Newcastle preview: makeshift defence needs protecting, attack needs closeness

Howdy there partners! Happy Saturday and hopefully one in which all of Goonerdom is blessed with that holiest of things: three precious points.

It’s the black and white stripes of Newcastle United that come to town and quite frankly, after last weekend’s abomination of a performance in the first half against Stoke, I’m looking for one heck of an improved performance from those available today. And therein lies the nub of us on this chilly winter’s day: can we patch together a team capable enough of winning a game against a resurgent Newcastle team that have won six of their last eight and one against Chelski last weekend. They were the heroes for us against Mourinho’s men not seven days ago, yet now we find ourselves facing them as the enemy.

It’s a tough one to call. Over the years, even when we haven’t been great, you usually look at these games as ones that we win. Despite all of our grumbles about not really competing at the top of the league on a consistent basis for a number of years, when you look back at the end of the season and see the ‘W/L/D’ columns, there’s more wins than defeats. So it’s why actually, we get to be happy more than most – because we’re usually one of the best four teams in the division. But this season has been different. There haven’t been any league games in which we’ve looked comfortable at all in the league. Even the Villa game in which we smashed and grabbed three goals in a matter of minutes had its moments both before and afterwards. So I’m not going to expect us to buck this seasons trend and put Newcastle to the sword in the first half like Stoke did to us last weekend. Especially given our makeshift squad at the moment.

So makeshift, in fact, that it looks like Francis Coquelin might even find his way back into the matchday squad by virtue of the fact that he still has all of his limbs, joints and muscles in one piece. The injury list is lengthy and the recall of Coquelin from Charlton has been hastened due to absentees such as Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere and Ozil, in addition to Ospina, Koscienly, Monreal, Chambers through suspension and even Walcott, although I suspect he might be in the squad today based on Arsene’s comments this week. But it’s all looking a bit ropey defensively, isn’t it? As I said yesterday, it looks like it’s another defensive shuffle that will take place and I suspect we’ll see Debuchy slot in to central defence as the more experienced player in the squad. Mertesacker normally plays on the left of the two centre halves, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him shifted to the right to support Bellerin, whilst Debuchy plays next to Gibbs. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a worry for us defensively and given our recent transgressions in the league, i’ll be biting all of my fingernails every time a black and white shirt ventures into our half.

That’s why the responsibility of the midfield today will be essential. With Flamini back he’ll need to ensure that he gives as much protection to the two central defenders as he can possibly muster. With a side like Newcastle and the injuries they have, the temptation might be for him to venture forward more to support the attack, but that’s not his job and we really could do without some sucker-punching goals like we’ve conceded all season. He’s been quoted as saying that at times they like to win the ball back higher up the pitch, but if Newcastle play with pace on the counter with the likes of Cisse and Cabella, then we’ll need him to be a protector rather than a gallivanter in the opposition half.

I know Newcastle have been in form, but I suspect they’ll want to soak up pressure and not come at us too much. Pardew is not an idiot and will have seen how susceptible we are on the counter, so I think he’ll sit two holding midfielders in front of his back four and hope to hit us quickly on the break. That’s where the form of players like Santi and the Ox will be essential I think. Both will slot in to central midfield and I expect to see them the ones that will battle with Tiote and Colback in the midfield area. It will be on the likes of Sanchez and Welbeck to provide the support for Giroud, who will need a vastly improved performance from the game at The Britannia. He’ll be up agaionst Coloccini and probably Mike Williamson, so his role will be to hold off those two centre halves and bring our pacey wide men into play. We started to see signs of what these three could do together in the final third against West Brom, but today will be slightly different. Newcastle will try to suffocate the space around Giroud, so those little flicks around the corner and knock downs will need to see our front three operating very close together I think, if we’re to get any joy that is.

There’s no doubt we have the players that are technically capable of beating this Newcastle team later this evening, but the real question is around the confidence and mental fragility of this side. We’ve already drawn far too many games and every time we look to be stringing together some results we seem to come-a-cropper with a poor performance. At home it has tended to be draws when only a win will do. Away it has been the damaging defeats that have been hard to stomach.

I’ll be relegated to watching the game in the local pub, as I’m at a family event, but hopefully Ian and his boy (who have taken my ticket today) can bring the team some luck. We could do with it.

See you tomorrow. Hopefully i’m all chirpy because we’ve smashed the magpies. But I’m not expecting it.

