Key Arsenal players look set to play a role in the United semi-final tie
For once, the injury news coming from Arsene Wenger is reasonable positive. But let’s start with the bad news just to get it out of the way. There was some speculation that Van Persie was “rested” for the Liverpool match at Anfield. Well, we can rule out that theory now that Van Persie is set to miss the first leg of the CL semi-finals. According to Wenger, he is out until at least the Portsmouth game, which means that he would be eligible to return in time for the return leg against United.
Missing RVP is never an ideal situation for the Gunners, but I think it has more potentially negative ramifications than usual for Wednesday’s game. Wenger has recently fallen in love with the 4-2-3-1 formation. I suppose he feels that the two holding midfielders give us support at the back while we still have plenty of firepower going forward. Let’s just say that the evidence is to the contrary. When playing in this formation, we have looked neither resolute defensively, nor threatening in attack. If Van Persie had been healthy for Wednesday, it would have been very difficult for Wenger to leave him on the bench. That would have put pressure on him to play a 4-4-2 and let the chips fall where they may.
Now that Van Persie is ruled out for the first leg against United, Wenger has an excuse to rely on the 4-2-3-1 once more. Adebayor is the natural choice to play the lone striker role, with Nasri, Cesc and Theo behind him and Song and Diaby holding. I just can’t believe that Denilson has a place in the squad for any remaining big games given his recent form. But even with Diaby replacing Denilson, the formation leaves a lot to be desired and it’s easy to see Adebayor looking isolated and drifting out of the game while Cesc’s influence is blunted by his more forward position. I’d hate to see it, but I have a feeling that I should be prepared. Unless Wenger miraculously decides to start Eduardo or Bendtner as a second striker then there’s little alternative to the lineup I’ve proposed. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.
Since I’ve rambled on as usual, I suppose that I should deliver the good injury news. I appears that Alumnia, Adebayor and, most importantly, Djourou are eligible to play as soon as Sunday. While Adebayor will probably be rested anyway, it would be good for Almunia and Djourou to get some playing time before Wednesday. In an even bigger pleasant surprise, Clichy is not ruled out for the season as had been widely speculated. Better still, he could be ready to play against United at the Emirates. Whether that’s in anyone’s best interest is another topic, but extra help in defense can only help at this point. Let’s face it, the more fit defenders we have, the less likely it is that Silvestre will have to play.
Gallas and Rosicky have been officially ruled out for the remainder of the season but that doesn’t come as a big surprise to anyone. The Rosicky story just keeps getting more depressing. It must be gut-wrenching for him to be so close to fitness and then suffer these setbacks that keep him from joining his teammates at this critical point in the season. Arseblogger, whose blog should be required reading for any Arsenal supporter, has repeatedly pointed out that it was always going to be best for Rosicky to come back next season after a full pre-season of training. While that’s certainly true, I can’t help but feel that it would have been a big emotional lift for the player and the team were he to have made even a token appearance this season. For example, Eduardo’s return seemed to lift the team during a turbulent time and we have carried on well since that moment, despite the fact that Eduardo really hasn’t had much of a comeback yet. Mostly, I just feel tremendous sympathy for Rosicky. These should be his best playing years, he’s a very talented player, and he’s being robbed of his career by a freak injury.
One final bit of intrigue for today. Read Gunnerblog’s entry for April 23rd here. He suggests that Rafa Benitez made a dismissive and disrespectful gesture following Arshavin’s spectacular goal that leveled Tuesday’s match at 2-2. I must admit that I didn’t see the gesture and I’m not sure what to make of it. Different nationalities have different gestures that have wildly different meanings. What I do know is that Rafa is piling up the disrespectful gestures and comments this season so it’s not unreasonable to interpret the gesture as Gunnerblog did. More than anything, I’m happy to embrace any story that covers Liverpool generally, and Rafa specifically, in shame so allow me to say that I support Gunnerblog’s interpretation. Please interpret the gesture as you see fit.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow I’ll try to start getting excited for the game with ‘Boro. Won’t be easy.