October 3, 2012
A good chance to get over the misery of Saturday’s defeat against Chelsea tonight as we get back to Champions League action at home to Olympiakos.
For the first time this season injury problems are proving a factor as Diaby was yesterday confirmed to be out for three weeks with the thigh strain that forced him off at the weekend and additionally Mikel Arteta was revealed to be suffering with an ankle knock that could well keep him out. He faces a late test but frankly I think we’d be insane to take any sort of risk with him. If you had to pick one player that it’s essential we don’t lose for long periods this year it would have to be the Spaniard. You only have to look back as far as last season to see how badly we missed him when he was out. And this year we don’t even have the relative experience of Alex Song to call on in his place.
On the subject of Diaby’s injury, Arsene Wenger looked very much like a small boy who’d been found alone in a room with a broken vase but was still desperately pointing fingers at the dog sleeping in his basket downstairs. We all knew the dangers of relying too heavily on Abou this or any year and yet Le Boss was slightly desperately attempting to lay the blame for his latest setback at the feet of the French FA:
I said many times that if France wanted Diaby in Spain they should not take him for Finland and Belarus.
They could have taken him but not played him because the guy has been out for a year, played four or five games.
You have a breather, give him two weeks to recover completely. I think it was a mistake to play him with the French national team.
Hmm. Don’t get me wrong. I’m usually right behind AW in any club vs country row and I said at the time that it seemed a massive risk to take Diaby away on international duty so soon after his comeback but in the end he only played the one game and that was about a month ago. Since then we’ve played him against Montpellier, Man City and Chelsea at which point he finally succumbed to his thigh strain. It seems a bit rich to blame that on Didier Deschamps.
As Arsene Wenger says, while it is clearly a blow it’s also an opportunity for some of the other midfielders to step up. We can’t go from raving about our fabulous strength in depth one week to bitching and moaning when some of those squad members are actually asked to play some games. Tonight I’d be excited to see Francis Coquelin step up and into Mikel Arteta’s (tiny) shoes. He did well against Southampton a few games ago and this is a great chance to show that he has what it takes to be our second metronome.
Alongside him I expect we’ll see Aaron Ramsey, hoping to build on some slightly more promising recent performances and reestablish himself as one of the most exciting young names in international football.
The other key issues are as ever who starts up front and who gets the nod at the back. I can see Olivier Giroud being given the chance to bury some demons this evening. Arsene said yesterday that he’s extremely down having missed those recent chances and the only way to stop playing those images over and over again in his head would be to replace them with some nicer images of him banging the ball in the back of the net. You get the sense we’re reaching a critical period for him and his Arsenal career. Too many more missed opportunities and the crowd may start (wrongly) to get on his back. If that happens (again wrongly) verdict will be passed in the press and he’ll start to be labelled a flop signing. That would be very difficult to come back from.
Conversely if he can bang in a few in the next few games you get the exact opposite effect and he’ll be given a much easier ride and far more time to settle in to life in the Premier League.
At centre back I expect we will see the return of Per Mertesacker and if we do I expect it will probably be at the expense of Laurent Koscielny. AW won’t want to be seen to be dragging LK over the coals for his performance at the weekend but then he won’t want to drop his captain when his vice-captain is likely to be out injured. So I suppose it’s possible he won’t drop either of them and will keep Per back for the weekend.
I think we’ll line up something like this:
Jenks – Per – Verm – Gibbs
Coq – Rambo
Ox – Caz – Pod
It’s the second match of Wenger’s latest ban for
racially abusing an opposing player…oh sorry, I mean for, you know, saying something about a referee making a wrong decision or something…so Steve Bould takes charge again. Hopefully that won’t lead to the suspicions of paralysis that we saw in the Montpellier game when it comes to making changes.
At least it’s a home game this time so maybe the professor can try out some innovative new ways to get his point across to the bench. Like…I don’t know…starting a chant or something. He’ll be sitting in the stands anyway. He can just claim he was getting in the spirit of things.
I look forward to helping him out.