Welcome back, real football. I have missed you.
Internationals are OK in big tournaments (World Cup, Euros, African Cup of Nations etc) but the rest of the time? Nah.
This evening Mikel Arteta’s carefully tended Arsenal revival faces a significant challenge away at the Etihad.
There are several interesting dimensions to the clash: Action Man facing his old boss and mentor Pep Guardiola; a possible first run out for Thomas Partey in an Arsenal shirt; Manchester City coming off the back of some questionable results including a thrashing by Leicester and a draw with Leeds.
As Arsenal fans, all we can hope for is that the growing improvement we have been showing under Arteta’s leadership maintains its momentum, regardless of the result.
We have definitely been better organised and more defensively secure, although we have still made heavy weather of some games, including the victories over Sheffield United and, a few weeks earlier, West Ham.
However, we seem to be able to up our game against the “better” teams, perhaps because they don’t sit back and defend so deeply against us, which exposes our lack of midfield creativity.
This is a tough one to call and I would be happy with a point, but also feel we should go in to the game seriously intending to win all three. Auba will be our principal threat as always, but I have high hopes of Pepe getting on the scoresheet.
Indeed my line-up includes a start for Pepe (he deserves it after his showing against Sheffield) and, I’m afraid, I have limited our new boy Partey to the bench, but with a debut appearance at some point in the game.
My reason for not starting Partey is that he joined up with the squad only a couple of days ago after his international exertions and will not have had much time to absorb Arteta’s coaching preferences. However, as I say, I expect him to get a run out from the subs’ bench.
I am leaving out Tierney because, at the time of writing, it is unclear whether he has been declared safe to play after having come into contact with someone who had Covid 19, but the omens don’t look good. We could really do with him against City. In his absence I prefer AMN over Kola.
Given City’s attacking prowess, it has to be a back five, but switching to a back four when we’re in possession.
My starting 11:
Bellerin – Holding – Luiz – Gabriel – Maitland-Niles
Xhaka – Ceballos
Pepe – Lacazette – Aubameyang
Come on the Mighty Arse!