Vermaelen on the Defensive Unit
Ahead of the visit to St Andrews this weekend, it seems that Nicklas Bendtner may not be fit and Eduardo will lead the line. No doubt this will lead to some hilarious chants from the Birmingham fans about Martin Taylor’s infamous tackle. Bendtner is not confident in recovering in time from a twisted ankle which necessitated his withdrawal against West Ham. The Dane believes he should be back in training today or tomorrow which makes him ready in my book.
Defence is likely to see the biggest changes, Thomas Vermaelen’s absence means that Arsene is faced with Sol Campbell or Mikael Silvestre partnering Alex Song. The Cameroonian received support from Andrey Arshavin for his performances this season:
…he has done a good job for us this season. I hope, as we saw last game, that Alex [Song] will replace him and we will not have a big problem in defence.
It seems highly unlikely that the ageing duo would be the partnership that Arsene goes with. Birmingham has a decent home record this season and despite recent indifferent form, will not roll over and let Arsenal walk away with the points. Additionally, he has cover in midfield for Song to drop back into defence.
His biggest issue is whether or not Campbell can face two games in four days; the get-out clause is with Wolves being the immediate opponents after Barcelona, Song could quite comfortably drop back into defence, allowing Campbell to rest before the second leg. Vermaelen has respect for the old-timer, noting:
He speaks a lot on the pitch and for young players and a young team it is important to have somebody with a lot of experience who talks a lot on the pitch.
But then he had nothing but good things to say about William Gallas:
He is a great player for the team and for me. If he plays next to me it makes it easier for me.
A pity that Gallas is not playing this weekend as it would be good to lay the ghosts of 2008 totally to rest. His recovery is subject to conjecture, with Arsene rating him at 20% chance of playing whilst his doctor believes that Gallas is further down the road to playing than the manager. That said, I would trust Wenger more than any doctor, especially since the KNVB medical staff opined that van Persie would be available for the last round of international friendlies.
Vermaelen and Gallas were outstanding as a partnership and the Belgian’s contribution has been recognised outside of the club. I forget whether it was Paul Hayward or Patrick Barclay but last weekend they offered the opinion that Vermaelen ought to be Player of the Year and would be a sure thing for that award were it not for the fact that the media are blinded to everyone but Wayne Rooney this season.
The club’s internal award will be an interesting vote. Before his injury, I would have said van Persie would vie with Vermaelen and Cesc for that honour but now it is seemingly a straight two-horse race.
Anyway, match day is soon to be upon us, the fixtures coming thick and fast although the visit to White Hart Lane has been pushed back to April 14th which aids recuperation for those who need it and rest for those who are fit.