Well there really only is one story today – Barcelona in the Champions League and while you could quite easily say ‘it could only be them’ it was simply the ‘luck’ of the draw – no conspiracy theories here.
So some people are terrified, some people are gagging for it, and some people are just ‘meh’. I fall in to the happy camp for a number of reasons. Firstly, to win the Champions League you have to beat the best teams. Secondly if we are going to go out (which is not necessarily a foregone conclusion) I say it’s best to get it out of the way early so we can concentrate on the league. Thirdly, we have a massive point to prove. We went to Spain with Silvestre in the centre of our defence, no Van Persie, Fabregas, Gallas, Arshavin, and a load of others. In fact, our bench consisted of Fabianski, Campbell, Traore, Eboue, Eastmond, Merida, and Eduardo.
We also had Almunia in goal. Now please don’t tell me that he played a blinder in the first half. That means nothing given what he did in the second half, sitting on his arse to let Ibra beat him at the near post not once, but twice.
For some reason I had got it into my head that we lost or drew the match immediately following the draw last year in which we got Barcelona but it seems I was wrong, we defeated West Ham 2-0 at home so hopefully any fears I have about the team being distracted are unfounded.
Look at us now. If we can keep our players fit, and that’s something we seem to have got better at, we could have our first choice 11 playing with a very strong bench to back us up.
We should hold no fear of travelling to Barcelona. We are the underdogs, people expect us to get trashed.
I say bring it on!
But that match isn’t until next year and tomorrow we have the small matter of Tony ‘I hate Arsene’ Pulis and his Stoke thugs arriving in North London.
At the time of writing the match is still on but I wouldn’t count on that being the case if the snow continues to fall at its current rate.
Let’s play like it is on shall we?
After the disappointment of Monday night’s match v Man United we should be looking at getting straight back to winning ways. With the Man U-Chavski chav-off taking place on Sunday we also have a chance to close on Man U, increase our lead over Chelsea or do both with a win. While our home form has been shaky to say the least, Stoke at home is one of many teams we should be hoping to overturn if we are to continue to have aspirations of lifting the title at the end of the season.
We have scored 19 of our 33 goals at home, and conceded 10 of our 19 there too. Stoke, on the other hand have only won one match away from home, scoring nine and conceding 12. Nine of their away matches have ended in defeat and we must make sure that tomorrow makes it 10.
In goal Fabianski will face a late fitness test, but as I said yesterday I think we will see Chesney retain his place. In front of him we will probably see Djourou return to partner Squillaci which should give us an added bit of power in the air to deal with Stoke’s rugby. With Gibbs injured Clichy will start and I would be very surprised is Sagna was to lose his place.
In the midfield Song and Jack will no doubt be first picks and the only other question coming over whether Cesc will be fit to start. If he’s not, don’t play him. We need a fully-functioning and full-power midfield, and genius that he is, we need him fit. There is talk that Diaby could be involved as well but surely that can only be on the bench as he has not played since the last week of October. Will we see Nasri in the middle or Rosicky? Your guess is as good as mine.
While it is great to have him back, it is clear that VP is not anywhere close to his best, so he should also start on the bench with Chamakh leading the line, Nasri probably out right, and while Arshavin deserves to be benched, we will no doubt see him ahead of anyone else.
My call for the starting 11 would be – Szczesny, Sagna, Squillaci, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin, Chamakh. The bench should look very strong with Fabianski, Cesc, RVP, Diaby, Eboue, Walcott, Denilson. With Bendtner’s missus having their first child (a son) there is talk that he will be given the weekend off.
Who knows though.
Whatever 11 takes to the pitch we know, once again, that anything less that 100% and we will get punished. Talk of Ramsey and Shawcross will not be far from this match, and with Pulis ‘reminding’ Lee Mason that we are a dirtier team than Stoke by virtue of having more reds and yellows than them this season (don’t even get me started on how that’s not an accurate reflection of a team’s ‘dirtiness’ – look at Kos’s challenges for his reds this year then compare that to Shawcross) we need to play football and not seek revenge.
Shawcross will be more protected than any other player to arrive at the Emirates as everyone expects us to exact revenge. It is a sickening reminder of how the game is viewed in this country that such a thug could command such sympathy, but make no mistake, we won’t be allowed to go near him.
He, on the other hand, will no doubt be allowed to kick with impunity along with the rest of his rugby mates. We just need to keep our heads and play around them.
On our day, we can beat anyone, no matter how much they try and stop us playing.
100% please Arsenal. Just for 90 minutes.
Not really that much to ask is it?
Finally, if you’re about and not snowed in, try and make it the REDAction Xmas party. These guys work really hard throughout the year and it would be great if you could show your support. More info and tickets can be found here – special guests including Ray Parlour, Perry Groves and Jack Whitehall.
If you’ve been having problems accessing this site on your work computer using the URLS globalgooners.com and gossip.globalgooners.com should sort that problem for you.
Get your free LadyArse app here for Android, BlackBerry and Windows phone [iPhone coming soon]
Get your free Arsenal wallpaper, Facebook covers and Twitter headers here