Closing space is essential against Swansea

Swansea away today will be a test, of that I’m sure, which is why I’m more than a little apprehensive of our back four.

It’s not just down to Nacho Monreal that our form and frequency of goals conceded has greatly increased from last season. Per Mertesacker has to step up too and, with Arteta injured today, he needs to demonstrate his leadership abilities by marshalling the defence and keeping the unit tighter together. Also, with Arteta out, it will be incumbent on Matthieu Flamini to drastically improve his form today if we want to stay resolute at the back. Defending is not the sole preserve of the back four; it has to be a team effort that starts from the forward players and works backwards. Thankfully in Welbeck and Alexis we have so players who will press higher up the pitch, but should Santi and Rambo start again in midfield, we need to see more from them from the defensive side as much as the offensive. On Tuesday night the warning signs were there in the first half. There were two or three breaks from Anderlecht players where massive areas of the middle of the park were left free for purple-shirted players to run in to. It simple wasn’t acceptable and I remember see Arteta have a bit of a shouty moment in that first half at his fellow midfielders for not closing the space.

Today we have to be able to be more compact as a team and use our fantastic pace to counter Swansea at lightning speed. We simply must ensure that the area of the park in front of our back four is looked after. In the absence of Arteta, that must mean Flamini, but I’m also looking in the direction of Rambo too. He has to get back to basics and do the simple things first. Win tackles, close down space, distribute the ball to a red shirt effectively. That’s what we need to see from our Welshman. Who knows, maybe the return to Wales and the inevitable booing of a Cardiff boy in Swansea, will give more motivation for Rambo to have a great game. I certainly hope so.

As for the other free spot in the team, I think Arsène will play The Ox again. He was decent enough against Anderlecht and his goal will give him plenty of confidence to take into this game. He’s also more of a willing runner when it comes to tracking back, so I think that will remain in his favour and Arsène will name an unchanged side from Tuesday. Personally, I’d be tempted to put Rosicky in, perhaps over Santi, but I don’t think Arsène is in that frame of mind, so expect to see a grumpy looking Tomas this afternoon on the subs bench.

As for Swansea, they’re two scary players are clearly Bony and Gylfi Sigurdsson. I would say Shelvey as well, but that’s less to do with his play and more to do with his overall appearance. And anyway, he’s suspended today. Sigurdsson is the real gem though. The Swansea team looks to be at its best when he is pulling the strings and he looks like he has a telepathic understanding with Bony. That’s why I think it will be essential that we close down space in front of our back four, because that is where Sigurdsson will look to operate and find those balls for Bony in front of our back four.

Nacho is going to need to be strong too, because Bony will look to play off him as much as possible I’d expect.

I don’t want to come across as too much of a neg this morning, but I simply don’t see us not conceding today, which is why the front three will have to get us at least two goals I think to win the game. My hope is that Swansea are as low on confidence as we are – having not won in six games – but the trouble you have with a big team is that sides like Swansea really get themselves up for games against the top three or four, so you know that they’ll look to come out the blocks quickly and try and stun us into silence.

It’s never been easy playing Swansea and they have a good record against us, but if we think that there’s even the tiniest slither of hope of challenging for the league, this is a game that must be won. Heck, even to get our Champions League aspirations on track, we still need to get a win. We’ve had too many draws already this season so I’m hoping we’ll not be treated to another one today.

Come on Arsenal!

Anderlecht: no complacency

Regardless of the disappointing (but ultimately successful) performance against Anderlecht a couple of weeks ago, tonight is a game that we should for all intents and purposes, be looking at building an assailable lead with a nice bumper goal margin against Anderlecht at home.

We may still be a little short defensively, but the Belgian champions showed that whilst their effort could be praised on home soil, their ability was limited. That our match came down to the dying seconds in Brussels was more down to our own performance than the performance of our hosts.

So tonight I am hoping that we see an Arsenal team well prepared, high on confidence, fluent going forward and no complacency defensively. We’ve got a good platform to build on. Back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League – albeit against poor opposition – will instil a belief into players like Nacho Monreal and with Per improving with each game too, one hopes that The Arsenal can get the job done with plenty of time to spare tonight.

