Nerves, openness and Burnley

The whole world seems to think that today will be a walk in the park at home to winless Burnley. Everywhere I look there are match previews and predictions ahoy of 4-0, 5-0 or 6-0.

But you and I know better. You and I know that rarely in top flight football do you see batterings of teams and when you do, it’s not normally the team’s you’d expect, as we found out to our detriment last season.

You and I know that The Arsenal rarely make life easy for us. So I’m not going to pretend that I’m confident of a cricket score today, that’s for sure. Do I think we will win? Well yes, of course, but do I think that we’ll all be home and dry in the first 15 minutes? Not on your Nelly.

It’s our form and our play you see. Sure, we’ve strung back-to-back victories together, which one hopes we’re starting to build a bit of confidence and momentum. But the way in which we’ve gone about getting those victories has hardly been by swotting aside our opponents with consummate ease. We’ve huffed and puffed all season and I expect much of the same today.

But who cares as long as we win? There are people that are unhappy because we have won whilst playing poorly, but think back to the last few seasons. When have we regularly played really good football? I bet you could count the number of games on your fingers. The series of early season 2-0s last year had people saying that we were winning without playing so well. So what’s the problem? I’d take a rather drab 2-0 Arsenal win today, make no mistake of that, so let’s start with the desire for the points and see any score line that results in that as a good one. Even a good old fashioned ‘One Nil To The Arsenal’ would do me fine. It might make for a nervous afternoon towards the end but I’d be fine with that.

I’ve had a Burnley supporting friend over to stay this weekend and he says he’s just down for the fun of the experience. Ahh, I can’t even remember when football was just about the fun and experience. There are highs, of course, but it’s my addiction and when things don’t go to plan, I often worry too much. I worry before the game, during the game, then if we’ve won I start to worry about the next game about two hours after the victory.

So, as I said, my Burnley mate. He doesn’t expect anything, but is still a little apprehensive about how Burnley will line up today. Sean Dyche has lined up his team as 4-4-2 all season and is apparently playing an open and expansive brand of football that leaves Burnley susceptible to being opened up by the bigger teams. When I was talking with him last night he said that the game at home against Chelski was a classic example. They came out, got the first goal and his his words “then Chelski got angry and just started scoring for fun”.

I want us to be ‘angry’ from the first minute. If Dyche does stick to his footballing philosophy, then Burnley will be open and we need to capitalise on that, by banging the door down on their goal. So the emphasis today has to be on the forward line performing. We need Alexis, Welbeck, Cazorla and The Ox (all of whom I’m assuming will play) to be at it from the off. With Wilshere injured, Rambo will also step in and we will need to see more of the 2013/14 version of our Welsh Jesus, rather than the slightly stuttery version we’ve witnessed this season.

I suspect Mikel Arteta will anchor the midfield and the makeshift back four will see Monreal slide across to left back with Chambers at centre half and Bellerin at right back. I’m kind of ok with that, because in reality we should have less to do defensively, and I thought Bellerin did well at home against Hull.

But like Hull, Burnley could just as well promise to play open football but not actually deliver, so let’s not expect an easy ride. Steve Bruce said Hull would ‘come and have a go’ but had no intention to do such a thing. If Burnley get through the first half without conceding then they will have similar desires I suspect. And hey, I don’t begrudge them that, because the onus should be on us to break out opponents down in 90 minutes.

So whilst I don’t think we’re in for an easy afternoon, I do think we’ll pick up the points, and I certainly hope so too.

Up The Arsenal!

Speculating on Gibbs and Chambers’ pinches

Happy Halloween Friday to you. I hope you have something special planned? I know I do. I’m going to work, then I’m going to pick The Management up after her work, then a friend and I are going to the pub to ignore all the pointlessness of this time of year.

Never really been into Halloween, as you can probably already tell, even when I was a kid. Never saw the point in trick-or-treating and couldn’t be arsed with the dressing up. What’s the spooky equivalent of ‘bah-humbug’?

Anyway, thankfully we have The Arsenal to focus our attention on and specifically today, a press conference for Le Boss to give us an update on who’s available, what he thinks of Burnley, and no doubt whether he thinks his team can establish a run of victories in their upcoming games.

