Scraping the barrel and ranting on tickets

I must apologise if today’s brain dump of a blog is a little bit ‘meh’, because quite frankly, there’s bugger all to talk about at the moment (way to sell a blog and entice Gooners to read on, Chris).

I mean, you’re really scraping the barrel when the lead story on the official site is about a tour of the clubs training facilities, a Per Mertesacker admission that we need to be better at set-pieces, or a note about how Mikel Arteta acts as a ‘father’ figure for new players joining the club.

It all feels like that deafening silence you get before a 100 metres race before the starters pistol rings through the air. I feel like I’m waiting patiently for the build up to the weekends game. I only hope Arsenal make it worth it, because it’s always frustrating when there’s no Arsenal for a period of time. And let’s not forget how lucky we are; we get to watch Arsenal a lot more than the average Premier League fan watches their club. We’re playing weekends and midweek most times during the season, which is a-ok for me. It helps to scratch the itch of Arsenal and the relief is very obvious come match day.

At least most of the players will be returning by today, which means we’ll probably get an indication of how the squad will shape up in terms of player availability, so that will be a welcome bit of news. As the Arseblogger pointed out yesterday, it looks like Alexis will be unlikely to return in peak physical form, so we’ll probably have to wait a wee bit before we see the rapid pace of Walcott, Welbeck and Alexis all forming a front three that will have back fours sitting so deep they’ll probably have a permanent camp set out on their own six yard line, but we still have plenty of other options in that part of the pitch, thankfully.

It’s the other end that terrifies us all.

I so wonder if Arsène might be tempted to ‘unfreeze’ Lukas Podolski for the weekend’s game though. He came on as a second half substitute against the Republic of Ireland yesterday and, although I don’t know how he performed, he is clearly still an asset that Jogi Low rates. So I don’t see why, against an established but not spectacular Hull team, he doesn’t give Lukas a chance to prove he can still eek out enough game time at least until January to secure a move. Think about the last time we played Hull at home, with a Bendtner inspired header that set us on our way to a comfortable evening. Why not give our only fit German international a shout? Who knows, he may just surprise a few by taking his chance to start. And with plenty of other players available should he not impress after an hour, there is always the opportunity to make that trademark Poldi sub that Arsène has perfected, which has seen him hardly ever finish a game.

More on an actual formation and the predicted line up towards the end of the week I think, because I suspect we’ll not see Poldi anywhere near the first 11 com Saturday. It’s fair to say that his longer term future is not at Arsenal, which will be a shame (especially for Steve, who will weep silently in his cul-de-sac corner of the world where his Poldi shirt will be ‘retired’ forever come January), but we’ll all have to move on. Much like Ivan has been talking up with his comments on Arsène eventually being replaced as manager at Arsenal. It is mental to think that there are human beings on this planet that will be legal drinking age and still unable to comprehend a life without Arsène. I myself have only really known three major managers at Arsenal since supporting the club as a kid and, whilst I’m hardly a great reference to pull the old chestnut of ‘you don’t know what hard times are as an Arsenal fan’, I did sit through a season of Bruce Rioch, so I sort of know what it feels like to be less successful (although he admittedly was the man in charge when Bergkamp signed, so I guess I can be a little bit more grateful).

It will be a strange feeling when he does eventually go, but it’s interesting that Ivan seems to already be laying the foundations, whilst doing it in a platitude-infused manner because he’s probably more mindful than most of the power that Arsène has at the club. With another two years after this one on his contract, it’s a strange time to be talking about replacements I think, because two years is an absolute eternity in football. Two years ago ‘Arry was the heir apparent to the England job and the greatest manager of all time. Now he’s looking a bit ropey with an ageing QPR team that are rooted to the bottom of the league. So speculating on the next manager after Arsène is probably not a worthwhile way of spending any cash you’ve decided to hand over to the bookies.

Will you afford me a bit of a licence for a rant today to finish off the blog? It’s about ticket prices, so if that isn’t of interest then you can say your goodbyes to me now and I’ll catch you tomorrow, I won’t mind.

