Arsenal find themselves a little short on players tonight, as the team and fans alike gear up for another edgy encounter at White Hart Lane.
With a side shorn of Phillipe Senderos (broken nose), Johann Djourou (strain) and Alex Song and Kolo Toure (AfCon), Arsene Wenger has been left with no choice but to play his captain, William Gallas, in tonight’s Carling Cup Semi Final first leg against Tottenham Hotspur.
The lack of defensive cover means Justin Hoyte and/or Gilberto Silva might also get a lookin, as Wenger is forced into integrating his first-teamers into tonight’s side. The manager says:
“On the bench you might find a high number of players who have played a lot of Premier League games. Cesc could be involved. Last year at White Hart Lane he became very influential when we were 2-0 down and gave strength in midfield and quality in the final third to help us come back.
We always have that kind of belief when we go over there. It’s a semi-final and, even when you’re down, you just have to go for it.“
The manager has also been speaking a lot of Theo Walcott lately, who is expected to start alongside Nicklas Bendtner in a central striker position. Of course, Spurs also have their say on the upcoming fixture, with central defender Michael Dawson discussing the ‘seething desire’ in the club to win silverware. The defender says:
“I don’t know if we will be favourites (against Arsenal) – we haven’t beaten them in 21 games – but it is not about being favourites. It’s about doing it on the night.“
And while I personally don’t know anyone who actually rates Dawson as a defender, that is exactly right. This remains a cup fixture, which either side can win. Arsenal could win it, Spurs could win it. There’s no hiding from that fact. If you want an added dose of pragmatism, but only in lieu of the title-chase, there’s an interesting read up at Vital Arsenal. Personally, I think we’re quite capable of winning the league this year, but it’s good to hear a different opinion whenever the opportunity arises.
To the team line-up then, and it’s a difficult one to figure out. With Senderos and Djourou injured and Diarra having run away from home, there are a few permutations running a mock in selecting this team.
Diarra’s transfer to Portsmouth means there is a vacancy in midfield that could be filled by Gilberto while Diaby hugs the left wing. Mark Randall is cited by a few sources to be starting on the right with Walcott up front, but unless Wenger really does dig deep into the reserves, Gilberto should start in the centre alongside fellow Brazillian Denilson.
Which then begs the question of how the backline will shape up. The guaranteed starters are Gallas at centreback and Armand Traore at left. After his decent defence at centre in the firstleg of the semi final, Justin Hoyte could possibly cover that position again, with Bacary Sagna filling in at right back.
The only thing I do not like about that at all is putting Sagna at unnecessary risk to injury after his sterling performances throughout the league campaign. Once again, it’s a difficult side to call, and I’m sure many of you will have your own thoughts as to who is starting. Feel free to share them.
As to the result, well, you just have to hate derby cup fixtures, eh? I frankly would not be surprised if Spurs actually win it this time, as they are long overdue a victory over Arsenal, and they are playing at home.
What I do expect is that the youngsters will be giving a much more concerted effort this time round, compared to the relatively shambolic performance at home last time out. Gilberto is certainly due a good performance, as are Denilson and Walcott. I fancy our chances to upset Tottenham yet again, but there’s no underestimating the task at hand for the players.
I have instigated a lot of Spurs-bashing lately, and I will be one of the first to cop any flak sent Arsenal’s way. Overconfidence is a bad thing – I’m sure the players have a more realistic perception of their fortunes ahead.
Forever supporting Arsenal! Don’t let me down..!