Saturday, 11 February 2017

Arsenal v Hull City Preview

Last Saturday's defeat to Chelsea is still fresh in the mind and yet it seems so far away. It's been a difficult week since that game and there can be very few excuses offered for the lack of fight in the second half in particular. The league has to be beyond Arsenal now and that means it's back to the annual fight to finish in the top four.

There is of course the side issue of the trip to Bayern Munich on Wednesday night for the first leg of the Champions League round of 16. It would take a brave man to predict anything other than yet another exit at this stage of the competition for Arsenal. Despite all this I find myself writing this preview on the Air Coach on the way to Dublin airport as I make the way to see my beloved Arsenal take on Hull City.

Let me make it clear that Arsenal always have been and always will be a part of me no matter what league they play in or how badly they might be doing. It doesn't matter who owns the club or manages it, my heart will always belong to Arsenal and I'm quite fond of the wife and kids too. I'll meet some good friends today and have a few beers before and after the game, but I'm making the pilgrimage out of devotion to Arsenal.

There's the usual requests for programs for those not as lucky as me to make it over. Right now I'm in dire need of coffee and food, but those extra few minutes in bed at 3am always seem worth it when you press the snooze button. I've no doubt I'll pick up something overpriced in the airport, but it's my own fault. 

I'm listening to a Ska mix on my phone as I write this and the prospect of Arsenal and listening to some great music makes me exceedingly happy despite the hour. I was that guy moving in time to the music at the bus stop at 3.30am as others made their way home from their night out. I thought my earphones were pretty obvious, but it still didn't stop those stumbling past from trying to start a conversation with me.

Anyway, I digress and this is meant to be a preview of a game Arsenal quite simply have to get three points from. The defeat to Chelsea was bad enough, but it was preceded by a defeat at home to Watford and the first half display in that game was one of the most abject displays in a long time. It seems we have become a team who perform for one half of a game all too often and if we don't get our business done in that half then we're in real trouble.

Hull won at home to Liverpool last week and drew away to United in their previous game and they kept a clean sheet in both games. They might still be in the bottom three, but the arrival of Marco Silva has been exactly what they needed and I would be surprised if they were relegated. He has a very good record in his short managerial career and he certainly knows how to get the best out of his players even if he doesn't tend to stick around for too long.

This week has been dominated by speculation about Arsene Wenger's future and he has been a fantastic manager for Arsenal for over 20 years now. There have been highs and lows of course, but I think the tide may have turned and it could be best for all if he didn't take up the offer of the new contract at the end of this season. Change can be scary, but I think Arsenal need a change even if things don't immediately improve if he goes. Not every team can be successful every season, but I think things cannot continue as they are and a change is essential at this stage.

Having said that I still greatly admire the man and what he has done for the club and I will never abuse him here or on social media. I cannot see what can be gained from the abuse which some people throw in his direction and it only helps to further divide an already split fan base. It can't help the players either, but you can only hope as professionals they can ignore it.

I don't imagine there will be too many changes from the team last week despite virtually every player under performing. I would like to see Mohamed Elneny, Danny Welbeck and/or Lucas Perez come into the team, but it's not really about who plays and more about the attitude and commitment. Hull will more than likely sit deep and hit us on the break as they did so well in beating Liverpool last week, but maybe they might have the audacity to come at us like Watford did in the first half. We didn't have a clue how to deal with that as we obviously hadn't prepared for a team having the nerve to take us on on our own patch.

We need the players who went missing last week to stand up and be counted and it's worrying that Alexis Sanchez has suddenly had far less influence than usual in his last few games. The contract situations of both him and Mesut Ozil are extremely worrying and it's becoming more difficult to believe they will be Arsenal players next season. For me I think they would have tied everything down before now if they were staying and we will have to sell them both at a cut price this summer with only a year left on their contracts if they don't sign up very soon.

Despite all of this I'm still looking forward to the game as I always am when I make the trip. I'm an optimist at heart and I always believe Arsenal will win no matter who they play or where the game is. Today is no different and I think we will get the job done no matter how messy or ugly it might get.

Hopefully Hector Bellerin will be able to return after his injury last week and I'm still struggling to believe that the so called "pundits" to a man didn't think it was even a foul on him. The rules of the game clearly state it was not only a foul but a red card for Marcus Alonso and Chelsea's first goal should not have stood. Where the game might have gone after that is another matter, but you cannot rewrite the past. As a person who has suffered concussion playing football I know how dangerous it can be and I wasn't allowed to play for three months after my concussion. I hope we don't rush him back too soon and his welfare has to be of paramount importance.

I'll leave it there as I near the airport and the inevitable queue for security before I finally get that cup of coffee. My final thought for the day is that the team need the fans behind them in good and bad times and it's too easy to turn on the manager and/or the players. I just hope they can get the support they need today and use it to put two bad results behind them as they build towards at least a strong finish to the season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment