Saturday morning greetings to you, dedicated and enlightened reader.
The fixtures are about to start coming thick and fast. January’s faltering and poor set of results showed that there are still glaring weaknesses in the squad that are easily exploited, but the resurgence of recent weeks has given me a renewed optimism. Arsene Wenger seems to think the next few weeks could define the progression of our season, and I’m inclined to agree with him. Le Boss said:
“Overall the situation looks a lot more positive in a period that will decide our season and therefore it is good to have the players back.
“It is that important because in one week we play three games in three different competitions.
“In every single competition we are, of course, in a position where we want to win our games.
“Sunderland are doing well, and we have rebuilt our confidence. It is important that we go in a positive mind there and that we come back with three points.”
Under Martin O’Neil, the Black Cats are vastly improved and possess some dangerous players in their ranks. The Stadium of Light is a vociferous and rowdy arena when at capacity, so under no circumstances should anyone be viewing this as a easy 3 points. They’ll be without their talismanic and inspirational forward, Nicklas Bendtner who is unable to play against his parent club and is busy demonstrating his egotism getting fitted for a monogrammed and numbered protective mask – the enormous tit that he is. They’ll be weakened in that respect, but they have excellent players in Sessegnon, Larsson and McClean.
Extra time during the week against Middlesborough may have tired them slightly, but anything other than a top-notch performance may see us dropping valuable points. However, I have my doubts regarding Wenger fielding his strongest available line-up. Quite a few folks seem to think Robin van Persie could be rested in lieu of Wednesday’s trip to Milan. Having been the subject of a monstrously hokey story in Spanish rag ‘Marca’, the thoroughly splendid Mr van Persie took to his Twitter account to release this strong denial. Just when you think you can’t have any higher an opinion of him…
Also, the inclusion of a fit-again Kieran Gibbs into the squad is an added bonus as the width provided by a natural left full-back is something we’ve missed in recent weeks. He is unlikely to start tomorrow, but when he does it poses an interesting dilemma; who is the ideal centre-back pairing? For me, it depends upon the opponent. For a footballing side, I’d opt for Vermaelen and Koscielny. When threatened by opposition that prefers to bombard our penalty area from set-pieces, the giant frame of Per Mertesacker becomes beneficial. If had to pick a pairing right now, though; Laurent and Thomas.
Chamakh returns to the squad (yippee!) and their aren’t any fresh injury troubles to concern us. Thierry Henry will take his place for the 2nd-to-last time and with Forehead still on national duty, I expect another start for the exceptional Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
My guess at the team would be:
Szczsney; Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen; Song, Arteta, Rosicky; Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain; van Persie
Aaron Ramsey hasn’t been as good as he can be, so I think Tomas Rosicky’s show of decent form could see him keeping his place. His approach play may not bare as much fruit as I’d like, but he quickens our tempo when he’s on the field and I like his enthusiasm. If the van Persie talk proves to be true, then there’s an outside chance of Henry taking his place from kick-off.
If we put in a performance, I’m confident of 3 points. I’ll put my head on the proverbial chopping block and go for a (reasonably) comfortable 2-0 victory.
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