Mesut misses work, Chambers needs to settle

It’s quiet in Arsenal world. Too quiet. The kind of quiet you get before Le Boss delivers the news that as a Christmas special, bought about by the sheer inability to field most of his players due to injury, he’s going to pull 16 names from a red velvet bag. Each one is an Arsenal red, silver, gold or platinum member, who will be contacted thereafter and told to report to London Colney at 9am tomorrow where the Arsenal team bus will be leaving for Liverpool. Of course, they’ll be no first team players on it, because they’re all rooting around the bins of Harley Street looking for spare body parts to replace their crocked limbs. As for Diaby, well…

We can rebuild him. We have the technology…but…

Poor old Mesut will be joining those scavenging first teamers tomorrow. He’ll be looking for a new knee, whimpering slightly at the fact he hasn’t been able to kick a ball for so long. With a player as gifted as he is, I’d imagine he had a football thrust into his newly born arms by his father, never letting go since, so to be out for as long as he has been out must be a bit torturous. If we think back to our own lives, not being able to do your job for a period of time would send you mad. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would think it’s amazing to get paid to do nothing, but if you think about the fact that you would literally be able to do nothing for two months, most of the population of this planet would probably start to go mad. I know I would. After the first week of being off it would feel great and like a holiday, but after about three weeks I bet I’d start to get really frustrated. After all, we’re talking about missing work through injury, so you can’t go out and do leisure activities. You just have to wait until you’re better. I don’t absolutely love my job, but it keeps me busy and I find it decent enough that I’d want to go back to it rather than sit at home doing nothing.

Now imagine you love your job like Mesut does. Painful, no?

Anyway, hopefully he’s seeing light at the end of the tunnel and he will start training by the new year. Lord knows we need a player of his craft back in the team.

For this weekend though, he is an irrelevance, but a player who is certainly not so is Calum Chambers. I remember the excitement about Chambers after his first few impressive performances of the season at centre half and us fans hailing the second coming of Tony Adams. Since then he’s been forced to play out wide as a right back and, as much as I think he’s coped admirably, I do think he has suffered a bit with the pressure of having to play all of the top flight games that he’s been asked to. I mean think about it; even at Southampton he wasn’t effectively playing two games a week. It was every Saturday/Sunday. And he was only really called on towards the second half of the season I seem to recall. So it’s a big ask for a player that young, that inexperienced, to switch positions so regularly (he’ll once again move to centre half this weekend against Liverpool) and expect them to be as natural and flawless in that position.

He seems to be taking it in his stride, saying all the right things about being happy to switch positions for the good of the team, but I’m sure we’d all agree that it would be best for everyone if he was able to settle on a position and master it. So far, granted, it’s been a ‘needs must’ exercise due to our extensive injury list, but I hope he doesn’t become Arsène Wenger’s ‘Jack of all trades’.

For me Chambers looks like a central defender and if that truly is the case, then we need to make sure he’s given a run of games to help him be the best in that position. You only need to look at Carl Jenkinson to see what a run of games will do for confidence and personal growth. He’s performing brilliantly at West Ham and I can only hope that he is so good that Arsène calls him back at the end of this he season with the mandate of fighting for that right back spot with Debuchy and Bellerin.

We’ll find out later today how much of the team is available today and I’m hoping we can see, for the first time in what feels like months, four defenders who are all in their most natural positions (assuming Chambers is now viewed as a centre back, of course). Arsenal being Arsenal, we’re bound to have a crisis somewhere else on the park, which looks like midfield right now, but if the noises about the Ox are true, then it might even look like we can field somewhat of a half decent team against the Scousers come Sunday afternoon.

Cross everything you’ve got, because we need some injury luck for a change this season, so hopefully Arsène has good news later today.

Wenger’s reunion can wait, our season is defined in the next few weeks

A reunion is on the cards in the New Year for our manager, as he finally, for the first time in his career, re-visits Monaco (in a proper competition) to square off against his old club. Yep, yesterday we got all the luck of the Irish as we were drawn against the easiest possible opponents that we were going to get in the next round, although as with everything in life we know that it won’t be easy when the matches eventually come around.

Just look at what happened to us when we played PSV all those years ago. we were probably the better team in both legs, yet our own profligacy cost us our space in the next round. So as much as we can view this tie as the best possible chance of progression we could have hoped for, the job still needs to be done both in London and the French principality.

