Reading, Milner and Walcott

It’s the waiting that kills ya, I’ll tell ya that much, because this working week has already dragged and it’s only Wednesday.

With no Arsenal on during midweek, the footballing options were limited to listening in on how the Championship is going, versus enduring the Champions League. With no Arsenal representation there, there’s no way I’d want to watch Juve/Monaco, so I opted for a programme about calorie counting. See what no football midweek does to me???

The Reading game was interesting yesterday though. With not a lot to play for in the league, up against what looks like Champions Elect Bournemouth, I was expecting Steve Clarke to field a weakened Reading team yesterday. Instead he appears – although I couldn’t name the usual Reading first XI so perhaps I’m not the best point of reference for this particular set of assumptions – to have opted for a full strength team bar Pavel Pogrebniak. Reading have played plenty of games already this season (given the nature of the Championship) so to see their team playing whilst our boys would have been rested up ahead of this Saturday’s game, is certainly a plus point for me. Hopefully we benefit from a bit of fatigue from the Royals on Saturday. I know that even with a fully fit and rested squad we should still beat a Reading side who aren’t exactly pulling up trees form-wise, but as I’ve explained on this here blog before, I like to take comfort in any small advantage our team is afforded. Psychological or not.

As for what else is going on in the world, it all appears to be very transfer-heavy at the moment. I guess we’d all kind of expect it really. We’re in mid April, the season is winding down for some teams and as the number of games reduces for most of the top-flight teams, the papers need to fill their column inches. So stories of Milner to Arsenal and Walcott new deals to fend off Liverpool begin to take a more central stage. The Milner deal is a strange one. He’s a good player and has operated across a number of positions in Moneychester City’s team, but I’m not sure if he’s the type of midfielder we’re looking for, is he? After all, he has operated in a more forward-lying midfielder role every time I have seen him – where we are plenty stocked – where as what we are surely looking for is a longer term successor for Arteta and Flamini, to compete with Coquelin at the base of the midfield. I’m happy to be corrected, but I didn’t think that was a position that Milner occupied for City, especially given the signings of Fernando and Fernandinho. Perhaps Arsène will look to shift Milner’s recognised position to that like he did Arteta? Stranger things have happened and Milner does have that combative and snappy nature, so it’s not something that would be unheard of.

As for Theo, well your guess is as good as mine, because talk of new deals are almost irrelevant from a fans perspective if he doesn’t get on the pitch. With each passing game it feels more and more like Theo’s Arsenal career is a dwindling flame, a candle with very little wick left and unless something drastic happens and Arsène starts playing him more often after Walcott changes his game to become more of an all-round influence in matches, he’s not going to be part of the club’s long-term future. If he were to sign a new deal now, it really would be to ensure he’s still got plenty of spare change in his pockets, because it certainly won’t be for the position on the bench he’s occupying!

I hope it does get sorted out and I hope Theo does sign a deal. He may not command the regular starting spot he would have done 18 months ago, but when you have a player with the pace and ability to finish as he does, it is always an asset. The squad is looking strong all over the pitch at the moment and with the summer looking like the least disruptive to squad harmony in over a decade, this contract saga just feels like a bit of a blot on what should otherwise be a good period in Arsenal’s history.

Loanees show how fortunes change quickly in football

There’s still another three days before Matchday is upon us and, perhaps unsurprisingly, all is quiet. So quiet, that talk about Cazorla wanting to return to Spain has seen a ripple of interest across the tinternet. Santi grew up near Real Oviedo and has said he’d like to go back there one day before he retires. 

OUTRAGEOUS! ‘CAZORLA WANTS ARSENAL EXIT’ is the story headline I could fire across the blog to see if I can scoop myself a few thousand extra clicks. But we both know that what Cazorla said – he’d like to play for his boyhood club, but it will be difficult to do so in the short term – is something that shouldn’t really surprise anyone. If anything, it’s nice to see a player have an affection for a local team and express a desire to go back and appreciate his roots. I couldn’t imagine something like that being said by a mercenary like…oh, I don’t know…Samir Nasri or somebody like that. 

