Unwelcome interruptions and welcome opponents

Well folks, here we are, we’ve wandered knowingly into an international break and there’s no Arsenal until Easter. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It’s bloody hard going at times like this. Especially when it feels like it’s been so long since one of these inconveniences has come around. 

From August to December there seemed to be one of these a month, which felt like every ten days, making for an unwelcome frequency of boredom. Plus usually, the added kick in the knickers of losing one, two or a handful of your first team squad. We’d also had to contend with Alexis coming back from a NASA mission to Endor to play their select XI, so fatigue was always the worry, so all in all it made for an irritating part of the season.

Thankfully at least Alexis And Gabriel don’t  have to travel too far, what with Chile playing Brazil on their home turf in North London, but the others will be posted out here, there and everywhere, so we just have to clasp our hands together and look up to the sky muttering incantations. I think they call it ‘praying’.

In this country we have to deal with seeing players like Daniel Sturridge fall down with a ‘knock’ that will most likely miraculously see him fit for our game Saturday after next, but the news that Lallana has pulled out of the England squad could mean it’s a bit more serious for him, because unlike Sturridge Lallana needs to grasp every opportunity possible to play for his national side. There is plenty more competition for him than Sturridge, so I won’t be surprised at all to see Sturridge return and Lallana out when we play them next week. 

The other blow for the Scousers was the charging of Martin Skyrtel which, if confirmed as expected that Liverpool have accepted the charge, would be a big blow to their team and massive positive for us. He’s scored at Anfield for the last two years running against us and is undoubtedly their best defender. So losing him, as well as Gerrard and possibly Lallana, will cause Rodgers a bit of a selection headache I suspect. And not the kind of selection headache that Arsène has had with fitting his players in, either.

When you look at our form in March, actually since Christmas is you funk about it, this international break has come at the worst possible time. We are in such a rich vein of form and these breaks inevitably cause a disruption to the ryhthm that we could do without. If I’m looking on the positive side, at least our opponents over Easter will also face disruption. When you’re up against another team from the top of the division, they also have plenty of internationals heading out to their national teams, as opposed to when you’re playing teams towards the bottom of the league. Those teams will still have one or two internationals, but take Burnley for example, who will have a host of English players not in the squad. They get a week of training and probably get some time together to work as a group at how their going to overcome their next opponents. It gives them an advantage and at this stage of the season, when there are tired legs and minds, the last thing you want to see is a group of players who have had a week off and have the full intention of catching you cold.

So in a way it’s a good time to be playing another team fighting at the top. 

That’s it from me. Have a good’un and stay safe in these barron times.

Taking all advantages, but will Theo get any?

Yesterday pulled up some interesting outcomes from the two matches played that we give a monkeys about, didn’t it? Firstly you had the United win which, if we all want to be nice and mathematical about it you would probably say was the second best outcome for us behind a draw. United have a tough run in, but it would be better if one of the other teams around us would pick up points and leave the others a bit further adrift, so a Liverpool defeat leaves them six points behind us I think.

With eight games to go that’s a decent advantage for us to have. Sure, it could be halved if we lose to them in our next game over the Easter period, but conversely a win for us will put an even bigger gap between the two teams, so we have to look at that next game at home as an extremely significant one in our season and bid for Champions League football in 2015/16.

Then there’s the Gerrard and Skyrtel ‘incidents’. Gerrard will play no part in the game at The Emirates because of his red card for stamping, where as Skyrtel could also face the same punishment, assuming the FA aren’t like the British media and completely in love with some sort of supposed ‘romance’ associated with the team from the Mersey. If he does pick up a ban, it will weaken Liverpool further for the game against us and whilst some fans prefer to see us beat teams at full strength to prove our ability, I am one of those people who loves every little advantage that life can chuck in my direction. If we have to face a depleted Liverpool side through suspension – hopefully even mentally fragile after a home defeat – then that’s a-ok with me.

The other game that some of the fantasists might have argued would have an impact was the Chelski away trip to Hull. They were rocking at 2-2 and even Remy’s goal had fortune about it, but it would be frivolous of us as Arsenal fans to think that Chelski won’t be champions. There are too few games left for us to catch them and yesterday’s game needed to be a draw at least for us to even come close to getting within a couple of points of them unfortunately. But hey, I’ve made peace with the fact that the worst football team, with the most evil manager, evil captain, evil players and evil fans, will win the Premier League. Life is unfair sometimes and sometimes the bad guys wins. I’ve accepted it. 

