9th May 2016: Wenger on City, Welbeck and Wilshere

Welcome to a brand new week on TremendArse. Just a very brief post for you this evening because I’m as short on time as Jose Mourinho is on common decency and Tottenham are on league titles.

So straight to the reaction from yesterday’s draw with Manchester City at Etihad stadium and here’s what Arsene Wenger had to say on the game, and the prospect of finishing in third place in the table:

It was a very intense game where we had a difficult start because Manchester City came out very strong. We suffered a little, but every time we went down we showed character and came back twice in the game. Overall, I think Manchester City had good intensity in the game and there were a few times when we were in trouble, but we delivered a very strong performance. It (finishing third) is in our hands now but we have seen again today that we just want to finish the job with the result. That shows you that we have to focus and keep the focus. It is important to maintain that. We have had strong concentration in recent games and our character has been questioned a few times this season. We gave the right response today on the pitch, but you have to say if you look we have the best results against the top-four teams. That doesn’t come without character.

We may well have the best record against the top four teams this season (and without checking I can’t be sure, because Arsene’s been a little loose with the statistical truth recently – think his line about us being ‘away champions’), but this has been a bit of a Peter Crouch season – freakish.

I mean, beating Leicester home and away and managing two draws with Tottenham in any other season would be seen as a bare minimum achievement, if not slightly disappointing. Against the the usual top four suspects on the other hand, i.e the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool, we’s managed just two wins in eight games this term (at home against City and United), drawn three (City away and twice with Liverpool) and lost three times (twice to Chelsea and United away) – hardly form to crow about.

Moving on, the boss also discussed Danny Welbeck’s injury and Jack Wilshere’s performance, having sent the midfielder on from the subs’ bench as the former’s replacement yesterday. He said:

Danny Welbeck has a knee problem. I hope it is not too bad. We need to wait for a scan, I hope that it is not bad one and a meniscus. Danny is a strong boy, he is not a guy who moves out quickly. We tried to keep him on the pitch and straight away he tried to move on and he said it was impossible. At half time, I looked at him and he was very down so he must have pain. Lets hope we have good news tomorrow from the scan. When I say good, that means he will not be out of the Euros. The bad news would be if he is out of the Euros, but I don’t know. I’m an optimist. I don’t know if it is a lateral meniscus. Lets wait until we get the real diagnosis. I felt that he showed he is well prepared physically. Overall, I believe that his performance was encouraging and that he will benefit from this kind of intensity in the game. He didn’t have too much time to think about it, but that is sometimes the best. His performance was positive.

Danny’s injury, like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s last week, is obviously a cruel blow for the player with the European championships around the corner, but hopefully it’s not as bad as feared and the striker can still make the plane to France. Fingers crossed.

As for Jack, I thought he was visibly off-the-pace yesterday, which admittedly is far from surprising considering how long he’s been out injured. But regardless, he didn’t hide, got himself involved and the game-time will no doubt have done him the world of good as he attempts to reach peak condition ahead of the Euros and then what will hopefully, finally, be an injury-free campaign for Arsenal.

That’ll do for tonight.

See you tomorrow.

8th May 2016: Giroud and Sanchez score to secure draw at City

Welcome back. Arsenal twice came back from a goal down to draw 2-2 at Manchester City this afternoon and ensure that just a single point against Aston Villa in our final league game of the season will be enough to guarantee a top-three finish.*

As for our hosts, they now face the prospect of welcoming new manager Pep Guardiola to England without Champions League football, with bitter rivals Manchester United just two points behind them but with a game in hand.

Yet City began today’s match like I feared they would – on the front foot and seemingly determined to wave off their departing manager Manuel Pellegrini with a convincing win in what was his last home game in charge of the club.

After dominating possession in the opening exchanges, City’s pressure eventually told when Sergio Aguero gave them the lead on eight minutes. With Arsenal forced to defend deep and appearing unable to get out of their own half, Aguero quite brilliantly fired home a half volley past Petr Cech at the near post.

The fact the ball was slightly behind Aguero as he struck it, and he was using his unfavoured left foot, made it the kind of conversion that demonstrates how valuable it is to have a truly top-draw striker leading your line. Not many other strikers in the world, let alone the Premier League, would have taken that opportunity in my opinion.

Given the spankings we’ve suffered after conceding early in big games in recent years, a lot of fans would have been fearing the worst but remarkably, we were level just two minutes later thanks to the interventions of Gallic Gunners past and present. (Okay, so Nicklas Bendtner would have done, in his sleep, but apart from that ..)

