Sunday, December 10, 2023

Today we play football against another team

Man City’s win over Chelsea last night pushes us down into fourth place, although we have the chance to go above them again with a win over Crystal Palace later today.

It’s a game that should matter more than it actually does. For the players and the manager, who speak of how you never know and how they need to keep going, it’s a matter of pride above all else. Realistically what’s left this season is seeing how far up the table we can finish, but there’s little chance of it being especially meaningful. I’d be delighted if my words came back to bite me in the arse, but at this point I’m not especially hopeful.

In terms of the team, Petr Cech has to come back in for David Ospina in goal, and aside from that it’s hard to envisage any changes. The manager might be inclined to restore the Mertesacker/Koscielny partnership in the centre of defence. I think it’s our most naturally balanced central defensive pairing, and with Palace clearly targetting that area it’s worth thinking about.

Alan Pardew says:

We will put pressure on their centre-halves every opportunity we have. It’s well documented that their set-piece record isn’t great defensively, and that we are the best, so they are going to have to defend at least on four five occasions against the best team in the Premier League at set-plays. So that’s where we can really test them.

Of course they have a big lanky bollix up front in Emmanuel Adebayor, who will surely be looking to be a massive pain in the hole because that’s what he’s really good at. I believe his nickname is ‘Piles’. He’s caused us problems before, so adding that bit of extra height might be a good thing, but as we said after last week, it’s not just down the central defenders – stopping their chaps making crosses has to be the first thing.

Other than that it’s hard to see any other changes, unless he feels that playing two ‘defensive’ midfielders at home is a bit conservative, and he brings Aaron Ramsey back into the centre. It’s very difficult to summon up much in the way of excitement for this one. It all feels very flat but hopefully we’ll see a good performance and get the right result. I always like when we win, regardless of anything else.

Arsene Wenger says:

I’ve told my players our responsibility, our challenge, is to fight in every match until the last minute of the season. We have to rectify the fact we conceded at West Ham and come back to being strong defensively.

Let’s see how they respond to that.

Elsewhere, The Mirror report this morning that Theo Walcott is ‘fed up’ being on the bench and wants a move this summer. It’s pretty standard Sunday fare, no quotes or anything, so you have to take it with a pinch of salt, but I’d be quite happy if that were the case. Sell him, buy somebody better – and before I get accused of being anti-Walcott, that’s my point of view when it comes to every single player.

That said, Ten Years of Theo – which sounds sadly like the novel Gabriel García Márquez never managed to write – is quite enough for me. ‘On his day’, people say, which is very true. On his day he can be electric and he can score some fantastic goals, but consistency is the thing.

‘On his day he can be a wonderful bus driver’, says Coachy McCoachface, the owner of the private bus company that employs Walcott in another life. ‘He gets from A to B in great style, but unfortunately those days when he drives it onto the pavement, down embankments and into people’s gardens mean we simply have to let him go. Some days he doesn’t even turn up.’

It’s a bit like that for me.

Francis Coquelin talks about blowing the title. Sort of. And I need some more coffee. We’ll have a live blog for you later, check back and stuff, and a last call for this week’s Arsecast – it’s good listening, and all the links you need are here.

Until later.

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