Get out of Birthday Jail Card used

Last night Arsène Wenger must have played his invisible ‘Birthday Get Out Of Jail’ card, because after what we all watched in Belgian last night, there are not many people who have a physical or emotional stake in the club that will argue that we didn’t get quite fortunate, by picking up the 2-1 win.

I suppose the counter-argument is that fortune would be a back pass that the ‘keeper shanks into his own net, where as our goals were entirely of our own making through our play, but if you watched the game in the same way I did I’m sure you’d agree too that we were fortunate.

We never ever really got going. Perhaps the warning signs were there early on, when Santi was fed a delightful ball by the stand-out performer Alexis, only for the Spaniard to shin one right into row z. In the opening exchanges of a game you think to yourself as a fan “that’s ok, it’s good we’re getting into those positions, so we’ll get another chance”, but you don’t expect to see the opponent ‘keeper not worked for the vast duration of the game thereafter.

Some way through the second half, it occurred to me that this felt very much like the Hull game, which was a real worry. We were laboured, lacklustre and lethargic all rolled into one and the quick interchanges of passing between players that has typified Arsène Wenger teams done the years just wasn’t there. I pointed out to The Management how static we were part-way through the second half. As if to help me prove my point, I was able to show her six passes in a row that were to players standing still. Successful football teams move into spaces, create gaps, pull teams apart and work at creating openings to fashion chances. I saw none of that for the duration of yesterday’s match from Arsenal players. Paul Merson had said at half time that it was as if none of the Arsenal players wanted the ball. For a change, I agreed with him.

The goal we conceded felt to me as if lessons had clearly not been learnt from the weekend. Another floated ball into the middle, another defender caught under the flight (this time it was Chambers), another half-decent header from a half-decent attacking player. DeJa Vu and Arsenal another goal down to a side that we really should have been out of sight against.

Let’s be honest, I don’t want to seem like I’m being disingenuous to our opponents of the evening, but that was a distinctly average Champions League side that we came across yesterday. You could tell from their build up play and potency in the final third that they were not a side that would trouble 95% of teams in the competition. But they troubled us. They troubled us quite a lot actually.

Midfield was virtually anonymous I have to say. Yes, the defence was at fault for us going behind, but our midfield had an evening to forget. Jack and Rambo hardly impacted the game at all and, whilst he has come back from injury only recently, I hope that it was his lay-off that caused another average display from Ramsey and not a sign of a dip in form. We want to see the Ramsey from last season, not a regression into the player that tried flicks and long passes to the frustration of everybody. Again, let’s put it down to regaining his fitness for now, but I didn’t see any real penetration from the midfield. There are a lot of people in the media world that wonder what Özil does, but without wanting to put an injured player on a pedestal, that is exactly the sort of game we needed him in. I saw about three or four very good forward runs throughout the game in which it only needed a good pass from a player with vision to see, but instead we chose the simple five yard sideways pass and chose to build up play slowly again. Mesut Özil is a great player because he sees those types of passes, and it was that cutting edge from a player with vision that we missed last night.

But for all of this anguish, for all of my assertions in other blogs recently that we have not ‘clicked’, perhaps I should give a smidgen of credit to the players for ultimately securing a vital victory that one hopes is essential in rebuilding what appears to be a fragile level of confidence amongst the players. The goal from Gibbs was an absolute pearler and Lukas Podolski showed exactly what he is – an absolutely deadly finisher – Benjy and Steve had to be virtually broken apart via Whatsapp last night!

So the job is done and the wounds are minor and repairable. But there needs to be a vastly improved performance against Sunderland on Saturday afternoon.

See you tomorrow.

 

Walcott’s return needs realism

Jack says that Theo looks faster and stronger than before he was injured in January. Given that he has seen Walcott a lot closer up than I, he’s a better judge on that being a true statement, but if it does prove to be true then we can all start to get quite excited about his impending return.

