Mixed emotions from playing the Mancs

Do you know, normally, the day after Arsenal have played I have a better idea about how I’m feeling about the result. Sometimes it’s easy. If Arsenal play brilliantly and win by three clear goals, I can wax lyrical about the team and champion the manager for getting his team selection spot on. If they lose then it’s usually the reverse. Heck, even a draw is usually seen as a good draw or a bad draw, depending on the circumstances of the performance and the opposition.

The draw away to Everton can be seen as a decent one given the narrative of the game. Away from home we snatched two late goals and despite a poor performance we could all be satisfied that we did not pick up a defeat. Conversely, having dominated possession against a newly promoted Leicester, a draw was not really acceptable. Yet, based on all of the variables I can think of this morning, I can’t work out whether to be happy with the draw or disappointed.

the negatives
At home, against one of the top teams, for psychological purposes more than anything else at this stage in the season, you need to be picking up points. That’s what Moneychester City did against Liverpool a couple of weeks ago and that’s what I’d have hoped we could do yesterday lunchtime.

The most annoying thing about not getting that psychological advantage against what we would perceive as a rival, is that it once again raises the question about our own record against the top teams, so much so that I dare not look into it today. In terms of picking up points against Chelski, City and United, the record over the last five years or so reads like some sort of scary book from Stephen King where your own mother eats pieces of your body day-by-day because she has never really gotten over giving birth to you, so she does it to get you back inside her belly.

Until we can muster some consistency of victories against these ‘bigger teams’, the questions will continue to be raised and, given our away form last season, this is now one game less that I feel we can take advantage of to banish those particular demons of ours.

The game itself has also left me harbouring bitter feelings. Mark Clattenberg for example, despite the protestations of Manuel Pellegrini, gave about 60 to 70% of decisions to City I feel. He allowed persistent rotational fouling without booking, which only perpetuated an increased volume of fouls, one in the second half which consistent of Vincent Kompany essentially barging into the back of an Arsenal player without reprieve.

I don’t know whether or not it contributed massively to disrupting our flow, because whilst some players were excellent yesterday (I’ll come to that in the ‘positives’ section), some really did stink up the joint. Özil, Ramsey and Flamini, for example, had particularly poor games. I can’t really work out who was worse from Özil or Ramsey, but very little of what either did yesterday came off, so if you think about that as a massive chunk of our creative talent not performing, it shows that there was certainly another level we could have gone to, to win the game.

But you can only win games if you do both attacking and defending well and, if we’re all honest, we hardly mastered the defensive side yesterday. It felt like we were rolling back the years in a bad way yesterday. Every time Navas got the ball on the right hand side he looked to have the beating of Monreal and, as good as Nacho has been this season, he struggled yesterday I thought. Gibbs is a better defender and having him back in the team will certainly be a big boost for us.

On the other side of the defence Debuchy was again very good, so it feels almost inevitable with the benefit of hindsight, that he would go down with an ankle injury and now face an extended period on the side. This kind of injury has nothing to do with our medical team, but is yet another player injured, leaving us all wondering why we seem so cursed with injuries.

The goals we conceded were also pretty shabby, if we’re all honest with ourselves, born not out of excellent opposition play but by our own mistakes. As the ball stayed in play on the right hand side of the pitch, Navas’ run was countered by some Denilson-esque jogging back by Ramsey, Flamini and Koscienly to which the inevitable response was Aguero’s run to knock the ball home. It was pretty much City’s first shot and they started to grow in confidence after that. The second goal was equally poor, as Szczesny’s poor kick never reached the halfway line, only for the ball to come back towards our goal and out for a corner. How or why Demichelis was gifted the freedom of the penalty box is beyond me, but Woj hardly covered himself in glory with a limp-wristed flap at the ball. We’ve been the beneficiaries of late goals a few times already this season, but this time we were on the receiving end and I don’t like it, don’t like it one bit at all. Thereafter we seemed to wobble a bit and City could have won it on a few occasions.

