I’ve awoken this morning to snow. It really is quite magical this time of year and London is white with it. In a way I’m glad we don’t have a home game because getting to the Emirates on the Met Line today could be an absolute nightmare.
But it’s an away day and for many it means the trip down to the south coast in probably some horrific driving conditions. If you’re going to the game hope everything works out and you get there safe and sound.
I would imagine that the team probably travelled down last night given that it’s another one of those stupidly early kick offs. 12pm on a Sunday – should never exist in the first place but we’ve got to just deal with it I suppose; it’s what makes the Premier League the global game and the demand for football matches means this is just what happens.
On the pitch I hope what Arsenal do this lunchtime is magical too. We need it to be. The performance last Saturday was worthy of a big win – idiotic defensive mistakes aside – so the first thing none of us wants to see is silly mistakes at the back. We got punished against United but you’re always going to suffer against any team if you’re playing dangerous balls across the back or not realising the ball in time. So I am hoping that we see a better defensive display and more of the same up top.
Which is why I think we might see Arsenal with a very similar line up to the one that started last weekend. I have a feeling Arsene will go with a back three to start today, then we’ll change it if we have to. If this was a home game against Southampton I think he’d be more inclined to gamble with a more attacking team and four at the back, but I think he’ll just rotate out Mustafi and perhaps the reason Big Per didn’t start on Thursday, is because the manager wanted him starting today knowing that Mustafi would be out. That would make sense to me and mean a back three of Nacho, Koscielny and Monreal. It’s not the quicker in the world but it has numbers and the experience to deal with the pace of whoever plays up too. Which in a way I hope is Austin. He is their most prolific player, but he’s not as rapid as Long or Gabbiadini I don’t think, so he’ll look to make the most of balls in to the box, his movement in the box and that’s where our back three’s positioning would need to be spot on.
Southampton away is always a tricky fixture and whilst we won last season, seasons before that have seen us regularly lose. They’re not as confident as they have been in the past and their team doesn’t look as strong, but that’s usually the blueprint of an Arsenal meltdown, if all of the odds seem to be stacked in our favour. So I’m still nervous about this game. But I feel like if the defence can sort themselves out today, then the attack should be able to do the rest, especially given that our front three of Ozil, Lacazette and Alexis have all had enough time to rest since the United game. Arsene had a little bit of a pop at the fixture schedulers but in reality we’ve had plenty of time to prepare and it’s only really him that’s feeling the effects of three games in just over a week. The rest of the team should be fresh and so I’m not expecting any lethargy from Arsenal today.
But we are away from home and we’ve put in some pretty insipid performances so far. Everton away was the only real game in which we looked to be in full flow and even that came at the expense of being one down quite early. I hope that we aren’t subjected to the same frustration today. Just get straight to the free-flowing stuff before we go one down, please, Arsenal.
The midfield two will be Xhaka and Ramsey and Rambo’s recent form needs to continue if we’re to get something from this game. Chaka will sit in the massive space that is our midfield but depending on whether Southampton press us higher up the pitch and force him into errors, I am hoping he can handle the absence of Mustafi, who is often that guy who likes to push forward and win balls off midfielders as he has done in recent weeks. I suppose that job will fall to Koscielny in Mustafi’s absence, because I can’t see Big Per adopting a high press and Nacho doesn’t really do that. I hope that means that we’re not left too exposed by an isolated Xhaka in midfield so Lolo has a big job today.
But not as big as that front three, who need to click away from home. We need to see a proper performance from Alexis today because he owes us one. He’s been pretty sh*te all season by my reckoning and although we know he’s capable of explosive bursts of sublime individuality, that hasn’t surfaced enough in his game, whilst the other two seem to be playing themselves in to form.
It’s going to be a tricky one today. This Arsenal team are confusing and can just as easily wilt as they can blow a team away with a display of superb attacking quality. So I don’t really know what to expect. A bit like opening my curtains this morning to see lots of the white stuff. I just hope that come 2pm I have the same smile on my face that I did when I saw the snow this morning.
Catch you all in the morrow.,