Good news has been in short supply recently and although there’s nothing much in the way of that when the manager talks about adding to his squad, we did get a boost going into tonight’s game against Fenerbahce.
In the immediate aftermath of the Villa game, there were real concerns about Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Bacary Sagna and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Travelling without those players would have left us extremely short, but as it is, only The Ox is missing.
At his press conference yesterday Arsene Wenger said it would ‘at least 6 weeks‘ before he could play due to a ‘stretched’ cruciate ligament injury. Almost immediately afterwards Chamberlain himself Tweeted that he hoped to be back playing in 3 months. Not quite a miscommunication, but more evidence that what Arsene says about injuries isn’t necessarily to be taken at face value.
However, while that’s a blow and we wish the young man a speedy recovery, the news about the others is much more positive. Although I’d still be concerned about using Sagna so soon after such a nasty looking fall, we can only assume he’s not in any pain or discomfort and can take his place at right back ahead of a shift at centre-half against Fulham. Nacho Monreal is back in the squad but I think he’s unlikely to start.
The midfield more or less picks itself with Ramsey and Wilshere set to start together again. The pair haven’t quite figured each other out, this was evident against Villa and in this week’s Tactics Column, it’s something Anam goes into in more depth. They have to figure it out though, the only other option is using Frimpong and when you consider his last game for the club was in the Capital One Cup last October, it’s asking a bit much of him to step up into a Champions League qualifier.
I think Rosicky will keep his place at the tip of that triangle, and the only other option the manager has to consider is who replaces Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left. If it were me I’d use Podolski. He’s had a good pre-season, is fully fit and offers plenty to the side in a game like this. He provides a goal threat, his delivery from the left-hand side is decent and he and Giroud combined to good effect last season.
It sounds odd to say I fear he’ll play Santi Cazorla because the Spaniard is such an exceptional talent, but his summer and preparation for the new campaign was ruined by the month in Brazil and a transatlantic voyage last week. He looked off the pace when he came on against Villa, which is completely understandable, and I just worry that he can’t be that much more prepared than he was for Saturday. His touch, usually so assured, was off and losing the ball in midfield led to Villa’s second penalty and Koscielny’s first yellow card.
His talent is without question, but I think we should be easing him back into things. If we need him then he’s a great option for 20-30 minutes from the bench, I don’t think he’s ready to start just yet. Other than that the team picks itself although I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if he gave Fabianski a start over Szczesny.
As with the Villa game I think we’ve got enough quality to get a decent result tonight. Even though we didn’t play that well last Saturday we should have been ahead not long after half-time, and could have equalised after Benteke’s second penalty, but on both occasions Tomas Rosicky was found wanting a bit in terms of his finishing (to be fair, the latter effort was a very good save by Guzan).
So it’s not as if we were played off the park and assuming we can stay on the right side of the officials I think we can take them. Of course, when things aren’t quite right, when you don’t get that bit of luck, everything seems to go against you, but hopefully we can do what’s required. There are goals in the team, scoring away from home would give us a nice platform for the second leg, and I think if we can click like we did against Man City in pre-season then we should be ok.
You just never know with this lot though, so fingers crossed.
Naturally, the manager was pressed about transfers, or the lack of them, and got a bit defensive in his press conference. Telling the assembled journalists he had no inclination or desire to explain anything to them about his overall policy or the bid for Yohan Cabaye, he said of the time left this window.
Less than 2 weeks is a long time and 75 per cent of things happen in the last ten days.
And he chose to look at what we have that what we have not:
It is not always to think what is outside is better than what you have. What is important as well is to rate what you have and our fans have to understand that as well.
On the eve of a big game it’s understandable that his focus is on the players at his disposal, but as much as fans might rate the players in our squad, we also understand that this group of players, as honest and hard-working as they are, finished miles off the pace in the Premier League last season and got dumped out of both cups by lower-league opposition.
Even the players know they need help. Giroud’s calls for another striker this week address that as clinically as you could possibly imagine. While I understand Wenger wanting to show faith in his players before a big game, the narrative has been well and truly set now. Everything the club does, on the pitch and off it, is shaped by the summer of inertia and inaction.
We could win 10 in a row but the minute we lose it will be because of the players we don’t have. Whether that’s right or wrong you can decide but it’s the club who have to accept their role in this. They’re the ones sitting on more money than almost all the other teams in the league put together and rocking a transfer window profit. We’ve made no investment in the squad and it is, frankly, indefensible.
As always we’ll have live blog coverage of the game later on, particularly useful for those of you in timezones which require work during the match. Simply bookmark our default live blog page, or check back later for a post with all the details.