The Positives
I don’t want to end today’s blog just looking at the negatives, because there was plenty for us to be pleased about as well. Going forward we look like we had options that were clearly non-existent last season. Alexis was in fine form yesterday and it was fitting that he capped off his fine performance with a fabulous goal that should have won us the game. He is busy, skilful, can finish and will be a major asset for us this season. That’s three goals already and on the basis of what I’ve seen, I reckon we’re looking at a 20 goal man come May.

Likewise too, I thought Danny Welbeck had an impressive debut. Had he managed to flick the ball into the net in first half we’d probably all be raving right now, but strikers are always judged on goals and that can be the only blot on an otherwise good performance. He even came close towards the end with a curling shot that just went over the bar, but with him and Alexis giving us that extra pace in the final third as well as being willing to chase down every ball, it can only be a good thing for us.

But to end today’s blog on a high, let’s just bask in the Wilsherian glow from yesterday, because Jack was on another level. His ball retention was good, dribbling was superb, he linked play excellently and did not deserve to be on a side that didn’t pick up three points. Big games often need players to step up and on that stage nobody can argue that Jack didn’t. His goal was a superb flick that had Hart beaten all ends up and another few performances like that in the coming weeks and the Paul Scholes’ of this world will have to start chowing down on some humble pie. More of the same please Jacky.

So like I said at the start of the blog, I have no idea whether I’m happy or sad about the game yesterday, because for all that was bad, we had the good in equal measure. Perhaps I should just stop thinking about it and look forward to the Dortmund game in midweek. A win there would be just the tonic.

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!

Assumptions on Arsène, team photos and Welbeck’s motivation

Right, plenty to sink our teeth into this morning, so let’s get stuck in there like a Suarez.

Team photos! Don’t you just love them? They’re great for seeing who doesn’t play for the club any more in three years time. Yesterday the club had it’s team photo taken and, quite sensibly, it was done after the transfer window had slammed shut, meaning the merchandisers won’t fall foul of any Chelskiesque faux pars of featuring players that no longer play for the club beaming away in the red and white of The Arsenal.

By all accounts it looked like a happy and jovial occasion and whilst I know you can read as much into that as you can at an Arsène press conference, it’s still good to see that there appears to be enough camaraderie amongst the players. We’ve all said for some years that the group appears to be a bit more balance now the big egos of a few years ago have gone, but I see small snippets like the footage from yesterday and am comforted.

Anyway, speaking of Arsène press conferences, the wily old dog had his yesterday and finally spoke about the man of the moment Danny Welbeck. Thankfully Arsène talked up his ability in a central role and also confirmed that he was influential in the signing of said player. Of course, I don’t expect Le Boss to ask ‘who?’ when prompted on Welbeck, but it was at least pleasing to hear him speak of the new arrival and where he would fit in.

I have to join the cast and crew of those that have been a bit baffled of his statement about how the transfer happened though. In classic Wengerian, Arsène said that had he been in the country, the transfer might not have happened. Unfortunately for the manager, that has been seized upon by the press as something that is hardly a ringing endorsement, but wherever vagaries and the opportunity of a story pops up for a journo, we can hardly expect them not to manipulate.

Well I can make assumptions too, you know, so I’m going to make my own on what I thought Wenger was getting at. I suspect that what he was intimating was the fact that a normal day would have meant commitments for the club and so wouldn’t have given him so much downtime whilst waiting at the airport for the flight to depart. Think about it – how bored are you when you’re waiting for your flight? I’m not saying Arsène signed Welbeck because he was bored, but if the only thing he had to do whilst he was at the airport was keep in contact with agents and the club, he was probably pestering all parties concerned to get this over the line.

I’m afraid I don’t subscribe to the view that Arsène didn’t want Welbeck. That’s not how the club has ever been run. Let’s not forget: Arsène has Stan’s ear and if anybody were to go above his head in matters of the football team, he has the Top Trump card in the backing of the Silent One. Arsène has too much power at the club not to be a driving force behind making this transfer happen.

As for the other news, well, it all looks rather positive on the injury front doesn’t it? Arteta, Gibbs and Özil all look to be fit, as well as Ramsey who appears to have recovered from the knock he suffered in midweek international action. We’re missing a Walcott for a few more weeks, but even Diaby came through an under-21 game yesterday!

