Galatasaray: eventful

Well that evening was certainly not without event, was it?

In terms of activity it was certainly a hum-dinger of a European night, with goals galore (thankfully almost all for The Arsenal) as well as a sending off and for those of us who didn’t manage to catch the Southampton Capital One Cup game, even a first sight of the Colombian stopper Ospina. Who has a very fitting surname that works well with a slow build up of noise before he takes a free kick or corner. I must say that I approve.

The night started off with trepidation, if I’m honest, because so far this season we’ve seen a lot of huff and puff from the team but the blowing down of the house hasn’t quite happened frequently enough for our liking as fans, wouldn’t you say? The nerves pre-game seemed to be more around whether or not Arsène would persist with what could be called ‘Project 4141′ (although I’m still yet to be convinced there is a massive difference other than personnel to last season), or whether or not he would recognise the impact of a centrally located Mesut Özil or not.

Thankfully for us all, the starting line-up seemed to be pleasing enough for the masses in the Tollington, as Le Boss’ decision to field a midfield of Flamini, Cazorla and Özil had craft, guile and an attacking set up to it to warrant the early domination our play deserved. With the Ox and Sanchez sitting either side of Welbeck we added directness and pace to our side that, right from the off, troubled a clearly inferior Galatasaray team.

Before the game I’d pondered with whether or not we should really be worried about a Galatasary side notoriously travel sick on their Champions League jaunts; I needed have worried, because the only spark that the Turkish side had came from their vociferous away support, who had decided that Guy Fawkes night would be just over a month early by lobbing flares into the amassed Arsenal fans standing in the beer garden outside.

We had the last laugh though. Or rather, Danny Welbeck had the last laugh on our behalf, as he noticed up his second, third and fourth goals of the season to claim to match ball and possibly the man-of-the-match award to boot. I say ‘possibly’ based purely on the fact that there were so many good performances:

The Ox
Direct running, pace, trickery and vision, perfectly exemplified by his superb nutmeg for Welbeck’s hat trick.

Alexis Samchez
Tireless running and pace that troubled the Turks all sending. A well taken goal that brings him up to five for the season and all of those media eyebrows after two games without a goal need to be lowered considerably. And slammed into a humble pie for consumption.

Mesut Özil
Another strong display. That’s three in a row people. But you won’t hear that from any of the hacks out there, because that doesn’t fit the media rhetoric, so expect him to be omitted from any commentary. But he was efficient in distribution, busy throughout and just does not lose the ball when he’s on form like that. Like, ever.

Lauren Koscienly
Strong in the air, pacey, composed and, for someone supposedly carrying a knock, is as robust as you’re going to get.

I could go through the whole team, because there wasn’t a single performance that was less than seven out of ten in my book. If you want to be harsh and criticise Szczesny for the sending off, then be my guest, but his replacement looked more than adequate and based on the short showing I saw it will be good for him to get some game time in Europe.

I hope Arsène sticks with what he’s got right now. He may have had it enforced upon him due to injury, but it worked, so I hope he sticks with it. We need all the help we can get with the game at the weekend, so to have the players in buoyant mood leading up to this game can only be a good thing, so let’s hope that the comprehensive victory does wonders for the confidence. Lord knows we’re going to need it on Sunday.

See thee in the morgen.

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.

Arsène needs to use all of his shoes

Arsenal must really hate it when their own news gets filtered through the press before they even have a chance to proof read it, pick the right images and get it on the official site. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad news, in today’s society with the access to information that everybody has (and is therefore invariably an expert), we get exposed to things waaaaay before the club intends it to be so.

When it’s good news I bet the PR team are all “ahhhh, we wanted to tell you guys'”, where as when it’s bad news they are probably less enthused about releasing it, but at the same time they realise that when it’s out before they announce it, it makes the official site look dated before they’ve even had a chance to brief the press. It must be like the kid at school who always finished your sentences so you used to deliberately tell the little blighter the wrong answers so he’d get them wrong. Then you’d make sure you booted the ball at him extra hard at lunchtime when he was in goal after headers & volleys and he was in for the last person in so had to be subjected to the Death Shot.

Transfers is the most obvious example – not of the Death Shot, but of when news is old before released – but the example that is most recent is the news regarding the latest spate of injuries that we seem to have sustained. Arsène will no doubt assume the position for his pre-match press conference today and I’m sure he’ll confirm what multiple news sources are already reporting: Ramsey is out for a month, Arteta is out for three weeks, Jack is touch-and-go for tomorrow but should be fine for the weekend, oh and Koscienly is suffering from a knock that should probably mean that he’s rested, but the whole ‘ it buying enough defenders in the summer’ thing has reared it’s ugly head and we’re down to first team bare bones before September has waved goodbye.

