Injuries abating, history fears not

So, Le Boss hath spoken, decreeing that we have no new injury concerns ahead of this weekend’s massive game against United. In fact, the injury situation doesn’t seem as terrifying as it has been over the past month, as players are beginning to return. As usual with The Arsenal, players are returning in all of the positions that we are currently well stocked in but hey, beggars, choosers, etc.

It might have only been a brief update to the official site, but it was still welcome to get Arsène’s ‘all clear’ on some players. Arteta, for example, will be needed in the base of that midfield if Flamini’s recent performances are anything to go by. The tenacity and cardiness of our Gallic enforcer still seems to be there in his system, but Flamini seems to have lost positional sense and his ability to find another red (or yellow) shirt of late, so the metronomic movements of Tricky Micky will be welcome for our back four.

We may still see a duet of the Flamster and Arteta just in front of the back four, to provide extra cover against the obvious attacking threat United possess, but at least if a scenario like the one that led to the first Swansea goal two weeks ago happens, we know that Mikel is taking down an oncoming player closer to the centre spot.

The other good news is that Giroud will be back, which will certainly please Aaron Ramsey of all people, who thrived from his hold up play last season. It would be remiss of me to suggest that Rambo is not versatile enough to perform without the big Frenchman, but there’s no doubt he profits from Olivier’s place at the top of the field. It will probably be a few weeks before he’s ready to effectively challenge Welbeck for a starting spot, but just seeing him in the squad will be a welcome boost, not least because it will push poor old Sanogo further down the pecking list. I feel for the fella, but he’s not at Arsenal level yet and without games he never will be, so Arsène needs to January loan his ass to another club. Preferably in the Premier League. After all, he only needs to watch Match of the Day to do his scouting. Plus, we’ll save a few pounds on travel expenses if he stays in this country. No need for booking flights for any of Steve Rowley’s crew then, you see.

Anyway, back to the team and thankfully both Kos and Debuchy are out and about running. Arsène still thinks it’s three weeks but the fact that Kos is actually alive is pleasing to hear. We’ve had both Vermaelen and Rosicky in recent past disappear for injuries expected to be a couple of weeks, only to see them gone for an entire season, so I’m sure you’ll join me in breathing a huge sigh of relief there. The sooner we can get the first choice back four together, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

What was interesting about yesterday’s update, I thought, was that there was no mention of Welbeck. Perhaps that’s because there was no need to. After all, Woy said he was fine and if Arsène doesn’t even feel the need to mention it, surely it’s a non-story, right? RIGHT?? I hope so. But the trouble with supporting this club is that usually ‘surprises’ don’t fall into the ‘nice’ category. They usually fall into the ‘dropped your car keys into a poo-encrusted toilet so now you have to since when you dip your hand in there’ category. I’m trying to stay positive. Welbeck will be fit. If I have to avoid three-drained manhole covers all day between now and the game tomorrow evening I will. I’ll do it I tells ya!

So, finally, before I wrap up for the day I thought I’d give you a little ‘heads up’. I am terrified about tomorrow. I’m terrified because at home, against the poorest United side in my living memory, with the injuries they have, we’ve never had a better chance of picking up three points. Yet I’m terrified because we never seem to get the run of the green against that lot. I think back to 99, when we’ve dicked on United and gone down to a wonder goal after Bergkamp missed a penalty, or two when Owen Hargreaves (of all people! He could barely walk for most of his United career) scored that free kick after we’d outplayed them in their own back garden. Or when Almunia and Diaby’s 50p head caused a 2-1 defeat that I witnessed live in the flesh. Or when Sagna went for a meaningless challenge two seasons ago that cost us three points. Or even last season’s 0-0 bore draw. Every time we come up against United we rarely have the beating of them. We’ve had one win in 14 since 2009. I’ve been a season ticket holder for six years and I’ve never seen us beat United (I was away for the Ramsey goal that got us our only win in that time). That’s why I’m terrified. I’m terrified because of history. Because history is rarely kind to The Arsenal. History against United is the person that unscrews the salt pot so you spill all of your salt on your dinner and can’t enjoy it. That history is one in which I am haunted.

I fear another haunting. I fear us totally dominating and losing. Or drawing. Another draw. Don’t let it happen Arsenal. Please.

Anyway, more of my terror tomorrow. Adios for now.

