Morning all, it’s still very quiet as we prepare for Sunderland tomorrow.
I suppose that’s because the players who were away came back yesterday in dribs and drabs, and after medical assessments the only real training session will be this morning. At that point the manager will have a better idea of who he’s got available for the trip to Roker Park.
The previous encounter with Martin O’Neill’s team came on the first day of the season, a 0-0 draw which we should have won really, but at that point new boy Olivier Giroud didn’t have his shooting boots on and put a good chance wide. At their place it’s been quite tricky in recent seasons, we’ve won just one of the last four meetings and that was down to a very late Thierry Henry goal last year. Anyway, we’ll get more on that game from the manager this morning when he meets the press.
We wait and see how bad Laurent Koscielny’s knock is, I’m hopeful that the lack of crisis/drama headlines means it’s not that bad, and hopefully Thomas Vermaelen will have recovered in time anyway. The captain is the only one making any headlines this morning with a couple of stories on the official site. The old ‘We can beat anyone’ and ‘It’ll be tough at Sunderland’ stuff isn’t really that interesting though.
Elsewhere Santi Cazorla says he feels comfortable at Arsenal because of almost Spanish way that way we play football (just missing the old ruthless efficiency and winning things). He says:
I have always been at ease on the pitch. In my case too, you do not notice much difference between Arsenal and playing in Spain, because we are also a side who like to play with the ball.
The boss has a philosophy of playing football, it is always trying to find attacking football, of having the ball and because of the characteristics of the players we have, it is what comes easiest to us.
Which is great but it’s implementing that philosophy on cold February afternoon on a pitch that looks like it has been churned up for a re-enactment of World War I that’s the issue. Last year the Sunderland pitch did for Per Mertesacker, a twisted ankle and he was gone for the season. I do think there’s more to come from Cazorla though; his effort is never in question but sometimes he’s a bit ineffective for a guy with his talent.
Given our position in the league, and the points required to finish in the top four, we really do need to start building some momentum. Guys like Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud have well and truly settled now. They know what to expect from English football and from their teammates, and vice-versa. We have to hope that this increased understanding in the final months of the season is enough to win the amount of games we’ve got to win to secure a top four position.
The competition is greater than it has been in recent seasons. Relying on Sp*rs being Sp*rs and collapsing is not going to do it, and even Liverpool are beginning to suggest that they’re going to be in the mix right until the end. Therefore, it’s incumbent on guys like Cazorla, one of the big talents in the team, to add a little more end product. Of course it’s not just down to him, it goes for everyone, but often it’s a player or two who drags a team kicking over the line they need to cross, and it strikes me Cazorla is one of those who could do just that. We shall see.
That aside there’s very little stirring until we hear from the manager, so a final reminder to get your questions in for Mikel Arteta if you’d like to win a pair of his new boots. We have to send the best questions in this afternoon, so there’s a lunchtime deadline. All the info is in this post, leave an ‘arse’ with your question and your Twitter account, and we’ll take it from there.
Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast and I’m joined by Gingers4Limpar to shoot the breeze about the week that was. There’s a play on an old theme, and the usual waffle. Please excuse my voice, it’s a bit wrecked, but for good reason which I explain in the ‘cast itself.
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 20mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode266.mp3]
Ok then, that’s that. There’ll be more throughout the day on Arseblog News, all the latest team news etc, so have a look or follow @arseblognews on Twitter for instant updates.