So let’s have Santi for another three years and then when his star is fading somewhat, but he can still light up his local club, let’s grant him his wish and let him go in peace. That’s my hope anyway. He’s got a few more trophies to try to help us win yet. Hopefully starting with this season.

So yeah, pretty quiet at the moment, so much so that I scrolled into the news archives on the official site this morning, to check out what’s happening with our loanees. The younger players appear to all be getting minutes under their belt, which is always useful from a development perspective, but some of the more senior players out on loan appear to be stagnating somewhat it seems. You know how people say a year is a long time in football? Well nine months is just as long it appears, as you only have to look at both Podolski and Campbell to see how rapidly your stock can fall. Poldi arrived in Italy with a big reputation for goal scoring and a fanfare from the Inter faithful. They had bagged an international champion with a loan deal from another top European team and he would help to steer them towards greater victory. Fast forward from January this year and Poldi is an unused sub against Hellas Verona. 

Poor old Stevie Gooner Oaf, he who so resolutely stood by a player with a fantastic goal scoring record and clear eye for goal, but with little else to warrant his inclusion in the Arsenal or Inter team, is surely on the verge of a return back to Germany in the summer. I’d be surprised if Arsène even sent him a plane ticket as far as London if I’m honest. It’s clear – as the Arsenal team goes from strength to strength – he will not see action in a red and white London shirt ever again. Unless he fancies rocking up at Brentford or Charlton.  It may have seemed a strange move at the time, but it’s hard to argue Arsène’s very sound logic right now. 

We all loved him for his personality and ability to connect with the Arsenal fans, but with each passing match week it appears Lukas is looking more and more like a busted flush.

So too, it appears, does Joel Campbell. Remember how he was the saviour of our offensive problems in the first couple of months of the season? Much gnashing of teeth and exasperated hand gestures were thrown Arsène’s way when he refused to give more game time to the Costa Rican – a player who had excelled during the World Cup – yet he too finds himself an unused sub for Villareal and is at a stage now in which each passing week looks like he’ll probably be moved on permanently. And will there be any return of the gnashing teeth? Doubtful. That new deal he signed was clearly one designed to ensure maximum return on investment from a revenue generation point of view from Arsenal, but once again I doubt you’ll find too many Arsenal fans tutting in the direction of Le Boss methinks, because as Arsenal (actually top flight football fans in general, but we’re only concerned with ourselves so, y’know, what-evs) fans we’re all amateur accountants and a bit of cash for a player out on loan whilst the team is doing fine without him is fine by us.

That’s what victories and success affords you I suppose. Rather than the very convenient “well there’s an option on loan that we’re not even taking advantage of” being used as a sharp stick to beat the manager with, talk turns to how much cash we might get from players out on loan and how that might be invested in the team.

Football is very much a creature of the ‘here and now’ and the old cliches of ‘you’re only as good as your last game’ just serve to emphasise how quickly things change. It’s why the rewards are so high, as are the risks, I suppose. You only have to look at the seemingly inevitable departure of Pelligrini at Moneychester City to see that. So predicting the next generation of talent, of when a player has fulfilled his potential and is ready to become a first team success, is so hard. It’s easy for me, with my ability to forget what I have said six months ago and to seem like the managers decisions are baffling, but for Arsène everything is on record and his mistakes are recorded and replayed by a million eyes. The rise of Francis Coquelin seems obvious now to me (perhaps you too), but if you’d have asked me at the beginning of the season who would make a bigger impact on the first team – Coquelin, Campbell or Podolski – even I with my affection for Le Coq, couldn’t have placed him top of the list. He might not even have made the top two.

Still, at least I’m not the Arsenal manager, eh? Otherwise we’d all probably be in trouble!

That’s enough from me for one day. I have a beautiful sunny day ahead of me that I won’t bother taking advantage of thanks to my role as an office desk jockey. 

Cheerio for now.

