By Bulldog Drummond
And so off we go again after another unwelcome interruption. And once again the press are struggling to find something negative to say about us. Here’s the Guardian’s latest attempt
Four consecutive clean sheets leading up to the international break suggests that defensively Arsenal have found an encouraging solid platform, based upon the growing rapport between the excellent Laurent Koscielny and the determined newcomer Shkodran Mustafi, with Héctor Bellerín and Nacho Monreal so reliable on either side. But in the spirit of old habits dying hard it is not difficult to imagine fragility at the back haunting them in a pressurised game. An injury in a now settled back four could bring complications.
Or try this from the Daily Mail where the question was put to various reporters, “Are Arsenal flattering to deceive again?”
BARLOW: No, they are stronger and tougher than they have been in a decade. Arsene Wenger has finally abandoned the flawed ‘Project Youth’ and combined the best of his young players like Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi with more experience and knowhow. They remain flimsy at the back but have greater presence and more fighters in midfield and still have quality up front, despite the old complaint about no world-class centre forward.
That one from Barlow is particularly unreasonable, in that “project youth” was the club’s way of paying off the stadium debt and surviving in the top four. And indeed in surviving the stadium move. Just look at any of the Untold reports on what happens to clubs when they move stadia. They get relegated. Arsenal is the one gleaming exception.
WHEELER: What did you expect? They will look like challengers then look like chumps, albeit chumps playing very nice football. And just when we think Arsenal will miss out on the Champions League, they’ll sneak into the top four while someone else is celebrating winning the title. It’s deja vu, as Wenger might say.
Except Mr Wenger doesn’t. What he actually said was
“I must say that the negativity comes very quickly – it is a virus that travels very quickly and goes very slowly,” said Wenger. “I believe our fans are behind us. It is strange because in 2016 how many [Premier League] games have we lost away from home? One at Man United. When you listen to people you’d never believe it. So we have to perform.
“You focus on what is important for you and what can help you and accept the assessment of people around you. Fans are part of our game and they have the right to be happy, not to be happy. My job is to focus on my work and trying to make them happy.
“I believe at the moment the vibes are positive. We have reduced the distance to the top teams. We have to continue to get to the next level. We can only think we have to create a positive environment and to do that we have to perform. The rest we have to ignore.”
And before we come to the team, I am going to give a plug for the Telegraph. I criticise them a lot, but they have introduced a new do-it-yourself team selector. If you visit their preview today and scroll down you’ll find it – just scroll through the article. You choose the format (4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 or whatever) and then slide in the players from a panel on the right. They’ve even listed some of our lesser known youngsters. Great fun.
I don’t have such technology, so here’s my approach. We know the goalkeeper and the defence, but after that it gets a bit questionable.
Bellerin Mustafi Koscielny Monreal
Theo Ozil Iwobi
To start with the defensive midfield, we have Xhaka, Coquelin and Santi Cazorla all of whom expect to play. Xhaka has been made to wait a few games so far this season, and there could be an issue of whether Santi Cazorla can play each and every game, what with us having two games a week at the moment.
So I guess the most likely duo would be Xhaka and Coquelin with Xhaka given the job of roaming forward with the piercing through balls. If it were Xhaka and Santi Caz then Xhaka would be staying much further back.
Up front Alexis has once again arrived back from his homeland very late, even though he would have had a private jet and all. The problem is that just to be deliberately awkward Chile decided to play Peru on 12 October – this Wednesday. Which could place him on the bench, or at home asleep in bed. Interestingly not one of the papers I read mentioned any of this and just have him as automatic choice.
Maybe the press have been tipped off that Arsenal now have faster than light travel which by and large means Alexis got back before he left.
Giroud is still nursing his toe so that would put Pérez up front, with Alexis possibly coming on as a sub. If however Alexis is fit and bouncing and raring to go he could start and Pérez could be the sub.
That would leave on the beach:
- One of the three defensive midfielders
- Either Pérez or Alexis
- Plus Ospina, Gibbs, Gabriel, Elneny, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Jenkinson is back, but I suspect he might get his first outing in the league cup game. Ramsey could be a sub today but I think that given there is no urgent need for him he could be held at least until midweek.
How you see this one going depends on which way you turn. Here are two contradictory statistics
The last three games
- Arsenal 1 (Campbell) Swansea 2 (Routledge, Williams)
Premier League, March 2016
- Swansea 0 Arsenal 3 (Giroud, Koscielny, Campbell)
Premier League, October 2015
- Arsenal 0 Swansea 1 (Gomis)
Premier League, May 2015
The form guide
- Arsenal: DWWWWW
- Swansea: LLDLLL
Keeping those runs in the form guide going would suit me just fine.
Right, soon time to get ready. Quite a bunch of us meeting one way or another if all the plans work out (and since I have Blacksheep’s season ticket to give back to him they really have to). I’m hoping Walter will be here for his post-match special.
The game today