Grumpy Arsene cautious on Theo and non-committal on Joel

Was it just me, or did Arsene seem like he was in a bit of a mood in yesterday’s pre-match conference? I mean, he was a little monosyllabic in some of his comments, more so than I would have expected. I get that you don’t want to give the media hacks too much to re-hash to their agendas, but it felt like he was a little grumpy yesterday. Normally you get one or two jokes from Le Boss, but he kept it to just the one yesterday with a comment about the fifth official having a seat and a nice book. A fair comment actually, because our game in midweek proved they are as useful as a chocolate teapot.

I suppose given the scoreline at home against the Belgian champions he was entitled to be a little grumpy. He was effectively shafted over by his team when they decided to push on to get a fourth goal but ended up conceding a third. I’m pretty sure Arsene wouldn’t have specifically said ‘EVERYONE FORWARD!’ with a minute to go. Whilst he must take some of the blame for his substitutions and the mentality of the team after we conceded the second goal, the players have been a bit shielded from blame thanks to the manager I think.

So we had a short presser and a grumpy-sounding Arsene with which to try and dissect thoughts on team morale in the camp. Arsene says the morale in the camp is very positive and that it is just the media that perpetuates the negativity. I understand that to an extent, but it’s hard to agree with him on the positivity if I’m honest. A positive and happy team would most likely be a confident one and you can’t argue that we’re playing with bags of that stuff. Sure, they might all be smiles and laughs when on the training ground practicing with each other, but deep down they will all be hurting and their confidence will have taken another blow on Tuesday night. It’s why I am a little fearful of the game tomorrow. The team has shown that confidence takes a long time to get back and can be shattered quite easily, so you do wonder what blowing a three-goal lead will do to them. Hopefully it will spark a response that sees some players step up.

One player who could help to be that catalyst is Theo and, despite the understandable caution from Le Boss, I do hope he gets significant game time tomorrow. The benefit that Theo has through his injury is that he will not have been affected by the indifferent start to the season. He is coming in with a blank sheet of paper and can paint whatever picture he wants through his contribution. He’s that kind of explosive player that can unlock games and in between his two big injuries last season and the season before he showed that he has matured into one of our biggest threats in front of goal. With him and Alexis the hope is – particularly away from home – that they can exploit that little bit of extra space you get to run in behind defences. Arsene was non-committal as to whether Walcott would start, but I hope he is starting sooner rather than later. Wenger was clear in his articulation not to expect a guy who has been out for 10 months to be the saviour, but I still think that his place in the team will give other players a lift and, when you’ve just been held back by a frankly average Anderlecht team, to have a player come in and pick you up is a welcome boost.

Understandably Arsene was also respectful of Swansea, talking about their style of football, which I think will also be a benefit for us. Swansea’s form has been patchy too this season, so it will be interesting to see how they line up. They will invariably play a passing game, but will they be a little bit more cautious, or will they treat this game as a ‘freebie’ and come at us? Either way, I’m not sure which is more beneficial for us. IF they come at us, it will prove the sternest test of the makeshift back four so far this season. If they sit, we could see another drab draw trying to break down a stubborn opponent. I don’t know about you, but I’ve just had about enough of my fill for draws this season.

Just finally before I knock off for the day, how about this situation with Joel Campbell, eh? Arsene was asked about whether he’s happy and said something like ‘you should ask him. I hope he is always happy’, then when later Joel Campbell was asked about it he confirmed he wouldn’t be leaving in January. I wonder if there is something going on there. Campbell has shown glimpses of a good player in the small cameo appearances he’s been getting, but in the last few games he hasn’t really been anywhere near the first team. Why? Is this one of those situations where Wenger just doesn’t fancy him? OR is there a plan to integrate him later on in the season? Remember that he did the same with Benayoun when he was on loan. He barely started for Arsenal until the latter part of the season, then he became a regular player for the club. I could never wonder why and a lot of people I spoke to felt that Benayoun was the biggest waste of a loan fee ever. But eventually he came good and maybe that is the situation with Joel? Or maybe Arsene will offload someone like Podolski in January and that will free up some space for the Costa Rican to get involved. Either way, it looks to me that he’s not getting anywhere now and so I suspect that unless his career takes a Benayounly turn after Christmas, it might be his last at the club.

Catch you tomorrow you sexy people.

Per missing a friend, the team missing a ‘hunt in packs’ mentality?

Pre-match presser Friday is always useful for a humble blogger looking to make a half decent word limit. Unfortunately for me, my early morning blogs mean that I’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning before pouring over every word that Arsène says.

