Morning fellow goners and, after a few days away from ye olde blogging, I thought i’d pull my rapidly expanding carcass out of bed and do a bit of a match preview.
So It’s Crystal Palace today and if ever there was a performance that stands out as the real arse-end of 2017 for Arsenal it was the abomination that was the 3-0 defeat at Selhurst Park in April last season. We were out fought, outthought, outnumbered across the pitch – or so it felt – and it came across as the archetypal match which demonstrated that Arsene simply didn’t have the players that were playing for him any more. There was no fight and no real drive from the team and if ever there was a game in which you’d want the players to watch and tell them “do the opposite of this” then it would be tonight.
It’s a very different Palace team to the one that was in free fall earlier in the season though. I’d have fancied our chances against that Palace team, but this particular incarnation under Hodgson has hit some form, dragged themselves out of the relegation zone and quite frankly, given how we played against Liverpool and most of this season away from home, you wouldn’t put it past this Arsenal team to serve up another dogs dinner. Arsene has been busting out the excuse of the Man United defeat as a psychological blow for the last few weeks and if he keeps giving these players excuses like that then they’ll only be too happy to continue to oblige.
So for tonight’s game I’d be trying my best to give them all a massive dose of tough love. They need to be told that it’s not acceptable. That the away form is not what a top side should be delivering. That certain players are on the ropes and playing for their immediate futures. That this January is a chance for him to look at other players if the current squad continue to fail to deliver.
He won’t though. He’ll set up the team as he’s always done with the mentality that they’ve always had. We just need to hope that it’s enough to turn over Palace on their own patch.
Let’s face it; our players are better than them, so it shouldn’t really be something that we worry about, were we not a football team with an amazing ability to think up new and inventive ways to shoot ourselves in the foot. The hope I do have though is that – Southampton aside a couple of seasons ago – our Christmas form hasn’t been the worst in recent years. Granted, we’ve usually been at home for at least one of the two games and there has rarely been a big game wedged in between Christmas and the new year, but we’ve tended to pick up points. Last season was the reversal of these two fixtures with West Brom and Crystal Palace both at home, but with Arsenal scorpion kick-less in the absence of Ollie Giroud, we’ll want to see a different kind of spectacular tonight.
I’m just hoping we get a better performance than the Liverpool debacle. That performance had five minutes of splendour punctuating what was a pathetic display and if the team serves up the same tripe come 8pm tonight, it’ll hardly make for a lot of festive cheer in my family household.
To how do we beat a Palace side unbeaten in their last six Premier League games then?
Start with Zaha and work back from there. Palace like to get balls into the box from wide positions, they like to take advantage of set pieces, they have a settled XI that they use and they all know their positions. Roy has brought discipline to the team and as a result they will be a difficult opponent tonight. Haha is clearly the jewel in the crown and he’ll be running at our back line with glee tonight I suspect, especially having seen how fragile we look against Liverpool. But he’s not going to be able to beat everyone and do it alone, so I think we just need to isolate him. I also think that three at the back would be a good move too. If we had that with Kolasinac playing as a left wing back, when we have the ball – and Palace will concede possession to us tonight – his forward runs could be used to pin back Zaha. So despite Molnreal’s injury, I’m hoping for a back three in which Koscielny, Mustafi, Chambers, Bellerin and Kolasinac are given the nod. I think that gives us more stability defensively. I have nothing against Maitland-Niles but he’s not a frigging left back and against someone like Zaha he might find it delightful if Arsenal line up in a four and give him the opportunity to isolate against the young player who’s playing out of position.
If that is the back line then the midfield will surely be Jack and Granit and if i’m honest with you, given that we basically play with no midfield anyway, it’s the best we can hope for. Grant had a particularly horribly performance against Palace last season and so I hope that’s in his mind tonight to give us a better display, whilst we know that Jack will give us energy and pop the ball around well. The question is whether he’ll be able to last the full 90, because it’s become more evident that he tires in the second half, as has been quite visible against West Ham and Liverpool.
In front of those two we’ll need movement between Ozil and Lacazette and given that he’s undroppable no matter how many times he loses the ball, throws his arms in the air, runs around a lot, Alexis too I suppose. Palace have shown that they can be susceptible at the back and so we need to see an Arsenal team with more drive than we’ve shown away from home for most of the season. At times we’ve felt lethargic and so I don’t want to see any of the leggy performances that we’ve been subjected to by some of the players. JUST MOVE THE FRIGGING FOOTBALL QUICKER. If players move the ball quicker from an early stage in the game it will tire the players out from Palace and then our players can take advantage.
Whether or not we get that or not is another matter. I guess the opening exchanges will tell us if these Arsenal players are feeling up for it or not. I really hope they are.
Catch you all tomorrow.