A point today and we are officially safe from relegation. Does that say how far we’ve fallen or how tight the Premier League is in the placings? Answers on a postcard please, to:
Is This Really Progress? competition
Mr A Wenger
Arsenal Football Club
It also means that Arsenal will have been in the top flight for 100 years next season and I’m sure Arsène will be around to celebrate his centenary in charge of the club.
I’m just trying to inject some sense of history into this match. An early kick-off with the walking wounded back, against a team we should beat easily; what could possibly go wrong?
Hopefully, nothing. Such is the way the season is panning out there is no surprise if we cock this up. That leaves us just two points clear of Burnley.
Arsène, with an eye on Thursday night’s game, has some decisions to make. How long does Alexandre Lacazette get? Should he start Danny Welbeck? Wilshere and Ramsey from kick-off or one as sub for the other at half-time?
All these questions and more will be answered in the next episode of Soap!
It was fitting that Steve Bould gave a 6½ minute press conference for the game; a perfunctory nod to duties for a fixture which must be fulfilled. The Premier League equivalent of the FIFA brainfart for this summer’s World Cup finals where – and I kid you not – players will be sent to a little box by the side of the pitch to celebrate for 30 seconds while VAR decides on a ‘contentious’ goal.
Of course, they aren’t.
Stoke City at home; a run of the mill fixture with a little frisson from their relegation woes. No matter who is in charge of Pulis RFC, Pulis RFC’s relegation is a moment to savour.
I Prefer a Game With a Better Chance of Cheating
There are some things in football which are worth too much not to relish. It could all backfire on me. Stoke are without a win 11 away games, a run which includes being beaten by Coventry. That makes them ripe for an away win in the Arsenal universe.
Just the right of pessimistic optimism, I think.
It’s an audition for Jack Butland, of course. Not just for the World Cup finals but also his summer move to us or Liverpool. I’d be ‘jolly miffed’ as they say if they are 1960s stereotypical characters in a Michael Caine film if we don’t make a move for the most promising of young goalkeepers. Unless we’ve miraculously squirrelled away £50-60m to sign an established goalkeeper like Oblak.
Which I doubt we have.
Butland will be a cheaper option, probably about half the price, and that in a way makes him a typically Arsenal signing, particularly since we have a midfielder or two to add, as well as a centre back.
As soon as we finish, Super Sunday moves to Stamford Bridge where some people seem to think an important match for us is taking place. Oooh, if only Chelsea lose, we’ll be within five points of them; we might finish fifth. As if; it’s the hope which will kill you. Not me; I’m too cynical.
Me, I gave up some time ago.
Anyway, this late into the post, I’ve hit on the shocking notion that we might actually field the strongest line-up available. Which leaves the XI:
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Ramsey; Özil, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan; Aubameyang
Why so strong with a big match ahead? Another defeat would flatten the deflated optimism which surrounds the visit of CSKA Moscow on Thursday.
Provoke Him, If That’s Going to Satisfy Your Scruples
Which is, of course, not part of the game plan. While the Europa League is the only silverware remaining this season that we can win, the way it is downplayed…well, it’s as if the hierarchy isn’t really bothered by it. Because it is a means to an end for them.
Oh, they’ll enjoy the moment if Arsenal hands are laid on the old UEFA Cup trophy, but it is a means to an end. The Champions League place which comes with the prize is worth more than another engraving on the club’s roll of honours. Which is the modern game for you hence yesterday’s piece about the ruthlessness we need to adopt if we’re to survive in the upper echelons of the game?
Of course, we have to get back there first. Do we need to be more ruthless because we have to out-ruthle the rest?
Which segues into the ruthlessness we need in front of goal. PEA must, as the first-choice starter, hit the back of the net but we need Lacazette to grab a goal, for confidence’s sake, before Thursday night. For while the powers-that-be may not be bothered by the Europa League but I like the notion of us winning trophies. Because in these grey days, it’s an unmissable shaft of light.
Kick-off is a few hours away so let’s get out of here; I’ve got some fiction to write.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.