A run of wins has transformed the mood around Arsenal in recent weeks.
From genuine relegation worries in December to European ambitions in January, the lift given by a run of three wins in the Premier League can be counted in the tangible (points) and intangible (confidence) too.
But, as quickly as corners are turned, they can start to look a long way away again and our angst and worries as fans can come flooding back. Anyone who sat through large swathes of our football in November and December will have seen enough to never want to go back there again.
However trivial and inconvenient today’s FA Cup clash with Newcastle may seem, it is a good opportunity to continue on our winning run and add that little bit more cohesion and confidence – things we can take into the league fixtures to come. While defeat is not a disaster in this competition, there is no substitute for winning.
We can’t afford to be knocked off our stride having worked so hard and so long to find our feet again so let’s hope the team and the manager take this one as seriously as they can because losing can become just as much of a habit as winning.
To that end, I expect to see a sprinkling of familiar faces in today’s lineup, the likes of David Luiz, Gabriel (COVID permitting), Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Mohammed Elneny, Joe Willock and others. Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson could do with some minutes, as could Pepe, and, more than that, this is the ideal opportunity for them to remind the manager that they can contribute in the league too. If he is deemed fit enough, a cameo from Thomas Partey could also be on the cards and that will be a big boost in and of itself.
Having had a clear week on the training pitch to boot, I’d like to think the squad would be in pretty good shape and well prepared for this match. Coaching time is invaluable and Mikel has had precious little of it since he took over at Arsenal in truth. Peripheral though some of this side may be, I’d like to think they would at least be organised and playing with some cohesion, a little more comfortable with the 4-3-3formation Mikel is trying to mould his side into.
In the grand scheme of things, there isn’t a huge amount of pressure attached to this fixture but, in terms of keeping our momentum building, it is important that we get the job done. And it is important that those peripheral players waiting for some minutes take their opportunity to perform too.