With all of that in mind I couldn’t have picked a better time to make a trip to England to see my beloved Arsenal play. Circumstances insisted that I make the trip for this game though as we lost one of our regular crew in a tragic accident late last year and a gang of us are meeting up to raise a glass or two in his memory and watch the team he loved too. As usual our watering hole of choice will be the Tollington as we meet up for a fair few beers before and after the game and the chance to reminisce about Darren.
Who knows what we will be treated to on the pitch by Arsenal, but surely it has to be better than the debacle at Bournemouth last week. The team had no shape or drive and it came as no surprise when Bournemouth turned around our lead to take the three points. What was most annoying for me was that they had to do very little to beat us and we had virtually nothing to offer after going behind.
Sure we were missing some very good players, but what’s the point of having players in the squad if they can’t come in and do a job when they get the chance. Since that defeat Theo Walcott has gone on his merry way to Everton and we look bound to lose Alexis Sanchez to United before the window closes too. Who comes in is anybody’s guess, but knowing Arsenal the player or players won’t be signed until the eleventh hour.
I can’t even bring myself to discuss the Sanchez situation and it’s reached the stage where I just want him the hell out of my club. We need a replacement in at once and the longer he stays without playing the worse it is for a team that desperately lacks quality. We are being linked with players who have that quality and I really hope we can get at least two of them, but experience has taught me not to get my hopes up too high.
At least we will have a few players back in the squad for today with Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal fit to play and Mesut Ozil possibly available too. There are doubts over Ainsley Maitland-Niles who has been sick and that seems to be it in terms of changes from the team that played so badly last week. It would seem our only additional attacking option is Ozil if he can play, but he is the player who can really make a difference. I would be very surprised to see Sanchez in the team, but maybe his inclusion might just help to speed his departure and the arrivals we so desperately need.
I would be very surprised if both Koscielny and Monreal didn’t come back into the team despite the second leg of our Carabao Cup semi final coming up at home to Chelsea on Wednesday night. We need to get some sort of result today to try to regain some confidence ahead of that game against Chelsea and that means playing the strongest team we have. I’m not exactly impressed by the Carabao Cup as a competition, but it’s probably our only hope of a trophy this season.
We just about managed a 3-2 win at Palace over the festive period and that was their only defeat in their last 12 league games. They have been transformed in that time and have recovered from the awful start to the season they had with relegation now looking less likely for them with each passing week. Our home record isn’t bettered by many teams this season and it has been a very long time since we failed to score at home in the league.
Palace have players who can do us a lot of damage on the break or when they turn the ball over in front of our defence and we all know they are Arsenal’s current biggest weaknesses. They have struggled away from home since the start of the season, but they have turned that around and are unbeaten on the road in five games with clean sheets in three of those games. Only Brighton have scored less away goals though and we have to feel we can outscore them if it turns into a shooting match.
I have little or no confidence in Arsene Wenger’s ability to get the best out of these players any more, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Whatever the performance I’ll be there cheering them on from first minute to last and I hope to see a performance that would have made Darren a happy man. I’m looking forward to a great day even if I’m nervous that the football will be the only let down on the day.
That’s it for today.
See you tomorrow.