I thought Arsene’s presser was more interesting than a lot of his pressers that he’s done in the recent past. He brought quite a few interesting topics of conversation that it’s really hard to disagree with so before I go into today’s match preview I think I want to delve into a couple of things that he said.

The competitiveness of the top leagues in Europe

He was asked from a German journo about the Bundesliga perhaps being inferior to the Premier League and as you’d expect Arsene was very respectful in his comments. But what really struck a chord with me was what he said about the competitive nature of four of the top five leagues. He talked about how most are already sewn up and of course you have to include England in that with City walking away with the league, but I think he’s absolutely spot on with his assessment because it isn’t really good for the excitement of the league, is it? I mean who’s really going to care about the title run-in with five games to go? Very few. City won’t be chasing an Invincibles tag, nobody will be close to them and no matter how much Sky try to dress it up, the last couple of months will just end up being a procession for the blue half of Manchester.

It’s the same in Germany with Bayern, Barca in Spain and France with PSG (although the gap is smaller but nobody really expects PSG to slip up with the firepower they have). It makes for a pretty boring neutrals perspective of the league. I’m not even a bitter Arsenal fan. I know we’d get nowhere near competing but with nobody else competing at the top it’s like everyone has given up. How can that be good for the game and as a result how can some of the eye-watering numbers in the game be good for it when you get this lack of competition? FFP? Do me a favour. The lack of ability to enforce it, it could be said, is effectively dumbing down the competitive nature of the modern game. That’s a whole other blog topic though I think.

Two league styles

This was an interesting assessment by the manager too. There are two types of football team in the Premier League: the one that dominates possession and the one that cedes it. But the gap is becoming ridiculous because fifteen years ago we didn’t see many games with 70% to 30% possession sets, did we? It’s because teams came out and played. They tried to at least have a go but these days, again with the money involved, teams are concerned first and foremost with staying in the league and as a result pragmatism and defensively solidarity is more important than entertainment. If ever it as an example that football is more about money than entertainment it is in the constant re-appointment of managers who know how to set up a team to sit on the edge of their box and dig deeper, relying on just a few set pieces. Does that make for a fun watch for either side? I don’t think so.

Today’s game

Which brings me nicely to today’s match because I think we’re going to see a Sam Allardyce team that is geared to be compact, tuck in, let Arsenal have the ball and then rely on the pace of Theo to care us. And actually I don’t blame them. Theo is perfectly geared to this kind of ‘rope-a-dope’ football and if he doesn’t score today I’d be surprised because we will commit men forward. We will have our fullbacks push further up the field, there will be space to run in behind and if he gets a chance he’s composed enough to finish us off.

Isn’t that a bizarre concept? We’ve spent so many years wondering whether Theo will completely disappear from a team and now he’s the biggest worry we have for this weekend. And he’ll have a point to prove so I don’t expect this will be one of those games in which he’ll be having ten or eleven touches in the whole game. I suspect he’ll be pumped.

So how should we line up? Personally I think it should be with a back four – Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi and Bellerin, Elneny sitting in front of them, Jack and Rambo in front of the Egyptian, Ozil, Mkhi and Lacazette up top. If Auba has been a bit ill this week and if he still needs to adapt to the league then we should use him from the bench. If only for today’s game.

I like the idea of Elneny being the graft and the man to break up play with Jack and Rambo given licence to get forward, but only if they both exercise discipline and an awareness to drop whilst one presses forward and vice versa. The last thing we need is the gaping holes in our midfield and with Xhaka painfully out of form I would pull him out of the limelight and show him that there are consequences to poor defensive displays and switching off at key moments.

I also think Jack and Rambo give us more dynamism in that midfield. They can cover more ground, or drive past players and lines, giving Mesut the licence to pick up the ball and find pockets of space in-between midfield and attack. With Mkhitaryan also the man to move around and create space it just feels like we should have more mobility than we’ve had for a long time. That, in turn, should wake Lacazette up from his slumber. I hope. He’s a guy who makes runs, who will look for balls played in behind and with two players like Ozil and Mkhitaryan hopefully finding pockets of space, it might give him more confidence that if he makes that run he’ll be found and he’ll be given chances.

That’s the hope anyway.

Everton’s team news will be centred around whether Seamus Coleman makes it back into the team and if he does he’s always been a threat down their right hand side. He likes to get forward and although he’ll have a little more defensive work to do than he probably would if this was at Goodison, I suspect we’ll still see him looking to get in behind Nacho and find those slide rule passes into Theo. I suspect it will be Jagielka and Keane at the back with Gueye sitting in front of them. Rooney and Sigurdsson will be their ball-players. It will be those two who will look to spot Theo at every opportunity so the ability to win the ball back quickly off of those two will be important I think.

I think we’ll get a good atmosphere today. The Ozil signing, Auba, plus the ending of Alexis saga and the transfer window means the team can just focus on getting back to performing. We haven’t nearly shown enough this season to suggest that we are a competitive enough team for the top and that’s what all of us ultimately want: to start believing again.

Here’s to three points.