Looks like the reports that said Julio Baptista would miss tonight’s game were on the money. His absence was confirmed yesterday and it looks like he’ll miss the Boro trip on Saturday. The boss is hopeful he won’t be out much longer than that but we’ll certainly miss the man who has made the Carling Cup his own so far.
One man who’ll be back though is Gilberto and he’ll start having served a three match ban for slightly kicking Robbie Savage a few weeks back. Cesc will probably get a rest so it’ll be Flamini alongside him, I’d imagine, with Denilson left and Walcott on the right. Unless he plays Eboue on the right and plays Walcott up front. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aliadiere and Adebayor play. The back four picks itself so Kolo and Phil will start as we don’t have any other centre-halves fit, Hoyte and Traore will be the full backs.
Anyway, we’ll wait and see what the team news is. The boss says it will be a young side with an experienced bench and given the amount of injuries we have at the moment he doesn’t really have as much to play with as he has in previous rounds. Obviously it’s a massive game though. It might only be the Carling Cup but it’s the first ever semi-final at the new stadium and it’s against the oldest enemy there is. This competition has been a bit cruel to us at this stage before so let’s hope it’s our turn to smile at the final whistle tonight.
Theo Walcott, wherever he plays, will be looking to break his Arsenal duck. He’s been struggling a little bit in recent games but that’s only natural. He’s only 17, still very raw and still learning the game. The boss is confident that he can come through this tricky spell though, saying:
You forget that this boy is not even 18 years of age. Just let him play, give him the needed confidence. He has made big big improvements in the last six months. That will come out very shortly.
Certainly a goal would do wonders for him and the support of the home crowd could really help him too. He burst onto the scene as a ‘supersub’ and has been involved in some very good moments this season. Crosses for goals for Gilberto and Baptista, off the top of my head, a super bit of play at Watford to set van Persie on his way, but he hasn’t been able to find the consistency as of yet. Perhaps people’s expectations of him are too high but he’ll come good and people getting behind him and not giving a very young player a load of unnecessary stick will help.
Kolo Toure talks about how proud he is to be given the honour of captaining the side and how Arsenal will try and attack Sp*rs tonight. Sometimes when I hear the word attack I think of the Arsenal boys with spears and clubs waiting around a corner and then setting upon our North London rivals until they lie twitching on the ground. I’ll be happy enough with just a few goals though.
The manager talks about how he can attract good young players to Arsenal because they know they’ll be given a chance.
What club gives players of 18 or 19 a chance in the Champions League? Do we see that at Milan or Madrid, or anywhere else? That is why players join us, because they know if they are good, they get a chance.
It’s a good point. I remember a question in one of the recent Arsecasts where it was suggested that we might find it difficult to attract good young players when they see the likes of Stokes being sold before really being given a chance. My thinking on it though is that young players can look at the players that don’t quite make it Arsenal and see that they get the kind of footballing education that allows them to go on a make a good career at a good level, whether that’s in England or abroad.
One young player who has never really made the grade is Alex Song and yesterday Arsene Wenger took his revenge on Alan Pardew by sending him on loan to Charlton until the end of the season. I know it’s not his fault when he gets picked but one performance against Liverpool aside he has looked completely out of his depth at Arsenal. You compare his first games to those of Denilson and it’s like chalk and cheese. With the Brazilian obviously a better player and with Diaby, Gilberto, Flamini and Cesc all ahead of him it would seem that the loan is a way to put him in the shop window for a permanent deal somewhere because his first team chances at Arsenal are slimmer than Karen Carpenter. Good luck to him though.
Speaking of Denilson the Guardian has a nice piece on him this morning and he says that he’s happy to play anywhere for Arsenal but he’s happiest in the centre of midfield. Robert Pires says that being substituted in the Champions League final was what convinced him he had to leave Arsenal and he says Arsene Wenger never thought he’d leave. He’s on the road to recovery after snapping his cruciate again and could be back in action for Villarreal next month.
And staying with Spain JosÃ© Antonio Reyes has been warned by Real Madrid that they may not buy him permanently which would mean his return to Arsenal unless another buyer can be found. It would also make a permanent deal for Julio Baptista more complicated if the boss decided to keep him. The fact that Reyes picked up an injury – thought only to be a sprained knee though – might hamper the deal as well. We want him to stay fit and play well for Madrid. Until we’ve sold him.
And that’s about that. Fingers crossed for tonight. A full review of tonight’s action tomorrow. Yeah!