I don’t know whether it is the sheer volume of games coming thick and fast, or the inner acceptance I have that this is just the second of what could be three pretty uncomfortable football watching evenings, but I’m really not feeling tonight. Therefore by association, I don’t have the same match day jitters that I usually have.
My expectation levels have pretty much hit the floor with the current crop of defenders we have and the prospect of them lining up against a Liverpool team who have swept so many teams aside, does make me wonder if I should even bother watching later.
Of course I will end up watching, and most likely cursing, at the TV. But as it stands I’m feeling a little ‘meh’.
I tried to put a brave face after the Tottenham game and at the time I didn’t think it really had too much of an impact on me. After Sunday’s result I switched the TV off, went into the garden where the sun was out and cooked me up a lovely BBQ in which the missus and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and football wasn’t even the tiniest of discussions. She’s learned by now that when Arsenal lose I want to forget that the sport even exists.
Which is probably also contributing towards my general feeling of malaise about this evening. Liverpool may have already won the league and there may be some results that might suggest they are on the beach, but even a Liverpool team on the beach will still create chances and given that our back line looks like it is walking through sand at the best of times, I feel like it evens itself out a bit.
Arteta had his press conference yesterday and of course he came out fighting, talking about how little time we’ve had to prepare compared to most other teams, as well as some of the issues we’ve faced, as well as how the team were particularly gutted on Sunday after they had played quite well – all of which I think is true. But ultimately we find ourselves in a position where the last two games of the season after these next two, could be more meaningless than any other games we’ve played in recent years. In fact even they could go belly up if Watford and Villa still have hope of staying up.
So all of this is conspiring to make me feel rather underwhelmed right now. In truth I am kind of just hoping we could finish the season soon. I’m bored of this one and I’m excited for how many of the players in this current squad are going to be binned so he can sweep clean the dross and start building a side in his image.
But there is a game tonight and I guess I should talk about it. Liverpool are still going for a record points tally and they rested a few players at the weekend, so I suspect Klopp will bring them back for tonight and we’ll see a full strength side play us. That will mean their full backs will be encouraged to get into the spaces inevitably left by the fact we are playing three at the back and will mean a lot of work for the left and right centre halves because with the wide forwards also getting in to those spaces, it means that if we get more clown antics from the likes of Mustafi and Luiz – both of whom I think will play – we’ll end up coming a cropper pretty quickly.
Liverpool battered Burnley at the weekend and the Clarets got away with a point thanks to some fantastic goalkeeping. That sounds alarmingly familiar and so I suspect Martinez will be busy tonight. Not least because Burnley sat in, were compact and tried to deny Liverpool space. A team like that at Anfield doesn’t wasn’t to be expansive and commit bodies forward, wheras Arsenal know they have to this evening because we have to get a win to keep alive any slender hopes of finishing in the European spots. I don’t think there are to be honest. I think that ship has probably now sailed because I can’t see us getting past City and defeat or a draw tonight makes it almost mathematically impossible I think.
This is all adding up to be one downbeat blog today, eh? Sorry about that. But I guess I’ve just woken up and smelled the coffee this morning. And it is Kolasinac, Luiz and Lacazette flavoured – none of whom I’m particularly fond of or who I have too much faith in to do something this evening.
I do wonder if Holding will get a game though. He’s a better passer of the ball than Kolasinac and so i’m a little bemused as to why Arteta has preferred the Bosnian to his English teammate, but as Arteta pointed out post game on Sunday, I suspect it is more to do with the form of the whole team as a unit rather than Kolasinac in that position.
So how do we beat Liverpool? Intensity and aggression have to be key and that needs to happen from the off. In the game at Anfield at the beginning of the season it looked like we might do that after a few minutes and I saw a couple of instances where we pushed Liverpool back through the running of Pepe, etc. But the team quickly reverted to Unai Emery 1010 football and became insular, resulting in the annual battering we normally get.
I do think we need to try to find a way to win the ball higher up- the pitch though and even though it scares me, the idea of pushing all of our lines to be more compact higher up the pitch could work. Of course it does leave us open to the ball over the top but that’s just a risk I think we have to take. Whether Arteta sees it though will be interesting.
I’m not expecting a lot tonight. I suspect we’ll lose, which will only increase my desire for us to see an end to this cursed season, but at least it’ll take us one week closer towards being able to put this season in a big box and nail all of the memories shut inside it.
Catch you all tomorrow