After a bleak football-less week, we resume the descent into Premier League mediocrity this afternoon as Crystal Palace visit the Emirates. The 3 – 2 win at Selhurst Park is going to be Alexis’ final ‘finest hour’ – there was nothing fine about an hour at the Hawthorns, or any minute of that game – for the club after things moved on the Mkhitaryan swap late last night.
Everything which is wrong with modern football became apparent in the last 36 hours when waddling superagent Mino Popeye demanded more than his fair share of the most expensive divorce bill since half the electorate took leave of their senses.
It leaves Arsène grateful for the return of Aaron Ramsey after his absence. Will he start? After last weekend’s shambles at Bournemouth, it’s going to take more than the Welshman to save us. The calvary of Laurent Koscielny’s dodgy Achilles and Nacho Monreal are charging over the hill to complete the job.
Inconsistency mars another season, to the point where you know that only a change in manager offers a genuine chance of that problem being solved. Even then, it will take new blood into the squad with the kind of winning attitude which is about to leave. The comfort zone needs shaking out of so many players that you wonder how many transfer windows it will take to resolve the problem.
I don’t know whether Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has that attitude but anyone who decides to spend the evening playing 5-a-side with his mates isn’t going to be dull. Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang; all we really need to Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski for the circumstances to be right for Jurgen Klopp to take over from Wenger when he eventually leaves the club. Just a thought.
And it’s a thought and not one which won’t help us this afternoon, either.
Nil By Mouth, Head, Foot, Arm…Just Nil
With Sanchez out, Wenger’s options for rejigging the side are limited. It’s a different game at home but Palace will be inspired by Bournemouth’s win; Arsenal without Alexis are as near to invincible as Manchester City.
Much of the outcome will depend on Roy Hodgson’s approach. If Palace have a ‘go’, we might make hay even with our lacklustre attack. Alexandre Lacazette could do with a goal, if for no better reason than to shut people like me who witter on about his barren spell, up. And to restore confidence in himself which must have taken a knock.
The responsibility of scoring falls on his shoulders with the supporting cast its’ usual goal-shy self. It was good that Hector Bellerin has popped up with two goals recently. However, he’s not the solution to our problem if no-one else does. Danny Welbeck has never scored more than four league goals for us in a season so isn’t the answer either. Neither are Özil, Iwobi or Wilshere; we don’t have a second goalscorer in the squad. Or not one who will grab a dozen per season.
No wonder we’re looking at PEA. He may be causing Dortmund problems but still has 13 goals in 15 Bundesliga appearances this season. Never fear, we’ll turn him into a goal-shy wastrel within a month.
That’s for the future and doesn’t solve our problems this coming week.
Fitting Ramsey back into the team is Wenger’s biggest problem. It’s in place of Alexis or Xhaka because Jack Wilshere is arguably our one bright spot. Will we revert to a back four? We look increasingly vulnerable whenever we do but maybe that’s a personnel issue?
It would mean a five-man midfield if we did with Xhaka, Ramsey and Wilshere in the centre.
That might work with Ramsey and Özil plus one other supporting Lacazette, with Xhaka and Wilshere. The 4-2-3-1 is how Wenger built the squad and he hasn’t made any effort to move to a three-man back line when it comes to that. That suggests an element of planning goes into it all; silly me.
It leaves this afternoon’s line-up as:
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac; Xhaka, Wilshere; Ramsey, Özil, Welbeck; Lacazette
Or if he goes with a back-three:
Cech; Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Bellerin, Wilshere, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Özil, Lacazette, Ramsey
For my liking, there are too many square pegs in round holes with the latter so the former seems likeliest. We shall see.
Whatever he chooses, an Arsenal win is all that matters. It’s why we watch football, to see them win and to play well. A glimpse of the good old days to lift the grey skies.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.