The balancing act – squad depth, signings and harmony

Eurgh, midweek drinking (combinations of ale, red wine, Sailor Jerry and Port are not to be trifled with, fyi) accompanied by an early get up and train journey into the city for work, don’t exactly make for the happiest Chris on this here earth, I can assure you. I’ve got that ‘punched in the face’ feeling and my working day hasn’t even entered its infancy. Plus it’s that time of the year when it’s cold in the morning, but warm in the evening, so as I type today’s nonsensical waffle I am also conscious that by home time I’ll be sweatier than a fat man on a treadmill in a sauna. 

But in the world of football, life is grand for you and I, isn’t it? After all, we are the loving supporters of the in-form team of 2015, which whilst it will most likely not bring any kind of reward in itself come May, will possibly lead to success in the FA Cup, all being willing. If, as we hope, we can overcome Reading, I suspect that Liverpool will be waiting at the final, but having recently been victorious against an admittedly under strength side it would be a more difficult final for sure. But that is all hearsay and conjecture at this point, so let us park it and look ahead towards the immediate future of Burnley away on Saturday.

The early team news appears to be somewhat unfortunate, in the Laurent Koscienly is rumoured to be a bit short for this Saturday’s Lancastrian journey. If true – we’ll find out from Le Boss tomorrow no doubt – then it will be a blow to the side because he’s been good of late. Kos has been the ever-present in this rich vein of form we’re in, so to lose him for any amount of time is a shame, but the great news is that we appear to have the kind of squad depth that we were lacking all season long with the arrival of Gabriel. 

I do like Gabriel you know. He has slotted in well when he’s played and unlike when Squillaci joined us and looked okayish for the first couple of matches before declining rapidly, Gabriel has put in some decent shifts in a calm and ‘no nonsense’ fashion that has me less concerned about Kos’ absence for the trip to Turf Moor. It’s always good to see a defender get stuck in and I remember the Middlesbrough game was a particularly impressive performance on many levels. He even took a yellow card in the ‘right way’, bringing down an attacking player in a position which allowed the defence to readjust and eventually see the ball out from danger. That’s the kind of intelligence that gets you far in football. 

Away from the defence, Rambo has also picked up a knock, but all of the sounds from random people on Twitter not officially associated with the club in any way, shape or form, are that its not too serious. That’s good news because it means that should Arsène choose too, he could name a similar starting XI to the one that played on Saturday lunchtime.

Something else I’ve been thinking of recently, which has been born from the overwhelming success of Coquelin, is at what point do we as Arsenal fans say that he is the defensive midfielder we all need and that any additional signing that is made in the summer should be as understudy to him?

The reason I’m pondering that is because even now, when I speak to most Arsenal fans both on and offline, many still talk of boosting the squad with a player like Schneiderlin into the ranks. I’m all for competition and it is the ability to rotate this team that I think is one of a number of factors behind our current form, but I still hear and read from people that we need a £25million defensive midfield replacement. There’s a few obvious issues in that as I see it. Firstly, if the media can go to town on Özil because he’s £42million worth of footballer and has a barren spell, what would they do about a £25million player that on current form, wouldn’t get in to the Arsenal team. And yes, I am not just talking about Schneiderlin, but any deep-lying midfielder. You only have to look at Le Coq’s statistics in breaking up possession and winning tackles to see that he’s the best in the league at the moment. If form is maintained for the rest of the season – and he’s strung enough games together by now to suggest that barring any injury he will – there’s no way that we can seriously justify such an outlay on a squad player. Is there?

So what do you do if you’re Arsène? Because if he goes out and buys an £8million decent squad player, he’ll probably get lambasted for not having enough ambition, but if he spunks £30million on Kondogbia and doesn’t play him he’ll be told he’s signed a white elephant. The delicate balance needed in a really top draw squad – especially one like ours in which injuries seem to come to us as sure as day follows night – is really important in building successful teams. It’s dilemmas like that one in the base of the midfield that has one appreciating the complexities of managing a football club, where people management is as important as the data and the numbers. 

So even if we finish the season second, even if we win the FA Cup, even if the squad looks like the strongest it’s been ever and even if we as fans are left happy with how the team has progressed, Arsène will still have a really difficult summer on his hands. What will he do about Szczesny? What’s going to happen in defensive midfield? Where does he fit Jack into the team? What decision will be made on Walcott?

