With the smile back on all our faces post-Yoonited and Pie-Eaters this week, can we really get on a roll against Villa tomorrow.
The first thing I’m looking forward to is a Saturday 3.00pm kick off, only the second out of six weekend League games at the Grove this season. Villa is tucked in behind us in fifth spot three points back, but have scored less and conceded more giving us a much better goal difference. They are coming off a loss last weekend to the Smoggies. We can expect a Martin O’Neill team to be competitive however. This is yet another must-win match for us if we’re going to get the wheels firmly back on our League campaign before our internationals scatter for national team games.
Those of our lads likely to be involved in the international friendlies next Wedneday are:
Denmark v Wales Niklas Bendtner & Aaron Ramsey
France v Uruguay Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Mikael Silvestre, Samir Nasri & William Gallas
Israel v Ivory Coast Emmanuel Eboue & Kolo Touré
Netherlands v Sweden Robin Van Persie
Switzerland v Finland Johan Djourou
Spain v Chile Cesc Fàbregas
Germany v England Theo Walcott
Let’s hope they all do themselves, Arsenal and their countries proud before returning fit and well for our game against Manchester Citeh next weekend (blessedly, another Saturday 3.00pm kick-off). A touch for us is Robinho and Elano are in the Brazil squad to play Portugal next Wednesday. Even better Brazil is playing a friendly at home (for once) in Brasilia, which means a 13 hour flight from London and a change of plane in either São Paulo or Rio for Brasilia (another two hours). Bonus! Given the time difference they won’t be back in Blighty until sometime on Friday.
On the transfer rumour front, those seekers after truth at the Daily Mail are reporting that we’re in the hunt for Barca defensive midfielder Sergi (not “Sergio” as reported in the Mail) Busquets. If it’s in the Daily Mail then it must be true. Not.
Meanwhile, Spanish sports daily Marca reported yesterday that Ruud van Nistelrooy is out for the rest of season with problems with his right knee. Eight months is the prognosis at the moment following exploratory surgery. Amongst the mooted replacements is Carlos Tevez.
Now then, the right-back selections for my All-Time Arsenal and World XIs, drum roll, in the starting line-ups will be:
Lee was a fabulous servant for Arsenal operating as a member of our famous No Goal Patrol defence making 618 first team appearances over fifteen seasons at the club. He also gained 22 England caps in his time with us. Lee paid his dues in the lower leagues with Burnley, Chester City, Bury and Stoke City before joining us under George Graham in February 1988.
Lee was a fabulous defender, despite a time when it was stylish for opposition fans to taunt him with chants of, “If Dixon plays for England, so can I!” Top player and a top man, even if he did a) score the best ever own goal against Arsenal, lobbing David Seaman from outside the box at home against Coventry City in 1991 and b) couldn’t cross a pools coupon, never mind a football.
The general reaction when Lee shaped up to cross the ball at home was for the North Bank or Clock End to duck. Those Gooners behind the Dynamo Kyiv goal at Wembley for our Champions League group home match in 1998 were just assuming the customary position as Lee approached the goal line when, to our shock and delight, he put in his annual accurate cross which was met perfectly by Dennis Bergkamp rising like a young salmon to nod home.
None of the shortlist makes the substitutes’ bench but Bacary Sagna goes into the squad of 25.
For the World XI the starting pick goes to:
Zanetti has been a model of consistency for Inter since arriving in Milan from Banfield of Argentina in 1993 and has made over 600 appearances for i nerrazurri over fourteen seasons and been capped a record 127 times for Argentina.
Cafu goes to the squad of 25.
Next blog, my nominations for left-back.