So, for those of you that remain, I do have to have a little bit of a moan about ticket prices. It’s a regular occurrence in the media that prices are trotted out whenever there seems to be a slow news day on the back pages, but it certainly leaves a sour taste in my mouth whenever I hear some of the price comparisons between football clubs, mainly because we get the rawest of deals from across the whole of Europe it seems. I’m too simple a fellow to give an in-depth analysis of ticket pricing and comparisons, but comments about the number of additional games we get as part of our season ticket, or that London prices are expectantly higher are all balderdash in my opinion. Even when you take into account the additional seven games, the cheapest season ticket (which I have) is still far more expensive than most teams in most competitive leagues across the globe. And I just can’t accept that ticket prices are linked to player wages or transfers. Other organisations like the AST have already proven that this simply isn’t true.

What is true is that we are paying a premium on a product that is positioned as elite, but the reality is that we do not receive an elite version of the product or in simplistic terms, more glory and trophies and one of the best teams in the world. I might put us in the top ten – just – but given our own financial outlay on the club, is that acceptable? I would put it to you that it is not.

Anyway, just some thoughts, much of which you’ve no doubt heard before but I wanted to share anyway.

See you tomorrow.

Arsène needs to use all of his shoes

Arsenal must really hate it when their own news gets filtered through the press before they even have a chance to proof read it, pick the right images and get it on the official site. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad news, in today’s society with the access to information that everybody has (and is therefore invariably an expert), we get exposed to things waaaaay before the club intends it to be so.

When it’s good news I bet the PR team are all “ahhhh, we wanted to tell you guys'”, where as when it’s bad news they are probably less enthused about releasing it, but at the same time they realise that when it’s out before they announce it, it makes the official site look dated before they’ve even had a chance to brief the press. It must be like the kid at school who always finished your sentences so you used to deliberately tell the little blighter the wrong answers so he’d get them wrong. Then you’d make sure you booted the ball at him extra hard at lunchtime when he was in goal after headers & volleys and he was in for the last person in so had to be subjected to the Death Shot.

Transfers is the most obvious example – not of the Death Shot, but of when news is old before released – but the example that is most recent is the news regarding the latest spate of injuries that we seem to have sustained. Arsène will no doubt assume the position for his pre-match press conference today and I’m sure he’ll confirm what multiple news sources are already reporting: Ramsey is out for a month, Arteta is out for three weeks, Jack is touch-and-go for tomorrow but should be fine for the weekend, oh and Koscienly is suffering from a knock that should probably mean that he’s rested, but the whole ‘ it buying enough defenders in the summer’ thing has reared it’s ugly head and we’re down to first team bare bones before September has waved goodbye.

It means that Twitter and the rest of the world has already had it’s chance to react, which includes a scary looking image from The Telegraph about all of the injuries we’ve had in the last eight years. The scary parts are the number of ankle and hamstring injuries. That’s 107 banjaxed hammy’s and is a little worrying, especially when you work out that it’s 13 every season, or more than one every month throughout the course of the last eight seasons. That makes you question the medical team at Arsenal for sure, because hamstrings are the ones that go when overworked. I know it’s not as simple as that all of the time, but you see figures like the one shown last night and it does make you worry that this problem isn’t going away any time soon, which makes the decision to leave us so short defensively all the more baffling.

Impact injuries and ones like the Ramsey or Eduardo broken leg can be explained away as unfortunate, as they already have ad nauseum, but it’s those injuries that come as a result of wear and tear through excessive use and lack of rest that are the most frustrating.

At the heart of this, Arsène needs to at least try to undertake more rotation than he likes to in the league and cup games. There’s no need for tinkering on a large Ranierian scale, just a tweak here and there for players that look like their suffering from form and fitness. We don’t need round pegs put in square holes because they are expensive round pegs that came diamond encrusted and sold to us by a beautiful maiden with heaving bosom’s. We just need to try other pegs when the best pegs we have need a bit of recovery time. Or something.

It’s like a nice pair of black shoes, Arsène. You can wear them all the time if you like, but they’ll probably be knackered in nine months, so you’re far better to get a second pair of black shoes to wear every once in a while to extend the life of your favourite shoes.

Don’t go out and buy a whole new wardrobe of shoes Arsène (you only need one or two new pairs in January), just make sure that you use all of the ones in your wardrobe, and you’ll find that they’re all just as comfortable and some even look as good as the ones you’re wearing all the time.

Anyway, that’s enough feet-based metaphorical chitter-chatter for one day. Have a good one Gooners.

Get back to last year’s success story Arsene

What did I say yesterday? When everyone tips The Arsenal to steamroller a top seven side, fates invariably conspire against us to ensure that we don’t pick up maximum points.

