For some it was a mild malady that can be easily remedied with a victory, but for others, it was a stark symptom of the deficiencies that run through the team.
Regardless of what our loss to Everton underlined, tomorrow’s match at The Etihad against title rivals Manchester City doesn’t require more riding on the result – for either team.
Arsenal slipped up for only the second time in the league with the 2-1 reverse at Goodison in midweek, and the dropped points were compounded when all the teams in the mix at the top of the table took three points. It served to embolden how tough this league at the cutting edge really is, and also highlighted what high standards must be maintained in every single fixture.
These standards will be the least that is needed to overcome Pep Guardiola’s City side, who will be expected to pick up the points at home, and get back on track their own bid which has been waylaid recently with some erratic results.
For Arsene Wenger, he would’ve liked an easier fixture to restore some confidence, but sometimes the toughest tests bring out the best in teams, and this match will see some titanic match-ups.
Wenger will have the majority of his squad to call upon, but the longer term absentees in Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck are still unavailable – although Welbeck is a week away from first team training, which is a massive boost for the team. Aaron Ramsey and Shkodran Mustafi will both be sidelined also. Gabriel will once again stand in for Mustafi, and our midfield will be comprised of two from Coquelin, Elneny and Xhaka.
Ilkay Gundogan severely injured his troublesome knee in City’s midweek win over Watford, and he looks to be out for the season. Guardiola is also bereft of Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Kompany, through suspension and injury respectively. It leaves the Spanish boss with a need to shuffle, rather than rotate through a well packed squad. Their defence comprised of three defenders who were not centre-backs against Watford, but they will be boosted by the return of Nicolas Otamendi, and he will partner John Stones in defence.
The Citizens have been weak in defence, and Claudio Bravo has not aided this. His uncertainty and errors have been cause for concern, and aerially is an area that Arsenal could find gold. Our strongest threat in the air is Olivier Giroud but it looks as if the Frenchman will be on the bench. Giroud has a great record against City, and he has scored in his last four appearances against the blue half of Manchester.
We have plenty of options to attack City, but one bone of contention is who should be our starter on the left of attack? Alex Iwobi and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have both thrown down markers, but in recent weeks, The Ox has begun to show Gooners that one elusive skill he has never obtained – consistency. Whoever starts, they will have to go for the jugular from the outset, as we all know what happens when Arsenal give their opponents the opportunity to dictate play.
The Gunners have enjoyed a good record in this fixture – unbeaten in six – and must look to take all points, especially as spurs and United have both done the same thing this season. Chelsea will play today and if they extend their winning run, they will be a huge nine points above us before we play. It is mandatory we shrink that gap.
Petr Cech is one who will be vital to our hopes, and he will be more than aware that he has failed to keep a clean sheet for seven games – he has never gone eight games without a shut out. The Czech has not shown any poor form, but a top drawer Cech can be a huge difference and he will need to be in great form to keep out Sterling, Iheanacho, De Bruyne and Silva.
Before every Premier League game, the ramifications for defeat are discussed and what is clear is that we cannot afford to drop points. It is inevitable we will, but when we do slip up, it cannot snowball into a larger malaise.
We have slipped against Everton, but this is the perfect opportunity to get back on track and remind everyone that our credentials this term are far stronger than before. The same goes for our widemen, who were pretty anonymous and must exert their influence more on the game.
I fancy us for the win. Pep does not do defensive football, and both teams will go toe-to-toe. Both defences are missing key personnel and it will be down to who is sharpest in attack.
In that department, we enjoy a smidgin of superiority this season. Let us hope we show it in this game.
Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 Arsenal
Predicted Lineup: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin, Walcott, Ozil, The Ox, Sanchez.