Not that we should be worried about injuries, because I think we have a strong enough squad (barring the centre halves!) to cover for the aforementioned potential absentees, but it’s great to see the manager having an almost full compliment. It means that he doesn’t just have a bit of a headache selecting the first 11, but picking the Matchday squad as a whole! Whoever he picks, there will be some quality players missing tomorrow and that can only be a good thing from an Arsenal perspective.

Actually, if I can return to the subject of Welbeck again for a minute, thanking Van Gaal for his less than complimentary commentary over the departure of Welbeck. By essentially saying that Welbeck wasn’t good enough to prove his ability to play as a central striker at United, I think he’s given Danny plenty of motivation to prove him wrong whilst at Arsenal. Hopefully he’ll show the Dutchman – yet to win a real official game as yet I hasten to add – that he has all of the attributes to be successful in the middle of the park. Hopefully the comments of the former Holland coach will give him an extra few percent of desire (not that he needs it) starting tomorrow.

It did surprise me actually when I read the slightly abrasive nature of van Gaal’s comments. It strikes me that should the decision have been reversed, Arsène would not have been so dismissive of a player that had been an integral part of winning United teams in the past. In fact, I don’t recall Arsène talking about That Dutch Bloke’s desire for ‘cash, cash, cash’ when he went the other way. I hope United don’t make top four and Welbeck bangs in the winner against them next time we meet. That’s the best way of showing van Gaal that he’s made a mistake, something that he clearly doesn’t feel, despite the growing number of people formerly associated with the club disagreeing to the contrary.

Anyway, my tube journey is coming to an end shortly, so I shall wrap up today’s wiffle-waffle (I think I just made up that word), leaving you to go about your business in the normal fashion.

Happy Friday Gooners.

Not even new signing excitement could avoid the tedium

Happy Thursday is wished unto thee, as you like I, battle the tedium that is an international break.

We’re fully into the festering swamp that is internationals now, so there’s no point on looking back and discussing football of weekends past, we just have to keep our eyes on the prize and focus on the visit of Moneychester City to The Emirates on Saturday week.

Last night I made the epic mistake of tuning in to about 40 minutes worth of England Vs Norway and, perhaps surprisingly, found some comfort in the game. The comfort came from the fact that my expectations and experiences of international football have not proven to be false and that it really is a total waste of time. 40,000 people (less than half the stadium) decided that they had nothing better to do in Wembley last night, but by the end of the 1-0 win there will hardly have been any people inside the stadium that would have felt it was a worthwhile journey.

A turgid England was only made more satisfying, for me as an Arsenal fan, by the noises that came from corners of the media saying that Wilshere had a decent game and that Welbeck made a positive impact when he came on for the last 20 minutes. Let’s just hope that all the Arsenal players can come back fit as a fiddle after the qualifying game against Switzerland.

I suppose one positive I can draw from this international break is that by playing a team like City straight after the internationals have finished, we will be playing against players that have also been on international duty, which means there is no additional advantage gained over a team that has had a week to put their feet up. I know that it shouldn’t really matter at this stage of the season, and that having international quality players is what you need in your team if you want to win things, but I’m looking for any sma victories here, so humour me folks.

So we got our first glimpse of Arsenal’s Welbeck yesterday, who looked like he had a spring in his step, if you don’t mind me saying. Perhaps he was buoyed by his transfer and the prospect of finally getting a chance to play as a central striker? Whatever it was, he looked pretty decent and having had his first interview posted on the official site in the afternoon, he’s already endearing himself to fans like me with his comments.

Whilst recognising he spent a lot of time at United, he was very focused on all things Arsenal and the future, perhaps even being slightly dismissive of his past if I do say so myself. And I do. Because that’s what I want to hear and it’s always better to believe what you want to believe, rather than what could be the reality, which includes the fact that having been in the United first team for many years he’ll have been media trained to BBC news anchorman standards.