Grumpy at injuries and our Rubik’s cube defence

This horrible weather we’re having in London can do one. Sideways. With a spatula. That’s on fire. So can signal failures, which are the bane of everyone’s lives.

If you can’t tell already, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, the one with the Velux windows that sound like the heavens have fallen on your house when it’s windy and raining.

So I give you this disclaimer of grumpiness: if today’s blog seems overly morose, please don’t think that I’m turning to the dark side or something like that, I’m simply a tired man feeling increasingly like an old man. At 32. And yes, I’m painfully aware that my professional football career is all but over. Anyways, I’d only get a one year deal at The Arsenal, so it would be fleeting as it is.

So to Arsenal, and Arsène, who appears to have crossed the paths of so many black cats he’s started tripping over them. The team news made for grim reading on the official site yesterday didn’t it? No Koscienly, no Monreal, no Chambers, no Arteta, no Walcott and Ramsey is being assessed for a severe case of ‘Butt Rot’ or something similar. It reads like the transcript of the opening scenes in Saving Private Ryan, with bodies just littered around the treatment room like some sort of morbid Christmas decorations.

Quite what it means for our defensive worries I haven’t the foggiest. With the arrival of Debuchy we took one step forward, but the news from Le Boss yesterday was effectively that we’ve taken one step back. I was really looking forward to seeing our back four all be players from their natural position. But there you go, such is the cross we all must bare.

So it looks like we’ll have our 9,253th combination of four defenders – the only four senior defenders we have left mind – that will take to the field. More speculation on how they will line up against the Geordies in tomorrow’s match preview, but I do wonder if the gods are testing the old Rubik’s cube theory on us. You know the one; how there’s about a million permutations for just fifty or sixty coloured squares. I wonder how many different variations of an Arsenal back four could be used for the duration of a season?

A saving grace for tomorrow will be that Newcastle seem to have just as many injury problems as we do. I joked a few weeks ago that ‘only Arsenal’ would have two goalkeepers out at the same time. Turns out that statement should have had ‘plus some Geordies’ added to it as well, because they are pretty Donald Ducked by the sounds of it. You never know, we might get treated to a five-a-side score line tomorrow evening. Hopefully it’s an 11-4 in our favour though, eh?

We’ll get a better indication on where we’re at this morning when Arsène takes his seat in front of the microphones for his regular pre-match chin wag with the national hacks. I’m not so sure he’ll be as eager to dish out the platitudes about his opposite number as Alan Pardew did yesterday. ‘Pards’ was effusive in his praise (straight out of the Football Manager archives, that one) for Arsène, going as far as suggesting that he should have a stand named after him, which fiend respective two managers history, was certainly a surprise to me. This is a guy, after all, who has aimed pot shots at Arsène for fielding too many Johnny Foreigners, before deciding that he had French ancestry and delving into Ligue Un to populate his side with Gallic fellows. Or, a guy who likes a bit of shovy-shovy on the touchline, with Arsène and other managers/players in his managerial career too.

So Alan wants a stand named after Arsène, does he? Well I’m sure Arsène will get his statue one day, but he’s got some repair work to do first, starting with a win tomorrow evening. And besides, the Emirates is more of a bowl these days anyway, so doesn’t really have ‘sides’ or ‘stands’ so to speak. So ner-Nicky-ner-ner Alan.

Anyway, that’s it from me for one day I think, to which there’s of much more to do other than point you in the direction of this humurous ditty from http://www.twitter.com/gunnerblog, which is an ode to the Cesc saga – http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=YJMr6nrl7c0 – bravo sir, bravo.

Problems placing Poldi

Today I want to say some words on Lukas Podolski, because after the game on Wednesday night, it appears as though a fire has been lit under many for his inclusion from the start on a more regular basis.

First and foremost, we must all admit that he gave a much improved performance against Galatasaray, notching up another two goals and putting a little bit more effort than perhaps he has been seen to be doing previously. It’s that kind of hunger to impress that you want to see from the players that don’t get regular matches and I for one was pleased to see some of the rotational players step up.

However, to the doubters in Podolski, I too must admit I have a side of me that is with you. Whilst his performance on Wednesday was markedly improved, there were still times when his movement looked static to me and as much as he comes alive in the final third, when he has the ball in the middle of the park it is usually to quickly redistribute it to somebody else.

