In the end, it was too much to hope for. Apparently, my expectations of Mourinho being sacked at half-time were too high. United, my son informed me in all seriousness, would at least let him get to the tunnel before sacking him. Jose, meanwhile, is plotting where to shove his thumb. Here’s a hint, Ed; it isn’t up your arsenal.
Arsenal meanwhile prepare us for a 15-day break. After this, the drudgery of faux international competition surfaces with Leicester not arriving until a fortnight tomorrow.
Unai Emery will want them to face an Arsenal side looking for its tenth consecutive win. Too much, in my view, is being made of the travelling on Thursday; these are players who are used to it and as Emery said, it’s a sign of being successful. It feels like we’re getting the excuses for defeat ready.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returns to the squad and it will be no surprise if he starts the game centrally with Alexandre Lacazette dropped to the bench if tiredness is a genuine concern with the players.
Others such as Bellerin and Xhaka return to the line-up, as unfortunately will Mustafi. The pairing of Holding and Sokratis looked stronger than with the German involved, but I suspect that until he is sold next summer, Mustafi will command a first-team place. I realise that last sentence involves me dreaming and it turning into a nightmare.
About now seems a good time to suggest an XI which won’t be the one fielded by Unai Emery:
Leno; Bellerin, Holding, Sokratis, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Iwobi; Aubameyang
The reality is that Emery’s line-up will be closer to:
Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Monreal; Torreira, Xhaka; Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Personally, I find it imbalanced but we’ll see what Unai does about it at half-time.
Will He Be Brave Enough?
It’s a match we ought to win. Fulham are struggling and as we’ve adapted quite well to being flat-track bullies; all the good sides are. There’s still some way to go before we can claim to be ready to move to the next level, i.e. title contenders, but it feels as if we are at least capable of doing so. It will take at least two more transfer windows before that becomes a reality and some chaff in key positions to move on.
The perception of Emery from opposition coaches is interesting. Jokanovic observed that “he seems to live the profession 24 hours a day” which may not necessarily be a good thing in the long-term.
Interestingly, the Fulham boss believes the “team right now is brave” and ” really offensive at a good level.” No mention of the imbalance between attack and defence which is being slowly addressed.
Fulham have two players of concern to me from our perspective. Injuries seem to be forcing Sessegnon to the left-back/wing-back position; he has enough pace to outsprint Bellerin and an eye for goal. It’s why I suspect Ramsey will continue in the XI as he offers some semblance of support.
The other is Mitrovic against Mustafi. Let’s be honest, the German isn’t the most ‘robust’ of defenders and while he strays the wrong side of the tracks quite a lot, Mitrovic is a physical opponent. Mustafi will know he has been in a game after the final whistle.
Nonetheless, I do expect us to win. The hesitancy of last season is slowing disappearing when it comes to these matches. Whereas Wenger’s final year saw us lose games against teams fighting the drop, a durability emerged since losing 3 – 2 at Chelsea.
Crucially, we’ve begun keeping clean sheets and whilst three in four games isn’t necessarily impressive given the opposition, it’s certainly confidence building. And anything which isn’t sapping the confidence away is a good thing, surely?
Anyway, three points and a three-goal winning margin will edge Tottenham out of the top four assuming Chelsea beat Southampton. It would be a nice way to go into the international break.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.