It’s hard to be pleased about a home draw to what has been the poorest Spuds team that we’ve played in quite a while. Tottenham came to The Emirates with one goal – not to be defeated – and the Mushroom Man Pochettino ended the day yesterday the happier of the two managers after the 1-1 draw. His was a plan better executed than Arsene’s, as the Spuds were content to sit deeper than we’ve ever seen them before and try to catch Arsenal on the counter attack. And why not? If anyone has watched Arsenal this season they will have seen that we are susceptible to the sucker punch, as this game proved in the second half when the Spuds scored against the run of play. It was a goal entirely of our own making as Flamini was caught out easier than a John Terry testimony.

I don’t know if I am the only one here, but I’m starting to get a little bit concerned with the propensity with which we seem to be conceding first. Not only does it give our opponents something to hold on to, but it puts us in a position where we need to take risks and that isn’t something that’s good for my health. Arsene and Bouldy need to have a think about how we are set up, because it was much more fun last season when we were winning every game 2-0 and being defensively solid. But once again, almost as if to prove some kind of belligerent point, Arsene reverted to the style that we’ve adopted all season and played Ozil on the left. We saw with devastating effect the success of Mesut through the middle, but not only that, we also saw last week how Ramsey was more effective whilst sitting deeper and breaking forward from a deeper lying position. Yesterday was back to the old Ramsey, trying little flicks that didn’t come off and then capping off a torrid day by getting himself injured through a busted hammy in the first half. That problem was also compounded by Arteta who went down with a calf strain and the two will now not be available for next weekends loss to Chelski.

Tactically, Arsene needs to go back to basics too. The most basic principle being winning games. Three all season in all competitions is mid-table mediocrity form and we’ve already dropped far too many points this season with draws. Unbeaten runs may sound good out loud, but if you draw every game in the season you get 38 points and probably avoid relegation by a point or two, so should be taken with an extreme pinch of salt. To be honest, from the Gooners I talk to and follow, none are particularly over the moon with the fact we’re unbeaten, especially when you consider that the record will be dead and buried by next Sunday evening. I’m treating it as a forgone conclusion because, unlike Arsenal, when pundits tell the world that Chelski will roll over us, that is what usually happens.

Arsene needs to recognise who his best players are and play them in their best positions. Alexis’ best position – last time I checked – wasn’t sitting on the bench patiently waiting for the 75th minute to come when Arsene makes his customary substitution. Why on earth he didn’t start yesterday is a mystery. Actually, I don’t think it is a mystery at all. I think that Arsene is trying frantically to have a formation that affords Wilshere a space in the team. To Jack’s credit, he did ok yesterday, but with Rambo and Arteta having established the hierarchy last season of being on the teamsheets first and foremost, Arsene won’t drop them or Ozil, which is why Mesut is being shunted out wide. The hamstring injury to Rambo will allow Wilshere to sit alongside Flamini in the coming weeks and give Jack licence to be that box-to-boxer that we all want. It will also force Arsene into playing Ozil centrally, something that I’m pretty sure would have come to a parliamentary petition by all Arsenal fans at Ten Downing Street, had Arsene pressed ahead with his ‘Ozil out wide’ experiment. Ozil actually had a good game I thought, but he will only be so effective out wide, so needs to be sitting in that hole so he can feed Welbeck those killer balls we’re all craving.

When Santi came on I thought he was really good. He gave a bit more purpose to our attacking play and having him on the left with Ozil through the middle and Ox on the right instantly changed us into more of a threat. We should have had more than the one goal we had to show for our performance yesterday, but for some smart Lloris saves and a deep-sitting Spuds defence.

I really hope this doesn’t end up being a season of draws. Last year I don’t think we picked one up until late November and, when you go on long winning streaks it effectively sets you up for a title charge when you reach the halfway point. At this point now, with the tinkering Arsene is doing to the team, it’s hard to think we’ll be doing anything else than staring down the fourth place trophy. Sadly, just before the Ox scored his goal, I was starting to ponder whether or not a defeat today would at least give us the reality check that would be needed to know that it will be another season where fourth place is the target rather than lulling us into the false sense of hope that we’re good enough to win the league. I immediately hated myself for thinking that in the midst of the game and whilst we could still feasibly pick up two goals and win the game, but I can’t shake the feeling that come December our expectations will have been decidedly altered.

Le Boss has some work to do now. He needs to find his best team, not have them injured, get them back to playing what they did last season, plus get us on a winning streak that builds momentum and confidence. The good news is that after we lose to Chelski, we’ve got a run of winnable games until we then play Man United at home towards the end of November. We have to start clicking and clicking now.

