So Champions League tonight and a chance to put a few things right after the weekend.
The most notable piece of team news is that Manuel Almunia is out with an elbow injury meaning Lukasz Fabianski gets another chance. There are those who think Almunia’s absence is due to his performance at the weekend. I don’t buy it. I think he’s genuinely injured.
It’s not as if his form has been terrible all season, he’s made one big mistake, and as well as that you generally only drop a player when you have a reasonable replacement that you know you can depend on. With the best will in the world Fabianski has done nothing to prove to Arsene Wenger that he can be relied on. Not in Europe, not in the cups, not in the league. It just makes no sense that Almunia would be left at home for any reason other than an injury.
On Fabianski the manager says:
As a manager you can give a chance to a player who is good enough and I believe in his talent. He gets another opportunity to show how good he is.
Which is kind of what we’re all afraid of, I suppose. There’s a very logical part of me which says that there’s simply no way that Fabianski can continue to make ludicrous mistakes the way he has. I’m sure he’s set a record for consecutive games without not cocking something up, so by the law of averages he’s due a decent game. However, the law of averages could very well be named after Jude Law and he’s a cunt so anything could happen.
I genuinely hope he plays well because I don’t want anything other than an Arsenal victory. I really don’t want to see any Arsenal player fail. I don’t think it’d be great if we won 6-5 and Fabianski was at fault for all the goals thus forcing the manager to address the situation. Let’s face it, he’s had plenty of evidence before now and done nothing so who’s to say more butter-fingered shenanigans would change anything now? As well as that these are the goalkeepers we have until January at the earliest. All the complaining in the world can’t change a thing. That doesn’t mean I think Fabianski should have any long-term future with us if he does have a good game. I just want Arsenal to win.
A side-note to all this is that there does seem to have been a slight change in the pecking order. Wojscez©® will be on the bench tonight, apparently moving ahead of Vito Mannone who was considered the number 3. It’s tough for the Italian, we have four keepers at the club, which is probably one too many. It means somebody is never going to play and as the reserves generally use younger players he could go through the entire season without a sniff of football. Nevertheless, the younger of the Poles will be happier with his lot, I’m sure.
The other absence of note is Abou Diaby. He had an abysmal game against West Brom and with slightly more cover in the midfield area he could well be paying the price for that. He wasn’t mentioned by the manager as injured in his pre-game briefing and the pictures of the team training on the official site show Diaby involved. It’s possible he picked up a knock during the session but such was the paucity of his performance on Saturday it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he’s been left at home as a consequence of that.
I expect Jack Wilshere to come back into midfield to replace Diaby and either Denilson or Rosicky leaving Eboue on the bench. Kieran Gibbs is fit, having passed a fitness test, and I think he should play. Players need to learn that poor performances mean others get their chance and Gael Clichy needs to learn that as much as anyone. I know Gibbs is still relatively raw but he deserves the chance to stake a real claim for the left.
As for the game itself Arsene says:
We realise that we need to be focused in every single game, produce performances in every single game and that is what I believe we have learnt from Saturday. I believe in the intelligence of my group players and I have no doubt in their talents.
We will be highly motivated and will try to redress what was not right on Saturday.
His comments on the official site here suggest the defeat at the weekend was down to lack of discipline than lack of effort but it’s about getting the basics right again. Defenders need to defend, the midfield needs to offer them the right protection, we’ve got to pass the ball to another red shirt, things like that.
We’ve got a massive game coming up on Sunday, so while all the focus has to be on Partizan, coming back home with three points is important. Not just for our Champions League campaign but to restore some confidence ahead of a game we simply cannot lose this weekend.
In general Arsene Wenger’s teams have responded well to setbacks and poor results. Maybe these days it takes us a bit longer, the manager saying his team needs to be confident to play football the way he wants them to play it, but given what lies straight ahead there’s no time to feel in any way sorry for ourselves.
On the face of it a draw wouldn’t be a bad result but a victory tonight would go some way to getting things back on track. Let’s see what you’re made of, Arsenal.