Heartbreak for Welbeck and a hint on Theo vs Giroud?

So who’da thunk that FIFA were a corrupt collection of cheating no-good-for-nothing’s, eh? Then, quelle surprise, who’da thought that Sepp would persist with the FIFA elections to ensure his dictatorship remains for another however many years, by not postponing the election process after this latest set of troubles?

Well, everybody, actually.

Even Arsene had his say yesterday and whilst he can’t exactly be as vocal in his comments about football’s governing body, he was a eloquent as ever in talking about the issues surrounding the recent spate of arrests, stating that the worst ting of all is rumours and FIFA should be more transparent and open about telling the world what the issues are and how to address them.

But of course we know they are not designed like that. Heck, they hired a high-powered lawyer to chair an ethics committee, then promptly dismissed his findings when he had serious issues with the way the organisation is run, refusing the publish the results, then glossing over them completely. So what do we expect?

Still, the moral bankruptcy of those in Switzerland who purport to have the sport’s interest at heart are but a small footnote in the most important news this week leading in to the weekend, which is all around the FA Cup, team news and Arsene’s presser, in which he confirmed Welbeck is out. It’s a shame because he had such a great impact in this cup competition by navigating us past the choppy waters of Old Trafford. He’ll be rightly gutted and you have to feel for him. Football is a short career and even if you’re at a team that is towards the top of the division, you probably only get around 10 attempts to play in cup finals if you’re lucky, so to miss out on one for this season will be a big blow.

I thought it was interesting that Arsene talked about the importance and the impact of subs in games like Saturday’s, after he was asked about Giroud and Walcott. If you read my usual ramblings, you’ll know that I’d be an advocate of them both starting, with Walcott out wide, but Le Boss’ comments yesterday suggest that he’ll go with one or the other and see one of Olivier or Theo as an impact sub. Again, my money would be on Theo to be that impact sub. It would be harsh on him given he’s just hit a hat trick, but as I’ve said before, I don’t see Theo and Rambo working in the same team. They would both occupy similar positions in and around the box, so if Rambo is preferred I’d expect Giroud to be given the nod.

As usual the questions were a bit boring and even those designed to be provocative (one guy repeatedly asked about Jose Mourinho’s comments, Arsene expectantly dismissive and moved the conversations along), but we still got a few snippets that we can over-analyse to our hearts content. Arsene talked up Benteke and the importance of him and I think keeping him quiet will probably be the secret to any success we have on Saturday evening. He’s their talisman – super Timmy Sherwood aside! – and will be a thorn in our side for sure. I do wish that the reporters would drill manager’s a bit more than they did yesterday about the opposition. Arsene gave platitudes out to Grealish yesterday and showed that he’s got good knowledge of a player with whom some of us will have only seen once or twice, which is the kind of thing I want to hear in press conferences. Ahead of the FA Cup I’m not interested in rumours about Benzema or whoever, what I want to know is whether Arsene has a clear understanding of the threats that Villa will pose and a clear understanding of what they might try to do. He doesn’t have to give up all of his plans, but if he’s probed about players, tactics of the opposition, etc, surely that makes not a lot of difference to how he will set his team up? It isn’t really going to give anybody a better insight in to who he might pick and it certainly isn’t going to make Sherwood spit out his morning mocha by saying “holy cr*ap, he knows about us. That’s it, we’re all getting in to the Anderson Shelter and not coming out until 5pm on Saturday”.

But what do I know. I’m not a professional journalist. I haven’t hacked anyone’s phone for a start.

Anyway, I think i’ll call it a day and crack on with the household chores for the day. Cheery bye!

Job done in the league and a decent season overall

Well that’s it for the Premier League for another season and what a way to finish the season. A hat trick from an unexpected source, a wonder goal for Jack that hijacks goal of the season by Arsenal fans (don’t you just love our club’s online presence?) on Match of the Day, as well as a performance that is just the tonic ahead of what will inevitably be a tough cup final against Villa, no matter how poor they have played since securing their league safety and a cup final.

For me it was the perfect confidence tonic ahead of the FA Cup final. We’d gone three home games without scoring and were starting to look a little bereft of ideas when a team sets themselves up to defend in numbers, so my hope pre-game was that we wouldn’t see West Brom do the same and if they did, then we’d have an answer. If Timmy Sherwood studied yesterday’s game, it might just have been a bit of ‘back to the drawing board’ in terms of how to catch us out, because we answered our recent profligacy in front of goal in quite some style.

