You get the feeling that Thursday night is an inconvenience Arsenal could do without. Eyes are already turned to the weekend’s trip to Manchester City; the ‘new’ Invincibles against a pale shadow of the Invincibles. Every Arsenal team since then has been one, it’s nothing unique to this year’s model.
Focus for the week will shift to Alexis Sanchez. A summer farce of the calibre Brian Rix penned, carried on this weekend with ‘news’ that City will punish Arsenal by not making a £20m bid in January. Punish by not making the bid or take the p*ss by making it?
Whatever the case, the back pages will ask whether Sanchez will give his all at the Etihad, as if some code will be broken by him playing well. ‘If you are moving to a club, you must play badly’ is an unwritten rule of football; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain proved its’ existence at Anfield earlier in the season.
“I am not concerned because I am not suspicious of the performances or the desire to win of a football player. When you are a player you have a social contract with the rest of the team and I never question that. Once you don’t respect that, it’s difficult to say that you play football.”
A “social contract”? Everything is about contracts with Arsenal at the moment; players’ contracts, the manager’s contract, now a “social contract”.
The only thing we haven’t made is a contract with the devil for the soul of the club. No, wait, we have; that’s the only reason for our toupee-wearing majority shareholder wearing sunglasses indoors. They are the type with mirrored lens on the inside.
I Can’t Find My Feet
Sanchez, according to the manager, is heading toward the peak of his powers, as well as his first summer holiday in four years. Just as he leaves.
“I think he’s coming back stronger physically. He runs after a goal at the moment so he’s a bit frustrated when he doesn’t score. I’m not worried about it. He works hard and it will come back quickly. You can never try too hard.
“At the moment he’s marked well, they double up on him, but he still creates many dangerous situations, he just has not to worry too much. He has always scored and that will come back.”
Sanchez isn’t suffering the Sanogo-esque goal-drought that Wenger makes it sound; “the magic has gone from his little Chilean boots and he won’t score again. What are we to do?!” Two assists and a goal in the last three games raises eyebrows at that kind of thought.
Not for the manager a repeat of the ‘anti-Alexis’ propaganda of last season. Now he “can never try too hard” which is upsetting for the rest of the squad as they looked forward to hearing an ‘Alexis-bashing’ from Le Boss. Or is Mesut Özil now out of favour? I can’t keep up with the mood swings of the dressing room.
We’ll arrive at the Etihad as underdogs, which may be a generous description if we’re honest. We’re not ranked that highly. City are playing well and by a long way, the best football in the Premier League but they started this way last season. Their season went to pot in December but they still managed to beat us which is par for the course, really.
Long to be Sane
The occasion of Aaron Ramsey’s 50th goal for the club reminds us of what is possible. One of those came in the unexpected 2 – 0 win at the Etihad in 2015; the FA Cup semi-final victory was equally surprising in that we overturned Aguero’s goal.
It’s that kind of spirit we need to show, with the willpower of the performance at Stamford Bridge. City will let us play but the genuine concern is our defensive line. If we’re as open as we were in the first half against Swansea or as woeful as Anfield, we have problems.
We know the squad is capable of getting a result, we just don’t want succumb in the way Liverpool did at the Etihad. I fully expect us to be outplayed in the way Chelsea were but getting a result? It’s early in the week so I remain optimistic. Nerves and a sense of foreboding have yet to cast their spell over proceedings.