When Bill Oddie told us all to “Make a daft noise for Christmas”, I don’t think he had “Who wants another beer?” in mind. This morning, I can assure you that it is a silly a noise as you can ever wish to hear.
Newcastle United arrive at the Emirates as the most of ‘out of form’ Premier League side which comes as a surprise to many of us. They must be bad if our seven dropped points out of nine isn’t the worst in the top flight.
And they are but despite losing seven in a row, they arrive at the Emirates expecting to come away with something. I’d like to be confident that it will be a damn good thrashing, but I’m not. It could be but there is as much chance of our taking a laborious three points as that happening. More chance, I’d venture.
And we can’t rule out another goalless draw; December is the new November.
Arsène had a lot of work to do between Wednesday night and today. I’m sure he’ll moan about lack of rest, they all do. However, it is what it is and he can talk about “petrol and ‘ideas'” all he likes, but the here and now is that Manchester City are not just in a different postcode, they’ve reached the port and are boarding the ferry to a different country.
City aren’t worth talking about in any competitive sense. They are almost champions before Christmas, with none of the chasing pack showing any inclination to do much chasing.
Your Flexible Friend
So what does Arsène do? There’s a good case for sticking with the back four, not on a permanent basis but as an option for flexibility. Who beyond Bellerin should be in? I’m guessing it will be Koscielny and Monreal again, with Kolasinac at left back. West Ham in the League Cup on Tuesday means Chambers and Holding – probably Per as well – will be playing then.
That logic holds for Jack Wilshere. If he plays today, he misses Tuesday and I don’t think Arsène will risk him for two games in three days, especially as he noted how Jack flagged in the final twenty minutes. Personally, I think he’s done enough to warrant a new deal and I’d question why a manager who is ready to hand out contracts to other injured players, isn’t doing the same now.
Maybe that will be answered but I’m not holding my breath. Contracts as ever are something of a moot point and Arsenal have lost control of the situation. Not through any fault of the new guys but Wenger’s procrastination, Alexis’ blunt refusal and Özil’s larking around, created a state of flux. Add Wilshere, and now Ramsey, along with Welbeck, is refusing to sign a new deal, according to the Times.
It’s a clusterf*ck of almost unimaginable proportions that the manager and board created. Next summer, the questions about Arsène’s future begin, entrenching the cycle into the club’s psyche. That’s one hell of a legacy to leave behind.
I’m going to be upfront here: I won’t be bothered if Welbeck leaves but would move heaven and earth to keep Ramsey and Wilshere. Özil, in my view, isn’t suited to Arsenal as we are now, at £300k per week and Alexis left last summer, although his body is still at the club.
Brand New Start
People are calling it the ‘Alexis Tax’, the constantly losing possession. It’s only an issue because he’s not scoring. He’s never been any different; he always gave the ball away.
Arsène defends Alexis by claiming it’s a brand new role that the player’s adjusting to. It is; he thought he was a Manchester City striker but finds himself wearing an Arsenal shirt.
Mock all you like about he won’t get in their side but he will, in the same way, Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Sane, Sterling and others do. They accept the squad system because they have genuine competition for places and are winning honours. We are a million miles off both.
This afternoon? With the changes which must happen in central midfield, there’s a strong case for dropping him and bringing in Welbeck and Walcott either side of Özil in support of Lacazette, stretching the banks of five we will face.
Anyway, back to the game today. The biggest question mark is over Granit Xhaka. Confidence, as with all the XI, is an issue and his began seeping away a long time ago. Like the air slowly leaking from a pinhole in a balloon. This afternoon, in my view, is the time to bring in Elneny as an insurance policy alongside him and with a view to replacing him over Christmas.
I don’t think Ainsley Maitland-Niles is ready for the rigours of the central midfield role in the Premier League so we’re left with Coquelin or the Egyptian; I’ll take the latter.
Elneny will recycle the ball efficiently and I expect we will hit around 75-80% possession today. We’ve got to keep the pressure on Newcastle’s shaky defence.
Anyway, the team:
Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac; Elneny, Xhaka; Walcott, Özil, Welbeck; Lacazette
Deliver Us From Boredom
Will we win? Yes, narrowly, I think but three points is all we need to keep taking. Substance over style to get us back on track.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.