So how was everyone's week? Eventful? Mine certainly wasn't. It was completely, 100% uneventful. Manchester you say? Never heard of it.
Up next we entertain Arsenal at The London Stadium. This fixture last season brought us a 3-3 draw with Andy Carroll bagging a hattrick. It just so happens that the big man will most likely be returning to the squad for the visit of Wenger's men tomorrow. I wouldn't mind some of the same again Andy, if you're offering.
I spoke to Paul DeBruler from our Arsenal sister-site The Short Fuse to get the Arsenal perspective of the fixture.
It seems like it's been going pretty well for Arsenal so far this season with only really recent draws keeping you off the top. Would you agree with that assessment?
Largely, yes. Late-Wenger period Arsenal usually get out of the gate pretty fast and stumble pretty hard in November, and by those standards this was a better month - as you say, there were several draws, but the EFL Cup loss midweek was their first loss since the opening day of the season, so I have no complaints. Well, I have small complaints, but overall I'm happy.
What's your opinion of your striker situation. Has it figured itself out without having to buy another forward?
I think having Alexis slide forward every now and again has been a revelation. He's a fantastic player, and having him as an out-and-out striker works really well. That said, I didn't think Arsenal had a "striker situation" to start with - I love Olivier Giroud, and I think he's a fantastic player who gets a bad rap because he's streaky. The nice thing now is, with Alexis and Giroud, Arsenal have two different looks - Alexis will run and pass you to death and score before you know it's happening, and Giroud is a more direct, "traditional" center forward who will score on you whether you want him to or not.
Is this a side capable of winning the title, if not how far away are you?
Yes. But then so was last year's, and the year's before that. The two things that hold Arsenal back are health - for some reason, they can never stay 100% healthy for even one month - and their mentality. While calling them "big game bottlers" is both harsh and untrue, there is a thing with Arsenal where they get to big games, or games they're expected to win easily, and...don't get the job done. You can see this most recently in the Champions League against PSG - Arsenal would have clinched first place in the group had they won, but instead they came out looking insipid, and had to fight back to a draw that means first place is still to play for on the last match day. If they can just get that "I will step on your neck" mentality sharpened up, this could be a supremely dangerous team.
As a side who left a traditional football ground for something new and corporate, did you go through a transition period of struggle when you first moved in like we are?
Sort of? I mean, Arsenal self-financed their stadium, so the move was in the middle of a period of severe financial austerity for the club - austerity, I mean, relative to the other billionaire clubs, not to real life. Nobody thought that Arsenal's move would be an immediate springboard to a title, but it was seen as an inevitable part of always being in the title conversation. Which Arsenal have been, despite the lazy narrative of always finishing fourth; Arsenal have never finished lower than fourth in Wenger's 20 years in charge. So overall, the move wasn't seismic.
#WengerIn or #WengerOut? I'm sorry, I had to.
I was passionately, angrily #WengerIn until last year, and now I'm very reluctantly, and very non-loudly, #WengerOut. Not because of a lack of titles - a championship is not a birthright, and while I love it when Arsenal win, it's not a precondition of my fanhood that they do - but because Wenger has, in a few ways, let the game pass him by.
I mean, we're talking about a man who utterly revolutionized everything about the English game when he arrived. He used that revolution to dominate for a number of years, and in that time, other teams have caught up and improved upon his improvements. Wenger, for all his good qualities, is as stubborn (if not more so) than Sir Alex Ferguson was; Wenger believes that his way of playing is the right way, and that the right way will win solely because it's the right way. And we're seeing increasing evidence that, first of all, his way of playing is the right way only about 75% of the time, and that even in that 75%, the right way doesn't always win.
So while I don't want him fired, and while I don't want to see him perp-walked out of the Emirates on his last day, I do wish that this season, his last under contract at Arsenal, will be his last. And I will make the trip to London to see the unveiling of the statue they will and should build him at the Emirates once he's done, and I will cry like a three year old.
What would be your Arsenal/West Ham combined XI?
I have to claim a severe handicap here - I guiltily admit that I don't watch West Ham often if at all. So I'm not really an expert on your squad in depth, but I will say that I would love to see Dmitri Payet on the left wing of Arsenal's current midfield; that would be scary good and a ton of fun to watch.
Finally, what's your predicted line up and score?
Arsenal played a pretty unfamiliar XI in the Cup midweek, so this will be as full a strength side as they have I think.
Cech; Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Gabriel; Özil, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez
As for a score, I'm notoriously bad at predicting scores, but here we go. As mentioned above, Arsenal can tend to struggle against teams they are expected to beat easily; I think Arsenal have enough to win, but I also think they'll make it harder than it needs to be. 3-2 to the Arsenal.
Thanks to Paul for taking the time to answer my questions. We did the same thing over on The Short Fuse so make sure to check it out!