let’s start with early team news ahead of Sunday’s game against United and there’s nothing good regarding Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard will miss the game, Arsene says he has ‘no chance’ of playing and the earliest we’ll be seeing him is against Aston Villa in the FA Cup.
Clearly that’s a big blow. As I said yesterday he’s kind of the glue in our midfield, keeping things ticking over, enabling us to keep possesion and we’re really going to miss him on Sunday. The obvious replacement, provided he’s not sick in any way, is Tomas Rosicky. Yossi Benayoun started against Swansea on Sunday but didn’t exactly pull up any trees. The fact that Rosicky made more successful passes in the 25 minutes he played than Benayoun did in over an hour shows how the game passed him by.
There have to be doubts about Thomas Vermaelen and Thierry Henry too. On Vermaelen the boss says:
At the moment I don’t think he will make it for Sunday. Let’s hope we have a good surprise. Let’s see how he develops. There may be a test. At the moment we just go day by day but he looks short.
And I’m sure there’s a real temptation to risk him but as important as this game is, in stature more than anything else, we’ve got to be sensible and keep him fit for as long as we can for the rest of the season. Talk of an Henry fitness test on Saturday suggests that he’s very much borderline too and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he missed out – especially when we have to consider he’s not our player, as such.
So, what was already a difficult task becomes even more so. That said, our backs were already firmly pressed up against the wall, so unless someone has moved the wall or made our backs all spongy and weird, I don’t think it necessarily changes how we approach the game. The manager wants to see a defensive improvement, saying:
The team has been very disappointed but I cannot fault the effort. If we score two goals away from home we must be capable of coming away with a point at least. That is where we want to improve and come back to our defensive stability.
I put Fulham down to the fact that on the corner we made a mistake. We made [mistakes] again at Swansea and it is important that we focus again on defending well together. That is vital going into a game against Manchester United.
And while I get where he’s coming from, and I would like to see more from the team defensively but also think it’s unfair to castigate the back four/keeper when the underlying problems go deeper than that, I still think it’s only part of the problem. The other side of it is the fact that we’re not taking very good chances to score goals at the other end. I know you can’t score every single one, but I’m sure a bit more ruthlessness in the finishing would have made the Swansea result less painful.
Robin’s chance to make it 2-1, Arshavin’s miss from the edge of the box, Mertesacker’s miss from inside the 6 yard box. If one of those went in then it’d probably have been a different game. Of course it van Persie’s had gone neither of the other chances would have occurred due to the fact the passages of play would have been different but our lack of efficiency at the top of the pitch is exacerbating our problems at the back.
Of course there are many things affecting that efficiency. The lack of full backs, not having Arteta to help maintain possession, few goals from midfield, Walcott and Arshavin doing little of note bar a moment here and there, and nobody to take up any of the slack from Robin van Persie. Yet these are players who should be capable of more. While it’s certainly the manager’s job to get his team to ‘wake up and focus’, as he suggested post-Swansea, ultimately it’s down to those on the pitch to do the business when they’re out there.
They’re the first to admit in the post-defeat interviews. ‘We have to do better’. ‘We should do more’. And when the chips are down, as they very much are right now, we need these guys to really dig in and start doing exactly that. I know it’s not exactly insightful analysis – ‘DO MORE’ – but without that attitude, at least, we’re not going to pull ourselves out of this funk. Anyway, more on the United game tomorrow and Sunday.
In the meantime, as clamour grows for signings and signings and more signings (with some signings on top), this is a very interesting piece about our finances and the money we might, or might not, have available to us. Essential reading. And that’s not to suggest I don’t want signings, I do, but it explains things very well.
Also, Lukasz Fabiasnki, concerned about his place in the Poland squad ahead of Euro 2012, has been given permission to leave the club on loan. Perhaps only for a month at a time, but as yet there have been no offers. Seems risky to me, given what it means to our goalkeeping pecking order, but there you go.
Right then, onto this week’s Arsecast and I am joined by the man from East Lower and Tim from Arse2Mouse to discuss the wonderful week that was, our January inactivity and the game on Sunday. Internet Joe has his say, Arshavin is in there and there’s the usual waffle for your Friday enjoyment.
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 (23mb MP3) or you can listen directly below without leaving this very page.[audio:http://podcast.arseblog.com/arsecast/arsecast_episode225.mp3]
And that’s about that. Arsene’s press conference takes place at lunchtime, news throughout the day over on Arseblog News.