If we can pick up three points, then a Dortmund victory over Galatasaray will effectively render the group sewn up for both the Germans and us. I suspect that Dortmund will beat the Turks this evening and also dispatch Anderlecht in the next game, so whilst I understand the pressing desire for us to win the group and not inevitably face Bayern Munich or Barcelona, I don’t think there’s much we can do about it. I’m a fan of getting the group qualification sorted and then focusing on league and domestic cup travails, so if we do progress this evening I hope Arsène rotates in the final two games.

Who knows? He may just rotate tonight with one eye on the visit to the Liberty Stadium on Sunday afternoon. I’d be surprised if he did, because we’ve already nearly had our noses bloodied by a team perceived to be Champions League minnows, so to see a Capital One Cup style side rock out at The Emirates this evening would be a big surprise.

So I suspect we’ll see very little rotation from Saturday’s win against Burnley. He may decide to give Ramsey an outing instead of the mediocre Flamini (said statement of ‘mediocrity’ based purely on his performance at the weekend, rather than his overall ability), but I still expect to see Arteta, Cazorla, Welbeck, The Ox and man of the moment Alexis. Cazorla didn’t have the greatest of games at the weekend and will need to find that form of his first season to regain a longer-term position in the team. With Rosicky and Podolski chomping at the bit to get game time, not to mention Joel Campbell’s impressive cameos to date, there are a variety of different positions that could be taken from Santi and other players used in. And with the season as long as it is, Arsène must surely be looking at the competition in his squad and wondering if there is a bit of merit in rotation for games like this.

Perhaps I am being a little too dismissive of Anderlecht though. Here I am talking about qualification, rotation of players with a view to the weekend, as well as patronising comments like ‘minnows’. That is probably the exact level of mental complacency that nearly cost us last time out in this competition and as I sat on my sofa cursing the lacklustre effort of the players that evening, I should perhaps take a leaf from my own book (or blog), and show a little more respect.

Tonight we need to be on our game from the off. A clean sheet, a few goals and qualification from the group by the time the News at Ten comes on will be a massive confidence boost for the team. It would mean four wins on the trot and only one goal conceded and with the chance to make it five before the international break, would feel like our season is finally not spluttering before the turn of the year.

Jack looks set to miss out, which is a shame, whilst Francis Coquelin looks to have had his marching orders with a one-month loan spell at Charlton confirmed by the club. It’s a strange one because I’ve always rated Le Coq, but clearly Arsène just doesn’t fancy him. I think that one day it might just come back to haunt him as I think the guy has a very good career ahead of him. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

Will Alexis once again prove to be our talisman? Weirdly, I hope not, because I want to see other players step up to the mark. As much as I’m getting to love Alexis more and more with each second he spends in an Arsenal shirt on the pitch, I do worry that there could be an unhealthy over-reliance on him, and we all know how worrying that is when you look at one guy to carry the hopes of the team and fans on his shoulders. It happened before with That Dutch Bloke and when all was not quite right at the club during that era, the players just looked to find him as often as possible. What we want is the same team ethic that was fostered in the Post-That Dutch Bloke era which, to be fair to the team, I think we have. We certainly have the players that are capable. Ramsey showed it last season, Walcott the season before, plus we have Welbeck, The Ox and let’s not forget our mercurial German, Mesut Özil.

I don’t think it will be easy tonight, but I do think we can make it look easy, especially if we score first and early.

Come on you Reds!

Nerves, openness and Burnley

The whole world seems to think that today will be a walk in the park at home to winless Burnley. Everywhere I look there are match previews and predictions ahoy of 4-0, 5-0 or 6-0.

But you and I know better. You and I know that rarely in top flight football do you see batterings of teams and when you do, it’s not normally the team’s you’d expect, as we found out to our detriment last season.

