an early kick-off means we get straight back into things following the Interlull. A trip to newly promoted Norwich awaits and we’ll be looking to regain the momentum we’d built up before the break. In terms of the team today the only absence that causes any real concern is that of Carl Jenkinson. A stress fracture to his back will rule him out for 4-5 weeks and it means we’re left without a natural right full.
I suspect Arsene is going to play Johan Djourou there and we’ll have to hope that he’s had Pat Rice in his ear to tell him what do and where to be. That means the boss will have to make a decision about who from Mertesacker, Koscielny and Vermaelen is going to warm the bench. I have a feeling he’ll stick with Vermaelen and Koscielny, with an eye on using the German in midweek against a team he knows better than any other Arsenal player.
Which means we’d line up as: Szczesny – Djourou – Koscielny – Vermaelen – Santos – Song – Arteta – Ramsey – Gervinho – Walcott – van Persie
The manager says the start of the season provided a rather harsh lesson for the team, saying:
It is still a warning in our head, but I think we have showed remarkable mental strength and consistency since. We came from hell and if we have learned something it is to put 100 per cent effort in every single game. Maybe to have gone there helps us keep the urgency.
We can pick over that all we want and perhaps question why such a lesson was needed to put 100% into every game but it seems a little pointless now. Tomas Rosicky reckons the improvement is down to new players settling in and the team working better defensively:
Sometimes when new faces come in you need time to gel and I think the last month was much better from us. We were good defensively and much more compact. I think we will show that in the coming months as well.
I wouldn’t say just the midfield, it’s the whole squad as a unit that have defended better. I wouldn’t pick out one particular part, it’s the whole team that has gelled together. Hopefully we can continue to do that.
I know there are many aspects to football but when it comes right down to it, hard work goes such a long way to producing good results. And I think that’s been a big factor in things getting better, along with players like Arteta, Gervinho, Mert etc finding their feet in a new team and/or English football.
As mentioned yesterday we cannot underestimate Norwich simply because they’re a newly promoted team. They should have beaten United at Old Trafford and from the bits and pieces I’ve seen of them they’re a decent side who, if we don’t be careful, will cause us real problems. They look to have good set-piece delivery, which is always a bit troubling to us, and they won’t stop running.
Nevertheless, they do look a bit suspect at the back and with our front three in good form, Ramsey beginning to let the creative juices flow and Arteta pulling the strings in midfield this is a game we should be taking three points from. If we play well then I think we’ll win and three points would, temporarily at least, lift us above Liverpool and alongside Sp*rs in 5th place. Motivation indeed.
In other snippets from Arsene’s press conference, the boss talked about the fact that Thierry Henry is going to be with us until February but says he hasn’t considered a loan deal. Nothing can happen until January 1st anyway but I do wonder, with Chamakh off the African Nations Cup of African Nations Playing for a Cup and Park then the only other recognised striker at the club, if he might be tempted.
Personally, I’d really like us to go out and buy a striker who is a) not in the very twilight of his career and b) who can score goals and help Robin out, but we know Arsene likes a bargain. And ‘free’ is as bargaintastic as it gets until you consider the last free striker we got and how that hasn’t really worked out. Nevertheless, the boss reckons it’ll be good to have Thierry around the place, saying:
He brings confidence, experience and advice. He’s a very intelligent man and that’s always good to have in a dressing room. When you have a difficult game and you are told, ‘don’t worry you will come back’, from a great player it gives you a high level of confidence.
And to be honest I don’t see any problem with Henry being around provided he remains serious. It might be just fitness training for him (for now!) but for the rest of the squad it’s the day to day, but hugely important, business of the league, the cups and Europe. I think he could well be a positive influence once a close eye is kept on that famous scowl. “Come on Thierry, turn that frown upside down!”
There’s also stuff from Vermaelen, the boss on Walcott playing as a striker and some interesting comments on how to stop dissent in football (which sound perfectly fine but in reality it’d take an age for players to get used to not being mouthy twats).
Kick off today is 12.45 and if you’re stuck in work or faced with doing Saturday chores like going places with your family, then you can follow the match on the Arseblog liveblog. Full, free text commentary of the game which you can get on your computer, phone, iPad etc. Even if you’re watching it feel free to drop in. Check back later on for the liveblog post or bookmark the default liveblog page.
As usual we’ve teamed up with Paddy Power to give you a £50 free bet – simply click here to register with Paddy Power. I’ve got a cheeky fiver on Andre Santos to score the first goal, come on Andre!
Right then, time for breakfast, and then to settle in for some real football at last.