Chambers’ versatility is an asset, but shouldn’t avoid him finding his place

The Monday after the weekend that was the NLD and I’ve still got the slightly bitter taste in my mouth from the fact we didn’t win. Of course, that could also be the taste of remaining toothpaste that I didn’t manage to extract from my mouth through proper rinsing, but I’m going to stick with my original though process and say it was the 1-1 draw on Saturday evening.

As usual after a big game, there have been a few players who have had their comments released on the site yesterday, such as Per and Gibbs. And as usual they don’t really say anything you wouldn’t expect to hear from slightly disappointed players. They know that Spuds team was bang average, we know it, the whole freakin’ world knows it. But there’s little we can do other than start to worry about the next encounter which is Galatasaray away on Wednesday night.

There was one player that appears to have been singled out yesterday from Arsène for some praise, in the shape of Calum Chambers, who picked up another booking for his exuberance. That was a minor blot on his copybook for the day (and the season as a whole actually) on Saturday, but by and large he had another impressive display and is showing both versatility and ability to be able to be a long success at The Arsenal, should he continue his current trajectory.

Arsène spoke of his engine and ability to keep going. At 19 and eager to impress you’d expect nothing less, but playing both centre half and full back is no mean feat, I have to say (having played both before in my time). As a full back you may not have as much defensive pressure on you to be the last line of…erm…defence…against opponents, but you are expected to operate as an auxiliary winger in today’s game. At the weekend Chambers certainly offered that option to The Ox on the overlap and it was also good to see him able to actually whip one or two balls into the box there too.

The danger with somebody who is as versatile as Chambers is that he becomes a Jack of all trades and a Master of none. Speaking ahead of the Galatasaray game Arsène has said that he was contemplating using Chambers as a defensive midfielder, but the fact we only have four first team defenders has forced his hand to player Chambers at right back. It’s great that there is somebody so capable of delivering top performances across many positions, but longer term it may do Chambers more harm than good. We need to find a home for him in the first team within the next two to three years I think. The good news is that at 19 he still has time on his side and we can continue to use him where there is a need. Well, we pretty much have to at this stage!

He seems quite grounded too I think. Very well spoken, doesn’t seem overwhelmed by the inevitable increase of attention he now gets, something that Le Boss had mentioned beforehand about Chambers when talking about his ability to handle pressure. This all adds up to the right measure of a successful footballer in the making and £16million is already looking like it might be a snip. He will (hopefully) drop the over eagerness in the tackle which will lead to a suspension any game now (he picked up his fourth booking of the season at the weekend), but thankfully – injury aside (and we all pray that doesn’t happen) – he’ll be available for Sunday’s game at Stamford Bridge. Heck, we need all the best possible players available for that one.

It all still feels very ‘let’s let the dust settle’ today, so there’s not really much else going on. The Champions League tie isn’t for another couple of days and so the build up to that probably won’t start in earnest until tomorrow. So with that in mind, I’ll leave you to go about your Monday business, and check in with you tomorrow to see what’s up.

Laters.

Timing in football – will youth break through?

Morning fabulous Gooner colleagues. It’s Thursday, we’re one day closer to a home game against the Spuds, but all has gone relatively quiet on the Western Front, that front of course being the Arsenal official website.

There has been an interview with Isaac Hayden, who talks about the positives from the game on Tuesday, notably some of the defensive displays. He’s a guy who must be looking at the next few months and secretly hoping that a high volume of games will force rotation upon Arsène and push him into the managers choices at centre half. With Chambers now almost indefinitely operating as a right back until the January window, one of Bellerin and Hayden will almost certainly get game time. One would naturally assume that is would be Bellerin who slots in on the right and Chambers pushed in to the centre, but the manager will have a decision to make if we pick up just one more injury or a suspension at the back, because both are young and untested and both now have the benefit of another game of first team football to wet their appetite for more.

