Since my last update, we’ve won away at Fulham and completed the rout of Fenerbache to take our place in Group F in the Champions League. The draw isn’t the the easiest one for us but it’s appealing to me. Having drawn against Marseille, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli beats playing against Sparta Prague or Dinamo Zagreb. It’s what the competition is about, playing against top teams around Europe and that is what we got.
At the moment though that will have to take a back seat. It’s the North London Derby weekend and probably the first time in a long time that we are going to be properly challenged by them. They have bought well during this summer transfer window, using the money that will fall onto their lap sometime next week when Gareth Bale completed his transfer to Real Madrid.
When you compared that to what we have done, it’s close to being baffling what we have done. Effectively, they have poured in that huge amount of money to make up the 1 point difference between us and them. While for the first time in many seasons that we’ve managed to keep our squad together, this was an opportunity for us to close the gap to the top of the league but our transfer inactivity made sure we just maintained status quo.
However, if I were to look at the recruits that they have brought in, would have to say that none of them are world class quality. Let’s call that the category A players, where people like Messi and Ronaldo comes from. Yet, there are no denying that their players are quality and will surely improve their squad. That is what we have been lacking. In our chase for the category A types, we’ve neglected the category B types which we desperately need to supplement the squad.
I say that because I believe that our best starting XI is comparable, if not better than Tottenham’s. An XI of Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Ramsey, Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Giroiud and Walcott will be a match for whatever XI they could come out with. However, beyond that, I’ve got to be honest and say that they have got better options than us. In a league campaign, that will be crucial when the final league standing comes into the equation.
We are already seeing the impact of having a small squad when one injury has derailed the team. Mikel Arteta’s presence is sorely missed, mostly because neither Aaron Ramsey nor Jack Wilshere is able to perform as well in that role individually or together. If AVB looked at the way Gabriel Agbonlahor caused us problem by running straight at us and instructs his players to do the same, we are going to fell Arteta’s absence even more.
That’s the only reason why I want to see Mathieu Flamini in the starting line-up. Here’s a player who deserted us before but seemed to have gotten a second chance with Arsene Wenger. Whatever the reason is, he’s the only one who is willing to take a card and commit a foul to deny the opponent the chance to advance further. Only midfielder that is fit, that is.
I think we’ll see Koscielny restored to the starting line-up for this match. Carl Jenkinson has not been able to replicate his early season form of last season and looks to be the casualty of that decision, with Bacary Sagna moving back to the tried and trusted right back role. With Podolski out injured, the rest of the squad picks itself out. Cazorla should move wide to cover, with Rosicky coming back into midfield.
Whatever else that is wrong with the club, it is hard to be critical of the response of the team since that opening day defeat to Aston Villa. 3 wins on the trot, with 2 of them coming on the road, makes for very good reading. We are in decent form and have only conceded a solitary goal in the winning run. Then again, none of the teams that we have faced thus far is of the quality of our opponent tonight.
I have always been confident about us finishing higher than Spurs, every season. For the first time, I have some lingering doubts about our capability to beat them. I hope I’m wrong. I hope we get in those quality players come September 2. I hope we beat them tonight.
Up The Arsenal.