Excitement mixed with a tinge of realism though. After all, he’s spent the best part of ten months on the sidelines, having spent a significant part of last season on the treatment table before that too. But his impact when he does get underway and back to full fitness cannot be underestimated. Let’s not forget that Theo was our top scorer two seasons ago and, even in the short period of time with which he played for us last season, he was still able to bag a few goals.

Statements about his pace returning and then some (fears from many fellow Gooners that the injury could have slowed him down a tad now put to bed) are great to hear, but it’s the comment from Jack about his timing that I found most interesting, because I think that was a telling admission from our midfielder. Perhaps there is an element of the new attacking players not quite being on the same wavelength of the existing established first-teamers?

At the beginning of the season I remarked that we have the option of pace for those teams that want to play a higher line this season against us. That we do indeed, but in order for us to be successful, we also need the players to provide those balls in behind defences too. Jack talking about the importance of Theo’s timing – whilst showing that Waddle knows very little about football, Walcott not having a ‘football brain’ I’m sure you recall – shows that perhaps he can add something different to our game that is not just pace, but a different type of threat, when he is up and running at full strength.

I will probably be caveating all of the potential Walcott benefits for the next couple of weeks. After all, think how long Jack has taken to get back to form, or Aaron before him. So expecting Walcott to bag a hat-trick this weekend against Sunderland (surely tomorrow’s game is too soon??) is probably asking a little bit too much.

I think we should also temper the excitement of Walcott’s return with a reminder of what life is like at the moment. Teams know we have bags of pace in Alexis, Welbeck, The Ox and now Walcott. They know that to play a high line is folly, so we are treated to repeated displays like the one at the weekend where our opponents are more than content to sit deep, let us retain possession and find them very difficult to break down. I think it will probably be a pattern of play when Villa, Burnley, Leicester, West Ham, West Brom, all come to The Emirates. I’ve noted at times that sometimes Theo is rendered a little bit redundant in these types of games because all of the play has to be in front of an opponents back four rather than behind, so whilst I too am excited about his imminent re-introduction into the first team, I am mindful of what to expect when the ‘smaller’ teams come to town.

Even if Theo plays this weekend in some capacity, he will most likely come across a Sunderland team more concerned with proving to their fans that they can actually defend, so I think the upcoming weekend game might even play out like a home fixture. Potentially. Sunderland could just as well come out all guns blazing and give us more space, but we’ll wait and see for that, saving the speculation on who might start for later on in the week methinks.

A quick one on our rivals for third and fourth spot. We are fortunate enough that our inability to effectively ‘click’ yet hasn’t cost us too much ground in our annual fight to be also-rans. If you can look for any positives from the weekend’s football, it’s that the Spuds, United and Liverpool all showed their respective frailties. So whilst we’re labouring, so are others. What we need to do now is to start building the momentum with a minimum of two wins within the next five days. We have the players to do it, as well as the ability over our rivals, but we need to see more belief from our team. Arsène often talks about the ‘mental strength’ of the team, but we haven’t seen that much of it so far this season (particularly against Hull where the second goal was down to ‘lack of focus’. What is that if not a lack of mental strength?), so we need to have some of that stuff delivered to our door for immediate injection into the players please.

Until tomorrow, where thou shalt be delivered unto the a match report so pure, it will grant you back your virginity. Or something.

No cup final repeat, let’s start a run

Ahh, that sweet, sweet feeling of a Saturday 3pm kick off. There simply aren’t enough of them these days and I for one am always happen when one comes around.

As for our opponents, it’s a repeat of the cup final in the shape of Hull, but two very different teams from the ones that rocked up at Wembley in May. Hull have made a number of impressive signings in my book, snapping up Hernandez and Diame, whilst Jelavic looks like he’s started to find his goalscoring form. He was cup-tied in May and so we didn’t have to worry about his potential threat in the cup final.

We too are a different side. On paper more potent in attack, but defensively more fragile, today will most likely see an Arsenal side with a new look about it. I think it might even be the first time a back four of Bellerin, Mertesacker, Monreal and Gibbs have ever started together. Two first teamers, one newbie and a full back out of position who admits playing at centre half makes him feel ‘strange’. It’s hardly filling me we comfort, you?

