Szczesny - finishing above Tottenham is NOT Arsenal's ambition
It's another game on the road tomorrow as the boys go to Villa Park. The Villans are now, of course, managed by a man Arsenal fans see as a genuine villain - Alex McLeish. It could be argued that the past few years of no trophies have seen us dealt killer blows by McLeish's players. Lest we forget that our Championship challenge began to implode at Birmingham in 2008, and the Carling Cup Final also saw us throwing silverware away against his second-rate bunch of chancers. It's fair to say that we owe McLeish, and we owe him big.
The defence is weakened further by the absence of Johan Djourou. This will see young Miquel coming in at left-back, and the spectre of Squillaci now looms large on the bench, I suspect. With Alex Song suspended there is no other cover at centre-half, and Nico Yennaris' appearance for the Reserves yesterday would indicate he is not going to be involved in the first-team any time soon, which would have eased the burden on one of those playing out of position. Song, I would imagine, will be replaced by either Frimpong or Coquelin. I would prefer to see Frimpong in there for his physicality, though his tendency to dive in could cost us set-pieces in dangerous areas.
We are entering the week in which Arsene is most likely to want to rotate one or two players. I think that, had we won on Sunday, he might have put Van Persie on the bench tomorrow. Having lost at City it is a risk that simply can't be taken I hope. Arshavin was a disgrace again when he came on in Manchester, so I would be apoplectic if he starts ahead of Walcott or Gervinho. Yossi Benayoun, however, is well overdue a Premier League start, and could add to the team in almost any midfield position.
It goes without saying that only a win will do for Arsenal. With Tottenham and Liverpool and Manchester United all winning at the weekend we can not slip further behind with so many points up for grabs in the next two weeks. It is a period where we will come out the other side knowing pretty much whether the season is going to be one where we challenge for a place in the European Cup, or not. A few wins, and everything changes round in our favour again. Fingers crossed it all starts tomorrow at a tough place to visit.
I was seriously annoyed with Wojciech Szczesny's comments that our "ambition" this season is to "finish ahead of Tottenham." This is exactly the sort of thing that we have ripped it out of Spurs for over the years. They have always concerned themselves with Arsenal, rather than looking to be the best themselves. The day that Arsenal start to see beating them as the be all and end all is the day that things have gone too far awry. We are Arsenal for God's sake. Forget about those mugs from Tottenham. Their performances should be of no consequence whatsoever to Arsenal Football Club, unless we're playing against them. Szczesny always has plenty to say, and it's often entertaining, but he can have a tendency to talk too much. This business is one such example. As is so often the case there is a tendency among Arsenal players to do their talking in places other than on the football pitch. Actions will always speak louder than words.
I want to draw your attention to yesterday's piece and, more particularly, the reaction it provoked from the Manchester City supporters. In the comments section I am accused of bitterness, bias and whingeing, just as I predicted I would be. It's good to see them living down to my expectations. Generally I have a lot of time for City fans, as I said in the match preview for that game, but it seems that a number of them think they are now a "big" club because they have a lot of money. One of them refers to "anti-City" pundits. Anti-City pundits? They've been so insignificant for over thirty years that most pundits probably forgot they existed before the money arrived.
The most amusing thing for me is that, amid all the allegations of bitterness and being a sore loser (regular readers will know that my usual tack after a defeat is to criticise the Arsenal players and Manager) I recalled a game at Highbury from 2000-01. It was one of Ashley Cole's early Premier League games, and he was one of the scorers in a 5-0 win for Arsenal. After the game Joe Royle, who was their Manager at the time, claimed that all of the Arsenal goals (yes, all FIVE of them) should have been disallowed for various infringements. You want to know about sore losers, and bitterness? People in glass houses and all that...