So, United’s inevitable win against a team managed by an old-boy means they’ve got a 10 point gap at the top of the table. It’s not as intimidating as it might be, given we now have two games in hand before today’s and have to face them ourselves, but it means that anything less than three points today and the fat lady will be singing like a … erm … fat lady singing to signify the end of something.
I don’t think it increases the pressure on us at all, certainly not in a way that should affect our performance, because we know what needs to be done today, regardless of any other results. We must win. Whether it’s by way of a fantastic, scintillating performance that will restore some badly needed confidence, or by scrapping a scabby 1-0 with a goal so flukey people will point and laugh at it for years, it matters not.
This team has to get back to winning ways. Arsene says the events of the last few weeks have left the team in a curious mental state:
When what happened to us happens, you are in grief and the spontaneous side of your game goes a bit, and that is why goals have dried up a little. It takes time to recover. We have not given up, but it is not as easy and spontaneous as before.
Strikes me that grief is something that should be saved for the end of the season, and even then it seems a bit melodramatic. These are professional footballers, grown men. It’s natural to be affected by losing a final, by going out of the cups, but don’t let it weigh you down like that. We cannot allow ourselves to be so stricken, especially with so much football still to play.
In terms of today’s team, we have Cesc fit and ready to start, while there are doubts about Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna. Alex Song is out. So, if I had to guess I would say we’ll line up: Almunia – Sagna (Eboue) – Squillaci – Koscielny – Clichy – Wilshere – Diaby – Cesc – Nasri – van Persie – Walcott (Arshavin).
Tough to guess with so many doubts but we must see a performance with more energy and drive than the Blackburn game. I spoke during the week about how often sheer effort brings reward and if we’re going to play ourselves out of this slump we need to put in a real shift. There’s an onus on the big players, the ones who can get us goals, to step up and drive the team on, but in terms of an overall strategy working our nuts off is the very least of what we can do.
I have to say I’d quite welcome the manager going back to something of a 4-4-2 for the final part of the season. Or at least use that when necessary. It’s all good and well throwing on strikers when you’re chasing a game but to see those strikers hugging the touchline makes little sense. It’s a formation he seems more comfortable with as well and I think we’ve got the personnel to pull it off if required. That kind of a change is unlikely today, but maybe a bit more flexibility in terms of our formation would be no bad thing.
Blackpool, well they’re on a poor run with just two wins in 2011. The way they play football should suit us. They know that trying to defend and defend won’t work for them so they have a go. Their games tend to have plenty of goals, often at both ends, and we know from earlier in the season that we’re capable of giving them a going over. On the days it clicks for them, however, they’re pretty effective so from a defensive point of view we need to be mindful.
Anyway, the bottom line is we need to return to London later on with three delicious points. Anything less means the black cloud that already hangs above us is going to start raining. And the rain will be Phil Collins piss.
For live blog coverage of the game, check back a bit later on for a post with details, and remember if you fancy a flutter on the game check out our Arsenal odds page which gives you the best prices from a range of bookies.
Not much else going on really. There’s plenty of talk of clearouts but really that has to wait until the end of the season. In The People Gael Clichy kind of says he wants to stay at the club while Everton say they’ll sell Leighton Baines. Two and two equals whatever. As for the ludicrous News of the World story linking Jack Wilshere with a £40m move to Man City, the less said the better. Other than to suggest the NOTW need some better fiction writers.
Right then, time for some breakfast, then we’ve got a season to save. Till later.