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Right then, we can start looking ahead to tomorrow’s game which, because of the early kick off, is just a little over 24 hours away.

There’s some early team news, some of it promising, some of it not so much but not that unexpected really. It was slightly worrying to read Arsene Wenger refer to Kieran Gibbs as ‘long-term’, in the same breath as lifers like Diaby and Rosicky, but I’m hoping that he just means he’s been out for a while already and isn’t a one/two week knock like some of the others.

There are some fitness tests due to go down today and the participation of Wojciech Szczesny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Bacary Sagna are dependent on the results of those. Obviously it’d be better if all of them were fit and able to take part, particularly the goalkeeper who really needs to get back into the side and to establish himself now.

The manager also has to assess the players who have been away and will have been arriving back at various stages yesterday. There was spotlight this week on Santi Cazorla who travelled a long way with Spain but didn’t play in the end. Arsene says:

I believe he didn’t need games. He was overloaded with games so on that front I was happy that he got a little breather.

It is not a complete breather because 20 hours travelling is of course not what we want. It’s the advantage and the disadvantage of being called up in a squad. At least he didn’t get injured and hopefully will recover before Saturday.

Of course the travel is not ideal but, you know, it’s just travel. As Tim Stillman pointed out a couple of weeks ago Neymar played for Brazil in Japan on a Tuesday and returned to play in Brazil the very next day. And probably scored 4 goals, each of which was more elaborate and physically demanding than the last. Then he flew to the South Pole to do a Nike event before playing that very same day in Siberia against a team of robots. On his own. And he won.

At the end of the day Santi’s had a week off, had a little jaunt to Central America with his mates from back home and he ought to be in tip-top shape for tomorrow’s game. It’d be the perfect stage for him to rediscover some of his early season sparkle too. I have no fears that the new boys won’t know what this game means, not just from a footballing point of view, but from the fan’s.

Mikel Arteta can brief Cazorla on how intense the derby games are in England, Mertesacker will have a chat with Podolski while Sagna and Koscielny can tell Giroud all about it. And one of the other things we’ll have tomorrow, that perhaps we’ve been lacking a little bit in seasons past, are guys like Wilshere and Jenkinson in the team/squad and they know as well as anyone what this game means.

And without wanting to heap any pressure on him I think Jack could be the difference tomorrow. No doubt Sp*rs will have looked at recent games and seen that when Arteta is put under pressure, and not allowed as much time to build from the back, that Arsenal struggle a little bit, so if Jack is there to ease that burden then I think it’ll be a positive thing for us. He likes being on the ball, plus he’s got that touch of creativity/forward thinking which can bring others into play more quickly, thus finding more space and time and it should improve us from an attacking point of view.

Of course the attacking side of our is important but more will depend on how we fare at the back. Thomas Vermaelen hasn’t been terribly convincing in his performances at left back but perhaps with Wojciech Szczesny back we might find the spine of our team improved somewhat. Anyway, we’ll hear more from Arsene Wenger after his press conference this morning and we can look ahead to this game in a more in-depth fashion tomorrow.

Which doesn’t leave us a lot more to talk about today but that’s entirely the fault of internationals, politicians and people who can’t keep their noses out of other people’s business. Like the man yesterday who, having witnessed me kicking leaves up in the air for the dog to catch when we were out walking, stopped to chastise me for littering. Seriously.

“They are leaves,” I said.

“They were all piled neatly beside the wall and now they are all over the footpath,” he replied.

“Talk to the fucking trees, mister,” I said. People, eh?

Anyway, onto this week’s Arsecast and joining me to discuss Fulham, the fall-out, the manager, and this weekend’s North London derby are Arse2Mouse and Gunnerblog. How do we fix our defensive issues? What would victory mean for this team and for the boss? Is it going to be another mental derby? Why is an Arsenal game never over? All of those questions are posed and I’m pretty sure we don’t know the answer to any of them but sure have a listen anyway.

Also, there’s your chance to win a pair of stylish slipper socks from our friends at Savile Rogue and the winner of last week’s scarf competition. And remember, you can get 10% off any order from Savile Rogue by using the code ARSEBLOG12 at checkout.

You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here 25mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.


We’ll have all the news as it breaks on Arseblog News, back here tomorrow with a look ahead to the Sp*rs game.

Till then.