Catch you tomorrow.

NLD nerves, despite everyone tipping us to win

Good morning to you on a very important day in the football calendar indeed. Derby day. The North London One. At home. Three points is the target and up and down the land (and the globe actually) there are Gooners like you and I nervously counting down the time to kick off. And it is nervous, isn’t it? Because let’s face it, without wanting to trot out all of the old cliché’s, the great form that we’ve had at home since the dawn of the Premier League era mean the square root of naff all today.

We host a Tottenham team who have just come off the back of a disappointing home defeat to West Brom (you can’t really call the midweek games the last games that the teams will have played because the two North London sides are completely different to the ones that will be rocking up today) and who have struggled to find their rhythm since the start of the season. In fact, you’d go as far to say that Spurs’ form is pretty poor so far. Over the last few weeks the Spuds have lost twice at home to West Brom and Liverpool, whilst also being pegged back by Sunderland away. So it’s hardly a Tottenham team that will be kicking off at The Emirates full of swagger. That’s what we’ve had during the previous 5-2 victories a couple of seasons ago, so I don’t really know what to make of the Spuds going in to this game. I mean, we could just as easily have that lot giving the games of their lives against us that belies their recent form, as we could see a comfortable evening of goals for our lads.

What does worry me is the fact that everyone is pipping us for a comfortable afternoon. When you’ve got people like Paul Merson saying we’ll have an easy afternoon and a 3-0 victory, Mark Lawrenson saying it will be a comfortable 2-1 and even Jamie Redknapp telling us the Spuds are a ‘million miles’ away from us, it instills anything but confident in your humble narrator here. Only because we’re not Chelski or City. Our dollar hasn’t been tainted with oil and we haven’t also managed to buy a truck-load of luck, so usually when everything points in Arsenal’s favour, we get a bloodied nose. Next week we’ll be on the receiving end of the pundits telling us that we haven’t got a chance against Chelski and it’s almost certain that what they say will come to pass, but when we are the favourites, rarely do we have it easy. I’m praying not to have that today. I’m praying for a real comprehensive victory that sees us a few goals up by halftime and a nice 45 minutes of jovial frivolity for the second half.

As for the teams, I suspect we’ll see the same side that dispatched Villa last week, minus The Ox for Alexis. So I am hoping that Arsene decide’s that Mesut should sit behind Welbeck and see if they can combine well as both did at VIlla Park. Defensively we’ll need Chambers to be at his best against a Chadli who looks a little bit more impressive than the five-minute player that played last season up against Jenkinson. The Spuds will play with a 4-2-3-1 and have Chadli and Lamela either side of Adebayor with Erikson sitting as the playmaker. Arteta will be responsible for making sure that Erikson doesn’t find space in between our defence and the midfield, so my hope is that he performs better than in the Dortmund game, in which he continuously let players run in beyond him.

It’s why Ramsey’s role in the team will be so important. Ramsey is at his best – I think – when he is starting from deeper and pushing forward. With Ramsey’s starting position being further up the field, it doesn’t give him the licence to be as successful with his driving runs I don’t think, so I hope Arsene opts for the Welshman sitting a little deeper than when he started the season. That would support Arteta and help to stifle the Spuds attack.

Our attacking quartet will need to find a way past Kaboul, Verthongen and Capoue who, up until his injury in the NLD last season, I thought looked like a decent player. Both him and Dembele can travel with the ball and look decent with it at their feet, but if Mesut can find those pockets in between their back four and the two deeper lying midfielders, he could have a good afternoon. He missed last seasons game because he hadn’t been signed in time, so I’m hoping he can show the world of his quality and build on the great performance of last week.

As Arsene mentioned in his presser yesterday, Ozil and Welbeck’s partnership was good last week and it has to be good today. Unlike two weeks ago when Welbeck found his chances few and far between, one suspects that he’ll be given more opportunities to put one away against this Spuds team. They play very open and do not have the requisite quality that Moneychester City have, so if Welbeck is presented with a chance it’s important that he puts it away. He opened his account last week in great poachers fashion, but he needs to get a run of games in which he’s scoring to secure his place in the side for the long-term. Let’s not forget that it was an excellent and deft touch of Giroud’s that won us this game last season, so that is what Welbeck needs to replicate today. If he can do it a few times too that would be grand.

