Stop! Hammer time.

Beer? Check. Food? Check. Arsenal live on TV? Check. Typhoon? Bring. It. On.


Good morning to you all (though it’s afternoon here.) Hopefully the weather is a bit better wherever you happen to be reading this. The first of the typhoon rain has arrived and it is set to hit its peak around 18:00. Nice. So, I’d best get into this as the weather is going to dictate how much time I have for writing this if I am to make it home relatively dry. Well, relative to someone that has just jumped into a swimming pool fully clothed that is.


Today see us take on West Ham at the Emirates. Kick-off is at 15:00 GMT, which means a much more sociable 23:00 JST here for me. Makes a nice change from stupid midweek games that kick-off at 03:45. Those midweek games are not fun when you have to go to work around 06:30 in the morning. Anyway, the game will be shown live on J-Sports Plus and coverage should begin at 22:54. Roll on daylight savings time which will mean midweek games kickoff at 04:45, much more doable when working the next day.


The manager’s usual weekly interview and pre-game press conference took place over the last two days and the injury news is that both Diaby and Gibbs are out, the latter with a medial knee ligament injury. It really is very disappointing that Gibbs has picked up yet another injury. Part of me is worried that he has contracted the highly potent and highly contagious RvP Syndrome. However, the optimist within realises that, like Walcott, some of his injuries have just come from tackles and a bit of bad luck. Players pick up injuries, that’s just how it goes sometimes, though the consistency with which he is getting injured is a cause for concern as it is hampering his development. Perhaps if he hadn’t been injured so much he would be closer to really challenging Clichy for a starting place. The estimate is that he will be out for between two and four weeks, so I will assume it to be four weeks from today and that way if he comes back early it will feel like a bonus. There are no players returning from injury ahead of today’s game. Vermaelen remains out with one of the most severe and mysterious cases of RvP Syndrome since Tomas Rosicky.


In other news, both Ramsey and RvP are set to return to full training next week ahead of their eventual reintegration into the first team. RvP will return to the fray before Ramsey and I suspect that Ramsey will be very gently eased back into action as the last thing that the player, or the club, needs or wants is for him to suffer a setback a la Rosicky and Eduardo.


I think that it speaks volumes about how well Chamakh has settled into the side that fans aren’t exactly rejoicing at the return of RvP. Yes, we are delighted that he is almost back but, to be honest, he isn’t a player that the team can rely on, or be built around, as we simply don’t know if he will still be fit in five or ten games time. The Goon Blog said as much yesterday, too. There is no denying his world class skill and talent but, it’s a bit like having a DeLorean – it looks great but is extremely unreliable.  If only RvP could stay fit. However, his return (however long it lasts for) will undoubtedly strengthen the match day squad and will provide extra competition for places, which should in turn help to keeps the players on their toes.


Back to today’s match and there will undoubtedly be some changes from the team that started in the midweek game against Newcastle. I expect Fabianski, Sagna and Clichy to return in defence. Nasri, Fabregas, Song, Arshavin and Chamakh should also return.


So, I see us lining up today with Fabianski, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Denilson, Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh.


The only real question mark that I have over the above starting eleven is that of the starting Koscielny. As he is just returning from injury, the manager may well decide to rest him today and instead go with Djourou. I also think that Walcott will be on the bench as the manager might want to take a slightly more cautious approach with him given his injury record and he would make a great impact substitute in the second half with his pace and the fact that West Ham played for 120min on Wednesday evening. You can also check out The Guardian’s squad sheets here for their take on today’s respective line-ups.


Today also marks the final game of Wilshere’s suspension, so if we get through this game unscathed we will be in a very good position with regard to the strength of our squad and the options available to the manager.


Szczesny did very well on Wednesday night but, like I said in my last post, I don’t think that we should play him again until he has actually signed his new deal. He is a very good keeper with massive potential bit if he has not committed to a future with us, then he shouldn’t play. On that note, I should point out that talks are apparently underway about extending his deal. Hopefully he will sign it sooner rather than later. I had a good laugh at the managers comments on the situation yesterday wherein he said:

“He wants to stay and I want him to stay. So, basically, plus plus plus should be plus.”

That’s a classic quote that only Wenger could come out with. The manager was in fine form during his Friday press conference.


Today’s Guardian is reporting that Arsenal are set to tie up Wilshere on a new and improved five year deal after his fantastic start to the season. The deal should see him earn a significant pay rise. There is also a nice piece on Fabianski in the same paper. It is great to see how the player just kept his head down through all of the adversity, kept plugging away and is now reaping the reward for his hard work and graft. Well done, Lukasz. There is nothing the fans like more than someone that keeps fighting and doesn’t give up. Of course, he still has a long way to go but at least he has started his journey on the road to redemption.


Today’s game will not be as easy as we might imagine it to be, given the respective positions of the teams in the league. The team would do well to remember that West Ham were the last team to win at Highbury and the first to win at the Emirates, so they are a team that must be taken seriously as they seem to up their game when playing against us. Fingers crossed that the lessons of the West Brom game have been learned and that we can come out of the game today with three more points on the board and, hopefully, close the gap on Chavski. Speaking on the West Brom game, the manager had the following to say:

“I think we got the lesson. In fairness to my team, that is the only game since the start of the season where we did not perform well, but as well it shows that just once you are not completely there and you are caught.”


If you happen to be a Twitter user, you can follow me at @colm_smyth. I haven’t bothered setting up a North Bank specific Twitter account just yet, but may do so in the near future. I also recommend following @TheBig_Sam for some really funny Walrus Face-esque tweets. For other ideas of people to follow, just check out who I follow on Twitter and then decide for yourself. You may hate the idea and concept of Twitter, but it is a really great resource for football news and offers a good chance for interaction with the greater footballing community. There are some great people on there and, of course, some nutballs, too.


Just a reminder for those in the Kanto (Greater Tokyo and Yokohama) area of Japan, like myself, that are bracing themselves for the full force of today’s typhoon. J-Sports 2 will be showing the Blackburn vs. Chavski game at the same time as the Arsenal game, so you can easily flick over to check the score. Also, the ManUre vs. Tottenham game will be on live on J-Sports Plus. Coverage for that will start at 01:24. A night of football, beer and rain lies ahead.


That’s all for today. I’m off outside to brave the elements and make my way home.


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