Monaco got through their group having scored four goals. That’s pretty impressive in its poorness if we’re all honest. They have been forced to sell their star striker to some team based in the North of this country, and I believe I’m right in saying that they look a little like a spent force in the French league as well. We are hardly ripping up trees, but based on the respective quality of the English and French leagues, you’d expect us to be able to handle what they can throw at us.

There also seems to be some sort of cruel irony that Dortmund, who topped our group, have got one of the hardest group winner ties, as they go to Turin to square off against the current Italian Champions. Juventus won’t be an easy tie for them, but we needn’t concern ourselves with either side at this stage.

What we need to concern ourselves with it the run of games that takes place over the next couple of weeks that I think could define our season. Certainly if we want to be in Europe’s elite competition next year. With so many matches coming thick and fast, stringing together a series of wins can propel you from stuttering giants to steamrolling juggernauts, providing you have the right level of application. Oh, and it helps if you have any players fit to play as well, I suppose. This season we’ve certainly not been able to field our best eleven more often than not, but the Christmas period offers a slither of hope that we will not be the only ones. Think about it this way: our team are used to picking up injuries and we’ve learned that we have to muddle through somehow, unsuccessfully at times, I know. But it will come as no surprise to our players to be playing two games in a week and so one would hope that we’d better equipped to play three games in a week in comparison to those other teams at the top that haven’t had the same level of intensity so quickly. I am, of course, talking about the West Ham’s, Swansea’s and Southampton’s of this season. All have had good runs in the league up until this point, but with points coming so quickly and with inevitable injuries creeping up, the name of the Christmas game is rotation and it will be interesting to see how easily those teams can pick up wins with the level of squad rotation all teams probably need when you play three games in a week.

Perhaps I am clutching at straws a little bit, but I suspect we’ll start to see some teams falling away. That is not to suggest that we won’t drop points by the way; we’ve seen how easy we seem to have done so this season, but I just think that now is the time for us to assert our dominance on the rest of the division. We must start picking up wins and ideally, we need to do it next weekend against Liverpool. I was chatting to a Liverpool fan yesterday who was convinced we would smash them at Anfield, but I found myself needing to remind him that we are The Arsenal, that we give hope to those that have none at times. I hope I am proved wrong next weekend and we do smash them, because it will set us up for a massive Christmas. Think about it, a win away to Anfield, followed up by a win at home to QPR, would then put us in a fantastic frame of mind to take on a high confidence West Ham side that will fancy their chances at home. We need to be ending their hopes of Champions League football, then following that up by doing the same to Southampton. Maximum points over Christmas is probably more than we could realistically expect to get, but there’s no harm in dreaming at this stage of the season, is there?

As for the  rest of the Arsenal related news, it’s lots of interviews with players talking about emphatic responses for the Newcastle game, etc, etc. I understand that players with microphones thrust in front of them at the heat of the moment will be naturally buoyant after such a great performance, but I feel a little immune to their comments these days. We’ve heard it all before so many times, that all that really matters is what they say with their feet. And credit to them, you’re only as good as your last game and in the last game they were excellent. They just need to replicate that high intensity against the scousers next weekend.

I think I’ll call it a\ day for now. more tomorrow as we approach a crucial game/time in our season.

No fear of scousers, but definite fear of injuries

With yesterday’s games concluding without any surprises between Liverpool/Southampton and Newcastle/Moneychester City, you’d be forgiven for feeling that there is little comfort to take in two rivals picking up all three points, as well as a third probably getting off the mark this evening. But I am choosing to look for some anyway, so I’m looking squarely in the direction of Suarezless Liverpool, who certainly didn’t deserve to pick up all points in their 2-1 victory.

There was a similarity between score lines between their result and ours on Saturday, but that is where the comparisons stop, because our performance was markedly better than that of the scousers. That’s not to say we performed well – we know we just about got the job done against a dogged Palace side – but Liverpool completely rode their luck at times yesterday. So much so that I must admit to thinking that Southampton would be involved in a relegation fight this season with all their departures, but if Koeman gets his players playing like that each week, then he has little to worry about.

I said it yesterday on Twitter and I’ll say it again: this Liverpool team without Suarez do not scare me as much, as they are two of three injuries away from some problems in their team I think.

