to get hold of and dominate.
Of course some of that might be due to the freedom that the absence of Özil created. The German is our Playmaker-in-Chief at Arsenal and his tendency to drift into positions and demand the ball through virtue of space is obvious, so will having him back in the team discourage a centrally located Oxlade-Chamberlain to look for those forward balls that he seemed so confident in executing on Saturday evening?
Perhaps there’s only one way to find out and that’s to give him a shot in the middle. Alongside a ball winner like Coquelin maybe? I’m still totally unconvinced by Ramsey in the deeper-lying central midfield role, so why not try something that could work out to be a good fix in the absence of Xhaka?
We have just over 24 hours to find out, but before that, we need to see who’s fit first.