First, Olivier Giroud controlled the ball brilliantly on the left of the box and clipped a hopeful ball in the general direction of Alexis Sanchez at the far post. Former Arsenal left-back Gael Clichy tried to head it back safely to his ‘keeper Joe Hart but misdirected and saw the ball bounce dangerously across his own goal-line, clip the far post, and go out for a corner. Mohamed Elneny took it and Giroud easily escaped the attentions of his marker to head home his first goal in approximately four-and-a-half years.

It was pretty poor game overall in truth, albeit one punctuated by very good goals and the next one arrived after the interval, by which point Danny Welbeck had long left the action after injuring his knee and being replaced by a far-from-match-fit-looking Jack Wilshere.

Kevin de Bruyne was the man to get it, picking the ball up midway inside his own half, running at the retreating Arsenal defence and firing low into Cech’s near post from about 25 yards.  Yes we could and should have defended it better but it was a great goal by a quality player to be fair.

Arsene Wenger responded by introducing Theo Walcott in place of Alex Iwobi and the former should have equalized after making a brilliant out-to-in run from the right to leave himself one-on-one with Hart, but miscued his finish. Yet we did get our second moments later. Sanchez picked up the ball from Nacho Monreal, played it forward to Giroud and continued his run.

The Frenchman, despite being very tightly marked, managed to somehow produce the most perfect first-time layoff back into Sanchez’s path. With the City defence parting like someone in their vicinity had let off a particularly rotten one, the Chilean whipped the ball past Hart and into the bottom corner first-time.

With over 20 minutes still remaining, I expected much more of a City onslaught given how important it was they won the game for their top four hopes, but it never really materialized and aside from a Wilfried Bony volley that rattled our cross-bar, the hosts never looked close to forcing a winner.

With Tottenham losing at home to Southampton earlier in the day, second spot remains in sight but we need Newcastle to beat our neighbours on the final day and for us to be beat Aston Villa. Given the Magpies could well be fighting for their Premier League lives, it’s not out of the question then, but either way, today’s draw means a win over Villa will guarantee us third spot and negate the need for an annoying Champions League play-off. It could be worse.

See you next week.

*our goal difference is 12 better than Manchester United.

7th May 2016: Second still in our sights as we head to City + Welbeck warning

Saturday greetings. Despite Leicester being crowned champions earlier and our top four place all but secured already, Arsene Wenger underlined the importance of winning at Manchester City tomorrow when he spoke at his pre-match press conference yesterday.

With Tottenham hosting a dangerous Southampton in the early kick-off on Sunday, before travelling to a Newcastle United side battling for their Premier League lives on the final day of the season, second spot is far from out of reach for Arsenal, even with just two games to go. But to give ourselves a chance, we’ll have to win both games and the boss says the “future of Arsenal Football club depends on this game”:

Sunday’s game is still important, even if Leicester are champions today and we are second best. It is still a very important game because part of the responsibility of being professional is to prepare the future. The future of Arsenal Football Club depends on this game. There’s a European Championship and there’s a Copa America [in the summer]. To get our players back, we made a schedule. It’s absolutely very difficult because the European Championship finishes on July 10. If you think that you have to give at least three to four weeks of holiday to the players who go to the end [of the tournament], that means they come back at the beginning of August. Our target now is to secure a position in the Champions League next year. If possible, to get second place or at least secure third place. On Sunday we can achieve that. We still have two games, and if we win those two games we will be alright.

In terms of how we might line-up, my guess is we’ll see a few changes to the starting line-up from last week’s win over Norwich. Gabriel will come in for the hamstrung Per Mertesacker of course, but I’m also expecting Danny Welbeck to be restored upfront in place of Olivier Giroud.

I think a change in central midfield is also very likely, with either Aaron Ramsey moved forward at the expense of say, Alex Iwobi, or dropped to the bench to make way for Francis Coquelin or even Santi Cazorla or Jack Wilshere. I hope so anyway!

This fixture last season was a springboard for a superb run of form in the calendar year of 2015 of course and Danny Welbeck, who missed out on the 2-0 win in January last year, says Arsenal’s game-plan that day was spot-on. He told Arsenal Player:

I remember watching it at home on TV with my family. The performance was outstanding, from the first minute until the last. It was a great team performance, everyone worked hard throughout the game and I think tactically we were spot on with how we approached the match. I’ve got some good memories [at Man City], and a couple of bad ones as well. I think it’s important to focus on the next game coming and make sure that it’s another good memory.

