Flipping heck it’s cold. So very cold. Cold enough to freeze the soul.
It’s certainly not warm enough to survive without a boiler, which is what happened in our household last night. Let’s just say that when you need to shower by boiling a kettle at 6am in the morning, you hardly feel set up for the day, I must say.
I’d like to say it’s too cold to play football but if I was paid millions a year to do it I’d play in any temperature. And I’d be thankful too.
Maybe that’s one positive: there won’t be many players ambling back to defend our goal like we saw on Sunday, eh?
Yes folks, we’re down to gallows humour here, because it feels like it’s all we’ve got left. No Wembley joys to reminisce over, no FA Cup to hang out hats on, a team that looks like it’s completely shot for confidence, a fan base who were muted on Sunday by the ineptitude of our players, and wouldn’t you just know it? A game this evening against the Champions Elect.
This is without doubt the lowest ebb of the Arsène Wenger years and his press conference yesterday didn’t exactly fill me with excitement and joy. Not that I expected it to and I did think he’d come out in defence of his team, but his responses are falling on such deaf ears these days that as soon as he started talking about turning down contracts, about why his position isn’t under scrutiny and why last weekend’s defeat needs a little perspective, that you can see why the players aren’t responding any more.
City will be licking their lips for this evening. They have a chance to well and truly hammer the final domestic campaign nail in this season’s coffin and should we slump to another defeat, you’d have to say that only our continued involvement in the Europa League is what should be keeping Arsène from getting the chop.
City will be full of confidence, swagger, will probably dominate the ball at times and even when they don’t, this game at the Emirates is tailor made for them to hit us on the counter.
I say that because Arsenal players will want to prove they can mix it. They’ll think “we’re at home, let’s take it to City” and under normal circumstances I’d be right up for that. But we are not in normal circumstances. We are in pretty bleak times right now. And defensively we are an absolute disgrace as Sunday showed. So I’m not at all convinced that we won’t concede a few goals. In fact I’m pretty certain we will.
Will he go with a back three or a back four? The back three was my preferred option at the weekend and although I want to just dismiss either formation with a “does it matter?” I’d still go for a back three tonight, even with Nacho injured, because I think we should be looking at the best form of defensive solidity (ha ha) we can muster against the likes that City will throw at us this evening.
So I’d have Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi (because we have no other choice), Koscielny, Holding – Chambers needs a time out after his too poor performances, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan, Özil and Aubameyang. It’s basically the best we can offer and although I don’t believe it’s enough, it’s all we’ve really got right now so we don’t have too much of a choice.
If I can offer some words of comfort in this dreariest of blogs today, it’s that Auba and Mkhi will be back together with Özil and at least we’re on home turf. That will mean they should get more ball in the opposition half and also it should mean that they fashion more chances. The trio still need games to learn and adapt to each other and with Wilshere instead of Iwobi we’d get somebody more composed on the ball.
This season feels like a write off domestically so what I’m looking for this evening – aside from a win which would provide a little comfort in the cold – is for us to start to see the forward players looking like their forming connections. If we see little interchanges of passing and possession between our three big names like we did against Everton then I’d probably take that to be honest with you.
As for City, well, I don’t really even want to preview them to be honest with you because we know they have about six or seven players who will probably hurt us tonight in some way. So I’ll just leave it I think and tell you to cross everything, wrap up warm if you’re going, and let’s hope that there is some fight left in this Arsenal team.
Catch you all tomorrow.