Finally, at the end of a tough week that started with a draw away to Newcastle, some good news has arrived. Robin Van Persie returns to the first team squad for the visit of Steaua. He has returned after a layout that has seen him out since October. The “2-3 weeks out” envisaged by Mr Wenger was very wrong and it is great to have Van Persie back for this busy part of the season. Abou Diaby is also back to bolster the squad.
The other great news is Flamini looks likely to be offered a new 5-year contract after his brilliant start to this season. He has transformed our midfield and played in such a style that means Arsenal can no longer be bullied. In his two games out, Arsenal have been out fought and looked shaky in the centre of the park. There was a worry we could lose this “new” player come the end of the season, with him free to talk to other clubs come January. He is also likely to be fit for Sunday which could be crucial.
Some bad news is that Cesc Fabregas and Alex Hleb are no nearer to a return for Sunday. This is very bad news as they really are crucial to our team. We are getting back 2/4 of our players we really need, but all four really would be a boost for the team and for the fans before Sunday’s crucial game. What does amaze me though is the length of time Arsenal players seem to take to recover. Last season, William Gallas was supposed to return after a short lay off – this soon became two months. Tomas Rosicky seemed to miss games all the time through injury.
This leads me to look at Arsenal’s injury policy. It seems to me that Wenger will only let his players return if they are 100% fit. This is a fair enough decision with the level so high at the top level. Wenger, I think, trusts natural healing over aided recovery. However I would like to think certain players who were near enough to the top level, would be allowed to take some sort of injection to play in big games. I would only encourage this if the player was not at risk of worsening an injury by taking this injection. I have seen Gerrard and Terry take these without having any lasting problems. If Cesc and Hleb are ok to take one, I really think they should. It has become clear this week as to the importance of them to our team.
Another thing I must ask is why they are out for so long. I have racked my brains as to why Cesc has a fitness test for Villa, two weeks before the Chelsea game, yet he is now more than likely to miss out. Surely he has made the final steps to recovery within two weeks. Unless he got injured in the fitness test, now that would be unbelievable! The same happened with Alex Hleb. Having returned for Villa, he got a knock to his calf but had a fitness test ahead of the Newcastle game. Suddenly he was out of the Boro game with no chance of a comeback – now the Chelsea game looks a distant hope aswell. What’s going on here? Either the medical staff are taking too long to get these players fit, or Wenger is wrapping them up in cotton wool so they are at their peak fitness levels.
I know its hard with the Chelsea game approaching, but lets look at tomorrow’s match. My feeling is that whatever we do tomorrow, we will be coming 2nd in the group as Sevilla will beat Slavia more than likely For me it is destiny to meet Barca in the knockout rounds; this way it could happen very early on. 3 points would be a welcome boost for those likely to fill in on Sunday, and a perfect chance for certain players to gain fitness before Sunday. As I said Van Persie will return to play some part, Diaby the same and Jens Lehmann will play in goal.
It is such a long time since the mad German was in goal for us, this is mainly down to Almunia’s brilliant form. I doubt Lehmann has a chance to play on Sunday, considering Almunia has not done much to be dropped. However it is a chance for him to show why he has been shooting his mouth off. He better take it. Wenger will rotate his squad again but certain players will get a chance tomorrow to try and get a place in Sunday’s team.
Across the back four I would like Sagna and Clichy rested, along with Toure and/or Gallas. If all of them are rested it gives a chance for Hoyte, Senderos, Song and Traore to try and show Wenger why they might push for a place in the team more regularly. If Song is not chosen for Cameroon he can push Senderos for the slot alongside Gallas when Toure leaves for Africa. That is, unless Wenger buys a centre back as he has hinted (my wish)
Eboue needs to be benched; both tomorrow and for the Chelsea game. How he did not get sent off, ON TWO OCCASIONS on Sunday, baffled me. They guy is petulant and as I have said countless times, when our backs are against the wall, Eboue runs away. He gets lost in games and it infuraites me as he has talent but only shows this on rare occasions. Diarra has played well recently, Boro excluded and he has done ok in the Flamini role. He tackles hard, hassles players and breaks things up. Gilberto seems to have become a very average player over night. Last season he was brilliant; this season he has been very very poor. He gives the ball away far too often and does not seem to help either defence or attack. This season Wenger has played a hard tackling centre midfielder alongside a more attacking player. Gilberto no longer fits into this. He will play tomorrow though, I think, but please not against Chelsea. I would like to see Diaby or Denilson play in the middle with Diarra, with a re-think regarding Sunday once we know fitness levels.
Rosicky should also be rested as we need him for Sunday. He was the main creative spark, however faint, on Sunday and may have a big job at the weekend, especially if Hleb and Cesc are out. This leaves two spaces on the wings for tomorrow’s game. I want Theo to start on the right with Kieran Gibbs on the left. He impressed in his two first team games and it is a perfect opportunity for him to make the step up once again. However I think Diaby will fill in on the left. Walcott has asked for more games, and claims to have a new found positive and “aggresive” approach, now let him show this.
If Van Persie starts then i would like to see him start alongside Bendtner. The Dane is similar to Adebayor (rested) and Van Persie works well with this type of player. Bendtner did ok on Sunday and has looked good this season when he has came on in games. Eduardo was very bad on Sunday, he did not link with Adebayor and his decision making was poor and slow. He does seem to have a lot more settling in to do and is not yet ready for big games yet. If RVP cannot start tomorrow then Eduardo may get another chance. If Van Persie is not fit for Sunday, or cant last 90 minutes, then, if Bendtner can set his stall out tomorrow, he is a good bet for Sunday.
The team I would like to see is this (along with definite starters).
We need to get our season back on track and we can start this tomorrow.