Fabregas, Diaby and Ljungberg fit for London Derby
Arsenal take on their fierce rivals Tottenham in the English Premier League on Saturday on the back of a topsy-turvy couple of weeks that saw the club virtually all but guarantee Champions League qualification after wins over Bolton and Manchester City before losing influential vice-chairman David Dein over issues of club ownership. Whilst the David Dein incident will no doubt have a massive impact on the long term future of the club, the good news is that Arsenal will travel to White Hart Lane on the weekend looking to do the double over Martin Jol’s team.
Arsenal have been boosted by the news that all three players who were under injury clouds will be included in the squad against Tottenham. Cesc Fabregas, Abou Diaby and Freddie Ljungberg have all recovered from their respective problems and will no doubt feature against Tottenham at some stage. It will be interesting to see what team Arsene Wenger does send out to start against Tottenham especially given Julio Baptista’s untimely outburst about English football earlier this week.
“Premiership football is very hard. I am Brazilian and I enjoy playing the ball, making clever touches and taking bicycle kicks. Arsene Wenger does not forbid me from doing them, but the game is so fast I don’t even have time to think about them. The moment you stop to think, someone has taken the ball off you and knocked you to the ground. Over here they value a corner kick more than a fancy flick.”
It is likely that, despite these comments, Wenger will promote Baptista into the starting line-up in the place of Abou Diaby who, as we mentioned is not 100% fit. There are a lot of people – myself included – who have been a harsh critic of Baptista’s performances this season but the truth is that his future at the Emirates Stadium is most definitely on the line and a lot will depend on how well he performs between now and the end of the season. I wish all the luck in the world to him, as despite his poor form I can still see him as a valuable asset to Arsenal if he can get his confidence back.
With all this in mind, the only question marks over Arsenal’s starting team will be in midfield as Wenger looks to retain the same defensive five for the fifth game in a row. Those who have read this site earlier will know how much I stressed the importance of this and it should bode as great preparation for next season. Emmanuel Adebayor will most definitely retain his place up front and Gilberto Silva, Alexander Hleb and Tomas Rosicky should all start so the mysteries will all relate to the remaining two midfield positions. I do think that Baptista will start and that Fabregas – who is coming of the back of a virus – will be rested, seeing Abou Diaby slot into the midfield four.
Probable Arsenal Line-Up (4-4-1-1; LR): Lehmann – Eboue, Gallas, Toure, Clichy – Rosicky, Gilberto, Diaby, Hleb – Baptista – Adebayor.
Prediction: 3-2. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Arsenal continue their recent run of scoring freely against neighbours Tottenham. Unfortunately their defence is still struggling to click into gear and they are still likely to concede soft goals like against Manchester City and Bolton. It is a derby game and it would be a great morale booster for Arsenal to win the match so I’m going to tip them by the odd goal in a high-scoring game at White Hart Lane.