Coquelin’s chance, Bayern await (again)?

The two bits of news that will invariably dominate the Arsenal-related headlines today are the Champions League foregone conclusion of Arsenal vs Bayern Munich or Madrid (also known as the ‘Round of 16 draw’), as well as the perpetual treatment table merry-go-round that is our injury list of players.

It’s The Ox who is the latest player to be struck down with the plague and almost inevitably it feels like we’ll lose him for next weekend’s game against Liverpool. It’s a Liverpool team who appear to have been tonked by United, so whilst you’d hope that we can profiteer from their lack of confidence at the moment, this is The Arsenal and I’d expect nothing less than the Scousers to buck their poor form this season and play as if they were getting relegated in the morning if they don’t win. But more of that in he count down to that game later in the week.

For now, let’s try and play a fun game of ‘who the bloody hell do we have left?’, shall we? Because let’s face it, after The Ox, Arteta, Ramsey, Özil and Wilshere, we really do run quite short on first teamers in midfield. It’s why Francis Coquelin must be wondering why he didn’t buy a Euromillions ticket last weekend I’ll wager. After all, he’ll have gone from Charlton midfielder to first choice Arsenal ball winner in the middle of the park within the space of a week. It goes to show you that a week is a long time in football I guess! But also, that things can change quickly. Picture this: Le Coq starts at Anfield. Has a blinder. We win the game. He’s given another shot in midfield and plays another stormer against QPR. He goes to West Ham full of confidence and continues his form. When you take into account his superb performance at full back against Southampton in the Capital One Cup, it goes to show you how quickly life moves in the football world. Especially at this time of year. A player only needs to see a couple of colleagues unavailable for two weeks at the end of December, then suddenly he can find himself having strung together four or five games and may even be able to retain his place.

Now, I appreciate that this is all very hopeful speculation on my part, but I’ve always rated Coquelin. I’ve always felt that he was never really given his opportunity on an extended basis and, when you consider how long Denilson was afforded to prove that he wasn’t toilet (which he didn’t even manage), it is perhaps surprising that Arsène didn’t give Francis his chances earlier on in his career.

Still, water under the bridge, as well as an opportunity for a player to show the manager the error of his ways, providing the Ox is of course out for next weekend’s clash. I’m sure we’ll find out later on in the week, as the players now have three days off to recharge their batteries, which is a good thing given the hectic schedule that is about to envelope their lives. Hopefully being knocked out of the COC will be good for us in the long run.

The only other thing to contemplate is this Champions League draw. We’ve once again made it tough for ourselves, so I don’t expect us to be given any kind of easy ride by the footballing gods. After all, we’ve played the best teams in the competition at the earliest knockout stage for the last five years I think, so why buck the trend now?

I don’t really care who we play, if I’m honest, because we are unlikely to win the competition based on our play this season. I don’t want to be too much of a ‘neg’ about this draw, but there are oil-whoring clubs, the mega-rich spenders like Madrid and Barcelona, plus a Bayern side that will pass us all to death, so we’re going to come up against one of those teams at some stage anyway. We might as well do it earlier. What I will want to see though, is a fight to the death, when we do play one of those big teams. I want them to realise we’re not totally a spent force in Europe and to give somebody a real fun for their money.

Sigh…look at how things have changed, eh? We’ve gone from footballing powerhouse to plucky underdogs. I hate being ‘plucky’. I prefer arrogance and victory. It’s much more enjoyable I find. You?

Anyway, that’s pretty much all there is at the moment, particularly with no players around to talk up the Christmas period and how we’re going to get maximum points! They’re probably all nursing a hangover right now.

Anyway, you have a good’un and I’ll go and do some work. Peace out.

Finally!

Finally! It may have taken us until mid December this season, but we finally have a Premier League game in which we were dominant from start to finish, never really looked like we weren’t in control of the game and got the required number of goals that our performance warranted.

I thought we were brilliant yesterday. From the first minute until the last. We started off with an air of authority and control over a confident Newcastle team that looked like the Arsenal of last season. I feel like a wandering desert nomad who has finally been given a glass of ice cool fresh water. I have been waiting so long to drink from the cup of ‘comfortable Premier League victory’ that i’d almost forgotten the tast. I’ve become accustomed to have a hard afternoon. There was nothing hard about yesterday, unless of course you count trying to understand Lee Mason’s refereeing decisions. He was the only negative on a lovely early evenings football. To my mind, he missed a clear boot to the chest of Alexis by Tiote, a couple of penalty decisions, plus he decided to penalise Danny Welbeck for being too close to Janmaat when a gust of wind knocked him over in the box and Welbeck finished superbly to make it 2-0 within the first 15 minutes. Or at least it should have been. Like I said, that gust of wind was a real doozie and Welbeck’s goal was rubbed from the scoreboard.

