One feels that this will be the weekend when a clearer picture of the league begins to form. By Monday we should be able to draw some tentative early opinions on the teams at or near the top.
Arsenal go to man city. Firstly, it's a chance to bounce back quickly from the United defeat, although that now seems quite a while ago. Secondly, it provides an opportunity to put the newly moneyed city back in their box. And finally, a related point, we need to show Adebayor that while his move was certainly motivated by something green, it was not necessarily greener pastures. Significant stuff then.
We're missing Arhavin, which is certainly a blow, but Fabregas coming back should soften that. We definitely missed the Spanish magician at Old Trafford. And on the subject of Arshavin, I'd just like to point out some poor journalism. A guy talking on the usually brilliant Guardian podcast, an Arsenal fan whose name escapes me, mentioned Arshavin and the whole pod went into rapturous overpraise mode, someone saying that he's been the player of the season so far. Two quiet games, then another quiet one with an admittedly wonderful goal.. calm down lads. Of course it's ridiculous at this stage to even be talking that way, about best players and suchlike. Most have only played four league games.
Anyway.. I must say I'm a bit worried about this game. I really think it will set the tone for the rest of the season. Win, and we could start to feel justified in talking about a title tilt. Lose, and it could be a long campaign of papering over widening cracks, of fretting over our place in the top four slipping away, and the club quite possibly falling into an abyss of irrelevance. What an overblown phrase that was. Sorry.
And yes, some may say it's ridiculous to speak of ONE game, and so early in a season, having such significance. But I've already made my point about the fragile mentality of the Arsenal team. I'm aware that sport generally is largely a question of confidence, of momentum. But there are those that swiftly regain it after knocks, and those that too readily sink to wallowing in perceived injustice and other excuses. Arsenal under Wenger have too often fallen into the latter group and thus a good run can quickly turn into a wretched one- something in danger of happening in the event of a reverse against city.
If we win, on the other hand, the United game will no longer fester in the memory and there will be a feeling of momentum. The injury list will be a cause for optimism, in a perverse way- "look who we've got to come back!"- rather than an excuse for losses and a reason for the club's continued decline- "look who we're missing!".
It's going to be tough, no doubt about it. But their defence can surely be got at. We get the chance to torment the overrated Lescott again so soon after he allowed us such facile passage at Goodison. I'll stand for no torment of Kolo but would certainly appreciate one of his comical own goals. In front of their fragile-looking defence they have Barry. He's often got the runaround against better midfielders, as far as I've seen. It's time for Denilson and Song to stake a claim for the Better Than Barry group, otherwise we can forget about trophies.
Then, while there is a sense that we can get at city, they'll feel the same about us. They've a multitude of dangerous attacking players, especially Ireland, who Song must keep close tabs on. Wright-Phillips remains erratic but on a good day he will give clichy problems. Tevez is out but Robinho's a better player anyway (if sometimes a lot less commited) and he scored one of those great piss-taking lobs that everybody loves in the corresponding fixture last season.
Then there's Adebayor and much as he's been dismissed by Gooners, the guy is a danger, especially when a. motivated- face it, we've done that bit for him and b. on form, which he clearly is with 3 in 3 so far.
While people may continue to talk about the time it will take for city to gel, if they continue to grind out results as they have to this point then they will have a serious platform to build from if and when they do catch fire. And in fairness, it's not like Arsenal's frontline have looked altogether harmonious yet. Ya know what? I'd give Bendtner a go in the middle- 2 in 2 for Denmark in the international games- and play RVP from the right. can't see those two and Eduardo all starting, especially not away from home, so it could be Diaby or Eboue for the role as the other prong- apt where those two are concerned- of the strikeforce.
In Saturday's other eye-catching fixture, Manchester United will, with comical inevitability, end Spurs' wonderful start to the season. You read it here first. Well, no one actually reads this, but...