Anyway, life is more enjoyable when you just focus on Arsenal and right now our form is dictating that life is very enjoyable as we pack our form with good home performances and nervy but ultimately acceptable away victories. I’m still feeling good after the Newcastle win and i’d imagine that will stay with the players too as they head off for yet more international interruptions at the worst possible point in the season. Well, for most of them it would be positive, because for a certain Theo Walcott he’ll be joining up with his teammates wondering when his next club level start will be. Heck, he’s probably also wondering when his next sub appearance will come along, because he looks like he’s started down the dark alley that Arsène pointed Podolski down before he was shipped out in January. 

Poldi was one of the highest earners at the club. He was reliant on an exceptional left leg that could drill the ball home like I’ve not seen before at The Emirates. But he only had that in his locker. He didn’t offer much more and the result was that when Arsène found himself an upgrade in terms over overall contribution – Alexis or Welbeck – he edged him towards the exit until the German knew it was his only route through occasional substitute appearances and then eventually not even getting on the pitch. The final nail in the coffin was to not even be included in some Matchday squads.

Does this sound familiar at all? It looks to me as though Theo is being led down that same path. His overall contribution – end product and pace – is being countered by the form of others in the squad (Welbeck and Alexis for pace, Giroud for end product) and the net effect is no game time for Mr Walcott. He wasn’t even given a sniff at Newcastle, a game I’d have thought would have been perfect for him. No doubt he’s asking questions of the manager, but whether he’s getting the answers he wants is another matter entirely, so I think the only way he’s getting a sustained period in the team is through injury to one of the forwards. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen because we’re playing well enough now to know that we need all of our form players fit and playing well between now and the end of May.

We’ll have to wait and see how this pans out, but I suspect many of us already know the answer.

Taking all advantages, but will Theo get any?

Yesterday pulled up some interesting outcomes from the two matches played that we give a monkeys about, didn’t it? Firstly you had the United win which, if we all want to be nice and mathematical about it you would probably say was the second best outcome for us behind a draw. United have a tough run in, but it would be better if one of the other teams around us would pick up points and leave the others a bit further adrift, so a Liverpool defeat leaves them six points behind us I think.

With eight games to go that’s a decent advantage for us to have. Sure, it could be halved if we lose to them in our next game over the Easter period, but conversely a win for us will put an even bigger gap between the two teams, so we have to look at that next game at home as an extremely significant one in our season and bid for Champions League football in 2015/16.

Then there’s the Gerrard and Skyrtel ‘incidents’. Gerrard will play no part in the game at The Emirates because of his red card for stamping, where as Skyrtel could also face the same punishment, assuming the FA aren’t like the British media and completely in love with some sort of supposed ‘romance’ associated with the team from the Mersey. If he does pick up a ban, it will weaken Liverpool further for the game against us and whilst some fans prefer to see us beat teams at full strength to prove our ability, I am one of those people who loves every little advantage that life can chuck in my direction. If we have to face a depleted Liverpool side through suspension – hopefully even mentally fragile after a home defeat – then that’s a-ok with me.

The other game that some of the fantasists might have argued would have an impact was the Chelski away trip to Hull. They were rocking at 2-2 and even Remy’s goal had fortune about it, but it would be frivolous of us as Arsenal fans to think that Chelski won’t be champions. There are too few games left for us to catch them and yesterday’s game needed to be a draw at least for us to even come close to getting within a couple of points of them unfortunately. But hey, I’ve made peace with the fact that the worst football team, with the most evil manager, evil captain, evil players and evil fans, will win the Premier League. Life is unfair sometimes and sometimes the bad guys wins. I’ve accepted it. 

Anyway, life is more enjoyable when you just focus on Arsenal and right now our form is dictating that life is very enjoyable as we pack our form with good home performances and nervy but ultimately acceptable away victories. I’m still feeling good after the Newcastle win and i’d imagine that will stay with the players too as they head off for yet more international interruptions at the worst possible point in the season. Well, for most of them it would be positive, because for a certain Theo Walcott he’ll be joining up with his teammates wondering when his next club level start will be. Heck, he’s probably also wondering when his next sub appearance will come along, because he looks like he’s started down the dark alley that Arsène pointed Podolski down before he was shipped out in January. 

