It seems like an age since we last had a game, and so much has happened in-between that Newcastle feels like a long time ago.
It’s back down to business tonight though with a tough trip away to Everton. The boss has confirmed that there are no new injury problems and that everyone who played in that last game is available tonight. I suspect we’ll see an unchanged line-up, meaning we start: Szczesny – Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs – Song – Arteta – Rosicky – Oxlade-Chamberlain – van Persie – Walcott
The scrap for the top four continues with Arsene saying this season is different from last season because of the kind of momentum we have going:
This season it’s completely different, we were completely out of the top four, we have come into it on a good run and now of course it is taking advantage of that momentum.
We are on a positive momentum and last year we were on a negative momentum. That changes it completely. On top of that we have experience. There again, it is how much are you ready to give? How much commitment can you give in every game? How focused can we be?
It used to be a case that Arsene Wenger’s teams finished seasons more strongly than they began them. In recent times the falling away in the final months is what has defined us, the inability to go the distance, and it wasn’t too long ago that our positive momentum was not positive at all. That said, we’re on a good run in the league, we’ve won five in a row and that’s decent by any standards.
It’s all those parts along the way that we’ve stumbled that have caused problems and Robin van Persie is looking for more consistency from the team. He praised the wins in the last four games, but said:
Now we need to show that over a period of a whole year. That is very hard and only the best of the best teams have that in them. We came from behind in the past four games and ended up winning the game.
That shows we can do it, not only once or twice or three times, but lots of times. So why not show it 20 times or whenever it is needed?
And I suspect the skipper is talking about winning ugly rather than coming from behind in 20 games. While that spirit and character is commendable, there are easier ways to win games, and improving defensively and not going behind would be a big part of that. It is very welcome to hear Robin speak like this, however. This kind of attitude is an absolute necessity between now and the end of the season. Winning those four games is great but we’ll achieve nothing if we feel too good about ourselves for it.
Everton might have been well beaten by Liverpool last week and while suggestions they have more interest in the cup than the league may have some merit, we should be under no illusions that tonight is going to be anything other than a very tough game against a good side. They will always work hard and in the past David Moyes has sent his team out to frustrate Arsenal very effectively.
We often struggle against teams who sit deep and ‘park the bus’, so it remains to be seen if that’s their plan for tonight. At home, there might well be more pressure on them to have a go, which could suit us, but I suspect first and foremost they’re going to try and nullify the threats we pose from an attacking point of view.
Overall, what we need to is simple enough – if we keep up the hard work and the pressing we’ve shown in the last few weeks, we’ll create chances. Somewhat lost in the jubilation of a last minute win over Newcastle was the fact that we’d been quite wasteful. We really shouldn’t have needed to go in the 5th minute of injury time to be ahead and sooner or later the clock will beat us. Being more solid at the back and not conceding to the opposition’s first shot on goal, coupled with greater efficiency up the other end should be enough for us to take three points.
It won’t be easy but then I would hope that’s a lesson this team has well and truly learned by now. And at the same time tonight Sp*rs and Chelsea both play. If results go our way it could be a very good night indeed but that’s something for fans to pay attention to. The team need to focus on winning tonight and if anything else happens then it’s a nice bonus.
Come on you reds!
In other news Mikel Arteta returns to Everton with the praise of Arsene Wenger ringing in his ears. The boss says:
He always gives you a certain level of quality. He is always 100 per cent focused and committed and that is what you want from a real professional. He brings the best out of other players.
I know I’ve said this before but I wish we’d signed him long before we did. I think of all our summer signings his was the most important, especially when you consider the fact we’ve been without Wilshere and Diaby all season. A return to an old stomping ground is one of those occasions where people say ‘He’s bound to score against his old team, it always happens.’ It doesn’t, of course, but it would be nice if did tonight.
Speaking of Wilshere, Arsene has played down talk of his return, which does cast doubt on him being involved this season at all. Maybe they do have a fixed date in mind but don’t want to make it public. Another ‘setback’ would draw more criticism. Or maybe we should take this at face value and realise that even a return to full training in the next few weeks would leave him desperately short of match fitness and sharpness. Perhaps next season is more realistic and, in the long term, the most sensible option.
There will be live blog coverage of the game later on (kick off 8pm) so check back later for a post with all the details or bookmark the default live blog page. Updates begin as if by magic. But it’s not magic at all. Or is it? No, it’s not.
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Right, that’s that. Until later.