By Tony Attwood
For once I am not going to the game – having a few days in the wild windy weather of the Norfolk coast. And believe me it is windy. So good luck to whoever bought my ticket through the official ticket exchange. (It actually sold in 10 minutes flat, so clearly the demand for tickets is still there).
Today there is a headline in the Telegraph today which says, “Relive all the action from deadline day at Arsenal,” but I think that’s pushing it a bit, especially when there is a game to play. But the press and the bloggettas invest everything in the wholly false notion that transfers mean something, so I suppose they have to start the build up to the summer transfer window now.
Meanwhile we have the tragic news that Rosicky is injured once again, and a suggestion in one source that Coquelin is injured as well, but I can’t see any confirmation of that, so I think that one it is just a mistake. Rosicky though may now be lost to us for good.
Alexis Sanchez looked good in the Cup, Mohamed Elneny looked very promising, and when you look at the squad it actually looks like a rather sound 20 players (21 if Coquelin is fit), without including any of the injured group (Santi, Jack and Danny). Not bad since even with the beach provisions we can only name 18 of them. The choice is from…
Cech, Ospina, Monreal, Gibbs, Koscielny, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Bellerin, Chambers, Ramsey, Elneny, Flamini, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Sanchez, Campbell, Walcott, Giroud (Coquelin).
Southampton have got Charlie Austin who could make his first start for the club having been a sub and scoring against Manchester United.
They have injuries too: Graziano Pelle and Steven Davis are doubtful. Jay Rodriguez, Florin Gardos can’t make it.
Speaking of this game and the coming weeks Mr Wenger said, “They can be pivotal but not decisive. They will give a clear indication of the strength of the teams and who can cope with the importance of the games. At the end of the day somebody will win and the team who will win has to go through the important games with strong performances.”
Southampton of course are crowing about the fact they have beaten us rather a lot recently. “We showed we can be competitive against them and a very hard team to beat. We would like that again on Tuesday,” were the words of Ronald Koeman.
In the press there is the usual gibberish about how we have not spent “serious money”… which means that the money we spent on Mo (lower than might have been expected because he wasn’t spotted by other clubs) was “silly money” I suppose. Or “flippant money.” And this is “a major disappointment to a large percentage of the club’s fanbase.” Oh. The stats the same paper collected showed that the vast majority only wanted one signing – a little strengthening of the squad was all that was needed. And that is what we got.
Which makes me rather pleased this window business is all over until…. oh I guess Thursday, when it all starts again. I think I will ask Sir Hardly to do us a quick report on what his favourite bloggettas are saying when the transfer window is dead and gone.
But back to the football (thank goodness). We have four Premier League games, a the little matter of matches against Hull and Barcelona. We’ve had our blip of three without a win in the league, and now we’ve got key players back, so it should be time to start motoring.
More from Mr Wenger…
“I don’t feel that we have really struggled recently because we had two difficult away games with Stoke and Liverpool and we didn’t lose. We had a bad result against Chelsea and of course, if you put the three results together, it looks like we’ve struggled but overall the Chelsea result is under special circumstances.”
Now I love that last phrase… “under special circumstances”. It means “we played the referee as usual” but is circumspect enough so he can claim it means “we went down to 10 men as usual against Chelsea.”
And despite all the worries and concerns about Southampton being such a hard team to beat for Arsenal, the fact is that Arsenal are unbeaten in 20 league matches at home to Southampton. The last disappointment was a 1-0 defeat in November 1987, and since then we have won 15 and drawn 5.
What makes it feel much worse is that Southampton won at the Ems in the League Cup last season. If Southampton did win tonight, and I doubt that very much, it would be the first time they have recorded three successive league wins against us since the time of Alfred the Great (who actually lived in Winchester not Southampton, but it is near enough). Or at least the first time since 1968.
Here’s another one: we have not lost consecutive home games since November 2010. And the last time we went two games without scoring was in January/February 2009, which actually when I look back on it, wasn’t quite as painful as it sounds.
On the other hand Mr Wenger has only beaten Mr Koeman twice in ten games as Arsenal manager (the others being four draws and four defeats). Time for all this nonsense to stop, says I. Not least because Alexis Sanchez has scored in both of his games against Southampton at the Ems and it is time for him to be back to knocking in a goal a game.
Southampton are on a bit of a roll having won three successive league games without conceding, and indeed their defensive game meant that their opponents got three shots on target in those four league games. When they do attack, they play in crosses and tend to score from headers, which is why having Koscielny and Mert in the team is helpful.
Incidentally the Guardian did a report on the top 100 players in the world for 2015 and included Koscielny at number 100. Not bad for an unknown player who joined us after playing 35 times for Lorient for around £8.5m, and that just four years after sitting on the bench in the second division of French football. And yes that is the top 100 in the WORLD.
(I put that in caps for my mate Ian who said in one match, “He’s obviously not good enough.” I’ve been reminding him of it ever since. Probably why I don’t have many friends.)
So it is going to be
Bellerin Mert Kos Monreal
Campbell Ozil Alexis
Which leaves out Coquelin (in case he is injured, but on as a sub if not), Theo as a sub for Campbell, the Ox as a sub for Alexis. I can’t see Coquelin making two starts in the course of four days after such an injury and an early return. Flamini could go in next to Ramsey, and if Mr Wenger thinks that extra steel is needed there, he might do that.
The full beach will be Coquelin, Theo, the Ox, Iwobi, Flamini, Gibbs, Oooooospina.
Here’s the Whoscored.com top ten rankings for teams – our position is interesting given we’ve had a dodgy run in January…
You’ll notice the “aerials won” score for Southampton. That’s what we have to watch out for.
And here’s the league table, just in case you’ve forgotten what with all that excitement about transfers and so forth.
|2||Money money money||23||13||5||5||45||23||22||44|
|6||State Aid United||23||9||9||5||36||28||8||36|
And here are two more anniversaries
- 2 February 2001: Arsène Wenger successfully appealed against a 12 match ban for violent and threatening behaviour against referee Taylor, but still has to pay costs on the grounds that he should have presented all the evidence at the first hearing!
- 2 February 2002: Arsenal 1 Southampton 1. Through this draw Arsenal broke the consecutive goal scoring record, scoring in 26 consecutive games, and then went on to win every single league game. League match 25 of the 3rd Double season.
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