And although Manuel Pellegrini’s men come into the game off the back of a hugely disappointing Champions League semi-final loss to Real Madrid, Welbeck warns City will prove difficult opposition for Arsenal. The striker said:

For them to be going into a Champions League semi-final second leg and having the opportunity to progress to the final is a major situation. Them not qualifying will put a bit of a downer on their confidence but City have a great squad, a great team and have great players in and around the whole club. There’s a lot of players who can come in on the weekend and provide a very stern test for Arsenal.

Which is very true. Even without David Silva and Vincent Kompany, who are likely to miss the game through injury, City can still field a star-studded selection who may just want to thank Pellegrini for his management in what will be his final home game as City manager by putting in a top performance. Lets hope not.

COYG!

Back post-match.

5th May 2016: City team news + Lauren loves south Americans

Welcome back peeps. So City went out of the Champions League with a whimper in the end last night, as Real Madrid comfortably held onto their early lead to set up the second all-Madrid final in three years. Here’s hoping they’re just as lethargic and unadventurous when they host us on Sunday.

And as we build up to our penultimate game of the campaign, Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest team news in his usual Thursday update on the official site. He said:

From the squad that played against Norwich last Saturday, we have lost Per Mertesacker. Per is out for the remaining two matches with a hamstring injury. Everyone else from last week’s squad is fit and available for selection.

As expected then. I’m sure we’ll get more details on the selection front for the City game when Arsene speaks to the press tomorrow morning, but for now, some words from former Arsenal Invincible Lauren Bisan Etame Mayer, on where his favourite strikers tend to hail from and what he thinks Arsenal need to do to improve their chances of success. The Cameroonian said:

Sometimes a charismatic figure in the team can affect the rest of the players. I like South American strikers – Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain – players that always give full commitment. (Luis) Suarez, too. He scores goals, he comes back to defend, he’s got ambition and hunger – the player has to be charismatic so that the players in the dressing room look up to him like he’s an icon. We have to mix up technical quality with physical presence in some departments. I’ve watched many Arsenal games, I’ve been to the Emirates Stadium many times. We have to change the style of players in certain positions – centre-back, in the middle – we need more balance between physical and technical players. In the last few years we haven’t done that and it would be something that could improve the team. We need to buy a striker – I’m not saying that Giroud isn’t good enough – he’s done a good job, but sometimes you need a charismatic figure.

I for one wouldn’t argue with a word of that (not that I’d argue with Lauren about anything!). Our former right-back’s spot on with his assessment that we could do with a bit of charisma, class, brilliance – whatever you want to call it – at the tip of our attack and I share his like of south American strikers. The only trouble is, if you go through the top ones – Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Luis Suarez etc – they’re either unavailable or about to pass their prime.

Finally for tonight, Mohamed Elneny has been talking to the Arsenal Magazine about the family feeling at the club and how improving his English has helped him to settle in London. He said:

I feel like I have joined a big family rather than a football club. Everyone has been so welcoming, friendly and helpful ever since my arrival, and this has made my life a lot easier and has helped me adapt quickly to life at this club. The members of the family complete each other, from Arsène Wenger to the ground-staff. Even the club’s chairman is part of this family. I like to speak and joke with everyone and they all treat me the same. I consider them all as brothers and I am really happy about life here at Arsenal. Everybody around me speaks English and this helps me to improve my language skills. It’s completely different from Switzerland where they tend to speak German most of the time and only a few spoke English. I think people around me began to notice that I’m improving day after day. To be honest improving my English helped me a lot to settle in.

Two player of the month awards in succession offer an indication of how well Elneny’s been playing recently and given he’s still new to Arsenal and England, that’s not bad going from the Egyptian.

Remarkably, he already seems to have usurped Francis Coquelin as a first pick but with major reinforcement of the central midfield position expected over the summer, whether Elneny remains a starter longer-term is still far from certain. So far though, the former Basel man’s barely put a foot wrong and long may that continue.

Back Friday

4th May 2016: Champions League thoughts + Santi on comeback

Evening all. Sergio Ramos has just seen a goal disallowed for offside as I start to write tonight’s post, but his Real Madrid side already lead 1-0 at the Bernabeu against Manchester City in the second leg of the second Champions League semi-final thanks to a goal by Gareth Bale.

