Shaktar preview – Eduardo’s return

At yesterday’s press conference the issue of tackling came up again. Both Arsene Wenger and Emmanuel Eboue were asked about it. If you want to find out what they said go look at the interviews on ATVO. Lots was made about the Birmingham game and Jack Wilshere but enough has been said already.

The great thing about not being slap bang in the middle of an Interlull is that things move on very quickly and we have more important stuff to get on with. Tonight’s game against Shaktar Donetsk in the Champions League could more or less assure our qualification. A win would leave us with nine points from three games and probably only requiring one further point from the final three to do the bare minimum and qualify for the knock-out stages.

In terms of team news Cesc Fabregas is back but may not start, the boss obviously exercising caution and wanting to ease him back into things. The trip to Manchester on Sunday may well be a factor too. Theo Walcott picked up a minor toe injury in training but should be fit to take part. Those two are the only returnees with Vermaelen, Sagna, Almunia and Koscielny all out. Robin van Persie’s return is now estimated at ‘mid-November’, with the manager suggesting the Dutch coach as a ‘good sense of humour‘ for expecting Robin to take part in a friendly on November 17th. I think it’s fair to say expecting Robin to do anything, ever, requires a sense of humour. Unless it’s to ensure little children also get injured.

Whether there’s any rotation from Saturday remains to be seen. I think Wilshere will start as he’s got a three game ban coming up and can use the time to recover. Cesc is in contention, obviously, Rosicky might play ahead of Arshavin while I suspect we might see Kieran Gibbs at left-back for this one. Lukasz Fabianski will continue in goal and I’m reminded of something Goodplaya said a few weeks ago. Paraphrasing, he said Fabianski didn’t need one or two very good games, he needed about twenty ordinary ones, so hopefully another entirely ordinary performance is forthcoming tonight.

Shaktar are second in the group having won both their games and so far they haven’t conceded a goal in the Champions League this season. The team might be chock full of Brazilians but you get the sense they’re coming to London with the mindset that their focus is on not being beaten. Captain Darijo Srna says:

We are also a good squad with strong players. Shakhtar always create lots of attacks but, perhaps, there will be less offensive action here in London.

I suppose they’ve watched plenty of tapes and realised that if they defend well they’ve got every chance of scoring with their first shot on goal like so many other teams that come to the Grove. For us then, it’s a matter of being more clinical with the chances we create, and going ahead means they have to go forward more, allowing us the space in which our football thrives, particularly at home in Europe.

Whether Eduardo starts or not remains to be seen but he spoke to the media yesterday, saying he wouldn’t celebrate if he scored:

I don’t think I will celebrate. I respect the club. I had some great moments here and have respect for the supporters and Mr Wenger, for the club. It was great times here with Arsenal, but now I am on the other side and play for Shakhtar.

It’s a nice gesture because celebrating a goal is something that is almost spontaneous but I hope he doesn’t have to bite his tongue, so to speak. If we’re winning well and he gets a late consolation then I can live with that, not a problem, but sentiment can’t get in the way of the fact that this is a game we should go out and win tonight.

Arsene Wenger said of his return:

I will be happy and sad to see Eduardo. Happy because he was always a fantastic boy with a fantastic mentality. And sad because I worked very hard to get him here and he left with a feeling that he could not completely fulfill the promise he had shown in his first season with us.

And we all know the reasons why. It also shows the difference between guys like Eduardo, who leave a club in the right way, and those like Adebayor who will never get a good reception at one of their old clubs. As I said, it’ll be nice for Eduardo and for the fans to have a proper goodbye but I’m hoping that alone is what makes the night memorable for him.

From our point of view it’s a matter of continuing to build momentum ahead of a crucial league game on Sunday. I know the focus has to be on tonight but like on Saturday I think the result is far more important than the performance. If we can marry the two then fine but let’s just win the game.

In other news it seems Vito Mannone’s wish to play football has come true – except he’s been sent to Hull on loan to do it. We can only speculate as to whether or not his Interlull outburst had any effect on this but certainly the promotion of Wojscez©® to number three left him in a position where his chances with us were always going to be extremely limited. Hull might well be cruel and unsual punishment, and I can only imagine what the horrors of Mannone and McShane in the same team might bring, but good luck to him up there. I suppose.

Right, that’s about that. A busy, busy day lies ahead, plenty to do. See you tomorrow.

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