It all seemed to work yesterday. From back to front we were on it. You only have to look at our first goal, in which the passage of play was started by Hector Bellerin biting in to a tackle and then giving the ball to Giroud. The Frenchman then fed Alexis and took his position in the middle of the box to head home an excellent cross. It was brilliant stuff and no more than we deserved. Before that even big Per was in on the action with a looping header that hit the bar.

We popped the ball around with purpose and poise and how the scoreline was still 1-0 at half time is anybodies guess. I can say it now, because we were comfortable all afternoon, but at half time you’ve always got that worry that we’ll conceded and then end up ‘backs to the wall’-ing it as the opposition fight to come away from The Emirates with a point. But the second half saw us up it another gear and Santi’s little dink over Alnwick to make it 2-0 had the hallmarks of a player in form. He could have even been given a penalty had he not scored, because Coloccini had almost taken him out inside the box. But the diminuitive little Spaniard did what every one wants to see; he stayed on his feet and got the goal that his performance warranted.

Four minutes later it was game over, as Giroud got his second of the night and what a second it was, with the outside of his boot and with the tightest of angles. He really can be quite some players on some games. It’s amazing how we seem to have a player that can blow so hot or cold during the course of a season. But I supposed he is an example of this Arsenal team. They can go from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of a week.

We’ve now had two 4-1 victories and it’s looking like we’ve recovered a bit of that fragile thing called confidence. Which is just as well really, because next week we return to the location of our humbling last season and face a Liverpool team who will – regardless of what happens today – be massively up for this game and so we need all the help we can get through our levels of confidence and remembering performances like that.

Individually, it was good to see some systems worked. I thought the front three rotated well and were a handful all afternoon. Arsene said in his post match report that we looked dangerous every time we went forward and he’s right. I thought we could have scored every time we went forward and as I reflected afterwards, to friends and family members that would listen, the 4-1 scoreline flattered Newcastle in fairness. The fact that they even scored was a cause for irritation, because the defence probably deserved a clean sheet. Debuchy was good at centre half, although that might have been because he wasn’t troubled as much, but I thought he attacked balls lumped forward well, looked like he was confident, then positionally was assured enough too.

In midfield, The Ox gave a couple of balls away, but in the main he was good with the ball at his feet and he is an able deputy for that box-to-box roll role that Ramsey normally occupies. Santi Cazorla has found his ryhtm too, putting in another great display and getting himself in the goals too. I have seen some people (not Arsenal fans, obviously) who have said he was a little disrespectful with his little dink of a penalty. But if we score every time, we can be as disrespectful as we like as far as I’m concerned, because all I care about is Arsenal scoring goals and winning games. The rest of the football community can ‘do one’.

So that’s it for another weekend. A victory, three points, a good performance, some players looking like they’re hitting form, plus a week to rest and recuperate for when we play Liverpool on Sunday next week.

Come on you reds!

Problems placing Poldi

Today I want to say some words on Lukas Podolski, because after the game on Wednesday night, it appears as though a fire has been lit under many for his inclusion from the start on a more regular basis.

First and foremost, we must all admit that he gave a much improved performance against Galatasaray, notching up another two goals and putting a little bit more effort than perhaps he has been seen to be doing previously. It’s that kind of hunger to impress that you want to see from the players that don’t get regular matches and I for one was pleased to see some of the rotational players step up.

However, to the doubters in Podolski, I too must admit I have a side of me that is with you. Whilst his performance on Wednesday was markedly improved, there were still times when his movement looked static to me and as much as he comes alive in the final third, when he has the ball in the middle of the park it is usually to quickly redistribute it to somebody else.

He’s certainly a conundrum of a player. Not quite technically brilliant enough for Arsène to keep him in the team, but so lethal in front of goal, that it makes Arsène look silly that he doesn’t play more often. I maintain the opinion that if he was another four inches taller and could hold the ball up, I don’t think we’d have seen as much of Olivier Giroud, as we have done over the last couple of years. I know Giroud brings more than just a tall target man and that his touch and interlinking play with others around him is far better, but having a Podolski with those stronger centre forward attributes would definitely give us a more direct and ‘end product’ type of striker.

