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!

Newcastle preview: makeshift defence needs protecting, attack needs closeness

Howdy there partners! Happy Saturday and hopefully one in which all of Goonerdom is blessed with that holiest of things: three precious points.

It’s the black and white stripes of Newcastle United that come to town and quite frankly, after last weekend’s abomination of a performance in the first half against Stoke, I’m looking for one heck of an improved performance from those available today. And therein lies the nub of us on this chilly winter’s day: can we patch together a team capable enough of winning a game against a resurgent Newcastle team that have won six of their last eight and one against Chelski last weekend. They were the heroes for us against Mourinho’s men not seven days ago, yet now we find ourselves facing them as the enemy.

It’s a tough one to call. Over the years, even when we haven’t been great, you usually look at these games as ones that we win. Despite all of our grumbles about not really competing at the top of the league on a consistent basis for a number of years, when you look back at the end of the season and see the ‘W/L/D’ columns, there’s more wins than defeats. So it’s why actually, we get to be happy more than most – because we’re usually one of the best four teams in the division. But this season has been different. There haven’t been any league games in which we’ve looked comfortable at all in the league. Even the Villa game in which we smashed and grabbed three goals in a matter of minutes had its moments both before and afterwards. So I’m not going to expect us to buck this seasons trend and put Newcastle to the sword in the first half like Stoke did to us last weekend. Especially given our makeshift squad at the moment.

So makeshift, in fact, that it looks like Francis Coquelin might even find his way back into the matchday squad by virtue of the fact that he still has all of his limbs, joints and muscles in one piece. The injury list is lengthy and the recall of Coquelin from Charlton has been hastened due to absentees such as Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere and Ozil, in addition to Ospina, Koscienly, Monreal, Chambers through suspension and even Walcott, although I suspect he might be in the squad today based on Arsene’s comments this week. But it’s all looking a bit ropey defensively, isn’t it? As I said yesterday, it looks like it’s another defensive shuffle that will take place and I suspect we’ll see Debuchy slot in to central defence as the more experienced player in the squad. Mertesacker normally plays on the left of the two centre halves, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him shifted to the right to support Bellerin, whilst Debuchy plays next to Gibbs. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a worry for us defensively and given our recent transgressions in the league, i’ll be biting all of my fingernails every time a black and white shirt ventures into our half.

That’s why the responsibility of the midfield today will be essential. With Flamini back he’ll need to ensure that he gives as much protection to the two central defenders as he can possibly muster. With a side like Newcastle and the injuries they have, the temptation might be for him to venture forward more to support the attack, but that’s not his job and we really could do without some sucker-punching goals like we’ve conceded all season. He’s been quoted as saying that at times they like to win the ball back higher up the pitch, but if Newcastle play with pace on the counter with the likes of Cisse and Cabella, then we’ll need him to be a protector rather than a gallivanter in the opposition half.

I know Newcastle have been in form, but I suspect they’ll want to soak up pressure and not come at us too much. Pardew is not an idiot and will have seen how susceptible we are on the counter, so I think he’ll sit two holding midfielders in front of his back four and hope to hit us quickly on the break. That’s where the form of players like Santi and the Ox will be essential I think. Both will slot in to central midfield and I expect to see them the ones that will battle with Tiote and Colback in the midfield area. It will be on the likes of Sanchez and Welbeck to provide the support for Giroud, who will need a vastly improved performance from the game at The Britannia. He’ll be up agaionst Coloccini and probably Mike Williamson, so his role will be to hold off those two centre halves and bring our pacey wide men into play. We started to see signs of what these three could do together in the final third against West Brom, but today will be slightly different. Newcastle will try to suffocate the space around Giroud, so those little flicks around the corner and knock downs will need to see our front three operating very close together I think, if we’re to get any joy that is.

There’s no doubt we have the players that are technically capable of beating this Newcastle team later this evening, but the real question is around the confidence and mental fragility of this side. We’ve already drawn far too many games and every time we look to be stringing together some results we seem to come-a-cropper with a poor performance. At home it has tended to be draws when only a win will do. Away it has been the damaging defeats that have been hard to stomach.

I’ll be relegated to watching the game in the local pub, as I’m at a family event, but hopefully Ian and his boy (who have taken my ticket today) can bring the team some luck. We could do with it.

