March 3, 2012
Away to Liverpool in the early kick-off and needless to say we badly need another win today to keep pace with the rest of the top four. Chelsea will be expecting three points at West Brom this afternoon and tomorrow Spurs face Man United so potentially there’s an opportunity there to close that gap to four points. Manage that and suddenly those cockerels won’t be so…well, cocky.
Not that I’m counting any chickens (boom!) just yet though. It would be fairly typical of this Arsenal side to turn in a lily-livered display just six days after annihilating the Spuds on our home turf.
Injuries won’t help. We’ve got a lot of doubts for this afternoon. There’s uncertainty over Alex Song’s availability having travelled midweek with Cameroon. Tomas Rosicky is described as 50-50 with the back problem that kept him out of international duty while Robin Van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen face late tests after apparently being forced to play for their national sides despite both carrying knocks.
Arsene Wenger was spitting with fury over the situation yesterday, particularly over Vermaelen who after hurting his ankle having been lunged at in the final minutes by media pin-up Scott ‘Scotty’ Parker, the good old honest English scrapper was then forced to play 90 minutes for Belgium in a meaningless friendly. The same night that good old Scotty was rewarded for his honest endeavour with the good old national team captaincy. More sterling work from the FA.
Wenger tried to get Vermaelen withdrawn from the national set-up but to no avail:
We sent them [the Belgian FA] an e-mail, and we spoke with their doctor. They forced him to report in Brussels. Once he was in Brussels they forced him to travel.
And then they forced him to play the full 90 minutes. In a completely meaningless game. Basically an exhibition match.
Look, if Belgium had played a qualifier I would say, ‘OK, what can you do, that’s for the country’. But they played a friendly game. To go where? They do not even go to the European Championship. So it’s very difficult to understand.
Apparently we’re weighing up the possibility of lodging an official complaint and rightly so. It was announced earlier this week that the European clubs have struck an agreement with UEFA to limit the number of international friendlies that take place every year to nine rather than twelve but frankly I’m not sure it goes far enough. Clubs are paying these players millions of pounds a year only to see their seasons put at risk for games that have absolutely no meaning. At some point that has to change. Players are desperate to represent their nation but let’s see what happens the first time a club gets sick of losing their star players at inopportune moments in the season and threatens a clause in their contracts limiting the number of times they can skip off during the year. Will the players side with their international federations or with their paymasters?
At some point the balance has to shift and it will do so in the direction of the clubs. As Le Boss pointed out this week we lost Gervinho for six weeks to the African Nations Cup. He couldn’t play against Spurs because he’s still tired from those exertions. Yet on Wednesday he flew out to the Ivory Coast to play in a friendly. Mere weeks after the African Nations ended! What was the point of that? What did they need to assess? ‘Oh we better check out that Gervinho chap again, see if his penalty taking skills have improved at all in the last fortnight’. Now he’s a major doubt for this afternoon. In return, since the beginning of January we will have paid him approximately £800, 000. Great value we’ve got for that.
With so many doubtfuls it’s hard to pick the line-up for today but I’ve got a feeling RVP, Rosicky and Song will come through. Maybe even Vermaelen too. Even if they’re a bit of a doubt it’s probably worth the risk. As much as I’d like to see us stage an unlikely comeback against Milan I can’t see it and don’t think it’s worth holding players back for that one. This is the game we need to win. It’s all about the league at this point. So we should line up something like this:
Bac – Koz – Verm – Gibbs
Mikel – Song – Rosicky
Theo – RVP – Yossi
Look familiar? Yes, I thought it might. Why mess with a winning formula I say. And it would be useful to have the likes of Gervinho and The Ox on the bench to make the difference if need be.
One player who’ll be making a shock appearance on the bench is one Vassiriki Abou ‘Abou’ Diaby. Yes, the much loved midfielder makes his latest return from injury this afternoon much to the surprise of most Gooners, many of whom may have forgotten that he still exists. He’s been holed away in the States apparently working with sprint trainers to rebuild his fitness one more time and this must surely be his last chance to try and prove he can stay injury free and make a career for himself at Arsenal. Arsene said:
I will never give up on a player as long as he has the desire. If I felt that in Diaby’s head he had given up, then I would have said yes.
But he was always very focused. He’s an exceptional guy, Diaby. Such focus to do well is unbelievable.
The fact that at 25 he’s still being given the chances he is just goes to show what huge potential Diaby has if only he could stay fit. I can’t bring myself to write too much about him so likely is it that within the fortnight I’ll be bemoaning his latest horrific injury. In fact when I saw the headline yesterday ‘Diaby’s Back’ I was convinced that clicking on the link would reveal the rest of the sentence to be ‘Snaps in Two as he Reaches to Lift a Teacup’.
Quick bit of transfer news as the Lukas Podolski stories of earlier in the week were given added credence after Wenger was asked about them at his pre-match presser. Such questions are usually given short shrift and put to bed with a ‘We’re not close to signing anyone’ or a ‘I like the player but we have good numbers in the squad’, but yesterday he reacted to questions about the stories in the German media with a joke:
I leave that responsibility to your friends in Germany. They have to check their sources, usually it must be Sky sources.
Not a brilliant joke, obviously. But not a denial either. There seems to be something in this one.
Right, I’ll leave it there. I have to investigate which pubs show football in this part of Egypt. With a beer in my hand, sand on my face and a song in my heart. Come On You Reds!
If You Liked This...
- No such thing as friendlies? If only… + RVP puts himself in shop window
- WBA thoughts – Cazorla to move to the wing?
- New Vieira on his way? + How can I be expected to suddenly get behind John Terry?
- AW says Diaby’s fine, Santi’s happy + UEFA doing Arsenal a favour at last?
- Pogba in, Song out? + Bendtner risks fans’ wrath