All of this needs to be thought of, to ensure the squad is balanced and deep enough to mount a title challenge. And we thought previous summers were make or break!

Anyway, that’s probably enough jibber-jabber from me for one day, because all of this hypothesising is hurting my brain.

Catch you tomorrow.

fanciful Walcott hypothesising

With one more pointless set of internationals to play, we’re still knee-deep in the thick of it, footballistically speaking. 

We had the worry of Welbeck’s injury that still looms on the horizon but, with Arsène probably not going to speak to the press until Thursday at the earliest, there’s still plenty of time for us to lose men to rogue challenges or loose tackles. 

I haven’t really been paying much attention to the games themselves, so I’ve no idea whether Alexis or Gabriel played or even starred at The Emirates, nor can I tell whether Giroud’s performance and goal was a great one. But given that there are no major stories about players breaking down, I am hopeful that we will have a relatively full compliment to choose from, come Saturday lunchtime.

Most of the chatter I’ve been seeing online has seemingly revolved around Theo Walcott’s current contractual wranglings, which appear to be mirrored to those of Raheem Sterling, also currently deadlocked it appears. But much like the last time we had to deal with Theo and his advisers demands, it appears the scousers are having trouble convincing the 20 year old that a £100k+ per week deal is acceptable, the poor diddums. 

As we will be all too painfully aware, the situation at a club can influence these types of negotiations quite a lot and with Gerrard offski, Suarez departed and Torres before him, Sterling and his ‘people’ have probably seen how strong their hand is and are poker-facing it all the way to the last.

So naturally the speculation from an Arsenal perspective is whether or not we should be giving a ‘heads up’ to Camp Sterling to say we’re interested, as well as Liverpool to talk all things exchange between their contract rebel and ours, perhaps with a bit of cash going the scousers way in addition. 

Now I’m no expert on transfer negotiations, or deals, but this appears to me to be some fanciful stuff from Arsenal fans talking about the possibilities of it happening. Firstly, it would appear to be too good to be true, because Sterling is younger, with more potential and Liverpool will be desperate to avoid any kind of action that strengthens a rival. Whether or not it does actually do that to such an extreme extent also appears to be very dubious to me. Not least because those advocating a move seem to have forgotten the impact that Walcott has made when fit over the last two seasons. Sure, he’s been a peripheral player since the turn of the year (and most of this season), but remember how long – and how many games – it took Ramsey to get to before his form exploded last season? Players need game time to be at their best and right now Theo just isn’t being given a chance.

But that doesn’t mean we should all mentally ship him out and look to the North West for a solution. It also doesn’t mean it will happen. In fact, when was the last time you saw a player exchange between two high-profile players take place? It’s early in the morning for me writing this so I can’t exactly reel off any recent ones (unless there aren’t any?), but the last one I remember was Gallas/Cole. Before that I remember Anelka/Suker. But I’m running out of any other ideas after that. 

We should probably also take note that Sterling appears to want megabucks. We’ve shown that we’re not averse to going down that route, but with a club as fiscally conscious as we are, would we really break the bank for a player that has shown brilliant patches but like Theo, also had his inconsistencies? 

And with players wanting megabucks, there’s usually an oil-whoring club sniffing around too, so we should probably recognise that any move would probably be scuppered by one of the oligarch-funded teams.

So often in football transfer negotiations are complex and fraught with difficulties, which is why player swap deals are so rare, so that leaves me to question: would a deal between those two players ever actually be possible? Highly unlikely. Both players’ representatives find it challenging to negotiate with their existing clubs, so how would a deal be done that included them both?

We should probably also not discount the fact that Liverpool will have been pretty cheesed off after the Suarez incident and, if we’re honest, Arsenal were probably equally cheesed off when Liverpool made it public.

So all of this hypothesising is probably worthless. But I guess it keeps us all busy until the football starts. 

Which is why I’ve just spent most of the blog doing the same. Oh well, back to normality soon, so hang in there kids.