But of course he isn’t. Which is why he has been operating out on the left for the most part of his career for Germany and for Arsenal. But the problem he has now, is that his position is being occupied by the Rolls Royce that is Alexis, which means his chances at the club will inevitably be few and far between. Alexis may not necessarily operate in the same zones as Poldi, but that wide left position which has been moulded into a number 10 hybrid at times with Alexis, means that Poldi’s old spot is evolving. Without him.

I think more than anything though, the technical ability of the player is what has cost him his place in the team, especially when you look at someone like Santi. At the start of the season, a few people thought he would be the player that is used less and less, as Özil occupies the number ten role and Alexis operates out wide on the left. But we’re now coming to the midway point in the season and I think I’m right in saying that Cazorla has played more than almost everyone else in the squad. It’s true he may have benefitted from injuries to players like Özil, but his regular inclusion in the side supports the arguments that for Arsène, technique trumps any other kind of attribute that his players must have.

I’ve said it a million times: with Podolski you know exactly what you are getting: end product. Nothing more, nothing less. He is the specialist ‘field goal kicker’ that American Football teams have just to get those field goal points. If you could make rotational subs like in 5-a-side, he’d be an awesome player to bring on every time we get a throw in or corner in the opposition box, then drag off the second a move breaks down, because his end product starts and finishes with his goalscoring.

Which is why I can understand the argument for him being an impact sub. If we need a goal with 20 minutes to go, then we need Podolski, because as long as he gets the space in our around the box, he’ll hit the target. Perhaps this is where I don’t understand Wenger’s thinking, because five, six or seven minutes at the end of a game is hardly enough time for someone like Podolski to make an impact as a sub. If we are all in acknowledgement that we’d be best served with him on the bench coming on in the second half, why isn’t Arsène more ruthless by hooking off any ineffective attacking players sooner? If, after an hour of football, we’re seeing Giroud having ‘one of those days’, then shift Welbeck up top, Alexis out wide right and Poldi on the left, no? Likewise if Welbeck is ineffective, or even the wonder boy Alexis. These guys are all human beings and everyone has an off day, so there’s no shame in admitting it hasn’t worked and trying someone different. That’s where I don’t understand Wenger sometimes.

It has been mentioned to me that perhaps Poldi is a ‘square peg with no round holes’ i.e. He doesn’t have a position that suits him in this Arsenal side. I’m not sure I subscribe to that thinking. Mainly because, as I’ve mentioned, he’s such a specialist player (end product) that he doesn’t specifically need a position I don’t think. Instead, he needs to occupy areas of the final third where he is within range and has space to fashion himself a shot. There’s nobody that can’t argue that had the same chance (the first goal against Galatasaray) fallen to him on the right hand side of the goal, that he wouldn’t have hammered it home, albeit would have been slightly more difficult as he probably would have taken it on his left and so not allowed the ball to roll across his body before striking.

Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have a specific position, just a skill, that he isn’t getting more games. Actually, re-reading the thinking above, I suppose that is a square peg, but it’s not that there is no round holes, it’s just that there all filled up. And anyway, his peg is so small it would just fall through and not fit anyway. Or something similar like that.

I suppose this is just one long monologue which ultimately comes to the conclusion that if I had the reigns at Arsenal, I probably wouldn’t know what to do with Poldi either, because I’d want him in my team but I’d have nowhere to put him on a permanent basis. The only conclusion I can draw is that we should be using him more. Who knows, perhaps the busy Christmas schedule will see him get more games for the club, I’m looking specifically at that QPR game and thinking that it could be tailor-made for him to start from the beginning.

What’s your view on Poldi?

No pressure, unless you’re a squad player

Gary Neville gave United a bit of a lasting last night, didn’t he? Boy, I wish my football team had stocked up on ‘get out of jail free’ cards at the beginning of the season like United have, because there’s no way they should be sitting pretty third in the league. Not with that average squad. It’s like I said on Twitter yesterday; a damning indictment on the quality of this year’s Premier League, that’s for sure.

Anyway, enough about talking about that lot, let’s talk about our lot, who learnt yesterday that it’s a repeat of the FA Cup final from last year. I’ll be quite honest with you; a home tie against Hull is not quite the ‘glamour of the FA Cup’ narrative that I would have hoped for. An away tie to Blyth Spartans would have been more intriguing, so to get a mid-table Premier League team is just about up there as one of the least exciting matches one could hope for. Naturally, Chelski got their obligatory opportunity to rest players by playing a team from divisions below them, whilst United manager to score themselves Accrington or somebody random like that.

