Right, we can sit here moaning about Arsene, Arsenal, the weather, the economy, and all the rest. Instead we have a game to prepare for, players and supporters alike. It’s become quite an important one too. Consecutive defeats have once again cast us into what looks like being an incredible tussle for second to sixth places in the Premier League.
Under normal circumstances one would think that Hull City at home would be just the sort of fixture to provide a timely boost for all with the club in their hearts. Wouldn’t you know it though, the Tigers have found their claws under the management of Marco Silva, manager of the Olympiacos side that shocked us 2-3 at the Grove last season.
Their last four league fixtures have brought victories against Swansea, Bournemouth and Liverpool, plus a draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford. They also beat United in the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final. A point tomorrow could lift them out of the relegation zone and all three points could elevate them three places up the table.
They do have problems ahead of the match. They have lost skipper Dawson and Hernandez to calf and hamstring injuries, and of course Mason’s recent skull fracture at Chelsea has weakened them further. It’s not all negative for them, however. Like us they welcome an Egyptian star, Elmohamady, back from their near miss at the African Cup of Nations.
For the Arsenal of course it is Mohamed Elneny who is back and hopefully fit enough to make a start in our beleaguered midfield. I wrote the other night in favour of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting the nod ahead of Francis Coquelin, who reportedly has a hamstring niggle, in the other berth in front of a back five that has warranted some thought this week.
Hector Bellerin would be a gamble at right-back, despite his return to full training today. Gabriel may be preferred to the alternatives to replace him despite a couple of dodgy performances last week. Laurent Koscielny and Skhodran Mustafi should get the chance to make amends for a less than convincing display last week, but Keiran Gibbs cannot be far from a recall at left back while Nacho Monreal searches for form and confidence. Petr Cech is expected to start behind them although few would be against a promotion for David Ospina right now.
The front four will likely still be Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil, and Alexis. Danny Welbeck would be a preferred starter for this fossil, but I’m sure he’ll get at least twenty minutes to lift the mood in the stadium, if required. Talking of which there has been much selective quoting of Arsenal Wenger today in the press and social media. Why should I not add to it?
“This is a decisive moment of the season and it is important as well that the fans are behind the team or we’ll have more problems. That is very important. This is not the time to go the way the media want us to go, but be behind the team and help the players to perform.”
Despite my personal view that he might consider making this season his last I think some are in danger of losing view that we all want what is best for this club, that we will all differ in our views of the best way forward, which isn’t a crime by the way, and we all have a role to play in setting an atmosphere in which these players can deliver what we crave. Yes, Arsene is right when he acknowledges that the team have to do their bit too.
“I am not fool enough not to know that the first priority is us and our dynamic inside the team that will create and facilitate the support of our fans. That is down to the quality of our performance.”
The ‘holic pound
The players can react to the furore of the last few days in one of two ways, obviously. An early goal to lift the crowd could lead to a convincing win, but there is the nagging doubt that Hull will set up to frustrate. A draw would be a great result for them and anything more on the break or from set pieces would be an absolute bonus. I have a feeling they may take some breaking down, but if we do ease the pressure with a second-half opener then we could go on to clinch it with a second (from Danny Welbeck?).
The 2-0 home win is also the bookies favourite outcome too, so only 13/2. Maybe have a couple of pounds on it this week?
It will be a snowy early morning start here if the forecast is to be believed, but the white stuff isn’t expected to make it to the capital. It will be a wee bit fresh though, so if you are not one of the ten thousand or so predicted to stay in the warm rather than take up their seats at the Grove do wrap up and be prepared.
Wherever you are watching, have a great one, ‘holics.
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