Catch you tomorrow.

Excited NLD countdown, with ridiculous optimism for 2015

With the countdown to the North London Derby (NLD) now well underway, the speculation on team line-up has never been so intriguing, from what I can see online and with people I speak to in real life. Us Gooners are collectively salivating over the possible options and, for the first time since I don’t know when, there’s genuine excitement.

The club itself has gone relatively quiet over the last 24 hours, but if that just means that there is an area of focus and intensity amongst the players ahead of this big clash, then all the better. There are a few that I speak to about this who dismiss the Spuds and the form they are in, but to my mind it would be naive not to see them as a team just in form as we are. Certainly results-wise, anyway, as they’ve been picking up 2-1s for what seems like half a season.

But whilst their form has been steady and consistent, ours has been a bit more sparkling than late, which I am hoping means our star burns more brighter on Saturday than theirs.

Let’s make now mistake about it here, Saturday’s kick off will be an extremely difficult one, regardless of how much more impressive we’ve looked. The confidence factor will help us to start the game positively I’m sure of it, but after 20 minutes it will settle into the type of NLD that we’ve seen many times before. There will be goals, but we have to minimise the chances of that by remaining difficult to beat. I doubt Arsène will play the way we did against City, but if it was me then I’d be seriously tempted to frustrate and hit on the counter.

I hope that we see Coquelin in feisty form. If he continues his trajectory and rise of importance in the first team, he’ll be occupying similar positions on the pitch to Erikson, so to give him a bit of tough love by making it hard for him will nullify their forward line a lot I think.

But here I am, getting all excited and starting to think about line ups and opponents, yet I still have three days of work (and subsequent blogging) ahead of me! That’s indicative of the excitement of this game I guess. I woke up this morning to have my cereal and Yakult, with the tune ‘One nil, to The Arsenal’ humming in my head, followed by the question: ‘if we pick up three points against that lot, it will be massive’.

And it will be massive. Not only would it put daylight between us and them, it would also mean that we go into a series of ‘winnable’ (touch something wooden – even though I wrote it and you’re just reading it!) games against Leicester, Middlesborough and Crystal Palace with the opportunity to further cement our top four credentials. Arsenal fans have talked about momentum all season, but four wins out of four will have us in the driving seat and with an eye on silverware.

I don’t want to seem like I’m being too presumptuous, but this feels like the start of the run we had in 2013. Remember that? How we were the most in-form team in the country for the duration of a calendar year? That was the followed by the nightmare of 2014 which – massive awesomeness of the FA Cup aside – we fell apart in the 2013/14 league season and started the 2014/15 league campaign in pretty indifferent form.

Hey, if 2015 is brilliant and we win another cup whilst securing Champions League football (maybe we’ll even win the Champions League, eh? Bet that would really get on Adrian Durham’s wick), then I won’t complain. Then if we start off the following season with the form we started off last season too, then all the better, as far as I’m concerned.

I feel like we actually have the nucleus of a side that could potentially challenge for the title. Not this season of course, we’ve left it too late and with too much to do, but who knows about next season. I mean, you may think I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but if we keep this squad together, whilst adding just one quality defensive midfielder, I don’t think there’s any position on the pitch where I wouldn’t be happy with our depth. Right now it looks to my eyes that we have two good players for every position and whilst Flamini is everyone’s cup of tea, he’s still a decent player. Given the infamous ‘deadwood’ we had three years ago, he’s a markedly better option than a Denilson, wouldn’t you say?

So there it is. I’ve set my stall out and I’m proclaiming wildly with the optimism that success brings, that we can have a brilliant finish to this season and have a go at the league next.

Am I crazy?

Transfer-schmansfer, our squad options get me excited

Do you know, in all the commotion and emotions of winning yet another football game and keeping yet another clean sheet, I completely forgot that yesterday was Transfer Deadline Day?

How remiss of me. How terrible that I did not feed the behemoth that is the last day of the January silly season, by counting down the hours like the ludicrously yellow-clad morons at Sky Sports HQ. How evil that I did not give the numerous websites my clicks and hits as they tried frantically to gobble up the last of the heavy traffic before actual football starts to get in the way again for them. I should hang my head in shame.

