This young shaver will lead Arsenal out tomorrow
Arsenal are in Premier League action tomorrow at Sunderland. I hadn't realised until Arseblog pointed it out earlier in the week that we really do have a hard stretch ahead of us. The period from mid-February to mid-March has broken our season a few times in recent years, and the fixtures that we have over the next four weeks or so have the potential to do it again. Two away trips to Sunderland, two games with AC Milan, and also Spurs and Liverpool make this the toughest part of the year for Arsenal. Win those games and we'll be set fair. Lose any of them and we could be in serious trouble. The terrible run from Christmas until last week could be brought in to seriously sharp focus should we struggle in the next month. We all know that the games in December and January were the bread and butter points we needed to pick up. Winning those fixtures would have afforded some breathing space. As it is we have no room for dropping further points at this stage.
With the need for points being so acute we could probably have done without having to play Sunderland (and the fact that we have to go there twice makes it even worse). Since the manic Martin O'Neill replaced Steve Bruce they have been one of the form teams of the Premier League. That has coincided with Arsenal's dismal run. However, I would suggest that Sunderland are due for a defeat. They've had a fine run, but they're still nowhere near being a top team. The fact is if Arsenal play the way they did against Blackburn they will destroy the opposition. My fear is that this Arsenal team is too inconsistent. We have also been here too often in the past, with a superb performance followed by the kind of "turn up and we win" misconception that has so often cost us points.
The team news is reasonably encouraging. It seems that Kieran Gibbs will travel to the game, as will Marouane Chamakh. Any hopes that the Moroccan would regain his form and confidence in his time away with his national team were scuppered when he was dropped from their team. With Thierry Henry making his final Premier League appearance tomorrow (please come back again next season Thierry) we are back to square one in the striker department. I can not understand why Henry's loan has not been extended. Arsene says we must be "fair" to New York Red Bulls - utter nonsense. All those who said bringing Henry back would be a mistake have been proved wrong, in my view. It's been great having him, and we will be far worse off without him.
In terms of Sunderland I have been very impressed by McLean, who has very much been given his chance by O'Neill. The youngster has come in and scored goals, which is more than can be said for Nicklas Bendtner. Big Nick is not allowed to play against Arsenal, but I doubt he would have got a start anyway. You know that they will be strong and committed. Arsenal will have to work very hard off the ball if they're to bring back the points tomorrow.
I would very much have liked to be there tomorrow, but work intervenes. I have more reason than usual to want to be at the game as my nephew, Freddie (named after our famous Swede) is the Arsenal mascot for the day. He can't wait to lead the team out tomorrow, holding the hand of Robin Van Persie. He will also be the last Arsenal mascot to get to have his picture taken with The King. I hope Freddie can bring us some luck tomorrow. It seems that Arsenal and Sunderland will really be looking after him and the family tomorrow. With a bit of luck he'll get to have a few shots at Szczesny and stick one in the net in front of the travelling Gooners. If you're going to the match then please give Freddie a wave and a cheer (his mother should have put a red streak in his blond hair so that you could all sing to him!)
There won't be a another blog post until Monday evening at the very earliest. I would like to do more, but I won't be near the internet until at least then. I hope that by the time I preview the AC Milan game we have three more points in the bank, and Freddie has a special picture with The King and RVP.