Back in the 1970s when ITV was regional television was genuinely regional, the Sunday highlights package reflected your local teams. The Big Match in the Thames Valley, Star Soccer in the Midlands; each region had their own show and I can’t remember the others.
HTV, my local region in my teenage years, was a let-down. Having been reared on The Big Match, to find Sunday lunch involved watching Bristol bloody City for the most part or Oxford United, as they rose through the divisions, almost wrecked many a meal.
However, Bristol Rovers for a few years were some relief. They possessed a prolific strikeforce of Alan Warboys and Bruce Bannister which brought the presenters to life. When they animatedly hailed the pair by their nickname “Smash and Grab“, it was the only time we knew they weren’t dead.
Anyway, that’s the tenuous link to today’s match sorted: Smash and Grab. It’s how we’re going to get three points, maybe even a point. And it’s a nicer way of defining the fixture than ‘holding on for dear life’ to the point we possess at kick-off,
An injury scare surfaced yesterday when the pictures of the training session with Sead Kolasinac nowhere to be seen. The lack of fuss this morning suggests the patched-up Bosnian will be fit for this afternoon. His absence would prove a problem with Nacho Monreal the only other specialist left-back in the squad. Presumably Rob Holding would come into the defensive trio in his place.
Surely not Debuchy or Elneny, or worse still, throwing one of the youngsters under a bus to face the pace of Sane. There is form in doing so on the manager’s part but there is too much at stake this afternoon.
It’s simple maths for Arsenal: don’t lose. For the lunatics, a point or more keeps the title hopes alive; for the rest of us, it doesn’t kill the Premier League season early in November.
Crushed by the Wheels of Industry
Ah, November. The month when dreams habitually die and poor form undermines many a season. The international break saves us from a complete disaster but this fixture and a North London Derby either side? Defeat in the pair sends a shiver running down my spine and this in a house cold already thanks to a recalcitrant heating system.
A solid performance akin to the one produced at Stamford Bridge is the answer for today. Defensively diligent and accepting that the ball will be a stranger. Alexis Sanchez found himself questioned in sections of the media. Smiling and laughing at training yesterday, he wasn’t crushed by the potential damage he may do to future team-mates aspirations. How very dare he?
The point at Chelsea came through defensive discipline, a footballing concept not normally associated with Mesut Özil. Wenger is well aware of the benefits of including the German in his side,
“Özil is in very good shape physically. People speak now only about Sánchez but, for us, Özil’s performance on Sunday will be important as well. He will have to contribute a lot to the way we play. He can be an asset every time we attack because he creates chances.”
That’s not in question although as we saw last season in a dark five-day spell at Goodison Park and the Etihad, he is easily isolated. Therein is the conundrum. At Wembley in the FA Cup final, he cut an impressive figure as we deservedly beat Chelsea. That is the hard-working performance we need from him this afternoon. No, I never thought I’d use those words in a sentence about Özil either.
Syncopation for the Arsenal Nation
But he is the key, unless Wenger decides Iwobi’s diligence at Stamford Bridge is worth another try but I doubt it. Wenger’s words came after Thursday’s draw against Red Star, indicating Özil starts.
It’s a big test for the German. Routinely, he is dismissed after big away games, rarely mentioned in despatches in a positive sense.
Inevitably, the cameras, commentators, observers and probably the UN Peace-Keeping force will focus on Sanchez. Can he produce the goods to wreck City’s dreams? Nobody expects anything other than a lot of running around but we need maturity from him. A majestic performance where he doesn’t try to win the game on his own to impress his future boss.
That Alexis can make a world of difference, certainly with City’s defence genuinely no more solid than ours. A distinctly average Stoke City side scored twice against them. Guardiola probably cared more about that than the seven his side almost broke the scoreboard with.
The difference between City this season and last is in goal. Edersen is a lot better than Bravo and the defence seems more confident as a result. It’s time for someone to puncture that and why not us? It will happen at some point, you know that, and I’d rather we did it that waiting for the insufferable Mourinho to do so.
This afternoon’s team won’t show any changes from last week:
Cech; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal; Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Lacazette, Özil
But we do need an injection of concentration in a dose which lasts longer than the 90+ minutes on the pitch.
Kick-off is a few hours away so why not pop over to Dad’s Jukebox and while away the time with the Songs Jimi Hendrix covered?
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.