But no matter, there is still plenty to talk about, starting with Per’s bold assertion on the official site that we will most certainly be bouncing back on Sunday afternoon. I’m glad to hear it, I must say, because it comes from a guy who I think will try his utmost to make amends for the defensive – his particularly – frailties – that we’ve exhibited to date. I don’t think it’s too unfair to say that we haven’t quite had the kind of form from our World Cup winning vice captain. He’s looked a little ropey at times since returning from his summer excursions and, as somebody has already pointed out to me since Tuesday evening, it was he who wasn’t quite ‘touch tight’ enough to his marker on the third goal. I had thought it was Monreal that was at fault in real time.

I don’t know whether or not it is the absence of his usual partner Koscienly, but he hasn’t quite looked his old self so far this season, which he of all people needs to address and quickly. On paper we’ve played four pretty poor teams since losing Kos, so this game has always looked like the first real test for our patchwork defence, so it’s one that I’ve not been wholeheartedly looking forward towards. There’ll be more by way of some kind of match preview over the weekend, but suffice to say I believe the game will be won or lost on the strength of us improving significantly defensively. If your forwards are regularly scoring twos and threes in games, you simply must have a defence that does not concede in the volume we’ve been shipping goals.

It’s a collective thing though, not just the sole responsibility of the back four, and Flamini also took to the official site this week to reiterate that point. He spoke about his role in shielding the back four, which we all know, but it’s not just him that needs to take that responsibility. I don’t know if it was somewhat of a dig at his fellow midfielders, but he also talked about defending and attacking more closely together as a team. The fact that we were in the 90th minute and still pushing Ramsey and Cazorla forward has clearly not escaped the attentions of our feisty Frenchman. His form may have been poor this season and he may be showing clear signs of a decline in his career, but he is right about defending more compactly as a unit. I remember seeing a couple of Barcelona teams rock up at the Emirates a few years ago and Guardiola’s men were the epitome of the phrase ‘hunt in packs’. When they pressed high up the pitch it was in twos and threes, which I think is the blueprint when you’re trying to get opponents notching up their own ‘unforced errors’ tally. A Ramsey hassling and harrowing a creative midfielder on the edge of our box, flanked by Flamini or one of the centre backs, is always going to see them make a mistake if they are pressed quickly enough. It’s human nature. The ‘fight or flight’ mode is triggered and most humans will choose ‘flight’ and try to release the ball without thinking clearly about where it’s going.

Perhaps that is exactly what we need to see when we talk about Ramsey getting back to doing ‘the basics’. He needs to get back to winning the ball, distributing the ball, running his arse off and finding positions in the box. Forget the flicks and tricks, just concentrate in getting in to the positions and the rest will come.

The team news for this weekend is no different to what we expected, but is perhaps better for the long term. With Giroud returning to the squad next week for training, as well as Arteta not as badly hamstrung as we thought, it all looks good for some key players returning after the international break. Heck, I’d probably go as far as to suggest that this particular Interlull has come at the perfect time for us. Even for someone like Walcott, who has just come back from injury and will no doubt get a few minutes under his belt both this weekend and then the following weekend with England.

There’s little else really to talk about today, well, certainly not this early on a Friday. I’m sure we’ll get some soundbites from Arsène after the presser, but I’ll just have to wait to hear what he thinks of Swansea until after my days struggle as a desk jockey in the Big Smoke.

Catch you tomorrow.

Speculating on Gibbs and Chambers’ pinches

Happy Halloween Friday to you. I hope you have something special planned? I know I do. I’m going to work, then I’m going to pick The Management up after her work, then a friend and I are going to the pub to ignore all the pointlessness of this time of year.

Never really been into Halloween, as you can probably already tell, even when I was a kid. Never saw the point in trick-or-treating and couldn’t be arsed with the dressing up. What’s the spooky equivalent of ‘bah-humbug’?

Anyway, thankfully we have The Arsenal to focus our attention on and specifically today, a press conference for Le Boss to give us an update on who’s available, what he thinks of Burnley, and no doubt whether he thinks his team can establish a run of victories in their upcoming games.

Calum Chambers will no doubt be present and I must admit to being more than a little bit jealous of him. After all, he is playing for the club I love and despite the fact that he probably didn’t grow up as an Arsenal fan, when he says that he has to ‘pinch himself’ because of the position he is in (big club, Champions League football, etc) I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t appreciate the position he’s in and wish that they could be in his shoes. I wonder how hard he punches himself. I think he’s probably one of those that wants to be really manly and draw blood, but actually he’s self conscious enough to know that social services might get called in if he gets too exuberant. Let’s not forget that three years ago he was in school. Anyway, He’s shown remarkable adaptability during his short spell at the club and is an example to those that say that Arsène can’t spot a defender. The Manager may still not be 100% on where Chambers’ future full time position lies, but there’s no doubt that the lad is a talent, at which I’d like to point out that I feel mighty old calling a 19-year-old a ‘lad’. But at the ripe old age of (nearly) 32, I’ve probably moved into that territory of being a grown man hero-worshipping somebody who would not have existed when I started secondary school. Let’s deviate away from that thought as quickly as we can and back to the team news for tomorrow, shall we?

