The early team news is out ahead of tomorrow’s trip to White Hart Lane and there’s bad news in that Alexis won’t make it. He’s been struggling with a hamstring strain, and Arsene Wenger said yesterday:
The latest is that Alexis is not ready. He is not far away, the Leicester game is a possibility. He is of course very difficult to keep quiet! He is training but it’s light training.
That is a bit of a blow, but not as much as it would have been a few months back. While you can’t play down the impact he’s had, the fact that we have players like Ozil, Walcott, Giroud and Cazorla scoring regularly will help offset the Chilean’s absence – although just on a purely visceral level it’s a shame to see him miss out on a game that he would revel in.
The more competitive the atmosphere, the more he seems to love it, and it would have been fun to see him roasting them at their place. Bar any miraculous improvement though, we’re going to have to do it without him, and if this is sensible and us taking the longer-term approach then I don’t think we can really complain. There’s a lot of football left to play this season and we’ll be better if he’s fully fit and not nursing his way through games.
Danny Welbeck is back from his thigh injury and will add some attacking depth to the squad. I don’t see him coming straight back into the side unless we lose someone else between now and tomorrow morning, but it’s another good option to have from the bench.
Beyond that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains out, and Wilshere’s not ready yet, so it’s pretty much the same squad that splatted Villa 5-0 last weekend. Which isn’t a bad position to be in, all things considered.
With tomorrow’s game an early kick-off away from home – the common denominator to a number of last season’s worst performances – Per Mertesacker says ensuring the game is managed well in the early stages will be important. He says:
We need to be really focused, especially in the first 15 minutes, to keep the players and the crowd quiet, then afterwards let’s play our game and try to do it again.
No arguments with me about that, but how about doing what we did last season and rocking them with an early belter? Whether it’s Tomas Rosicky again, or anyone else, I’m not that fussy. That said, I do remember the rest of that game being a particularly tight encounter – one of those where we showed we could actually defend a lead, but with 89 minutes+ between the goal and the final whistle, it made for somewhat uncomfortable viewing at times.
Meanwhile, on the official site there’s a nice video in which Francis Coquelin discusses his recent rise to first team prominence. As you would expect there’s a whiff of PR off it, but the truth of it is inescapable – had we not had an injury crisis the door would most likely never have opened for him. The player himself is well aware of that too, but it’s a nice illustration of how quickly things can change in football.
Now though, time for the Arsecast, and on this week’s show I meet former Gunner John Devine. After three or four trials with us, John left Ireland as a 15 year old to join Arsenal and become part of the large Irish contingent at the club in the 70s and 80s. We discuss how his move came about, how he settled in as a young man, the highs and lows of his Arsenal career and beyond, as well as getting some thoughts on the current side. I also look ahead to this weekend’s North London derby and there’s the usual waffle too.
Before I spoke to John, he showed me some interesting little snippets from his time at the club, which he’s kindly allowed me to reproduce here. You can check out his first Arsenal contract (see those wages), a team sheet from a 1974 FA Youth Cup game (look at some of the names in that team!), and the player issue team photo from the 78/79 season – and if it’s possible to actually love a shirt, I love that shirt.
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Right, that’s about that, we’ll have all the info from the manager’s press conference over on Arseblog News this morning and throughout the day. The Gent will be here later, more from me early tomorrow as we have that small trip to White Hart Lane to contend with.