Last week it was eight. Now we’re down to seven.
Birmingham and a trip to St Andrew’s are next in line as our boys continue their pursuit of a most unlikely league title.
The last time we played here was over two years ago. Eduardo had his leg broken, Theo Walcott scored two goals and James McFadden scored a late equaliser to spark the beginning of the end of our title hopes. In short, it wasn’t the best day for the Arsenal.
Two things stand in our way of achieving a seventh straight league win: the suspension to Thomas Vermaelen and Birmingham’s terrific home record.
Birmingham have proven extremely difficult to beat at St Andrew’s, losing just two of their fifteen home games. They have conceded just 10 goals in those games and have not been beaten by any of Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City, the four other teams that make up the current top five in the Premiership.
I don’t feel there is a risk of us losing to Birmingham tomorrow, particularly with our excellent recent form, but problems will emerge if we don’t move the ball around quickly enough. They like to sit deep and remain as organised and structured as possible so it will be up to everyone in our team to keep the ball moving, ensure our movement off the ball is good to punish whatever space we can find.
As I mentioned earlier, Vermaelen’s absence through suspension leaves Arsene Wenger with a decision to make at the back and in the middle of the pitch. The word from the manager is that Sol Campbell will play, even with the Barcelona tie just four days later, which means he will partner either Mikael Silvestre or Alex Song at the back.
Song is probably the better option, however shifting him to the centre of defence would force some structural changes to the side which will be most unwelcome with Barcelona up so soon. Would Wenger want the team shuffling about or will he prefer leaving Song where he is? We’ll soon see.
The rest of the defence picks itself: Manuel Almunia in goals and Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy on the wings, while Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby should support either Denilson or Song in the middle of the park. Nicklas Bendtner will start up front after resting a twisted ankle all week and should receive support from Andrey Arshavin and one of Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Theo Walcott or Emmanuel Eboue on the right.
Once again, all that matters tomorrow is the three points. Get them and we can take on Barcelona in high spirits. Fail and winning the league title becomes a very difficult thing indeed.
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