As for us, well, we’re used to ‘two or three injuries’ anyway, so it was perhaps not a surprise to find out that Koscienly is a doubt for the trip to Turkey after picking up a knock on Saturday, as well as Kieran Gibbs who limped off during the Palace game. I don’t know about you, but Gibbs I am less worried about with Monreal able to cover and also performing really well on Saturday, but Koscienly is a concern. Arsene admitted that Per might have to be bought in a little sooner than he would have liked, which whilst not ideal is some comfort, but it does make you wonder why we didn’t have an instant Vermaelen replacement lined up. I know that sometimes transfers take time (well, with Arsenal they always seem to, anyway) but I would have thought we’d have bought one in as soon as we knew Vermaelen was offski. Perhaps with his injury there was a question on whether he would pass his medical at the Catalan club, which is why Arsene held fire, but I would have thought a player could have been sounded out instantly and although they may not have been 100% ready, we could have them already in by now.

There’s still talk about Manolas joining, medicals already being completed, blah-blah-blah, but this won’t now affect the squad taking the trip out to play in Istanbul so we just have to make do for this game at least. Hopefully Kos’ injury doesn’t turn out to be a long-term issue.

Injuries have long plagued our ability to go the distance in league competitions of years past, as well as fighting on multiple fronts, so my fear is that we’re already starting off on the wrong foot at this early stage of the season. It’s nobodies fault, I don’t believe anyway, but it is something that could derail us if we get another one of those Physioroom.com injury league table topping seasons.

It’s probably why transfer rumours will inevitably continue right up until the end of the month, which is what we can expect in this sensationalist world we live in these days, but it sounds as though Arsenal are closing in on the young lad Rabiot from PSG and Vargas from Napoli.

I know nothing of these two players, but it sounds as if they are young players being bought in to add a bit of depth to the team. We’ll see how much of the speculation becomes fact over the next ten days or so. There’s no doubt that we need more bodies in certain positions, but they need to be bodies of quality and not just young players that Arsene is taking punts on. No more Amaury Bischoffs, but more Patrick Vieira’s would be handy, so we’ll wait to see whether Arsene opts for a more polished diamond, or one that he can work on a bit.

We all know he likes a rough one to work on, but after the clear difference between Giroud and Sanogo on Saturday, don’t we want to be seeing and established player come in to fight Per/Laurent and Arteta/Flamini for those roles where we are a little short? I know we have to take into account squad harmony and the sheer volume of players we already have on the books, but we don’t want to have a situation like the one we’ve got at the moment with our centre-halfs, so I’m hoping that we bring in the quality needed. After all, nobody really wants to see Chelski win the league, do they? And Moneychester City won it last season, so for the sake of variety, we owe it to the wider footballing community to blow away all opposition this season.

That’s that from me today. See thee in the morrow.

Unpredictability, passion, dreams and loss

The unpredictability of the league that you and I watch every week was there for all the world to see yesterday as Liverpool conceded a trio of relatively late goals to all but sink their hopes of picking up their nineteenth title. It’s why we have – no mistake about it – the best league in the world. We can’t pertain to have the best couple of players in the world, but for entertainment factor, you can’t beat it. How a Crystal Palace team with the cushion of mid table mediocrity, could scupper a Liverpool team that we’re bulldozing their way to making the league one with another teams name etched to the bottom, is beyond me. Like I say: it’s an entertaining league.

Unless you’re one of those fans at the top like Liverpool fans this morning. We know how they feel, because we’ve been there before. We’ve seen The Arsenal implode and we have held our heads in our hands. Heck, we could still see it this season when we take on Hull in the FA Cup final, so I’m sure you’ll join me in not counting your chickens this morning – however tempting it may be. Hopefully they’ll be no Arsenal fans furiously signing off ‘FA Cup winners 2014′ T-Shirts unless the trophy is being held aloft above Vermaelen/Arteta’s head come the evening of 17th May.

I personally feel sorry for the British media and ‘professional pundits’ nationwide. Littered with scousers and ex-Liverpool players, the infiltration of pro-Liverpool ‘experts’ is evident with every news outlet you turn to. The narrative had been set as early as February: Liverpool were to be crowned the Fairytale champions in what I’ve already heard being described by one ex-player as ‘the greatest league win of all time’. Of course, being an Arsenal fan, I would hotly contest that, what with a dramatic last-ditch victory at Anfield 25 years ago or an unbeaten season ten years passed. But hey, we’re not that famous old club on the Mersey with the greatest players, greatest fans, greatest managers, greatest history, greatest stadium, greatest songs, blah-blah-blah-di-blah.

