One of the best things about baseball is that for any team, there’s a game almost literally every single day from April until late September. This means a lot of things that are the opposite of soccer - it means that single plays are essentially meaningless in isolation, it means that trends are a lot easier to forecast, and it means, on a very basic level, that you have to be very forgetful as a player in order to succeed. Are you a relief pitcher who got shelled yesterday? Doesn’t matter, that was yesterday, forget it and move on, today’s a new day. Did you go 0 for 5 at the plate with four strikeouts yesterday? Oh well, get a couple hits today and you’re fine.
Soccer, as we all know, doesn’t have that rhythm - there’s normally one or two games a week, so you have time to chew on what went right and stew over what went wrong for at least a couple days. As human beings, it’s hard to let things go when you have time to let them sit, so it’s not super far-fetched to believe that some soccer players can’t let bad days go that quickly.
Which is why the overstuffed Premier League holiday calendar comes in handy sometimes. It’s not often that a team gets shellacked 5-1; any other time of the year, and there’d be several days worth of wallowing in that muck before trying to get up for the next game. But that was Saturday, and the next league game is tomorrow; no time to mope.
Unfortunately, that also means no time to get healthy, and Arsenal desperately need some health right now. They will run out with probably a similar squad as they deployed against Liverpool; the one nice thing about that game is nobody had to be stretchered off. Mesut Özil is still a doubt with a knee problem, and otherwise you know the list and I don’t have six hours to write it all out. It’s funny because it’s true!*
On the other side of the ball, Fulham have, if not turned themselves around under Claudio Ranieri, at least stopped the bleeding. They have two clean sheets in their last three games, and they have not lost in those three games, drawing twice and winning against 20th placed Huddersfield on Saturday. That win got Fulham, still in 19th place, one point from escaping the relegation zone. While it’s probably not right to say Fulham are a whole new team, as Arsenal learned last week, a lower-in-the-table team is not to be taken lightly, particularly when you’re injury-hit and not playing particularly well.
A win tomorrow, while it certainly doesn’t solve any of Arsenal’s long-term problems, would go a long way towards making the end of 2018 not taste quite as bitter as it does right now.
*It’s not funny
Arsenal v. Fulham, Premier League
Emirates Stadium, London
Wednesday, January 1, 2019
7AM PT/10AM ET/3PM BT