Everton preview + statues and books

It’s not every day you turn 125. And let’s face it, there aren’t many who can claim to be such an age. Arsenal Football Club, some man in Japan who has lived off a diet of fresh fish and roadside herbs for his entire life, and Joan Rivers.

We’ll return to that landmark for the club in a little while but first we’ll turn attention to the game today against Everton. In terms of team news there’s nothing we didn’t know already. Well, not really. The ankle injury suffered by Andre Santos is more serious than first feared, meaning he’ll be out for an indefinite period of time (come on new medical building and anti-gravity thingumajig!) which leaves us with a grand total of 0 fit full backs.

You can certainly question the decision to bring him to Greece and play him in a game which meant nothing but I suspect the idea was to hone his fitness further. When he first arrived he looked like a man who enjoyed getting up in the morning and then grazing on a range of pies throughout the day. He’s lost a lot of weight since he came and I think the reason he went was to get him even more up to speed. Sadly, one ankle twist later and it looks like a gamble which didn’t pay off.

How Arsene chooses to replace him will be interesting. Callow youth, in Miquel, or experience in Vermaelen. Each option comes with positives and negatives. Play Miquel and you keep your best centre-half in his natural position but you’re running the risk of a youngster being exposed. Play Vermaelen and you lose your best centre-half but also get a forward thinking, energetic player who can offer something from an attacking point of view.

For that reason I think we’ll see a back four of Djourou – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Vermaelen. The rest of the team, you don’t even need me to write it out, it picks itself. The only other slight surprise, if you could even call it that, is the fact that as Mannone and Fabianski both injured themselves (incredibly both have ruptured their anterior pride gland) Manuel Almunia returns to the squad.

I know it’s not news that fills anyone with much confidence but as I said to somebody during a very fast car journey the other day, having seen the Pole and the Italian showcase their talents in Greece Almunia doesn’t seem like a bad option at all. I mean, I know this is like being kicked in the balls over and over again and then getting relief by only being punched in the face but there you go, you take your comforts where you can get them.

As for the game itself, we know Everton are the first of a threesome that will provide us with stern tests. Their season hasn’t been good thus far but if David Moyes ever figured out how to get a team to play in the first half of the season he’d probably have won a load of league titles by now. They’ve obviously missed Arteta – as much as we’ve been boosted by him – and it’s amazing to me that when both Wenger and Moyes have spent most of the day talking about his quality that some Arsenal fans remain unconvinced.

And when no less than Thierry Henry speaks about his admiration for Robin van Persie you know our current captain’s quality is impossible to ignore. It was funny hearing Thierry speak about him, saying:

I saw him come in here and at the very beginning he wasn’t the easiest guy to deal with, like I wasn’t I guess. But it’s amazing to see how he has improved. That tells you how intelligent a player he is.

I guess it would be fair to say that during their time together at the club van Persie and Henry didn’t always see eye to eye. Robin, growing up in the cages of Rotterdam, wasn’t fazed at all by Thierry’s stare of eternal scorn and damnation. You know the one; it turned Reyes from a player who looked like he could have been an all time great into a bloke who plays sporadically for Atletico Madrid and hasn’t scored since May.

But van Persie has far more in terms of strength of character (and, I’m sure, less of a mother who decides everything that happens in your life) and we’ll be looking to him to lead the line tomorrow, ably assisted by Gervinho and Theo Walcott. Everton will make life difficult for us but given the importance of this game, ahead of a trip to the Middle Eastlands, and the day that’s in it, you would hope this Arsenal side can rise the occasion.

In other news as part of the 125th anniversary celebrations the club unveiled three statues yesterday of club legends. Herbert Chapman, Tony Adams and Thierry Henry. No doubt all of them made their mark on our great club in different ways – and you can argue others might have been include but there’s still time for that. But what a shame that Tony Adams couldn’t be there. When you look at Thierry’s emotional response to the honour the club bestowed on him it’s just sad that Tony didn’t come to mark the occasion, the same way he didn’t come to final game at Highbury.

That’s not to be critical, by the way, it genuinely is sad that he clearly has issues about being back at the club. However, we won’t dwell on that and instead we’ll focus on the fact that it was a fantastic gesture by the Arsenal (and for a club as conservative as ours has traditionally been to erect a statue of Henry essentially taunting the ever loving shit out of Sp*rs fans is just magnificent) and the rest of what’s planned for tomorrow.

The 360 photo looks like a brilliant idea and the club are asking people to get into the ground early tomorrow to take part in all the bits and pieces they have planned. Details right here.

And that’s about that. Just to remind you that as usual there’ll be live blog coverage of the game. Later on you can join Tim from 7amkickoff as he provides like text commentary of the match. And as well, if you fancy a bet our regular partners Paddy Power are on the case. I couldn’t find any odds for Arsenal winning 125-0 but both Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker are 125/1 to score two or more goals in the game. Certainly worth a quid or two.

So click here to register with Paddy Power and get up to a £50 free bet.

Finally, as I said yesterday, the book ‘So Paddy got up‘ will be available today in The Tollington, if you’re in there it’ll be pretty obvious and I’ll be around after the game to share a beer and a chat, so I hope to see you there. The feedback so far for the book has been excellent, which speaks a great deal to the genuine talent of the contributors. The book, as a limited edition hardback, really would make a great Christmas present for the Arsenal in your life. Tomorrow is the final home game before Christmas though, so make sure you get yours.

As for those online, I haven’t forgotten you, but I need to be here when it goes live, hence the reason you have to wait until Monday, but I can assure you Monday it will be.

Right, look forward to seeing some of you tomorrow. And here’s to a 125-0 win. Or at least two Mertescielny goals.


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