Or not. Perhaps I should avoid lacing this blog with any more sarcasm, before I create a ‘lowest form of wit’ vacuum, or something. Anyway, I don’t buy that statement – never had – because sarcasm can be quite amusing, I must say.

So yesterday passed with a whimper rather than a bang at The Emirates, the lone Sky Sports reporter inside the Arsenal ground cutting a solitary figure, as he kicked his heels knowing that nothing would be forthcoming this evening. Poor diddums.

Apparently, having got up and seen the papers this morning, the whole day seemed a bit of a blow-out as far as the top teams are concerned. We’d done our business already, Liverpool and United were quiet and the Spuds decided that Aaron Lennon wasn’t worth keeping on the books. Chelski signed that guy who’s hair looks like it is interchangeable with the Incredible Hulk’s (Lou Ferigno version), but that’s about it. Good. I hope nobody got the ratings they were hoping because the bigger clubs stayed away from the party.

Arsène decided to have his a week earlier, which suits me down to the ground. We picked up the necessary depth, so it’s clear now what we have and where we need to get to before the end of the season. We have an emerging Coquelin in the only position with which we’ve struggled all season, plus at least Arsène isn’t freezing out Flamini by never playing him. We might all think he’s not at the level we need at the club, but he’s a decent squad player and so by keeping him ticking over with game time, Arsène is doing the right thing in my opinion, because an injury or suspension to Coquelin means that the Flamster will be called upon again.

As would be expected after a number of positive results in January, the mood on the official website is buoyant, with Giroud, Walcott and Bellerin all getting a mention, as well as big Per explaining about how the Southampton loss was a ‘wake up call’ for the players. There’s no doubt we’ve seen a marked improvement since that lacklustre display, but whilst many will question why it took us until the first game of 2015 to get that kick in the knickers needed, I’m just pleased that we have seen a reaction. We’ve looked very controlled and composed as a team unit since that display and whilst Debuchy has been robbed of regular football, the rest of the first choice back four have been so much better than that day. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact we’ve been able to rest Koscienly’s aching limbs, playing only once a week, but the form of Nacho and Hector over the last couple of games suggests to me that it’s more to do with a settled back four rather than anything else. Quite what that means when the cup competitions and league games all collide at the same time is probably a pondering for another day. But you’d hope that the confidence in the team will help to give the rotated players a bit more of an edge. I supposed the trick for Arsène will be to rotate, but not too heavily, from a game-by-game perspective. Wholesale team changes could disrupt the sturdiness that has been built in the team from the back. But I’m sure he’ll be aware of when certain players need to be rested. One thing I think he believes he has right now, is confidence that the squad players can perform. I’ve been wondering a lot lately if he’s historically not rotated players because he doesn’t really have 100% confidence in them. Yet when you look at the quality of the squad at the moment, it’s hard to see what the best team is, which is a good thing in my mind. If Arsène has faith in 20 players as opposed to 12, he’ll rotate more and they’ll be fresher, which means we get the best out of the team over a longer period. I think he finally has that faith.

It will be interesting to see what he does against the Spuds next weekend. Does he play Özil and Santi? Does Welbeck come back into the team because he will track back more? Or is the raw pace enough to frighten the Spuds to play deep and give our midfielders licence to roam? There are so many permutations, I think I could probably spend all week guessing and counter-guessing myself. But that’s exactly what we want as fans, because that means that the players are in form, they are playing well and there are at least 16 that deserve to play. Just look at Rosicky. How does Arsène get him into the team on Saturday lunchtime?

I’m starting to get excited about what this season may bring. It may have taken over five months, but I’m starting to get really excited.

Catch you tomorrow.

Le boss in fine fettle and the club in form; what we all want, right?

