It’s a trip to Premier League strugglers Huddersfield today (Saturday) and a huge opportunity for Arsenal to pick up some much-needed points.
It’s been an up and down few weeks for the Gunners so, with a run of what might be called favourable fixtures ahead, it is an opportune time to build some momentum ahead of what looks like it could be a season-defining March.
We start that run with a trip to Yorkshire and a match Unai Emery conceded at his press conference was a must win. No excuses. Three points is an absolute minimum against a side that, quite frankly, is already looking to next season in the Championship.
Despite our struggles on the road, this is a match that has no room for error. It’s not Manchester City away, it’s Huddersfield – a team that, on paper, just isn’t anywhere near as talented as ours.
This is the sort of match that demands we get on the front foot early and stay there. Matches against Cardiff and West Ham have seen us start cautiously, putting our emphasis on not making mistakes ahead of trying to impose our game.
We can’t make that mistake again today.
Even if the manager believes there is room for rotation today – and I’m not really sure that’s necessary – the players who get the nod must be aggressive and forward-thinking in their play.
Huddersfield will doubtless set themselves to be hard to break down and are unlikely to give us any gifts so we’re going to have to earn this one. Setting up with Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Guendouzi in the centre of the park may work for our upcoming Europa League fixtures, but it won’t wash in the Premier League – we have seen that on a number of occasions.
There is also the right back conundrum that will need addressing. Stephan Lichstiener, while game, is unable to do the business at this level and so, realistically, is not an option we can call upon for games of this import. If Ainsley Maitland-Niles is short, perhaps it is time to give Carl Jenkinson a run out, lord knows he has the desire and work ethic. For all his shortcomings as a player, I don’t see he could do worse than the Swiss veteran has done and his positional sense is arguably better than that of Maitland-Niles. That could be important in an area in which we have been targeted in recent times.
As for Mesut Ozil, I expect the German will be given a run out in next week’s Europa League clash, with Barecelona loanee Denis Suarez in contention with Henrikh Mhikitaryan and Alex Iwobi for a starting berth against Huddersfield.
In his pre and post-match press conferences, Emery has consistently spoken about the team’s process and it’s ‘way’ of playing. While we have seen glimpses of that, it’s time to see that fruits of that labour on a much more consistent basis.
It’s time to see a cohesive, team performance for 90 minutes. It’s time to see a professional performance that doesn’t rely on good fortune and is a victory earned through our collective work, rather than a singular piece of magic.
Anything less simply won’t cut it.