At least in midfield and attack you’d feel we have enough to pick up all three points today. Jack will surely start after two impressive international performances, whilst the decision lies with the manager on who partners him in the more anchored defensive midfield role. Given that Arteta is now back it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s thrust straight back into the team, but with the injury roll call we’ve had so far this season I would also not be averse to seeing the Flamster sitting behind Wilshere.

Santi Cazorla must surely be given a chance in the number 10 ‘free role’, with The Ox on the right and I’d expect Alexis on the left. Welbeck through the middle completes a forward line with enough pace and trickery to cause problems for Hull. And here’s the good thing: Steve Bruce has promised to ‘have a go’ today. If he is true to his word, then that front three might just find plenty of space with which to operate in if Hull press higher up the field, so I’m hoping that Bruce hasn’t fed us a red herring from his pre-match presser.

What we don’t need today is a repeat of the start of the cup final. Hull came out of the blocks quickly and sucker-punched us with two quick goals. We looked punch-drunk and dazed for about ten minutes after that second goal went in, but when we steadied ourselves the dominance and quality kicked in and we were worthy winners in the end. The first 15 minutes will be as important as anything for our back four. If we remain resolute then the confidence at the back will grow and we will begin to assert our dominance going forward. But we have to be strong defensively. It’s a big ask for players like Bellerin and Monreal to be thrown in, but if they show what they are capable of then I would hope we could keep Hull at bay.

After a week of talking – injuries, AGM, ticket prices, etc – it is so jolly nice to get back to the essence of why we’re all interested in this game – the stuff on the pitch that involves a football. This is the first of what a neutral might call a series of ‘winnable games’, but as you and I both know, Arsenal never make things easy and the idea of a run of games in which we experience no heart in mouth moments is a relatively unfamiliar one to us. However, if this team is serious about going for the title (which already feels a long stretch), then this is a game that we need three points from. By hook or by crook.

If we do pick up the win today, then I do feel that it will give us the perfect platform to build some momentum in the run up to Christmas. We may be depleted in numbers, but when you’ve got confidence behind you it always drags you over the line, so we need a bag of it whilst we’re patching up the team right now.

Come on Arsenal, let’s have it!

The boring predictability

How boring and predictable yesterday’s result was. The same old story for the same old match up which saw a Chelski team once again collect their three points from Arsenal like a child flipping open a PEZ dispenser and emptying the contents in to their palms.

I know I was overly negative yesterday, more than I’ve been before on this blog, but despite that facade of pessimism you always hope that you are proven wrong. When that doesn’t happen it still hurts to see your side succumb to yet another defeat against a team who, on the day, weren’t lightning years ahead. I’m sure the media will tell you otherwise today though. I won’t know. Mercifully, the Ryder Cup has helps me to avoid both Twitter and the media for the next four days, because I used up all of my data on my phone streaming it live last weekend. It means I can only check my feeds and look at websites when either at home of at work. Thankfully I can do enough other things in my life to avoid football for the next few days. Might take a few off from blogging too actually, as most of what will be said will most likely be in the fallout to the defeat.

I’m not even mad, angry or disappointed at the performance of the players, so it’s hard to critique where it all went wrong. I’m more disappointed at the Geoundhog Day that we consistently come up against when it comes to that scabby lot each season. I wish I’d have tweeted what I was thinking before the game: “we are either going to get battered or lose, or be the better team and lose, or it will be a really tight game. But we’ll lose”. Like I said: boring and predictable.

Mesut Özil was taking most of the flak in the immediate aftermath of the game, but once again Le Boss persisted with his stubborn belief that starting him out wide is a sensible option to see if we can make the system work. We’ve won four games all season and none of them have seen Özil be successful on the left. Arsène should surely be seeing this, so how long is this experiment going to go on for until he settles us back in to last years style and we start to win games again?