The best thing about winning the Premier League – or any division – is that over the course of nine months the best team will win it and with the resources at their disposal it’s hard not to argue that Moneychester City are the best team.

Speaking of which, how about those rumours coming out that Moneychester City are still not agreed on the sanctions that UEFA have said they will oppose on them.

Sorry, what? I’m sorry you’re honour, can I just clarify what you just said? You just said that even though I broke into somebodies house, stole their car keys and drove their Aston Martin Vantage into a wall whilst perfecting the action hero ‘jump out of a moving car before it explodes’ trick, you want me to choose my punishment? Well, I think I’ll choose a minimum sentence in a minimum security prison with full Sky TV privileges, a PlayStation4 and the opportunity to leave the confines of the prison every day if I so choose. Thanks.

Financial Fair Play ladies and gentlemen. Being made a mockery before it’s even begun *slow hand clap towards the direction of UEFA in Switzerland*.

Anyway, what of Arsenal? Well, Abou Diaby has spoken about being in the first team fold, hoping that he gets a final outing on the last match of the season. With the match being a dead-rubber from an Arsenal perspective, I’d expect Arsene to rotate a wee bit, so would certainly think that Diaby should be given an outing. He has already talked to L’Quipe about this current absence being the longest of his career and whilst I sympathise for him, with an injury record like his, it’s not going to get any easier for his body to recover. He’s 28 years old but to all intents and purposes should probably have the body of a 40 year old and it’s for that reason that his comments about the World Cup may be the naive musings of a dreamer, I don’t begrudge him the desire. If by some farcical reason he was picked for the national side and inevitably got injured, I’d begrudge him going then most certainly. But you’d have to be a desperate French manager if you’re putting faith in Mr Glass.

Szczesny isn’t happy about not winning titles, which is kind of what your hope players say, but it’s still good to her. The players took a bit of a pasting when we secured fourth last season on the final day, but we’ve all known that it was more a relief of securing the minimum requirement, rather than the joy of winning the ‘fourth place trophy’. It’s the same with Wigan this year. We played poorly, were ten minutes away from losing a game we should have won, then did it on penalties. Victory in a penalty shoot out is always going to result in an overriding emotion of jubilation. But what’s important is the mentality of the players to win. Just look at Suarez yesterday. Sure, he cried like a baby without its rattle, but don’t you want that from your players? Don’t you want them to have put so much into a season that it feels like the end of the world if we’re not tasting victory? I certainly do and I hope being in contention for the league for such a long time gives the players that hunger to get even closer (hey – maybe even win it!) next season.

There’s also some stuff floating around today about Sagna being off to Chelski, but that doesn’t even bear thinking about right now, so I think I’ll just leave it.

Laters potatoes.

Mega early pre-match Chelski thoughts

Morning ladies and gents, I have decided to be massively premature in my blogulation this morning and hit you up with a mega early pre-match blog, that’s just how I roll.

It’s also because Ben has something special planned for the next couple of days and so I’ll leave the floor open to him tomorrow and on Saturday and give you some super pre-match thoughts. Well, the ‘thoughts’ aren’t so much super, it’s more the timing, but you knew that already, so I’ll just crack on then…

This weekend may be Arsene’s 1000th and quite an occasion, but nobody should be under any illusion on what exactly it means for our season in terms of the domestic league, because I truly believe that this weekend will set the course for the remainder of our Premier League season. A defeat closes all doors to the title in my opinion. We’d still have a game in hand over Chelski, but seven points adrift with just eight games to go is too much to expect – especially when you look at their run in. When you also consider that Moneychester City have so many games in hand – two of which they will most likely win and be on similar points to Chelski, I doubt we can expect to see too many teams around us that will all be dropping that many points.