See you tomorrow. Hopefully i’m all chirpy because we’ve smashed the magpies. But I’m not expecting it.

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?

Confidence boost we all needed

Well that was certainly more fun last night, wasn’t it? A 4-1 win, the game all but over in the first half, a dominant display and some great goals to boot. Can’t ask for much more can you?

Now look, I know that there’s a distinct possibility that because there was no pressure on either side, it played into our hands as the better team. And I know that this was one of the worst Galatasaray teams that have graced this competition for some years. But gosh darn-it, it still feels good to see an Arsenal team sweep aside an opponent with such ease.

From the first minute we looked like we had purpose, poise and in Lukas Podolski, a man with a left foot that you wouldn’t want to play in a game of ‘Death Shot Headers and Volleys’. His goal in the third minute was textbook Poldi and, as we have seen already in his cameo appearances this season, there is no other player you’d rather see in that box with the ball dropping to his feet. He’s not an enigma, he’s blindingly obvious in what he brings to the team: end product. No pressing, no dribbling ability, he can’t beat a man, but he can whip in a cross and he can finish. Boy, can he finish.

To some extent you can see why he should be limited to a substitutes role, but I still think Arsène should give him more than five or 10 minutes in the games that matter. Because really, if we’re all honest, that game never really mattered. We may have halved the goal deficit we were supposed to get to top the group by halftime, but even against a poor Gala team, you’re never going to score six away from home.

Which leaves a tinge of frustration this morning about that Anderlecht result, because we’d have racked up 15 points and looked in a good position, had we not fluffed our lines at home a few weeks back. In hindsight that group was there for the taking and we’ve made life hard for ourselves in the next round by finishing second.

Still, that’s a conversation for another day: next Tuesday no doubt after we learn of our Champions League fate in the next round. For now, we should bask in the glory of victory, most specifically, of some vastly improved performances.

Let’s start with wonder-strike hero Aaron Ramsey, who’s second goal came straight out of the FIFA ‘have a crack’ archives from the Welshman’s left peg. It was a volley of such class that I’ll be astounded if it doesn’t get shortlisted for goal of the competition. Postage stamp too. But that wasn’t his only goal, nor does it sum up his performance, because he was good all over the park yesterday. He was back to Rambo MkII (aka 2013/14 version) and although we can’t really take too many positives from our final Champions League group stage position, we can certainly take heart from his performance.

That’s where yesterday’s game becomes important: the confidence levels. By scoring against Stoke, as well as twice in the game yesterday, I think it will do wonders for his confidence. Arsène has hinted it himself, previously stating that he needs to concentrate on the basics first and then the goals will come. Wenger’s words said to me that Ramsey places a lot of emphasis on goals as a deliverable of how he is performing. If that is the case, then these three goals in a week will be vital for us to see the best from him, so let’s hope he continues his good form on Saturday evening.

The return of Debuchy had an instant impact too. He may have looked shattered on the hour mark, but before that he was the same player that we lost to Moneychester City all those months ago. Getting forward, tracking back, winning headers – Debuchy showed us what we’ve been missing and as long as we keep him, Gibbs, Per and Kos fit and playing together, one hopes that our defensive form will start to pick up. Per had a good game too yesterday which, given how poorly he’s played of late when he hasn’t had Koscienly beside him, this will give him a lot of confidence going into the busy Christmas period.

So what now? I’m certainly not going to be counting my chickens and telling you that we could feasibly go on a run now. We felt the same after dispatching the same team by the same score line a couple of months back, didn’t we? So whilst I’ll be pleased to see a much needed confidence injection for some players, I have to say that it will mean the square root of naff all if we don’t put Newcastle to the sword. A Newcastle team riding high, after helping us out by ensuring Chelski don’t usurp that ‘Invincibles’ tag last weekend, I must remind you. However, this result was just the tonic that the team need and the returning players need to feed that back to those that stayed at home and transmit that confidence at London Colney when they’re all training together from tomorrow.

I feel good again about Arsenal. But that feeling can be fleeting if we revert to type this season. We have four days to find out.

See you tomorrow.

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.

