Morning morning morning one and all,
If you are anything like me then you are still stinging a little bit from the defeat to AC Milan on Wednesday. Stinging like a bit of sunburn I got that time in Portugal when I thought that sun cream was overrated only to have a little brother pat you on the back at every opportunity. Note to self: sabotage Steve in some way over the next couple of weeks.
Anyway, getting back to all things Arsenal, and today we have the opportunity to exorcise the demons of Italy by smiting the Mackams of the North East. Much like red raw sunburn hurts as hell, the wonderful ability of the human body to repair itself means that the raw feeling today is tomorrows cool-looking golden brown flesh. And you get to peel skin as well. It’s like mother natures bubble-wrap. I’m sure you’re thinking “where on earth is he going to pull an Arsenal-related link out of this metaphor?”
Well folks, we may be stinging still from Wednesday, but it doesn’t sting as much as it did on Wednesday night or even yesterday. So whilst we’ve rubbed the Sudocrem of time on our Wednesday night woes, tonight we come up against the proverbial little brother trying to pat our burns in the shape of Sunderland, it is up to our team to smack down their advances, rather than let the pain continue by standing idly by.
This time last week we were up against the same team and by the end of the match we were the victors. There can be no excuses for not being prepared for what Sunderland may throw at us, nor can there be any excuses of midweek exertions. We are a team that regularly plays Champions League football and besides which, most of the team were statues and shadows of players in Milan anyway.
What is needed today is a reaction. One of the chief protagonists for our Wednesday agony, Thomas Vermaelen, knows this and had this to say:
We have to give something back to all those Arsenal fans who came all the way out here to this stadium, here in Milan, only for us to disappoint them.
We must think of them now because what happened was not good.
Indeed you do owe us something Tommy, indeed you do. And what better way than to get us into the hat on Sunday for the next round of the FA Cup. TV5 has been a consistent player for us and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt from Wednesday, but he was shakier and had more wobbles than Homer Simpsons gut, so let’s just hope it was a minor blip in an otherwise good Arsenal career. Johan ‘turning circle of a 12tonne Eddie Stobart lorry’ Djourou was also wheeled out to make some comments on the club site today, but he’s practically part of the PR department now anyway so I’m not bothering quoting one of the standard ‘we must learn from our mistakes’ quotes.
The team news for today is mixed. Yesterday Le Boss told us that Mertesacker will be out for ‘long term’, the vagueness of the response totally understandable, especially given our recent injury record. He’s clearly given up on timescales. “let’s just say we’ll never see him again and then we can only be pleasantly surprised” is the next thing I expect he’ll start saying.
The more positive news is that Gervhino is back and Koscienly, who hobbled off on Wednesday, will only be out for a few days. Unfortunately it means we’ll have to promote the press officer Djourou to the starting line-up, but we have little other choice at the moment.
The rest of the team should line up as expected, and I think Ramsey might drop to the bench for The Ox. I really hope Le Boss considers showing Walcott where anonymous performances get you by giving Gervhino and AOC the nod either side of RvP, but after Wednesday nights tactics I don’t think I could predict who will play.
In terms of Sunderland I think their team will line up the same as last weekend. Even if Bendtner was fit he couldn’t start against his parent club and so I think we’ll see Sessengon and Campbell up front. John O’Shea and Turner will probably sit in the heart of the defence, and whilst O’Shea talks about wanting revenge for last week, I doubt revenge will have any bearing on the game. Let’s face it, it didn’t work when Man Utd turned us over at home.
One factor that I do think will have an impact on the game will be the playing surface. What both sets of players had to endure last week was nothing short of shambolic, as we found to our detriment with the first goal scored by McClean. Not only will it affect our own passing game, but the players might also have one eye on where they place their foot. Some of them may have gone missing in Milan, but none of them wants to be sat alongside Diaby on a Saturday afternoon, nursing their wounds.
We cannot underestimate the importance of victory today. Not only will it sooth the pain of midweek defeat, but it will also help to claw back some of this teams fragile confidence. You do fear that it’s teetering on the brink of another end of season implosion and I hope we don’t see that again for the fifth season running. It would be not so much Deja Vu as Groundhog Day; Bill Murray style.
Nope, what we need today is for the healing to begin, for the wounds to be repaired and for the confidence to. E rejuvenated. Good luck if your going up there – shout your hearts out and hope the team can reward your efforts.