A draw will keep us four points behind with a game in hand, which keeps us in the mix but again the thought process is similar to Liverpool and Moneychester City – I don’t think all of those teams will drop that many points. However, a victory, well, that puts us into ‘we all believe’ territory as it will take us a point behind Mourhino’s lot, with a midweek game against Swansea which could give us an opportunity to go top before we play City, which then becomes a clash in which a victory at home puts us in pole position.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this: I’m a bag of nerves at the moment. I’ve even got a bit of a dull ache in my stomach writing this blog, a full two days before the match even takes place, so lord knows what I’ll feel like come Saturday lunchtime.

If only we were at home, I’d be feeling a little (not a lot mind) more confident about getting the result. Wenger should have banished the Mourhino demons at The Emirates in December, but we came up against a ‘park the bus’ Mourhino and Giroud just wasn’t firing that day. It’s that flipping record that puts me off more than anything else. Never having lost a league game on home soil is quite impressive and, whilst I admit it has to happen at some time, there’s no doubt that the odds are not stacked in our favour for Saturday.

The only plus point is that we’ve had a full week off to recover from the defensive display against the Spuds. That game has now been put to bed and in the cold light of day we all have to admit that Chelski are a big step up from that lot, so if they get similar chances on Saturday we know they’ll take them. Also, the fact we’ve had a full weeks rest didn’t really stop us from putting in dire performances against Stoke or Liverpool, so I’m not going to be making any assumptions that we have any advantage on that front.

Obviously the down side to such an early preview blog is that I have no idea who will be selected and who is available from injury, but I’ll have a stab at it anyway, because I’m normally wrong even when I know who is in the squad! I suspect the back five will remain in tact and, after the performance on Sunday I think Arteta, Rosicky, Santi and The Ox will play, but against big strong defenders like Terry and Cahill, Olivier Giroud is going to be meat and drink, so I hope Arsene goes for pace in support of him by giving the Ox a run out on the wing and perhaps even Rosicky on the other side. That would probably leave room for Flamini to come in and with the Chelski danger men operating behind Eto’o, I think that added coverage is the right option. Of course, Podolski would drop to the bench and be a player I’d be looking to give twenty minutes to towards the end of the game depending on the result.

As for the Chavs, they’ve got the impressive Willian out suspended, along with the divey Ramirez, but it doesn’t really weaken them too much, as they’ll have Matic sitting in front of their back four and probably give a run out to the irritating Mikel, who loves getting away with snidey fouls against us and I’d expect the same treatment on Saturday. The real danger for us will be the attacking prowess of Hazard, Oscar, Schurrle and an Eto’o who seems to have suddenly picked up his striking boots, which is bloody annoying. Keeping those four at bag will be a massively challenge and without wanting to sound too pessimistic, I can’t see it happening.

If that is the case and our defensive walls are breached, then we need to counter by less profligacy in front of goal. The Ox needs to bury his chances, Giroud needs to be more active and a handful for the back two and Rosicky and Santi need to retain the ball and feed the attackers well. We can do it, of course, but this is by far the most pressurised league game we’ve had this season.

I’ll be wearing my lucky flat cap, so let’s hope I can make it three wins in a row with it on my head.

Catch you all on the other side.

Tipping the cap to Arsene’s gamble – Liverpool

Well happy Monday to you! Isn’t it a fine Monday for us to be sharing? I’m sure you feel the same, especially after a hard-fought home victory for The Arsenal. Yep, I’m feeling just fine and dandy, thanks to goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski to set us up with another big game in the FA Cup at home to Everton. Not quite content to see us have an easy ride, are they, these footballing Gods? That will have been three out of the top six we’d have had to beat to get to the semi’s where, you just know there will be Momeychester City lurking if we progress. Ah well, let’s count those chickens once they’ve actually hatched, eh?

As for yesterday, I think it only right we give Arsene a tip of the cap this Monday because let’s face it, when the team was announced yesterday there were plenty of mumblings of discontent. The feeling amongst a lot of the fanbase was that prioritising competitions wasn’t a luxury we could be afforded, yet with five or six changes to the first team (depending on who you think is a current starter), it seemed as though Arsene had decided that he would rather sacrifice the FA Cup than anything else.

Bringing in Jenkinson, Monreal and Sanogo wasn’t exactly thought of as a move we could really make, yet the managers faith in his squad to do the business was rewarded yesterday. I thought most of the team was superb yesterday. Jenks rarely put a foot wrong, Monreal had some wobbly moments at the start but grew into the game, whilst Sanogo have us the first glimpse of the promise that Arsene and his scouting network have seen.