Calum Chambers will no doubt be present and I must admit to being more than a little bit jealous of him. After all, he is playing for the club I love and despite the fact that he probably didn’t grow up as an Arsenal fan, when he says that he has to ‘pinch himself’ because of the position he is in (big club, Champions League football, etc) I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t appreciate the position he’s in and wish that they could be in his shoes. I wonder how hard he punches himself. I think he’s probably one of those that wants to be really manly and draw blood, but actually he’s self conscious enough to know that social services might get called in if he gets too exuberant. Let’s not forget that three years ago he was in school. Anyway, He’s shown remarkable adaptability during his short spell at the club and is an example to those that say that Arsène can’t spot a defender. The Manager may still not be 100% on where Chambers’ future full time position lies, but there’s no doubt that the lad is a talent, at which I’d like to point out that I feel mighty old calling a 19-year-old a ‘lad’. But at the ripe old age of (nearly) 32, I’ve probably moved into that territory of being a grown man hero-worshipping somebody who would not have existed when I started secondary school. Let’s deviate away from that thought as quickly as we can and back to the team news for tomorrow, shall we?

Arsène gave one of his standard pre-emptive interviews to the official site, in which he has confirmed that Kieran Gibbs is a doubt for the game, following his limping off on Saturday against Sunderland. It’s nothing any of us wouldn’t have expected, but Gibbs’ record with injuries is well documented, so I hope this is just a bit of cautiousness from the club rather than an absence with no idea of a return. If we’re looking at an extended period on the sidelines then it all gets a bit scary for us defensively. However, I’d like to think in a ‘glass half full’ kind of way and suggest that if the injury was a longer term concern, Arsène would have elaborated a little bit more than he has. By the tone of the interview he game on the dot com, this is a short term injury, so perhaps we can be given some good news in relation to the Anderlecht game on Tuesday.

As for the rest of the squad, there is thankfully no new bumps or bruises, with Sanogo even returning!! Try to contain you’re excited, will you please? I suspect our Postman might be looking at a while with little game time and perhaps even a short-term loan come January, as I can’t really see him breaking through ahead of the more experienced pros in the team.

Gnabry and Diaby are soon to be back and whilst the latter might see the odd sub appearance, I suspect the former will also benefit from a loan. He’s a definite talent, but will probably see his route blocked for now, so let’s get him some experience to come back as a more polished diamond in 2015/16.

I’m sure they’ll be plenty of other snippets and soundbites from Arsène come lunchtime today, so they’ll be plenty of fat to chew in the PM and before the game tomorrow. I’ve started to read what the ‘experts’ are saying about tomorrow’s game and they’re all predicting a relatively comfy afternoon for us. Clearly they’ve never actually seen Arsenal properly this season, because that’s about as likely to happen as me growing wings and joining the X-Men, because we never do anything the easy way. We’ll most likely go one-down from a goal-kick that catches a big gust of wind and bounces off the referees head. To which he’ll turn around and see Wilshere laughing so will send him off. And Arsène to the stands for remonstrating. But perhaps I’m dabbling in a little bit too much hyperbole today, so will leave my wandering imagination there.

In the meantime, you have a good one.

Appreciating midweek distractions; the Alexis/Mesut comparison’s are unfair

Huh, who’d have thunk that a pretty strong Moneychester City team would be dumped out to a Newcastle team that the whole world was saying wasn’t playing for the manager any more? Certainly not me that’s for sure.

I’d like to be a little bit Nelson Muntz and say ‘Ha-ha!’ for the result, but whilst Chelski and the Spuds still remain in the competition, it’s one less team likely to give them both a beating. Last year it was delicious to see Jose win the square root of naff all, but I fear that this season we might not be able to trade off of another ‘specialist in failure’ jibe, with all of the teams dropping out of the competition at the rate they are. Of course the most likely scenario – because you know that God hates us – is that Chelski and the Spuds will contest the final, but perhaps it’s too early in the season to be all doom and gloom.

It’s still a quiet time for us at the moment and we’re getting treated to the feeling it must be like to be a United fan at the moment. Large expanses of metaphorical non-footballing land separates one game from the next, with little to quench the thirst that only first-team professional football can provide. Sure, it helps with establishing long runs in the team like Liverpool did last season, but is it really worth it? Would you take one season finishing second if the subsequent season meant that you were out of European competition altogether in the next season? I’m not sure I would you know. Even the Europa League. We jest about ‘Spursdays’ and demean the competition whilst we remain in its elite brother the Champions League, but when all is said and done we all just want to watch our team as much as possible. Sure, playing half the season on a Sunday would be a right royal pain in the derriere, but at least we’d get a higher volume of what we all love.

