Let-offs, leaks & livery

Does anybody want to finish third? After we made a right royal mess of our game with Norwich, we found ourselves needing favours from elsewhere. Thanks to an abundance of dark prayer and a good degree of fortune, we got them: City beat Newcastle to set themselves on course for the title, and Aston Villa managed to hold ten man Spurs to a 1-1 draw. It is somehow back in our hands.

It’s a reprieve that I’m not sure we deserve. Arsene was clearly furious with the performance on Saturday, and fiercely critical of our play at both ends of the pitch. Of the defending, he said:

“Again we made the mistakes at the back which were absolutely unbelievable. It is a big disappointment because when you come back into the game like we did from 2-1 and then give a goal away in the way that we did.

At the back everybody was absolutely horrendous for the third goal. It is just not acceptable.”

The forwards didn’t escape criticism either:

“When you look at the chances we created, it is absolutely unbelievable that we scored only three goals.

Again we are punished because Robin had to score and many times we do not get enough goals from elsewhere. We had so many obvious chances that you would want somebody else to score one. That doesn’t happen enough.”

Even Robin could have been a little sharper. Everyone – from Szczesny to the skipper – will have to be markedly better at West Brom on Sunday.

It is now devastatingly, heart-stoppingly simple: win at West Brom, and third is ours. There’s no trophy on hand, but in many other respects it resembles a cup final: ninety minutes that will determine if this season lives in the memory as a blessed relief or a painful disaster.

It’s a fantastic opportunity, and one which we really shouldn’t have. One can only hope the players recognise their good fortune and seize the second chance that’s been afforded to them. However, after taking just three points from the last four games, a degree of doubt among supporters is more than understandable. The bad news is that if results go against us on Sunday (and in tonight’s game between Liverpool and Chelsea), we could end up as low as sixth. Anyhow, there’s time later in the week to discuss what is sure to be a massive day for the club.

If you listen to the chatter on Twitter and forums, many supporters’ minds have already turned to next season. The winds of change haven’t yet blown the transfer window open, yet already the rumours are whipping up a frenzy. The two names cropping up most commonly are those of Yann M’vila and Jan Vertonghen. As far as I’m aware, stories suggesting a deal for either of these players is imminent are somewhat premature. Whilst I don’t doubt Arsene admires both, competition for their signature and the limitations of our 25-man squad and wage structure make their arrivals far from a certainty. Vertonghen, for example, is far closer to signing for Spurs, and I understand that: we have plenty of centre-backs.

There’s also been debate about just who will replace Pat Rice as Arsene’s assistant manager next season. Le Grove say it will be Steve Bould. If that turns out to be the case, I’d welcome the appoint. Bould has done a fantastic job with the U-18s, and I’m sure will carry that work over to the first-team. However, expecting him to drill a back four to match the one he played in is probably unrealistic. Only recently Bould spoke about the impossibility of replicating that sort of unit:

“You could not step up with your arm out and scream offside like we used to. That is not an area you can really coach any more. Also, you cannot get away with going to ground or any real aggressive tackling the way we used to nowadays.

So, while there are some principles that persist, passing on what I used to do as a player has to be adapted.”

Certainly an internal appointment would make most sense, and if Bould is the man chosen I expect we’ll hear something about it in the days following the West Brom game.

Another change for next season will be our home strip, with the club unveiling Nike’s latest offering:

It doesn’t seem to be particularly popular, particularly compared with this year’s classically simple 125th Anniversary effort, but I must admit I don’t mind it. The regularity with which we change our kits around means that there will inevitably be arbitrary changes introduced, like the blue trim, and I’m happy to put up with it for a season or two.

Right. This is going to feel like a long old week.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.