Dec 17th, 2010 by 'holic
Let’s kick-off the weekend in the right order. The Champions League draw can be parked and wait. First up we have what is becoming our traditional last home game before Christmas against a manager who will not be warmly applauded by the Grove regulars. Last season it was Phil Brown, this time around It’s Tony Pulis, still fanning the flames with his pre-match utterances about Ryan Shawcross. Sums this bitter little man up really.
“He made an honest, committed challenge and has nothing to be worried or ashamed about. We are very, very proud of Ryan at Stoke because he’s been a big part of what we’ve tried to build here over the last four or five years. Personally, I don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks.”
Arsene Wenger has shown considerably more intelligence with his suggestion that Arsenal supporters show their opponents respect. This being the last game before Christmas means that thousands of fans will be starting the party season at lunchtime so I suspect that respect is going to be in short measure for Shawcross and Pulis. I am liking what I am seeing online though with regard to acknowledging Glenn Whelan for comforting Aaron Ramsey in the immediate aftermath of the Shawcross assault at the Britannia in February.
The atmosphere at the game may be a little more hostile than usual, but that hostility could turn to frustration if we allow Stoke to get a foothold in the game. This being the last game for nine days I would expect Arsene to go with what he considers his strongest side. Interestingly I’m not sure anybody is clear on what that side is. I would not be surprised to see Szczesny retained in goal and Fabregas return for Rosicky.
The only other question would be Chamakh or van Persie up front. Playing the Dutchman ahead of Nasri on the right is a non-starter, I believe. Normally I would suggest he might be preferred to Arshavin on the left, but thinking back to the corresponding fixture last season the little Russian played up top and scored in a 2-0 win, so I would start him on the basis of ‘horses for courses’. Regulars will know I am a big Chamakh fan, and for me Robin hasn’t shown enough to oust the Moroccan just yet.
The back four will need to be disciplined and attack anything launched into the box, whether by hand or hoof, because the dangerous Jones and the industrious Fuller will give them a real test. Let’s not forget also that the curse of the returning player could be applied by Pennant, although his confidence will not have been boosted by the middle-aged man in the baseball cap’s (© Arseblog) assertion that he is not worth the £6m required to make his loan move permanent.
I have to believe there will be a determination to ‘do it for Aaron’ tomorrow, so I am taking us to eventually grind down a dour defence 3-0, but would not be surprised to see the goals coming late. 7/1 is freely available on that bet, and to make life interesting I have a little back-up on the same scoreline with Cesc to score first. It would not be a surprise if a penalty were to provide the opener. 31/1 was the unusual figure I have taken on that.
Now, if you are coming to the match tomorrow be prepared for a traditional panto, with lots of “He’s not that kind of player”, “OH YES HE IS!”, and look out Pulis, “HE’S BEHIND YOU!” Seriously though, if you are braving the subzero temperatures let’s give it a full lungful. We need to do our bit if we expect the team to do theirs as well. I’ve a feeling it could be a lively one, just like the good old days.
Barcelona It Is Then
There is no point in getting worked up about this one too early. We have thirteen to fifteen equally important matches to play before the first-leg and hopefully we will be in the hunt for all three domestic trophies before coming face to face with the tappers up from Catalonia.
Anybody bemoaning the draw doesn’t understand what European competition is about. I want to see the best that Europe has to offer, and having watched Barca destroy Real Madrid a few weeks back I reckon that is exactly what we have. It may be to our benefit that they have peaked in the first half of the season, and may hit a sticky patch in February. Of course ideally we would have preferred to save them for later, but they have to be beaten at some stage if we are to win old big ears at last, so let us do it early and scare the living crap out of the rest of Europe.
Online Store Christmas Deadline
More carefully disguised shameless begging here. If UK readers want to order anything from the online store for Christmas then the deadline for anything requiring printing has already passed. However, anything not requiring printing can be ordered up until 5pm on Monday. Now if you are intending to order anything of course I would be grateful if you clicked through to the store via the banners on this page. End of blatant plug.
Have a great weekend ‘holics, and if you see me shivering under the brolly on Saturday, pop in and buy me a large Jamesons!
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