In the last week or so, our inabilities to pick up points during the Christmas period has left a lot of us quite disheartened. Coupled with Tottenham’s good form, the top four is looking like a target that is slipping away. Under the Wenger era, we haven’t finished outside of the top four yet, despite a few close shaves, and it’s something that we have always targeted as a minimum requirement for the season. At the moment, the table looks like this:
It doesn’t make for good viewing. We’ve scored less than the top four, conceded more than he top four, and therefore, in theory, deserve to be in fifth. My good friend Tottz82 mentioned that he believes we have a better squad than Chelsea or Liverpool, which when all players are fit is probably true. However, one thing to consider is that we have a lot of key players out for the foreseeable future in Sagna, Santos, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Diaby, Wilshere and also Gervinho and Chamakh away on International duty. As I said a few days ago, we are one Van Persie injury away from being average. I’m not trying to be negative, but there is a worry. With Chelsea, they have gone through their bad patch and I think they’ll get stronger in the second half of the season. Their manager will impose his style more and players like Mata & Torres will start contributing more.
With Liverpool, despite quite a bad spell of form, only 18 goals scored this season and some bad losses – they’re only 2 points behind us – which means despite all the furore of their season, they’re not “super bad”… So whilst, I think we have a very good chance of the top four, we definitely need to step it up a gear or two. We can’t presume Liverpool and Chelsea will be as bad as they were in the first half of the season. We can’t presume the top three will suddenly crumble – although for the first time in many, many years, Manchester United actually look like a club in a bit of a crisis (despite being 2nd, 9 points ahead of us and three points off the top)…
Arsene Wenger had his Friday match press conference earlier today, and let’s have a look to see what he said:
- “We still feel that we produced the needed performance against Fulham – mistakes cost us.”
- “Thierry was very happy with Leeds. It’s a big gamble when you come back like that and he qualified us.”
- “Mertesacker and Rosicky I will make a decision about tomorrow. They have not re-joined the squad yet.”
- “Swansea have the quality to play in the Premier League because they play positive football”
- “Henry is ready to start a game. He can win us games off the bench or from the start. He just wants to help”
- “I always said February for Wilshere. If he makes that then I am happy”
- “There is still a long way to go this season. Tottenham are a good side but nothing is decided yet”
- “Sagna is on the way back but Gibbs may be before him. End of January”
- “Thierry could play out wide because he still has the reflexes of a winger”
- “He has come back better than I thought, physically. His enthusiasm every day is a top-level attitude”
- “Swansea play without fear anywhere. They do not look out of place in the Premier League at all”
- “I don’t look at Tottenham. You look at the potential we have and make sure we do everything to fulfill it”
- “This year we are still in three trophies and we will try to do as well as we can. We will fight to the end”
- “At the moment, nobody has achieved anything. A few weeks ago everyone thought Man City would dominate”
- “I bought Ramsey because he was quality. What people forget is that this is really his first season”
- “He has a sense of personality and responsibility. Ramsey can take pressure”
- “I am closer to a full-back, but only a tiny bit”
- “Henry and Van Persie have a good understanding. They can make each other stronger”
Those are the quotes published by Arsenal, just after the press conference and they do contain a lot of information in them – for starters, we are apparently closer to signing a left back, albeit on loan, well, “a little bit closer”. Arsene may be able to drag this out a little longer until the full backs are back.
Also, some interesting news is that Arsene thinks Henry is ready to start – personally, I saw him get knackered after about 10 minutes on the pitch. I think we need to understand that the boy is now 34 and hasn’t played at this level for quite some time. Coming on at home, for 20 minutes against a non-Premiership team is one thing – but starting away in the Premier League is another thing. Arsene has to make a decision on Sunday of who to start the game. I’m sure Van Persie & Theo Walcott will be named in the starting XI – but the left wing position may be filled by one of Arshavin, Rosicky, Benayoun, Henry or Oxlade. I think it will be the little Russian, but if he doesn’t improve, then perhaps Oxlade Chamberlain will get a run out.
Arsene did touch on the possible of AOC playing soon:
“He is very close now and he will be used in the next six months for sure. He is working on [his defensive side], his urgency and his committed level as well. When you are a young, talented player you have to experience that talent is good, but that commitment at the top level is highly needed too. He is an intelligent boy, he understands that, and I am very happy with him. I am confident that in the next few weeks he will play.”
I’ll be back tomorrow for a Swansea preview, we may have a little more team news by then – until then, have a great Friday night!