Do you know, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that van Gaal has traded his own neck for a bag full of four leaf clovers. How else can you explain how United are putting together victories with an even worse team than last year?

Anyway, I’m veering off course in my bitterness this morning, so I need to steer myself back towards the holy island of Arsenal on which I usually reside. On which Arsène Wenger is king, queen, prince, emperor, president, prime minister and God.

Le Boss took to the stage to talk about tonight’s game and by all accounts it sounds like it’s a pick’n’mix of first teamers, squad and young players that have been sent out to Turkey, which is good but to my mind not enough. We should not have a single player on the field tonight who could make an impact playing on Saturday in my opinion. So to hear the probably team leaked being one with Mertesacker, Szczesny and Debuchy in, is quite a surprise to me. After all, surely we want these players rested for an all-important game against Newcastle, right? We’re about to go into a heavy Christmas period and we need to be shuffling things around, so why are we wasting players on games that Wenger himself has admitted are practically meanigless?

The only thing I can think of is that Arsène will think that someone like Debuchy will do well to get minutes under his belt in a game where he knows he can pull out of tackles if they look like they could be dangerous ones. Additionally, perhaps he’s thinking that Per and Chambers need to play their way back in to form?

Whatever he’s thinking, I hope he isn’t struck by the same luck we’ve had all season with injuries. We can ill afford another Klendathu (Starship Troopers reference, if you’re interested).

Up top however, is where we currently have plenty of options, so I’m hoping we see something good from our three squad players who aren’t currently getting a look in. A front three of Podolski, Sanogo and Campbell all have a chance of giving Arsène something to think about and I hope they do; with our injury record this season there’s no way that we shouldn’t be trying our hardest to keep these players fresh and match fit by giving them more minutes. But with Arsène’s clear disdain for the rotation game, you can see all three players wanting out (some potentially on loan) come January. So if they can perform tonight then perhaps it will give the manager more cause to throw them in.

I have no idea what team Galatasaray will put out tonight but, if we’re all completely honest with ourselves, do we really care? This game is an opportunity to just watch. We know we aren’t winning the group. We know we aren’t seeing the first team. We know that we don’t normally travel well to these places. As far as I’m concerned, this is a freebie tonight. It’s a chance to watch the Arsenal with the most amount of emotional detachment that a gooner is going to get this season. So in some perverse way, I’m just going to try and enjoy it.

Who knows? We might even get a pleasant surprise with some good performances from players we’re not expecting?

We shall see.

Broken Ford Mondeo under a flash chassis

Yesterday evening before I went to bed I watched Blackadder. I watched the excellent Christmas Carol version where Ebeneezer Blackadder is a kind gentleman who realises that being bad and evil is more more profitable than being good. So when I think back to the comparisons made by myself to the two teams that played yesterday, perhaps we should take a leaf out of Blackadder’s book and just play a bit of roughousing tactics whenever we take to the field? After all, it works for Charlie Adam.

I’m starting off today’s blog by talking about Charlie Adam because I really have nothing else to talk about with regards to The Arsenal. Well, nothing you won’t have heard before, because yesterday’s result was more predictable than an above inflation train season ticket price hike on New Year’s Day. Another year, another defeat to Stoke, another chance for the media to perpetuate the old “they don’t like it up ‘em” nonsense.

I’ll level with you. I didn’t watch yesterday’s game. I was entertaining people and so was keeping track via radio and Twitter occasionally, but what I did hear was nothing new or surprising to me. I will go one step further. I haven’t even watched Match of The Day yet. I don’t even know if I’ll bother actually. What’s the point? I know what I’m going to see. Defensive shambles, offensive nullification (in the first half), some terrible misses from Arsenal players and some woefully inept defending from another makeshift team. A team that is makeshift entirely at the fault of the manager. I’m bored of talking about it, you’re bored of reading about it, we should probably just move on actually. Arsene has proven that he doesn’t have the cojones to do what is needed by fannying around in the summer and his own stupid self belief that he could keep a small core of players injury free like he did last season has ultimately cost us any real dream of even challenging for the league. That went in October.

October!

It’s a damming endictment on a man who has given us so much, has won a place in our hearts for what he has delivered to the club, but is now tarnishing his legacy with every passing moment it feels like at right now. We’ve still got a fight on our hands for fourth, that much is clear and, after both the Spuds and Liverpool both only managed draws at home to Crystal Palace and Sunderland respectively, the only grain of positivity I can take from this wekend is that we haven’t seen our rivals for that fourth start to drift off into the distance. United play Southampton on Sunday in which I think we probably need Southampton to pick up something from the game. I see people worried about West Ham and Southampton but they will fall away as injuries bite into the New Year.

