A Brief Interlude Before The Business Begins

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It feels like some small respite in a sea of defining weeks. The match against Watford is no less important than any of the recent Premier League games – perhaps more so in light of those results – but with a meaningless trip to Barcelona in midweek, the pressure feels less.

The FA Cup remains Arsenal’s final hope of silverware this evening. I know some still believe we can be crowned champions but requiring three teams to collapse in order to do so, seems too much of a tall order if you ask me. Which, of course, you didn’t but there you go.

Team news, delivered briefly yesterday, was encouraging. As chaffing as it might be, I’m less concerned about Aaron Ramsey’s absence than the fitness of our centre backs. Koscielny’s return seems to be earmarked for Barcelona, particularly with Mertesacker and Gabriel passed fit for the weekend. I wonder if one might be rested to ensure we have at least one experienced central defender in Catalunya?

Ramsey meanwhile, quickly slipped into a sensationalist headline or two over Euro2016. Gratuitous scaremongering has never been in short supply in Fleet Street or Wapping, and they didn’t disappoint with the news that the Welshman will be out for several weeks. Yes, OK, Arsène said it was a “small alert” which will no doubt quickly escalate into a three-week absence. He seems to be talking about lunar weeks when he mentions that timescale.

Arsène’s decisions are once more being made for him – which is not necessarily a bad thing in this instance, giving Mohammed Elneny a run in the side and in fairness, alongside Francis Coquelin, we’ve looked more solid with Ramsey sating his forward desire from the flank.

It’s a more ‘traditional’ Wenger midfield in that respect, with one of the wide players, typically on the right, likely to come inside and not really being a winger in the truest sense of the word. Even Theo Walcott falls into that category to some extent. Hopefully not too hard, Theo falling invariably leads to injury.

Which begs the question whether he will be the biggest beneficiary of Ramsey’s absence. Having scored once in sixteen, he’s now got three in four games, even if two of them came on Tuesday. A hint of some form at last this season or a flash in the pan.

Walcott is the biggest enigma in that sense. Plenty would offload he and Oxlade-Chamberlain this coming summer and whilst I think either going is unlikely, it underlines how low their stock has fallen although it’s fair to say that not many of the players have covered themselves in glory over the course of this campaign.

Goals have been the fundamental problem, or scoring consistently. Giroud and Walcott’s braces at Hull offer a glimmer of hope that the famine is over but we need more than a shaft of light, even if that’s all we have at the moment. Alexis spoke of sleepless nights and I wonder if Olivier Giroud feels the same. Good preparation for the recent arrival of his son.

We’ve endured the famine, seen a season’s hopes limp forlornly into the past but with two months remaining, there is the chance of a third cup win. Focus on that and the inevitable charge to the fourth place trophy, and we remain treading water.

Seeing how low down Tottenham’s priority list the Europa League is, you understand why Thursday nights remain a home for derogatory comments. That prospect can’t entirely be ruled out for Arsenal next season so the motivation is there for the players to shape up for the remaining nine games. Let’s see if it works.

’til Tomorrow.

67 thoughts on “A Brief Interlude Before The Business Begins

  1. Morning Yogi et al,

    Just seen this quote on the BBC website from a certain Mr Scholes “The last thing I want for Manchester United is to be happy with finishing fourth and winning the FA Cup. That’s what Arsenal do.”

    Always knew he had a nasty edge to him, even if what he said does have a ring of truth.

    Would love to knock Manure out in the semi, assuming both progress in the quarters this weekend.

  2. Don’t worry YW, the need to secure a top four finish will see our results pick up over the next few weeks.

    Maybe if it becomes a top three that qualify rather than a top four we will aim higher, and if by some miracle the CL becomes a competition for actual champions again (a yes from me on that one) then heaven forbid we might actually mount a genuine challenge at that point.

    Not going to happen though is it?

  3. For Scholes, playing Europa League and not winning any trophy seems like a better option. Suit yourself Scholes.

  4. You have little faith! Why should we give up on being champions. It is not correct to say that we need the three teams around us to collapse. Only one needs to collapse – Leicester. Spurs are only 3 pts ahead with 9 to play. Man City has a game in hand and even if they win they will only be a point ahead. All we need is for them to suffer a few blips not collapse. Only Leicester need to collapse. If Arsenal finished strongly down the home stretch, who knows?

  5. “If Arsenal finished strongly down the home stretch”

    I prefer an evidence rather than faith based approach, so I’d be interested to see what evidence there is to suggest that the above might happen.

