At the moment watching Arsenal’s title charge is like watching someone crossing a rickety old rope bridge positioned over a massive pool of lava. There’s eight battered and beaten steps to go and if one of them breaks, we’re done for.
The first of those eight steps is tomorrow’s home clash with West Ham and as the analogy above suggests, it’s a game we really must win if we are to continue holding hopes of finishing the season on top.
Our team news going into the game is superb: Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky are both back after returning from injury and Alex Song is available after serving his two-game ban. Both Cesc and Song’s return will be a huge boost to a midfield that struggled to have its usual impact at Hull. Unfortunately, William Gallas is ruled out with his niggling calf problem (or as a result of his contract issues if you want to go down that path…).
With a week’s break since our last game there should be no need for rotation and I full expect Arsene Wenger to play our best team available.
I expect Manuel Almunia to start in goals behind a back four of Emmanuel Eboue, Sol Campbell, Thomas Vermaelen and Gael Clichy. I think Eboue’s attacking impetus will see him get the nod over Bacary Sagna as has been the case for recent home games.
In midfield Cesc and Song should be joined by Abou Diaby with Samir Nasri and Denilson given a rest. Up front I can see Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott flanking Nicklas Bendtner.
I’ve already spoken about the banana-skinny nature of our two rivals games this weekend and with our boys playing a day before both Chelsea and Manchester we have an opportunity to put some serious pressure on them by winning. Indeed, a win would see us go top of the table and it’s not unfeasible that we could remain there at the end of the weekend.
West Ham grabbed a draw against us at Upton Park after scoring two late goals and it is important that if we get into any sort of lead we protect it far more efficiently than we did in the reverse fixture. The Hull game had all the signs of being a cakewalk when Arshavin netted our opener and although the penalty award was completely unfair the fact is that we allowed them to get back in the game.
Regardless of whether we play well or not, three points must be taken tomorrow. Let’s hope the boys can get them.
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