Wolves preview – forget Barcelona, this is more important

Ok then, here we go again.

Last weekend we fell off the horse, today Wolves are the horse we have to punch in the face, say ‘Shut up horse, you stupid horse’, and get back on and ride like the clappers. In the figurative way, of course.

The team news is good. Johan Djourou is fit. Alex Song is fit. Cesc and Robin have recovered from their illnesses. Bar a groin injury to Tomas Rosicky everyone’s come back from the mini-Interlull fit. And while initially I thought he might have an eye on the Barcelona game I’m glad to hear the manager talk about the importance of today’s fixture. At his press conference he said:

There is no Barcelona in mind. There is Wolverhampton in mind. That’s what is important to us, the championship. We fought so hard to be in this position now that the most important thing is that we focus on the Premier League tomorrow.

And that is exactly the way it should be. The next game is the most important one and with United and City playing at 12.45 somebody around is us going to drop points. We have to take advantage of that so I think he’s going to pick the strongest team available to him:

Wojscez©® – Sagna – Djourou – Koscielny – Clichy – Song – Wilshere – Cesc – Arshavin – van Persie – Walcott

After last weekend it’s hugely important that we react well. The only way to get past the inevitable nervousness, even if we do go a couple of goals up, is to just work hard, be solid and maintain our discipline. The latter being particularly crucial today. If we go down to 10 men for some reason then it’s going to get very hairy indeed. Wolves know that too and they’ve got some players capable of a wind-up in their ranks. We cannot react to even the slightest provocation.

They’ll come feeling pretty confident too. They beat United last weekend, they’ve beaten Man City and Chelsea previously in the league, so their record against the big teams is good. They won’t have any fear and to my mind they’re a much better team than the league table suggests. We had to really scrap a win at Molineux, the hero of the day was Lukasz Fabianski, despite Marouane Chamakh’s two goals. He pulled off a number of really good saves to keep the score at 1-0 until Chamakh’s late goal clinched the three points.

What we’ve got to do is go out and play like we did in the first half against Newcastle (but with an extra 45 minutes of that on top). We were confident, clinical, direct and when we made chances we took them. I think with Song and Djourou back in the side we’ll be better from a defensive point of view and our ability to deal with Wolves set-pieces will be important. Both their goals last week came from set-pieces and defending those hasn’t always been our strongest point.

Up the other end though we’ve got plenty to hurt Wolves with. Robin is scoring goals, Arshavin has found a bit of form again, Theo is scoring and assisting, and we’ve got a few from set-pieces ourselves recently. I think there’ll be some nervousness, hopefully we don’t leave it as late as last year, but it’s down the players to calm themselves down and to ease the inevitable jitters of the crowd.

This is a massive game, not just in terms of the title race, but in terms of the character of this team. Can they put last week behind them without suffering the hangover we’ve seen too often when bad things happen? Let’s hope so. We’ll have our answer around 4.55 this afternoon.

The game will be live blogged here so if you’re out and about and want to keep up with it, or if you’re watching and just want to log in and chat feel free to do that too. Check back later for a post with all the details.

In other news the manager spoke about the return of Thomas Vermaelen who is still 2-3 weeks away. He said:

When he is fit certainly we’ll play him in the Reserve team. He feels he is over the problem but he played his last game in September and we are in February so it will take some time to come back to match fitness.

Promising news and it’ll be good to have him back. Obviously his return doesn’t provide an all-encompassing solution to our defensive issues, I maintain it’s more of a team issue than an individual one, but he’s a shouter, an organiser and a leader in terms of his attitude, and that’s certainly something we’ve been missing at times.

Also, something that seems to have been overlooked is Arsene talking about Nasri and suggesting he could be back in a week’s time. Which would be a real bonus so fingers crossed that’s accurate.

After his full England debut in midweek Arsene has expressed his concerns that Jack Wilshere might be called up for the U21 championships this summer. He reckons it’s counter-productive from a psychological point of view and while he might well have a point I think he’d say anything to ensure Jack gets a proper rest when the season ends. As I’ve said before I think this is going to get a bit ugly, Stuart Pearce will select him. A problem for the future though.

And finally for now, the boss on players using Twitter:

I don’t believe you can stop the players using it because everyone has the freedom to press his point. You want it to be intelligent in a good way, in a positive way. The players can get closer to the fans and that is one of the positive aspects of it.

The question came in the light of Jack’s delete-o-tweet about refereeing decisions last week and I think that’s where a line should be drawn. We shouldn’t question the officials at all, anywhere, ever, least of all on social media where the bottom-feeding, content scraping, lazy hacks are just waiting to make a big story out of 140 characters or less.

Everything they post on Twitter is dissected in newsrooms and website bedrooms the world over. Instantly. Deleting won’t save you. That’s something they’ve got to be aware of and even if they feel frustration they’ve got to bottle that and just get on with things. It won’t do them or us any good to be involved in any kind of online row with officialdom.

However, I would pay good money to see one of them call John Terry a cunt.

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Right, that’s that. Back later with the live blog. Until then.

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