Timing of goals is always important when a team sets up to defend, so the fact that Theo scored within the first three minutes probably threw Tony Pulis’ game plan out of the window quite early. Had he managed to get his charges in at half time still sitting on a 0-0, we might have seen another afternoon of goalless agony, but as it was Theo’s superb finish merely set up what was eventually a first half rout.

We were totally dominant in that first 45 and with goals from Walcott shortly after the ten minute mark, it was almost a game that was dead and buried within the opening exchanges between the two sides. You could tell that there were some players that had a point to prove and were doing the schoolyard equivalent of a “pick me! Pick me!” moment on the playground to Arsene, because we saw Theo in particular bag three goals and look dangerous for most of the afternoon. He was looking sharp and looking like he’s ready to make an impact just in time for the cup final, so it’s good news for us that his confidence will now be sky high for Villa. Whether or not he gets to play in that central striker role remains to be seen. Personally I think Arsene will still opt for Giroud, but it would be a real shame if he doesn’t get a spot out wide right. Still, there’s plenty of time for deliberation over the next few days, so back to yesterday’s performance.

I haven’t even mentioned Jack’s goal yet, which was an absolute rocket of a half volley from just to the right of the D. It was the kind of finish that we’d expect to see from somebody like Alexis, or That Dutch Bloke, but it is something that jack too has in his locker. He just has to show it more often. He had a decent game too. Picking the ball up often and driving forward at the Baggies at every opportunity. The only problem he has in terms of playing next weekend is that there are many other form players in front of him. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be involved in some part and I’d be stunned if he doesn’t have some sort of role to play at Wembley.

The only real blot on the copybook was the goal we conceded yesterday, which hardly covered David Ospina in glory, as he disappeared in amongst a group of players only for Macauley to head in a consolation goal. Sure, it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things and West Brom never really looked like ‘Newcastling’ us, but that’s a couple of times in the last few matches that the Colombian has looked less than impressive in between the sticks for a few moments. In the Swansea game he probably should have saved Gomis’ header and, even though it didn’t result in a goal yesterday, there was a shot – I think from Morrison – that was straight down his throat that he misjudged and was fortunate that it hit the top of the bar. Sure, there was a bit of a dip on the ball, but you expect those kind of shots to be dealt with a little bit easier.

I feel for Ospina a little bit, because I get the impression that arsenal fans (me included, perhaps) are not entirely convinced and we’re just nervously waiting for the first rick that causes us big time in goal by the man with no neck. He hasn’t really done anything wrong as such, he just never really does anything spectacular and so looks to me for all of the world like he’s a very good number two, rather than a world class number one. We’ll see where Arsene’s head is at over the next couple of months I suppose.

For now, we can be in positive things about more things than negative about a few niggles we have with the team. I think i’ll save a fuller season review for after the cup final, as so much of our season appears to be defined by that and whether we win the FA Cup, but from a league perspective I think we can call that a decent season, given the way it started out. With a football season lasting nine months, it’s easy to forget where we were in November with our form and the numerous injuries that we had, but having corrected the early season blip with a fantastic winning run in 2015 it looks as though we’ve clicked and we can all be a little bit more hopeful about what 2015/16 might entail. Signing off your league season with a win is exactly what you need to send the fans home happy and hopeful of success and with a belief that despite over a decade of financial doping in the league, we can finally start to look at a team that is going to have a real go at the title next time around.

Sunderland preview: Breaking down a defence again

A lovely midweek game to keep us occupied tonight, how thoughtful of The Arsenal to get so far in the FA Cup and ensure this fixture was moved to a midweek, where we would have something to talk about. And that something appears to be how likely Arsene is to shuffle his deck a little bit against a Sunderland team who need a point to secure their Premier League status for 2015/16.

We need effectively just a point to secure our third place status and automatic qualification to the Champions League next season, so one could be forgiven for thinking this might be like that Champions League game about five years ago when both Porto and Arsenal needed a draw to qualify, so both teams played out one of the most drab 0-0s that ever existed.

However, I suspect Arsenal will want to get the job done today, not least to absolutely guarantee that we can qualify, but also because it helps to continue the momentum going in to the FA Cup in just over a week and a half’s time. Our last couple of games have seen patchy performances and for that reason, I think Arsene will be telling his charges that there needs to be a bit more swagger injected in to the performance tonight.

We need to see the Arsenal of three weeks ago, swashbuckling passing and sweeping movements that leave teams like Hull and Liverpool trailing in our wake, unable to respond to relentless Arsenal pressure and precision passing. We need to see the hunger and desire of the players manifest itself in more than the lacklustre game at home against Swansea just over a week ago. We need to see goals and three points for the home side.

