An international break is normally not welcomed by fans, but last weeks hiatus from Arsenal was a relief for most.
Two wins in the last seven games – and those were earned against non-league opposition – has seen the sharks circling around the club, smelling blood. With Arsene Wenger still to declare his future and our best players assessing their options, our slide down the table has taken something of a back seat.
The Premier League is back today though, and tomorrow sees our league position put in the balance as we take on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
With Everton playing before us, we could well be in 7th place before we take to the pitch, and with our opponents already seven points ahead of us, there really seems no other viable alternative but victory if we are going to kickstart our rise up the table. No more false starts. No more underwhelming displays. Anything less than 100% will see us defeated again and eating the Top 6’s dust.
We have some injuries to contend with as well as the crippling lack of confidence that is rife through our squad. Petr Cech suffered a calf injury in our last game, so David Ospina will take the gloves for this game. Lucas Perez is another who will miss out – although even when fit he doesn’t play – but Mesut Ozil is expected to come back into the side after a reported back injury.
City will still be without starlet Gabriel Jesus after he broke his metatarsal, but with Sergio Aguero in their squad, it’s not as if the Brazilian’s absence will be heavily felt. They may have to do without playmaker Kevin DeBruyne as well, but their strength in depth is one of the best in the league, and with David Silva in their team, they will not be impacted too much.
The Gunners have lost their last two Premiership games 3-1 – Liverpool and West Brom were the opponents – and the players on show during these games were far from at their best. Lacking fight and verve, they have been ripped apart at times. The West Brom game was particularly damning. Seventy percent of possession and just two shots on target tells everyone that something is missing. At times we made look the Baggies look like world-beaters, and top of the agenda must be arresting this awful run.
Next up would be sorting out an established midfield. Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka have all been rotated, used with other players and there has been a distinct lack of gelling. A run of games for a prospective pairing must start soon if we are to start climbing up the table.
We have plenty of options in attack for this game, and Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck will be fighting to start the game. Alexis Sanchez is a surefire start – even though his ankle was in dubious condition before he played two games for Chile – but whether he will go on the left of attack and leave the striker berth for Olivier or Danny is up for discussion. With City’s backline their one obvious weakness, a correct selection could well be the difference between defeat and victory.
We must get back on track – and now. The room for error is now gone, it’s time to show our pedigree.
Predicted lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Xhaka, Walcott, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck
Predicted Scoreline – Screw it, I’m going for a 2-1 win for us.