Burnley Preview, Rambo & Theo On A Wing & A Prayer
Burnley arrive at The Emirates today, wedged by the media into the role of sacrificial lambs, ready to be slaughtered at the altar of pure football. Arsene has no doubt warning the players that the visitors will fight, the relegation place predicted for them at the start of the season being good motivation for them not to succumb willingly. Even so, Arsenal should have too much ability for three points not to be taken.
To do so, the back four will have a little bit of a makeshift look. Sol Campbell and William Gallas will be absent, a starting line-up place for Mikael Silvestre the likeliest option to partner Thomas Vermaelen. The inclusion of Kyle Bartley in the squad looks to be purely so that there is a specialised centre back on the bench although having two left-sided central defenders is less than ideal. Alex Song’s absence due to a two-match suspension, allied to Aaron Ramsey’s injury, means a starting place is likely for Denilson, much to the chagrin of his numerous detractors.
Ramsey has spoken for the first time since that assault:
I remember what happened clearly and after the tackle went in I saw that my leg was broken and hanging at an angle. I have seen images of the aftermath of the collision again but I don’t want to dwell too much on the challenge as I can’t change what has happened.
That is the biggest hurdle Ramsey faces. The prognosis seems to be that he will physically recover but mentally, it might be a tougher journey. Injured players often speak of the depression of not being able to train and play, of the psychological trauma a broken leg provides them, knowing it could happen again in a physical contact sport.
The tackle is being too lightly dismissed by the media and some managers; were it to be one of the players suffering this misfortune, I doubt they would have been so forgiving, such is human hypocrisy.
The Arsenal team though has to overcome the incident as well. They took a step forward last week by winning as opposed to drawing and are being praised by Martin Keown for the strength of character they have shown:
The last time, with Eduardo, the same unfortunate incident cost them the league. They have learned and they remained professional this time. You could see the maturity, especially in Fabregas. I also think that Sol Campbell being on the pitch really helped them
The inference in some papers is that the absence of William Gallas was even more beneficial, a cruel and unwarranted invention on their part, especially given the professionalism the Frenchman has shown since losing the captaincy, no indication that emotions would overcome his endeavours as they did on that afternoon at St Andrews.
For today, Wenger has an embarrassment of attacking riches compared to recent times. Arshavin came through an appearance for Russia in the week and is back in the squad, as in Abou Diaby. It is unlikely that both will start and if they do, doubtful that they are ready for the full 90 minutes. Diaby is the more likely of the duo to be on the pitch at kick-off I suspect with Bendtner likely to be supported by Nasri and Walcott.
Theo has been roundly criticised and abused, Chris Waddle one of the worst offenders, a man whose international career in the early days was marked by boo’s and the player falling over on the Wembley turf, unable to control his body when turning to beat an opponent. To say Walcott has no footballing brain was puerile; how quickly the Geordie has forgotten his own troubled appearances for England.
Marc Overmars offered an insight into where Walcott may be better served:
As a right footer I was always much more comfortable playing on the left wing. In fact, when Arsene Wenger started me on the right for Arsenal, I would say to myself that I’d be able to give myself a 6 out of 10 performance. But when he put me on the left, I knew I would get at least an 8.
The reason for that is that when I was on the right, I felt there wasn’t enough space between the ball and the touchline for me to make things happen – there was little room for manoeuvre. Playing on the left allowed me to get the ball out from my feet quicker and easier and also be more effective going forward. When you pick the ball up on the left wing with your right foot, you can knock the ball forward with your first touch.
But on the right you have to control the ball and you’ve therefore already lost time. Also from the left I could cut inside, which made me more dangerous and meant I could get shots away.
It is too late in the season for the change to be made, the chance of disrupting the pattern of the team outweighs any potential short-term advantage. Moving to the left would also enhance Walcott’s understanding of playing centrally, the days of the traditional number nine are gone, forwards expected to drift out to either flank to leave space for others to exploit.
As it is, this is the line-up I expect to start:
Almunia; Sagna, Vermaelen, Silvestre, Clichy; Denilson, Fabregas, Diaby; Nasri, Bendter, Walcott
Three points is a must, putting pressure on Manchester United for their visit to Molineux. Psychologically, it is important as well, Chelsea and United know they have the tougher run-ins and to see Arsenal start to relentlessly win every match will be mentally testing for our closest rivals.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.