Before I preview the Stoke game I need to make an apology to one Arsene Wenger.
In yesterday’s post I criticised the manager for refusing to shake hands with Mark Hughes. And while I still stand by the fact that he probably should have done the sporting thing, after reading everybody’s comments and this article by Online Gooner, I can totally understand where he’s coming from. Oh, and Hughes is a twat – just in case you hadn’t figured that out.
To those that took my comments about Wenger’s conduct as a cry to have him sacked, dream on. I’m a firm believer in the manager and his philosophy and although we’re going through a difficult patch right now I’m still extremely excited about how this season could turn out – especially once Nicklas Bendtner gets back into the team.
Time to move on now and the Arsenal boys have an opportunity to put a bad run of form behind them with the visit of Stoke City to The Emirates on Saturday.
The manager will be without the services of our usual absentees as well as Theo Walcott who injured his hamstring and Alex Song who is suspended. Walcott’s unavailability is a big blow particularly considering my comments earlier in the week about speed being a massive commodity in the absence of a physical presence up front.
Carlos Vela was deployed up front at Manchester City with the intention of utilising his pace on the front line and I hope he gets the opportunity to start in Walcott’s absence. Eduardo should get the nod centrally while Andrey Arshavin will no doubt start on whichever wing Vela (or Samir Nasri or Tomas Rosicky doesn’t).
There is also the option for Wenger to revert to 4-4-2 and given the absence of Song that might not be the worst move. Denilson and Cesc Fabregas could take up the central positions with any combination of Nasri, Rosicky or Arshavin taking up the wing positions while Vela and Eduardo join forces up front.
Whatever team the manager selects the main thing Arsenal supporters will want to see from the players is a great deal of heart and desire on display. With an opportunity to rotate the squad against Olympiakos this week the players will have a full week to recover in time for Liverpool and as such, it would be absolutely inexcusable for any player not to put in 100%.
Stoke are a notoriously physical team and as such our defenders need to be up for it on Saturday. We know what sort of threat they will pose on free-kicks and corners (and throw-ins!) and Manuel Almunia, Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas need to ensure they take charge from the opening whistle. Our limitations in attack means we’re unlikely to put three or four past Stoke and we need to rely on our defence to hold firm at the back.
It’s imperative we get a win tomorrow but what’s even more important is that the players on display dig in and give it everything they’ve got. Most fans aren’t stupid and will be patient with the boys given the current limitations of the side Wenger will put out, so the players on display need to respect that by putting in a determined, committed effort.
Anything less would be extremely disappointing.
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