We’ve drawn too many games already this season, so ideally we need the win more than anything else. A draw won’t really feel like we’ve mastered the ‘big games’ just yet, so its imperative that we don’t let a psychological barrier begin to build like it has in previous seasons. Having said that, it’s what I believe will happen today, as I think we’ll not see a Tottenham side anything else other than wanting to make a statement. I think we’re in for a tough afternoon and given our propensity to ship goals from set pieces, it wouldn’t surprise me if we get sucker-punched with a Kaboul goal from a corner or something like that. Chasing a football match is nobodies idea of fun, but I have a nasty feeling that’s what we might see this afternoon. After all, we’ve got form in that regard if you think about the two 5-2 victories.

I hope my gut feeling is wrong, I hope we can give them a smashing, so let’s all do our part to help the team to shout ourselves hoarse come 7.20pm London time this evening.

Come. On. You. Reds.

Timing in football – will youth break through?

Morning fabulous Gooner colleagues. It’s Thursday, we’re one day closer to a home game against the Spuds, but all has gone relatively quiet on the Western Front, that front of course being the Arsenal official website.

There has been an interview with Isaac Hayden, who talks about the positives from the game on Tuesday, notably some of the defensive displays. He’s a guy who must be looking at the next few months and secretly hoping that a high volume of games will force rotation upon Arsène and push him into the managers choices at centre half. With Chambers now almost indefinitely operating as a right back until the January window, one of Bellerin and Hayden will almost certainly get game time. One would naturally assume that is would be Bellerin who slots in on the right and Chambers pushed in to the centre, but the manager will have a decision to make if we pick up just one more injury or a suspension at the back, because both are young and untested and both now have the benefit of another game of first team football to wet their appetite for more.

Having not watched either, I’m hardly best placed to say which of the two is more advanced in their development, but I would hazard a guess that Bellerin represents the least risky of the options at right back. That would mean an injury to a centre half would see Chambers slot in instead of Hayden.

Of course, if Chambers gets injured or is suspended, it might force the managers hand.

It’s interesting because sometimes from the most unlikely of sources you can find a very good player from within the clubs ranks. Forgive me for sounding Arsènesque in my ‘Likeanewsignism’, but I think back to how Flamini broke into the team on a regular basis as a full back and then a midfielder. Nobody saw that coming when he performed as a full back for most of the Champions League final season, yet he performed admirably. Likewise, if I’m honest I never thought he’d consign Gilberto Silva and Lassana Diarra to an almost permanent place on the bench during the 07/08 season. But he did and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that, if forced (through injury to others) with a sequence of games this season, one of Bellerin and Hayden actually become a more permanent fixture in the team.

Of course, there could just as we’ll be the likelihood that either of those players go the way of Miquel, or Eboue before them. However to Miquel’s credit, he was hardly played as a centre half when called upon by Arsène, so who knows how much confidence that knocked him back that he was going to make it at Arsenal. Confidence in football is massive, as it helps to push a player to their limits, as we saw Aaron Ramsey prove last season. Getting that confidence can come with games, but it would be a bit of a Catch 22 situation for Arsenal fans, because the only way we’ll see someone like Hayden/Bellerin get game time will be at the expense of our strongest back line, which none of us really want to see.

There’s one more player who I really think should be given a crack at the first team. And that is a player who was already on the fringes of the first team, but never really managed to get a run of games, so I’m not convinced that he’s a player who will ‘never make it’ at the club. On Tuesday night, from what I’ve heard, Francis Coquelin had a very impressive game at left back. He is always a player I have rated and I still remain convinced that, if given game time, he could be a successor to Arteta. He has the legs on our captain, he’s a ball winner, but he’s also good in distribution. He showed one or two games a couple of seasons back that he can perform in the Premier League, but unfortunately for him he was never really given a consecutive run of games, which subsequently never truly allowed him to find form. I see a lot of Flamini in Coquelin in terms of how his Arsenal career could evolve, but again, I just wonder whether or not the only way we’ll truly see his potential is through a double long-term injury to Arteta and Flamini. The down side to that I’ve mentioned above, but the timescale for Le Coq is also running very short I think. Arsenal will surely almost certainly go in for a defensive midfielder in January, which means that Francis probably only has three months to force his way into the managers plans.