All this is not to say that I’m preparing for a life with the Europa League because I don’t have faith in the current squad – I do – I’m just trying to point out that when you’re not competing in competitions as we haven’t been this week, it makes you appreciate what you’ve got when you’ve got it. Right now, we’ve got it, with the games soon to start up again and come thick and fast. Burnley first on Saturday at 3pm (another one of those! Some kind of minor miracle!) and then Anderlecht on Tuesday night. Then Swansea away, before we head into yet another international break before playing United. Lt’s hope for maximum points during this period. November has always been a bit of a sucky month for us, which is doubly sucky for me because I happen to have a birthday then, so the idea that we might actually be able to put together some kind of run together (*clasps hands together in praying motion*) is certainly one I’d like to entertain.

The Club has announced it’s October player of the month competition and, in what was probably the easiest poll ever conducted, it’s Alexis ‘Knife-tooth’ Sanchez who has scooped the gong. I honestly have no idea where Mikel got his description of Alexis when he talked about him having ‘knife-in-his-teeth’, but I suspect this is one of the scenarios where he’s mixed his metaphors a bit. Hey, happens to the best of us, but when the chips are falling on the loaded dice, you just need to pick them up like a house of cards. Or something.

I get the sentiment though. Alexis is a dog with a bone. He simply doesn’t stop and both offensively as well as defensively has already made a massive contribution to the team. In a way, he’s almost doing Ozil a bit of a disservice because of his effervescence, because people are naturally making comparisons with the two big money Arsenal stars. But that is an unrealistic comparison in my opinion. They both have very different roles in the team and both have attributes that make us tick better as a side when they are both fully fit and firing on all cylinders. Alexis is perhaps seen as more suited to the rough and tumble of the English Premier League, but that’s more because of the cultural differences that exist between us and the rest of the continent. Let’s not forget we operate in a division where a manager telling players to “faacking run araand a bit” is seen as motivational, so it doesn’t surprise me to see a player who embodies that ethos (whilst actually being very gifted too) is getting quite a few plaudits from the national media. They love what is familiar and Alexis’ style is familiar to majority of them so they naturally gravitate towards cutting him some slack. Perhaps we all naturally do too, to an extent? Perhaps we all see his effort and can therefore accept when he is running into a blind alley on the football pitch, where as our German playmaker would not be afforded the luxury. Who knows? I’m just a simple fan with a simple observation.

Anyway, that should probably do for the day. Have a good’un and remember, never eat yellow snow. Unless it’s it’s been dispensed from a Slushie machine and is called ‘Lemon and lime’. Out.

Defenders, injuries, and Arsene’s Gordon Bombay impression

There’s literally nothing going on in the Arsenal world today. Like, nothing, nada, zip, zero, zilch. It makes providing daily musings on all things Arsenal quite a challenge you know. But, I do it because it’s my bit of fun really, so I shouldn’t complain. It’s not like my life is dependent on ensuring that information about Arsenal is syndicated to you regularly, so when there’s nothing on, there’s nothing on. Except, I do actually want there to be something to talk about. Got any ideas?

From an injury point of view I suppose there’s always something to talk about. Hypothesizing on why we have this many injuries, who is injured at the moment and why the club haven’t come out and told us about the latest couple to hit the team – Gibbs and Arteta. The former has been speculatively quoted as six weeks on the sidelines, but the latter is expected to be a shorter injury lay off. Either way, both are quite injury-prone players and with our defence thread-bare as it is, it does leave the decision to have minimal playing staff in that part of the pitch quite baffling. We all know that Gibbs is injury-prone. Likewise too, after Koscienly was carrying a knock from the World Cup we all knew it was only a matter of time. I fully expect Mertesacker to break in half, bursting into flames, whilst an inexperienced fireman throws an unknown liquid on him which turns out to be paraffin against Burnley on Saturday afternoon.

Arteta too is of the age where he should be viewed as squad rotation, not first choice, purely based on his injury record more than his actual ability. Against Sunderland I thought he played very well and kept us ticking over, but I think we’re likely to see a lot more knocks and injuries to him over the next six months, so that we don’t have another option aside for Flamini (or both if we’re looking to cover our ailing defence?) is crazy in the least. And I know crazy. At the in-laws this weekend I was given a salsa called ‘Crazy Fred’s’ and it had scotch bonnets in it. So I’m well versed in the art of the insane.