Regardless of the likelihood that he was telling us what we wanted to hear, it was still good to hear him speak so glowingly about The Arsenal, watching them on TV all the time, admiring the style of football and imagining himself playing for us. What I also liked about his interview was the sense that he already felt part of the club, using the all encompassing ‘we’ to describe Arsenal as a team, the recent history, etc. It’s the little things, you know?

But actually, it’s what he started to touch on (admittedly with the help of the interviewer) when talking about the creative players that we have, that had me getting excited of the prospect of him being a success at the club this season and I the future. He talked about linking up with the midfielders, about getting in behind defences and about using his pace to bag himself a few goals. It was only a year ago to the day that you could look at our team and, Theo aside, wonder how many times the players we had could get in behind defences like the Arsenal teams of old. Now, with the additions of Welbeck, Sanchez and Campbell, there are multiple options with pace as well as Walcott. The hope is that we can use it to our advantage.

I hope he hits the ground running on Saturday week and I hope we see him bang in a debut goal. That would be special and give us all a massive lift.

There’s not really a lot else to report on. It was nice to see Chambers get some minutes on the pitch towards the end of the match yesterday, plus the Ox got another good run out after injury last season and despite the fact he didn’t have the best game in the world, he will need time to rediscover his potency in the attacking third of the pitch so I’m not particularly worried about that. Jack will have also have felt good about getting another decent performance under his belt and, with all of the scrutiny he has over everything he does, it’s pleasing to see he’s essentially ignoring the morons in the media and getting his head down and working towards being the great player he can be. I still wonder how much game time he’ll get when Arteta, Ramsey and Özil are firing on all cylinders in the middle of the park, but it’s a concern for another day so I’ll park any further thoughts on that for now.

That’s yer lot from me today. Stay safe in this bleakest of international breaks.

Not the result, it’s the performance that worries

Morning from a grumpy Gooner in a corner of London Suburbia. I’m grumpy because my team failed to deliver a performance against a newly promoted and stubborn – but ultimately limited – Leicester City team at the KP Stadium yesterday afternoon.

These are the teams that last season we simply dealt with, yet already the warning signs are here for a different season to last when it comes to the teams lower down the division. And that worries me. It worries me because unless we address our woeful form against the big boys, the only way we’ll get close to the top four this season (notice how I’m not even talking about winning the league), is by picking up a shed load of points against teams from sixth downwards.

We just aren’t clicking at all. That is more frustrating than the result. Result-wise, it’s not the end of the world and at this early stage of the season the league means about as much as a promise of humbleness from Jose Mourinho. But my concern lies with some of the initial signs from some of our big players. Specifically our midfield.

Yesterday’s 1-1 draw and the profligacy in front of goal may be labelled at the raw and clearly not ready Sanogo (I’ll come to that in a bit), but as a couple of people pointed out last night (I think Mean Lean over at Arsenal Vision said it first on my Timeline), it’s very difficult to pin it all on the front men when it was obvious that our midfield wasn’t right. I though Cazorla, Ramsey and Özil all had pretty poor games if I’m honest. Santi produced a lovely chip to set up Sanogo whose shot deflected into the path of Sanchez for his second goal in two games, but other than that he was way off. Passes were astray for all three players, ball retention left a lot to be desired of, the drive and determination of last season just didn’t seem to be there.

I don’t know why that is. This isn’t a Spuds/Liverpoolesque root and branch overhaul of the squad – the team that lined up we’re all ever-present last season barring Debuchy and Sanchez – so I don’t know why we haven’t found our rhythm in any of the games we’ve played in yet (Community Shield aside). That’s five games folks. Everyone has off days, we’re all only human, but every time we seem to take to the pitch it’s an off day at the moment it seems.

I did wonder if the new arrivals would take time to ‘bed in’ and we’d have a few quiet games, but it seems Chambers, Debuchy and Alexis are the ones that are actually performing quite well. Sanchez popped up on the left and right yesterday and looked to run at defenders wherever possible. He provided a creative attacking outlet and is getting better all of the time. But Özil was misplacing passes, looked out of sorts and never really threatened that killer pass beyond the eight man Leicester defence.

