West Ham pitch up at the Emirates this evening, looking for Arsenal to boost their confidence and going home with three points to help their charge into mid-table obscurity.
Injuries cast a dark shadow over the preparations with Per Mertesacker likely to make his first start of the season. Laurent Koscielny’s Achilles injury keeps him out, joined by David Ospina whose attempts to make himself taller by a quick stretch on the rack, left him with back-knack. Emiliano Martinez is the lucky man who will be clattered repeatedly by Andy Carroll.
Arsenal’s lack of defensive ability will be an issue if Mikhail Antonio is in the West Ham side as well. Exploiting Manchester City’s befuddled defending at corners is one thing, getting ours sorted is proving to be quite another.
Look, it’s a match we need to win and Arsène has a few more options tonight that he did on Sunday, with Aaron Ramsey and Ox both returning. I didn’t say they would be popular options, just that he had more. I’d expect Ox to drop into Francis Coquelin’s midfield slot as there is little scope for greater change. I’m not convinced replacing Xhaka as well, will be anything other than counter-productive at this point.
With three changes likely, a fourth seems a step too far so it leaves the line-up:
Martinez; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Mustafi, Monreal; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka; Walcott, Özil, Alexis; Welbeck
Who knows what performance we’re going to get. Even Sunday was a game of two halves, encapsulating the problem of confidence that Wenger touched on in his press conference yesterday.
Let The Sideshow Begin
It was a baffling performance from the manager in front of the assembled hacks. Beleaguered is a word the world of football loves to use about managers and one which sums up Arsène’s situation. He doesn’t help matters, undermining Ivan’s message to the supporters forum at the weekend.
“The problem in our game today is that what is superficial is the heart of the debate and the things that are important nobody talks about.
“You never read about the performance of one individual person on the pitch, you read only about all the rest. Maybe the rest sells newspapers but it doesn’t really matter.”
‘Befuddled’ is another word which applies to Arsène’s comments, particularly as it’s only he and the board who refuse to talk about “the things that are important”.
It isn’t the only disconnect between the manager and supporters. Unsurprisingly, he picked up on Pep’s comments at the weekend about the fourth place trophy. He used it to underline his consistent top four finishes,
For 20 years I’ve done it and it’s looked like it’s nothing. Suddenly it becomes important and I’m pleased to realise that people realise that it’s not as easy as it looks.
Guaranteed To Make You Cry
To Arsène, I’m sure Guardiola’s comments are vindication of his reign but they miss the point of unrest entirely. The top four finishes are meaningless if they aren’t a stepping stone to anywhere else. This season is proving the folly of targeting fourth. We’re missing badly and on course for fifth or sixth, reliant on others faltering but without any semblance of form to take advantage.
Well, other than bad form.
You can’t even argue that Wenger is meeting the board’s target by finishing fourth because the Frenchman admitted that they don’t set him targets. It’s a staggering comment, and if true, one which demands all the directors be replaced. How can a football club not set targets for the manager? You can’t judge a manager’s performance if you don’t but this is Arsenal.
A £½bn business doesn’t set its most senior executive any targets. This, a man whose salary is £8m per year, free to perform however he likes.
This is a club where the leadership are in awe through lack of knowledge or owing their jobs to Wenger. They talk of respect for his reign, using it to mask their own cowardice at dealing with the issue of a manager whose reign is failing. In a way, it’s funny that Wenger undermined the message Ivan delivered at the weekend. Arsène doesn’t believe he will change, “that’s too hard.” He will “evolve” instead.
The truth is he’ll do neither. When he renews, it will be two more years of being outwitted tactically and outplayed. Who knows, maybe he’ll break his European duck and win the Europa League although it would be no surprise if we treated that as little more than a European League Cup.
It’s a thoroughly depressing state of affairs. Nothing surprises me anymore, other than Arsenal winning. Let’s hope for that and a little sunshine into these cloudy days.
Finally, a reminder that Dad’s Jukebox has moved the dial to 1998. Click here for the soundtrack of that year.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.