Football has often been ridiculed, by those that don’t get it, as a silly game where 22 men chase one ball. Some players, and occasionally, a team, could raise the game to new heights though, and take everyone along with them. That collective gasp of breath drawn in amazement, that roar at having seen something that would never be forgotten is what football fans always had to aspire. Now it seems to be merely about 22 men chasing around a ball and keeping score.
So maybe the problem isn’t just Arsenal. It certainly isn’t just Ozil. But something of the joy that I felt in supporting this club has been lost. Maybe this is what they call growing up.
Well, nothing better than getting back on that horse and going fox hunting eh ol’ chap?* So I guess that’s what we’ll do. It helps, however, to take lots of shots. Which has been somewhat of a problem. Not all of it is systemic. Some players seem to hesitate, looking to be too precise. But the lack of shots finds Arsenal 19th in that metric. Sandwiched between West Brom and Burnley.
Still we are on the same number of points as Leicester, and playing them at home. Maybe the empty stadium will prove a hindrance but Leicester haven’t won at our home in the last 27 meetings in all competitions and are coming off of 2 consecutive away defeats. A win would see us climb into the top 4. With teams like ManCity, Chelsea and ManU dropping points, Arsenal need to make sure they can take advantage.
Our chances could be boosted by the fact that the sly roundhouse kicker is a doubt. Soyuncu, Ndidi, and Pereira are out. But the American President is likely to be involved.
Leicester will be an attacking threat, as they have the best conversion rate in the league. That’s despite not scoring from any of their last 15 shots though. Considering they’ve only taken 49 shots, that’s pretty remarkable. Let’s hope their attack doesn’t just suddenly find its bite.
Rob Holding suffered an injury in the warm-up to the last match and is out for 3 weeks. Willian is a doubt too, but Ceballos will be available. One of the brightest of sparks from the midweek game was the new addition, Thomas Partey. A lot of folks jumping the gun, so to speak, to compare him to Vieira and that’s just silly. But he does look like a player who would add something to our game. If there’s one thing I’m looking forward to, is seeing a Xhaka-Partey partnership in midfield flourish and provide a balance of defensive solidity and creativity to unlock our attacking talent. I need something to believe in.
If Partey was the foundation, Bellerin and Aubameyang provided the spark that brought us to life. The speed and movement they bring will be crucial to this game, especially if we are looking to catch the Foxes on the break.
This is a weird season. Kind of like the one that saw Leicester, painfully, win the league. While we are not in contention for the league title, top 4 should be our minimum target, and a win today gets us back in there. Behind Everton, Liverpool and Aston Villa, and just ahead of Leeds. Well, maybe football does have some surprises still left to offer. Let’s hope it’s not as heartbreaking as 5 years ago.
*Please ban actual fox hunting. It’s barbaric.
Written by Shard aka @shardgooner