There is always transfer guff I could speculate on, I suppose, but really? Do we really have to be subjected to the kind of rubbish about Pedro handing in transfer requests so he could join us? He’s a good player but what on earth would we do with another wide forward? Are we stockpiling them for some kind of nuclear footballing holocaust? Or are we going to do some kind of inverted ‘Flying V’ formation that see’s us playing with hardly any defenders any more so we can all just on-rush the opposition straight from any set play, kick-off, corner, etc? Actually, given our reluctance to purchase cover at the back, perhaps I’m on to something there. Arsene Wenger is playing the Emilio Estevez ‘Gordon Bombay':

“Keep swingin’ Charlie and maybe you’ll give the goalie a cold”

I don’t even bother clicking on the links on NewsNow any more. It’s 99% transfer trash and never leads to any real insight. You’d do better trying to learn the art of divination through tea-leaves than use any online media source for your insight into who Arsenal are going to sign.

Anyway, like I said, relatively little on so I’m going pause, reflect, then eat something for my breakfast.


Alexis love-in; how high can we press as a team?

It’s interesting that, after I suggested yesterday that Arsenal should get a little credit for forcing Sunderland players into making mistakes, Danny Welbeck mentioned that Arsène had specifically stated to the players before the game that they should be pressing with a higher line to put pressure on the Sunderland back four. Now, perhaps it’s an obvious statement to make and should be something that is clear for all matches, but I still maintain that the Arsenal players should receive some credit for their part in the two goals, rather than making throw away comments about how we would have drawn the game if the Sunderland players hadn’t made their errors.

If you’re going to have that logic, then perhaps you should question every time a goal is conceded from a corner, or a free kick that is nodded in. Because essentially you can argue that if it wasn’t for a rash tackle or an inability to keep the ball in play, there wouldn’t have been a goal!

Welbeck is loving playing with Alexis and it’s hard not to see why. His effervescent nature rubs off on the team, but Welbeck too is cut from a similar cloth, because he is a constant runner and energetic in his play. With both of those players pressing from the front, I see many more goals coming from forcing opponents into mistakes.

Flamini too is part of the Alexis love-in this morning, and you can see why, because the Chilean embodies the graft that Flamini has demonstrated during his two stints at the club. Seeing an attacking player track back and win tackles in the defensive third of the pitch is a god send for someone like Flamini, so it’s no surprise that he’s chipped in with some superlatives.

What I do think will be interesting to see will be the return of Theo Walcott to the team. If we’re maki the assumption that Alexis will be wide left and Welbeck up top, Walcott completes the trio of blistering pace that will have us all foaming at the mouth. However, if the team is to continue with the policy of a high press, then the midfield will also need to press higher up the pitch to avoid the massive gaps in between attack and midfield caused by forward players pushing up the pitch. As a result, to avoid space between defence and midfield, we’ll have to push the defenders higher up the pitch too. The result of all of this, assuming we don’t want to leave big gaps for playmakers to be successful against us operating in between defence and midfield, is to have the whole team press higher up the pitch leaving more grass for forward players on opponents teams. We don’t have the quickest back four at the best of times, so leaving us susceptible to quick forwards getting in behind our back four is something to be concerned about.

Of course I’m a fan of the high press, so I think we’re better to push out opponents into making errors, but I recognise that it does come with its own risks. The reality is that we need to find a delicate blend of high press and reducing space in between our lines, with not having too many opportunities for quick forwards to run in behind our back four. I don’t have the answers as to how you find that delicate blend, but in my defence, I’m not paid millions of pounds a year to work that out.

Anyway, as with most things in life there are compromises and trade-offs to be made, and right now with the injuries that we have Arsène will invariably have more decisions to make about how much we press, with which opponents and how often. With Gibbs rumoured to be out for six weeks if you believe the press chitter-chatter, it takes away another pacey defender, so no doubt when we find out the extent of his injury we’ll know how much problems we have defensively and what we can and can’t do tactically given the personnel available. It’s a big blow to be losing Gibbs for any amount of time, but it’s even bigger given that we already have two of our first choice back four out at the moment. It’s time to dig deep Arsenal.

That’s it from me today. I refuse to pass comment on the axis of evil that took place yesterday in Manchester. Cheerio.

Gift horses for Alexis puts us up and running

You should never look a gift horse in the mouth. So when two come trotting into the stables, you lasso them both and drag them over to you as quickly as possible.

