No time for talking about Barcelona (though I bet I can’t get through the rest of this blog without mentioning them again) just yet, we have the small matter of the Premier League to deal with this weekend.
So, news ahead of tomorrow’s match against Sunderland is that Kos is back in the squad (no mention of who the keeper will be but I would be extremely shocked if it isn’t Chesney) but eclipsing Kos’s return is that of Ramsey. Almost one year to the day when he was hacked in two Ramsey will no doubt be amongst the substitutes as we take on a candy-striped side from up norf. His return could not have come at a better time with our players being taken out one-by-one by the Ashburton Grove Ninja, and while I appreciate that he will still need time to get back up to speed, having him back is a massive boost for the entire team.
Of course, there are concerns, especially given how Diaby and Eduardo’s injuries affected them after their return, but Aaron’s break was different than both of theirs. Injuries to joints are notoriously harder to overcome, and in a sick sort of way it could be a blessing that Shawcross went in so high. Had he done to his ankle what he did to his shin, we could be faced with a very different Ramsey returning.
There is the mental aspect of returning after such an horrific injury, but he seems to be coping with that very well. The Arsenal medical team will have learnt from Diaby and Eduardo, and Ramsey will have got the benefit of their recovery’s as well which all adds to the best possible hope of him returning as the player he was when he was so cruelly taken out. No better club than Arsenal to show you how to deal with a horrendous leg break eh? Sad but true.
There will be no Song, Fabregas, Van Persie, Vermaelen, or Walcott, so we are likely to see the squad from Wednesday night simply rearranged. Song is a doubt for Barcelona (told you I couldn’t do it) while Fabregas is the more likely of those two to make that match. Theo and RvP will be out for, well, who knows. Even when we get a timeframe from Arsenal it bears no resemblance to time in the real world so when they are back they are back.
Speaking at today’s press conference, Wenger said “We have our own fate in our hands mathematically” and we do. United’s defeat at the hands of Chelsea means that it is down to no-one but ourselves if we win or lose this title this year. Despite that fact, the bookies and everyone else still have United down as being favourites by some distance, but if we defeat Sunderland then the gap will be one point. United will then play Liverpool away, and still have to face Chelsea again, plus City and come to the Emirates.
But we know this Arsenal team. We have seen them given opportunity before and fail to capitalise. Will we do that this week? Only time will tell, but you have to think that the players reached their pain limits with defeat in the Carling Cup final and will finally decide to say ‘no more.’
Even with our injuries, we should have more than enough to defeat a Sunderland side which has failed to win in its last four games and has only won three games on the road (losing six, drawing five, conceding 21 and scoring 15).
We are unbeaten in the league in our last ten games, our last defeat coming away at Old Trafford, and we haven’t lost at home since 20th November, a run of 14 games in all competitions, conceding only 7 goals but scoring 31 goals.
Our home form is good.
But none of this means anything if, as we say before every single match, our application does not meet theirs. They will want to put an end to their losing streak, and despite putting five past Orient midweek, teams believe that we can be got at.
They will have a go, make no mistake about that.
We cannot go in to this game with half an eye on Barcelona. This is the only game that matters to Arsenal football club. It should be an attitude of all or nothing tomorrow and I expect the starting line up to reflect this and look something like this:
Szczesney, Clichy, Koscielny, Djourou, Sagna, Diaby, Wilshere, Nasri, Arshavin, Bendtner, Chamakh.
It leaves us very little on the bench, (a selection of Almunia, Rosicky, Squillaci, Gibbs, Denilson, Ramsey, and Eboue) and zero striking options, so the team that starts is going to have to be the team that gets the job done. How we could do with Vela, Lansbury and the JET back at the club, but they aren’t, so we deal with what we’ve got. (I’ve also been thinking how much game time Merida would have got this season had he chosen to stay).
The last time we played Sunderland we conceded an equaliser in the sixth minute of injury time, you know, the time Arsenal seem to think it’s best to let one it. It was not a good result, and was two points dropped. This time, we have no room for this type of error, we need full concentration from every single player from first whistle to last. I’ve said that sentence so much this season, but still it holds true.
The side that we see start tomorrow will probably be the biggest Arsenal side put out in a long time, and they will need to be. Sunderland are a strong, powerful team, but they don’t subscribe to their fellow candy-stripers way of playing (kicking). It will be a tough, tight game, but if we really do want to erase the pain of Wembley and make people sit up and take notice of us as true title contenders then three points is a must.
Anything less and serious doubts will start to creep in, injuries or not.
My prediction – A tight 3-1, with Arsenal’s final two goals coming late on. Arsenal scorers – Bendtner, Arshavin and Wilshere.
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