Welcome back. After league-leaders Leicester City lost 1-0 at Liverpool this afternoon, we now have the chance to go top of the table if we can win at Southampton in a couple of hours’ time.
More importantly in my opinion, a victory would also restore our four-point cushion over Manchester City, who eased to a 4-1 home win over Sunderland earlier.
In terms of how we’ll line-up at St Mary’s, it’s unlikely we’ll see any changes to the starting selection from Monday’s win over City, and if we can produce a similar performance, we should enjoy our trip to the south coast a lot more than we did our last visit around a year ago.
On that occasion, we lost the match of course and Wojciech Szczesny was infamously caught having a crafty fag in the dressing room. It’s a game Arsene Wenger discussed when he spoke to Arsenal Player earlier in the week, saying:
Every loss hurts – and that one has not gone out of my mind. It was a bad moment for us but also a turning point because we responded very well and overall, in 2015, we had a very consistent year on the result front.
And Arsene also explained how Monday’s win over City has seen the confidence of his side burgeon as they approach tonight’s Boxing Day battle with the Saints. He said:
The vibes coming out after the City game are that we are a real team who want to work together, play together and are ready to fight to achieve a result. I believe you cannot cheat the crowd. The crowd was maybe better than ever but I’ve always said that to get that, the vibes coming from your team need to be absolutely spot on. We missed passes, we missed goal chances but you could not fault the attitude of any player at any second. As a unit for 90 minutes, the desire to earn your right to win, the desire to commit completely was the most satisfying [facet] of the night. The confidence following a victory like the one against Manchester City of course increases dramatically. What you want to maintain is the urgency and remember how much a defeat hurts. You have to take the positives out of a game to believe in your strengths. That balance between confidence and urgency has to be right.
Let’s hope we get the balance right in every sense tonight and secure the win that will take us to the summit.
But moving away from the game now and onto a bit of transfer speculation with the January window opening in under a weeks’ time. John Cross in The Mirror reports Arsenal have agreed a deal to sign Basel’s Egyptian central midfielder Mohamed Elneny and the deal should go through shortly after the window opens.
I must admit I’d never heard of the player before this morning but having indulged in a spot of YouTube scouting, I like what I see. A lot. Great control, pacey, mobile, aggressive, can pass, appears to have a shot-and-a-half on him from long-range and at 23 years of age, can still develop and improve. Plus if the report is accurate, he’d be relatively cheap at £5m and so we have little to lose.
The Mirror’s report has also been, er, mirrored by The Telegraph this afternoon and they suggest the fee may rise to £7m but talks are progressing well, personal terms with the player should be straightforward and Elneny will be eligible for the Champions League after Basel were eliminated in the qualifying rounds of this season’s competition by Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Right, kick-off is fast approaching so I’ll leave it there.