As is the time of year, there’s no room for any kind of major introspection of the last couple of games for the team, with a home match against Huddersfield on the horizon and having spoken to Nigel Winterburn on the show last night I found it interesting to hear him talk about physical fatigue playing less of a part as mental fatigue over the Christmas period.
It’s interesting because coming off of a 20 game unbeaten stretch in all competitions and possibly still riding high from the adrenaline of the NLD and then being better than United overall in midweek, you’d hope that the team still have plenty of energy in the tank going in to this game. The incentive is clear and that’s seven points within a week. Get that and we’re in a pretty good shape ahead of rotation against Qarabag and then a game away to Southampton; an unknown quantity given their manager situation.
Which is why I fully believe that Unai will be analysing, over analysing, then analysing again for the visit of the Yorkshire-men. He was at pains to suggest in yesterday’s presser that he wouldn’t be taking them lightly and with that in mind you do wonder what he has in store for us. My gut feel is that he reverts to four at the back and my sincere hope is that Özil is fit. Emery confirmed yesterday that he’s been training with the physio team on running and with the ball, but as we mentioned on the show last night back injuries are difficult to define and the last thing the medical team will want is to exacerbate the situation.
But we could do with him back soon. I’d be surprised if Ramsey makes it back, we’re already missing Welbeck, whilst both Iwobi and Mkhitaryan’s forms feel like they’ve been dropping off a cliff. We had a bit of a debate about that and it appears I’m in isolation in thinking Mkhi was poor against United, but if Iwobi and Mkhi don’t step up significantly then we’re going to struggle over this period.
The reliance on Auba and Laca is a worry too, because realistically they are our only two fit first team strikers and both are playing each week at the moment. If one goes down now then we’re reliant on the other to stay fit. Nketiah is a great prospect and we have to hope he comes good, but you want to ease him in to the team with less pressure on him than because we have nobody else available.
That’s why I hope Özil is back tomorrow. He’s one of our best players and if we revert to a back four then there’s two in the middle, space for Mesut in the centre behind a striker, then a couple of spaces out wide we need to fill. Özil at home to Huddersfield also makes sense to me because they will sit deep, ask us to break them down and at times like that you need craft and guile to unlock the door. He’s a man who has ability in spades and if he comes through the tests today I’d 100% be having him in tomorrow.
I’m not 100% convinced on the rumours about the two falling out either (Emery and Özil). Emery is a guy who will speak his mind and I’m sure that might sting Özil a little bit but I don’t believe that he won’t fight to get back to his best at Arsenal. He’s still creating plenty of chances for us this season and after you heard Emery talk about the process of his rehab, I hope there were a few more people going “oh, maybe he was unfit, after all”. We have no other info other than what the manager says and at this stage we’ve no reason not to trust him.
We’ll just have to wait and see with baited breath. Until then, let’s hope the team have a decent training session today – well as decent as it can be in the pouring rain in the south east today – and are ready for a fight tomorrow.
I shall speak to you then.