You and I know that The Arsenal rarely make life easy for us. So I’m not going to pretend that I’m confident of a cricket score today, that’s for sure. Do I think we will win? Well yes, of course, but do I think that we’ll all be home and dry in the first 15 minutes? Not on your Nelly.

It’s our form and our play you see. Sure, we’ve strung back-to-back victories together, which one hopes we’re starting to build a bit of confidence and momentum. But the way in which we’ve gone about getting those victories has hardly been by swotting aside our opponents with consummate ease. We’ve huffed and puffed all season and I expect much of the same today.

But who cares as long as we win? There are people that are unhappy because we have won whilst playing poorly, but think back to the last few seasons. When have we regularly played really good football? I bet you could count the number of games on your fingers. The series of early season 2-0s last year had people saying that we were winning without playing so well. So what’s the problem? I’d take a rather drab 2-0 Arsenal win today, make no mistake of that, so let’s start with the desire for the points and see any score line that results in that as a good one. Even a good old fashioned ‘One Nil To The Arsenal’ would do me fine. It might make for a nervous afternoon towards the end but I’d be fine with that.

I’ve had a Burnley supporting friend over to stay this weekend and he says he’s just down for the fun of the experience. Ahh, I can’t even remember when football was just about the fun and experience. There are highs, of course, but it’s my addiction and when things don’t go to plan, I often worry too much. I worry before the game, during the game, then if we’ve won I start to worry about the next game about two hours after the victory.

So, as I said, my Burnley mate. He doesn’t expect anything, but is still a little apprehensive about how Burnley will line up today. Sean Dyche has lined up his team as 4-4-2 all season and is apparently playing an open and expansive brand of football that leaves Burnley susceptible to being opened up by the bigger teams. When I was talking with him last night he said that the game at home against Chelski was a classic example. They came out, got the first goal and his his words “then Chelski got angry and just started scoring for fun”.

I want us to be ‘angry’ from the first minute. If Dyche does stick to his footballing philosophy, then Burnley will be open and we need to capitalise on that, by banging the door down on their goal. So the emphasis today has to be on the forward line performing. We need Alexis, Welbeck, Cazorla and The Ox (all of whom I’m assuming will play) to be at it from the off. With Wilshere injured, Rambo will also step in and we will need to see more of the 2013/14 version of our Welsh Jesus, rather than the slightly stuttery version we’ve witnessed this season.

I suspect Mikel Arteta will anchor the midfield and the makeshift back four will see Monreal slide across to left back with Chambers at centre half and Bellerin at right back. I’m kind of ok with that, because in reality we should have less to do defensively, and I thought Bellerin did well at home against Hull.

But like Hull, Burnley could just as well promise to play open football but not actually deliver, so let’s not expect an easy ride. Steve Bruce said Hull would ‘come and have a go’ but had no intention to do such a thing. If Burnley get through the first half without conceding then they will have similar desires I suspect. And hey, I don’t begrudge them that, because the onus should be on us to break out opponents down in 90 minutes.

So whilst I don’t think we’re in for an easy afternoon, I do think we’ll pick up the points, and I certainly hope so too.

Up The Arsenal!

Nervy about form, but a reaction is needed

Matchday! The bestest day of the week! Today it’s Sunderland away and the best thing about football is that it very quickly offers the chance of redemption, so after a number of really poor performances, the Arsenal players could wash away the bad taste left in the mouth from the home draw to Hull or the smash and grab in Brussels.

I’m oop Norf for today’s game with The Management’s family and if I’m completely honest, whilst I’m excited to be popping along to the game this afternoon, I’m also really apprehensive. There are a lot of factors which could mean that this afternoon is not as enjoyable as I’d hope it could be.

For starters there’s our own form. Sure, we picked up a win in midweek, but we haven’t really kicked into gear all season as yet. Perhaps the Galatasaray game was the only exception, but even the Villa game had some scary moments before the match was effectively over at half time and turned into a testimonial in the second half.