That’s why I can understand why so many Arsenal fans are calling for a bit of rotation this evening. We’ve looked a little unconvincing in the last couple of games and whether that is due to a long season catching up with a few players, or whether it’s because tactically it has not quite worked out (i.e. Ramsey out wide right) I’m not 100% sure, but one thing I do know is that there will be plenty of players who haven’t been making the match day XI who should be chomping at the bit to put on a good show if they are chosen. Players like Wilshere, Gibbs and Walcott all spring to mind immediately and I’d be surprised if two out of those three don’t play tonight. Arsene won’t want to make wholesale changes to the side – it will disrupt the continuity of the team – but he might want to freshen things up a bit and I’m all for that.

We’ll already see Gabriel come in for Laurent Koscienly, who has the flu, so I think Arsene may not opt to rotate any more of his back four. Similarly in midfield, I think he’ll try to keep it looking and feeling like it did at Old Trafford, certainly in the last half an hour. So I wonder if Wilshere will replace Cazorla. If he wants to, he could look at Ramsey centrally with Walcott out wide, but I think he’ll keep Aaron out wide tonight. I don’t think he should, but I can see it happening because I just have a gut feel that one of Walcott or Wilshere miss out. I think Arsene wants to accommodate Rambo somehow and that’s why I don’t think we’ll see both of the England internationals starting, so we’ll either see Walcott out wide right and Rambo in the centre, or Rambo wide right and Wilshere in the centre. I’d personally rather see Ramsey centre, so that would be my preferred option.

Up top will most likely be Giroud and Alexis, particularly because with The Ox and Welbeck out, there doesn’t appear to be too many natural suitors for the role. Theo centrally doesn’t work, we all know that and with Mesut performing so much better at number 10 than out wide left, I hope that Arsene’s experiment with him playing out wide left has been put to bed long ago.

Sunderland will unlikely be going with three strikers like they did against Leicester, so I’m expecting them to flood the midfield with five and probably play Jermaine Defoe as the sole front man, hoping he can catch us on the counter with his pace. But at 32 he’s not as quick as he once was and unless isolated against Per Mertesacker, I’d hope we have enough to cope with the Mackems attack. I have seen Conor Wickham deployed in midfield before and so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him operating as a midfielder-cum-striker when Sunderland do venture forward, but I suspect they’ll come looking for a point like Swansea did and I would be surprised if they didn’t look to sit deep and soak up pressure. The difference between Swansea and Sunderland however, is that Swansea are built to counter a lot better than Sunderland, but also have the confidence of having had their best ever season under Gary Monk. Sunderland are down there and scrapping for their lives – which certainly means they’ll be harder to beat – but they also have a bit more weaknesses to expose as a result and I think that providing we’re not going to fire pot-shots down the throat of Pantillimon all night, we should have enough to score goals against this side.

It’s one of two of our final home games of the season and two wins would take us to a decent points tally and third place, putting us in a good position to go in to the cup final riding high. Come on Arsenal, you can do it!

United preview: play with width and stretch an average back four

United at Old Trafford. A game in which historically has had extreme significance, but in very recent times has not been as intense as the early Arsene Wenger years. Neither side is competing for the league for one thing, which inevitably results in a reduction of the pressure, but at least both teams have something to play for today. I remember watching the drab 0-0 draw about five or six years ago when United had won the league and I’m pretty sure we were just about there in terms of Champions League qualification. It was horrid to watch and felt more like endurance training than anything else.

It won’t be like that today though I don’t think. On that day United were just out not to be beat and have a stroll in the May sunshine before parading the league trophy. Where as today they are hunting us down for the automatic Champions League place. We too want that spot quite badly, so it won’t be an Arsenal side prepared to just lie down and take a beating. I hope.

We’re two points clear of United and so a draw would not be the worst result in the world as it would mean that probably a point – with our superior goal difference – should see us just scrape over the line, but we want to do more than that in our next three games. We want to win all three and set up a bit of a confidence booster before the FA Cup final. Just look at Aston Villa yesterday. They were a shambles at the back and it looks like, with Premier League safety secured, they were just coasting on the south coast yesterday. Another performance like that next weekend from them would hardly be the best kind of preparation for an FA Cup Final, so the same must be said about us today, on Wednesday and against West Brom on Sunday next week.