Poldi was one of the highest earners at the club. He was reliant on an exceptional left leg that could drill the ball home like I’ve not seen before at The Emirates. But he only had that in his locker. He didn’t offer much more and the result was that when Arsène found himself an upgrade in terms over overall contribution – Alexis or Welbeck – he edged him towards the exit until the German knew it was his only route through occasional substitute appearances and then eventually not even getting on the pitch. The final nail in the coffin was to not even be included in some Matchday squads.

Does this sound familiar at all? It looks to me as though Theo is being led down that same path. His overall contribution – end product and pace – is being countered by the form of others in the squad (Welbeck and Alexis for pace, Giroud for end product) and the net effect is no game time for Mr Walcott. He wasn’t even given a sniff at Newcastle, a game I’d have thought would have been perfect for him. No doubt he’s asking questions of the manager, but whether he’s getting the answers he wants is another matter entirely, so I think the only way he’s getting a sustained period in the team is through injury to one of the forwards. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen because we’re playing well enough now to know that we need all of our form players fit and playing well between now and the end of May.

We’ll have to wait and see how this pans out, but I suspect many of us already know the answer.

Lost the battle, but win the war?

It’s like the Metropolitan Line is trying to protect me from a day of ghastly Spud ribbing at work, as I stand here on Uxbridge station writing today’s blog, waiting for a tube train delayed that is rarely late these days. But unfortunately it will only delay the inevitable and Gooners everywhere will no doubt be waking up to face the music of smiling Spuddies.

But do you know what? It doesn’t matter. For as Marv from Home Alone 2 once said: “you may have won the battle, little dude, but you lost the war”.

Arsène is a master of winning the Fourth Place Trophy War. That war he has won in his sleep. It’s by no means a forgone conclusion and who knows, we may lose our Champions League status next season, but where we stand right now we’re still in good enough shape.

I was speaking to Ben yesterday about the form of the other teams around us fighting for the Champions League spots and he gave me some reassurance in his words. Since the defeat to the Spuds I haven’t had the heart to look at any football, yet when Ben explained the spawny nature of the Southampton goal, the floundering of Liverpool and Man United, plus allowed me to chip in with a look at our next five fixtures, it made me feel a heck of a lot better than I did in the immediate aftermath of the defeat.

In our next five games we play Leicester at home (who have just sacked their manager), Crystal Palace away (who, despite the form, are a team that we should look at as a win), Everton at home, QPR away and West Ham at home. Whilst each game will have its own difficulties about it, none are matches with which we should be quaking in our boots about. Indeed, Arsène himself has called for a reaction and if he gets the same reaction as the one we had post Southampton away, then I fancy us to recapture form and become a favourite for one of the two remaining spots not occupied by City or Chelski.

Southampton are starting to wobble too. They have had a fantastic season but the pressure of what they are after must surely tell, because their last two games have seen a frustrating draw with Swansea and a last-gasp away win to QPR.

United showed how their league position is being propped up by David De Gea yesterday.

The Spuds are only a point clear of us and anything other than a win at Liverpool will see us go above them with a win of our own against Leicester.

Liverpool have stuttered as much as us and are still struggling for goals.

So you see, there are plenty of reasons not to fear the second half of this season. There is nobody left in the FA Cup that I would fear getting home and away (maybe United away, but that’s more because of our appalling record rather than their qualities), we have a run of games that could establish us in the top four, plus we have a squad coming back to fitness with each passing week.

I haven’t even mentioned the small matter of Monaco home and away.

So repeat after me in prep for any Spud onslaughts:

You may have won the battle, but how many times have you won the war?

Belief lacking, game plan found wanting

Well we didn’t get spanked like last year, did we? So that’s a plus point. Am I right?

That’s all I’ve got today, because yesterday you like I, will have sat through a performance that was both ‘un-Arsenal’ like and ‘very Arsenal’ like. In the way that we contented ourselves to have the least amount of possession and passing stats it was not like The Arsenal that we’re used to seeing. But the way in which we capitulated at the end of the match with a man advantage was so like modern day Arsenal it’s crippling beyond belief.

Heh, ‘belief’, feels wrong even saying that word today because, let’s face it, this team doesn’t look like it believes in itself. Yesterday was a classic case of a superior Arsenal team on paper, being outplayed by one of the most beatable Liverpool teams in a generation. Heck, we scored two goals with our first two chances on target, but that was more to do with a shocking Liverpool defence than anything else.

