When your team isn’t doing well, finding solace in others misfortune is the default mode of a football supporter. I don’t celebrate Manchester United’s win yesterday, more find it amusing that City blew the title party. Spectacularly. As someone on Twitter said yesterday, City went from Arsenal 2004 to Arsenal 2018 in the space of 20 minutes.
Another wag noted that City are behind Arsenal 2004 and 1991 now in the list of ‘greats’ although obviously, the 1991 squad is just a figment of our imagination as we know football didn’t exist before 1992. As an exercise in mass psychosis, the shadowy figures which run the world scored a big hit with that one. Get your tin foil hats here…
I’m not the only one enjoying the hiccup on City’s title parade. It’s inevitable they will be crowned champions at the end of the season, so any frailty is good to see. That isn’t to lose sight of the bigger picture, i.e. how bloody terrible we are, but it does provide a wayward distraction.
We’ll get an idea of our problems with today’s line-up. Dave’s Alumina-esque injury means who plays in goal is Wenger’s first decision. Probably not Petr Cech is the answer. While a hamstring can twang at any point, is it worth risking him today with a more important match on Thursday? No.
Laurent Koscielny will drop out, but should we rest Shkodran Mustafi as well? Or is the thinking that the German will play himself into understanding defending, a bit like running off an injury? We’re going to need a bigger roll of cotton wool because I can make a case for Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal, Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette not playing. We need cotton wool for Jack anyway so there’s nothing new as far as he’s concerned.
Do We Have the Squad Depth to Rotate the XI Heavily?
That’s a bloody good question.
The reality is that the league position doesn’t mean a great deal anymore. Sixth is already in the Europa League third qualifying round and seventh will most likely join them with Southampton the only team left in the FA Cup who can stop that. And very unlikely to, I have to say.
Would that ruin the Tiny Tots season if they won the FA Cup knowing they kept us in European competition by doing so? How low has our season sunk that I can find humour in something so repugnant?
We know from bad experience and watching yesterday’s matches unfold the impact that heavy rotation of the side can have. Our form is just picking up – as far as being flat-track bullies is concerned – and there’s a momentum building that you don’t want disturbing, particularly in front of goal.
Defensively, we’re always going to be ‘hit or miss’ under Wenger. Zonal marking is the last refuge of the attack-minded coach and that’s not going to change. He hasn’t had an epiphany nor is he swayed by the presence of the axe hanging over his head. Wenger is too long in the tooth to change; his dalliance with 3 – 4 – 3 is evidence of that.
All we’re left with is hope. Hope something clicks defensively so the brain farts which caused CSKA’s goal don’t happen again. Who am I kidding? Happen too often.
Southampton need the points so will welcome anything which induces a lacklustre performance from us. I’m not expecting a particularly adventurous performance from them; far from it. They don’t have the players to descend into Hughes’ trademark thuggery so will rely on our generosity to get them out of jail.
XI or Not XI? That is the Question
All of which leaves us with the XI I’d choose and the one Arsène will play. There’s usually a gap between the two, I know.
Macey; Maitland-Niles, Chambers, Mustafi, Kolasinac; Elneny, Xhaka; Iwobi, Özil, Willock; Aubameyang
Generally, that means the whole of the first team playing with a couple of changes:
Cech; Bellerin, Chambers, Mustafi, Monreal; Elneny, Xhaka; Ramsey, Özil, Iwobi; Aubameyang
Four days recovery time and you can’t wrap everyone up in cotton wool, can you…?
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.