October 24, 2012
As if it wasn’t bad enough getting humiliated by Norwich City Football Club at the weekend, the Norwich branch of Friends of the Earth have steamed in late to kick us while we’re down by criticising our decision to take the plane to Saturday’s match. Their spokeswoman said:
It is absolutely absurd.
I cannot see any reason why they would have flown, other than it being a rather ostentatious display of the players’ and the club’s wealth.
She clearly doesn’t know Arsenal Football Club. For us an ostentatious display of our wealth was that time we openly gambled on the signing of Amaury Bischoff. Yeah, we knew it was a risk. But we just thought, you know what? To hell with it. Let’s flash the cash anyway. Suck on that, Roman Abramovich.
Considering we usually take the train to away matches you would have thought we’d generally score quite highly with Green groups. Are there that many global sports franchises that book their away travel on thetrainline.com? Apparently train services were cancelled for last Friday and there were concerns over road delays so the decision was taken to fly. We only spent 15 minutes in the air but judging by the performance on Saturday we’ll be trying to prove that jet lag somehow played a role.
We’ll have no such excuses tonight as we’re back at the Emirates to face FC Schalke in the third Champions League group game. If Lukas Podolski has his way all the players will have their Oyster cards out for a short bus ride down the Holloway Road and hopefully that will leave them better mentally prepared than they were at the weekend. While we struggled at Norwich, Schalke notched a great result, beating Borussia Dortmund 2-1 away from home so any ideas that tonight’s match might be an easy one should be banished straight away. They’re third in the Bundesliga. We’re ninth in the PL. If anything we’re the underdogs.
I don’t expect many, if any, changes to the starting line up tonight. That’s mainly because the injury news is the same. Laurent Koscielny is back in the squad and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is out but apart from that we’re as you were. There’s been talk of Serge Gnabry making an appearance tonight after he missed Monday’s U-21 clash but if he does so I think it will only be from the bench. Saying that I would be quite surprised to see Gervinho continue on that right wing after Saturday. To be honest I think I’d rather see Aaron Ramsey out there and maybe Coquelin moved into midfield.
Regardless of the personnel we’ll be looking to show a bit more zip and urgency in the final third. The plodding nature of our attacking play was depressing at the weekend and we need to see quicker passing and more incisive movement from the front three. As Arsene Wenger said yesterday:
We made more than 600 passes in that game and I watched it again twice and they defended very well. We were not quick or sharp enough to create chances.
First of all, for anyone who doubts Le Prof’s commitment to the cause – he watched that game again twice. He sat through that turgid display three times in total. He’s a better man than me. Hopefully he saw enough to be able to fix the problems and we might see slightly fewer sideways passes this evening. As he also notes, it would help if we didn’t concede early again:
After 20 minutes they were 1-0 up and we made it easy for them. It’s now four times that we have been 1-0 down – against Montpellier, Chelsea, West Ham and Norwich.
You win one or two times, but one time you will lose because the team who is there to defend thinks, ‘Now we are in a strong position, we can really focus on defending’. That’s what they did. We are guilty of conceding the goal in the way we did.
We do need to be sharper at the back and Vito Mannone will be feeling the pressure right about now. The headlines this morning are ‘Wenger keeps faith in Vito despite blunders’ but let’s be honest, if there was another senior ‘keeper to pick at the moment I’m not sure that faith would still be there. When Szczesny recovers from this mysterious ankle knock he’ll be straight back in the team but Vito has to be determined to at least make that feel like a slightly difficult decision for the boss. It can’t be easy being a second string goalie at a big club, to be expected to perform only when the first choice is unavailable, but unfortunately that is his job. He has to come out tonight and show what he’s got because the club needs him.
Right, I’ll be taking the tube to the game as usual tonight so hopefully I won’t fall foul of Norwich Friends of the Earth. And hopefully the bloke in front of me will have laid off the chicken tikka pies. Those things must produce more greenhouse gases than a whole fleet of private jets.
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