He’s a big lad, isn’t he? Fending off Agger and Skyrtel is no mean feat, yet our Postman-in-waiting showed some great hold up play and even a couple of decent touches too, although he did have a couple of fresh air swings at the ball so you can see he’s a work in progress. It doesn’t mean he’ll be turning into the next Didier Drogba, but this was a rare start that showed he might just has something about him (providing he stays fit).

Indeed, it was the young Yaya who was instrumental in putting us in front in the first half, bringing the ball down under pressure from Skyrtel, rifling a shot against Gerrard’s back only for it to fall to The Ox to touch in. He was another fine performer on the day and in the opinion of the commentary team on BT Sport, the Man of the Match too, rightly in my opinion. All day his direct running caused a problem for the Liverpool team and his arrival from injury shortly after Theo was confirmed to be out for the season has been a timely re-introduction indeed. Arsene may see his long-term future in the middle of the park, but if short-term needs dictate him being deployed on the right of that three-pronged attack, then surely it is a case of ‘needs must’.

The second half gave us exactly what you need in a game against big rivals in the form of a Lukas Podolski goal which provided a two-goal buffer. Podolski too had a good game – penalty concession aside – and I jokingly tweeted an open letter to Arsene asking him to play Poldi more often. There is clearly the reluctance on the managers part to play our effective German, but yesterday he was imperious, running his socks off and supporting Monreal defensively, as well as once again providing a killer touch in the business end of the pitch. He must surely warrant more starts with performances like that, no? When you have such a clinical finisher, playing them in the big games is a no-brainer, because they will take the few chances afforded them. You don’t have to look too far – Giroud’s late miss on Wednesday from a Sagna cross – to see what an impact a natural born killer in front of goal can do.

I’ve singled out the squad players at the moment, but the regulars were also pretty darn good, don’t you know. Özil carried on from where he left off against United and looked like the Özil from the start of the season. It almost feels like he woke up Sunday morning last week, saw the savagery of the British tabloids, then decided to show them a footballing ‘f*ck you’ by making his mark on a couple of big games. Equally, the much maligned defence last week was back in its groove and deserved a clean sheet. Yes, the defence was breached in the second half, but if you take away the clumsy challenge of Poldi inside the box on Suarez, I don’t think our back four would have been breached. Both Per and Laurent looked shaky for the first ten minutes and Sturridge probably should have put Liverpool ahead, but it’s what we should have expected from a team whose game plan is to blitz opponents early and coast to victory, as opposed to our more cautious opening approach leading to pressure in the second half to breach the oppositions defensive line. Overall, defensively we looked strong once again and it bodes well for the upcoming tie against the best that Europe has to offer.

It would be remiss of me not to talk about the contentious decisions made by Howard Webb yesterday, for which both teams profited in different ways. There was most certainly a second penalty from The Ox on Suarez To which Howard had a perfect view, but one can only assume that the way the Uruguyan threw his body around, only counted against him. In unsurprisingly hypocritical manager form, Brendan Rodgers said he had no idea why it wasn’t a stone wall penalty, whilst following that up by saying Webb got it right when Gerrard scythed down the Ox shortly after that incident, for the ref to give a free kick but no second yellow. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but Liverpool fans bemoaning bias towards the home side would do well to remember their own fortune towards their skipper.

A word on Fabianski, another fine performer on the day who did nothing wrong in goal and even produced a fine stop when Sturridge was one-on-one and bearing down on goal. It’s clearly a frustration for him that he hasn’t had more game time, but the form of Szczesny is what it is, so if that means that Fabianski is playing in his last cup run for Arsenal, then I hope it’s a good one that sees him show just what he is capable of to potential buyers.

Overall you can hardly call it a ‘vintage’ Arsenal performance, but I’m getting used to this Arsenal side and their efficiency in victory. Last season United won the league at a canter with a side widely described as ‘average’, yet nobody could argue that they weren’t efficient in winning game after game. If somebody could tell me now that I had to watch Arsenal grind out 2-0 after 2-0 between now and the end of the season, but there’d be something shiny at the end of it, I’d bite their hand off and start working away on the arm until I hit the shoulder.

Onwards and upwards, towards a tantalising Wednesday night time against Bayern, where there might just be some revenge to speak of on Thursday.