In November we ripped apart a United team and lost. Yesterday Liverpool ripped us apart yet, for all of Wenger’s assertions on the belief of this squad and their mental strength, we have once again showed that we are incapable of seeing out a game. Let’s also not forget that this was a Liverpool team so profligate up top that they missed guilt edge chance after guilt edge chance yesterday. They were playing with Sterling up top and until he was moved out wide later in the game, it looked like the same as when we were forced to play Arshavin up top because there was nobody else available. Yet we still managed to gift Liverpool two goals.

The first was a neat finish from Coutinho, but the fact it game because Giroud was trying to be too clever with a first touch in our half is hardly surprising. We all know the pro-Liverpool commentary in this country seem to get mesmerised by the ‘history’ of that club, but when Martin Tyler said they deserved their goal, I doubt there was a Gooner alive that couldn’t disagree.

Thankfully our response was swift and, for as shocking a game Flamini had (I’ll come to that in a second), it was a good leap and head back into a dangerous position for Debuchy to equalise on the stroke of half time.

So, to Flamini, who has deteriorated quicker than I’d ever thought possible. We’ve always known his limitations, but the guy looks like the epitome of a headless chicken in football terms. Gary Neville had called it in commentary, but the amount of times he was out of position and leaving an acre of space in front of our back four, that was really criminal. He’s supposed to be our man protecting our back four, yet he looks increasingly like a player who has no idea what his primary role is in the team. Yesterday I tweeted that I thought defensive midfielder was one of the easiest roles to perform if you have a few basic ingredients. 1) Be able to win a tackle, 2) be disciplined in your positioning, and 3) be ready to distribute the ball instantly to a nearby teammate. It really isn’t rocket science. Yet Flamini seems to be struggling. I have no idea why. Is he operating differently because of instructions from the bench? Which leads me to my next gripe I’m afraid…

Arsène Wenger. I am finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile his actions with any kind of logic I’m afraid. He is a great man. He has given us great highs. He should be respected and appreciated. But what we have seen this season has the hallmarks of a star whose brightness is fading. Yesterday morning I wrote about how Liverpool will look to exploit us by getting players like Sterling and Coutinho on the ball and feed in to Lambert up top. I got the personnel wrong, but the game plan was not and we saw time and time again, Coutinho and Markovic pick the ball up deep and run at our defence. I have never managed a game in my life, I am nowhere near as qualified as Arsène to lead a football team, but if I can see what Liverpool are going to do, why can’t he?

Because he is incapable? I don’t know, but what I do know is we saw a team that were outplayed, out thought and out fought. And it was painful at times. I don’t know if The Ox was too injured to play, but he was terrible, given the ball away, travelling with it too long without passing it (I call it ‘non-injured Diaby syndrome’) before losing it and generally looking out of sorts. Santi faired slightly better, but he was too quiet to be really affective for any length of time. I’ve mentioned Flamini, so all in all that makes a three man midfield that at times, might as well not have been there.

Why do we have these problems in midfield? Is it the managers fault that we have so many injuries? Of course not, but he is the one that should be setting those up who are available, in a way that negates the opposition and plays to our strengths. Did any of us see that yesterday? I certainly didn’t. For that, you have to look at the manager and I’m afraid not for the first time this season, he was found wanting.

Defensively too, we were terrible, with poor old Calum Chambers looking like he was running through treacle at times. He had a torrid afternoon at right back and, whilst I can see Arsène’s logic playing the quicker Debuchy at centre half with Sterling up top, it meant Chambers suffered in a position that looks like it is increasingly more difficult for him to be a success at. Let’s not forget we’ve got Carl Jenkinson out on loan to fourth placed West Ham right now. Hopefully that decision to play Debuchy as a centre half and Chambers on the right is a short term issue and we’ll see the two swap for QPR at home on Boxing Day. But again, we go back to the fact that a lack of depth in the squad – bought on by the managers own inaction in the summer – is forcing square pegs into round holes and we look like we are suffering as a result.

I can’t believe we’re not actually beyond sight of the top four spots. For that we can at least be grateful and look, if we win all of our games over the Christmas and New Year period, we’ll be sat in a good position coming in to 2015. But despite this, does anybody really feel confident we can go into games – especially away games – and get a result? Yesterday I used the word ‘cowards’ to describe the Arsenal players. It’s an extreme word and I did think to myself whether I would regret using it come the next morning. I am a passionate fan and prone to ‘heat of the moment’ style outbursts like we all are, but I’d like to think that my friends recognise I’m not a person who can’t consider any football situation with a bit of reflective logic. So do I still think my phrase ‘cowards’ is relevant? Yes. I saw a group of players yesterday who ‘wanted it’ more and they played in red. That annoys me. It annoys me because it seems to happen too much with Arsenal. Too often we are the technically gifted side who feel we need to turn up to win games, too often we come out of these games with egg on our faces, yesterday was no exception.