The positive news for us coming out of Manchester is the notable absence of Wayne Rooney. Injured last weekend against Palace, he won’t feature today and given he has a Drogbarian habit of getting goals against us, it can only be a positive thing. Of course the down side is that That Dutch Bloke is back and fit to face us and aside from the game at The Emirates earlier in the season, he’s already bagged a few goals against us in the short time he’s been at United. One has to just hope that he has as forgettable game against us as he did earlier in the season.

Which by the way, I have still not forgiven the footballing gods for. I know we won the FA Cup game at Old Trafford and so perhaps some parity has been restored, but given the nature of the domination we had against United at home, it still doesn’t feel like we’ve been given all of the revenge we deserve. We smashed United that day and they scored with two out of the three attempts they had that day. Oh, and one of those attempts from Valencia wasn’t even going on target!

Yes I’m bitter. I’m bitter because we had so many years of being inferior to United, that when we finally clearly had a better team, they relied on some sort of mega spawny counter attack to win the game. Ok, it wasn’t spawny in so much as it was one of Big Per’s ‘I think I’ll be a winger’ moments for one of the goals, but it just felt like we weren’t getting the rub of the green that day.

I want us to have all the green today. Each little corner of it. Slopes, dips and undulations, I want us to beat United at Old Trafford in the league and bring balance to the force. Arsene alluded to it in his presser – that the victory would represent a symbolic significance to the team – and I think as we draw this season to a close, a perfect way to lie the ‘big-game bottlers’ tag finally to bed will be to win in Manchester once more this season.

Who will be charged with that responsibility? Well I’ll be shocked if it’s anybody other than the team that played on Monday night. We laboured all evening against a Swansea team that didn’t really want to come out of their own half, but today’s game will be almost completely different to that one. I hope, anyway. So I suspect Arsene will charge his players with popping the ball around confidently, being difficult to break down like we were away to City and also to some extent against United in the FA Cup, whilst hitting United on the counter. Just like they did to us.

It’s their last home game of the season and they can still see the possibility of finishing third if we eff it up today and then against Sunderland on Wednesday night, so I’m not expecting anything other than a very difficult afternoon of football watching. I promised myself I wouldn’t have a jar or two this morning, because I’ve been drinking enough alcohol lately, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see an Estrella in my hand come 4pm.

If we’re going to win this game, we need more from Giroud, Alexis and Ramsey. If we’re going to counter we need to do so with Ramsey actually adopting more of a wide man’s role, because if we flood the centre of the park I think it will slow us down and make us too lop-sided. We need to have a good balance going forward to stretch the United back four, a back four that really isn’t that great. But if all of our counter-attacking play is spread to the wide left position where Alexis is, then it will be easier for the likes of Valencia, Smalling and Jones to double up on the Chilean and stifle us. So having width gives us options when breaking out from the back. It gives Mesut and Santi the ability to spread the play to either flank and divide the defenders, giving the opportunity to isolate players like Rojo and increasing our chances of getting in beyond them. That’s where I see us getting joy and that’s where I hope Arsene will be telling Ramsey to be spending a bit more time doing today.

If you’re going, have a good one and I hope the weather holds up for you, if you’re an armchair gooner like me for today, see if you can hold out without resorting to booze. I bet you can’t. I probably won’t.

Laterz.

Ribena soaked Gerrard love is sickening, but not as boring as boring questions asked to Arsene at his pressers

Very quick rant: when do you ever see such an over-reaction to a player leaving a club like Steven Gerrard? He’s been a wonderful player for Liverpool, but the fact every manager in the Premier League has been asked a question about him, the fact there has been interviews everywhere on his story, as well as the fact it’s Liverpool, seems to have stoked some of the most ridiculous sycophantic hyperbole I’ve ever heard from the media. Forget the cake, forget the player and his legacy, this is becoming over the top now. He was great, but he’s moving on, just like Cantona, Giggs, Zola, Bergkamp, Le Tissier et al. Did they all get the same nauseous treatment when their carers finally wound down? Of course not. Because the media are obsessed with this ridiculous notion of the ‘romance’ of Liverpool, perpetuated with the fact that football punditry is littered with ex-Liverpool players who have seeped through our media like cup of sticky Ribena on your nice new material sofa. More than a minute of his presser spent talking about him. Eugh.