A single goal in response will suffice for City to progress as things stand but from an perspective, although the game will now definitely be decided in 90 minutes, so no fatiguing extra time, Vincent Kompany picked up an early hamstring strain tonight so looks sure to miss the game against us on Sunday. Mixed so far then, as far as we’re concerned.

The first last-four fixture was decided last night of course, as Atletico Madrid secured their place in the final for the second time in three seasons on the away goals rule despite losing the second leg 2-1 to Bayern Munich. Personally, I hope City make it through so we get to witness a final we haven’t seen before but also because I just don’t like Ronaldo very much. Yes he’s an alright footballer I suppose and scores the odd goal I’ve heard but the Brazilian version was the first and infinitely more gifted as far as I’m concerned.

On to Arsenal now and the big news is Mohamed Elneny has won his second successive player of the month award on the official site. Go Mo! Actually, the real big news is that Santi Cazorla has taken another huge step towards a first-team appearance after playing for the under 21s last night and grabbing an assist. The Spaniard spoke to Arsenal Player after the game and revealed his delight at being back on the pitch. He said:

I’m very happy to be back. It is a great feeling after five months. I need to keep up the hard work with my team-mates in the first team and I want to play the last two games. I would like to help the first team at the weekend against Manchester City. [Arsène Wenger] has the decision, but I will try to play at the weekend. We need to win the last two games as we want to finish in the top four. We need to fight until the end to try to get second place. If we win the last two games, we can do that. I want to help my team-mates.

After such a long spell out out injured I’d be surprised if Santi’s deemed match-fit enough by the boss to start at the weekend but then who knows? Maybe he’ll play from the off and reproduce that sensational performance he came up with in this fixture at the start of 2015.

It’s still 1-0 in Spain. Gael, Bacary and co need a goal and soon.

See you tomorrow.

30th December 2015: Wenger talks team news and transfers

Evening all. So after Leicester City and Manchester City played out a pretty uneventful 0-0 draw last night, Arsenal will enter the new year as league leaders for the second time in three years. Hopefully, this time around, we’ll still be top when it matters in May.

The second half of our Premier League campaign begins on Saturday of course, when we welcome Newcastle United to Emirates stadium and Arsene Wenger held his pre-match press conference this morning as we build up to the game. He provided the latest injury news as well as discussing potential January transfers, plus much more besides.

But first to team news and the boss revealed that “we might have (Mathieu) Flamini back”, and Alexis Sanchez is still unavailable but could be ready to return for the game at Sunderland a week on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Mikel Arteta is back in training but is lacking match practice so won’t play against Newcastle at the weekend, Tomas Rosicky is still three weeks away from resuming training, Jack Wilshere “could make it back for February”, and everybody else in the squad selected for Monday’s win over Bournemouth should be available against the Magpies.

Of course we could also have a new signing in Basel’s Mohamed Elneny vying for selection, should his transfer go through as strongly reported over the last few days, but Arsene stopped shy of confirming the deal, saying:

Unfortunately we cannot announce anything at the moment about this player [Elneny] because nothing has been concluded.

Given how guarded the boss usually is over potential transfers, that’s as good as him confirming the Egyptian midfielder is an Arsenal player. Arsene also repeated that he’d “be busy” when asked how active he’d be in he window, which suggests Elneny won’t be the only new arrival next month. But one man who could be heading out of the club is right-back Mathieu Debuchy, after Arsene said:

It’s not impossible [that Debuchy will leave]. I’m happy if he stays but we’ll see.

Considering how vocal Debuchy has been about playing regularly in order to force his way into France’s squad for the European Championships next summer, a move away makes sense providing we can find a replacement. Hopefully we won’t rely on Calum Chambers to be Hector Bellerin’s deputy because I’m still unconvinced he’d be adequate cover. But as Arsene says, we’ll see.

Moving on from transfers now, and as we approach the end of 2015, Arsene also gave his assessment on Arsenal’s form over the calendar year, pointing out his side have matured, enjoyed success in winning a second successive FA Cup, and are well positioned to compete for this season’s Premier League crown. He said:

From January 1 to December 31 we were consistent and have improved our results. The team has grown in stature, is more mature, more reliable and we won the FA Cup and the Community Shield. We are in a strong position in the Premier League so hopefully 2016 will be better. We are mature enough and we have the requested quality to fight and compete. The most important thing is to feel, at the end of the season, that we have given absolutely everything to be successful. After that, if somebody has been better than us, we will accept it, but we want to fight to show that we have a chance. The public opinion is not always stable, it changes a lot. It is always linked with the final result. We have to rise above that and show that we can deal with it. I believe we have to be guided by playing better football and being a real team in every game and show that we can be competitive.