The finger pointing at Özil needs to stop though. Was he responsible for the penalty? Was he the one who let the ball drift over the top of the defenders in the 86th minute for Costa to flick the ball home? Of course he wasn’t. We were undone by magic from Fabregas, Hazard and Costa. Yes, Özil contributed to the toothlessness that was the Arsenal attack yesterday. And yes, he looked off colour when in possession of the ball, but none of our forward players were able to effectively stamp their authority of the game so concentrating our irritation towards one player is folly in my opinion.

As for Arsène’s spat with Jose, the only people who should really care about that are the journos, because it gives them a story to write their gutter-trash reports. It affords them licence to wheel out phrases like ‘Wenger’s lost it’, ‘Arsène lashes out’ and other hyperbolic statements designed for papers to be sold and clicks to be clicked. I don’t give a monkeys what went on or what was said. I only care about what happened on the green stuff yesterday and what happened saw us all realise that when all is said and done, we’re probably not going to get close to either of the oil whoring clubs this season, not with the way we’re playing at the moment in the league.

There are ten ‘big games’ that you’d probably say we have a season (Chelski, Moneychester City, Spuds, Liverpool and Man Utd) and so far we’ve picked up two out of a possible nine. You can win the league without beating all of these sides home and away, but you do need to pick up at least some victories against these sides, which is something that we unfortunately seem incapable of.

As for Arsène’s comments yesterday, it was another master art of deflection from our manager. It would help if the media asked better questions than ‘do you think you set a good example doing that (pushing someone)?’, but still, Arsène probably wouldn’t have answered properly if he’d have been given a decent enough question anyway. For example, did anybody post match bother to ask: Given that Jose deployed Fabregas – his playmaker – centrally, who contributed through an assist for the second goal, do you feel in hindsight that you should have deployed yours in a similar fashion?

Nope. They’re more interested in the soap opera drama stuff than tactical analysis of our team’s repetitive failure against a Chelski side who have the psychological ‘hoo-doo’ over us.

Post match comments from Le Boss about the ‘financial power’ of the Chelski team are again another attempt at deflection. It is true that the players that made the difference yesterday were all £30million+ in value, but when you have a £42million and a £35million player in your team, you can’t cry financial foul play and use it as a reason for the difference between the two sides. It makes you look like you’re clutching at straws. And those particular straws (the financial muscle of the oil whoring clubs) have been sitting in the cupboard for the best part of a decade, so it’s not as if we haven’t seen them before.

I don’t want to be too much doom and gloom though. I thought Wilshere and Cazorla looked on their games yesterday and it’s good to see Jack getting back to his best. There’s an international break too, so we can all look forward to seeing him damage his cruciate knee ligament in a pointless challenge in a pointless match that will rob us of another player for half a season or more. Oh, sorry, I said I wouldn’t go doom and gloom….oh well…

Perhaps this international break has come at a good time. It gives us all a chance to slump back into our comfy chairs and scowl a bit, before realising how much we miss Arsenal when it’s not around, before all getting excited again before the Hull game in just under two weeks time.

Try to have a good day. Avoid all the smirking Chelski ‘fans’ who didn’t even know who Chelski were eight years ago, but are now more happy to remind you now.

See you tomorrow. Maybe.

Galatasaray: eventful

Well that evening was certainly not without event, was it?

In terms of activity it was certainly a hum-dinger of a European night, with goals galore (thankfully almost all for The Arsenal) as well as a sending off and for those of us who didn’t manage to catch the Southampton Capital One Cup game, even a first sight of the Colombian stopper Ospina. Who has a very fitting surname that works well with a slow build up of noise before he takes a free kick or corner. I must say that I approve.

The night started off with trepidation, if I’m honest, because so far this season we’ve seen a lot of huff and puff from the team but the blowing down of the house hasn’t quite happened frequently enough for our liking as fans, wouldn’t you say? The nerves pre-game seemed to be more around whether or not Arsène would persist with what could be called ‘Project 4141′ (although I’m still yet to be convinced there is a massive difference other than personnel to last season), or whether or not he would recognise the impact of a centrally located Mesut Özil or not.

