The world is watching: A huge weekend for…
And every week it gets bigger. Every time Arsenal fall at a hurdle questions will be asked, and this week more than any other, the queries are regarding the manager.
Why has he not got a proper goalkeeper?
Why did he not invest suitably in central defenders in January?
Why do Arsenal not have a midfield enforcer?
Why does his team consistently play nice football but fail to have a cutting edge on the biggest stage?
Why has his team not won a trophy for six years?
It would be unfair to expect Arsene Wenger and his side to answer all of these questions on Saturday, but three points is a must. This is a much-altered West Brom from the one that won at the Emirates in the reverse fixture. Fortunes have changed, mindset has changed, and manager has changed.
The next two months could be massive. Just think for a moment. If Arsenal lose on Saturday, does the trickle of discontent grow into a steady stream?
Much like at the Emirates (though at a very different level), the fairytale is over at Bloomfield Road, and one win in nine games has seen the Lancashire club tumble to within a single point of the drop zone.
Key to this demise is a defence that has conceded three or more goals in six of its last nine games. It would be harsh to say that the wheels have come off for Blackpool, because quite frankly no-one thought they would be there in the first place, but there is a danger that second time round clubs are not taking the Tangerines too lightly.
The key to Blackpool surviving could be repeating a feat they have already achieved. In the run in they face Newcastle, Stoke, Spurs and Wigan, all teams that were defeated in the reverse fixture. On Saturday, however, it is a Lancashire derby against a genuine relegation candidate. File this one under “must not lose”.
Cities do go through an ‘annus horribilis’. Nottingham has had one, Bristol has had one, Manchester has had one. Is this season the turn of Sheffield?
United, quite honestly, have been dreadful, and I say that even seeing them beat Nottingham Forest ten days ago. They lack creativity and collusion, understandable when you consider that if Micky Adams loses his job it could be fourth managers in eight months. Relegation looms unless things improve.
Wednesday, quite honestly, have been worse. Early season promise has been blown away by a series of inept performances, and new manager (and I use the term ‘manager’ quite wrongly) Gary Megson has thus far managed to bring to the party a record of P 10, W2, D2, L6, and have lost all their home games bar one.
A sad time to be a football supporter in South Yorkshire. And games against Leeds and Southampton this weekend don’t make things in any way easier.
If Blackpool’s season is untwining with one win from nine, Sunderland’s (with one win from eight) must surely be seen as doing the same. That one win was against the aforementioned Tangerine army, and losses against Stoke, Everton and Notts County have been painful to watch.
Whether or not the loss of Darren Bent has been felt harder than the club hoped, something needs to change quickly if the season is not to become stagnated. On Sunday they face a side that has seemingly done the opposite after losing a star striker. The difference is, Liverpool were able to replace.
This has turned into a series of clubs whose seasons are starting to unravel. City have gone out of the Europa League, face United in the FA Cup and are fighting for a mere fourth place in the Premier League.
With Spurs facing West Ham at White Hart Lane, a game at Stamford Bridge becomes massively important City. They have a brilliant recent record against the Blues, with Tevez in particular enjoying his games at the Bridge.
Lose on Sunday, and Mancini will be in a difficult battle to qualify for the Champions League. Fail, and he will surely be out of a job come June?
Unless you live under a stone, you will remember that last time the old foes met there was a fair deal of rumpus. Lennon fought with McCoist, Rangers players fought with the referee, and fans fought with each other.
This week, they all
have a nice little road trip to the capital get together again for the Co-operative Insurance Cup. If you are a petty thief north of the border, Sunday afternoon is your ideal opportunity. All bobbies are on guard.
For once in a cup final, the end result is not the most important thing.