Morning all, entirely appropriate this morning finds me feeling ill with a raging (non-alcohol induced) headache as a symptom; I think I know how the ball will feel when the final whistle blows this evening f0llowing its use in a match involving one of Allardyce’s teams. Such is my condition that I cannot be bothered to abuse him; things are bad.
Well Mr Allardyce, prepare to meet the codeine.
OK, so the stereotypes are out of the way. The bête noire is back on the scene with his cast of ruffians, looking forward no doubt to issuing a bloody nose to those football purists from north London. Or in Sam’s terms, “Ooop North“. I wonder if he has come to terms with being a “Southern Jessie“?
Enough of him, it’s Arsenal we’re here to talk about. Arsène has narrowly avoided a Football Association charge this week, the banning of handshakes had not gone down well with the Lodge but by permitting the continued wearing of aprons with trouser legs rolled up, Wenger is not going to be before the beaks. I am sure there will be other things for them to have a pop at him about in coming weeks. A lot of furore over the relegation of British Olympian Chris Foy to a League Two match this weekend but I have not seen any analysis of whether there is a similar Arsenal effect, one more insidious that happens without a public condemnation of officials?
In fact the prevention of germs spreading is at once a contradictory stance. Surely Arsène wants the players to go to international duty with a virus, spread the, ahem, love, which by logical extension has two benefits; (a) the players are sent home so cannot be injured thus getting a fortnight’s rest, and, (f) players from opposing teams with get the virus and be ill, thus weakening their teams when Arsenal play them. It’s a spurious logic, I know but it would make international week much more interesting.
Injuries have disrupted the team this afternoon. Coquelin looks set to retain his place within the starting line-up with no mention made of the niggle he picked up on Wednesday although the option of Aaron Ramsey replacing Diaby cannot be discounted. The manager will probably want the Welshman on the right hand side, given the physical approaches that Allardyce teams have always taken against Arsenal. Forget the West Ham stereotype of pretty passing football, Allardyce’s tried and tested methods will prevail in the battle within their club. Soulless and artless, perfect Real Madrid managerial material; I cannot think why anyway ridiculed him for believing such.
Defensively, I am not sure what to make of the situation. Once more there was an agitation at the back, the absence of Per Mertesacker is clearly having a disruptive influence. Whilst he is ideal to deal with Andy Carroll, not from the sense of aerial prowess but just being a tall obstacle for the England Donkey to overcome, his experience is compensating for the flaws in his game; his lack of pace compared to forwards is hidden the his reading of the game, his positional sense covering for lack of aerial power. More importantly, Thomas Vermaelen does not seem to be a gibbering wreck when accompanied by the German. Perhaps it is the lack of playing time that the Belgian and Koscielny have had this season but certainly, the captain was in better form with Per at his side.
Up front, I wonder if this is the moment for Olivier Giroud. He’s had quite a few moments where everyone has thought that would be the case but the French striker is definitely the preferred away option. And why not, Arsenal have yet to be beaten on their travels and have picked up good results along the way. Giroud is acutely aware of the pressure of following Henry and van Persie, who wouldn’t be? It is similar to the manager after Ferguson and Wenger; it will be a tough act to follow.
Giroud has been “saved” to some extent by goals being scored relatively evenly through the squad, a point the manager was keen to make. Reliance on one player has been an Arsenal failing since 2004; Henry, Fabregas, van Persie. Absences by those players invariably found the squad wanting, with stuttering results. The inclusion of more experienced players helped but don’t forget that in those years, it was often the senior pros who went missing when they were expected to step forward and shoulder some of the burden.
As I mentioned after Wednesday, I would be worried if Giroud was not getting into the positions to miss but he is. They are glaring misses but nonetheless, he is picking himself up, shrugging the disappointment off and putting himself back in the frontline again. That is the positive. It isn’t to say that the lack of goals is not a concern but history tells us how often players take to break their duck at Arsenal. The good ones anyway. Yes, I know he scored against Coventry but he needs a Premier League goal for his confidence.
Anyway, today’s line-up:
Mannone; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Coquelin, Arteta, Cazorla; Ramsey, Gervinho, Podolski
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.