A handful of news to get through, prior to a Champions League match that is very difficult to call.
Wenger has stated that Nicklas Bendtner will be given a rare opportunity to impress for the side tonight, with Cesc Fabregas to start as well. Mathieu Flamini was also expected to start, but recent tests have revealed some difficulties with his injury sustained on international duty. News is still pending on what his role, if any, will be tonight.
On paper, Tuesday night’s game seems ours for the taking – an unbeaten run stretching on into the horizon, with a Sevilla team in a dire position in the Liga. Arsene Wenger is playing coy, however, with regards to Arsenal’s run – focusing solely on this one match.
Reflecting on how the old cliché of ‘one game at a time’ has fueled our current unbeaten run, Wenger says:
“I think it is possible to have a good result tomorrow. We try to give our best in every game, I love to work with this team, they are really hungry and humble. They show that in every game and as long as we maintain these two qualities we have the chance to win the next game, which is what you want to achieve.“
Outside of squad news, ex-Arsenal mainstay Martin Keown has hailed Cesc Fabregas as ‘the complete midfielder’, saying the young Catalan is ‘the orchestrator of everything‘ in Arsenal’s side, and has become a potent player with his rediscovery of his shooting boots. Keown says:
“I was told that he needed to calm down in front of goal and he has managed that. He now looks very calm when he has a chance.
Cesc never allowed himself to get bullied, but sometimes he was a bit naive in the way he played. But that’s gone now and he’s a fighter – he wants to play football and put his foot in. He’s got everything he needs and now of course he’s scoring goals as well. He’s Arsenal’s driving force and looks so hungry and passionate. Coupled with that he plays a great technical game.“
Seeing as we’re in such a mood to hail other players, Kolo Toure has taken time to hail the captaining-antics of one William ‘Runs with Wolves’ Gallas. Kolo has nothing but praise for Gallas, comparing him to past illuminaries like Vieira, Adams and Henry. Kolo says:
“When Titi was here, he was outstanding. Patrick was strong and Tony as well. I have played under some fantastic captains and you just follow them.
I think he deserves to be mentioned among those names as captain because he is such a strong figure. He has great maturity in a really young team so that’s so important. The young players, when he says something, they really listen to him because they respect him.“
Many may disagree with him on Thierry’s captaincy – the player was god-like, the captain left quite a bit to be desired. Nevertheless, Captain Gallas is starting to vindicate Wenger’s controversial, unexpected decision at season’s beginning to hand the ex-Chelsea man such responsibilities. His die-for-the-team ethic and irrepressible desire to win balances out the team’s aesthetic sumptuously, and the big performances we’ve been waiting for from him have finally come in a slipstream of commitment. We salute you, Captain.
The draft for today’s article had this blurb in it which I think is suitable, given the player about to be mentioned.
…”Keown hails Cesc”
“Kolo hails Gallas”
“Ashley Cole hails himself”…
Which says its own story, really. The whole story, of course, is that Ashley Cole has mouthed off to the press once more, leading up to Arsenal’s clash with Chelsea on December 16. The Cash-strapped defender (feed the poor) has said that while he ‘still loves Arsenal’, he’s going to the Emirates to shut a lot of people up. Apparently. While most reckon he’ll come up with another mysterious injury prior to the game, I don’t think Avram Grant will fall for the Mourinho-esque tactic. Cole might actually play, recieve a hounding from the crowd (at least twice as bad as against Manchester United) – which I believe will be enough to put him right off of his game, and not enthuse it.
The Emirates is developing a reputation for the European-style intimidation of rivals coming to the ground, but it’s to Europe that we now pour our scrutiny on.
Make no mistake, Sevilla is never an easy game, irrelevant of their form. In my opinion, the media has been lulled into a false sense of security with regards to Arsenal’s form: the team playing Sevilla will be much changed from the one that’s stormed all over England at the moment – and Arsenal’s top spot in the group is exceptionally vulnerable. Sevilla’s squad, though perhaps lacking in confidence, have technical ability and home-ground advantage to match Arsenal, should they feel up for it.
The backline, for once, will be different from the streak of performers we’ve had over the past few games. While Almunia, Sagna and Toure should retain their places in defence, Senderos and Traore should step in while Gallas and Clichy, respectively, are rested.
With Hleb and Diaby very much out for a few weeks, and Flamini arguably not fit enough for anything more than a bench placement, Diarra should retain his place alongside the reinstated Fabregas, with Gilberto being assigned a shielding role.
The controversial nature of the predicted team, of course, is Bendtner as a lone striker up front. In any other game, I would expect him to be partnered by another senior striker, but with Adebayor also being rested coupled with travelling away to Sevilla, the need for a protective 4-5-1 is very apparent. The goals have been coming from midfield far more than they have from our strikeforce, but with Eduardo and Walcott itching to come off the bench, it should not be too much cause for concern.
A draw would be a sufficient result for the team. With only a home game against Steaua Bucharest to go in the competition, 4 points from the next two games will be enough to secure top spot.
Extreme caution must be exercised against Sevilla, though. Not only do we have an unbeaten run to protect, first place cannot be given away without a real fight. I would say the predicted squad has enough fight in them, though it will be up to Gilberto to protect the defensively naive Traore.
Here’s hoping for a positive result, and hopefully a good game too. Keep the red and white scarves swirling…