So, despite the fact that it’s December and we’re only a few games away from the midway point in the season, I’m not particularly looking at the table too much. It would probably wind me up even more anyway. I keep telling myself that eventually we’ll put a run of winning games together. We always seem to, after all, but we’ve seen that situation of back-to-back victories happen about six times already, then we see a defensive performance like yesterday and are reminded just how average a team we can be. Especially away from home.

I don’t really know what else to say. I’m deflated. I could probably have a stab at getting more angry about our current predicament, but what’s the point? This Arsenal squad simply isn’t good enough to be where we want to be. Not in terms of the sum of all parts. We’ve got some wonderful players, but what’s the point in having a fabulous chassis on your car when you’ve got an old Ford Mondeo engine under the bonnet? You can’t race a flash car without the whole thing being flash. That’s where we are.

And itr’s entirely of Arsene’s making.

See you tomorrow.

fearing a fixture, but three things secure victory for The Arsenal

So bring on the unpleasentness. It’s Stoke away today and despite Arsène’s best efforts to diffuse the so-called rivalry between the two teams, messieurs Shawcross and Nzonzi have don’t their level best to try and eek out as much rhetoric to fire up the orcs as they can possibly muster, saying about how the game will be ‘tasty’, or that they will make the afternoon as uncomfortable as possible for our players.

Hey, if they operate within the confines of the law then what can you do, other than to accept it, maybe even trying to dose up with a little bit of your own medicine? But therein lies the real issue; I think we’ve had every right to feel aggrieved with the way some matches have gone against that ‘orrible lot. For example, didn’t last season’s game see a Charlie Adam ‘tackle’ that could have resulted in serious injury? I forget who, but that is one Stoke player that is quite frankly a dirty little piece of faecal matter, if you’re asking me. Those are the types of situations that seemed to have happened more often than not when we’ve played the Staffordshire team from the Potteries. Those situations – i.e. ‘Industrious’ challenges that could injure players – are what you don’t want to see when you watch Shawcross intentionally clatter into somebody because he thinks he’s got more than a 50-50 chance of a ball. But hey, “he’s not that type of player”, you know…

Anyway, as I said, Arsene has tried to diffuse the game by talking about how there is no ‘hatred’ from the Arsenal side, just a difference in style. I don’t have a hatred for Stoke, but ‘severe disliking’ probably covers the bases well enough, which is probably why I’m really not looking forward to today’s game. If it was at home I’d probably feel a little better, but our record against that lot is terrible at the Britannia, given their usual league position and ours. It’s weird, because often my trepidation for a league game is usually affected a lot by the possibility of having to face idiot rival ‘fans’ at work talking about how terrible we are because we’ve been beaten to them (Chelski, Spuds, United, Liverpool), but I can honestly say – probably with some relief actually – that I don’t know any Stoke fans at all with whom I can take a pasting after. So I’ve often wondered why I get so annoyed when we suffer yet another setback up at their ground. Then after last seasons defeat and Nzonzi once again telling the world that they were more up for these games and that we were the preening team that epitomised the problem with the modern English game because old ‘Johnny Foreigners’ don’t ‘like it up ‘em’. It’s that kind of irksome narrative that cheeses me off more than anything else, mainly because it perpetuates a media narrative that the red tops can’t wait to sink their teeth into come Sunday morning’s first releases.

I don’t like seeing what I perceive as ‘good vs evil’ ending up with evil winning. And this fixture has seen that too many times as far as I’m concerned.

So Wenger needs to get his team to do three things today:

  1. Keep a clean sheet and make it four on the bounce for us
  2. Select a front three that works enough to notch up at least one goal in 90 minutes
  3. Ensure the home crowd have nothing to whoop and holler about through the whole game.

Point three might be difficult, because if the zookeepers (stewards) don’t feed the animals then they might get restless, so i’ll happily accept two out of three of the above if it means we pick up all three points. Stoke aren’t in the best form going in to the game and I read some snippets from the Stoke Sentinel with some of the home fans talking about draws, about not playing well, about everything needing to go through Bojan. So if Arsene is going to achieve objective one listed above, then I think he’ll need to keep the little Serbian quiet. That probably means Flamini has a big role to play, so I hope he has realised he’s best performances are built on discipline and sitting in front of that back four. If he remains resolute in his task, he will naturally shackle Bojan I believe, as Stoke will probably try to play him off the striker in a number 10 role to either Crouch or Diouf.

