A nice problem for the boss + Arsecast 215

Friday again? How does this keep happening with such regularity? I don’t quite know where this last year has gone. I just remembered this morning that it’s just over a year since Arseblog came back under my total control, my despotic regime is progressing nicely with Commander Tom readying the technological weapons of war and … uhm … I’ve said too much.

Still, who knows where the time goes? Somebody ought to write a song about that. Perhaps that would give us some clarity. Anyway, this weekend we head into the game against West Brom who came to our place and took all three points last season. Sure, they had a touch of help from Manuel Almunia who had one of those games and then wasn’t seen again until we’d completely run out of goalkeepers later in the season.

I remember Nasri scoring two to drag us back into it but on reflection I suspect he simply refused to score the third to give us a point so it would make it easier for him to want to leave the following the summer. What a little prick. Had it all planned out, so he did. Anyway, we’ll be looking for a much better result, obviously, and despite the flatness of the midweek game against Marseille I would hope that the team will be sufficiently enthused for this Premier League encounter.

In terms of injury news and there being any to contend with post Marseille, Arsene says:

There are none, basically. We have no injuries from Tuesday night which is very positive. Apart from long-term injuries we have only Chamakh and Gibbs out at the moment. Going into November that’s not too bad.

By our standards it’s not bad at all. In fact, the biggest problem Arsene has this weekend is what to do with his glut centre-halves. Thomas Vermaelen is a little stiff (fnarr) but otherwise ok. Laurent Koscielny is nicely rested and the BFG is trundling on, adding calmness and experience to our back four. Add to that the fact that Djourou is fit and Squillaci still exists somewhere and he’s got lots of options.

Obviously though, it’s the first three about whom he’s got to make up his mind, and the boss says:

The balance is vital. In fairness though, I must say that all the three can play with each other. Koscielny and Vermaelen can play together and Mertesacker can play with Vermaelen and Koscielny. It gives us a bit of an opportunity to rotate a bit when needed and people are tired.

Ideally, Vermaelen will play on the left, but Koscielny can play on the left as well so we have a good potential and balance there.

Quite how he approaches it remains to be seen. I thought he might rest Mertesacker in midweek as he has played a lot since his arrival but then the Vermesacker partnership provided us with a clean sheet. Koscielny’s individual performance against Chelsea was very strong but he was part of a defence which conceded three – although two of which you might ask questions of his partner.

Still, however he decides to solve this particular conundrum, it’s a far better problem for him to have than some in the recent past. For example, it wasn’t so long ago that such was our dearth of centre-halves that Alex Song was playing there and if the fitness and availability of players does anything it ought to raise the level, increase competition and give Arsene the kind of headache that any manager enjoys. No doubt this is something he’ll be asked to expand on during today’s press conference so more on that, and the West Brom game in general, in tomorrow’s blog.

In other news there are whisperings that we’re making attempts to extend Theo Walcott’s contract. Like van Persie he’ll have one year left when we get to the summer but if at 28 years of age van Persie has a bit more thinking to do, I would suggest it’s a pretty open and shut case with Theo. He’s been nursed through the early years of his career, I won’t say ‘tolerated’ because that sounds wrong but for every great Theo performance there have been just as many duff ones, and I would hope that after all the injuries and everything else that he sees re-signing for us as the obvious move.

Of course you can’t make any assumptions with footballers these days. Who knows who they have around them telling them they’re the best player in the world and deserving of their own personal fifedom in which to showcase their mad skillz, but hopefully Theo can see what Arsenal have done for him and react accordingly. We shall see.

Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast, and joining me to discuss Chelsea, Laurent Koscielny and much more is the ever-erudite Philippe Auclair. There might also be the odd mention of that bloke who fell over last weekend, as well as your chance to win an Arseblog t-shirt. Get listening.

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 (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download this week’s Arsecast directly – click here (20mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.

[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode215.mp3]

And that’s pretty much that for this morning. News updates throughout the day on Arseblog News, we’ll get the main press conference bits up there as soon as we can.

Tomorrow a full preview of the West Brom game. Until then, take it it easy.