For just a short while today, Arsenal will step off the transfer carousel and away from the madness of the January window to play a game of football.
Crystal Palace are due to visit the Emirates and, for the first time in a good long while, the Gunners will be kicking off at 3pm. Amid the feeding frenzy of the last seven days, it is almost too normal for words. In fact, it borders on utter mundanity.
All jokes aside, it is a game Arsenal simply cannot afford not to win, and win comfortably. For the sanity and wellbeing of everyone involved with the club, we need to get a victory under our belts on move on from what has been a truly lacklustre month or so.
Amid a series of underwhelming and, on occasion, outright shambolic performances, the Gunners find themselves well adrift of the coveted top four and in need of something to stabilise themselves.
Most of us have been staring goggle-eyed at our computers for the last few days in the desperate hope that a piece of transfer news might finally break that allows us to start looking forward as a club. And while a deal or two may be close to completion, for today’s game we will have to make do with what we have.
The return of three or four key players from injury will no doubt help on that front and what timely returns they may prove to be.
For all their early-season struggles, Palace have shown themselves to be a lively attacking threat under Roy Hodgson and, as they demonstrated at Selhurst Park a few weeks ago, are well capable of causing teams problems.
I have no doubt that Hodgson will tell his team to have a real go at the Emirates and, were I him, I would do the same. There has been no better time to face Arsenal in the last decade and, with a defence and midfield as susceptible as ours, the Eagles will almost certainly fashion a few opportunities.
I feel like the difference today, versus last week’s debacle at Bournemouth, is that we might have just enough attacking potency to outscore Palace, where we lacked anything resembling potency against the Cherries.
The return of Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey will give us that bit more oomph in attack, while Laurent Koscielney, Sead Kolasinac, and Nacho Monreal should bring some improved defensive options – at least in theory.
Having not kept a clean sheet in the league for something approaching a millennia, it would be great to see a gritty rearguard effort that involved us looking as if we were vaguely competent in defence.
And who knows, a clean sheet, a win, and some breaking transfer news this evening may just inspire something like the turnaround in fortunes we so desperately need to salvage our season.
While I am not so naïve that I believe a few new names and faces around the club will signal a return to Arsene’s glory years, I do believe that it may just set the foundations upon which a new manager and new era may begin.
Who knows, when we look back at January 20, 2018 in 25 year’s time, we may just remember it as the day that the tide finally started to turn again.