Robin van Persie is NOT returning for Wigan

It’s a short, to-the-point blog today, with injury news our main concern leading up to tomorrow’s league match against Wigan.

Two standouts are amongst the walking wounded, with Aliaksandr Hleb and Robin van Persie imminent absentees from tomorrow’s festivities. Hleb was injured in Belarus’ surprise 2-1 win over Holland, with Arsenal physios confirming he will be out for three weeks with a hamstring strain. Robin van Persie has not recovered sufficiently for tomorrow’s match – moreso, Wenger will not even be including him in the squad to eventually face Sevilla.

A trio of Arsenal stars out is completed with Fabregas’ suspension. Flamini’s thigh strain sees him out for one week; Diaby out for three weeks with back problems and Gilberto rested for jet-lag reasons, as the Brazillian captain only arrives back from South America today. A full summary of the injury list is on the official site.

No sugar coating there in a dose of dire reading for Arsenal fans. The good news is that the backline will be unchanged as their understanding with each other is allowed to grow. After Eduardo’s England-killing antics, he should be seen partnering Adebayor upfront. The lead-up to the match has seen talk of the 4-4-2 being reprised with van Persie’s return; that having not materialised, I can see no reason why Eduardo should not take the place. With a midfield that will more than likely comprise of Diarra and Denilson in centre (though again, Alex Song may just be favoured ahead of Denilson), I think it would be a mistake to side on the conservative with a 4-5-1.

The team are naturally attacking, and any side of timidity in the face of a growing absentee-list will be to the detriment of the side’s chances of winning, even if they are playing at home to Wigan. That fact alone will see the side step out to an Emirates reception with an attacking formation, especially with Eboue, Walcott and Rosicky still in the mix.

Robin van Persie’s absence is worrying, though. All fears could be allayed should Eduardo start to hit his straps – goals or assists would be equally welcome, what with that wonderful throughball he hit for Olic to score against England – but the length of the Dutchman’s absence is surprising, given all the reports claiming he was back in full training. Wenger must be taking his time and erring on not rushing the young striker back in – December is a very tough month that demands a fully fit van Persie, not an Owen-clone.

In a final bit of news (look! it’s all Arsenal news today!), Gael Clichy has revealed that the Arsenal team huddles have all been Captain Gallastic Gallas’ idea.

He is a great leader and a great captain and he made the decision to do something like this. We started last year and this year it is more noticeable because we are winning.

As a captain he reminds me a bit like Patrick Vieira, he’s an older player with experience, a great player, and he knows how to talk to each player. He knows whether to be nice to you or boss you a bit in the game and that’s the best way to lead the team. With his performances too, everyone can see what a great captain he is.

I was quite bemused when he was chosen as captain over both Toure and Gilberto, as most of us all were. His injury early on did not help his cause, but his performances in the big games, and yes, the huddles (no apologies to Alex Ferguson) have seen Gallas grow on me as a captain. Yes, he may have had some awesome years with Chelsea some moons ago, and his favourite club is Bordeaux, but right now there is no doubting he has Arsenal Football Club centered as his sole ambition, and clearly wants the club to succeed and the young players to grow into men. And certainly, he has been a great influence in that. I shake your hand, William.

Not sure what time I’ll be able to update tomorrow. Travelling again, so might have to get up at sparrows’ hours to pen something down. We do what we must…

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