Initially, I had this opening with us returning to the scene of ‘the crime’. Then I remembered there was a mini crime wave last season so picking one moment out as ‘the crime’ was tough. And Bournemouth probably wasn’t it.
Retrieving a three-goal deficit is commendable until you question why we were three-down in the first place. Olivier Giroud copped flak for celebrating the third with time on the clock. Alexis was criticised for being Alexis; Wenger’s public demonisation of the Chilean served as a watershed. People were empowered and his penchant for losing the ball became an issue.
Keep on with that while I worry about who else will score if he doesn’t. Alexandre Lacazette is the main concern. Yes, he is playing 2⁄3 of games which diminishes the time to score but that’s not the only reason. His overall form is good; he moves well, links up with players in attack but isn’t finding the back of the net.
And as a £52m striker, that’s pretty much your role in the team. There are the bits about link-play and all that, but goals are the currency in which you are judged. Since his last goal in the 3 – 1 reverse against Manchester United, he’s played eight games although an eight-minute appearance at West Ham barely warrants mention.
Nonetheless, the bald stats are eight without a goal. The hirsute comes with assists in consecutive games against Liverpool and Palace; we like assists, they are the small change of goals – the coins jangling in your pocket while the notes of goals are counted.
Five away games in those eight explain a bit more why I am not worried per se but with Alexis off, we need to pick up the slack.
Rise and Fall of the Cabaret
Or rather Alex does. He needs a scuffer, a badly-deflected shot to send the keeper the wrong way; one of the knee or if we’re talking VAR, a surreptitious arm, elbow, shoulder. Don’t do one off the wrist in public, Alex; you get banned from Tesco.
If it seems like I getting on his back, I’m not. Lacazette is a wonderful player to watch, a forward who exudes menace when he turns a defender. You think something will happen but it doesn’t. If I had to compare, he’s Iwobi’s forty-yard run at Chelsea, along with the scuffed shot at the end.
A bit more composure, confidence and luck in front of goal and he’s a hero.
Lunchtime sees us once more without our ‘leading’ defender. The trio of Mustafi, Chambers and Holding rocked a little at Chelsea; they swayed as the waves of attacks crashed onto the deck but they held firm. A rickety little boat getting more confident as they progress through each game.
This is a game they should look like a state of the art cruise line, cutting through the crest of each wave. It’s a match we need to get the basics right without sitting back. Instead of approaching it compact, we need to play our expansive best and defend off the back of that. It can be done, it can; I’ll convince myself if I say it often enough. Won’t I?
Eleven Plus Eleven
The key is remembering this is not Chelsea. We don’t need to approach it the same way. Don’t risk Jack, no matter how tempting; as much as he has to prove his fitness, Wenger has to prove he can manage Jack’s fitness and let’s not forget the previous the manager has on that score.
However, pictures of him gambolling during training yesterday suggest the opposite; he’ll take his place and to hell with the consequences. Remember that when you talk about chocolate ankles.
The line-up I’d expect is::
Cech; Chambers, Mustafi, Holding; Bellerin, Wilshere, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Sánchez; Lacazette, Iwobi
Three points is all that matters in the ungodly hour kick-off, it really is. We’ve got a week off and the circus can wait until then.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.