There are those chickens again.

Liverpool: We shouldn’t rotate, but we should ‘freshen up’

Today’s an interesting game to call, isn’t it? I mean, on the one hand you have an Arsenal team that have had their pants pulled down by Liverpool just over a week ago, which could either lead to a bit of fear from the players that take to the field today in red and white, yet on the other hand you sense that those players will want to prove that last week really was an anomaly and will therefore be extra up for the match this afternoon.

Likewise, you have a Liverpool team that will no doubt be buoyed by that 5-1 drubbing of us last week, as well as a last-gasp winner against Fulham on Wednesday. But equally, that’s a Liverpool tea that will surely be wary of our need to prove that last week could not be repeated, as well as the fact that defensively they still concede some sloppy goals.

I honestly don’t know which two teams will take to the field today, which makes this game impossible to call, so I don’t think I will!

In November Brendan Rodgers got his tactics wrong at the Emirates and a couple of goals from Santi and Aaron gave us a comfortable 2-0 win. He readdressed that last week by catching us cold and tactically outperforming Arsene with pace, with and a lightning quick start. He will obvious want to replay last weekend’s game in terms of the two styles, but the challenge he’ll have is making sure his team make another quick start. That’s where we have to make sure that, true to our home form this season, we are strong and compact in defence and we avoid the suicidal high line that cost us so dearly at Anfield. We’ve made a habit this season of starting games slowly and building our momentum throughout, so the blueprint is there for success: don’t let. Liverpool catch us cold in that first 15 to 20 minutes.

Thankfully, we are at home today, which I’m sure will help the Arsenal lads that take to the field because the home fans will want the sweet smell of revenge just as much as the players. We’ll need to be noisy and loud and – cliched as it may sound – be that twelfth man to ensure we navigate this very tough fifth round tie.

There’s been a lot of talk amongst Gooners and the press about the possibility of Arsene resting a few players today in prep for the arrival of Bayern on Wednesday. Personally I hope that Arsene is tempted to make wholesale changes. I hope, if anything, that he takes this game more seriously than the Bayern one, because I am a pragmatist and I think we have a better chance of silverware in this competition than in the Champions League, so I don’t really want to see wholesale changes. I know it’s not a thought process I’m alone with either, as Dave over at 1 Nil Down 2 One Up also talks about in his match preview he wrote yesterday.

Having said that, I do think Arsene needs to freshen it up from Wednesday’s draw against United, because we looked lethargic and short of ideas going forward in that second half. There has been plenty of online column inches provided by Gooners and journos alike bemoaning our lack of pace in attack, as well as runners in beyond Özil, so I hope that Arsene sees today’s game as an opportunity for Gnabry and Podolski to operate either side of the loan front man. Whether or not that is Giroud is remains to be seen and I wonder if Arsene will be tempted to start Bendtner to see if he can perform against the scousers.

In midfield Jack hasn’t had the greatest of weeks and I’d be tempted to go for a rotated two in the middle of the park of Flamini and The Ox. Matthieu has just sat out over a weeks worth of football and so will be fresh and Alex’s performance against Crystal Palace could mean he’s given another chance to shine. Alternatively, he could look at giving the effervescent Rosicky a run in the middle of the field, as we all know Arsene loves giving Tomas a shot in some of the big games. He usually performs well too.

As for Liverpool, I’m expecting the exact team that played us at Anfield last Saturday, why wouldn’t we? They smashed us to pieces with their pace and width and Rodgers will no doubt believe he has found the blueprint to beat Arsenal. That’s what worries many of us about the result today too I think, because defeat at home today will raise a lot of questions as to where we’re going right now, as well as the possibility that teams have worked out how to get at this Arsenal team.

The other worry is that Liverpool have seen what United do and play for a bore-draw to take it back to Anfield to finish the job. Let’s face it, they don’t have the fixture pile up through European competition and so don’t have as much to worry about in terms of a replay, so I’m sure if you offered it to Liverpool fans and the manager himself, he’d probably take it and try to replicate the home demolition of us in the league.

Unfortunately for me, my own current circumstances have dictated that I cannot make the game, so I’ll be watching it through the horror-show that is BT Sport in a local pub. But I hope that we can get the result we need because so far, this current ‘DEATHRUN1′ has not been ‘so good’.

Come on you Gunners!