I realise that by writing this blog on the way to the game at 11am in the morning, many people who do manage to find their way to Suburbangooners.com might actually be reading this after the very events I am actually previewing have happened. Sorry about that. I won’t pretend to have a decent excuse but I will say this: a) the bed was warm, and b) the outside world is cold.
Nevertheless I always endeavour to lay down some pre-match chitter-chatter and so here’s my instalment for today.
With the events of the last month seeming to go on forever (failure to make squad updates where needed, poor performance after poor performance, etc, etc), the mood amongst Arsenal fans is understandably glum. We have failed on far to many occasions to ‘kick on’ and as the Arseblogger said yesterday, we are now at the stage where our margin for error is so slim it makes Kate Moss look like a bit of a porker. Although at Bolton we didn’t play as bad as we have done this season, our profligacy has meant that the phrase ‘must win game’ has been said so many times that it’s now lost all meaning. And with that in mind I tell you that I trundle along the Central Line towards the City with no real expectations for today’s game. I am going to support my team, the team I love, and I’m not going to worry about what other teams do or whether or not we are three, four or five points from the Champions League positions.
That may sound negative. It may sound like I’ve given up. Many might question why I am going. But what I will say about all of the above is that my passion and love for Arsenal burns as brightly now as it did during the Invincibles season. I am on a train in many layers heading into London, a place I travel to every day during the week to watch my team, and I am still excited. I still look forward to the games. It doesn’t matter who we play or how we are playing at the moment, I go because I do still enjoy the build up, match and camaraderie of supporting a football team. I may have readjusted my expectations of this team, but nothing can adjust the anticipation of matchday.
I certainly won’t be participating in the ‘black bin bag’ protest. There are many reasons why, but mainly because I only have white bags at home (black ones don’t fit my bin) – I kid, I kid. I just don’t see the point. What will it achieve other than to give more ammunition to media morons like Steve Howard or the entire cast of TalkShite radio. As a fan base we’ve always been good at building a ‘them and us’ mentality when it comes to the media. All the protest does is show that they are managing to drive a wedge between the fans. It’s not nice to see, especially when the clubs motto used to be ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’ (Victory Through Harmony). I don’t know what is harmonious about that particular protest. I am in no way an AKB, and I think the board has to be reshuffled, but I can’t see that this protest helps anybody.
On to the actual game itself, we have worries over The Ox, RvP’s fatigue and whether Gibbs will make his comeback. If Gibbs isn’t anything other than 100% I would imagine he won’t make the team. We have Vermaelen who is doing an adequate ‘square peg, round hole’ role at left back, and with Sagna getting plenty of minutes at Bolton under his belt, he should also be ready to start.
In midfield many have advocated a rest for Song and Ramsey, both of which it has been noted have looked very tired recently. Personally, I would be surprised to see both rested today. Wenger has not really had much luck in terms of team performance when he has heavily rotated in the past, with the team struggling to find rhythm, so I think he’ll only make two or three changes max in the whole team today. I would be inclined to swap Song for Le Coq, who’s performance and versatility of recent months should be rewarded with a start in his favoured position.
Up top We’ve had hints from Le Boss that he might rest RvP and give Park or Theo a run up top. Given Theo’s recent form, and the fact that half of us don’t actually know what Park looks like, I’d be very surprised to see this happen. But then again, Arsene Wenger is prone to through the occasional curve ball with his line ups, so you never know. AW also mentioned that The Ox is a slight doubt with an injury. I think this is a classic Wenger smokescreen for the boss giving AOC a rest and starting Arshavin. The guy hasn’t deserved a starting place and in the last few games has rightly found his playing time limited. With the emergence of The Ox over the last few games I think Arshavin’s future has been sealed for the summer, but I still hope he can leave on a high by putting in some performances between now and the end of the season. Note how I said ‘hope’ – key word in that sentence.
Blackburn come to North London today minus Samba and Yakubu, with Goodwillie also a doubt. The absence of the first two mentioned is certainly a plus point for us. Yakubu caused our defence some real problems at Ewood Park in September, and Samba is their captain, so not having him to trouble us on corners will certainly give the team some confidence. They still had Hoilett who will cause us problems with his pace, but you would expect our team to be able to deal with the threat he causes.
I’m not going to do any more predictions for the rest of this season. Purely because of what the title in this blog is called – I have no expectations, I just want to enjoy some good football from The Arsenal.
Come On You Reds.