We are not playing well and going forward we were quite toothless on Wednesday and on Saturday too. If we are going to win the game today, we can’t afford to be so lethargic in our passing. Our good football is about movement. It’s about pulling teams apart by quick interchanges of possession and willing runners. It’s not about static sideways balls from one side of the pitch to another via three midfielders all in a line. The only way we will win today is if there is energy in the performance.

And that’s the second reason why I’m nervous, because I think we’ll see a Sunderland side with a lot of energy today. They will have spent a whole week stewing on an 8-0 performance and so their players will be pumped today. They will be running their arses off in front of their home fans and so if we are not at it from the first second, I think we’ll be in trouble. Where we were appalling last season was when teams blitzed us in the first 15 minutes. It wouldn’t surprise me if Poyet tells his players to do the same. The first opening exchanges of today’s game might just require us to dig deep and play well defensively. Which leads me to the third reason why I am worried about today…

Defensively we had nothing to do against Hull and we still were masters of our own downfall with the second goal. Forget the first, that was an anomaly and should have been a foul, but there can be no excuses for the second goal. Likewise in midweek, with what felt to me like a carbon copy of the second Hull goal (caught under the flight of a ball and opposition player nods beyond the ‘keeper), we can’t really have any complaints. Today Sunderland will be looking to exploit our defensive frailties by testing our back four with balls in to Fletcher through the channels, most likely delivered by either Wickham or Buckley, or through set pieces from Larsson or Johnson.

If Arsène chooses to field the same side as he did on Wednesday, with Monreal in the heart of the defence, I fear what the repercussions will be. Monreal is not a centre half and so I have no beef with him, but more I have beef with the boss if he continues to choose him. I hope Arsène sees sense and puts Chambers in the heart of the back four, bringing Bellerin in at right back, because I think that gives us more balance than the team that played in the Champions League. Bellerin was impressive against Hull and I certainly think he deserves another shot at playing against a Sunderland side that might give us a bit more space going forward.

Which leads me to trying to finish up today’s match preview blog by being a bit more positive. Defensively Sunderland have the same problems with lack of numbers that we do, and whilst they will be massively up for this game today, they are still the same side that conceded eight against Southampton. If Sunderland aim to come at us and catch us off guard by pressing higher up the pitch, it will give room for Welbeck and Alexis to do their thang. Alexis was awesome against Anderlecht and another performance like that will most likely go a long way in giving us the win. Bellerin might also profit from Sunderland pushing forward, because he did look good going forward against Hull and he is very rapid so he might get a bit of green grass to run into today. If he does, he’ll need the support of the midfield runners like Ramsey and the vision of Cazorla, to support him in finding an outlet in our final third.

The blueprint for our struggles this season has been when teams have sat back and let us pass ourselves to death. I’m not sure Sunderland will do that today. They might do, I could be wrong, but I think their fans will get on their backs if they set themselves up for a draw at home. So them coming at us like Villa did could end up being a blessing.

Keep those fingers crossed Gooners!

Anderlecht preview: Victory to build momentum

Champions League Matchday 3 sees us make the short trip along the Eurostar to Belgium, where we line up to face Anderlecht tonight. But before I go into some thoughts on the game, a little rant, if I may…

This morning I was up early driving back from the inlaws (Management has broken her wrist and so she is being ferried to and from her work by Senior Management) when I heard full chapter and verse about the “amazing atmosphere at Anfield tonight. The Real Madrid players will have played all over the world, but this will be special” and I wondered ‘is there any other club that enjoys so much hyperbole thrown at it in relation to atmosphere as much as Liverpool?’. I would love to see what Liverpool do differently to us when we’ve entertained Bayern or Barca in the past. I’d wager little. But this media soft-spot for Liverpool is borderline nausea-inducing.

Anyway, moving swiftly on and towards all things Arsenal, who face a tricky – but not insurmountable – away trip to Anderlecht. It’s been made all the more testing by the fact we’re missing both first and second choice ‘keepers, as well as our first choice centre half and right back. It will mean a somewhat unfamiliar and rather raw look about our back five this evening, but even so this is a game that Arsenal really have to be looking at to win tonight.

