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.


Pressures on, but enforced changes may be a blessing

Big game today boys and girls, big game indeed. Not least because a consecutive defeat in the Champions League will make qualification from the group stages look very precarious. It seems quite amazing that at Matchday 2 out of six in the competition we are already worrying about an early exit, but such is the importance of getting yourself up and running on Matchday 1, that it immediately puts pressure on you to win your next game.

Arsène knows this, saying as much when he spoke to the press yesterday about tonight’s game, in which he effectively set out his blueprint for advancement to the next stages: win all of your home games and pick up at least one point away from home. Ten points is usually enough to see sides navigate these early parts of the competition and his – and our – experience of managing, watching or playing in this competition tells us that he speaketh the truth.

But a defeat, or even draw tonight, means that you have to win one and draw one of your two remaining away games in this stage. It doesn’t really afford much margin for error. Which is why we’ve usually been alright and already won our first game of the group stages by now. It takes the pressure off. But no matter, we have the chance to get up and running against Galatasaray, plus we can all be under no illusions that on paper the hardest group game came first with the away trip to Dortmund.

In terms of team news it’s as expected really. No Arteta and Ramsey, but Wilshere makes the squad having trained yesterday. With Jack’s record and Arsène’s gambling ability akin to Paul Merson’s skills at the bookies, I’d be inclined to save Jack for the bench in today’s game. In Dortmund he picked up a knock to his ankle which he looked to have exacerbated in the NLD, but thankfully he seems to have recovered well enough, but I’d still be inclined not to risk him if a few more extra days training and rest will help.

Whether Arsène adopts the same mindset is anybody’s guess. If he doesn’t, I’d expect to either see Rosicky slot in to that box-to-box role instead of Jack/Rambo, or Santi come in to play wide left. That would move Mesut into the centre, Alexis on the right and The Ox in the middle of the park. I didn’t watch the game against Southampton last week, but by the sounds of it Tomas had an evening to forget, so on that basis I wonder if Arsène will look to see if The Ox can replicate his excellent performances of last season against Crystal Palace and Bayern Munich, in which he played in the centre of the park and was arguably the man-of-the-match in both.

At least Arsène has choices in the middle of the park that won’t have us cursing our injury record, because let’s face it, defensively we have enough to worry about. Rumours are rife that Koscienly is carrying a knock and has done for a few weeks, but Le Boss’ failings to strengthen are putting him under pressure to remain fit whilst both Debuchy and Monreal are sidelined. It also puts a lot of pressure on Chambers to be consistent at right back and, with still only a handful of first team appearances under his belt, it does seem quite unfair to place such a burden on a 19-year-old. But that is that path that we have chosen as a club and we have to hope that all remaining defenders can remain ready, willing and able to fight for the cause. Starting tonight.

The Galatasaray threat will invariably come from the trickery of Wesley Sneijder who, despite my own assumptions that he was clearly past it having toodled off to Turkey for an extended holiday for a few years, has shown for the Dutch national team that he still remains a very good player. I don’t know Galatasaray very well – well, apart from what Champions League games I’ve watched of them – but I do know that the old stereotype of Turkish teams not travelling too well is still in existence. Their vocal away support will be at it’s raucous best, but we have to quieten them down by asserting our dominance early. That means we have to start like we did against City and also the Spuds, albeit getting a better result, but we need to put them on the back foot early.

How do we do that? Hopefully by reverting to 2013/14 Arsenal and playing Mesut through the middle. He doesn’t have to stay there, but it gives him licence to roam as he sees fit and there’s something that feels a bit more balanced about having a player with a free role in the middle of the park. I’m no tactical expert, so can’t really tell you why (perhaps it just looks better and easier to explain when you look at a formation, a la Championship Manager), but it just feels like it makes sense to have Özil dictating play from behind Welbeck.

Who knows, maybe the forced change Arsène would have to make through injuries would be a blessing in disguise, with Wenger realising that last seasons Arsenal was a more successful blueprint for him to work from. But then again, we do all know he’s a stubborn old mule at the best of times, so let’s not hold our breath.

Having missed the Besiktas game, I’ll be at The Emirates tonight and it’ll be exciting to get our Champions League campaign underway in my eyes, so I hope the performance matches my hopes and expectations for the evenings frivolities.

Up The Arsenal.

NLD nerves, despite everyone tipping us to win

Good morning to you on a very important day in the football calendar indeed. Derby day. The North London One. At home. Three points is the target and up and down the land (and the globe actually) there are Gooners like you and I nervously counting down the time to kick off. And it is nervous, isn’t it? Because let’s face it, without wanting to trot out all of the old cliché’s, the great form that we’ve had at home since the dawn of the Premier League era mean the square root of naff all today.

