Arsène needs to use all of his shoes

Arsenal must really hate it when their own news gets filtered through the press before they even have a chance to proof read it, pick the right images and get it on the official site. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad news, in today’s society with the access to information that everybody has (and is therefore invariably an expert), we get exposed to things waaaaay before the club intends it to be so.

When it’s good news I bet the PR team are all “ahhhh, we wanted to tell you guys'”, where as when it’s bad news they are probably less enthused about releasing it, but at the same time they realise that when it’s out before they announce it, it makes the official site look dated before they’ve even had a chance to brief the press. It must be like the kid at school who always finished your sentences so you used to deliberately tell the little blighter the wrong answers so he’d get them wrong. Then you’d make sure you booted the ball at him extra hard at lunchtime when he was in goal after headers & volleys and he was in for the last person in so had to be subjected to the Death Shot.

Transfers is the most obvious example – not of the Death Shot, but of when news is old before released – but the example that is most recent is the news regarding the latest spate of injuries that we seem to have sustained. Arsène will no doubt assume the position for his pre-match press conference today and I’m sure he’ll confirm what multiple news sources are already reporting: Ramsey is out for a month, Arteta is out for three weeks, Jack is touch-and-go for tomorrow but should be fine for the weekend, oh and Koscienly is suffering from a knock that should probably mean that he’s rested, but the whole ‘ it buying enough defenders in the summer’ thing has reared it’s ugly head and we’re down to first team bare bones before September has waved goodbye.

It means that Twitter and the rest of the world has already had it’s chance to react, which includes a scary looking image from The Telegraph about all of the injuries we’ve had in the last eight years. The scary parts are the number of ankle and hamstring injuries. That’s 107 banjaxed hammy’s and is a little worrying, especially when you work out that it’s 13 every season, or more than one every month throughout the course of the last eight seasons. That makes you question the medical team at Arsenal for sure, because hamstrings are the ones that go when overworked. I know it’s not as simple as that all of the time, but you see figures like the one shown last night and it does make you worry that this problem isn’t going away any time soon, which makes the decision to leave us so short defensively all the more baffling.

Impact injuries and ones like the Ramsey or Eduardo broken leg can be explained away as unfortunate, as they already have ad nauseum, but it’s those injuries that come as a result of wear and tear through excessive use and lack of rest that are the most frustrating.

At the heart of this, Arsène needs to at least try to undertake more rotation than he likes to in the league and cup games. There’s no need for tinkering on a large Ranierian scale, just a tweak here and there for players that look like their suffering from form and fitness. We don’t need round pegs put in square holes because they are expensive round pegs that came diamond encrusted and sold to us by a beautiful maiden with heaving bosom’s. We just need to try other pegs when the best pegs we have need a bit of recovery time. Or something.

It’s like a nice pair of black shoes, Arsène. You can wear them all the time if you like, but they’ll probably be knackered in nine months, so you’re far better to get a second pair of black shoes to wear every once in a while to extend the life of your favourite shoes.

Don’t go out and buy a whole new wardrobe of shoes Arsène (you only need one or two new pairs in January), just make sure that you use all of the ones in your wardrobe, and you’ll find that they’re all just as comfortable and some even look as good as the ones you’re wearing all the time.

Anyway, that’s enough feet-based metaphorical chitter-chatter for one day. Have a good one Gooners.

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.


Get back to last year’s success story Arsene

What did I say yesterday? When everyone tips The Arsenal to steamroller a top seven side, fates invariably conspire against us to ensure that we don’t pick up maximum points.

It’s hard to be pleased about a home draw to what has been the poorest Spuds team that we’ve played in quite a while. Tottenham came to The Emirates with one goal – not to be defeated – and the Mushroom Man Pochettino ended the day yesterday the happier of the two managers after the 1-1 draw. His was a plan better executed than Arsene’s, as the Spuds were content to sit deeper than we’ve ever seen them before and try to catch Arsenal on the counter attack. And why not? If anyone has watched Arsenal this season they will have seen that we are susceptible to the sucker punch, as this game proved in the second half when the Spuds scored against the run of play. It was a goal entirely of our own making as Flamini was caught out easier than a John Terry testimony.

I don’t know if I am the only one here, but I’m starting to get a little bit concerned with the propensity with which we seem to be conceding first. Not only does it give our opponents something to hold on to, but it puts us in a position where we need to take risks and that isn’t something that’s good for my health. Arsene and Bouldy need to have a think about how we are set up, because it was much more fun last season when we were winning every game 2-0 and being defensively solid. But once again, almost as if to prove some kind of belligerent point, Arsene reverted to the style that we’ve adopted all season and played Ozil on the left. We saw with devastating effect the success of Mesut through the middle, but not only that, we also saw last week how Ramsey was more effective whilst sitting deeper and breaking forward from a deeper lying position. Yesterday was back to the old Ramsey, trying little flicks that didn’t come off and then capping off a torrid day by getting himself injured through a busted hammy in the first half. That problem was also compounded by Arteta who went down with a calf strain and the two will now not be available for next weekends loss to Chelski.

Tactically, Arsene needs to go back to basics too. The most basic principle being winning games. Three all season in all competitions is mid-table mediocrity form and we’ve already dropped far too many points this season with draws. Unbeaten runs may sound good out loud, but if you draw every game in the season you get 38 points and probably avoid relegation by a point or two, so should be taken with an extreme pinch of salt. To be honest, from the Gooners I talk to and follow, none are particularly over the moon with the fact we’re unbeaten, especially when you consider that the record will be dead and buried by next Sunday evening. I’m treating it as a forgone conclusion because, unlike Arsenal, when pundits tell the world that Chelski will roll over us, that is what usually happens.