Having not watched either, I’m hardly best placed to say which of the two is more advanced in their development, but I would hazard a guess that Bellerin represents the least risky of the options at right back. That would mean an injury to a centre half would see Chambers slot in instead of Hayden.

Of course, if Chambers gets injured or is suspended, it might force the managers hand.

It’s interesting because sometimes from the most unlikely of sources you can find a very good player from within the clubs ranks. Forgive me for sounding Arsènesque in my ‘Likeanewsignism’, but I think back to how Flamini broke into the team on a regular basis as a full back and then a midfielder. Nobody saw that coming when he performed as a full back for most of the Champions League final season, yet he performed admirably. Likewise, if I’m honest I never thought he’d consign Gilberto Silva and Lassana Diarra to an almost permanent place on the bench during the 07/08 season. But he did and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that, if forced (through injury to others) with a sequence of games this season, one of Bellerin and Hayden actually become a more permanent fixture in the team.

Of course, there could just as we’ll be the likelihood that either of those players go the way of Miquel, or Eboue before them. However to Miquel’s credit, he was hardly played as a centre half when called upon by Arsène, so who knows how much confidence that knocked him back that he was going to make it at Arsenal. Confidence in football is massive, as it helps to push a player to their limits, as we saw Aaron Ramsey prove last season. Getting that confidence can come with games, but it would be a bit of a Catch 22 situation for Arsenal fans, because the only way we’ll see someone like Hayden/Bellerin get game time will be at the expense of our strongest back line, which none of us really want to see.

There’s one more player who I really think should be given a crack at the first team. And that is a player who was already on the fringes of the first team, but never really managed to get a run of games, so I’m not convinced that he’s a player who will ‘never make it’ at the club. On Tuesday night, from what I’ve heard, Francis Coquelin had a very impressive game at left back. He is always a player I have rated and I still remain convinced that, if given game time, he could be a successor to Arteta. He has the legs on our captain, he’s a ball winner, but he’s also good in distribution. He showed one or two games a couple of seasons back that he can perform in the Premier League, but unfortunately for him he was never really given a consecutive run of games, which subsequently never truly allowed him to find form. I see a lot of Flamini in Coquelin in terms of how his Arsenal career could evolve, but again, I just wonder whether or not the only way we’ll truly see his potential is through a double long-term injury to Arteta and Flamini. The down side to that I’ve mentioned above, but the timescale for Le Coq is also running very short I think. Arsenal will surely almost certainly go in for a defensive midfielder in January, which means that Francis probably only has three months to force his way into the managers plans.

It’s why the COC was such a shame to see us knocked out of it. An additional game might have given another chance for him to prove his worth, but that is now gone, thanks not to the performance of the younger players, but the more senior and experienced squad players. But I guess so much in football is about timing as much as anything else, and Coquelin’s time has probably come and gone two years ago. Will the same happen with Hayden and Bellerin? We’ll find out in the next three months.

Catch you tomorrow.

Nail biting defensively, with last chance saloon offensively? Southampton preview

Right, it’s match day, so let’s get any negative stuff out of the way before we concentrate on the footie, shall we? You all know where I’m going with this first…

Mathieu Debuchy passed his initiation test at Arsenal, confirmed by the club yesterday, with the now obligatory long-term injury forcing our first choice right back out for three months. That’s a third of a season people. It means that there are no more lives left for our defence when it comes to fielding an experienced first team back four. Calum Chambers will be asked to play as right back between now and December and, whilst we all think he’ll do a decent enough job there, it means we have precisely zero experienced centre halves for when the inevitable injury happens to Per and Kos.

Let’s not labour on this point about lack of cover from the summer too much, but Arsène: you got us into this mess by not adequately replacing Thomas Vermaelen (because he admitted yesterday that Chambers was intended as a full back cover signing), so you can get us out of this. Good luck.

