It’s Saturday and for 2014/15, the kick-off time of 5.30pm is more familiar than its’ more traditional counterpart. In fact there is a little under a month before the trip to Villa Park where Arsenal will be hosted at 3pm on a Saturday; how the influence of television has changed the face of football for generations to come. In the meantime, this morning’s playlist, Something Good Can Work, can be found here or in the right sidebar under Dad’s Jukebox, with its older brothers here.
There are times when I will freely admit that the transfer window and it’s speculation. It was an irritant, more because people got so easily and willingly it must be said, sucked in by the rumours of purchases. The fallout when those deals never materialised was and still is, baffling; if it seems too good to be true, it is. Never more so when the French media reported that Arsène had taken time out from contemplating his navel to contemplate bidding £32m plus Olivier Giroud for Edinson Cavani.
It isn’t going to happen, the usual stumbling blocks of fees and wages surfaced as did the concept that swapping a striker for a striker leaves Arsenal desperately short of attacking options. Or as you and I would call it, exactly where we find ourselves now. Having made what can be best described as a slow start to the season, if Arsenal possessed a player capable of challenging Giroud for his place in the line-up, it’s fair to say he would not be on the pitch at kick-off today. For whatever reason, the French international is taking longer to regain his match fitness than others. In that sense, it will be interesting to compare his endeavours to those of the Germans involved today.
Which ones remains to be seen. Reports this morning suggest that Podolski has been left out of the squad with Wolfsburg and Juventus added to the list of suitors. The player will train today at London Colney which suggests more that he is not ready for the game and more to the point, we have numbers in that area of the pitch. Podolski could of course, play centrally instead of Giroud but Arsène has made it clear that he doesn’t trust or believe in the player as a traditional centre forward.
Arsenal return to the scene of what the manager believes to be one of last season’s biggest crimes. Goodison Park saw Arsenal overwhelmed physically and mentally,
“We were a bit bullied. In the quality of our performance – and even more than that in mental resistance, the steel on the day – that was one of our low points.”
It’s impossible to argue or put a contrary case to his words. The scoreline may not have been as emphatic as those at Anfield and Stamford Bridge but the manner of defeat was. Everton exploited Arsenal’s mental weaknesses, scored early and doubled their lead before the interval. It isn’t something Roberto Martinez expects to repeat so easily this time according to his press conference this week although he is targeting once more, an early goal to put the visitors onto the back foot.
Looking at the players named by Wenger as playing last season, a number of changes can be expected today. He has two big decisions to make, both involving the World Champions I expect him to name in the squad. The first is whether Laurent Koscielny partners Per Mertesacker or has his Achilles injury got to the point where rest is demanded, giving Calum Chambers the opportunity to continue his run in the side. Arsène’s preference would be to field the experienced pairing and I think he will, giving the French international a rest on Wednesday if that is what his injury dictates.
The second concerns Mesut Özil. Santi Cazorla has been criticised for his efforts this season, like Jack Wilshere it would be unfair to do so in isolation because the whole of the midfield were very ordinary last weekend and in midweek, the Spaniard made some good runs but was not picked out as teammates preferred to use Alexis Sanchez’s pace on the other flank. It gave the appearance that Cazorla was ineffective. That’s not to say he wasn’t below the standards set previously but not as bad as is being claimed. Certainly I don’t see it costing him his place in the starting XI.
Wenger was careful to make the point that the Germans would lack competitive edge on their return to the side and I wonder if Özil, despite playing the most minutes in the World Cup, is going to be the one who returns via the bench. The concern would be that his lack of match sharpness may be exploited in terms of a lack of support for Nacho Monreal who was hopelessly exposed in last season’s corresponding fixture, left to deal with Everton attacks as Podolski was noticeable by his absence in defence.
Aaron Ramsey likes to think the players are more “streetwise” this season; there wasn’t much evidence of that in the opening game, just more of the dogged persistence that put them in the position to find a late equaliser in the first half and his own late winner. The midweek trip saw a better performance, indicating that the players are finding their feet this season and beginning to gel despite the absences of key players. Ramsey was keen to emphasize that the mistakes made in April’s meeting cannot be repeated; if nothing else, the manager can take comfort from the fact that at least one of the players has listened and taken on board his thoughts on the subject.
With Mikel Arteta injured in Istanbul, Mathieu Flamini will be given the opportunity to stamp his authority on midfield and if he is going to do so on an opponents leg, hopefully out of sight of the officials. It leaves the starting line-up,
Szczesny; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Wilshere, Ramsey; Sanchez, Cazorla; Giroud
I am sure that Arsène would love a repeat of the last two visits to Goodison Park which were the first away trips of the season, a 4 – 1 victory in 2004 and 2009’s 6 – 1 drubbing.
From The Vaults
A relatively recent match report, from this day in 1995 when Arsenal travelled to Goodison Park having drawn the opening game of the season with Middlesbrough at Highbury. The opening paragraph of The Guardian match report could certainly be applied today from an Arsenal perspective. Let’s hope the outcome is as welcome.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.