I haven’t even mentioned our front three. Probably that’s because we saw little of any of them all afternoon, although I must acknowledge a fine goal from Giroud which should have seen us pick up all of the points. It’s because of that though, and the manner of the last minute goal, that this feels like a defeat and not a draw. Had it been the reverse, that we’d have scored in injury time, I certainly would have more relief this morning, but I would not be able to take any comfort in the performance.

What also really cheeses me off too, is that yesterday we could have gone some way to remove this weight around our necks of not being able to win ‘big’ games away from home. Not only are we failing to do that, again, but we haven’t even been winning at home this season.

Oh, let’s also through some petrol on this sh*t bonfire by finding out The Ox will be out until the New Year too, shouldn’t we?

What a way to start a week of Christmas over indulgence. Still, at least I’ve got enough booze to drown my sorrows over the next few days, I recommend drinking to forget. Then we can pretend we’re not in dire straights right now.

Return of double pivot today? Depends on The Ox

It’s been a long week without The Arsenal, but we’ve finally arrived at match day and it’s a trip up to Scouseland for Arsène and whoever is left in the team not currently hovering around the medical centre at London Colney like its some sort of overcrowded NHS A&E. We’ll soon find out if The Ox, Theo and Nacho are on the team bus and in the squad and whilst I think we can afford to be cautious with Theo and Nacho, The Ox simply must play if he’s even remotely fit enough.

We simply don’t have the players in midfield, you see, although I appreciate that technically we do because Coquelin can fit in. But the way that Arsène likes to play, with a stopper (normally Flamini/Arteta), a creative number 10/forward lying midfielder (Santi/Özil) and a box-to-boxer (The Ox/Rambo), having Coquelin would change it up a bit because there would be two more defensive minded players holding that midfield together.

Arsène has tried this before though, which we saw on numerous occasions last season with the famous double pivot of Flamini and Arteta. It worked at times last season, like Napoli at home, but then it failed on occasion too. If Arsène is forced in to it today, it might just work though. With Liverpool sure to play Lambert up top, there will be runners like Sterling and Coutinho who will look to catch our centre halves out with their pace, so having an extra body to screen the back four might help to isolate Lambert and cause the runners to drop deeper looking for the ball.

Of course, Rodgers could continue with Sterling up top and if that is the case then he will certainly look to play off the shoulders of the last man, so if the amount of green grass he gets to run in to today is reduced, then it might negate his threat. One things for sure, we don’t want to be playing a high line, because that’s how we always get done over.

At the sharp end of our team there is a notable difference between last season’s drubbing at Anfield and today’s game. The team that got spanked earlier this year was lacking pace in it with Giroud and Podolski accompanied by Özil and Santi. Liverpool knew this and as a result were able to play a high pressing game which kept us on the back foot as they blew us away in the first 20 minutes. If, as we’re all assuming we play Welbeck, Giroud and Alexis as our front three, we have two willing runners to play off of our big Frenchman. That should mean he won’t cut a lone figure up top. Hopefully it will mean that Liverpool can’t play as higher line against us and therefore we won’t be caught out as often as we were in February.

That’s the theory, anyway, but as we all know you have no idea what Arsenal will do in these games. You wouldn’t look at the two respective teams at the Britannia and expect Stoke to smash us to pieces in a first half, but we had about as much consistency to us as a bowl of custard that day. So I wouldn’t put it past us to wobble in yellow away today too.

I hope not. I hope we can do to Liverpool what they did to us. But I suspect that this afternoon will be a cagey affair and that both teams would probably settle for a point if you offered it to the respective managers right now. A point is no good to us though. We’ve had too many draws this season and given that West Ham seem to be stretching their lead in fourth, we need to keep pace with them because they will start to drop points. We also need to win a ‘big game’ this season. We’ve had only draws or defeats in what I would call a ‘big game’, and we never seem to be able to win away from home against the traditional ‘top four contenders’, so if ever we’re going to break that hoodoo, you’d say an ailing Liverpool team would be the time to do it.

Famous last words, I know.

Fingers crossed. Come on Arsenal!