Happy, but feeling a ‘little bit out of jail’

I spent most of yesterday evening – both pre, during and post match, lamenting the poor form of this Arsenal team. So whilst I’m obviously overjoyed that we beat a stubborn Southampton team, I still harbour serious concerns about the capability of Arsenal, version 2014/15.

That the goal came from Alexis was hardly a surprise, but that we had to wait until the last two minutes of what the yanks call ‘regulation time’, perhaps was. There’s no doubt in my mind that we deserved the victory, but there’s always something about a last-gasp victory that always feels a little forged to me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing because 99% of the time the opposition doesn’t have a chance to respond, but in my warped mind it feels a bit fraudulent. It’s weird, because had we scored in the first minute or two then I’d probably be telling a different narrative, but such is the manner of timings on goals that it feels like we got a ‘little bit out of jail’.

The reality is that we deserved three points. Southampton rarely threatened and, whilst we were hardly the cutting edge champions elect you’d hope we’d be, we still deserved all the points. Fraser Forster was in particularly inspired form, tipping over a Welbeck header in the first half, plus saving from both Ramsey and Giroud in the second. Perhaps it is such that ‘keepers with lots to do always look better (a topic of discussion with a few Gooners I met before the match and chatted to over a pint), but those were the types of saves that we haven’t seen Szczesny make of late. His replacement however, looks like he is growing with every game he gets in the first team, and I have to be honest and say that with the way he commands his box, you couldn’t be too surprised if Arséne opts to keep him in the team. After all, it was a similar situation that saw Szczesny usurp both Almunia and Fabianski about five years ago, so why not the young Argentine?

I still think Wojciech will return to the team as soon as he is fit, but at least it will give something for Arsène to think about, and I’m all for the ‘thinking’ about stuff you know.

So what about the rest of the team then? Well, like I said, I’m really not sure at the moment. On the one hand we’ve managed to string together back-to-back-to-back victories. But on the other hand, we’ve laboured to two out of three, so should we be worried? Again, I guess it is all down to the narrative. For example, if that result had happened this time last season, you and I would probably be talking about the resolute defence, ‘never-say-die’ attitude and winning mentality. But because we’ve stuttered all season, we all feel a bit sheepish about the team right now, not really able to make comments like “they’re up and running finally” for fear that we’ll only trip ourselves up in the next game. Which, incidentally, is that horrible annual schlep into Mordor of Stoke at the weekend.

I think I’ve said it before on this blog, but life is not so linear. X plus Y doesn’t always equal Z and our performance this evening doesn’t mean we’ll roll over and have our bellies tickled against Stoke on Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting us to swat aside a team with whom we’ve traditionally suffered at on account of their general unpleasentness, but likewise am I thinking that the performance of last nights game will mean a guaranteed loss for us.

The only real thing we should take from tonight’s game is that we’re three points richer come this morning. Plus, the arrival of Olivier Giroud appears to be having a definite impact. As both Billy and I remarked very shortly after his introduction, it’s the impact Giroud has on other players that is so surprising. Ramsey, for example, instantly looked happier and was involved in the build up to our scrappy goal with his cut back to Alexis. It’s fair to say that up until that point it had looked like ‘another one of those days’ for the Welshman, but he has still ended the game with an assist and for that we can all be grateful and appreciate his contribution. Just a few less of those Hollywood balls would be grand Aaron, thanks.

As for the rest of the midfield, it’s hard what to exactly make, again. Flamini did ok, but was never really tested, but then again I’d prefer to always say that he wasn’t tested. Cazorla looked decent enough, whilst never really threatening with any of his attacking play.

Going forward we had The Ox, who was good in patches but surprisingly to Billy and I, Arsène was booed for taking off. He had a few stray passes and as Bilbo pointed out, doesn’t get his head up often enough, so to see him come off for a more direct Giroud was no real surprise to me. And it was the right move from Arsène, with the benefit of hindsight, to back up the argument.

Defensively was probably where we can take most heart. Kos was brilliant and Per looked more assured. Chambers did well enough defensively and actually put in some really good balls in both halves, except there was hardly ever an Arsenal player getting on to the end of them. Monreal looked obviously more comfortable at left back and with that back four having picked up the confidence of three clean sheets, we’re in the best possible position going into a game at The Brittania.

