No Sub-Standard Performances Tonight Please
Standard Liege arrive for a Champions League encounter that they believe will keep their slim hopes of reaching the knockout phase alive. Largely that depends on the Arsenal side which emerges from the tunnel; will it be the out of sorts mob who played at the weekend or have the international cobwebs been swept away in the days since Saturday’s defeat?
The squad is unchanged save for the return of Kieran Gibbs. Wenger may decide to hold off reinstating the young England international to the starting line-up to give his injury the chance to truly heal. Traore did not do anything wrong in particular at the weekend and for the most part was reasonably solid. Tonight would be a chance to add to his experience.
The dilemma that Wenger has over left back is repeated in the forward line. Eduardo needs match time to forge an understanding with those around him having had an interrupted return from various niggles. That said, is it more important to wrap him in cotton wool ahead of Sunday’s encounter with Chelsea? Certainly, I do not believe Wenger can afford to go into that clash with Vela as the only recognised central striker who is fit.
Before he lashed out regarding Theo Walcott’s availability for England next summer, Wenger had identified the Mexican as the reason for not replacing Emmanuel Adebayor, comparing Vela to Robbie Fowler. Whilst there is an element of truth in that, Wenger made no secret of his intention to try and buy Chamakh from Bordeaux. His words yesterday were an undisguised attempt to boost the confidence of his young striker.
The position in the Champions League is such that Wenger can once more make changes with half an eye on Sunday. Denilson and Walcott might be considered for starting places with Nasri in central midfield. Rosicky looked as if he could do with some more playing time to focus on his sharpness, enabling Wenger to rest Arshavin once more. The depth of the squad in midfield is coming through with injured personnel returning to the fold.
Whilst there is an element of forward planning going on, too many changes are equally disruptive, be they forced or unforced. For once Arsene barked yesterday, apparently exploding when questioned about Theo Walcott’s long term fitness. Media inquisitions about the player and his international future based on misguided beliefs about the hereditary nature of his injuries brought forth the most direct criticism of international football from the manager.
He is absolutely right to point out who Walcott’s paymaster is. Football, unlike cricket, does not have central contracts with the national associations paying scant regard to players well-being and next to nothing for use of a prize asset.
Comparisons to industry and commerce are futile since football is a sport, even though the clubs are businesses in the modern age. Even so, the protestations of Blatter and his cohorts that they are purely focussed on the health of individuals, concerned about the number of games played whilst still permitting meaningless friendlies to prevade the footballing calendar.
There are seven months to go before the World Cup Finals begin. Too much time to worry about Walcott’s fitness, especially since he has managed around 180 minutes all season thus far. If he returns to the Arsenal fold and remains fit, let the media worry about whether he will be in Capello’s squad nearer the time. It is however, indicative of the lack of depth in the English game that Walcott is almost certain to play on the right hand side of midfield. The concerns shown now would normally be reserved for a media darling, not a young player who suffered the slings and arrows of managerial indiscretion at the last World Cup Finals.
Back to this evening. Predicting a line-up is difficult with Sunday’s match ahead although the extra days to recover are helpful to the manager. Much will depend on the readiness of certain players following injury but I would start with:
Almunia; Eboue, Gallas, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Denilson, Ramsey, Nasri; Walcott, Vela, Rosicky
That would enable Song, Fabregas, Eduardo and Arshavin to be called from the bench if required. Further, if the match is comfortable by the hour mark, I would have no hesitation in bringing Silvestre and Senderos on, giving Vermaelen and Gallas a bit of a breather. Wenger may view that as too many changes.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.
Posted on November 24, 2009, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Standard Liege. Bookmark the permalink. 359 Comments.