Perhaps there are mitigating circumstances. Crystal Palace, Besiktas, Everton and Leicester all got men behind the ball. That made it difficult for us to get behind them and yesterday, without a really quality target man, you could see we weren’t willing to whip balls in behind the defence for out wide. There just wasn’t the variation. We got the ball to the edge of the Leicester box and then tried to thread the most intricate balls in behind a well drilled defence that we could.

Are injuries playing their part? Perhaps. The head injury Koscienly picked up clearly affected him in the early stages of the game, as he was culpable for the equaliser that Ulloa got and came off shortly afterwards. It was a shocking bit of defending for the goal, but a fully-fit Kos probably would have nodded that one away.

Last season injuries decimating the team cost us around March time and we fell away from title chasers to fourth place trophy chasers. I can’t help but think that this season we are in for more of the same, only the injuries are happening now, so our title challenge may just evaporate earlier in the season than later.

I’m sorry if I seem despondent at the moment folks, but it’s just that so much early promise after a good summer of business and the Community Shield win had me really thinking we could have a good to at the oil whores this season. But when you look at the two Petro-dollar teams and see how strong their squads are, then you look at how we’re affected when we miss a few key players, it just feels like a mountain that is too steep for this Arsenal team to climb.

Who knows, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m just being a little melodramatic after a few flat performances. But historically, the seasons that have been good ones at Arsenal have been because we’ve started strong and raced to early leads by picking up a lot of points quickly. The ones where we’ve scrapped for fourth all season are where we’ve stuttered at the start and never even got close to the top two. I fear the latter scenario.

I don’t really even want to touch on the last day of the transfer window. For some, it’s the last bastion of hope that our frailties will be addressed, but for me I think there is too much work needed for the squad to be capable of picking up the challenge of a league title and running with it. A back up centre half may be easier to secure if you go to a smaller club, but picking up a defensive midfielder as well? I’m just not sure we have the ability to close two high-profile deals on the final day.

But that isn’t the most frustrating thing of all. The lack of a World Class striker will be painfully evident for us for the first half of the season I fear. Perhaps I’m being unkind to Arsène, because he made the excellent acquisition of Alexis and he may just turn out to be that superstar up top we’re looking for, but he is going to take time and as was shown yesterday, there is literally no other acceptable option when Giroud is out for a prolonged period of time. Sanogo is just not good enough I’m afraid. Not yet, anyway, and he showed that on numerous occasions yesterday. He’s a young player, he’s been thrust into the limelight and he’s having to accept his role as fall guy because Arsène is his chosen ‘project’. Well Arsène, if you don’t sign anybody by 11pm tonight, I pray your ‘project’ has some sort of miraculous change of fortune, because if he carries on like yesterday, I fear it could break him mentally. Think about how Diego Forlan got on at United when he took an age to score. It smashed him mentally and he only recovered when he went back to Spain and started banging in goals again. None of us want to see that for Sanogo, but that’s what I fear.

Right now, I have no expectations for today and if the performances continue like they have done over the coming weeks, I have no expectations for this season. Other than the standard fight for fourth place. Obviously.

See you tomorrow.

Contrast of styles: high pressing against Leicester needed

Welcome to Sunday and Welcome to Matchday. The greatest day of the week.

Today it is the visit to Leicester, where even The Arsenal fans all follow The Arsenal to get to, whether it be land or sea. As a newly promoted side in the early throngs of their Premier League season, they’ll be eager to impress and having already fought back to pick up a draw in the dying embers of the game against Everton on the opening day, the Foxes will be quite eager to prove that the KP stadium is something of a challenge to walk away from with any points.

It will be an interesting game today, as it appears there will be a clash of styles that we’ll see on display from 4pm, what with Leicester already looking like long-ball merchants of Premier Leagues of old. I think it was a tweet from 7AmKickOff that showed the long and short pass completion stats for the whole league and, as expected after only two games Arsenal are at the bottom of the table for long passes, but the top of the tree for short ones. In contrast, Leicester have reversed those figures and stand head and shoulders above every other team.

