This match feels like a contractual obligation, the one you have to play but aren’t really interested in.
We can’t take the Van Morrison route out of this. The croaky old toad, as NME referred to him in the 80s, recorded something like 30 ‘songs’ in one day to fulfil a bad recording deal. Most of them were unreleasable; Morrison strumming his guitar haphazardly with a drum backtrack. The lyrics, if you can call them that, were drunken trash talk.
Mind you, it’s not hard to make an argument that we’ve approached this Premier League season in much the same vein.
It won’t be a surprise to see plenty of rotation this afternoon. Koscielny will drop out with his Achilles rendering it almost impossible for him to play two games in three days. Unless, of course, it’s a World Cup finals and France are doing the asking…
Hector Bellerin, if Ainsley Maitland-Niles is fully fit – which seems unlikely – is another candidate but the rest is down to preference.
The rest? Tactical. One tactic I’d like is Aubameyang and Lacazette in the same XI. It’s going to happen next season so, crazy ol’ me, why not go and practice it now? Weirdo; imagine preparing for next season now.
Jack Wilshere is one casualty; his form – the result of burn-out or resentment? – warrants being dropped. I’d hazard a guess, his ankles are demanding it. Not only that, Mohamed Elneny’s performances demand a run in the side. While Wenger’s loyalty to players is in some respects admirable, it is stifling for a player such as Elneny who plays well.
There’s no doubt in my mind, the midfield finds a balance with his inclusion. As Granit Xhaka finds consistency in his game, the pairing forms a good base for the team.
What So Important about Tonight?
Similarly, questions exist over Aaron Ramsey’s fitness. I’d venture he will play today if Arsène is making significant changes elsewhere. Alex Iwobi will probably come in if Wenger is tempted into playing with the XI. I know there are calls for Reiss Nelson to start but can we afford to mess around so much?
While there is a temptation to make wholesale changes, give youth a chance, etc., there’s a balance. We’re six games unbeaten but without an away win in the Premier League since 2017. Although that language seems overly dramatic in intent, it serves as a reminder to our form.
And we must prepare for Atletico. In a fortnight’s time, we must click into defensive gear. This is the last game where Wenger can play around with the XI. We lack discipline at the back and instilling that into the squad takes longer than 3 games, but we’ve got to rediscover it that quickly.
We know it’s there, just very well hidden.
Newcastle is a happy hunting ground. We’ve won the last ten meetings between the sides and Tottenham have given us hours of fun at St James Park as well.
It’s interesting to see how the Premier League has flipped in the club’s eyes. Yes, they worry about not getting European football next season – that’s the Europa League as a minimum – and the prize money, but it’s the same as the FA Cup, the EFL Cup were.
We’re more focused on another competition. A new toy fulfils our desire and we’re set for any number of Blackburn or Stoke XIs and consequent performances. With Burnley beating Leicester, is sixth so different from seventh from our perspective? While I’m not suggesting we’re ‘throwing’ this one, but is it so important as far as the season is concerned?
If You don’t Co-operate, You’re Gonna Suffer from “Fistophobia”.
The line-up I expect is:
Cech; Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Kolasinac; Elneny, Xhaka (Ramsey); Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck; Aubameyang
Whatever the team is, we expect a strong performance. I know; demanding supporter. Me and my expectations. It’ll be the ruin of me and this club.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.