Greetings from a mild and sunny Yokohama. Today sees us take on Shakhtar Donetsk in what should be a bloody chilly night in the Ukraine. Thankfully it isn’t as cold here.
Team news is that Cesc is definitely out, with the manager opting to err on the side of caution with his hamstring. Apparently there isn’t a strain but he did feel pain in it during the weekend’s game against West Ham, so it is best that he is left at home to rest rather than take a chance on his fitness as we have Wilshere available and he can form the creative axis of our team along with Nasri.
The team will probably line up with Fabianski, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy, Eastmond, Wilshere, Nasri, Walcott, Rosicky and Chamakh.
The above line-up is based on the revealing by John Cross, via Twitter (@johncrossmirror) that Song, Diaby, Arshavin and Denilson didn’t travel to the Ukraine. I wonder if the manager might give Chamakh a little breather by starting him from the bench tonight and instead go with Bendtner up front. However, Chamakh’s scoring record in the Champions League coupled with our lack of experience in midfield may convince the boss to start the more experienced Moroccan up front tonight. Walcott has had a few games coming off the bench and he is ready to start.
I think that we will encounter a very different Shakhtar tonight and the players will have to be on their toes and ready to compete for every ball. Hopefully we can come out of it with a win, but a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world considering the fairly poor record that we have when playing in that part of the world and the number of players that are absent through injury. Tonight will be a good chance to give some of our younger players the experience of playing away from home in a big European game.
The game is live on Sky Perfect ch183 in SD and on ch193 in HD. Both channels begin coverage at a marginally more reasonable 04:30, kick-off is at 04:45.
In the manager’s pre-game press conference he basically said that the statements that have been reported recently about Szczesny and his unwillingness to discuss a contract extension are a load of septic donkey cock. The comments are rumoured to have come from the agent, yet Wenger says that they are currently talking to said agent. I hate football agents. I imagine that if Hairy Rednob wasn’t currently plying his trade as a wheeler dealer, he would be a football agent. No doubt about it.
More good news was revealed when Wenger said that Ramsey may take part in the next reserve game. It will be a massive milestone for the player to reach on his long road to recovery and a sign that his injury hell is, finally, almost at an end. I’m looking forward to having him back and available for selection. Fingers crossed he won’t have any kind of setback, though we should brace ourselves for some niggling little muscular injuries between now and January or February. Those kind of complaints are normal after a long injury layoff, which we saw with both Rosicky and Eduardo.
Since my last post, Jack Wilshere has signed his new deal with the club. The contract is rumoured to be for five years and, depending what reports you read, is worth around £50,000 per week. To be honest, you really can’t have any complaints about that kind of salary for the player, if true, as he is certainly a future star and he deserves to be duly rewarded. Loyalty is all well and good, but it must be a two-way thing and so Arsenal have stepped up and rewarded Wilshere handsomely for his rapid rise to the first team. I’m looking forward to seeing him being a major force in our midfield for years to come. It is fantastic that his future with us is now secured for the foreseeable future. However, as he is under 23, we will probably have to renegotiate the contract in two year’s time. That’s just a fact of modern, post-Bosman and post-Webster, football.
The Carling Cup Quarter Final against Wigan will take place on Tuesday, November 30th at 19:45. Tickets are a bargain £20 for the upper tier and £10 for the lower tier. When you consider the strength of the team that will take to the field for this game, it is a bargain. Get a ticket while you can.
Matt Scott reports in The Guardian that there is ‘at least one’ party in discussions with a view to acquiring Lady Nina’s shares now that the club’s share price has come closer to the £13,000 that she would be willing to accept, despite it being previously reported that she hoped to get £15,000 per share. The fact that people are interested in buying her shares isn’t surprising as they have been on the market for around six months now, but it seems that things may be about to get interesting again on the ownership front. It would also give extra weight to the reason for PHW not wanting to comment on Kroenke Tonk Stan’s intentions as it would breach market rules. If rumours of Fiszman’s deteriorating health are accurate, then it would make sense for KTS to make a move for Lady Nina’s shares first, then purchase Fiszman’s shares. Watch this space.
I might have a punt on Nasri and Walcott to score at any time tonight, both are 13/5 with Paddy Power. Koscielny and Squillaci are both 33/1 for first goal.
That’s about that for today. Take it easy.
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Great chance fo Theo to grab some confidence-building goals tonight. Hopefully Wilshere will start as well.