If it’s true what Arsène says, that 10 points is a minimum target that usually achieves progression into the next stage of the competition, then this is the sort of game that can help to put a foot in the door of the next round. An away win followed by a home victory against the. Belgian champions will leave us with nine points and will probably mean that a draw in our final two games will at least see us progress. Of course we want to win the group, but qualification is the first hurdle to try to overcome. Defeat, or even a draw, will probably mean that we have to beat Dortmund at home and that is by no means a given seeing as we’ve already been beaten by them once this season and defeated last season on home soil.

But let’s not be fooled into thinking that we’ll sweep aside Anderlecht tonight. They will be in the mood for an upset and, having seen Arsenal labour the point on Saturday, I’m sure they will be looking at Hull’s performance and thinking they should be able to get something from the game. We are yet to fully fire on all cylinders in any competition (even against Galatasaray and Villa there were cracks) and that will give enough fuel for their belief.

I’ll confess that I have very little frame of reference when it comes to tonight’s opponents, as the Belgian League is not one that makes my ‘must see’ list. Save for Anthony Van Den Borre (once of Portsmouth) and Stefan Defour (not bad on Football Manager), I know few of their players and am not sure of the style of football the ‘Purple and White’ will produce tonight. But without wanting to be accused of the type of arrogance that is labelled at Wenger when he doesn’t analyse an opponent, I suspect that we’ll see a team that will want to start the game quite tight, keep Arsenal at bay for the first 15 minutes, then up the tempo gradually as they build their confidence.

Of course, because I do little research of note on our opponents, I could be completely wrong and we could see them try to catch us off-guard by coming flying out of the box. Our defeats to Dortmund this season, Chelski and Liverpool last season, we’re built on a foundation of speed and blitzing us in the first 15 minutes, so if Anderlecht do adopt that tactic it could stun us enough to leave us as docile as a sloth. At the weekend after both goals we looked a little shell-shocked for at least ten minutes after each goal, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Anderlecht managed tell his players to adopt the same tactic.

Of course that is not without it’s risks. Last season saw an Arsenal side that could be pressed high from the front to the back without fear our quick counter attacks. This season we have injected notable pace in Welbeck and Alexis and playing a high line to squeeze space between attack and midfield, as well as midfield and defence, would leave a lot of grass for our forward players to play with.

So whilst our back four will have a makeshift feel about it, the attacking side of the team will look a lot more polished, certainly on paper anyway. They may have looked rather lacklustre on Saturday, but the Champions League often brings a more expansive brand of football to it, so you’d hope that we can find more space for midfield and attack in tonight’s game than we did in the Premier League at the weekend.

Although Walcott is back, there’s no way he’d start (I probably should have checked to see if he’s in the squad, but my internet connection on my phone has just gone down as I’ve just entered a tunnel, so I’m out of options there!) tonight after such a lengthy injury, so I think we’ll see Alexis, Welbeck and The Ox as our most forward-lying players, with Santi, Jack and perhaps Arteta playing in the middle of the park. Arsène could go for Ramsey and Wilshere if he thinks that we’ll spend most of the game on the front foot, but with a rather youthful looking defence (Chambers will surely come in for Monreal), I think Arsène will consider giving the captain the nod in the hope that there is more protection for the back four.

Tonight is a game that could prove quite significant. After stuttering at the weekend, victory tonight will ensure we to into this weekend’s game against Sunderland off the back of victory and hopefully some added confidence. We have a run of winnable games (in theory) and we need to start building momentum now.

Come on you reds!

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!

Good guys don’t win?

In the short time that I have frequented this Earth, there are some unassailable truths that I have learnt. One is this: Life is inherently unfair.

How can it not be? There are good people who lead terrible lives. There are evil people who seem to lead wonderful lives. Bad goes unpunished, good goes unrewarded.

