So, what now? The answer is obvious enough: the Premier League is where it’s at. That’s all we’ve got. It might not feel particularly great at this moment in time, but it’s something to play for and something to target.
I’m not going to suggest that finishing in the top four is any kind of trophy, clearly it’s not and the insistence on misusing that particular quote is an irritation, but whatever we’re going to need to do this summer would be more easily achieved if we have Champions League football. Those that suggest finishing outside the CL places would be some kind of ‘wake up’ to the club won’t find an ally here.
Hoping for that means hoping Arsenal lose games and drop points and however bad things get I can never, ever want that to happen. It’s going to be difficult, the next three fixtures are Villa (h), Sp*rs (a), and Everton (h); followed by a trip to Munich and then a short hop to Wales to face Swansea. I know pride and the fact there’s still the slimmest of chances will ensure we take a full squad to Germany, but I’d be almost tempted to play a bunch of kids in that game.
Almost. What’s important is that we try and build some momentum. We’re unbeaten in our last 4 league games and we’ve kept a clean sheet in the last two. For me, the important thing is for the manager to play his best team at all times. There’s no real call for rotation unless a player is absolutely knackered or in danger of picking up an injury. No opponent can be underestimated given our propensity to self-destruct.
I’d like to see more of Tomas Rosicky, I have to say. We’re a team that’s too static, too stand-offish, and he gives us a bit more energy and is the kind of player who can set the tempo of a game. At times last season it was like we took our cue from him. His constant movement, with and without the ball, harrying and pressing, was an important feature of our best performances, and we’re lacking that at this moment in time.
Bar maybe Wilshere, there’s nobody else really like that in the team, and if you look at Abou Diaby, for example, he’s almost the opposite. Although he’s certainly got the ability to get between the lines and drive us forward, his fitness issues mean that’s a rarity and he ends up playing safe. Which slows us down, which makes it easier for the opposition to get organised and we saw how that hindered us last weekend against Blackburn. When you have a player who suddenly burst past two or three into space and create a bit of panic (as well as provide a decent through ball – right, Gervinho?!), you’ll find creating chances easier, as well as getting on top of games.
It might mean dropping somebody who has played most of the season, or slightly changing the shape of the midfield, but that’s not a bad thing in my opinion. We can’t keep picking the same players and hope that now they’ll click. They’ve had most of the season and still not found much in the way of consistency. If adding Rosicky to the team works, then great. It gives us another option, means we’re stronger and probably have a bit more on the bench too should we need it.
If it doesn’t work, well at least we tried something. There’s a real inflexibility about us this season. Substitutions are usually like for like. Gone are the days of chucking on forward after forward to chase an equaliser/winner, sacrificing a defender to really go for a game. That’s as much down to personnel and the lack of squad depth as anything else, but I think it’d be more risky to play it safe and hope that more of the same will somehow undergo a transformation and kick us out of the funk we find ourselves in.
As blue we all feel right now, there are still 36 points to play for this season and we’re only 4 behind Sp*rs. Beat them at their place, after a win against Villa this weekend, and things start to get interesting. Of course there are a lot of points we might potentially drop as much as we might win, but whether your glass is half full or half empty, the reality is we need to start winning games and quickly.
It might not be what we wanted from this season, but it’s what we’ve got.
Arsene will meet the press later ahead of tomorrow’s game against Villa. We’ll have updates on Arseblog News, and it’ll be interesting to see how his mood is. He wasn’t in the best of form earlier this week after the Blackburn defeat, Bayern will hardly have done much to improve that, although I guess it’s down to the questions he’s asked.
I suspect, after what has been said and written this week, that some of the questions may verge on the uncomfortable. We shall see.
Bonus reading: Tim Stillman – Cereal offender.
Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast and joining me to discuss Blackburn and Bayern, as well as everything else that’s gone on this week, is Amy Lawrence. As usual plenty of sense is talked (by Amy, just to make that clear), and although it’s hardly the cheeriest discussion in the world, given the circumstances, it’s well worth a listen.
You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here 22mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode268.mp3]
And that’s yer lot for this morning. Back tomorrow with a preview of the Villa game. Until then.