Arsenal and Liverpool similarities, as well as Alexis and Suarez narratives, are wide of the mark

Yesterday Alexis Sanchez turned 26 years of age. Aside from making me feel even older, the anniversary of his arrival on this planet all those many moons ago, his birthday also gave Arsène, as well as me now, the opportunity to wax lyrical about our Chilean ace. Not that we need an excuse mind, because let’s face it, he’s been awesome all season.

Unsurprisingly Arsène was full of praise, but also gave us a bit of insight as to how the transfer happened, with a few meetings of players agent and Le Boss whilst in Brazil, followed by a confirmation of interest from the player, transfer agreement from Barca and then a signature.

It all sounds rather easy, doesn’t it? Of course there will have been plenty of complexities around the arrival of Alexis, but perhaps it is a mark of the man, that the transfer didn’t seem to be anything other than simple as pie. For as little as one can gather from the way a player handles himself in public, he seems like a very amiable chap, a trait which can’t be labelled at too many in the game of football that’s for sure.

Perhaps his attitude on the pitch is reflective of the perception of him off it. He is a hard worker, very talented, but humble and appreciative of his origins. It is fitting, then, that we should come up against a Liverpool team that it was fairly obvious would have loved to secure his services in the summer. Indeed, it was the arrogance of people like Phil Thompson declaring “it’s done” when referring to Alexis to Liverpool, that mean that this particular fixture has an air of hopeful symbolism for me as an apprehensive Gooner.

I said on the blog yesterday that I’d been worried about this game since Monday and, whilst the worry still remains, the prospect of seeing Alexis Sanchez score the winner against a team that coveted him as we did will feel particularly juicy. Those from the North West might argue the bright lights of London were the only lure for the player, but when you look at the two respective clubs and how the seasons have unfolded, perhaps there is reasoning in itself for Alexis to choose Arsenal over Liverpool.

I read yesterday that were it not for Alexis, we would probably be in a similar position to Liverpool in mid table and out of the Champions League. Whilst I am not going to try and pull the wool over your peepers and suggest all is fine and we’d be as good if he were not at The Arsenal, gentle reader, I think that such comments do a disservice to the rest of our squad. A squad which, despite our protestations of lack of depth, have been completely decimated by injuries this season.

Liverpool too, have had injuries, but not to any extent that has been experienced by The Arsenal. Only Manchester United and Newcastle can claim to be masters of misfortune in that regard. Nope, Liverpool have had injuries, but their lack of squad depth has just been more plainly demonstrated than ours. Look at their ‘keeper troubles, or their defensive woes, which we’ve both had. But they’ve had the added problem of problems in attack too, which is something you can’t really throw in our direction. So to say that our two squads are relatively similar is a red herring if you ask me.

I think Alexis has been brilliant for us. I love everything about him. But equally I think it is wrong to believe that we are morphing in to ‘Alexis FC’ in the same way that Liverpool were often described as ‘Suarez FC’. We have other options and there have been times this season – like West Brom away – that we have had to rely on other players to get us out of trouble. On that day it was Santi rediscovering his form and Welbeck drifting in from out wide to head home from a central location that saved our bacon.

Sometimes though, I guess it’s just easier to build a narrative if the themes seem to loosely fit. Arsenal wanted Suarez. Arsenal wanted a player with pace, ability to travel with the ball, phenomenal work-rate, etc, etc. Suarez and Sanchez have similar styles. Similar sounding names too – isn’t this all seeming rather convenient? Liverpool wanted to replace Suarez with Sanchez. Sanchez has scored plenty of goals for Arsenal. It all seems to fit together so neatly like one of those wooden Early Learning Centre trains. But you and I know different. We know that our team has been poor, but our reliance on Alexis has not been as obvious as the Suarez factor was for the Scousers last season. That’s why I’m hopeful that we’ll see a better performance than Liverpool’s team tomorrow, because I want the other players to step up. The Cazorla’s, the Welbeck’s, the Giroud’s, all of them need to perform infinitely better than the horror show of last season. We know they can do it. They just have to show the belief. Hopefully the freshness will make a difference too.

There are still concerns over some players, like the Ox, Walcott and Monreal and if we’re completely honest, we can ill-afford any more injuries. But I’m hoping for some good news on The Ox front, because I think him being fit will give us an edge over Liverpool. More on why that is tomorrow in an actual match preview. For now, I’m going to start prepping for my trial run Christmas dinner – got some friends over tonight you see, so Christmas Turkey overload begins now for me.

Have a good’un.