Starting the day with some Teutonic team news: Jens Lehmann is set to be recalled for tonight’s line-up against Steaua Bucharest, although it is far from a permanent reinstatement. From Wenger’s vibes, Almunia is being rested in preperation for Sunday’s Chelsea clash, and Lehmann may have to pull out all the stops against Steaua to even get a look in. How many shots he’ll actually have to deal with is another question, but Wenger has had nothing but praise for the German, saying:
“At the moment I expect him to play well tomorrow. His attitude has been fantastic and when you look at this man the one thing you cannot fault is he is a super professional. Jens is an example for everybody. For every goalkeeper it is good to practice, but at some stage you need to play at a competitive level. It is not a present. It is to keep him fit and competitive. If Jens plays well it does not create a problem.
Why should it be a problem if a player plays well? It is a problem if he doesn’t play well. For all of us the only target is to do well for the club – and we can only do that if we perform well.“
Which, given his ‘humiliation’ rants to the press, is a bit confusing to hear. Wenger notoriously protects his players in spite of what they may say to the press, and Lehmann is just proving the rule. The keeper certainly has frosted up the previously glowing relationship he had with the fans with his comments. Despite this, a commited performance tonight is all one can ask from him.
The commitment line follows with a new Arsenal favourite about to be awarded with a new contract. Mathieu Flamini looks set to sign a new five-year deal with Arsenal after some tremendous performances since the beginning of the season. The young Frenchman has established himself as a critical cog in this Arsenal side – my hat is doffed to the man, and long may his form continue. Estimates in the papers cite his new salary as close to £40,000 a week – I could do with that myself.
Another young player doing his damn-near best to get into the starting lineup is the Danish
Robbie Williams Nicklas Bendtner, who is eyeing up more starts in the first team. Admitting it’s no easy task, Bendtner has stated that whatever chances do come his way, he plans to take – certainly a different fair from the rumours we were hearing of his ‘demands’ for first team action.
It also certainly rules out the rediculous Chelsea links that popped up a number of days ago – this kind of talk surely shows that he knows his current limits as a young player, and is willing to work his way into the team. No bench-warming temptations for the Dane, sorry to say.
Sky Sports have popped William Gallas’ comments on Arsenal’s charity of choice, Treehouse, back on the web. Though they were made a few days ago, it never got reported on Third-Gen, but it’s worthwhile to reflect on how Gallas has adapted to his new club, his captaincy, and how the club’s class rubs off on the most unexpected of people.
Of course, the reason why you’re all here is to read about the new big player that we’re being linked with (again), being Yohann Gourcuff of AC Milan. Both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph have linked us with the player we trailed two years ago when playing for Rennes, only for him to favour a move to the match-fixing Italian club.
Of course, neither papers provide any quotes from ‘unnamed sources’, and while he may be struggling to be making his way into Milan’s ageing side (as gifted a player as he is), it’s seeming a rather fanciful signing. He would more than likely feature on the right wing should be purchased in the January window, in place of the ACN-destined Eboue.
My only fear with such a player (apart from the fact he is cup-tied) is that he reminds me a bit of Ljungberg in his pomp, perhaps with a slightly more lethal shot. The fear stems from whether such a player is able to slot in effectively and provide well for the team. It certainly would be nice to sign another player or two to cover for all the defenders we are losing for ACN – but how Gourcuff would even fit into the team is a mystery for now.
Best to leave this firmly in the ‘rumour’ category, in spite of all the
Sportingo’s Tribalfootball’s papers jumping on it. Especially given that David Villa’s linking to Spurs by the same paper lists us as ‘having the edge’ should we make a bid ourselves. Exactly how many strikers do we need? And for how many pounds sterling?
Another rumour, for the fun of it, links us with the prodigal Gillingham fifteen-year old Luke Freeman. Arsenal are favourites to add the youngster to their academy, with Reading and Manchester United competing for his signature.
Chelsea and Liverpool, of course, played their Champions League matches this morning. Congratulations to Liverpool, who did exactly what they had to do, and what we had to do in 2003/04. Where we beat Inter Milan 5-1 in the San Siro, they went and beat Marseilles 4-0 away from home. So congratulations where they are due.
Chelsea, on the other hand, played out a 0-0 against a doomed Valencia side at Stamford Bridge. A review of the match suggests that Pizzaro’s wastefulness rules him out of Sunday’s match at the Emirates, while Shevchenko failed to live up to that scintillating finish against Sunderland with a frustrated display. Wright-Phillips and Lampard were linking up dangerously, and Joe Cole and Kalou are players that need to be kept quiet at the moment.
Previewing tonight’s Steaua Bucharest game, and Wenger has said that his touchline ban for tonight’s game will not matter all that much, given that the match isn’t exactly the most important of our history.
With Chelsea very much on the horizon, the side going in today will have a lot of players rested, making guessing the team tonight slightly perplexing. The big news centres around Lehmann’s temporary reinstatement between the sticks, but also the good news that Diaby and van Persie may very well feature tonight, probably coming off the bench. Cesc and Hleb remain absentees, as well as Flamini, who was widely expected to make the squad for this match. Fingers crossed he is ready for Chelsea.
As already said, picking the team is a little guessy, with only Lehmann a guaranteed start. I’ve picked Gallas, Eboue and Rosicky to remain in play, with Alexander Song to replace Toure on the centre-right. Should Gallas not play, Senderos should take his place.
Midfield remains as tricky as ever, but Diarra should keep his place alongside a choice of Gilberto or Denilson. If the Arsenal preview pics are anything to go by, Gilberto is starting tonight, but his performance against Middlesbrough was particularly lacking. A time to make amends, certainly.
Bendtner should partner Eduardo in an interchangeable 4-4-2/4-5-1, with Eduardo slipping back into the left on occasion. He certainly needs to learn to protect the man behind him more, and we are all waiting for a big performance from the new signing. Hopefully it is coming soon.
The bench should see Almunia, van Persie, Diaby, Senderos, Walcott, Sagna and Toure all waiting for a go, with van Persie, Diaby and Walcott the most likely to come off of it.
That’s all for now. Hopefully there’ll be a win coupled with Sevilla losing, but as mentioned before, it’s mostly irrelevant. I’m off – keep the flags flying high for me.