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.
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.
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.
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
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.