  6. Andy,

    Asking Jbgooner for ‘evidence’ to support his conditional statement is hardly possible.
    It’s like me saying ‘if I win the lottery I will take you all to Hawaii with me.’

    If it is only a £10 lottery win, I might not. Full of ifs and provisos. 🙂

  7. True Henry, I take the view that the more ‘ifs’ there are in an argument the less the desired outcome is likely to happen 🙂

  8. Ospina
    Bellerin—Mert—-Gabriel—–Nacho
    —–Le Coq——Elneny
    ————Ozil————
    Campbell—Giroud—–Sanchez

    That’s what I would go with but we will probably see:

    Ospina
    Bellerin—Mert—-Gabriel—–Nacho
    —–Le Coq——Elneny
    ————Ozil————
    Theo—Giroud—–Sanchez

  9. Morning,

    The only evidence is that of having to keep the pace up to ensure 4th place. I doubt that the final standings will be decided until either the last weekend or the weekend before. In theory we could win the league by default as we try to ensure CL football next season. Leicester’s last three games aren’t the games that you want to play to bank your title.

    All of that is a bit of nonsense because I don’t think it will happen, but the need for strong run to ensure CL football could see us in touch with a shout at the title right up to the end.

  10. What are you suggesting, Phil?

    Is there an implication — how can I express this delicately — that Ashley goes through his managers carnally, then discards them saying to his lickspittles ‘this one is split – get me a new one’?

    Dirty devil! 🙂

  11. That unfortunate lion (?) does have a problem watching flies on his nose, Phil, and looks a bit odd in doing so.

    I say ‘lion’ so I hope it is no one’s relative — oooer. 🙂

  12. I can see it now, some of the “pro-Wenger” and “who is better” are going to comment and somehow bring it back to Arsene and how we are fortunate to have him.

  13. I hope that the brace Giroud scored and the brace Theo scored coupled with the goal Sanchez scored in teh NLD, frees them and they go on a massive goal scoring run putting away the bags of chances that Ozil and others will create.

  14. Spurs have now not won for three games in a row, losing two and drawing with a 10-man Arsenal in a game we looked likely to win. Could they drop points against a wretched Villa? Not very likely, but the odds have improved a bit.

    Leaders Leicester take on a wretched Newcastle side, who may have gotten a wake-up call re: McClaren sacked. Could Leicester drop points? Not very likely, but the odds have improved a bit.

    Potential banana skins that were not in sight a week ago.

  15. Optimistic thought for the day: Giroud had a bad run a couple of years ago, when he was publicly caught cheating on his partner. He has now had a bad run, which ended with the birth of their child.

    I know they are all called professionals, but family is still an important factor in the minds of players and managers.

  16. It’s so funny that people are still predicting Leicester to drop points, a team who has lost 3 games in the whole season. Maybe they will get draws, but lose 3 times over in 10 games? Not likely.

  17. Moe

    They even lost to bottlers Arsenal twice. 🙂

    Seriously, no one has seen a situation quite like this before. Alas, anything can happen. No predictions, just alternative scenarios.

    And IF they start losing, who knows how they react. Crystal Palace were fifth at the end of December and Pardew was hailed a genious. From the next 10 games, they have 8 losses and two draws, and some (delusional but typical) fans are calling for Pardew’s head.

  18. Personally I think Leicester will win the league by about 6 or 7 points.

    Obviously I would love us to win but by the time Everton comes around the likelihood is we will be 11pts behind Leicester and 6 behind the Sp*ds… that’s a very large gap to take into a must win game at Everton

  19. @Andy 1886,
    At last someone emerges and says what I have felt for ages. The CL should be reserved for its true meaning… namely the champions of each country.
    I know that the UEFA coffers would benefit less and we wouldn’t see Arsenal so often……….but…..

  20. Arsene on the injuries:

    “From the Hull game we lost Ramsey,” Wenger said. “Gabriel and Mertesacker should be available.

    “Koscielny is not far, will I risk him? I havent made a decision yet. Coquelin is coming back from a suspension and Bellerin was not in the squad but is available

    “Gabriel has not trained but Mertesacker has. I don’t think Gabriel has lost too much fitness but we will see. My gut feeling is that he will be available.

    “I dont think Ramsey is out for the season. His signs are quite positive and I would say about four weeks. It’s worse than what I thought at the time.

    “Koscielny will join training tomorrow and then we will maybe take a gamble on a guy who has had one training session. If I get advice from the medical team I will do it.”