What that means for us today I can only make an assumption on, which is that our back four will be subjected to it’s first aerial bombardment of the season, so it will be interesting to see how our defenders cope if that is the case. I’m reminded of the last fifteen minutes or so at Swansea last season, when Swansea were chasing an equaliser from us and resorted to an unfamiliar tactic given their style of play since promotion to the league, in which a number of balls were floated into the box to try to put our back four under pressure by weight of numbers and bodies. Thankfully we withstood the onslaught quite well and pick up the points so I’m hoping for the same today.

What I think will be important is Koscienly’s role in sweeping up behind the BFG. If Leicester are playing long balls into the channels in behind Big Per, we know that he won’t have the pace to keep up with any of the Leicester attacking players, so Kos must be alert to make up any ground that Per will lose out on. Conversely, Big Per will be the man to go for aerial duels, so he needs to use all of that slender but massive frame to make sure he’s batting away any potential knock-downs.

In midfield I suspect we’ll see a similar line up to the game against Everton, with Flamini, Wilshere and Ramsey playing through the middle, whilst Özil and the Ox will play on the flanks. Personally, it’s not quite my preferred line up, as I’d like to see Mesut in the middle (heh, sounds like it could be a Sky One comedy series) with Ramsey the box-to-boxer and Flamini sitting deeper. That would mean that Jack unfortunately misses out, which would be a shame after a good performance in midweek, but as Özil said during the week his best position is through the middle and he is our best Number 10.

Up top we’ll see Alexis run his little heart out and I do wonder if his goal in midweek will have put an extra spring in his already well sprung step. We’ll need another good performance from him if we’re going to have a good result against Leicester, but his performance is also reliant on receiving a bit more support from his teammates in not isolating him in attack. At times against Everton it looked like he was so lonely up top he was dropping in to midfield to receive the ball, which left us without any real options up top and was frustrating for us all to watch. When we didn’t have the ball it was also obvious that there was a gap between him and the rest of the team. Alexis has spent a few years in a Barcelona team that presses extremely high up the pitch and you could see him gesturing to his teammates to get forward when Everton had the ball across their own back four. I’d love to see us press higher up the pitch today, because if Leicester do look to play longer passes from back to front, then putting them under pressure earlier will affect their ability to distribute more effectively and force the Leicester defence into making mistakes.

That’s the ideal scenario, anyway, but whether we will do it remains to be seen. As for our opponents, I must confess I know little about them other than a couple of the snippets I’ve read about them being a bit ‘long bally’. They have Dave Nugent who plays up top, but the fact that my iPhone predictive text doesn’t even register his name (preferring to
Call him ‘Dave Juventus’ instead) I hope is a good sign of his success against us today. They also have Peter Schmeichel’s son in goal, so if ever there’s a reason to dislike them any more, this would be it.

I am hoping that we can click into gear today and get our flowing football started. The last four games have been an execution of grind and determination with last minute goals that are no good for any Gooners health. We need a two or three goal cushion with half an hour to play before we can start feeling happy about any performance and whilst I don’t think we’ll get that today, I do hope we can get the first goal and have something to build on, so let’s keep our fingers crossed over that and work from there.

As for the transfer guff about Loic Remy, we’ve got all of tomorrow to panic about the lack of arrivals, so I think I’ll just focus on the football today and give you some thoughts tomorrow.

Up The Arsenal!

The striker issue isn’t black and white

Howdy there you, hope you’re doing hunky doory, if that’s even how you spell that??

Yesterday I had a bit of a ‘life is different to back then’ moment, so I thought I’d bring myself back in to the here and now and reflect on Arsene’s presser yesterday and the Champions League draw, which will once again see us pit our wits against Borussia Dortmund, whilst also taking on Galatasaray and Anderlecht. It’s no surprise that Chelski got a buy into the group stages, but in all fairness we can be pretty happy with our lot given that, the Germans aside, it’s a group that we should be looking to qualify from. It would be nice if we could go through as group winners for a change, so one would expect that the head-to-head against BVB will be a decider on who tops the group. The first game will be at Dortmund in a couple of weeks time, so it’s up to the team to try to replicate the 1-0 victory in Dortmund last season to get us off to a flying start.