He’s certainly a conundrum of a player. Not quite technically brilliant enough for Arsène to keep him in the team, but so lethal in front of goal, that it makes Arsène look silly that he doesn’t play more often. I maintain the opinion that if he was another four inches taller and could hold the ball up, I don’t think we’d have seen as much of Olivier Giroud, as we have done over the last couple of years. I know Giroud brings more than just a tall target man and that his touch and interlinking play with others around him is far better, but having a Podolski with those stronger centre forward attributes would definitely give us a more direct and ‘end product’ type of striker.

But of course he isn’t. Which is why he has been operating out on the left for the most part of his career for Germany and for Arsenal. But the problem he has now, is that his position is being occupied by the Rolls Royce that is Alexis, which means his chances at the club will inevitably be few and far between. Alexis may not necessarily operate in the same zones as Poldi, but that wide left position which has been moulded into a number 10 hybrid at times with Alexis, means that Poldi’s old spot is evolving. Without him.

I think more than anything though, the technical ability of the player is what has cost him his place in the team, especially when you look at someone like Santi. At the start of the season, a few people thought he would be the player that is used less and less, as Özil occupies the number ten role and Alexis operates out wide on the left. But we’re now coming to the midway point in the season and I think I’m right in saying that Cazorla has played more than almost everyone else in the squad. It’s true he may have benefitted from injuries to players like Özil, but his regular inclusion in the side supports the arguments that for Arsène, technique trumps any other kind of attribute that his players must have.

I’ve said it a million times: with Podolski you know exactly what you are getting: end product. Nothing more, nothing less. He is the specialist ‘field goal kicker’ that American Football teams have just to get those field goal points. If you could make rotational subs like in 5-a-side, he’d be an awesome player to bring on every time we get a throw in or corner in the opposition box, then drag off the second a move breaks down, because his end product starts and finishes with his goalscoring.

Which is why I can understand the argument for him being an impact sub. If we need a goal with 20 minutes to go, then we need Podolski, because as long as he gets the space in our around the box, he’ll hit the target. Perhaps this is where I don’t understand Wenger’s thinking, because five, six or seven minutes at the end of a game is hardly enough time for someone like Podolski to make an impact as a sub. If we are all in acknowledgement that we’d be best served with him on the bench coming on in the second half, why isn’t Arsène more ruthless by hooking off any ineffective attacking players sooner? If, after an hour of football, we’re seeing Giroud having ‘one of those days’, then shift Welbeck up top, Alexis out wide right and Poldi on the left, no? Likewise if Welbeck is ineffective, or even the wonder boy Alexis. These guys are all human beings and everyone has an off day, so there’s no shame in admitting it hasn’t worked and trying someone different. That’s where I don’t understand Wenger sometimes.

It has been mentioned to me that perhaps Poldi is a ‘square peg with no round holes’ i.e. He doesn’t have a position that suits him in this Arsenal side. I’m not sure I subscribe to that thinking. Mainly because, as I’ve mentioned, he’s such a specialist player (end product) that he doesn’t specifically need a position I don’t think. Instead, he needs to occupy areas of the final third where he is within range and has space to fashion himself a shot. There’s nobody that can’t argue that had the same chance (the first goal against Galatasaray) fallen to him on the right hand side of the goal, that he wouldn’t have hammered it home, albeit would have been slightly more difficult as he probably would have taken it on his left and so not allowed the ball to roll across his body before striking.

Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t have a specific position, just a skill, that he isn’t getting more games. Actually, re-reading the thinking above, I suppose that is a square peg, but it’s not that there is no round holes, it’s just that there all filled up. And anyway, his peg is so small it would just fall through and not fit anyway. Or something similar like that.

I suppose this is just one long monologue which ultimately comes to the conclusion that if I had the reigns at Arsenal, I probably wouldn’t know what to do with Poldi either, because I’d want him in my team but I’d have nowhere to put him on a permanent basis. The only conclusion I can draw is that we should be using him more. Who knows, perhaps the busy Christmas schedule will see him get more games for the club, I’m looking specifically at that QPR game and thinking that it could be tailor-made for him to start from the beginning.

What’s your view on Poldi?

Confidence boost we all needed

Well that was certainly more fun last night, wasn’t it? A 4-1 win, the game all but over in the first half, a dominant display and some great goals to boot. Can’t ask for much more can you?

Now look, I know that there’s a distinct possibility that because there was no pressure on either side, it played into our hands as the better team. And I know that this was one of the worst Galatasaray teams that have graced this competition for some years. But gosh darn-it, it still feels good to see an Arsenal team sweep aside an opponent with such ease.

