OK, at last, here we are once more. Arsenal.
I had a scratch of the old noggin and realised – to my dismay but not surprise – that todayâ€™s match is my first game since Barcelona, and my first league game since Everton on 1st February. Thatâ€™s two months off league football, Iâ€™ve had: Iâ€™m almost hoping to be picked to watch the England U21s over the summer to make up.
Iâ€™m champing at the bit, and I want the team to be too.
But we need to start fast. Donâ€™t ask me about the psychological reasons for why we do it, because Iâ€™ll look back at you blankly. I simply want us to tear out the blocks today, and put in the same yards from the start that we did in the last 20 minutes against Sunderland and West Brom. Why have we taken so long to get going in some games? Itâ€™s not relevant if we donâ€™t do it again. I want early, heavy, sustained pressure against Blackburn and I want it to go on until things are comfortable [thatâ€™s 5-0 then – Ed]. [Stop being such a cynic Ed – Big Ed].
The fabled handbrake goes on when the team is nervous or lacking in confidence. So do these players honestly believe – beyond the usual David platitudes – that they can win the title? Then today is the day to show it. Weâ€™ve moped our rears off, metaphorically listening to Enya on loop, and itâ€™s time it stopped. Wenger alluded to the pressure when he said: “Let’s enjoy it and go for it”.
I’m also looking for more pace, and with Walcott back we should get that. We have other fast players – Nasri for one. But without Theo Walcott, who is as fast as a butcherâ€™s dog, we are a slower team. For my sins I happened upon the Invincibles DVD in the â€˜Lull and the amount of goals we scored by thundering upfield was eye-opening. Patient build-ups work sometimes, being more direct does at other times. We need to mix it up.
I mentioned it on the â€˜Cast last week, but for me the benchmark performance this season was Chelsea at home. OK, so they were in a funk but Arsenal that day were everything Arsenal should be – and more pertinently, can be. When we had the ball we went for the jugular and when we didnâ€™t, we hunted to get the ball back. From that point on I hoped weâ€™d cracked the formula but it never quite happened.
Another key to that game was the personnel – we had for the most part our best XI available, Szczesny aside, for that Chelsea game. Today we ought to be strenthened immeasurably with the additions of Fabregas, Walcott and Song.
As ever, the first ten minutes of the game will be interesting.
Come on you rip-roarers.