So onwards we plough further into December with another three points tucked under our wings, with the chance to make it four in four on Saturday. If we can beat Stoke, I might even start to believe there is some momentum building.

Catch you tomorrow.

My mental mindset for Southampton

It’s Southampton at home for us today and I for one am going to change my mental approach to this game. All season, for all of the games against supposed inferior opposition, I have been a little bit blasé in my expectation levels. Pre match I’ve talked about the potential for slip ups, for defeats or draws, but I’ve not properly believed my own rhetoric. Not really. I’ve deep down just been waiting to see the three points fall on our laps like a gift from Dennis.

Well not any more. From the weekend I changed my mindset and actually expected us to slip up and yes, had the Berahino header been lower or an incorrect offside decision to our way, perhaps my mindset would have meant the square root of naff all. After all, what influence do I have on a game happening over a hundred miles away?

But as a superstitious fan, I always believe my little rituals make something of a small difference, so tonight I’m heading over to The Emirates knowing that the Saints could easily leave us feeling morose once again.

To say our form this season was ‘patchy’ would pretty much nail the head square on. It’s the one word that keeps reverberating in my mind every time we have a game to play. We’ve suffered the worst start to the season in a generation and you have to go back to the dark old Bruce Rioch days to remember what life was like when we were this poor.

There is a bit of cause for optimism tonight though. After all, we’ve picked up back-to-back wins, with another victory tonight being the first time we’ve managed three on the trot. It seems weird that we’re in December and this same team that came so close last year in the league (I know it’s not EXACTLY the same as last year, injuries etc, but the squad isn’t wholly different) has been so markedly different. But what it shows you is that form and confidence means so much in a game which is defined with such short margins.

So what of tonight? What will befall us? Well, the good news is that having already been kicked in the nuts by an almost full strength Southampton team in the Capital One Cup, we know exactly how they will line up. They will be with Schneiderlin – a big blow as their Talisman – but I’m Wanyama they have a ball winning midfielder who can protect the leagues most miserly defence. And they will be miserly tonight. I’m not expecting us to get many goals at all. The front three of Welbeck, Giroud and Sanchez was exciting in its mobility, but you could see that they just weren’t clicking. It will probably take another three or four games for that to happen so we should all be expecting a tough team to break down and not a front three of ours that will have a field day.

There are some that are saying that the seal has been broken; that the 0-3 home defeat to Moneychester City was an example of how Southampton can’t compete with the bigger teams. I say that’s poppycock. Southampton aren’t looking at Moneychester City and Chelski as their rivals, they’re looking at us and the top three and four spots as their end game. And they will be expecting to come to the Emirates and demonstrate why they’d only conceded six goals all season before Sunday’s loss.

If the game does look like it could be decided by a goal, it will be important for us to get the first I think. A Southampton counter, or sloppy bit of defending (I know! When have we seen that happen, right?) that leads us to being behind yet again, will be no good for the flow of the game. It will turn it into a match of defence versus attack and as we saw against United and Hull this season, that situation rarely works out in our favour. Usually with the defending team catching us on the break to finish off the game with a minute or two to spare (United this season, Villa the season before, Swansea the season before that).

Defensive stability will therefore be everything. Per and Kos at the heart of the defence gives cause for optimism, but there’s more to our defensive solidity than having the first choice centre halves fit. Chambers and will need to ensure that the high pressing of Clyne and Co will not be able to get in behind our back four and Flamini needs to repeat what he did against West Brom i.e. don’t venture over the halfway line. If he can keep his defensive composure then we can concentrate on letting the Ramsey’s, Cazorla’s et al try and unpick a stubborn Southampton reserve.

I don’t buy the comments that Southampton will be mentally fragile after their defeat to City. Everyone keeps forgetting that this is a team tipped for relegation, yet they keep defying the odds each week and they will continue to do so, because the pressure is completely off them. That’s what Ronald Koeman will be saying to his players tonight. He’ll tell them that a draw is ok, but to see if they can nip in with a goal against an Arsenal team that can look as wobbly as a freshly made piece of trifle.

We have to make sure that the trifle has been made with cement and not Robinson’s. Or some similar metaphorical description that involves us not conceding any goals.

See you tomorrow, hopefully with a nice positive blog, which talks about Arsenal back on form.

But I’m not expecting it. Honest.