Arsenal v Crystal Palace: the edge is clearly with us

By Bulldog Drummond

It is possible that you may remember from first hand experience the arrival of Robert Pires at Arsenal.   You may remember like me the glorious moments of his career, and perhaps the hattrick he scored that started the run of 49 games unbeaten.

But what about Pires at the start of his time at Highbury?  To quote Wiki, “Initially, Pires’ form was indifferent, and some people criticised him after his comments that the English game was too physical. However, he slowly began to regain the form…”

Now you will know that after a rather dull first season Pires learned how to work with Henry in a perfect, total, absolute combination, bemusing defences with all sorts of extraordinary devices (the most famous of which was the two of them hanging around the corner flag on the left side pulling in the defence, before Pires peeled away, Henry used his magic to get past the gang of kickers, and with no one left to mark Pires, the centre forward now on the left wing passed the ball to the left winger now playing deep lying centre forward who was unmarked and dutifully scored).

I can still see it as if it were yesterday.

And I wonder, do people who comment on football and write about Arsenal really think this happened on day one?   Of course not, no more than Pepe and Martinelli have learned how to fit in with Aubameyang and Lacazette in just a couple of weeks.

But the fact is that while the knockers in the media and the blogs have been telling us that Emery must go, just as before that they told us Wenger must go, and at the same time who should be dismissed from the club hour after hour day after day, so a team is emerging.

We have not seen it in full yet, as the manager, for whatever reason, takes his time in getting everyone together and the team to fit as one unit.   But consider this:

Goal: Leno.   I don’t know what people want from a keeper but he looks brilliant to me and he is only 27 which is young for a keeper.

Back four:  Holding and Sokratis in the middle, Bellerin and Tirney as full backs.  What is not to admire there?  They are coming back to fitness of course but when they are fully fit and used to playing as a unit that could be some back four.

Attack:  Choose any three from Aubameyang, Pepe, Martinelli and Lacazette, remembering that both Aubameyang and Martinelli can play both on the wing and at centre forward.

Which leaves the midfield.  I don’t know what is going on with Ozil any more than anyone else, and I also think that the formation can and will change for different games, so it is harder to put a list of players as first choice.  But Guendouzi has improved still further and we have an even greater choice throughout midfield than elsewhere.

And all this before we consider the emerging talents of Smith Rowe, Willock, Maitland-Niles, Nelson, Saka, and the returning form of Chambers etc etc.

Of course none of this matters to a lot of commentators – we are fifth which is a disaster and the manager must be moved because… well because removing the manager didn’t work last time so let’s do it again.

As for this weekend’s game against Palace their away form is average with two wins and two draws, four goals scored, seven conceded.  This against Arsenal’s home form in the league of three wins and a draw, eight scored, five conceded.   Given those figures the edge is clearly with us.

I’ll look at this at bit further in the next piece.