Morning to you and the Interlull is well and truly behind us now. We can feast our eyes upon the Premier League, its ups and downs (Sorry, Matthew), and all the rest.
Early team news ahead of tomorrow’s game is promising. Back in the fold are Cesc, Theo, Song and Diaby while there are high hopes over van Persie, Bendtner and Aaron Ramsey. Having come back from international duty slightly scathed we now have to wait and see if they can play a part this weekend. Robin has a bruised knee, Nick has a dodgy ankle while Aaron’s groin is giving him jip. The manager is certainly confident over the first two though.
I imagine we’ll hear more about their fitness at today’s press conference. Whether the manager ends up starting all of the returning players remains to be seen but you have to think that he’d be sorely tempted to go with at least three of the definites and if Robin is fit enough he’s got to start. He might well be a little bit cautious, so we’ll have to wait and see.
The only absence, beyond those carrying longer term knocks is Denilson who has a toe injury. Rumours that Jens stamped on it are, I’m told, completely wide of the mark.
The Interlull has given everyone a chance to calm down after the West Brom game. Even Arsene said it was well timed and he wants the team to respond now:
We go into the final part of the season now and that’s where the differences are made. Let’s enjoy it, go for and I feel this group has had great focus since the start of the season. I feel we have to go a bit more light hearted. We have a good mixture between the desire to play our game and the focus to win the games.
Speaking to ATVO he doesn’t really explain himself as well as he might but I think I know what he means. He’s not saying we shouldn’t take things seriously, just that we should try and enjoy the football. To be fair, it is kinda difficult to explain but I see where he’s coming from.
He was also asked about Jack Wilshere and his desire to play in the U21s this summer and said:
First of all that a player wants to play is not a bad sign. It’s a good sign. The rest has to be sorted out between the FA and Arsenal Football Club and I don’t believe it’s the right moment to create any tension. I’ll speak about that when the right time has come.
So, as I said yesterday there’s no falling out between manager and player but obviously Arsene doesn’t want anything to get in the way of the run-in. The last thing Jack needs is to be at the centre of a row between club and country. We need him 100% focused on our games, everything else can wait.
He was asked about Jens Lehmann and the sense I get is that if there was a huge emergency, like Almunia’s leg fell off, then he’d play, but not before that. Again this is something I expect to get a fair bit of coverage in the press conference so we can deal with that tomorrow. However, the reality is that Almunia will start and we have to hope he, like a couple of others, can raise his game for as long he’s needed.
As we look to get our title challenge back on track Blackburn are a team battling relegation. It really is incredibly tight down there, only 8 points separate third from bottom with seventh in the table, and they’ll be a tough nut to crack. I’m sure they’ll have watched teams come and sit back, squeezing Arsenal into the middle of the pitch and getting as many men behind the ball as possible, then look to hit us on the counter or from set pieces.
The latter in particular will be a threat because a) we’re not very good at defending them and b) they have Samba who is very, very tall. I don’t know how their football under Steve Kean differs from that of Sam Allardyce but I imagine they still play to their strengths and we’re going to have to defend well when needed. Anyway, a better look at the game in tomorrow’s blog.
And apologies to those of you who are missing the Arsenal Players on Twitter page. Unfortunately Twitter seem to have made some changes to their system which restricts their data being displayed on other pages. So after a few people look at the page, it shuts off the feed. I don’t know if there’s any way around this but we’ll keep trying. In the meantime the page has links to the players profiles if you want to check them out. Not as handy, I know, but it’s all we’ve got for now.
Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast and with me to discuss his upcoming epic cycle to raise funds for Willow Foundation is former keeper, goalkeeping coach and all round legend Bob Wilson. He explains why, in his 71st year he’s going to cycle to every Premier League ground in the country and, as well as that, gives us his thoughts on the goalkeeping situation at the club right now, as well as what the run-in might hold for this Arsenal team.
Also in the mix Internet Joe, Arshavin and the usual waffle.
You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too. To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (22mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.[audio:http://arseblog.com/podcasts/arsecast_episode195.mp3]
And if you want to keep up with Bob’s progress or make a donation then Bob Wilson’s Soccer Cycle is the place to be. Good luck to him, what a man.
And that’s about that. Just time for me to breakfast and then pack a bag for London. The Arseblog 5s are on again and we’ve got the Blackburn game to see so a good weekend lies ahead, hopefully.
See some of you when we get there. And there will be beer. Oh yes.