Yesterday evening I picked up The Management from her work Christmas gathering and I did the gentlemanly thing and dropped off a couple of her colleagues at the nearby station in Surbiton. On the way I was asked by one of the lads – a United fan – the usual question i’m sure we all get asked these days which was in two parts “what do you think about Arsene then?” followed by immediately by “and What do you think of Arsenal at the moment?” and aside from the fact that I normally – as you do I’m sure – have a stock answer for people, this time I had to hesitate for the second part of the question. Because the truth is I don’t know what to make about Arsenal at the moment.
We’ve lost five games this season. We’ve just been beaten at home by United and so normally I’d lean towards the more negative approach, but given other teams are dropping points, given we played so well last weekend despite the defensive brain farts, given that our front line are looking like they are going to start getting more time together in the coming weeks, I don’t know where I stand. I’m not really negative on the team this season, but I’m not really positive. I think i’m Switzerland.
Which is a weird situation to be in because I’ve always tended to be one or the other. Yet I find myself in this limbo at the moment. Normally by now you have an idea on where your team’s season is going but this season I still don’t really know. I mean we’re at a stage where it could quite easily swing horrendously against us with a defeat at Southampton on Sunday, followed by a defeat to West Ham in midweek, and it all looks rather grim. Those are two places where we’ve struggled at times in recent seasons. Although equally we could get six points from two and go into next weekend’s game against Newcastle in good shape. I just don’t know where we stand and I don’t even know what our best formation is.
Which is pretty much where Arsene seems to be at the moment too, because despite playing three at the back all season, the switch to four against United and then against BATE for the whole game, has thrown a tactical cat amongst the pigeons and confused everybody I reckon. We all have no idea what he’ll play tomorrow and even yesterday he admitted that he prefers a back four despite the fact he’s stuck with the three centre halves all season.
I guess the up side of that is that if we don’t know and we all watch Arsenal all of the time, it makes Southampton’s preparations for this game a little harder too, as they’re not 100% sure how Arsenal will set up tomorrow at noon. I guess they’ll probably aim for a back three and I wonder if Arsene will keep consistency in the league by at least starting with that formation, but the fact he now seems willing to roll the dice a little bit by changing up the formation in-game (at least I hope that’s the case and not just that the Mustafi injury forced him to do it and he’ll never do that again) can only be seen as a good thing, because it shows he’s ready to put aside his instincts of keeping things the same and hoping for a different outcome when it’s not working. That suits me a-ok I have to say.
If we are to chop and change formation though it will mean that the players have to get used to being more tactically flexible. It’s alright everybody saying that about Arsene not being very flexible down the years, but if the players have been ingrained into a style where little changes once its had time to set in, then the question has to be asked as to whether they are capable of changing on a frequent basis. The early signs are positive. But for the best goalkeeping display the Emirates has seen last weekend, we get at least a draw from that game and even though BATE looked a bit like a Hackney Marsh select XI, the team still responded well to the change in set up. Perhaps that was because the players in place suited those positions i.e. Debuchy at right back, Giroud with pacy support either side of him, Jack in behind that front three, I don’t know, but what I have seen in about 120 minutes of football is a team that looks like it can handle a shift.
So that all sounds very positive, but I still remain unconvinced on where we are exactly in our season. It feels like the next three games will give us an inkling, but that won’t be cemented until Liverpool on 22nd December. If we were to win all of those four games we might have a different thought on how we’ve performed, but if we draw a couple and lose at home to Klopp’s side, then it’s a whole different story.
So I remain in this limbo. I think it tells me that this time of year is more crucial than we may think. I just hope we get the right results in the txt few weeks.
Catch you all tomorrow, you sexy bitches, you.