we are one game from achieving the board’s target of achieving Champions League
football for 2013/14. All that separates us from wrapping up a remarkable
turnaround since the North London derby in March is a win at St James’ Park.
happiest of hunting grounds but our record isn’t too bad as our last two
fixtures at St James’ have both ended in draws and that’s playing it down for
obvious reasons, in fact the last time won there was in 2009 thanks to goals
from Nicklas Bendtner, Abou Diaby and Samir Nasri in a 3-1 win, quite the trio
I hear you say.
there’s various directions I could take this blog, I could reflect on
‘that’ game at St James’ but I won’t – they still sell the DVD to this
very day you know. I could look at the dislike that exists between Alan Pardew
and Arsene Wenger and how that could be a factor but I’m going to look at
our big selection poser ahead of Sunday’s game – who plays centre forward?
Now before the Wigan Athletic game, I would have
said (pretty confidently) that Olivier Giroud would have returned to the side.
The side was lacking a physical presence, a focal point if you will as our
front three appeared to be becoming more and more disjointed. Also, our
number nine was taking time to find his feet back in the centre forward
role. However, Lukas Podolski contrived to put a monumental spanner in the
works. He bagged a brace and both goals were well taken. His first, a point
blank header but it personified composure, he knew all he had to do was
get it on target and he’d score, which he did. The second was a deft finish
past a marooned Joel. I’m sure he’ll feel a little aggrieved that Aaron Ramsey
elected to give Joel ‘the eyes’ and not roll the ball to Pod who was lurking to
smash home his third. He did look a bit miffed and rightly so, strikers crave
goals, the easier the better. Podolski was subbed (standard) late on against
Wigan but was it his lack of fitness or was Le Boss saving him for Sunday? The
big bonus for Lukas is it does take time to reintegrate back into a position
that you rarely play in. The role of left winger and centre forward require a
lot of different attributes, especially from a physical perspective.
Sometimes things take time and he’s been afforded three games to
show what he’s all about and he delivered.
So ahead of Sunday though who do you pick? A man
who on his third consecutive start found his shooting boots or a man who
hasn’t started a game in nearly a month? It’s a tough one, and one I’d decide
on who is more effective away from the Emirates? Why? Because some players are
comfortable a home, a method used in the George Graham scouting regime. The
majority of games would be scouted away from home because you find out who your
real characters are because it’ll demonstrate their level of ability in
a hostile environment. Mind you I’m not sure Jimmy Carter or Eddie
McGoldrick could have ever come through that assessment. So here are their
records in the Premier League away games this season:
Minutes Played: 862
Minutes Played 1223
I’m a fan of Giroud, I think he’ll become a very
useful player at Arsenal but for Sunday, I’m leaving him out of the starting
eleven. Despite that he will obviously come on win, lose or draw due to Pod’s
inability to see through ninety minutes. He’ll still have a massive part to
play, he might be the one to seal us Champions League football. However looking
at the stats, it would be quite easy to say their records are both poor (and
they are) but Giroud’s record is woeful and we need to go with the man who has
the greater confidence. I’m sure there will be those that have brandished
Podolski’s play as lethargic or lazy but the simple fact is strikers are there
to score and his confidence will be higher after Tuesday and he’ll be raring to
go this Sunday. As last week’s blog proved, opinion can be divided on different
aspects of a players attributes. Tomas Rosicky does lots of build up play,
pre-assists, tackling but little (I mean no) end product. Podolski may well be
a lazy centre forward who scores goals, which is more beneficial? I just can’t
trust a centre forward who has one goal in just over twenty hours of Premier
League football. Admittedly it’s difficult to compare stats on them because the
German has only played as a striker once away from home (Queens Park Rangers
In football it can be as simple or as difficult as
you want it to be. I was quite relieved that Wenger didn’t make many changes to
the side on Tuesday and we seemed to benefit from the continuity. We are
playing a side whose safety was secured due to a win at QPR but they’ve lost
3-0 and 6-0 in recent home games, defeats to sides who are 17th and 7th in the
league. Surely we’ll be too strong for them? How could it possibly go wrong? I
know, it can and it probably will at some point. My biggest concern heading
into the game is Wojciech Szczesny, I still can’t trust him, despite two
quality saves from Loic Remy and Arouna Kone in his last two games, he’s also
accompanied it with a bizarre moment dealing with a back pass that put us under
pressure and also he seemed to lose concentration when Laurent Koscielny had to
make a remarkable interception because if he hadn’t Kone was heading home. I
also apportion a lot of blame at Szczesny for the 4-4 catastrophe, he often
appears to think the ball is a live grenade and invariably we never benefit
from such rash decision making. A mistake on Sunday could cost him his Arsenal
career, after all if it were to cost us Champions League football there’d only
be three months to hyper analyse it on twitter, can you imagine? That said we
have been here before and hopefully the side use that experience to our
advantage. One more win, that’s all we ask.
Until next Friday, by for now.
I’m a 30 something year old Gateshead lad but thankfully my Dad is a cockney and he put me on the right path in life, taking me to my first Highbury game at the tender age of six.
Despite my obvious geographical disadvantage I am a season ticket holder and I attend quite a few away days as well.
I like to express my opinion which resulted in me starting a blog. I’m delighted to be part of the WTTGT team and you can read ’The Michael Jeffares Column’ every Friday without fail.