It means that Twitter and the rest of the world has already had it’s chance to react, which includes a scary looking image from The Telegraph about all of the injuries we’ve had in the last eight years. The scary parts are the number of ankle and hamstring injuries. That’s 107 banjaxed hammy’s and is a little worrying, especially when you work out that it’s 13 every season, or more than one every month throughout the course of the last eight seasons. That makes you question the medical team at Arsenal for sure, because hamstrings are the ones that go when overworked. I know it’s not as simple as that all of the time, but you see figures like the one shown last night and it does make you worry that this problem isn’t going away any time soon, which makes the decision to leave us so short defensively all the more baffling.

Impact injuries and ones like the Ramsey or Eduardo broken leg can be explained away as unfortunate, as they already have ad nauseum, but it’s those injuries that come as a result of wear and tear through excessive use and lack of rest that are the most frustrating.

At the heart of this, Arsène needs to at least try to undertake more rotation than he likes to in the league and cup games. There’s no need for tinkering on a large Ranierian scale, just a tweak here and there for players that look like their suffering from form and fitness. We don’t need round pegs put in square holes because they are expensive round pegs that came diamond encrusted and sold to us by a beautiful maiden with heaving bosom’s. We just need to try other pegs when the best pegs we have need a bit of recovery time. Or something.

It’s like a nice pair of black shoes, Arsène. You can wear them all the time if you like, but they’ll probably be knackered in nine months, so you’re far better to get a second pair of black shoes to wear every once in a while to extend the life of your favourite shoes.

Don’t go out and buy a whole new wardrobe of shoes Arsène (you only need one or two new pairs in January), just make sure that you use all of the ones in your wardrobe, and you’ll find that they’re all just as comfortable and some even look as good as the ones you’re wearing all the time.

Anyway, that’s enough feet-based metaphorical chitter-chatter for one day. Have a good one Gooners.

Chambers’ versatility is an asset, but shouldn’t avoid him finding his place

The Monday after the weekend that was the NLD and I’ve still got the slightly bitter taste in my mouth from the fact we didn’t win. Of course, that could also be the taste of remaining toothpaste that I didn’t manage to extract from my mouth through proper rinsing, but I’m going to stick with my original though process and say it was the 1-1 draw on Saturday evening.

As usual after a big game, there have been a few players who have had their comments released on the site yesterday, such as Per and Gibbs. And as usual they don’t really say anything you wouldn’t expect to hear from slightly disappointed players. They know that Spuds team was bang average, we know it, the whole freakin’ world knows it. But there’s little we can do other than start to worry about the next encounter which is Galatasaray away on Wednesday night.

There was one player that appears to have been singled out yesterday from Arsène for some praise, in the shape of Calum Chambers, who picked up another booking for his exuberance. That was a minor blot on his copybook for the day (and the season as a whole actually) on Saturday, but by and large he had another impressive display and is showing both versatility and ability to be able to be a long success at The Arsenal, should he continue his current trajectory.

Arsène spoke of his engine and ability to keep going. At 19 and eager to impress you’d expect nothing less, but playing both centre half and full back is no mean feat, I have to say (having played both before in my time). As a full back you may not have as much defensive pressure on you to be the last line of…erm…defence…against opponents, but you are expected to operate as an auxiliary winger in today’s game. At the weekend Chambers certainly offered that option to The Ox on the overlap and it was also good to see him able to actually whip one or two balls into the box there too.

The danger with somebody who is as versatile as Chambers is that he becomes a Jack of all trades and a Master of none. Speaking ahead of the Galatasaray game Arsène has said that he was contemplating using Chambers as a defensive midfielder, but the fact we only have four first team defenders has forced his hand to player Chambers at right back. It’s great that there is somebody so capable of delivering top performances across many positions, but longer term it may do Chambers more harm than good. We need to find a home for him in the first team within the next two to three years I think. The good news is that at 19 he still has time on his side and we can continue to use him where there is a need. Well, we pretty much have to at this stage!

He seems quite grounded too I think. Very well spoken, doesn’t seem overwhelmed by the inevitable increase of attention he now gets, something that Le Boss had mentioned beforehand about Chambers when talking about his ability to handle pressure. This all adds up to the right measure of a successful footballer in the making and £16million is already looking like it might be a snip. He will (hopefully) drop the over eagerness in the tackle which will lead to a suspension any game now (he picked up his fourth booking of the season at the weekend), but thankfully – injury aside (and we all pray that doesn’t happen) – he’ll be available for Sunday’s game at Stamford Bridge. Heck, we need all the best possible players available for that one.

It all still feels very ‘let’s let the dust settle’ today, so there’s not really much else going on. The Champions League tie isn’t for another couple of days and so the build up to that probably won’t start in earnest until tomorrow. So with that in mind, I’ll leave you to go about your Monday business, and check in with you tomorrow to see what’s up.