Yesterday’s away victory up in the North East to the Mackems was not comfortable, it was not free-flowing, but it was very welcome. Sunderland contrived to give us two absolute pearlers of defensive errors, the likes of which we’ve seen on a few occasions go against us over the years. The one man who was the grateful recipient of the gifts – Alexis Sanchez – was also the best player on the pitch by a millions miles, so perhaps it was fitting that he was the one who was afforded the luxury of a centre half and goalkeeping blunder, such was his hard work both on and off the ball.

Within a couple of games at the start of the season we could all tell that Alexis would be a hit in England. Fans reward effort almost as much as attainment in this country, so when you have a player who regularly achieves top marks in both, you are always on to a winner. Whilst the papers and pundits today will talk about the game in the context of the Sunderland self-inflicted implosion, I’d like to offer a different school of thought, one which suggests that it was the energetic Chilean also had a role to play in the errors. Last season we did not have a pairing like Alexis and Welbeck to push from the front as high as those two players do, so it is highly likely that we would not have profited from the mistakes of Messieurs Brown and Mannone, come the final whistle. But this season, we have that higher pressing that will lead to mistakes if players don’t have time to react when they receive the ball.

Let’s also recognise that for the first goal, Alexis still had a lot to do as he bore down on Mannone. Picking the ball up just after the halfway line gives you three or four seconds of running before deciding what to do, in which time there is often plenty of room to decide where you’re placing the ball and making a wrong decision. Such was the confidence of our tireless superstar, that he simple ‘dinked’ the ball over Mannone, setting us on the way to a well deserved victory.

And you can’t deny that our victory wasn’t well deserved. We dominated possession for large swathes of the match, we had the most clear-cut chances, plus we looked the more assured defensively. In the first half Welbeck and Cazorla both fizzed shots over and just wide respectively, whilst our midfield of Arteta and Flamini controlled possession with consummate ease. Last season there we’d many of us who bemoaned the double pivote, but having watched a stuttering start to 2014/15 and the 4-1-4-1 formation, it was good for us to go back to basics.

Perhaps Arsène recognised the make-shiftiness of of our back four and realised that they needed a bit more protection. It worked. We were hardly troubled defensively for the whole game and whilst some will argue that it was because we played a wounded animal in Sunderland, that sometimes works against you, as the opponents play with a point to prove. Thankfully from this Gooners perspective, the Black Cats never really showed any of that potential threat that I thought we’d come up against.

Which is just as well really, because our free-flowing football has yet to completely return, based on yesterday’s performance. Passing still went awry, we were still very static and laboured at times, and you can tell that this is an Arsenal team that is struggling to find confidence right now. But it’s a bit of a Catch 22 situation with confidence, because you only get it by winning games, so if winning games requires confidence, perhaps we should just be happy that we’ve managed back-to-back victories and a win in a weeks time against Burnley will see us looking like we’ve put together a bit of a streak to take into the rest of the season.

Some words on individual performances. I thought Monreal and Chambers had a good game, although both were relatively untroubled by a relatively toothless Sunderland side, so perhaps sterner tests are to come. In midfield I though Flamini played well and, one two-footed challenge aside (he does like to throw himself in to those), he was vastly improved in his performance compared to a few weeks ago.

Santi Cazorla didn’t have one of his best games. He’s quite good at pretending to be a rugby kicker, because he does like a skied ball high above the goalposts. He had a few really good chances yesterday and I’m sure he’ll be frustrated at himself for not at least working the ‘keeper.

Up top we had the effervescent Alexis, who’s 10 out of 10 performance I suspect might just become a more regular appearance as he gets to know his teammates each week. What a player we have with him. His tireless running even made me feel fatigued just watching him. He’s a star in the making and his energy does, I think, also rub off on other players. There were times yesterday where I saw Santi running down one of the centre halves after Mannone had distributed a short pass out wide to build from the back, to which I could only muse to myself that it was the infectious effort of Welbeck and Alexis rubbing off on our diminutive Spaniard.

Welbeck was quiet and The Ox showed patches of good play, but he was still a bit loose in some of his passing and with Walcott approaching first team fitness, he will be looking at his place in the team and wondering how long he has in the team. A front three of Alexis, Welbeck and Walcott is a mouth-watering prospect, so let’s hope we see a glimpse of that next weekend.

