I wouldn’t say that I’m confident ahead of Arsenal matches at the Emirates. There’s always usually the butterflies and when I get into the ground the excitement builds. But I’m never overly confident. But a game like Crystal Palace at home used to be one of those where I’d be thinking “of course we can bugger this up, because we’re Arsenal, but hopefully the team shows up today”. Usually that’s what tends to happen.
But with the way we are playing at the moment, with the Özil/Emery saga always rumbling on and causing problems at the club, with the manager out of his depth and moving his chess pieces in all the wrong directions, today’s game is one that I’m not really confident at all that we’ll win.
This worry stems from the shoddy performances of Sheffield United away, then of Vitoria at home, but even before the international break we had the Villa game, Bournemouth at home, as well as Watford away, which all act as data points and have me concerned about today’s game. What also worries me is that game last season at The Emirates against them, which was another example of Unai Emery losing it a little with his selection decisions. He went Elneny and Guendouzi in the middle, we buggered the game up and conceded some utterly shocking goals. McArthur with a free header in the box, Zaha from a bit of Mustafi madness after a long punt, as well as Christian-effin-Benteke heading what I think might have been his only goal last season. Arsenal: the gift that keeps on giving to opposition teams. Got a hoodoo you need to break? We can help you with that.
And Roy Hodgson will have that game fresh in his mind today when he picks his team so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him do the same and set his team up the same way. Palace are just one point behind us and with the incentive that they can go up to fifth very much within their reach, I’m expecting a very tough game today, with Zaha being my biggest worry. He’ll want to prove a point and I bet he scores today.
It feels almost nailed on.
As for us, I suspect we all know the drill in terms of the playing staff today, because I’d be surprised if many players who started on Thursday will play today. So that’s Leno in goal, Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz and Kolasinac at the back, Guendouzi and Xhaka in midfield, with Pepe, Auba and Saka up top. It’s the same team that were so appalling in Yorkshire and the hope is that they come out with a point to prove today because their collective performance on Monday night was unacceptable. Hopefully Pepe will be buoyed by his two goals on Thursday and I’d love to see a guy who is running at (and beating) defenders to unlock what will be a stubborn Palace back line.
My worry is if we go behind. If that happens then the fear in this team may just creep in. We know that the players have felt that before and I’ve heard a few ex-pros look at Arsenal and say that they look like their playing with fear of losing the ball, because at times the players take the safe option of a square or backwards pass, which doesn’t help at all. Our build up becomes ponderous and the frustration with the fans sets in too. If we score first then we might see a bit of swagger with the team but if Palace score and sit back then I do worry about whether this will be a long afternoon.
Hopefully not. Hopefully we can score first, get the win and not be looking at the table as the top four start to look like they’re getting away from us. Chelski’s hammering of Burnley, Leicester’s hammering of Southampton, means that they’ve already got their buffer of points ahead of us. We simply cannot afford to drop points today. And if we do, well, you have to once again look at the manager and wonder whether he knows what he’s doing. I have my doubts.
Catch you all tomorrow.