From the first minute we looked like we had purpose, poise and in Lukas Podolski, a man with a left foot that you wouldn’t want to play in a game of ‘Death Shot Headers and Volleys’. His goal in the third minute was textbook Poldi and, as we have seen already in his cameo appearances this season, there is no other player you’d rather see in that box with the ball dropping to his feet. He’s not an enigma, he’s blindingly obvious in what he brings to the team: end product. No pressing, no dribbling ability, he can’t beat a man, but he can whip in a cross and he can finish. Boy, can he finish.

To some extent you can see why he should be limited to a substitutes role, but I still think Arsène should give him more than five or 10 minutes in the games that matter. Because really, if we’re all honest, that game never really mattered. We may have halved the goal deficit we were supposed to get to top the group by halftime, but even against a poor Gala team, you’re never going to score six away from home.

Which leaves a tinge of frustration this morning about that Anderlecht result, because we’d have racked up 15 points and looked in a good position, had we not fluffed our lines at home a few weeks back. In hindsight that group was there for the taking and we’ve made life hard for ourselves in the next round by finishing second.

Still, that’s a conversation for another day: next Tuesday no doubt after we learn of our Champions League fate in the next round. For now, we should bask in the glory of victory, most specifically, of some vastly improved performances.

Let’s start with wonder-strike hero Aaron Ramsey, who’s second goal came straight out of the FIFA ‘have a crack’ archives from the Welshman’s left peg. It was a volley of such class that I’ll be astounded if it doesn’t get shortlisted for goal of the competition. Postage stamp too. But that wasn’t his only goal, nor does it sum up his performance, because he was good all over the park yesterday. He was back to Rambo MkII (aka 2013/14 version) and although we can’t really take too many positives from our final Champions League group stage position, we can certainly take heart from his performance.

That’s where yesterday’s game becomes important: the confidence levels. By scoring against Stoke, as well as twice in the game yesterday, I think it will do wonders for his confidence. Arsène has hinted it himself, previously stating that he needs to concentrate on the basics first and then the goals will come. Wenger’s words said to me that Ramsey places a lot of emphasis on goals as a deliverable of how he is performing. If that is the case, then these three goals in a week will be vital for us to see the best from him, so let’s hope he continues his good form on Saturday evening.

The return of Debuchy had an instant impact too. He may have looked shattered on the hour mark, but before that he was the same player that we lost to Moneychester City all those months ago. Getting forward, tracking back, winning headers – Debuchy showed us what we’ve been missing and as long as we keep him, Gibbs, Per and Kos fit and playing together, one hopes that our defensive form will start to pick up. Per had a good game too yesterday which, given how poorly he’s played of late when he hasn’t had Koscienly beside him, this will give him a lot of confidence going into the busy Christmas period.

So what now? I’m certainly not going to be counting my chickens and telling you that we could feasibly go on a run now. We felt the same after dispatching the same team by the same score line a couple of months back, didn’t we? So whilst I’ll be pleased to see a much needed confidence injection for some players, I have to say that it will mean the square root of naff all if we don’t put Newcastle to the sword. A Newcastle team riding high, after helping us out by ensuring Chelski don’t usurp that ‘Invincibles’ tag last weekend, I must remind you. However, this result was just the tonic that the team need and the returning players need to feed that back to those that stayed at home and transmit that confidence at London Colney when they’re all training together from tomorrow.

I feel good again about Arsenal. But that feeling can be fleeting if we revert to type this season. We have four days to find out.

See you tomorrow.

No pressure, unless you’re a squad player

Gary Neville gave United a bit of a lasting last night, didn’t he? Boy, I wish my football team had stocked up on ‘get out of jail free’ cards at the beginning of the season like United have, because there’s no way they should be sitting pretty third in the league. Not with that average squad. It’s like I said on Twitter yesterday; a damning indictment on the quality of this year’s Premier League, that’s for sure.

Anyway, enough about talking about that lot, let’s talk about our lot, who learnt yesterday that it’s a repeat of the FA Cup final from last year. I’ll be quite honest with you; a home tie against Hull is not quite the ‘glamour of the FA Cup’ narrative that I would have hoped for. An away tie to Blyth Spartans would have been more intriguing, so to get a mid-table Premier League team is just about up there as one of the least exciting matches one could hope for. Naturally, Chelski got their obligatory opportunity to rest players by playing a team from divisions below them, whilst United manager to score themselves Accrington or somebody random like that.

