Emery’s Functional Fantasy Football Is Springing

Last week I wrote about the upcoming stretch of home fixtures and the impact with which the extra training could have on performance. The comfortable and somewhat flamboyant win over Southampton at the weekend blossomed a little hope in that regard, and with the Europa League draw now rooted in place, we know for certain that this group of players will only be away from the capital once before the next international break.

The winds of change can waft through football fairly rapidly but it’s hard not to be optimistic for the month ahead. Emery’s functional fantasy football is springing, Mesut Ozil is beginning to shake off his seasonal affective disorder, and even Stefan Lichsteiner is revving up and down the right flank like a newly refurbished Monteverdi Tiara. And so, to keep us all in good spirits until the international inertia, here’s a quick glimpse at the four fixtures that come before it…

1 – Bournemouth (H). With 3 wins, 10 losses, and 30 goals conceded from 13 away fixtures this season, The Cherries are rotten on the road. Eddie Howe’s side shipped three goals at Anfield, two goals in Cardiff, and another two at Goodison Park, all without reply. This followed a 4-1 thumping at Old Trafford and 5-0 against Spurs. In fact, you would have to go as far back as October 27th 2018 in order to identify their last away win, which perhaps unsurprisingly, came against the only defence leakier than their own at Craven Cottage. If Arsenal can find a similar performance to the one most recently witnessed, then three points should be a given.

2 – The Team That Remains Homeless (A). They’re falling apart. We have a great opportunity to stick a dagger in the heart and wiggle it around a bit. By this time, with a bit of luck, they would have lost to Chelsea and the league table will have a very different outlook.

3 – Rennes (H). The Europa League draw was about as friendly as it was going to be. The French club, who’s academy produced WiltOOOOOORD, currently sit 8th in Ligue 1 and have struggled for form all season. Rennes very nearly made a tit of themselves in the Coupe de France at the turn of the year before eventually defeating Ligue 2 side Brest after a penalty shootout. The team have been granted an 8-day rest ahead of the clash with Arsenal but with three wins from their last eight, I’m not sure we have much to be worried about here.

4 – Man Utd (H). ‘There’s never a good time to play United.’ Or so the cliché goes. United have been in good form of late and certainly presented Arsenal a few problems in the FA Cup. However, that game was shaping up to be mightily different before Sokratis limped off injured and Lukaku put all his weight on Koscielny’s jaw. Both English teams will be returning from trips across the channel and there’s every possibility that United’s game will be a lot more taxing than ours, as they fight to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the Champions League. Injuries are also starting to take their toll on Solksjaer ‘s squad. All of this, plus the opportunity to enact revenge, makes this a pretty tasty fixture and one to look forward to.

Nine sun-kissed points in the league and a relaxing passage to the next round of the Europa League it is then. Heh.

Gavin Binding

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