I find it a little bit weird that even though we are mid-table fodder right now, I still look at those teams towards the top of the league and think “good” when things go against them, as if their misfortune might in some way benefit us.
So the fact that Leicester City drew at home to Villa last night had me not too concerned about whether they get knocked out or not, but more looking at the fact that in the second leg they’ll have to go full strength to reach the final and that just chucks another game into their schedule, hopefully meaning fatigue and injuries set in on a squad which seems to have been relatively unharmed so far this season.
Of course it’s a bit of a pipe dream; Leicester City are so far ahead in the Premier League compared to us, that catching them would mean a collapse the likes a Premier League season has never seen. But those irrational thoughts still pop into my head just as they did when United played on Tuesday. The more games, the more fatigue, the more opportunity to slip up.
Of course Chelski are the ones that we really need to fudge the season right now, because they’re nine points clear of us and unless we win all of our games between now and playing them towards the end of January, that will just slip more, so the reality has set in for me personally. Top four is probably two defeats beyond us – one of which stings a little bit more because it was the skanking Chelski got at our place over Christmas. People have said that they were better than us in the second half, but I’d argue that, because we looked like we were keeping them at arms length and limiting them and their chances until Bernd had a brain fart moment.
I think when I look back at the season (which will probably admittedly be a very brief exercise given how shocking we’ve been) that game might just sting more than some of the other defeats or draws. That’s because it’s one where we looked like we knew what we were doing, with a plan, as opposed to the rudderless Emery approach that had been the first half of the season.
So that defeat, plus the fact Arteta wasn’t in place for the Brighton game onwards, feels right now like it’ll be something that keeps haunting me about this season.
Of course all of this talk is hypothetical because we have two teams above us in the Premier League in Palace and Sheffield United in the next two weekends, away and then home, respectively. They will be two tough games and although I’m hoping all the talk about Zaha will help to provide a distraction, I’m skeptical, as well as expectant that they’ll get another penalty against us. Them and the Tiny Totts seem to be gifted penalties every time we play them, so I’m expecting the same on Saturday which means we’re going to have to bag ourselves a minimum of two goals.
It’s possible. If Arteta has had another week with the players and if they are buying in to his philosophy as feels like the case right now , it can only be a good thing, as well as helping our cause and quest for a run of victories. Ornstein telling anecdotes about players telling friends to stay away so they can sleep after intensive training sessions is like sweet nectar on the eyes. It means he has the players on side and hearing of senior players wanting to stick around to see just what this guy is made of augurs well methinks.
But that has to translate to results and so we need to see if this Arsenal team can also demonstrate the intensity of big games like Chelski and United, into that away at so-called smaller clubs like Palace or Bournemouth, which is an FA Cup fourth round tie in a few weeks time. The first half against Leeds showed that perhaps these players still have an element of underestimating their opponents about them, or maybe it’s the old Emery ‘fear everyone’ mindset that still exists in the background? That may take a while to go so I’m not naive enough to think that the next five months won’t have plenty of rocky patches in it. But if Arteta is building the right foundations then we can look at next season with hope that there’s something exciting on the horizon.
And that’s probably about it for now. There are some murmurs of a Mustafi move to Turkey but as it stands it’s just hearsay with little else to go on. We might hear some stuff about Nketiah and Smith-Rowe but they’ll be Loan’s so we’ll just have to wait and see on those.
Catch you all tomorrow.