Do you know, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that van Gaal has traded his own neck for a bag full of four leaf clovers. How else can you explain how United are putting together victories with an even worse team than last year?

Anyway, I’m veering off course in my bitterness this morning, so I need to steer myself back towards the holy island of Arsenal on which I usually reside. On which Arsène Wenger is king, queen, prince, emperor, president, prime minister and God.

Le Boss took to the stage to talk about tonight’s game and by all accounts it sounds like it’s a pick’n’mix of first teamers, squad and young players that have been sent out to Turkey, which is good but to my mind not enough. We should not have a single player on the field tonight who could make an impact playing on Saturday in my opinion. So to hear the probably team leaked being one with Mertesacker, Szczesny and Debuchy in, is quite a surprise to me. After all, surely we want these players rested for an all-important game against Newcastle, right? We’re about to go into a heavy Christmas period and we need to be shuffling things around, so why are we wasting players on games that Wenger himself has admitted are practically meanigless?

The only thing I can think of is that Arsène will think that someone like Debuchy will do well to get minutes under his belt in a game where he knows he can pull out of tackles if they look like they could be dangerous ones. Additionally, perhaps he’s thinking that Per and Chambers need to play their way back in to form?

Whatever he’s thinking, I hope he isn’t struck by the same luck we’ve had all season with injuries. We can ill afford another Klendathu (Starship Troopers reference, if you’re interested).

Up top however, is where we currently have plenty of options, so I’m hoping we see something good from our three squad players who aren’t currently getting a look in. A front three of Podolski, Sanogo and Campbell all have a chance of giving Arsène something to think about and I hope they do; with our injury record this season there’s no way that we shouldn’t be trying our hardest to keep these players fresh and match fit by giving them more minutes. But with Arsène’s clear disdain for the rotation game, you can see all three players wanting out (some potentially on loan) come January. So if they can perform tonight then perhaps it will give the manager more cause to throw them in.

I have no idea what team Galatasaray will put out tonight but, if we’re all completely honest with ourselves, do we really care? This game is an opportunity to just watch. We know we aren’t winning the group. We know we aren’t seeing the first team. We know that we don’t normally travel well to these places. As far as I’m concerned, this is a freebie tonight. It’s a chance to watch the Arsenal with the most amount of emotional detachment that a gooner is going to get this season. So in some perverse way, I’m just going to try and enjoy it.

Who knows? We might even get a pleasant surprise with some good performances from players we’re not expecting?

We shall see.

My bubble, Per’s form, a sober middle ground

Having managed to avoid watching and football at all this weekend, I feel like I have been deflected away from some serious emotional trauma this Monday morning, I have to tell you. Given the abomination of a performance against another bang average mid table team, I took the opportunity to – please excuse the festive analogy – go ‘cold turkey’ and despite still feeling a bit bitter and twisted about Arsenal 2014/15, I do feel like I’ve created a little bubble for myself which has helped to numb the noises that I have seen when I’ve switched on my Twitter timeline at varying intervals.

There have been some that have been pronouncing (with what seems like a knowing nod as they type I’d imagine) that Giroud is not world class and Martinez should never have been given a chance. It’s almost as if they knew this all along and yet have kept quiet in the last two victories before resurfacing on Saturday afternoon onwards.

Suddenly Giroud has gone from the missing piece of the Arsenal jigsaw, to the old bit of belly button fluff that the vacuum cleaner won’t pick up. Martinez has gone from the ‘keeper that can knock Szczesny from his perch, to the perch out of water in a league for which he doesn’t have the quality to succeed.

Of course, having not seen the travesty of a display against the Orcs, I feel like I occupy a sober middle ground today. Giroud is neither the final piece of any puzzle, nor is he the worst player this side of Kaba Diawara. He’s a useful link man who has his good days as much as his bad. Martinez too, is exactly what he is, which is a young number three goalkeeper who will make mistakes.

That he is even this close to The Arsenal team to make mistakes is another question entirely, one that has to be aimed in the direction of Arsène Wenger, although in the goalkeeping department you have to say he’s been unlucky. I mean, this run in the team should have been David Ospina’s, but his injury probably means he’ll probably come back from injury having not played any football, with the guy further from the throne having racked up half a dozen matches. I guess it happens. It’s just it seems to ‘happen’ more often to us than usual. Mannone a few years ago? No full backs, causing us to Cygan it up, a few years before? It’s a recurring theme for this Arsenal side and you wonder if we should request a special dispensation for a squad of 35 instead of 25.

