By Tony Attwood
Watford and Arsenal are in two very different places. Yes I know, one is in Hertfordshire and one in North London. But apart from that, they are in two very different psychological places.
In the FA Cup Walter Mazzarri made seven changes to the Watford side for the game against Millwall on Sunday and it didn’t work. Even the post-match excuses (“Watford didn’t deserve to lose”) were fairly silly. “Slugglish” was the kindest comment doing the rounds about them. “Generally clueless,” turned up as well. “Unfit” was another. Or to get down to the real nitty-gritty, the comment on Brice Dja Djédjé was that in “making his first start for the club since arriving from Marseille in the summer… he maintains a physique that, if you were being polite, could be described as full. Either that or the 26-year-old’s shirt was one size too small.”
It’s a fairly grim time of late for Watfordians. Since beating Everton on 10 December they have played nine, lost five, drawn three and won one. That one great win was on 7 January against Burton Albion in the FA Cup.
Apart from that Cup win, Watford have only scored two goals in a single game – a 2-2 draw with Bournemouth.
So Watford went on to a defeat at the New Den (now no longer being bought up for housing since it was revealed that the people who were planning the affair had simply announced that they had state aid for the operation, when they didn’t. They looked rather shocked when the truth came out – as if they were saying, well everyone else makes up fake news so we thought it as ok.)
Meanwhile Arsenal were utterly amazing with totally changed team swamping Southampton. Mind you the Guardian has today run the story, “FA Cup fourth round: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action” and lo and behold there is nothing about the Arsenal.
But there is Arsenal news to be found,for the Guardian elsewhere says, “It was all going pretty swimmingly for Egypt and Arsenal, but both will feel the loss of Mohamed Elneny, who misses tonight’s match with a calf injury. Arsène Wenger is down to bare bones already in midfield, although Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked pretty nifty yesterday.”
Yep it’s the bare bones stuff. Where ever would we be without the bare bones metaphor in a commentary about Arsenal? Probably it is written in the training manual. “OK young fella-me-lad, I’ve been in this journalist game for a fair few years and I’ll you one thing. When you write about Arsenal, it’s a crisis, and they are down to the bare bones.”
Gone seems to be the self-doubt that comes with having only the occasional moments in matches to make his mark and instead Oxlade-Chamberlain’s natural strengths – his technique, his physical power, quick feet and vision – are forced upon the game. Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott will naturally attract most headlines for the emphatic nature of this 5-0 win but it was the work of Arsenal’s double barrelled midfield – spearheaded by Oxlade-Chamberlain but supported by Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles – that actually laid the foundation.”
Fulsome praise indeed.
What this means of course is that we don’t just have Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey available as defensive midfielders, because even with Granit Xhaka banned, Mohamed Elneny injured with Egypt, Jack Wilshere on loan and Santi Cazorla injured in England, we have the Ox and Le Jeff.
And no less an Arsenal man that Martin Keown called the Ox in defensive midfield “an artist”.
So could we now see the Ox and Coquelin as a defensive midfield pairing? Certainly it is possible; not just because we’ve seen how good Oxlade Chamberlain can be, but also because we need to see if he can do it game after game. Certainly one of the three (Ox, Coquelin, Ramsey) is going to miss out on Tuesday night and be on the beach; it is simply a question of which.
There is of course a similar question up front. Giroud was apparently ill at the weekend, and not knowing the details of his illness (as its the Arsenal, its probably the plague) we can’t really know if he will be fit for Tuesday, but even without him we have Alexis Sánchez, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott and Lucas Pérez who can score, and Iwobi who would be understandably a trifle fed up if he doesn’t get a game. “The problem will now be to find the right combination,” said Mr Wenger, which is of course the point.
Along with catching up with Chelsea.
Most of the time Chelsea has had the fixture advantage over Arsenal, with an incredibly beneficial Christmas and New Year session of playing games at sensible times and only having to travel about 250 yards, and of course with none of those pesky European games, what with having finished last season in 10th last season
So it could be that Tuesday night’s team (other than the goalkeeper and back four) will be selected both in terms of beating Watford, and in terms of getting ready for Chelsea at the weekend.
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|10||West Ham United||5||2||4||12||16||3||2||6||17||20||-7||28|
We’ll look at this a little further on Tuesday morning.
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