2017, will it end with a whimper or a bang? Last season, this fixture brought the former as we capitulated because West Brom were…er, um…on the pitch. No other reason. Our much-vaunted – by the manager, at least – resilience and mental spirit proved to be herring-shaped globs in the water. They were red herrings but even their spines collapsed under no pressure at all.
This year is going to be different, isn’t it? We didn’t collapse when Crystal Palace scored on either occasion on Thursday night. That’s a good start but not one which can be taken for granted. Albion are bad though. I mean, worse than Swansea bad and that takes some doing. Eighteen without a win; it’s relegation material and sending for Pardew has done them no good whatsoever.
Dad-Dancer Al told the media his philosophy was to hang, draw and quarter all dissenters in his squads. They toed the line and got their Dad-Dancing shoes on or faced the consequences. He believed Arsenal should do the same with Alexis Sanchez. And Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere, Alexandre Lacazette, and probably Petr Cech for good measure.
Dad-Dancer Al then denied this was to give his side a better chance in today’s game; “I haven’t named any of their centre-backs,” he said as if that was some sort of defence.
On which subject, I’m not sure how Arsenal will line-up today, and the bookies suggest this may be a coupon buster if you like an accumulator bet. Albion need points; so do we to keep in touch with the top four. We’ve also got Chelsea on Wednesday which ought to be enough time for players to recover. The only defensive doubt in that sense must be Laurent Koscielny whose Achilles problem may not be up to three games in a week. I bet it is, given we’ve only got Rob Holding or Per Mertesacker to come in.
If That’s The Answer, Are We Asking The Wrong Question?
Maybe the BFG is the answer to bring organisation to the central defence; I’m not convinced that’s the answer, especially after his performance at Southampton recently. And a back four with Mustafi and Chambers or Holding as the spine isn’t dreamy unless you like your dreams to feature Freddie Kruger.
There’s a strong case if any of the defenders are to be rested, for Ainsley Maitland-Niles to come in for Hector Bellerin. The young Spaniard is better than he is given credit for. However, he could do with an experienced hand taking him to one side to train the nuances of his role into him. But we don’t coach defensive play, so that isn’t going to happen any time soon.
I’d like to see Maitland-Niles in central midfield and if he wants a battle, this is the game for him. However, if Granit Xhaka is to be ‘rested’, Francis Coquelin will be Arsène’s first choice, with Elneny as the pair in the middle; Jack Wilshere moved further forward alongside Lacazette and Welbeck. I’m guessing Sanchez and Özil will be rested although I’d be tempted to play the former just to knacker him out and spoil Manchester City’s fun.
The Chelsea match doesn’t take priority over over this one, but it does influence the manager’s thinking. It must do; it has to. Three points today are worth no more than the three points against Chelsea, but winning that game brings more confidence with it. So long as we don’t lose today; then it’s just making up lost ground. Take six points out of six and there’s a psychological element at play; it boosts us and chips away at theirs.
The first point of order is today and to win at a ground where the last two visits have ended in defeat.
New Year, New You
It’s no surprise we lost the last two visits to the Hawthorns; we were ‘Pulis-ed’. Arsène never got to grips with facing his Welsh demon away from home at Stoke; that it didn’t change at West Brom is no surprise. Now he’s taking his unique brand of agricultural football to Middlesbrough, we will have a couple of seasons respite.
If I had to guess at a team today, it would be:
Cech; Mustafi, Mertesacker, Chambers; Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Coquelin, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Lacazette, Welbeck
Maybe Özil instead of Alexis or Welbeck but I don’t think Arsène will be able to resist tinkering with the line-up ahead of Chelsea.
It’s the last post of 2017, so all that remains is to thank you all for dropping by to share your wit and wisdom every day. I hope you all have a great 2018, which can begin with three points tucked into Arsenal’s back pocket.