And the boss followed up by highlighting it’s still far too early to call the eventual champions and suggesting several teams were still in contention, with Manchester City remaining the favourites because of their expensively-assembled, or as he called it, “glamorous”, squad:

We can have great solidarity in every single game and after that we have a chance. You cannot rule us out after 19 games. We have a chance and we want to fight for it. Everybody wants to predict who will win it at halfway but even for the most intelligent people [that is] impossible. Mathematically you cannot rule out anyone down to Manchester United. Can Liverpool still fight for it? I don’t know. We have a difficult programme and we have to focus on ourselves more than we have to look at who will be our main threat. We have to focus on our performances. City are the favourites still because they might have the most glamorous potential and they are not far behind. After that, Tottenham are not far behind and Leicester are still there after 19 games. You have to respect that and they also have no European competition. The gap is not big enough, nine points is not big enough to say that anyone is out of it.

It’s hard to argue with any of that really. City were my tip at the start of the season and although I think we have a great chance if we can get some of our injured players back fit and add a quality player or two in the transfer window over the next month or so, they remain most likely champions in my eyes.

Obviously my heart says Arsenal but at this stage my brain’s still playing spoilsport and reminding me Manuel Pellegrini’s men have the deeper squad in term’s of quality, plus a core of players who have won two of the last four Premier League titles. They have that all-important experience of lasting the distance players that have won it often talk about.

Whatever happens though, it’ll be intriguing to see how this crazy campaign concludes.

Back tomorrow.

22nd December 2015: Manchester City slain by aggressive Arsenal

Welcome back. What a win we ended up enjoying last night and what a performance by the boys. From the peerless Petr Cech in goal, all the way through the team to our tireless target-man Olivier Giroud at the tip of the attack. We were focused, committed, industrious, classy, clinical, but above all I thought, aggressive.

I was more nervous than usual pre-match but not just because of the quality of the opposition. Also because the game against Manchester City was our first ‘big’ test without our first-choice midfield pair of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin, and when the teams were announced, we learned Alexis Sanchez hadn’t made the bench after all and was out of the squad completely.

Our starting line-up was as expected though, with our first-choice back five intact, Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey in the middle of midfield, Mesut Ozil flanked by Theo Walcott and Joel Campbell, with Giroud leading the line.

Also as expected, without a ‘passer’ behind Ozil, we struggled to find fluency in our build-up play in the opening 30 minutes of the match and, to me at least, it felt as though City were the likeliest to open the scoring. Particularly when Sergio Aguero sent Kevin de Bruyne racing through on goal around the half-hour mark, only for the Belgian to shoot past the post with David Silva in space square of him, begging for a pass. Per Mertesacker’s positioning undoubtedly played a part in De Bruyne’s decision to go it alone but in fairness, it was a massive let-off for Arsenal.

So having nearly conceded, we then took the lead ourselves just a minute or two later through Walcott. The move actually began with Ramsey in possession in midfield and gesticulating his frustration at a lack of options to distribute to. He eventually settled for playing the ball back to Laurent Koscielny, who looked up and in an instant found Ozil in a pocket of space with a pacey pass. The German tried to find Nacho Monreal on the overlap but Walcott intercepted the pass, teed himself up, and unleashed a ferocious, side-footed curler into the far corner beyond the reach of Joe Hart.

‘Just get to half-time without conceding’, I was thinking, as the clock ticked towards the interval, but we went one better and doubled our lead in added time before the break. City’s Eliaquim Mangala tried to find a team-mate from his centre-back position but Walcott picked up possession, fed Ozil and he effortlessly found Giroud who’d peeled away from his marker to the left. The Frenchman shot low and hard, stunning the ball through Hart’s legs and into the corner before wheeling away in celebration.

I thought the goal owed as much to the industry and determination of Campbell on the right in the build-up to Mangala’s misplaced pass, as it did to Walcott’s quick distribution, Ozil’s sublime assist, and Giroud’s intelligent movement and unerring finish. Work hard, get lucky. Or something.

City, who in my opinion had done a pretty good job of stifling our attacking play, largely due to their deployment of Fabian Delph just in front of Hector Bellerin to stop the full-back’s usual forays forward, found themselves two down having played pretty well for most of the half.