It’s why the COC was such a shame to see us knocked out of it. An additional game might have given another chance for him to prove his worth, but that is now gone, thanks not to the performance of the younger players, but the more senior and experienced squad players. But I guess so much in football is about timing as much as anything else, and Coquelin’s time has probably come and gone two years ago. Will the same happen with Hayden and Bellerin? We’ll find out in the next three months.

Catch you tomorrow.

High pressing to Mesut’s advantage? Dortmund preview

So apparently the footballing gods are testing Arsène’s ‘threadbare’ rule by conspiring to see how many of our defenders can be injured at any one time, before Arsène loses it and tells Stevie Bould to warm up with a green bib ahead of tonight’s trip to Dortmund.

Our first Champions League group stages appear to have coincided with a bout of plague that is ravaging our back line. Symptoms are varied in each case, but the upshot is that we are looking at definite absences of Debuchy and Monreal, whilst Chambers has picked up a knock but should be ok to play. With Arsène having gambled on having only six first team defenders for four positions, it appears as though normal service has been resumed with regards to his gambles falling flat on their faces.

Of course, the reality of the situation the team has tonight is that there is still a strong enough defence to call upon, with Gibbs returning to action and Chambers slotting in at right back. With Szczesny in the sticks behind them, it’s not as if we are short of first team experience, so my apparent serious concern above is a ‘little bit tongue in cheek’. I just hope we don’t pick up any more bumps or bruises this evening, because we can ill afford any more absences as the games come thick and fast.

As for our midfield, one would assume that Arteta will come in for Flamini, with Ramsey and Wilshere once again playing through the middle behind a front three of Özil, Sanchez and Welbeck. The latter two of that three performed well on Saturday, so I’m hoping that the former – a German international with quite some reputation – can draw on some German inspiration in his home nation. Mesut has been shunted wide in recent weeks and, whilst Arsène has been leaping to the defence of his most expensive bit of shopping, there must be part of him that realises that we need to get Özil into the centre as soon as possible. But with Walcott still a few weeks away and Wilshere having Messi’d the game at the weekend, it’s fairly obvious that he will start through the middle.

Our opponents this evening have their own injury worries too, so perhaps it is not just us that has the curse of the footballing gods to agonise over, as a number of first team players won’t be rocking up in yellow come 7.45pm. Reus, Hummels, Sahin, Gundogan and Blaszczykowski are all out, so it’s up to Shinji Kagawa to provide the creativity after returning to Dortmund from United in the summer. I remember seeing him against us the first time we were drawn against Dortmund; he was a handful throughout and one of the better players in both games. The question will be whether or not he has bedded back into his new-old team quickly enough, but I think he’s already scored for Dortmund, so I suspect we’ll see a decent performance from him tonight.

We know what test Dortmund will provide to us tonight, having played them for what feels like every season since their sustained return to the Champions League a few years ago. They will look to press us high and reduce the space we have to conduct our short tiki-taka passing style out from the back. But this is a different Arsenal team now. If you press us high up the pitch, it’s not just Theo Walcott or bust for us, so Dortmund will surely be wary of the lightning counter attack that we possess with Welbeck and Alexis. A high line would be delightful to see from my perspective, but surely that would be suicidal from Dortmund, so something has to give. For if they press high from the front, they will need to push their back four high too. Otherwise the space in between the back four and defence would be far too much.

If that does happen, that the back four of Dortmund sit deeper whilst the front players push higher, Mesut Özil has to be ready and up for it tonight. If he’s allowed to roam in that no-mans land between defence and midfield, it will afford him time rarely granted in the Premier League, so he’ll need to capitalise after a poor display against Moneychester City.

So the good news is that, in theory, we have different options to beat Dortmund, either through the pace against a high line, or the space of Özil and Rambo to operate in between the yellow and black defence and midfield. But one things for sure, however we look to overcome Dortmund, tactics alone won’t see us pick up all three points in the Westfalenstadion. We need good performances from nearly all of our players if we want to overcome the German runners up, which means no passengers like there were on Saturday. If we start well, take confidence from our unbeaten run so far, then catch Dortmund on the counter, I fancy some three pointage come 10pm this evening. The team is starting to gel and hopefully the positives from the weekend can be emphasised.

Come on you reds!

Can we make that final step? City preview

Well Mr Matchday, you certainly took your sweet time to arrive, didn’t you? Keeping me waiting like a disgruntled commuter at a National Rail train station wasn’t my idea of fun, but you’re here now, so let’s not bicker and just get on with the rest of our Saturday, shall we?

