That’s all fine and good, Arsene, but how do you plan to make it happen? Do you rotate into our very (very, very) depleted squad to find some freshness or do you stick with the team that beat Manchester City (and Aston Villa and Olympiakos) but was turned over like a rotten sea creature on the South Coast?
Maybe it’s time to break out the hair dryer and give the team a blast? Or at least be prepared to give one to referee Roger East (who?) if he starts refusing to see all the fouls as Jon Moss did down there on Boxing Day.
The 4-nil drubbing we took in that one cannot all be blamed on the ref. Wenger needs to fix that which got broken and turn it into a real one off. We cannot allow all the great work done by the (very depleted) squad to be undone by that lopsided scoreline.
Thank dennis, then, that Pac-Man Clyde has another bite at the cherries, as it were.
Hey, that’s a nice pair of cup-cakes!
Indeed, Arsenal need to get back to eating more festive fare after the meager rations they were afforded the day after Christmas. What looked a plump and luscious bird (of a team) after soaring to victory over Manchester City less than a week ago now appears more like the carcass of a Christmas Goose. Southampton, at least, fed nicely on our skeleton squad, a group unable to provide anything close to what was needed on a day historically associated with charity.
Some Gooners, of course, will want to pick over the bones, too. Others will come to the stadium (or nestle in on the sofa or belly up to the bar) ready to yell for their team to right itself and get back to winning ways. How about you?
With so little time between matches it could be all about mental preparation. How shall we look at AFC Bournemouth?
Coming from the Football League in 2009 all the way to the PL this year, Bournemouth’s rise IS a great story. Moreover they seem bent on staying up and they have notched some impressive wins in this crazy season. Surely they will come to our stadium with belief that they can repeat those heroics. Having already won at Stamford Bridge (and beaten Manchester United at home and West Bromwich Albion, away, in even more recent matches) they cannot help but be buoyed by our dismal showing yesterday in their South Coast neighborhood.
Additionally, the Cherries have found their best form recently, and, even if they sit only 3 points out of the relegation places, they are a team which hasn’t lost since 7 November. It’s been a remarkable run of matches which has also included very late goals to draw with Everton as well as one in the win over Chelsea. Most recently, yesterday in their Boxing day fixture, they won a point in a gritty nil-nil vs Crystal Palace.
As a promoted team up from the Championship, their game is built on attacking and scoring goals. Manager Eddie Howe may not be the youngest manager in the league (that honor goes to Alex Neil at Norwich–which shows just how hair loss can affect how people view you…) but he’s got his young, almost ‘no-name’ group (unless of course you include Adam Smith–not an economist–and Charlie Daniels–not a fiddle player) working together as a very tight unit with a decidedly youthful flair. Assuming Bournemouth will be anything less than fully committed and very, very dangerous heading into this one, seems only a notion for the casual or (dare I say it?…) spoilt Arsenal fan.
By contrast, Wenger (no longer the oldest manager in the league now that Hiddink is back) has a squad, which, after boxing day at least, looks in need of a collective zimmerframe. He wants a response but sometimes deaf ears also belong to those with weary bones. Can we do it? And if so, how?
Unfortunately, reinforcements from the physio-room or the transfer market are not available even if Egyptian midfielder Mohammed Elneny is said to be headed there (to the physio-room, for a physical, supposedly on Wednesday) from Basel FC for some 5 million pounds.
Does AW try to get more out of the same players who have started the last four matches or does he try to mix things up, reserving a couple of regulars as bench options?
Given the quick turnaround from the last one (less than 48 hours!!) I think he must go with the latter but still force several of our strongest players to play long minutes. Here’s my look into the crystal ball.
Subs: Ospina, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Flamini, Campbell, Iwobi, Reine-Adelaide
I’m calling for bench places for Mertesacker, Flamini and Joel Campbell, guys who did very well in getting us through most of December, but who also appeared (to my eye, at least) ineffective at Southampton.
My line-up also moves Theo Walcott to the right flank of our attack and brings Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in on the left. To me, this might allow a bit of preparation for Theo if Wenger chooses to use both him and Olivier Giroud in later matches. Joel Campbell has done well on the right but surely he (and the Ox) will give way when Alexis Sanchez returns to the squad. By using the Ox, another (mostly) right-footed player in Alexis’ usual starting spot on the left flank, it should help not just Theo but the entire squad hold their shape just that tiny bit extra, a key, I think, in this match.
Chambers and Gabriel, players who might tend to sit back or at least are less likely to get caught too far forward, might also help us avoid our undoing from Boxing Day: letting the opponent score the first goal. Southampton were the first team since the North London Derby to net one before we did. I believe that if we can get the first on Monday evening, we can claim full points. We’ll still need full focus over the entire match, but the lift an early goal would provide would be incalculable–especially compared to the grumbles (or worse) which might come if Bournemouth were to score first.
So, discipline and defending first but still plenty of fire-power up front. Our squad is in a bit of a lifeboat scenario here, just trying to get across to January. The last thing we need is further deflation and/or leaks.
So, go on then, you Gunners, blow it up!!
(You Gooners should do likewise too. Tell me if you think I’m on the right track or if, I too, could use a little air…)