If you would allow me, let’s travel back in time a bit. Not that long, just to the start of December where we are hoping to maximise the games and earn 3 points from most of the games, if not all. Just a week into the month and we have not gotten a single point out of this month. The chance to comes again today, against WBA, who is sitting steadily in a position twice better than us (in this case, means half since the smaller the number, the higher up the table). It’s early December but this has since become a must-win game.
We’re not even halfway through the season and there will be plenty of time to catch back up on the points, if needs be. However, the importance of the game is perhaps best reflected in the context surrounding the situation at the club now. Contract negotiations that are heading nowhere, are not news that any supporters would greet. Especially not if the players are ones that could impact the team, if we lose them. However, if the club are not giving out derisory offers to players but still get rejected, then I have no qualms about letting these players go. It’s not like there’s more that the club could do.
It’s also good to see some honest assessments from the players in regards to their current situation. Defensive fallibility is there for all to see and it’s also acknowledged by the players within the camp. We went forward in search of all 3 points last week but left the back door irresponsibly unguarded. The midweek game in Greece also suggest that the lack of awareness and discipline runs deep within the squad, not only affecting the first team players. For now, we have our main full backs and goal keeper back, we have more or less the first choice defence available.
Mikel Arteta’s frank interview here, also reflects that the players not only understands the fans’ frustration but also willing to dig deep to overcome it. There’s a feel to the team solidarity, that much is undeniable. Perhaps more than the previous seasons but that is hard to judge due to the different circumstances surrounding each season. It’s all good looking back at videos of our performances and analysing it, but it makes no difference if we cannot find the solution to it. Even if the team do find the solution, without application, it would not improved either. We have to rediscover our shape from the early part of the season and make that a norm rather than an outlier.
Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott will be missing from the game. Both, joins Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny and Andre Santos in the recovery group. Hopefully these players will come back fit sooner, rather than later. However, we will not be able to utilise them for today’s game, we’ll just have to depend on the players that are available. That would suggest that Gervinho be retained in the starting line-up, despite another error-strewn performance from him against Olympiacos. Arsene Wenger tends to prefer him, if other afore-mentioned choices are not available but I’m hoping the manager doesn’t make the same call again. In his place, I’d rather see Andrey Arshavin be given a start. The Russian didn’t start in midweek, and I’m hoping that is because we were saving him for today’s game.
Quite what is bothering Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, is beyond me. The youngster who showed the most promise last season, has so far failed to shine when given the opportunities this season. Maybe he’s not 100% fit, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because he’s having a stop-start season due to injuries. Maybe there’s complacency in his game, after all the praise he got last season. Wenger has to sort out the problem with AOC because at the moment, he’s not producing the goods. Though, it could very well be because the opponents have studied up his game and knows how to counter him.
Today’s game will not be a straightforward one. If matches are played out on paper, we would win most games. As it is, Steve Clarke’s WBA has proven that they could give any side, a run for their money. Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson is the backbone of their defence but they will be missing Ben Foster in goal. Youssuf Mulumbu and Claudio Yacob are the hardworkers in midfield and they are perfectly complemented by the artistry that Chris Brunt, Zoltan Gera and James Morrison. Up front, they normally start with the energetic Shane Long before pulling the buffed Romelu Lukaku from the bench.
However way you look at it, WBA has a very steady team that works hard for each other and can often produce that little bit of magic from their more creative players. Morale will be high for them and the opposite for us. If our team wants to draw the confidence and energy from the supporters in the terraces, they will have to put in an effort. After which, I’m sure the supporters will reciprocate in kind. Massive day ahead, let’s hope we can do it.
Up The Arsenal.