Anyway, like I say, let’s not go all head bangy over something that we can do nothing about and look towards tonight’s Capital One Cup game against Southampton. It’s a really interesting fixture to call. If it was a league game or a an FA Cup game, you’d have to say we’d be overwhelming favourites, but because it is a competition that is fourth choice I the pecking order from Arsène, one would have to assume that there’s an element of risk from Southampton tonight, because we don’t really know what team Koeman is going to put out against us. He’s said himself that he’ll go for his strongest side possible which, if true, will represent a very stern challenge for our shuffled pack.

I do expect Arsène to shuffle, and shuffle quite hard actually, because at this stage in the season and with the team having already picked up plenty of injuries there is no rhyme nor reason why a first team player should be risked tonight. In goal we should see the arrival of Ospina, whilst the back four needs to be totally changed, so I’m hoping we see Bellerin, Hayden and Semi Ajayi too. The final slot should be given to a Flamini or Coquelin to cover, but I suspect Arsène will give it to Chambers, in what will be a night of Arsenal fans biting nails hoping he doesn’t break down or pick up a card that prohibits his involvement on Saturday.

The midfield should include Coquelin if Flamini is in defence (the most sensible option in my opinion given his age and experience) and he should be accompanied by Diaby and Rosicky in the midfield. With a front three of Podolski, Campbell and Akpom (who the manager has talked up pre match), I think our attacking options should have enough to show Southampton the depth of our squad. It’s telling that as each season goes by, this competition has become more about rotating squad players than blooding youth, which is pleasing from my perspective when I think about the number of injuries we seem to get every season.

You have to look at the attacking senior players and wonder if this is one of their few chances in the early stages of the season to give Arsène a headache. Joel Campbell didn’t even make the bench at the weekend and with his chances now even more remote with the signing of Welbeck, you have to feel that only an exemplary performance tonight can force his way back into the managers plans, which will be a real shame. He’s somebody we’ve all been excited to see what he can do since his performances in the World Cup but it already feels like, should we get knocked out against the Saints this evening, that he won’t be afforded many more chances to shine on the Emirates turf. Being shunted into the last chance saloon before you’ve even started a game for The Arsenal is harsh, but it’s the competitive nature of the modern squad game this evening I guess.

If Southampton play a full strength team tonight, with players like Pelle, Schneiderlin, Ward-Prowse et all, it will be a real game we’ll have on our hands. But even if they rotate from the weekend, we know what they will offer. They will press high and look to close down space from the Arsenal back four from the off, which will mean composure for our young defensive charges is of paramount importance, hence why I think the need for a Flamster is essential in defence.

It’s a tough one to call, but hopefully it’s one that sees our team come out on top, providing a good boost for the weekends action.

Have a good’un.

Formations aren’t the problem, form is

Hello fellow Arsenal supporting friend. I am glad you made it. Shall we converse about the only real team in London worth talking about? Why not, eh? But before we do, I must say, I’m looking forward to the pasting that Chelski receive today from the media after they could muster only a 1-1 draw at home to a Schalke team that are currently languishing towards the bottom of the Bundesliga.

Or how about Moneychester City, whose opponents Bayern managed just three shots less than Dortmund, but who ultimately came away with the same amount of points as us from Germany? I’ve already seen the Metro today, who talk about how City put in a gutsy performance. It would be interesting to see what the response had been had City conceded in first half stoppage time. Media narratives and all that jazz…

That’s not to excuse The Arsenal. We were dreadful and there needs to be a reaction this weekend when we rock up against The Villans in Birmingham. The players have already come out with their apologies, but it’s not that which we seek, it’s victories.

But two wins from seven is hardly title contending form, so Arsenal fan amongst Arsenal fan is currently trying to dissect why we have started so poorly. Injuries? Perhaps. But we have a squad and players with quality enough to put on better displays than we’ve seen. Injuries are part and parcel of the modern game, regardless of the frequency with which they seem to happen to our beloved team. Mathieu Debuchy took to social media yesterday to tell his public that he will find out tomorrow if he needs ankle ligament surgery. One suspects the answer, given the side that he plays for, is almost certainly going to be ‘yes’. That will most likely keep him out until November and the exact problem we didn’t want when the window slammed shut has befallen us earlier than expected. But expected nonetheless.

