Much like Leicester against Chelski on Sunday, I found myself quietly celebrating Wolves’ draw at home to Man United last night, as already those teams that you’d call ‘rivals’ are dropping points.
However, upon reflection, the fact it was Leicester and Wolves did make me worry a little bit, because those are two teams who are expected to be up there towards the end of the season and given that we dropped points against both of those teams, I do wonder what our fixtures against both will hold for The Arsenal.
It’s a worry for another day though because as it stands there are only two teams with a 100% record after two games and that’s us and Liverpool. That’s a pleasing sight even if it is after only two games and will probably not remain that way for long. Well, certainly after this weekend as we face the scousers, in a game that Dave called a ‘free hit’ last night on the radio show we did.
I make him right you know. It is a free hit and the two wins out of two probably make it that way. Both Liverpool away and City away this season are games that nobody is really expecting us to do anything with so from my perspective – and probably many Arsenal fans out there – it won’t feel like we’re already behind and playing catch up on our rivals if we lose.
Because we are expected to lose and so are 99% of the league. The gulf in class between the top top is massive and especially on their turf and on any other day other than last Saturday the Tiny Totts would have been smashed by City, as an example, so that’s probably what we have to hope for this coming weekend; i.e. an off day for Liverpool and we have a blinder.
I predicted a heavy defeat on Saturday but that’s my defence mechanism. If it happens I won’t feel satisfied, but I won’t be as devastated, because I’m already mentally preparing myself for it! So as long as it’s not worse than a 4-1, I’ll kind of be ok with it, as we can just pick ourselves up again and hope to go at it for the North London Derby the following weekend.
In order to keep that score down though, we’re going to need more about us than what we provided last season, which was a 5-1 hammering over the Christmas period. The up side is that the team – as Matteo Guendouzi has also pointed out – is better than it was last season. For that hammering last season we had Maitland-Niles as a right winger, with a defence including Lichtsteiner, Mustafi and Sokratis. That’s hardly inspiring and we got ran ragged and looked all the bit embarrassing as Liverpool players danced around our shambolic back line. We also had an ineffective Iwobi on the left flank and an isolated Aubameyang.
This season we will clearly go in to the game with more options, so my hope is that we give an infinitely better account of ourselves and if we lose as I am expecting us to, I just hope that we have some positives to take from the game at the end.
Swapping out Mustafi for Luiz and Iwobi for Pepe should hopefully help. Whether or not Emery goes three at the back however remains to be seen. Luiz would be better in a three and we’ve even had our Greek rough-houser Sokratis talk up the Brazilian as ‘Hummelsesque’ this week so far. That’s a fine comparison and whilst probably a little too flattering for our mop-haired Brazilian, if there looks to be the forming of a half-decent central defensive pairing, I’d take that all day long. Let’s just see how they do against the rapid pace and clinical finishing of Salah, Firminho and Mane. Possibly the sternest of tests in the whole of the Premier League awaits this weekend so if Luiz is to earn that Hummels comparison, he could do worse than give us a stellar performance on Saturday evening, that’s for sure.
On to off-field matters, to which we have another Josh Kroenke interview, which I have to say I welcome. We want to hear from him and get more input from KSE and the way Josh has taken this up and appears to be on board with a bit more engagement to the fan base is good. Of course you could say that the timing is perfect and it’s a PR slam dunk given the summer we’ve had and the two wins out of two, but he was in the country and so let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. Would he have been so willing if we’d have lost at Newcastle and maybe drawn yesterday? Who knows. It’s probably a little too speculative to suggest that. But what he was saying about not letting Baku define us was welcoming from my perspective.
I think if I was in his shoes I’d probably be milking it too but the hope is that he doesn’t just disappear off to the States, only to reappear on the final game of this season. Let’s have more of Josh talking plans and let’s have more hope and less of the despair that the early summer brought us.
It’s feeling good at Arsenal at the moment. I hope that positivity takes us up to Anfield for a good performance on Saturday.