Good morning to you.
We have the Carling Cup to contend with this evening and we take on the richest club in the world, with the biggest, most expensive squad in the world, and a manager who is complaining about a fixture pile-up. To be fair to Roberto Mancini, he’s got a point. Playing Sunday then Tuesday is tough for any team but when you can replace all 11 players and call on the likes of Kolo Toure, Kolarov, Dzeko, Adam Johnson and others who didn’t start the game against Liverpool then it does make life a bit easier.
Arsenal will rotate too, protecting players who have played a lot but also giving chances to those who have been on the fringes of the first team. Guys like Yossi Benayoun who the manager says is unlucky not to have played more but whose influence around the place seems more positive the more you read about him. Andrei Arshavin says that his performance on Saturday against Fulham was down the fact he hasn’t been playing much and that it’s difficult to come in and play well straight away.
He’s likely to get another chance tonight. Lukasz Fabianski will play in goal. I suspect we’ll see something of a makeshift back four, perhaps another chance for Yennaris at full back, Squillaci and Miquel will probably play. In midfield Frimpong and Coquelin will be hoping for a chance while Abou Diaby’s availability remains a mystery at this point. There’s some suggestion he’s picked up a muscular problem which could be false but it sounds so perfectly true it’s hard to know without any official confirmation.
The boss is talking about the development of the Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain:
Overall, Alex has the quality and I can only show that I believe in that in buying him. Secondly I can show that by playing him – but also by working with him on the training pitch. Alex is developing very well. He is very positive and he works very hard.
He has a goal in this competition already, and one in the Champions League, so looks the kind of player who will take his chances when they come along. Whether he starts tonight or not remains to be seen and probably depends on the formation. The manager has two strikers who both need games and goals – might he play a 442 to accomodate them both?
Marouane Chamakh has got just two goals in the last 12 months – one in the FA Cup in March, the other in the league game at Ewood Park earlier this season. More than anyone he’s got something to prove tonight. Another game without a goal and he’s heading into the last chance saloon. I realise it’s difficult to play second-fiddle to someone as good as Robin van Persie but I don’t think it’s unfair to expect more.
Similarly, Ju Young Park’s signing is one that makes less sense the more time goes on. Of course he needs time to adapt but it’s December, he signed in August, and he has yet to play even one minute of Premier League football. On the one hand you want to give him time and give him a chance, on the other you can’t help but ask why he hasn’t played even one minute of Premier League football and why he hasn’t even been in the squad for the last three games. So the Carling Cup is more than just a chance to rest weary legs, it’s an opportunity for the manager to assess players and make decisions about the team and the squad.
There’s a lot of talk this morning that Arsenal have been scouting Lukas Podolski as back-up for Robin van Persie. Which makes sense. Beyond the Dutchman our striking options are far from convincing and for Park and Chamakh tonight’s game is of huge importance. Play well and contribute and the effects are obvious. For the Moroccan in particular another one of those games might well be enough to convince the manager it’s time to cut his losses – if that’s a decision he hasn’t made already.
Personally, this is a game I’m a bit indifferent towards. It’d be nice to win it, of course, and I’m looking forward to seeing the youngsters and how they cope with a team as strong as the one Man City put out tonight. However, defeat wouldn’t be a huge blow so this is one I can watch without much in the way of nerves and anxiousness.
Of course, given that City will probably play our old friend Samir Nasri there’s a touch of spice that might not otherwise have been present. Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy left quietly and respectfully, Nasri, well, we all know how that went. Remember his quotes about Arsenal fans?
Arsenal have good fans but not that passionate since they moved from Highbury. City fans are really passionate. When we played against City, the crowd was amazing. That’s what I want.
For a guy that never played at Highbury that’s a bit much. And while Arsene Wenger does what he always does and asks for respect for former players, there’s no doubt that Nasri will be the pantomime villain should he play later on. You can ask for respect, and you can also see where the manager is coming from when he asks for it, but that ignores the very essence of being a football fan.
There’s no huge bitterness towards Nasri because he was never that important in the first place. He’s not the first, and he won’t be the last, to get ideas above his station and to listen to people whose only interest in him is to make money, and I’m sure he’ll get a gentle reminder (or two) of that this evening. And there’s not much wrong with that, to be honest.
If you can’t see the game later on there will be full live blog coverage, giving you up to the second text updates of the game. It’s 100% free and works on your computer, tablet, phone etc. Check back later on for the live blog post or bookmark the default live blog page.
And if you fancy throwing a couple of quid on the game you can get up to £50 free bet with Paddy Power. Marouane Chamakh is 80-1 for a hat-trick, heh, but Benayoun at 10-1 for first goal is where my couple of quid is going. Click here to register with Paddy Power.
In book related news the production of the physical edition is complete and I’m waiting now for them to be delivered – so everything is in place for the launch next Wednesday evening at 7pm. All are welcome to The Tollington. Arsenal books and a beer or two, what more could you want?
I’ve also finished the digital editions which will be available on Amazon Kindle, iBooks and all the usual ebook places a day or so after the launch. Now, I just have to worry about what dress I’m going to wear.
Right, that’s that. Catch you later for the Man City game.