We are all back aboard the Arsenal bus this weekend and, as ever, the destination is a mystery that will only become apparent once the final whistle has blown.
Will Arsene Wenger’s beleaguered side produce a superb performance and romp to a comfortable victory? It’s very possible.
Will the team’s recent woes continue and the panic and indecision cripple them to the point of abject defeat? It’s just as likely.
And therein lies the Arsenal of 2017 – a veritable lucky dip of a side that can veer between sublime and woeful in a matter of days. A side that is capable of taking apart the best teams in Europe whilst also proving capable of football that would shame a League Two side.
To that end, there is no real telling how today’s match against Bournemouth will pan out. The Cherries are not on a great run and neither are Arsenal. We struggled against them both home and away last season and they will most certainly prove difficult to beat this time around.
Do I think we will win today? Yes, I believe that we will, but I say that in hope rather than expectation.
This side is so fragile at the moment, just three games into the season, that we are never more than one setback away from panic. If Eddie Howe’s side score the first goal at the Emirates the mood is going to sour quickly and that has not ended well for the Gunners in recent times.
The positive of having had an international break is that the team and the manager have had time to process what has happened, talk about it, ponder on it, and move on. They need to leave it behind now. What has happened and not happened is inconsequential at this point and the only thing they should be aiming for is victory.
It is often said that the best way to recover from defeat is to get straight back in the saddle but I am glad we have had the buffer of the break from Premier League action to allow the dust to settle and the anger to assuage.
Emotions were pretty raw after the humiliation at Anfield a few weeks ago and it would have made for a thoroughly rotten atmosphere had we played just a few days later. At least the squad has had some time away from the club and the bubble of the league circus to refocus.
Hopefully, in the time Arsene has had since the Liverpool match, he has settled upon a lineup and a system that is going to get us back to something like the solidity we saw at the back end of last season.
For reasons known only to Arsene, we have been an absolute mess so far this season, loose, porous, and ill-disciplined in almost every respect.
The Frenchman needs to put a stop to the poor positioning and lack of focus by building a system the entire squad is comfortable with and clear on what is required. If he doesn’t like three at the back, for god’s sake let’s hope he drops it in favour of a system he trusts and believes in and that his team is comfortable operating within.
Playing members of the team in their correct positions is also crucial to our season. We simply cannot continue to field players in whatever position catches the manager’s fancy, it has been shown time and again to be a tactical disaster.
Experimenting as he has done may allow us to scrape victories over the likes of Leicester or Bournemouth, but it just doesn’t cut it against the teams who will be in and around us this season. Heck, it didn’t even cut it against Stoke, although it is fair to say we were unfortunate to lose that match.
If we are to rid ourselves of this swirling miasma of chaos and uncertainty, we have to get focused, get organised, and cut out the mistakes.
If we can do that, I don’t see why we can’t pick up a desperately-needed three points today. If Arsene has failed to address these problems, however, this is going to get worse with little chance of it getting any better.
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