After a rollercoaster seven days for Gunners fans, this weekend sees the return of a little piece of normality as Huddersfield travel to Emirates Stadium for a Premier League clash.
After what feels like an age, it is good to see Arsenal preparing for an increasingly rare 3pm Saturday kick-off. Where once a Sunday or even a Monday night match felt exotic, these days they are such a feature of our season that the 3pm slot is now the anomaly.
The proliferation of the Premier League across the globe means that Saturday lunchtime kick-offs are inconvenient to broadcasters, who would rather tailor each and every fixture according to the market they wish to target the most in that particular week.
Perhaps, with Christmas fast approaching, the attention of the TV companies and advertisers is elsewhere this weekend, trying to shove festive good will and mini hors d’oeuvres down our throats instead of football.
In any case, we have a good record in the 3pm slot, with 16 of our last 17 Premier League fixtures at that time resulting in victories. In all honesty, there is no reason why we shouldn’t make that 17 of our last 18 today.
Huddersfield are hard-working, organised, and well drilled, but they lack the quality of this Arsenal side and, even with our mounting injury list, we should be more than capable of victory.
The Gunners are unbeaten in 10 matches against Huddersfield and defeated them home and away last season. In short, we have the tools we need to get all three points and, given our midweek frustrations at Manchester United, a victory is vital to retain some momentum going into a busy period.
We will be without Rob Holding and, in all likelihood, will also be bereft of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, as they bid to shake off niggles acquired over the last few weeks. With Danny Welbeck out and Lauren Koscielney and Nacho Monreal still fighting their way back to fitness, it leaves us perhaps a little shorter than we might have liked.
Rotation is going to be vital this month in order to keep everybody fresh and Unai Emery has already shown himself willing and able in that department. That said, I would still expect our strongest available XI to start the match.
If there is to be a problem for Arsenal today, it is most likely to be down to fatigue, after a taxing workload in the last week. High-intensity, adrenaline-fuelled clashes with Spurs and Manchester United may leave us a big jaded for this match and that may well be the biggest hurdle for the Gunners to overcome.
I would be surprised if Friday’s news of youthful hijinks with a balloon and a London nightclub by several members of the squad had any sort of lasting impact on the club or the players and, if anything, it may serve as motivation for a few members of the team to go out and make a point, freshly ‘reminded of their responsibilities’ by the club.
As to our setup, we may well see the return of a 4-4-2 given the injury to Rob Holding, though our shortcomings with that system, particularly down our left flank, may well force Emery sticking to three centre-backs and two wing backs, with a makeshift defender shoe-horned into the role. Could that be Laurent Koscielney? Its possible, but it still feels a week or so too early for him.
One thing is for sure, we can’t be looking at this match as anything other than an opportunity to put three points on the board. With Chelsea welcoming Manchester City to Stamford Bridge, and Spurs tied up at Leicester City in the late kick-off, it could be an opportunity for Emery’s men to steal a march on our rivals.
I get the feeling those sorts of opportunities won’t come along too often as this season heats up.