But I’ve spoken enough over the weeks about the injury curse. Lord knows, you’ve probably read enough from everyone who has something to say about Arsenal, so you don’t need me rabbiting on about it. Instead, I wanted to talk briefly about this change of formation we’re supposed to have had this season.

Now I’m no expert, able to tactically dissect each Arsenal game and offer insight and intelligence that will make you say out loud ‘huh, interesting’, so I can only comment on what I see. There seems to be a general consensus that Arsène has changed the formation of the side this season from last year’s 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-4-1 formation. This is, according to some, having a detrimental effect on the way in which we play our football. We are being overrun in defensive midfield and we are not looking as fluid as we did this time last year. So this widely held view is that we should ditch 4-1-4-1 and return to the 4-2-3-1 formation.

As I said, I’m no tactical genius, but I don’t really see that our formation has changed at all from last season. Last season we had one player at least dropping deep to cover defensive space (usually Arteta), with one player operating in that all action ‘box-to-box’ role (usually Ramsey) and the creative playmaker in front of them (usually Özil). Then in front of those there was your two wide men and a forward.

Given that Özil is afford licence to roam the pitch as he pleases, that Arteta is still sitting at the base of the midfield and that Ramsey’s role he’s been asked to perform, how has our set up in the middle of the park changed at all? Even the front three hasn’t really changed that much in style, just in personnel, with Alexis out wide and Welbeck up top. Özil’s free role has been shifted further forward to accommodate Wilshere, but that hasn’t really changed us that much, has it?

I’m no Arsène apologist – he frustrates the hell out of me with his actions sometimes – but this perception that he is failing tactically because of the change in formation is a misnomer to me. It’s a convenient school of thought for those that want to use the ‘Arsène doesn’t do tactics, that’s why he should go’ brigade, because I don’t think much has changed tactically from last season. Besides, the players who are asked to do the attacking part of the team are given licence to be fluid in their positioning anyway, so saying that we have defined players for each part of the pitch is a fallacy anyway. It’s the fluidity of the side that made us so successful in the first half of last season, to which I remember blogging about at the time, so I’m certainly not going to suggest Arsène goes all Mourinho on us (shuddering at the thought) and asks his players to be very precise in their role in the team. That is not conducive to the attacking and exciting football we can produce.

So if we have a strong squad (except defence), and the formation and style hasn’t changed, then what has goner wrong that has stopped us from clicking just yet? In my opinion, it’s something as simple as form. Mesut is out of it, Ramsey is failing to replicate it from last season and the back two aren’t showing it (we’re conceding at set pieces again and Dortmund’s two goals were preceded by some very laboured defending I must say). Too many players haven’t clicked in to gear and we have to hope they can. And quick.

You can’t train form. You have to play your way through the bad stuff. That’s what turned Rambo into last seasons world beater and is looking like it’s starting to have the desire effect with Wilshere. We just need a few more players to show form and I think we’ll be back on track.

Anyway, that’s just my uninformed opinion, but what’s yours?

High pressing to Mesut’s advantage? Dortmund preview

So apparently the footballing gods are testing Arsène’s ‘threadbare’ rule by conspiring to see how many of our defenders can be injured at any one time, before Arsène loses it and tells Stevie Bould to warm up with a green bib ahead of tonight’s trip to Dortmund.

Our first Champions League group stages appear to have coincided with a bout of plague that is ravaging our back line. Symptoms are varied in each case, but the upshot is that we are looking at definite absences of Debuchy and Monreal, whilst Chambers has picked up a knock but should be ok to play. With Arsène having gambled on having only six first team defenders for four positions, it appears as though normal service has been resumed with regards to his gambles falling flat on their faces.

