Arsenal succumbed to their 12th defeat of this Premier League season at Leicester after fans that were appalled at the starting line-up conceded the match on Twitter at 11.01am.
Fortunately in the real world the paid professional players at the club were asked to go and play the game at 12noon just to see if they could do any better.
Of course it’s fine to have opinions on how we might fare before games, indeed any match or sporting event, that’s what keeps me in a job in the betting industry.
But I’ve never seen such a collective defeatist attitude permeate from a fanbase with just a teamsheet for guidance. Especially with opponents that had struggled at home this season, losing five of their 12 games.
With all that said, it’s of course fine to agree or disagree with how the manager sets up his team and which players he picks. If you do it fairly it’s a healthy part of being a supporter.
Prior to the game there were genuine and balanced worries about how quickly Xhaka and Elneny could recycle the ball against an often hard-working Leicester midfield. Also how we’d keep perennial threat Jamie Vardy quiet. The forward line also looked to be decidedly second-string based on the form cycles of our squad.
One huge challenge for Arteta (or indeed any manager) is to keep fringe players happy and for them to know that he welcomes the headaches of their good form to fight a way back into his first choice eleven for the important games. That challenge was laid down to Pepe, Willian and Lacazette for this match at the King Power and you’d have to say they all answered the question.
It didn’t start well though! In fact, when does is start well these days? We’ve now conceded an opening goal within the first ten minutes in four of our last seven league matches. Two of those were in away games that we turned into 3-1 wins, Southampton and this one. Despite those turnarounds it’s probably a decent idea to try and stop handing out advantages like this.
In a write-off of a league season we aren’t facing the kind of consequences from these goals as we’d hope. If we were battling for a top-four place with Leicester then the panic from them taking a sixth minute lead may have led to a different end result. The freedom of no consequence maybe ensured that we just kept playing our game.
Willian and Pepe created lots of trouble for the Foxes as we fought our way back into the game. It’s fair to say it could have been Willian’s best game in an Arsenal shirt and also straight into Pepe’s top five. Lacazette has been much-maligned but slotted his penalty away perfectly proving he’s the best penalty taker at the club. David Luiz contributed a header and along with Mari kept Vardy quiet. Cedric certainly linked up far better with Pepe than Bellerin has managed of late.
Apart from conceding an early goal, one other negative was the injury for Emile Smith Rowe. With our overreliance on him maybe taking its toll? Let’s focus on all the many positives though. Moving back into the top half of the table in a great week for the club. Progression in our seemingly first priority of the Europa League was achieved too.
Even in a season when away wins have been at their highest it’s still hard to explain how we’ve now won away at the current 2nd and 3rdplaced teams, but have lost 8 of 13 games when playing sides above us in the current table. We’ve only managed to follow a win with another win in the league four times across 26 matches, but have an excellent opportunity to make it five when we visit Burnley next Saturday.
Sean Dyche’s side were easily beaten at Tottenham just after our win at Leicester and also have to contend with their own game against Leicester in midweek.
We have the rare luxury of a free midweek and can rest players to form a starting line-up that has the right blend with one eye on a first leg at Olympiakos the following week.
Burnley are one of the lowest scoring teams in home games in the division and without gifting them anything we should deal with them comfortably. A prediction I’m making before I see the teamsheet!
Onwards and upwards…
In other news former Gunner Jack Wilshere also showed his class by sending a video message to a brave girl battling cancer and her Hitchin Belles FC teammates who have been busy fundraising for her - ready the story at Hitchin Nub News