December 27, 2011
With City, Chelsea and Liverpool picking up a case of the winter wobbles yesterday and all dropping points in games they could easily have won, the onus falls on Arsenal today to take advantage of those slips.
Three points today at home to Wolves would put us clear of Chelsea in fourth place and give us a great chance of ending 2011 in the Champions League places despite the rockiest of starts to the season.
There’s no new team news. We’re dealing with all the same issues that we were against Villa last week except that now we have Alex Song back from suspension and we’re told there’s a small chance of Johan Djourou coming back from his groin injury.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another reshuffle at the back this week. Thomas Vermaelen didn’t look as comfortable at left back as Koscielny does at right back so I think we might see the return of Ignasi Miquel on the left. Just a hunch. Otherwise the only change I can see is maybe Benayoun getting a run out following his impact from the bench last week. In which case we might look something like this:
Koz – Per – Verm – Miquel
Arteta – Song – Benayoun
Theo – RVP – Gervinho
I’m hopeful of seeing The Ox make it onto the bench to give us an option there. He was a sub against Villa but didn’t make it on, presumably due to how tight things were. Ideally you want to blood these players when you’re 3-0 up and cruising and the pressure’s off. Unfortunately it’s a rare sight these days so chances could be few and far between. But if we want him to start to make an impact when Gervinho’s off at the African Nations, he’s going to have to get some minutes from somewhere.
Arsene Wenger thinks we should expect to see him fairly soon:
In 2012, at the beginning of the year, he will play games. He is not far away. He is a talented boy, it’s all there – he just needs that toughness in the game because every game for us at the moment is so tight.
The other night, again, I could have brought him on at Aston Villa and you have no hesitation to do it. But you do not want him to be a little bit overawed by the intensity of the game. He is ready to play.
He is just missing that experience at the top level. You have to throw him a few games.
This time of year, as the games keep coming, is usually when Le Boss likes to rotate his team a bit so we may see some surprise selections over the next few games. It’s tricky. While you want to see young talent get the chance to stake their claim to the first team, you also want the continuity of having your best available XI out in these matches. The thing about The Ox is that, for me at least, I think he could be in our first choice XI if he gets the chance.
Despite all the promise he’s shown in the Champions League and Carling Cup the only league appearance he’s had has been in the 8-2 at Old Trafford. And that can’t have been much fun:
On the day, it was not a favour for anybody to come on. The team was completely lost and it was not the best of favours I’ve done.
I’m not saying the experience would have set him back – aplayer needs to be strong mentally to become great so if he couldn’t cope with a spanking there’d be little hope for him anyway – but it’s hardly the debut that every kid lies in bed dreaming about. Hopefully he gets the chance to banish that memory many times over.
Arsenal have never lost to Wolves in the Premier League. We’ve never drawn against them either. We’re six for six but can’t allow that to make us complacent today. Le Boss has plenty of compliments to throw their way:
They are a side that plays good football. They always look dangerous going forward and they make it tough for everybody. They have the Mick McCarthy spirit and attitude, they never give up.
They play a very positive game. They fight to stay in the league and you know it is always an intense game. They are dangerous and make life difficult for everybody.
He’s also a big fan of big Mick:
Mick McCarthy is doing miracles at Wolves.
He’s always ready for a fight, never gives up, keeps his steadiness and mental strength, never shows any strain. It’s great what he does for his club. I believe they play extremely good football as well.
It demands special strength from the manager to fight until the last day with the uncertainty sometimes whether you will stay up. A manager needs to be cool-blooded, strong, resilient and Mick McCarthy has all of these qualities.
Alright! Get a room!
I’m taking the unusual step of watching the game in an ‘English Pub’ at 10 in the morning Florida time so it’s likely to be a breakfast of Froot Loops washed down with warm ale as the sun blazes down outside.
I’m praying they make it worth my while.
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