The second period was inevitably a more open affair. They replaced Delph with Raheem Sterling at half time and there were chances at either end, with Campbell firing over for us when he should have hit the target at least, and Wilfried Bony, I think, placing a header straight into Cech’s hands at the other end.

Then with around ten minutes to go, Yaya Toure pulled a goal back for the visitors with an exquisite left-footed strike into the top corner following a one-two with Bacary Sagna. That signaled a nervous end to the game for anyone Arsenal but thankfully, we held on to go four points clear of City and close the gap on leaders Leicester to just two points.

I would highlight individual performances but that would be unfair because it was a genuinely outstanding team display. The one disappointment on the night was the news that Sanchez has suffered an injury set-back, will miss the festive fixtures and be unavailable until mid-January.

On the bright side though, he’s finally getting a rest and if last night is any kind of gauge, we’re strong enough to beat any side in this league, with or without our brilliant number 17.

Til tomorrow.

21st December: Premier League Preview – Depleted Arsenal v Replenished City

Temperatures may have taken a tumble around London today, but Arsenal have a chance to turn up the heat on all their title rivals when they host Manchester City in a couple of hours’ time.

The big team news ahead of the match involves arguably each team’s best attacker. City are expected to welcome back Sergio Aguero to their starting line-up, with the Argentine reportedly scheduled to play for an hour as he eases his way back from a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, our very own south American dynamo, Alexis Sanchez, is of course also returning after a hamstring complaint. The Chilean’s expected to play some part in the game as a substitute but is unlikely to be ready to start the game.

Bar their captain Vincent Kompany, City look set to name what is probably their best XI, with the likes of Joe Hart, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne all available. In stark contrast, we’ll be without several key players, with Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere, and Danny Welbeck all missing.

I’m highlighting the varying fitness fortunes of the two sides not as some kind of early excuse-making exercise, but because I think it’s worth reminding ourselves that we have a new-look engine room in Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini, which is still bedding in and we’re facing what I think is the best squad in the the league outside of London Colney. So if we win, the three points will be all the sweeter, but if we get beaten, a little perspective should be applied. Can you tell I’m nervous?

In terms of form, we’re unbeaten in our last four meetings with Manuel Pellegrini’s men, having won two and drawn two since that infamous 6-3 defeat at Etihad stadium two years ago. This fixture ended 2-2 last year, with Wilshere and Sanchez putting us 2-1 up after Aguero had given them the lead, only for us to concede a soft headed equaliser by Martin Demichelis with less than ten minutes remaining.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference last Thursday, Arsene Wenger discussed the importance of keeping our “good run” going, as well as what sort of game he expects this evening, saying:

It looks to be very tight. We have played 16 games and the top team is on 35 points, so it means that the Premier League could be decided at around 80 points. If you look at the results it looks as though the consistency will be the main priority in this league because every week you are surprised by the results. We have really established a good run so for us it’s important to continue that. It is a massive game [on Monday]. When we play at home you want to win because we are ambitious and we feel we have the chance to come out in a strong position after Christmas. It will be a very tight game because if you look at the numbers since the start of the season, offensively and defensively the numbers are very close. Manchester City has huge individual potential with David Silva and Sergio Aguero coming back and so we will need a top, top-level team performance.

And talking to Arsenal Player, Arsene built up the game as a “significant moment” in Arsenal’s season and suggested his side would be well-prepared going into the game, having had over a week to train and fine-tune tactics since our win at Aston Villa:

It is a significant moment. It is a big game that you play at home. We have beaten them last season and it’s an opportunity that you want to catch. Over this Christmas period, we play three times at home, so it’s very important that our home strength comes out over this period. The [eight-day] break was welcome because it gave us a little opportunity to have a recovery period first and then prepare precisely for the game on Monday. I would say we’ve had enough time to prepare well for the game. We had a very demanding week last week, with two away games that were tricky. Olympiacos was a long trip and Aston Villa were physical as well. We needed to rest first. The team performance has to be spot-on [against City]. Tactically, you have to be right. Overall, you have to find a good balance between defending and attacking. The collective process has absolutely got to be right. You have individual quality on both sides as well. They can make the difference and on the day they need to have their special day to make the difference for you.

As I mentioned yesterday, a draw or a defeat this evening is in no way defining for our title hopes, yet just as a win over City in January this calendar year seemed to springboard us into winning consistency over the proceeding 11 months, let’s hope a win for Arsenal this evening will be a similar watershed moment, and we kick on and finally end our long wait for the Premier League crown.

See you on Tuesday.

COYG !!!!