I cannot be the only one feeling the waves of relief; it’s Saturday. Matchday. The butterflies in the stomach, the excitement of waking up knowing there is a football match this afternoon. 3pm as well, proper football o’clock; traditionalists reach for your King James bibles and holler, “Praise the Lord!”.
Whether we’ll feel so upbeat at 4.45pm is another matter. There’s nothing in the three matches we’ve seen so far which should leave anyone dismissive of the opposition. While Bournemouth have yet to register a point, we haven’t registered a clean sheet nor a goal in our last two games.
But there’s still a confidence – a swagger if you like – in supporting the Arsenal; an expectation of victory, even if the swagger is more of a drunken reel.
The question is whether the hints dropped by Arsène in recent weeks become reality: the back three is dead, long live the four. There is a logic to it in some respects. The manager is said to be underwhelmed by Shkodran Mustafi and he by England; relegating him to the bench at Anfield may just be the start. It would leave a partnership of Koscielny and Holding. Surely not Monreal in a flat back four but we’ve seen the suicidal defensive tendency of Wenger’s team selections this year so nothing can be ruled out.
Wenger chose to ‘protect’ Holding by dropping him against Stoke but that then threw him to the wolves against Liverpool. It didn’t make sense at the Bet365 because it was fairly obvious that the player wasn’t the issue; the combination against Leicester was the issue but hindsight is a wonderful thing. We all have 20/20 vision with it.
A Blend in the Crowd Man
The presumption today is that we aren’t seeing square pegs in round holes. Hector Bellerin is a right back and Sead Kolasinac a left back. His assist during the recent international break shows exactly what we’re missing when he plays centrally or is on the bench. Nacho has done well on the left of the three but we need a bit more going forward if we’re reverting to a quartet.
Anfield underlined a lack of application. Yes, Ox’s indecision and disinclination to play is not there but the biggest test for Arsène is motivation. Not his, the players. Sanchez is the ‘obvious’ target but the lack of confidence Wenger talks of is not going to be solved quickly. He has to find a winning combination otherwise his proclamation that we’re stronger than last season is more hollow than I think it already is.
Perhaps Coquelin as a purely defensive midfielder is the answer. However, he has to understand that it’s imperative he tames his inner-Song. Crossing the halfway line, supporting the attack; these are strictly forbidden. Maybe it’s a role which suits Elneny better in that respect.
Knowing there is another barrier behind him will free Aaron Ramsey to support the attack. Criticising the Welshman is a national sport at times; he’s very much a lightning rod in that respect. However, I’d ask the question whether we play the formation which exploits his strongest points? Some players you know have been bought because Wenger liked them, not necessarily because they fit the way he wants the team to play. Ramsey is one of those in my view.
Is This Anybody’s Golden Age
All eyes will be on Alexis and I assume he’ll start. Repeatedly the media tried to get the manager to admit Sanchez is a problem but I agree, he’s too motivated to not try his best. Whereas others feigned injury on departing, I can’t see that happening with Sanchez. He’s got to be one of the world’s worst at sitting still.
Leading the line, Alexandre Lacazette. Enough of the silliness about adaptation periods; that was your own madness ruling the roost, Arsène. Prior to Liverpool, it was scored two in two (one was wrongly ruled out) and there’s something of the Ian Wright about the French striker. You can keep him quiet but at some point, an opportunity will come his way and he will score.
The reality is that today is a match we’re expected to win. Bournemouth, just two places below us, are sacrificial lambs, even though I’d expect them to be obdurate. Not agriculturally like a Pulis or Allardyce side but well-organised as they have been since joining the top flight.
To get you in the mood, The Specials Jukebox Classics is at Dad’s Jukebox.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.