time for a quick Saturday round-up. Tomorrow’s game is obviously high on the agenda, and at his press conference yesterday Arsene spoke about the need to maintain our current run of form. He said:
In the last 12 games, we’ve won eight, drawn two and lost two. We have got 26 points out of 36. Our record in the Premier League is quite good. We go into every single match like it is a must-win game and we will have exactly the same approach.
I have to say I agree with Tim Stillman (from yesterday’s Arsecast) that this is a game which is one we simply can’t lose rather than one we have to win. I don’t think either side is good enough defensively to play for a draw, but if the circumstances of the match are such that we don’t have to go hell for leather to win it, then I hope there’s that bit of experience in the team that will do that.
Something else that’s kind of overlooked is that, remarkably, Arsenal have the best defensive record away from home in the Premier League this season. We’ve conceded fewer any other team, just 11 goals. In comparison, Man City have let in 13, Swansea 15, Man Utd 16 and Chelsea 18. It’s odd to think of this particular Arsenal team, one which has obvious problems with its defending, holding that record but it’s right there in black and white.
But while we’re also the leaders in terms of goals scored at home, we’re quite a way down the list it comes to scoring away from home. With just 17 we’re quite a distance down the charts, so that’s something we’ve got to put right, if possible. It would suggest that this is going to be a relatively tight affair but when you look back at some of the scorelines in recent years, it’s just impossible to know what’s going to happen.
Anyway, more on that game in tomorrow’s blog, but I have to mention Arsene’s wonderfully back-handed compliment when asked if Sp*rs were finally shifting the balance of power in North London, through the quality of players like Bale and … er … Bale. His response:
The quality of our displays will decide that. Spurs have always had good teams since I came here. They had Ginola and Anderton before.
Heh, Ginola and Anderton. Brilliant.
Elsewhere, some interesting stuff from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who says he’s aware of criticism of him this season, but that it’s something he’s got to use as a positive.
Sometimes it is hard to ignore, when it’s coming in the papers and your friends are telling you what people are saying. It is hard, but it’s all part and parcel of it. If you didn’t have people critiquing you, you wouldn’t find motivation.
I think it’s fair to say that he hasn’t really reached the level we’d have liked this season, but he’s far from the first, and he won’t be the last, young player to experience that. When you come into the team you’re an unknown quantity, opponents have no idea what you’re going to do, there’s no pressure whatsoever, and the exuberance of youth can be quite productive.
But then comes expectation, a need for consistency which, as we know, is not easy for a young players, and the learning curve becomes very steep, very quickly. It’s easy to forget he’s just 19 years old. Not every kid that age can be as mature as Fabregas, it does take time for them to find their feet, and some patience is required. The club have enough faith in him that they tied him down to a new long-term deal, and I think he’ll come good sooner rather than later.
Perhaps the one thing that’s holding him back slightly is the uncertainty over where he’s going to play. We know Arsene Wenger likes to start players out wide before moving them central, and he’s always said Oxlade-Chamberlain will end up as a central midfielder, but I’m not sure if it’s really that necessary. His best performance in an Arsenal shirt came as a central midfielder against AC Milan, and even if they were slightly complacent that night it was evidence that he’s comfortable there. Still, given the competition for that position at the moment, he’s got a lot of work to do to make it into the team. Nobody ever said it was gonna be easy.
Finally for today, a couple of bits and pieces. Firstly, Leopold Mendacious has been quiet recently because he’s writing his memoir. You can find an exclusive extract over on the real ANR – Camera, action, cut.
Now, time for breakfast, a trip up the mountains with the dog, then hope West Brom can make life at Chelsea even more hilarious than it already is. Back tomorrow with a full preview of the big one.