Arsene took on the press yesterday and, as expected I suppose given our form and the announcement of a signing to talk about in the shape of Gabriel, he was in quite a jovial mood. I must say, it is much more preferable to me when everyone is a little bit more happier. I think there are some Arsenal fans out there in the world who seem to thrive on misery in some sort of footballing masochistic mindset, because some people only seem to get a thrill when we’re failing. But me, I like it when things are rosy in our garden. I like it when Arsene can have a joke with the press about giving them his address so they can send another signing his way if he is an ‘exceptional talent’.

Le Boss told the assembled hacks that Gabriel was ready, fit and will go straight into the squad, which is lovely to hear and something that will be a great boost to the squad as a whole. He may not speak enough English yet, but his fellow Spaniard’s in the team will give him enough support and I suspect that if we can get ourselves a comfortable lead on Sunday (which I don’t think will happen by the way; I suspect Villa will be hard to break down and it will be a tighter game than the pundits are suggesting, but more on that tomorrow), we might see Gabriel as a sub appearance to ease him in to the team.

The only downer that you could possibly have on the presser yesterday was the confirmation from Arsene that Alexis is unlikely to be risked. He’s picked up a knock and as a result I think Wenger will play the cautious game. It’s a sensible option and one that is made all the easier for the boss by the form of other players, as well as the fact that we have somebody like Rosicky who, in my opinion, deserves another run in the team after the Brighton game. Of course, the options are such now, that Rosicky may not even start, and with Ozil back you wonder if it will be a combination of Santi/Ozil or Santi/Rosicky for that left wing position. My preference would be Rosicky out wide left because I think the best players who are in the best form need to play and Santi is in the best form so he has to play centrally. Ozil out wide left hasn’t worked as much, but Rosicky has more experience in that position, so I’d give him the nod. But second guessing Arsene is like trying to break the Enigma machine, so I’ll not bother trying with that just yet.

Welbeck, Jack and the Ox are still out, but with the sheer volume of quality players we have at the moment – something Arsene confirmed when he spoke yesterday when replying to whether there would be any more signings – means that we have plenty of options to cater for our massive injury list. You just watch: now that we seem to have found solutions to the troubled positions that have been rocked by injury, we’ll end up having the whole squad fit and players getting unhappy because they’re not playing as much. I guess we’d all rather have that than the other end of the spectrum though, i.e. no players fit so we go back to putting square pegs in round holes!

I do wonder with the Welbeck situation, whether Arsene is being ‘ultra cautious’ because he has other players that he wants to play who are in form over recent weeks, hence why he won’t be featured this weekend. Arsene has said that in the past he’s told the press that a player is injured, or has a ‘little bit knock’ of varying degrees, but with the form post Moneychester City and Brighton, Welbeck doesn’t just walk straight in to this team. It saves his, as well as Arsene, a job of fitting players in if one is a bit ‘short’. I know I’m going all conspiracy theory-esque on you now, but it just seems convenient that Welbeck is back on Monday and, after Rosicky will have played the last few games back-to-back, Arsene might then have a get out by saying ‘look, he is 34 and he cannot play every week, so I have to be able to rest him’. I know, I know, I’m getting way to hypothetical here – especially if Rosicky doesn’t play tomorrow – but given that I saw somebody on Twitter speak about how they had met Welbeck and he’d said he is fit, it feels like Arsene is keeping players back to save their own face as he tries to fit in so many talented footballers into his matchday squad.

But hey, I’ve wanted this for so long (squad rotation) so please don’t mistake my comments as a literary bashing at the manager- they’re really not supposed to be. If you’re going to have a big squad of talented footballers, you’re also going to have a lot of bruised egos when they’re not playing, so the best thing to do is to protect them in the public eye and I’m sure they will appreciate that too. So I say ‘bravo’ to Arsene. It feels like his mindset is shifting and he’s starting to manage the fitness of the players better; rotating them on a regular basis, keeping the competition for places realistic and at the same time ensuring that the infamous ‘red zone’ is this evil thing that is way off into the distance somewhere.

We’re in good spirits right now. A win tomorrow will give us yet more momentum and with a trip to Spudsville on the horizon, it will be good to see that we are in the kind of ‘positive spiral’ that could help us to put on a show and potential collect three points at our nearest and certainly not dearest rivals.

Until tomorrow.