In the meantime, there is a game this weekend against Leicester and then the small matter of a home game against the reigning champions, so there’s plenty of time for us to get into our rhythm before the Champions League starts. Not. It’s fair to say that we haven’t exactly hit the ground running as yet, but with the injuries having a part to play in the stuttering beginning to the season (unusual for us as we have tended to always start strongly and fade away towards the end of campaigns), we need to start clicking into gear and doing so quickly. That comes with matches, with new players being able to bed in and with established players finding their form, so this weekend’s game against newly promoted opposition represents a chance to lay down a marker. More on suspected team line ups tomorrow, but Arsene did confirm that both Arteta and Gibbs will continue to be missing until after the International break, which will mean Monreal and the Flamster continue to deputise.

We all know about Giroud and his long-term absence, so it was not really a surprise when Arsene was once again quizzed about finding a replacement up top. He, as would be expected, extolled the virtues of the talent he already has available in Sanchez, Walcott, Podolski, Campbell and Sanogo. Later on, I think in an interview which wasn’t part of the afternoon presser, he stated that there were too many strikers and he would only look to bring another one in if one went out. Whilst there will be those that will wonder whether that means a potential loan move for the raw Sanogo, or a permanent move for the clearly unflavoured Podolski, I suspect that the comment was designed to explain to the masses that Arsene really isn’t looking for another forward at all. Further evidence to this school of thinking can be found in the words of the BBC’s David Ornstein, who has always been seen as somewhat of an unofficial mouthpiece for the club, as he confirmed that Arsenal are after a centre-half or defensive midfielder.

Whilst my initial reaction to Arsene’s assertion that he has enough strikers and that only ‘top,top top quality’ would do (although I must question this definition given that Gervinho managed two seasons at the club) was to be slightly aggrieved, upon some reflection about the possible options out there, I could kind of understand where Arsene is coming from. Giroud’s injury is certainly a big blow and we will no doubt feel his absence, but his absence is something that we all feel needs to be replaced with somebody for the here and now, and therein lies our problem. There are plenty of names being kicked around amongst arsenal fans, but the reality is that any player coming from any league other than an English one, will need time to bed in, which is time we simply don’t have. Just look at Sanchez; he is still finding his feet, still needing to hone his radar so that he latches on to Ozil passes, etc. Any new player brought in from another league is going to go through the exact same process. So we are effectively back to square one because we don’t address the here and now in terms of finding a goalscorer instantly.

“But what about finding one from the Premier League?” I can almost hear you say, but again, I’m not sure what other options are out there that will be suitable for our style of play and the way Arsene is setting up his team. Remy and Bony are names that come to mind, but both are different to Giroud as strikers, so if at the moment we are looking at finding somebody to fit our existing style, then they won’t work. The truth of the matter is that there aren’t really many Giroud-style replacements out there – certainly not in the Premier League – that you and I would see as worthy upgrades. So it does leave the manager in a bit of a quandary as to what to do. Unless his plan is to change the attacking philosophy, to which I think Tim Stillman put the most eloquently in his blog on Thursday this week over at Arseblog Towers. If the plan to adapt the style is therefore needing to be accelerated, I would have to wonder if, actually, Arsene is right, and we do have enough players up top when Walcott arrives. The only caveat I’d place on this however, is that Walcott is an injury prone forward and if he breaks down again, we’re back to square one, with a lack of pace up top and a reliance on Sanchez to bed in a lot quicker in his debut season.

I don’t really ever pertain to have any answers, I’m just an observer, but what I do know is that we need to start hitting top form soon if we want to win that all-elusive Premier League trophy. I know that in some sense Arsene is right – it’s not always clear cut – not always black and white when it comes to football systems and finding players from other clubs that can fit neatly into the right gaps that Arsenal have in their team. There is a balance to be found and players to fit systems, but just because a player like Remy, for example, looks good in a Newcastle or QPR shirt, doesn’t always mean he’ll automatically fit in at Arsenal and bag 15 goals in the first half of the season.

That’s all from me on that today I’m afraid. Things to do and all of this pondering is giving me a headache. Cheerio folks. until tomorrow.