Anyway, rant over, let’s have a talk about The Arsenal shall we? After all, Arsene was in front of the media yesterday and was asked the usual idiotic questions like “is having Danny Welbeck out injured a blow?” or “Are you close to signing anybody Arsene?”, but at least he gave us a bit of useful information when prompted by a semi-useful question. For example, the team news, which has been firmed up from the ‘Who’s fit?’ news item that appeared on the site on Thursday evening. Essentially, it’s ‘as you were’ from Swansea and although I’ll do more of a stab at the team tomorrow, I’d be surprised if Arsene doesn’t keep it exactly the same as it is. Debuchy, Arteta and the Ox are all still out, which means the main players you’d expect him to potentially bring back in for some rotation won’t be available. But as I said yesterday, we have the players to cope with those losses so I don’t think there’s many of us going in to this game on Sunday afternoon with our fingers chewed down to stubby ends.

It will be tough on Sunday, we all know that, which Arsene alluded to by talking up the ‘symbolic’ nature of the result. A draw would be perfectly acceptable in our race for third, but I just wonder how the game beforehand will shape how we come out, because if Swansea pick up anything at home to City, it means that a win for us puts us back in the driving seat for second. Finishing second and potentially winning the FA Cup would be a remarkable season given the start, so I think the team will be up for it and I think Arsene – whilst cautious in his presser – will be thinking about whether he goes a little bit more aggressive against the Mancs.

Arsene also spoke about the Champions League play-offs and the pressure of not qualifying. It’s always interesting because it’s often been cited as a reason for us not being able to sign players early, but Arsene admitted that the consistency of our qualification that makes it easier for players and I think he’s right, because a player will know Arsenal’s Champions league record and will be pretty confident that he’d be in the group stages if he was at Arsenal. You can say a lot of things about the club, but you can’t argue with the Champions League record. So why do we sign players so late? A question that was never asked and one that probably a lot of us would really like a truthful answer to. Even if it had of been asked, we would probably not have been given a truthful answer from Le Boss, but at least if a journo is asking those types of questions then they’re giving it a chance for Arsene to open up. I suspect that Arsene doesn’t gamble in the conventional sense – with cards and a roulette table – but likes a flutter in the transfer market and that’s why we get our last-minute signings so often in the window. We’ll probably see the same at the end of August this year too.

Anyway, I’ve got a patio set to put together and some ivy to chop, so i’ll take my leave and wish you all the best until tomorrow.

desert of arsenal nothingness and ‘keeper speculation

So here we are folks, standing in the middle of metaphorical desert of football nothingness, with the oasis of Arsenal delight miles and miles away in the distance. It’ll take us at least until Monday to get to it, so I hope everyone has bough provisions?

I have, thanks to Arsène, who spoke at his pre-match press conference and in doing so has allowed me to feast on some content with which to read, review and think about.

On Thursday we got the team news, but yesterday Arsène was asked a range of questions from signing new goalkeepers, to Jose’s jibes, as well as Nigel Pearson’s madness. As usual the old pro answered them with little controversy, but I did like his response to the Pearson metal breakdown, as Arsène showed a bit of solidarity with the Leicester manager. Yes, what Pearson said was bizarre, but some journalists are sensationalist seekers and will only look to poke the hornets nest to see if they get a reaction. I was listening to the radio and the presenters were talking about that particular story and how Pearson’s behaviour was a disgrace, but when you have some journalists goding managers so they can get a soundbite, I do find it a bit rich that the media can then pretend to own the moral high ground. Perhaps such journos that pose the boring questions – ones like “do you need a new ‘keeper?” or “what do you think of Jose’s comments about Arsenal not winning the league and that being ‘boring’?” – should take a look at themselves if they are going to get a bit offended when a manager bites back?

Arsène is clever though. After he was asked what he thought about Jose’s comments, rather than fuel the fire further, he gave a quite perfect response which wasn’t directed at Jose enough as a soundbite but was disguised enough so that everyone knew he thought the Portuguese is disrespectful. Which he is. 

The question on the ‘keepers may have been batted away well enough, but I do wonder if Arsène is considering his summer options, because whilst Ospina has done ok he hasn’t exactly set the world alight. He just hasn’t done anything wrong, rather than make any worldie saves that make us think “yep, there’s a real gem there”. I don’t have anything against the guy and I certainly don’t want to be categorising himself in a class of ‘keeper he is clearly better than, but he feels a bit Almuniaresque to me. When Manuel first started displacing Jens as the number one, he was ‘okay’ in goal. At first many of us had no real problem with him, but he never made those world class saves that you don’t expect somebody to get to. Those are the ‘keepers that are the best; the ones in which you say out loud “how did he get to that?”. That’s what it feels like with Ospina to me. So I wonder if Arsène will decide to stick or twist in the summer? I guess we can worry about that in June after all the proper business has been concluded.

