It’s cup final day and I am a very nervous man. Today’s game isn’t just the last game of the season, it isn’t just about a shiny silver trinket, it is also a financially and footballisticly significant crossroads the club finds itself in.
I so desperately want us to win the FA Cup today. But I do fear the result might not go our way. I’ve been burned you see. Last season for the Europa League final I was convinced we were going to win it. I couldn’t get myself out to Baku and so I joined a group of mates at The Rocket on Holloway Road, just around the corner to the Emirates. We had excitement; this was it, Emery knew how to win this competition and it didn’t matter that we’d blown top four with a series of insipid displays, our name was on the trophy and Chelski didn’t want it as much as we needed it.
Then we played horribly and got battered.
It shattered the confidence in me and why then followed this season has also broken a lot of belief, so much so that I’m now going o rely pessimistic, as some kind of mental defence mechanism in case I get burned again this evening. At least in my mind I’ll have been preparing for the disappointment.
But of course we do have the spirit of 2017 and the similarities in the respective fortunes of the two teams. Chelski are riding high, they hardly have any injuries and are clear favourites for today’s game. In contrast we have plenty of injuries, Mustafi is injured once again like in 2017, and we have a shoddy defence that is having to be packed with an extra man in there to make up for our clear deficiencies.
The team today is quite easy to pick in most positions and I suspect it’ll be Martinez, Bellerin, Holding, Luiz, Tierney, but that left wing back position is one that I’m not 100% sure what Arteta will do. Does he go for Maitland-Niles as a left wing back and leave Saka on the bench to come on? Or has Saka been rested so we can see the best of him today from the start. He hasn’t started for three games and there’s no doubt he’ll be fresh.
In front of the back three will be Ceballos and Xhaka and in front of them it’ll be Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang and that is where we need to see a vast improvement from last years final. Offensively we didn’t take our chances and Chelski did and it made us look like mugs. We need Auba, Laca and Pepe all to show up and deliver the goods like the semi final.
They will get chances. Chelski are poor in defence like we are, having conceded six goals more than us in the Premier League this season, but it is in attack where they have shown how ruthless they are. Our clear lack of creativity has been evident for some time and the fact that we scored 56 goals this season, whereas Chelski scored 13 goals more at 69, shows that we’re going to be under the kosh at the back today I reckon.
Chelski also have the benefit of plenty of options and I definitely agreed with my old mate Clive Palmer on the Arsenal Vision podcast earlier in the week; if we’re going to lift the cup we’re going to need to win two football matches, because the Chelski team who start the game today will look very different from the one that finishes it.
Will they go Giroud from the start?
Will Abraham be preferred because of his pace and ability to beat our sluggish back line?
Which two of Mount, Willian and Pulisic flanks the central striker?
Does Kante start from the first minute?
They have so many options whereas ours have been limited by injuries, lack of form, or players just being frozen out. It means we’ll have a bench with not a lot on it in terms of game changers I think, which is a real worry I have to say.
The two games we’ve played against them are difficult ones to read too. We were great for 60 minutes in the home match and were a Jorginho red card (what should have been), as well as a couple of Leno mistakes and the eventual running out of puff, away from winning the game. In the game at Stamford Bridge it was impossible to call because of the red card we got, so we have no idea how that game plan could have panned our had Mustafi not hospital passed and Luiz rugby tackled his man to get sent off.
That’s what I’m praying we avoid today, although the ref is Antony Taylor and he is shocking as it is. Possibly one of the worst refs in the league and with David Luiz sure to be pumped up, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him give away a penalty. Or get sent off.
Or Xhaka. Or Holding. Or Martinez. Or Bellerin. Or Tierney. Maybe less so Tierney, but you get my point, which is that our whole team has mistakes in it and I worry that we might give Taylor the opportunity he wants to disadvantage us.
So I’m hoping for no silly and rash decisions from Arsenal players today. We have a hard enough game as it is, let alone it being so through silly decisions.
I may, or may not, blog tomorrow. Like I said at the top of the piece today, last season really hit me hard, so I might catch you tomorrow. Or I might not.
Come on Arsenal. Let’s do it. Up the gunners!