Orient preview + RVP injury, Leopold and more …

Good morning,

let’s start with the bad news shall we? Robin van Persie’s injury, picked up scoring a sensational goal in the Carling Cup final, means he’s going to miss “a minimum” of three weeks, ruling him out of the return to Barcelona. According to Arsene Wenger:

It could be longer. The shortest delay we can imagine is three weeks.

Rough, I know, but I’m choosing to look at this in a positive way. I’m eradicating the phrase ‘three weeks’ from my brain and replacing it with ‘forever’. Thereby any return between now and the end of time becomes a pleasant surprise. It’s rather gutting all the same. In the same way only we could lose a cup final in the manner we did, only our best striker could injure himself scoring a fantastic goal.

However, it could be worse. We play Sunderland on Saturday and then, until April 2nd, we have only one league game on the fixture list, an away trip to West Brom. There’s a whopping great Interlull on the horizon you see (cheers, Charlie) and while I would normally welcome such a break with a ‘Down with that sort of thing’ placard, perhaps this one might just be nicely timed (providing none of our players get eaten by bears while away with their national teams).

Ok, so he misses the FA Cup 6th round, a game he probably wouldn’t have played in anyway. and the West Brom game (one which we should be able to cope with more readily than others), and hopefully when he’s been off to see some wizened old gypsy lady in the far east of Europe, who will apply a poultice made from the womb of a lonely hippo, he’ll be right as rain again.

Missing Barcelona is a big blow, that’s for sure, but with Cesc a ‘possible’, the news isn’t all bad.  Anyway, we don’t even need to score over there. What we have we hold. And with our defensive record a clean sheet should be no hass … erm … let’s worry about that next week.

In the meantime we’re back in the saddle tonight with an FA Cup replay against Leyton Orient. The team news is that Koscielny has a small hamstring problem and Almunia will return in goal. Of course this is being spun that the pair of them have been dropped after the Wembley mix-up but I doubt either of them were going to play anyway. We know the manager rotates his keepers for the cup, even though it’s not really necessary, while Koscielny has played a lot of football and was always going to be rested.

Alex Song is out for tonight, with a knee knack, while Abou Diaby is fit again and will start. I reckon we’re going to see a team like this:

Almunia – Eboue – Squillaci – Miquel – Gibbs – Denilson – Diaby – Rosicky – Bendtner – Chamakh – Arshavin

With the injuries and the resting I do wonder if we might see a name or two unfamiliar to the first team on the bench tonight. From our point of view it’s a chance to help ease the pain of Sunday in a very small way. A chance for some players, from whom we’re going to need more significant contributions due to the absences, to find a bit of form. A chance to put this chap in his place.

More importantly, however, it’s a chance to progress in a tournament which provides another opportunity for silverware. I know we shouldn’t read too much into the absence of bigger teams but the competition has provided some shocks – Everton’s reward for their pelanty shoot-out win against Chelsea was to be knocked out by Reading last night – but this is a game we need to take very seriously tonight.

I can understand there might well be a hangover from Sunday but if they go out there feeling sorry for themselves then I worry about the performance. If they go out determined to put things right and to start making amends then I think we’ll progress. Arsene says:

Of course, there is disappointment in the dressing room but the players are united, have a strong bond and are determined to go for the massive challenges we have in front of us.

Under normal circumstances you wouldn’t classify Orient as ‘massive’ but these are not normal circumstances. As I said on Monday morning the measure of this team will be in how it responds to the disappointment. I don’t expect a typically flowing Arsenal performance tonight. The team we’ll put out has yet to click in any of the cup games they’ve played. They lack the dynamism and ability of the ‘firsts’ but it’s still a team that should be strong enough to beat Orient. They’ll have to scrap, I think, and it might not be pretty, but the important thing is to win the game.

As usual you can follow the live blog later on to keep up to date with the match. Check back later for more details on that.

From a Premier League point of view we received something of a boost last night. Ok, no Godzilla, but a Chelsea win means that it’s actually in our hands. There’s a long way to go, of course, but if we win all our games we’ll be champions. There are some big, big tests between now and the end of the season though, and I’m not suggesting anything other than we take one game at a time, but the team have got to look at the situation we’re in and do their utmost to take advantage of it.

Some quality bonus reading for you this morning. Firstly, the Tim Stillman column urges everyone to do their bit in the wake of Sunday’s disappointment, while over at the real ANR Leopold has some suggestions about how Arsenal can move forward.

That should keep you busy, so have a good today, more later on for the FA Cup replay against Orient. Till then.

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