Of course, the reality of the situation the team has tonight is that there is still a strong enough defence to call upon, with Gibbs returning to action and Chambers slotting in at right back. With Szczesny in the sticks behind them, it’s not as if we are short of first team experience, so my apparent serious concern above is a ‘little bit tongue in cheek’. I just hope we don’t pick up any more bumps or bruises this evening, because we can ill afford any more absences as the games come thick and fast.

As for our midfield, one would assume that Arteta will come in for Flamini, with Ramsey and Wilshere once again playing through the middle behind a front three of Özil, Sanchez and Welbeck. The latter two of that three performed well on Saturday, so I’m hoping that the former – a German international with quite some reputation – can draw on some German inspiration in his home nation. Mesut has been shunted wide in recent weeks and, whilst Arsène has been leaping to the defence of his most expensive bit of shopping, there must be part of him that realises that we need to get Özil into the centre as soon as possible. But with Walcott still a few weeks away and Wilshere having Messi’d the game at the weekend, it’s fairly obvious that he will start through the middle.

Our opponents this evening have their own injury worries too, so perhaps it is not just us that has the curse of the footballing gods to agonise over, as a number of first team players won’t be rocking up in yellow come 7.45pm. Reus, Hummels, Sahin, Gundogan and Blaszczykowski are all out, so it’s up to Shinji Kagawa to provide the creativity after returning to Dortmund from United in the summer. I remember seeing him against us the first time we were drawn against Dortmund; he was a handful throughout and one of the better players in both games. The question will be whether or not he has bedded back into his new-old team quickly enough, but I think he’s already scored for Dortmund, so I suspect we’ll see a decent performance from him tonight.

We know what test Dortmund will provide to us tonight, having played them for what feels like every season since their sustained return to the Champions League a few years ago. They will look to press us high and reduce the space we have to conduct our short tiki-taka passing style out from the back. But this is a different Arsenal team now. If you press us high up the pitch, it’s not just Theo Walcott or bust for us, so Dortmund will surely be wary of the lightning counter attack that we possess with Welbeck and Alexis. A high line would be delightful to see from my perspective, but surely that would be suicidal from Dortmund, so something has to give. For if they press high from the front, they will need to push their back four high too. Otherwise the space in between the back four and defence would be far too much.

If that does happen, that the back four of Dortmund sit deeper whilst the front players push higher, Mesut Özil has to be ready and up for it tonight. If he’s allowed to roam in that no-mans land between defence and midfield, it will afford him time rarely granted in the Premier League, so he’ll need to capitalise after a poor display against Moneychester City.

So the good news is that, in theory, we have different options to beat Dortmund, either through the pace against a high line, or the space of Özil and Rambo to operate in between the yellow and black defence and midfield. But one things for sure, however we look to overcome Dortmund, tactics alone won’t see us pick up all three points in the Westfalenstadion. We need good performances from nearly all of our players if we want to overcome the German runners up, which means no passengers like there were on Saturday. If we start well, take confidence from our unbeaten run so far, then catch Dortmund on the counter, I fancy some three pointage come 10pm this evening. The team is starting to gel and hopefully the positives from the weekend can be emphasised.

Come on you reds!

We wait on Debuchy; but not on Jack – why squad rotation is important

Morning friend, I hope you are well, recovering from the horrific prospect that after one game against a frankly awful QPR Man United are ‘back’ and ready to win every single game between now and the end of time? I’m certainly fearful of their awesomeness in every position. I mean, how will they ever concede again with the defensive solidity of Blackheart, Jones and Evans in their team? Football will become a boring repetition of 4-0 wins every week between now and the end of existence. Oh, woe is us, for life will never be the same!

Of course, the truth is a lot more palatable to stomach, which is that as the commentators on Sky Sports said yesterday that QPR were the perfect opponents to play at home after a series of poor results in the league. They were abysmal and I’d love to say that I can’t wait until they rock up at The Emirates, but you and I both know they’ll be disciplined, tough to break down and with a ‘keeper that decides to have the game of his life when we play them. It’s how things seem to happen in this universe.