It’s an early one for us all today, as the fates have conspired to drag us into the horrific world of early kick offs. Look, I have no real problems with the early starts in terms of the teams ability to be ‘up for it’ (it is ridiculous to assume that our players can’t be up for early kick off games based on the travesties of last season), my issue lies purely with the fact that an early start means getting up earlier on a Saturday which is not something I’m overly enamoured with. There’s also the reduction in hours of pre-match amber nectar supping. I like a beer, but I’m not starting my day at 10am with one, so it leaves me with just about enough time for a solitary pint before heading over to the ground.

All this is just the pre-amble to the main event though, so I suppose I shouldn’t be the archetypal moaning Brit and move swiftly on to our own raison d’être, which starts at 12.45pm UK time.

There’s no doubt this is by far and away the most difficult test that The Arsenal will have faced this season. The visit of Moneychester City represents the first litmus test of whether or not we have learned from our recent poor history against any of the top four clubs of seasons past. Last season saw us fail to pick up wins against City, Chelski, Everton and even the ailing Man United, so a marker of whether or not this team has the capability to challenge the top teams will need to be placed today.

I’ve said before that from a points perspective, you can easily win the league as long as you pick up points against the teams lower down the table, which is true if you think about the maths behind the logic. Home and away wins against teams from 8th position in the league downwards gives you 72 points, which is approaching a decent points tally to have a go at the league. But to get over the line you need to have wins against the bigger players not just for those few extra points, but for the psychological boost that big game victories provide. That’s why today is important. It’s not so much about the points, but about the belief that will be instilled in the team, through taking a scalp like Moneychester City.

Arsène has a litany of options at his disposal to draw upon, which is what also makes this game exciting to blog about this morning, because until those first whispers of the team sheet come in, we have no idea who is in the squad, let alone the starting eleven. I hope Arsène opts for ‘pace, pace, pace’ and we see Welbeck flanked by The Ox and Alexis, but I suspect that Özil or Cazorla might be moved to the left, as I think Arsène wants to include both in his team selection. I’m certainly not in the camp that believes having Özil out wide is conducive to getting the best out of his game, but that appears to be where his temporary home is at the moment, so we’ll all have to accept it. I also seem to be in the minority at the moment regarding Cazorla. I actually don’t believe that the diminutive Spaniard has had the best of starts to the season, flitting in and out of games far too much (an accusation oft levelled at Özil but not his teammate), so I wouldn’t be too worried if the Ox was preferred. I love Santi as a footballer and when he is on song his game is fabulous to watch, but I just feel like he hasn’t hit the form of when he arrived and it’s a shame that we’re not seeing the Santi that we all know can change a match. Perhaps I’m being too harsh.

The midfield also has a plethora of options to choose from, so Arsène’s difficult decisions don’t just stop at the pointy end of the team, as he’ll need to work out who from Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky and Flamini occupy the two midfield positions if, as expected, both Özil and Cazorla play. I suspect the decision will hinge on how recovered Rambo is from his midweek ankle roll, as I’d think the first two names from that list I’ve just reeled off, will be given priority. It will be another source of irritation for Rosicky, but Arsène isn’t going to drop his captain or last seasons player of the year, so he’ll just have to accept it.

As for our opponents, a Jovetic injury is all I believe they are suffering from, so we know that they will be at almost full strength when they line up against us. Last season they were the free-scoring champions, but I wonder if Pellegrini will be as gung-ho in a match today as his team was at times last season. At The Emirates he needed only a draw realistically to ensure that his team kept on the march to the title. Today’s game is similar in requirements for his team I suspect, i.e. do not lose, so I wonder if he’ll look to try and stay solid defensively whilst catching us on the counter attack.

City will rely on the guile of Silva and Nasri, sure for a spicy reception as always, whilst Dzeko will occupy both Per and Kos at varying times. It’s a team that has threats all over the park, but despite our less than stellar start to the season, I think the openness of today’s game will give our players the chance to express themselves more freely and occupy space that wasn’t afforded to them against Palace or Leicester.

I feel cautiously optimistic about today’s game. Let’s hope it’s not misguided optimism. A win would be a perfect catalyst for a good run against a number of difficult opponents, but I think we have the firepower now to cope with our schedule and demonstrate to the rest of the league that we’re serious title contenders.

Victories against teams like City feels like the final piece in our league title puzzle. That one final step. That’s all we’ve got to overcome.

Come on Arsenal!