Get back to last year’s success story Arsene

What did I say yesterday? When everyone tips The Arsenal to steamroller a top seven side, fates invariably conspire against us to ensure that we don’t pick up maximum points.

It’s hard to be pleased about a home draw to what has been the poorest Spuds team that we’ve played in quite a while. Tottenham came to The Emirates with one goal – not to be defeated – and the Mushroom Man Pochettino ended the day yesterday the happier of the two managers after the 1-1 draw. His was a plan better executed than Arsene’s, as the Spuds were content to sit deeper than we’ve ever seen them before and try to catch Arsenal on the counter attack. And why not? If anyone has watched Arsenal this season they will have seen that we are susceptible to the sucker punch, as this game proved in the second half when the Spuds scored against the run of play. It was a goal entirely of our own making as Flamini was caught out easier than a John Terry testimony.

I don’t know if I am the only one here, but I’m starting to get a little bit concerned with the propensity with which we seem to be conceding first. Not only does it give our opponents something to hold on to, but it puts us in a position where we need to take risks and that isn’t something that’s good for my health. Arsene and Bouldy need to have a think about how we are set up, because it was much more fun last season when we were winning every game 2-0 and being defensively solid. But once again, almost as if to prove some kind of belligerent point, Arsene reverted to the style that we’ve adopted all season and played Ozil on the left. We saw with devastating effect the success of Mesut through the middle, but not only that, we also saw last week how Ramsey was more effective whilst sitting deeper and breaking forward from a deeper lying position. Yesterday was back to the old Ramsey, trying little flicks that didn’t come off and then capping off a torrid day by getting himself injured through a busted hammy in the first half. That problem was also compounded by Arteta who went down with a calf strain and the two will now not be available for next weekends loss to Chelski.

Tactically, Arsene needs to go back to basics too. The most basic principle being winning games. Three all season in all competitions is mid-table mediocrity form and we’ve already dropped far too many points this season with draws. Unbeaten runs may sound good out loud, but if you draw every game in the season you get 38 points and probably avoid relegation by a point or two, so should be taken with an extreme pinch of salt. To be honest, from the Gooners I talk to and follow, none are particularly over the moon with the fact we’re unbeaten, especially when you consider that the record will be dead and buried by next Sunday evening. I’m treating it as a forgone conclusion because, unlike Arsenal, when pundits tell the world that Chelski will roll over us, that is what usually happens.

Arsene needs to recognise who his best players are and play them in their best positions. Alexis’ best position – last time I checked – wasn’t sitting on the bench patiently waiting for the 75th minute to come when Arsene makes his customary substitution. Why on earth he didn’t start yesterday is a mystery. Actually, I don’t think it is a mystery at all. I think that Arsene is trying frantically to have a formation that affords Wilshere a space in the team. To Jack’s credit, he did ok yesterday, but with Rambo and Arteta having established the hierarchy last season of being on the teamsheets first and foremost, Arsene won’t drop them or Ozil, which is why Mesut is being shunted out wide. The hamstring injury to Rambo will allow Wilshere to sit alongside Flamini in the coming weeks and give Jack licence to be that box-to-boxer that we all want. It will also force Arsene into playing Ozil centrally, something that I’m pretty sure would have come to a parliamentary petition by all Arsenal fans at Ten Downing Street, had Arsene pressed ahead with his ‘Ozil out wide’ experiment. Ozil actually had a good game I thought, but he will only be so effective out wide, so needs to be sitting in that hole so he can feed Welbeck those killer balls we’re all craving.

When Santi came on I thought he was really good. He gave a bit more purpose to our attacking play and having him on the left with Ozil through the middle and Ox on the right instantly changed us into more of a threat. We should have had more than the one goal we had to show for our performance yesterday, but for some smart Lloris saves and a deep-sitting Spuds defence.

I really hope this doesn’t end up being a season of draws. Last year I don’t think we picked one up until late November and, when you go on long winning streaks it effectively sets you up for a title charge when you reach the halfway point. At this point now, with the tinkering Arsene is doing to the team, it’s hard to think we’ll be doing anything else than staring down the fourth place trophy. Sadly, just before the Ox scored his goal, I was starting to ponder whether or not a defeat today would at least give us the reality check that would be needed to know that it will be another season where fourth place is the target rather than lulling us into the false sense of hope that we’re good enough to win the league. I immediately hated myself for thinking that in the midst of the game and whilst we could still feasibly pick up two goals and win the game, but I can’t shake the feeling that come December our expectations will have been decidedly altered.

Le Boss has some work to do now. He needs to find his best team, not have them injured, get them back to playing what they did last season, plus get us on a winning streak that builds momentum and confidence. The good news is that after we lose to Chelski, we’ve got a run of winnable games until we then play Man United at home towards the end of November. We have to start clicking and clicking now.

Catch you tomorrow.

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…