Speaking of which, you’d have thought we had a week off by the official sites reckoning, because there are no real comments from Arsène about our Monday night opponents. Le Boss must surely have spike. About them but I haven’t watched the video yet and so can’t really be sure, but maybe because the game is taking place on Momday he’s thought ‘hey, it’s fine, I’ll do my research on Sunday’. Come on, we’ve all been there with our homework, haven’t we, so let’s let Arsène scribble down his tactics on lined paper on Sunday evening and be done with it. We are in form and maybe he’s earned a weekend of relaxation (although we all know he won’t ), so let’s let him have it, then hopefully go and win on Monday. 

We need a win. We need to finish strongly this season and that is important to ensure momentum going in to next season. Arsène spoke of that yesterday too, as well as the poor start to the season this time around. He’ll be acutely aware that we need to hit the ground running in August if we want to win the league, so finishing strongly this time around will mean more than just a good points tally and potentially automatic qualification. 

Anyway, I’m off to find something to do for the next two days, so I’ll see you soon.

Last monkey off the back please

After a pretty decent set of results yesterday, seeing both Spuds and Saints duke out a draw and Liverpool fail to score against West Brom away, we come to some proper football today and an opportunity to almost certainly confirm Champions League status against the eventual champions of this season in Chelski.

I think first and foremost we need to make sure the top four is secured. Aspirations on finishing second are all fine and dandy, but we need to make sure we hit our bare minimum target first, then look to win the FA Cup and go into the summer on a high. 

We can’t catch Chelski, but we can lay down a marker for next season, as well as get that Mourinho monkey that is hanging over Arsène’s neck. And no matter what he says about it not being between them, he will be as frustrated as anybody with this record of no victory in 13 attempts. What probably annoys him the most – and it annoys us Arsenal fans too – is that it’s used as the tactical stick to beat Arsène with. For every game that Mourinho has not been defeated against Arsenal with, another aspersion is cast over Le Boss and his ability to counter the ways of the Portuguese one, so a victory today will give everybody more belief that Arsène and Arsenal can go into next season looking to make it a great one.

We know how Chelski will set up today. They will have their standard back five defenders, then Matic in front and probably the same tactic as last weekend, with Zouma also sitting deep. Mourinho will look to be solid defensively and frustrate Arsenal. He will want to give us the ball like he gave United last weekend, then use his creative players to counter or sucker punch us if we commit too many men forward.

That’s what we had to avoid: falling into his trap and playing the game he wants to play. We need to be as defensively resolute as possible and minimise the impact of Hazard in particular. Fabregas will be booed but he won’t be dissuaded and I fully expect Costa to have slurped down some elixir of life and suddenly be 100% fit from the start. 

Our game plan has to be to utilise our skilful players to unlock a stubborn Chelski back line. Giroud will cut a loan figure up top if Alexis and probably Ramsey don’t get closer to him and if ever you need his little flicks and ’round the corner’s to come off, I think it’s a game like today.

I think this will be a very tight match up and when you have games that are probably decided by one goal, you need players with he vision of Mesut Özil to be able to see that eye of a needle pass, just like he did last weekend. Last time he was up against Chelski he was playing through injury and at he time was accused of playing poorly. I hope today he has a point to prove, because I think he and Santi can impact the game possibly more than anybody. When you’ve got players who can operate well in confined spaces and thread quick interchangeable passes in between opponents, you need them to be on song to taste victory, so I hope we see the best of the Spaniard and the German this afternoon.

Defensively I’ve seen talk of a recall for Bellerin, but I don’t think that’s something that Arsène will countenance, as he’ll want the experience of our French full back over the raw pace and enthusiasm of Hector. On the opposite flank there’ll no doubt be a return for Nacho and likewise in goal for Ospina. If Big Per is fit he’ll play but I wouldn’t risk it if there’s any chance he could exacerbate his ankle problem at all. Gabriel is more than capable of doing a decent job and with Le Coq in front and Kos behind him, I’d be happy enough that we’ve got a strong enough team to cope.

I’m never confident going in to games against Chelski, so why break the habit of a lifetime, but I am as desperate as you to see us win. It’s not an impossible feat. They are flawed like every team in the league, it’s just not often that those flaws seem to be exposed, so when we get our chances we simply must take advantage of them.

Come on Arsenal, let’s destroy the last bit of hoodoo that remains over the team, let’s win.