No excuses should be offered, none accepted. Losing this match is not an option, for pride and the season’s sake. Out of the EFL Cup, hurtling toward the Europa League and on the verge of sitting five points adrift of the Champions League places. Now is not a time for the faint-hearted.
Wednesday night has to be nadir; it was a truly horrendous performance, one which we might put down to the ‘Wembley Curse’ but if we’re honest, was on the cards.
Since trouncing Manchester City in all but scoreline, it’s been four draws and two defeats. Unbeaten in the Premier League, we’re fifth. It’s so typical of us to be undefeated but nowhere near the top. In fairness to the squad, this is a new way to torture the supporters so a doff of the cap for that is well-deserved.
Poch sounded the bugle and the cavalry in the form of Harry Kane is arriving. If he starts, it smacks of a panic selection. Not fit enough for even the bench on Wednesday but according to reports, set to start tomorrow. It’s something which may not happen and I can’t think that he’s panicked to that degree before.
The choice though is stark: misfiring forwards or half-fit misfiring forward? But the talismanic quality of bringing Kane back can’t be underestimated. It’s a great fillip for a squad who are looking for someone to inject a bit of enthusiasm into the style of play which has become stale.
Of course, this is a different match. The only other game that comes close is Chelsea. Yes, United, Liverpool and now City are big, but this is the one which counts, which matters. There’s nothing more sickening that finishing below Arsenal every season.
In the twenty four previous seasons of the Premier League, we’ve won twice at theirs. Three times in the FA Cup, twice in League Cup. It’s a depressingly familiar scenario: 2 wins, 9 draws, 13 defeats. Time for a change, the question is whether tomorrow is the day?
After Wednesday, you’d say no. So abject was the performance, there is no way they can improve to the level needed to win.
And then you remember the game in question. This match is one where a win casts the bad feeling, the inconsistency, to the winds. A single win in one fixture has the ability to imbue confidence into everyone; players, manager, supporters.
There’s one final thought. Do the players want Arsenal to end the unbeaten run in the Premier League? The 1 in the ‘L’ column would come with its own Jim Carrey impression: “Lo-oo-oo-sers!”; it would be too much to bear.
And for that reason, I think professional pride will kick in, that the XI and seven subs will all be motivated not to lose. If it means a dour, dogged draw, I’ll take that. I want a victory, so much that it hurts, but I’ll take a draw on the basis of our form going into this game. And if it stops Arsenal going top, so much the better.