We are heading at lightning speed towards the key final stages of the season, the do-or-die climax to what has been a truly turbulent campaign for Arsenal and for the Premier League at large.
So, it goes without saying that a good 10 days of woeful international friendlies should be forced into the schedule, much as a lukewarm marshmallow is forced into a moneybox using naught but a sledgehammer. *sigh*
But there may be something of a silver lining to this tropical storm of misery – it may yet offer a chance for those players who have struggled for form to bludgeon themselves back into it.
I think specifically of Olivier Giroud and, to a lesser extent, Alexis Sanchez on that front.
I’m a big, big fan of Giroud (I named my Ford Fiesta him after all) but there is no denying that he has form for missing some very presentable chances when not in top form. He is a solidly 15-20 goal a season striker, with the potential for better, but he is bang out of luck, and out of form at the moment.
Yes he managed a brace against Hull a fortnight or so ago, but, if we’re honest, that was against poor opposition. More pressing was the need to convert the chances he had against Swansea, Watford, Barcelona, and even late on at Everton.
It’s just not working for him at the moment – he has only two goals and an assist in his last 10 appearances and that may have a lot to do with why he has been usurped by Danny Welbeck in attack.
His French side face the Netherlands and then Russia in the week ahead and, while they are certainly not easy games, I hope the 29-year-old takes his chance to get back on the scoresheet. He is a confidence player, and only a few good games will get him back into form.
As for Alexis, I don’t share the growing concern among so-called pundits about his form. It doesn’t matter to me if he doesn’t hit 30 goals every season. Frankly, I don’t think we should put that sort of pressure on him.
What matters to me is the quality of his performance, his contribution to the whole. If he comes back with a stackful of goals and assists, so much the better, but as long as he is making runs, trying things, and getting in the box, that will all follow.
His Chile side host Argentina and then travel to Venezuela over the next week in what seem to be some early World Cup qualifiers. That suggests they may be cagey affairs, but I hope, with more-or-less the run of the team, he finds himself a few chances to get among the goals.
He has 11 goals and eight assists across the board this term.
I see Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck are also set to feature for England is a couple of friendlies. Frankly, I’d prefer Danny not to play, but if he can get a few more minutes under his belt, without ruining a knee or snap his spine, ill be content.
As for Theo. Well, Theo is Theo. He can simultaneously be brilliant and wretched in the same 90-minute period. A few goals never hurt anyone, however, so it would be useful for him to stay sharp should he be presented with some chances in front of goal.
I’ll try where possible to keep updated on who is playing where in the days ahead, and how they get on.
Normally, it’s only doom and gloom after the international break, a litany of broken bones and ripped hamstrings, but here’s hoping that we have some positive news to report by this time next week!