Arsenal came away with a point at Old Trafford against an awful ManU side, but lost some more of its soul in the process. Some positive signs in defense where ManU were hardly a threat, but disappointing in attack, yet again. For a brief period of about 5 minutes, we were completely on top. We’d just scored an equalizer, with an inadvertent assist from the linesman who couldn’t help himself and had to try to rob us of the goal. He ended up getting the ManU players to switch off, while Auba played on and scored, once again.
It used to be a media talking point to ask where we’d be without say RVP or Alexis, and under Wenger the answer was usually, about the same or better. But can we really be confident we’re not simply reliant on Aubameyang and his 30%+ finishing rate? Anyway 5 minutes of yummy attacking fare, where Saka might have added a goal to his assist, were all we got before Emery’s stomach started to churn. He pulled us back and cost us 2 points (that’s how I saw it).
Of course, the drama didn’t end there. People had to have their scapegoat and ManU’s goal was blamed on Xhaka ducking under the shot. It didn’t matter that the ball took a big deflection off Sokratis, which made futile Xhaka’s attempt to head the ball away. All that mattered was that we had someone other than Emery to blame.
Spurs to the rescue
But just when you think things are bad, often pop up Spurs. Full of taunts about Arsenal and their 5-1 losses, they geared up for a great CL night in their new stadium as Bayern Munich came to town. It started gloriously for them as Son scored and that was that, game over and a new DVD to come out. Except, as even Chiellini will tell you, it is the history of the Tottenham. Reality kicked in as Bayern put on their game faces, went on a Gnabry inspired scoring spree, and left Spurs as white as lilies with the final score an incredible 7-2. Poch’s face at the end was worth the price of admission alone. If this continues, maybe we’ll meet Spurs in the EL this season.
Europa League is Emery’s speed
A competition more Emery’s speed, maybe we can look forward to a good game again. Not satisfied with dragging Ozil through the mud before the ManU game, he again gave a non-committal response to the question of whether MO will play against Standard Liege. Am I the only one who feels cheated? Wasn’t Ozil’s shirt our most popular selling when the new kit was launched? But of course, it is the coach’s prerogative to pick his side, and Emery makes sure we know it. He was more positive about including Tierney and Bellerin and that gives us something to look forward to.
I fear though that we may taking this game a little for granted. On the same night that Spurs were being humiliated at home, another team in white were also being torched in their own backyard by a team from Belgium. It was only a late red card and a headed goal from the resulting free kick that ensured Real Madrid drew the game with Club Brugge, who top the Belgian League. Our opponents lie second in the table currently with 6 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses with a Goal Difference of 14.
I won’t pretend to have ever watched them play but I’m sure Emery has. If that’s reassuring, I envy you. I can’t imagine they’ll just sit back and wait for us to score, when they can see how passive we are in attack. Aubameyang probably (hopefully) won’t play, and that might give them more confidence to step up and press us. Do we have the talent to overcome Emery’s tactics in such a scenario? We’ll see. As long as our defense holds up, I think we’ll win. Just about.
Emery made a show about it being his responsibility to play young players, so maybe we’ll see some of those start, but who knows? Honestly, watching or reading Emery’s press conferences gives me anxiety. From the way he speaks, to what he says, and how meaningless most of it is, I hope you appreciate what I put myself through for this.
Anyway, team news: No ESR, and probably no Ozil.
Starters: Martinez, Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Tierney, Torreira, Willock, Ceballos, Pepe, Nelson, Martinelli
Subs: Macey, Luiz, AMN, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Saka, Aubameyang
If this defense starts it is potentially our future right there. I include Emi in that. I hope it is. I like all of the players, even Tierney who I’ve barely seen. There’s something to be said for having a settled defense with players who understand each other which is why this group is important. I’ll also keep an eye on Martinelli. He’s shown some great speed, skill and finishing ability and looks to be a great young addition to the squad. He can only improve as he gets more games. Between him and Eddie, plus John-Jules, who was unfortunate to miss out through injury last time in this competition, we have some good young strikers coming through. I almost put John-Jules as a sub, but I don’t know if he’s fit, and I don’t think Emery’s going to take that chance with the game right now. Auba’s goals have won us every single point in the league this season. He’s our security blanket.
I’m feeling bold, so I’ll make a score prediction. 2-1 win for Arsenal.