In the modern world of the Sky dominated “EPL” every game is massive, but tonight’s match at the Arsenal really is critical. Arsenal have won seven out of eight matches in the league and (should) we beat Everton and Fulham, we will be seven points ahead of Tottenham, bearing in mind we were seven points behind them after our defeat at WHL on March 3rd, that’s some achievement in its own right.
For most of the game against Norwich we were very poor, sadly, some of this was down to bringing Jack Wilshere back into the team prematurely. I’ve thought for a while that we have a problem when Mr Wenger plays both Cazorla and Wilshere. The team seems to over-play anyway but there is even a greater tendency to over complicate the game around the opposition’s box, when those two are in the team. The reality of the situation of course, is that those two are our best players and next season it’s incumbent on the manager to work out how to get the best from the pair in the same team. But tonight is different; we need three points and a platform for a further three at Fulham on Saturday.
The two players I’d love to see in the starting eleven tonight are Tomas Rosicky and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Both have the quality to see space and have the ability and the bravery to pass or run into that space. Rosicky in particular has stacks of experience of winning critical games (sadly with the Czech Republic as opposed to Arsenal) and the nous to handle some of the big players Everton have. I was at Goodison last October when we were pretty fortunate to get a draw and we were battered by Fellaini in the first half. He got far too much of the ball and Rosicky is the type of player to combat this situation by moving the play away from areas where the Belgian can dominate.
Young Alex has been woefully under-used by the manager; I often wonder what he needs to do to get a look in. He demonstrated exactly what he’s about as a player with his contribution to the second goal against Norwich: Saw the gap, ran into it (with his head up – take note Gervinho), and passed the ball just where it needed to go. He’s twice the footballer Walcott will ever be and we need to utilise him more, starting with tonight.
I acknowledge that when we have players of the quality of Walcott, O-C and Podolski as substitutes, we can win games from the bench. But we were lucky against Norwich, we don’t usually have linesman like we had on Saturday and Everton a real team, they are challenging for Europe on merit alone. I have a lot of respect for Everton and their manager, they’ve had no investment to speak of, no trophies for almost 20 years, but they have a fantastic support and a competitive, attacking team with some exceptional players. We will have to be right on the money tonight, look how easily Norwich scored from that set piece, imagine Leighton Baines on the ball with Fellaini, Distin and Amichebe waiting for it?
Therefore, I would make sure that all the starting eleven tonight are fully fit (sorry Jack) and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Flapper’s ribs can be bandaged successfully for 90 minutes (never thought I’d write that!) I think our totem poled Teuton should play and hopefully Aaron Ramsey will continue his very good recent form partnering Mikel Arteta.
I firmly believe that we can beat Everton tonight, but we’ll have to earn it.
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