So for me, on a day like today, there is little expectation or hope that The Arsenal will pick up any points today. Chelski sold their soul to the oil devil, they dabble in the acquisition and retention of some quite reprehensible characters, yet they have still managed to have success both domestically and on the European stage over the last nine years or so. I often joked that Roberto Di Matteo did a deal with the devil when Chelski somehow won the Champions League despite having a pretty average team, but I was obviously wrong, because I believe the whole club did that deal, probably some many years ago now.

The record we have against Chelski since they won the footballing lottry is eye-wateringly bad, but it’s worse when the old ‘Arsene’s never beaten Mourinho’ line gets trotted out. It’s that record that we have that means I simply cannot bear to watch any pre-match build up or scan the interweb for any kind of expert pundit opinion on how the game will pan out. I fear that it will only spiral me into a further pit of fear that the inevitable – another defeat at Stamford Bridge – is on the verge of happening on this Sunday afternoon.

If you’re stumbling upon my blog for the first time, may I reassure you that I am not usually this overly negative when it comes to any game, in fact sometimes I can really try to be a “glass isn’t just half full, it’s filled with the tastiest amber nectar a body could ever consume” type of person. Even if the game was at The Emirates I’d have a smidgen more of optimism over the result. But after what happened last season, I am struggling to find enough belief that we’ll even muster a draw.

It makes it worse that former players almost always inevitably come back to haunt us, so I’m almost counting down the minutes until Fabregas puts Costa in on goal with Szczesny carrying the weight of our hopes on his shoulders, because we all know that will happen at some stage, right? This Chelski team has had the fantastic start it has had in the most part because a lot of the attacking influence of the side flows through those two players. So it feels like it is more likely that a former hero will turn arch-villain post 4pm today.

Chelski have the strongest team in the league, they have what looks like the most complete squad and they have an ex-player who will get a frosty reception from the away fans and a big cheer from the home ones. We all know it will happen. We had six-odd years of it every season when Arsenal fans saw Cashley rock up against us.

First and foremost today, our side need to not get blown away in the first ten minutes. Last year was an embarrassment and as much as we all know Arsene’s sides can’t borify a game like Mourinho can, we need to try to be as compact as possible in the opening exchanges and see if we can keep out a team who will be expecting to roll us over. Defensive discipline will be integral to any feint hope of picking up anything, so kamikaze gallivanting of fullbacks to leave us exposed must be discouraged, at least until we can try to assert some form of control over the game.

I suspect we’ll see the usual back four, with Monreal possibly returning to the bench, plus Flamini sitting in front of them and a midfield in front of him that includes Wilshere, The Ox, Ozil and Sanchez, with Welbeck up top. One would hope that Ozil is granted licence to operate more centrally, but one suspects that Arsene will revert to shunting the German out wide again in his on-going experiment that to date hasn’t really worked. After three decent performances for Mesut, it would be good to get another good one in a big game, but if he’s to be shifted out wide I fear another quiet game if I’m honest. We can’t afford any players to have matches like that, so I hope for all our sakes that Arsene gives him the freedom of the park to strut his stuff.

I also hope that Arsene doesn’t relegate Alexis to a substitute role today. Having him on the bench against the Spuds was, quite frankly, baffling in my opinion. Against teams who will push further forward and not sit bodies on the edge of their own box, it gives rapid players like Alexis the opportunity to exploit space in behind defenders, so why he didn’t play against the Spuds still remains a mystery that I think Arsene will take to his grave. He simply must start today. Having him and Welbeck pressing from the front and perhaps even causing the Chelski back four to sit deeper, would give more space for Ozil to operate in between midfield and defence so I am hoping that Arsene does the right thing and starts our Chilean.

As I said at the start of the blog, sadly, I do not hold out much hope for today. Justice just doesn’t exist in this world and the fact that Mourinho has got the better of Arsene time and time again feels like something that will never change the way the unfairness of life works. Of course I hope that I am proved massively wrong. I hope that there is some humble pie wedged in my face come 6pm and nothing would make me happier than writing an overly positive blog tomorrow morning on my way to work. But we’ve seen this script before. The good guys don’t always win in real life. In fact, they rarely seem to.

Come on Arsenal, let’s change that.