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Arsenal’s last throw of the Dice and a Drink in the last chance Stamford Bridge Saloon, without many of our regulars –

Well, it looks like the last throw of the dice, doesn’t it? Drinking in the last chance saloon for Arsenal.

To say I’m hugely disappointed in where this season seems to be heading would be stating the bleeding obvious. I’m also angry. At myself, first of all. Yet another season I’ve allowed myself to buy into Arsenal’s title challenge. I’ve been sold a pipe dream once again. You would expect a smart person to be ready for this on the nth take. Which doesn’t reflect well on me, at all.

Yet there are still 15 games in the league to be played and Arsenal will play all of them. They will also play the minimum of three cup games. So I guess I should pick myself up and go about covering games in the usual manner.

Team news update

We find ourselves slap bang in the middle of a midfield crisis. Xhaka will be serving the 3rd of his ban, Elneny’s Egypt made it to the AFCON final, meaning no Mo today, while Aaron Ramsey has picked up a calf injury which rules the Welshman out of action for three weeks. Poor Santi is not even in training yet.

Yet another muscle injury for Ramsey

Arsene was asked (understandably) on the decision to let Wilshere go and that was his answer:

“I would like to reiterate that we didn’t push him out. He wanted to go somewhere and play and I agreed with that. He wanted to go because he saw the level of the competitive players we had in midfield and let’s not forget we have as well Xhaka suspended, so there’s a huge level of competition. I accepted to let him go and we have to deal with the consequences of that.”

On top of all that Ox and Giroud are facing late fitness tests, however Arsene expects both to be available. With that in mind, let’s see how we can line up.

Squad

I’m sure we’ll see Bellerin reinstated on the right (what a ridiculous decision it was to play Gabriel ahead of the Spaniard on Tuesday), while Cech, Kos and Mustafu remain where they are. I wonder if it’s worth introducing Kieran Gibbs for Nacho to deal with the threat of Victor Moses, but somehow I don’t think Wenger will do that. Which is a shame, Nacho has been turned inside-out by fast wingers on a number of occasions this season.

Should AW start Gibbs?

The midfield picks itself. I will be very surprised to see anything other than a trio of Coquelin, Oxalde and Ozil there. I’ve seen quite a few suggesting we give AMN or even Jeff a go (in place of Coq and Ox respectively), but I’m not sure it’s a great idea to throw the youngsters to the wolves in such a way. All this leaves me bemoaning Xhaka’s stupidity to leave us stranded for four games. Ramsey is fast becoming synonymous with muscle injuries, while his fit spells leave a lot to be desired, so I doubt I’d be feeling calmer with him available.

The front three is where we can, and by all accounts should, do most of the tweaking. Welbeck was clearly saved for Chelsea, so starting him seems the obvious thing to do, Alexis is certainly going nowhere, but against a rather static back three of Chelsea’s I’d pick Lucas Perez on one of the wings. Theo also remains a good option, but I think the Spaniard’s efficiency as of late should be rewarded. I won’t hold my breath though.

Predicted line-up: Cech – Bellerin – Mustafi – Koscielny – Monreal – Coquelin – Oxlade – Walcott – Ozil – Alexis – Welbeck

Give. Him. A run

The verdict

I have to say my expectations are pretty low going into the game. We are a team with a makeshift midfield, we fell of our bike again vs Watford and, quite frankly, there’s a familiar air of mental frailty about us this season. On top of all that we face a well-drilled Chelsea unit, which dropped very few points since losing to us back in September.

While Chelsea are having a blinder of a season, it’s hard not to spot that we aren’t. We asked the big teams (Tottenham and Liverpool) to rob Chelsea of points and both sides duly delivered. How did respond? By dropping exactly the same amount of points playing Bournemouth away and Watford at home. We miraculously rescued one point from two games we should have won comfortably. This is shambolic beyond words.

We made our own bed and we’ll have to lie in it. I will keep everything I can crossed that we have it in ourselves to beat Chelsea once more and somehow have a say in this one-horse title race. However should we fail to win tomorrow, it’ll just be the final nail in the otherwise ready coffin. And most of this coffin was built in January.

Come on you Gunners. Do something meaningful. Please.

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2 Responses to Arsenal’s last throw of the Dice and a Drink in the last chance Stamford Bridge Saloon, without many of our regulars –

  1. Victor Thompson February 5, 2017 at 3:52 pm #

    Sorry Alex, I read the other article from you before this one, but if you read my article before the game you will have seen that I have said almost exactly what you have here. I too expected Welbeck to play and I hoped that a place of some sort could have been made for Perez. You are right that Wenger cannot motivate the players any more and his tactics are incomprehensible. If the team`s mental attitude has not been right, then it must be a hell of a lot worse now. We face a hard time coming up including our Nemesis Bayern Munich so I am not looking forward to seeing a disillusioned demoralised team walking out to face them.

    Other teams get beaten and still wont feel as bad as ours because season after season ( especially this one ) we are led to believe that we really have a chance to win the top prize. When we hit the wall in January and we end up scrapping to stay in the top 4, it is hard to take. That is what Arsene Wenger has been serving up for the last 5 years at least and there is no doubt that if he does not resign this year, it will be the same next year. We have now only won 1 game out of 8 against the top 6 teams. We seem to have a permanent inferiority complex against them and we turn up with `chocolate knees`. We need a complete replacement of the team for men who don`t carry the scars of past defeats against Chelsea, Man U, Man City and Liverpool. If we don`t we are going to drop between 10 and 15 points every year.

    I know that it is unrealistic to expect to replace an entire team but we have to have a spark to change their attitude and Wenger can`t provide it. We need a new manager/coach, particularly one who can actually shape teams to play to a constant method not a hit and miss fingers crossed way of playing which Arsene personifies.

    • Alex February 5, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

      Thanks, Victor.

      You make valid points, re our team and Arsene’s role in the current position. I still hold out hope we’ll be able to spark against Bayern because it’s a different competition and we may be able to switch mentally from one to the other.

      I feel the biggest problem this team has is no clear plan on how to face their opponents. Sometimes they go as far as walking onto the pitch thinking they’ve already won, aptly proven wrong by Bournemouth and Watford.

      That’s why I think we don’t need a squad overhaul to change that, just the manager switch. We need someone to come in and do what Conte did at Chelsea. Make players work hard, be ruthless with those not up to scratch. Above all, provide the team with a clear vision of how to win games and set them up in a way for it to actually be achievable. Conte didn’t need to overhaul a team which played poorly last season to get it going.

      As always, thanks for reading. Hope you are well.

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