I was chatting briefly with the Mugsmasher (my Liverpool supporting brother, for recent readers) about this game last night and the conclusion we came to was that anything could happen.
He reckons one team is going to spank the other, he just doesn’t know who’ll be doing the spanking. Of course it could be 3-3 just as easily as 3-0 or 0-3; both teams concede too many but are capable of scoring too. We go into the game on the back of two wins and it’s a chance to make it three in a row before a relatively miserable January is left behind. It’s also a chance to put a bit of daylight between us and them, we currently have a three point advantage so doubling that would be no bad thing.
With regard to team news, Thomas Vermaelen is back but there’s no return yet for Mikel Arteta or Francis Coquelin who remain sidelined through injury. I suspect we’ll see the following line up tonight:
Szczesny – Sagna – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Gibbs – Ramsey – Wilshere – Cazorla – Podolski – Walcott – Giroud
It’s certainly possible that he could play Diaby in place of Ramsey but the Welshman has performed well in the deep lying position in the last two games and I’m not sure it’s a role that suits Diaby. Against a Liverpool side which will see Suarez drop back it means defensive discipline is important, and that’s not exactly Diaby’s strength. There was an injury doubt over Cazorla ahead of the Brighton game, so perhaps the Frenchman could play if Santi doesn’t make it, with Wilshere moving further forward in the central attacking role.
The ‘smashers arrive on the back of a pretty humiliating FA Cup defeat to Oldham and you can be quite sure they’ll be looking to respond. Arsene Wenger says of tonight’s game:
It is very important. I said after the Chelsea game we cannot afford to drop more points. That run starts now.
And, in fairness, a home game against opposition who have struggled at times this season is a good opportunity to get things moving again. You look at the upcoming fixtures and the three league games in February are ones which, under normal circumstances, you’d be looking at taking 9 points from, but defeats to Swansea, to Norwich and disappointing draws against Fulham and Villa mean you just can’t be sure of anything with this team.
Let’s hope that the Arsenal we saw against West Ham is the one that turns up tonight. With Walcott and Giroud scoring freely at the moment, Podolski chipping in and the likes of Cazorla and Wilshere capable too, we should have enough to cause them serious problems if we play the way we all know we can (in a positive way – obviously if we play the other way we all know we can it’s a different story).
I’m almost confident of three points tonight, come on you reds!
Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has spoken about his desire to sign another striker, saying:
As numbers we have enough. We have plenty of quality strikers. We could do with top quality, one more, but you have to find him.
When you speak about ‘anyone’ coming in, I could just go out and buy anyone just to give people hope. ‘Anyone’ to me means exactly what today the modern game has become.
And look, I know where he’s coming from. There’s absolutely no point in signing a player for the sake of just signing a player, or to placate fans who are anxious for signings. That would be the worst reason to sign anyone, ever. The difficulty is way he makes it seem like January is some kind of minefield when, in reality, clubs have months to prepare and scout and identify targets. It’s not as if everything has to be done the minute the bells strike midnight on Jan 1st. He went on to say:
I have to be strong enough to resist or you have a player for four or five years who will never play a game, just because you bring in an average player who you know at the start is average. If I do that, I don’t do my job.
And that’s a statement which will cause many an eyebrow to raise. Especially when you consider the likes of Chamakh (11 league appearances last season, 0 this one), Park (6 minutes of Premier League football last season, shipped out on this), Squillaci (10 minutes of Premier League football last season, 1 Champions League appearance in this campaign), and even guys such as Arshavin and Djourou, and players loaned out like Bendtner and Denilson continue to be on the books here.
Perhaps, as @Gunnerblog pointed out last night, it’s a case of [numerous times] bitten, twice shy, and I’d understand if that were the case, but you can’t really use it as a defence either. There’s a lot of talk about David Villa, Wenger said Barcelona were adamant they wouldn’t sell, and that seems to be end of that, despite unsubstantiated reports an £8m bid from our side. There’s just over 36 hours to go before the window closes, at this point the most action I’d expect is a couple of loan deals for young players going outwards, and nothing coming in, but I guess we could be surprised.
In other news, perhaps not coincidentally in terms of timing, the club have announced a freeze in ticket prices for next season. As this is a world in which prices are never, ever going to go down (not unless something drastic happens – you know, like a massive television deal which could allow clubs to make it more affordable for fans rather than spend that money on wages and … oh), this is the best outcome possible.
And if you haven’t already read Amy Lawrence‘s interview with Wojciech Szczesny in the Guardian then you’re missing out. He’s very candid about a lot of things, his own development as a keeper, the desire the team has to achieve things, playing under pressure and our defending. And it’s interesting to read him defend his defenders, if you will.
There’s little doubt in my mind they can, and should, do better, but how many times do we need to say it’s the job of the team to defend, not just the back five? When you look at Brighton’s second goal on Saturday, it’s Santos who got lambasted (and overall he had a poor game), but Diaby instructed him to cover a non-existent overlap and then failed to defend the cross himself. It’s all related. Anyway, it’s a very interesting read and heartwarming to see the affection he has for the club.
If you can’t see the game later, or if your timezone means you’re stuck in work, we will have full live blog coverage. Check back later for a post with all the details or bookmark the default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.
Right then, back later for that, have a good day in the meantime.