Arsène gave one of his standard pre-emptive interviews to the official site, in which he has confirmed that Kieran Gibbs is a doubt for the game, following his limping off on Saturday against Sunderland. It’s nothing any of us wouldn’t have expected, but Gibbs’ record with injuries is well documented, so I hope this is just a bit of cautiousness from the club rather than an absence with no idea of a return. If we’re looking at an extended period on the sidelines then it all gets a bit scary for us defensively. However, I’d like to think in a ‘glass half full’ kind of way and suggest that if the injury was a longer term concern, Arsène would have elaborated a little bit more than he has. By the tone of the interview he game on the dot com, this is a short term injury, so perhaps we can be given some good news in relation to the Anderlecht game on Tuesday.

As for the rest of the squad, there is thankfully no new bumps or bruises, with Sanogo even returning!! Try to contain you’re excited, will you please? I suspect our Postman might be looking at a while with little game time and perhaps even a short-term loan come January, as I can’t really see him breaking through ahead of the more experienced pros in the team.

Gnabry and Diaby are soon to be back and whilst the latter might see the odd sub appearance, I suspect the former will also benefit from a loan. He’s a definite talent, but will probably see his route blocked for now, so let’s get him some experience to come back as a more polished diamond in 2015/16.

I’m sure they’ll be plenty of other snippets and soundbites from Arsène come lunchtime today, so they’ll be plenty of fat to chew in the PM and before the game tomorrow. I’ve started to read what the ‘experts’ are saying about tomorrow’s game and they’re all predicting a relatively comfy afternoon for us. Clearly they’ve never actually seen Arsenal properly this season, because that’s about as likely to happen as me growing wings and joining the X-Men, because we never do anything the easy way. We’ll most likely go one-down from a goal-kick that catches a big gust of wind and bounces off the referees head. To which he’ll turn around and see Wilshere laughing so will send him off. And Arsène to the stands for remonstrating. But perhaps I’m dabbling in a little bit too much hyperbole today, so will leave my wandering imagination there.

In the meantime, you have a good one.

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!

Defensive worries lead to schoolyard tactics?

With Arsène taking to the stage at both his press conference and the AGM yesterday, there was a veritable feast of soundbitiness from which we can all pour over this Friday before the game against Hull tomorrow.

First and foremost, injuries, to which the news is mixed. In this age of instant information, most of what Le Boss said was common knowledge by the time he said it, but it’s the Koscienly news that was the most worrying for me. The reason I say that is because there was no return date put on his recovery time and availability. Arsène simply explained the prognosis and said that he has to rely on the player who said he is not ready. Reports this morning from the gutter press are that he’ll face around four weeks out and whilst that is unconfirmed, when you have a club like ours who seem to always underestimate recovery times, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that there’s a bit more truth to that figure than we’d all like to believe.

Again, like a broken record, it does baffle you how the club did not address the defensive cover issue. It’s a question that was broached at the AGM yesterday and whilst Sir Chips and Ivan were very clear that there is more money to spend after the summers splurge, Arsène interestingly declined to comment. He was probably still feeling from the admission from Sir Chips that the club back the manager when he has a plan and stay out of it when he doesn’t.

Righto. So there was no plan then? That’s a shocking ‘reading-between-the-lines’ admission from the club and Arsène declining to comment doesn’t really help. But there’s nothing really that we can do about it so we just have to hope that tomorrow’s replacement – Nacho Monreal (who has admitted it has felt strange playing at centre half. Yes kids, I’m scared too) – can quickly adapt and prove himself an able body in the heart of our defence.

Anyway, I think we should seriously consider playing a 1-1-4-4 formation at the weekend and see if we can’t recreate a school yard kick-about with a 12-10 score line against The Tigers tomorrow. How awesome would that be? As long as Arsène doesn’t tell his boys to pick the ball up and go in for tea after 60 minutes because James Chester has been calling Alexis names. Jack would probably try and deck him anyway.