We host a Tottenham team who have just come off the back of a disappointing home defeat to West Brom (you can’t really call the midweek games the last games that the teams will have played because the two North London sides are completely different to the ones that will be rocking up today) and who have struggled to find their rhythm since the start of the season. In fact, you’d go as far to say that Spurs’ form is pretty poor so far. Over the last few weeks the Spuds have lost twice at home to West Brom and Liverpool, whilst also being pegged back by Sunderland away. So it’s hardly a Tottenham team that will be kicking off at The Emirates full of swagger. That’s what we’ve had during the previous 5-2 victories a couple of seasons ago, so I don’t really know what to make of the Spuds going in to this game. I mean, we could just as easily have that lot giving the games of their lives against us that belies their recent form, as we could see a comfortable evening of goals for our lads.

What does worry me is the fact that everyone is pipping us for a comfortable afternoon. When you’ve got people like Paul Merson saying we’ll have an easy afternoon and a 3-0 victory, Mark Lawrenson saying it will be a comfortable 2-1 and even Jamie Redknapp telling us the Spuds are a ‘million miles’ away from us, it instills anything but confident in your humble narrator here. Only because we’re not Chelski or City. Our dollar hasn’t been tainted with oil and we haven’t also managed to buy a truck-load of luck, so usually when everything points in Arsenal’s favour, we get a bloodied nose. Next week we’ll be on the receiving end of the pundits telling us that we haven’t got a chance against Chelski and it’s almost certain that what they say will come to pass, but when we are the favourites, rarely do we have it easy. I’m praying not to have that today. I’m praying for a real comprehensive victory that sees us a few goals up by halftime and a nice 45 minutes of jovial frivolity for the second half.

As for the teams, I suspect we’ll see the same side that dispatched Villa last week, minus The Ox for Alexis. So I am hoping that Arsene decide’s that Mesut should sit behind Welbeck and see if they can combine well as both did at VIlla Park. Defensively we’ll need Chambers to be at his best against a Chadli who looks a little bit more impressive than the five-minute player that played last season up against Jenkinson. The Spuds will play with a 4-2-3-1 and have Chadli and Lamela either side of Adebayor with Erikson sitting as the playmaker. Arteta will be responsible for making sure that Erikson doesn’t find space in between our defence and the midfield, so my hope is that he performs better than in the Dortmund game, in which he continuously let players run in beyond him.

It’s why Ramsey’s role in the team will be so important. Ramsey is at his best – I think – when he is starting from deeper and pushing forward. With Ramsey’s starting position being further up the field, it doesn’t give him the licence to be as successful with his driving runs I don’t think, so I hope Arsene opts for the Welshman sitting a little deeper than when he started the season. That would support Arteta and help to stifle the Spuds attack.

Our attacking quartet will need to find a way past Kaboul, Verthongen and Capoue who, up until his injury in the NLD last season, I thought looked like a decent player. Both him and Dembele can travel with the ball and look decent with it at their feet, but if Mesut can find those pockets in between their back four and the two deeper lying midfielders, he could have a good afternoon. He missed last seasons game because he hadn’t been signed in time, so I’m hoping he can show the world of his quality and build on the great performance of last week.

As Arsene mentioned in his presser yesterday, Ozil and Welbeck’s partnership was good last week and it has to be good today. Unlike two weeks ago when Welbeck found his chances few and far between, one suspects that he’ll be given more opportunities to put one away against this Spuds team. They play very open and do not have the requisite quality that Moneychester City have, so if Welbeck is presented with a chance it’s important that he puts it away. He opened his account last week in great poachers fashion, but he needs to get a run of games in which he’s scoring to secure his place in the side for the long-term. Let’s not forget that it was an excellent and deft touch of Giroud’s that won us this game last season, so that is what Welbeck needs to replicate today. If he can do it a few times too that would be grand.

We’ve drawn too many games already this season, so ideally we need the win more than anything else. A draw won’t really feel like we’ve mastered the ‘big games’ just yet, so its imperative that we don’t let a psychological barrier begin to build like it has in previous seasons. Having said that, it’s what I believe will happen today, as I think we’ll not see a Tottenham side anything else other than wanting to make a statement. I think we’re in for a tough afternoon and given our propensity to ship goals from set pieces, it wouldn’t surprise me if we get sucker-punched with a Kaboul goal from a corner or something like that. Chasing a football match is nobodies idea of fun, but I have a nasty feeling that’s what we might see this afternoon. After all, we’ve got form in that regard if you think about the two 5-2 victories.

I hope my gut feeling is wrong, I hope we can give them a smashing, so let’s all do our part to help the team to shout ourselves hoarse come 7.20pm London time this evening.

Come. On. You. Reds.

The Mushroom Man talks, the boys are up for it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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