  21. Sounds like we have some major doubts at CB and Ramsey, as has been reported is more than likely done for the season.

  22. C,
    In the past couple, all of Theo, OG and Alexis have scored.
    ( Goals Henry)
    Expect them to all find their shooting boots now.

  23. Finnish Hit

    Losing to bottlers Arsenal means basically nothing if Arsenal are not consistent in the league and Leicester are 8 points ahead. Two games out of the whole season and i don’t think Leicester will lose any sleep over it if they win the league.

    The difference between Crystal Palace and Leicester is that Leicester have been top of the league for most of the season, their consistency has been challenged and they have maintained it. I am not ruling Arsenal out but to be honest based on season results and current position, the head says we don’t win the league and Leicester win at a canter.

  24. How the mighty have fallen.
    Well he wasn’t that mighty, but he wasn’t bad.
    Benitez to the barcodes, is a real fall from grace.

  25. I like Benitez, he knows his football and can sometimes be a brilliant tactician. And unlike Mr Van Gaal, his tactics actually work most of the time.

    I think he has a relegation clause in his contract though, so if they go down, he is out.

  26. @Phil

    I would certainly think they all will plus Welbeck continuing to find the back of the net. I also think they will have even more chances because there won’t be as much tracking back needed with Le Coq and Elneny as the pivots.

  27. ‘afternoon all, it’s good to see that Henry has got his A licence, that means he can manage clubs below the Premiership, or academy sides at any level. so I don’t think he will be taking over from Le Professeur any time soon.

    So Ramsey’s “small alert” has developed into something “more seriuous”. Now there’s a surprise.

  28. Great post yogi.

    At the risk of being labeled optimistic I still think Leicester will struggle the rest of this year. Their goals have slowed down and their defense is good but not great. I predict a bunch of draws in their last 9 games. The question do we the mental strength to take advantage. If we really had mental strength then we would not be 8 points out right now. Nothing wrong with be hopeful but I remain skeptical.

    I am 100% confident the status quo will be maintained and we will extend our string of top 4 finishes. For the 10th year in a row the bad part of the season will be conveniently dismissed as a one off which was caused by circumstances beyond our control. We will focus on the good parts of the season and use that to justify why we just need to have faith in the players we have and stay the course because next season will finally see the culmination of all of arsene’s work and planning and everything will come together.

  29. ” At the risk of being labeled optimistic ”

    That by far is the comment of the week based on who made it! 😉

  30. If Arsene doesn’t win this year it’s going to be a lot tougher for the next 3-4 seasons with Pep coming to Man City and Mourinho probably going to ManU both with open check books and neither of those guys make many mistakes with their spending. Klopp will have some time to get Liverpool whipped into shape.

    The other problem is Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018 and the Euro 2020. Those tournaments affect the majority of the squad and our players will take their Arsene mandated extra extra long post summer tournament mental holidays which guarantees a poor start to the 16/17, 18/19 and 20/21 seasons.

    That takes us past the end of this decade which will probably be around the end of Arsene’s next contract.

  31. Euro 2016 = We cannot sign players, they are away representing their country. Heard it all before 😉

  32. @andy

    On the bright side, our English players and Ramsey will be back not to long after the tournament starts. 😉

    Problem with that is that they will return to Arsenal and immediately get injured again.

  33. Everything lined up to give us the best chance to win since 2004. This has to be the weakest group of teams at the top of the PL table since the turn of the century. Usually there is at least one big team that plays well. No summer international tournaments so we had no reason for a slow start. We probably won’t get an opportunity like this for another 12 years.

  34. We won’t have any senior players available to start next season. We couid play our U21 squad for the first month. C would love that.

    As long as the hangover does not last more 12-15 games we will still have enough time to maintain our run of top 4 finishes. Hopefully they won’t drop England down to 3 CL spots anytime soon

  35. I can’t see personnally a collapse from the leagle leaders this close to the ultimate prize. But I am convinced if teams start giving Leicester more respect they would drop points.

    Very hard to keep Mahrez quiet in a game it seems as right now he is one of the very best in the league in terms of his ability to unsettle defenses before that final killer ball or that clinical shot. Keep him on check though throughout the games and they may not get more than a draw in 2_3 games by the end of April.

    IF(a big if) we capitalise then the last 3 games of the PL could be very interesting indeed.

    On a side note I think it is terrible news to loose Ramsey. I d rather we have him as an option than not having him at all. No blessing in disguise there in reality . Fingers crossed we do not loose anyone else and we go on a run.

    I would not want to be Arsene in his head scratching exercise of team selection for our next 3 games! ?

