The international break is almost over and proper football is on our doorstep
I find it impossible to believe that the international break was just a fortnight. Perhaps Sepp Blatter has developed some worm hole technology that makes time move slower during the international period. Regardless of the debate over how long it has actually been, proper football is ready to be restored. Arsenal must not focus on the task at hand; namely revenging one of their worst losses of the season.
As painful as our loss to the sky blues was back in November, there are many reasons to believe we can reverse our fortunes on Saturday. First, that game was played at the City of Manchester stadium where Citeh have been a much better side this season. Their away form has been dreadful, and Robinho’s play has been particularly putrid on their travels. Another reason for optimism, is the fact that we started possibly our weakest team of the season in that 3-0 defeat.
Honestly, this was the starting XI: Almunia, Hoyte, Silvestre, Djourou, Clichy, Nasri, Denilson, Song, Diaby, Van Persie, Bendtner. Even our bench was atrocious that day, featuring Vela, Fabiansky, Lansbury, Ramsey, Gibbs, Wilshire, and Simpson. Vela and Ramsey were the only subs used. Clearly it was not a strong side and players like Hoyte and Diaby were forced to play out of position just to make up the numbers. I have a feeling we can expect better on Saturday. So there are reasons for optimism as I stated, and we’ll get to all of that in the next blog previewing the match.
I had hoped to have access to Wenger’s press conference prior to writing this blog entry, but no such luck, so all I can really do right now is tell you the news you probably already know. Fabregas, Walcott and Adebayor are all back in the team. Bendtner is probably fit and Vela will be fatigued from travel but available if needed. We probably won’t know about Nasri until the last minute as he battles to recover from the flu. Come on you little french white blood cells! Truthfully, Nasri will probably get the day off to ensure his full fitness for Villareal considering that Arshavin won’t be available. It looks like Van Persie and Eduardo will not be fit for Saturday. Both have slight hamstring problems and I’m guess that neither will be a long term problem.
Eduardo in particular can’t be very badly hurt considering he suffered his injury during the Andorra game but managed to play all 90 minutes. Having watched that game, I was screaming at the television for him to be substituted in the second half. Why did he play all 90 minutes in a game that Croatia had wrapped up when he’s just returned to fitness? It’s no wonder Arsene goes apoplectic over this crap.
Finally, Abou Diaby is injured. I’ve heard it was his hip, but Wenger claims it’s his thigh. While the injury does not initially sound serious, it’s Diaby so I’ll reserve judgment. The thigh may need to be amputated. (All kidding aside, he did return from his last injury swiftly so maybe he’s starting a new trend…)
Could Wenger possibly start Cesc, Theo AND Adebayor on Saturday? My inclination is; no. As fun as it would be to see all of them on the pitch to start the match, we must remember that none of them are fully match fit. As great as they all can be, starting three rusty players may not be in our best interest. Having them available for 30 great minutes in the second half could prove much more advantageous. Adebayor may have to start with Eduardo and Van Persie out. If Nasri is sidelined with flu, then it’s down to Eboue or Walcott for the starting left midfield position. We really don’t know anything about Walcott’s fitness except that he’s back in the team.
I’ve read a lot of blogs that suggest Cesc will start but I have my doubts. He hasn’t played since December and it would be absurd to think he can play 90 minutes. Wenger has said that he will need at least three matches to get back to his best. That may be true, but 50% of Cesc is probably better than 100% of any of our other central midfielders. But let me pose a question for you to answer. Which would you rather have happen; Cesc coming off the pitch at a critical point in the match, or Cesc coming on to the pitch to provide that necessary boost with 30 minutes to play? It’s pretty clear to me that he would be a bigger help coming off the bench. If it’s a tight game in the second half the last thing we need is Cesc being taken off for Denilson. But Cesc coming on for Denilson sounds pretty good to me. I personally think we could see a starting midfield of Arshavin, Song, Denilson and Walcott. Fabregas then comes in for Denilson on 60 minutes. (Hopefully to help add to our comfortable lead.)
It could be a good day for the gunners. The crowd will definitely be up for it after the long long long long long interminably long international break. They will be further excited by the return of our talisman. Add Adebayor and Theo into the mix and it should be a good atmosphere. The players will be looking forward to getting pay back for the last Citeh match and considering how poor Citeh have been on their travels, if everything falls into place, it could be a fun match to watch. I’m excited to see Bendtner and Adebayor competing for Arshavin’s excellent service.
Here are some astounding statistics on just how poor Citeh have been in their away matches. They have one win (only Stoke and West Brom are worse). They have a -10 goal differential, including a shocking 25 goals allowed (only West Brom, Middelsbrough, Stoke and Portsmouth are worse). They’ve score 15 away, compared with 31 at home. Considering their record at home, we shouldn’t be too embarassed by what happened in November, but we certainly should set it right at the Emirates.
More on saturday’s match to follow.
Until then, congratulations on surviving another shockingly dull international break. We’ve survived the injury scares and the fear-mongering transfer news. Here’s hoping we are properly rewarded on Saturday.