Morning all, a new day, a new playlist; Breakfast In Bedlam can be found here or in the right sidebar under Dad’s Jukebox.
It’s a dreaded early kick-off; Arsène sought to play down the importance of the first shrill peep from the Acme Thunderer, the signal for battle to commence but there is no escaping from the damage wrought across the meetings with top three sides last season in early kick-offs. I wonder if that thought preys on the minds of the players?
Or perhaps Arsenal will wreak their vengeance against Manchester City? It has the makings of script worthy of Bruce Willis’ attention but as much as it would be nice to put six past Joe Hart, that’s an added bonus. I’ll settle for three unanswered goals, as at Wembley, and then combine the two to consider things equal. That’s another added bonus to be honest; all that matters is Arsenal taking three points which requires one more goal. Cue Danny Welbeck.
It’s the big question; to start or not to start. I understand the logic of keeping Sanogo in the starting line-up, he is more familiar with the other players and the style Arsène wants. Then again, I understand the logic of a lot of things that I don’t agree with. To me, Arsène fields his strongest side and whilst Sanogo’s confidence may be high following three goals in consecutive Under-21 internationals, Welbeck will be in the same mood following his brace in Switzerland against arguably more challenging opposition. With the added impetus of a début against the defending champions who hail from the wrong side of Manchester as far as he is concerned, the footballing script is, you sense, written. And with that, the pressure ratchets up a notch.
It’s a double-edged sword for Arsène. Aloysius decided to sell the forward because he didn’t score enough goals. That stems, if statistics are right, from being played out of position with a goal every other game from a central striking role. In the future, Wenger has to decide how he will accommodate Welbeck and Giroud without diminishing either of their attacking attributes. It is up to Welbeck to make that decision difficult with his form before Giroud’s return. Not time like the present to start that. Or to start even.
Whilst Welbeck dominates the headlines, it’s a team game and not all about him. The performances this season can best be described as stuttering. If Arsenal were a car, you would think it fuelled by kangaroo. Being undefeated is good for the confidence; playing inconsistently and not losing ought to breed some belief in the players yet Arsène suggested that might not be the case at his press conference.
With the upcoming fixtures, performances begin to matter as form builds; there is only so far that not playing well can get you. Today’s match quickly followed by Dortmund, typifies the importance of these games and the level of opposition. You can’t splutter through and hope for the best, the players need to gel and do so quickly.
My starting line-up for today would be:
Mesut Özil, given a clean bill of health by the manager, is crucial to any success today. Plagued by ours – and his own, I suspect – expectations, he is getting back into his stride after the delayed return to training. Having won the World Cup, I think there was a dream of the player hitting the ground running and top form straight away. It hasn’t happened but he is not the only one in that respect; the summer has been detrimental to most.
Playing on the left doesn’t sit comfortably with most. Whilst that may suit the formations on paper, there is a freedom to roam and that can cause defensive problems. He is prepared to track back but to be effective, Özil needs to defend rather than make up the numbers. It’s not a new problem and Arsène can solve it with Jack Wilshere or Mathieu Flamini’s inclusion. That seems most likely to come at Santi Cazorla’s expense.
Last season’s away games against the top three are something we are looking to cast to the winds, painful lessons. But in the same way those results need to improve, so do the home games. Only Liverpool and Tottenham fell by the wayside on their visits to The Emirates; we need to turn the draws – or some of them, at least – into victories.
Both the line-ups presume that Aaron Ramsey is fit. If he doesn’t make it, Wilshere will drop into the first, Flamini the second. Despite Wenger’s preference for Wilshere to play in a more advanced role – and his comments this week contradict those of the player and some made in the summer – I would prefer him to play the deeper role alongside Arteta, it’s a personal preference.
For me, it is Jack’s attacking bite that wins the day over Flamini’s defensive duties. If they are both water-carriers, one has sparkling in his bottle and that extra fizz could be important. It may be deemed enough to swap him for Santi, pushing Ramsey in a more advanced role. And I am sure that somewhere there are statistics that contradict me but as I said, it’s a personal preference. Johan Cruyff encapsulated how to make Wilshere effective in that role by recalling how he trained Guardiola. It resonates with me, with the individualism aspect striking home.
These matches are interesting when you step back to look longer term over the season. Home games have to be won of course but is it more important not to lose, hoping to win in other games. When the dust has settled a draw won’t be a bad result – unless a significant lead is dropped – as long as other ‘big matches’ are won. Or should that read ‘not lost’? Damn you context of a season for flitting through my mind this early in the day.
FROM THE VAULTS
Another from 1958, this time a 3 – 1 home victory over today’s opponents from 12th September 1959. It had been a mixed start to the season for Arsenal. Sheffield Wednesday had won by a single goal on the opening day at Highbury but Arsenal had gone five games undefeated since then but drawn three of them. Mel Charles, at the time Arsenal’s record signing and holding a similar lofty standing for the record transfer between two British clubs when he joined from Swansea Town.
The wishes of Ross Hall and Desmond Hackett for Charles to be dropped would soon be granted but not through George Swindin’s choice. The knee problems which plagued the Welsh international’s stay at the club forced a cartilage operation shortly after this match, meaning that he made only another fourteen appearances in the remainder of that season. Complaints about record signings? Frankly not very much is new in the modern game.
Enjoy today’s match wherever you are watching it.