  36. Yogi.

    We won the best in calendar year trophy in 2013 and 2015. If we have a bad start in 2016 because of Euro 16 then we will need to have a great second half of the season starting around January 2017 to save the top 4. We will be heavy favorites for the calender year 2017 trophy.

    There has to be a way to bet on calendar year trophies and if we call our bookies right now we can have an amazing ACLF party with the all money we win.

  37. I had never really thought about this before but our remarkable consistency might be a way to make some serious money for those who enjoy betting.

  38. @Bill

    I wouldn’t mind that at all.

    Could go with a line-up

    Bellerin—-Mert—Chambers—Nacho
    ——-Le Coq——Elneny———-
    —————-Iwobi————–
    Adelaide——-Akpom—–Ox

  39. @Bill

    O, sorry about that, forgot to give out the warning!!!!

    Could you imagine if that really did happen, and then we won a couple of matches (which we would), you would never hear the end of it! 🙂

  40. If it happened, we would be talking about it for the rest of the year and you would completely insufferable. 😉

    The reality is that your line up might be more effective because the senior players would still be on their summer break and at least the u21 could be bothered to actually give a sh*t about the first few games of the year.

  41. @Bill

    I would certainly be!!!!!!

    It is a realistic option though and the thing is, that group wouldn’t be out of their depth. Toral, Akpom, Adelaide and Iwobo can score goals plus Elneny has a good strike in him from distance.

    Go Arsene, let our U21’s lead us!!!!

  42. We are 8 points behind which means a swing of 3 results (at least).

    Let’s assume we go on a reasonable run and win 7 out of 9.

    Leicester will have to drop points in 5 out of 9 games.

    It’s unlikely.

    Other teams not capitalizing is also anlikely. ManCity will have a better finish I think.

    And we will probably not win 7 out of 9. Everton and ManCity are guaranteed dropped points.

    The league is lost. Ask Arsene. Arsene knows.

  43. Finishing just 4th and FA cup?

    A lot of people here are muddled in the head.

    No one should be satisfied with that alone. Our aspirations are always higher.

    But that is a VERY HIGH MINIMUM standard to achieve indeed. CL qualification for a team who has not been a big feature on the top tier of the European stage prior to Wenger (bar on minor trophy Graham years)

    Now we have added an FA cup to the MINIMUM list. NO mean feat!

    Some people have no perspective.

    And most have no bottle.

    Likely we will not finish as Title holders BUT there is still an opportunity and we simply have to go for it, hope for the best.

    If the team had the sort of spine shown by many fans here, we would never win the FA cup back to back in recent seasons, we would have simply said it will never happen because Wenger could not win trophies anymore because we don’t spend etc etc…cue more excuses.

    The FA cup is the insurance to minimal success this season. It is not a given but we are in with a great shout. Still we have to beat Watford ahead of us first.

    The CL is highly Unlikely but we have nothing to lose now. Close shop as best as we can with FLamini and Coquelin and hit on the break. Hope for two goals and forcing them to penalties. As I said Unlikely but worth a gamble anyway so enjoy.

    The Title has been a bit of a muck up on our part. In part Coquelin whom many like to trumpet has been on the receiving end of two games where 5 goals have been shipped. No Flamini there to blame. Nor did Elneny do anything to keep us solid when Coquelin was sent off for recklessness. We shipped two goals in almost as many minutes!

    Had we not dropped any of these games we would be 8 more points to the good and level with the leaders.

    It will be difficult to cull them back but we will have to just win ALL our games. Its possible to do that. Simply depends on the application of the team. Forget about Leicester dropping points. That is out of our hands. We can do what we can control which is to win every league game to end of season. That is the gauntlet I would like to hear Wenger throw down to the team right now.

  44. That said, the season can finish without us even finishing on our minimum mark.

    The margins between success and failure are so slim/

    Lets just get one over Watford first.

  45. “And most have no bottle.”

    “If the team had the sort of spine shown by many fans here, we would never win the FA cup back to back in recent seasons”

    Like posting on the site and running away when challenged for example? No mental strength I guess……. 😉

  46. If ACLF owned the Arsenal,
    We would regularly be champions of Europe, with a conveyor belt of young talent, scattered within a world class squad..
    Admittedly we would have less money in the bank, would say “, thanks but no thanks ” to the £3m, and would only employ staff, or use firms who pay no less than the living wage.
    We sadly would also probably eradicate for ever that horrible away kit.
    Sometimes there are prices to pay for success.

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