So here we are again. Preview time. Simple enough really. Quote from Arsene maybe, team news, praise the midfield, predict a victory, wish everybody a good one. Job done.
Except there is a very different feel surrounding Saturday teatime’s visit of Manchester City in the wake of a drubbing at the bus stop in Fulham and a dire home draw with Swansea in the last week.
It has been open week on Arsene Wenger and one or two of his players on social media sites this week. Human nature being what it is for some there has to be more than a rational expressing of disappointment at the premature passing of a title challenge.
After a week of carefully controlled media exposure the boss came back today with more positivity than many who really would love to see nothing more than an Arsenal victory.
“It’s all to go for I think, for everybody. Everybody speaks about Everton coming back on us. Why should we then not come back on the teams who are in front of us.”
Of course he has to talk up our chances in public, and attempt to instill confidence and belief in his charges, but he must look at the injury list and wonder what he did to deserve reaching the pointed end of the season with eight players ruled out.
In truth probably only three or four would be considered for a start on Saturday. Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, and Theo Walcott are all big misses, squad-wise, and the much-lauded midfield now looks a little unbalanced as a result.
City arrive in impressive shape, fresh from a comfortable win at Old Trafford, and having apparently put right what ailed them on their travels earlier in the season.
On the face of it we are in for a long hard day but years of watching this game have left memories of sporadic unlikely triumphs against the odds. Quite what to expect tactically I don’t know. We have looked to have a very soft centre in the past week so possibly a more pragmatic approach such as that which earned us so many points at the tail end of last season.
Have we the players to keep it tight and hope to nick something on the break? It is a conundrum. Thomas Vermaelen is a natural replacement for Koscielny, but Dzeko will have noted the fact that Bony had the beating of the skipper in the air more than once on Tuesday.
In midfield do we go with the partnership of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini in order to try and protect or gamble again on the Ox who hopefully learned some big lessons at Stamford Bridge? Perhaps the young England international wil be used out wide again, with Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky for company?
Up front Olivier Giroud is getting among the goals again, but looked to be running on empty recently. Yaya Sanogo unsettled the Liverpool defenders on his first start but it would be asking a lot of him to do something similar against Kompany.
Depressed? OK, here is the bright spot. Accomplished as he is Kompany has been alongside Demichelis who isn’t the most assured defender. City are not watertight, although they have shown a devastating ability and willingness to outscore anybody. Keep it tight at the back and we might just see that little chink of light at the end of a very long tunnel come into view. Oh, and no Aguero, which can’t be bad.
So to the ‘holic pound. I’m steering clear of a scorecast. the away game ended 6-3 and could frankly have been any option up to 7-7. I don’t expect anything similar, but a punt on, say, 1-0 could very quickly be sunk. I’m looking at the 11/4 offered against an Arsenal win. It is a little skinnier than I expected but, ever the optimist, I have to take it.
The crowd will get behind Arsenal from the start tomorrow, and will remain so as long as they see the team giving their all. A win would earn them some breathing space ahead of another tricky trip, to Everton, next week. It might also make Twitter a happier place to be on Saturday night. That will make a refreshing change after some of the spiteful stuff of the last few days.
What was the last thing? Oh yes. Have a good one. ‘holics.