Well I'll tell you something for nothing, the last Arsenal match seems an absolute age. Our 1-0 victory at St James' Park almost feels as if it took place last season. Strangely though, I have not missed Arsenal that much during this international break which is very unusual for me. Like most of you, I usually end up in bed sick with withdrawal symptoms or something that would have required me using the bonus code experience to snap me out of it but this time I have taken myself away from football and focused on the many things I have going on in life. It's quite refreshing I must say.
Anyway real football is back on the menu which is far more appetising than transfer or international football talk that is for sure. Before the break I watched the Newcastle match again and that first half was a lot better than I remembered at the time, even after the sending off we still played some inventive stuff, just could not sort out our finishing touch, whether that be the final ball or our shooting.
I guess the issue is not away from home though is it? We have continued to threaten and score goals away from home, it is our results at home in the last half dozen matches that have been a problem and you can bet your bottom dollar that Arsène will want to fix the problem before it gets into the minds of the players, if that hasn't already happened. It is all kinda weird really because we were super strong at home for a while until we hit a brick wall and now we cannot buy a goal at home, well unless the assistant referee decides to take it away of course.
Stoke City haven't started the season very well have they? Their only points coming away from home funnily enough, a draw at Tottenham and Norwich City while suffering to 1-0 defeats at the Britannia. Stoke also have a pretty poor record against us at the Emirates, a record that rarely gets a mention while folk are too busy labeling them as our bogey side. In fact the Potters have been put to the sword 13 times in a row at Arsenal and you would have to go back as far as 1981 (I was 3) when they last left the better half of North London with three points.
The visitors are without a few of their key players for today's encounter. Ryan Shawcross is injured with a back problem while Odemwingie has a hamstring strain. They also have suspensions to both Charlie Adam and Ibrahim Afellay so you'd think that Stoke would be more than happy with a point given the circumstances. I am sure Mark Hughes would have watched our last few home matches and will be looking to follow suit, keeping compact and narrow at the back, sit deep and deny us any space
Any hopes of Stoke playing a high line to allow us to run into are probably quite fanciful so I am not sure Theo Walcott would be the right man to lead the line for us this afternoon. He was selected in the central position at Newcastle because we hoped we would find some joy when the Geordies came out but the red card early in the game meant a change of tactics for the home side and we saw how easily Theo was nullified. I suspect Theo will get even less space at the Emirates so I am not sure putting him up against big defenders sitting deep is a recipe for success.
But I would still quite like to see Theo start the game, I am not sure he will but I would like to see him regain his right forward position. I am not sure we will see that but I would like to see it given another go. In fact I am going to change my predicted line up to preferred line up. Because obviously I have all the answers to all the questions, goes without saying really. I'd like to see Arsène Wenger behind a keyboard like I am and see if he can cut the mustard.
Anyway, if we are lacking goals at home then having Theo and Giroud on the pitch at once gives us a better chance of scoring, plus they have always seemed to compliment each other pretty well whenever they have played together. The biggest change for me would be in midfield, I would start either Mikel Arteta or Santi Cazorla as our deepest option which I know is almost blasphemy in the eyes of some. I am just not sure whether tough tackling, hard as nails 'DMS' are needed in every single home game. In a game where our build up play could be more of a determining factor to the result than a battling in midfielder, I wonder if one of the Spaniards dictating from deep which would allow Ramsey into the centre to make runs ahead of Giroud and still have goalscoring threats either side of Giroud, would be a better way to go. Ramsey may need to have an extra emphasis on his defensive work when moves break down and he is very capable of that.
As much as I have been impressed with Gabriel since he joined, I wonder if a game such as this suits the distribution of Per Mertesacker from the back. I've missed the Mertesacker/Arteta build up combo from the back. I bet a number of you couldn't disagree more right? Well in my eyes, Mert, Arteta and Özil are just the players you want to break down a defensive team at the Emirates.
So come on lads, I think it is time we started getting our sheeeet together at home and score some goals. A nice early goal (for Arsenal) wouldn't go amiss IMO.
Oliver Giroud is under a little bit of fire so I'd like it to be he who opens the scoring, how about a header from a long throw? The irony meter would go through the roof and I would chuckle to myself and stuff.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up
Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Özil, Ramsey, Alexis, Giroud
Would you start with Giroud? Or perhaps give Alexis a go through the middle? Let me know what your line up would be in the comments below.
Right got to get some kip, take my son to football and get back for the Arsenal before I head off to work afterwards. Busy day ahead.
If you want to answer some questions on the game, after the final whistle (obviously) then chuck me a message and I will send you some questions. That Q&A article will likely go up on Sunday as will the post match Podcast, and some of my thoughts if I can get round to it.