Oxlade-Chamberlain - another chance to shine
My house move is now complete so I can begin to return to some semblance of normality. As I wrote the other day I will have no broadband (or landline!) at home until 13th December (I won't be recommending TalkTalk to anybody in a hurry). As a result the blog will still not be quite as regular as I would like, but I should be able to do the normal preview and match review pieces. As we hurtle towards January the transfer rumours will begin to grow. I will be adopting my usual stance on this and commenting on little, or none, of it. If the Summer showed us anything it was that the press have no idea whatsoever what is going on in the market as far as Arsenal bringing in players is concerned.
From what I've seen and read of Saturday's game the boys put in as good a performance as they have all season. To go to a wind and rain swept Northern outpost and win 4-0 shows that this team does possess certain qualities that its predecessors were maybe missing. I know the goalkeeper was at fault for our first goal, but Arteta simply proved that shooting for goal might just bring some reward occasionally. Theo Walcott seems to have been impressive again and I think that his recent run really has something to do with the presence of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the competition for places that he brings with him. All credit to Walcott for rising to such a challenge.
Tomorrow the "shadow" Arsenal team are in action in Athens in the final Champions League group match this season. To be able to travel to Greece knowing that the match is inconsequential is something of a bonus. Arsene Wenger has named a squad of 18 and it is basically the same group that was involved against Manchester City last week - the only change being Tomas Rosicky replacing Laurent Koscielny. There is still no Abou Diaby, and I really do wonder if we are going to get an announcement before much longer to say that he has had to retire.
All eyes tomorrow night will be on Oxlade-Chamberlain following his outstanding display last midweek. We should be wary of expecting too much from The Ox. He is still extremely young and inconsistency is almost certainly going to be a feature of his play at times. If he does put in another good display tomorrow then I sincerely hope he moves ahead of Arshavin in the pecking order. I was really disappointed that the Russian got to "play" the last ten minutes at Wigan when, for me, the youngster could have really benefited from the opportunity to do some damage to a demoralised opposition.
Up front we will see Park and Chamakh once again. You have to think that the pair are in the last chance saloon in terms of needing to make an impression. As I said earlier, January is on the horizon, and a new striker must be a priority if neither of them can get among the goals between now and New Year. Park has been starved of any action worthy of the name (why he hasn't been playing Reserve games I don't know). On the other hand I suspect the reason for him not getting game time with the first-team is that he is just not up to the job. The motivation should surely be there for both men to put in the hard yards tomorrow night and try to impress.
I'll get a match review done on Wednesday. A win would be nice, as ever, but a narrow defeat shouldn't do too much damage. If the players can perform at the same level as they did against City last week then a good result is really not beyond them.