Thankfully for us all, the starting line-up seemed to be pleasing enough for the masses in the Tollington, as Le Boss’ decision to field a midfield of Flamini, Cazorla and Özil had craft, guile and an attacking set up to it to warrant the early domination our play deserved. With the Ox and Sanchez sitting either side of Welbeck we added directness and pace to our side that, right from the off, troubled a clearly inferior Galatasaray team.

Before the game I’d pondered with http://www.twitter.com/educatedgooner whether or not we should really be worried about a Galatasary side notoriously travel sick on their Champions League jaunts; I needed have worried, because the only spark that the Turkish side had came from their vociferous away support, who had decided that Guy Fawkes night would be just over a month early by lobbing flares into the amassed Arsenal fans standing in the beer garden outside.

We had the last laugh though. Or rather, Danny Welbeck had the last laugh on our behalf, as he noticed up his second, third and fourth goals of the season to claim to match ball and possibly the man-of-the-match award to boot. I say ‘possibly’ based purely on the fact that there were so many good performances:

The Ox
Direct running, pace, trickery and vision, perfectly exemplified by his superb nutmeg for Welbeck’s hat trick.

Alexis Samchez
Tireless running and pace that troubled the Turks all sending. A well taken goal that brings him up to five for the season and all of those media eyebrows after two games without a goal need to be lowered considerably. And slammed into a humble pie for consumption.

Mesut Özil
Another strong display. That’s three in a row people. But you won’t hear that from any of the hacks out there, because that doesn’t fit the media rhetoric, so expect him to be omitted from any commentary. But he was efficient in distribution, busy throughout and just does not lose the ball when he’s on form like that. Like, ever.

Lauren Koscienly
Strong in the air, pacey, composed and, for someone supposedly carrying a knock, is as robust as you’re going to get.

I could go through the whole team, because there wasn’t a single performance that was less than seven out of ten in my book. If you want to be harsh and criticise Szczesny for the sending off, then be my guest, but his replacement looked more than adequate and based on the short showing I saw it will be good for him to get some game time in Europe.

I hope Arsène sticks with what he’s got right now. He may have had it enforced upon him due to injury, but it worked, so I hope he sticks with it. We need all the help we can get with the game at the weekend, so to have the players in buoyant mood leading up to this game can only be a good thing, so let’s hope that the comprehensive victory does wonders for the confidence. Lord knows we’re going to need it on Sunday.

See thee in the morgen.

NLD nerves, despite everyone tipping us to win

Good morning to you on a very important day in the football calendar indeed. Derby day. The North London One. At home. Three points is the target and up and down the land (and the globe actually) there are Gooners like you and I nervously counting down the time to kick off. And it is nervous, isn’t it? Because let’s face it, without wanting to trot out all of the old cliché’s, the great form that we’ve had at home since the dawn of the Premier League era mean the square root of naff all today.

We host a Tottenham team who have just come off the back of a disappointing home defeat to West Brom (you can’t really call the midweek games the last games that the teams will have played because the two North London sides are completely different to the ones that will be rocking up today) and who have struggled to find their rhythm since the start of the season. In fact, you’d go as far to say that Spurs’ form is pretty poor so far. Over the last few weeks the Spuds have lost twice at home to West Brom and Liverpool, whilst also being pegged back by Sunderland away. So it’s hardly a Tottenham team that will be kicking off at The Emirates full of swagger. That’s what we’ve had during the previous 5-2 victories a couple of seasons ago, so I don’t really know what to make of the Spuds going in to this game. I mean, we could just as easily have that lot giving the games of their lives against us that belies their recent form, as we could see a comfortable evening of goals for our lads.

What does worry me is the fact that everyone is pipping us for a comfortable afternoon. When you’ve got people like Paul Merson saying we’ll have an easy afternoon and a 3-0 victory, Mark Lawrenson saying it will be a comfortable 2-1 and even Jamie Redknapp telling us the Spuds are a ‘million miles’ away from us, it instills anything but confident in your humble narrator here. Only because we’re not Chelski or City. Our dollar hasn’t been tainted with oil and we haven’t also managed to buy a truck-load of luck, so usually when everything points in Arsenal’s favour, we get a bloodied nose. Next week we’ll be on the receiving end of the pundits telling us that we haven’t got a chance against Chelski and it’s almost certain that what they say will come to pass, but when we are the favourites, rarely do we have it easy. I’m praying not to have that today. I’m praying for a real comprehensive victory that sees us a few goals up by halftime and a nice 45 minutes of jovial frivolity for the second half.

