Arsenal Have To Keep On Keepin’ On
Football returns with a trip to Goodison Park for Arsenal. Ten days have lapsed since victory over Newcastle propelled the club to within one point of Tottenham in third place and it is vital that momentum is maintained.
The manner in which last season corroded is a concern but Arsène is keen to point out the different circumstances,
It is different from last year because we had a lot of negative experiences then. We were in four different competitions and we were knocked out in three in the space of two weeks, and you are only human beings.
And with all due respect, there was a distinct lack of desire in the squad. Failure at Wembley – and the manner of the performance – raised awkward questions within themselves, the answers to which were not forthcoming. This season is different in a crucial aspect; the squad have been written off already, just not good enough. They have a point to prove to their detractors, voluble critics who refer to the start of the season without referring to the subsequent recovery.
Another lapse of form in January means that the point is not yet proven and it is this desire which is driving them on. Ironically, despite losing two key players in the summer Arsenal are on course to finish higher in the Premier League than last season.
A key factor has been the form and continued fitness of Robin van Persie. Still uncommitted on his Arsenal future, he is committed to the team and that is all that anyone can demand of the captain until the summer. In the event that he should leave, I think his final Arsenal season will viewed with a lot more positivity than that of his immediate predecessor as captain,
If you look at the last couple of weeks, we showed we have a lot of character in our side. After the two defeats to Milan and Sunderland, everyone was like ‘this is going to be a tough couple of weeks’ because we had games against Spurs, Liverpool, Milan and an international week and then Newcastle. Yet we won every game, so we showed lots of character. We can be proud of that.
Now we need to show that over a period of a whole year.
I am not going to enter into the debate about whether these are the words of a man who will or will not be staying. From the Cesc saga, we know that footballers at the highest level today are arch-politicians, capable of offering platitudes when the time requires. They do however underline that the Dutchman is a leader, capable of inspiring with words and actions rather than dolefully patrolling the midfield seeking the inspiration to inspire.
And tonight Arsenal will need van Persie firing on all cylinders. City, Chelsea and Spurs have all left Goodison Park with no points and no goals to their names this season whilst United emerged somewhat fortuitously with a single goal victory. Yet I am not sure whether that signals a resurgence for Everton or the inconsistency which has beset the top of the table this season. Perhaps a bit of both with tonight’s hosts able to rouse themselves for the big occasions but faltering when normality occurs. That is nothing unusual; it is the human condition.
For the match, it is hard to see the need or find any justification for changing the starting line-up. Santos is a week further into his recovery and rehabilitation but not in match fitness which is before we assess whether Gibbs has done anything to merit being removed from the side. The manager noted that Squillaci is back fit; I am not sure he will even be on the bench.
Perhaps Gervinho might add some directness but Oxlade-Chamberlain performed well against The Magpies. Indeed I venture that the youngster offers more defensively than the Ivorian.
It is midfield that will tax the manager’s mind more. Tomas Rosicky’s fecundity in recent matches has been pivotal to the attacking drive displayed; goals have been plentiful as the Czech has rolled back the years with his form, surely enough to warrant inclusion ahead of Aaron Ramsey.
Underpinning this is the manager’s reluctance to rotate for the short-term; Wenger’s changes tend to be for the longer stretch, not prone to worrying about the opposition domestically at least.
I would expect the line-up to be,
Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Rosicky, Song, Arteta; Walcott, van Persie, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Three points is all that matters tonight, a win to keep up the pressure on Tottenham especially with their visit to Stamford Bridge at the weekend.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.