Hello again from Yokohama. Thankfully the deadly dull international week is over and we can now concentrate on Arsenal for what will be some key games over the coming weeks. But, before we can even think about games against Barcelona and Leyton Orient, there is the not so small matter of a game against Wolves this afternoon. Well, it’s in the afternoon for you folks back in Europe, it will be a midnight kick-off for those of us here in Japan. That said, that last sentence may only apply to myself as I have no idea if anybody based in Japan actually reads the blog.
I won’t go into the debacle that was the 2nd half against Newcastle because, well, what can you say? Yet again, Arsenal make history. Unfortunately it wasn’t the kind of history that we would generally like to make, but history nonetheless. That ManUre and Chavski both lost and we ended up actually gaining a point on top spot did help to reduce the pain.
Today’s game is massive and three points are needed if we are to continue a serious challenge for the title while also giving ourselves some much needed extra confidence ahead of the massive mid-week game against Barcelona.
I haven’t seen or heard it just yet, but I am steeling myself to seeing the words ‘Cesc’ and ‘DNA’ being mentioned umpteen times between now and the week of the second leg against Barcelona.
Anyway, back to today’s game and both Song and Djourou should be involved in the squad. However, I think that the latter will be on the bench for this one as the manager may want to protect him ahead of the Barcelona game. It’s Wolves, they are bottom of the league although they are playing decent football, but if you can’t beat the team that is bottom of the table without Djourou then there are serious issues with the central defensive element of the team. That serious issue takes the form of Squillaci and we will have to hope that if he does play that he will suddenly find a bit of form and play well.
If the past twelve months have taught us anything about this team it’s that no lead, no matter how great, is good enough and that this team is more than capable of blowing even the most unassailable of leads. This team doesn’t do easy. It doesn’t shut up shop. It can’t shut up shop because it doesn’t know how to. Here’s hoping that Vermaelen returns sooner rather than later to help shore things up a bit.
I have a feeling that the defence today will be Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny and Clichy. Not a massive amount of speculation there as the only position that is really up for debate is whether or not Djourou or Squillaci will start and as I said above, I think Djourou will be protected ahead of Barcelona.
In midfield we will be without Rosicky due to a groin problem and Diaby due to his suspension, though Denilson and Song return. So, we should line up with Cesc, Song and Wilshere in the middle with Walcott and Arshavin ahead of them and RvP leading the line.
If we start with that team, we should be more than strong enough to beat Wolves, regardless of whether or not Djourou starts. That said, Wolves will be up for this game, as they are fighting for their lives, and we will have to match their hunger in order to secure the 3pts. The manager has himself hinted that it will be a strong team as there is no need for rotation due to the Barcelona game being on Wednesday evening and today’s game being at 15:00. He was quoted in The Guardian as saying:
"The best way to be in a good position to beat Barça is to beat Wolves. That game is, in my opinion, more important by far. We started in August to fight for every single ball to be in a position to fight for the Premier League and now is the time of truth. We are in a strong position. It would be absolutely stupid now not to prioritise the Premier League."
Wolves have the worst away record in the league. Of the twelve games they have played so far, they have lost ten, drawn one and won one. Our game at Molineux earlier in the season finished with a 2-0 win for Arsenal following goals by Chamakh in the 1st and 89th minutes. Another 2-0 today would do nicely. We haven’t lost to Wolves since September 1979, though I am not really sure how a stat like that has any real relevance today what with Wolves having been out of the top flight for much of that time.
A more interesting statistic is that Arsenal have taken 37pts from a possible 42pts against the teams currently sitting in the bottom half of the table. The dropped points coming in the 3-2 home defeat to West Brom and the 2-2 draw away to Wigan. We’re also unbeaten in seven games in all competitions now, irrespective of how much like a defeat last week’s result felt.
Today’s stats came from a variety of sources: the Soccerbase & Statto websites and also via @Orbinho on Twitter.
In other news, Vermaelen is reported to be doing better and is possibly two or three weeks away from a return. Diaby has some kind of injury following the Barton tackle last week and would perhaps have been a doubt for today even if he wasn’t suspended. Nasri revealed on Twitter yesterday that he has started running again and is feeling good. There are rumours that he may well be involved in the squad for the Barcelona game.
UPDATE: Almost forgot, our game is live on J-Sports 2 and coverage begins at 23:54, followed by Sunderland vs Spuds from 02:24. The Manchester derby is on J-Sports Plus from 21:39 and is followed by Liverpool vs. Wigan at 23:54. Plenty of games on the box today! All of those times are JST.
That will have to do for today. I will be crossing my fingers that Karl Henry doesn’t break any legs today.
Take it easy.