As for the teams, I suspect we’ll see the same side that dispatched Villa last week, minus The Ox for Alexis. So I am hoping that Arsene decide’s that Mesut should sit behind Welbeck and see if they can combine well as both did at VIlla Park. Defensively we’ll need Chambers to be at his best against a Chadli who looks a little bit more impressive than the five-minute player that played last season up against Jenkinson. The Spuds will play with a 4-2-3-1 and have Chadli and Lamela either side of Adebayor with Erikson sitting as the playmaker. Arteta will be responsible for making sure that Erikson doesn’t find space in between our defence and the midfield, so my hope is that he performs better than in the Dortmund game, in which he continuously let players run in beyond him.

It’s why Ramsey’s role in the team will be so important. Ramsey is at his best – I think – when he is starting from deeper and pushing forward. With Ramsey’s starting position being further up the field, it doesn’t give him the licence to be as successful with his driving runs I don’t think, so I hope Arsene opts for the Welshman sitting a little deeper than when he started the season. That would support Arteta and help to stifle the Spuds attack.

Our attacking quartet will need to find a way past Kaboul, Verthongen and Capoue who, up until his injury in the NLD last season, I thought looked like a decent player. Both him and Dembele can travel with the ball and look decent with it at their feet, but if Mesut can find those pockets in between their back four and the two deeper lying midfielders, he could have a good afternoon. He missed last seasons game because he hadn’t been signed in time, so I’m hoping he can show the world of his quality and build on the great performance of last week.

As Arsene mentioned in his presser yesterday, Ozil and Welbeck’s partnership was good last week and it has to be good today. Unlike two weeks ago when Welbeck found his chances few and far between, one suspects that he’ll be given more opportunities to put one away against this Spuds team. They play very open and do not have the requisite quality that Moneychester City have, so if Welbeck is presented with a chance it’s important that he puts it away. He opened his account last week in great poachers fashion, but he needs to get a run of games in which he’s scoring to secure his place in the side for the long-term. Let’s not forget that it was an excellent and deft touch of Giroud’s that won us this game last season, so that is what Welbeck needs to replicate today. If he can do it a few times too that would be grand.

We’ve drawn too many games already this season, so ideally we need the win more than anything else. A draw won’t really feel like we’ve mastered the ‘big games’ just yet, so its imperative that we don’t let a psychological barrier begin to build like it has in previous seasons. Having said that, it’s what I believe will happen today, as I think we’ll not see a Tottenham side anything else other than wanting to make a statement. I think we’re in for a tough afternoon and given our propensity to ship goals from set pieces, it wouldn’t surprise me if we get sucker-punched with a Kaboul goal from a corner or something like that. Chasing a football match is nobodies idea of fun, but I have a nasty feeling that’s what we might see this afternoon. After all, we’ve got form in that regard if you think about the two 5-2 victories.

I hope my gut feeling is wrong, I hope we can give them a smashing, so let’s all do our part to help the team to shout ourselves hoarse come 7.20pm London time this evening.

Come. On. You. Reds.

Looking objectively, there are still worrying signs

Having not been able to get an acceptable stream on any device in my household (I possess one of the world’s oldest Dell laptops and my iPhone never plays ball with streaming from t’internet), I must confess that today’s blog is a little bit light when it comes to personal experience of the game.

Given that the result was not one in our favour, I’m not sure if that is actually a blessing in disguise, as we wake up this morning knowing that there is one less competition we can win than there was this time yesterday.