The Arsenal chatter is understandably all about Mathieu Debuchy today, with the variation upon the theme being dependent on how long he will be out for, although the diagnosis from the journos appear to be that it’s ligament damage. Depending on who you believe there looks to be between two to three months out injured, which kind of figures, but there won’t be a better indication of the exact time for a few days I expect. Debuchy himself stated on his Facebook page that it was not a fracture and he was having further medical tests today, so I suspect it will be a pre or post match response from a prompt from Arsene that will give us an idea of his time on the sidelines.

If it does turn out to be about two months, it puts massive pressure on Chambers until December and with only Bellerin behind him in the pecking order, highlights just how ridiculous it is that Arsene has failed to fully address our overall options at cover in defence. There will be a lot of pressure on the first team defensive players and with our injury record even so far this season looking terrible (I think I saw somebody say that we have picked up an injury in every game this season or something crazy like that), you can almost certainly envisage a time in which we are down to Harry Redknappesque ‘bare bones’ between now and Christmas.

But let’s not get too caught up in the ‘what if’s at the moment, because there is the small matter of our opening Champions League game tomorrow night, a game in which we once again lock horns with Dortmund who themselves appear to have a bit of an injury crisis going on too. More on that tomorrow, but I’m just pleased the game has come ona Tuesday instead of a Wednesday, because I’m still not too sure whether or not I’m happy about a draw against the Champions on our own turf, as I mentioned yesterday. So the quicker I can put that result to the back of my mind the better.

One person who I’m sure will be starting will be Jack Wilshere and, with Arsene singing his praises about answering his critics, his performance on Saturday is exactly why I hope that we get better at using squad rotation this season. My view is that you can’t have the same 11 players playing the best football every game throughout the season. Footballers are human and are prone to off days, as Aaron Ramsey showed at the weekend, so for me it is important that you ensure that players are rotated enough so that they have enough game time under their belts to pick up where others are unable too, which is why seeing jack step up in the absence of a good performance from Ramsey, was so great to see. I love that Jack is one of ours, that he’s an Arsenal youth product and that he’s English, but if I’m honest I just want to see 11 players in an Arsenal shirt playing well and winning matches. That’s what counts and if that means that they all have to come from Venezuela, Bogotá or Singapore, I don’t really care as long as The Arsenal are on top.

So for me, the most important thing about Jack having that game is that we know that he can be relied on to take the game by the scruff of the neck, that he is getting back to somewhere near the player we saw before his numerous injuries set in, that we have a guy who is going to shine. And who can begrudge him a lot of praise after some of the drubbings he’s had from the media about both on and off-field activities. Hopefully we see a another sound game tomorrow night that will require the likes of Paul Scholes to stick it in his pipe and light one up on it.

That’s pretty much it from me for this Monday. You make sure that your world is filled with goodness, which for me, usually means logging on to Arsenal.com every once in a while during the day.

Catch you tomorrow.

Can we make that final step? City preview

Well Mr Matchday, you certainly took your sweet time to arrive, didn’t you? Keeping me waiting like a disgruntled commuter at a National Rail train station wasn’t my idea of fun, but you’re here now, so let’s not bicker and just get on with the rest of our Saturday, shall we?

It’s an early one for us all today, as the fates have conspired to drag us into the horrific world of early kick offs. Look, I have no real problems with the early starts in terms of the teams ability to be ‘up for it’ (it is ridiculous to assume that our players can’t be up for early kick off games based on the travesties of last season), my issue lies purely with the fact that an early start means getting up earlier on a Saturday which is not something I’m overly enamoured with. There’s also the reduction in hours of pre-match amber nectar supping. I like a beer, but I’m not starting my day at 10am with one, so it leaves me with just about enough time for a solitary pint before heading over to the ground.

