Friday evening. Always an enjoyable ritual. Post-work pints, a tasty take-away, then sit down with another pint or two to check out the presser and interviews on Arsenal Player. Give me that one phrase please, Arsene.
“Our focus is more on the next few games than the transfer market.”
Focus. That is the word of the weekend. We hope those who play against West Brom will focus on getting our quick forward-passing game going against a side currently five points and five places ahead of us. Doubtless those wearing the cannon on their chest will have expectations of the support as well. Given that this is the last home game before Christmas I suspect the atmosphere will be a little more positive for starters. Should the team start on the front foot I have no doubt they will get the backing they need.
Lukas Podolski, Bacary Sagna, Theo Walcott, Laurent Koscielny, and Andre Santos will all miss the match, unfortunately. I was surprised to see snaps of the first two in training today, particularly Lukas. A hamstring injury is not one you usually run off in training. That suggests a starting back five of Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson, Per Mertesacker, Thomas Vermaelen, and Kieran Gibbs.
Le Boss faces a selection problem in midfield. Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, and Santi Cazorla are all available, but the early substitution of Tomas Rosicky in Athens suggests he is being strongly considered for a start. Under normal circumstances young Jack would be most at threat, but there are options to perm that quartet in order to give one of the Spaniards an extra hour or so of rest before being unleashed on a tiring Baggies eleven.
The absentees up front would hint at a start for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Olivier Giroud, and Gervinho. I would prefer to use Arshavin on the left while we still have him, but the noises coming out of Shenley suggest he is being frozen out. With such a paucity of options there will surely be a place on the bench for Marouane Chamakh. I know that will highlight the weakness of the squad for some, but lose one or more of our front three to injury or a red card and the options will be much worse without the Moroccan.
The ‘holic pound hopes the visitors, beaten at Swansea and by Stoke in their last two fixtures, are embarking on a bad patch. It also relies on the Ox and Gervinho finding the pace and touch to unlock the visitors defence and creating opportunities for Giroud and supporting midfielders. That is likelier to happen later in the match as the Albion tire, so I’m looking at a relatively modest 2-0 to Arsenal. Check out the odds at Gunners Gaming via the banner above and also check out their Twelve Days of Christmas promotion. This Saturday sees the start of an opportunity to win a signed Arsenal shirt or football. Every £10 wager placed between the 8th and 20th December (21st for the football) gets you one entry into the draws. Good luck.
The Arsenal Foundation Dedicated Matchday
Arsenal select one match every season to dedicate to their charity efforts and the West Brom fixture provides the opportunity to The Arsenal Foundation to raise funds to help those less fortunate.
As part of the day, the first-team squad and Arsene Wenger will, as usual, generously donate a day’s wages to The Arsenal Foundation, which supports a range of education and sport initiatives in the UK and overseas.
Supporters will also be able to get involved in a range of other fundraising activities on the day, such as donating to bucket collections or getting involved in a special matchday raffle, with prizes including a signed Arsenal shirt and a pair of tickets to see Muse live in concert at Emirates Stadium in May 2013. (No, the runners-up will not get two pairs of tickets to see Muse in concert. Behave yourselves!)
Fifty pence from the sale of every matchday programme will also be donated to The Arsenal Foundation, while supporters can beat the cold and do their bit for charity at the same time by purchasing an Arsenal bar scarf from Club stores at Emirates Stadium – £2 from every sale on Saturday will be added to the overall fundraising cause.
All money raised from the dedicated matchday will enable The Arsenal Foundation to continue supporting a variety of projects, including those of the Club’s global charity partner, Save the Children.
So if you are going to the game save a few coppers for those buckets, and don’t forget to wrap up warm. It looks like being dry, but chilly. Let’s hope the team warm us up with their performance.
Wherever you are enjoying the game, have a great weekend, ‘holics.
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