Tuesday night told us a number of things. We are still a team more than capable of playing high tempo attacking football, we can comfortably compete against top teams from anywhere in the world, Wenger can still spring tactical surprises, and best of all, it really helps when you score in the first half.
Plenty of times this season we’ve actually started games well, only to get closer and closer to the end still wondering how we haven’t found the net. Sometimes we score the late winner (we have more goals in the latter stages than anyone else in the Premiership), more recently we haven’t.
The opponents are Fulham today, and they are certainly an organised unit under Hodgson, who has taken their abysmal record over the past couple of years and realised that one point is better than none. As a result, he is playing defensive formations, a tactic that has resulted in numerous goalless draws. Expect more of the same today.
Our opponents are exactly going to be charging out at us, so it makes a lot of sense to go for the jugular as we did so effectively against Roma. Don’t wait until the last ten minutes to show some urgency, attack from the first minute. If it works, we can ease off in the second half with the game won, but the last thing we want is to go into the final fifteen still searching for that goal.
Even with Walcott, Eduardo and Adebayor still out (all of which will return soon), along with the recovering Cesc and Rosicky, we have plenty of attacking talent. Diaby has remarkably been passed fit, while Arshavin will probably return to the side after an exciting debut last weekend. With Nasri showing real spark the other night, we should have more than enough.
Of course, this is far from the first time we’ve said that this season – you could cut and paste the phrases ‘need to put a run together’, ‘need to dispatch them quickly’, ‘need to put pressure on Villa’ from many other match previews. And with twelve games to go, it is time those things came together. If we can’t do it against a side who are truly dreadful on the road, we probably don’t deserve it.
But I’m feeling strangely confident today – I think the players will kick on from Tuesday night and put in a real performance today. And so the bet of the day returns (which is currently 0 for 6, to be fair), with a pound being put on a 3-0 win, 17/2 at Sportingbet.
Enjoy the game.
One final thing – there has been a lot of talk recently about the 6+5 rule, but the media has misinterpreted this week’s approvals to mean that the rule would be legal. It isn’t, and the best piece I’ve seen written on it is over at 7am Kickoff, where the story is expertly ripped apart. Folks, it isn’t happening, no matter how excited Sepp Blatter gets. It is illegal, simple as.