Gunner Thoughts

Arsenal in Need of a Gust to Continue Their Title Odyssey

This season is an odyssey and Arsenal can unleash a god-given bag of wind back into the sails of their ship with a win Wednesday.

As this title-contending season progresses and the draining emotions of being in a race like this return after so many years, it begins to feel less like a marathon and more like an epic straight out of the mind of Homer himself. It’s become an odyssey that’s long, exhausting, thrilling, and nerve-wracking. And, sadly, like the Odyssey itself there comes a time when setbacks derail our heroes from reaching their destination.

The multi-headed hydra bastard of the PGMOL struck another blow to the campaign, through the incompetence of their most fearsome mythological creature, the Lee Mason Cyclops. It’s not an acceptable thing to occur and be simply washed away as “human error”.

Earlier this year the same man cost Arsenal a goal at Old Trafford, another error that the league had to come out after to offer a weak mea culpa, meaning Arsenal have two verified cases of acknowledged referee error. It feels unprecedented in a league that will defend just about anything to deny refereeing mistakes. But in comparison, I am at least willing to say the error at Old Trafford qualified as a close call with contact and a fine line. He was wrong to make it, the call was wrong, but THAT feels at least a little like human error.

The situation at Brentford is just negligence and being horrible at your job — something Mason has a documented, historical dossier of at this point.

But two “sorrys” and maybe a “whoopsie doozle” does nothing for an Arsenal side that lives its life with Manchester City breathing down their neck. And for this first time this season, the sails of Gunners’ ship has lost the wind.

Luckily, or unluckily, the fixture gods have handed Arsenal an opportunity. Like in Homer’s Odyssey, a matchup with Manchester City poses two potential results — of course it comes at a time when Arsenal’s form is at its worst — a win that produces a guiding westerly wind to propel the ship’s sails and drive Arsenal to their destination or a loss that stands to open up Aeolus’ gifted bag of winds and hurtle the ship further from home than ever before.

Does a draw do Arsenal favors? Yes, absolutely. It’s a match at home and Arsenal have shown that the gap between these two teams is closer than it has been in roughly half a decade. A draw at least keeps City at arms length.

But the opportunity is there for the taking. Arsenal took Manchester City the distance last season at the Emirate, and their rotated side went toe-to-toe with City in the FA Cup. The stakes are much higher and the energy will be ratcheted up, but Arsenal can’t ask for more intrinsic motivation than they have been given.

If Mikel Arteta isn’t in that locker room talking about the opportunity to make a statement against this team, and embracing the feeling of “the world vs. The Arsenal” in which he points at Lee Mason twice and the odd FA Charges leveled against them and the rival fans that are lining up behind City to see them win it again — I would be shocked.

It’s too far to say with certainty that the season has reached it’s crossroads — win and win it all, lose and concede the title — but it’s also hard to not feel like the team is sitting at one when the form has suffered a blip. The problem is, a blip in a race against City, the most expensive team ever assembled, can feel almost insurmountable. It feels all too easy to let it slide away from you, even when that “slide” is only a few points.

In the face of difficult times, many fans have already slipped into the age old tripe of blaming the January window, but I have a difficult time agreeing. It’s too reductive. Trossard has been fantastic and I’m not sure Caicedo makes a difference against Everton when the problem didn’t lie in Partey’s play. It just feels like the easy scapegoat.

The solutions to this blip exist within the side. Arteta will have to find a solution to teams playing a centrally-compact low block and closing down the wings but this matchup with City shouldn’t see that be an obstacle. Both teams will feel confident in their ability to play an open affair and duke it out with the man across from them. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pep look to clog the middle and double in the wings, but it certainly won’t be in a low block fashion.

Many have called for Arteta to make changes to the lineup and I’m not sure we are going to see him. Perhaps Trossard has done enough to pry his way into the XI, but I’m equally as inclined to believe this could be an open-space affair that suits the danger Martinelli can offer us as the outlet ball. Arsenal have played the most consistent starting lineup in the whole league and it has gotten us this far. With Aston Villa at the weekend, I expect Arteta to look toward that matchup as the opportunity to rotate in the likes of Trossard, Kieran Tierney, Tomiyasu, and maybe even Vieira.

Every fighter will have marked this date on their calendar and be raring to go. Yet, Arsenal must try to remind themselves that this odyssey has many stages left. There have been many foes to slay and there will be many more. But as the boat sits in stagnant waters, a result on Wednesday could be the gust to push this team back into motion in a major major way.

… Fuck Lee Mason. We will win it despite him.

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