Wolves preview – “These are the games that can win or lose you titles”

Morning all,

we’re back in the saddle again tonight, a trip to Wolves and all that entails later this evening. The team news is relatively good. There’s no Laurent Koscielny, as expected his appeal against Sunday’s red card failed but thankfully no extra game for frivolity has been added. He misses tonight and Sunday, a second game added because it was his second red card of the season.

I did wonder yesterday if our appeal was a sign that all was not well with Thomas Vermaelen and so it seems. He’s suffered a set-back to his achilles injury and at this point there’s no fixed date for his return. Arsene says:

I don’t know where we go with Thomas time-wise but at the moment he can not play. I can’t give you any time scale at all. On the scan his Achilles is completely clear but as soon as he stays out for a while it tightens up and he has pain. We don’t know the source of his pain.

It’s a real blow because Vermaelen is, when fit, one of our first choice centre-halves and a man who brings a drive and spirit to the side that others don’t. I’m not sure Koscielny was ever supposed to have played so much so soon, I’m sure the manager would have preferred to ease him more slowly into English football. To be fair to him he’s done well enough but there’s no doubt this team misses Vermaelen’s presence at both ends of the pitch. He’s one of the leaders and we need those sort of characters right now.

Abou Diaby also faces seeing a specialist if he doesn’t come through a fitness test. From what I’ve been told it would be a big surprise if he did that although the manager says his return will be ‘very quick’ if he does. Samir Nasri is in the squad tonight, the knock he picked up against Newcastle not that serious, while the manager has declared Cesc injury free, saying:

It has taken a lot out of him mentally and I believe that the fact he came through well against Newcastle you will see a different player on Wednesday night.

It’s hard to speculate on this evening’s team. There will certainly be changes to the side that didn’t show up against Newcastle. I imagine Arshavin will come back, based on the manager’s comments, and I wonder if he might go with Bendtner up front to add just that little bit of extra physicality. Chamakh looked tired against Newcastle, which is no surprise given he’s also a player who has hardly been eased into life here. Injuries mean he’s played a lot.

I think Theo will drop to the bench so we might see : Fabianski – Sagna – Squillaci – Djourou – Clichy – Song – Wilshere – Fabregas – Nasri – Bendtner – Arshavin

It means plenty of options from the bench too, with Walcott, Rosicky, van Persie, Chamakh etc. Ahead of the game Cesc has sounded the rallying cry:

We have to realise one more mistake like that [Newcastle] and it could all be finished. We are lucky Chelsea lost at Liverpool so we didn’t lose any ground on the leaders. It’s not just about beating the big teams in the big games – it’s about winning these matches also.

Wolves will not be easy tonight. They came within injury time minutes of a point at Old Trafford at the weekend and had a glorious chance to win the game before United got their late winner. I watched them against Chelsea this season and they gave them a serious game too. Doyle and Fletcher are more than capable up front and their winger Jarvis is catching the eye with some tasty displays. We’ve got to go into this with 100% focus and determination.

The last two performances have been poor so while I’m hoping for, without necessarily expecting, a big improvement in that regard what I want to see most from this Arsenal team tonight is that they’ve got the appetite for it. That they’re willing to fight and scrap and put their bodies on the line for the sake of the team. Wolves, we know, are a physical side and I expect a physical game tonight. They certainly won’t be holding back and nor should we. There’s no point cribbing afterwards about the way they play, we have to make it a non-issue ourselves.

I don’t really expect Chelsea to drop points at home to Fulham tonight but with the Manchester derby also taking place there’s a chance to make up some points there on one or both of those teams. As I said yesterday a bad result tonight would leave people asking very serious questions about this Arsenal team. We need to see a response from Sunday. A defeat in Europe is one thing but the league is our bread and butter. On Sunday our bread was unbuttered and made from flour flecked with poo. Tastier bread required tonight.

In other news Jay Emmanuel-Thomas continues to show the boss that he’s had enough of reserve team football. He got another two goals against Everton on Monday, one of them after a quite audacious piece of skill in the area, and you wonder what’s next for him. Continuing to play him at a level he seemingly finds easy will do nothing for his development so we need to either find some time for him in the first team or let him go out on loan for a while to continue his progress.

Last week Arsene Wenger said he was knocking on the door of the first team ‘with both hands’. Monday’s display means he’s close to kicking it in.

And that’s about that. I have to admit I’m much more worried about tonight’s game than I’d like to be but I know we’ve got the quality to go and get a result.

No more poo bread, lads. Come on Arsenal.

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