Arsene Wenger is pondering over who will be included in Sunday’s match against You-Know-Who, with the usual suspects of Cesc, Hleb and Flamini still sweating on their recoveries. Elaborating on the state of Arsenal’s treatment table, the manager says:
“Van Persie is ready physically, but we have some other players who are injured like Fabregas, Hleb and Flamini. Though I will certainly have to take a gamble on one or two, but can I take a gamble on three or four? That would be very risky so I’ll have to assess the situation in the next three or four days.“
Though merely speculation, Flamini and van Persie should have some part to play against Chelsea – which immediately is a plus: one is an essential cog in the squad’s machine, the other a dangerous match-winner. Hleb remains the biggest doubt, and I think it would be foolish to rush him even if there is a slight chance he will play Sunday.
It is Cesc Fabregas that may be too tempting for Wenger to leave in the stands, however. Of course, Wenger is far more mature a person than I am (“Let youth have its fling!”), but the necessary three points from Sunday’s match may prove to be too juicy (and essential) a carrot for Cesc not to have a role.
On this line of thought, Matt Le Tissier – that pundit who has been so quick to write off Arsenal over the past few seasons – has now predicted ‘a home win’ for Arsenal, as long as Cesc plays some part in the affair. If you’re the superstitious type, this next bit really is the kiss of death for Arsenal:
“I really can’t see this being a game full of goals, but if you want to see two top teams, who come at the game from opposing sides and know just what they’re doing, then you can’t miss this. I can see Arsenal having plenty of possession, it’s just whether or not they can break down a Chelsea defence that looks tougher than ever.
But Arsene Wenger’s side need to win to stay top of the table and put the Middlesbrough defeat behind them. It might only take one goal and it might take a while to come, but I’ll go for the good old 1-0 to the Arsenal.“
So start praying, you lot. In the meantime, William Gallas has spoken about his respect for his former captain John Terry, and has revealed how he tries ‘to take something from everybody’ in shaping the way he captains his side. Inspired by both Terry and Marcel Desailly, Gallas has tried to inspire his team, saying:
“You know that sometimes to be captain you have to be honest, that is more important. You have to see when something is wrong and to speak with your team, and at the moment we speak very well. When something is not good, I speak with them. I just try to do my best on the pitch, and also outside of the pitch to speak with the young players…
…It is difficult to play very well during all the season because the season is too long and I think sometimes you have to be very strong in your mind. I try to show them that way.“
It’s a personal duel that I in particular am very much looking forward to. You can get all the Ashley Cole taunts you like on other blogs (not that he’ll get any sympathy this side, mind you), but Terry and Gallas are two gladiatorial players who are well worth watching.
Finally, Arsenal have been strongly linked with Bulgarian left-winger Nikolay Dimitrov, who is reportedly set to go on trial with Arsenal soon. Unlike the Gourcuff rumour, this one has quotes from sources high up – Levski Sofia’s (Dimitrov’s club) executive director Nasko Sirakov has revealed a genuine Arsenal interest, and had this to say:
“The only thing now left is for Nikolay to travel to London. I am very happy for him. He is young and very talented.
The invitation from Wenger is quite a tribute, not only for the player but for the club also.“
We’ll keep our eyes on this one for those who are interested. It follows the winger-striker mould that Wenger loves, and answers doubts about our need for a genuine winger, at least. Whether it comes into fruition is another story. Still, some pepper and spice for the day’s usual fare.
I’m off to do some Christmas shopping. The rest of you have a fine time of it. A fine time…