How quickly things change in the world of Arsenal injuries these days. Yesterday we expected to lose Laurent Koscielny for a few games, which would allow Djourou his chance alongside Squillaci, this morning the news is that Koscielny is fine and will play tonight while Djourou has a small thigh problem which means he won’t be involved at all.
This comes on the back of the Eboue injury. The manager said he might be out for up to 8 weeks, he was back inside a week. I’m not quite sure what’s going on but I suspect the boss might be playing ze leetle game with the ladies and gentlemen of the fourth estate. Beyond that there don’t appear to be any other casualties which is good news. Djourou’s absence is a shame, I have to say, both for him and for us. I was looking forward to seeing him have the chance to play a bit more regularly and to bed into the team properly.
Tonight’s game is crucial, of course, as we need to book our place in the knockout stages of the competition. To finish top we need Braga to win at Shaktar which is unlikely. Andrei Arshavin said we had ‘no chance’ of topping the group which, considering our position after the first three games, is a bit disappointing. The consequences of that can wait until after tonight. There’s little point speculating about who we might get before we even get through.
With Arsene speaking about how he wouldn’t be buying a defender in January it was then amusing – in the not very funny at all sense of the word – to listen to Arshavin talking about our defensive issues. He said:
We struggle all the time in defence. Of course we try to improve, but we can’t. We don’t blame just the defenders. Sometimes I can’t run and I let defenders cross so the forwards score a goal. So it doesn’t always depend on defenders. As a team we need to improve defensively.
Certainly forthright, and it would be shocking if it wasn’t something we all knew/suspected already, but again it’s hard to see that the manager views the defensive side of our game as a genuine cause for concern. He says:
We are a team with an offensive philosophy and maybe at home we go overboard with that but I still feel that in the last games we were punished every time we made a single mistake defensively, that will not always be the case.
Again I’m a bit flummoxed that conceding the goals is being written off as some kind of freak occurrence but what can you do? Arsene is a leopard and there’s little chance of him changing his spots now. We can only hope that the realisation from Arshavin that everyone in the team needs to do more to help add some solidity is widespread and hope that everyone’s willing to put in the hard work necessary. I can see the drum but I reckon I’ve already banged it to death this week.
Back to tonight and there’s a suggestion Robin van Persie could be involved from the start. Whether that’s at the expense of Chamakh, or alongside the Moroccan remains to be seen. I have a sneaky feeling the manager might give Chamakh a rest ahead of Old Trafford where I think he’s a certainty to play, so tonight could see: Fabianski – Sagna/Eboue – Squillaci – Koscielny – Clichy – Song – Wilshere – Denilson – Arshavin – van Persie – Nasri
Nasri did look as if he were carrying a bit of a knock towards the end of the Fulham game so it wouldn’t surprise me if he started on the bench either. Choose one from Bendtner, Walcott, Rosicky and Chamakh to fill the gap. We all know the importance of the game, I’m sure the team does too. Anything less than a win tonight leaves things out of our own hands and although Arshavin might think a Braga win tonight is unlikely, as do I to be honest as Braga are frankly rubbish, we can’t assume anything.
I can see us scoring a few tonight, Partizan are bottom on the group with 0 points, but I can also see us conceding which might just make things a bit more nervy than we might like. Or as AW says:
If we concede the first goal against Partizan, then we will become a bit edgy, so it is better not to.
Like telling a soldier, “Listen, if you take the first bullet to the head you will become a bit dead, so it is better not to”. Anyway, the focus is clear, and if we can’t beat Partizan to qualify then you have to say we don’t deserve to be in the knock-out stages, regardless of how good our first three games were. They’ve got absolutely nothing to lose tonight, there’s no pressure and although they haven’t won a single point we can’t go into this game thinking it will be easy.
Hopefully we’ve managed to sort out the technical issues with the Live Blog so if you’re stuck in work check back later on for a new post with details of that.
In other news it appears as if there’s a new deal on the table for Samir Nasri. Hopefully he signs and stays put because he’s proving a hugely important player for us. And anyway, we’ll want to get as much money as possible when Barcelona come calling.
The Mail links us with a Dinamo Zagreb right back called Sime Vrsaljko. Apparently we’re going to buy him then loan him back for the rest of the season. I’ll leave it to you to decide how much stock you want to put into this particular one.
And that’s really about that. Fingers crossed for tonight. Catch you on the live blog maybe, if not back tomorrow with a full report. Till then.