• Emirates Stadium
  • Premiership
  • Sunday 16th February 2020. 4.30pm
  • Live on SKY Sports

After a mid season mini break which saw dozens of hideously sleeve-tattooed, multi millionaire footballers swanning around Dubai, we’re back to the football grindstone this weekend. It’s a trip to North London to face Arsenal in front of the cameras. London and SKY, always a happy mix.

Much to the chagrin of the potty mouthed chatterboxes on Arsenal TV, their club have been on a slow decline for a number of years now, innit. Arsene’s final years were oddly disappointing, his successor Unai Emery never really got going, and now they’ve turned to the dashing Pep protégé Mikel to improve their fortunes.

That Arsenal start Sunday’s fixture on the same points as us, (with two less wins!) tells you how tepid they’ve been. Their defence hasn’t looked right for a while now, the midfield appears to be missing Aaron Ramsey and up top, without the continued brilliance of (a reportedly unhappy) Aubameyang they’d be much deeper in the mire.

They’ve improved under the new manager though, and are actually unbeaten since the turn of the year. During this period, they’ve won two and drawn four. A 2-0 home win versus the Mancs being the pick of this bunch. Whilst they look more solid, they really need to begin turning draws into victories to climb anywhere near relative respectability.

What of the Mags? Well, you’d hope that the long weekend away from football will have done some good. The twin evils of a threadbare, injury haunted squad and too many games in a short space had really caught up with us.

The tortuous turning over of Div 3 FA Cup opposition and our last Premiership outing v Norwich were (for the large part) not easy on the eye. This run of fixtures were played out to the accompaniment of Saudi pipe dreams, a winky windmilling Mag and the sudden match-day reappearance of our mood hoovering owner.

The mundanity and frustration are as palpable as they’re relentless.

It’s probably a bit early to tell who exactly will be fit for this one. My constant companion physioroom.com tells me we’ve only got the eleven out currently. I did read some Ronnie Gill blether this afternoon about ‘welcoming’ Joe and the lesser spotted Muto back, though. Mint, eh?

Our loan ranger trio of Rose, Bentaleb and Lazaro will be available; alongside (hopefully) Miggy and the majestic St Max. The three centre backs pretty much pick themselves, as does Martin between the sticks.

Will we have enough to bring home a point or three? Hmm, Sorry. Not for my money.

We last won here nearly a decade ago, when a young AC headed home in a 1-0er. His older self is possibly a better all round player but manages to get on the field even less. I wish he was around this weekend, as he’s a handful up top and a stoic defender of corners. He’s fettled, so it’s with Joe we go.

I’ll admit it now. I have a blind spot where Carroll is concerned. Castle Farm Mag’s opening day drunken proclamation that he wouldn’t notch this season is currently looking like winning him a few bob. Whilst my ‘5 goal’ retort looks as likely as a Sheikh sidling up Barrack Road with a big bag of blood money for Tubby Custard. Bah.

Anyway, to Sunday again. As usual, our plan A (B & C?) will be to frustrate, whilst sitting deep and getting pushed back deeper. There will be some forlorn hope of St Max magic, but as afternoon becomes evening, their 70 odd percent possession will mean a breakthrough. Then, probably another. I’m going for a regulation 2-0 to the Arse.. Double effing Bah.

Nick Clark