It’s a nostalgia-fuelled post this morning; an ‘I remember a time’ sort of post. Mainly I remember a time when I didn’t go straight back to sleep after the alarm went off.
In years gone by, the velvet tones of Peter Jones described conditions today as a ‘thin blanket of snow’. His vocabulary was far wider meaning he didn’t stoop to my tawdry levels. Anyway, it’s probably not snowing in Southampton right now so it’s irrelevant in this context.
On a matchday, we’re at the ‘no way will this be off’ level of snow but edging towards ‘Bugger. Look at the state of the tracks. They’ll have a pitch inspection’, the moment when the amateur meteorologist in you emerged as you waited on “Platform 2 for the…10.46…to London Waterloo”.
It was one of the strange markers we used to decide if there was any risk of a postponement. That would seriously ruin your day. Not as much as getting to Birmingham and finding out that the match at Anfield was postponed, only to find that the return train to London delayed by 3½ hours.
You’re a prisoner in that instance; do you risk going into the city centre for a pint only to return and find your train suddenly made up the time but it was the last one to get through? No, you don’t. There are better – and less expensive – places to be stuck when you’re fed up because the football’s off and the trains are shagged.
I told you Peter Jones had a better vocabulary than I.
Today’s travelling supporters are enduring a less pleasant version of that: engineering work, and the stench of the replacement bus service, so I’m told. That’s a different story altogether.
Orange or Yellow Balls
Anyway, even if there is a thick blanket of snow, St Mary’s pitch will be immaculate. There’s a joke in there about conceptions and whatever but I’m too much in the groove to make it.
The turf on the banks of the Solent will be magnificent, as pitches always are these days. The leveller of a mud-bath or pseudo-concrete of a frost-bound pitch is long gone as television demands a product they can sell. It’s no bad thing, before you ask.
Arsène has to decide what to do with the defence in Shkodran Mustafi’s absence. He indicated that there will be flexibility in his team selection going forward, that the back three was no longer untouchable. Thursday night proved that but today I suspect we will go back to three central defenders.
It would be good if the third centre-back was actually a centre-back and not Sead Kolasinac shoved into the middle with Arsène shouting, “Shenanigans!” on the touchline. Rob Holding is the obvious choice although Per Mertesacker’s leadership and organisation are just what the doctor is ordering.
I don’t expect many changes. Indeed, the only player whose position ought to be under threat is Granit Xhaka. Injury solved the problem at the back but it seems the midfielder needs some sort of kick in the derrière. Concentration is an issue with him at times but it plagues the team as a whole. It’s a trait which should have been solved by now.
And Then There Were Four
While St Mary’s is the graveyard of our ambition, picking up where the Dell left off. Yes, we win handsomely or just win as much, if not more often, than we lose but defeats do tend to be humdingers, on or off the pitch. We’re either a shower on the pitch or a problem in the showers after. Last season was good, the two seasons before, appalling.
Which Arsenal will turn up today? The one that wins is the ultimate choice.
I expect the line-up to be:
Cech; Holding, Koscielny, Monreal; Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Lacazette, Özil
If he does go with a back four, I’d guess that Jack will come in and Holding drop out. To bring in Danny Welbeck would be too adventurous for an away game.
Finally, over a Dad’s Jukebox, there’s a humdinger of an underrated album for your delectation.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.