Drink deep my friends. Drain every last drop from the flagon of footbally goodness because after today we have to wait a whole two weeks for another game.
And while a fortnight’s break may be good for our team, giving bruised muscles and creaking joints a chance to heal, allowing our January arrivals to assimilate and providing Mikel Arteta with breathing space to work with his players, for us fans it’s going to be a sun-parched desert.
On the plus side, today’s match is really important.
In my ‘glass half full’ world this is the day we begin our push to end the season in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.
It’s a tall order, but I believe we have a half decent chance of doing it. If we win today we will have 33 points and will climb to ninth in the table. Totteringham are playing Manchester City today and if City win we’ll be just a point behind the N17 knuckle-draggers. And we’ll be two points behind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s wobbly Man United.
More dauntingly, we’ll be eight points adrift of fourth place, currently occupied by Chelsea, on 41 points.
But do we really think Chelsea are consistent and reliable enough not to drop plenty of points between now and season’s end? If it hadn’t been for Bernt Leno’s howler when we played them at the Emirates they would now be on 38 points and we would be on 33 with a game in hand (today’s game).
So it’s all to play for, but it needs to start NOW.
The uptick in performances since Arteta arrived has been obvious and very promising, but we need to start converting more of those good showings from unlucky draws to deserved wins.
This season we have drawn more games than any other team in the EPL (12). It’s not so much “one nil to the Arsenal” as “one point to the Arsenal” these days.
Mind you, something should give today as our hosts, Burnley, have the fewest draws (3) of any team apart from Liverpool who have only one, and Man City who also have three.
A trip to Turf Moor is not the easiest place to start our winning run, but I believe we have the ability, the determination and the confidence to do it.
Burnley are coming into this one off the back of two impressive league wins: they beat Leicester 2-1 at home on January 19th and Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford three days later. However, they followed up those victories with a 1-2 home defeat at the hands of Norwich in the FA Cup.
Nevertheless their confidence will be fairly high and Sean Dyche always gets plenty of effort from his players.
Scoring goals has been an issue for the Clarets, and they won’t be helped today by the likely absence of Ashley Barnes through injury. He’s their second top scorer with six, but their number one striker – the New Zealander Chris Wood – is a threat, with 10 goals to his name.
So what line-up will Arteta send out today?
We have Aubameyang and Luiz back from suspension and all the long-term injured are still out, so I predict a starting eleven like this:
Bellerin – Sokratis – Luiz – Saka
Torreira – Xhaka
Pepe – Lacazette – Aubameyang
I don’t see Ozil starting – his form has been too patchy and he sometimes struggles in tough games away from home. Willock has done enough in recent outings to get the nod ahead of him. Lacazette is on a lousy scoring run but his work rate is not in question and I suspect him to start in his usual position.
Tempting though it would be to pick Martinelli, I suspect he will be held back as an impact sub.
That team is good enough to win today providing we can avoid the sort of individual blunders that have blighted our season so far and provided we don’t get yet another shafting from that evil emperor of football technology, Daft VARdar.
A win for the good guys.
Up the Mighty Arse!