The whole world seems to think that today will be a walk in the park at home to winless Burnley. Everywhere I look there are match previews and predictions ahoy of 4-0, 5-0 or 6-0.
But you and I know better. You and I know that rarely in top flight football do you see batterings of teams and when you do, it’s not normally the team’s you’d expect, as we found out to our detriment last season.
You and I know that The Arsenal rarely make life easy for us. So I’m not going to pretend that I’m confident of a cricket score today, that’s for sure. Do I think we will win? Well yes, of course, but do I think that we’ll all be home and dry in the first 15 minutes? Not on your Nelly.
It’s our form and our play you see. Sure, we’ve strung back-to-back victories together, which one hopes we’re starting to build a bit of confidence and momentum. But the way in which we’ve gone about getting those victories has hardly been by swotting aside our opponents with consummate ease. We’ve huffed and puffed all season and I expect much of the same today.
But who cares as long as we win? There are people that are unhappy because we have won whilst playing poorly, but think back to the last few seasons. When have we regularly played really good football? I bet you could count the number of games on your fingers. The series of early season 2-0s last year had people saying that we were winning without playing so well. So what’s the problem? I’d take a rather drab 2-0 Arsenal win today, make no mistake of that, so let’s start with the desire for the points and see any score line that results in that as a good one. Even a good old fashioned ‘One Nil To The Arsenal’ would do me fine. It might make for a nervous afternoon towards the end but I’d be fine with that.
I’ve had a Burnley supporting friend over to stay this weekend and he says he’s just down for the fun of the experience. Ahh, I can’t even remember when football was just about the fun and experience. There are highs, of course, but it’s my addiction and when things don’t go to plan, I often worry too much. I worry before the game, during the game, then if we’ve won I start to worry about the next game about two hours after the victory.
So, as I said, my Burnley mate. He doesn’t expect anything, but is still a little apprehensive about how Burnley will line up today. Sean Dyche has lined up his team as 4-4-2 all season and is apparently playing an open and expansive brand of football that leaves Burnley susceptible to being opened up by the bigger teams. When I was talking with him last night he said that the game at home against Chelski was a classic example. They came out, got the first goal and his his words “then Chelski got angry and just started scoring for fun”.
I want us to be ‘angry’ from the first minute. If Dyche does stick to his footballing philosophy, then Burnley will be open and we need to capitalise on that, by banging the door down on their goal. So the emphasis today has to be on the forward line performing. We need Alexis, Welbeck, Cazorla and The Ox (all of whom I’m assuming will play) to be at it from the off. With Wilshere injured, Rambo will also step in and we will need to see more of the 2013/14 version of our Welsh Jesus, rather than the slightly stuttery version we’ve witnessed this season.
I suspect Mikel Arteta will anchor the midfield and the makeshift back four will see Monreal slide across to left back with Chambers at centre half and Bellerin at right back. I’m kind of ok with that, because in reality we should have less to do defensively, and I thought Bellerin did well at home against Hull.
But like Hull, Burnley could just as well promise to play open football but not actually deliver, so let’s not expect an easy ride. Steve Bruce said Hull would ‘come and have a go’ but had no intention to do such a thing. If Burnley get through the first half without conceding then they will have similar desires I suspect. And hey, I don’t begrudge them that, because the onus should be on us to break out opponents down in 90 minutes.
So whilst I don’t think we’re in for an easy afternoon, I do think we’ll pick up the points, and I certainly hope so too.
Up The Arsenal!