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.