Another injury, this time to Gibbs, prevented the day from being an overall success and you wonder when we’re going to catch a break. Arsène was obviously non-committal on how bad the injury was, but we’ve seen that kind of limping off all too often with Arsenal players, so I’m fully expecting to hear during the week that we have a three of our first choice back four out until after the international break in a few weeks time. It does feel like we’re cursed at the moment, but it’s exacerbated by our own making, of which I’m bored myself of talking about it, so I’ll move swiftly on.

So what did we ultimately learn from yesterday? Well, I suppose firstly it’s that we’re still not at our best and there should be more we can expect from Arsenal. But it feels like we’re underway in the league now and so what we’ll all be hoping to see in the coming months is a series of wins that puts us in contention for those top four spots.

See you tomorrow.

Nervy about form, but a reaction is needed

Matchday! The bestest day of the week! Today it’s Sunderland away and the best thing about football is that it very quickly offers the chance of redemption, so after a number of really poor performances, the Arsenal players could wash away the bad taste left in the mouth from the home draw to Hull or the smash and grab in Brussels.

I’m oop Norf for today’s game with The Management’s family and if I’m completely honest, whilst I’m excited to be popping along to the game this afternoon, I’m also really apprehensive. There are a lot of factors which could mean that this afternoon is not as enjoyable as I’d hope it could be.

For starters there’s our own form. Sure, we picked up a win in midweek, but we haven’t really kicked into gear all season as yet. Perhaps the Galatasaray game was the only exception, but even the Villa game had some scary moments before the match was effectively over at half time and turned into a testimonial in the second half.

We are not playing well and going forward we were quite toothless on Wednesday and on Saturday too. If we are going to win the game today, we can’t afford to be so lethargic in our passing. Our good football is about movement. It’s about pulling teams apart by quick interchanges of possession and willing runners. It’s not about static sideways balls from one side of the pitch to another via three midfielders all in a line. The only way we will win today is if there is energy in the performance.

And that’s the second reason why I’m nervous, because I think we’ll see a Sunderland side with a lot of energy today. They will have spent a whole week stewing on an 8-0 performance and so their players will be pumped today. They will be running their arses off in front of their home fans and so if we are not at it from the first second, I think we’ll be in trouble. Where we were appalling last season was when teams blitzed us in the first 15 minutes. It wouldn’t surprise me if Poyet tells his players to do the same. The first opening exchanges of today’s game might just require us to dig deep and play well defensively. Which leads me to the third reason why I am worried about today…

Defensively we had nothing to do against Hull and we still were masters of our own downfall with the second goal. Forget the first, that was an anomaly and should have been a foul, but there can be no excuses for the second goal. Likewise in midweek, with what felt to me like a carbon copy of the second Hull goal (caught under the flight of a ball and opposition player nods beyond the ‘keeper), we can’t really have any complaints. Today Sunderland will be looking to exploit our defensive frailties by testing our back four with balls in to Fletcher through the channels, most likely delivered by either Wickham or Buckley, or through set pieces from Larsson or Johnson.

If Arsène chooses to field the same side as he did on Wednesday, with Monreal in the heart of the defence, I fear what the repercussions will be. Monreal is not a centre half and so I have no beef with him, but more I have beef with the boss if he continues to choose him. I hope Arsène sees sense and puts Chambers in the heart of the back four, bringing Bellerin in at right back, because I think that gives us more balance than the team that played in the Champions League. Bellerin was impressive against Hull and I certainly think he deserves another shot at playing against a Sunderland side that might give us a bit more space going forward.

Which leads me to trying to finish up today’s match preview blog by being a bit more positive. Defensively Sunderland have the same problems with lack of numbers that we do, and whilst they will be massively up for this game today, they are still the same side that conceded eight against Southampton. If Sunderland aim to come at us and catch us off guard by pressing higher up the pitch, it will give room for Welbeck and Alexis to do their thang. Alexis was awesome against Anderlecht and another performance like that will most likely go a long way in giving us the win. Bellerin might also profit from Sunderland pushing forward, because he did look good going forward against Hull and he is very rapid so he might get a bit of green grass to run into today. If he does, he’ll need the support of the midfield runners like Ramsey and the vision of Cazorla, to support him in finding an outlet in our final third.

The blueprint for our struggles this season has been when teams have sat back and let us pass ourselves to death. I’m not sure Sunderland will do that today. They might do, I could be wrong, but I think their fans will get on their backs if they set themselves up for a draw at home. So them coming at us like Villa did could end up being a blessing.

Keep those fingers crossed Gooners!