There’s plenty to talk about as the boys prepare for what should be an interesting Champions League away game against Partizan Belgrade.
The biggest point of interest is the absence of Manuel Almunia from the traveling squad. The Spaniard injured his elbow whilst saving the penalty on Saturday and his inability to play against Partizan Belgrade means a certain start for Lukasz Fabianski. Almunia’s injury does pose a question as to why he was left on against West Brom, but I’d prefer to let Saturday’s problems lie and focus on the task at hand.
Fabianski gets another chance to show what he can do while Wojciech Szczesny, the man that many Gunners want to start despite having never seen him play, will sit on the bench. Despite being frustrated with his constant poor performances I will be getting behind Fabianski and hoping he can have a good game and build some momentum with Almunia out for an indefinite period. Perhaps playing away from home, away from the sarcastic Emirates Stadium crowd cheers, will make things a little easier for Fabianski.
The big problem relating to the goalkeeper situation comes if Almunia is short for Chelsea. Does Wenger throw in Fabianski even if he bungles in Belgrade? Or does he use the opportunity to give the other Pole an opportunity? What about if Fabianski plays perfectly well or has a spectacular game? I think we will learn a lot this week.
Putting the focus back on team news for Partizan, Abou Diaby is a notable absentee while Kieran Gibbs is back from injury. Henri Lansbury is rewarded for his goal against Tottenham with a place in the traveling squad, while Johan Djourou is also in the mix.
It would be incredible for the manager to play the same back four that conceded three at home to West Brom, but it looks likely. Alex Song will play in defensive midfield (hopefully after a good bollocking from Arsene Wenger about his defensive responsibilities) alongside Jack Wilshere and one other, probably Tomas Rosicky. Marouane Chamakh will likely start up front with the usual support from two of Andrey Arshavin, Samir Nasri or Carlos Vela.
It becomes apparent just how bad the injury situation is when you consider that the manager is still uncertain over who his captain will be tonight. Fabregas, Almunia, van Persie and Vermaelen are all missing from the squad and I would expect Rosicky to lead the team out if he starts. If not him then who? Nasri? Squillaci?
It’s hard to know what would be good enough tonight to make up for the disappointment of Saturday. A whole-hearted effort would be the usual request but with Chelsea on the horizon going hell-for-leather in Belgrade with a seriously depleted squad is not particularly intelligent. Three points will be the aim with one the bare minimum, but with Chelsea up next all that matters is we get some confidence back and the lads play in a manner that suggests the manager has given them a good kick up the arse.
Enjoy the game.
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