Morning folks and happy Tuesday to you and yours. If you’re a regular reader of these ramblings then you’ll know that I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to The Arsenal. That’s why this season I’ve very much tried to keep my feet on the ground when it comes to our season so far. I’ve written pieces talking about how we need to focus on our main target of top four until very recently. I’ve done a bit of a look at the expected threshold of getting top four and I’ve been convincing myself that we probably just need to get to around 76 – 78 points to make sure that we secure that top four spot. Last night I was asked about whether I am ‘on the train’ when it comes to believing about Arsenal’s title credentials on the Same Old Arsenal pod and I still found myself not able to say “yes, I believe” because of my own self preservation approach.
I want to get there though. I really want to get to the point where I think it could happen. But right now, with half the season gone, I am still unsure. City may have stuttered a bit since the restart, but as we saw on Sunday they are a juggernaut and they will most likely go on a bit of a run now. They play us in the cup, but then they have a series of what I’d deem to be quite winnable games after that. They go to Tottenham which potentially on paper could be seen as a difficult game, but all is not right at that club and the way they capitulated against City at the Etihad last week says to me that they’ll more than likely do over the scum. Then they play Villa at home, us away, Forest away, Bournemouth away before Newcastle take a trip to Manchester. So I’m looking at those City games and the one that really stands out is our game at The Emirates. On Sunday pre game I said to a few lads that I thought this team had two major milestones before “I’m all in” and that was United at home and match day 25. I don’t know why, but after 25 matches and if we are at least five points clear, I’ll start to believe I think. But actually, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if that City game at The Emirates might be an additional milestone that needs to be overcome. If we can beat Everton at home and Brentford away, then we go in to that City game with a five point lead in tact and a game in hand. If we then manage to do something we haven’t managed to do in 14 matches in the league stretching back to 2015, then I think that might sway it for me. Beat Man City if we’ve beaten Everton and Brentford and we’d be 21 games through the season, eight points clear of them, with a game in hand. Heck, even a draw if we have the same points difference as we do now could not be the worse result.
It is those two games against City that are essentially making me stay in my box over us winning the league, because our record against them is terrible, which continued last season too. I know we are a different proposition now, I know we are an in form side playing really well, but I’ve just seen it too many times with City in recent years to go fully invested in Arsenal winning the league. Not until after that match has finished. If we get a draw or a win in that game, I think i’ll be tipping over that fence and in to the “we can do this” territory. As James said on the pod our April is still mightily scary, but that’s why you want to maintain your buffer as much as possible. After we play City at home we have Villa away, Leicester away, Bournemouth at home and Fulham away. At that point we are at match day 25 and if we’re still five points clear of City by that stage – and still with that game in hand because we have to play the re-arranged Everton fixture, well, then I might just be on that bus.
The reason this is my main trail of thought this morning is because I watched Gary Neville talk on Monday night football about how he still thinks City will win the league. He said they have done it before, Arsenal haven’t, the pressure might get to our team and City are this behemoth who have done it all before. And as much as many Arsenal fans rounded on Neville on social media, personally I kind of agreed with what he was saying I’m not sure that he’s still right about United finishing second, because as much as they were improved on Sunday, we were clearly the better side and they have one heck of a fixture pile up coming their way. That is why I think it is going to be tough for them and given that we are now 11 points clear of them with a game in hand, it feels like we should have enough to finish above United. But I also don’t mind Neville and other pundits talking like that. I don’t mind us being downplayed, because i’d rather that than everyone saying we should win it and if we don’t win it we are bottlers. If everyone was praising The Arsenal enough then it would feel like a formality and I don’t think it would prepare us all for what lies ahead, because that is going to be a really tough end to the season in which we are going to lose and draw football matches and it is going to get really tough.
Thankfully the club have made some moves to bolster the squad and yesterday we had the confirmation on Kiwior from Spezia yesterday evening. I wrote about that at the weekend as I think it is a very shrewd signing indeed. But it is a signing that needed to be done, as did Trossard, and I wonder if – for now – Arteta is happy that we have enough in the squad for him to rotate. Perhaps a sign of that will be what he decides to do on Friday. We have over a week until we play Everton after that Friday night game so he might decide to go quite strong, but with there being three games in 11 days starting the following weekend, perhaps it is an opportunity to give an extended period to some players ahead of a really testing time in the rest of February.
Whatever happens, it’s great to have that excited feeling again. Just writing every blog in the morning I get the nerves and as James said last night football is mostly all I can think about right now. But it’s good to have that and I can’t wait until the next match day comes along.
Right, that’s me done for today, so I’ll put a halt to proceedings and catch you all tomorrow.
“It’s fine that people hate us. It’s part of our history.” The for ever great George Graham.
I’m with you regarding the City games. I’ve gamed out the rest of the season and I don’t see a route to the title that doesn’t include us at least winning one of the games v City, or drawing them both. So that is my yardstick too