The back four – providing Koscienly is fit – should be more confident after three clean sheets and I hope we can see the same side that was strong enough against Southampton at home on Wednesday night. I know Arsene spoke yesterday of seeing if Koscienly can make a third game in a week given his achilles, but if he’s even remotely fit enough to last he has to play. We have a relatively meaningless game in midweek against Galatasaray in the Champions League, so he can rest then and be ready for Newcastle the following week if needs be, but we need our best available back four this afternoon.

To achieve objective three, I think Arsene will once again go for Welbeck Giroud and Alexis. If they are going to improve then they are going to need more games together and with a Stoke back four that aren’t the most mobile in the world, a rotating forward line as those three did against West Brom could be just the ticket. There is no Huth alongside Shawcross, so perhaps they are a little bit weaker defensively, but I still think we’re in for a tough afternoon. However, unlike when Stoke play away, the impetus for them from their home team will be to come out and have a go at Arsenal, so hopefully more space will help to draw them out and give our players more opportunities to get in behind their defences.

I don’t particularly want to have a go at calling this game. We’re still not playing amazing, but have managed to get a run together, but our away form to Stoke has always been patchy and the Stoke players will know that and be up for it. I just hope our players are up for it more.

“The board is set, the pieces are moving. We come to it at last, the great battle of our time.”
Gandalf The White

Prepping for a ‘grubby’ fixture

It’s Friday, the end of the working week for most, the dust finally settling on the three point euphoria of a last minute goal against Southampton and all eyes turn north to the cold harsh lands of the Orcs of Stoke for tomorrow’s game at The Britannia.

I don’t know about you, but this fixture always feels a little grubby to me, perhaps a consequence of one win since Stoke joined the Premier League party. They represent the antithesis of what Arsene’s Arsenal have become renowned for. Stoke are the old school ‘British Bulldog’ who might as well all have ‘they don’t like it up them’ tattooed across their foreheads. The media love a narrative, so once a season they get to dust off the ‘British Bulldog versus hoity toity Johnny Foreigner’ mantra and see how much copy they can eek out of the fixture.

Of course, the modern incarnations of both sides are very different to the rhetoric produced by the gutter press, as both teams now have both elements of grit as well as a little bit of flair. Stoke have tried to ‘sex up’ their team with players like Bojan and Diouf, but they still have clobbers like Shawcross and Charlie Adam to bring them back to their roots. As for us, we are a little less blunt instrument and more refined samurai sword, but we still have a steely determination to us when we have all of our players fit (har-har). That’s been shown by consecutive clean sheets and the hope for tomorrow has to be that we see the same.

A lot will depend on who is available and how we line up, to which we shouldn get an indication from Arsene later today. He’ll be asked the silly questions, like “do you expect a tough game” or “why have you got such a poor record at Stoke?” and will answer them without giving anything away, but I’m more interested in finding out who’s availabkle to play and whether Arsene tries to replicate the team that went to West Brom and got a result. More of a match preview tomorrow.

Going back to my original line of thought though, specifically the ‘grubby’ feeling of this game. Perhaps it’s because we’ve gone up there, not been outplayed by any stretch of the imagination, then always seem to come a cropper. Last season was terrible. We were poor going forward, but so were Stoke and they had to rely on an incredibly harsh handball by Koscienly to secure them the victory. I hope that tomorrow we see a bit more cutting edge about us. I know we haven’t seen much of it to date in most competitions, but we’ve got to click at some stage, right? Right? Anybody?

I suppose tomorrow will not be about whether we click or not, it will just be about getting three points by hook or by crook. We’ve got to find ourselves some sort of five or six game winning streak to get ourselves the old swagger back, so if that means a few more games of harem scarem one nillers, then i’d take it.

I understand and appreciate Arsene’s optimism, when he says we can challenge for the league, as he did so after the Southampton win, but the reality is that we’re just not there at the moment and so this season’s league feels almost like one that you just want us to get over and done with and secure a top four space so you can look at what we can do next season. Perhaps we get a cup run, but that’s about it really, so we need to just make sure we accumulate enough points to leave the rest of the pretenders behind for third or forth, then get on with our lives. After all, it’s pretty clear that them lot in West London are going to win the league, so if that truly does transpire, then I’d just like to forget this season ever happened if i’m honest.

There is some stuff on the official website about how big Per talks about how amazing Alexis is, but we kind of already knew that, and it doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t know, so I think i’ll say my goodbyes for another day and catch thee in the morrow.