Anyway, here we are, nearly at the midway point in the season and playing football like the ‘good old days’ of Bruce Rioch. Remember those? Turgid football in which we tried a Bolton manager on for size who isolated our star striker Ian Wright and tried to go more direct than my nan at Christmas. Big Per called our defending ‘shocking’, but you wonder how much of that was an admission of his own guilt as much as anybody else’s, because our vice captain has been one of the chief protagonists this season when it comes to a worrying lack of form. Along with Flamini and Ramsey (worryingly, the spine of the team), Per has seemed off the pace in so many ways this season. His positional sense, which has previously counter-balanced the lack of pace he has, seems to be all over the place. It seems somewhat convenient to say that it’s down to the lack of Koscienly, but as a senior player in the team and an intelligent enough man, you’d expect him to be able to cope with a change in playing partner. So for me, the comments I see about him being a bit lost without Koscienly give him a bit of an undeserved free pass from any major criticism.

One thing is for sure, Arsène needs to have somebody lined up now, so that when that transfer window opens in less than a month, we are all over it like a rash and picking up some decent squad players, or preferably players who can feel right for a first team place.

That’s yer lot from me for today. More tomorrow.

Broken Ford Mondeo under a flash chassis

Yesterday evening before I went to bed I watched Blackadder. I watched the excellent Christmas Carol version where Ebeneezer Blackadder is a kind gentleman who realises that being bad and evil is more more profitable than being good. So when I think back to the comparisons made by myself to the two teams that played yesterday, perhaps we should take a leaf out of Blackadder’s book and just play a bit of roughousing tactics whenever we take to the field? After all, it works for Charlie Adam.

I’m starting off today’s blog by talking about Charlie Adam because I really have nothing else to talk about with regards to The Arsenal. Well, nothing you won’t have heard before, because yesterday’s result was more predictable than an above inflation train season ticket price hike on New Year’s Day. Another year, another defeat to Stoke, another chance for the media to perpetuate the old “they don’t like it up ‘em” nonsense.

I’ll level with you. I didn’t watch yesterday’s game. I was entertaining people and so was keeping track via radio and Twitter occasionally, but what I did hear was nothing new or surprising to me. I will go one step further. I haven’t even watched Match of The Day yet. I don’t even know if I’ll bother actually. What’s the point? I know what I’m going to see. Defensive shambles, offensive nullification (in the first half), some terrible misses from Arsenal players and some woefully inept defending from another makeshift team. A team that is makeshift entirely at the fault of the manager. I’m bored of talking about it, you’re bored of reading about it, we should probably just move on actually. Arsene has proven that he doesn’t have the cojones to do what is needed by fannying around in the summer and his own stupid self belief that he could keep a small core of players injury free like he did last season has ultimately cost us any real dream of even challenging for the league. That went in October.

October!

It’s a damming endictment on a man who has given us so much, has won a place in our hearts for what he has delivered to the club, but is now tarnishing his legacy with every passing moment it feels like at right now. We’ve still got a fight on our hands for fourth, that much is clear and, after both the Spuds and Liverpool both only managed draws at home to Crystal Palace and Sunderland respectively, the only grain of positivity I can take from this wekend is that we haven’t seen our rivals for that fourth start to drift off into the distance. United play Southampton on Sunday in which I think we probably need Southampton to pick up something from the game. I see people worried about West Ham and Southampton but they will fall away as injuries bite into the New Year.

So, despite the fact that it’s December and we’re only a few games away from the midway point in the season, I’m not particularly looking at the table too much. It would probably wind me up even more anyway. I keep telling myself that eventually we’ll put a run of winning games together. We always seem to, after all, but we’ve seen that situation of back-to-back victories happen about six times already, then we see a defensive performance like yesterday and are reminded just how average a team we can be. Especially away from home.

I don’t really know what else to say. I’m deflated. I could probably have a stab at getting more angry about our current predicament, but what’s the point? This Arsenal squad simply isn’t good enough to be where we want to be. Not in terms of the sum of all parts. We’ve got some wonderful players, but what’s the point in having a fabulous chassis on your car when you’ve got an old Ford Mondeo engine under the bonnet? You can’t race a flash car without the whole thing being flash. That’s where we are.

And itr’s entirely of Arsene’s making.

See you tomorrow.