Arsene needs to recognise who his best players are and play them in their best positions. Alexis’ best position – last time I checked – wasn’t sitting on the bench patiently waiting for the 75th minute to come when Arsene makes his customary substitution. Why on earth he didn’t start yesterday is a mystery. Actually, I don’t think it is a mystery at all. I think that Arsene is trying frantically to have a formation that affords Wilshere a space in the team. To Jack’s credit, he did ok yesterday, but with Rambo and Arteta having established the hierarchy last season of being on the teamsheets first and foremost, Arsene won’t drop them or Ozil, which is why Mesut is being shunted out wide. The hamstring injury to Rambo will allow Wilshere to sit alongside Flamini in the coming weeks and give Jack licence to be that box-to-boxer that we all want. It will also force Arsene into playing Ozil centrally, something that I’m pretty sure would have come to a parliamentary petition by all Arsenal fans at Ten Downing Street, had Arsene pressed ahead with his ‘Ozil out wide’ experiment. Ozil actually had a good game I thought, but he will only be so effective out wide, so needs to be sitting in that hole so he can feed Welbeck those killer balls we’re all craving.

When Santi came on I thought he was really good. He gave a bit more purpose to our attacking play and having him on the left with Ozil through the middle and Ox on the right instantly changed us into more of a threat. We should have had more than the one goal we had to show for our performance yesterday, but for some smart Lloris saves and a deep-sitting Spuds defence.

I really hope this doesn’t end up being a season of draws. Last year I don’t think we picked one up until late November and, when you go on long winning streaks it effectively sets you up for a title charge when you reach the halfway point. At this point now, with the tinkering Arsene is doing to the team, it’s hard to think we’ll be doing anything else than staring down the fourth place trophy. Sadly, just before the Ox scored his goal, I was starting to ponder whether or not a defeat today would at least give us the reality check that would be needed to know that it will be another season where fourth place is the target rather than lulling us into the false sense of hope that we’re good enough to win the league. I immediately hated myself for thinking that in the midst of the game and whilst we could still feasibly pick up two goals and win the game, but I can’t shake the feeling that come December our expectations will have been decidedly altered.

Le Boss has some work to do now. He needs to find his best team, not have them injured, get them back to playing what they did last season, plus get us on a winning streak that builds momentum and confidence. The good news is that after we lose to Chelski, we’ve got a run of winnable games until we then play Man United at home towards the end of November. We have to start clicking and clicking now.

Catch you tomorrow.

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.

The Mushroom Man talks, the boys are up for it

Bleugh. Feels like the whole world is conspiring against you after a terrible nights sleep, having spent the early hours of the morning convinced that you’ve ruptured your intestinal lining based purely on the amount of times you rolled over, then you get up to shower and have that really annoying thing when you put your clothes on and you’re itchy all over.

I can only hope that I am taking the pain and all that life is throwing at me, in return for an early-evenings entertainment of pure Arsenal North London Derby bliss. We can only hope.

The countdown has well and truly begun to the NLD and as usual, there are plenty of people that have plenty to say about it, including that Spuds manager who sounds like he’s a fancy mushroom you put in risotto. He’s talked about making history, being confident, whilst also praising Arsène Wenger for his active service at The Arsenal. It’s all just platitudes designed to stir up the excitement of a big game, but as usual, it doesn’t really affect my mood at all. I’m still bricking it as I always do. It’s not really a nice feeling actually. It would be so much nicer if the local team to us we’re a bit more poo than they are. I mean, if the Spuds were battling relegation every season, I think I would feel so much better about each time we played them. People will tell you that given our home record against them in the Premier League, that we should feel like that anyway, but I often think that stat of the Spuds having won twice in the Premier League is a little misleading. After all, there’s been a heck of. Lot of draws. Which means our superb record doesn’t seem as superb in my eyes.

Arsène will take his bit seat in the press conference room today and face a barrage of questions of the importance of the game, who’s fit, as well as his opposite number in the dugout tomorrow. No doubt he’ll be effusive with his praise for Mushroom Man, but what he will have to navigate through with some trickery, is our poor record against the top seven sides. Only Liverpool and the Spuds appear to be the sides that we’ve been able to get one over in the last few years, so whilst this immediate hurdle will not be seen as one of the ‘usuals’ in terms of us expected to be beaten, it still represents another question of our ability to handle big games.

Thankfully, the noises coming from the players is very positive, with the Ox talking about the spring in the step of the team this week. Apparently Alexis is so excitable that his signature short pull-up has caused him to be a doubt with serious groin haemorrhaging. Of course I kid! But it’s good to hear he’s up for it.

Flamini returns for tomorrow’s game and, although more of an anticipated line up will be guessed by yours truly tomorrow, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the terrier start. We shall see. At least the news about other players is good; no fresh niggles, knocks and sprains, so Le Boss will have a relatively full compliment (barring the long-term absentees we already know about) to choose from tomorrow. Which is always good.

That’s all I gots for you today I’m afraid. My brain hurts and feels like I’ve been punched in the face by Thor, so I think I’ll lie my head back on this Met Line train and rest my eyes for a bit. Wake me up when I get to Finchley Road…

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.

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.