Time to put Villa behind us with another tricky away tie this evening at Everton.
In terms of team news, Theo Walcott returns after his shoulder knack and I expect him to come straight back into the side in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I think we’ll also see the return of Thomas Vermaelen (who scored the winner at Goodison last season) at left back and Bacary Sagna on the opposite side, while Jack Wilshere will come into midfield – more than likely at the expense of Aaron Ramsey. Other than that I don’t see any changes to the team that drew at Villa Park.
Unless there are some tired legs or some minor niggles we don’t know about it’s not like we have a great deal of choice anyway. Giroud, being the only striker Wenger has any faith in, will continue up front and while Gervinho is fit again it’s difficult to see him start ahead of Lukas Podolski.
While Arsenal didn’t play particularly badly against Villa we were certainly missing some attacking verve and with just one shot on target throughout you can see we struggled to create, but I suspect the return of Wilshere, somebody who can get through the lines, may help us out in that regard. Not to mention Walcott’s pace too but he faces Leighton Baines who certainly won’t make life easy for him.
The manager knows it’s going to be tough and wants the team to take advantage of the fact that Everton have been going through a difficult time of their own. They’ve won just one of their last seven games and after an unusually bright start to the season have struggled a bit recently:
They fight at the top of the league every year. They are one of the contenders for a Champions League spot as well. It is a period where we establish consistency. To go through with a positive result is very important.
They have gone through a more difficult spell as well recently. It is just down to us and the quality of our performance.
And while there’s no doubt the Villa game was frustrating, perhaps some of that was because it had come off the back of two very good results – the spanking dispensed to that lot in the North London derby and the controlled, professional win over Montpellier in the Champions League. We knew that the two away fixtures this week were going to be difficult and of the two Villa looked more winnable, but victory tonight would make the points haul perfectly respectable.
Of course, Arsenal being Arsenal, we’ve heaped the pressure on ourselves by not winning the more winnable game and needing to take three points from the more demanding one, but that, my friends, is very often the way we do things. We’ve spoken this season about the character in this side and while some might scoff we have seen there’s a bit of backbone to us (even if said backbone appears to have some jellyish spots).
So we need the players to react. They’ll know that Villa was a good chance of three points and one they didn’t take advantage of, thus tonight is crucial both in terms of our league standing and to continue to build some momentum and an unbeaten run. Come on you reds.
In other news, Arsene Wenger says that the club are talking with Bacary Sagna about a new contract:
We are in talks at the moment. We are hopeful. He had some big injury issues but, with him and Carl Jenkinson, you need two players and we want to keep them.
That’s certainly positive news. It wasn’t long ago that Sagna revealed that he had yet to be approached about a new deal, and when you consider that, injuries aside, he’s been one of our most consistent players it’s hard to understand. I like how Jenkinson has progressed, and I think he can develop further, but I think keeping Sagna is hugely important.
It was interesting to hear the manager admit that the new sponsorship deal will help him keep existing players as much as bring in new ones, and perhaps Sagna is first to fit that particular bill. That said, knowing the way we do business, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if we allowed the Frenchman to run down his contract and leave on a free in 18 months time. At which point you’d be looking at an even better Jenkinson to take over, but my feeling is that letting Sagna go that early (he’d still be only 31) would be a mistake.
A team needs experience and reliability. You know what you’re going to get with Bacary Sagna, that’s 100% in every single game. He’s an important player and we should, with this new money on its way, ensure that we cut out this process of selling off experienced players when they can still bring a lot to proceedings. Running to stand still is no fun.
If you can’t see the game live tonight there’ll there’ll be full live blog coverage 7pm. That means up to the second text updates which you can follow on your browser, tablet, phone etc. Check back here later for another post with all the information and team news, or simply bookmark the default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.
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Finally for today, congratulations to John O’Reilly and James Gasson who have won a pair of tickets each to the Swansea game with thanks to Thomas Cook Sport. I’ll be in touch to get your details.
We’ll have news throughout the day over on Arseblog News, back here later for the match. Until then.