It’s April Fool’s Day today but let’s be honest, the only fools we want to see come 6pm tonight are Stoke and the Tiny Totts, having seen Arsenal and Chelski both vanquish their opponents today.
Our game at 1.30pm holds little significance in reality, other than to hopefully edge Stoke further towards the drop, so that’s what I’m hoping we are treated to and it’s why I hope that Arsène picks a relatively strong team. If you’re a betting man/woman you can have a look at 1xbetreview. I don’t know why he wouldn’t. We have four days after today before the players play again and with it also being a home game one suspects that we should have enough and any kind of murmurings of ‘fatigue’ are quickly dismissed.
In the reversal of this fixture last season we saw an Arsenal team that went quite some way to out-crap a very average Stoke City side away from home in what is a traditionally horrid place for us to go. We were turgid but the difference between them and today is the location and whilst we’ve become accustomed to defeat away to the Potters, we’ve also become expectant of victory at home.
It’s pretty much a clean bill of health for our team – Santi aside (small weep as I still say that every week) – and so Arsène will have some decisions to make as to who lined up from the start. Personally I’d be looking at Cech in goal, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil Mkhitaryan, Lacazette and Aubameyang, but that’s because I want to see those front two together to see what they offer. However, that’s me with my 90s Champ Man hat on and given Lacazette needs to work his way back to fitness it’s probably better to have him on for the last 20 to 30 minutes this afternoon.
If that is the case, then the question is whether Arsène goes for solidity with Elneny, drive with Wilshere, Bambi-on-ice with Welbeck or blinkered faith with Iwobi. I just pray it isn’t the last of the options. I know Iwobi isn’t first choice when all are fit but he still shouldn’t be anywhere near the first team. Next weekend, after we’ve played CSKA on the Thursday and then play Southampton on the Sunday, I’d say it’s worth rotating the team and then maybe Iwobi gets some minutes. But this game today feels like one in which we don’t really need to rotate too much. So let’s not see the blind-alley-bandit take to the field this lunchtime, eh Arsène?
So given I’m probably not going to get my first choice I’d probably look towards Welbeck ahead of the others. If he’s given the option of playing in the three behind Auba then we will see a willing runner who will press the Stoke defence higher up the pitch and hopefully force errors. I think Stoke will try to sit, be compact, frustrate Arsenal. So the more we put them under pressure by their own goal the more we can potentially force mistakes to capitalise.
Perhaps I should be choosing Jack ahead of Welbeck but sadly I think we need to start phasing Wilshere out. He’s clearly not signing a new deal, which means he isn’t the future of the club, so Arsenal should be more concerned with the options we already have in the squad for next season. These games are practically dead rubbers and so we need to start putting faith in other players. It would be a sad way for Wilshere’s Arsenal career to peter out but we need more ruthlessness from the club.
That’s also why I hope that Arsène names a young bench. Let’s see if Arsenal can get a few goals up and then give players like Nelson a start today. He’s the sort that should be being told that Wilshere’s potential absence is to find a place in the team for him. He has question marks over his contract and we need to convince him he’s got a bright future. I hope between now and the end of the season he gets enough minutes to convince him to sign up.
As for Stoke today, well, they are missing that horrendous sh*tbrick Charlie Adam trough suspension, so there’s less worry about ankles as there would have been if that clobbermesiter had been available. They still have Shawcross though so Arsenal players aren’t completely safe. Crouch also seems to have won a bit more favour under Lambert and despite the fact he’s about 48 now, he has still been a thorn in our side up until recently. It was last season that he handled the ball into the net at The Britannia, so we need to be wary of his cheaty aerial and elbowy threat.
We should have too much for a team that has just one win for Paul Lambert since he took over. We have a good record, better players, we’re at home, plus the team should be rested.
Then again this is The Arsenal so who knows what we might be treated/subjected to today.
Here’s to a happy Easter Sunday.
Catch you all tomorrow.