All this is just the pre-amble to the main event though, so I suppose I shouldn’t be the archetypal moaning Brit and move swiftly on to our own raison d’être, which starts at 12.45pm UK time.

There’s no doubt this is by far and away the most difficult test that The Arsenal will have faced this season. The visit of Moneychester City represents the first litmus test of whether or not we have learned from our recent poor history against any of the top four clubs of seasons past. Last season saw us fail to pick up wins against City, Chelski, Everton and even the ailing Man United, so a marker of whether or not this team has the capability to challenge the top teams will need to be placed today.

I’ve said before that from a points perspective, you can easily win the league as long as you pick up points against the teams lower down the table, which is true if you think about the maths behind the logic. Home and away wins against teams from 8th position in the league downwards gives you 72 points, which is approaching a decent points tally to have a go at the league. But to get over the line you need to have wins against the bigger players not just for those few extra points, but for the psychological boost that big game victories provide. That’s why today is important. It’s not so much about the points, but about the belief that will be instilled in the team, through taking a scalp like Moneychester City.

Arsène has a litany of options at his disposal to draw upon, which is what also makes this game exciting to blog about this morning, because until those first whispers of the team sheet come in, we have no idea who is in the squad, let alone the starting eleven. I hope Arsène opts for ‘pace, pace, pace’ and we see Welbeck flanked by The Ox and Alexis, but I suspect that Özil or Cazorla might be moved to the left, as I think Arsène wants to include both in his team selection. I’m certainly not in the camp that believes having Özil out wide is conducive to getting the best out of his game, but that appears to be where his temporary home is at the moment, so we’ll all have to accept it. I also seem to be in the minority at the moment regarding Cazorla. I actually don’t believe that the diminutive Spaniard has had the best of starts to the season, flitting in and out of games far too much (an accusation oft levelled at Özil but not his teammate), so I wouldn’t be too worried if the Ox was preferred. I love Santi as a footballer and when he is on song his game is fabulous to watch, but I just feel like he hasn’t hit the form of when he arrived and it’s a shame that we’re not seeing the Santi that we all know can change a match. Perhaps I’m being too harsh.

The midfield also has a plethora of options to choose from, so Arsène’s difficult decisions don’t just stop at the pointy end of the team, as he’ll need to work out who from Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky and Flamini occupy the two midfield positions if, as expected, both Özil and Cazorla play. I suspect the decision will hinge on how recovered Rambo is from his midweek ankle roll, as I’d think the first two names from that list I’ve just reeled off, will be given priority. It will be another source of irritation for Rosicky, but Arsène isn’t going to drop his captain or last seasons player of the year, so he’ll just have to accept it.

As for our opponents, a Jovetic injury is all I believe they are suffering from, so we know that they will be at almost full strength when they line up against us. Last season they were the free-scoring champions, but I wonder if Pellegrini will be as gung-ho in a match today as his team was at times last season. At The Emirates he needed only a draw realistically to ensure that his team kept on the march to the title. Today’s game is similar in requirements for his team I suspect, i.e. do not lose, so I wonder if he’ll look to try and stay solid defensively whilst catching us on the counter attack.

City will rely on the guile of Silva and Nasri, sure for a spicy reception as always, whilst Dzeko will occupy both Per and Kos at varying times. It’s a team that has threats all over the park, but despite our less than stellar start to the season, I think the openness of today’s game will give our players the chance to express themselves more freely and occupy space that wasn’t afforded to them against Palace or Leicester.

I feel cautiously optimistic about today’s game. Let’s hope it’s not misguided optimism. A win would be a perfect catalyst for a good run against a number of difficult opponents, but I think we have the firepower now to cope with our schedule and demonstrate to the rest of the league that we’re serious title contenders.

Victories against teams like City feels like the final piece in our league title puzzle. That one final step. That’s all we’ve got to overcome.

Come on Arsenal!