Whilst lack of viewing means any kind of effective analysis or post mortem over the defeat at the hands of Southampton is relatively redundant, what I can give you is the thoughts of somebody who is looking a little bit more in black and white at the result based on responses from people on Twitter, as well as the manager. I certainly don’t have the gnashing of teeth that I have had before after watching a defeat, or in recent weeks the performances against Leicester and Dortmund.

So what of yesterday’s result? First and foremost, the word that springs to my mind is ‘unfortunate’, because it’s a competition that we have a more realistic chance of winning than the Premier or Champions League. But if we’re all honest with ourselves, with the lack of defensive options we currently have, there’s no way in which we could have still been in all four competitions come February next year and managed to keep all of our key players fit. Rotation has to be the aim of the game and Arsène did the right thing by giving Per, Kos and Gibbs the night off.

What is unfortunate however, is that by the sounds of it, our offensive squad players hardly covered themselves in glory. Rosicky, Podolski and Campbell all had a chance to prove that they should be more in the managers thoughts than they are, yet the fact it was a only a superb Alexis finish from a dead ball position within 15 minutes that we had to show for our troubles come full time, shows that they clearly didn’t show what they are capable of. Goals are not everything, but from what I’ve read Rosicky and Podolski were particularly notable in their poor performances, whilst Joel Campbell’s quiet night will have a lot of Gooners wondering if we have a Costa Rican Carlos Vela. Although admittedly he did love this competition and scored a few decent goals in it too.

It’s the fact that the squad players didn’t perform which worries me more than the actual result. If we’d have lost on penalties after a 4-4 draw in which all of the forward players had scored there’d probably be more cause for optimism, yet our laboured attacking play makes you wonder if beyond the first 13 or 14 players that regularly play for the first team, we have enough quality to cover if another injury crisis sets in at the pointy end of the team.

But perhaps snap-judgements should not be the Soupe de jour and we should accept that it was an off night for Arsenal. Let’s not forget that this wasn’t a League One side we were up against. Southampton are once again surprising everybody and with the way Koeman has them playing at the moment, I think they’ll be a top 10 Premier League side come May, easily. A penalty and wonder strike aside, the teams appear evenly matches and when Southampton next visit the Emirates in the league, we won’t be taking the opponents lightly in any way, shape or form.

Back to the squad rotation worry, and there’s part of me that wonders if the fact some of these players aren’t played enough (we all know Arsène isn’t a fan of rotation), makes a difference in performances like this. After all, being asked to play 90 minutes after you’ve barely featured as a sub could perhaps lead you to being slightly off-key on a night like last nights. Maybe I’m being too lenient, but if Arsène rotated a little more game-by-game, maybe we’d have seen a different Rosicky or Podolski? Genuinely not sure with that one.

So it’s hardly the best preparation for the weekends NLD, but hopefully it won’t affect the players’ confidence too much, because the likelihood is that Wenger will make wholesale changes to his team. Worryingly, he spoke of slight knocks to Mertesacker from the weekend, but he did say that he should be ok. At this point I’m sure you’re rolling my eyes at the prospect of some of our defenders already being ‘on the edge’, but given that I’m becoming a bit of a broken record on the defensive deficiencies in depth, I won’t labour the point too much. Suffice to say I hope you are crossing everything every week to ensure that we have our defenders remain fit until at least January.

Before I sign off for the day, there’s one point Arsène did mention in his post-match press conference, which was about having Diaby as a defensive minded midfielder. It’s an interesting comment because he has all of the physical attributes to play that role, but given his propensity for an injury or seven, I do find it surprising that Arsène is talking up a man like Diaby to play a role in which you’ve got to be a bit robust in ball winning. It also means that Diaby would have to curb his natural instinct to galivant forward to support the attacking players. We’ll also have to be wary as fans that we attach too much hope that he can fill the gap that exists in defensive midfield. This is a guy who has all too often broken down so quickly he has barely put together a run of five games, so to expect him to be anything else other than injured in a months time (as sad as that would be), would be to ignore his previous. But hey, maybe I’ll be proven wrong and he’ll be the missing link that spearheads our title challenge.

Just don’t put any of your hard-earned cash on it.