The day before the night before the day before kick-off arrives. Thank God, women were invented otherwise another word for Eve would have been needed. OK so that’s the creationist vs evolution argument started, the entrée to the theology debate. Or we could just do what the squad don’t and talk about titles. We know they don’t talk about it because Carl Jenkinson told us they don’t talk about the table. Which is tough on Per Mertesacker who has spent all that money in Ikea and has no-one to tell…
This coming fortnight ought to have a title, the number of matches coming up which ‘big’ preceding them. For once, the media are not overplaying the next fourteen days or so – before a ball has been kicked at least; hype and over-reaction will be comfortable bedfellows once the first ball in the next three games has been kicked in anger. Focus is the key message the players are putting across, ensuring everyone knows that Napoli are the first and only thoughts at the moment. Mathieu Flamini fired the first salvo,
It is going to be a busy period for us and we just have to focus. What would be good for us will be three victories, but we know it is not going to be easy because we will be playing three big teams with a lot of quality. This busy period is also going to be important for the players, that we can recover as soon as possible because we play already on Wednesday, but it will be interesting to see what happens after these three games.
These are all big games, the ones you want to play in, and everyone is excited to be playing in them. It will be an interesting period for everyone and hopefully a good one for us.
The midfielder might get his chance in the San Paulo. The combative style allied to Arteta’s more cerebral passing forced the Neapolitans onto the back foot in the match at The Emirates. It is too much to expect a repeat of that performance but anywhere approaching that level will be good enough to progress to the knockout phase. A point is enough to finish top and Arsenal do not want to put themselves into a position whereby they are relying on Marseilles for any help. As poor as Dortmund’s recent form has been, the French side have been even staggeringly worse in Europe. When the draw was made, nobody predicted the three-way battle at the top would result in the former European Champions failing to register a point.
It is going to be a tough game — they are going to be battling because they want to qualify just as much as us. We will work hard and go out there with the confidence that we have from our recent results and, hopefully, come back with the result we want.
The visit of Everton on Sunday will have done the team the world of good. Recent matches had seemed too easy, the victories had been too straightforward which undermines how well Arsenal had played; it was that level of performance which made games seem routine. It is that level of performance which is hard to maintain and dips such as Sunday, when opponents are better in quality and more disciplined in their tactical approach, are welcome in the sense that it reminds the players how hard they have worked to put themselves at the top of the Premier League table. A gentle nudge every now and then does no harm. The tactical fouling will have served as useful preparation for tonight’s encounter, to drop in a casual stereotype about Italian football.
No doubt Arsène will rotate one or two tomorrow; Santi Cazorla, for instance, appears to be suffering with the volume of football and the mileage accumulated with the Spanish national team probably does not help. Fifa as with all their posturing, do nothing to cut the level of football being played with meaningless and spurious international tournaments puncturing summers when there should be complete rest. Clubs are no better; English football could well do without the League Cup for the top flight and relegate that to the status of The Football League Trophy. It is little better thought of. Equally, a Premier League with two less teams involved is preferable and more in line with the rest of Europe.
But that is some way from happening. For all of its global appeal, parochialism still rules the roost in football.