I’ve found it fascinating how much time and commentary has been apportioned to the Özil injury, which Arsène again felt the need to clarify the situation regarding him playing on at Chelski two weeks ago. I suppose Arsène probably feels he should have kept relatively schtum about the whole thing, because as soon as it came out the whole world jumped on it in exasperation at why he was allowing a player to play on despite injury. I too had a bit of a rant on the blog earlier in the week and so must hold myself as guilty as charged to my furore over the mismanagement of the injury. Wenger and his medical staff are still culpable for not being overly cautious on a players health, but their failure to act is not as extreme as it originally appeared.

There was even a hint that the injury won’t be as long as we thought, but let’s not imagine we’ll be seeing him back to full fitness much before the Christmas period now, eh?

Still, for all the doom and gloom on injuries, at least we have Diaby back. And Arteta. And Ramsey from Monday. And Walcott probably next week too, who will play in an under-21s game tonight and assuming he comes through unscathed, will most likely be involved in some capacity next weekend at Sunderland one would hope.

Arsène also talked us through the issue on racism in football management, the Invincibles and the Champions League coefficient, but if I’m completely honest with you having listened to the full presser this morning, I am less inclined to go into that stuff in more detail. Not because it is not interesting to talk about, but more because the questions put to him felt to me as if they were just designed to get soundbites out of the manager, not to get genuine insight into football matters. So naturally, the managers response is slightly guarded and you never really get much exciting to talk about.

Later in the afternoon, our boss sauntered his way over to The Emirates for the AGM and did his narrative in front of shareholders and members of fanshare, who will be attending the AGM for the last time, as it will be closing shortly, meaning less access for real fans to attend the AGM via the scheme. It’s a shame, but not to be unexpected, and the cynic inside me was always thinking that the board and Stan probably had an extra glass of Dom Pom after the event had concluded, knowing that future AGMs won’t be nearly as potentially spicy.

The event, by the sounds of it, is a watered down affair anyway by the sounds of it. With few questions taken from the floor and almost all most certainly screened beforehand, it’s a bit of a tick box exercise in corporate governance as it is, so anybody expecting to get any real answers out of these kinds of things is always going to be disappointed.

Why they are so dislikable

It’s a non-footballing Saturday for me, as I run some errands with The Management and then head off to a family 80th birthday party this afternoon, so in a sense I’m quite glad that Sky haven’t thrown in yet another 5.30pm kick off against that ‘orrible lot from West London.

Arsène still took to the stage though, albeit one filled with fuzzy mics in front of him and with an Emirates splashed background, for his pre-game presser. At the other side of the capital Jose was being his usual despicable self and trying to be as abrasive about us and our manager as he possibly could. Nothing he does is without sarcasm of genuine heartfelt meaning; even his compliments are barbed.

It’s probably why I hate Chelski as a football club more than any other team actually. Unbearable fans (yes, even worse than the spuds), a series of dislikable characters within their team (starting from their captain and working through), topped off with a manager who you just want to have his comeuppance delivered to him on a regular basis. He had it last season with his “specialist in failure” jibe at Arsène, to which Le Boss duly delivered a trophy when Jose’s cupboard was particularly bare. But one suspects that it probably won’t be a glorious consecutive year for them this time around.

As you’d expect, Arsène’s presser was more upbeat than my blogs in the run up to this game, particularly as I’m giving us absolutely no chance of vanquishing a team that must surely be supported by the Devil himself. He talked up the confidence of the team, whilst admitting the disaster that was last year and the need to consign the result to history and think only of the hear and now. Easy words to be spoken, but whether or not the result plays into the mindset of the players tomorrow we can not be sure until kick off. I can’t see how it won’t if I’m honest; we were flattened by a team that, as soon as they were 2-0 up and the opposition were down to ten men, we’re always going to put us to the sword.

The hope is that the reaction from the players is one of revenge. That’s what I got from the transcript of what The Ox was saying yesterday when he spoke of the team going to Stamford Bridge to ‘make a statement’. I hope that transmits to the other Arsenal players on the pitch, because we’ll need a full compliment of good performances to pick up any points at all.

As for the whole Fabregas thing, he’ll of course get booed, whatever Arsène says, but it will be at The Emirates when the boos ring out loudest, so I don’t think anybody should really be making too much of it if I’m honest. His Arsenal legacy is tarnished by his move to Stamford Bridge, he’ll never be viewed as a ‘legend’ in my book and he’s just another enemy that I hope has a poor game on Sunday. We move on.

That’s all I’ve got time for today. Back tomorrow with a match preview.